Category Archives: Rants

Update on a Saturday


Slow start today.  Buddy had a difficult time getting me up.  He woke me because he wanted to know who was chasing me.  I was having a bad dream and it was the sort I needed to finish, if that makes any sense.  By the time I did get up, it was snowing again.

I used to love snow.  When I was a kid, it meant sledding and snowmen and building slides and fortresses out of the 10-ft tall piles of snow the plows left in the City Hall parking lot.  If we were lucky, it meant a day off of school.

I didn’t live in snow for 3 1/2 years when I was stationed in Hawaii.  I usually missed the snow when I visited home, but I can’t say I ever actually missed it.  I missed the season changes.  Constant green gets monotonous after a while.  Then I got stationed in Alabama.  It got colder than I was expecting for the South and we did have a big snow once (about 3-4 inches that stuck around for a whole week).  But that was it.  I drove home through snow a couple of times.  It was a bit annoying but not a big deal.  Then we got stationed in Virginia.  Now I hate snow.

EVERY FREAKING YEAR it snows here.  Every year.  It isn’t a bad snow.  No blizzards or white outs or anything.  Maybe two or three serious snowfalls, no more than 6 inches.  And I don’t know if you’ve noticed on social media but we’re in the middle of SNOWMAGGEDON, apparently.  Now, further north in DC (a scant 3 hrs away), they’re getting 27 inches.  Here?  Same as usual.  4 inches, maybe 6 after today.  So I’m experiencing my annual “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU JUST PLOW THE FREAKING ROADS AND LEARN TO DRIVE AND YOU WON’T NEED TO STOCK UP ON MILK AND BREAD AND PEOPLE CAN KEEP GOING TO WORK SO THE GROCERY STORES AREN’T CLOSED SO PEOPLE CAN’T GET MILK AND BREAD” episode.

The roads are a mess.  Why?  Because there are snowplows sitting on the side of the road because…well I don’t actually know why.  But we did pass three or four on our way to the grocery store this afternoon.  We drove on unplowed roads.  They didn’t put down sand, let alone salt.  And since no one is driving because “Virginia drivers are crazy in normal conditions, I don’t want to risk it in the snow,” the natural melt that happens when there are lots of cars on the road on a day we get above freezing (like today), simply doesn’t happen.  Less traffic just means the snow gets packed down so that no ruts form.  Without ruts, it is really difficult to tell where you are on the road.  So the roads aren’t safe for a dozen reasons, mostly incompetence and media-fueled panic, so businesses are closing early so their employees can get home safe.  Those businesses aren’t exactly posting online that they are closing early for the day, so we made our cautious way 45 min to our local store only to see a paper sign on the door stating that they had closed an hour ago.

Well, good.  Take care of your people.  Good thinking on your part and God bless you for your consideration to your employees.

Don’t mind me over here, screaming obscenities and chucking shopping carts into the stupid snow because I need to make soup because it is cold and I MUST.  I am out of patience over here.  This is DUMB.  No, we don’t get a lot of snow here.  But we DO get it, reliably, every year.  The entire state shouldn’t shut down because of a few inches (which is anything less than 6, in case you were wondering).  Especially if you know the storm is coming a week out.  You, whoever you are, should have the snowplows ready to go before it starts.  As soon as you see precipitation, there should be salt and sand on the pavement.  Don’t sit on your freaking thumbs and cry about how it never does this so you don’t know how to respond.  You do know how to respond because half of the country deals with this every year and you can ask them what they do when a storm is coming.  I guarantee they don’t sit there staring at the mystical white stuff coming from the sky.  They plow it and get on with their lives.

And here are some tips about driving in the snow, which I understand is a tricky skill that is difficult to develop when you only see the stuff once or twice a year.  I grew up driving in this crap.  Snow and ice has been the cause of several accidents in my family.  These tips are only for snow-packed or icy roads.  If there is pavement in direct contact with your tires, stay in the ruts, keep two hands on the wheel, and TRIPLE your following distance.

  1.  Go slow.  Starting and stopping.  In fact, on icy roads, don’t stop if you can help it.  My car is awful on slick roads, so I come to a rolling stop at stop signs (whenever it is safe) and at lights, I stop well back from the light so I can inch forward until it changes.  If you lose momentum, you might get stuck.  When the light turns green, however, let your wheels roll forward naturally before you hit the gas.  Basically, just hesitate an extra second between the brake and the gas.  If you just hit the gas, you’ll skid or dig in and get stuck.  Also, cars coming the other way are going to skid through the lights because they’re afraid to brake, so definitely hesitate before you go through lights.
  2. Don’t brake if you can help it.  Let friction slow you down whenever you can.  The light turned red way up there?  Foot off the gas and coast.  If you must brake, be gentle.  Tap the brakes and release.  DO NOT slam on your brakes.  If you have to brake fast, tap and release and look for an escape route.  Do not assume that you can stop.  Assume you can’t a be prepared to leave the road to avoid hitting someone else.  Slamming on the brakes means skidding into the car in front of you and all the cars in front of them.
  3. Don’t tailgate.  In icy conditions, you want lots of space between you and everyone else on the road.  Double or Triple your following distance.  That might sound extreme to you, but how many people actually keep to the 2-second rule?  Yeah, no one.  Lots of space means no sudden stops due to other drivers.  When they stop ahead of you, you have tons of time to slow down regardless of the road conditions.
  4. Stay in the ruts.  This is the opposite to safe driving in the rain.  The ruts act a lot like train tracks, forcing your tires to follow a route of least resistance.  It makes changing lanes tricky (expect skittering from your tires), but it makes for smoother driving.  The downside is that if the road hasn’t been paved or the ruts aren’t worn down to the road, you’re basically driving on snow that is getting packed down into a fun layer of ice.  So don’t drive too quickly and keep both hands on the wheel so you can feel instantly if your tires are losing friction.
  5. Are you starting to skid?  DON’T PANIC.  Also, don’t slam on the brakes or spin the steering wheel to compensate.  If you catch it early enough and aren’t driving too fast, all you have to do is take your foot off the gas.  Then gently apply gas until you get back in control (little pulses only).  If you are going fast, do the same thing.  Foot off the gas.  The best thing is to just let it go if you can.  Professional drivers usually just spin off the track rather than try to stop the skid, which is fine if they have an airfield of space to work with.  You probably won’t.  So don’t speed, stay off the interstate, and hope you don’t spin out.  I’ll be honest, high speed spin out scares the jeepers out of me.  Best to avoid it. (Buddy, who also grew up in Snow Country, says to steer into the skid, which is the opposite of what you think you should do.  This is sound advice, if you can remember that.)
  6. What else?  Hmmm.  Keep your lights on.  Use your turn signals.  Keep cat litter in your car to help you get unstuck if need be.  Be hyper aware of the road under your tires and the people sharing your road.
Well, perhaps if we stopped thinking of ourselves as the South, then maybe we’d be prepared for reality.  Attention Virginia!  You are not the South.  You don’t serve sweet tea everywhere.  There are no gangs of old ladies mobbing yard sales at 6 in the morning.  And you get winter every year.  I have lived in the South and this ain’t it.
After lunch, we watched Enter the Dragon, which was excellent as usual.  And it inspired me to do Body Combat again, since I was finally not sore from my bout Tuesday. On Wednesday, I did a 20 min session of Beginner’s Yoga to stretch out.  I hate yoga, so that goes to show you how sore I was.  I was still moving like an old woman Thursday.  Yesterday, I was scheduled to work 5:00-close, so after babysitting, I baked bread (that I couldn’t buy because of the panic lines at the store) and sat down to work on a crochet project, prepared to leave a half an hour early to get to work on time.  Then my boss called and said we were closing early because of the storm so I needn’t come in.  Yes, it was snowing pretty heavily, but it wasn’t that bad.  I finished my project (except for tucking in the ends) and ate an extra piece of chocolate because BOO SNOW DAY.  I didn’t do as well with BC today, but I did do it.
I think Buddy was bummed that we didn’t go for a walk in the snow, but I just can’t.  I don’t have snow boots, for one.  So I could wear tennis shoes and have my pants soak up to the knee.  Or I could wear my boots that have wedge heels and are not at all made for walking.  And I just don’t like snow any more.  So I did BC and he shoveled the driveway.  And after we showered, we made a shopping list, found out that the Commissary closed at 2 (it was nearly 5 at the time) but saw no notice that our secondary grocery store was closing.  So drove there, saw it was closed, were very irritated, came home, made really awesome penne with meatballs and roasted red pepper sauce, and then watched Birdman.  It was weird.
So eff you snow.  Best stop this nonsense before I head to work tomorrow.

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Filed under Ramblings, Rants

Minimum Wage


I’m certain many of you have noticed the debate concerning minimum wage.  I don’t know the figures, so someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation and cost of living increases over the last forty years.  This means that someone working full-time earning the minimum wage cannot afford to live in this country.  This upsets people because the idea of “minimum” should be equal to the least amount a person can earn and still support themselves, yet many are living below the poverty line in the riches nation on Earth.

Now, let’s take into account that since the 70s, almost all households have become supported by dual earners.  Everyone of working age in the home is expected to make money to support themselves.  So two minimum-wage workers in a house now should certainly be making as much as the a single earner in the 70s, right?  By that logic, raising the wage to $15/hr is ridiculous.  With dual earners, the house is already making that wage or close enough.  In reality, you’s be raising the wage to $30/hr!

Of course, not every home is headed by a pair of adults legally bound to each other for life.  Obviously.  So what do you tell the single parents out there?  Get married?  Well, no.  We tell them to get a better job.  Which is dumb.  First, find me one person in this country who wants to work min wage jobs.  It’s a job.  It pays the bills until my album goes platinum.  Every min wage job out there sucks.  It retail/service/dirty crap that we like to pretend is only good enough for teenagers and lazy people.  The amount of disdain we heap on the working classes is disgusting considering how much we rely on them.  Deciding that people don’t deserve to be paid a living wage just because their job is beneath us?  Is that what this country was founded on?

Someone is going to say that those people are just not budgeting properly.  They’re to lazy or stupid to get a real job, so they’re sitting back, getting fat on gov subsidies, and complaining because they can’t use their food stamps to pay for their new iphone.  Yes, and ENTIRE class of workers is cheating the system.  Does anyone have the numbers for how many people that would be?  While we’re talking about the lazy people doing an easy job and expecting to be able to live on their paychecks, how can anyone call fast food an easy job?  Is it only people who have never worked in the service industry who can say this?  In my experience, there’s no such thing as an easy min wage job.  They can be fun, rewarding, engaging, sure, why not?  But easy?  Standing over a hot grill for 8 hrs on a greasy floor.  Carrying fifty lb bags of frozen fries around.  Dealing with customers.

You know what I mean when I say “dealing,” right?  There are plenty of polite, generous, cheerful, or at least indifferent people who frequent establishments as customers.  But there are also rude, entitled a**holes, snappy, ungrateful b*tches, and people who are simply in a bad mood and don’t have the inclination or the ability not to take it out on everyone around them.  And it’s not like you can, I don’t know, smack the sense into them.  Beating customers is frowned upon.  So you deal with them.  You placate them by apologizing for things not in your control, you sympathize with their BS complaints, and you act upset when they explain how you’ve lost their business because you were incredibly busy on a holiday weekend.  Aw, we were making so much money from everyone else that we couldn’t dote on you!  Gosh, we’re sorry.

But here, let’s do a real world analogy.  I grew up in a double-earning household.  My dad was a college professor, which is the type of job one should be able to support a family on, but that’s another show.  In order to feed and clothe all five of her children, my mom worked at Hardees.  She got to be the asst manager, so not exactly min wage at that point, but there’s more.  At the same time, my mom also worked at a diner/restaurant down the street AND ran her own business teaching ballet and music lessons.  And we weren’t swimming in money, either.  Then dad got a job in the big city as a senior computer programmer for a big company (another job one might expect to be enough to support a family but somehow isn’t).  We moved.  Mom got another Hardees job, but eventually moved to the more genteel environment of Wendy’s before finding her true calling as a financial planner.  Moral of the story, I didn’t see my mom much in my youth because she worked long, unpredictable hours.  She missed concerts, competitions, and all manner of juvenile milestones so she could work an easy job.  So she could risk walking on grease-slicked floors on her artificial hip in shoes that hurt her feet because the heat and grease had curled up the toes like elf shoes.  So she could come home smelling like french fries.  So she could take crap from dumb teenage kids who had been raised to look down on service jobs but had to do them anyway to earn their way, pay their dues or whatever.  So she could have grown adults treat her like a failure.  Yeah.  Easy.  Exactly the type of crap a lazy person would go through to get a piddly paycheck.

“If you don’t like being unable to feed yourself, why don’t you get a real job?”  Oh?  How?  Ah, yes.  Go to college, get a degree, and spend the rest of your life digging your way out of crippling debt.  Provided you can get a job with a mere Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in a job market bloated with fancy degrees.  That is also another show.

What really set me off today was an oft-repeated meme that compares the possible income of a $15/hr Johnny Fry-Boy with the pay rates of military personnel.

Why indeed should someone flipping burgers make more that someone sent to die in a war by old bureaucrats making six figures?  Well, first off, the math is wrong.  Yes, E-1s make sh*t.  However, s/he isn’t paying for sh*t either.  Single soldiers are put in barracks, for which they pay no rent or utilities.  They get meal deductions taken directly from their paycheck so they can have three-square meals at the DFac.  When they’re sick, they get free healthcare at the clinic.  They also get to have sick days and paid vacation.  Not to mention the lump sum they get every few years to buy new uniforms.  And if they’re married, they get extra pay for their dependents and they get a house on post, paid for by the Basic Allowance for Housing added to the regular paycheck, or they can find a place off post and the BAH boosts their pay enough that they shouldn’t have to pay for anything out-of-pocket (key word: shouldn’t).  No, they’re not living high on the hog.  But that’s why a private can make so little and stay off welfare.

What’s infuriating about posts like this is that it’s basically poor people squabbling against poor people.  Having lived on E-5 pay alone and as a dependent of E-7 pay, I can say categorically that our military is not paid enough to make up for the type of crap we put up with and the risks we take.  But using me and my friends as a foil against other poor people with sh*t jobs is frankly insulting.  I didn’t put my ass on the line so everyday Americans could starve because their job isn’t glamorous enough, while sleazy, bloated, patronizing, smug, over-grown children natter on about how entitled the poor are getting and then voting for their own pay raise.  Again.  Stop asking why we should suddenly double the min wage for “unskilled labor” and start asking why our gov has seen fit to continue raising the pay of people who only work 120-some days a year while ignoring the sky-rocketing cost of education, the crumbling infrastructure, and the staggering wage gap, not to mention archaic race relations, gender bias, global warming, and the increasingly pathetic and embarrassing reality TV show that is our political system and the lamestream media.  Maybe start comparing the paychecks and benefits of government officials to those of the soldiers/sailors/marines/airment they send to get blown up every day and stop picking on the people struggling to make it by while working two or three jobs.

In conclusion, minimum wage should be a living wage.  Not living with four other people, eating ramen and poptarts because how else will you afford the car you need to get to the job you have since [no one is hiring/you can’t afford school/your other entry-level job isn’t sufficient to pay off your student loans and the rent] because the public transit system is so inadequate as to be almost entirely useless.  Please, please, stop looking down your noses at people because the work they do is beneath you.  Those jobs are not “designed for a kid in high school.”  They’re jobs, plain and simple.  If you want to compare fry-boys with privates, why don’t you point out their similarities.  Both require a bare minimum in education, skill, and experience.  Both get paid the bare minimum as dictated by the gov regulations.  Both have to put up with a certain level of BS on a daily basis.  Both are demoralizing and demeaning in their own ways.  And while you chirrup about how our military risks their lives everyday, you forget that we signed a contract and took an oath to do that, which means it is a choice freely taken and with our full knowledge and consent.  Plus, we are financially compensated for hardships (as a single E-5, my paycheck effectively doubled when I deployed).  If anything, the above argument advocates for a higher min wage, or at least an increase in entitlements for min wage workers.  Here’s the deal McBurgertown, we’ll continue to work for $7.25/hr so long as you pay our rent, utilities, meals, healthcare, and buy us new clothes every three years.

Or we could continue to blame the poor for being poor in a system set up to keep them poor and admire the rich for being selfish, greedy gits.

Rage is spent for now.

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15AM00000032011 · 03:48

Zombies


It has recently come to my attention that zombies are the dumbest of the undead creatures and that people who indulge in zombie apocalypse hypotheticals are less than what Darwin might consider prime breeding material.

This was the essence of an angry rant that was posted in the comment feed after I posted the results of a quiz that ensured me that it could tell just from looking at my Facebook page how far I would travel, how long I would last, and what would get me killed in the event of a zombie apocalypse (Yorktown to Golden Gate, CA, 12 days, faulty shoelace).  Now, I take a lot of those dumb quizzes, primarily to ascertain how wrong they can be about me, but I usually don’t post results.  Why?  Because the results are often embarrassingly wrong.  Like, how could my “book husband” be anyone besides Mr. Darcy?  The quizzes are dumb, frequently easily manipulated to get the answers I want or far too simplistic to be trustworthy.  How exactly can they know what my dream life is based on 10 questions?  Especially when 5 of the questions are about my favorite color, my “spirit animal,” or my favorite way to spend a rainy day.  I mean, dumb.  But they take up my time, of which I have a lot, and they keep me entertained to a degree.  They also act as a platform for discussions on interesting subjects.  Which is why I posted the zombie quiz results.  I have pretty set ideas of my apocalypse strategy and it in no way involves a crosscountry trek or faulty shoelaces.  It was fun seeing people’s responses, especially from those who also took the quiz for equally bizarre results.  It was an intellectual exercise, which was ruined a bit when someone decided we were being serious.  There was some trolling and I had to dress down the troll, which took some time and effort, but which was certainly better than name-calling.  But it got me thinking, mostly because the troll’s argument was pretty weak, but his overall point was relatively valid if poorly defended.  And since I’ve done posts on vampires and werewolves, it seemed only right for me to complete the horror trinity.

First things first, we need to define our zombies.  Like all monsters, they have evolved over time.  I haven’t done much deep research into  the origins, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I know of general knowledge, zombies started out in voodoo (probably far earlier, though) and they were primarily individuals risen by a powerful magic practitioner to be slaves.  I have read some versions where they are used as assassins, essentially given the name of a person whom they will tirelessly hunt down.  Once they have your name, there is no escape.  You could call it an allegory for the inevitability of death.

This is a far cry from modern zombie interpretations, except for the undead bit.  Modern zombies are more frequently the results of a disease and, of the undead trinity, have the least to do with supernatural forces.  This might explain their general appeal for hypotheticals.  Vampires and werewolves are steeped in mystical lore, but zombies are more and more scientifically explainable.  There is even some scientific basis for the original zombies (something to do with a neurotoxin n a plant or animal that can induce a zombie-like trance in living people).  Furthermore, while vampires and werewolves are popular, they aren’t good vehicles for apocalypse theorizing because they rarely come in the form of a pandemic, which is a genuine concern.  Just look at the panics we had about Ebola, bird flu, and AIDS.  The Zombie Apocalypse is the Black Plague of the modern age.  Here you have a disease which has no known cure, is extremely virulent, and the corpses are just as dangerous as the live carriers.  Plagues have a long history of being how population levels are reduced when they get too high, so as the planet gets more and more crowded, the basic anxiety about such acts of God become more  and more realistic.  Furthermore, in cases where the virus is man-made, zombies represent the dangers of scientific hubris.  Someone is trying to play God to a disastrous result.  So zombies are a very thorough representation of the conflict between science and religion, while vampires and werewolves are more indicative of the conflict between emotion/instinct and civilization.  Zombies are our modern Prometheus tale.  Which says a lot  about our society.  In every zombie story, there is a moment where the protagonist sees someone they care about turn from a rational, thinking person into a mindless monster.  This is something we can all relate to, right?  Any time a friend or family member succumbs to addiction or mental illness, we stand by and watch, feeling helpless.  When the victim is someone you know, you can instantly empathize.  If it isn’t a stranger, then it could be you.  Just think back again to the Ebola outbreak, which no one gave two figs about until some of the victims came here for treatment.  Suddenly, it wasn’t a disease in some faraway place.  It was on our soil and that much closer to being in our homes.  Panic.

Psychologically, zombies are an interesting subject.  The people who tend to get pulled into zombie stories are not your typical heroes.  There isn’t a Van Helsing leading the charge against an evil foe.  It’s usually just people running for their lives, trying to survive.  So the story isn’t about the monsters at all; it’s about how ordinary people handle crises.  The whole reason I watch The Walking Dead is because it isn’t really about zombies.  Yeah, they’re there, and it gets gory and violent.  Still, the journey and struggle of the humans is why I keep watching.  And World War Z (the book, DEFINITELY NOT the movie) is fascinating because it goes so far beyond the initial crisis which is usually the whole scope of the movies.  This is the plot of a standard zombie story: Group of people at the beginning of the outbreak running for their lives and either getting overrun or getting rescued by the military or something.  It stays on a very individual level to make the peril seem more immediate.  But TWD and WWZ both look at the further implications of an outbreak on the civilized world.

So, yeah, zombies are popular for good reasons.  But like all monsters, there are serious flaws in their mythos.  The first and most immediate issue is that they are actively decaying monsters.  It adds to the gruesomeness, sure, but also to the improbability of them as a serious threat for long.  I mean, how could they be that dangerous against whole, healthy people with full use of their limbs and fully functioning brains?  Well, numbers help.  That’s a major factor in every zombie story.  The living have limited resources and have to do things like eat and sleep, while zombies tend to keep going without either for long periods of time.  It’s the classic race between the tortoise and the hare.  The hare loses, though he is the faster animal, merely because the tortoise just keeps going.  Zombies have no higher brain function so they are driven by base instinct.  Nothing else matters, not pain nor exhaustion nor severed limbs.  And they will continue to be driven until the brain is destroyed, regardless of origins.  Even though scientific zombies still need some form of body to function, as long as the brain is functioning, they are driven until the body is burned out completely.  Zombies are obsession, the meth addicts of the undead.  Which is why it doesn’t actually matter if they are “fast” or “slow” zombies.  It isn’t really the speed or numbers that make them effective.  It’s the inevitability.

Still, as decaying monsters, that draws the question of the outbreak itself.  In many older stories, the zombies all rise from their graves (this is most often a mystical rather than scientific outbreak).  Now, this is very gross and creepy, but seems to imply that zombies have super strength since they are able to not only escape from their coffins but up through six feet (at least) of packed dirt.  Now, there is some validity to this argument, which is probably why modern stories are skipping graveyards entirely, but it does speak to a degree of ignorance about coffins.  Yes, we build them out of steel as well as wood but trends are leaning more toward environmentally friendly coffins which decompose with the body, so they’re not impregnable.  Moreover, as stated above, zombies are driven by base instinct, not higher brain function.  This doesn’t give them super strength, per se.  It’s more like the strength a normal person can get under a surge of adrenaline.  And since they don’t feel pain, any injury incurred while escaping the coffin that would cripple a normal person is simply shrugged off.  And, since this kind of outbreak is more likely of mystical origins, the bodies are not being operated by muscles and sinew but by willpower.  Regardless of how far the body is decomposed, if some of it is left it will strive to reach the surface.  That’s not to say there wouldn’t be a bunch of bodies stuck below, just that the assumption that none of them would make it is based on the strength of coffins is a weak argument.  The freshly dead, at least, would surely make it because they are the most intact and the dirt least packed.  Also, there is the question of people not buried properly.  I imagine the desert around Vegas would be swarming with victims of the mafia.  And finally, escaping from the grave is, if not an easy feat, then at least a probable means of survival for people in movies (think Kill Bill Vol. 2).  Right, that’s in movies, but if we were talking about reality, the topic wouldn’t be zombies, would it?  To be fair, though, the super strength does not seem to be limited to escaping the grave.  Zombies are capable of ripping a living body apart with their bare hands.  Usually this is seen when an individual is mobbed by a horde of undead (so strength in numbers), but individual zombies are apparently just as capable of detaching limbs by just pulling and biting though just about anything wrapped in flesh.  Part of this can be attributed to that “adrenaline” strength, however mostly this is movie magic bringing the expected gore.  Humans are no longer equipped to be carnivores and it takes more than brute strength to accomplish a dismemberment.  Without sharper teeth and claws, it is unlikely that they could be so very effective at this particular feat.

When the source is viral or scientific instead of mystical, coffins aren’t really a problem at all.  Most people aren’t buried immediately after death.  It takes a couple of days, which is more than enough time for someone to “turn” by most sources.  According to WWZ the movie, it takes 10 seconds from being bit to turn, but only if you don’t cut off the bitten limb in less than that.  TWD clocks it at no more than 2 hours from death of the host.  This is about the standard for the zombie films I’ve seen.  It takes an indeterminate amount of time for the infection to kill the host, but turning is within hours and even minutes of death.  This helps to explain the swiftness of the outbreak to some degree, but isn’t fully satisfying to me.  See, even in cases of normal diseases, the outbreak needs just the right conditions to spread as fast as zombie outbreaks do (usually from a single case to global pandemic in a matter of days).  The virulence of zombie-ism is mostly an expression of fears, like globalization and the dangers there of, but isn’t all that realistic, especially if you consider how obvious the symptoms would be.  Yes, some people would be able to hide bites for a time, but it’s not a disease that spreads before symptoms are apparent.  The worst diseases are spread through the air before anyone even knows they’re sick, so the fact that the zombie host has to die to become an active vector is a bit of a drawback.  AIDS is a far more effective disease and, while it is still a big problem, it didn’t take over the world despite years of free reign on society.  I mean, it passes the same way as zombies (usually interpreted as an infection via bodily fluids like saliva and blood, with the bite being just the most likely means of transmittance), but the initial spread happened because people didn’t have symptoms until later stages (HIV-positive to full-blown AIDS).  This simply can’t happen with zombies.  Even in cases when the infection has symptoms like fever, hallucination, etc, the person is not contagious until they die.  Plus, the point of plague is more than just population control.  The Black Plague in the 1340’s wiped out an estimated 3rd of the population and is the major reason civilization moved from the Dark Ages into the Enlightenment/Renaissance.  Besides having a major effect on how man viewed the world and how society was shaped, it did what all plagues do in nature: it made a stronger herd made up of survivors.  It wasn’t deadly to everyone, after all.  Despite how quickly it spread and the lack of medical understanding of the cause, some people were naturally immune.  Those capable of surviving or remaining immune to infection passed on their genes to the next generation.  Standard survival of the fittest.  Logically, the zombie disease would have the same natural drive and some people would be immune.  This is never the case in the movies, though this could be because the disease is most often a man-made one rather than something brought on by nature.  Again, this is evidence that a zombie outbreak is based solely on fear rather than real science.  The only source that seems to find a loophole is TWD.  If you haven’t seen the show at all, I’m sorry to give away spoilers.  In the show it is soon revealed that everyone living or dead is infected.  So even if you die of natural causes, you turn.  This is a brilliant way to explain the global decimation of the population.  There is no way to stop the infection, no way to avoid or contain it because everyone is a carrier.  There wouldn’t be a Typhoid Mary.  Just one day, there would be 56 million zombies worldwide who died of natural causes.  This is a level of horror unheard of in any other story.  It does return a bit of the mystical back into the zombie mythos (how else could the entire planet by infected all of a sudden?), which to me is a bit refreshing after all the strained attempts at “scientific” explanations.  But without that aspect of the myth, there is little chance of a genuine global pandemic, whatever the fear monger media says.

One myth that can be completely dispelled is the success of amputation to stop the spread of infection.  The zombie disease is blood-born and your heart pumps blood too quickly.  The time it would take you after a bite to remove the limb is far too slow to stop anything.  Even if you manage it in under 10 seconds.

Conclusion:  Zombies are not real.  They, like other monsters, are allegory for common, widespread fears.  They are rife with improbabilities and scientific inaccuracies.  They are obviously fantasies.  And when normal people engage in discussions about fantasy topics, they aren’t being stupid.  It is really only worrisome when people start building zombie shelters in their yards and stocking up on MREs.  And being a fan of something is an indicator of taste, not intelligence.  Which is why I try not to hate on other fandoms, even of those I find abhorrent.  I may have good reasons to despise them, but the minute I start throwing shade, I leave my own fandoms open to attack.  Amazingly, there are people out there who do not love everything I do.  That doesn’t make them dumb or inferior.  Just makes them different.  So even if they start hating on something I love, even when it would be so easy to make insinuations about the childishness/stupidity/inferiority of their own fandoms, I resist the urge.  Even when I can attack them on a personal level, I don’t.  Part of the problem with our culture is that we don’t argue.  If someone disagrees with us, we get defensive and immediately take the stance that the other person is stupid.  Instead of having a discussion which can enrich both sides even if they never come to an agreement, we attack the person in a downward spiral to hurt feelings.  Nothing is learned, nothing is gained, we are all reduced to assholes.  I admit that I don’t always act the adult, but I am trying to become more open to other viewpoints.  I may not like your stance, but I will endeavor to see the validity of it.

 

And in case of a zombie apocalypse, I would steal an LMTV or MTV from the Transportation Museum on post and head for the Appalachians, since I’m on the east coast.  I know most people argue for heading to the nearest coast, but since the traffic to VA Beach is impossible on a normal day, I’d rather not get stuck in tunnel traffic with a horde on my ass.  The Appalachians are ideal because they have a lot of low-population areas, they are fertile, and they aren’t as treacherous as the Rockies.  They still can have harsh winter conditions, but looting a Dick’s Sporting Goods on the way out of town would be a means of attaining winter survival gear, all of which would fit easily in my LMTV.  My vehicle choice is built on a few factors.  First is familiarity.  I need a vehicle I know how to drive.  Second, both vehicles are high off the ground, ideal for off-roading, fording, and relatively safe from attack from the ground, making them good for temporary shelter until a more permanent defense can be managed.  They’re large enough to plow through a great deal of debris/road blocks/traffic jams and can hold a great deal of cargo and personnel.  Finally, they’re older vehicles and I’m assuming that the local military would be using the more modern troop carriers to fight the zombies.  Drawbacks include how slow they are compared to commercial vehicles and they are not fuel-efficient.  However, given enough of a head start, I should be able to stock up on enough diesel fuel to get us to safety.  And you better believe the cab is gonna be packed with MREs and empty bottles for stocking up on water.  What about guns?  Nope.  While guns are highly effective for sharpshooters, I am not a sharpshooter.  They also make a great deal of noise, which can draw more zombies, and they run out of ammo.  I prefer swords and axes, though I might rig up a lawn mower shield ala Dead Alive.  If I have my husband and cats, we might make it a year or more.  Without my husband, I wouldn’t leave my house.  Then again, depending on the situation, we might be smart to just stay on post.

Honestly, though, I’d probably die in the initial outbreak for no other reason than disbelief.

 

Sources/Favorite Zombie Stories:

The Walking Dead (AMC)

World War Z by Max Brooks (book only, eff the movie => it sucked)

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore (A Tale of Christmas Terror)

Shawn of the Dead (Simon Pegg/Nick Frost)

Dead Alive (Peter Jackson) => you will never look at pudding the same way

Zombie Strippers => don’t ask.

Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez)

MythBusters (Season 11, Ep. 11: Zombie Special)

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs

Romero Zombie Movies (haven’t seen them all, but I have general knowledge)

 

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15PM00000032011 · 15:03

Letter from a Reformed Grammar Nazi


IMG_20130130_193155 Take a second to look at this photo. What you are seeing is a cold-hearted, cruel monster, a villain of the highest order. I am a member of that elite dark order of cyber bullies about which you have been cautioned. I use my assumed superiority to publicly shame friends and enemies alike under the guise of helping them. I lurk in comment threads with daggers of indignity, waiting to pluck at the failures of my fellows. I am that creature who cannot allow even the smallest infractions to pass, eagerly poised with an asterisk at my fingertips for the least grammatical mistake. That’s right. I’m a Grammar Nazi. Or I was.

It all started when I became an English Major. I’m certain many of you understand how such a descent into malevolence can begin with such a choice. After taking so many classes on the “proper” use of English, I began to feel that I was master of all words, which was great for my own confidence. Unfortunately, that supposed mastery made me feel entitled to judge others, to correct their mistakes regardless of the context in which we interacted. I corrected status updates and clucked over spelling errors in blog posts. I shared memes that explained how English grammar is so simple, one must be an utter moron to confuse “your” and “you’re.” I scorned the practices of text-speak as base and pitied those who foolishly ended a sentence with a prepositional phrase. I was embarrassed by the ignorantly written posts by my own family. I’m an English Major and my own brother doesn’t know how to use capitals and punctuation! How could I ever show my face if people found out I was related to someone who used “lol” as a period?

This snobbery leeched its way off the computer and into my life. I was most critical of my fellow English Majors, who should certainly know better. How could they expect anyone to take them seriously if they talked like that? Ums and uhs and likes and you knows and, the most hated of all phrases, “I was just gonna say.”  You probably said that exact phrase today and perhaps caught the look on my face of utter contempt. Forget the fact that “just” implies that you are apologetic about your own opinion and that it is obvious you’re “gonna say” something as your mouth is open and words are falling out. I can’t stand the “I was.” It implies that you are correcting your own assertion (I was going to say this, but now I am going to say this), which isn’t what you mean at all since you never correct yourself. What you mean is that this is what you think but it is probably wrong and you just wanted to point out something you thought was significant fully aware that it might not be. You’re asking permission to speak your mind and it drives me out of mine.

It was all going so well. I was fully entitled to label others as dumb or ignorant at the drop of an apostrophe. Then I started taking linguistic-based classes and my world of supremacy began to crumble. As I learned more about the history of English as a language, my certainty that there was a wrong way to use it eroded away. It seemed that correct spelling and grammar was an invention of xenophobes looking to protect the “purity” of the mother tongue from the scourge of foreigners. Further study of English showed that it was a fluid language, evolving over hundreds of years in clear linguistic patterns until we reached its youngest incarnation, African American Vernacular, which turns out not to be some broken conglomeration of English and slang but a legitimate dialect with its own grammatical structure. It became ever clearer that not only is there no wrong way to use English, there may not even be a right way, either. Language is for communication, so as long as someone is communicating it doesn’t matter whether she says “it’s going good” instead of “it’s going well.” I can believe I have been so petty that I will deliberately misunderstand someone’s post if it isn’t written to the same standard as my formal essays.

When I see a bigoted rant about how foreigners should speak English if they’re going to live here, I feel truly smug because there is always some kind of grammatical or spelling error. But is my editing any different from people complaining about having to press “1” for English? My claims of superiority over others based on language use, I now realize, is no different from bigotry in other forms. Racism, sexism, grammarism: all ways to make people in power feel that they deserve to be in power.

It will take a lot of work to reform myself of this unfair bias. I will probably always mutter “well” under my breath every time “good” is improperly used and I will flinch at misspelled or confused words. However, I will try to keep my proofreading to academic papers and resist devaluing people according to arbitrary linguistical rules, allowing such insignificant errors to distract me from the glory that is expression through language. Language is the greatest gift of the human race and I am ashamed that I ever saw it as a tool for belittling other human beings.

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15AM00000092011 · 09:42

Angry War/Grammar Rant


This post is rated NC-17 for strong language.

 

I’ve been more ignorant of the news recently, choosing to listen to audiobooks on my drive than NPR (the only news source I can stomach besides Daily Show and Colbert Report).   Mostly this started because I discovered just how much a treasure trove my local libraries are.  But as ISIS (and whatever else the American Devil is calling them) becomes more and more active and word spreads of terrorist cells and attacks on American soil, I find that I am less inclined to shut off my book (currently Dexter’s Final Cut => yes, I would rather listen to a book about a serial killer than listen to the violence in the news) and catch up on recent events.

Before you start crying “isolationism won’t make it go away,” know that I am perfectly aware of this fact.  Even without basic history to demonstrate this, I’m married to the Army.  Can’t really pretend things don’t exist when they’re knocking at your door with a reminder that soldiers don’t exist for peacetime.   It’s getting serious again so something has to be done and the rumors are already flying about who is up to bat first.  Isolationism isn’t my goal at all.  The problem is that if I’m this angry all the time, my health is going to suffer.  You know, ulcers, headaches, insomnia.  And the jail time for all those murders isn’t going to help anything.  It’s just hard not to be angry when you hear all that craziness.  Especially spouting from the mouths of normally rational people.

“It may be time to take the proactive approach and start rounding them up and putting them in camps or deporting them. Otherwise, they will be doing it to us Christians and Jews.” – Facebook

” These terrorists want to kill us, plain and simple.  We have to kill them first.  It’s better on their soil than ours.” – NPR interview of retired cop.

I suppose what sets me off first, besides the ignorance of such statements, is the obvious errors in grammar.  You see, they both use anonymous, 2nd and 3rd person pronouns.  They, them, their, we, us, ours.  But that’s not what is meant, of course.  When they say we, what they mean is “someone-not-me.”  I recommend to anyone spewing blanket statements of this sort to make slight changes to their pronouns and see if the message still holds.  “I must start rounding Troy up and putting him in a camp before he does it to me.  Because, well, Troy’s a nice guy and a killer bass player, and he was in the Army a while and deployed with my husband.  But he’s a Muslim and I just can’t trust him.”  Doesn’t sound right once I replace the impersonal pronoun and it becomes my responsibility.  Now, you may not personally know a Muslim, so imagination may be your fist step in this process.  I wish I could compare this sort of “proactive” response to the “camps” set up for the Jews (and sundry) in Germany or the Japanese in America, since that would be instantly understood by everyone.  But that isn’t exactly right because those atrocities have a slightly different flavor to them and someone could bring up a valid counter-argument.  The Jews weren’t terrorists and the Japanese weren’t “relocated” because of their religion.  Fair point.  So how about the Protestant burnings of England during the Reformation?  They were also terrorists, a threat to the State trying to bring down the Apocalypse upon the Empire.  Maybe the Hugoenots are more your style?  Or the Catholics?  Do you remember the outcry against JFK because he was a Catholic and his presidency would open the door for the Pope to take over?

There is a lot of pressure out there to sacrifice our freedoms to gain greater safety, but I cannot, will not give up the freedom of religion.  The minute we start rounding up (hear how dehumanizing that phrase is?) Americans based on their religious beliefs and not their actual criminal activity, we lose in every way.  I shouldn’t have to explain this.  Religious freedom means for all, not just those beliefs you like.  If you don’t care for Islam for religious reasons, it isn’t your government’s job to do something.  Get your Bible/Torah/Watch Tower, etc, and start evangelizing.  It is their right to believe and your right to attempt conversion.  It is not your right to imprison someone because an extremist thousands of miles away is committing a murderous rampage, even if that extremist is in this country.  That is all I’m going to say about that.

That second statement needs some changes, too.  “I have to kill them first” works better for me.  But that’s not how it works, is it?  No, when people say “we” in this case, they don’t intend to rush off to the recruiter the next day to join the good fight.  Their “we” actually means “you.”  As in, “You need to send  soldiers into an knuckle-dragging game of hunt-and-peck against an enemy that doesn’t play by conventional rules of war, and can’t even be classified as one coherent enemy, while I sit at home, stroking my hunting rifle and telling my buddies about how if I was only twenty years younger, I’d give those terrorists what-for.”  Sorry for the redneck stereotyping here.  I did say I was angry.

They never mean “I’m going to leave my family for a pointless war we don’t know how to fight.”  “I’m going to risk my life, my health, my sanity, while guys in fancy suits bicker over who has the most patriotic lapel pin.”  “I’m going to come home after a frustrating struggle with no guarantee that I’ll have a job or retirement benefits because some people need to make sure their kids have sufficient trust funds.”  “I have to pray that I don’t suffer injury because there’s no telling whether I’ll have health benefits to cover my medical costs when I’m no longer fit for service because the people getting those benefits are too worried about the long-term side effects of sitting on their *sses and b*tching about how the other side are a bunch of chai-drinking nancies who are too scared of war to send my friends and family to die for their personal jet and thousand-dollar shoes.”

In case you were wondering, YES, I AM PRETTY F*CKING ANGRY.  While those f*ckers are out there saying we should do something, it’s us or them, why don’t they just send in the troops already, I hear something completely different.  Their impersonal pronouns don’t exist for me.  The troops aren’t just vague camo-dressed extras in the back of the glorious war movie.  They’re my friends, my family, closer to me in many ways than my blood-relatives can ever be.  If I was still in, I would still make an uproar, I’m sure, but at least I’d be there with them.  I’d know they were okay, I’d share the daily frustrations and irritations and that vague worry that maybe today the IDF won’t land harmlessly in some open desert space.  But I’m out and those f*cking civilians are demanding that my husband fixes this sh*t-storm when I know perfectly well that he’ll just be another anonymous cog in the war machine waiting to be forgotten just as soon as they get war-weary.

War-weary.  That’s a funny term.  Americans wanted out of Iraq and Afghanistan because they were war-weary.  They didn’t want to do anything in Syria because they were war-weary.  They want to pay ransoms to terrorists because they’re war-weary.  (Note my heavy-handed use of 3rd-person pronouns.  Pisses you off when people generalize, doesn’t it?)  Less than a percent of the US population is in the military and yet everyone is war-weary.  Tired of hearing about it in the news, tired of their hard-earned tax dollars being spent on it, tired because it just doesn’t seem to matter to their everyday lives.  I think the term everyone is looking for is war-bored.  You can’t get weary of something you don’t experience, don’t see the effects of each day.  You can’t get weary when it isn’t you ripped from your family or your spouse is left alone with a new baby.  Or when you deploy just as you start reconnecting with your 8-year-old daughter who hasn’t forgiven you for the last deployment when she was 5.  When you have sat day after day, breathing toxins from burn pits, checking your boots every day for vermin, eating and sleeping and working out because you don’t have a mission and your job is to be there and then go home and shut up until the next time.  When you have sat impotent while your friends went without you and you have wondered if the randomness of this conflict will take out someone you know this time, if maybe that safety you felt when you were there was just complacency and you were only lucky, after all.  Come to me then and tell me of your deep-boned weariness.  Maybe I’ll believe you.

I don’t know what to do about ISIS.  I’m not a war strategist.  I’m not even good at chess.  I don’t think sending in ground troops is going to be effective at this juncture, but I’m not in a position, nor do I have the full scope of the situation, to make that decision.  I just have to hope that the powers-that-be will actually take the time to develop a strategy before they start chucking soldiers/marines/sailors/airmen at this problem.  It is horrific what is happening out there, yes.  But this is not the time for simple solutions like “kill them before they kill us.”  War is not, can never be a simple solution.

What I ask is that you, my individual readers out there, think before you make grandiose statements about this problem.  If you follow my guidelines and become a liar with a simple adjustment to 1st-person pronouns, maybe you should rethink posting it on the Facebook.  If the boots on the ground aren’t going to be your boots, then shut the f*ck up.

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15AM00000082011 · 08:44