Dear Yuni Chen

The other day I got one of those junk mail pieces offering me “up to” $8,800 for my old Honda Accord.  It was in fake handwriting font, with FINAL NOTICE in Stencil font on the bottom, complete with slight Gaussian blur and acid wash to make it look like someone used a red ink rubber stamp to let me know that it was that serious.  Apparently, they are really in need of 9 year old Honda Accords.  They are at the hight of demand.  If you go in say, “I want a brand new Pilot Premium,” they will say, “Why would you want that, when you could drive a 2005 used Accord?”

The best part was the fake check and stub it was all printed on.  It had a realistic-looking customer ID # and Account number section below a pretend perforation line, and a check at the top.  Where you would write the amount tendered on the check was written “up to $8,800.”†  It was all signed by someone named Yuni Chen.

Realizing it has been several years since my infamous “lost pet” incident, I thought it was time to have some fun.  So I wrote Yuni a letter in response.  I have included it below.

DearYuni






















































It is stamped and ready to mail. -Ryan

† I have decided to write all of my checks like this from now on.  My electric bill this month is written for “up to $63,20.”
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There are times I’ve found myself in moments so surreal that it felt like my experiences were happening remotely, far away from me.  I think everyone has encountered that feeling before, when you seem to be a bystander to your own existence, a fly on the wall watching yourself go through something.

 

Often, these times seem be connected to some great tragedy or hardship.  It is then, when your stomach seems to fall out, like the first great drop of a rollercoaster, or that tingly swing set feeling.  Sweat starts beading from a clammy forehead and your throat goes dry.  But even as you are experiencing this, the camera shifts perspective and in your mind’s eye you are now watching as a spectator. I had a moment like this just a week or so ago, not filled with terror but surreal in its own right.

 

I visited my grandma, my father’s mother, in a convalescent home.  Or maybe it was a rest home…I don’t quite know if there is a difference, or if it matters what we call those places where people end up getting stored as their candles flicker out.  She is by no means ignored the way many people are there.  My relatives, who just aren’t able to provide the degree of care that a Parkinson’s patient requires, visit Grandma Nina almost daily.

 

I’ve watched many of my older relatives pass away, some suddenly and some ever so slowly.  My Aunt Ruby gradually disappeared into the couch over a period of years as the same disease that is taking my grandma gnawed at her body.  I am still not sure which kind of death seems nobler, disappearing overnight or fighting with every breath.  I think the quick version has more appeal to me.  I’d rather remember Aunt Ruby playing her organ or making me a sandwich, than be stuck with the picture that is now her predominant profile in my mind.  I hope that others remember me at my best someday, as well.

 

But with my grandma there in that home I don’t have that choice.  I have very little memory of her at all outside of the other day.  For reasons I won’t discuss here, I haven’t talked to her since early childhood.  When I think back, there are only snippets in my mind of her or my paternal grandpa.  It may be sad, but it is the truth, and I have chosen not to try to deconstruct the reasons why things were the way they were—instead to deal with things as they are now.

 

So there I sat, with a virtual stranger in that place, talking about the weather and birds, and a tree that was blooming nearby.  And I was outside of myself, very far away but wanting to be close…wanting memories that just aren’t there.  And wishing that there was something else, anything I could talk about… something that had more meaning.

 

In the end as I left, she gave me a long slow look—and maybe I returned that gaze, I don’t know.  Her eyes said that she realized she didn’t know if we’d meet again, and that she also wished there was more to talk about than the weather and the birds.  I think maybe, despite me being outside of myself, that presence, us both in that moment was itself just enough. —Ryan

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A Cool Excerpt

I am not saying that I agree with this completely.  I am saying that it is inspiring of deep thought.

  So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another–their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun…

Do you wish to know whether that day is comping?  Watch money.  Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.  When you see that trading is done, not by consent but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.  Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality.   It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half loot.

Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence.  Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper.  This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values.  Gold was an objective value, and equivalent of wealth produced.  Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it.  Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims.  Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’

When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good.  Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral.  Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded.  Do not ask, “Who is destroying the world?”  You are.  

-Francisco d’Anconia

A Few Predictions for 2014

 

presdictionsheaderEvery January I try to make a few predictions for the upcoming year.  This is not astrology, tea leaf reading, or prophecy.  I am simply making some informed guesses based upon observations.  My track record is pretty good, but it is certainly less than 100%. Here are a few:

  1. The Dow Jones Industrial Average high on January 1st was 16,500+.  On the last trading day of the year, The Dow will be a net loss (under 16,500) for the year.  I am guessing that there will be a large correction period this year, but it could also be from fallout from a major political event, or a world event.
  2. There will be a major political change in North Korea.  I cannot see the Kim Jung Un regime lasting another 12 months.  I know that part of North Korea’s strategy is to appear weaker than it actually is (see Stratfor’s analysis), but I think the regime is more tenuous than many believe.  This regime change will likely come from an internal coup rather than an external invasion.  I must admit that this is more wish than anything, but I do believe this has a good likelihood.
  3. The NSA related security issue will be one of the biggest stories of 2014, just like it was this year.  However, part of 2014’s story will be about the private sector trying to both solve consumers’ desire for security.  There will be new products and maybe even new companies creating products and services to safeguard consumers’ private data.  Some of these will be mostly hoaxes, although there might be some new creative technology.  There will also be a rising popular push for keeping private information off of the internet

Bonus

  1. There is a high likelihood of Israel being a much more significant newsmaker than last year.  The possibility of a strike on Iran has increased significantly after the last American and Iranian presidential elections.  The ramifications of this would also be huge.  Even if there is no Israeli strike on Iran, I believe there will be significant West Bank/Palestinian related violence, perhaps even another intifada.
  2. Gas prices will end the year lower than the $3.12 they are at now.
  3. Hollywood movies will be remarkably more upbeat in tone than they were in 2013.  This will be especially true of the Summer Blockbusters, which will feature less apocalypse porn  than in recent years.
  4. Hilary Clinton will formally announce her candidacy for President this Summer.  She will announce this Spring that she is going on a “listening tour” and will announce her presidency surrounded by a sense that people are crying out for her to run.

 

Mistake on Drudge

I’ve been saving this little goodie for a month and had forgotten about it, when I just saw it in my inbox.

I was on the Drudge Report a few months ago when I saw this obvious typo below.  Drudge doesn’t make these very often, so it was fun.

Car Urine picture

 

I’m not entirely sure what “car urine” is, but it must be that small puddle of water that appears under your car in the summer after you’ve been running your air conditioner.  I never tried to smell it, though.

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 4

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4. For the fourth gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Poinsettias, Mistletoe, and Holly

All of these interesting plants represent the Christmas season in some way.  We have all seen bright red Poinsettias in every house or church, kissed under some mistletoe, or sung the words, “deck the halls with bows of holly.”  They are pretty green plants in the middle of Winter.  But did you know these plants also have something else in common?

All three are poisonous.  Yep, that is right, they will make you go poo-poo something awful.  That is, if they don’t kill you.  The one you have probably heard the story about most is actually the least deadly.  Poinsettia can give you a pretty painful stomachache, but that is about all.  The other two can put you in the hospital with some serious vomiting and a case of the fire-pigoo.

Add to the mix that mistletoe is a vampire.  Mistletoe grows as a sap-sucking parasite in tree branches.  Of course, that inspires you to let your loved one suck on your own face as you stand beneath it this yuletide.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 3

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3. For the third gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Neighbors crappy Christmas lights.

Christmas lights are actually one of my favorite parts of the whole season.  When it comes time to set up the tree and other decorations, I enjoy heading outside and getting all the lights up on the outside of the house.  I like driving through the streets of town and seeing other people’s houses decorated as well.  It can be beautiful.

But, then there are displays like this, and every neighborhood has one—one wonderful family that ruins it all for the whole block. I know, because this video was taken in my own neighborhood:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhj1ghyq44Q
About a mile from my house is an area of a few blocks where all the houses are decorated with a common theme.  One of the highlights of the season is driving down that block.  It is peaceful.  It is serene.  There are houses with lighted reindeer, houses with lights on almost every square inch of the roof, and there are homes with cardboard cutouts of snoopy and inflatables all over the lawn.

You know what you won’t see in that neighborhood?  Blinking lights.  That’s right.  No one has ever said, “Wow, that house with all the blinking lights really makes me feel all warm inside and peaceful.”

The blinking lights send a different message entirely: “Gamble Here!”  When anyone turns down the main street to my neighborhood, the first sight they see is much less O Holy Night and far more Live Dancing Girls.

There is a reason that light red blink-inducing bulb comes in a hermetically sealed bag when open your new stringlights.  It is a warning.  If you want your lights to cause seizures, keep it inside your own house, and stop terrorizing your neighborhood.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 2

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2. For the Second Gripe of Christmas, I will Give to Thee: A mall Santa in front of JC Penney.

I generally like Saint Nick, particularly the German version who either rewards good children with fruit or takes them to sell into slavery.  But as I don’t want to sound too much like Dwight Shrute, I will let that be.

My issue with Santa is actually quite extensive.  First, there is the typical complaint that Santa is a huge distraction from the whole point of Christmas, and while that is definitely true, I am not a big enough grinch to advocate kicking Santa entirely out.  But there has been a clear effort to kick Jesus out of his own birthday party.

When I was a child, my mom told me that Santa was good, but that Jesus was the real reason to celebrate Christmas.  Now we have “progressed” to the point where even acknowledging Christmas at all is frowned upon generally.  Instead, we call it Holiday.  But, while Jesus has been largely thrown out of the party, Santa is still allowed.

The problem is that Mr. Claus is pretty much an anti-Jesus figure in many ways.  Santa makes a list and checks it twice in order to separate the good children from the children whom Santa’s NSA network has built a strong enough case against.  The children who have acquired enough good karma are rewarded with gifts.

The story of Jesus is that He came to give free gifts to those who especially don’t deserve it.  Jesus is specifically showing the message that God is not making a list and checking it twice.  This is especially true when you exegete the song a bit.  If he is “making a list and checking it twice,” then he is specifically doing it to properly identify the bad kids.  If he were only checking his list once with the kid’s behavior, then some kids who were naughty might actually get gifts anyway.  Instead, he is making doubly sure to weed out the bad.  But God in Christ, is sowing grace prodigally.

But Santa is even more confusing than that.  In my childhood, we lived in a house for a while that had a fake fireplace which had been boarded up years ago.  I was very concerned about how Santa would get in.  My mom offered to keep the door unlocked, a proposition that I felt was unsafe.  She told me that Saint Nick had his secret ways.  That led to a realization, and many sleepless nights.

Santa is basically the same as a cat burglar.  He sneaks in through the chimney or some other weak point in the home.  He brings a giant bag, and only enters if everyone is properly asleep.  He has the perfect getaway vehicle.  At the end of the night he will sneak out of the country.  He goes by several assumed names, and he has been casing your family for a long time.

The fact that Santa leaves things instead of taking them is a minor detail he may work out at any time.  And how do we know he hasn’t actually been stealing stuff for years.  You know all those socks you think the clothes dryer has been swallowing?  You can’t prove that he hasn’t been taking them all along.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 1

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I know that I might upset a few people with this one, but really when has that ever stopped me…

I have always been kind of a bah-humbug type when it comes to much of the Christmas festivities.  I could do without most of it, and skip the entire month of December entirely.   And I am not alone.  Many people feel this way.  We are all just afraid to say it.  Why, you ask?  It is because all of the Christmas Nazis out there will shame us as if we threatened all of existence by not liking the holiday.

Now, let me make myself clear.  I love the idea of celebrating the birth of Christ.  I like spending time with friends and family, and I have some fond memories from my childhood.  I also do not wish to ruin other people’s joy in any way.

But that being said, there are a few things I need to get off my chest.  Let’s call them my 12 Gripes of Christmas:

1. On the first gripe of Christmas, I will give to thee: Awful Christmas melodies. 

Christmas music is terrible.  There, I said it, and I won’t take it back.  Yes, yes, there are some really good songs that are emotionally powerful, and some fun to sing.  But the only reason that any of us enjoy most holiday songs at all is that we have heard them every single year for our entire lives…every year…for a month straight.

Think about that.  If you imagine your five favorite songs of all time, would you really want to hear them every year for a month non-stop?  Would you like to hear the Beatles Day in the Life as an all-instrumental version in every mall?  How about Billy Jean done by the cast of Duck Dynasty?  And these are actually good songs.  Instead we get to listen to:

The 12 Days of Christmas: A twelve-verse hymn consisting of a lover gifting his beloved with wildly inappropriate items such as farm animals, overly expensive jewelry for every finger, and apparently slaves.  I don’t care who you are, if you love me please do not gift me with maids-a-milking.  I do not need that much cow juice, I have nowhere to put the accompanying cows, and owning another person has been illegal since the Civil War.

No one knows all the words to this song, and no one wants to hear this song all the way through.  It should be permanently banned and used only for torturing terrorists.  If you think about it, there is nothing even remotely Christmas-y about this song except that the writer wants to inform you that the obsessive stalker is using this particular holiday as the cover for his psychotic behavior.

Baby It’s Cold Outside: This is a more recent addition to the songbook, after people started looking frantically for years in desperation for a new Christmas song that is halfway decent.  “Decent” is probably the worst word to use to describe this song.

All one has to do is read the lyrics in order to see that this song is about a man trying to use every means at his disposal to get this somewhat unfamiliar girl to stay with him overnight, including: giving her a spiked drink, bribing her with cigarettes, frantically changing the subject, flattering her, and indirectly threatening her life.  If a man talked like this to your daughter, there would probably be a homicide.  And we listen to this on the Christian music station.  Also, this song doesn’t mention Christmas even once.

We Wish you a Merry Christmas: This song does get bonus points for mentioning Christmas—over and over and over again.  Essentially, that is all the song points out, at first.  The bulk of the song is just “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”  It is a festive sentiment, meant to evoke the idea of some carolers coming door-to-door singing.

But once the listener opens the door, we realize that this is actually a home invasion robbery.  The second verse demands, now that we are successfully inside, that you bring us plenty of food (and everyone knows how much we love figgy pudding) or else we will trash the place.–Ryan

Lies

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It’s been only a week since the contentious Texas State Senate drama and already the revision of history has begun.  It is as if, by repeating the lie often enough, the broadcast narrative has become true.  At least in the popular understanding, apparently it really does work that way.  After all, one of the immutable laws of marketing is that reality doesn’t matter: it is perception of reality that is the only thing that really matters.

In this case, I can’t fall prey to a redefined reality.  I saw it live.  But the majority of Texans (and the larger group of Americans) did not, and so the melting of truth has begun, turning the truth into some Dali-esque version of the preferred Liberal story.

That story goes something like this:

The Texas legislature was trying to end their session by passing a landmark law that would destroy the reproductive rights of women, and force them to get back-alley abortions.   This was perpetrated by the out-of-touch old white men in the government, against the will of the people.  We needed a hero.  We found Wendy Davis.

In a legendary move, State Senator Wendy Davis stood up for 13 hours and filibustered, speaking non-stop without drinking water, leaning, or going to the bathroom, and defeated the evil Republicans: The leader we needed, right when we needed her!

It is a beautiful story.  It could be a movie.  And just like most movies you’ve ever seen, it is completely untrue.

If I’m to be completely candid, I’m not an unbiased observer.  I worked actively for the opposition in last year’s election to get Wendy removed from office.  It was an election where the Democrats spent more money than in any previous State Senate race.  They outspent almost every national congressional race—let that sink in—they outspent most national candidates.  I read the Democrat internal memos, saying that she was a key part of their plan to “turn Texas blue,” and that they were positioning her in a race for governor.  I was also there as Democrats from Chicago bussed voters to the polls to insure victory in their $2.8 million gamble.

But, me being as biased as I am, doesn’t make me incapable of being a witness.  In fact, from about 9:30 that night, I watched the filibuster live.  I saw when the Republicans determined Davis had gotten her “third strike” and she was made to sit down, ending the filibuster.

Then I saw State Senator Dan West and other Democrats repeatedly flood the floor with Points of Inquiry (questions about the proceedings).  All of these sounded like, “I…have…a…question…about…” (with sometimes 2 or 3 seconds between words) Many of these were simply repeats of a question just asked mere moments before.

No less than three times did the Democrats ask to hear about each of the “strikes” Davis had incurred.  This dragged on for over half an hour.  It was a mockery of the democratic process.  It finally became obvious that their game had worn thin, and it was determined to go to a vote.

San Antonio State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (who should not be allowed anywhere near a place where decisions are made) had the microphone as the vote was announced.  She had asked the last question.  As it was announced, she loudly complained that her motion was being ignored.  She was being ignored in favor of the Republican men (forgetting of course that she had taken up much of the preceding 15 minutes on her own time-wasting questions).

She showingly crowed, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”  Apparently, she forgot that she was holding the microphone the whole time, and had not actually made a motion in the first place.  Maybe she just forgot.  It was late after all.  It is far more likely that she was lying.

The voting began.  Finally, the bill would be passed…but then the Democrats turned around and began waving their arms into the air.  The crowd packing the Capitol started to shout and scream.  They screamed so loud that no one could hear the roll call.  They screamed until it was past 12, and the Special Session was officially over, meaning that the bill hadn’t passed.  The mob defeated the democratic process.

I don’t really blame Wendy Davis in all of this.  Her political career has been engineered by forces bigger than she is.  She decided to filibuster (an allowed process) a bill that her politics and beliefs require her to fight.  But, Senators like Van de Putte who stupidly lied in order to achieve her ends, and all of the Democrat operative that organized a mob in order to force their political will, are villains.  They should never be celebrated, even by those who agree with their political goals.

The next day, the news media began to celebrate.  I heard on an NPR show days later that Wendy Davis had defeated the Republicans with her courageous filibuster.  The TV said that the Republicans couldn’t get the votes needed in time.  The newspaper told of the swelling of support for “women’s reproductive rights.”  Commentators prattled over the Republican plan to subvert the democratic process by calling another special session.  Wendy Davis appeared on national news shows.  The local TV showed only tweets of Democratic activists.  I read an article about how people were “clamoring” for Davis to run for governor.

The fact is that 60% of Texans favor this bill, and those numbers haven’t changed since the filibuster.  If the language of the bill is listed without mentioning SB5 (the name of this particular bill), 85% of Americans agree with it.  This is the will of the people.  This is also the will of the elected officials we voted into office.

SB5 does not take away “women’s reproductive rights” in any way.  A woman who hasn’t made a decision before the 6th month of pregnancy is not losing her right any more than a woman who hasn’t made up her mind after the 90th week post-conception.  Those who haven’t made up their mind before then are usually using abortion as a sex-selection option.

The bill also raises the standards of abortion clinics to be equal with that of clinics that perform prostate exams, and other medical procedures.  It is an interesting bit of propaganda to claim that people wanting adequate medical facilities performing abortions, instead of places that couldn’t even get legal authority to conduct  even simple procedures, are anti-woman.  Isn’t the opposite more truthful?  Are we that Orwellian that we blindly accept that people who want women to have abortions in appropriate medical facilities, are doing it because they hate women, while those advocating abortion for even sex-selection (which means more baby girls aborted) and in virtually any type of facility are women’s protectors?

But all of this is quite inconvenient to the Liberal-activist Left, just as the actual events of the night of the failed filibuster are inconvenient.  It seems that in their eyes it is far better to demagogue their opponents, whip up emotional mobs into frenzies, cheat in the democratic process when you are losing, and then lie to everyone about how it all happened.  It couldn’t be any easier if Winston had handled it from the Ministry of Truth. -Ryan