Dogs of war

In a shocking turn of events, I am no longer going private. Do not get me wrong; every inclination is to take myself off the grid emotionally, figuratively, literally, physically, mentally… That could be the fight or flight reflex kicking in.

Maybe I’m extra raw right now. I found out Monday a friend of mine from my former employer passed away. He went on secondment like I did, from California (LA) to another country (London, to be specific). My journey took me from San Francisco to Australia, but we had similar experiences which left similar tastes in our mouths after the fact. He’d left the firm, and found a great role at Ares Capital Management. He was gay, as am I. He was active in our LGBT employee diversity group, as was I. He had stage 4 colon cancer and was only 2 years older than me.

I’m shaking as I type this, so much so I can barely keep my hands trained to the keys I must type to say this. Adrenaline has been coursing through my veins all morning, as the anti-immigrant executive order signed, subsequent detaining of even legal green card holders, and protests at airports has unfolded. The United States has placed a ban on travelers from 7 countries, effectively targeting the Muslim religion, which coincidentally do not include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Trump’s businesses have ties there in those 3 untouched countries, to be clear. If anything, terrorists from those 3 countries were primarily responsible for 9/11. But they’re not blocked. They’d get through Trump’s “security” today. Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

I consider myself a citizen of the world, though my passport may be from the United States. Traveling internationally gave me profound respect for cultures other than my own. I saw the unity of humanity despite and through its differences. I appreciated how tiny I was in the scheme of the things, yet how loud a single voice and experience can be.

No, I cannot be quiet. A song debuted at the women’s march on January 21, 2017, practiced by online participants in advance, called “I Can’t Keep Quiet.” Like its lyrics proclaim, I, too, am a one-woman riot right now.

What Donald Trump and his supporters have done in just his first 8 days in office has completely up-ended the good, stable things that have made America great in the past. They have just made it un-great. That will undoubtedly have consequences. That’s gonna leave a mark.

I watch in shock and awe as history repeats itself. The dogs of war have been unleashed. It is on. This is how the 3rd world war commences, and that would make the time of the 3rd anti-christ upon us, according to the predictions of Nostradamus.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know what gift to give my dad, so I asked. Maybe it was a birthday, maybe it was Christmas. My memory begins to fail me in the details from long ago. He asked me for a Pink Floyd CD as a gift. I was shocked that there existed a Pink Floyd album he did NOT have! He told me it was the album with the song “Dogs Of War” on it. If you’ve not heard it, I urge you to give the link below a listen. It begins ominously. As we have, as well.

We can’t stop what has begun. Signed, sealed, delivered – oblivion, as the lyrics to the song go.

I am so disappointed. I’m disgusted. I am angry. I am sad. I am ashamed. For America. But I cannot hide. I’ve chosen my battle. I’m 35 years old. This and now is as good as it gets. I am as strong as I need to be right now. If I don’t commit myself to fighting this, then what is my purpose in life? I’ve never felt so passionately for something before. Peace. Open borders. No walls – the wall in Berlin was not only to keep unwanted outsiders out, but also to keep people in. If Trump builds a wall, part of me knows it too will be to keep Americans who want out in.

Giving up is not an option, now. Staying silent isn’t either.

He is Voldemort in the sagas of Harry Potter. He is President Snow in the Hunger Games. I just hope it doesn’t have to take 2+ more books to put his evil to rest for good. He cannot win. This is not how the story goes. I find myself wanting to shout from the rafters, “I volunteer as tribute!” if it would help the situation. It will not, but I’m involved now. It’s gone too far.

Iran is already retaliating against Trump’s order. I do not blame the Iranian people. I worry about future international travel plans I have. What if citizens of the US are no longer welcome anywhere else? What if the tables turned, and the Americans are now the refugees trying to escape a terrible force of unwanted government, and we have nowhere to go? No one to help us? No no no no no. Borders, bans, walls – these are not the answer.

I feel unsafe. Uncomfortable. The stress of only 8 days in the presidency is taking its toll on my body. My PT had to tape my left knee the other night, as I’ve got bursitis from perhaps too vigorous a leg workout day, working out my aggressions and stress. All morning I had a tension headache. I’m not sleeping well. I’m barely eating. This is not good for me.

His impeachment cannot come fast enough. This tangent we’re on needs interrupting. This would be a great time for the Avengers to make their presence known. For greater powers with sanity, logic, and a heart to intervene and make things right.

But that would be easy. Nothing ever comes easy. We must fight for it. Our ancestors fought for freedom in the past, and the fight is not over yet. I hope the election didn’t wear you out, because this has only just begun.

Resist. Everything. He. Orders. Resist.

Also, I again refer you to a post written by John Pavlovitz, who seems to have a knack for saying things the way I want to these days. Please read his most recent post “Dear World, From America”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, again. Please forgive us; you are seeing us at our very worst right now. We are turning to look at ourselves with horror.

I’ve said it before and it’s worth reiterating: Muslims, I’ll ride with you. Like the hashtag that went viral after the Lindt café shooting in Sydney, you are safe with me. I was coming home on the bus from yet another stress-induced vigorous workout today, when two women with head coverings and dark skin sat next to each other on the bus next to me. Maybe they weren’t even Muslim, but my sense of protection kicked in. My reflexes were so taught, I was literally thinking if anyone came onto that bus and began to harass them, I would literally get in that person’s face. I wondered what it would be like to get my ass kicked for doing so. I found myself not caring because what is right must win. It must.

I have also said before (see my post) and I’ll say again, this is exactly what the terrorists wanted, and America has played right into it. Fools.

Yes, I’ve admitted before to having hate for Trump. But that shows that I have passion. I am not indifferent, which is the true opposite of love. I’m certainly not indifferent. I have chosen a side, or perhaps the light has chosen me. I refuse to be on the wrong side of history, and now, I am prepared to die for that. Where this is going is unacceptable. Where America is going under Trump’s tutelage is not acceptable. I cannot, with my mind, all my heart, and very being, exist in a universe where the bad guys win.

So I must do everything I can to see to it they don’t. It’s hard to keep it all straight, as the M.O. of Trump and Republicans has been to throw the entire cavalry to the field within the first 8 days, signing executive orders that impede on my rights as a woman, as someone with a voice, as someone who appreciates the many freedoms afforded to me as a US citizen.

Yet today, I’m a little unsafer. Yes, I’m scared, if I’m being honest. I might look white. But I am female. And I definitely look gay. I’m not safe in Trump’s America.

If you’re not scared, then maybe you should be. Leadership of America now rests in the tiny hands of a malignant narcissist, bringing us ever closer to midnight on the doomsday clock.

Remember to find little joys where you can now. Sleep. Try to be good to yourself and others. Build strength. Find a way to fight and be active. Now is the time. If you find yourself getting tired, just rest; don’t quit.

I recently rewatched V for Vendetta as it recently became available on Netflix. Where is Guy Fawkes now? What day exactly do we mail out costumes to everyone to create an uprising? Do we wait for the curfews? How far does it have to go before we stop giving him a chance and begin shutting him down? Why isn’t he impeached yet???

I still believe in diversity and freedom and liberty. I have no children to protect or look out for. I have no wife to keep a photo of in my helmet as I press on. I sit here, writing to you now like Bastian in the attic of his school while reading the Neverending Story. Perhaps we had to be brought on this terrible journey, to give the empress a new name and save this world. We had to watch the horse die in the swamps of sadness. We loved the damn racing snail.

I sit here, writing to you now like the lesbian who died in V for Vendetta among the masses of emaciated prisoners likened to Holocaust victims in the film, who wrote her life story on a tiny scrap of toilet paper and rolled it up between the bricks of her cell for Natalie Portman’s character to find during her stay in the very same cell.

I have something to fight for, though. I still believe in good. I do not own a gun, nor do I want one. It would defeat the purpose of what I believe in, to fight with a gun. I do not think our government should take away your gun, if you have one. I’d feel a lot safer if you put it away, actually, unloaded, thanks.

I’m on edge tonight, and as I go into tomorrow, and the next day. My defenses are up. Maybe yours should be, too.


Democracy’s funeral

I don’t subscribe to cable service. I haven’t had live TV since I lived in Sydney, Australia, and that was never really an option once we subscribed to Quickflix (Australian Netflix).

I have no live TV at home, therefore, I have no “other channel” to tune into on January 20. Big Brother can’t track my interest in the History Channel or National Geographic, instead of the inauguration. Shouldn’t have typed that keyword. Should not have typed that.

I read about how viewership worked and how there are nominated viewer families today, and how non-measured families don’t really matter because of how extrapolation to 7 million viewers occurs.

Patton Oswalt in his Facebook post last night tried to tell me how it really worked. He was throwing spaghetti to a wall and hoping it sticks. It didn’t for me; I still don’t get it. Long story short, I liken viewership to proxy voters. Math. Hard. Sad! “What have I become??? Writing like he tweets???” *maniacal laughter, tears*

Point. Right. Like Ellen DeGeneres, I do have one.

Love him or hate him, it’s time for everyone to grow up and work with Donald Trump. Or so I’m told.

We fought tooth and nail. We hit all 5 stages of grief like it was Coachella, and then got backstage passes. We signed petitions for the Electoral College to prove itself useful. We held the media accountable despite arrows from “he who must not be named”. Now we have to work with him??? You have got to be kidding me.

I thought about it for, like, a second, and I realized… I’ve worked with people like him before.

My advice? Take furious notes (detailed, dated, corroborated where possible), cc HR (the media?) and bring them to any meetings/interactions if possible, and Cover. Your. Ass. Like radioactive astronaut suit cover.

I wanted to wear black today, mourning the death of democracy. I didn’t. I wore instead my dad’s flannel shirt. I’m going through today by honoring and remembering my father, instead of tuning in to the American Circus Shitshow Extravaganza. He used to wear it when I was a kid. I’m channeling my inner optimist despite every inclination to spiral into a dark depression for the next 4-8 years.

My parents fucked with me. Once I’d exhausted my mom, she would tell me to go tell my dad he wanted me, basically getting rid of me. I didn’t get what she was telling me to say at the time. So I waddled up to my dad and said like she said, “Dad, Mom says to tell you you want me?” Don’t shoot the messenger. Then once it tumbled out my mouth, I realized my mom had pawned me off on him. He’d chuckle, audibly or with his eyes, and inevitably involve me in whatever he was doing at the time. He’d break it down to the point of unbearable minutia. Educational. Like PBS educational. Like, pay him money to shut up educational.

My father was a very private man. Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation reminds me so much of my father, it’s uncanny. From the gruffness to the mustache. He didn’t have an easy childhood. Despite his faults, he was a really good dad when he had his dad hat on. He wasn’t one for online banking platforms despite being a Silicon-Valley-in-the-80’s techie. He never wanted to hand people working Costco exits his receipt because he felt it violated his privacy, so he’d get into arguments with them on our way out. He didn’t believe in cloud computing or shared networks, or Facebook. He was a private, gruff man. I see his point.

This Inauguration Day, I think I need to throw out a shout-out to my Kung Fu Panda Popfarts. I think I’m going to honor my dad. I think he voted for Barack Obama. I think he loved me. I think he’d watch this inauguration like the Hobbit, or Star Wars, or Dune, or Rome. He’d be entertained. He’d go see it in the theater, only to fall asleep. He’d know that this was a total joke. That Donald was merely a reality TV star after ratings. But he’d see it as art, too. He’d smoke some weed and laugh. He’d hold his ground on voting staunchly liberal. He’d make it all better, for me.

I remember when I was 17, I bought my aunt’s 1988 Toyota pickup truck off of her when she wanted to buy a new car. I learned how to drive a stick in that car. I only had one “accident” in it that I couldn’t take care of myself. It wasn’t really an accident. It was stupid, really.

I was parked in our garage while both of them were at work to keep my un-air-conditioned little Yoda a bit cooler in the warm San Jose summers, and I was going to drive the kids next door I was either babysitting or hanging out with to 7-11 for a summertime slurpee, or to Baskin Robbins for some ice cream. It’s a bit fuzzy around the edges. 20 years does that to you.

Anyway, I opened the garage door, as we did not have an electric door, back then. I started my truck with one leg hanging out the driver’s side door. Summer heat. Summer vacation. Brain vacation. I threw the gearshift into reverse and began backing up… but I hadn’t shut my driver’s side door. Bent. Backwards. On the garage door frame. In front of the kiddos. Fuuuuuuuuck.

My dad, within 24 hours, had gone to a pick’n’pull, located a beige 1988 Toyota pickup with an in-tact driver’s side door, paid $200 (1/6th of the price I paid for the whole damn truck), and had it installed. Not all heroes wear capes.

Granted, some of the door’s ligaments didn’t exist. Some were literally rubberbands I put there to keep the door from swinging all the way 180 degrees open. Beige on white was absolutely intolerable as well, so within another 72 hours, I’d procured touch up paint in 3 shades of blue: slate/silver, turquoise, and royal, and had an ocean wave painted on that beige door. White touch up paint around the window to frame it out, because details.

I honestly don’t remember if I thanked my father for what he did and how quickly he did, and meant it. He fixed it. He didn’t get many opportunities, and he didn’t rise to every opportunity. But he did then.

My dad would watch beautiful women go by. I’d see his eyes having to look at them as they walked by. In those moments, I told myself that was not the kind of person I wanted to be, and I didn’t like that. But even in making mistakes themselves, our parents teach us things about the way we want to be. Perhaps the reason I am so plain myself is to dodge the gazes of men like that. But I digress.

He never once grabbed them by the genitals though, or bragged about what he could do to them. I would like to think, given the chance, he’d draw the line there, somehow pull off daddy of the year by insulting Donald Trump, putting him in his place, dishonoring him publicly, ruining every narcissistic thought in his head, and knocking some sense into him. I mean, I might be reaching for the stars, but maybe he’d try. He’d know Donald Trump was a terrible person.

So into today I go. In the immortal words of Boyz II Men, “I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain. It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.” I’ll have to take my memories of a scandal-free White House and classy first family to be my sunshine the next 4-8 years.

I’ll miss you, Obamas. Like Joe Biden in one last meme, I don’t wanna be Obamaself.

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The future appears bleak. I had little to no hope in general in life going into this. I was not prepared for this on November 8, and I’m not ready for this now. He is not my new normal.

I’m no stranger to having to accept that which I do not like. It can be nigh on impossible when what you must accept goes against everything in your mind, heart and soul. When it’s so against your grain, you feel no point in existing in the same universe as what you must accept. Swallowing bitter pills doesn’t get easier with experience, contrary to popular belief. If anything, it’s worse. We would like to think we’re too old for this. We deserve better. It’s not really happening. Alas. Here we are.

When I see you at democracy’s funeral (or when I don’t, since I won’t be viewing the inauguration live), don’t say hi. My sunglasses are my armor. My headphones play silence, worn only for appearance of preoccupation. Don’t make eye contact, or I’ll cry. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

There was so much time to do what we wanted. So many steps forward in 8 years. So much growth. We’re not perfect, but we tried. Only to be cut off. By this American Circus Shitshow Extravaganza. We’re all grieving, in our own ways.

Today, surround yourself with art, music, love, bohemia, everything cultural and original and real. Everything this “administration” is against. Protest in whatever way you feel comfortable. Make a memory. Hug your loved ones. Take solace in a shared grief.

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Just get out 2016; leave

Even George R.R. Martin agrees 2016 has been a horrendous year, as written in his Live Journal blog on December 28, 2016. The author of the Game of Thrones series, notorious for picking off characters we love and subjecting them to the most gruesome death (without regard), thinks, “this year just keeps getting worse and worse.” I find it hilarious that 2016 could have literally been written by him, and he kinda knows it.

Perhaps the other urban legend taking root on Twitter is true:

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The latest bout of celebrity deaths – George Michael, Carrie Fisher, then Debbie Reynolds in just the last week, has just left me in awe. Everyone we know and love is dying off, breaking our hearts, killing our hope, and leaving us shocked at how far 2016 can truly go. As if losing Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Anton Yelchin, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Arnold Palmer, Leonard Cohen, Nancy Reagan, Alan Rickman, Alexis Arquette, and others wasn’t enough… I also lost my cousin this year. But it’s not that I love everything the celebrities did; that’s not why I mourn.  These people helped me discover who I am, in a small way. My cousin did, too.

Syrians died. French people died. Germans. Black lives. Blue lives. So many. 

I feel like there are still 2 whole days left in this godforsaken year and just about anything can fucking happen. Further, the realist in me knows this doesn’t stop just by the calendar year ticking over to 2017. It’s going to keep happening. It’s not just suddenly going to end.

One of Carrie Fisher’s quotes seems apropo right about now:

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We have to keep going forward despite the fear. Against the hate. One foot. Then another foot. In front of the other one. 

Personally, 2016 was not my worst year. My worst year was actually 2013, the year I went through a break up, lost my father, and hit the pinnacle of shittiness in my career.

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So I figure if I can survive the worst for me in 2013, and 2016 was not the worst, then I’m actually ok. But I totally agree, 2016, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. I personally plan on staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve for once just to watch 2016 leave, ya filthy animal.

Perhaps I seem to be ok despite everything crumbling around me because I seem to have a lower amount of hope. With the barriers to Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20 (the actual electoral college vote and a looming impeachment) cleared, I have no hope that America will be great again under Trump. Shit’s going to get worse. Fill those liquor cabinets and buy that legal marijuana where you can. Hold on to your butts.

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I have friends vacationing in London and Paris right now, who get the general sense from foreigners that they’re actually afraid of what Donald Trump might do. You know what? I am, too. He could undo everything, and not in a good way. Those traveling friends are embarrassed to admit they’re from America right now. And I am, too. Game of Thrones Cersei bell-ringing “SHAME!” walk to you, America. I sound my bell at you and cry, “SHAME!” You voted this man in, not me. Shame.

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All we can do is activate the phone tree and form a protection circle around Betty White and another one around Ruth Bader Ginsburg a la Practical Magic with our Swiffers and Dysons. If you want to pray, pray for social Darwinism, that the powers that be take Donald Trump and Mike Pence and put them on an island somewhere, with no political power/affiliations and no Twitter access. I don’t want Trump to die. But I certainly am sick of seeing his chook neck and ridiculous claims all over the media.

All joking aside, at this point, 2017 can’t be anything but better, since 2016 was so shitty. So I’ll raise my glass to what can only be better than this mess of a year was. Whilst it was certainly not my worst year, it was not the best.

Seeking silver lining

Cheddar (my cat) threw up twice this morning. I wanted to do the same.

It’s raining in Seattle this morning. That, at least, feels right.

I made the conscious and mindful decision to wear black to work today. I am in mourning. I’m ashamed. I didn’t vote for the winner. What I feel can best be described as grief. I know it well. But, under my dark garb of grief, my underwear is still magenta. Inside, I’m still the same person, bright, unapologetic, magenta.

Yesterday, I had Demi Lovato’s “Confident” stuck in my head and began singing it out loud. “What’s wrong with being what’s wrong with being what’s wrong with being confident?” False confidence, that’s what, Demi.

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I recently finished a series on Netflix called Brain Games. It’s about how our brains deceive us, and how much of human behavior is predictive based on how we’re hard-wired. The series resurrected the truth I already knew from learning about confidence intervals in my statistics courses in college. In the show, people on the street are asked to give a range where they are 95% confident the answer to a question is within that range. For example, one question was “How many countries are there in Africa?” I would have to come up with a range, say 1-100 where I’m 95% confident the answer is within that range. What happened in the show, and to most people when they do this exercise? They made their range too small, and they ended up being incorrect most of the time. When the show was made, they counted 57 countries in Africa, whereas if I google it, there are 54. Either way, most people gave a range of, say, 20-50, and they were wrong. Lesson: we place too much confidence in a small range of outcomes which leads to greater disappointment when we are wrong.

Hillary exhibited what, in retrospect, is best described as false confidence in her debates. Hell, I had false confidence that Trump wouldn’t be elected. My fellow Americans were better than that. Even I succumbed to how I’m hard-wired. I misplaced my confidence in the American people. It didn’t feel like false confidence at the time. It felt like common fucking sense. I still had hope we would band together to prevent Trump from winning, so it seemed like Hillary had to be the answer.

Last night, as the events unfolded, so many people in my Facebook feed took this opportunity to spin things positively, make jokes, laugh their way out of a terrible situation. Most of them lived in Australia, given the time difference of the news breaking, just because I have many friends on there from my 3 years living there. But I only felt my cheeks flush, and I wasn’t laughing. I was embarrassed. I wanted to hide. I wanted them not to laugh at us.

This might be the first time in my life where I’m struggling to see the humor in all of this. I’m also struggling to be a bigger person, and accept the outcome with grace. It’s still just as difficult as I imagined it would be. It stopped being funny a long time ago, and as time progressed, it just got more shocking. That turtle on a stump on a deserted dirt road suddenly became reality last night. We don’t know how it got there or what’ll happen next. It doesn’t belong there. Yet there it is.

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I saw people comparing this election to the British BREXIT vote, with my favorite spoof on it being:

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A moving picture came across my news feed of Lady Liberty, her face covered by her hands, hiding from the shame, in shock too:

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I am on a mailing list for which I received an email from CEO of that capital management firm assuring me their portfolio was agnostic over the outcome of this election. I wish I could say the same for myself. It’s so very personal this time. It was personal in a good way when Obama won, and in a terrible way when George W. Bush won before that, too. I’m looking so hard for a silver lining right now. It seems nowhere to be found. I want so much to be a role model, to be someone I can be proud of, to be a bigger person. For 8 years, I’ve listened to “He’s not MY president,” about Obama. I want to shout the same thing from the rooftops, to the people on my bus, to anyone who will listen this morning. But saying it out loud means acknowledging that it’s not true. He is the president-elect of my chosen home. I have no intentions of leaving my home. I just bought my fucking condo. I can’t leave. I did manage to get myself closer to Canada though, just in case.

A place is only as good as the people you know in it. I’m at least lucky that I currently live in Seattle, in one of the bluest states. I grew up in a blue state, and have people around me who are in just as much shock, if not more. Maybe I didn’t think America needed to be made great again. Maybe I thought it already was pretty great, for giving me the right to be who I am without fear. That right feels like it’s been taken away from me. What fresh hell is this?

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I rub my eyes (metaphorically, because I stupidly wore mascara today) and reality is what it is. I wrote previously in Election that a plan B had been found whereby we could have a case for the impeachment of Trump before he ever even takes office. I worry more if his VP choice Pence ever becomes president when we impeach Trump.

I breathe deeply. The road is uphill, and we’ve fought so hard this far, and it feels like we’re losing ground. Our work is cut out for us. As a nation, and as individuals. These next 4 years may not be an easy A. They may be the hardest C I’ve ever worked for in my life. But I know I have to work.

As I waited for the bus into work this morning while it was still dark outside, I chose to listen to my playlist in iTunes called “End of the World.” It seemed right this morning, too. Here is what came through my earbuds when I shuffled that playlist:

  1. Take a Bow – Beyoncé
  2. Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad – Moby
  3. The Rose – Bette Midler
  4. Sideways – Citizen Cope
  5. Overcome – LIVE
  6. Train Wreck – Sarah McLachlan
  7. Dry Your Eyes – The Streets
  8. Mad World – Michael Andrews & Gary Jules
  9. That’s All – Genesis 
  10. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
  11. Still the Same – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
  12. Ticking Bomb – Aloe Blacc

It expressed in melody and lyrics how my heart feels.

“There are millions of you ― of us ― searching for uneasy answers, trying not to breakdown on the subway, forcing ourselves to pull our shirts over our heads and attempt to somehow be useful in a country that seems to have no use for us, in a country that we are certain does not want us, that we worry will not keep us safe.” (Source: here)

Boundaries and frontiers

In San Francisco, we’re geographically on the edge of the country, on the frontier of technology, and as individuals we’re probably more than 3 standard deviations away from “normal” compared to the rest of the country. But something I’ve learned, being one of those who live in areas like this, is those who live on the outskirts and in the fringes pave the way for followers. These outliers do not follow in the footsteps of others but instead forge their own paths, and leave a trail.

I’ve been watching a series available on Netflix “How the States Got Their Shapes,” which talks about various events in the nation’s history that made the borders where they are. It’s not as simple or straightforward as you think. A lot goes into history – border disputes, land additions, religion, sports, culture, and anything else you can think of that might divide or unite people.

I must admit, U.S. and world history was lost on me. I don’t know why, but it just went right over my head like water on a duck’s feathers, and rolled right off, with me none the wiser. I was even in an AP history course in high school and got good marks, but I don’t think anything really absorbed into my brain for the long haul. I guess the way it was communicated to me, it seemed like boring dates, with no real story behind it, or why it was significant. What history lacked for me was context, the brain wrinkle, the so-what.

As I get older though, the more interested I become in National Geographic, educational videos, documentaries, and especially just about any program on the history channel. I can actually learn history things now; it permeates through my duck feathers and actually saturates my brain now. I’m learning a new appreciation for history, as I don’t want to be one of those doomed to repeat it. Generations to come will be feeble followers, not fearless adventurers. They too must learn the rules, and proceed to break them will all the fervor they can muster.

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To me, the game changers are people who find a way to make something better. It’s innovation. They speculate about solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had. Speculators are true visionaries. They have an idea and take a chance. They see things that others cannot. They are the true dreamers. They create infrastructure, the bones that support society. Transportation, fuel, waste management, product and food distribution, education, solar/wind/green energy, long term care/residential properties/real estate, and so on. Infrastructure leverages existing systems and creates a way to harness the resources available to them.

Speculators become the leaders. They have to convince everyone and sell the idea. They think of things like boundaries through time – it’s not just a matter of “my land goes from this tree to this river.” A boundary that stands the test of time can be independently measured time and again, and people will agree on it – like creating boundaries to latitude and longitude of the earth. Then regardless of whether the trees and rivers are now where they were 500 years ago, the boundary is still objective and in reference to a “stable” constant. Brilliant minds think of things in such different ways.

Venture capital and private equity firms fund the new ideas and become speculators in their own right. I’m from the very heart of Silicon Valley, the birthplace of these so-called “angel investors,” who finance good ideas, new ideas.

Surveyors measure land and boundaries with precision tools. They can get to the nearest centimeter, now using GPS technology. They can remotely bounce some data to a satellite in outer space, and account for gravity in their measurements and calculations. Their measurement requires a certain constant though, i.e. a centimeter will always be a centimeter and will never be more or less than a centimeter. What makes a reliable measure, anyway? Of course, I think of the musical Rent and the 525,600 minutes of a year we measured in love. In music, a measure is a lapse in time. In Morse code, it’s a break creating a dot or a dash, a flash/break in light. A cushion for the force.

But do borders and boundaries really matter? Even if they are precise, to the centimeter, aren’t they just arbitrary anyway? What’s the point if they change over time?

Early Americans were fighters, self-reliant captains of rugged individualism, pioneers, real Mavericks. <<*said with nasal Sarah Palin accent* >> But why do we fight for the land and ideas and the things people can’t see?

Honor. Integrity. Rights. What is right. There are even rights high into airspace above us. Rights indefinitely into future time, in perpetuity.

Contracts (and measurements) have a fatal flow that assume a constant. But that’s just the thing. Boundaries melt and mix. It gets messy. On the frontier – that’s where the decisions have to be made. Where law is put to the test and hopefully, it works. Every frontier is like this – the fashion industry, art, science, technology, and so on. Ask yourself this, though: Do we fight now? Do we fight for anything now? In my daily life, I don’t see the same level of struggle that those who came before had. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Contract lawyers made a killing in early America. They wrote original contracts, defined parameters, set protocols and precedence, created the boundaries and infrastructure we currently have in America. They put in words and eventually into contracts the measures of land to the 23rd parallel, whatever that means… Surveyors tell you where the land is and more importantly, where its borders are.

This TV show also has a few stories about the 51st state. To be clear, many places are hypothesized to be the 51st state – Washington DC, since it is just a district and not a true state, which makes voting for DC residents a little special. There is the state of Jefferson blurring the border between Oregon and California. Those residents truly believe they live in the state of Jefferson. The frontier is very much like living ghost states or territories, that elusive 51st state. You create your reality in the frontier. It’s sort of a made-up place in your mind where you get to make and enforce the rules. You either love it or hate it. The frontier is not for everyone.

They’re introducing a new area code in San Francisco at the end of this month, because we’re close to using up all the 415 phone numbers. In fact, I got a text message from Verizon today warning me that as of February 21, I now have to dial the area code 415, even for local numbers within the same area code. The new area code is 628, and they chose to create an overlay over the same geography as the 415. Why couldn’t they just give it a specific locale, so we can always associate 415 with San Francisco city proper? When NYC ran out of 212, they just stopped issuing those numbers and started 917. Why did they have to overlay California’s code? I see no point.

In the early days of the telephone, we used rotary phones before cell phones(it’s sad there is a whole generation now who have never used a rotary phone.) Therefore, the first area codes were for big cities, and they used smaller, early #’s. That means it was quicker for an operator to connect someone dialling a 212 (NY) or 203 (DC) code, whereas Santa Cruz, California used (831) which would take much longer on a rotary phone (because 8 clicks takes longer than a 2). I’d argue San Francisco city proper deserves the lower #, so they should keep the 415, and the new area code should start with something higher… Whyyyy?

In San Jose, there is a bit of a tourist attraction in the Winchester Mystery House. As a local, I can say I still have not yet visited, though I’d like to. Sarah Winchester went a bit bonkers and left a local legacy. The house has stairs to nowhere, and other architectural oddities that sometimes make no sense. In a way, I like to think she was redefining the boundary of what a house could be. Just like a house boat, or a tree house, might redefine your idea of a home.

For me, it’s good to know where boundaries are. That way, you can decide to operate within them, or break them, depending on what the situation demands. I do well in the fray, on the frontier. I do better creating my own reality, rather than operating within the confines of someone else’s reality. I want to create my own boundaries, that actually mean something.

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Income taxes

I’m in a required training course all day today, about income taxes. If there is one subject that makes my eyes glaze over and want to be any place but here, it is taxes. While I’m a CPA, I don’t do taxes. I pay someone to do my taxes. While I was abroad, my company’s tax department did my taxes for me. It’s like someone speaking tax is speaking another language. No comprendo, hombre.

We’re talking about intercompany agreements in the land of cost-plus arrangements, indefinite reinvestment in foreign jurisdictions, all matters of transfer pricing and uncertain tax positions, and deferred tax asset valuation allowances… have I lost you already? Yeah, the instructor has lost me too.

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Rather than go into depth on those and bore my poor readers to death (as you are likely not all accountants), I’d rather talk about the ethics behind corporate taxes. I work for a company (who shall remain nameless) calculates tax provisions, provides some tax advice, and basically helps our clients (corporations and partnerships and such) do their taxes. More importantly, I think my company helps corporations achieve “tax planning strategies and objectives” to minimize taxes in any given jurisdiction. I put those in air quotes because “tax avoidance” is just such a dirty term in the industry… but that’s basically what it is. Call it what you want.

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From a political point of view, and ethical point of view, I don’t think it’s fair that companies try to actively avoid taxes. While it’s an expense for a company, it’s revenue for our government. Our nation was founded on principles and people moved here to avoid unfair taxation. I think there is a fine balance between paying reasonable taxes and avoiding idiotic tax laws written to usurp and take advantage of those without a lot of money. However, those people who want to spend the government’s money a certain way need to understand that it needs to earn it a certain way too.

If you look at this high level though, the ones who can afford to pay for tax advice and tax structuring to save money, usually have so much money, they probably don’t need it. Whether they have a few more dollars makes no material difference to a corporation. However, for a family of 5 with one income earner in the family, a few dollars would make a huge difference. That family of 5 needs the tax planning arguably more than a corporation. That is the ethical issue I have with what my company does. They simply help the wrong customer with taxes. The laws are written with an unfavorable bias for companies, because they lobby the government, they sponsor and financially back a candidate, and then the candidate becomes a puppet for corporations. The company I work for was in the top 3 financial backers behind George W. Bush’s campaign for president. For shame.

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Look at the tech companies in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco bay area. Residents of San Francisco are bearing the brunt of increases in rent because companies like Yahoo, Genentech, Google, all have campuses outside the city, with free shuttle services that pick up residents all over SF. I personally believe that the Yahoos, Genentechs, and Googles should bear the price differential in the rental market. The young yuppies should not be pushing up the rent prices around here so the families of 5 in SF can’t afford to live here anymore. It’s very much a personal point of view, which I don’t expect others to share. Cut the free shuttle service. The employees should buy a home, or rent or whatever, closer to the campus. If you cut off the free perks, this would incentivize those people to fulfill their financial responsibility of circulating some of that money around the economy a bit.

The other gripe about the taxation system I have in general is the way it must be manipulated for same-sex partners. Now that the federal government has delegated lawmaking around gay marriage to various states, there are various workarounds that need to be factored into the taxation system.

I remember before I left for Australia, there were approximately 1,100 tax benefits that LGBT folks in a committed, loving relationship could not claim compared to those who file married returns. For example, a married couple gets a deduction simply for filing in a married status, but same-sex couples could not claim those. Each person had to complete their own individual filing “single” or “divorced” or whatever tax return. The headache alone of two returns instead of one is enough.

Estate planning, visiting your same-sex partner in the hospital, same story. Next of kin was sometimes an unsupportive family member instead of a loving partner. Sometimes that family member cuts off all support of the living partner because they don’t approve of that lifestyle. That’s not right.

Without going into tax planning for same-sex couples, as it’s been a few years, and I need to refamiliarize myself with the law, basically the system needs a reset. We need a new structure, that gets our country money it needs desperately (I will also choose to abstain from the discussion as to what America needs that money for), and doesn’t put the bulk of the tax burden on the lower and middle classes in order to do so. I’m not saying the tax burden should be disproportionately borne by the wealthy either – the system has serious loopholes that needs to be closed so corporations bear more of the burden.

Don’t even get me started on our healthcare system in America. Australia, which I experienced first hand, was leaps and bounds better than the US. Canada has a great system, possibly the greatest that I’ve heard about. America has some progress to make. But I digress…