Thursday, October 23, 2014

Skewed Slightly to the Left: You find someone to carry you

[This was written in a hurry, because I didn't have a lot of time at the time.  Originally posted at Slacktivist.  Cameron and Tsion crossed the border here, they got away cleanly and should theoretically have been able to fly away within 45 minutes of stealing a car but things didn't go to plan, they were discovered, and now they're being chased.  This begins with a phone call to Ken Ritz, their pilot waiting in their plane.]

[Do remember that Cairo was nuked.  Jerry Jenkins doesn't.]

-

"Hey, Cam, what's up?"

"Oh, the usual."

"So I'm guessing the troops massing here are your fault."

"Well..."

"What did you do this time?"

"It was just a minor difference of opinion on what you should have to declare when going through customs."

"Right," the sarcasm dripped from Ken's voice, and the static of the bad connection did nothing to lessen it.

"Honestly, I don't know what they're getting so worked up about."

Ken said nothing.

"Ok, so it was more about whether you should go through customs at all or just, you know, sneak through unannounced while you blow holes in the border fence with high explosives, but that's just details."

Ken sighed. "What do you need from me?"

"Nothing much," Cameron said.  "I just need you to commit treason, risk almost certain death, and have the plane ready for immediate take off."

"The usual, then."

"That's what I said from the start."

"Ok," Ken said.  "Don't get dead."

"Ditto," Cameron said, and then she cut the connection.  "Rabbi, we may need a plan."

"Do you always take refuge in understatements?" Tsion asked.

"No," Cameron said.  "It's just one of many tools I use to take the edge off in situations like this."

"This sort of thing happens to you a lot?" Tsion asked while gesturing to the growing number of Global Community cruisers behind them.

"Not a lot, but enough," Cameron said.  "This still isn't worse than Serbia."

"You mentioned a plan," Tsion said.

"Yes, do you have one?"

"Of course not."

"That makes two of us."

"What are we facing?"

"Global Community forces are massing at Arish; the plane will be ready, but we need to get to it somehow."

"How do they know we're going to Arish?"

"They're probably covering every transit hub in the area."

"What sort of plane?"

"A Lear jet.  Why?"

"After the bombing of Cairo it's likely that the airport is flooded with refugees.  If we offer them seats on your plane--"

"They might be able to get us there."

---

When the first shot rang out Cameron and Tsion both unbuckled and did their best to curl up on the floor, hoping to keep the engine between themselves and oncoming bullets.

Meeting the roadblock was announced by a horrible sound of warping, twisting, and ripping metal and a disturbance that smashed them into every part of the car around them.  They probably both ended up with concussions, at the least, but there was no time for that as the car was still moving, meaning they'd made it through the road block.

Cameron risked sticking her head up and saw how quickly they were approaching the crowd of refugees.

She tried slamming on the breaks and veering away.  The car rolled.

The good news was that the car didn't hit anyone.  The bad news was that Cameron was in so much pain she could barely move.  Tsion wasn't much better.

It looked like the plan would fail and when the door opened Cameron was prepared to be executed or arrested.  When a concerned question was asked in Arabic, Cameron looked up an saw a civilian.  Cameron responded, in Kurdish, that she didn't speak Arabic.

Tsion said, "He's asking if you're all right."

"No," Cameron said.  "Tell them that we have a Lear jet ready for take off, and we'll take as many with us as can fit if they get us to it, but trying might get them killed."

Cameron heard excited Arabic words exchanged outside of the car, and Tsion said, "They understood."

Cameron and Tsion were pulled from the wreckage and carried to the jet.  So many people packed in that there was no space to sit or even bend.  Ken took off, and a lack of anti-aircraft weaponry meant they were safe.  All local air-forces had been destroyed by the recent war.

Partly to keep her mind off the pain, Cameron reflected on the fact that she and Tsion had survived not through the grace of God but through the kindness of strangers.  When the car had wrecked the people had not known that helping might get them a flight.  They had simply known that a car had wrecked and thus whoever was in it would likely need help.  Then they had gone to provide that help even though it was clear that the people with the guns wanted whoever was in the car dead.

-


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'm afraid

You all already know that I don't have enough money.  I've only made it through the past few months with the help of people donating.  It's not supposed to be this way.  The non-monthly expenses may be irregular, but they're not unpredictable.  I've done the math, things add up well.  By no means should I have large excesses, income vs. expenses means that I should always be scraping by.  But the important part in the last sentence is not the scraping, it's the "by".

The surplus I should be putting into savings in months without irregular expenses should be enough to cover the months with irregular expenses.  Except tuition.  I always knew tuition would be a problem.  An ≈ $3,000 problem.  I had hoped to have a solution months ago.  No so much.

But the problem isn't primarily Tuition.  It's everything else.  All of the stuff that was supposed to be covered by built up reserves that never got built up.

I'm behind on utilities bills.  Property taxes are due next month to the tune of $646 dollars (and some change.)  I borrowed to be able to fill up the heating oil tank before prices went up for the winter.  Still need to pay $153 of that back.

$400 to become $600 with the changing of the month is owed on a payment plan for something else (Thankfully no late fees or interest on that.)

That's $1,399 that wasn't supposed to be covered by money in savings except that I don't have savings.  I was supposed to have savings.  They were supposed to be built up in the warm months when there wasn't a need for heating oil and such.  I don't have them.

Add to tuition and that's ≈ $4,000 I can't really afford in addition to usual monthly expenses.  Now ordinary monthly expenses don't take up all my income (which is were the savings were supposed to come from) so I can pay maybe a few hundred of that if I buy nothing (I probably need new winter clothes, quite possibly shoes too as I've worn out the sloes on almost all of mine and in winter you can't have cracks or holes in those because getting wet is downright dangerous.)

None of this is why I'm afraid.

On Monday when it came up that I can't pay the full installment of the property taxes next month, my house's actual owner (my mother) brought up selling the house.  Not as a distant hypothetical,  As a very real thing where the concern was not where I'll live* but the fact that the house's value has presumably dropped and is presumably dropping.

If I can't cover the house's expenses, of which property taxes are by far the most significant, my house will be sold, I will be without a home, and my primary options will be to move in with someone who is abusive (two of those) or be homeless.  (The money I get a month is NOT enough for an apartment.  And if I get housing assistance that's deducted from the amount that I get.)

So, like I said, I'm afraid.

-

* I can't move in with my mom, she's too distant, my sister and father have both been emotionally abusive to me, sometimes very much so, and an apartment is probably not happening.  I could become homeless.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

T-Shirt Tuesday: All right, then, I'll go to hell

By popular request (one person asked for it), here are shirts (light writing on dark, dark writing on light) that have Huckleberry Finn's famous declaration, "All right, then, I'll go to hell," except that CafePress seems to not like italics.  Other than that, exactly like it was in the book down to punctuation and capitalization.

Huckleberry Finn said it when he decided that he'd rather damn his immortal soul than betray a friend, which is exactly the kind of morality we need to see more of.  When God tells you to do something immoral, the appropriate response is to tell God where he can stick it.

(Also, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say, "Yes," but that's a different story entirely.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Speculation and Sanctification

Yesterday I bought food and books.  Expectations of volume were way off and after books there was no space in my backpack for the food (which was bought second as it was on the way home from books.)

Now they say never shop when you're hungry, but if you didn't then you'd never get new food.

The trek from food to home is 2.1 miles.  I never knew that before, but I just looked it up.

I'm going to take a random guess and say that I had hundreds of pounds of food because, honestly, that shit is heavy.

As I left the store I thought I heard thunder and soon after the rain started.

I didn't get too far before I dropped to my knees and prayed.  As I said, food is heavy and there was no space in the backpack.  My hands needed a break.

Prayer:
God, please give me the strength to make it through this, please don't let the books get water damaged, and please give me the patience to not go insane.
 Amen.
The rain turned to heavy rain.  Then downpour.  The torrential downpour.

Did I mention that I didn't have a coat?

Second prayer said while standing:
God, same stuff as before.  Also, a ride would be nice.  Amen.
Trudging on while getting soggy.  Dripping with sweat and rain.  Frequent stops needed to give my hands a break from carrying the bags.

Suddenly, a car.

Random person I don't know is offering me a ride.  (Thank you God.)  Estimate 1.6ish miles left.

The ride is quick.  The ride is dry.  She gives me napkins to dry my face.

As I get out, having been delivered home, she tells me that god loves me.  I agree.  I don't always agree, but prayer was answered.

When I thank her she tells me to thank god, for he told her to pick me up.  I don't know if this is figurative or literal.  Certainly there are people who hear voices.  On a certain level I envy the ones who hear the voice of god.

I'm well aware that that can lead to all kinds of trouble, hence the hedging of "on a certain level", and God (capitalized here because it's that particular god.) is a historically bad campaign adviser.  Also, if God tells you to invade Iraq ... go down the checklist of when it would be reasonable to invade if God hadn't said anything (note well, the checklist's answer is that it is almost NEVER a good idea to invade anywhere, but there is that "almost" usually reserved for cases of genocide) if the checklist says no, tell God that it's not a good time.

That said, I imagine that there's probably a certain sense of purpose and certainty that comes from God telling you to do something, and it seems like that might be a better feeling than being adrift.

I, myself, am unconvinced that any god chooses to speak directly to people in this day and age.  It seems to me that it would be too easily confused with a delusion.

Anyway, no idea if the woman who gave me a ride home meant that she literally heard god say, "Give that person a ride," or she meant it figuratively.  I didn't ask.

I do think that she's earned the good graces of her god either way.  While I didn't ask for specifics, based on where she's from, her accent, her race, and other such factors there's a pretty decent chance she's a Christian and was it not Jesus who said, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for when I, in the heavy rain, was walking a long distance with a heavy load you let me into your car and drove me to my destination"?

The details might be somewhat off, but I think he said something like that.  And the follow up is that whatever you did for the least of these, you did for him.

Now there is some confusion in this story because when I was praying to an all powerful benevolent god I was pretty sure she was female and it was a male god who told the woman to give me a ride.  Possibilities abound, of course.  Lonespark suggests that perhaps my god called in a favor with the driver's god.  Another is that god is genderfluid, which makes a certain amount of sense.  There are others too.

But all of this leaves me with a question.  How does one thank God?

I've already said, "Thank you," of course.  But it seems like there should be more to it.  I'm kind of focused on the idea of pouring a libation but the thing is, most gods like alcohol and I don't drink it and thus don't have it.

Lonespark suggests that gods tend to like the same beverages as people.

Having learned the hard way that transporting liquids will wreck your body I purchased several powders so that I might transform water into more interesting things and thus have:
  • Tang
  • Grape Kool-Aid
  • Tropical Punch Kool-Aid
  • Blue Raspberry Lemonade Kool-Aid
  • Orange Kool-Aid
  • Strawberry Kiwi Kool-Aid
Which do you think god(s), whichever god or gods was/were involved, would like?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baldr and Hel

Loki has had various children, sometimes as a mother, sometimes as a father.  One brood in particular is important.

Odin took these children from their parents (Loki and Angrboða) and banished each to a different place in a different realm.

Fenrir, the great wolf, they raised themselves, but, fearing him, they bound him, acting as if it were a game.  Twice they did this and he escaped.  The third time they used a special magical rope, promised they would free him if he could not free himself (they lied) and this time he did not escape.  Initially on good terms with the gods of Asgard he ended up understandably pissed off.  When the world ends it is foretold that he will kill Odin.

Jörmungandr, the great serpent, was cast into the oceans of Midgard (earth.)  He grew so large that he wrapped around the world and now grasps his own tail in his mouth.  It is said that when he lets go the world will end.  I can't find the source for the whole "When he lets go the world will end" thing, so I don't have the details, but I've always had the impression that the world has become, or has always been, unstable such that if too much time passed without Jörmungandr coiled around it, holding it together, it will simply fall apart.  Thor doesn't like Jörmungandr very much, and the two are fated to kill each other.

The third child from this brood was Hel.

She is the only daughter of Loki whose name we know.  Perhaps the only divine daughter of Loki.  Perhaps the only daughter of Loki period.

When Hel was born she already had the form of an old woman.  Odin cast her into the afterlife, but, unlike the others, he put her to work.  Hel is a ruler.  The place she rules is named after her (it is called Hel or Helheim.)  With with exceptions (looking at you Valhalla), the dead go there.  Even dead gods.  We'll get back to that.

Those that die of sickness or old age are sent there automatically.  Some of those that die in violence do as well.  That much is crystal clear.  What's cloudy bordering on opaque is exactly how the determination is made.  Obviously having your soul snatched by Odin or a Valkyrie is a get out of Hel free card, but is that the only way?  Not clear.

Baldr goes there when he dies.

-

Now the question of what Baldr does when he gets there is not even remotely close to being answered.  When Hel got there she set up a queendom and got the place named after her.  Of course she was under orders.  Like I said, Odin put her to work.  She was ordered by his high and mightiness to receive all that came to her and thus she had to create some kind of civilization with which to greet the dead.  (Presumably by, at least in part, organizing those dead who were there already.)

Baldr shows up and does ... what exactly?

So I was thinking about this, and talking it out with Lonespark, and it occurred to me that Baldr being in Hel's embrace for all this time might not be an accident.

Persephone and Hades eventually worked things out and Hades fucking kidnapped her.

Think about the whole story: A self fulfilling prophesy, wheels greased by Loki, sends the universe's most eligible bachelor to live with his daughter for eternity.

Does this sound like, "Fate sucks," or does it sound more like, "Dad, I've been dating someone and we really want to be together forever but the political ramifications of openly marrying could shake Yggdrasill to its foundations.  Plus, it's kind of hard for him to keep sneaking here unnoticed, it would be better if we could find some kind of reason for him to relocate here without letting people know why.  Can you help?" as said by Hel to Loki?

Doesn't the second one make more sense.  You can see how it goes from there.  Loki says he'll think about it then tells Baldr to start complaining about nightmares of dying.

One mistletoe spear later and Hel and Baldr are living happily together.  Sure, it'll bring about the end of the universe as we know it, but everything's gotta end sooner or later, right?

-

Since Lonespark and I talked about it she's pointed various things (including, most recently, a poem) my way by people who came to similar conclusions.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Odin and LBJ

So, I was walking home one day and thinking about stuff.  It tends to happen when the walk is two hours and you don't have anything much to do.  I should probably get one of those walkity-man thingies so I could listen to music.  Of course then I'd need to have music.

So much work.  Ugh.

Anyway.  Walking.  Thinking.

In a conversation that happened before this point Lonespark and I had spoken about Marvel-Odin.  Lonespark is a Norse Pagan and so depictions of Odin matter to her in much the same way depictions of Jesus Christ Vampire Slayer matter to Christians.

I reached the conclusion that the problem was that Marvel-Odin is an asshole, where Mythological Odin is an asshole who makes up for it by being awesome.

He's probably not someone you want to have around for personal contact, but you totally want him on your side in general.  You can even admire him, provided it's done from a safe distance.  Think (Marvel Cinematic) Tony Stark, or Nick Fury before he thought evil incarnate was a good idea so long as Hydra didn't have their finger on the trigger.

Tony Stark is a good example of an asshole who scores points for awesome.  Nick Fury in The Avengers practically is Mythological-Odin incarnate.  Seriously, if it turns out that his helicarrier is the son of his blood-brother who comes from the land of our oft-times enemies then I think we can mark Avengers-Fury as totally Odin.  Because it seems like that's all he's missing.  (Well... rainbow bridge, golden apples, details.)

And this thinking led to the question of what are some non-fictional semi-contemporary, possibly American, analogues for Odin?

Now I don't really know that much about ass kicking male American warriors who occasionally take a few years off to be wandering female seers, so my attention turned to administrators.  Odin is a king, after all.

And thus... LBJ.

By all accounts Lyndon Baines Johnson was a complete and utter asshole in almost every possible respect.  And that "almost" is just me hedging.

The reason he took the job as Vice President in the first place was that he was playing the odds and noting that the number of vice presidents who didn't have to be elected was pretty high given the number of vice presidents there had been in total.  It wasn't a majority, by any means.  It was a little less than 20%.

He took the job of Vice President because he saw a 20% chance that JFK would be killed or otherwise die in office.  It happened.  He became President.

That is not a nice person.

After the assassination he made Bobby Kennedy, the dead President's brother, talk him through the procedure for taking over the country even though:
a) He already knew it
b) There was no fucking reason to ask Kennedy because literally anyone in that department could have done the job.
He was just rubbing salt in the wound.  And, again, the wound was that Kennedy's brother had just died.

This guy was a grade A, first class asshole.

He was also instrumental in getting civil rights legislation passed.

Which is to say, this asshole worked for good.

His feud with the Kennedys was personal and mutual, but his asshole powers could be used for more professional things and it was, in part, through the use of his massive unmitigated asshole powers that the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Which is sort of the best example I can think of of a case where someone is an asshole, but makes up for it by being awesome.

Civil Rights legislation wasn't going to pass.  The votes weren't there.  The support wasn't there.  Enter LBJ, asshole extraordinaire.  Everyone told him not to even try.  He'd lose.  It couldn't be done.  There was no point in trying something that was doomed to failure.  He did it anyway.

I cannot imagine an American without LBJ.  I've tried.  It just doesn't compute.

The Civil Rights movement was a combination of the powerless demanding they be treated better than shit and a specific subset of the powerful pushing the same onto a racist country that, by and large, didn't want to better itself.

Neither of those groups could have prevailed without the other.  Even with all of his asshole powers, arm twisting, and understanding of the legislative process there is no way in fucking Hell that he could have gotten Civil Rights legislation passed if not for the movement.

But at the same time, the movement wouldn't have gotten legislation if not for LBJ.  What would have happened then?  Richard "Southern Strategy" Nixon wouldn't have done it.  Ford?  Carter?  Certainly not Reagan.  Clinton?  The opposition shut down the government multiple times while he was in office.

Look at the Civil Rights movement and imagine if all of that effort, if all of that passion, had come to nothing.  What the fuck happens then?  How long can you keep a nonviolent movement going if nonviolence never yields results?

Would it have turned violent?  Would people have maintained their principles but had their hope crushed?  Would we still be fighting the fights of the sixties today with no discernible legislative progress?

I seriously have no clue where America would be today.  As I said, I can't imagine it.

Even beyond the civil rights the Civil Rights movement was concerned with, if all of that very visible work on the part of the people yielded no fruit, would we even still believe in the democratic process itself?

I was born 21 years after the Civil Rights Act passed.  An America without it defies my ability to imagine.  Not only do I have no idea who we would be, I have no idea who I would be.

And so the point comes to this:

LBJ = Raging Asshole + Incredibly important person who did immeasurable good for my country.

And that's sort of like Odin.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monthly Donation Reminder

This is your regular reminder that I do, in fact, have a donate button on the blog (top right corner.)

Posts like this go some distance as to explaining why.

And now, about October.

First off, not Octember.  That's a Dr. Seuss book.

Second, as one of the number months (Octo = 8) it's kind of boring.

This is the ides of October.  October has been 31 days for as long as there has been an October.  As with all number months it was knocked 2 our of order when January and February were added to the start of the year (which is why the month with eight in the name comes tenth.)

That's about it.