Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Between the ears

I don't generally like doing the "pet peeve" blog posts, but a pattern has emerged lately that's become disturbing to me.  People have an incredible capacity for good, but they also have an incredible capacity to not think.  That old axiom that we only use half (maybe less) of our actual brain potential? Feels true of late.

Without giving any details, someone I know has been repeatedly inconvenienced, left out to dry, and overlooked by people he has to deal with every day.  I wish I could elaborate, I really do, but for a whole host of reasons, I need to keep my mouth shut.  But the extent to which he's not thought of by people who should know better doesn't reflect well on the operation.

Driving, too, you see it.  When I'm driving in the right lane of a highway, passing an on-ramp, and a car entering the highway is timed so that he would merge in just as I would pass him, I change lane.  It's really not that hard - it keeps traffic moving at the same speed, it's courteous to the driver entering, and it's safer than playing chicken with an unknown quantity.  But nine times out of ten, the person on the highway doesn't have the cognitive function to notice this, look around, and make an adjustment.

My patience runs out when people can't be bothered to process information and make a reasonable decision. If the decision isn't to my liking but is reasoned, I can accept that. It's when substantial amounts of viable information are ignored that I get frustrated.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In nomine

Let me just say right from the outset that this post started out as another "what have I read lately" review post. And I'll mention those quickly, but in my head the topic rapidly evolved into a "holy crap, how did all this religion stuff appear in my life at once" post.

On the book side of things, after I finished The Wild Things, I moved on to a nonfiction I've had on the shelf for some time, Vows. It's the biography (written by their son) of a priest and ex-nun who marry, and their struggle to reconcile a relationship they see as perfectly holy with a Catholic Church that disagrees.

It was an interesting book, a little slow-moving at first, but a not-insubstantial indictment of the speed with which the Catholic Church allows for change. And the Boston-centrism of the narrative helped keep me involved.

Following that, on the boy's suggestion, I read Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bible!. This one I ran really hot-and-cold on. The opening story, about the Garden of Eden and the expulsion of Adam and Eve, reminded me very, very clearly of The Creation of the World and Other Business, an Arthur Miller play I acted in my senior year of high school. So much so, in fact, that I started to get angry and wonder about plagiarism.

The rest of the book just didn't really thrill me. The boy built it up for me before I picked it up, so I suspect my expectations were too high, but alas. It was the same when I passed along Nameless to him - I had built it up to a point it couldn't achieve.

At any rate, the subject of those two books, combined with a resurgence of interest in Jesus Christ Superstar (centering on the fact that I saw it again last weekend) just startled me with how much religion can appear without even thinking about it.

Does that happen to anybody else? You can go ages without thinking about some big concept like religion and suddenly, bang, there's three instances in short succession and you can't help focusing for a little bit?

Wistful for a beast

I'm not one of those guys who takes fantastic care of his car. I don't take it in for oil changes as frequently as I should, I don't get it washed (it's gonna rain anyway), and I certainly don't name it.

But lately I find myself increasingly wistful for a machine I treated like crap in the 6 years or so I owned it.

I'm talking about my old Jeep Grand Cherokee. A '95 model, the thing lasted me longer than I probably deserved to have it last. I finally admitted it was time to move on when the rear wheel bearings, ring-and-pinion, and differential all started to go at the same time. That's $1500 of repairs, at least, and the car definitely wasn't worth that anymore, so I sold the thing for what I could get ($475) and got a '99 Taurus with more problems than it let on.

But that Jeep, man, that Jeep. The beast saved my life once when the driver's side front wheel came clean off the car when I was traveling at 65 mph. State cops later said if I'd driven anything smaller than my beastly SUV, the car would have rolled and I probably wouldn't have walked away from the accident completely unhurt.

And despite how poorly I treated the thing (go 6-7,000 miles between oil changes, leave it out in the elements, etc.), the beast took everything I threw at it, chimed "thank you sir, may I have another", and kept right on rolling.

I loved that car. It hurt a bit to have to move on from it when I know it still has life. It felt a little bit like abandoning an aged pet cause it got an ear infection but was otherwise okay. I've found it worse because there are so many mid-90s Grand Cherokees out on the road still - it's as though the world at large is rubbing it in my face that my car couldn't make it.

(Of course, there are nearly as many if not more late 90s Ford Tauri out there, but still.)

My Ford and I haven't yet developed that symbiotic relationship that my Jeep and I did. Of course, that's probably a function of so many things needing fixing on the Taurus (engine skip, coolant flush, new tires, needed brakes and bearings recently, transmission slip), and frankly, I'm not sure it ever will reach the level my old Jeep did. It's a terrible thought, but once I'm settled wherever the boy and I end up living, I want to start thinking about how long it will take to save up for a better used car.

Until then, however, I'm going to remain wistful when I see a mid-90s Jeep on the road, because I should still be driving one.