June 2017

Life and Death

[This post was originally started on the day Oliver passed away, I put it aside and now at the end of the year, am cleaning up and finishing up posts I didn’t complete at the time of their original writings…]

I woke this morning to the sound of crying.  From my wife.  What actually woke me was a wail from her as she had discovered that Oliver, our 29-year-old cockatiel had died in the night.  Then came the crying.  Personally, I don’t get too emotional about many things, but today has been more than a little different.  Just so many little things that you don’t think about, seem to revolve around that little creature that entwined his way into my life.

To say Oliver has been a fixture in our lives would be an understatement.  Any ‘pet’ that you have past 20 years is pretty well ingrained in your life.  Birds, for the most part, fit that cubbyhole, since some of them (cockatoos and parrots) can live 50 or more years.

Oliver, I’ve personally known for about 25 years.  He was the only thing that pre-dated my marriage.  He outlived the cat that came into the marriage with me and put a pretty good dent in the lifespan of my current cat.

By and large, I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘bird’ person.  I prefer cats.  When I was growing up, at the time of my brother’s 10th birthday, he was allowed to pick a pet.  He chose a dog.  Our parents presented him with a female golden retriever.  Missy was a great dog.  The plan had been to breed her, so she needed a name to go on the certificate that was unique.  My brother came up with “Golden Lady MissaLissa”  which quickly got shortened to Missy.  Goldens do have a tendency to develop epilepsy, and Missy did eventually, so we ended up spaying her and she turned out to be a great dog regardless.  She wasn’t much fun during thunderstorms, as she would occasionally have an episode and hide under my Dad’s desk and have to be calmed during the storm, but other than that, an excellent pet.  At the time of my birthday 2 years later, the same question.  “Your brother has Missy, what sort of pet would you like?”  I didn’t want another dog, so I chose a cat.  I thought cats were neat.  Everyone loves kittens!  They’re cute, cuddly, and a bit insane sometimes when you watch them at the pet store.  My Dad had grown up on a farm and had barn cats, as well as strays that took up residence on the family farm, so he knew a few things about cats.  He apparently knew someone at the local hospital whose cat had had a litter, and on my 10th birthday, I was presented with a little tiny bundle of fur that I named Tabby.   Why Tabby?  Well, she was a calico cat, and she liked Tabby cat food.  I was 10, it seemed to make sense.

By and large, all of the pets that have been part of my family have been long-lived.  Missy, the aforementioned golden retriever, in spite of her epilepsy, lived for between 15 and 16 years.  Tabby, my first cat, 12 years.  Jeb, my second cat, had to be put down when he was 14.  Rochester, my current cat is already 8.  But Oliver really took the cake.  He was around when I first met my wife and was about 3 years old then.  At the time I was dating her, she also had two parakeets, Andrew & Annabelle.  Both parakeets died in the ensuing years and weren’t replaced.  Oliver stayed with my in-laws until their eventual deaths, and then came to live with my wife, I and Jeb.  Since Jeb had never lived with a bird before, we had to be sure to keep the two of them separate.  Jeb was an indoor cat, and very curious (as cats tend to be) and more than once had gotten too close to Oliver’s cage.  One day, Jeb got right up close to the cage, and Oliver, being the territorial bird and fearless (my wife and I more than once had observed that Oliver seemed to think he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof) pecked Jeb right on the nose and scared him.  Jeb never again went so close to the cage, no matter what house we were living in.  Even so, we took great care in keeping to two of them as separate as we could, we didn’t wish to have any accidents.

The same was the case with Rochester.  We live in an old house (built in the 1830s) and it wasn’t originally designed with bathrooms.  So sometime in the last 30 years, someone had carved out a downstairs bathroom in what appeared to be a closet, and an upstairs one in part of the master bedroom.  The adjoining bedroom to the master became Oliver’s room, where he stayed during the day when the cat was free to roam or ‘patrol’ the house.  During the afternoon, Rochester would either be relegated to Oliver’s room upstairs or the downstairs bathroom while Oliver was allowed to come down and spend time with my wife in the backroom addition, coming out of his cage and keeping her company for a few hours.

So it can be easily said that Oliver was a big fixture of our lives.  We miss him a lot and remember him in many different ways.  I may not be a bird person, but I think Oliver and I got along pretty well.

Universal isn’t exactly that

We’ve been going through a ‘hot snap’ here, and usually around this time of year is when I install the air conditioners. Over the winter, the wife and I had discussed ways of making the air conditioner upstairs a little more secure in its installation and decided to try using a brace for support. Unfortunately, we forgot to take into account the fact that we live in a decidedly square peg in a round hole.

Houses that were built in the 19th century are notorious for being rather finicky when it comes to modifications. They don’t really fit the ‘cookie cutter’ dimensions that their mid to late 20th century counterparts enjoy. That’s especially true when one purchases a universal mount that claims to ‘fit all manner of window treatments’. It ain’t so, bub…it just ain’t so.

We had the mount shipped in via Amazon, after looking over various manufacturers, oddly enough, they all seemed to have one thing in common; they’re made of metal, and they have a distinct shape.  What they don’t seem to have is versatility.  Upon receiving it, I opened the package and did a dry run without looking at the window in question.  It seemed pretty straightforward.  Measure twice, drill thrice, install..bing bam boom, easy peasy.

Um, no.  Not even close.

Suffice it to say, after 2 hours of messing around with the thing, having to charge my 12 volt cordless drill twice, and still having to torque a screw in by hand, it didn’t work.  The window sill in our house is too long, and extends too far out from the window to accommodate the brace.  The best thing I could do was remove the lower bracing piece and support it using scrap boards I had in the basement.  But I couldn’t get the other two screws drilled in, because of the lack of power in the drill.  I finally gave up and installed the AC the way it has been for the last 8 years.

Though I’m going to revisit the issue on a day when it’s not 90°+ inside and out.

The care and feeding of Unions (or lack thereof)

Author’s Note: This post doesn’t have anything to do with BDSM, the lifestyle etc.  So feel free to skip over it if it’s not your cup of tea.

I work in retail.  Specifically a grocery store. Obviously, I’m not going to say which one, but suffice it to say it’s a moderately sized one, in the United States.  I’m also a member of a union, specifically the UFCW (United Food & Commercial Workers).  It’s not a huge union, it’s affiliated with the AFL-CIO, and it does represent many of the workers at grocery stores throughout the United States.  That being said, there are many grocery store workers it doesn’t represent.

Unfortunately, over the last 30-40 years unions have started to shrink dramatically, and been given short shrift.  When you think about a lot of the things that you might take for granted, like a 40 hour work week, weekends off (mostly, depending on your job) child labor laws, OSHA regulations etc., you might want to thank the labor movement and unions.  They’re the impetus or the grease for the wheels of industry.  Without the labor movement of the 1930s and 40s, none of this would be the norm now.  But nowadays, unions are dying, for many reasons, but mostly because large corporations would prefer to keep their employees under their thumb more, and less organized.  Less organization means they can call the shots more, and keep their labor under more control.

During the 1970s, the largest corporations were in the automotive business.  GM, Ford, and Chrysler (The Big 3) had most of the clout and market share and their unions had large memberships and a good amount of power.  Union members were making probably $20-30/hour, the pension plans were well funded and members were happy, working well and retiring without much of a problem.

During the election cycle of 1980, when Jimmy Carter was running against Ronald Reagan, Reagan didn’t have much in the way of support from labor unions.  Ironically, PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic COntrollers union after some debate endorsed Reagan for the Presidency.  In August of 1981, Reagan essentially dissolved the same union when he fired the air traffic controllers for what he said was an illegal strike.  Overnight 11,000 people were not only out of a job, they were barred from ever being employed again as controllers.  Certainly, this was quite unprecedented in the history of the US, but it turned out to be a major catalyst in the downfall of unions today.

Today, the corporation with the most workers is Wal-Mart.  Are Wal-Mart’s employees unionized?  Absolutely not.  Wal-Mart is so anti-union they have their own division that constantly is on the prowl looking for people that might be considering talking about unionizing, and if they get wind of such an action, they kick into high gear to bust it up, even to the point of closing a store that might be considered towards unionization.  They want their employees to be controlled by them, not a union.

In 2000, in Jacksonville, Texas, a Wal-Mart’s meat department’s employees voted 7-3 to establish a connection with the local union.  Wal-Mart’s knee-jerk reaction was to ultimately fire all the meat cutters and butchers in their entire company and replace all of the previously fresh cut meat with pre-packaged meat.  They stated that this had been their plan all along, but there were no indications anywhere that this was the case.

Now, I’ve worked for grocery stores that were unionized and non-unionized.  When I first started working for a company where there was a union, I honestly felt that there wasn’t a need for the union.  It was required if I wanted to work there that I had to be a member, and I was required to pay dues every week.  Too, a small amount of my paycheck went toward the union-backed health care plan, and ultimately my pension (if I worked long enough) would be handled by the union as well.  The company that I was working for didn’t have any sort of pension plan, health care plan etc.  They were just the place where the union employees worked.  After 17 years of working through the union, I finally had a situation where being a union member mattered.  Suffice it to say I was terminated from my job for something I didn’t do, but through negotiation and arbitration, I got my job back.  Had I not been a member of the union, it’s very likely this would not have occurred.

I certainly see more and more that unions are having less and less impact on the health and safety of workers in the US.  Between ‘right to work’ and corporations getting more and more from their workers and giving back less and less, certainly keeping wages stagnant and decimating pension plans, I wonder in 50 years if there will be any labor unions at all.

When will they learn?

I’m continually amazed at how different people approach the BDSM lifestyle.  Then again I’m boggled at times how stupidly others approach it, and move through it, causing angst, mayhem, and harm for all the rest of us that are trying to treat it with respect and dignity.  For every Secretary, there’s at least a hundred (if not a thousand) Fifty Shades of Grey.

My Miss texted me this morning with a tale of current woe, for a mutual acquaintance.  Right along the lines of the above observation, hence mostly the reason for this entry.

The gentleman in question, for lack of a better term (and I’m being incredibly charitable), had in the last 24 hours, dumped one BDSM partner (whom btw he’d never met) and moved on to not only proclaim love for (how does one claim love for someone they’ve only started conversing with less than a day ago?) but has supposedly entered into a full blown BDSM relationship.  Collar, claiming, ownership, the whole works.  Within ONE DAY.  How do people do that?  Yes, I realize it’s mostly because they have no inkling of what they’re doing, what harm they’re probably causing, and using BDSM as a crutch or the rationale of “it’s something new” to try and replace what they’ve been missing in vanilla relationships.  But if you couldn’t make it work the first time, wouldn’t you think perhaps there was something that needed to be changed, looked at, perused, conceptualized, BEFORE doing it again?

This morning just after waking, I was reading the website of a professional dominant in New York City.  She had posted a Q&A that people on her website had asked her questions, and she answered them.  One of the questions dealt with how she perceives what’s happening in the BDSM scene these days, what with the Fifty Shades phenomena, the stories that keep cropping up in the news about scene relationships gone wrong, usually spectacularly because the people in them don’t know the first thing about RACK or it’s predecessor SSC.  One of the points that she made that resonated with me was how much BDSM is looking more and more like porn these days.  There are very few websites that focus mainly on BDSM practice without including sex in the scenes that are produced.  Yes, I understand “Sex Sells”, but it’s bastardizing the core tenets of what BDSM always has been.  There’s nothing in the meaning of the letters (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism) that even touches on a sexual act.  But so long as the now mainstream BDSM themed websites (Sexually Broken by Insex, or almost any of the Kink.com sites as a quick example) keep driving home the notion that sex and BDSM go together hand and glove to sell their product, it’s going to be further muddied.  Fetlife makes it even worse, in that the vast majority of videos, pictures etc. that are posted there are sexually based.  Sure there might be someone tied up in the background, a whip might be flicked a few times, a few bruises in evidence, but what happens at the end of the video?  Orgasms.  Nearly every time.

We’re saying the wrong things.  Teaching the wrong things.  Regrettably, my voice is a small one in the whole scheme of things.  But I’m going to voice it here just the same.  For whatever it’s worth.

Just go to bed already!

In case you were wondering, I’m on vacation from my work this week.  Normally at this point in time, I’d be long in bed and long asleep.  But for the last few nights, I’ve been staying awake all night and not going to bed until 5, 6 or 7 am.  Then proceeding to sleep until noon or one pm.  Or 11 am like yesterday.

Needless to say, Miss isn’t very pleased with all of this.  Yes, she understands that when I’m on vacation I don’t really have a set bedtime, simply because I don’t have to get up for work in the morning.  (Suffice it to say, in 15-17 years, when I finally retire, this should be an interesting exercise.  Or conversation.  Or both)  Even so, when I sleep until noon, I don’t tend to be very productive for the remainder of the day.  Less production, less contact, sleeping at the wrong times, awake at the wrong times.  It sort of adds up.

Oh, look at the time.  Almost 1 am.  Time for bed.  G’nite!