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Goodbye, 2000s

December 31st, 2009 No comments

I’m glad what happened yesterday happened. It brought to the surface the emotions I began the decade with, thus bringing everything full-circle in a beautifully poetic way.

I just went for a long walk through the open fields here and reflected on the decade as a whole. I spent most of it in silence, but at a few points I listened to songs from The Division Bell: Cluster One, Marooned, and High Hopes. It was in the year 2000 that I discovered Pink Floyd and I’ve been listening to them at various times of significance ever since. And of course the highlight of the decade was seeing them at Live8, so there was nothing more appropriate.

As I walked, my mind treated me to a slideshow of random pictures of memories from all throughout the last ten years, illustrating to me just how wide and diverse an array of experiences the decade brought me. And thanks to yesterday’s shock regarding Aimee, I was able to feel the emotions that went along with the images. It’s incredible to think that the same person, the same consciousness, was the subject of all those experiences. It’s amazing how much I’ve seen and done.

So goodbye, 2000s. I won’t label you as positive or negative—you were both and neither. The real question is whether I feel you were worth having lived through. All in all, I’d have to say that you were.

Categories: Personal Tags: , ,

The Ringing of the Division Bell

December 30th, 2009 No comments

I suppose I always knew this day would come eventually. I had no idea it would happen like this, in such a bullshit way like this, but there it is. Eleven years and forty-one days since I met her, and now I know she’s married.

I was just fucking around on Facebook, saw that someone on my friends list had joined a group of former SKIT members, a theater group that I’d also been a part of back in high school, so I clicked on the link and went to see who else was a member. Half-way down the list I came to this name:

Aimee C——- W——–

Next to it was a wedding photo. Immediately all my blood froze, I found myself short of breath, my hands shaking. There is was. Undeniable. Official. The girl I probably loved more strongly than anyone else in my life, the girl who completely set the course and direction of my entire romantic life—or rather, lack of a romantic life—and now she’s married.

I honestly have no idea how to feel about this. I know I feel something, which is a huge change of pace from these last few emotionless months, but I really don’t know what I feel. I haven’t had any time to digest it yet. Maybe by the end of the day I’ll barely even care anymore. But right now—shit.

I immediately went out into the fog and rain, thankfully the perfect fucking atmosphere for finding out such monumentally personally significant news, and smoked a cigarette. Now I’m just sitting here at my computer again, trying to get my thoughts in order.

What a perfect way to end the decade. When it began I was still very much in love with her…obsessed even. Over time that love has grown cold and I eventually got over her completely. But still, this is still big. To think that I find out on the day before the decade ends. Crazy.

It’s not like it changes anything. Nothing at all is different than it was yesterday. She’s still completely absent from my life. I never had any real hope of seeing her again let alone being with her. It’s just that now it’s completely and utterly official—she’s taken. She’ll have a whole family before long. She’s gone. Completely and utterly gone forever. It’s almost like finding out she died.

I have no idea who the guy is. It doesn’t matter of course. Although I suppose it would be much worse if it was somebody I know, somebody else I’d gone to high school with. But whoever it is, he managed to succeed where I failed so miserably. He saw in her what I saw in her, grabbed hold of her, got her to fall in love with him, and decided to spend the rest of his life with her.

Not quite sure what to do with this emotion, whatever it is. I’m considering sending her a friend request to get back in contact a little, congratulate her, just put some sort of “closure” on this whole fucking thing. I don’t know what it would accomplish but I feel like I have to do something. Maybe I’d feel better if I was able to exchange a few words with her. Maybe I’d feel better if she ignored my friend request altogether and I can walk away from this with just a “fuck that bitch” and put it behind me where it already was before fifteen minutes ago.

I don’t know. I really should chew on this for awhile before doing anything. But it definitely brought something back to life that had been lying dormant for such a very long time. I used to literally count the days it had been since I met her. As recently as last year, on the ten-year anniversary of the day I met her, I spent the whole time reflecting on it, going through the old journals and thinking about what it all means. Now I’m forced to do that again.

I just went out and smoked another cigarette, listening to “Marooned” on my I-pod, reflecting…

How differently would this decade have gone had I not completely screwed things up at the very beginning with her? If I hadn’t written that goddamn fucking note and turned her from being interested in me to being afraid of me?

For all I know, everything would be pretty much the same. Perhaps we would have gone out for a few weeks or months, then broken up and I never would have found anyone else ever again. Or maybe it would really have changed things. Maybe if I had succeeded back then I would have set myself up for future successes, not got myself firmly entrenched in the pattern whereby I would fall madly in love with some unattainable beauty and just obsess over her until all hope was lost. I’ll never know.

I just went back and read my first journal entry ever, from November 30, 2000. In it I mostly put forward my solipsistic view of things I had back then, about how the purpose of my life was to discover the “Millennium Earth Secret” (MES) and all other human beings were members of the “Publius Faction” a reference to the “Publius Enigma” which was supposedly a secret message hidden within Pink Floyd’s final album, The Division Bell, which I’m listening to right now. A Great Day For Freedom.

I wrote that I believed Aimee was my soul-mate. But that in this particular life, we weren’t meant to be together. That the meaning of this particular life was for me to be alone, forever separated from my soul-mate so that I might discover the answer to the MES, which I believed had something to do with my father that abandoned me. Being abandoned in this lifetime by my soul-mate, I thought, had something to do with the Answer I was supposed to be searching for.

I’ve certainly come a long way since then. I no longer believe I’m the only truly conscious person in this world, I don’t think my life is a puzzle I’m supposed to try and figure out, and I certainly don’t think that Aimee was my soul-mate. I don’t even believe in soul-mates anymore. I’m not even sure I believe in the soul.

Wearing the Inside Out. All this shit flooding back to me. The end of the decade bringing me full circle back to the beginning.

I even believed in Christianity when the decade began—not the literal interpretation of the Bible even back then, but I still thought that Jesus was divine, that the End Times were upon us, and that God had a plan for everything. It was the self-inflicted torture that I put myself through regarding Aimee that eventually led to the death of my faith. Aimee was the genesis of everything I currently am. Whether or not it really had anything to do with her, it’s always felt like everything began with the idea of her. The idea that there was one person out there for me, but that I wasn’t supposed to be with her.

To this day I still feel deep inside that I’m supposed to be alone somehow. As skeptical as I am about everything regarding the deeper meaning of Existence today, I still can’t shake the feeling that what’s happening to me in this life is the result of things I’ve done in previous lives. That I’m being punished somehow. That I’m fated to live with strong unquenchable desire until I die, that desire never to be fulfilled. It’s very much the reason I’m still alone. Why I’m still not really trying to find someone. Why I’ve accepted that I will always be alone—that this is the way it was meant to be. It was Aimee that brought me to draw that Conclusion. The Conclusion that was the culmination of my first journal, indeed of my entire high school loveless experience, that There Is No Hope.

And regarding Aimee, now there really is No Hope. Now she’s married.

Coming Back to Life. Where were you when I was burned and broken? While the days slipped by from my window watching. Where were you when I was hurt and I was helpless? Because the things you say and the things you do surround me. While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words, dying to believe in what you heard, I was staring straight into the shining sun. Lost in thought, and lost in time…

It feels so appropriate somehow. That it should happen like this at this time. That my first journal entry of the decade was about Aimee. As is the last.

Maybe now it’s time to let go. Maybe this is what I needed—to really have to reflect on this, to feel it again, to see it again through the eyes of the person I am now. To gain a new understanding of what it means to me, and then to let it go once and for all. I took a heavenly ride through our silence. I knew the moment had arrived. For killing the past, and coming back to life.

Or maybe it will only reinforce the Conclusion, to show me how separated I am from the rest of everything. The only soul in my own world. Forever alone.

Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young, in a world of magnets and miracles. Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary. The ringing of the division bell had begun…

Looking beyond the embers of bridges glowing behind us, to a glimpse of how green it was on the other side…steps taken forwards but sleep-walking back again, dragged by the force of some inner tide…

The endless river…forever and ever…

The Bill: To kill or not to kill?

December 29th, 2009 No comments

With any luck, this will be my shortest political entry ever. I’m not going to waste any time analyzing the ins and outs of the senate health care bill that was passed a few days ago, but merely make the case that I’ve been making in comments to other online pieces I’ve read about the issue.

My first reaction when the public option and subsequent Medicare buy-in compromise were dropped from the legislation was to join those justifiably enraged progressive activists in their calls to kill the bill. I’ve been saying all year that health care reform with no public option is not reform at all. So if they’re going to drop that from the bill, I say kill it and start over through a process of reconciliation whereby you’d only need 51 votes to move things through the senate, thus depriving Joe “I-take-joy-in-the-suffering-of-others” Lieberman of the obscene amount of power that the present circumstances have given him.

But after hearing enough arguments to the contrary, as emotionally satisfying as the call to kill the bill may be, I just can’t escape the logic that anything, even this pile-of-shit legislation, is better than the status quo. At least…it would be if it weren’t for one little thing: the individual mandate.

Now, I’m not opposed to the concept of a mandate to buy health insurance. It’s a sensible policy—when the uninsured get sick and have to use emergency room services, everyone ends up footing the bill. Requiring everyone to buy insurance makes sense in terms of basic economic fairness—at least in principle.

However, without a public option to compete with private insurers, there is another principle involved: that of basic right and wrong. I always hesitate to use the word “evil” because of its religious connotations, but I don’t think twice about attaching that label to private health insurance companies. As I’ve written before, they make their profits by literally letting people die. Their essential purpose is to provide people with the peace of mind that a disastrous injury or illness won’t bankrupt them—but they don’t even really do that. When a person gets sick, they try to find any excuse not to pay. That’s just the nature of the profit-motive when it comes to health care. The less health care they actually pay for, the more money they keep for themselves.

A not-for-profit, government-run insurance program, on the other hand, exists solely for the benefit of those it insures, not for the shareholders on Wall Street. If there was such a public option that was available to everyone, I’d have no qualms about imposing a mandate on individuals to buy insurance. Those of us who consider private health insurance companies to be morally reprehensible would be able to buy insurance from a non-profit provider.

But actually forcing people to buy a product from a company they consider evil is just too offensive to my conscience to allow me to support this bill. I would personally rather go uninsured and risk sickness and death than fork over any amount of my income to the health insurance mafia. The idea that the government is going to fine me for following my conscience is disgusting. It’s like throwing conscientious objectors in prison because they refuse to go to war and kill people for a cause they don’t believe in. It should not be the business of government to punish people for following their own moral convictions.

Of course, most people aren’t thinking about this in terms of morality. In fact, the entire health care debate has been fought almost exclusively in the language of cost controls and affordability (which is one of the main reasons we’ve ended up with such a pitiful final product). The problem that most people have with individual mandates is that it will impose a crushing financial burden on already over-burdened members of the middle-class. And this is a strong argument against them too. Forcing families to choose between paying for insurance they can’t afford (even with government subsidies, many wouldn’t be able to) or paying a fine to the government is obscene.

The private health insurance industry loves this bill. It’s millions of new customers gift-wrapped and hand-delivered to them for financial abuse. Individual mandates with no choice of a public option further entrenches this broken and morally bankrupt health care system we have in the United States, making it less likely that things will change in the future. If the final bill looks like the current senate bill, we will have rewarded the insurance companies for their bad behavior, allowing them to continue it in perpetuity. Just as the bailouts rewarded the bad behavior of bankers who caused the financial crisis by ensuring that no matter what they did, taxpayers would be there to save them.

I’m sick and tired of rewarding the bad behavior of giant corporations. If I were a senator, I’d draw a line in the sand and say that I would stand with the republicans and filibuster any final bill that included an individual mandate with no public option. Either insert a public option or remove the individual mandate, but I won’t accept the one without the other.

Yes, millions would be helped in the short-term by the reforms that remain in the bill. But over the long-term, keeping the private health insurance mafia firmly in place will only lead to more suffering, more people condemned to death at the alter of Profit.

If they insist on an individual mandate with no public option, I say kill the bill. That doesn’t mean we just accept the status quo—we can make it illegal to exclude people for pre-existing conditions and impose other such desperately needed reforms in separate legislation—but it means that we won’t accept a compromise that forces us to compromise our basic moral values. My moral sense says that the profit-motive has no place when it comes to matters of life and death. The senate bill would ensure that profit remains at the core of our health care system, and that’s why I believe we can’t accept it.

Hollow Christmas

December 28th, 2009 No comments

The past few days have felt like a rerun of last Christmas, doing nearly the same exact things with only minor differences. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve we went to the same house as last year to visit Hans and Gerlinda for Kaffee und Kuchen, and that same old lady who never looked me in the eyes was there, all of us sitting in virtually the same seats as last year. I learned an interesting bit about Hans—he was born on a military ship in 1945, transporting Germans from Poland back to the fatherland after it was clear they were losing the war. Apparently hundreds of thousands of families had to make the dangerous trip across the East Sea, and 33,000 were killed thanks to British bombers and Soviet submarines. Hans was actually born on that journey, and he has a card to mark his date and place of birth (latitude and longitude) signed by the ship’s commandant.

Of course it was pretty boring for the most part, as I can’t understand a word they say unless they slow down and speak directly to me. A bit later on Steffan came by again with his wife and the 8-ish year-old girl Analena, who was now one year older and one year chubbier. That night we ate fondue and drank lots of wine again, just like last year, only I think we went to bed a bit earlier.

The following day, Christmas day, was largely uneventful except for the evening trip to the male voice choir’s annual Christmas concert. Unlike last year when they sang at a school, they were able to use the town Church and the acoustics were much better so it sounded particularly good. Much to my relief/disappointment, Elena was nowhere to be seen, but there were plenty of other girls for me to admire, which I suppose was extra sinful since I was in a House of God. If there’s a Hell I’m definitely going there, I was thinking. I’ll be the only virgin in Hell.

After a light dinner that night, I called home to give my regards to my family, then we watched a stupid action movie called The International and then went to bed. The next day, the 26th, was the Day of a Thousand Wines, and it was the same setting, same company, same exact meal as last year, right down to the mashed potatoes and Red Kraut. The only difference was I sat in a different place and didn’t talk to Gerlinda about my family history, seeing as how I learned it last year. In the afternoon we went for a little walk, then came back and sat around drinking wine and talking as the company left. No talk of finding a girl from Ichenheim this time. I avoided that subject altogether, except for asking whether any beautiful girls would be coming to the New Years’ Eve party they’ll be holding this year with about a dozen guests. Only one young woman will be there, but she’ll have her boyfriend with her, so hopefully I won’t find her too beautiful. I’d rather I not spend the last night of the decade pining over some unattainable beauty, as appropriate as that might be.

Yesterday was also a repeat of last year, as the same two old women came by for the same exact meal as before. I drank a bunch of wine in the middle of the day, went for a walk, took a nap, then spent the rest of the day loafing around until dinner. After dinner I went downstairs and watched Ralf’s DVD copy of “Angels and Demons” because I wanted to see it in English, and it was every bit the dumb fun entertainment I thought it would be.

And last night I woke up at 5 in the morning and tossed and turned for several hours wrestling in my mind with a question I thought I’d already answered: whether or not I should try to get a girlfriend. Ever since I read an article about how the internet has changed our lives, in which it was mentioned that practically everyone is using online dating services now, I’ve been struggling with the question of why I’m not doing that too, seeing as how it would be so easy and almost guarantee me an actual date with an actual girl. I used to consider dating services cheating, or as a last resort for the hopeless and desperate, but I can no longer use that as an excuse. Online dating is now perfectly normal and standard, especially for people my age who grew up with the internet.

So I had to go over for the millionth time why I’m not looking for a girlfriend, finding it harder to justify now that I feel like I’ve grown up enough to the point where I could get one if I actually put some effort into it. I’m sure as hell not afraid of rejection anymore, as any emotion at all would be a welcome change of pace. So what’s stopping me?

The first thing I thought of was money—I can’t really afford a girlfriend right now—but that’s such a lame excuse and it couldn’t be the only reason. Then of course there was this past years’ experience with Krissi in which I learned just how much I hate having another person around all the time and how much I prefer being alone, but I have to admit that I really don’t know what it would be like if I actually felt any kind of romantic or sexual attraction to the person. There was no physical intimacy with Krissi—nor was there any desire—so it might be a completely different situation if I actually loved the girl.

In the end I just decided that my best reason for deliberately remaining alone is to continue with my traveling-the-world plans. If I ended up finding someone here in Germany, of course I wouldn’t leave, so I’d be here for fuck-knows how much longer and I’m already tired of it and anxious to move on. If I end up spending next Christmas in Ichenheim again it’ll be too fucking depressing to handle. I’ve had this experience twice now. As pleasant as it is, it’s time for something new.

But what finally brought the awful thought cycle to an end was an acknowledgment that finding a girlfriend was far less simple than it sounds in my mind in the comfort of a bed at 6 o’clock in the morning. I shouldn’t forget that I am not, in fact, a very endearing person. Whatever kind of magnetism it is that attracts people to one another, I completely lack it. And I’m just nobody’s type—quiet and contemplative is not exactly any woman’s dream-guy. Not to mention the sexual peculiarities. I imagine that since I’m so good at pleasuring myself I’d probably be able to give a woman the best sex of her life, focusing 100% on her pleasure and none on my own, but still I’d be extremely reserved about going there. I imagine it would really put a woman off if after three dates I’m still nervous about just kissing her. Anyone who came the least bit close to me would easily perceive that there’s something seriously wrong with me.

No, it’s just easier to remain alone. If I tried to find a girl, there would be a 99% chance of failure anyway, and since I like being alone so much why bother? I can’t believe I’m even still debating this in my mind, as I thought I had it settled. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve been reading all of my journal entries from the past year and the overall picture is clearly that of an empty and meaningless life. Maybe subconsciously this whole “maybe I should find a girl” thing is just to have something more interesting to write about than going for a fucking walk along the river.

I’m not even depressed about it. I’m not angry or bitter either. I don’t feel a goddamned thing. One thing about repeating the same Christmas traditions as last year is being able to see how my emotional state has changed, and last year I definitely had much higher highs and lower lows. I’ve been enjoying the week but it’s been completely hollow.

Because I felt emotions too strongly growing up I avoided anything in life that might inspire them, and as a result I’ve become hollow. Maybe the decade hasn’t been so successful after all…

End of a Decade

December 24th, 2009 No comments

It’s Christmas again, and I’m in Ichenheim again. As usually happens when I’m here, I had crazy vivid dreams last night, including an epic one about my last day in Hannover of the year. In it I was out drinking with a big group of people which included both complete fabrications of my mind and a few old acquaintances that I haven’t thought about in years. I was the life of the party everywhere we wandered, getting into fights, hitting on women, and doing lots and lots of things I wouldn’t ever do in real life. Eventually I caught on to the fact that I was dreaming and things got even more awesome. I was disappointed to wake up.

Of course my real last day of 2009 in Hannover wasn’t nearly as cool, although I still made the most of it. After going through that computer ordeal on Friday and Saturday, the same thing happened on Sunday night so I got more of my money’s worth out of that DVD-player, and when I got it fixed (myself this time, using a CD sent by my dad) all I wanted was to stay home and enjoy my normal routine, having been deprived of it for three of the last four nights. But I avoided that temptation and spent most of the day out of the house.

After heading to Planeo one last time to drop off my bill for December, I went from there directly on a walk around the Maschsee and down to the “new territory” I’d found back in August. Although it had warmed up significantly from the weekend, the ground was still covered in snow, as were the frozen surfaces of the Maschsee and all the little lakes to its southwest. I’d never seen this area in snow before so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, and it was every bit as nice as I’d hoped. Of course, because of the snow even the paths I’d walked before looked unfamiliar, and after awhile I found myself completely lost and not entirely sure I was heading in the right direction. I was just starting to get a little frustrated as I neared the end of the 2-hour playlist I’d set up for myself on my I-pod when I found my way out of the woods and back to civilization, and came upon the exact road I’d intended to end up at. It’s nice when it all works out perfectly at the end.

Back at my flat, back to my computer, I was just getting ready to have dinner and begin the nightly routine when my phone rang and it was Amanda calling to see if I wanted to go out for one last drink before the holiday. I hesitated for a split second, but quickly agreed. It would be nice to see her again, and it’s not like I actually had anything better to do. Besides, she was leaving for Berlin at 8:30 so it would only be for a little over an hour.

We met up at the Dublin Inn and each had two beers over the course of the hour, chatting away about bullshit as we normally do. Discussing classes, making fun of Germans, talking about the TV shows we’ve recently downloaded and watched, and of course our plans for Christmas. It’s going to be a rough one for her, as she’s going to spend it with her girlfriend’s father, a guy in his 60s who grew up in a very rural area and just recently learned that his daughter was gay. Amanda’s girlfriend told her that their Christmases normally involve lots of awkward silences (the mother is dead and apparently he has no other friends) so this year would probably be much worse, especially considering the whole “meet my lesbian girlfriend” thing. We both agree that it sounded like a bad movie cliché.

I brought up my financial troubles and mentioned my tax problem, how I didn’t have enough money in my account when the Finanzamt tried to deduct the quarterly fee so the payment didn’t go through. Amanda has her ex-wife’s mother (I didn’t even know she’d been married) do her taxes, so she couldn’t help me figure out what I should do, but she did inform me that in Germany, the first €15,000 you make each year are supposed to be tax-free. I make just barely more than that, so the Finanzamt has probably taken way way more than the law entitles them to, and if I could ever figure out the tax-return process I may be getting a gargantuan life-saving refund. Hooray for socialism!

When it was 8:00, Amanda and I parted ways and I went back home to carry out the rest of the night as intended, which mostly involved drinking and listening to music from my long “2009” playlist I’d put together of all the music I’d discovered over the last year, which was happily quite a lot. And of course there were the other little pleasures…. All in all, I had myself a damned good time, just as I do every weekend.

Emotionless as it is, I can’t deny just how much I’ve been enjoying my life these days. I suppose when I look back on 2009 I’ll see it as one of the most enjoyable years of my life, and of course marked with the big 2-month visit and traveling adventures with Krissi. There were plenty of frustrations, but overall it was actually a damned good fucking year. I hesitate to call it the best year of my life, as 2008 was so full of profound life-changes and therefore quite great as well, and of course there are previous years of my life like 2004 and 2005, in which I was also in Germany but still capable of feeling deep emotions. And there’s just no way to understate how great an experience my July 2005 adventure to see Pink Floyd at Live8 was. The more I look back at the emotional arc of my life, the more it seems that that really was a major turning point. I was mostly depressed and hopeless right up until that point, but having managed to give myself that experience, after having to struggle to get it and then succeeding in doing so, I think it really changed my outlook in a way that didn’t become clear until long afterwards. But ever since then it seems I’ve been much more motivated to take charge of my life, to decide which experiences I want and to work to get them. I haven’t yet tried applying that philosophy to my relations with the female gender, but that’s mostly because I’m not certain I want to. But all things considered, I live in Germany in a flat I have all to myself, I do work that I enjoy for the most part, I’ve got a few really nice friends that I see just as often as I’d like, and I was able to travel around Europe with one of my best friends for a month after working hard and saving up to be able to do so. Maybe something really bad is about to happen and ruin everything, but it would seem that judging by my own standards (and my own standards alone) my life has been a huge success.

At the beginning of the decade, I was trying to kill myself. I spent nearly two months out of the year 2000 in a psychiatric hospital thanks mostly to Aimee. Things weren’t much better in 2001, as I just shifted all those emotions on to Lauren. But with the beginning of my drug experimentations in 2002, things started to turn around in my mind. Seeing the world through acid-colored lenses gave me a much clearer understanding of just how empty all the bullshit in my life that bothered me really was. In 2003 I immersed myself in college culture, moving in to the Autumn Lane house and socializing virtually all the time, greatly improving my ability to interact and get along with other people. The first half of 2004 was of course pivotal, as the way I dealt with my intense Love for Jessi taught me a great deal about myself, and I still look back on those days with fond memories, understanding that while my desire was never fulfilled I still managed to squeeze as much emotional bliss out of the experience as I possibly could. The second half of that year was the first part of my Frankfurt experience, and stretching into 2005 that whole year was also a major learning experience, not just about myself but about the real world. That was also the year of the Pink Floyd experience, the biggest turning point of my life. 2006 saw the end of college and the beginning of making my life exactly what I wanted it to be, culminating with the big move to Santa Barbara that Fall. 2007 was just trying to find a direction, yet still enjoying the natural beauty of the place I lived by hiking up the mountains every chance I got. I attempted to walk down many different paths that year: substitute teaching, trying to reconnect with Jessi, and failing that trying to direct my emotions elsewhere by going on a couple of dates with Elle. But in the end none of these directions worked out, and with an understanding of the plain fact that I just wasn’t happy with where I was, working the night-shift at an expensive resort, I got myself fired at the beginning of 2008 and forced myself to set a new course. I moved back to New Jersey, had an amazing sailing trip, and in the summer found a job offer in Germany which I began in August and spent the rest of the year trying to make it work. Finally, everything came together in 2009, and I just enjoyed the shit out of the whole year, not just alone in my flat but traveling a few times as well, including one incredible time with Krissi. As I look back on the year, I can only say it was fantastic. As I look back on the decade, I can only say that I would never have guessed at the beginning where I would be at the end.

This decade has exactly one week left, and it will be almost exactly like it was a year ago, enjoying all the Christmas traditions with my Ichenheim family. Last year I was still struggling with loneliness and shame, but I think I’ve overcome even those things now. This week, a possible trip to Europa Park in particular, I’ll be able to put that to the test. If I really have reached a point where I’m no longer plagued by loneliness or shame, then I’ll know I’ve nearly conquered it all.

That suicidal boy I was back in 2000 would never have even seriously considered that ten years from then he would still be just as alone yet completely happy with life. He would never have believed that at the end of the decade, he would be considering his life a success.

Broken Computer Adventures

December 19th, 2009 No comments

On Thursday afternoon, my computer suddenly and without warning decided to get itself massively fucked up. It was just a routine System Restart, which I do several times a day, but suddenly it wouldn’t boot up. Some file was missing or corrupt. This was a massive blow to my ability to…well…live. Almost everything I do at home short of sleeping, cooking, and using the bathroom involves my computer. Without it I’m not only cut-off from the world of information normally at my fingertips, but I can’t even read documents, write documents, or watch any of my downloaded entertainment.

A damaged computer in my life nowadays is even more debilitating than a damaged car used to be when I lived in the states. So when the computer goes down, fixing it becomes the primary focus. That evening I went out to an internet cafe to figure out what I needed to do, and found that I wouldn’t be able to do anyting without a Windows XP CD like the kind that originally comes with the PC. But I don’t have such a CD. I called my Dad to find out if he had one and to make a long story short he’s shipping one out by FedEx which should arrive on Monday.

But I can’t fucking wait until Monday, so first thing Friday morning I called Planeo to find out if they had any XP CDs I could use. It turns out they did, and because my only class of the day was cancelled that gave me plenty of time to try and take care of the problem.

It also just happened to be the day of the years’ first snowfall, which was actually quite a happy coincidence because of the all the running around outside I’d be doing throughout the day. I got the full snow experience, starting with my walk to Planeo.

I tried their CD, and it seemed to be working until I was prompted for a password that I didn’t have. An online chat with a Dell agent told me that without the password, the only solution was to reformat that hard drive, thus losing all my data. The only way to save the data would be to take it to a specialist.

The secretaries at Planeo helped me find a nearby place called PC Homeservice and I called around noon to ask if I could take my PC in as soon as possible. The soonest possible time was 15:00, so I waited around at Planeo and used their internet until about 14:30, then made the fifteen minute walk to the place through the now heavily falling snow.

When I got there, there was no one inside. The sign on the door said they were closed from 12:00 to 15:00, so I waited 20 minutes out in the freezing cold until 15:05 but nobody came, so I called the number again and the guy didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Whoever I’d made the 15:00 appointment with must have forgot or not told anyone or something. Now he said he was on the way.

I should have asked him how long he though it would be, but I just assumed he couldn’t be far so I waited some more. It was nice being out in the snow anyway, at least at first. But after awhile I had to start walking up and down the block to keep warm and soon enough even that wasn’t enough. The snowfall was no longer enjoyable because I was freezing my ass off.

At 15:30 I called again and the guy said it was taking awhile because of the snow, and it might be another half-hour. So I walked back to Planeo where Michaela made me a tea to warm me up and contacted the guy telling him to call the office when he was ready for me. It was 16:25 when he called, and it was now getting dark. Back into the snow and I finally got to this place, hoping that fixing it or at least backing up the data wouldn’t take too long.

But the guy said he didn’t have enough time to fix it today and I should leave it there overnight. Okay, well fuck. Fine.

I then had to decide how to enjoy my night without a computer. I’d planned to buy a cheap DVD player but would it really be worth it for just one night? With it I’d be guaranteed to have a fun night and something to occupy me over the next days if somehow the guy is unable to fix it, but it would cost me money that I can’t really afford to be throwing away right now. On the other hand, if I didn’t buy it the weekend would be guaranteed to pretty much suck.

I went to the store in the center of town where I know they sell DVD players, fought my way through the Christmas-shopping crowds, and found that the cheapest DVD player available was for €35. I’d had €30 in my mind as my limit. Decision time. I paced around the store for awhile trying to decide but I couldn’t. I went back and picked up the box and examined it, still not sure I wanted it. I brought it to the check-out counter and stood in line, still trying to decide. I paid for it and left the store, still indecisive.

But now I had the thing, so the next thing to do was rent some German DVDs, seeing as how the regional-code issue would prevent me from watching any of the American DVDs I brought with me to Germany. I’d checked the internet at Planeo, and according to Google the closest place was in the mall, so I had to enter the awful Friday-evening-Christmas-shopper-packed mall and find the place. But it turned out the place only sold video games—they didn’t rent DVDs at all. But the dude at the counter, who luckily spoke great English, gave me some bad directions to the nearest Videothek, which was apparently in the Hauptbahnhof. I couldn’t find it, but I decided to give up anyway and just watch Das Boot, which I borrowed from Oliver a long time ago and just haven’t yet been in the mood to watch. Tonight would be the night.

I’m so bored writing this that I won’t even bother describing the events of the night. All I’ll say is that the DVD player turned out to be a fantastic purchase. To my unbelievably pleasant surprise, it not only played German DVDs, but files from DVD-Rs, which means I can use it to watch any of the TV shows I have saved to discs, which is a hell of a lot of entertainment. And not only THAT, but it actually plays American DVDs! No regional code bullshit at all. So even if the computer isn’t fixed, I’ve got plenty of entertainment options.

Anyway, I unfortunately got too drunk and tired too quickly to finish Das Boot, which was really good but I couldn’t stop myself from dozing off. So that will have to be finished tonight. So at least I’ll have something to look forward to even if the computer isn’t fixed. Speaking of which, it’s almost noon so it should be fixed by now. I gave him my number and told him to call me when it was done, but he hasn’t. I guess I’ll try calling him now.

Huh. Well, he says it’s done. Whether that means it’s fixed or if the data is stored, I’ll find out soon. Time to go.

…and now I’m back at my apartment, finishing up this entry on a keyboard on which the z and the y are in their proper places. When I picked up the computer from the guy, a different guy from last night, he seemed to have a strange attitude towards me. I don’t know if that’s just how he is, or if he perhaps took some time to peruse my files and found all my pervy pictures. Not that I really care, I’ve got nothing illegal on there. Highly questionable, yes. But not illegal.

Anyway, I took a nice scenic walk back home because it’s such a beautiful fucking day with the sun now shining on the freshly fallen snow, and I passed by the Maschsee to find that its surface is frozen, something I didn’t even see last year because I didn’t go there at all during Winter, so that was cool. Ironically, as I walked there my I-pod suddenly crapped out and wouldn’t start again. Just as one thing is fixed, another thing breaks. Perfect.

But it was probably just the coldness and moisture fucking with the circuitry because it appears to be working now. When I turned the computer on it didn’t work right away either, and I was starting to think I might have to go and demand my money back, but it was probably just the moisture. After having some time to heat up a bit, it’s now back to normal. I don’t know how they did it, but everything is exactly as it was before. Not one file out of place. It was the best outcome I could have hoped for. And now that I’ve had to go without it for a couple of days, I have a greatly renewed appreciation for how sweet it is to have this thing.

And now that it’s working again, I’m going to leave it here while I go back out for another nice walk in the snow.

Joe Lieberman is a Cold-Blooded Murderer

December 16th, 2009 No comments

Somewhere in America today is a man between the age of 55 and 64 who will die next year because he can’t afford health insurance. Actually, there are many men and women in this situation but let’s just focus on one of them. This man has been watching the healthcare reform debate all year very intensely, filled with hope thanks to Obama and a wide democratic majority that promises to make healthcare affordable to everyone. His hopes were originally pinned on the public option, an alternative to private insurance that would have made it possible for him to get the level of care he needed. As the prospects of actually getting this passed have waxed and waned over these last few months he has been riding an emotional roller-coaster. When Joe Lieberman said he would filibuster the bill if it included a public option, things looked very grim. But then it was announced that the compromise would be a Medicare buy-in for those between 55 and 64—something that might not help everyone but would almost certainly be enough to save his life. For a moment, it seemed he had a chance.

But then Joe Lieberman noticed that too many progressives were too happy with the idea of a Medicare buy-in, and decided that he wasn’t going to let the bill pass if this was included either. As a result, this man will die. His wife won’t get to grow old with him. His kids will be robbed of his presence and influence for the rest of their lives. His grandchildren will have no memory of him.

True story. Maybe it’s in the future tense, but we all know something like this will happen. Joe Lieberman knows it too. He knows that thousands of Americans’ lives hang in the balance when it comes to healthcare, and that the weaker the final legislation is, the more people will die.

Joe Lieberman is not the president of the United States. He’s just one of 100 senators. But thanks to a well-intentioned yet disastrous rule of senate procedure known as the filibuster, he now has the entire health-care reform bill in his shameless and corrupt hands. How did this happen?

I think anyone reading this probably knows what a filibuster is, but let’s just review for a moment. Senators can continue debating a piece of legislation endlessly until a “cloture” motion passes and brings the bill up for a final vote. Cloture requires 60 votes. For most of the history of the senate, cloture was a mere matter of procedure and was generally always agreed to unanimously, thus making the threshold to pass legislation 51 votes—a majority. That makes sense. As long as you ignore the fact that every state, no matter how big, gets exactly two senators and we are therefore already unequally represented in our government, you can imagine that we have a majority rule in this country and the basic principle at the heart of democracy is honored.

But ever since the democrats took the majority, the republicans have been using the filibuster not just in extreme cases, but for practically every single piece of legislation that comes through. Which means in order for anything—anything at all—to get passed in the senate, it requires a 60-vote supermajority. That’s right, even if they wanted to pass a bill to give candy to children, it would take 60 votes to do so. Even if 75% of Americans support it, even if 59 senators supported it, the legislation would fail as long as a single senator decided he didn’t like it. Quite a system we’ve got.

So here we are in this insane situation where the Democratic Party, the party in which most of the members actually want to fix the broken healthcare system in this country, has exactly 60 senators in their caucus. Which means that if just one senator decides to hold out, he can basically demand anything he wants in exchange for his cloture vote. And if what he wants is to essentially kill the bill by making it so weak that its only beneficiaries will be the health insurance companies that are already literally making a killing off the misery of the American people, he can do that because the rest of his party can see no better option.

I don’t know if Joe Lieberman was born without the capacity to feel shame, if he lost it somewhere along the way, or if Aetna purchased it from him for a few pieces of silver, but he has decided to be that one senator who kills the bill. And by killing the bill, he is effectively killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of Americans.

And for what? His concern about the deficit? His worry that the national debt will go from eight gazillion to nine gazillion? The idea that it’s unfair to force private insurance companies to compete with any government program? What is it exactly that is more important than saving lives?

Well, when you consider that he’s given a different reason for opposing the legislation every week that goes by, you start to think that maybe he’s not acting in good faith. Actually, it’s obvious that he’s not acting in good faith. All the evidence you need is right here—this video from merely three months ago in which Lieberman endorses the idea of allowing 55-64 year olds to buy-in to Medicare. When he made his bullshit stand against the public option, progressive democrats acquiesced, dropping the public option for a plan that they knew Lieberman had to support because he endorsed it as recently as three months ago.

But surprise surprise—now he’s against it. And the reason he gave, according to his interview in the New York Times, is that he noticed some progressives were “overly enthusiastic” about this new compromise. Liberals like Anthony Wiener and Sherrod Brown were apparently all too happy about the Medicare buy-in deal because it actually was better than the weak, watered-down, toothless public option that had emerged from all those previous compromises. The Medicare buy-in, at that point, seemed like actually gaining ground.

But Joe couldn’t let that happen. He just couldn’t sit back and let progressives feel even the slightest twinge of satisfaction. After all, they didn’t strongly support him when he ran for president in 2004, even though he was next-in-line because he’d been the V.P. pick in 2000. And they didn’t aggressively support him during his senate re-election campaign in 2006 either, forcing him to run as a third-party candidate. Well, now it’s payback time.

And he sure seems to be enjoying it, doesn’t he? Every time you see his smug, sadistic face these days (and it’s everwhere, isn’t it?) he’s wearing a huge smile. He’s just so happy with all the power and attention he’s getting you can tell he’s having the time of his life. Already in the pocket of insurance companies, he now gets to be their Number One guy, their biggest asset in Washington, which means lots and lots of cash when all this is over. Even if he loses his seat in 2012, the puppet-masters at Aetna will make sure he’s well taken care of after all he’s done for them. And the icing on the cake? He gets to watch those damned liberals fuming with frustration, unable to raise a hand against him because they need him, unable to stop him from destroying everything they’ve been working so hard for throughout the year. He seems to feed on their anger, making him stronger and happier, encouraging him to go further and further until there’s nothing left in the bill but a provision forcing everyone to buy completely unregulated private insurance and throwing them in jail if they don’t.

Of course, the democrats would probably still pass that bill and claim victory, and Obama will knock-up his self-given “solid B+” for the year to an A. But ranting against Obama and the democrats is for another time. Right now I want to speak directly to Joe Lieberman:

Joe. Can I call you Joe? Okay, good. Joe—fuck you. Seriously. You are a fucking disgrace, Joe. I want to ask “How do you sleep at night?” but I can tell you sleep quite well. And knowing that you sleep soundly at night keeps me up at night, because if anyone deserves to be tossing and turning and tortured by doubts and moral uncertainties, it’s you. You supported a Medicare buy-in which would have at least done some serious good for people 55-64, but now you oppose it because of your petty personal bullshit?

You are the worst kind of slime in Washington. I thought Dick Cheney was bad, but you might just be worse. At least Dick Cheney had some principles. Totally sick, twisted, evil principles but at least they were something. You, on the other hand, care about nothing and nobody but yourself. Given the choice between doing something good for your country and watching your political opponents squirm purely for your own sick pleasure, you chose the latter. People will die—they will die, Joe—so that you could have a few laughs at your colleagues’ expense. You really sicken me.

I mean, you literally make me sick. Whenever I stop to think about what must be going on in that twisted little brain of yours, I want to vomit in horror. It’s not that you’re the only piece of shit on Capitol Hill that places your own self-interest above the good of the country (there’s an entire party of people like that), it’s that you really seem to take pleasure in it. Every time I see you on the news or online I just want to reach through the screen and knock you hard in the jaw with a pair of brass knuckles. Anything to wipe that demented smile off your face.

Your smile offends me, Joe, because I know what it means. It means you’re getting away with murder. Yes, murder. The taking of another life with malice aforethought. Maybe not directly, but it’s still murder when you display a reckless disregard for human life. And you know, you know damned well, that your filibustering will lead to people’s deaths. Everyone who would have lived because of a public option is already doomed to death because of you. Now everyone who would have lived because of the Medicare buy-in will die because of you. And you know this. You proposed the Medicare buy-in yourself, so you know the good it could do! And you oppose it now because liberals are too enthusiastic about it?

Well, what makes liberals enthusiastic? Legislation that will save lives. Because unlike you, Joe, many people in congress actually are acting in good faith out of a sense of responsibility to the American people. They want health-care reform not purely out of a desire to win political points, but because they’ve talked to people who desperately need it and when it looks like they’re close to getting it, they think of those people who will be helped by it, whose lives may be saved by it, and they get enthusiastic. But Joe can’t have that, can he? If at the end of this process any liberal feels the least bit satisfied with what they’ve done, Joe won’t be happy. He won’t be happy until progressives are completely disgusted with the legislation they’re passing.

How much more damage will you do in the mean-time, Joe? It seems that they’ve already bent over backwards to try and paint this in a positive light. They may be more honest than you, but when it comes down to it they need to be able to claim some kind of victory. So now even those who fought hard for the public option are reduced to hollow talking-points like, “Well, it’s a start. It’s still going to help a lot of people, and we’ll keep fighting” and so on. Worst is, when it comes to you, they still insist that “Joe Lieberman is a good public servant with legitimate concerns about the bill” even though this is completely transparent bullshit.

Now you’re saying you’ll have to take a closer look at the bill to see if there’s anything else you’d like removed before you can agree to vote for it. Which basically means whenever Aetna decides to let you vote for it. And that means we can kiss all our hopes of any kind of positive health-care reform down the drain. And it means that lots and lots of people who would have otherwise lived are going to die.

If only there was anyone in Washington with a spine who would call you out on this. If only anyone at all was willing to stand up and call bullshit, because that’s exactly what this is. Sadly, the democrats are in this position because they’ve let themselves get here, and now they’ve decided that getting anything passed, even something so terrible that it won’t help anyone at all, is better than letting this process drag on into an election year. So they’ve handed you all this power and allowed you to abuse it. They’ve put all these lives in your hands and allowed you to destroy them.

Fuck you, Joe. And fuck this system of government. It’s beyond disgraceful—it’s infuriating. For anyone still hoping for change, it’s looking like torches and pitchforks are the only “public option” we have left.

Global Warming Clarification

December 13th, 2009 No comments

For the record, I do believe that humans are responsible for the dangerous rate of global warming that the earth is currently undergoing. The point of my last entry was not to cast doubt on the science or call into question the scientific consensus that exists on the issue, but merely to acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons to doubt, and that advocates of fixing the climate problem are making a mistake to dismiss them.

I suppose my point got lost in all the snark, but I was only making a comment on the nature of the debate at this point. Since the 2007 IPCC report on climate change was released, proponents of the proposition that global warming is manmade have simply declared that the debate is over, the verdict is in, and that if you don’t accept it they’re not even going to bother trying to convince you anymore. And perhaps that’s an understandable attitude, but it’s not the right attitude if you really want to move things forward. Polls are showing that the number of people who doubt that global warming is manmade is actually growing, not shrinking, so clearly you’re doing something wrong. You can’t just dismiss nearly half of the entire population as willfully blind fools. To be fair, a great deal of them are exactly that, but it’s a disservice to your cause when you lump everyone who has doubts into the same category.

I compared the belief that global warming is manmade to a religion, because I do think that many liberals actually treat it as such. They may have a lot more evidence to support their claims than the followers of religion, but they treat their conclusions more like Absolute Truth than the result of the scientific process, which itself is all about questioning and re-questioning your conclusions. I was completely convinced that global warming was manmade until it seemed that everybody suddenly declared that the debate was over. That naturally made me suspicious. Really? The debate is over? You’re not even going to entertain alternative theories anymore? Maybe I should take a look at what these alternative theories are…

The people who are putting forth these other theories, meanwhile, are being labeled “deniers”, the same word they use for people who don’t believe the Holocaust really happened. Anyone who expresses any doubt on the matter gets leapt on and attacked by those on the left, accused of being shills for big corporations or worse. Many of them may be exactly that, but again, you shouldn’t lump all your opponents into the same category. That makes me suspicious too. Why won’t you just examine the merits of what they’re actually saying? Give a scientific counter-argument to their scientific arguments instead of just dismissing them as a corporate shill. If you won’t argue in terms of facts and evidence, then the only facts and evidence I have before me is that offered by the skeptic. Yes, the IPCC report is there for all to read, but if you really want to help your cause you’ll refer to it, cite it, quote it, use it however you can to counter the argument being made. But if you just dismiss it right away, I start to think that there might be something to it.

Finally, when you’ve framed this issue as one of the biggest threats to humanity and future generations, when you characterize the situation as a dire crisis that requires drastic and immediate action, why is the solution you are advocating something as pathetic and transparently profit-motivated as cap-and-trade? Introducing a financial incentive to cut emissions is logical, but will we really be cutting emissions or merely the profits of energy companies? And if energy companies want to offset the cost of these carbon credits, couldn’t they just…say…raise the price of energy? They may take a few half-hearted measures to cut their emissions for PR purposes, but at the end of the day they’re going to keep polluting because polluting is what they do. Making pollution more expensive will just make energy more expensive—it won’t stop global warming, not by a long shot.

And naturally, with this whole new carbon-credit market Wall Street will have a whole new bag of goodies to speculate on, overvalue, buy and sell and inflate and get super-rich from. They want this climate legislation more than anyone, and that makes me more suspicious than anything else.

The point is, from the perspective of a layman who doesn’t want to go crusading without some degree of certainty that the crusade is necessary, there are too many WTF-aspects of this climate debate to feel sure of oneself at all. That’s the problem I was highlighting, and the solution I was suggesting is A) to stop treating Global Warming like a religion and attacking everyone who has doubts, and B) if you really believe in your cause, don’t just sit-back and accept this bullshit cap-and-trade deal. Keep referring to the facts, and insist on a solution to the problem that takes those facts into account.

One more point—my cousin mentioned “climate-gate” in the comments, referring to the incident in which e-mails circulated among a few climatologists revealed that they were willing to fudge data in order to support their pre-existing conclusion that global warming is anthropogenic. I think this is just another instance of the right-wing blowing something hugely out of proportion and drawing conclusions that don’t follow from the evidence. The fact that we know some scientists are unethical does not entail that all scientists are unethical. That logic is so simple even a four-year-old could grasp it. But conservatives have leapt all over this story and declared the debate has ended in their favor with just as much unjustified self-assurance as the liberals who have declared that the debate has ended in theirs.

Finally, I should say that even if I have my doubts about the degree to which global warming is manmade, I absolutely do not believe we should do nothing about it, or that we shouldn’t act until we know for certain. If we’re going to err, it should be on the side of minimizing our environmental impact. If you ask whether human activity is destroying the planet, I’d be the first to say “yes, of fucking course we are.” Deforestation, over-fishing, damming up rivers, dumping waste into the ocean—we are absolutely on the fast-track to destroying ourselves. I’m just not as sure about the climate thing, for reasons I hope I’ve made clear. But this entry has only been about the debate, not the issue itself. When it comes to what I think we should do about the issue, I absolutely think we have to do something whether we’re sure about the science or not.

Thou Shalt Believe In Global Warming

December 12th, 2009 No comments

National leaders from all over the world are meeting in Copenhagen this week to discuss what needs to be done to stave off the impending Climate Catastrophe that threatens billions of lives and could potentially make life uninhabitable on planet Earth unless drastic measures are taken. Faced with such an incredibly dire threat to all of humanity, surely our leaders will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent this unspeakable horror from coming to pass, no matter what the cost. No amount of effort could possibly be too great when faced with such peril. Even if we have to tear down every fossil-fuel generated power-plant and live by candle-light for a few decades until an entirely new global clean-energy grid can be constructed, I’m sure we can all agree that the alternative—total annihilation—would be far worse.

Oh, but what’s that you say? Nobody is suggesting we tear down the fossil-fuel power plants? Okay, then what is the solution to this mind-numbingly serious problem that is being proposed? Wait, this sounds complicated. Explain it to me slowly. We establish a limit for how much CO2 a given polluter can spew into the atmosphere each year. Okay, well that sounds like a start. If CO2 is causing this catastrophic rise in temperatures to occur, then forcing companies to emit less of it is only logical. But wait, you say we aren’t forcing these companies to pollute less? That they can pollute all they want, but if they do so they’ll have to pay for permission slips called ‘carbon-credits’ to go beyond the limit, and that these permission slips can be bought and sold and traded? You mean like Credit-Default Swaps and Collateralized Debt Obligations, the fantasy-paper-money financial products that led to the global economic crisis?

Well gee, that sounds like a great idea…I guess the Climate Crisis is solved. I guess we can all go home now.

*heavy sigh*

So if you’re like me and you like for things to make sense, you might be a little flabbergasted by this whole Climate Change issue. On the one hand we’ve got Al Gore and an army of liberals shouting that this is the greatest threat that humanity has faced since the dawn of civilization. On the other hand we’ve got conspiracy theorists and wingnuts claiming that it’s all a big hoax designed to set up a Global Socialist Fascist World Government. And in between you’ve got Energy Companies, Wall Street Executives, and politicians all scheming for how they can exploit this issue to their own maximum benefit. Somehow, when you add all of that together, we get “cap-and-trade”.

Wait, am I forgetting anyone? I feel like I’m leaving something out. No, I mentioned Al Gore. I covered Wall Street. Who else is involved in this? Oh yeah—scientists. I forgot about the scientists.

So what do the scientists say? According to Al Gore, every single one of them agrees that the earth’s temperature is rising more rapidly than ever before thanks to CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel power plants…what? They don’t all agree on that? But I distinctly remember reading an article about how every person with a college-education knows with 100% certainty that Global Warming is a result of human activity, and that anyone who disagrees is an idiot who also thinks the earth is flat. Right?

Okay, after doing a little research it now appears to be the case that while everyone agrees that the Earth’s temperature is rising, many scientists actually think this has much more to do with the sun than with CO2 emissions, and that capping those emissions really won’t have any affect at all.

Well now I’m really confused. I thought we all knew for certain that Global Warming was manmade. After all, Sarah Palin says it’s not true, and since everything Sarah Palin says is a lie, then ipso facto it must be true. Right? Seriously, Sarah Palin and a bunch of conservative full-of-shit politicians can’t possibly have it right while all of my favorite liberal bloggers and commentators have it wrong. If that were the case my whole world would just implode in on itself.

Shit, now I’m really losing it. Somebody, anybody, please prove to me that Global Warming is manmade! I can’t handle the doubt! The more I think about it, the stronger the doubt becomes. The idea that global warming really isn’t manmade and that people like Al Gore are only insisting it is to profit from it is just too easy to believe. I mean, Al Gore seems like a nice guy and all, but what has he ever done to earn my complete trust? Doesn’t it make sense, given all that potential profit that could be made through the new “green economy” that many people would have a very real financial interest in promoting the idea that Global Warming is manmade? And doesn’t it just seem to fit all too perfectly, considering how our proposed “solution” to the problem is the creation of a carbon-credits market for Wall Street to feed on and grow even fatter and more powerful?

Hey, hold on! Why all the sudden vitriol and name-calling? I’m just asking questions, people! Suddenly I’m a “flat-earther” or even worse, a “denier” like I’m some kind of neo-Nazi who refuses to believe the Holocaust really happened. I just want to know the truth is all. I’m not saying Global Warming isn’t manmade, I’m just saying that nobody has convinced me of that yet.

Okay, thanks for lowering your voice. You’ll explain it to me. Good. So CO2 traps heat, right? So the more CO2 we pump into the atmosphere, the hotter the earth will become, and if it gets too hot, there will be irreversible damage to the ecosystem. Thank you, that makes sense. Simple. Logical. Something we learned way back in grade school.

But allow me to play devil’s advocate for just one second…hold on, let me just…it’s just for one second, okay? Because I also read that CO2 makes up only 0.03% of the earth’s atmosphere, that water vapor is far more prevalent and actually traps more heat, that there is a definite correlation between the sun’s energy output and earth’s temperature, that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have always gone up over a period of about 800 years after a rise in earth’s temperature, that CO2’s ability to trap heat actually follows a logarithmic curve rather than a straight line anyway and that it’s already absorbing the maximum level of heat it can…okay, I see I’ve lost you.

My point is, every “Global Warming Is Not Manmade” article I read is filled with facts and figures and sciency-sounding-stuff, while every “Global Warming Is To Manmande” article just seems to be name-calling and insults directed at those who aren’t convinced. They are so completely sure that they’re right that they don’t seem to think they need to bother convincing anyone. If I don’t believe it, I’m just a willfully blind ignoramus who deserves to drown when the sea levels rise.

But I don’t not-believe it. Lots of very smart people say it’s true, there’s a legitimate scientific basis to support the claim that global warming is manmade, and according to most sources it seems that most scientists agree that we are causing it. But forgive me if I don’t consider “Most scientists believe it” to be conclusive proof of anything. There was a time, after all, when most scientists believed that the sun revolved around the earth, that everything was composed of four basic elements, and that all mental and physical problems were caused by an imbalance of the bodily humors.

Yes, our techniques for acquiring information are much better now, but they’re not perfect, especially when it comes to a system as complex as the earth’s atmosphere. And if you read about global-warming from any purely scientific, non-biased source, you’ll hear the same thing: “We think this is the case, but we don’t know.”

And that’s the only reasonable conclusion anyone can draw here. Those on the left side of the political spectrum, where I reside comfortably when it comes to most issues, have set up Global Warming as something akin to a religion. They can’t possibly have conducted experiments themselves, so every one of them are relying only on what they’ve read, just as religious people rely on Scripture to justify their beliefs. Nobody has ever seen God, just as no liberal has ever proved the correlation between CO2 emissions and Global Warming, but they absolutely believe with every bone in their body that They Are Right. And when convinced of their own Rightness, both religious people and the proponents of Manmade Global Warming will see anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs as an infidel, a blind ignorant fool, one of the damned.

Perhaps my philosophical training has done me a disservice here. To me, the most interesting area of epistemology, the Theory of Knowledge, is the question of whether and to what extent our beliefs are volitional. Basically, to what degree are our beliefs chosen by us? Naturally, some beliefs are more volitional than others. For example, I can’t decide whether or not to believe that there is a computer in front of me—there is overwhelming direct evidence to suggest that there is. But the less evidence you have, the more room there is for volition. That’s why whether or not one believes in God is usually a result of choice.

The fact is, even the scientists who support the idea that Global Warming is manmade will admit that they aren’t sure. So nobody knows with any certainty if it is or it isn’t. Which means that it’s open to everyone whether or not to choose to believe in it. Liberals choose to believe it because it fits in with the rest of their worldview, while conservatives choose not to believe it because that fits in more closely with theirs.

Personally, I like to withhold my judgment on any factual matter until I feel I have conclusive evidence one way or another. That’s why I’m an agnostic when it comes to God, and why even though I really really want to believe that Global Warming is manmade (it fits in so well with my misanthropic, pessimistic worldview) I just can’t accept that conclusion unless someone makes a convincing case that acknowledges and successfully rebuts all of the reasons for doubting I mentioned above. Perhaps someone has, but I haven’t found it. I might be able to find it, but I’d have to look really really hard first.

So my critique is essentially this: if you want everyone to agree that Global Warming is manmade, stop being so damned condescending to those of us who aren’t convinced yet and start talking facts and evidence. I’m inherently skeptical of religion, so if you stop acting like devout followers of a religion, then maybe I won’t be so skeptical. It’s reasonable to believe that CO2 emissions are causing Global Warming, but it’s also entirely conceivable that we’ve all been duped by wealthy elites who see this whole thing as an enormous untapped source of potential profits (which it is) and that they have therefore inflated the idea of the threat so that we all go along with it. It wouldn’t be the first time the masses have been deceived for the benefit of the elites. Religion has served that very role for centuries.

But if it is true, if humanity is facing its own potential extinction due to the carbon it’s emitting into the atmosphere, we’d all better fucking do something about it before it’s too late. Something a little more drastic than “cap-and-trade”. But as long as this whole thing is just another big Right vs. Left Battle Royale in which facts and evidence take a back-seat to pre-existing ideological preferences, then we’re not going to get anywhere, and before you know it we’ll all be living in wooden huts at high elevations, arguing over who we should blame.

Miscellaneous

December 10th, 2009 No comments

It’s 2:20 in the afternoon, and normally at this time of day if I wasn’t working I’d be playing a video game. But I’ve got a date with the Ordnungsamt in an hour to get my residence permit (which expires tomorrow) renewed. It shouldn’t be much of a headache, as Michaela from Planeo has already got an appointment set up for me and all I need to do is bring the proper documents. I’ve just got to bring them to some guy named Mr. Titz, who is currently the top contender for the Best German Last Name Ever prize.

In the mean-time I’ve got an hour to kill so I think I’ll write a couple of miscellaneous things that I wasn’t sure I was going to bother writing about but now I might as well. First I’ll follow-up on an old story-line, then I’ll introduce a potential new one.

First of all, there was the incident a couple of weeks ago when I got really drunk at Lena’s party and was worried that I’d done something really bad that I didn’t remember. I called Oliver the following day but go no answer, so when Sunday came around I was really getting paranoid. But I called him on Sunday and he answered, and I confirmed that the only really embarrassing thing I did that night was throw up in front of everybody, but A) I puked on the bar and not on the table with all the food as I’d suspected, and B) I wasn’t the only one at the party who threw up. So that was a huge relief.

Then, the following night as I was drinking, I got a call from Oliver saying that he had something for me and if I wanted to come pick it up I should meet him at Lena’s place. So I took my buzzed self all the way up to Lena’s flat, bringing a couple of beers with me and imagining we’d be sitting around and chatting for awhile, but instead when I got in I found Lena practicing her Final Presentation for her degree. The Irish guy, Dazz, was also there and helping her out with her English. At first I was a little embarrassed at the fact that I was intoxicated when the others clearly weren’t, but somehow after a few minutes my brain switched completely over to that bizarre teaching-state-of-mind and in spite of the alcohol I was giving her pointers and suggestions right along with Dazz. It was the farthest thing from how I’d expected to spend the evening, but for an hour I was playing the English-teacher role perfectly well in spite of the intoxication. It was a good demonstration of just how versatile the brain can be, and how quickly it can alter itself to fit the situation. I could probably teach English while drunk and do a perfectly fine job of it. Not that I have any intention of doing so.

But at any rate, that at least fully confirmed that I’m still friends with Oliver and Lena and I don’t have to worry about that. As I left, Oliver and Dazz reassured me that
they’ve both been just as drunk, that I was actually a lot of fun at that party, and that everyone needs to get shit-faced every now and then anyway.

So that’s that. The other thing that I wasn’t sure I wanted to mention but I might as well is that I’m becoming slightly infatuated with another student of mine, one of the people from the Wednesday classes I’ve been taking over for Shauna. She’s a beginner from the 8:30 class, and while she doesn’t always show up, when she does I’m struck more and more each time by how cute she is. Her name is Mandy, and she’s short and petit with dark brown hair and gorgeous dark brown eyes. I appreciate every chance I get to study her face whenever it’s her turn to speak. Her face itself isn’t all that spectacular at first glance, and when I picture it in my mind I don’t feel anything, but it’s her mannerisms that really get me. She does this adorable little nostril-flaring thing whenever she speaks, and she keeps her lips so close together like she’s afraid something is going to jump inside her mouth if she opens it too wide. I don’t know, but I seem to be getting a little smitten.

Still, I doubt it will advance much farther than the Tereza thing did, which was purely a mild attraction that I never felt compelled to act on. I have a strong feeling that Mandy really wouldn’t want me to act on anything anyway, as her English isn’t very good and I can tell she doesn’t want to speak it any more than she has to. A couple of weeks ago I spotted her on the tram on the way to work and while I’m sure she spotted me too she didn’t acknowledge me at all, and when it came time to exit she took a different door than I did even though mine was closer. I jumped to the conclusion that she didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of trying to talk to me, which is 100% fine by me because the awkwardness would have cut both ways. In fact it’s the avoidance of awkwardness that is the main reason I have no intention of trying to act on this.

But in any case, there’s now at least one more example of my having actual emotions, weak as they are, directed at a woman who is actually an appropriate age for me. I’m not exactly sure how old she is but if she’s working at E.ON she’s definitely an adult. I think she’s probably a bit older than me but she may be slightly younger. Of course to be perfectly honest, she does have a whole young-girl quality about her, what with the petit frame and sweet shy disposition.

Anyway, I’m sure nothing will ever come of this. I only write about it because she was the first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning, which is usually a sign that something is developing. But infatuation is only as strong as the mental energy you devote to it, and I have no intention of deliberately devoting much attention to this, except to introduce her now in this journal should I ever need to bring her up again.

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