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Alex Baer

Who Goes There - Friend or Faux?

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Not counting the things that looked like mushed M&M's or maybe some cushion-dried salsa chunks, the best I've ever done is a couple of hard-shell taco divots, a remote control for an oscillating fan, enough unpopped popcorn kernels for a hamster's tea break, a ripped bus transfer, half a poker chip, a pizza crust that could double as a drywall hammer, two wallet-pocket buttons, the keeper-part of ticket stub for a 1993 charity auction, and a dollar-seventeen in change.

Talk about being outclassed.  Three roommates in northern New York state found $40,000 in their couch.  The one they bought.  Second-hand.  For twenty bucks.

It was a major oops.  The daughter sold it, when her mom was in the hospital for a surgery.   But, it all got straightened out.  The roommates tracked down the original owner somehow, maybe through the charity shop that had sold them the couch, and then, the original owner and the original cash were all restored to original condition.  And they all lived originally, and happily, ever after.

Yes:  Good works were done, a smidge of confidence was restored to the bucket of human nature, and the roommates received a thousand bucks for their effort -- a profit of $980, one could say, providing one wanted to focus on the upsides here.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 May 2014 13:37

KISSS: Keep It Simple, Stop Struggling

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Time to add another "S" to that old acronym, about Keeping It Simple, Stupid:  The updated version is Keep It Simple, Stop Struggling.

It's advice that the Brazilian police are handing around to European and American tourists who are in town for the World Cup.  The actual tip is closer to "do not react, scream, or argue," and is meant to help newbies to the country avoid a popular kind of robbery in which being murdered is the farewell thank-you gift from muggers.

The police are being realistic.  Brazil has one of the highest murder rates in the world, so says the United Nations, at more than 25 per 100,000.  (This number, obviously, does not include the hectares of rain forest in Brazil routinely strangled, bulldozed, and cremated, nor does it include the amount of oxygen-producing capacity murdered daily.)

Police are concerned tourists from abroad do not usually experience the joys of robbery, and so, need to be counseled on their manners, in order to avoid latrocinios -- the aforementioned keepsake memento of death following one's souvenir stick-up.

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Last Updated on Monday, 12 May 2014 16:52

Forcing Cheese, and Us, Through Holes

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What we see depends on us, on what we want to see.  It depends on our everyday mindsets and moods, and how nature and nurture have shaped us, past and present.  In early times, gathering information about our world, people used plain old human vision, and went toe-to-toe with the world, even if they didn't always see eye-to-eye with it.

Somewhere in there, we made the world more complex, and started using windows and doors and portholes and telescopes and other viewing intermediaries.  Newspapers, radio, and television wandered along eventually, helping us see farther away and further ahead.

Rose-colored glasses were sometimes worn by deluded or contented observers of life, whether by a neighbor halfway down the block or a reporter halfway around the planet.  Sometimes, people saw red -- pinkos and reds, to be exact -- directed as their vision was by the low-horsepower, straight-ahead, horse blinders of that era.  For the most part, though, the view of the world was pretty clear, and most people's desires to see, and their means of doing so, were reliable, neutral, and intact.  They were ready to make up their minds, after consulting the facts. This was the norm.  The world and its details were not only knowable, people were busy knowing them.

Last Updated on Friday, 02 May 2014 11:45

Opposites, Fence-Sitting, and Trekking

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Opposites attract, it is said.  These days, I suspect opposites attract all right, and bunched up around their opposite poles, are two groups:  the totally apathetic and the absolutely certain.

The majority of us are less extreme, lumped in the middle somewhere, fence-sitters, undecided, waiting for more information to drift in and for the clouds of our doubt to clear -- waiting for something like clarity and confidence to bloom somewhere close to our decision-making abilities, our opinions, our beliefs.

Ignorance and apathy make mischievous, self-chasing twins that raise only dust clouds and smokescreens, when they can be persuaded to move at all.  Their opposite forces, ego and conviction, sweat buckets to ensure knowledge and action both corner the market and are locked all the way down.

Me, I usually buzz and flit around the whole length and area of those poles of attraction with an armload of bald facts and bare opinions.  Sometimes, I sport splashy, energetic layer cakes of logic, interest, fascination.  Other times, frankly, I'd be hard pressed to come up with an eighteenth of a half-baked hoot about anything.  Sometimes, bereft of answers and beaten down,  I refuse to play at all, completely rejecting the Catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don't, concept of play -- my own Kobayashi Maru.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 15:39

A Bad Case of the -shuns

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There are still plenty of ripping, searing, wrenching, and devastating problems on this singular space ship which we call home, and equally important challenges all among its incredibly motley, and sometimes endearing, crew, too.  I get that.  This stuff is absolutely not news to me.  I learned to read quite a while back, using newspapers that -- dare I say it, even in irony? -- Adam and Eve used to cave-break their pet dinosaurs.

No, I have not slipped away in the night.  I have not yet been allowed to sublease my apartment at the Sanity Arms.  I have not yet checked out of the Human Hotel.  I am, by the way, still dawdling around here at the By-and-By B and B, hoping that someone will present a final statement and then, hang around long enough to help me make some sense out of the thing.

Comprehension comes later, I hope.  However, just now, I am trapped here, where life often feels like the waiting room for every tire installation joint I've ever inhabited:  Crap coffee, crap chairs, lava-esque (in summer) or icicle-bound (in winter).  It's the sort of a place with the kind of noise that makes fingernails on a blackboard seem soothing --  and where the place smells like it had its last change of air in 1639, by a galley mob fresh off a galleon, and where the ambience is an eye-crossing, nose-hair-depleting cross between gym locker stench, burning dog hair, and a berserk, shrieking offspring of sulfur and ammonia.  Still in diapers.

Does.  Not.  Compute.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 14:01

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