Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Political Correctness and Evolution

In my universe, there's been recent and frequent talk about Political Correctness ("PC") and how it's the "ruination of our country".  I'm not saying these things, but people I know are.  And it makes me wonder what is so horrible about taking a few seconds to choose your words so that you don't run the risk of offending someone - anyone - who either has suffered or is currently suffering at the hands of established societal norms.  I don't care for the term 'politically correct' because there is nothing 'political' about having good manners.  In my quest to be an accepting person while attempting to put myself in the shoes of others, my ultimate goal is to just not be an asshole.

First, let me stand on a box and confess out loud that I am not without my prejudices, which almost seem innate.  I can't help the way my mind works but I can re-educate myself and I do have complete control over how my mouth functions, i.e. what I say or not say in the presence of others.  Anyone who has ever spent 10 minutes in my company knows that I am opinionated.  And I own up to the fact that I don't say about 80% of what runs through my brain.  Because back in my childhood, I learned that words can be upsetting, hurtful, insulting, and damaging.  Painful.  And in this day of cyber abuse and bullying, we know all too well that words can also kill.  So what is so hard about having good manners (read: PC) and choosing to not say something that might cause pain to or kill another human being?

The thing about being PC is that you can't pick and choose it.  You have to be all in.  You can't demand PC towards you and not give it back.  Number One: it's not fair, and Number Two: it contradicts the concept of The Golden Rule and ethic reciprocity.

I have a niece with speech development issues and a nephew with autism.  It's only because of PC that the world shouldn't call them "retarded".  I have a father with dementia and it's only because of PC that the world shouldn't call him "insane".  I have female relatives who are full-figured, and it's only because of PC that the world shouldn't call them "fat".  And, also because of PC, every one of them is allowed to live in the world and not be shut up in an asylum - which they would have been as recently as 30 years ago.

We EVOLVE because we MUST.  We are arguably the most intelligent form of life that's ever lived in the universe.  We have adapted our thinking and beliefs over time as we have become more educated and responsible.  It's only been those species that have refused to adapt that have died out.  Thomas Jefferson, the man who authored the Declaration of Independence almost 240 years ago, stated:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
PC is not the ruination of the country, it's its deliverance from harm, ruin and loss.  So whether it's a word (I, myself, grew up being called a "sissy" and a "fag" and there are still people who think I should be put to death) or a symbol (such as a logo, a salute, a hand gesture, and , yes, even a flag) that causes pain to someone, why wouldn't we as an evolved, educated society want its use to stop?!?  Is a word or symbol more sacred than a human life?  If it's TOO hard for you to know what to say, do the entire world and yourself a favor and just say NOTHING.

Most people to whom PC comments are directed are suffering from some kind of societal norm deficit.  So when you think about it, aren't their lives hard enough without us choosing to hurt them unnecessarily?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

2005-2015: How This Blog Has Changed Over 10 Years

In creating something like this - a de facto journal of my life - it's easy to look back as I have been doing to see how I've have changed over the past 10+ years that this blog now covers.  It's not only me who has changed over the years, but also this here blog as well.

First of all, the blog didn't begin as a blog.  I had created a personal website back in 2004 that looked like this:
 
Not sure why I chose to name every page with an "H" word; I guess I had a reason at the time.  
(Click image to enlarge)
As you can see, I've always had a political bend to my writing and opines.  And it was because of how my site was written, as well as the fact that it was more of an op/ed kinda thing that a friend suggested that I create a blog instead.  I kept the actual website for about a year then just let it disappear.

So the blog was born.  Even the very look of it has changed over the past 10 years.  It's gone through 3 incarnations in the past decade: the first version created in 2005, then an update in 2008, and then the current version in 2013.  The previous two versions looked like this:

2005                                                                                                 2008
(Click image to enlarge)
The blog's actual URL changed, and fairly recently too.  The old address was http://viewfromthejeep.blogspot.com.  But about a year ago, I converted it to just http://www.viewfromthejeep.com.  Nice and simple.  I also no longer maintain a blogroll, which lists other blogs and websites that I follow.  I checked most of the ones listed on the two former versions and none of them work anymore.  I guess not many people keep personal blogs these days.  What can I say - I'm a rebel!

And why "viewfromthejeep" in the first place?  At the time I started the blog, I had my beloved green 1994 Jeep Wrangler.  The picture to the right is of me and the jeep back in June 2001.  I loved that machine.  I thought I would have it forever.  In DC, it became synonymous with me.  People recognized it and knew where I was.  Then one day, it was stolen while parked outside my house in DC.  I never saw it again.  I was crushed.  I kept the blog name as an homage to my identity, in a way.

Driving on...

Statistically, I no longer write posts like it's a part-time job.  Looking back to 2006 and 2007, I was averaging 4 and 5 posts per week.  Today, I dash off maybe 1 post every 2 weeks or so.  I want to write more, but it's sometimes tricky to think up a topic.  I almost always have an opinion on everything, but even that is not always enough to elicit a post.  I used to be rather political in my posts, but that has waned over the years as well.  It could be that I no longer have much to say since Bush left office, or it could be that since I no longer live in DC my interest/passion in politics is not as prevalent.

I also used to publish Monday Eye Candy every Monday morning, which was essentially just a photo of some random guy from the internet that I thought was attractive.  Now and then, I would post a photo of a friend of mine and tout how wonderful of a person he was or give him a shout out if he had something going on to which I wanted to help draw attention.  Mondays were (and still are) difficult days for me to get focused, so MEC was an easy way to post something without really needing to think about it.  My blog traffic was always highest on Mondays.  I guess there are lots of people like me who need some sort of motivation to begin their week.  Here's a lame example:

(Click image to enlarge)
I also used to occasionally pick a random day and go back in time through all my calendars and journals and list what I had done on that very date every year since 1982, when I started keeping calendars and journals.  The first one was created on October 20, 2005, with a few more random dates to follow including one listing out how I celebrated my birthdays from 1984-2007.  The most recent one was written on September 27, 2013.  It's actually a fun exercise.  I should do tit more often.

In the beginning, my blog was also hidden from my family.  Well, not really hidden per se - they just didn't know about it.  I also had not formally come out to my entire family yet, so I didn't want everyone reading and knowing what I was doing in my life.  But now my life is figuratively an open book.  And I know many in my family read it just to stay up to speed with Kevin and my excursions.

Several years ago, I didn't have much of a filter as to what I would write about.  Nothing was off-limits, which I think is still evident in some of the older posts.  I even wrote about my job on my blog until I was asked to stop - not asked to stop writing about my job, but asked to stop writing my blog by my job.  This explains the 4-year gap in posting from 2008-2012. But I'll save that for another, more interesting post.  And it IS interesting.

I also used to sell advertising space on my blog and made a nice chunk of change doing so.  Those ads went away during the break when I didn't write anything.  I'd get a check based on the number of hits my blog would get.  Man, I wish I'd had ad space on it during the Carol Burnett posts!  I could have retired.

So my blog, like me, has gone through some changes over the years.  It celebrates my evolving into the person I am today, and will most likely continue evolving itself over time as I keep it going.  I'm surprised that I have maintained this as I am always quick to delete something or throw something out.  But I like that this is here and remains just sitting out there.  And even if it's ever just me who reads this and no one else, that's fine too.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

2005-2015: A Little Lasting Love

Continuing my celebration of this blog being a decade, I recall the last time I fell in love with someone, albeit even a little bit.  Ten years ago on June 14, 2005, Kevin and I met for the first time.

In Spring 2005, I had been living in Washington, DC for ten years, sharing a house with my best friend, Ashley.  We had both grown a little tired of DC and wanted a change. So when Ash decided to move to Chicago and open Hamburger Mary's with his brother, I decided to tag along too.

As the story goes, Kevin and I were connected by our friend (the newly-married-himself, Chris) on a pre-Facebook social network site called Friendster.  Chris and I had been drinking buddies in DC before he moved to Chicago in 2004 where his old William & Mary classmate, Kevin, also lived.  When I decided to move from DC to Chicago in spring 2005, I sent a message to Kevin hoping to make a new friend in a new city.  We didn’t meet on my first visit in May that year, but we began emailing each other and eventually shifted to phone conversations, which wound up occurring every night.  We got the chance to finally meet during my second visit to Chicago on June 14, 2005.  We met outside Briar Street Theater’s production of Blue Man Group for our first date at Cesar’s Killer Margaritas on Clark Street.

I was so taken with Kevin that two days later, when I returned to DC, I wrote a post about falling a little bit in love.  And I've remained in that state ever since, obviously growing more deeply in love as time passed.  And per the original post 10 years ago, Kevin is also the person with whom I prefer to spend the most amount of my time.  Ten years ago, Kevin "happened" to me.  And I am forever changed and grateful as a result.




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tear Drop National Monument

Ever hear of the Teardrop National Monument

Me either.

It's a national monument given to the U.S. by Russia to honor the victims of the September 11th attacks.  It sits across the harbor from the Statue of Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey.  The name of each victim is inscribed in the base, much like the Vietnam Memorial Wall in DC.  

Made by Russian artist, Zurab Tsereteli, it stands 100 feet tall with a stainless steel teardop hanging in the middle.  The outside is made of bronze and the base is made of granite. Families of the victims placed stones in the walkway leading to the monument.

The memorial was dedicated in 2006, with little to no media coverage or fanfare.  There are no signs or ads leading to it on the streets of New Jersey.  The monument was and remains the source of many controversies and disputes.  It was originally meant to be erected on the NJ waterfront but officials rejected it.  It was finally placed in Bayonne, facing the New York skyline, but many still complain that this 10-story horror blocks the wonderful view of the city.  It's listed among the Top 5 Worst 9/11 Memorials.

The art community has stated that "it was not just unpleasant, but to the point that it was offensive."  Others have said it looked like a woman's vulva and that it was Russia's indirect way of calling America a pussy . . . . cat.  There is also the fact that the memorial includs huge pictures of Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, along with America's all-time worst President:

I personally don't know of anyone who has visited this site.  I imagine it might offer some comfort to the families of the victims.  But beyond that, with so little fanfare and attention, I'm curious what others think about it.

Monday, June 01, 2015

We Bought A House!

I'm a little behind on sharing this information, but - yeah, we kinda bought a house.

Most people go through a slump after the holiday season.  That period between Hallowe'en and New Years is an active time for just about everyone - and that's no exception in our home.  Kevin spent most of October creating our Hallowe'en costumes, and then immediately transitioned into making us both "onesies" complete with hoods, zippers, and pockets.  We journeyed to our families for Christmas, then flew out to Napa to celebrate New Year's with friends.  So after all this, Kevin needed a project during the month of January; something to challenge his brain and keep him occupied.

I thought he was going to start sewing again.  But instead, he started house-shopping.  Thus is life with Kevin.

We had talked about eventually moving out of our 880 sq ft loft condo in Uptown.  We'd been living in that space for 8 years (minus the year in Miami).  We loved the place, but it was small; we had become experts on how 2 adults can live in a small space.  And we'd decorated it with style.  But after living in a larger 2-bedroom apartment in Miami, we knew we needed to branch out.  I figured we would move into another condo in a different part of the city.  We'd talked about living in West Loop, South Loop and River North - which made sense since we would both most likely work downtown for most of our careers.

But rather than condos downtown, we shifted our interested to 2- and 3-flats within a mile or so of where we currently lived, staying on the far northside of Chicago.  So we narrowed our search online and enlisted the guidance of our trusted realtor, Susie Kanter, and set off one Saturday to look at buildings.  We toured 5 or 6 places, each one with rental capacity to help with our mortgage.  None of them seemed to hit it out of the ballpark, though, and it wasn't until later that evening at home when we were debriefing that we both realized the problem:  as much as the additional income would benefit our bottom line, neither of us was too keen on sharing our space with strangers.  For me, I didn't want to have to share my laundry facilities and experience the ire of opening the washer to find someone else's wet clothes sitting inside.  I had enough of that in college; I didn't want to relive that experience 30 years later.

So Round 2 was to look at small single family homes instead.  The next weekend, off we went with Susie again to look at houses.  And the first one we saw, was IT!  We had been looking at pictures online for the entire week and we both felt good about it, but wanted to keep our options open.  So we looked at a few.  Admittedly, there was a second house that made the decision difficult.  Both had obvious pluses and minuses.  But our favorite house just seemed like "us".  And we knew it in our guts.  So after a little haggling, our offer was accepted the following week.  After a 6-week closing cycle, we took ownership on March 16, 2015.

March 16, 2015
We'll move in on Saturday, the 21st.  This is definitely a new adventure for both of us, both as individuals and a couple.  And I am sure there will be lots to share as we put our stamp on our cute little house.  Stay tuned for more stories and updates as we launch into our "houseownership".