Month: June 2018

Rate My Rant

Have you noticed lately that every time you do business with someone, they ask you to complete a customer satisfaction survey, or write some sort of review? At one time, not too long ago, I encountered this only occasionally. Once in a while I’d get a survey in the mail to rate my family physician. Or I’d be asked to write a review of a product I bought online. But only once in a while.

Now it seems to happen every friggin’ time.

It seems survey mania has crept over us, and now the solicitation of a survey after every transaction or interaction has become standard business practice.

Back in the day, when this only happened once in a while, I had no problem completing surveys. In fact I felt delighted at the chance to rate someone like my doctor. Until he sent me a letter begging me to always rate him with 10’s on every category.

That’s when I became cynical about surveys. It seems that if you give someone anything less than a 10, even if it’s a nice generous 9, it jeopardizes their job security, and puts them under heavy scrutiny from their superiors.

So I just stopped doing them. I chuck them in the trash. I close their pop-up boxes online. Fuck all those bastards who expect their employees to be perfect.

Besides, I just don’t have time to fill out all the goddamned surveys everyone wants me to complete.

Now that I’m finished with this rant, I need your feedback. How good was this rant? Did I express my complaint clearly? Did you feel my passion? Were my writing skills up to par? Please rate me on a scale of 1 to 10 in the following categories. But remember, any rating less than a 10 could result in my suspension from WordPress and banishment from social media altogether. And you wouldn’t want that to happen, would you?

Overall ranting effectiveness (1-10):
Clarity of this rant (1-10):
How moved were you into joining this rant? (1-10):
Display of technical skills in this rant (1-10 ):
Willingness to recommend this rant to a friend (1-10):

Rating Equivalents:

1=Completely insincere or incompetent.
2=I’ve got better things to do than read this crap.
3=Such feeble effort. You sound like Don Knotts.
4=You whine like my 3-year-old grandchild.
5=Okay, so you’ve made your point. Yawn.
6=I’m gonna write my Congressman! Just as soon as I . . . zzzzzz.
7=Wow, you rant like a grumpy old man!
8=Where’s a straitjacket? You insane, man!
9=You’re Hitler incarnate!
10=You’re a Trump-Tweeting Tyrant!

Thank you for taking the time to complete this godawful long survey.

Thanks, Canada

Recently the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, stated that Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada were “kind of insulting” and that Canada would not be pushed around.

Trump responded with vituperant vilipending, and has called Trudeau all kinds of names, and has said Trudeau’s statement will cost him a lot of money.

Wow, what a war of words we have brewing here.

Now social media has jumped into this imbroglio with Americans launching a #ThankCanada and #ThanksCanada Twitter campaign.

Americans love Canada, and we don’t want anyone messing with our favorite country to the north. Not even our own president. Hands off, Trump!

But I have some words of caution for PM Trudeau. I believe he’s on a losing path. From my observation no politician, domestic or foreign, has ever bested Trump in a war of words. He could very well be the worst president we’ve ever had, but he’s absolutely the best at one thing. He’s a master of the ad hominem attack.

Any trade deficit we have with Canada will be quickly overcome with a surplus of well-crafted insults from our Commander-in-Chief. You can’t beat him this way, Justin. Sadly, you just can’t.

But there is one way to beat him. You have to go after Trump’s big weakness. His kryptonite. It stops this guy in his tracks every time. It’s called “facts”. Nothing is more cryptic to Trump than facts.

Trump simply cannot handle facts. Justin, don’t go about saying vague things like Canada will not be pushed around and blah, blah, blah. Trump will blow you out of the water with his ripostes. No, just stick to the facts, and this bully in our White House will run for cover.

For instance, Justin, you could point out that while the U.S. has indeed had a trade deficit with Canada of about $15 billion per year since 2015, that’s about a fifth what the deficit was in 2008. You could also point out that our deficit with China has been running about $350 billion per year since 2015, which is nearly $100 billion more than 2008.

If you would just say something like that, Trump would squawk and yelp and shout “Fake news! Fake news!” (unaware of the fact that these figures come from our own Census Bureau) and then quickly try to change the subject.

Just the facts, Justin, just the facts. Stick with the facts, while avoiding vague language, and you will win every time.

I don’t have a Twitter account, so I can’t participate in Twitter’s #ThankCanada campaign. So instead I’d like to finish this blog by saying my thank you’s here:

First, a big thank you to my Canadian blogging buddies. For example, Gibber Jabberin’ always comes through with hilarious comments to spice up my posts. And Joanne Sisco, I love your photography and fun little write-ups about Toronto.

Thank you Canada for offering us Americans a place of refuge from time to time. For instance in the 1960s and 1970s, when you welcomed young American men who opposed fighting in the Vietnam War, to escape to your country. And also thank you for the affordable prescription drugs ailing Americans have been able to obtain across your borders. You have saved many American lives.

Thanks Canada for Dr. James Naismith, who created the game of basketball.

Thanks Canada for your beautiful scenery that we Americans drink in by the millions when we vacation in your lands. I’ll never forget the time my wife and I got off a cruise ship in Skagway, Alaska. We rented a car and drove through the northwest corner of British Columbia, and into the Yukon. We had to stop at a border checkpoint along the way, but the Canadian officers were very polite and even gave us helpful advice. We always felt safe on this motor trip, and were treated decently by every Canadian we met.

Bennett Lake at Carcross, Yukon. Thanks Canada, for amazing scenery like this!

Thanks Canada for cars, oil, food, computers, gold, diamonds, and so much more. And thank you for helping us with our conscience. When we buy Canadian we can always rest assured that nobody was enslaved or horribly exploited in the making of the product.

Thanks Canada for setting a good example with your healthcare system. If only we had the guts to follow it.

Thanks for Horseshoe Falls. I’ve never been there, but I’ve always heard it’s the best part of Niagara Falls.

Thanks for these things, and so much more.

Thank you, Canada.

Swallowing Capistrano

Votive offerings before the goddess Mary, at Serra’s Chapel, Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? President Ulysses S. Grant, of course. Where is Mission San Juan Capistrano located? Why, in San Juan Capistrano, California, of course.

Which is where my wife and I headed a few months ago, on our mission to visit all of California’s historic Catholic missions. This was our eighth, of 21 missions visited. We began this quest back in the 1990’s, so please be patient with our progress.

The gilded altar of Serra’s Chapel.

Mission San Juan Capistrano was established in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra. That year he built Serra’s Chapel, a small church that is still in use today, and is the oldest church in California.

Ahem, let me correct that factoid. Father Serra did not build the chapel. The Native Americans he enslaved did the actual labor. He just supervised and made sure they did a good job, while edifying themselves with good old fashioned godly hard work.

Serra’s Chapel is very long and narrow. That’s my wife standing near the back. Ain’t she purty?

And they did do a good job. So good that this autochthonous tribe was conscripted into the construction of a far larger, Great Stone Church. Their backbreaking, salvation-earning moil and toil began in 1797. Nine long years of sweat, struggle, and hernias later, the magnificent cathedral was completed.

A wall of the Great Stone Church.

Finally the exhausted slaves christians could rest. No more hoicking heavy stones. No more long, agonizing hours beneath the burning sun. And no more beatings and whippings for the slow slackers.

This mighty monument to the mercy of the Lord stood 180 feet long and 40 feet wide, and came equipped with a 120 foot bell tower that could be seen for many miles. It was something to be proud of for the Spanish, and even for the natives who built it.

Worship within the walls of this wonder began in 1806. But just six years later, on December 8th, 1812, the San Andreas fault erupted with 7.2 magnitudes of jolting, destructive power. The cathedral’s stone arch roof had been constructed poorly and could not withstand the shaking of a major earthquake. This grand structure that took nine hard years to build, was wiped out in a matter of seconds.

Ruins of the Great Stone Church. The altar seems to have been the only safe spot during the shaking.

If the purpose of this cathedral was to bring Native Americans close to God, it succeeded wildly. When the earth began to move, Mass was being held. Forty native worshipers perished beneath the falling stones of the collapsing roof. And two boys in the toppled bell tower were also killed. I suppose they got as close to God as anyone can possibly get.

Ancient mission bells, with ruins of the Great Stone Church in the background.

The Great Stone Church was never rebuilt, but worship continued in Serra’s Chapel, eventually converting more than 4,000 native souls to christianity.

A campanario (bell wall) was built a year after the 1812 earthquake, that connected the ruins of the Great Stone Church to Serra’s Chapel.

After Mexico’s independence, and the United States’ thievery of California from Mexico, Mission San Juan Capistrano fell into labefaction. Then, in 1910, Father John O’Sullivan took over the mission and began its restoration.

These brick ovens were employed for feeding the multitude of christian slaves immured at the mission.

Father O’Sullivan is credited (or rather, he credits himself) for a singular miracle that has made this site world famous. He claims to have brought the swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano.

During his tutelage of this mission, people began to notice that thousands of swallows were building their nests on the mission walls. Every Spring, these birds would migrate 6,000 miles, from Goya, Argentina, just to make the mission their home.

And then in 1940, the Ink Spots put San Juan Capistrano on the map with their hit recording of the song, When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.

Why did the swallows start coming to Mission San Juan Capistrano? According to Father O’Sullivan, it all began one day when he was walking about the town outside the mission.

He noticed a shopkeeper flailing about with a broomstick, knocking down mud nests from under the eaves of his shop, while panicked birds zoomed all around him, shrieking madly.

“What in the hell is going on?!” shouted Father O’Sullivan. Well maybe he didn’t quite use those particular words. Here’s the actual dialogue, according to the good Father, from his book Capistrano Nights:

“What in the world are you doing?” O’Sullivan asked.

“Why, these dirty birds are a nuisance and I am getting rid of them!” the shopkeeper responded.

“But where can they go?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” he replied, slashing away with his pole. “But they’ve no business here, destroying my property.”

O’Sullivan then said, “Come on swallows, I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission. There’s room enough there for all.”

The very next morning, Father O’Sullivan discovered the swallows busy building their nests outside Father Junipero Serra’s Church.

In the early 1920s Father O’Sullivan began a tradition of celebrating the return of the swallows to the mission every March 19th (Saint Joseph’s Day). This tradition now draws thousands of tourists every year to join the celebration.

However in the 1990s the mission underwent remodeling. The nests of these dirty birds got in the way and were a nuisance. So the construction workers knocked them down. And after that the swallows stopped returning to Capistrano.

Many attempts have been made to lure the swallows back, but to little avail.

It seems that even for birds, hypocrisy is a hard thing to swallow.

These artificial nests were placed in this archway to entice the swallows to return. They’ve only been modestly effective. Very few birds have swallowed the bait.

Facade

A big attraction of Joshua Tree National Park is its numerous piles of gigantic granite boulders. Who put all these boulders here, and why did they go through all that trouble?

When I was young I was sometimes accused of hiding behind a facade and not revealing my actual, inner self. And it’s true, I really was hiding behind a facade.

Well actually the boulders formed hundreds of millions of years ago when this area was part of the ocean floor. I’ll help you take a nap right now, by telling you the story . . .

I was hiding the ugly pain of an abused childhood. I was hiding suspicions of personal incompetence and the self-doubt of unproven youth. I was hiding my naivete regarding this strange new world that everyone expected me to conquer. And I was hiding my feelings for young ladies who might embarrass me with rejection, should they turn me down.

In fact, I was hiding these and many more things.

250 million years ago the North American tectonic plate slid over the heavier Pacific plate like two quarreling spouses having a dish fight. This forced seawater between the plates, which began boiling like an angry teakettle, due to heat from the friction of the sliding plates.

I built a palisade of rock impossible to penetrate. No one could discover the exotic terrain hiding behind my granite facade. And its imposing escarpment left few even willing to try.

The heat formed magma, and the steam created enormous chambers for the magma to fill.

But assaults from time and the weathering of life have changed all of that. Temblors from the chthonic depths of Earth have fractured my facade’s structural integrity. Eolian winds have hollowed out windows and notches. And downpours from the heavens have eroded gaping barrancas, washing alluvial minerals to the pediplains below.

The magma then cooled into granite. This granite then fractured from tectonic pressure, forming individual boulders.

Here, there, and in many places, my facade has crumbled more and more with the onslaughts of each passing season. Now the curious, the brave, and the careful have many opportunities to explore. Windows have appeared within rock walls, enticing the adventurous to discover more. And slots and passes have cracked apart, affording trails to the kingdom within.

It mostly stands tall and imposing, but my facade no longer serves as a completely solid wall. Rather, it is a screen. It filters out the lazy, while allowing entry to those willing to make a reasonable effort to get inside.

The granite boulders were pushed upward by the Pacific plate below. As they rose and broke the surface of the earth, rainwater percolated down and dissolved the softer granite into soil.

Behind my facade hide delicate vulnerabilities that require protection. But I’m willing to share these vulnerabilities with those who’ve taken the time to discover the decomposed granite, the joints, the splits, and the rounded corners of my stone wall. They already know I’m vulnerable, so there’s no sense in hiding anymore.

As I age I find I have less to lose and more to reveal. And so the facade continues to erode.

The soil then eroded away, revealing the mounds of large boulders that now cover the landscape.

But some of this facade must always remain. And not just my facade, but the barriers of everyone. Facades can be as beautiful as the humanity they conceal. And they serve as a superable challenge for those truly interested in exploring, while deterring the casual passerby who might only spoil or abuse.

There’s nothing wrong with a facade. Let your facade stand fast and majestic. But allow the forces of time to open you up some. At least enough to offer passage to those who will respect what they find.

Who knows, you might enjoy their company.

A bunch of homo sapiens sapiens, who only just recently evolved 30,000 years ago, came along and decided these boulders looked pretty cool. And so they honored what they found by declaring the area to be a National Park.