Ask a Bastard: Super Productive Edition

Today I’m not just answering your questions. Today I am also completing my intakes AND mailing out letters to clients who need to attended group on Saturday. I rule.

Lets get to the questions:

AG asks: Given the state of the union,the 2008 Presidential election should be a run away train. Why haven’t the Dems pulled away from the pack yet?

This could be an entire post. If American’s paid attention to the news and to politics the way the did to sports and TV, this election would already be over. We don’t–and we won’t–because our lives have become overly complicated and stressful. The bias for conflict in the 24 hour news cycle doesn’t help either. The media focus on, and analyze, stories that dwell on conflict between the parties. They do not analyze the stories in terms of truth or fiction.

I also believe that there is a certain amount of deep seated, almost unconscious, racism affecting our society. Talking about race in our country isn’t easy, and to a certain extent, I do not believe it should be easy. It needs to be a deep conversation where all the sides engage in self-analysis–not just knee-jerk reactions.

We also have a fascination with War Hero’s and the Vietnam war. This adds to McCain’s mystique for a number of people.

At the same time, there is also the issue of polling. Some of the polling data appears to be skewed in that they are not polling the youth vote. Gallup has stated that they use Cell Phones and target 18-35 year olds, and to my knowledge they are the only big pollster that does so.

Then there is the issue of the poll’s methodology. Because the polls ask, “If you the election were held today…” undecided/independent /key demographic are pushed for an answer. When pushed to answer a question, most people answer with the name off the top of their head. Please note I said most. Not everyone.

So, tl;dr version: American’s don’t pay attention. The media is all over the place. Polls may not be accurate.

Aerin asked two questions: What do you do if you feel you’re coming down with a cold?


Was there even a global relations class/teacher at our high school? That sounds vaguely familiar. What did they talk about??!?

There was indeed a Global Relations class. We talked about current events and had to debate current topics. The teacher was the great Ms. Widing. I ended up writing and debating the Northern Irish Question…

When I am getting sick, I do complain for a while. Sometimes a few days, sometimes a week. I try to drink more fluids, rest more and eat healthier. I also avoid my coworkers, and if I have a fever, I call off work and work from home.

At a certain point, I say, “I’m done with being sick,” and I either go to work or go to the store and buy items high in vitamin C. I did this last year when I had strep throat. That was a bad idea. I almost passed out on the way back from the grocery store.

Seth asked: What do you do to interest a kid who simply doesn’t care why they’re in school?

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Without the basics of food and shelter, you can kiss anything else goodbye. That being said, schools can do somethings to alleviate those basic needs.

1) Breakfast and hot lunch for the kid.
2) Find out what the kid likes and tailor individual lessons to said kid.
3) Work with the school social worker to help provide services for the family.

I remember a feature I heard on NPR eight years ago about an educator who was struggling with the low reading ability of kids in her Texas classroom. She found that most of the kids in her classroom loved cowboys. She then based her lessons on cowboys–including Louis L’Amour’s series. This principle can be applied to this kid as well. Find out what this child does like and tie it into school.

A lot of psychiatrists may push for medication, arguing that they are demonstrating signs of clinical childhood depression, especially if the child is irritable. This is a piss poor idea. The kid needs social work services, not medication.

So, first focus on the fundamentals, then tailor his or her education based on their outside interests.

That’s what I got this week. Turn in next week when I answer more of your questions.

Ask A Bastard: Chrome Edition

I have a lot of comments to read, think about and respond to.  However, Ask A  Bastard deserves its day in the sun as well.  AS for the Chrome Edition…well, I’m running chrome off a flash drive.

First from Itanya:
What should I give the Husband for our Fifth Anniversary?

Here is what I know of Husband: Secular humanist, nerd, and die hard Cubby fan. He is also patient, sweet and thoughtful. From that perspective, I think anything you get him that has a degree of thought to it will be well received and appreciated.

I see this going down a few roads. Budget concerns are something on everyone’s mind lately, so I think buy Cubs tickets for a home game would be impossible (but highly recommended). Likewise, a new video card would probably go over well, but without knowing his rig, I can’t really help.

Downtown Portland is another option. In my brief three day stay in your fair city, I had a wonderful time in a fancy hotel which also walking distance from some fantabulous food. There are also a number of wineries within a few hours of downtown Portland. If the Husband drinks wine, then I whole heartedly recommend finding a deal on a winery with a hotel or B&B nearby. Gifts are nice, but experiences are better.

If you still want to get him a physical token of your love and affection, then I think you’re drifting towards the nerd realm. Maybe these with a poem about how he is your light? A fancy dress shirt with cuff-links?

Since I do have to give a final recommendation, I’d say go for the experience over the product. The Experience, getting away from things and enjoying each other’s company, would good for both of you. The Experience cannot be lost or stolen. In the end, I think having each other is far more important than anything at Think-Geek.

Second, but never second place anywhere else, we have VON:
If my mind is blown, how can I ask a proper question?
See, VON, the question comes first. The mind blowing answer comes second–though if I really wanted to blow minds, I’d answer questions before they were asked. I’m not psychic (or psychotic), but I can still blow your mind with the proper question.

So let’s say you figured out the question, and my answer was so spot on that your mind was blown. Then what? You may be stunned for a week or two, but the world we live in is so banal and cynical that the mind I had blown would be brought back down to earth. It would only be a matter of time before you had another question of pressing importance for me to answer.

Fellow 10-year Alumni SaraQ asks: What is with my recurring dreams where my chance to go snow skiing gets thwarted (last night, by a wedding and thugs who stole the bride’s ring)?

It is your unconscious mind telling you that strapping wood or fiberglass planks to your feet and racing down a mountain is a bad, bad idea. Your brain is telling you to solve mysteries and beat up thugs rather than put yourself at risk of DEATH. Seriously, skiing is bad. Really bad.

And last, but not least, we have Aerin:
If you could go back 10 – 15 years in a time machine, what would you tell yourself? What would you not tell yourself? (besides buy google and yahoo stock and sell at the high).

How have the years changed your perspective on high school – or has your perspective changed at all? Do you think that you went to a good high school? (Just curious, we went to the same high school but I know that different alums I’ve spoken with have different perspectives on it)

I would tell myself to read more and speak up all the time. I would tell myself, “just because psych is easy for you to Grok, you should still really do your assignments.” I would tell myself to spend more time with my parents.

I have shifted further left the older I have gotten. My perspectives have changed in that I think we have a lot farther to go to have a more egalitarian and equitable society. Also, much to the disappointment of my Global Relations teacher, I don’t think that simply providing evidence in a well crafted argument is enough to sway people’s opinions.

However, the basis of who I am stems from high school. If it wasn’t for LT and Snowball, I never would have developed the confidence to come into my own and do half of what I have done today.  So yes, I think we went to a fantastic high school.  Our education was excellent and the extracurricular activies let us put our skills into practice.

That being said, I would never go back to high school now.  Nor would I go back to college.  Where I went to school was perfect for me at each age.  There’s no real reason to go back…


…except one. I have one regret from high school.  I should have asked someone out sooner than I did.  Other than that, I’d say I made out pretty damn well.

More questions next week people. Ask away!

Ask A Bastard: Wednesday and Wheezing Edition


I can’t breathe today. Still, I will answer the pressing questions of the day.

VON asks: Why do I hate/abhor/detest female singers?

Maybe it is because the female singers they are pushing these days are not singers so much as they are “entertainers.” It is the objectification of women that you hate, not the female singers.

New-Dad Brando asks: What question would you love to ask but NOT want to know the answer to?

There are very few things in this world that I would not want to know. However, I think the one question I would love to ask but not want the answer to is, “why Hootie?”

Deb asks: Why am I considering moving to an area I don’t really like to make my spouse happy?

I will now bullet point the reasons:

•You are a swell person and will do things to make others happy.

•The places you are thinking about living may not be as bad as you think.

•Your husband rules and he should be happy.

•You maybe more done with Portland than you think.

Aerin asks, “why do friends plan gatherings for the same day? How do you decide which party to go to?”

Because of groups of friends only have one friend in common–you–which leads to massive amounts of problems. Add to this mix the obligatory family holidays and you find yourself driving hours at a time for the same party over and over and over again.

Friend’s don’t do it maliciously; however, sometimes they do it without thinking of others. But that is a different question.

You chose by going to the get-to-gether that you prefer to go to IF you can only do one. We try to spend a little time at each party before retiring. This takes more work, but it often greatly appreciated.

If you really would prefer to go to both parties equally, go to the one that would appreciate you kids more. If, again, they both really want to see your kids, see the people you see less often. Share the love.

The always clever AG asks a number of questions:

First: How do I remove ketchup from a white t-shirt I have already washed and the stain did not come out?
Dry Cleaners.

Second: I also want to know what to look for in a gay bar?
The dance floor. If there is no one dancing, move on. If there is dancing, stay. If there is Erasure, drink mojitos and dance till the sabbath.

Always check Yelp.

If you’re coming to Chicago, I recommend a pub crawl up and around Broadway, north of Belmont.

Most importantly, What does it mean when a guy you like asks if he can join you next week at your synagogue services? He quantifies it with “This may sound weird”.

It means he likes you and he is looking into (first hand) your ideas of faith. This can be a normal date–albeit a bit unusual for a lapsed catholic (at no point have I had a thought about going to Shannon’s church)–but it sounds to me like this is a Very Important Date. This kind of date is equivalent to meeting the core group of friends or meeting the parents.

It is also a damn good sign.

Now I am going to do another round of inhalers. Leave more questions–but next week, I won’t be answering until Tuesday Afternoon. I’ll be chilling with VON and Shannon on Monday in Michigan.

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Ask A Bastard: Dinner Edition (UPDATE!)


Not a week for questions I guess.

Aerin asks:

question(s) for next week – a good restaurant to recommend, close to downtown? I’ve been out of the area so long that I can’t think of anything good to recommend to a friend.

This depends on what your friend want to eat. Personally, near the down town area, I would hit:


Gimme an idea of what folks want to eat and their budget, and we can have a list to you in 3 hours.

Also, check out Metromix first and Yelp second. Metromix can give you an overview, while Yelp can give you specific accounts from non-revieiwers.

ALSO – what do you think of the Chicago sports teams (specifically baseball?) What did your parents think of them?

I am a Bears fan–the rest of the sports teams I don’t care that much about.

My dad followed all sports, but, he was a Soxs fan and a die-hard Bears fan. My mom was a sports fan insomuch as my dad introduced them to her. She was a cubs fan before she met my dad, and she never changed allegiances.

VON asked, “Why do crickets chirp?”

Elementary my dear VON. The Chirp is the insect equivalent of Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Barry White–smooth mating calls.

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Ask A Bastard: Prelude to Awesome Edition


Howdy Readers. I’ve got two questions I can find–I am kinda phoning this in today, because I have something really cool planned for later–and these are difficult to answer. However, given that these are two of my favorite regulars, I will endeavor to answer these questions with drama and flair.

Her Royal Highness, Falconesse, asks:

1) I see you’ve linked the profiles to the books you’re recommending. How about a suggestion that, rather than buying the books over the intarwebz, interested parties should mosey on down to their local independent bookstores and buy them from there? A handy link for finding indies near you in 3…2…1… linky!

This is great suggestion. I also recommend that people go to the indie bookstore by there residence. Personally, I recommend Amazon out of laziness.

Most of my blog entries are done through ecto. It auto links book images and text from Amazon. I click a button and it fires up the Amazon search feature. I do this out of sheer laziness.

However, the next version of ecto should have more plug-ins. I’ll see if i can either make the Indie book plugin or download it

2) Why do my customers only call with major crises on days that I’m not at work? (And, to follow that up, am I a bad person for being slightly relieved I got to escape the verbal abuse this time around, even while I feel guilty that it got passed on to my awesome coworker and my boss?)

Murphy’s Law says that the most annoying people call when it is most inopportune. This is the Universe’s way of keeping us humble and/or keeping us on our toes. Here’s what happens. You go on vacation. The universe then tells crazy client, “This would be the perfect time to freak out.” Being the universe, Crazy responds.

Crazy responds Epically.

As to the second point, you are not a bad person and you should not feel guilty about your coworkers having to tank crazy while you are gone. It is the universe’s fault crazy goes crazy when you are away. The universe is without guilt, therefore, you should take a page from the universe.

The always wonderful AG asks

Next week’s question: How does one make friends in the suburbs, where she knows nobody and everyone is either 10 years younger and says things like How R U over e-mail, or have been married since they were 21 and have three kids? Essentially, how do I make some friends in this tragedy of an area I call home?

Making friends is always hard, regardless of location. People who have an easy time making friends typically surround themselves with acquaintances, not friends. Developing friendship is not easy–and it shouldn’t be. It should be a worthwhile endeavor.

To start the process, you have to put yourself out there. Find a place you’re comfy–a Dive bar, a indie coffee house, a hookah bar–and settle into a routine. Look on their bulletin boards for “community nights:” locally sponsored events like book clubs, game nights, speed knitting contests those actives that the AG might like. Those are the activities you end up doing. That’s how you’ll start making friends.

I, personally, made the decision not to make friends with people in my neighborhood. I spent more time in other parts of my city (or in other cities in particular) so I view my place as a nerd refuge. I am comfortable with my choice (and looking forward to selling this place–so if the AG knows anyone in chicago looking for a 1 bedroom condo near a Temple and a vie of the lake, she should send them this way).

Also, try looking into your Temple or Synagogue. There has to be some social support for the AG there.

Any other advice for AG?

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