People work better when driven (insane)

We were byproducts of bygone days of dirty damn flowerpushers! some suggested. Some of those who said such things, were people we trusted. Others were not. Caring, the act of caring, also had not yet withstood the weather to delineate a clear empirical map to know it by… best we could do was water the plants when they looked like they were dying. Or eat the wonderbread in the pantry before it went bad (or before some other kid ate it). We were young. Americans. Still, we were a decade from the first beacon of datastreams reflected back through space and time and taxpayers monies lumped into pretty grants all in a row, which would inform us to take hold of the ropelift (though only with fortified canvas gloves, if you expected not to get rope burn) and not let go of the new mentality of a culture embodying less that we could explain. A culture less caring? A culture less careful? A culture more populated and therefore less personal?  A culture going through a difficult growing stage? Define caring. Define personal. Define growing stage.  Then we might work to fight and hate and hope to someday prevent the very clear and concise examples of what for sure could never be mistaken for caring, ie, that which results from neglect.

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So we all got to learn what not to do, in the presumption (or ignorance) of expecting some other behavior modelled often after someone or anyone who spent their time preparing to blow sunshine up atleast ten asses before each day was through. For the extremity could not be laughed out the room. Why? Well, because you can never have enough sunshine. And second, there could be no question of getting as far away from neglect as possible, which therefore gave allowance for extreme acts of incorrigible kindness. Whoever pastes the biggest smile over their bad news like a bandaid, got the props. Now that’s the world we grew up in. Feel sorry for us now? Nah! Shit, we could have been born in a minefield. We could have had to push a lawnmower, to make the blades cut.

Studies show that cars work better when driven.

Empirical data can be an addiction when its not a nuisance. Well, adhering to that stat, and changing out people for cars, one can (manipulatively) propose that people work better when driven. Define driven. Or just add a (silent) adverb predicate, in order to clear up any confusion. and voila!  my life story and maybe yours: 

People work better when driven (insane).

Patriot Act has turned! [snowed in and data mined -fin)]

Yes, I want that old thing back. The time when we weren’t being snowed by our own intelligence community. The time when we were not snowed in by the Patriot Act. Forced to be incommunicado on the subject of our own constitutionally-granted, legal, tender freedoms. The problem with the Patriot Act is not that it was legislated. The problem with the Patriot Act is that Congress failed to stamp it with the born-on-date .

I want that old thing back. When we did not have to worry the government was listening in on our calls and data mining our texts and photos, without telling us. When we would not have to fear being branded spies for having allegedly exposed some egregious violation of our constitutional rights.  When the intelligence community was less focused on apprehending a single fugitive  than on addressing their in house blunders. Was their such a time? I guess you can’t blame them for the bias. After all, the Patriot Act has been their cash cow. Putting our tax dollars to work, no matter how the color of our threat level is coded. Nobody wants to have their steak and potatoes pulled out from under them.

Some things were born to die! The cola in your pantry. The eggs in your fridge. And the Patriot Act. It is illegal to sell eggs and soda and food that has no born-on date stamp. Vendors will not receive produce that has not been stamped. Vendors are not supposed to sell produce whose born-on date has expired (although I could rat out a few cornerstores in west Oakland or west Chicago). The FDA (another government agency we fund with our tax dollars) is supposed to (and does) police this law. Agents go out to the manufacturers and the vendors and the retail stores, and throw out products that are missing stamps or expired. They write out code violations, etc. But the FDA cannot police the Patriot Act, because it has no born-on date at all. Yet its still on the shelves for mass consumption! The Patriot Act has turned! Yet we are still pouring it over our cornflakes, and scooping it into our mouths.

Somebody was asleep at the wheel. Inspector #9 perhaps. I haven’t found his little slips in the pockets of my clothes in a long time, though I usely shop thrift. Inspector # 9 let the big one through the filter.  Inspector #9 was apparently relieved of his duties without us knowing. Or maybe things got overwhelming and he quit? Maybe he took early retirement on that big fat government pension, on advice of his lawyer. Maybe they dug a ditch for him in the desert, or had him dig his own ditch and take rest. Maybe he got paid off and looked away? Who knows? The damage is done. The Patriot Act was put out on the market for our consumption, without a born-on date stamped on its ass.

We don’t need to ask why? Just remember all the poor souls jumping out of their bodies on nine eleven, 2001. Scary. We needed her, then. Sure. But not now. Now we find ourselves in the midst of what is apparently the largest compiled electronic database of our personal conversations, located somewhere in Utah, sponsored by the NSA, mined from the behemoth telecomm industry bluechips (ATT, Sprint, Verizon, etc.), legal under a clause in the Act which loosely interpreted permits full government penetration of any businesses conducting any sort of international conversation whatsoever, and beholden to no one.

Dear Mr. President, can we please correct this? Take it off the shelf? No matter whose to blame, the Patriot Act has turned, and it stinks! The elephant is in the room and we see it. Now will someone please lead it away? So we can get back to all the wonderful things we were doing in this country? Please? Superman?  If you have finished courting the network morning show circuit, would you have time to help out? On behalf of good citizens everywhere. Someone forgot to take the trash to the curb, and now we have a problem.

We just want that old thing back. I know I’m not the only one. Turn on the tv, the radio, it’s circulating everywhere. Call it what you want. Our privacy. Our birthright. Full assurance that the conversation we are having today, whether it concern our political preference or our preference in whitening brand toothpaste, is not being collected and stored in some hard drive for future use, for or against us, whether it be for some company’s marketing database or in some court of law. Even if it’s not ever used, at all, for any purpose. The Patriot Act has turned. 

by Katya W. Mills  06/13

snowed in (and data mined) -iii)

Being snowed in had a magical quality. The sun hit the snow and reflected light to warm the air. The icicles formed in and around the rain gutters as the snow melted off the roof. Some large enough to knock you out. I remember kids trying to lure other kids they didn’t like below these large icicles. Keep them there with some sweet, long-winded filibuster of a story. Wendy Davis style. 

I often wished for the larger stormfronts to come over us those winters. I loved the early morning moments when my brother and I hung by the alarm clock radio, listening to the announcements of school cancellations. Waiting. Holding our breath. And the incredible feeling when our school was announced.

A blizzard can be a joyous occasion. You feel protected. Insulated. You don’t really know what’s going on around you, and you don’t care. Neither does anyone else. Sure, after a few days like this, you might get a little stir crazy, like Jack Nicholson‘s character in the Shining. The blizzard of ’78 was one such opportunity. I was too young to remember much, but where I lived the snow banks surged to eight feet high. School and work were all called off with a one-liner over the radio. All recreational events, suspended. Excepting procreation. The zoo was closed. Or just confined to your own home.

Imagine, no contact with the outside world. Power lines down. Incommunicado. You lit candles off gas stoves to get around your house. All was so quiet, inside and out. Introverts threw a party and no one came. Everything stood in stark contrast to the usual. We built fires. Watched the light and shadow play. Rituals were fresh and wonderful, except shoveling snow. Alot of people who had become plants over time in their homes (planted by the television),  lost their lives trying to shovel their way out of their homes during blizzards. Heart attack city.

With television disabled, loving, mindful family interaction was again possible. For some. Hateful families got to go back to hating. Stress often took a back seat to more significant feelings. What could you do? Nothing. You were snowed in. You had to feel. You got an opportunity to feel. This could last for days! I must admit that, after a while, I wanted the old thing back.

I am grateful to have safety and security of my home, my village, my city, my state, my country, my world. insulated from the wars being fought across that Atlantic, across the Pacific. My love of country is easy to see, in the transparency of my gratitude for what my country has given me. I have been free to follow my heart and my passion and my conscience to great lengths. Yet still, I can see it slipping sometimes. The great freedoms we have been blessed with in the USA. Homeland security is one thing. But sometimes, I must admit, I want that old thing back.     (…tbc)

by Katya Mills,  katyamills.com  06/13

snowed in and data mined -ii)

My grandmother sold antiques out of her big red barn attached to her little red home. This was long after my grandfather passed away. She lived the remainder of her years in Melvin Village, which was across the lake from us. My father would go down to the dock in the summers and turn on the blower in our powerboat, which meant the engine had five minutes before ignition and my brother, mother and I had five minutes to get our sandals and shirts on,  run down, take the lines off the cleats, push off, and jump in. Then on our way past the 20 mile bay en route to Melvin Village.

The lake was wide open as the sky back then. Kinda like the landscape created by the internet. Both could be dangerous, too. Lots of rocks and shallows needed be marked off by buoys, and many boats still got lost at night, and some still struck the jagged glacial remnants jutting up from the earth but hidden below the surface of the water, and some got hung up and a few still sank. Often the larger berths, the sightseeing boats whose lineage had been photographed and put on walls behind glass, ended up driftwood floating across the broads and past rattlesnake island.

Every winter, the lake froze over completely. At the height of winter it was often so cold we could drive out on the lake in a Jeep, and the ice was thick enough to hold us. We would skate the frozen lake, and dad would load our arms full of pine wood he cut down and we stacked in the summer, by the woodshed. I remember holding my arms out like a forklift, and he would ask is that enough? and I would say, just one more before heading back to the house and dropping the wood in the bin next to the giant hearth, for the great fires we would build to keep us warm at night. We would need to be prepared for the storms, the nor’easters, which powered over and knocked down trees and power lines, snowing everyone into their homes.

I remembered all this in great detail, after watching the news this morning. I turned off the television and sat out on my back porch thinking about it. I closed my eyes and tried to feel that feeling I felt so long ago, of being snowed in. I live in California now, so it has been a long time. But the feelings remain strong. The quality is insular. With all that snow around you, five or six feet high, the home becomes  even more protective and warm, like there’s an extra layer of that fluffy pink stuff they packed the walls with back then, along with  asbestos covered piping. Reminded me of cotton candy we got at the fair.   tbc

by Katya W. Mills  @ katyamills.com  06/13

snowed in (and data mined)

When i was a kid, long before the WTC towers buckled and fell, I lived with my mom, my dad, my brother, and our little dog Buttons in Massachusetts, south by southwest of Boston. We split time on a lake in New Hampshire, long before the Patriot Act was signed into law. The snow would accumulate so fast and furious in a big stormfront. The blizzard of 1978 was one of those times. Everyone got snowed in, then. That’s what we would say, if someone called and the power lines were still up. We’re snowed in! To us kids back then, these were glorious words!

This man in the news today, the one who ignited the now public and politically charged stormfront regarding data mining that has been carried out without our knowledge but (sadly) within the law, flew to Moscow today out of Hong Kong, and is waiting to get a visa en route to Ecuador (where he has filed for asylum). His passport has been pulled by the State Department. He is accused of espionage. His life enjoying the freedoms we are given as U.S. citizens, is technically over. He appears to be in the front of a very short line of those willing to stand behind a choice to share a storehouse of classified information with the world (in wikileak fashion). Purportedly. He seems to have ignited another round of disussions in the public forum worldwide, regarding the repeated and incessant violations of privacy of citizens in government-sponsored intelligence gathering campaigns. Campaigns which, in the United States, are most likely legal (though widely regarded as unconstitutional) under the difficult to swallow generosity legislated by the Patriot Act at a moment in time when fear ruled the land. Now he is a wanted man.

The plight of this man stirred up my memories of the blizzard of ’78. He  was not even born then. And I was still sucking my thumb. Feeling the feeling you feel when you are snowed in. New Hampshire gave us the opportunity to get snowed in, several times each winter. We spent the great majority of our time in Massachusetts in the winters. Though only a two and a half hour drive south, the winters were significantly milder. The difference of a few degrees on the mercury, meant the difference between snow and frozen rain. Most people and my parents, preferred to suffer sleet than constantly shoveling out after being snowed in.    (tbc)…

Katya Mills, June 2013

http://www.katyamills.com