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Monday, December 12, 2011

Why I Don't Believe World of Warcraft is a Real Thing

Every now and then I like to conduct social experiments and test the limitations of people around me my own personality. For example, have you ever been sitting across from someone you cared about, drinking a refreshing beverage, and thought to yourself, "What if I just threw this glass of ice cold water in their lap while they were on the toilet?"

I totally do it.

Just ask my husband.

This is an unfortunate characteristic of mine, which more often than not leads to...frustrating outcomes.  However, I just can't help but occasionally indulge in these experimental whims.

Which brings me to today, when I decided that I should try World of Warcraft.

I consider myself to be a geek.  I love technology, social media, and web development.  I am a .NET programmer and have been known to get giddy over a particularly complex SQL Procedure executing without error.

However, I also love 5 inch heels, Bravolebrities, and human contact.

I am a Geek Hybrid.

So, today, as I sat drinking a refreshing beverage, I thought, "Instead of relentlessly mocking people who play World of Warcraft, why don't I try it and see what it's all about."

Here's what I thought I knew about World of Warcraft:

1.  It's a game where magic people walk around a lot and occasionally hit each other with things like swords and rocks.
2.  It's part of the "role playing" world, where people have cards and make up stories and get mad at each other when their story doesn't jibe with another story.  Or something.
3.  People who play it rarely talk about it in a way that makes it accessible to people who don't play it.

After consulting with my little squirrels in the Treehouse, I discover that this game is actually FREE and doesn't require a game cartridge (i don't know. is that what they're called now?) or a controller.

What? I can play it online for free?

Sold.

At this point, I Google World of Warcraft (yes, shut up, I had to Google it), and my little squirrels begin chattering away in the background about what sort of "race" I should be and about "alliances" and turning into animals and such.  I feel that they are ruining some of the magic of me observing this phenomenon in it's natural habitat.  I mean, how long would Dian Fossey have put up with having two gorilla experts clucking behind her about how awesome their gorillas are and what happened when their gorilla wandered into alliance territory?

Not very long.

But I forge ahead.

The website is a little overwhelmingly dorktastic. I mean there's volcanos and dragons and a dark palette with one too many lens flares and even what I'm assuming (but am I sure I will be corrected on) is a troll dressed as Santa Clause.  So I carefully scan for the words "play" and "free" and what do you know?  An obnoxiously beveled "Play It Free" button.

Of course, now I have to fill out a registration form, but I am just sure I am going to be dressing up my sexy elf avatar at any second.


"What the hell?  I have to download something?"
"Yes, you have to download it."

"Well crap."

Disappointed at the lack of streaming game play, I begin downloading this console.  Durant (my laptop, named after the notable caveman dieter, because this machine is just as pretentious, annoying, and useless) immediately calls bullshit.

So I have to download it again.




My patience is growing thin with World of Warcraft, and I haven't even started playing it yet.  After watching this dragon look at me grudgingly for ten minutes from the top of Mordor, I finally get my "Welcome to the Role Players in the Mist World of Warcraft" screen.  Glory!  Sexy elf fantasies on deck!




What?  The "Play" button is grayed out, because it has MORE setting up to do???

Well, hell.

As I wait for Durant to learn Trollish, have a love child with L. Ron Hubbard, and then teach it ride a panther lion across the open plains of Azeroth, I decide it might be prudent to read up on what exactly I'll be doing when and if I am ever allowed into WOW.





After reading parts of three sentences of the Beginner's Guide, I took a quick break to have the bleeding in my brain stopped, and when I returned from complex neurosurgery followed by a lengthy and painful recovery period, WOW was just about finished installing.


Alas, I have already been injured in World of Warcraft and am in need of repair.  This repair process does give me the time to pick what seems to be the perfect race for my kind.


My research into my big breasted zombie elf self was cut short, though, by Durant becoming cloaked in darkness.


Anything that involves going to Microsoft to download something in order to fix it has only a slightly higher chance of working than me becoming the Queen of the Forsaken on World of Warcraft.


And indeed....


It didn't.

So here's what.

I don't think World of Warcraft is a real thing.

I think that what we (as non WOW "players") believe is World of Warcraft is a massive conspiracy by people who are, pardon the pun, more "crafty" than we are.  While we as adolescents were desperately trying to fit into and establish a social group that we perceived to be superior to other social groups, WOW "players" actually accepted that a better survival tactic would be to band together and isolate from said social groups so that those social group members could be studied, exploited, and, if necessary, destroyed.

In other words, while I was misspelling "Wheezer" in white out on my Five Star binder and then getting duly humiliated by my peers, the little squirrels were in friends' basements playing out hundreds if not thousands of warfare scenarios.  These "races", "alliances", and "professions" are nothing more than a high level code for what are very real and very terrifying tactical stratagems.   For what purpose?  To what end?

What else?

The Zombie Apocolypse.

Dorks have been pooling their resources, categorizing their skills, and planning an elaborate Useless Peer Zombie Bait Trade (UPZBT) since 1994.  Blizzard Entertainment is just another "Umbrella Corporation" named for the most likely catalyst for the inevitable zombie apocalypse: global warming.

All my futile attempt to "play" this "game" today proves is that trapping zombie bait and tricking us into registering ourselves into UPZBT is far easier than any of us would probably care to admit.  I am perfectly aware that I have no usable skills in a survival scenario, except *maybe* distance running.  But if Walking Dead has anything to say about it that won't matter, because apparently zombies can eventually learn to sprint.

So while I might have uninstalled this completely unusable pacifying sedation device from my computer, it won't erase my now permanent membership into a bait trade for the undead.

Forsaken indeed.

Damn you, WOWers.  Damn you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nearly Breaking My Ass and Lessons Learned

Once upon a time (an hour ago) in a magical treehouse (the office), I went to do some filing. What I didn't know was that this mundane task would result in 10 seconds of intense fear, followed by 15 seconds of intense relief, then followed by 5 minutes of giggling.

It bears illustration.

My filing cabinet sits in the corner of my office, next to my arm chair.


This is the perfect place for it. Not only does it allow me to pretend to be listening to people sitting in it when I'm really staring out the window, but it is situated thus so my ass can gently rest on the arm of it while I do my filing.


Today, however, my chair was not situated thusly. It had been moved. Blame is not important to the story, but suffice it to say a marketing department meeting was had following today's incident. The point is, the chair had been moved so that the right arm of the chair was against the wall and the chair itself was facing the front of the filing cabinet.


I am not a person who notices minor changes to my environment, because I am not a visual person. I am more of a tactile learner. Muscle memory is far more important to my navigation of daily life than visual cues. This is important for the reader to understand, because certainly the first question one will ask upon hearing this tale is "If you face that chair all day, how did you not notice it had been moved?" It doesn't matter why I did not notice the chair had been moved, it only matters that I didn't. So try to focus.

I went to gently rest my ass on the arm of the chair as I would on any other day I go to put away or retrieve files.


As aforementioned, in my mind, all was right with the world and my chair was facing in the proper direction.


I would say that upon being within a milometer of the normal chair arm zone my ass sensed danger.


It was at this point that my mind concluded the chair no longer existed.  Being a sleep deprived mother, time slowed down enough that I was able to appreciate a number of things about being human and in the midst of falling. Number one, it doesn't matter how far you are actually falling. It could be three inches or three thousand feet. The fear is the same:

I am about to die.

Number two, when you are falling, your mind is suddenly capable of having approximately 957 thoughts per second.

Naturally, I let out a blood curdling scream.

One of my assistants came to check on me (in no hurry, mind you, as he is quite accustomed to my blood curdling screams) and found me sitting comfortably in the chair, horror stricken.


Despite having to explain to a subordinate why I was screaming in the armchair, this tale has a happy ending. My ass was not gently resting where it thought it would be, but was gently resting nonetheless. The moral of the story is don't jump to the worst conclusions, before a situation has totally played itself out. Also, cut back on the caffeine after the first pot of coffee.


The End

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

5 Reasons to Never Let Your IT Company Host Your Website



Finding a web hosting company is kind of like going on an Easter poop hunt.

You don't know what you're going to find or where you're going to find it, but you know that it's going to stink.

For the last several years, I've had my company's family of sites hosted with Hosting.com. As our company's websites grew in complexity, Hosting.com met our needs by transitioning our sites from a shared hosting environment to a VPS hosting environment. They managed all of the server security patches, maintenance, and updates, as well as troubleshooting all server issues. We had total access to the server and IIS, which met our minimal needs for server control. This was the perfect situation at a tidy $89/month.

Then they tripled the price, without any enhancements to the hosting package.

Bye Bye, Lover.

Hello, Easter Poop Hunt.

This price increase happened to coincide with our company hiring a new IT company. Understand that my company is headquartered in Cleveland, with locations throughout Ohio. I am, however, kept locked away in a tower (we call it The Treehouse) here in Lexington, KY where I can't cause too much trouble or be distracted by the day to day operations. Plus, as the marketing department, we are entirely staffed by geeks and really don't need a lot of help from IT as a general rule. If anything, we just end up working around the IT screw-ups and fixing their abundant mistakes. That said, I know they have a thankless job, deal with a level of user stupidity rivaled by no other profession, and for the most part are some of the most patient people on the face of the earth.

That is the last nice thing you will hear me say about our IT company.

Our IT company jumped all over the opportunity to take over our web hosting.

"$300/month for web hosting! That's OUTRAGEOUS!!! We can handle your web hosting for WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY less than that."

I would be a liar if I didn't say my instincts told me immediately this was a bad idea. I use to be the project manager for an IT company in Frankfort. I worked for a completely diabolical moron (see The Turd), who also offered "web hosting" to our IT clients.

It was seriously a couple of old servers sitting in what amounted to a broom closet. No one really had web server knowledge, and we just learned as we went. We also never took on large web hosting clients for that reason.

I was hopeful that our new IT company was ACTUALLY qualified to host our sites. After all, they had access to our sites via the interwebs, and could see that clearly there was a lot of dynamic coding going on. We provided them with all of our user names and passwords for our SQL server and VPS server. They had all of the information they needed to thoroughly research the sites and devise a smooth transition plan....

I am now 9 days into the biggest web cluster fuck I have ever seen in my life. I have been gang raped by IT pirates and cannot regain control of my websites or database. Please send help.

Here are 5 reasons to never let your IT company host your website:

5. It's not what they do.

I don't believe that our IT company is stupid. At everything. They have knowledge of networking protocols that I could never understand in my wildest geek dreams. They know the ins and outs of Microsoft like little PC ninjas. They manage that god forsaken Exchange Server like champs.

But web hosting....it's not what they do. In my experience, IT guys like to think that because they understand one aspect of technology that they understand them all. Here's a quote from one of the MANY AGONIZING conversations I've had in the last two weeks:

"You have to understand that some companies websites are only two files. Your all's website is considerably bigger than that, and we didn't know until we had already gone live with it."

Seriously?

Two files?

File 1. File 2.

If placing 2 files onto a server and having a domain name resolve to that server's IP Address is what your IT company considers "web hosting" then RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.

4. Nerds make the most dangerous terrorists.

I refuse to classify these guys as geeks. Geeks are obsessive perfectionists who refuse to be defeated. They attack issues with the intensity of a Eurasian Griffon performing a Tibetan sky burial. A geek wouldn't let a website be down for more than five minutes before they'd have that DNS pointing back to a functional backup on a redundant server sitting in a room being cooled by the frosty tears of Steve Jobs himself.

Nerds would rather be playing World of Warcraft.

That's what makes them so dangerous to people who are trying to make money. They come in and hijack as much technology in your company as possible, blow it the frack up, take a giant dump on the pile of shrapnel, and then guard that precious shrapnel poop mound with phrases like "security issue" and "no remote access". Regaining control and technological sanity becomes a delicate hostage situation where the hostage is bleeding like a stuck pig and the captor has cheeto fingers and lives with his mother.

3. As my assistant would say..."They can't math"

My old IT boss, The Turd, hired me on a profit sharing basis. So imagine my surprise come paycheck time, when there was no profit shares on it. This culminated in me finding out that The Turd thought profit was this:

(Billable Hours * Hourly Rate) - (Quoted Hours * Hourly Rate) = Profit

Um.....NOOOOOOOOOO, YOU IDIOT.

(Billable Hours * Hourly Rate) - (Quoted Hours * Hourly Rate) = Profit Quote Accuracy

The only, and I mean, the ONLY formula that matters in business is this one:

Revenue - Cost = Profit

If you don't understand this formula, then pat yourself on the back. You are officially a volunteer working for a charitable organization. Also you should invest in some candles and matches, because you're about to not have electricity or running water.

IT Companies are very concerned with quote accuracy, often at the expense of a fundamental understanding of how that impacts profit. So it's no wonder they don't give a rat's ass about how the quality of the services they are providing impacts YOUR profit.

If my website makes $4.12 every minute (and it does), and it is not functional for 4 days (5760 minutes for those of you who also "can't math") then my revenue for those 4 days was -$23,731.20. If I paid you $20 to host my website for those 4 days (I am ballparking here) then my profit would look like this.

-$23,731.20 - $20 = -$23,751.20

If you're keeping up, that profit is, how do you say, not good.

Another fun math formula I did showed me that I could have stayed with our old hosting company for like FIVE YEARS before I would have spent what I lost this past week with our site being down.

Maths are good stuff.

IT companies don't get it/don't care.  In fact, this IT company actually had the stugots to say, "We're putting in a lot of hours on fixing this that we can't bill for."

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. So you've been doing me a favor this whole week while my site has been down?  Why didn't you say so????  This whole time I've been worried about how I've been losing money, when really I should have been focused on how YOU are losing money.  You should have said something sooner!  I could have thrown you a Star Wars themed Have-You-Lost-Your-Frackin'-Mind party!

2. Time ceases to exist inside a server room

The first day I pulled up on the job working for The Turd, two of the other IT employees were out in the parking lot with a dissected computer monitor, some wiring, and a stack of copy paper. When I got out of my car, I walked up and introduced myself and asked what the hell they were doing.

"Making ionic wind."

Met with my vacant stare, they explained to me that computer monitors run high voltage and with the proper configuring can actually produce ionic wind, suspending objects in mid air....

Met with possibly an even more vacant stare they told me to "Just watch."

Powering up their contraption with a terrifying humming noise, they gently placed a sheet of copy paper above it. Sure enough it floated above the monitor.

Then it burst into flame.

I am 100% confident that our IT company's time theft they've been perpetrating against us for the last 9 days was spent on nothing nearly as awesome as creating ionic wind. When I asked them on day 4 of this debacle why the hell they hadn't just pointed the DNS back to the functional website on the old server their answer was, "Because DNS can take 72 hours to propogate."

Stunned silence.

4 X 24 = 96

96 - 72 = 24

24 * 60 = 1440

1440 * 4.12 = $5,932.80

Hint: that last number is the only one that matters.

1. Nothing will ever be their fault...even when you stab them (i.e. Federal prison is no joke)

IT guys are "actually" people.  "Actually" people meet every fact or opinion with "Actually....blah di blah blah yak yak poot".

Example 1

"Hey, did you notice the sun came up to day?"

IT guy, "Accccctually, the sun didn't really come 'up', because we are revolving 'around' it, so really if you look at the Microsoft protocols for intergalactic directional relativity the sun came 'around' today."

Example 2

"Hey, the website is down."

IT guy, "Accccctually it is working fine on my end."

"I'm seriously looking at it right now.  It's throwing up a server error.  A server error the user isn't even supposed to see, because custom error handling should be turned on."

IT guy, "Um....acccccctually.... I think that's a problem with the way you coded the stored procedures..."

"Really? Because the site was working fine on the old server and no changes have been made to the TWO THOUSAND stored procedures running our website."

IT guy, "Oh..well..accccccctually.... you guys WERE on a 2005 server and we moved you to a 2008 server.  So on a 2008 server, those stored procedures don't match the correct naming convention."

"Why would you move us to a new version of a database server without doing a global replace of the stored procedure calls, or at least tell us so we could update the code?"

"Well, accccccctually...um....yeah.....blah di blah blah yak yak poot"

Only when I finally stopped being polite and started getting real (<--- read homicidal) did the IT company FINALLY apologize. The most they will admit to, however, is that the transition "could have gone smoother". Which brings me to the only two questions I really need answered. 1) In a scenario where I stab the IT guy to death and plead guilty (because I am SO making a speech to explain EXACTLY WHY I DID IT and EXACTLY WHY I WOULD DO IT AGAIN), would I probably get "medium" or "close" security prison time? and 2) Do we think I would do better in the "close" security environment where I spend very little time with other people, or the "medium" security environment where I have to work more?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Boobs in Bra...Hat in Hand

I have recently had a major epiphany about my body, which is this: It's  the only one I'm ever going to have.  I can't have someone else's.  I  can't save up and buy a new one.  I can't call it mean names in the  mirror and expect it to storm off and leave me alone. This is it. So  I've got to start treating it with respect.

I've decided to  completely change my lifestyle.  Not all at once. But I've realized that  fitness and nutrition are not things that you do "until".

"Until" I fit in those jeans again.

"Until" I lose this many pounds.

"Until" I like myself again.

Fitness  and nutrition should be as habitual as brushing your teeth. Like most  Americans, I've been borrowing against my life.  Smoking, drinking too  much, eating too much, and sitting too much.  I saw fitness and  nutrition as these tools that would always be there, and I could pick  them up if things got "too bad".

Well things are bad.  They're  real bad.  We are in an epidemic of completely preventable illnesses,  and I am just another statistic.  And if that wasn't scary enough,  consider this.  We're fighting diseases that aren't completely  preventable and that make those tools we think will always be  there...maybe not always be there.

Like breast cancer.

That's  why I'm so glad that Race for the Cure fell in the perfect time slot to  be my first 5k goal race.  Having a race as a fundraiser for breast  cancer research isn't just fun; it's actually really symbolic.  While we  can't completely prevent breast cancer, there are lifestyle choices we  can make to help prevent it. 

Here's what the Mayo Clinic says we can do:

"Limit alcohol."

I  know, bummer right? The more you drink the higher your risk of breast  cancer.  But I'm learning that the feeling I get from running and  lifting weights and seeing the scale ooch down each week is a million  times better than being bloated and tipsy.  Plus I don't feel like crap  about myself the next day.

"Control your weight."

Being  overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer.  Plain and  simple.  And the older you are, the higher the risk.  So, it's time for  all of us to stop living on borrowed time.  It doesn't mean you have to  turn into GI Jane overnight.  Seven weeks ago I was 65 lbs overweight  after having my second child. No more babies = No more excuses. For the  first two weeks, I rested and let my body recover from birth.  The only  change I made was drinking more water.  Then I started walking for a  couple of weeks.  Then I started Couch to 5k and counting my calories. A  couple of weeks ago I started some light strength training and some  cross training.  Just small incremental changes at my own pace.  And now  I've lost 33 lbs and feel amazing!  If I can do it, anyone can.

"Breast-feed."

Obviously  this is not for everyone.  Especially if you don't have kids, because  that would be...well...really weird.  And probably a felony.  But if you  are preggers and considering breastfeeding then DO IT.  Not only has it  been linked with a lower risk of breast cancer, but it burns 500  calories a day.  Plus, having breastfed 2 babies now, I can say with  conviction that you will see your breasts very differently after they go  from the show group to the working group.  You will be kinder to them  and value them more.

"Discontinue hormone therapy."

Long-term  combination hormone therapy increases the risk of breast cancer. While  these therapies are greatly beneficial, particularly after menopause  (Hello, hot flashes) there is evidence to suggest that better fitness  and nutrition can eliminate the need for these therapies in some cases.   See how all these puzzle pieces are starting to fit together?...

"Avoid exposure to environmental pollution."

This  statistic kind of makes me want to lock myself in my house with the  treadmill and never go outside.  But I know that getting out and  walking, running, and cycling is just less time I'm spending in my car  creating exhaust.  Imagine if all of us went down this path.

"Healthy Diet"

Believe  it or not, there is NOT much evidence to suggest that eating more  fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of breast cancer.  But before we  all run out to McDonalds, consider this.  Eating healthier, while maybe  not directly correlated with a lowered risk of breast cancer, IS  correlated with weight loss, which IS correlated with a lowered risk of  breast cancer.  Again, all the puzzle pieces.... Plus: eating healthier  does reduce the risk of getting a host of other diseases you don't want  either, like diabetes and high blood pressure.

So there you have  it.  Living a healthy lifestyle should be just that.  A way of life.   One last, and perhaps the most important thing you can do to prevent  breast cancer is GET CHECKED and CHECK YOURSELF.  Early detection may be  the single best way to beat this disease until we can find a cure.

October  15th I'll be celebrating my first fitness goal: completing my first 5k  at the Race for the Cure.  I may be crawling the last mile on my hands  and knees, but come hell or high water I will finish.  Please consider  sponsoring me or making a donation to the Susan G. Komen foundation for  breast cancer research.  Or just come down and cheer me on!  This fat  girl is definitely going to need it!

We can beat this disease, and we can love the bodies we're in. Join me.  I can use the company on this journey.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pregnancy: The Cat Harness Effect

When I was 21 and living alone, I had one of those moments that most single women have.  I wanted a companion, but one that I could be sure would not get overly attached, care about me traveling 2-3 weeks out of every month for work, or get on my damn nerves.  Clearly a human male was not going to work.

So I got the next best thing.  A cat.  I realize how cliche that is, but in my defense I'm really a dog person.  Even I was not that selfish, though, given the fact that I would almost never be home.  In my experience, cats barely notice if you exist or not, as long as they have food, a place to crap, and plenty of blinds and carpet to destroy.  Fortunately, my Merrick Place townhouse was wall to wall carpeting, and I had plenty of friends who would cat-sit (stop by every three days to make sure it was still alive) for beer.

So around Halloween, I went to an adoption fair being held at Petsmart and found myself staring at an entire crate of solid black fuzzballs.  The adoption lady majorly oversold the adorable litter on the basis that it was almost Halloween and if they weren't adopted soon they would almost surely perish in some sort of satanic sacrifice ritual.  I picked up one or two, which promptly began to purr and snuggle their little faces into my neck.  About the third one I picked up narrowed its tiny yellow eyes at me and strained with all its might against my chest trying to get away from me.

I had found my non-committal companion.  And I named her Boo.

Boo did not act like a normal kitten when I got her home.  Instead of doing the usual careful sniffing and sneaking about her new environment, when I opened the crate door Boo took off on a 90mph sprint through the entire townhouse, upstairs and downstairs.  She stopped only a few times to gratuitously arch her back and hiss at me, before tearing off again.

I was in love.

Boo was a great roommate at that time in my life.  Had she had opposable thumbs, she would have been entirely self sufficient.  Because of her level of independence and her desire for near solitude, I never let her outside, as I was sure I would never see her again.  Plus, I didn't want her used in a satanic ritual.  She was happy to slink around the townhouse, alternating between rubbing up against my legs and hissing at me while swatting at my ankles.  She never let on for a minute that she missed me when I was out of town, which allowed me to live guilt free in spite of having a pet that I hardly ever saw.

A couple of years later, I allowed myself to be coaxed into buying my first house.  So I packed up my townhouse and my non co-dependent little eight pound roomie and headed into my future of practically non-existent tax breaks and having to pay for all my own repairs.

As soon as I opened the crate at the new house, I knew something was terribly wrong.  Boo would not come out.  I thought she was just being stubborn, or perhaps thought we had switched veterinary clinics to one with hardly any furniture or signs of other people and animals.  So I dumped her out on the floor.

What followed was five agonizing days of watching my independent, tough as nails, Halloween surviving black cat crawl around the house on her belly refusing to be consoled.  Night time became unbearable as she would lay under the bed and cry into the black Kentucky night, as though she had no idea who she was, why she was here, or how to escape the nightmarish hell that her life had now become.

In hindsight, day six was the day she got over it.  She started walking on all fours again.  She began exploring all the window boxes, which were something she never had at Merrick.  She found new hiding places to crawl into in order to launch surprise attacks against me.  She even managed to destroy a leather coat hanging in a closet that was shut.

Perhaps, it was my own misgivings about the move.

Or the feeling that maybe I needed a companion with a little less body hair.

Or some other emotion I was projecting onto my little roommate.

But rather than seeing a cat that had finally realized that life was not over, what I saw was a cat whose spirit had been broken and who was in need of major rehabilitation were she to ever be normal again.  What could I give her that would raise her independent little spirit from the dead?  The answer was clear.

I could give her the outside world.

Sort of.

So I bought a cat harness.

You've probably never seen a cat being walked on a cat harness.  There is a reason.

IT'S A TERRIBLE IDEA.

All the cat harnesses at the pet store had pictures of happy cats.  Cats standing proudly at the end of a leash, leading their owners on journies through the picturesque suburbs.  Cats stalking through yards, all the while carefully contained by 6-8 feet of nylon.  Cats that were proud to be outside, seemingly oblivious to having a harness strapped around their chest and belly.  I chose a harness in a brilliant shade of red.  Red for victory.

When I brought the harness home, I waited for Boo to get curious about where I had been.  Eventually she skulked around the corner and began sniffing the Petsmart sack, wondering what treat or toy I had brought her.  I pulled the harness out of the bag and held it out to her.

"Boo, how would you like to go outside?"

Her vacant expression did not contain quite the enthusiasm I had hoped for.  I, on the other hand, could barely contain my excitement.

What followed does not even bare description really, as anyone who has ever met, seen, or even heard of a cat can probably guess what happened when I tried to get the harness on.   After nearly having both arms severed, my face flayed off, and every ounce of dignity duly crushed by wrestling something that weighs 8 lbs, the point is that I finally DID manage to harness my cat.

Let me provide an illustration of what happens when one harnesses a cat.

Upon the final snap of the harness, Boo became, for lack of less of a pun, catatonic.  Legs stretched out, tail limp, eyes dilated, she simply lay on the ground and waited for sweet death.

Still undeterred, I dragged her out into the backyard like a brick on a leash, completely confident that once she got a taste of freedom, she would transform into the cats on the packaging.  A victorious cat.

She remained bricklike.

Every pet owner makes mistakes, but something about pets not being able to verbally say, "Hey, asshole.  This is the worst idea you've ever had," makes the mistakes drag out just long enough that you not only destroy the dignity of the animal, but you also lose a tiny part of your soul that you'll never get back, in the process.

I lost a piece of myself that day, as I desperately dragged my cat around the yard, watching as her pathetic face with gaping open mouth and erect legs made a sad, crushed path through the grass.  When I finally realized the extent of the damage I had done, I lifted her limp, lifeless body up into my arms and carried her back in the house.  

It was the only time to this day that the cat let me pick her up.

I removed the harness.

Several hours later, Boo finally pulled herself off the floor, cast me a look that clearly said, "We will never speak of this again," and retreated to the recesses of the house, not to be seen for several days.

Sometimes you don't fully appreciate the suffering of another creature, until you experience that same suffering yourself, even years later.

I am a black cat.

Pregnancy is my harness.

It's not that I don't love my children.  I do.

But pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a red harness that the world is trying to convince me is the greatest thing I will ever experience, when in reality it's a soul crushing tether which represents 9 months worth of me being dragged through the grass with my limbs limp and my mouth pathetically hanging open in a daze of horror.

Some women love being pregnant.  They are the happy, victorious cats on the packaging.

Some women would have been better to stay at the townhouse, never knowing a freedom outside the glorious freedom of being in charge of one's own body and destiny.  Never knowing a world of BabyCenter.com, hemorrhoids, dragon heartburn, kidney pain, muscle tears where muscle did not even exist, insomnia, imbalance, pitting edema, and enough of the color pink to send a Tibetan monk over the coo coo's nest.

Just as Boo is now allowed outside, without a leash, I have finally been granted immunity by my friends and family, who have promised to never again ask, "So are you going to try for another one?"

I have been wrestled into this harness.  Twice.  I have a week or two left.  Once those weeks are up, and I have my second little girl safely in my arms...

We will never speak of this again.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Reasons Every Christian Should be Pro Gay Marriage

Last night, New York became the sixth and largest state to make gay marriage legal.  In a Republican run Senate, it took four Republican senators to swing the painfully close vote.  Republican Senator Saland, a junior in the chamber, cast one of the deciding votes and had this to say about his decision to change his position on the issue:

"While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience," Saland said in a statement to the AP. "I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality."

Last night, as I was overwhelmed with pride in my country and joy for my gay and lesbian friends for whom this vote means so much, I too profoundly felt the weight that the Senator is feeling. As I made the supportive gesture to a community for which I feel particular compassion in changing my profile picture to the "Proud Ally" rainbow, I could feel the buzz and rolling eyes of many of my Christian friends and family on Facebook. 

To be truthful, my sentiments on being accused of hypocrisy or being a bad Christian are better summed up by what another of the swing voters had to say.  Roy McDonald, a two term Republican senator and former military man had this to say to critics:

"F--- it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing."

Yep. That's pretty much it. 

Except I do care what you think, particularly if you are a Christian.  I care, because your beliefs and attitudes on this matter are what will propel us forward or hold us back on an issue that says everything about who we are as lovers of Christ and lovers of this country.

Here are three reasons every Christian should be pro gay marriage:

1.  Open Mindedness

Open mindedness is not typically the first trait that non-believers associate with Christians, and why should they?  So many of our brothers and sisters are enslaved by religious dogma and unable for even a moment to believe that there is a difference between theology and principles...between scholarly theory and core values. 

If we, as Christians, are truly honest with ourselves, we will come to realize that open mindedness is paramount, not only to our own faith, but to the shepherding of others.  Many of us, particularly those who grew up in the Church, take for granted the amount of open mindedness necessary to believe in our faith.  We ask ourselves and others to believe for example that a man was swallowed by a giant fish and vomited up three days later to tell the tale.  We ask that people believe that a man herded two of every creature onto a boat while the earth was consumed by water for 40 days.  We ask that people believe that a God who murdered priests for using the wrong kind of incense on His alter is the same God that loves us all unconditionally.

We expect people to believe that a man was nailed to a hunk of wood where he was slowly suffocated to death, and then rose from the dead three days later to hang out with his friends and loved ones one last time before ascending into heaven.

These are not easy beliefs.  They are only made possible by open mindedness.  By the ability to accept that there are things we can't understand, that there are portions of the Bible that are open for interpretation, and that, at the end of the day, its OK that we don't know exactly what is right and what is wrong as long as we obey what Jesus told us to do: love God more than anything else and love our neighbors.

So try to stay open minded while I explain why I do not believe that homosexuality is a sin.

In arguments about gay marriage, we often here Christians use the phrase, "The Bible clearly states..."  I think what they mean is, "My preacher clearly states..."  The Bible doesn't "clearly" state anything about homosexuality.  It is mentioned only six times and NEVER by Jesus.  It is mentioned under the Old Testament doctrine as part of Jewish law in Genesis once and Leviticus twice.  The New Testament is modernly interpreted that Christians are no longer under the Old Testament Jewish laws (and thank God for that, or we would ALL be in a heaping lot of trouble).

It is mentioned three times in the New Testament: once by the Apostle Paul, once in Romans, and once in Timothy.  Never does it say specifically which acts it's referring to AND many Biblical scholars believe the word "homosexuality" itself is being taken out of context.  In Biblical times, homosexuality referred to the common, popular practice of keeping catamites or young boyfriends.  And when I say "young", I mean offenses you would be jailed for. Child molestation.

The Bible never addresses LOVE between two members of the same sex, nor marriage between the same sex.

The point is, like many issues: gambling, dancing, drinking, women's rights, animal rights, etc, the Bible requires an open mind and open heart and even THEN the fact that Church members can't agree on these subjects means that no one is really going to know the answers to philosophical questions until the day when we can sit down with God and have everything clarified.

Jesus was very clear, however, about what we can be certain about in our behavior.  Love God above all else, and love your neighbor.  I have a hard time believing he was excluding gay neighbors OR that being close minded and advocating inequality in His name was OK if applied to gay neighbors.

You can be a Christian and proudly and with Biblical justification say "I do not believe that homosexuality in the modern context of two men or two women being in a loving committed relationship is a sin."

It just takes open mindedness.

2.  Love

I hear a lot of Christians say, "I am against gay marriage, because I think homosexuality is a sin.  But I still have gay friends," or "I believe that marriage is between a man and woman, but that doesn't mean I hate gay people.  Hate the sin, love the sinner."

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

A nice tidy phrase that is being exploited throughout this country to justify basic inequality. 

You know how I know that gay marriage is not a sin?

Because I have known love.

I have known the love of God, the love of His Son, the love of a father and a mother, the painful first loves of youth, ahd the sometimes harder love of marriage.  I have known the love of friends, of compassionate strangers, of a sister. 

I have known love.

So I know it when I see it.

Sometimes I think that Christians get so entrenched in this belief that homosexual love is perversion.  That it is icky.  That is it is gross.  That "ewww, I don't want to think about that." This is usually associated with what people are doing in the privacy of their own bedrooms.  I can think (or try not to) of about a million perversions perpetrated by the straight community, many on live television for all to see.  And, yet, I am still able to accept without question that a man and a woman can love each other, in the bonds of holy matrimony, and never think for one moment that it is perverse.

Why is it so hard to make that leap with two men or two women?

I think for most, it's because they haven't allowed themselves to see it.

Well, I'm here to tell you. I have seen it.  I have seen two men who are patient with one another. Who are gentle and kind with one another's feelings.  Who don't let pride and jealousy wedge between them.  Who are slow to anger with one another, and don't keep score of wrongdoings.  I have seen two men who trust each other, who honor one another with monogamy, and who hope for the future together, and persevere by supporting one another.

I have seen it more than once.  And if that isn't love, what is love?  It's certainly more than I can say for my own "sanctified" marriage at times.

So what is the true hypocrisy?  To claim that love cannot exist between two people of the same gender, because that is what we have interpreted the Bible to say?  Or to see love plainly in front of you and deny that it is there?

If you have known love, and you see love between others, how can you deny those individuals the right to consummate that love in the same way you and your spouse have?

Love your neighbor.  All of them.

3.  Fairness.

If you cannot open your mind to the possibility that there is room for interpretation on the Bible's stance on homosexuality, and you cannot bring yourself to see love within or share love with two members of the same gender who happen to be in a committed relationship with each other, then how about we travel waaaaaaay back to kindergarten, and just exercise basic fairness?

There was a time, not that long ago, that my marriage was illegal.  Not only were there a majority of people who believed that I should not be allowed to marry my Asian husband, but that my babies were illegitimate and an abomination.  Sadly, I'd say both of my own grandfathers probably would have held with this belief.

If you look at history, fairness and justice often intervene even where our blind spots and prejudices seem the most hardened and impenetrable.  Civil rights were not won, because suddenly the majority of people changed their minds.  They were won because ENOUGH of the majority said,"While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience," and "F--- it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing."

Enough people realized that even though it went against their beliefs, it was not their place legally or morally to withhold rights from another citizen based on those beliefs.

Furthermore, the reason for the separation of Church and State is not just to protect the State from religious zealotry.  It is also to protect Church from the influence of the state.  By extending the right of marriage, an institution which comes with many privileges and rights not extended to people who cannot marry, to everyone regardless of race, religion, creed, or orientation, ensures that if one day the tables are turned - those same rights have to be afforded to Christians.

Are we so blind to history that we cannot conceive of a time when the majority would want to deny Christians the right to assemble and practice their religion?

Are we that naive?

Protect the rights of everyone, and you protect your own rights in the process.

Open mindedness.  Love.  Fairness. 

Surely these are principles that Christians can share?  Surely we can be examples of how Church and Law are separate and we are truly immune from passing judgment on others and just want everyone to share in the Love of Christ?

If you cannot come to the conclusion that gay marriage is just, deserved, and right through open mindedness, love, or the basic understanding of fairness, then while you are praying for the souls of those you would damn for their lifestyle, I will pray for you.

I will pray that those you mean to shepherd are more open minded than you are able to be.

I will pray that you experience a transforming love that makes true love recognizable in all it's many forms, even those you least understand.

I will pray that you never feel the sting of inequality or the dirty disapproving looks from people who are supposed to be beacons of Christs love.

I will pray that you never have to attend a funeral for someone with people picketing 100 yards away.

I will pray that you never have a doctor or nurse tell you that you can't sit by the bedside of your lifelong partner, while they go to meet their maker.

But most importantly, I will pray that you can't find your way to a voting booth on election day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

3 Groups of People Who Might Actually Kill Me


I would consider myself shy.

Shut up.  I am.

I was devastatingly shy for most of my life, and then, mostly for professional reasons, I trained myself to act as though I wasn't inches from death every time I spoke to another human being.

Some psychologists believe that shyness is the result of an innate inability to correctly read facial expressions.  I'd agree with that assessment.  I'm pretty sure that I've been in a bar or two, where a guy's facial expression was meant to read, "You are pretty.  I'd like to buy you a drink and find out more about you," while I interpreted his expression as "I am about to stun you by licking your face and then drag you back to my dead mother's house and make it rub the lotion on its skin."

I've also asked friends (I'm told these are people who still like you even if you do something to annoy them) to go out for coffee where, intellectually, I'm pretty sure their facial expression was reading, "It's nothing personal, but I really don't feel like going out for coffee and I'm kind of hoping you'll let me off the hook without me having to make up a ridiculous excuse."  I've been known to interpret this facial expression as, "I'd rather dig up a half-decayed turtle and have coffee with THAT than with you.  In fact, the only reason I'm even talking to you right now is because my agent is terrible and this is the part I got stuck with in the movie that is your life that we're all in on, except you."

Where my version of shyness/merciless paranoia truly takes the shape of a DSM IV anomaly is in the fact that, while crippled by people's reactions to my personality, speech, and behavior, I am also unable to censor myself in a timely enough fashion to avoid interpersonal bloodshed.

I have church giggle tourette's of the worst kind.

Example:

Former Business Colleague (aka The Insufferable Turd-a-saurus): "You know, you're the only person whose ever said they have a problem with the way I conduct business."

Me: "I assure you, I am not the only one who has serious concerns with some of the judgment calls you've made." (*Acceptable Response*)

Insufferable Turd-a-saurus: "Well that's interesting, because I've never heard any of these concerns voiced."

Me: "That's because nobody likes you." (*Uh Oh*)

Turd-a-saurus: "Oh is that so?" (Scary lotion-on-its-skin face)

Me: "Well, maybe it's not that they don't like you.  Maybe it's that none of us think you had very many friends as a kid that weren't imaginary and we don't like paying for it."  (*Giggles. Fear.*)

So, it's no wonder that over the years, in spite of a deep seeded desire to avoid controversy and interaction of any kind, I have still managed to become the center of hatred for some people....and some groups of people.  The Internet has not helped this, in that, the little grasp I have gained on reading body language and facial expressions that might otherwise alert me to danger is not available to me.  So when I indeed turn up dead with most of my skin removed and an empty bottle of Jergens laying next to me, here are three groups of people who should immediately be investigated:

Kelly Bensimon Fans

Once upon a time, I innocently tweeted a link to a blog article that might have allegedly detailed how Kelly Bensimon fit the diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder.

Jelly beans and word salad.  That's all I'm sayin'.

What I didn't expect was to be tweeted back by Ms. Bensimon.  Here's how this interaction went.

Me - "We have a name for what is wrong w/ @kikilet – schizoaffective disorder http://bit.ly/bWOWP8 let’s hope she gets help for her kids #RHONY"

Kelly Bensimon -  "@annbransom ah? No. Its called bored with filming with fake “reality stars,” ahh hello. Are we not watching the same show!"

Scared Me - "@kikilet I believe you truly believe the things that you say. Get some help. It can’t hurt and maybe you’ll prove everyone wrong. Good luck!"

Crazsimon - "@annbransom  I am officially bored discussing what u watch on tv."

Believe it or not, this was in the top 10 greatest days of my life.  Unlike Ms. Bensimon, I LOVE "fake reality stars" and even if she was pissed off at me and then blocked me (le boo), Kelly Bensimon took time out of her day to have a crazy little moment with me.

Like a little gift from baby Jesus wrapped in bacon.

Until her fans turned on me.

I have gotten comments ranging from "You are a total narcissist and a bully!  Quit victimizing Kelly!" to "You really should not use your name as your twitter handle.  It's easy to figure out who you are and where you live."

I tweeted this over a year ago.  However, every time Kelly Bensimon does something nuts this blog gets bumped in the search engines and I get a whole new batch of crazy, sand angel making, delusional Kellettes that think they are her personal friend and that I should be smothered to death with jelly beans.

Kelly has since changed her twitter handle.  I am scared for my life every time an episode of Real Housewives of New York airs.  For the love of God, people, let's move on.  Mea Culpa.  Kelly's not crazy.

(but she totally is)

British Girls with Eating Disorders

I know.  I didn't see this coming, either.  Many moons ago, I wrote a blog entitled, "How To Develop An Eating Disorder In Under 12 Weeks!!".  Obviously, tongue and cheek, about my brief obsession with weight loss at the time.  And by obsession, I mean portion control and exercise.

Fast forward a couple of years.  The Google Algorithm, once again, decided I needed to sleep with the machete under my pillow, and bumped this blog up under several important key words relating to eating disorders...but only in the UK.

Cue a herd of 14 year old British girls with eating disorders storming my blog castle and inbox.  Let me tell you, those girls might look like fragile flowers, but they are like a pack of rabid badgers on red bull...who are really hungry.

(See, I just can't help myself?)

It is the first time I've been called a "bloody idiot", though.  So I have that going for me.

Toothless Rednecks from Rockcastle County

Man beats 9 year old with baseball bat.  Nine year old goes to hospital with severe head injuries.  Man gets arrested for assault.  Man's friends and family members take to the Mountain News Wire (which I am so happy to know exists now) and defend him, because "he 'tossed' that ther' bat at the couch 'n dn't know the kid was ther'".

So....I MIGHT have insinuated/used these exact words that I was hopeful these people would be representing the dad at trial as they were "toothless, drooling, backwood child abuse enablers."

I'm now in a pretty heavy back and forth with these folks that you couldn't pull me away from with a tractor.  At least when I have time to decipher a language resembling a second grader whose been shot with a sedative dart.

If I'm beaten to death with a baseball bat, IT WASN'T AN ACCIDENT.

There are some other groups to watch out for as well.  The BabyCenter.com mothers who smoke while pregnant.  The kids at the skate park that I like to watch fall down.  Anyone who has ever defended Charlie Sheen.  And currently the "Give Obama No Credit" people and their counterparts the "Martin Luther King Misquoting Intolerably Self Righteous" people.

Just know, when you yell at me and poke me with a stick...I will say things that I shouldn't.  But deep down, I'm scared you're going to eat my face.  You win.