Another dog post

Our dog is incredibly extroverted, both with people and other dogs. Whenever a stranger makes eye contact with her, she makes as much effort as she can to say 'hi' to them. And when she is able to meet someone new, she goes wild with excitement.

She gets excited when we come home or for whatever reason haven't seen her in a while, but not nearly as excited as when she gets to meet new people.
I've met a few other female pit mixes and they seemed to act the same way, so perhaps it has something to do with her breeding.

Walking a dog every day in a neighborhood with a fair amount of foot traffic, and many dog lovers,, I meet tons of people. All sorts of people approach us to pet Margaret. Most are nice about it and it is a pleasant experience, but some people can be too forward, pushy or somehow off-putting.
When people I initially like or who look sad meet Margaret, I explain her over-the-top enthusiasm with the true, but somewhat misleading statement: "I guess she really likes you".
When it is someone I find off-putting i give them the more accurate: 'She really loves meeting new people.'

Gratitude Journaling

Recently I have become a big advocate of Gratitude Journaling. Basically make a list of good things in your life. I know this sounds very cheesy and like something from sunday school, but I have found it to be effective.
I read about some studies on the subject and thought I would try it out.
At the end of just three weeks, the participants who received the “gratitude intervention” were measurably happier. They exercised thirty percent more. They slept better and felt more helpful and connected to other people.
From this article.
I recommend it to everyone.
It helps me appreciate the positive aspects of my life and puts into perspective the negative aspects that can occasionally seem to be of bigger significance than they really are.
It should be no surprise that such a thing works. We know that emotions behave like muscles, the more we express certain emotions the easier and more inclined we are to feel them in the future and the feeling of gratitude is basically feeling good about stuff that happens.
I find that making a list of positive things in my life provides an immediate pick me up. Other people may not have as quick of results, but I suspect their results will be similar in effect even if it takes a few more days.


Marissa and I have found the perfect place in Chicago. It has two bedrooms a large attic space and even a yard, which is, perhaps, my top priority because it will make dog owning so much easier. All that and it is only 750$/month! But looking up the neighborhood online I noticed there were 3 shootings just this month! Gulp gulp gulp! We are still going to have a friend check it out for us. It seems like a great place, as long as it doesn't mean we are going to get shot every day as we walk out the front door.


It seems that your average Lds person spends more time talking, thinking and lamenting about the suffering experienced by Mormon pioneers well over a century ago than the (sometimes greater) suffering being experienced today in places like Africa or even South America.


Political correctness and David Foster Wallace.

While I am by no means on a path towards conservatism, I do find that as I get older and my thinking is less governed by emotions and hopefully more objective and hopefully I'm more able and willing to consider all sides of an issue, I have come to agree more with conservatives in a handful of areas. But make no mistake, when viewed on whole, I find myself becoming increasingly progressive.

Now that 'my side' (I use quotes because I didn't vote for Obama. But I am happy he is president and I still support him because I understand that being President necessarily involves a lot of difficult compromise because he is not a dictator) is in power, the areas where me and my fellow partisans diverge tend to become more apparent.

There have been several on my mind lately, so maybe these next few entries will be devoted to areas where I agree with conservatives. Or maybe not, I guess we will see.

But the topic which motivated me to write today (and it fortunately does not involve dogs or graduate school) is Political Correctness. Like so many other things like it, it comes from good intentions and what it replaced, rampant, institutional racism/sexism/whateverism is much worse.

But like so many swinging pendulums, before it arrives somewhere in an agreeable middle, it goes all the way to one extreme. I don't think we are that extreme point today, that probably occurred around the late nineties early two thousands, it seems we have begun the slow swing back towards the middle, but we are early in the process and still lean far towards the side of dogmatism.

My bigegst problem with political correctness is that it is too black and white, too moralistic and too extreme. Once a person cries 'racist' or 'sexist' or whatever, the discussion is over. That label, fair or not, becomes the sum total of a person's argument and all nuance, discussion and debate is lost.

Like other things which can lead to black and white thinking such as religion or political activism, political correctness can also lead to (what I believe are) arbitrary moral distinctions. Such as the word 'African American' being the morally superior label despite, as David Cross wisely observed it being "a ridiculous and ill-applied label that was accepted with a thoughtless rush just to make white people feel at ease and slightly noble"

However, I do tend to avoid using certain terms or expressing certain ideas when I can. My distaste for political correctness is not strong enough to outweigh the thorniness certain expressions can induce. So, although I disagree with much of political correctness, I don't feel strongly enough about it that it seems worth getting people worked up. (There are a handful of exceptions to this)

Then their are people like Doctor Laura or other Am Talk Radio hosts who, in their extreme dislike of political correctness, go out of their way to say words they know people find offensive and seem to relish using such words. Even though I mostly agree with whatever reasons they give for using such words (making words taboo gives them words too much power, it is inconsistent for one group to be allowed a word while another cannot, regardless of context. Not that I am aching to use racial slurs or anything, but surely some grey area exists in regard to this word. ) So even though I agree with their reasoning, I still find what they are doing to be distasteful, but I could never quite put my finger on why. Was this just my partisanship showing? Is it simply because I dislike and disagree with people like Dr Laura that I dislike her use of racial slurs? I would like to think I am more fair minded than that, but I had no alternative explanation.

Until yesterday! While reading an article by David Foster Wallace ('article' feels a little misleading. It did originally appear in a magazine, but it takes up over 60 pages in the book I read it in) about Am talk radio in general, through examining one host in particular, a guy named John Zeigler. (who I had never heard of, but I guess he was pretty big in Southern California). Previous to the position he held at the time of the article, Zeigler had been fired from a couple places for using the 'N-Word'. In discussing this, Wallace writes:

"Even though there is plenty of stuff for reasonable people to dislike about Political correctness as dogma, there is also something creepy about the brutal, self-righteous glee with which [Zeigler] and other conservative hosts defy all PC conventions. If it causes you real pain to hear or see something and I make it a point to inflict that thing on you merely because I object to your reasons for finding it painful, then there's something wrong with my sense of proportion or my recognition of your basic humanity or both."

Reading that was one of those rare, but powerful and satisfying moments when you hear someone articulate an idea you hadn't even fully thought. Wallace accurately described why, despite my objections to political correctness, I dislike when people fragrantly defy it.

P.s. I had never read anything by David Foster Wallace before this article, (which by the way is called Host, which can be found here and if you do end up reading it, I strongly suggest clicking on the colored boxes. The commentary, though it interrupts the flow, is much of what makes the article great) and for some reason I thought I wouldn't like his writing, largely because I don't relate to how he styled himself, but I was so wrong! I am now a big fan and am eager to read more by him. I know, I am very late to this game, and my reason for thinking I wouldn't like him is stupid, but come on, doesn't he look like a guy who would not be a great writer?


Two unusual experiences.

Yesterday I yelled at someone for the first time in my life aside from an instance in 2006 which I don't entirely count because of how unusual my circumstance was at the time, but if you want to count it then last night I yelled at someone for the second time (that I can remember).

Here is the story of my yelling at someone: (which is the first unusual experience and it will eventually tie into the second)
(this story involves 8 (F-2, S-2, A-3, B-1) swear words. If reading swear words is offensive to you, this is your warning to stop here, so you only have yourself to blame if you continue and are offended)

Last night, sometime after the sun had set, I took Margaret Melon(my dog) outside with this plan in my mind: She would go to the bathroom and I would walk her a few blocks to get any last energy out, I would then drop her off at home, walk to Safeway to buy groceries for dinner, since Marissa was getting off work shortly and I like to have dinner waiting for her.

Marissa and I live directly above a venue that people rent out for things like weddings and parties. (But mostly weddings.) Last night, according to the signage out front, a school had rented the venue. Since it is graduation time, I figured it was a high school graduation party.

When I came back from walking Margaret, I encountered a group of middle-aged folk crowded around the venue door, and since our door is only 2 inches way, it meant they were also crowded around the door which leads upstairs to our apartment.

(I was surprised to see middle aged people instead of High School kids and eventually realized these were the teacher/adult chaperones and the kids, who I would see later, were inside.)

Since there are often events held below us, crowds of drunk people around our door is common. They can often be loud and unpleasant but it usually isn't a big deal. Since Margaret tends to be excited by people with lots of energy and drunks really love dogs, this is usually fun for her. As we made our way through the people to our door, Margaret did something she often does in that situation, which is to sit down a couple feet from the door and wait for one of the drunks to pet or play with her, which usually happens.

Since these chaperones were probably not drunk and apparently not dog lovers, no one was paying attention to her and I was trying to coax her into standing up and coming in the door. At this point some guy walks up to, it seemed, re-join the group and the open spot where he had apparently been standing was now occupied by Margaret sitting down, waiting for the stranger's attention.

This man, rather than waiting for her to stand up, which she was clearly about to do, used his foot to shove her several times. I'm sure that even if you've never owned a dog you can imagine and appreciate the many reasons why repeatedly shoving someone's dog with your foot is a bad idea.

It was the sort of thing that was so....unexpected and rude that I was kind of stunned didn't know how to respond. I just watched it happen then went inside with Margaret.

As I walked up the stairs to our apartment, it dawned on me more what that guy did and I started to feel upset towards him and I wished I had something, but it was too late.

So I took Margaret inside and got my stuff to go to Safeway, still thinking about how I wish I had said something to the foot shover, when it occurred to me that my opportunity wasn't lost. Presumably he would still be there as I went back out the door on my way to Safeway.

Since regretting not having said something at the appropriate time can be very frustrating, I was pretty excited that I would have the chance for a do-over. I collected my thoughts and tried hard to be calm. Although I was upset at the guy, I also wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he probably just didn't realize what he was doing or was totally oblivious to human/dog etiquette. By no means was my plan to 'chew him out'. I just wanted to let him know that I wasn't okay with what he did, in as non-aggressive a way as possible.

I got downstairs, my adrenaline surging, tapped him on the shoulder and said 'It wasn't cool when you shoved my dog with your foot'.
While I'm obviously not the most objective source for this, I think I did a good job saying it in a non-threatening way. As some evidence of that and also of what sort of person this guy is, (uncommonly self-absorbed) he somehow thought I was congratulating him. He responded with his smirky laugh and said something like 'oh you enjoyed that huh?'. I made another unsuccessful attempt to get my point across, but It was only when the woman he was standing with told him what I was trying to say, that it sunk in.
Because I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and that by default I assume people are at least somewhat decent human beings, I expected him to say something like 'Sorry, I wasn't thinking'.
Maybe because he was still having a difficult time processing the fact that I was not congratulating him, he didn't really say anything. At that point, I didn't know what to do, plus it was fairly of uncomfortable for me, so I began my 1.5 block walk towards Safeway. After I took maybe 2 or 3 steps, he apparently decided to make it absolutely clear to everyone around that he is terrible human being by saying to me, 'Well tough shit!'.

There are several things I could have done at this point. I could have kept walking and said nothing. I could have walked back and got in his face. I guess you could say I pulled a Buddha and took the middle path between those two extremes. I turned around and shouted: 'DON'T KICK MY DOG YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!'.
It felt really good. It was exactly what I wanted to say and I didn't hold back. Though in retrospect, I wish I had walked back to him, not necessarily to get in his face, but just to confront him directly and ask why he was being such an ass-hole. Which had I done it right could have eventually led to a positive resolution.
As I was walking away I heard him mutter 'I didn't kick his dog'. Which is true, but yelling 'Don't use your foot to repeatedly shove my dog you fucking asshole!', doesn't have the same flow and potency. I heard someone else say 'Next time you shouldn't say 'tough shit''.

It was hard to tell what his colleagues thought of the encounter. It seems unlikely that an otherwise nice guy would have suddenly turned into a huge jerk in that situation(particularly since both times he was the provocateur), so most likely his colleagues also think he is a bastard and (although it may just be wishful thinking on my part) they appreciated seeing someone tell him off in a way their circumstance would not allow.

I went to Safeway, bought groceries and although I was a bit nervous he would still be in front of my door, by the time I returned I only saw High Schoolers and was relieved.

Fast Forward your imagination to this morning. I'm walking Margaret in this huge, beautiful, forested park not far from my house. It is the sort of park I've only ever seen here in Washington where the trees and flora are so dense that although you are in a big city, you feel like you are deep in a forest.

I tend to repeatedly think over conversations I've had. Not necessarily wishing I had said something different (though I sometimes do that too), but just replaying the conversation in my mind. And it is not only significant conversations, but mundane ones too. Sometimes I will be mentally replaying a conversation when I realize that I've been unconsciously moving my lips and quietly vocalizing the words I've been thinking, so if I had an observer, they would see me quietly acting out two sides of a conversation. (like a few nights ago when I was in a grocery check-out line and realized I was doing it after the checker looked at me wide-eyed)

So I was walking Margaret on this several mile trail that felt like it was deep in a forest but actually in Seattle, thinking over my encounter from the night before and probably moving my lips and quietly saying both sides of the conversation when I suddenly get hit in the side of the head. In the quick instant between getting hit and turning around, I realize that the asshole from last night was in the park too, saw me, maybe even heard me repeating our interaction, and decided to hit me in the head!

But when I turned around I did not see the guy at all (surprise! I misled you for dramatic effect! But I really had been thinking about him and in that split second, expected to see him), but a squirrel running away and a tree branch above my head bouncing up and down. A SQUIRREL HAD FALLEN ON MY HEAD! How often do squirrells fall from trees? (I don't know) and how often does it happen somewhere a human can see it (I don't know, but probably not often because I've never seen it or heard anyone mention it) and then for a squirrel to fall from a tree right on my head! It was really unusual!