Salsa Karma

My insides melted.
My insides melted.

March 18, 2013

So… Spring Break was a lot of fun. Mary and I went to Fredericksburg and spent two days walking through town, going to Enchanted Rock, and generally enjoying the sights, sounds, and of course the awesome beer of the small Texas town. Seriously. If you love food and booze, put Fredericksburg on your to-do list.

On the other hand, karma’s a bitch.

There’s a store in town called Rustlin’ Rob’s, a mecca for anyone who loves flavor. While they have the basic pickled garlic, jams, and salsas, you can also find everything from margarita jelly, to raspberry chipotle salsa, to home-made fudge. And every day brings hundreds of sample stations so you can try virtually anything on the shelves. It was near the top of things I wanted to do.

And then Mary and I got an idea.


Ghost Pepper by ~GhostPepperArt on deviantART

One of the items sold at Rustlin’ Rob’s is ghost pepper salsa. For those who don’t know, eating a ghost pepper is a bit like dropping napalm in your mouth. The sensation is akin to running a belt sander over your tongue. While the belt sander is on fire. And you have jumper cables attached to your throat.

Suffice to say, it’s not a pretty experience. Mary and I came up with the bright idea of buying a can of said salsa and using it in our weekly games. The rule would be that if you rolled a natural 1, you had to take a spoonful of the salsa. It seemed safe enough…

And then we gamed twice this week and only Mary and I rolled 1’s. No one else did.

Think about this for a moment. There are five players. They all rolled throughout the night. Skills, attacks, everything. They rolled ALL NIGHT. For two nights. And not one of them had to try the salsa.

Mary and I had two spoonfuls each.

My world was pain. Karma sucks. Welcome back from the break, folks. Just thought I’d share.

Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s video, too. In the meantime, please enjoy someone arguing against gay sex and marriage while also (unknowingly) arguing against oral sex.

Students Without Rules?

Anarchists! Every last one of them!

August 27, 2012

We’re back!

Well, by “we,” I mean “me.” It’s just one person behind the sleek internet experience you are, uhm, experiencing right now.

Let’s start with why one local school district just failed an English class.

Here in Laredo, Texas, schools will no longer have rules. No, that’s too negative. We can’t have teachers telling kids not to do things. It’d be like setting boundaries and stunting their growth. We can’t have that! Instead, the United Independent School District of Laredo, Texas will now implement “expectations.”

For example, instead of “No running in the hallways,” our students will now be encouraged with statements like, “Our students walk down the halls.”

You get it? It’s positive reinforcement. The kids will do better because they have freedom and can do whatever they want while at the same time feeling shame when they don’t meet “expectations.”


Student by ~mirchiz on deviantART

I really hope I don’t have to tell you why this is a dumber idea than Kim Kardashian thinking she can have a music career. Or Snooki thinking she should be a mother. This is stupid, and I know why the district is doing it. Ever since the Penn State scandal broke, schools have gone ape trying to make sure they don’t do anything that might make a child feel uncomfortable. We have to make sure kids have a great time at all costs. I understand the need for proper training, though. I had to undergo training for dealing with minors. It included signs to watch out, for that may indicate abuse in the home or even at work. It included the chain of supervisors that needed to be notified of such signs. It also laid out in very clear language the kinds of things that were expected of me as an employee of a public education institution. And I learned a few things I didn’t know…

But the idea that kids can do fine with “expectations” but not rules is fucking stupid.

Let me put it this way. Are there consequences for not meeting “expectations?” I’m sure there are, so in the end, what we have is “rules” by another name. An expectation reminds me too much of that scene from Office Space. You know the one.


office space by ~WolfsEye157 on deviantART

There’s a big gap between personal drive and what is expected at work. A student will follow “expectations” as long as said expectations are easy. Kids, I’m sorry to say, with very few exceptions, are not motivated to learn on their own. It’s the same problem of “unschooling” I talked about almost two years ago. A child has no incentive to follow an “expectation” unless he or she wants to follow it.

On a larger scale, it’s the same problem I have with Objectivism and libertarianism: the idea that we can have near-total anarchy and people will comport themselves because it is expected of them. Let me be blunt. People are morons. People are selfish. Companies have no incentive to be humanitarian if they can corner the market and keep making money at the expense of others. Students, likewise, have no incentive to follow a suggestion if there are no consequences.

I’ll be damned if I ever tell my students that I “expect” them to pay attention. Oh, no, buddy. They will pay attention or suffer my creative wrath. After I told them I wanted them to stop leaning back on the back two legs of their chairs, I made it clear it wasn’t a suggestion. This was an order.

If I saw anyone lean back, I would get behind them, grab their chair, and pull them back just enough to make think they were about to fall. There was a consequence. I was not asking them. I was telling them.

Rules exist for a reason. Unfair, unjust rules, must be fought, of course. A rule must have a purpose. Replacing all rules with “expectations”? That’s just asking for trouble. Eventually, a good student won’t have to be told to cheat or run in the halls. Until then?

They’re still kids.

Now, let’s clear our heads with one of the later episodes of MST3K and a personal favorite of mine: Space Mutiny.

Bill Nye vs Texas and Conservatives Try Science

It's clearly Photoshopped. There are no stars! (and if you need me to explain why that's so stupid, please consider why you can't see stars during the DAY)

May 4, 2012

Now that “Elves With Shotguns” is in the final stage of production and all I have to do is wait for RPGNow to approve the pdf for publication, I can finally sit back and enjoy the fruitful political and social discourse streaming through America’s media.

By that, of course, I mean foam at the mouth at the utter lack of comprehension at 3rd grade science. Three instances in the last few weeks have left me wondering why conservatives want to gut education since, besides a mountain of evidence that shows a strong public education would help our country, conservatives themselves show their own glaring ignorance of basic scientific concepts.

Limbaugh’s Concept of Science

Rush “Hindenburg of Sexism” Limbaugh is no stranger to denying climate change. He took it a step further recently when he claimed that global climate change created by human interference was a fraud because so many scientists agreed on it. It must be heard to be believed.

Here’s Rush’s argument. Science is not based on opinions. He has that part correct. No self-respecting scientist would agree with a new theory based solely on popular opinion. Here’s the part Rush left out: so many scientists agree with climate change because they have analyzed the data or otherwise performed their own experiments based on repeatable observations. That’s what scientific consensus means.

Scientists get behind a theory when a LOT of them can replicate experiments or verify that data and experiments were accurate. It’s not a popularity contest. By this logic, here are a few more things Rush must not believe in:

  • Evolution
  • The Big Bang
  • Geologic models of the earth
  • Gravity
  • The existence of extra-solar planets
  • Pi
  • The effectiveness of modern medicine

It does, however, reflect modern American conservative thinking: if there is evidence you are wrong, the evidence itself must be wrong.


abortion by ~marsmar on deviantART

Arizona Protects Imaginary Babies

The debate over abortion and taking away abortion rights is part of the larger war on women the GOP has been waging in recent years. Arizona also has the distinction of having some of the dumbest lawmakers in the country. Now that’s something to be proud of. This one, though, takes the cake.

From the Huffington Post:

Aside from banning all abortions after 20 weeks, defined from the date of the woman’s last period instead of conception except in the case of medical emergency, it will force women considering abortion because of fetal abnormalities to have counseling [sic], and for women having an abortion to have an ultrasound.

It also says the age of a foetus [sic] is “is calculated from the first day of the last [woman’s] menstrual period.”

Got that? In Arizona, you can be legally pregnant before you conceive. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Aside from the morally reprehensible act of denying women a basic medical treatment that is legal in the rest of the country simply because one ideology is against it, let’s consider the ramifications of this, okay? A woman can now retroactively be considered pregnant when she wasn’t. This opens up a whole can of legal worms. If they’re so set on making sure the potential for life remains, why not make it illegal to have wet dreams while they’re at it?

Seems as logical.


Bill Nye funny by ~Irish156 on deviantART

Bill Nye vs Texas

Bill Nye is one of my childhood heroes. The man made science fun and he’s been going and teaching for years now. The man will become a legend in his own right.

But Texas doesn’t like him. In fact, it seems Texas doesn’t like science.

Nye was in [Waco] to participate in McLennan Community College’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He gave two lectures on such unfunny and adult topics as global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption.

But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.

At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled “We believe in God!” and left with three children, thus ensuring that people across America would read about the incident and conclude that Waco is as nutty as they’d always suspected.

Yes, folks. It appears that pointing out the moon does not glow, a fact we can prove because we have PICTURES TAKEN ON THE SURFACE, is now an affront to Christians. Let me tell you something… if your beliefs are so fragile that having someone call out a two-thousand year old document that uses poetry to describe the world as being a two-thousand year-old document that uses poetry to describe the world… you need help.

And Bill Nye, I know I wasn’t there, but being a resident in this state, I feel I should apologize. Please come back. We have beer and brisket and Mexican grandmothers that know how to cook.

And now, let’s enjoy a trailer for a horror movie that actually looks interesting. See you Monday, and stay tuned for more updates and news on Randomology Games and the upcoming “Elves With Shotguns.”

Laredo Students, Listen Up

This is your load of expectations from me, your teacher. Wear a cup.

April 12, 2012

I make no secret out of the fact that I can’t stand stupidity. Stupidity, as I define the term, is willful ignorance. This can be either not wanting to learn something you need to know or simply ignoring what has been established as reliable information. Not everyone can know everything. I know this. I’m ignorant of cellular biology mostly because it’s not something that I’ve had to learn in my career, for example. I know enough to know what cells are and how they work, but I couldn’t name all the parts of the cell and their functions if I tried.

That being said, I do expect my students to at the very least pay attention and learn what they need to learn from me so they can become better writers.

Writing may seem like an easy class or something you just have to take for the sake of getting that credit, but it’s more important than that. I’m going to speak specifically about the experience I’ve had in Laredo, Texas over the last six years, but I’m sure teachers in other parts of the country can attest to what I’ve seen and heard.

Students, listen up.


Wisdom by ~MothersHeart on deviantART

You have a LOT of options. If you decide you want to get the most out of your schoolwork, ask questions. Talk to professors, tutors, instructors, anyone and everyone who can help you. You’re supposed to learn critical thinking. It’s not about memorizing facts. Anyone can learn basic sentence structure. It takes creativity and critical skills to make a poem, though.

That being said, I’d appreciate it if some students would please at least work on the appearance of giving a crap. This doesn’t apply to everyone. Don’t take it that way, please. I’ve had wonderful students, both as a writing consultant and an instructor. I’d say most of my students are either curious to learn or genuinely didn’t know that they didn’t know they didn’t know something.

I don’t even have to forgive that. There’s nothing to forgive.

What I can’t forgive is the student who is told how to do something, in various ways, and refuses to do so out of sheer laziness or a misplaced sense of wisdom grown from years of being a teenager. I’m sure writing Facebook posts made you learn all kinds of fun emoticons, but your other instructors and I did a little more work learning our trade.

Even worse is the student that knows he or she can do better but does just enough work to get by? That’s insulting. I put in good work to teach a class. I use videos, music, and anything and everything to make the learning experience stick. If I have to come in dressed as a hobbit, damn it, I will come in dressed as a hobbit if I think it will help. I put 100% into every class.

And I know my students have resources. You have the internet, tutoring centers, office hours, and your teachers. There is NO reason to not try. It’s not like there are no options.

Let me put it this way. Three years ago, I taught a Developmental English class. Basically, the students in that class did not have the necessary writing skills to enter the university, but the university let them in on the condition that they pass said class. In other words, they didn’t meet minimum requirements, and the school let them slide if they improved WHILE THEY STARTED TAKING CLASSES.

For the most part, the class went well. Then, I gave a simple homework assignment that could have been done in two hours. Four people turned it in.

I let them have it. Let me paraphrase what I told them…


Anger by ~velinov on deviantART

How DARE you not try? How dare you walk into a class, unprepared, and expect me to respect you? You didn’t meet the requirements to enter this institution, and yet we have policies, and an entire department, devoted to whipping you into shape to make it as a productive member of this school so you can learn and earn the degree you need to pursue your career… and you have the BALLS to walk into MY class, without your work, and expect me to teach you?

I don’t know everything, but I know this. I have three simple rules in every class I’ve ever taught: give me your best, respect everyone in the room, and do not interrupt me. You break the first two at the same time? We have problems.

School costs money. If you’re not paying for it, you’ve got loans, grants, or your parents are paying for it. Someone is bleeding money so you can study. How dare you not try? It’s not like the resources aren’t there. Sure, some subjects are harder for some people than others, but at least try.

Like I’ve said before… if you stop trying, you lose. Simple as that.

Now get back out there and show me, and every other educator you’ve ever had, that you at least give a damn.

You don’t buy a diploma when you enter college. You buy the opportunity to earn one. At least make an effort to pretend you care.

And to those of you that DO care and try… you make my day every time I sit with you and see how much you’ve learned. To all of you, thank you.

You’re the students that make teaching worthwhile. Keep it up.

Now enjoy one of the most epic pieces of music from one of the most epic songs of the last decade…

Divine by Zero: I’m a Racist!(?)

I'm not. It's just a dramatic way of introducing it.

February 10, 2012

It seems the last video got a lot of attention and a fair amount of heat for a lot of Hispanics going after a single white woman. Except we didn’t do it because she was white. Let me explain the concept of “racism” and “bigotry” and why I will not st

Deporting 14 Year Olds… For America

This is where we send all the little terrorist black kids... Or something.

January 10, 2012

I will not say that all law enforcement is incompetent. I will not say they are racist. I will not say this happened because it happened in Texas. I will, however, say that the ICE officers who deported a 14 year-old American citizen who spoke no Spanish to Colombia should be dragged out on Main Street and at the bare minimum pelted with various rotten fruits and vegetables.

Minimum.

Jakadrien Turner ran away from home and was later apprehended for theft. She gave a fake name that happened to belong to a Colombian immigrant who had warrants for her arrest. I guess if we didn’t have fingerprints, photos, or any other information on said immigrant, it makes sense that ICE saw fit to deport Jakadrien. Except they did. The warrant clearly stated the person the warrant asked for was 22 years old. Not only that, but the warrant clearly stated the woman was from Colombia.

Being Colombian, you’d think that the ability to speak Spanish would be important. ICE thought otherwise.


USA: Built by Migrants by ~hextakeshold on deviantART

It’s funny how the agency immediately went to the standard response of “people slip through the cracks.” This wasn’t a crack. They took Jakadrien’s fingerprints. Seeing as how the actual criminal was Colombian, I’m going to assume there are more than a few people with the name of Tika Lanay Cortez. Latin American names tend to repeat. Trust me. Ice officials say they performed the appropriate interviews and came up with nothing to prove she wasn’t a Colombian citizen as she originally claimed.

Have these idiots never heard of the fallacy of proving a negative?

Besides, Jakadrien was FOURTEEN. What database was she going to appear in? What official record with photo and fingerprints was going to list her? They went to prove she was NOT a Colombian national? That’s nearly impossible. You can’t prove a negative, especially when the accused is not old enough to even have a driving permit.


Minority by ~angelinecstatic on deviantART

If I said I’d checked my car before going on a long trip but what I’d really done was look at the tires and made sure I had enough gas, I’d probably be asking for something bad to happen. ICE messed up. This isn’t a case of someone falling through the cracks. There is no excuse for this. A young girl lies and her punishment was a year in a strange country where she couldn’t even communicate with anyone? Yes, she may have stolen something, but this is unnacceptible. Someone saw a young black girl, found out she may have been an illegal alien, and just sent her to a new continent.

Like I said, this is not a condemnation of all the officials and employees of ICE and Border Patrol. I know a few people who help keep our borders safe and they do a fine job.

The incident with Jakadrien, though, shows that, somewhere in Texas, there is someone with the power to deport with just hearsay.

Fear for your country.

And now, to wash that away, here’s a Skyrim mod with Macho Man Randy Savage as a dragon. And disco music.

[VIDEO]

Bordertown Laredo: Like a Fox News Documentary on Civil Rights

You will never find a more wretched hived of scum and villainy... If you believe the show.

October 14, 2011

I watched Bordertown: Laredo last night. It was the premier and they showed two back-to-back episodes. I was curious to see how this show would portray the city I live in, and was a little scared because Laredo is the influence for Via Rosa, the semi-fictional setting of Charcoal Streets. I know I don’t exactly paint a rosy picture in my stories, but I made it a fictional city with elements from various cities for a reason.

Now, I realize it’s only the first two episodes, but I have a few complaints about what I’m seeing. And yes, I know the Laredo Narcotics Team is a local organization of law enforcement essentially fighting a NATIONAL cartel organization in Mexico. Their job is difficult and they put themselves in very real danger just by appearing in this show…

But this isn’t about whether or not drugs should be legal, the ethics of the war on drugs, or anything like that. I need to talk to the producers of this show. Aside from the fact that the cops don’t even wear gloves during part of the evidence collection process, the fact that everyone of them is in terrible shape for the kind of physical activity they engage in, or that one of them seemed to have pink handcuffs for no apparent reason, there are a few things that just bothered the hell out of me last night.

It’s MexiNoir!

Nothing screams “Hispanic” and “edge of nowhere” like using fake film scratch in your opening text superimposed with images of the downtown. Seriously, though, the images used in the title sequence were all seemingly taken within three blocks of the river. Yes, we have a massive Mexican population and a lot of sections in town have signs in Spanish. Yes, a lot of buildings downtown are in a state of disrepair.

But if you travel not three blocks further inland, you find I-35, McDonald’s, and this little view.

Worse, the music sounds more Spanish than actually Mexican, which isn’t unexpected since we were under Spanish rule at one point, but if they were trying to go with a Wild West theme, they failed. It sounds more flamenco than anything else.

Oh, and to whoever actually took the time to edit in images of the Beer Run stores, shame on you. Nothing says “class” like drive-through liquor stores with exploited female workers.

We Took a Wrong Turn at North America

This is really a jab at the editor. In one scene, the police are following a car. Anyone who lives here can recognize the intersection as McPherson and Saunders. The cops then chase the guy and say they are passing a church. A shot of the San Augustin Cathedral is shown. Then the cops reach the guy’s house somewhere in what looks like Zapata Highway or somewhere else in the deep southeastern part of the city based on the landscape.

These three locations are nowhere close to each other. The church is more than two miles away to the west, then to get to Zapata Highway, it’s another seven miles in the opposite direction.

Granted, the Cathedral looks nice, a lot nicer than other churches, but would it have killed the editor to use the REAL church they passed? Instead, we get a set of detours that amounts to something out The Family Circus.


Mexico by ~TornadoGirl108 on deviantART

 

Welcome to the United States of Aztlan

All of these gripes are about the way the show was put together. However, when you actually sit down and watch the show, there are more than a few problems with the way the city and its residents are portrayed.

And before I get to that, let it be known I have no shortage of complaints about this town. We are undereducated and have networks of ties that make any legitimate business difficult. Like one friend in DC once told me, “Dealing with Laredo is like dealing with the mob 20 years ago.”

In just the first two episodes, we’ve had the cops bust several storehouses filled with thousands of pounds of drugs. It’s an impressive set of hauls, sure, but the show hasn’t shown much past a mile or so from the border, and if you think the drug trafficking is confined the “Mexican” or “poor” parts of the city, you are sadly mistaken. I know going to suburbia and busting some high schoolers isn’t glamorous, but the drug trade is EVERYWHERE in town. And it’s not that hard to find someone to sell you drugs.

If you want to find a drug dealer, talk to three people. Those three people will, in short time, name someone who buys or sells or uses. Then follow it to the source. It’s easier to find a drug dealer in Laredo than it is to find a Starbucks in any major American city.

This show is going to be hell for this town. I don’t like it here that much, but I’d prefer if they at least got their portrayals right.

To clean out all this dumb, let’s get a Spanish lesson from Dora. Can you say, “Sniper, no sniping?”

The Wisdom of Beer and German Meats

Shown here? Pure, old-man wisdom.

October 3, 2011

It’s no secret for any long-term reader that I have a certain, shall we say, hatred for the state of Texas. Between gutting education and replacing it with conservative propaganda and lies and then electing a governor that’s little more than Yosemite Sam with a bad hair-style, this state has shown time and time again that it really would be better off floating into the vast void of space.

And considering the week I had the last ten days, I’d had it just about to here with the world. Take into account the last year, and it’s been rough.

And then my family went to Fredericksburg, Texas for Oktoberfest. Nothing cures the soul like the proper application of family, German sausage, and microbrewed beer.

I walked the streets of this little town with my fiancée and sampled various German beers and food. We checked out arts and crafts made by the residents of this small town and I felt a new invigoration for my own art.


October Cheers by ~Ellamori on deviantART

We got to walk the streets of Fredericksburg with beers in hand. It’s legal there, like Las Vegas, and it wasn’t until later in the day that we noticed something. There was almost no security anywhere. No one was falling-down drunk. There were no incidents. I’m guessing people were, like us, too stuffed with bratwurst to really move too fast. Or people were just nice.

Seriously, though, if I had to stay in Texas, I’d choose Hill Country. The number of artisan crafts, the weather, the country, and the food are awesome. Plus, San Antonio’s less than an hour away if you really need a bigger city’s resources.

The retroactively best moment of the night, the one that really washed away the last ten days, was at the restaurant where we had our forty-fifth or forty-sixth bratwurst. Not sure. I was in the restroom when I heard two gentlemen talking.

“What? Restaurant this big and only one pisser?”

“I know. I don’t think they planned this out. Don’t they know you don’t ‘buy’ beer? You rent it.”


Wise Owl by ~AletheaDo on deviantART

That’s when the world crystallized. Everything turned razor sharp and I ignored the rolling blend of spices and double bock beer in my stomach. Beer is rented? I’m sure I’d heard something similar, but the combination of sunlight, beer out in the open parks, and the love and company of my family created a perfect point in my brain for me to hear that phrase and think, “This is all temporary.”

At once, I knew I had to go home at the end of the day. I knew come Monday, I had to try and cram 60 hours of work into a 19-hour week. I knew I had to find a way to fit my writing and editing schedule in with a new job that, while it will provide much-needed income, will make things more hectic.

I knew all that, and at the same time, I knew those things would also pass.

Like beer at Oktoberfest.

Also, I found and bought the collected works of H. P. Lovecraft in a beautiful hardbound edition, so things are good.

Here’s the week. May it bring drink in the end and aspirin in the middle.

In the meantime, here’s Susan Boyle doing a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.” It’s odd, but I find this song strangely inspiring considering this week.