Thursday, July 20, 2017

Phobias are not funny...

Have you ever met someone with whom you immediately clash?  I think that happened to me last night.  Despite my rather funny personality, I don't actually like parties very much.  I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes, especially when I'm in the company of certain types of people.  Not everyone can take my sense of humor and I don't enjoy offending people.  Sometimes I do, despite my best efforts.

Last year, the guy who hired Bill moved on to a new job in Hawaii.  He left behind a huge collection of euro coins, which he donated to everyone he worked with.  The coins were all counted and it came to the euro equivalent of about $800, which was used to pay for last night's gathering at a biergarten (and, in fact, not all of the money was spent).  It was a farewell dinner of sorts, since the company Bill has been working for lost its contract and many of the people who have been working with Bill are moving on to new jobs and/or locations.

We arrived too late to sit at the table that was already started, so we sat at a second table that had been reserved.  Soon we were joined by another couple, the male half of whom will continue to be Bill's co-worker because they were both hired by the new company that is taking over.  The first thing that happened was the guy came up, looked at me, and said "Who do you belong to?"

I answered that I am Bill's wife.  He then made some crack about my being the daughter of the other guy sitting across from me.  I'm not really sure what that was all about.  Bill had told me a bit about this guy being a bit obnoxious and full of himself, so I wasn't that surprised at his comment.  This guy also referred to me as "Jen", when I introduced myself as "Jenny".  That also happens to be a pet peeve of mine, when someone takes it upon themselves to change my name, especially when they've just met me.

I noticed his wife sitting in the corner with their son, whom I had met before.  He is a very bright kid for his age and already speaks German pretty well.  I could tell he is the apple of his mother's eye.  She was doting on him quite a bit.

As the evening wore on, Bill and I found ourselves talking about different subjects, including one of the Space A "hops" we took a few years ago.  Bill told everyone about how we landed in Georgia after an overseas flight from Germany.  We were really jet lagged.  He'd gone out to get us some dinner.  I would have been just fine with something from the nearby Wendy's, but Bill decided to go the extra mile.  He noticed a restaurant across the street and ordered take out.  He brought back steaks, not realizing that they had been smothered with mushrooms.

If you've been reading this blog, you may already know that I do not eat mushrooms.  In fact, I have a phobia of them.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's the truth.

So anyway, I opened the carton he handed me and was immediately confronted by this piece of meat covered with 'shrooms.  They were totally grossing me out.  I was pretty exasperated because I was exhausted and hungry.  All I'd really wanted was a sandwich, and if Bill had just gotten something at Wendy's, I could have had a sandwich and gone to bed.  Instead, I was sitting there with what could have been a nice dinner that was rendered completely unappetizing due to the fungus.  Aside from that, I was annoyed that a restaurant would put mushrooms on a steak without advertising that they were going to do so.

Bill was telling this story and people were wondering why I didn't just scrape off the mushrooms.  And that's where the whole mushroom phobia story came in.  Phobias are, by nature, ridiculous, irrational, and perhaps even funny.  However, if you actually have a phobia, it's not really a laughing matter.

My whole life, I've been laughed at for having a fear of mushrooms.  When I was a kid, family members even chased me with them and yukked it up when I reacted with fear.  I can mostly laugh about it now... and the phobia is not nearly as bad as it used to be.  For instance, I no longer scream when I am confronted with mushrooms.  I don't like having them on my plate and I refuse to touch them or eat them, but I won't freak out or anything.  I still have a phobia, though.

I used to think I was the only person with this problem, but then I wrote an article about mycophobia (fear of mushrooms).  In my article, I even referenced an episode of The Montel Williams Show that was about phobias.  There was a woman on that show who was afraid of mushrooms and reacted the very same way I did when I was much younger.  She actually saw my article and sent me an email.  I got so many comments and emails from people who have unusual phobias and happened to read my article.  In fact, a quick YouTube search turns up a number of videos about mycophobia (mushroom phobia).

I was trying to explain this last night.  I will admit, a phobia of something weird like mushrooms sounds hilarious if you don't make an effort to understand what having a phobia is like.  I have been in some embarrassing and annoying situations due to this problem, but I can see why some people think it's funny.

Of course, Bill's co-worker thought my mushroom phobia was totally hilarious.  He was cracking jokes and hysterically laughing at me, as was his son.  I was trying to explain the origins of the phobia, which started when I was a little kid, and he was just having a knee slapper of a time laughing.  I had been drinking beer, so I was feeling my oats.  And I let loose with some really far out insults involving his testicles being covered with fungus.  I'm sure whatever I said was shocking and disgusting.  Sometimes, I have no filter, especially if I've been drinking.

I could tell the guy's wife was horrified and it looked like she was trying to shield her son from the insults springing forth from me.  I wasn't sure if she was horrified by my comments, her husband's comments, or the whole scene in general.  But anyway, they made a hasty retreat.  I'm sure they think I'm an asshole, now.  On the other hand, I thought the guy was being an asshole for outwardly laughing at me and lacking empathy.

Meh... I really think sometimes I should not go to these kinds of parties with Bill.  I'm sure a lot of his co-workers think I'm nuts.  On the plus side, we did talk to a really nice lady last night.  Too bad she and her husband (and their fabulous dog) will be leaving soon.  Also, I gave our waitress the stink eye because she told me that putting a wine bottle upside down in a galvanized bucket full of melted ice is "nasty".  That sounded a bit like bullshit to me, but what do I know?  She was happy when we left, though, because she was tipped handsomely.

Apparently, putting an empty wine bottle upside down in this bucket is "nasty"...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Preparing for the winter...

This morning's post is full of boring health related TMI that may not be suitable for all readers.  Proceed at your own risk.

Yesterday, I took the dogs to the vet.  It was time for Zane's monthly allergy shot and I wanted the vet to check out a couple of bumps that I want to have removed while he and Arran are having their teeth cleaned.  They both seriously need their teeth cleaned.  They are covered with tartar and it's gross.  They also have hideous breath.

I'm actually a little nervous about having the lumps taken off because they could be mast cell tumors.  One was tested last year and it came back a lipoma, but it's a lot bigger now.  The other is tiny, but it shrinks and swells, which is mast cell tumor behavior.  It's also on the side of his paw near his dewclaw, although it's in the skin and very small.  I worry that the vet won't get good margins and he'll end up sick.  Right now, Zane is in good spirits and I hate to mess that up for him.

The surgery won't be until August 10th because the vet who does the dentals is going on vacation for two weeks.  In Germany, vacations are no joke, especially in August.  Everybody gets one.  And most everybody gets their holidays, too.  I kind of like it like that, although sometimes it makes things inconvenient.  Hopefully, Zane will recover quickly, because a month after that, I am going to Scotland, with or without Bill.  Depends on if he can get the time off.

This morning, we're getting our heating oil for the winter delivered.  It's hard to imagine that in a few weeks, it'll be getting cold again.  Our landlords will be coming to assist.  Last time we lived here, we lived in a house that was fueled by gas.  Our landlord at that time would call the gas company and I would deal with the guy myself.  Invariably, the driver didn't speak English and, at that time, I knew no German.  This time, I understand more German and our landlords are retired.  They evidently have plenty of time on their hands and speak perfect English, too.

I think the landlords are getting the oil now because they got a deal.  They order the oil and when the bill comes, they send us a bill for our share.  We use a special form (called the VAT) to not have to pay German taxes on the oil.  I'm actually glad they are so conscientious about this because last time we lived here, we ran out of gas and had no hot water or heat for a few days in April.  April is still pretty chilly in Germany.  It was not fun taking bucket baths under those conditions.  We did at least have a masonry heater, though, which we don't have in this house.

Speaking of healthy environments, this morning, I saw this old PSA on my Facebook memories...

This PSA cracks me up!   

It almost makes the idea of having your colon scoped sound like fun.  I'd love to have a couple of doctors taking care of me who are that funny and thorough... especially if I was drugged into oblivion.

The nasty cough I've had is slowly dying down, just in time for a visit from Auntie Flow.  And this morning, just as one last insult, I had a coughing fit that led to throwing up my coffee.  I'm sure I don't have whooping cough or anything like that, but for some reason, I sometimes puke when I cough.  I used to never vomit, but now it happens relatively often... especially when I eat overripe bananas or when I cough too hard.  It always seems to happen early in the morning.  Too bad the puking doesn't lead to weight loss.

Anyway... hopefully I'll think of something of substance to write about later.  For now, I guess I'll get dressed and walk the dogs.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Breastmilk in the brownie batter...

This morning, I happened to see a post by Sanctimommy that made me gasp with surprise and amusement.  It was from a mom who had made brownies for her child's school bake sale.  She found herself short of both milk and the time to get to the store to buy more.  So she whipped out a breast and used breastmilk for her recipe, adding that she thought some of the kids could use the nutrition.  Other moms found out about it and were very upset.  The Sanctimommy, who felt she was doing some of the kids a favor by sharing her breastmilk with them, didn't know what to do.

I shared that post on my own page and immediately got two diametrically opposed opinions.  One lady agreed with me when I posted that it was a stupid thing to do.  Another lady disagreed and felt the moms were blowing things out of proportion.  She pointed out that cooking the brownies would likely kill any organisms that might make someone sick.  And, yes, granted this was milk from a human being.  One could argue that milk from a fellow human is even more appropriate for kids than is cow's milk.

I understand that cooking things destroys germs and some moms use breastmilk in recipes.  On the other hand, I still think it's wrong to use breastmilk in a recipe intended for a bake sale.  The main reason I think it's wrong is exactly because of the reaction the woman got when people found out she did it.  Not every parent knows about food safety, and so the idea of another mother's milk in a donated baked good intended for a bake sale might cause them to worry.  It's one thing to make your child cereal using your breastmilk.  It's YOUR kid and it's YOUR breastmilk and you know where you've been and what you've consumed.  It's quite another to serve someone food made with your bodily fluids without their knowledge or permission.

Heat does kill germs, but there are some serious diseases that can be passed through breastmilk.  HIV is one infection that can be passed through mother's milk.  Even though the risk of passing a disease to someone through cooked breastmilk is very small, the risk (or even just the perceived risk) is not quite non-existent.  In the United States, if someone uses commercially prepared milk, we know it's been pasteurized.  But raw milk from a human breast could come from anywhere and there is no gauging the quality or its safety.  On the other hand, I suppose the same could be said about any bake sale good.  There's always a risk of some sort.

I was curious about bake sale rules and if they exist, so I did a search.  Here's a list of rules made by one health department.   As you can see in that list, any product made with raw milk is prohibited.  I would guess that would include breastmilk.  Granted, here in Europe, raw milk is widely available and people eat cheese made with raw milk all the time.  But in the United States, it's not allowed.  And even if it was allowed, I can't imagine that most parents in the average public school would be alright with such a "crunchy" idea.  In many places, you can't even send your kid to school with a PBJ anymore, so why would brownies made with breastmilk be okay?

If I were to make brownies laced with whisky for a school bake sale, I would expect a lot of parents would be upset, even though the amount of alcohol in such a recipe is negligible and would likely burn off during the cooking process.  Many parents don't want alcohol near their kids, even if it's just used for flavoring.  And some might privately be okay with it, but simply don't want to give people the wrong idea about their parenting skills.  People will call the authorities at the drop of a hat nowadays, so many parents don't want to appear to be negligent.

A few years ago, there was a well-publicized case of a mom getting arrested because she was breastfeeding her baby in public after having downed a couple of glasses of beer.  Even though scientific and medical evidence shows that the baby she was feeding was likely in little danger, the perception was that she was harming the child.  Many people are extremely ignorant about these things.  To me, it simply wouldn't be worth the risk to use breastmilk in a recipe intended for public consumption, even if I could turn it into a "teaching" moment.  

We live in a world where kids can't even play alone outside without the threat of someone calling CPS.  Who in their right mind would even risk using breastmilk in a recipe for a kids' bake sale?  You're just asking for parents to panic.  Shit... I wonder how the other parents even found out about the breastmilk?  If you were to use it in a recipe, why would you tell anyone else?

Sadly, the discussion on my Facebook page went a bit south when one of the posters left a snarky comment about how Americans don't understand breastmilk.  I understand and support breastfeeding wholeheartedly.  I even support moms who donate breastmilk.  But to me, it's simply common sense not to use a product from your boobs in recipes intended for general public consumption.  It's just not worth the reaction other people are going to have.  And that conclusion doesn't make me ignorant, out of touch, unsupportive, or hysterical.  You want breastmilk in your baked goods?  Make them for your own family.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Oh my God, you're a bitch!

I was just reading about professional political shithead Ann Coulter, who has made a career out of being a nasty person.  She's been engaged in a Twitter storm with Delta Airlines because she booked a seat with extra leg room and was forced to move.

According to the Washington Post, Ann Coulter had zero sympathy for Dr. David Dao, who was famously dragged kicking and screaming off a United flight back in April.  Dao's injuries were quite severe; he required surgery to recover.  But Ms. Coulter wrote, "Sorry about the dragging, but a convicted pill-mill doctor should be deported."

Now that she's been mistreated by an airline, Coulter feels quite free to vent.  Coulter was reportedly moved to a different seat in the same row, presumably an identical one with the extra leg room Coulter had booked.  But that's not enough for the pro-Trump pundit.  She's disparaged Delta Airlines, its employees, and the woman who was seated in the place Coulter claims she'd booked.  According to a witness, Coulter was moved from an aisle seat to a window.

I will go on record to state that if airlines offer seat selections and people have paid money to pre-book a seat, that request should be honored unless there is a very good reason not to... one that involves safety or someone's health, for instance.  However, Ann Coulter's behavior post flight has been dreadful and hypocritical.  Flying generally sucks for everyone, but acting like a toddler having a tantrum does not make things better for anyone.

For its part, Delta tweeted that it would refund Ms. Coulter's money for the seat she booked and did not get.  And it also added that Ms. Coulter's abusive insults about Delta's employees and other passengers is "unacceptable and unnecessary."

For the life of me, I do not understand how a person like Ann Coulter makes a living doing what she does.  She is truly vile.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What graffiti artists think...

I just wrote about yesterday's trip to Stuttgart.  In the interest of keeping my travel blog somewhat PG rated, I didn't include a few photos I took yesterday afternoon.  They were in our local train station.

Lovely cursive writing in English...

Pac Man...

And someone's eloquent thoughts about the G20...

It's always interesting to read what the people think when it's sprayed all over public property.  There's a lot of graffiti in Stuttgart.  Really, I've seen it all over Europe.  I don't like the idea of people defacing buildings and such, but the statements they leave are sometimes interesting.  Like, for instance, the Pac Man motif at the Herrenberg system.  It kind of makes one wonder how old the person was that made it.  Pac Man was a thing about 35 years ago, but I'd be surprised if today's young folks play it.  The artist seems to be sharing a graphic story about cops trying to catch the vandals.

Not long ago, someone painted the word "penis" on the backs of signs over A8.  It was on the opposite side of the road, so those heading east toward Munich could see the vandalism.  It finally got covered over after a few weeks, but I'm sure it will be back.  Those sneaky artists are always lurking, waiting to spread their messages far and wide.  This has probably been going on for as long as spray paint has existed.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Belinda Carlisle's funny PSA from the 80s...

If you were around in the 80s, you might remember Belinda Carlisle, who was the lead singer of The Go-Go's.  Belinda Carlisle rather famously indulged in drugs back in those days.  Later, she wrote a tell all book about her life that I read and reviewed.

Anyway, yesterday I happened to stumble across this chirpy anti drug PSA she did back in the day...

I have to wonder if Belinda's comments about "looking frightening" and "being sick of drugs" were enough to convince people not to use drugs...

I also wonder about that get up she's wearing.  Who wears that to a fucking beach?  And was she high when she made this PSA?  And was it court ordered or something?  Because she's really not convincing at all.  Belinda Carlisle was well known for her love of cocaine back in the day.  She even writes about it in her memoir, Lips Unsealed.  According to this article from 2011, Carlisle had a 30 year habit and wasn't actually "clean" until 2004.  So it's entirely possible that she was loaded when she made this PSA.

Actually, the second article I linked is pretty interesting because it comes with a video that shows Carlisle pretty sober and intelligent.  She's totally different in that video compared to the PSA I posted above.  

I think this video is worth a view.  She brings up the experience she had in which she says she looked frightening.  

I love watching old PSAs from the 80s... especially the anti-drug ones done by people who clearly were still using drugs.  I remember when Judd Nelson and Burt Reynolds did an anti drug film.  Besides the fact that they were an odd pairing, I know Reynolds continued his love affair with weed for many years beyond the making of that film.  I am less sure about Judd Nelson, although my suspicions are that he continued to enjoy drugs.

The 70s and 80s were a fun time to be growing up.  I miss those days and kooky PSAs by people like Belinda Carlisle.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sad story plus wretched writing equals missed opportunities...

Ever since I started reading it, I have been itching to write my review of Social Taboo: A Male Victim of Domestic Violence Speaks.  I finally finished reading Richard Cassalata's 2016 book about twenty minutes ago after struggling with it and thinking it would never end.  I didn't realize it when I started reading this book, but Social Taboo is 578 painful pages in length.  I would guess at least 150 of those pages could have been omitted.  Add in the fact that Mr. Cassalata apparently never had this book edited or even read by a literate friend before he published it, and you have a recipe for a former English major's nightmare.  

As you might guess from this book's title, Social Taboo is a non-fiction account of a man's experience with an abusive woman.  The author, who refers to himself as Rick, writes that in early January 2011, he had been looking online for a relationship with a woman.  Rick is a divorced father of three boys who lives in Arizona.  He has not had much luck with online personal ads.  Evidently, many of the responses he gets are porn solicitations.

One night, Rick gets an email from an attractive woman named Amy.  Amy lives in Eloy, which is evidently a crime infested, yet very rural, area.  She's a teacher in her mid to late 30s at the time, having earned teaching certifications in Ohio and Arizona.  She invites Rick over and asks him to bring with him a bottle of Grey Goose vodka.

Although Rick is not much of a drinker, he complies with Amy's request and drives out to Eloy.  He and Amy hit it off immediately, although Rick is slightly alarmed when Amy pours herself a generous measure of vodka mixed with cranberry juice.  Although he says nothing to her at the time, it soon becomes apparent that Amy has a serious drinking problem.    

Rick, who is in the midst of earning his teaching credentials, finds that he and Amy are able to talk shop.  However, besides talking about their work, Amy also talks about her past relationships.  If you know anything about women with cluster B personality disorders, you know that there are already a couple of red flags popping up during this couple's first meeting.  

Rick describes Amy as witty, charming, sweet, friendly, and very attractive.  He writes that they "clicked" from the get go.  And while it may not be the smartest thing for him to have done, during that first date, Rick and Amy are consummating their brand new relationship between the sheets on Amy's bed.  Unfortunately, Amy neglects to tell Rick that she has contracted oral herpes, which Rick incorrectly identifies as a sexually transmitted disease.  Yes, it can be transmitted sexually, but what Rick is referring to is the same virus that causes cold sores.  In truth, most people have been exposed to the virus that causes oral herpes by the time they are adults.

Things move quickly, as they often do in relationships with women who have cluster B personality disorders.  Pretty soon, Rick and Amy are inseparable.  Rick gets approval to work with Amy-- she actually becomes his supervisor as he's picking up training hours at Amy's school.  Yet another red flag is raised, but Rick is apparently oblivious to it.  Soon, they're talking about marriage and it's not long before Rick moves in to Amy's home.  When he's living with her, Rick discovers that Amy's drinking problem is a lot more serious than he'd first realized.  Aside from that, she is extremely possessive and resents it when Rick plays racquetball with his buddies on Saturday mornings.  He comes back from the court to find Amy completely obliterated after she's consumed way too much Grey Goose vodka.

Rick soon finds himself deeply entrenched in his relationship with Amy, who seems to be having a hard time letting go of her ex husband, Jim.  She claims that they need to see each other because they are filing their taxes.  Rick isn't happy about Amy's continued visits with her ex, but he tolerates it until it becomes clear that Amy is doing a lot more than discussing taxes with Jim.  But when Rick confronts Amy, she goes batshit crazy.  It's not long before Amy enlists local law enforcement in her bid to control Rick.  She even talks him into handing over his paychecks to her.  Again... a classic red flag of an abuser.  

It turns out that Amy is also kinky.  She has a collection of sex toys and wants Rick to use them on her and be her "Dom", that is, sexual dominant.  She uses sex to make up with Rick after their epic fights.  All I can say is that Amy must have been one hell of a lover.  Rick falls for her tricks over and over again, just like Charlie Brown does when Lucy Van Pelt offers to hold the football for him.  I don't actually have anything against kink.  However, it's pretty clear that Amy uses kink as a means to control her men.

Throughout the book, Rick refers to the interesting array of jobs he's held in the helping profession.  He claims to have been a law enforcement officer, a social worker, and a teacher, both at the college and school levels.  However, Rick doesn't really give readers a full accounting of his academic pedigree.  This was one of my many complaints about Social Taboo.  As I was reading Rick's story, he would mention his academic background, but in vague terms.  I myself have master's degrees in social work and public health, so he caught my attention when he wrote about his sociology degree, but then referred to himself as a "former social worker".  

First off, social work and sociology are not the same thing.  Secondly, while Rick may have worked for child protective services at one point, that would not make him a social worker.  Social work is not synonymous with child welfare work.  Moreover, having earned my degree in social work, I know what goes into getting that education.  I was perplexed by Rick's vast array of careers.  He's supposedly only 35 years old at one point in this book.  It takes time and money to become a qualified social worker or teacher, particularly at the college level.  And yet, Rick has apparently been a social worker, a teacher, a professor, and a law enforcement officer.  I question how much experience he would have had in those fields and how he managed to earn the appropriate credentials.  I'm not saying he's outright lying, but it would have been helpful if he had explained that a bit more.

My next complaint about this book is that it is way too long.  I see an earlier paperback version of this book comes in at over 700 pages.  This edition, which has a different title, is almost 600 pages.  A lot of those pages should have been edited out because much of it is repetitive minutiae.  At one point in the book, I was sure I had to be at least halfway through it.  I was dismayed to see I had only read about 25%.  I eventually found myself skimming because it was very repetitive and taking much too long to finish.

And finally, my biggest complaint about this book is the shitty writing.  Cassalata has a rather conversational style that could be engaging if not for all of the typographical errors, awkward sentence constructions, dangling participles, and wrong word choices.  Seriously, there were some errors that were almost laughable.  For the sake of this review, I'm going to find a few of the more memorable ones.

"After leaving my house, I purchased a big cup of coffee at a nearby convince store."

"They're just did not seem to be a happy medium in any decision concerning her in weeks."

"Ferrous, I walked out of the classroom without acknowledging Amy's existence."

"I fucking hate you for that... you sun of a bitch!"

"Since you are freeloading off me and living in my house you will respect me you sorry sun of a bitch."

"Arriving home, Amy was gone and it was a welcome relief."

"Noticing the sun setting we walked out of the restaurant and Amy held my hand out the door."

The book is absolutely saturated with mistakes like the ones I've posted.  When you have to get through 600 pages, it becomes very tiresome to run across so many errors.  More than once, I contemplated giving up on the book.  I also had to fight the urge to rant about it before I managed to finish.  Imagine... this man, like his psycho ex, Amy, are teachers.  No wonder so many people homeschool.

Don't get me wrong.  I think it's good that Mr. Cassalata was willing to share his story.  I wish more male victims of relationship abuse would speak out; that way, people like Bill's ex wife might brought to justice for the havoc they wreak.  I just think that if you're going to go to the trouble of writing a book about your experiences, particularly the very personal experiences the author writes of, you should make sure the writing is of good quality.  It's asking a lot to ask readers to wade through almost 600 pages of explicit writing about abuse.  The least that author could do is make the writing worth the effort and as easy as possible for the reader-- particularly given that readers often have paid for the book.  I see Cassalata's paperback version is selling for about $25.  I would be pissed if I'd spent $25 on this book as it's written.

Anyway, make no mistake about it.  Rick Cassalata got himself entangled with a psycho.  I empathize with him.  A lot of what he wrote about Amy is eerily similar to stories I've heard about Bill's ex wife, right down to the weird sex, financial abuse, and irrational rages.  Bill was fortunate in that his ex wife had a fear of government interference, so she never called the police on him.  However, she did do a lot of the other things Amy did... and, oddly enough, Bill's ex used to live in Arizona.  I hope things are better for Rick now.  I see at the end of his book, he's got links to men's rights organizations.  I, personally, have no issue with that, but I would imagine that if a lot of women read this book, they might.

For the love of God, get a passport.

This week, I mentioned that Bill and one of my cousins have been arguing on Facebook.  It's actually kind of funny, because Bill rarely posts on Facebook and almost never gets involved in debates.  When he does, he's very conscious of other people's online spaces and uncomfortable with contentious exchanges.  Bill is a considerate, thoughtful person who cares about other people and their feelings.  Unfortunately, not everyone is like that.

I unfriended my cousin the other day because he's been annoying me on a regular basis for weeks.  It's like a sport to him.  He'd find a controversial topic on my page and leave an obnoxious comment.  When he would finally drive me to the point of writing an annoyed response, he'd leave me a smarmy comment about "loving and respecting" me.  But then he'd invariably come back to my Facebook page and spew more of his bullshit, trying to goad me into debates and then acting like a know-it-all bully.  He loves to argue politics and is very rigid in what he believes.  I find his beliefs very narrow-minded, myopic, and frankly, often offensive.  Moreover, chatting with him reminds me of trying to chat with my dad after he'd been drinking all night.  It's pointless and ultimately leads to heartbreak.

When I read about my cousin's desire to help crowdfund Trump's stupid border wall, that was when I'd reached my limit.  I have a feeling that Bill is about to reach his limit, too.  

My cousin-- I'll call him Timmy (after the South Park character)-- has more or less said that he thinks allowing Muslims into the United States will eventually lead to them taking over and introducing Sharia Law.  He seems to agree fully with Trump's desire to ban travelers from certain Muslim countries from coming into the United States.  He thinks it will keep us "safe" from terrorists.

I will admit, when it comes to hyper-controlling religions like Islam, I am myself a little leery.  For instance, I didn't vote for Mitt Romney, in part, because he's LDS and I know something about Mormonism and how it often spreads like kudzu.  Mormons have a history of getting into government positions and making laws that suit their collective worldview.  Since Mormons have an appearance of being "normal" to those who don't know anything about their beliefs, they have a fairly easy time of getting into leadership positions and passing laws based on their religious or moral beliefs that affect everyone.  One only has to look at the state of Utah to see what I mean.

I am only using Mormons as an example of what happens with politics and religion mix.  Naturally, other religious groups also use government offices to promote their religious beliefs.  The Southern Baptists and Evangelicals do the same thing in the Deep South.  That's why I also would not have voted for Mike Huckabee when he was running for office.

Here in Germany, I have personally witnessed an influx of Muslim refugees from Syria.  Many days, when I'm out and about, I see the fully veiled women shopping in the grocery stores.  I know that many Germans fear that the refugees might try to change Germany rather than simply assimilating.  That's not necessarily an unfounded fear.  For decades, there have been many Turks living here.  They were brought in after World War II to help rebuild the country, and many have stayed.  Although it seems to me that the Turks who live here have mostly assimilated nicely, I do sense that some Germans view Turks like some Americans view Mexicans.  Some seem to resent and fear them.

Despite the concerns that people have about their way of life being challenged or changed, Germans remain welcoming to people who are in trouble and need shelter.  They don't always help with a sense of altruism, but they do seem to support being open minded and accepting people who are different.  I'm sure a lot of that comes from the not too distant past, when their country was in the grips of Naziism.  That blight on history remains a source of great shame to many Germans.

This week, Bill and "Timmy" were arguing and Bill, being a courteous and respectful person, tried to gently point out that Timmy's comments were narrow-minded and racist.  Timmy, being a rather black and white thinker, came back and accused Bill of playing "ring around the rosy" and not being direct with his comments.  So Bill asked Timmy some pointed yes or no questions.  After Timmy answered, having been backed into a corner, Bill came right out and said quite bluntly, "You have confirmed my suspicions that you are a xenophobe."

Well, Timmy's reaction to that comment was epic.  He went from calling Bill out for "being indirect" to being very offended that Bill came right out and accused him of xenophobia.  Within a couple of hours, Timmy was back with a book length comment refuting Bill's assertion that he's xenophobic.  It was similar to the reaction I got from Timmy's brother a few months ago...  I referred to "xenophobic ideas" and my cousin got very offended.  I hadn't even directly called him a "xenophobe", but he seemed to take my comments that way.  But, unlike Timmy's brother, Timmy kind of asked for Bill's comment.  He complained that Bill wasn't direct enough.  Well, be careful what you wish for.

Bill also called out Timmy for not voting Libertarian.  Timmy takes great pride in telling everyone that he's not a Republican.  He says he's a "constitutional Libertarian".  However, it's very clear that despite Timmy's insistence that he's a "constitutional Libertarian", he did not have the balls to vote for the Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson.  Timmy wanted to cast his vote for someone with a chance of winning, even though he claims Donald Trump's politics don't actually align with his.  In short, Timmy is a massive hypocrite.

Bill and I did vote for Mr. Johnson, although we both knew he couldn't win.  I don't think either of us would call ourselves Libertarian per se.  We just felt Johnson was the strongest of the four presidential candidates.  He seemed the least narcissistic and most humane.  He has experience in politics and is not too extreme in his policies, although Libertarians as a rule tend to be more extreme.  Yes, Johnson had his "Aleppo moment", but at least he's somewhat sane.

I actually think Mrs. Clinton was technically the most qualified of the four presidential candidates, but she's had plenty of time in the sun.  I don't like political dynasties or scandals and I had a feeling Mrs. Clinton as president would invite plenty of scandals.  And also... when it came down to it, I knew it wouldn't matter if I voted for Johnson over Clinton because Mrs. Clinton won San Antonio and lost Texas.

My cousin, the self-proclaimed Libertarian, did not vote for Mr. Johnson because he knew Johnson couldn't win.  So, instead of voting for the party he claims his beliefs align with, he voted for Donald Trump, who is an incompetent criminal that brags about sexually assaulting women and has embarrassing meltdowns on Twitter on a daily basis.  And then Timmy has the gall to lecture me and Bill about why Trump will "make America great again."  Bill explained to Timmy that it's true that a third party candidate has almost no chance of becoming president.  However, as long as people will only vote for the one of the two candidates in the major political parties, those two parties will be the only realistic choices we have for leadership.  And we will be stuck with leaders who are dirty and, perhaps, not the best people for the job.

Timmy has also never been abroad.  He has admitted that he's never so much as crossed the Atlantic and had fish and chips in England.  I would be very surprised if he even owns a passport.  His worldview is shaped by his many years living in the southern United States among conservative white people.  I think he has a college degree and he has informed me that he used to sell insurance and was licensed to do so.  I am sure he's technically competent at whatever it is he does.  But he has a very limited perspective of the world.  He's never seen it and apparently hasn't actually interacted with the people he fears.  I would be very surprised if he even knows any Muslims.  Say what you want about my comments about Mormons, but you can't say I don't know any and haven't interacted with them.  In fact, I actually married one.

I suppose there's nothing necessarily "wrong" with staying in one place if that's what one prefers.  However, when a person stays in one place and does not mingle with those who aren't like them, he or she tends to have a narrow viewpoint.  People who don't travel often have very black and white thinking and lack the flexibility to consider other views.  And oftentimes, when you try to talk to the most rigid of people who don't see the need to travel, they come at you with bullying and condescension.

I will admit, I tend to shut down when I talk to people who communicate in that way.  Perhaps that makes me guilty of black and white thinking, too.  I stop hearing anyone who talks to me in a holier-than-thou, condescending tone.  Liberals have done it just as much as conservatives have.  If you want me to listen, you have to approach with a basic modicum of respect.  If you don't, I will put up a wall of my own and simply stop listening.

Anyway... after reading Timmy's latest arguments, Bill posted that he didn't think the discussion was productive.  Then he advised Timmy to get a passport and travel outside of the United States.  I have myself suggested the same thing to Timmy.  I honestly believe he would benefit from having his eyes opened to what life is like beyond the southern United States.  Maybe it wouldn't change his mind much, but I would like to think he might have more empathy toward people who aren't like him.  I truly believe that travel is deadly to racism and closed mindedness and I think Timmy could use a mental enema and an empathy check.

I doubt Timmy will take Bill's advice, which is a real pity.  Timmy thinks he's right and no amount of pointless discussion will change his mind.  He just wants to engage in intellectual masturbation on Facebook.  It's a sport for him.  Too bad.  This will make Thanksgiving with my extended family more awkward... if I ever deign to attend again.