Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tim-Alone No More

So I started this blog a year and a half ago, a week after my ex moved out. At the time, I called it "Tim Alone" because it was in opposition to Timbecca, which had been our joint blog.

I chose the URL (This was because Timal One was already taken.)

Some time later I changed the name of the blog to Just Tim, although I was unable to change the URL. For a long while now I have been uncomfortable with this URL, because it sounds whiny and pathetic.

I've been trying to figure out how to change the URL of this blog while keeping the old one, so that people trying to visit the old address would just be forwarded to the new one. It does not appear possible.

So it looks like the only option is to create yet another new blog. So I introduce The Timblog, the eighth blog I've had in my life. It will be a continuation of this one, posting whatever weird shit pops into my mind, mostly updates of my life, half-read book reviews, and the occasional rant on politics thrown in.

Please update your bookmarks to the new address:

Thanks for reading. Both of you.

Tim Alone is officially retired.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Let Me Insulate You

When I bought my house last July, the home inspector said the insulation in the attic was too thin. I guess by 1950's standards, having 3-4 inches of insulation is fine. But insulation requirements have escalated over the years, and now they recommend 9-12 inches. I'm guessing in a another thirty years they'll recommend you just fill your entire house with insulation and burrow through it like a hamster.

Everyone told me that it would be easy: you just buy it in rolls and roll it out. No problem! Even a novice homeowner like me could do it. Look at how easy it is for this guy:

There are several things I would like to point out about this picture:
  • The area is well-lit
  • There is nothing but infrastructure and insulation there-- no random objects to get in the way of the rolls
  • That room is pristine
  • Although he has gloves and a mask, he's not wearing glasses
  • He's not hunched over like he lives in the bell tower of Notre Dame
  • He's not crawling on his belly trying to get into the corners
  • He's not coughing or rubbing his eyes
  • There's no bubble of swear words emanating from his head
  • He has meaty forearms that tells you he's done this type of thing before. Even if any of the above conditions were not perfect, you know he'd be able to handle it.
My experience was not so ideal. First of all, I'm afraid of heights, so maneuvering off of and onto the ladder to get into the attic is an exercise in terror. It's pitch black up there. After two trips to the hardware store, I finally found a light that would work, but I still have to point it in the right direction, and if I get between it and what I'm looking at, there's a shadow.

Once I'm up in the attic, there's tons of crap up there. In the past month I have discovered hideous carpet remnants from every decade of the second half of the 20th century:

Every time I go up there, I find more carpet remnants hidden in lost corners. I've been slowly throwing them out. Not only are they ugly, but like every thing in my attic, they are DIS-GUST-ING. Everything in the attic is covered in soot and dirt and schmutz and whatever the hell else has collected up there in 50 years.

But carpet remnants aren't the only thing in the way up there. A stack of tiles for the kitchen ceiling, a bunch of long rods I can't identify, a screen door. In the middle of the attic, taking up a huge chunk of real estate, is my air conditioning unit. It's sitting on top of huge plywood boards, and I can't very well insulate under those. There are also tons of random boards placed across the joists (the vertical boards that the insulation fits between.) Some of these boards are nailed down, some are not. These make it easier to walk up there, but you can't put insulation over them (or under them very well.)

So to do a thorough job I have to move the boards that can be moved, and try to stuff the insulation under the ones that can't. The image of simply rolling out the insulation is a lie; there are a hundred different sections up there, and each one has different needs.

Because of the fiberglass insulation fibers that cut into your skin, I have to cover my body. I wear gloves and a mask and a hat. I wore my old beat up painter's hat from high school: Go Grimsley Whirlies! I also wear glasses, so when I try to breathe with the mask on, it fogs up my glasses. Then it gets really hot up there, and I start to sweat, and the sweat falls into my glasses. So I'm blind, hot and sweaty; and trying to negotiate walking on the joists so I don't fall through the floor. Eventually I decided to just take off my glasses.

Not only is the roof slanted, but whenever I try to move around, beams appear at random locations to smack me on the head. There are also nails sticking out from the ceiling. (Maybe from where they nailed in the shingles?) I hit my head about 20 times in an hour and a half. That's also about the same number of times I yelled a word that rhymes with "udderplucker."

Finally, after getting the hang of it, I was able to install two rolls of insulation. I did the section over the couch in my living room, where I spend the most time. I would estimate that it's only about 10% of the surface area of the attic, though. I have a lot more work ahead of me if I plan to insulate the whole thing.

After I cleaned all the debris (carpet remnants, etc.) off the garage floor, I went inside to take off my clothes, which were filthy. When I took off my hat, I noticed this:

Notice the tear in it along with a red stain. Is that my blood? I wonder. Oh, shit, I guess one of those nails got me! No wonder it hurt like an udderplucker.

I take a shower, hoping to get all the fiberglass fibers and other detritus off of me. As an illustration of how filthy my attic is, whenever I go up there (even when I wear a mask) and I blow my nose afterward, whatever comes out is gray. Hardcore gray, if there is a such a word.

After my shower I use a mirror to look at the back of my head. Besides the depressing hurricane-shaped hole in my thinning hair, I see where the nail got me.

I guess this is a bonding moment with my house. I'm giving it my blood, sweat, and tears. And in return it's trying to give me tetanus. That's love for you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Alleged Shooter

The shooting at Fort Hood is a horrifying story. Not only is it terrible that American soldiers, already skittish about having to go into a war zone, have to deal with some nutjob going berserk at home. It's also unfortunate that the nutjob happened to be Muslim, because now there's sure to be a backlash toward all Muslims, based on this one very troubled individual's action.

But those are all delicate issues that I don't want to get into here. Being a language guy, the thing that I keep noticing is the phrase the media is using to describe the shooter.

They keep referring to him as the "alleged shooter," as if the jury is still out on his guilt. As if he didn't mow down dozens of people in broad daylight in front of hundreds of witnesses, stopped only when the police shot him down. I know it's a legal technicality-- you have to add the word "alleged" to any suspect in a crime case. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I get that.

But in this case it just sounds kind of silly. To me it's like saying the "alleged plane" crashed into the Alps. Or the "alleged hurricane" hit Miami beach. The "alleged fireman" saved the kitten from the tree.

Is there any doubt, legal or otherwise, who did this?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Homophobia and the Church

Sometimes I can't decide which blog to use for a certain post. Since this deals primarily with religion, I posted it to my Timicism blog:

John Shelby Spong: Honorary Timicist.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gay Hemingway

I've been listening to Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and although it's an interesting book, there are some slow moments. But I woke the hell up when the narrator started reading this passage:
...Golz was gay and he had wanted him to be gay too before he left, be he hadn't been.

All the best ones, when you thought it over, were gay. It was much better to be gay and it was a sign of of something too. It was like having immortality while you were still alive. That was a complicated one. There were not many of them left though. No, there were not many of the gay ones left. There were very damned few of them left...
The 12-year-old boy in me had to giggle at this passage. Haha, he said he wants to be gay!!

But it's an interesting illustration of how language changes. Obviously in 1940 Hemingway was not talking about homosexuality. (Because of course there were no gays back then!) Even with the current meaning of the word, it's still a very interesting passage. But I wonder what Hemingway would think if he knew how the meaning of his words had changed.

It makes you wonder what innocuous words we use today will take on a whole new meaning in the future. I mean, what if the word hope someday becomes slang for flatulence? Or tired turns into horny? Or facebook becomes a sexual position? (If any of these examples come true, you read it here first.)

It's like historical Mad Libs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I started watching the movie Superbad two years ago.

I didn't finish it until this week.

I went to see the movie in the theater when it came out. And although I liked it, my mom was sitting right next to me. And her 80-year-old husband was right next to her. It's not the kind of movie you want to see with your parents.

All we knew about the movie before we went was that it was a comedy produced by Seth Rogan, who had also done the 40 Year Old Virgin. My mom had seen and enjoyed that movie, despite the subject matter, because it was funny and (basically) innocent and had a nice message.

But Superbad is a whole different kind of funny. High school boys trying to get laid and talk of nothing but sex in the most graphic language, and try to score alcohol illegally (to aid their quest to get laid.) With every "fuck" and "handjob" and "dick", I squirmed a little more in my seat, knowing that my mother was right next to me. Half way through the movie, when a creepy guy hits one of the boys with his car and then offers to take them to a party, I got a foreboding sense of pedophilia. I turned to my mom and said, "Are you enjoying this? Do you want to leave?" She said yes.

Then I put Superbad in my Netflix queue. At any given time there's usually 60-70 movies on the list, and I must be going through about 30 movies a year, because it took about two years for Superbad to work it's way to the top of the queue. I just got it last week.

Watching the whole thing through, with my cats, was a much better experience. I laughed. I cried. I cringed. At one point near the end I yelled at Michael Cera's character for wimping out when the girl he pines after comes on to him (probably because I would have wimped out the same way in high school.)

But the movie redeemed itself with a sweet ending. Despite all the language and lechery, it turns out not to be just another Teenagers Getting Laid movie. It's about growing up.

And dick jokes. Lots and lots of dick jokes.

Roger Ebert agrees with me. (Or maybe I agree with him?)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Lottery Mentality

Here's a test to determine where you are on the fiscal political spectrum:
  • In 2004, the average American CEO at a large company was payed 431 times the pay received by the the average worker at their company.
  • In 1980, that ratio was 42 to 1.
  • In Japan, in 2004, it was 10 to 1.
I read these numbers in a book which only cited this article. Unfortunately, that article only provides the first statistic. I don't know where the other two numbers came from. I spent way too much time tracking down the other numbers, and while I couldn't find them specifically, I found tons of data that supports the point, which is that the gap between the rich and the poor in this country has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, and specifically over the past 10. (Of those that I found, this article probably does the best job of summarizing the issue, as well as makes most of the points I planned to make in this blog, rendering the rest of my argument redundant.)

But the point is, whether these specific numbers are accurate or not, your reaction to them will tell you where you stand politically.

If you're a liberal, those numbers bother you. A lot. Congratulations! You have a social conscience.

But conservatives, at least the ones I've talked to, are not phased by such numbers. Either they look at you like you just told them that rich people make a lot of money ("Well, duh") or they actively defend the numbers. What's the big deal? Poor people are still making more than they did. It's the "rising tide lifts all boats" theory. If rich people are doing well, it means the economy is doing well. It's better for everyone.

Well, maybe. But if you believe in any kind of fairness, how can you really justify someone making 400 times what other people make? Do they work 400 times harder than their workers? Put in 400 times more hours? Do they need 400 times the income to support their families? Is their personal risk 400 times greater than the workers? Does Jesus love them 400 times more?

Aside from the inherent unfairness of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, there are practical concerns. It's just not sustainable. A strong economy requires a strong middle class. When the gap between the rich and the poor widens, the middle class shrinks. This is bad for everyone: the rich, the poor, and the (shrinking) middle.

Like liberals, there are conservatives in every income bracket. The thing I don't get is why poor and middle class conservatives support policies that only seem to help out their rich compatriots. It's certainly not reciprocal-- the rich ones aren't looking out for the poor & middle class ones.

So why are conservatives so concerned about protecting the rights of rich people? I think it stems from something I call the "lottery mentality." A lot of people in America need to believe that, at any moment, they might strike it rich. Or maybe, through a lifetime of hard work, they will one day become a member of the wealthy elite. There's certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence for this, even if the odds of a typical poor person becoming a member of the wealthy elite are less than getting hit by lightning. But in the slight chance that that might happen, they want to protect their interests.

This belief in the lottery mentality is so strong that Americans are willing to forgo many social safety nets that exist in every other industrialized country. Their hope for winning the lottery is more important than leading a comfortable, yet modest, middle class existence.

Two examples of this: Back during the 2004 election, I heard many people bashing the Democrats for wanting to increase taxes (or just roll back Bush's tax cuts) on the richest Americans. I heard one person complain thusly: "Kerry and Edwards are already rich, now they want to stop the rest of us from getting rich!"

I don't get how increasing the tax on the wealthiest Americans a few percentage points would prevent you from getting rich. Seriously, the only thing holding you back from unimaginable wealth is having to pay a few extra grand in taxes? Really? Are are you so caught up in the lottery mentality that it personally offends you when a rich person loses more income than you'll ever make in a year?

The Daily Show sent Wyatt Cenac to Sweden a few months ago to report on the "socialist state" there. It appears that the lottery mentality does not exist in Sweden.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

They show a clip on 50 Cent showing off his huge palace in some American documentary show:

50 CENT: I want to show you my crib.
CENAC: ...the possibilities of capitalism.
50 CENT: [In a huge room with a theater-sized TV.] I be in here watching, you know, kung fu flicks and pornos.

Then Cenac visits Robin, "Sweden's biggest pop star." She lives in what looks like a modest apartment. She has a twin bed set up in a small living room for her mother-in-law.

CENAC: Let's check out the kitchen in Robin's crib. We're checking out—. Is that the biggest TV you have?
ROBIN: Yeah, that's the biggest TV. I only have that one, actually.
CENAC: [Looking at a bunch of bags under the table.] Alright, so somebody's been doing some shopping.
ROBIN: Uh, no, it's my recycling station.
CENAC: Alright. This isn't [bleeped] working. [To camera] No. Cut it, cut it.

CENAC (voiceover): It was shocking. Sweden's pop stars live like our reality show stars.

In the second part of this report, Cenac compares the American lottery mentality to that in Sweden. Our pop stars (50 Cent):

Get Rich or Die Tryin'
Their pop stars (guy from ABBA):

Live Comfortably and Die in a State Hospital

Why are Americans so scared of that message?