Inhuman Swill : Discussions

A question of waste

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Laura and I became involved in a brief argument Sunday morning, not with each other but with a woman who loudly accused us of not picking up after Ella. She did this from some distance away, crossing the street toward us on a diagonal. After some hostile back-and-forth, I think we managed to convince the woman that the deposit our dog had just made was liquid in form and not solid, but our case was not helped by the fact that Ella had done so in the midst of a whole lot of old turds that had freshly been revealed by the melting snow.

The woman was understandably upset by the fact that some irresponsible owner was failing to pick up after his or her dog, and indeed this upsets us as well. It's not just that we sometimes get blamed for other people's failings. It's just ugly and unhygienic, and it's a hazard to the soles of one's shoes.

But the argument itself was upsetting enough that Laura and I spent a while afterward trying to come up with some better responses to false accusations of failing to scoop poop. How do you pithily yet politely point out to someone that the act they thought they saw was really something different, and head off an angry confrontation? Preferably it would something more disarming than simple denial.

The best we came up with, though I'm still not sure it's very good, was this: "I've tried and tried, but I still haven't figured out how to pick urine up off the ground."

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Another reader of Science Fiction Weekly has plenty to say about C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, without ever having seen it.

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The one argument I won

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I have a certain ex who was always very . . . willful. Once we came to a corner together in the city. A mother and child shared the corner with us. There was no traffic, but the mother was telling the child to wait for the light to change before crossing. The ex began to step off the curb. I stopped her. "There are no cars coming," she said in the tone of voice that was like the warning crackle of ice beneath my skates.

"This woman is trying to teach her child not to cross the street against the light," I said quietly. "You're going to compromise the lesson."

So she relented and didn't cross the street. I don't remember winning many other arguments, but the ones I did were always like that one—quiet. I never won the screaming matches. There must be a must lesson in there somewhere, if she didn't compromise it for me somehow.

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A toss-up (as in cookies)

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I'm looking at a map at CNN.com and feeling like tossing my cookies. I mean, the facts aren't as bad as all that. Going into the election this morning, Gore has 181 electoral votes locked up (12 states plus DC), to Bush's 224 (26 states). Up for grabs are 133 electoral votes from 12 "toss-up" states.

It doesn't sound so hopeless for those of us who would prefer to see Gore in the White House than that empty suit George Dubya. However, if you look at the map, it sure looks scary, because Bush has most of those big empty western and midwestern states. Gore has California and Minnesota and Illinois and New York and no other geographically imposing states. Areawise, it looks like Bush has about 90% of the country in his deep, deep pockets. I feel sick.

I can't tell you how glad I am to live in a state that's going to Gore. That frees me up to vote my conscience: Ralph Nader. I'd like to see the Green Party get matching federal funds in the next election and start bringing a viable third candidates back into the political discourse. My vote for Nader in New York is not likely to hurt Gore's chances of winning this state's electoral votes.

That's why I'm so puzzled by the woman who followed Laura and me into Old Navy on Saturday. We were checking out some cheap clothing on Sixth Avenue (that's Avenue of the Americas to you out-of-towners), and the street was crawling with Democrats "getting the word out" for the Gore-Lieberman-Clinton ticket. (I had to consciously remind myself that the "Clinton" meant that carpetbagger Hillary.) A myopic woman with a bad dye job was passing out these leaflets in front of Old Navy. "Vote for Gore!" she said to us as we entered the store.

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Here comes the firestorm

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I knew this was going to happen, but that doesn't make it any less aggravating now that it has.

See, as part of this Mormon missionary memoir of mine, I've divulged secrets of the Mormon temple ceremony that I'm not supposed to talk about. In fact, I took gruesome oaths on my life in the Mormon temple never to reveal the contents of that ceremony.

Now that the book is picking its paraplegic way toward publication, I figured I should give my parents a heads-up about the coming betrayal. (Not only will the book contain, early on, this temple material, but I've also culled those pages out as an excerpt for my agent to try to sell to some major magazine.) I emailed my parents, told them about the contents and purpose of my book, and offered to let them see what I had written so far so they could be prepared for the consequences. My mother asked to see the book so I sent it to her a couple of weeks ago.

Well, this morning I received the following loving email from one of my siblings (I have seven):

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

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William Shunn

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