complaints, language, rants

Double Repost: Fired for teaching about homophones and “Leave me alone”

I wrote these two posts in August 2014, days after we arrived in Stuttgart, Germany from Texas. I was tired, irritable, and not in the mood to argue. These posts are the end result of an argument I had on Facebook with yet another former Epinionator (explained in today’s previous post). And since these are related and I don’t want to do two reposts today, I’m combining them for those with a lot of time on their hands.

Bear in mind, both of these posts are about six years old and haven’t been edited to reflect today’s new information or current controversies. I still think getting upset over an innocuous word that just happens to sound like a racial slur is counterproductive, but I am also not in the habit of using the word “niggardly”, for precisely the reason that most people can’t properly define it and could get offended. I just think if people do use it properly, they shouldn’t automatically be branded as racist.

Yesterday, I read the very sad story of Tim Torkildson, a social media specialist at an English language learning center in Provo, Utah.  Mr. Torkildson had a blog and wrote a post about homophones, a staple of every young American child’s early language instruction.  Homophones are words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  Meet and meat are homophones; so are so, sow, and sew.  Actually, when I learned about homophones, they were called homonyms.  But then I moved to another school and encountered the other term.

One would think homophones would be a completely innocuous thing to blog about, especially if one is teaching English to non-native English speakers.  Homophones can be pretty tricky for the uninitiated.  Unfortunately, Mr. Torkildson’s blog post didn’t sit well with his boss, Clarke Woodger, owner of the Nomen Global Language Center.  Mr. Woodger allegedly fired Mr. Torkildson because he fears the blog post will associate his school with “the gay agenda”.

That’s right.  A man who owns a language center tasked with teaching English as a foreign language is afraid to teach students about homophones…  apparently, because he is afraid his potential students will think his school teaches about homosexuals.  Woodger explained to the Salt Lake Tribune that his students come from 58 countries and many have only a basic understanding of English.  If that’s true, would they even necessarily know what the word “homosexual” or the shortened euphemism “homo” means?  

I posted about this on Facebook and remarked that it reminded me of the whole “niggardly” debate.  In 1999, David Howard, who was then working as an aide for Anthony Williams, the mayor of Washington, D.C., used the word “niggardly” to describe how he would have to manage a fund’s tight budget.  The word “niggardly” means miserly or parsimonious.  It sounds a little like the infamous n-bomb, but is actually spelled differently and has absolutely no etymological relation to the word “nigger”.  Mr. Howard used the word properly and not in a racist way at all.  However, a couple of people he was working with were not familiar with the word, which has understandably fallen out of fashion.  Within ten days of using that word, David Howard was handing in his resignation to Mayor Williams, who hastily accepted it.

I remember being pretty disgusted when I heard about this situation, even though I know the word “niggardly” is not exactly a word one hears every day anymore.  I learned the word in a vocabulary lesson when I was in the 9th grade.  Moreover, even if I hadn’t, it seemed to me that a simple conversation about intent and a quick consultation with a dictionary would have cleared up the issue before it ever made the news.  Of course that didn’t happen, and it was a national case…  a very embarrassing national case, especially since the people involved were D.C. government officials who should have known better or at least conducted themselves in a more professional manner.

The controversial word properly defined. I don’t think it’s particularly wise to use it these days, but I do think people should know what it means so they won’t be offended unnecessarily.

I understand that David Howard’s choice to use the word “niggardly” instead of miserly, stingy, or parsimoniously was probably a mistake.  However, I think the bigger mistake was made by the people who ignorantly took him to task for saying something he didn’t actually say.

A very liberal and, I think, terminally guilty Facebook friend of mine took me to task for defending Howard.  He wrote:

“The word “niggardly”, which is archaic, doesn’t mean anything “miserly” doesn’t, so anyone doubling down on the use of it is actually trying to be an asshole. “Homophone” is the only word that means what it means – AND, it doesn’t resemble any offensive word, anyway.” 

Not knowing David Howard personally, I have a hard time discerning if he actually intended “to be an asshole” or just decided he wanted to use a 50 cent word to express himself.  I told my Facebook friend that it was his opinion that using that word makes someone an asshole.

He came back trying to school me with a Wikipedia article about the controversies surrounding the word “niggardly”…  It was an article I had already read, along with an excellent book by Randall Kennedy about the word “nigger”.  The incident regarding David Howard and the DC government was discussed at length in his book, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.  Kennedy, by the way, is a black, left leaning Harvard law professor (or at least he was a professor when the book was published in 2002).  While I don’t use the n-word or even the word “niggardly” myself, I have to admit it was interesting to read about the history of the word.  I would recommend Kennedy’s book to anyone who wants an interesting language lesson.

In any case, while I respect my Facebook friend’s position about not offending people by using words they might not know or that may upset others, I also believe that people have a responsibility to educate themselves about their own language.  They also have a responsibility to stop and think before they react.  Anyone who reads this blog may already know that I am not a fan of “burying language”.  Offensive words that become taboo eventually get replaced by other words that end up needing to be made taboo.  Moreover, changing the language doesn’t necessarily change a painful condition.

I am a big fan of looking at intent, too.  You may hear someone use language that, taken at surface level, sounds offensive.  But I think it makes sense to think about what the communicator was trying to communicate before you react with offense.  As an English major in college, I read a lot of books by black writers.  The so-called n-word was rife in most of those books.  Should I have been offended?  I don’t think so… because that word served a legitimate purpose in what I was reading.  Do I think it’s smart to go around casually using controversial words that may offend people?  Generally not, though there are always exceptions to that rule.  An intelligent person looks at the situation objectively, though.  They don’t pressure a person to resign from a job over misunderstanding a word like “niggardly” and they don’t fire someone over teaching about homophones because they fear people might think they are promoting “the gay agenda” (not that I think that’s necessarily a bad thing to promote).

Of course I understand why people like my Facebook friend think it’s better to just not go there with words like “niggardly”.  It’s very easy to bury taboo words or symbols (or even words that sound like taboo words or symbols) and dismiss them as “offensive”.  It’s a lot more challenging to use your brain and determine the communicator’s intent and whether or not it’s worthwhile to be offended by their message.  I think it’s sad that more people aren’t more willing to use their brains instead of their emotions when they are expressing themselves.    

And here is the follow up post from a couple of days later in which I told the guy to “leave me alone”.

“Leave me alone…”

That’s what I ended up telling my Facebook friend yesterday, after our day long debate on whether or not it’s appropriate to use the word “niggardly”.  This guy, I’ll call him “B”, probably ought to be dropped from my friends list because, to be quite frank, I don’t really like him that much.

My disdain for B started many months before this latest incident.  I have never actually met him in person, but have had a number of online run ins with him.  We don’t tend to agree on a whole lot of issues.  He is much more liberal than I am.  That’s not the reason I don’t like him, though.  The reason I don’t like him is that he seems to think I’m stupid and treats me with condescension.

When I first “met” B on Epinions.com, we didn’t have that many issues.  Every once in awhile, he’d read one of my book or music reviews and leave a comment.  I remember he commented on a review I wrote about a book about military brats.  I was one and now I am married to a retired soldier, so I have also been a military wife.  For some reason, this guy seemed to think that was reason to pity me.  I remember the comment he made referenced how many times kids in military families have to move.   My experience as an Air Force brat didn’t include a lot of moving because my father retired when I was very young.  Moreover, when I was a kid, there were times I wished we would move.

Years after that, I started writing on a blog that he also writes on.  I noticed he would leave comments that on the surface seemed innocuous, but had a weird undercurrent of criticism to them.  It almost felt like he was upset that I was writing on the blog too.  I had been asked by the man who owns the blog to contribute to it, as obviously he was, too.  We have different tastes in music and different writing styles.  But I noticed at first, he would criticize my subject matter or make some comment about how I had written something.  I usually kept my few comments on his articles positive, though if I had wanted to, I probably could have been equally critical.  One time, he criticized me for writing about how to sing better online and the types of equipment you should use.  Then, many months later, he actually asked me for more information on the equipment I use when I make recordings.  Go figure.

I also noticed that a lot of times, I’d post an article and he’d post one too, within hours of my post.  He might not have written for weeks, but by God, he’d pick one of the two days when I almost always post and put new content ahead of mine.  I guess he figures that will mean more people will read his work, but based on what I’ve seen on Statcounter, it’s my articles that get more readings by people who aren’t personal friends or family members.

Because we were writing on that blog, we became Facebook friends.  And every once in awhile, I might post on a topic that he feels inclined to opine about.  That’s fine.  I want my friends to interact with me.  I don’t mind it when we disagree, either.  I just don’t like to be treated with disrespect, and that’s kinda how I felt like he was treating me.  Yesterday, he seemed bound and determined to school me on why my way of thinking is wrong.  It’s not that I didn’t understand him; I just plain disagreed with him.

He kept explaining why the word “niggardly” is rude and ought to be banned.  I kept explaining that “niggardly”, despite sounding like a racial slur, is a totally innocent word.  It honestly has absolutely no relation to the n-bomb.  It is spelled differently.  It has different etymological origins.  It’s actually a much older word that has been used a lot in literature.  And it just plain hasn’t a damn thing to do with the word “nigger”.  It just doesn’t!

Oddly enough, B kept writing that no one has been fired for using the word “niggardly”.  He was referring to my original comment that the post about the Utah homophone debacle reminded me of the “ridiculous niggardly debate” and that I wished people would check a dictionary before they resort to firing people for using words they don’t know.  Now, in B’s defense, I didn’t clearly specify that I was referring to the Utah homophone guy being fired and not David Howard, the D.C. mayor’s aide who was basically forced to resign over his use of the word in 1999.  But it was late; I was jet lagged; and frankly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.  I mean, obviously the guy teaching about homophones should not have been fired and it didn’t occur to me that someone on my friends list hated the word “niggardly” so much.

David Howard, unfortunate utterer of the word “niggardly”, also should not have lost his job, whether through firing or forced resignation (and he did eventually go back to work in a different mayoral office).  My position is that it’s hard to know how many people have been fired for using that word.  B’s is that there are apparently a bunch of right wing pundits out there who make it their business to write about such incidents.  But really, David Howard is hardly a right wing poster child.  He’s gay and worked for the D.C. government, a constituency that is over half black and consistently votes blue.    

B also brought up other examples of people who used the word “niggardly” and had offended people.  Several examples came from schools and universities.  I’m guessing he meant to sway me with those examples, but one of his examples included former University of Wisconsin English major Amelia Rideau, who became upset when her English professor used the word while discussing Chaucer.  She said it sounded too much like the racial slur.  The professor then explained the meaning and origin of the word.  B claimed the professor was doing his job “badly” because he offended his student.  He also brought up the fact that the professor was being paid for his work.  Ms. Rideau went so far as to try to get that word banned from the school, a measure that I find chilling in an academic environment, especially at a public university like the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  If you can’t have a free exchange of ideas without language restrictions in a university environment, where can you have one?  

My position is that Ms. Rideau was paying for an education and should have been open to actually being educated.  She does not get to dictate what words her teacher uses, so long as he’s not using abusive or derogatory language.  The word “niggardly”, despite sounding like a slur, simply isn’t a slur.  It’s neither abusive nor derogatory.  She needed to grow up and get over herself.  Moreover, as an English major, she should have realized that many works of literature include what may be construed as objectionable language.  Read anything by Mark Twain.  Read a slave narrative.  Read any book that tackles racism and you’ll run into truly derogatory language that actually serves a purpose.  Where would the study of literature be if every English major got upset over every encounter with hurtful or racist words?

The fact is, language changes all the time.  Most people don’t use the word “niggardly” casually anymore.  But hell, if you’re in an English class, particularly if it’s college level, where you might be reading literature that includes outdated words, I think you need to be grown up enough to accept that.    

Finally, toward the end of the day, B wrote:

We agree about the “homophone” teacher, firmly — I’ve said so three times. Now four. I’ve explained, as carefully as I could, why the situations are very different. Read it in a few days when you’re not jet-lagged. I’m bored with this too.

I was pretty exasperated by this point and found his final comment a bit insulting to my intelligence.  He basically implied that jet lag was clouding my sense of reason when actually, I just didn’t agree with him and his arguments weren’t swaying my opinion.  I also never saw any indication that he respected my right to disagree with him, while I took pains to explain that my opinions are my own and not represented as facts.  So here is my response:

Good. I’m glad you’re bored with this topic. I don’t think we have a miscommunication; I think we just disagree. Please quit commenting and leave me alone.

I’m sorry it had to end this way.  I really don’t like getting annoyed with people; but I also don’t like being browbeaten by self-righteous twits who refuse to acknowledge or respect a difference of opinion.  I don’t think I was unreasonable, nor am I fighting for the right to use the word “niggardly” in my own day to day conversations.  I just think people need to be more sensible and quit taking offense at every little quirk of the English language.  That’s why I don’t participate in campaigns to ban the “r word” or the “n word” or any other word.  Context and actual intent, people!  Let’s just focus on that instead of trying to eradicate words that may or may not hurt feelings.

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condescending twatbags

Overbearing people are hard to bear…

Yesterday, I was on RfM and noticed that someone had bumped up an old post of mine from 2011. It was a rant I posted about “overly helpful” people. In those days, I had frequent dealings with a woman I only knew online who rubbed me the wrong way on a regular basis. I knew her from a message board that is now defunct, but the drama followed me to Facebook. Finally, in 2014, I blocked her. That decision wasn’t without drama, either. I remember when I finally made the decision to banish her from my online world, I said to Bill, “You just wait. Sometime today, I’ll get an email from her.”

Sure enough, later that day I did get an email demanding to know why I had blocked her. I don’t know about you, but to me, when someone uses the block button on Facebook, it means they don’t want to talk to you or hear from you. As I recall, I ignored her message. In earlier times, I had patiently responded to her, even though she bugged the shit out of me. I had finally had enough of her passive aggressive digs and obnoxiously overbearing comments, and realized that responding to her would only prolong the pain.

I was kind of amused to read that thread, especially since I remembered how I was feeling that day in 2011. She had pushed me to my wit’s end. At that time, the message board we were on was still active and I hadn’t wanted to abandon it, because I liked most of the women there. We were also both admins on the board, so we kind of had to “work” together. A few sympathetic people commented. I noticed that the person who bumped that thread to 2020 had similar issues as mine, which was why the thread was reactivated. These were the behaviors I had observed from her that were making me nuts:

* Chiming in with a “more informed” opinion whenever I’d try to express an opinion.

* Usually having some kind of unsolicited “helpful advice” or “fake concern” for me.

* Playing “devil’s advocate” or presenting a contrary opinion to any given subject I raise.

* Was rarely just supportive, but instead seemed to feel the need to “one up” everybody else and be the “voice of reason”.

* Doesn’t seem to understand or care how condescending and annoying she is to others.

In 2012, that message board where I had regular dealings with that overbearing woman mercifully went kerfluey, and most everyone moved to Facebook. It wasn’t long before I needed to unfriend the woman who had irritated me so much. I just couldn’t take her shit anymore, especially since I tried very hard not to engage her. Fortunately, that wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t seem to notice that I’d unfriended her, probably because we had so many mutual friends. She did her thing. I did mine. It wasn’t until November 2014, when she went too far with her disrespect that I finally pushed the block button. She’s been blocked ever since, and I don’t miss her at all.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about people like that woman. Overbearing people… especially overbearing women… really and consistently grind my gears. I’m not sure why I react to them the way I do. It could be because some of my family members are overbearing, domineering, and disrespectful to me and treat me like I’m stupid when I know I’m not. It’s gotten to the point at which I can barely stand to be around them. So now, when someone is like that to me, I tend to react negatively. If the behavior doesn’t change very quickly, the negative reaction turns into outright contempt. I may be obnoxious and opinionated, but I try not to dictate to people what they should or should not be doing in their own lives, especially when whatever they’re doing doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t like overbearing behavior in men, either, but they seem to annoy me somewhat less than women do. I find controlling women very offensive.

This morning I was thinking of all of the women who have been in significant conflict with me over my lifetime and I’ve noticed that the vast majority of them were very controlling and dictatorial, and quite a few employ manipulative, passive aggressive methods to get others to do their bidding. When those ploys don’t work, they become openly hostile, aggressive, and rude. And… I tend to respond in kind, because I resent being told what to do by people who aren’t necessarily any more qualified than I am in knowing what to do.

Maybe I’m just as bad as they are, though. It’s no secret that I’m loud and opinionated, and my father used to criticize me a lot for being “arrogant” and “bitchy”. Personally, I don’t think I was that arrogant as much as I was strong-willed and independent. My dad was a control freak, and he passed that trait on to a couple of my sisters. As a child, I put up with it because I had to in order to survive. As an adult, to some extent, I don’t really have to put up with it anymore. But I have found that I now have an unusual sensitivity to it… and if a woman is particularly bossy or intrusive to me, it’s a fair bet we’ll eventually have a conflict. Most of the time, it’s not worth trying to work things out with this type of person, because they think they’re right and refuse to compromise.

I remember back in 2011, when I was having regular dealings with the woman who had prompted that thread on RfM, she was pushing me close to the end of my patience. After she’d left me a shaming, demeaning comment on some topic we were discussing, I wrote something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but whether or not you realize it, some of your responses to me are very offensive and condescending. It’s upsetting to me, and I feel like you’ve provoked me to respond in kind.”

The thing is, I had really thought about this response before I posted it. I tried hard to be assertive rather than aggressive. I wanted to enforce my boundaries without making things worse. I hoped she could see my side. But she was offended anyway, and didn’t see where she’d done anything wrong. Sure enough, I got a nasty private message in which she spat, “What was the point of apologizing if you were just going to insult me?!”

I remember taking a deep breath and trying, once again, to respond in a way that would not offend her, yet make her realize that I didn’t appreciate her condescending tone toward me. It didn’t work, and the bullshit continued apace for a few more years, with her continuing to feel free to send me private messages and unsolicited emails. The funny thing is, I don’t remember ever inviting her to correspond with me in such a way. She simply felt emboldened to do so.

Finally, about three years later, we reached the straw that broke the camel’s back. She’d left a nasty little passive aggressive dig in a Facebook comment to me. A mutual friend had posted about legalizing marijuana and asked her friends what we thought of it. The conversation was going well until I mentioned that Bill had lived with “pot head roommates” in college and hadn’t liked the way marijuana had affected them. He doesn’t like smoke, and as someone who works with the government, he’s not allowed to use recreational drugs, anyway.

So the passive aggressive bitch writes, “He’s never lived with alcoholics? 😉 😉 “

It’s possible that her comment was completely innocuous, but usually winking smilies imply a hidden meaning… and I had a feeling she was, once again, subtly insulting me, while trying to appear friendly and innocent. And truthfully, by that point, I had become very sensitive to her communications. Like… it was at the point that almost anything she posted irritated me, no matter how inconsequential. But I got the impression that my “frenemy” was trying to imply that Bill is currently married to an alcoholic, and that’s worse than dealing with potheads.

You see, it’s not a secret that I come from a long line of drunks. I drink, too. Maybe I’m even an alcoholic by some people’s standards. However, I have never met this woman in person and we have certainly never hung out over alcoholic drinks. Maybe my personality is because I drink. Maybe it’s simply the way I am. I don’t see how she’d know, since we never met offline. She seemed to be making an assumption or even a declaration that I have a drinking problem, even though we’ve not met and she’s not a mental health professional.

This wasn’t the first time she’d commented on my drinking habits– alcoholic or not. For some reason, she was unusually concerned about what I drink, even when the beverages weren’t boozy. This same woman often used to lecture me because I used to drink a lot of Diet Pepsi. She said that wasn’t healthy, and would frequently offer me an unsolicited laundry list of why it wasn’t something I should be doing. She’s right that diet sodas are bad for one’s health. I have since given up diet sodas, though not because of her “advice”… and I actually rarely drink non-diet sodas now. I mostly stick to bubbly water, if anyone’s curious. But yes, I do enjoy alcohol, and I admit it. Seems like that’s my business and Bill’s, unless I do something that affects other people negatively.

In any case, I’m certain that she knew her comment was shitty, demeaning, and insulting. It might have been one thing if we were friends and she was legitimately concerned. We weren’t really friends, and she was being rude, yet cowardly, as she was trying not to appear like she was insulting me. I didn’t appreciate it, and decided it was finally time for me to drop kick her off my social media once and for all. Even if she hadn’t meant it as a dig, that’s still the way it came across, and I was so tired of fielding those kinds of comments from her. And then predictably sending me an email demanding to know why I’d blocked her– as if that was some kind of serious affront because, according to her, she never does anything wrong— pretty much made me decide that we don’t need to speak again. I might have reacted differently if her approach had been more respectful, but demanding to know why she’s not allowed to harass me in my space is not cool. Taken alone, that comment was easy to ignore. Taken with all of her other little barbs and subtle insults over the years, it was just too much.

The funny thing is, that happened about five years ago, and I have found that I have even less patience and tolerance for overbearing women. I just feel like I don’t have to take orders from people to whom I am not somehow beholden. In other words, if you’re not paying me to work, someone I live with or love, or someone who has the power to arrest me or do something else life altering, I don’t have to do what you tell me to do. I don’t have to accept abusive criticism, insults, or covert hostility. And if you feel entitled enough to issue orders, act holier-than-thou, be hostile, or otherwise act like a passive aggressive creep, you can just fuck right off. Life is too short to deal with people who can’t be straightforward and civilized.

Anyway… I rarely think about her anymore, which is a good thing. I just thought it was funny that thread from 2011 was revived and so many people seemed to relate to it in 2020. I’m surprised it didn’t get more attention when it was a current concern. Clearly, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, dogs

I can cuss on Facebook if I want to…

This morning on Facebook, I was reminded of a silly discussion that erupted on my page two years ago. It involved my late Uncle Brownlee’s brother-in-law, Ralph. Ralph used to be a Facebook friend, but I deleted him at some point. It probably had a lot to do with the post from two years ago. I do remember writing about this in 2017, but my old blog is no longer available to the uninvited. I think this is a topic worth revisiting, and I can’t think of another right now. So here goes…

Two years ago, I told someone to “fuck off” because he insulted me. He deleted his post, but Ralph decided to chastise me for using the f-word, anyway. This is what Ralph wrote.

Bad words are a dead end. No place on FB.

I was irritated by this comment because it wasn’t the first time he chastised me publicly for cursing on my Facebook page. So I responded thusly:

If it bothers you, you can always hit the fucking unfriend button. Spare yourself and me a lot of fucking grief. I am 45 years old and I will cuss if I fucking want to. Got it?

I actually felt kind of guilty for responding this way, mainly because I was raised not to swear. But I do swear. I swear a whole fucking lot. Some people hate that about me, but others think it’s great. I can’t please everyone. Besides, if the worst you can say about me is that I swear too much, I figure I’m doing alright. Of course, many people can think of worse things about me. Most folks seem to have an issue with the fact that I express myself too much and say or write things they don’t want to hear or read.

Ralph responded with this:

Why cuss words? A valid issue or concern can do without. Get mad, threatek NJ mm w u atbis by th r poin5 Il)

I was confused by this comment, so I wrote:

Why not cuss words? I am a grown woman and I can cuss if I want to. Besides, I don’t believe in bad words. The concept of a word being good or bad is ridiculous. Words are neutral. The word “fucking”, for instance, is only bad because English speakers say it is. There is a community in Austria called Fucking. Do you think they chastise people for swearing when someone speaks of their town?

Instead of having a constructive dialog, though, Ralph stooped to condescension. That’s probably why I kicked him off my page. Actually, before he condescended to me, he insulted Bill for “double dipping”. Ralph has a lot of nerve making that comment, since he’s the king of double dipping. He draws retirement pay from the Army and the Virginia State Police. Even if Bill does “double dip” by earning a salary and retirement pay, what the hell has that got to do with anything? And why is it anyone’s business? There’s no shame in “double dipping”, especially in Europe. It beats being poor.

Deep thought 
All generated by use of bad words 
Holy smoke. Wish that was a ll I had to deal with ij.my life right now÷

Huh? Here was my response.

I don’t know what the hell you’re trying to say here, but I would appreciate it if you would let me be me. I’m not a bad person, nor am I stupid or in need of special guidance from my elders. I promise you that when I need to be articulate, I can be articulate. I don’t even have to use what you refer to as “bad words”. But I choose to swear sometimes and that is my right as a grown ass American. If it offends you, there are steps you can take to spare yourself the injury. I, for one, will fucking cuss as much and whenever I want to… especially on Facebook. Good night.

Unfortunately, like most of my relatives and their associates, Ralph was dismissive.

You go girl. Get it all out.

I was a tad more respectful in my response than I probably should have been.

You know I will. And I know you have heard worse than I’ll ever say.

In retrospect, I probably should have just told him to go fuck himself. It would have had the same effect. I don’t know why I bother trying to have a civilized conversation with some people. The older I get, the less I’m inclined to keep trying to talk to them. I guess this is my baggage… growing up in a family where most people didn’t take me seriously and discounted most everything I had to say. I’ll admit that I don’t always say smart or interesting things, but I’m not dumb, nor am I in need of special help from my elders. I’m long beyond having been raised. Take it or leave it. And let me cuss if I want to. I’m allowed. If you don’t like it, you know what you can do… and where you can go.

In other news… my sweet Zane has swollen submandibular lymph nodes. Naturally, I am concerned about cancer– namely lymphoma. However, I have some hope that the swelling is related to a dental problem, since the nodes aren’t huge and one side is bigger than the other is. His teeth and gums are pretty nasty and he’s due for a dental cleaning. However, he’s also covered with lumps and has had mast cell tumors. He’s also got a bit of a potbelly, which concerns me a little bit.

On the positive side, Zane is still bright, pooping and peeing, wants to eat soft stuff, and still loves to take walks. Really, he wants to eat everything, but I suspect dry food might hurt to eat. We’re going to get him to the vet. Hopefully, at the very least, they can give him something that makes him feel better. And if it’s just his teeth, we can get that sorted out.

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complaints

Do you mind? I wasn’t talking to you.

Happy Friday, everyone. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, and I’m a bit cranky. I feel this way, even though it’s Friday, and we’re leaving town. Eh… I’ll get over it eventually… perhaps even after I’m finished writing this post. It’s another one of my venting posts, so brace yourself for negativity, inappropriateness, and bitterness. Here goes.

Recently, USAA has decided to employ an annoying new security feature on its Web site. It wasn’t enough for USAA to force its customers to answer their two security questions with every log in. Now, you must have them send a code by text or email. This is supposed to help thwart hackers.

One would think I’d be all for thwarting thieves from plundering my bank account, and of course I do want my accounts to be secure. However, this new system is really annoying to me, because they send a different code with every log in. The codes are usually on a time limit and sometimes they don’t come immediately. Sometimes, I’m not in a place where it’s possible to access private email accounts. For instance, Bill can’t get on his Gmail account when he’s at work, neither is he allowed to have his cell phone with him. I don’t want to have to go to my email account every time, just so I can access my banking information. Then, there are people who are low or no Internet users, like my mom. This new level of security could be onerous for a person like her.

Bill and I have a few joint accounts which are accessible from my account, but every once in awhile, I need to get into his USAA account. With this new system, they would be sending the code to his email instead of mine, which would not be helpful. That’s annoying, too, especially since we didn’t ask for this new level of security. By the way, Bill is fine with me accessing his account when I need to. Sometimes, he goes to places where he can’t get to it himself, so it’s good that I can. We’re married, and he trusts me.

So anyway, I have endured this new system for just under two weeks. Yesterday, I decided to make my displeasure known to USAA. I know… what nerve! But how to do it? I started with the obvious.

I went on their Web site and looked for a way to leave a general comment. I searched for several minutes for a simple email link or comment form. The only way I could leave a comment, though, was by using a form that restricted the subjects only to comments about investments or insurance. I could find no way to offer general feedback using a form; I would have had to engage in a chat, which is not what I felt like doing yesterday. Oh, I guess I could have also called them– or Skyped– but I didn’t feel the need to engage with a human over this. I just wanted to make my voice heard without a big “to do”. It seemed an impossible feat, which I’m sure is entirely by design.

Frustrated that I couldn’t send a simple, private comment to USAA, I went to their Facebook page. I left the following comment, which was answered by a USAA customer service rep, and then rebutted by another customer…

Who asked you?

All I wanted to do was leave a simple comment about the new system. I would have preferred to be able to do it privately, but since that wasn’t an option that I could find within a few minutes of looking, I posted on Facebook. I got what I wanted when the rep said he would forward my feedback to the right people. Whether or not he actually does it, I will never know. But it made me feel better to make my voice heard. This is how systems improve. If no one ever raises issues or complains, the system stays the way it is– inconvenient, annoying, and not functional for everyone. Speaking up is a very useful American value. It’s how things evolve.

But then, I get a comment from a total stranger, who feels the need to invalidate my comment with her praise. The new system doesn’t bother her; ergo, I should shut up and color, or… since I don’t like the new security measures, I obviously don’t understand them and need her to explain them to me. At least that’s how it seemed to me in my cranky, pre-caffeinated state of mind this morning. I was tempted to leave a response that matched my crabby mood, but decided to simply be blunt. Hopefully, she’ll get the message that I wasn’t talking to her and don’t necessarily value her input. She can always leave her own positive comment to USAA, which I guess would nullify mine.

I’m sure the lady who left her comment thought she was being helpful. I guess she thinks USAA needs someone to defend them from little ol’ me. She apparently assumed that I don’t know about two party security systems. She has no way of knowing that my husband has an advanced degree in cybersecurity and has already told me all about it, plus I can Google with the best of them. I get that. However, I find it very irritating when someone basically tries to tell another person to “shut up” by contradicting them, trying to school them, or both. I do understand that this is the way of the Internet. People are always going to “chime in” on these things and meddle in other people’s business. I can’t change that, and I know it. It’s still exasperating. Mind if I vent?

This probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if it hadn’t been a running theme my whole life. People have been trying to shut me up since birth, even when I’m being polite. It only makes me more determined to communicate.

I’m sick and tired of people trying to silence other people whose opinions they either don’t appreciate or haven’t considered. And, maybe it’s childish of me, but I’m especially tired of people telling me how I should respond, what tone I should be using, and what my feelings should be. As a fellow member of USAA, I have as much right to be heard as anyone else does. Most of the time, I don’t even leave a lot of comments or complaints. When I do speak up, I’d simply like to be heard and acknowledged. To USAA’s credit, they did hear and respond to me, and quickly, too. Responses from the peanut gallery are not required.

Yeah, I know this rant probably makes me sound like a nut. Fortunately, I don’t go out unsupervised very often.

Sigh… ah well. I need to pack my bags and get ready to blow out of here for a much needed respite. With any luck, my Scottish friends will make me laugh with repeated and unapologetic utterances of random swear words as we walk down the street. Maybe I’ll find time to write. Maybe I won’t. Bless my sweet husband for putting up with his sourpussed wife.

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complaints, condescending twatbags

“That’s Attila to you…”

Sorry about the picture… one of my other pet peeves is people who use single letters and numbers to communicate instead of actual words. It was just too perfect for this post.

It’s Monday morning. I had kind of a boring weekend. I meant to go out and do stuff, but it was rainy and chilly and I didn’t feel like venturing out. In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to go out and do something. I spend too much time at home. I guess I was just in the mood to be a homebody after last week’s big trip. Besides, Bill was tired after a long week at work. He needed the rest.

Anyway… although I was at home and probably could have done something constructive, I mostly hung out with Bill and talked. We also binge watched the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve been watching it on my own on Hulu, but he hadn’t seen any of the new episodes. It’s probably a bad idea to binge watch that show because it usually gives me nightmares. I think The Handmaid’s Tale coupled with the news equals strange dreams.

While we were watching the show, I got a message from SingSnap. Some guy liked my recording of “Faded Love”. Awesome. I like to do old Patsy Cline songs sometimes. However, although he left me a very nice comment, he also broke one of my cardinal rules. He called me “hun”.

Dude… don’t call me hun!

I have ranted extensively about my dislike of cutesy pet names, particularly from strangers. I especially dislike “sweetie” and “hon” (or “hun”). Of course, I sometimes call Bill “sweetie”, but he’s my husband and he is actually a very sweet, kind person. He calls me “darling”, which doesn’t bother me at all. Why? Because we’re intimate. Despite my occasionally abrasive personality and general slovenliness, he still loves me. He knows me well enough to think of me as “darling”, despite everything that could easily turn him off about me. Therefore, he has the right to call me by a cute pet name. Strange guys on SingSnap don’t, and really shouldn’t. Seriously. It skeeves me out on several levels.

I have a lot of reasons for not liking pet names, particularly from strangers. Generally speaking, I find them condescending and diminishing. Aside from that, if you’d call a stranger “hun”, you’d call anyone hun, so it’s not even a real term of endearment. The guy also could have clicked on my profile and discovered my real name, which is Jenny. Now, if you get to know me and come up with a clever nickname for me, I wouldn’t necessarily object to that, as long as the nickname isn’t offensive. For instance, when I was in high school, there were some people who called me “genitalia” because my first and maiden names said together sounded vaguely like “genitalia”. Also, I say gross things sometimes. But I once had a boss who called me “Blossom”, short for “Gin Blossom” (the band), because my name is Jenny and I sing… and I probably also have a few gin blossoms, although he’s never referenced them.

I posted about this on Facebook, because I have friends who know all too well how I feel about this issue. One friend quipped that it didn’t immediately register with her that the guy was actually calling me “hon” and misspelling it. She wondered why he was calling me a Hun, which is defined thusly:

Hmm… calling someone a “hun” is not exactly a nice thing to do…

It occurred to me that I should respond to him by saying, “That’s Attila to you.” So I just did…

He probably won’t come back to read this. I haven’t checked out his open duets yet, because I don’t sing on the weekends. That’s my time with Bill. I probably should sing, though. It would keep me from bitching so much.

The guy who left the above comment, doesn’t know me from Adam. If he did get to know me, he’d quickly discover that I’m about as “sweet” as a turnip or an unripened radish. My personal flavor profile is definitely more bitter, sour, salty, and spicy than sweet. In fact, he could have called me Madame Bitterness and that would have been more accurate than “hun”. It also would have indicated that he actually knows me and, therefore, is qualified to bestow a name on me not given by my parents.

I can be nice. I can be kind. But few people would describe me as sweet, like honey. Not even Bill would. I asked him once if he thought I was “sweet”. His response was, “I think you have a sweet voice.” Fair enough. On the other hand, I probably am a bit like a Hun. Especially when I’m really pissed. Maybe my admirer was right to call me “hun” as opposed to “hon”, although he should have realized that Hun is a proper noun. Somehow, I don’t think he was thinking of warlike Asian people when he referred to me as “hun”.

On another note, the guy might have a nice voice, however, his comment, while basically complimentary, is kind of patronizing. I’m flattered that he likes how I sing “Faded Love”, but it’s poor form to pimp your recordings on someone else’s recordings. Also, I might find that I disagree that we should duet. He might not be as good as he thinks he is… or he might be as good as he thinks he is, but then try to tell me my business, which I don’t like.

Music is really something I do for fun, and to stay sane. I take it seriously, but not that seriously. If we were in Nashville making a real record, I might be more deferential… but this is SingSnap. I might also be more inclined to check him out if he’d asked me to listen to his stuff, rather than telling me to do it. I guess I’m stubborn like that… probably much like Attila the Hun was. Now, all I need to do is grow myself a dick and try to conquer the Romans and besiege Constantinople.

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