Thursday, December 10, 2015

Everything's a Violation!

I got my hands on an employee handbook today, and I spent this afternoon reading over parts of it. Y'know, because I'm all boring like that.
But it's actually really interesting. For instance, an employee of this company could be fired for communicating in any way with his/her coworkers or for making slightly-off-color jokes in a private message on Facebook or Twitter.

I'll start with the first one, because it's a bit juicier.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Your Facts Interfere With My Paranoia

Washington County Board of Education member Karen Harshman is angry and frightened. Perhaps in a "sour grapes" moment regarding the recent funding controversy, she's spouting the old trope every suburbanite in Washington County seems to believe: that Hagerstown is a crime-ridden Hell-hole (no, it's not). She said:

"I wouldn't walk from one end of the block to the other in Hagerstown at night. And I certainly would not want my child there"

Well, fuck you too, bitch.

Mayor Gysberts, much to his credit, called her up to discuss this comment of hers. She hung up on him. She says he was yelling at her and "the conversation had taken an immature pattern." He says, essentially, that the woman wouldn't listen to reason, which I'm inclined to believe.

Mayor Gysberts called her back, leaving her a message "inviting her to sit down with him and Acting Police Chief Paul Kifer to review data about crime in Hagerstown." Apparently, she has not yet listened to that message because "I really have no desire to talk to him."

It's nice to know what reasonable, mature people we have in our local government.

For those of you who might read this who aren't from the area, it might help you to know that the city is poor compared to the county, we have a large homeless population, and (OMG) a lot of the people who live downtown are black. Harshman is white, affluent (at least for the area), and I would be shocked if homelessness ever came close to affecting her or her family. She's a typical middle-class county-dweller. These people know nothing of the city, have never lived downtown and believe every myopic thing the Herald Mail says.

Speaking of the Herald Mail, I do have to give them credit for not only reporting on this, but also telling both sides of the story, providing some background information, and putting it on the FRONT PAGE of the newspaper. Awesome. Way to go!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Woman Lawyer

Recently I was talking with an acquaintance about the problems in Hagerstown, namely how little the county commissioners and city council care about any part of Hagerstown outside a one-block radius from the square. This acquaintance is an older woman - I'd guess in her 60's or 70's - and is very outspoken. She's extremely socially progressive and is constantly going on (and on and on) about how much our country has let down the poor, the minorities, etc. She comes across a bit like a frustrated hippie.

The conversation twisted and turned, as conversations are wont to do, and eventually came to my husband's and my plans to move to Baltimore soon so I can go to law school*. I jokingly made a comment along the lines of, "Maybe if I'm a lawyer, the city council will pay attention to what I have to say." To which my acquaintance sadly replied:

"Yeah, but you'll be a woman lawyer."

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Letter to my Fellow 20-somethings

Dear fellow young people:

Life is not fair.

Life is not safe.

Friday, August 21, 2015


     This morning, five minutes before having to catch the bus, I realized that I did not have any change to pay for the bus ride. The smallest bill I had was a five, bus fare is $0.85 for students. (I know, that is really cheap compared to big cities. Hagerstown is wonderful.) I didn't really want to spend $4.15 more than I had to, but, needing to get to work, I was prepared to suck it up and pay the extra. Not that I missed my opportunity to ask for change for the five from the other person waiting for the bus - but she didn't have it. Neither did the driver when I asked her.
     Then I had what some may refer to as a "moment of privilege." Before I could insert the $5 bill into the machine, the driver said to me, "If you don't have it, don't worry about it - just pay me the next time." I thanked her and sat down.
     I am white, young, married, female, straight, able-bodied, etc. But none of that was my "privilege" in this situation.
     Would the elderly disabled black woman who got on the bus before me have had the same thing happen to her in that situation? Yes, absolutely. Because she and I share the same set of relevant "privileges:" familiarity, friendliness, and honesty.
     She and I are both regular riders on that route; we both are on a first-name basis with most of the drivers; we both look the driver in the eye and say, "Hello, how are you," in a genuinely friendly tone when we get on the bus and, "Thank you," when we get off the bus. The drivers can feel at least moderately certain in both our cases that we will pay what we owe the next time around.
     I just happened to be the one that didn't have change today.

     It's also called "respect" in some circles. Generally, people in those circles agree that "respect" must be earned and that one gets it by giving it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Psalm 109

Yesterday, this non-Christian was idly flipping through a copy of the Bible. It's an interesting book, and Christianity can be a very good religion. I've written about this before.

But yesterday I discovered Psalm 109.

And, considering my usual reading material and the context of the psalm itself, I couldn't help but think of a particular group of people who should rightfully be considered heroes in our society. The connection is a very obvious one and I'm sure I'm not being original in this at all. But it's news to me, so I've rewritten the psalm. If you're offended by this, fuck off. This isn't the blog for you.

Monday, June 8, 2015

City: "We should make it harder for people to help others"

The City of Hagerstown thinks people are helping other people too much and they want to know if they can make that illegal. No, I am not making this shit up. I'm merely mildly paraphrasing.

The title of that article is "City seeks help to slow growth of downtown social-service groups." The worst part is that the writer of the article completely fails to question whether it is a good idea to do so, you know, by getting the other side of the story, from those who run these programs or those who use them, like a good journalist. But then again, it's the Herald Mail. They don't have any good journalists.

Unlike many from my generation, apparently, I am not one to take offense easily. I try my damnedest to see both sides of a situation and am more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt than otherwise. But this is really fucking offensive.

Why the Sheriff shouldn't have Grenade Launchers

Shit like this is exactly why no one in their right mind should trust LEOs with grenade launchers.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cool Thing of the Day: St. John's Shelter

St. John's Episcopal Church in Hagerstown runs a five-apartment homeless shelter downtown. It is specifically for homeless families. Each family gets its own apartment for the duration of their stay at the shelter, and it is in every way just like having your own place.

I should know; our family stayed there when I was six years old. Over Christmas. At that time, the church only had three apartments, one of which was occupied by a caretaker (I think her name was Betty?), so it was our family and one in the apartment above us. The church was later able to buy the building next door, adding three new units and more than doubling the number of families they could help.

Now, I can't claim to remember the specifics of their program, but I understand from what my mother has said over the years that the people who run the shelter really do try hard to help out families. They provide parents with information, resources, and emotional support. We had to give up nearly everything back then, and we kids barely felt the loss.

That Christmas was amazing. Everything we got was donated by members of the church. And boy were they generous! We had TWO turkeys. We had our own Christmas tree in our living room. Sure, there wasn't a star or an angel as a tree topper, but there was a lovely golden peacock topper which became something of a family tradition. I received the stuffed dog toy that my heart was set on. But most importantly, we had a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs.

If you have a few dollars to spare, I suggest you donate them to this program. You absolutely won't regret it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cool Thing of the Day: Park Circle Renovation

Currently, Park Circle is not so much a "circle" as a "knot of five roads that roughly forms something like a circle." Rather than acting like a normal circle, such as you might see literally anywhere else on Earth wherein traffic entering the circle yields to traffic already in the circle, Park Circle has four points where traffic in the circle yields to traffic entering the circle. The whole thing is an absolute mess and I have long said that Hagerstown should make it a tourist spot. Stupidest Circle in the World. Honestly, you have to see it to believe it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Riot Gear and Grenade Launchers

This afternoon, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore will be meeting with the County Commissioners, requesting an "emergency procurement" of over $68,000 in riot gear, including helmets, shields, gas masks, and 3 grenade launchers. I sent an email to the commissioners, below.

Monday, May 18, 2015


New Hey Look! Books! post: Wherein an author waffles and a coward saves the day through cowardice.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Marketing Gibberish

     This isn't exactly a normal topic of conversation for me, mostly because I do everything (that's not inconvenient) in my power to avoid marketing of all kinds. So, if this is your area of expertise and I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about, forgive me. I do not live in your world.

     A quote from Verizon's chief executive was brought to my attention on Twitter, thus:

     That first sentence isn't too bad, although I think by "a global multiscreen network platform," McAdam just means "the Internet," but what the hell do I know?

Monday, May 11, 2015

New Old Blog

After a wonderful suggestion from my husband, I have re-imagined my old blog, Hey Look! Books!, into a project that I will most likely find a lot more interesting than just basic book reviews. My first post, concerning the nauseating sentimentality of Longfellow's "The Children's Hour," is now up. Check it out if you really hate/love classic literature. That site will be undergoing some cosmetic changes as well over the next few days, so if things go wonky, let me know in the comments somewhere and I'll try to fix it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Asking For It

     First of all, the link, in case you haven't heard about it yet: a bunch of people got together in Dallas at an event which included a Mohammed-drawing contest. A couple nutjobs showed up with the intention of killing people because of this.

     This is not shocking.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This is a Conversation

My husband and I went out to dinner last night to our favorite pizza joint to celebrate his upcoming promotion. The restaurant had their TV turned to the news out of Baltimore, with live coverage of the protests. During the course of our dinner, a police car was swarmed by over a hundred people and smashed to bits, another car was set on fire, and a CVS was looted.

As I watched these events unfold, I couldn't help but think:

"This is a conversation."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Grand Opening

Yesterday, Hagerstown held its Arbor Day celebration/Community Garden grand opening. I was there. It was fun. The weather here yesterday was cold and slightly breezy, not warm enough yet to plant those tomato and pepper plants we were given. I met a few more of my fellow gardeners, including a very nice and outgoing lady who just got back from a month-long trip to China.

The local paper has an article about it that is chock full of errors, but there it is nonetheless. (Just a sample of the errors: there are 26 beds, not 24; beds cost $20 or $30, depending on size; and they aren't flower beds, in fact we plot holders are restricted as to how many flowers we can plant). No, I'm not in any of the pictures.

My plants are all coming up and need thinning. Once the weather warms up more I'll actually be able to do that without my fingers going numb after thinning just four rows of radishes.

American Sniper Screening

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bubble Wrap

From a "friend" on facebook:
"Refuse to open your mind to other people's trash. Tune out anything that promotes conflict or controversy..." and more bullshit
No, these are not "words to live by." These are words that encourage people to live in a safe little bubble-wrapped world.
How can you be "compassionate" if you "refuse to open your mind"?
How can you "feed your intellect" if you "tune out anything that promotes conflict or controversy"?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Something to Follow

With the recent coverage of various unwarranted deaths at the hand of the police around the country, any death of a person in police custody is suspicious. The investigation following the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore (whose spine was 80% severed during or after his arrest) is naturally something those of us in Maryland want to keep an eye on.

UPDATE: 4/21/15 5:30pm
So, it's looking like the reason for the arrest was that Gray ran away when a police officer made eye contact with him. Doesn't really seem like reason enough to me... There's lots of conflicting stories about this right now. Here's the most recent article I've found that covers everything (sorry, it's Fox News)

Monday, April 6, 2015


The community garden is now open! Today is supposed to be a lovely day, and much rain will be following in the next few days, so today I will be going over and doing the first round of planting. Seeds to be planted today are: turnips, spinach, swiss chard, radish, cabbage, beet, and carrot.

Saturday was the orientation meeting for all the gardeners. Despite that morning being cold and windy, most people were able to show up. Such a rare sight in Hagerstown: so many people in one place, happy and optimistic, chatting with strangers, sharing tips, ideas, suggestions. I really believe that this community garden sight will only be the first of many throughout the city. We're building a community in this city, at last.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hating the Homeless for Fun and Profit

     Maybe I simply have a unique vantage point on this issue, but I will simply never understand why the (seeming) majority of society cannot see homeless people as fellow human beings in need of help.
      My local library has insulting signs posted on every entrance stating that "for sanitary reasons" patrons are not allowed to bring luggage bags on wheels, items inside plastic shopping bags, or more than one bag into the library. There is no direct sanitary issue there except that the banned items are exactly the sort of thing a homeless person often carries with them. On my trips to the library, I often see a large (relatively clean) luggage container on wheels sitting outside the front entrance, unattended. Obviously, some homeless person who is probably carrying the majority of his personal belongings in that bag is being forced to leave it outside, where anyone could easily walk away with it, in order to use the public library. I have considered editing those signs to replace "for sanitary reasons" with "because we think homeless people are icky."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Season Begins

     The weather in Hagerstown is finally warming up, the snow has nearly all melted and the ground is working on thawing. So, I spent yesterday afternoon planting peas. My hands ended up covered in sticky, cold, black dirt. My pants were soaked from kneeling in the boggy grass. It was liberating.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Right to be Wrong

Apparently some people feel that, by protecting hate speech, the United States is somehow violating the rights of those who are targeted by saidspeech. Now, I don't agree with US policy on a lot of things, but this is one area where I completely agree with our current interpretation of the First Amendment. So long as you aren't making a threat or actually causing someone damage by what you say, you can say whatever you please without government sanction.