Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As I review, reflect, and prepare to move forward...

I consider a number of things in my life.

I have a shitty job, seriously dire financial straits, and a country that is continuing its determined downward spiral into splintered, bankrupt dotage.

On the other hand, I have a beautiful and smart, if somewhat eccentric daughter, a beautiful and smart, if somewhat eccentric wife (a pattern, I wonder?) and some of the most amazing friends imaginable spread across a few states.

I suppose on the balance, I am exceedingly thankful for what I have.
And as I turn to face this new year, I shall endeavor to keep that in mind and move forward.

Cheers and Happy New Year,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2 week furlow

Two weeks away from the prison!
Christ but some time away is going to be nice.
My mother will be here Monday, bringing with her my 12 year old nephew, the sun in my daughter's cute little solar system.

She's going to be beside herself with joy.

In the mean time, I'm going to continue my depressing job-hunt.

Yes, I know (better than most, in fact) that finding a job during the holiday season in hardly the most fruitful of labors. However, I harbor this moderately superstitious belief that if I slack off in my "accuracy through volume" style application process, I might miss some so called golden opportunity.

Luck be a lady tonight.

That said, I'm hoping to catch all 5 of my readers (yes Angie, you're #5) up with my prison anecdotes and snarky comments about living in Texas.

All of that aside, it's the holiday season. Be sure to be thankful for whatever and whomever you call your own. Give extra hugs and kisses to your kids and significant others.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Something new for the hubby

I thought I'd make his blog 'seasonal', whatcha think? I know it looks ok from my end but for some reason it doesn't work when some others check it out from their computers. Ah well, such is life with modern technology. We'd like to have everything and we try. And yet....

~The wifey

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Red Velvet for Wifey

My wife loves Red Velvet cake so my daughter and I made a batch of RV cupcakes and a mini cake, using a spiffy recipe from McCormick.

Without further ado...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Those clever bastards

So we may have been fairly close to finding another cell phone today.

Look, an innocent book

Or is it...a prison craft shop gift box?

You make the call.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

A good day at the prison (certainly not something I expected to ever say)

My last day on shift we responded to a tip about a mobile phone in the high-security housing pod I was working. We pulled the 2 offenders out, locked them in the passive rec yard and proceeded to shakedown their cell. We had pulled all of their property out of their lockers, carefully gone over it, and not really found anything of interest other than a clock-radio that looked like it had been modified.

I was shining my light into one of the little lockers and noticed the rear locker walls looked a little "off". I reached in and pushed a bit and found the back moved some.

"Um, Sarge? All these lockers have solid steel backs, right?"

[Sgt nodded]

"I think we've got something here."

I pushed a little harder against the back of the locker and it gave way/folded to reveal a hidden compartment. Behind the very cleverly designed false backs were a number of goodies/items of contraband, including not one, but 2 mobile phones, a homemade soldering iron, a charging cable, an improvised heating device, and numerous electronic bits/components.


I tell you, this may not be the best job in the world, but it certainly does have its moments.

Happy Thanksgiving!

WTF? Thought I wuz done with da puppies?!?!?!?!

Kan I keeps it?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another tv show obsession

You may wonder why I post these here rather than my blog, well I already posted on mine today and anyway, this show was really really loved by the Beagle and I know if he weren't moping in his little world of woe is me he'd probably write about this.

We DVR any TV show we like because 1) they are usually on when the kid is up and not appropriate for her age and 2) we fast forward through the commercials, they are a huge time waster that we just don't need. There aren't a lot of shows we watch, Pushing Daisies (now canceled damn it), House, Life, and oh there were a few other s I can't remember. Beagle is in charge of the DVR, that's not my game.

This past week we watched an episode of House that we think was by far the best episode they've ever done.
House's Head, Episode 415
You can read about it on the link, or watch it there if you so inclined. I can't watch shows on the computer, not quite right to me. Either way the episode is absolutely freaky, really really awesome turn of events. PLUS you get to see Cuddy do a pole dance strip tease. Oh hell yeah that alone should make you watch it. That woman either had a stand in or has the body of a 16 yr old. Damn her. Her bio doesn't list a spouse or kids so she's obviously hasn't gone through those abuses. B says she's a vegan, so that would make sense. Starve your body and you can look hot! Naw, not for me thanks.

If you like House and feel the need to see the excellent episode watch it! Iz guud.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Introducing Mr. Unemployable

Sheesh, I swear I am having the worst luck and response in my attempts to procure better employment.

It's a little depressing.

Over-qualified for this.
Under-qualified for that.
This one's not hiring.
That one must have people who know X program.
Or MS certifications.
Or will be willing to relocate.
To South Dakota.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why is all the good shit on HBO?

Don't they know most of us are poor and can barely afford regular cable? No lie, my cable bill is $160 every month and I think I have less channels than everyone else I know. Mind you, I only watch like 5 channels, the rest are garbage. OK at least 2 of those 5 channels that I watch are garbage too but at least it's funny as all get out garbage. Anyone who reads my 'official' blog (not this one I randomly take over) knows I have a think for CMT, oh man so they have some funny shit on there, so that can qualify as garbage. And the only shows I watch on TLC are trash too, ok how many of you don't watch Jon & Kate plus 8? I can't believe how many people I know watch that show. It's like watching them makes me feel better about having just 1 kid and I no longer want another every time I watch...

HBO now, they have some awesome stuff they make 'for HBO only' and we never get to see it until it comes out on DVD, good thing we are patient people. Which one am I complaining about now? "True Blood", it's based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels I've been reading for awhile by Charlaine Harris. I looove those books. I went so far as to build a character based on Sookie for a role playing game. Alright for all you pervs out there who don't know us, that's like Dungeons and Dragons role playing games, get your heads out of the gutter. They have Anna Paquin playing Sookie which I'm not so sure I'm cool with. I like Anna and all but for Sookie? I was picturing someone more...passive? Modest? I dunno if she can pull it off but she's a big name and can sell the show so I'm sure that's why they went with her. I wonder if she read the books. Yeah that's a maybe right?

So anyone out there actually have HBO and watch the series? Or even better read the books too? No? Yeah it's a long shot I'm sure. Oh well once again we'll just have to wait until it comes out on what 2015? Well if the show is unsuccessful it'll be sooner than that but if it is successful, which it seems to be, I probably won't like it and they'll have probably warped the story so much I'll detest it. Damn HBO....

Friday, November 14, 2008

My brain, it's slow and it's memory capacity bites

I had one more guest post and I completely forgot about it! This one comes via a gf's son, RJ. He's 12 and loves computers hence the review. So last but not least we have RJ...

Anyone Bored Of Windows XP Look

Well Is Anyone Bored Of Windows XP And Want The Newest Look This Is The New Windows Computer Called Windows Vista The Look Is On The First Pic. On The Left. If You Have Windows XP It Should Look Something Like The Second Pic. On The Left. Here Is A Way To Get The Top Pic. Be Prepared To Download Though If You Really To Want It To Look Like The Above Pic. Here Is The First Step:Download Vista Ultimate Inspirat Ultimate 2 Here Then Follow The Instalation Insturctions Chosse Express Install Or Whatever One Allows You To Choose Features To Install Rocketdock Gives You A Toolbar Like A Mac Does UberIcon Does Effects When Clicking Icons And TransBar Maker The Taskbar Slightley Clear It Takes A While To Install By The Way Make sure You Are Not Using The 64bit Of Windows XP Now After You Have Installed It Uninstall To Do This On Your Desktop Should Be Vista Inspirat Ultimate 2 Now Click Remove Brickopack It Will Uinstall Know Install Styler From Here From Here Now Install It Then You Need To Open It Click The Themes Tab And Double Click Vista Inspirat Ultimate 2 It Will Load Now You Will Have A Vista Looking Computer To reverse This Open Styler And Click The Themes And Double Click Windows XP Now There Is No Trace Of Vista There Is Also A Few More Tools To Make Your Computer Even More Like Vista Here We Go Vista Has Whats Called Windows Aero Which Is Cool Here Is One Cool Feature That You Can Also Use Its Called TrueTransparency You Can Download It Here Now Download The File And Unzip It Now Here Is The Coolest Thing About TrueTransparency There Is No Install You Just Double Click The Icon In The Folder And Wait For 5 Seconds And Look Where You Exit And Minimize Your Programs They Are Transparent (Clear) Two Change Them Back You Know Where The Clock Is Right Click The TrueTransparency And Click Exit Or Disable Or Quit Which Ever One It Is Now Two More Things Windows Vista Has a Sidebar Called Windows Sidebar There Is A Lot Of Sidebar Apps Like Google Desktop Provides One Put Here Is A Direct Link To One And Now I cant Remeber The Last One By The Way The windows xp pic. Ended Up Below End Of Transmission...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Being sick sucks

I managed to pick up some stomach flu/bug.
I'm getting better, but it's still muy shitty.

Here's hoping the DW and DD get spared.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So the United States of America has its 44th president

This is historic, if not particularly surprising. I'm still not a huge Obama fan. Of course, I'm not really a huge McCain fan either. This might be largely due to not being a fan of either of our two major political frat parties.

Still, the US having its first black president is an important step, and one that will either be very good for us as a people and country...or very bad.

Unfortunately, this also means we have a Democratic President, Senate, and House...not something I really wanted to see. I really prefer the Executive and Legislative branches to be at ideological odds, to prevent either party from achieving too many of its party-centric goals.

I suppose I'll be in wait&see for a little while. We'll certainly see if Obama turns out to be the panacea all these young democrats and otherwise hopeful voters believe him to be.

Time as they say, will tell.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alright Beagle may have issues with this one

But I thought it looked better over here than on my blog. Plus I think its funny so there

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dear Michael Patrick David...

You spamming, sanctimonious piece of human offal.

Is your personality so completely over-ridden by your slavish devotion to one outlook on spirituality that vomiting garbage onto other people's blogs is your idea of healthy communication?

Your listed industry on your blogger profile is "Loving Others".
Is calling a woman whom you have likely never met a "fat satanic lying pig" a loving term of endearment in whatever wacky pseudo-christian cult you spending your time?

Is this a habit of yours?

You obviously have some serious emotional problems.

Pam (Sobriety is Exhausting) blogs honestly about her life, both its successes and failures, sharing with her readership her own personal slice of humanity.

WTF have you done recently to improve the blogging community? Sorry, but psychotic rantings and vicious attacks on women do not count.

Thanks for visiting my blog but please keep your quasi-religious ramblings to yourself.

Because your comments were completely off-topic, not to mention childish and insulting to Pam in particular and people working through 12 step programs in general, I am deleting them, after I copy them into my file for the Ramblings of Religious Wackos.

If you have something to say about the actual post topic (come on, it's Tori, I bet you could muster up something), please feel free to do so.


Friday, October 24, 2008

My 1st bento attempt

So our friend Anna very sweetly gave our dd a bento box for her birthday after hearing me express an interest in delving into the Anime fetishist world of Bento. She not only sent a gorgeous little pink bento set garnished with ladybugs, but also a host of bento-crafting accessories.

I have just made my first bento lunch for our dd and every facet of the end product is due largely to the interest, guidance, and support from Anna and my dw.

Thanks ladies!

So the lunch, for those curious, consists of a steamed rice bear, pb&j sushi rolls, and fruit cuts (apple stars and nectarine flowers). I know it's not exactly a sterling example of creative bento goodness, but in my defense, it was a last minute attempt with what we had on hand.

the bear (with little soy sauce bottle)

the sushi rolls and fruit

the whole lunch (minus the drink)

packaged up and ready to go in its bag


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sometimes I wonder if Beagle remembers if his blog exists....

But he has a wife that blathers so prolifically it really matters not. She also has access to many many friends that love the both of them and find it wildly entertaining that she wants them to guest blog on his blog rather than hers. How wonderful! Recently one of these lovely compadres was moving and came across a ticket. Such a benign little thing but it had memories. Ah, perfect stuff for a blog post, thank you Anna for the blast from the past....

July 2008, I'm standing in line to get one of 100 autographs of Hiro Mashima for my nine year old son. It seems my son has a love of many things, including the Manga series FairyTale, written and illustrated my Hiro Mashima. I am striving to be elected parent of the year, and have obtained a ticket , and am standing in line with people ten years my junior , most wearing costumes, myself terribly out of place.

While standing in line, the next autograph section over starts filling people with an amazing speed. In walks a beautiful woman with flame red hair, and a beautiful black dress with an upright collar. Who is it?? Why is everyone in that line my own age? The moment my mind realizes who she is, I'm transported.

August 1992.. Sixteen years ago.

Many of us had yet to leave home, did not have cars we had to pay for, or take care of, we didn't buy groceries, and heaven forbid, we did not have an email address.

(How many do you have now? I think I have five!)

What many of us did have, and still do, was a love for music.

Sure, our tastes have changed over the years. Occasionally that song that was passé years ago will play and we're mentally transported to another moment. The sights, smells are as real as the day the memory was made.

For me, one of those days is August 26th, 1992.

On that day, I saw my idol of the moment ; Tori Amos. Fresh into the world promoting her first album, Little Earthquakes. She had played once before in San Diego, in a tiny club called the Bacchanal; and now, she was playing at UCSD. In an auditorium! Not a giant concert venue, an auditorium. I had to be there. Without regret, I found a way to get tickets, and convinced the Beagle to attend with myself.

Memories are funny things. The whole evening isn't crystal clear, merely snippets.

Tori's birthday is the 22nd of August, we saw her four days later. People walked flowers up to the edge of the stage, and sat back down.

I don't remember it being a loud raucous event, calm patrons of the arts. Ironic considering our personal ages at the time, 23 and 19; as well as the artist. Calm is not a word that typically describes her.

Her piano had some issues as I recall. It was either replaced or repaired while we waited. Those details are sparse. I know that according to historical information on her she performed solo with a Yamaha CP-80 unless the venue was able to provide a piano for the entire Little Earthquake tour. What I remember is that she was delayed from starting on time.

At one point she sat on a stool facing the audience to tell her story, and sing, a cappella, Me and a Gun. Words will never describe the moments of an intimate setting, with a victim sharing their pain.

Overall she was an amazing sight to see. Flailing on the piano bench, looking for all the world as if she would fall off at any moment.

I remember thinking that she wore the strangest shoes… but now, I don't remember what they were.

And she told stories. Tons of stories. She would sit there and talk to this group of people, and tell them things… that even in the next four of her concerts I attended, could ever be rivaled.

The most vivid? The Rod Stewart story.

There is a species of hoofed animal, a deer, the black tailed deer, I believe she said. The Black Tailed deer has a color pattern on its ass. This, in her thinking, shows the deer where to aim when they wants to copulate.

To her, Rod Stewart, is this animal. He has these same markings as this animal.

(Or she needs these markings so he can find her. I realize now that this story makes no sense logically)

To see, and hear this woman, that I admired, talk about zeroing in on a rock stars ass, chat with the masses, and perform without seemingly breaking a sweat.. was amazing. Something that was seared into my memory.

I attended a panel at Comic Con 08 because she was attending. I wanted to be there beyond everything else. My staff made their own sacrifices for me, and I appreciate that.

Promoting a book of comics based on her songs, she did not have the bulk of the speaking time. It was a session where you never know who would speak next.

When she did speak, I was enthralled, just as much as I was sixteen years ago. I wasn't as close to the stage, or to her, I was far off to the side; and I am sure the crowd was larger, but I came full circle. And Beagle, you were the first person I thought of.

*My ticket stub is on a page from the new book; Comic Book Tattoo by Image Comics.

The piece is Leather, originally released on the Little Earthquakes album, illustrated by John Bivens.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Another guest post, today brought to you by Nathaniel our dear friend's son

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Guest posting, since idle blogs are the wifey's playthings....

Well since the Beagle has seen fit to once again not notice his blog again I have seen fit to invite some of our more prolific blogger friends to fill in for him. So in no particular order I would like to introduce the first visitor, our most profound. CL, the other transplant to Texas, who came from San Diego a few months before us. Without further ado....

“The mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer.”

I don't mean to seem pedantic, but if there is one thing that I simply cannot live without it is a fine, misty-amber Pilsner. No self-respecting, sedulous seeker of fine hops-imbued potables could deny the effervescent glory with which the efficacious taste of amber cerveza is permeated.

“A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure.”

Whereas dark beers only appear richer--a fallacy deserving of the utmost ridicule--the warmth and comfort of a well-produced, jaunty Pilsner sets most if not all so-called world-class ales on the short course for disappointment. God Save The Tastebuds! To he|| with ale!

With that superb bit of literary genius, I leave you with these fine, insoluble words of wisdom with which to adorn your slowly fermenting cranial contents:

“Drinking beer doesn't make you fat, It makes you lean....
Against bars, tables, chairs, and

Now mind you my fellow readers, The Beagle is Irish in heritage and loves many many a drink, beers in particular. He is also a beer connoisseur, but he has one type he just can not stand, care to take a guess which kind that is? ~The wifey~

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not particularly nice...

edited to add: This link is brought to you by Jen Robinson, and the letter "O".

But terribly, terribly funny!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lets talk Karma

And about those with a total lack thereof decent karma. I'm going to pull a few lines from an article in the local newspaper (S.E. Side homeowner kills intruder) that I found well, amusing. Alright, I have an odd sense of humor, it's true...

The man, believed to be in his 20s, was trying to get into a rear bedroom window of a house in the 1400 block of Greer and when the homeowner shot him, police said.
OK now here's the funny part:
The homeowner, a firearms instructor, was home alone and in the bedroom the burglar was attempting to enter.

OK, now, dude, some punk ass kid just broke into a bedroom window, in the middle of the night, of a firearms instructor. Who is going to what? Well Fuck his shit up I suppose. Dumb ass. I think that burglar must have had some seriously jacked up karma and then some higher being or God wanted his ass kicked way outta the gene pool. Whatcha think? Yah? Now think about it, if you're going to break into a house in the wee hours of the morning break into a room that does not have the occupants in it fuck head. Break into the living room or a bathroom but not on top of the sleeping residents for the love of Pete. Perfect examples of Generation Y did they even bother to give birth to these morons....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tales from the Pen, part 3: lessons I've learned

1) Pepper spray, when deployed indoors, affects EVERYONE in the room. No exceptions.

2) Offenders are much more amenable to correcting their behavior when one is carrying a 3lb, 14inch tray-slot bar.

3) It is impossible for an offender to hang himself by knotting a sheet onto a door at shoulder height then draping said sheet around his neck.

4) Offenders get their feelings hurt when you call them drama queens and take their sheets away from them.

5) G2 offenders (low custody level) cry like cub scouts with skinned knees when you write them up for mouthing off in front of a trainee.

6) The phrase "No rec for you" is very gratifying.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Idle Hands are my Wifey's playthings

She's apparently too much personality for a single blog.
Instead of creating a 2nd blog for herself, she's decided to use her formidable blogging abilities to augment my lackluster blog.

Enjoy it while you can folks as someday she'll actually be required to work at work.

Oh, and my wife is right...I do think you should listen to Margaret & Helen.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beagle says

Listen to Margaret and Helen
No really he does, he just doesn't know it yet.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ah yes and still guest blogging thru the wife

Because she knows that he'd want to put this up...Neil Gaiman apparently, after over 2 decades of starts and stops, has finally finished his childrens book, The Graveyard Book. How very cool is that? He's an old fav of all of ours, we're going to have to go out and get this one I'm sure. Don't know if the kid will like it but really, we'd be just as happy to get it for ourselves right? Selfish parents yeah whatever, get over it, welcome to parental Gen X.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family. . . .

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Beagle asked the wifey to make a few changes

So bear with us during the re-decorating process. He wanted the girl's eyes in the banner, not possible in the last template so I randomly picked a new one. He'll have to give me the yes or no tonight when he comes home and sees it. There are a lot of other choices though so we'll see. Plus you never know what else he'll want me to add that may not wok with this template. Too many choices in today's world...have you gone shopping for peanut butter lately? Lordy...
Let us know what you think, opinions will be listened to!

Guest post brought to you by,
~the wifey with password privileges

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nothing interesting to share...

so here's a picture of two big slug corpses I found in our office this morning.

They must have crept in yesterday during the rain.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And now for something something completely different...unless you're in prison

You Are Kidnapping

You love to be in control. You are incredibly dominant.

A part of you even likes to make people suffer. It's all about power!

You love to take risks, especially if the potential payoff is huge.

But you wouldn't be in crime only for the money. You're twisted enough to just enjoy screwing with people.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Re: the Hero Poll

Let's break down the four choices listed:
Barak Obama
Rosie O'Donnell
Kenneth Copeland
Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel

Obama - Let me say for the record that Obama has 3 things going for him in my book. One, he's a Democrat and the recent, craptastic Republican presidents have soured even a goodly number of moderates on the "Red" party. Two, he's black, which will get him votes from some groups regardless of what he does or says. Three, he's against the war, which is simultaneously a popular sentiment and a dangerous one, politically speaking. Besides those 3 points of interest, Obama does NOTHING to hold my attention. I care not at all about the "Muslim background" stuff the religious wing-nuts keep bringing up. Nor do I feel o'erwhelmed by his promises of change bringing about a brighter future for America. He is simply another Democratic candidate. He received the party nod because Hillary had simply alienated too many people. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

Rosie - Well thankfully no one among my readership of 9 thought that self-righteous and inhumanely annoying cow could have been my hero in any way, shape or form. Rosie O'Donnell continues to exemplify for me exactly what is wrong with my home state of California. And no, in case any readers have just happened by and might misconstrue this feelings have NOTHING to do with her sexual orientation. No, instead Rosie is a member of empowered, ridiculously over-exposed celebrity cult of personality that actually thinks it represents the vox populi of the average Californian.

Kenneth Copeland - This is actually a funny one, with a prison system anecdote no less. Up until this past Sunday I had no idea who this man in, at all. I had brought the remote control into the day-room of the pod (prison-speaker for housing area) to turn on the TVs. I flipped on one, glanced at the man speaking and said: "Looks like a preacher". The offenders were shocked and amazed that I had no idea who this joker was. Their shock turned to moderate outrage when I told them exactly what I thought of mega-churches. I'm afraid that's all I've got on this guy. I refuse to even research him enough to see how much of a whacko he likely is because I really just don't care.

The only one I admire in any particular quantity would be Scrat the saber-toothed squirrel. First off, he's a cute rodent, and my almost 2 decade relationship with Wifey has led me to be moderately well-dispose to such creatures. Mostly though, I greatly admire his tenacity. Have you seen how this guy goes after his acorns? Now that's determination in the face of unending obstacles. He pursues them like Obama going after the young and dumb vote, Rosie after an opportunity to publicly stick one of those chubby feet in her mouth, or Copeland after a new BMW for Gloria. (Reverend, could I get one of those cute envelopes of yours? You know, the ones that state: "I am sowing $_____ and believing for a hundredfold return." I'd really like it for my files, although I'm not sure if it would go under "S" for Snake-Oil, or "F" for a Fool and his money.)

Hmm...I guess it didn't really take much research at all for me to decide I don't like that guy.

*Scrat for President in 2012!
*Scrat's Acorn-Whisperer talk/variety coming to a progressive channel near you!
*Reverend Horton-Scrat's Acorn Crusade, landing soon at your neighborhood Mega-Church!

Cheers all,

Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting to know Beagle, a poll's insight

Answers and related discussion forthcoming

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Heading back to work tomorrow morning, o'dark hundred

Can you feel the enthusiasm emanating through the connection?

No? How surprising.

We had a nice 3 day weekend. Now I need to go pay the piper, so to speak.

Damn, but I need to secure a new job.

Be safe,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

One of those sins my Wifey mentioned

We used to go to Goth clubs with our friends in San Diego.
Wifey mentioned in her blog a picture or two all Gothed up and heading out for club.

Here's the first one I've found, combing through our picture archives.

Really as much Rockabilly as Goth, but by San Antonio's standards, it probably sufficiently deviant to raise eyebrows (for the record, I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of a white corset beneath that little black dress).

Now piss off, you closet deviants!

Still job-hunting

I didn't get the grievance investigator job at Connally (that's the prison, for those of you just wandering by). On the other hand, my interview with SA Police Dept went really well. I sincerely hope I get the Management Analyst job with them. It seemed like a great group of guys in the department, and interesting work.

The prison/CO work has been business as usual. Threats, Uses of Force, and lots of Offenders (I've officially gotten onboard with calling them offenders, rather than inmates, convicts, or thieves; after all they ARE offensive). I won't bore you all with the details of the violence. I'm fairly sure all 7 of my readers are Americans and as any POS UN rep could tell you, we Americans are self-important barbarians completely desensitized by violence.


I WILL however, share one gruesome image with you: One of the psych patient offenders off the high security pod I generally work, recently jammed the small end (small being a relative statement) of a state-issued plastic spoon up his urethra. Why? Because the voices told him to.

Cliche? Yep.
Disturbing? Certainly.
Outlandish? Not where I spend half my time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tired of the DRAMA

This job (corrections) has WAY too much drama for the level of pay.

This past cycle (4 days of work) I had to write a bunch of cases (offense reports, think tickets/citations for offenders) which I don't normally do. It's not that I don't write cases, I simply prefer to resolve minor issues informally. That said, these were security issues, and needed paperwork. I won't bore you with the details, but I caught two offenders in the wrong cells, as well as lying to me, and going out for recreation when they were on restriction.
Hmm...I didn't actually spare you too many details, did I?
When I realized they were up to no good (shocking the think that felons in a max security prison might have difficulties following rules) I plopped them each in a holding area, I then enlisted the help of a coworker and went to search/shake-down the cells in question.

We turned up a veritable grocery list of offender contraband: tattooing kits, homemade speakers and multi-plug outlet adapters (yes, some of these guys are quite resourceful), altered clock/radios, etc. We also found unmarked stamps. Now, the offenders are supposed to write their TDCJ number on each stamp, to prevent the stamps from being used as money/trade/extortion fodder. As it was, the stamps were confiscated and I wrote a confiscation sheet for them.

The owner of the stamps went ballistic when he noticed them missing and made a threat against me while being returned to his cell.

Now that's a serious issue.

All of the other offenses were medium and minor level, but threatening an officer? That's a level one offense, right up there with escape attempts and armed assaults.

So now, over 3 stamps, this offender is facing a charge that will potentially change his security status, line status (time earning quality that helps them get out sooner), even extra time.

Over 3 stamps.

3 stamps.



I really need a new job.

I have some other anecdotes, but the kidlet and I need to get on with our day.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Back on-shift tomorrow

A happy return to dangerous felons and curious (at best) backwoods folk.

I'd say that I'll keep everyone apprised of my goings-on at the prison, but given my track record for regular posts, that might seem disingenuous.

So instead allow me to regale you with a few recent tidbits.

Two shifts ago I/we found 2 tattoo guns (cleverly disguised within electric shavers I don't feel they need) along with 13 cigarettes rolled in Free World papers and using fresh, Free World tobacco. This was my 5th find of tattoo paraphernalia.

I get harassed by offenders because I actually do my cell searches. On the other hand, I get called "offender friendly" by some of my co-workers because I rarely yell at the offenders.

Prison food: one of many reasons to keep one's nose clean in Texas.

And finally, a handful of shifts past (yes, we already know I'm a slacker with Blog entries) I spent the better part of my 12 hour shift listening to a pair of co-workers earnestly debate which public world figure would reveal himself to be the antichrist.

Contain your envy.


Under Pressure

Hello again my devoted readership...all 4 of you.

Life has been just a series of pratfalls, minor misfortunes and major set-backs of late.

But that's just part of the game, right?

Anyway, I'm still searching for reasonable work in San Antonio. I'm looking to change up my job at the prison as a stopgap measure, but ultimately I really need to find something more local, and modestly more lucrative, if we are going to continue paying our bills.

I'd regale you all with job-hunting tales but they would be far to somber.
Instead, here's a picture of the fruit salad my daughter whipped up for me a few days ago.
There, much more uplifting. Not to mention tasty.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Frustrations of job-hunting

Things I find TERRIBLY annoying while job-hunting:

1. Cumbersome and lengthy application programs, especially those that seem incapable of properly storing data (NISD and NEISD websites, I'm talking to you).

2. Sites with application managers that require you to rebuild, by hand, your entire resume so they can store it in their database of dubious quality (see above note).

3. Bogus job offers. I sincerely hope I someday have the opportunity to get my hands on even one of these duplicitous, data-mining scumbags. I promise you the results will be picturesque.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tales from the Pen, part 2: prison jargon

noun: specialized technical terminology characteristic of a particular subject
noun: a characteristic language of a particular group (as among thieves)
again take your pick, although my money's on the 2nd.

Throwed-off: This is how people in the prison system(both offenders and officers) say crazy. I suppose it's because simply saying, "That guy is crazy" would be know, in truth, I just don't know why.

Institutionalized: This term as used an excuse for officers being unable to speak to anyone about anything without peppering their speech with profanity, demolished grammar and you guessed it, jargon.

Trustee: This is a term applied to low security offenders (usually G1, although at Connally most of ours are G2s since we have only a handful of G1 offenders). These offenders work outside the perimeter and often work jobs with little oversight, or are allowed to work with dangerous tools, chemicals, etc. They basically enjoy special privileges. The prisons SSIs (janitors) are both the best and worst examples of prison trustees.

Boss-man(or Boss-lady): This is what the offenders call us when they want something from us.

Bitch-ass-ho-boss: This is what the offenders call us when we've busted them on some offense, caught them in a lie, taken away contraband, or otherwise deprived them of something to which them believe themselves entitled.

Free World: This is a descriptor applied to anything from outside the prison system/world/culture. Free world clothes, free world jobs, free world politics, etc, ad nauseam.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tales from the Pen, part 1

noun: an enclosure for confining livestock
noun: a correctional institution for those convicted of major crimes
Take your pick; either is appropriate.

1) This first one is the nuts and bolts of a letter, specifically Life Endangerment Statement. The gist of it is this: the offender, a minister of some strip or another, insisted the prison administration was imperiling his life and disobeying some [fictitious] policy by housing him with get this: Catholics, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, Satanists, any whom attend government-sponsored Pagan ceremonies and those whom are content to live in evil and do not accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior...just let that one sink in for a spell. He went on to explain in eloquent if stilted prose how his medical records had been altered and he was constantly imperiled by being housed with such wicked men. He repeatedly cited, without ever actually identifying, some medical condition as additional basis for his needing to be housed separately or at least with goodly folk. Additionally he made vague threats and absurd accusations against the prison staff in general and the administration in particular.

Now just for the record, I've looked through all of the policies regarding housing guidelines and I haven't found anything about putting self-righteous, religiously bigoted, backwoods, correspondence course ministers with faith-compatible cellmates.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy Birthday to Wifey!

She's on day 2 of new new job, and seems to be really liking it. I'm so relieved because she's had unilaterally rotten job experiences since we've moved here, starting with the real estate stuff and running through a smattering of crap science/lab jobs.

Me? I'm on day [quantity undisclosed] of my new, improved and dishwasher-safe job hunt.
My criteria: more cognitive stimulation and pay, less commuting and long shifts.

So anyway, feel free to ring, message, or otherwise bother my wife...after all, it's her birthday!

Oh, and that promised selection of Correctional anecdotes?
I'm going to post those later this evening.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wifey got herself a new job...or, B's venture into the depressing world of math

Not only a new job, but a good job.
Not only a good job, but a good, sciencey(tm) job.
Not only a good, sciencey(tm) job, but a sciencey(tm) job with a real paycheck.
I could go on, but my readers, all 3 of you, undoubtedly catch my drift.

Now it's my turn.
-It's not that I don't like what I'm doing right now, I actually do...some of the time.
-It's not that I don't like my coworkers...some of them don't come across as deranged circus performers (is there any other kind?) every time they speak.
-It's the commute and the long shifts. TDCJ loves to boast that being a CO (Correctional Officer) is a great job because you get good(decent) pay for working only half the year. Their logic is that 4 days on, 4 days off is working 1 out of 2 days/year, ergo working half the year.
Well...that's certainly true taken at face value.

Let let's break it down a little more, shall we?

Each shift worked as a CO is a 12 hour shift.
You work 4 shifts, then have 4 days off.

By contrast, in most other jobs you work an 8 hour shift.
You work 5 shifts, then have 2 days off.

Now, one 12 hour shift is equal to one and a half 8 hour shifts, so for every 2 days worked as a CO you are effectively putting in 3 days of "normal" work.

Now, on with our show.

For an 8hrs/day, 5days/week job that's 260 work days/year, ignoring holidays...or 2,080 work hours/year.

Now for the CO job I'll round the days/year down to 364, just to be nice.
For the 12hrs/day, 4days on/4days off job thats 182 work days/year, ignoring holidays (which TDCJ does for obvious reasons)...or 2,184 work hours/year.

So that's an extra two and a half weeks of work/year as a CO and we haven't even touch on holidays. Right away we see that "you're only working half the year" line is not so accurate. Or as Buffy would say, "Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic".

Honestly, the holiday, sick and vacation accrual likely comes out to about the same. TDCJ employees often work holidays, but they accrue holiday time so we'll call that one more or less even, especially considering there is no set rule for other (8 hour day/5 day week) jobs.

Oh, and I forgot one more thing!

I spend 4 hours (this includes 30 minute shift turnout) commuting EVERY DAY!

A quick breakdown for those of you (namely me) whom are a little math-challenged.
4 hours X 4 work days = an additional 16 hours per work cycle.
16 hours/day, 182 work days/year...that's 2,912 hours/year going to, at, or leaving from work. states the average daily commute in San Antonio takes 26 minutes one way.
I'll round up to 30 minutes, or 1 hour/day.
1 hour X 5 work days = an additional 5 hours per work cycle.
9 hours/day, 260 work days/year...that's 2,340 hours/year going to, at, or leaving work.
2,912 hours/year going to, at, or leaving from work.
So we've got those extra 104 hours of work per year as a CO, plus an additional 468 hours (that's 2912 minus 2340, minus 104) commuting per year. I could break those 468 hours down by shift, day, or week, but it would just be depressing.

Instead, I'm going to go apply for some jobs!


Monday, May 5, 2008

New date for everyone...July 2nd

Watch the trailer.
Soak up the awesomeness that is Will Smith.
Respect the 'tude.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

So you want to know what it is I do for a living now?

B's take on being a Correctional Officer in the state of Texas

Let's start off with a nice, concise description. Being a Correction Officer at a MaxSec prison in Tx is a sublime blending of being a zoo-keeper in the primate section of a large zoo, and a middle school teacher with a class composed entirely of SED (that's Severely Emotionally Disturbed) adolescents.
At any point in time one of your charges may-
a) throw poop, piss, or food at you
b) hit someone
c) hurt themselves
d) lie to you
e) sulk for half the day
f) stew for half the day, THEN throw a tantrum during which they may engage in behaviors a-d, followed by e.

They make weapons, draw pictures, pass notes, threaten, cajole, beg, plead, and did I mention lie, on a daily basis. They break their toys and blame other people. They stop taking their meds, then complain that they are not being properly cared for. They drag their asses getting ready, then complain bitterly about the lack of notice given. They scrutinize everyone around them for any hint of weakness they might exploit.

Around 15 years ago I ran the in-school suspension program for a middle school. The parallels are legion, and a bit unsettling.

The upsides are many. The Connally unit is a well run prison. I have some extraordinary coworkers with whom I can trust my life (as well as some whom I would not trust to get my order right at Jack in the Box). The administrators seem to be concerned, alert and realistic (a refreshing change from some of my previous experiences with upper management). Oh, and commissary...commissary rocks!

More later (really, I promise)
B out

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Good times, Bad times, you know I had my share

Allow me to spin you a tale, a tale of noble intentions, bad decisions, exercise habits, and of course...shallow pockets.

I, like many married men, wear a wedding band. This wedding band, in addition to the obvious symbolic significance, holds a considerable amount of sentimental value as it was a rather important part of nefarious marital ambuscade planned and executed by my smart, sexy, and sneaky wife.

We started going to Gold's gym nearby our home soon after moving to San Antonio. Now, our respective workout schedules have been erratic, but for a goodly number of months, my friend Clay and I were meeting at Gold's 3 days a week on a consistent basis. This was when I realized I was scratching up my wedding band on the aptly named dumbbells. -STOP

I have always been terrified of losing my wedding band. Although I have certainly gotten better as I've gotten older (really more like a worn-in pair of shoes than a good Cabernet) it was my fear that if I regularly removed my wedding ring (like my prettier half does on a daily basis) I would undoubtedly lose it. As a result, I never took it off for a number of years. It stayed on my finger through manual labor, paintball, shooting, even sparring (actually, rings make decent impact enhancing devices - but that's for a different entry).
-End Interlude-

COMMENCE- I tried wearing gloves whilst lifting weights but I found them very uncomfortable. I generally do not like putting gloves between my hands and their tools. I dislike shooting gloves, paintball gloves, driving gloves, and weight-lifting gloves. I have compromised when it comes do digging holes in our backyard's bedrock and fencing (learn from my mistakes - fencing gloves are crucial equipment). Anyhow, it bothered me to scratch up my ring on the weights. I initially tried keeping it on a key chain split ring, but that was hard on the ring as well. I finally decided to carry it in my pocket while I lifted, and immediately put it back on when I was finished. This worked fine for a while, until one fateful day when I skipped my post-lifting cardio and stopped by the 1/2 Price Bookstore on the way home. Once I arrived home, I showered as per my usual habit (I'm a flaky boy, but generally a cleanly one) and realized I had not put my ring back on. I promptly checked my workout pants - no ring. I checked the mustang - again, no ring. That's around the time I started freaking out a little bit. I called the gym, called the bookstore - nothing.

To her credit, my wife didn't give me even an iota of grief. I suspect she knew that nothing she could've said would have made me feel like even more of an irresponsible asshat.

Months passed.

Life went on.

Saturday evening, April 26th. In my duties as a Correctional Officer (yes - I know I've been remiss and as soon as I select some amusing yet wide-audience appropriate prison anecdotes I'll add my first Connally unit post) I was saying, in my duties as a Correctional Officer I carry a little notepad. This notepad, and pen which accompanies it, is one of the most important tools available to me. I use it to document everything from Offender behavior to assignment notes, to maintenance needs. Michelle needed the Connally unit switchboard number, so I went to fetch the notepad from the mustang. As I dug around under the driver's seat, I heard something metal clack against the front license plate that I have still not affixed to my front bumper. My initial thought was "my daughter leaves her rings and jewelry everywhere." Imagine my surprise when I retrieved not her ring but mine.

Remember those workout pants? I bought them for Krav Maga, they work great for the gym, but they have really shallow pockets. The mustang, for those of you unaware, is a relatively low to the ground car. The ring had apparently rolled out of the pocket, under the seat and gotten lodged in a nook (or possibly a cranny) for quite some time, before becoming dislodged in response to my evasive driving (required by the psychotic drivers here) wherein I made my happy discovery.

And there was much rejoicing.


For John Cusack fans, and other righteously cool folks

First off, let me say that if you are reading my Blog, and are not yet a John Cusack fan then you owe it to yourself to educate yourself about this excellent and under-utilized actor. He is, IMHO, one of the finest American actors of our generation.

So please allow me to set your feet on the path...
The Sure Thing
Better Off Dead
One Crazy Summer
Say Anything
The Grifters
Bullets over Broadway (despite its Woody Allen pedigree)
Grosse Pointe Blank (if you haven't seen this movie please give yourself a kick in the ass)
Con Air
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
The Jack Bull
Being John Malkovich
High Fidelity
The Ice Harvest

Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, let's talk about War Inc.

This looks like it'll be a real blast. John and Joan Cusack as well as Dan Akroyd, reunited from GPB, plus [Sir] Ben Kingsley (see him facing off against Morgan Freeman in Lucky #Slevin) and Marisa Tomei...all together in a film that combines the best elements of The Lord of War and GPB (I know, it was ALL good).

So, it opens May 23rd. Well, maybe not in San Antonio. We'll likely need to wait a bit longer for the Wells Fargo coach to deliver to the reels. ;)


Sunday, April 13, 2008

School's Out for...err, the weekend!

I'm all finished with the Corrections Officer academy. Most of us passed/graduated. Everyone managed to pass the firearms qualifications, even if some folks needed an extra try with the AR15. No real surprise there, many of the trainees had never shouldered a rifle previously.

I'm afraid I'm out of snarky comments directed at my fellow trainees or organizational bloopers. Truth be told, the biggest problem the TDCJ faces is the catch-22 of their employment crisis. The TDCJ desperately needs mature, level-headed and clear-thinking Correctional Officers. Many of the prisons are grossly understaffed and the agency will take the help in whatever form it receives it, so long as the vestigial hiring requirements are met and the training academy is passed. The end result is that every 2 weeks the prisons receive a fresh crop of Correctional Officers. But how many of them will really stay on? Many of them are really too young, too immature, and most likely ill-equipped to maintain their composure while working 4(minimum) to 6(max overtime) twelve-hour shifts every 8 days. After all, many of these young men (and a few of the young women) habitually go out many nights every week, drinking hard, and staying up late. Are we expecting their habits to change merely because they attended the Academy?

One could argue, of course, that the TDCJ could increase/raise the hiring requirements. This would likely weed out many of the weaker sisters, however this would obviously mean fewer new Officers hitting the prisons.

As I said, something of a catch-22.

Regardless, Monday morning I report to the Connally Max-Sec prison for my on the job training, before being assigned to a shift.

See you all out in the world,

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Corrections Officer Academy, report 4

Almost done!

We've just got firearms training and qualification next week, one final cumulative exam, then we're finished with the academy.

Highlights from the week:

-We've lost two more trainees, this time due to academic problems (ie, they were failing the exams). A few others are having significant difficulties.

-I've been elected the class speaker. This means I need to deliver a little speech during the graduation ceremony.

-I've decided to make an assignment transfer request from the Torres unit to the Connally unit. After taking our tour of Connally I found myself very impressed with the unit, its staff and operation.

-A number of the trainees continue to ignore the maxim: It's better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are a fool than to open it and remove any lingering doubt.

See you all out in the world,

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Corrections Officer Academy, report 3

End of week three and I'm tired. I'm tired of slapdash scheduling. I'm tired of trying to help other trainees struggle through tests the proverbial 5th grader could pass with aplomb. I'm tired of the dust and black mold in the BOQs. I'm tired of that sweet, sleepy town of Beeville which lacks Starbucks, Target, and Wells Fargo storefronts. I'm also exceedingly tired of the drama created by my intrepid fellow trainees. A number of our sergeants (training instructors) have mentioned on more than one occasion that we will find upon starting work at the units (nomenclature for prisons) our work-related grief comes chiefly not from the Offenders (felons previously referred to as Inmates) but rather from other staff, ie, our fellow Corrections Officers.

And I believe this.

Highlights of the week

-The sergeants continue to delight and impress me with their dedication to, and amusing anecdotes about, this profession.

-Defensive Tactics: during a series of paired drills (strikes and blocks with minimal contact) I had the pleasure of working with a Chatty Cathy who, despite his self-professed ignorance of any real or relevant hand-to-hand training/experience, felt the need to deliver suggestions, criticisms, and praise to yours truly whilst we went about our terribly complex maneuvers (more of a gesture, really). The irony was amusing even if my partner was not.

-Oh, we now have 6 men crammed into one BOQ roughly the size of a freshmen dorm.

That's it really. We didn't have any real benchmark experiences or incidents. This coming week we'll be touring the prison (for those who don't realize, the training facility is nestled squarely b/t the Garza East and West units). The following, and final, week will be focussed on qualifying with the department firearms. I'm really not looking forward to some of my classmates handling loaded guns. There's one in particular who seems fixated on the department's stance on warning shots.



Saturday, March 22, 2008

Corrections Officer Academy, report 2

Hey there, kids.
I'm back home with the family for Easter weekend. We've got lots to do, including egg dying and attending a High School Musical on Ice performance. Contain your envy.

Highlights from this past week of training:

-Sgt. Torres, one of the funnier human beings I've encountered in a longish time.

-Certain members of our training class have taken umbrage (all of the umbrage - every last bit of it) at the statement "there are no stupid questions". Their strategy in debunking this wrong-thinking?
You guessed it... Ego narro , proinde Ego sum nefas
[I speak, therefore I am wrong]
A veritable onslaught of the most distressingly ridiculous questions that have ever been leveled at a group of instructors.

-CS (what one might call tear gas) is fun.
Remember playing with fireworks as a kid? Yes, even those of you in CA. Remember lighting off too many pyrotechnics within a short time and close space? Well, that's what CS is like, only a tad more intense.

-OC (what one might call pepper spray) is not fun.
Remember that time you were feeling daring so you replied "make it a 10 please" to the waiter at the Thai restaurant, and he/she in return brought you something which performed a chemical peel on the entire interior of your mouth and sinuses? Well, that's not what OC is like, unless your Thai chef was a sadist spicing your food Naga Jolokia peppers.

-I definitely need a 37mm grenade launcher...for strategic sheep purposes, of course.

-There are some really great, well-meaning, and savvy people getting into the Corrections field. There are also some really sad and unbalanced ones.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Corrections Officer Academy, report 1


Back home after my first week and a half of academy.

My observations thus far.

1) Damn, but a lot of the trainees are young and dumb.

2) The Sergeants are a really cool collection of Corrections Officers.

3) The BOQs are filled with dust and mold.

4) DT (Defensive Tactics) is fun, and really lets you know who is out of shape.

5) The food on the unit is...certainly nourishing.

That's all for now,

Friday, February 22, 2008

No excuses, but you do get a bonus rant!

I'm going to state this in as simple and unadorned terms as possible.

What the hell is wrong with employers/companies/head-hunters out here?

Of my myriad contacts, leads, and interviews since arriving in Texas (it's been almost a year and a half, for those of you not keeping track of such things) I have not had a SINGLE company or agent get back to me post interview.

Not one.

No calls from placement/head-hunter agencies saying how the prospective employer has gone with another applicant.

No calls or even courtesy emails from HR departments, hiring managers, or recruiters stating they appreciated my time and interest.

I've met with product development teams, product/project managers, hiring staff, interview teams, even executives. I've had interviews at corporate offices in Durham, NC, temporary offices in downtown San Antonio, and conference rooms in airport area hotels, not to mention over a dozen phone interviews.

Not one follow-up.

Not one courtesy notice.

Not one.

And you companies out here really don't think you need a technical writer with enough process writing and closed-loop experience to fill a Bible?

You really might want to reconsider that stance. If not me, consider hiring someone else who might help you to develop some kind of closed loop for outside hiring practices. It's part of the corporate hiring process these days (you know, for the last few decades) and all the other companies are doing it. You might want to give it a fair shake.


Friday, January 25, 2008

I may not know Redneck, but I know Funny!

And CMT's "20 Greatest Redneck Moments" was knee-slapping, laugh 'til you cry funny.
The anecdotes, the presenters, the incidents and discussions, it was hilarious.
I highly recommend watching it if you can. Whether you're a redneck, a yankee, or a martian, this is some funny shit.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

From where I stand

Election Time is upon us.
Races will be run, names will be sullied, mud will be flung, and the last man standing (yes, I strongly suspect it will be a man) will not necessarily be the best man for the job.
And why is that, I wonder.
Why, year after year, term after term, are voters faced with the feeling they are choosing what may be a lesser of two evils?
Quite simply, because we are a people divided.
We are a people divided by our own devices.
Politics and religions are devices we have created to fill needs and achieve ends.
These devices have, among other things both good and ill, brought about a situation that grieves and worries me: a voting body composed largely of exclusionary interest groups and single issue voters.
Let's be honest, we have a tacit two party system, and neither is currently all that different. Both are ponderous, BIG government entities that have strayed SO far from their core tenets that each is barely recognizable.

Faced with this, how should people vote? They turn to their churches, their families and their single issue concerns.

-2nd amendment rights (gun issues)
-Religious protection (for/against, it's the same issue)
-Borders & Immigration
-The War in the Middle East
-Etc, Ad nauseam

These are all big issues and legitimate concerns, the problem, IMHO, is that when touting one folks tend to ignore the others.

These big political entities: GOP, Dems, the Catholic church, the Church of Christ (sorry church-goers the moment churches do anything stronger than urging their members to get to the polls and vote as their consciences dictate, they've become nothing more than political organizations interpreting the Bible the way politicians interpret the suite their own ends) anyway, these big political entities, and most of the little ones all use the same tactic: furthering their agenda by attacking another.

They force/trick their members into believing that civil liberties are mutually exclusive of each other. They are not. In fact, they are interdependent, and attacking one erodes them all.

Privacy, personal religious beliefs/practices, protection of loved ones, free speech and assembly...they are ALL crucial underpinnings to our great country. Please don't let these interest groups lead you to believe otherwise. So many are willing to compromise one, without realizing they are compromising them all. All of our people deserve all of these protections: all faiths, all colors, all the groups of law-abiding citizens, even those who forget that those fellow Americans on the other side of the argument are just that: fellow Americans, they all deserve the same rights.

So go out, do your own research, make up your own mind and find your own truths.
And please, pretty please: Vote.