The Dreaded Blue Screen of Death

This is a poem I wrote in 2002 for my college creative writing class.  The professor hated it.  Most other people love it, or at least don’t hate it.  I’m pretty sure that’s a metaphor for college education, in general.

The Dreaded Blue Screen of Death

The archaic din of white text superimposed upon a black screen is no more.
The blinking curser and the cryptic jibe,
“Syntax error,”
have receded from the much-coveted position of
“operating system”
into the subcutaneous untreaden cave of
“MS-DOS Mode.”

Upon the release of Microsoft’s 1995 crowning innovation,
the new “Windows” operating system,
fully equipped with tranquil desktop themes
and a myriad of cheery, sound-coordinated pop-up menus,
people around the world rejoiced.

No more will the unconscionable
Config.sys errors
of yesteryear interfere with the high-profile,
file management systems of modern times.

The gratingly irritating beeps
and infinite lists of “Bad commands” or “Filenames;”
the stubbornly unbootable hard-drive has given way;
techies around the world groaned
for they knew that the days of horribly stubborn operating systems had ended,
and their jobs as the unapproachable gurus of the Great OS
would soon cease to exist.

But there was hope.

For the dreaded Blue Screen of Death has been replaced
by the Gray Window of Frustration.

Woe be
to the unsuspecting user who
dares check
the internal workings of his system—
who dares click on

Control Panel > System > Performance

the windows popping up—
presenting him with that
forty-two billion dollar grin of approval,

and the user,
piles of driver disks and small papers on the desk in front of him,
with half-closed eyes
at the messages:

Compatibility-mode paging reduces overall system performance.
Drive C is using MS-DOS compatibility mode file system.

say his unflinching, half-closed eyes.
he reminisces about the
real operating systems of old.
He thinks,
why did they have to make this thing so dang user friendly?

The “Default”
green desktop stares back at him,
unaware of its error.
He stares for a moment longer
at those two
insolent messages,
and at the five-cent euphemisms–
the kind that make this operating system
the most widely used operating system in the world–
and explain why his computer is running so

The stuttering CPU fan blows hot air
out of its overworked medium tower.
Glaring light from the ceiling fan reflects
in the dark window behind the computer.
He stares, dazed, tired
at the clock on the Taskbar.

I should have hired a techie,”
he murmurs as he futily replaces the yellow driver disk
with yet another version of the software.
He restarts the hardware installation program.

Windows will now search for any new Plug and Play devices on your system.
Your screen may go blank during this process. This is normal.

One pulsating vein highlights his greasy forehead
as he clicks the Next button.

Please wait while Windows searches for new Plug and Play devices.

For a few fleeting moments the hard drive activity indicator flickers its compliance.
Mother board resources, mother board resources,” he chants,
in vain hopes of coercing the stupid machine into subjecting itself to his will.

For the next five minutes there is no activity.
His limp fingers grope around on the keyboard for those three familiar buttons:

The End Task window doesn’t appear.

He sighs as he presses them again.
Then chuckles, reminiscing,

as he longingly smiles at the familiar blue screen in front of him.


Slam Poem: A Lesson in History

February 17th, 2015

Today, I received an email from a friend urging me to repeat history by petitioning for non-involvement in Ukraine. This is my response.

France stole the iron out of Germany while is men stood with their swords nailed to the ground.
Germany’s lenders and industrialists made pacts with the invaders, and grew rich from the spoils of their people.
A man was raised up, out of the perils of a beer hall, who promised that the invaders could be quashed.
“A new empire, a Third Reich”, he proclaimed, as his battered, starving people stretched forth their hands, to receive bread.
And he gave it to them.

Bread from the depths of the earth, from iron mines and oil wells; a war machine that would dance like black lightning across a sea of broken bodies.
This bread could be made and exported without limit, because more life-giving sustenance could be found upon the corpse of every Frenchman who convulsed under its piercing influence.
The traitors—those foul lenders and industrialists—were quickly made to bend the knee, and then bend their backs under the strain of the baker’s flour.

Poland ate the bread of steel while the world watched from their places of non-involvement.
The seed of the money-lenders became the new laborers in the baker’s furnace.

Those who once put their boots upon the necks of their countrymen, for a mere dottle of favor from their conquerors soon found themselves penniless, their eyes dark and their fingers jointed with knots.
To those who feared the foreign oppressors, this was justice; and to those who suffered at their hands, it was fate, because this, too, had happened before.
But whose fault was it, when the sky turned white with human ash, and the air grew hot with putrescine?

It was the fault of those who could not stand the thought of another Great War; their cowardice brought a second one into being.

In 1919, the Allied Powers said that oppressing Germany was the only way to bring peace.

When France continued to invade Germany after the end of World War One, it was said to be Germany’s “just desserts”.

When Germany expanded east and west, it was said that they couldn’t be faulted, because the Treaty of Versailles was clearly unfair; and could we really blame the German people for wanting an end to that oppression?

When France fell, and London was besieged, we complained because we didn’t see it coming. Our self-righteous vanity shattered like the aftermath of an airstrike.

And now, we stand by, saying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is clearly different.

Propaganda is circulating, saying that Ukraine doesn’t have to stay independent, because it’s only been that way for 24 years, and before that, it was part of Russia.
But the kingdom of Germany had only been fragmented for 20 years before World War Two began.

The propaganda says that Ukraine’s government is corrupt, and therefore they don’t deserve to be their own state.
So, too, were the lords of fragmented Germany when they met in that fateful beer hall, and were shot at by their nation’s soon-to-be fuhrer.

Our vain, liberal propagandists claim that we can’t lay this at the feet of Vladmir Putin, because he’s a latecomer, and is only responding to the fragmented nature of Ukraine.
So, too, did Adolf Hitler only respond to the fragmented nature of his beloved Germany.

Yes, our vaunted diplomats urge that, if only we do nothing, this whole thing will blow over, and clearly Russia will stop as soon as they conquer Crimea. Or, at least, they’ll stop before they reach Poland. Or, maybe they’ll stop before they reach Germany. But surely, France is safe.

How long are we going to suffer the advice of cowards and fools? Does it make sense to ignore the past, in hope that doing so will change the future? When has the ever…ever worked?!

I call myself a Centrist because I can’t stand the idiocy of any polarized ideology, be it conservative, liberal, capitalist, or socialist; and it’s high time I write some propaganda of my own:

Down to ignorance!
Down to cowardice!
A pox on the enemies of peace,
And a brand on the ever-hackneyed re-writers of history!

Why Does It Matter Whether Homosexuality Is A Choice?

I think that the reason people think that choice in gender preference matters is the same reason why people who ask that question are, so far as I’ve seen, utterly unwilling to follow that question to the uncomfortable places to which it might lead. This applies equally to both sides of the LGBTQ debate. The logic goes something like this:

The anti-LGBTQ advocate will typically look at the evidence in this way:
“It’s entirely, or substantially a choice. Therefore, people who engage in homosexual activity are culpable, and legitimate targets of (social) prosecution.” In rarer cases, such an advocate will see homosexual people as a “mistake”, wherein their desires are NOT a choice, but they need to “behave themselves”, anyway, and seek medical help to correct the problem.

The pro-LGBTQ advocate will typically look at the evidence in one of two ways, (seemingly) entirely dependent on the situation at-hand:
1) It’s not a choice. Therefore, nobody can be blamed for it, and people who feel same-gender attraction should have every right as people who are born heterosexual.
2) It is a choice. Therefore, people can’t put those who feel same-gender attraction into a “box” as being only a certain way.

Personally, I think that all of these positions have at least a little merit.

The anti-LGBTQ advocate makes good points in claiming that people are responsible for their own decisions (and not those of other people). This is no different from heterosexual responsibility, when you get right down to it. They also make a good point that, similarly, everybody needs to behave in a socially-responsible fashion. Parading unprotected sex in front of an elementary school is probably not a responsible thing to do–regardless of who’s doing it.

The pro-LGBTQ advocate makes a good point in stating that if it isn’t a choice, then discrimination and (social) prosecution is utterly inappropriate. Likewise, if it IS a choice, people who sometimes feel attracted to one gender, and sometimes to the other shouldn’t have to be confined to a particular “way of being”, just because others have trouble wrapping their minds around this. (Bisexual men and women I know are also targets of poor treatment from gay and lesbian people who want them to “figure it out”, which seems equally silly.)

The thing is, regardless of which position is correct, BOTH sides of the debate are going to lose. Here’s my logic:

If there’s a physiological element, then anti-LGBTQ activists are screwed, because it means that they can no longer advocate for laws and policies that have different rules for LGBTQ people–since that would be discrimination. On the other hand, if it IS a choice, they’re stuck proving that same-gender attraction is hurting those who consent to such relations. Rape is already illegal, and clearly, this is a hard case to make with regard to consenting adults.

On the other side, pro-LGBTQ activists are screwed because the physiological element means that medical treatment is theoretically possible. This has the politically-inconvenient effect of proving that a person who is currently homosexual could be turned heterosexual, with the right treatment (hormones, gene therapy, surgery, etc.). If that’s what the person in question really wants, then this gets into “choice” territory: if the pro-LGBTQ activists get to decide that people can’t make this choice for themselves, then their anti-LGBTQ opponents can make the same choice about homosexuality.

So, let’s look at some of the evidence: is there a physiological difference between straight people, bisexual people, and homosexual people? Scientific inquiry has resoundingly said, “yes”. One factor is the shape and development of the amydgala–the part of the brain most responsible for interpersonal interaction and letting the two hemispheres of the brain talk to each other. The amygdalas of gay men more closely resemble those of straight women. The amygdalas of gay women more closely resemble those of straight men. Bisexual people are somewhere in-between. There are also hormonal differences, and one has to wonder how any of this is possible without at least a small genetic component. (I’m sure information about the latter could be found with a Google search–but probably predominantly on politically-biased websites. Scientific journals are, unfortunately, commonly hidden behind paywalls.)

So, why does it matter whether homosexuality is a choice? Because talking about it–SUPERFICIALLY–acts as an emotional “trigger”, and therefore as a political “dog whistle”. And that’s why LGBTQ-related gender politics aren’t worth paying all that much attention to, just yet.

(For those who are wondering, the current “correct” acronym for the aforestated gender rights movement is “LGBTQQIP2SAA” or LGBTQ+, for short.)