Fairy Tales for Modern Children: Goldilocks

Once upon a time there was a young girl named Goldilocks because she was blonde and her parents lacked imagination. They were also very indulgent, so Goldilocks grew up with everything she needed or wanted except a solid sense of boundaries and propriety. She often hugged those who didn’t want to be hugged, took food off of people’s plates without asking, played with other children’s toys even before the other children were done with them. She wasn’t an awful child, but she was an annoying one.

Now, one day, Goldilocks went wandering alone in the woods. Her parents had specifically told her never to wander in the woods alone, but they never punished her, so what were they going to do, now? She flitted from tree to tree and rock to rock, finding things that caught her interest and just as quickly became boring and forgotten, until, she suddenly realized she was lost. Seriously lost. Remember that time you were in Target with your mom and you were bored because she was looking at dresses, so you just sort of moped around, but then you looked up and she was gone? Like that, only worse.

Goldilocks was apprehensive, but she didn’t know enough of the world to be properly scared, so she picked a direction and determined to follow that home, or at least to a road. And off she went. In entirely the wrong direction.

Now, at that time, there was a small family of bears living in those woods in a tiny cottage in a clearing. It’s a strange thing for bears to live in any kind of house, but these weren’t ordinary bears. They had begun as circus bears, but, due to an unreliable set of circumstances had somehow gained the ability to speak and manipulate objects like human beings. Needless to say, this resulted in a lucrative, if momentary, popularity, and the bears, after a brief run at the talk show circuit and a reality series on A&E, retired to this quaint cottage in the woods near Goldilocks’s home town.

On this particular morning, Momma Bear had tried her hand at making porridge. She had recently begun a health kick, and had read that porridge was healthier for bears than bacon and eggs or even oatmeal, so Poppa and Baby Bear were stuck for it, since the circumstances that made them human-like had robbed them of their ability to forage for berries and honey. As they sat there, looking down at their bowls of what looked like wallpaper past with steam wafting out of it, it occurred to Poppa Bear that he may have a way out of his dilemma.

“I think my porridge is too hot,” he announced, suddenly.

“You may be right,” Momma Bear said, noticing the many tendrils of steam. “Maybe we should go for a walk and let it cool down.”

“It’ll still be porridge when we get back,” pointed out Baby Bear, mopily. Poppa Bear glared at him and he settled down. They gathered their things and went out for a walk, not bothering to lock their door, because who would burglarize a house out in the middle of nowhere?

Just after they left, so soon that it defies belief that neither party saw the other, Goldilocks wandered up to their door. She knocked. Goldilocks knew to knock because she didn’t knock one time when she was looking for a toy and interrupted her mother wrestling with the milkman. Her mother must have won, because they never had to pay for milk, but her mother explained to her that the milkman would be embarrassed if she interrupted them again. So, now she always knocked at a closed door. She knocked again, because maybe they were wrestling extra hard and didn’t hear her.

She knocked a third time, because, why not? and when there was no answer, she tried the knob. The door opened.

Inside, she saw the table laid out with three bowls of porridge. She tried the largest one first, but it was too hot and burned her tongue. Before she tried the middle-sized one, she dumped some ice from the fridge into it, but she had dumped too much and it was much too cold. Also, it was still porridge. She tried the smallest, and it was just right. Especially after she poured half a cup of sugar into it. She ate it all up.

No longer hungry, she wandered into the living room, where she found three chairs. The biggest one was a giant easy chair with massive speakers and a vibro-massage. She sat in it, but the leatherette upholstery was too stiff and the automatic recliner controls were idiosyncratic. The middle chair was an overstuffed Queen Anne with a puffy seat and more pillows than she had ever seen outside of a hotel room. She sat in it and immediately disappeared into its fluffy depths.

Crawling out, she found a smaller chair. This was a tiny chair that Poppa Bear had built when he was in his handyman phase. He built it for Baby Bear, but Momma Bear wouldn’t let her child use it, because she doubted Poppa’s skills.

And rightly so, the chair collapsed as soon as Goldilocks sat in it.

All this exploring and the excitement with the collapsing chair, had tired Goldilocks out, so she went looking for some place she could lie down and take a nap. In the first bedroom, she found a King-sized bed with an adjustable mattress. She lay on one side, but the controls were locked and that side was set so high it was like lying on top of a counter. She crawled over to the other side and sank in like she was crawling on a marshmallow. Leaving that room, she went to the smaller room across the hall, where she found a twin bed with a standard, inner-spring mattress. She lay down and was asleep almost instantly.

The Bears arrived home. It had been Poppa’s plan to stay out until the porridge was fully inedible (instead of being just mostly inedible, because, porridge), but Baby Bear had forgotten Binky, a stuffed rabbit with one eye and one ear, and he wouldn’t shut up until they came back for it. They noticed the door was ajar, which caused Momma Bear to make a snarky comment to Poppa, who had been last out the door. Even if they didn’t lock, it was very important to close the door to keep raccoons out, because raccoons are jerks. Always remember that, children, raccoons are jerks.

They were going to wait at the door while Baby went upstairs for Binky, but Poppa noticed something. “I can’t imagine why, but it looks like someone had been eating my porridge,” he said.

“Someone dumped ice in mine,” Momma Bear said, “and they missed with a couple of cubes and now there’s a huge watermark on the table!”

“Someone ate mine all up,” announced Baby Bear. “So that means I get dessert, right?”

Momma and Poppa exchanged a look. “Maybe later,” Momma said to her son. They proceeded carefully into the living room. Poppa Bear rushed to his chair to flip it back down and turn the massager off. “I just can’t even,” he said when he had finished.

Momma didn’t hear him, she was busy picking up pillows and placing them carefully where they belonged on her chair. Then she noticed the ruins of Baby’s chair. “I told you,” she said. “That thing was a menace.”

Now Poppa was really concerned. He was sure he’d closed the door, but what if he hadn’t, and a raccoon had gotten into the house. It had happened once before, and the little jerk had broken half the good china, had eaten all of their cookies, and was licking their bagels when Poppa came downstairs to see what the ruckus was. It hissed at him, scratched him on the nose, then waddled out of the house like it had every right to be there. The worst part was that it was pretty clear that the raccoon didn’t even like bagels; it was just licking them so no one else could eat them, because raccoons are jerks.

Poppa stepped into the kitchen and picked up a spatula to use as a weapon. Momma, catching Poppa’s intent, picked up her good iron skillet, then put it down and picked up a cheap Teflon skillet she didn’t like. Up the stairs they went, Poppa and his spatula, Momma and her skillet, and Baby an his growing conviction that grown-ups are insane.

In the master bedroom, nothing seemed any different. The covers were mussed, but, surely, a raccoon would have caused more damage. Momma picked up more of her pillows. Suddenly, Baby cried out from his room. “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed, and she’s still here!”

At that, Poppa and Momma rushed across the hall to find Goldilocks, just waking up. “Eeek!” she cried. “A bear!”

“What is wrong with you?” Poppa cried.

“Don’t you have any sense of boundaries?” Momma added.

“Is that my Binky?” Baby asked. Goldilocks had been hugging the doll while she slept and was still holding it. She’d been drooling, and the head was sopping wet.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, offering the doll to the small bear.

“You keep it.”

Everyone laughed, nervously, but the exchange had broken the ice. The bears learned that Goldilocks wasn’t intentionally awful, she simply didn’t know any better. Goldilocks began to learn what appropriate behavior is, and she and Baby struck up a terrific friendship that lasted for years until Goldilocks discovered actual boys.

Of course there is a moral, here, boys and girls, one you should always remember: Raccoons are jerks.

Mythical Meat Loaf

After years of my daughter bugging me for the recipe, I’ve finally decided to share it with the world.

Ingredients:

  • 8oz ground beef
  • 4oz hart venison (ground)
  • 3oz Abyssinian goat meat (ground)
  • 1oz breast meat from a wren (ground)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 1/2 cup sweet pepper (diced)
  • 16oz puree made from Roma tomatoes, fresh sweet basil, and extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup bread crumbs from my special recipe for sesame, quinoa, and amaranth bread
  • 2 dove’s eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 449.8° K.

In a large, salt-glazed bowl, combine meat, onion, peppers, eggs, salt pepper, Tibetan saffron, 8oz puree, and 1/4 cup bread crumbs. Fold gently facing the nearest ley line intersection (if that information is not available, facing a major landmark of religious or historical significance will have to do) until thoroughly mixed.

Turn the mixture out into a 13.2″ by 7.7″ by 4″ casserole dish. Form into a loaf shape. Pat the remaining breadcrumbs onto the surface of the loaf. Top with remaining puree. Cook at 176.65° C for 3582 seconds (or until bored). Allow to rest for 0.0014 weeks.

Slice into 1cm slices at a 62 degree horizontal and a 93 degree pitch.

Serve with powdered potatoes and MD 20/20.

Spring Food—Tiny Cheesecake

Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups of crushed crisped rice cereal (about 4-1/2 cups when whole)
  • 3 Tbs firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter. melted
Filling
  • 16 oz cream Cheese, softened (usually 2 packages–unless you find the big one)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350º. Insert baking cup into muffin tin. Mix ingredients for crust until crumbly (but will stick together if pressed). Press crust into the bottom of baking cups.
Further soften cream cheese by hitting it with a blender for a few minutes. Add other ingredients and mix until creamy. Spoon into cups on top of crust. Bake at 350º until firm (about 25 minutes). Stick into refrigerator to set for at least 8 hours. Makes about 18 tiny cheesecakes, maybe more; it depends on how generous you are.

Conservative Politics for Dummies

I read a lot. I read a lot about politics and government, in particular. I read factual reports filled with opinions and opinionated editorials supported by facts. I also have a habit of shooting my mouth off in comments sections and on Facebook posts. And I read the comments and remarks on those, too.

I may have mentioned before how much it bugs me that people spend a lot more time projecting their prejudiced expectations on others than they do calmly discussing issues and reaching some form of accord. If I had a dollar for every time a progressive friend of mine expressed a false stereotype of conservative policy, I’d be rich enough to have more liberal friends.

It doesn’t help to tell people how they think, or to tell people who agree with you how to debate those who don’t. Those sorts of guides always result in lots of preaching and no debate or discussion. So, conservative that I am. here’s my guide to the conservative take on a list of issues. Feel free to disagree with me. That’s how discussions happen.

“Conservative” doesn’t mean what you think it means

It may surprise you to learn that nearly every conservative position expressed by policy wonks on MSNBC and Fox News is utter bullshit (maybe not, who am I to judge?) This is partially because allegedly conservative media outlets use hilariously slanted polling methods and “balanced” media outlets like MSNBC have a bad habit of creating straw men. That’s not the whole of it, however.

We, as a people, err in thinking that political thought can be expressed along a single line, when it’s more accurate to express it in a matrix. Essentially (and I’m not the first person to say this) political thought breaks down along the lines of money and power, and opinions can be charted on that graph in the same way.

Click for slightly larger image.

Click for slightly larger image.

The vertical axis is all about power and who has it. Liberals want people to have most of the power; Authoritarians want that power safely in the hands of government. The horizontal axis expresses money, and how the government should spend it. Progressives are all about social engineering and using tax money for (presumably positive) social change. Conservatives would like to keep their own money in their own pockets, thanks. Mind you, a political conservative may be socially progressive, the difference there is that he believes the funding for social change should be voluntary and not gained through taxation.

And that’s the thing. Saying “Conservatives oppose gay marriage,” is like saying “Red Sox fans hate the New York Jets.” Not only does it pigeonhole an entire school of thought behind a single issue, it draws that issue from a different game, entirely.

Moral issues are divisive among conservatives

People who identify as conservative are widely divided on the moral issues, even if we occasionally reach an accord for disparate reasons. I see myself as a liberal conservative (but not so far out either axis as to be Libertarian), so my first reaction to any moral debate is almost always, “I don’t have a dog in that fight.” If I’m pressed, my reaction will probably end up somewhere around, “Sure, why not?” More authoritarian conservatives will have highly developed opinions on such subjects, usually based on their religious beliefs.

I’m always amused at the number of people who call themselves conservative and complain about the government in their front yard, but have no problem putting the government in someone else’s bedroom. I am not amused by the laundry list of assumptions people make about me when they learn that I’m a conservative.

For instance, I would never eat this kitten (unless it was served with a side salad and a good dipping sauce).

For instance, I would never eat this kitten.

Republican politicians aren’t conservatives

American politics is a popularity competition to see who gets to play with the money and power of the American People. This isn’t new. By extension, no professional politician is either liberal or conservative, because those philosophies are all about keeping power and money, respectively, out of the government’s hands.

So straight off the boat, any politician saying he supports “good conservative values” is lying to you (never mind that it’s a senseless phrase–there are no political values, only issues and concerns), because he wants your money and your power.

Telling us what we think just pisses us off and shuts down discussion

No conservative is “anti-immigration.” Many are sick and tired of giving illegal immigrants and those who enable them a free pass, but that’s not the same as being anti-immigration any more  than punishing your child for stealing money off your dresser makes you “anti-allowance.” Conservatives are not, as a group, racist, sexist, homophobic, luddite, or jingoist. Some are some of these things, a microscopic minority are all of them, but most are none of them.

If you talk to people, instead of flinging random accusations at them, you might find out that their concerns are as valid as your own.

Crime and Punishment

I have been thinking, lately, of crime and punishment. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching Blue Bloods on Netflix, maybe it’s just because the media have been soaked in an unending stream of stories about police officers, criminals, and the innocents trapped between them. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

I think we’ve been going at this whole crime and punishment thing all wrong. We act like people are something we can standardize, like traffic lights. The thing is, laws aren’t there to keep us all the same, they exist to set boundaries so we can be different in ways that don’t harm others. Societies, even small ones like families, cannot exist without rules of behavior, and without societies, we’re all just monkeys waiting for the next hungry leopard.

So I’ve been thinking. The first thing that occurred to me is that we keep looking at all felony crimes as if they were the same thing. The truth is, a lot of felonies should be misdemeanors—some shouldn’t be crimes at all—and punishing them all with hard time (and a lifelong social albatross) serves no one. I think our justice system should be scaled to reflect how a different crime directly affects society and the people that make it up.

Moral Crimes

What I’m calling moral crimes, is any crime that offends someone else’s idea of what’s right, but has no other direct effect on other individuals and society as a whole. Recreational drug use, gambling, sexual activities involving only consenting adults, these are all things that, when they are illegal, are not illegal because of any actual harm they do, but as an effort to enforce some arbitrary standard of virtuous behavior.

In my mind, none of these should be crimes at all. The guy who undertips (or downright refuses to tip) a waiter is doing far more harm than the one who cools down after work with a joint, but only one of them is going down to Huntsville if he tries to limit his trips to the Fifth Ward to just one a month.

That’s basically my thoughts on moral crime. If you’re reason that something should be illegal is, “I don’t do it, so you shouldn’t either.” It shouldn’t be a crime. You should just learn to get past the differences expressed by others. That our jails are full of people whose only crime is needing an easy means to avoid the harshness of their day is an embarrassment to our nation.

Procedural Crime

A procedural crime is one where the law sets a minimum standard in order to protect the rest of us from your negligence. Most traffic, consumer protection, and building and safety codes are procedural laws. Essentially, if you break a procedural law, you may not have hurt anyone, yet, but you’re going to.

Often, a procedural crime informs the understanding of a greater crime. A family dies because one man was driving while intoxicated. Twenty men and women are hospitalized because someone cheaped out on building supplies. Negligence at a food processing plant results in hundreds of casualties, some fatal, from a preventable contaminant. In my mind, these are all violent crimes (more on those, later), but they are informed by the existence of a procedural crime.

Procedural crimes should carry fines if, and only if, there is no evidence of other crime resulting from the violation. Of course these fines should vary with (a) the potential severity of the violation, (b) the financial situation of the accused, and (c) how many times the accused has been found guilty of committing similar offenses.

In cases where such crimes are the result of company culture, the fines should go right up the hierarchy until the offending company can show that the supervisor had no reasonable means of expecting the violation. Companies that have a stated safety or quality policy would need to show that they didn’t set sales or production standards that made adhering to that policy impossible.

The lion’s share of money from procedural fines should go into a fund to compensate any potential victims. Failure to pay those fines, elevates the crime from a mere procedural, to a

Property Crime

Any time you deny someone the use or enjoyment of something that is theirs by right, you commit a property crime. Theft and vandalism are obviously property crimes, but so are fraud, profiteering, and predatory lending practices. Non-payment of taxes and fines are also property crimes (against the government).

This is where jail time should begin to rear its ugly head. The primary aim here should be restitution. It does the victim no good for the accused to go to jail. The victim has still suffered a loss (and don’t say “blahblah insurance blah” you know as well as I do that getting full value out of an insurance policy is like getting milk from a cat—it’s possible, but one of you probably won’t survive the experience).

Anyway, the punishments here should run on a sliding scale from simply paying the victim back (plus a punitive fine) through probationary labor or wage garnishing, up to incarceration on a work farm or prison factory. The length of any labor or incarceration would be wholly defined by the value of the lost property and additional fines for recidivism.

Violent Crime

If you knowingly bring harm to another person, you have committed a violent crime. As I said, above, committing a procedural crime informs the charge, here. If you were speeding through a school zone, and hit a child, in my mind, you are guilty of battery against that child (assuming he lives) just as much as if you had taken the tire iron out of your trunk and used it on him.

I should point out that I don’t consider simple assault (a threat of violence combined with the means to carry out that violence) to be a violent crime–it’s procedural. Assault raises theft to robbery; by removing the option of consent, assault turns sex into rape. On it’s own, however, assault should not be treated as a matter on par with violent crimes. There’s a wide gulf between, “I’m gonna kick your ass!” and someone getting their meals through a straw while they wait for their jaw to heal.

Violent felons should be removed from society, because they pose a clear and present danger to that society. First time offenders should be offered therapy and training to (hopefully) give them the tools to avoid committing their crime again. Repeat offenders should receive longer stays and more severe punishments depending on the severity of their offense and how many times they’ve committed it.

Violence should be looked at as partially a property crime. Hospital bills, lost wages, physical and psychological therapy are all expenses the victim would not have to shoulder if not for the actions of the convicted. So part of a violent felon’s sentence should be working for restitution for his victims. As a society, we should re-acquaint ourselves with the idea of weregild, because human lives have value, and that value should be paid by those who willfully destroy them.

Capital Crime

Some people commit crimes so heinous they can never be allowed to interact with society. Those people need to be removed. Lacking a secure habitat to exile them, I believe the only real solution is to put them down.

We must, however, ensure that we have the right person. Rules of evidence and debate in capital cases must be orders of magnitude greater than those in regular trials. Prosecutors must be prevented from using theatrics of any kind or any sort of visceral appeal during the trial phase. Juries must be allowed to determine guilt or innocence based entirely on the facts. It’s hard to say, “Not guilty” when you have ten crime-scene photos of bloody victims in front of you, and an officer of the court telling you, “This guy did it, are you going to let him get away?”

But that’s what we expect juries to do in capital trials. We shouldn’t, and we shouldn’t allow prosecutors to put juries in that position.

Obviously, there are holes in my plan, and much would need to be discussed, but I think it’s a good starting point.