Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Day

Before I begin this anecdote I have two requests.

1)  I'd like for my father to stop reading for long enough to set up a webcam.  I want him to record his reaction to this post for me.

2)  I want the first person (and that includes you, Dad) to make a woman driver joke to be on the next flight to Europe so that I can personally beat him/her over the head repeatedly with a German cuckoo clock.

Why the special requests?  Because today I learned to drive a car with a manual transmission.

It started with my leaving my cellphone at work.  Being that my cellphone is my major way of anyone getting ahold of me, I needed to get it.  Unfortunately, I only noticed it was missing from my purse on Saturday morning when most of the people I know in this country are hung over.  Also, I was tired of scamming, begging and bumming rides from eveyrone at work.  The lack of transportation was getting to me, and it even went so far as to make getting regular transportation even more difficult to obtain.  The problem was compounded by my antisocial nature.  I wanted to see some of Germany--Hel, I just wanted to see a movie--but not if it meant I had to talk to people.

So I got out my little book, borrowed a neighbors telephone and called the rental place.  I'd have a week of independance if nothing else.  They set me up that afternoon with some temporary transportation, that could get me to work, to the store, to the movie theater, and most importantly, to the used car lot.  The day would have all worked out perfectly but for one slight problem.  That being the manual transmission.  But I was prepared for that, sort of.

I'd read about it on the internet.

And I got a... briefing from the car rental guy.

Nevertheless, when I got into the car and tested it out, I found I couldn't move in reverse to get out of the parking spot.  I did everything as I'd been told, I didn't panic when the car started moving when I released the clutch.  I shifted the gearshift towards the R, but it wouldn't go backwards.  So I glanced around the partking lot, and accosted some random guy as he was exiting his car.

"Hey, you drive manual?"


"Umm.. help?"

He nodded and came over, said he knew exactly the problem.  "European gearshift.  You have to shove it all the way over until it clicks, then up."

I did so.  The car still stubbornly insisted on moving forward.  This wouldn't have been a problem, if not for the other car parked in front of it.  The car I was getting just a bit closer to each time I tried to move.  So I had the random stranger sit in the car and try it himself.

(Dad, you had better be filming your reaction to this story.)

And what do you know, it wasn't my fault.  He couldn't get it go backwards either.  We had no choice but to go forward past the other car (we had enough room between the bumpers to slip a few pieces of paper by) and sure enough, as soon as we cleared the other car and switched drivers again the damned reverse started working.

No, I didn't back into anything.  But I swear, I put it in the exact same position each fucking time.

Still, I was doing fairly well.  Within a half hour, I got it moving around the parking lot smoothly--after stalling a few dozen times in the first 20 minutes--and felt comfortable enough to go to the street to get to work and look for my phone.  The street was an uphill street.  And of course, the damnable thing stalled at the top.  And of course, the next car--an ugly boxy yellow thing--pulls right up behind me.

So here I am, still adjusting to the clutch and the slight rocking backwards because the parking lot didn't have enough hills to get used to that, and a line forms.  The woman in the yellow car behind me couldn't back up due to the black car that was right behind her, and I couldn't get any further up the hill.  She was fortunately very amused by the situation.  She and her entire line of cars eventually passed me.  Then another line formed, this one smart enough to back away.

After providing a total of 20 minutes entertainment to the base population, a pedestrian stopped to help me figure out the right combination of accelerator and clutch motion (he advised thinking of it as a teetertotter).  I didn't have another problem until work, where I discovered that my phone was not left at the office.

But don't worry, I think I know where it is.

I focused on my next errand, because by heaven's frosty gate I was going to get something accomplished this day.  The building for the next errand happened to be up a large hill.  But I wasn't worried, I'd discovered the secret to hills.  I wasn't quite sure about the speed limit, but I'd discovered the secret to hills.

Well, I thought I had.  I was still getting used to the clutch, though, so I stalled when I got up the hill and tried to turn into the parking lot.  So I restarted the engine, and stalled again.  I got a bit frustrated with it, particularly the car's desire to slip backwards on the hill as I tried to get it to start forward.  Took maybe ten minutes to park because of that.  But after that I ran smoothly around base, from the store to the other store, to the first store when the other store told me they didn't have what I wanted.  I obtained some potentially valuable advice about diesel engines at the last stop.  Sure, I overshot the movie time, I'm afraid.  But I remembered the way home.

The shine on remembering the way home was dulled when I stalled twice on the way home.  Both times entering traffic circles, which just sucks because there is someone moving in a little circle in front of you and invariably there is someone behind you.  That just makes recovering from the stall worse because there's suddenly this sense of urgency.

To top off the day, I stalled entering my freaking driveway, because guess who lives on the side of an uphill road! (And some jackass blasted his horn at me, which is illegal withing city limits, and startled me into releasing the clutch too soon as stalling a second time while I was trying to recovering from the first stall!)

But all in all it was a fairly productive day.  I'm now confident I can get to work and back (though I'm not touching the autobahn yet, I don't care what stupid souvenirs people want from other parts of Germany), and I've expanded my options for permanent transportation.  (There aren't many automatics for sale where I'm at, so this is a big thing.)  For this I'd like to thank my AWOL cellphone, my three impromptu teachers, the road-gods of Germany, and the cops who pointed and laughed as I banged my head against the steering wheel in frustration.

(And Dad?  Upload the video to Youtube, so I can watch it at my leisure.)

Tales from the Chatroom

Kalinara's been reading back issues of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos today, and has treated me to a running commentary on the plot.

This includes her opinion on Nick's love interest Pamela.

An excerpt:

Kalinara (12:16:06 AM): Oh no, he's buying her a ring

Kalinara (12:16:09 AM): She's going to die.

Kalinara (12:16:10 AM): ...

Kalinara (12:16:12 AM): YAY

Monday, September 15, 2008

Webfighting falls under this blog, doesn't it?

I've been a bit quiet due to finally finding a permanent residence, then waiting on Internet access, then losing internet access for a weekend. Yeah, I'm out in the sticks here.  (I did manage to finish a few good books like the last couple Hellboy trades, Small Favor and Livewires -- Good god, why did no one tell me how awesome Livewires was?)

Anyway, during the brief period I had net access last week I wrote a column. Now that I have it again, I went to check the column and found I was being called out by one Mark "My Underwear is Two Sizes Too Tight and That's What's Up My Ass" Engblom, who feels a feminist should be unquestioningly supportive of any female candidate:
Simply this: Lisa’s blog-life revolves around the advancement of women…but now that one’s knocking on the door to the vice presidency…well, I guess that’s not the RIGHT kind of woman for Lisa and the rest of the snarling lefty feminists out there who can’t stand the fact that a conservative women might just beat the “acceptable” feminists to that role. The Palin nomination has cause quite a few masks to fall, one of them being the hypocrisy of so-called feminists who are now rallying to stifle and push down a fellow woman on the verge of making history, yet doesn’t fit their narrow ideological spectrum.
Now, I consider Engblom's assumption that feminists should support a markedly antifeminist candidate just because she's a woman to be sexist so I came up with a long response. Then I decided against posting it on the actual thread of a post, because it's too damned long,Blog@Newsarama's comments were fucking up and it will just encourage the idiot to keep arguing with me in a place that is not my webspace.  I prefer to fight in my own backyard, at my leisure. So I'm giving it to you guys and if Engblom wants to come over and run his mouth in my territory rather than Matt Brady's he can:
Actually, I'd consider it a feminist act to vote against a female candidate who stands against your beliefs, just as it is a feminist act to vote for a female candidate who stands for your beliefs. It breaks down one of the fundamental constraints on women in our society, mainly that we are all considered a single demographic.

Here's an example: I just had a mild disagreement with a coworker who was kind enough to drive me to the store. I promised him it would be quick because I had a list. He laughed and said that no female could stick to a shopping list.

I raised my eyebrow, and--almost forgetting he was doing a nice thing for me--told him he was wrong.

"Look," he said, "I have a sister and a wife--"

"And I have 7 items on my list, and that's all I'm walking out of this store with."

I walked out of that store with 7 items. All on my list, no more, no less. He may think it's just because we argued or he may think I'm simply an oddity but the simple fact of the matter is he was wrong to make an assumption about all women based on just the two he knew. It simply wouldn't have been feminist to let the attitude go unchallenged.

See, one of the points of feminism is making the culture learn that woman are not interchangeable. This goes from the shitty characterization of and the comparison of any and all notable women to Wonder Woman, to the idea that I'm going to shop in the same way my coworker's sister, to the idea that Hillary Clinton's voters are going to be attracted by the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket.

Sarah Palin is not Hillary Clinton. Sarah Palin never will be Hillary Clinton. The two are the opposite on just about every issue that matters. In fact, I have to say I respect Sarah Palin for not pretending that she is Hillary Clinton.

But anyone who voted for Hillary Clinton would be an idiot to vote for Sarah Palin, just as anyone who wants to vote for Sarah Palin would be an idiot to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Because these women are different.

Because--and say it with me--women are not all the same.

And that's one of the points of feminism, getting rid of these stereotypes. Destroying these assumptions. Making it so women can be judged on their own merits rather than assumptions made about their gender.

And this is what we're doing, judging Clinton and Palin on their merits, not their gender. Which means some people is going to love Palin and hate Clinton, while others going to love Clinton and hate Palin.

That's the way it would be with male candidates. That's the way it should be with female candidates.

This is not bitterness. This is not jealousy. This is taking what's best for you and the country into careful consideration before you pull the lever. This is listening to what the candidate says about the issues that affect rather than looking at their race/gender/religion and seeing how it matches to yours and assuming that their policies will benefit you somehow. This is taking your civic responsibility seriously. This is taking your rights seriously.

This is called thinking, Engblom. You might want to try it sometime.
It all reminds of my mother excitedly telling me that McCain had chosen a female running mate. I grinned, and laughed and informed her this wouldn't get me to vote for McCain unless it was someone really awesome.

"She's a conservative woman," Mom said proudly. (Mom is a conservative woman.)

"Oh, then I definitely won't vote for him. I liked Clinton because she was a liberal woman--well, an acceptably centrist woman. I'm not going to vote for just anyone because their running mate has the same parts as me." And for a few moments, I was happy, because it meant that I wouldn't vote for someone just because she was a woman. I felt rather satisfied with my enlightened viewpoint. And Mom, who I don't give enough credit in political discussions, was smart enough to understand that.

Then I researched Sarah Palin and started to get pissed off at her views, but this isn't really the blog for complaining about that. This is the blog for culture shock chronicles, comic books, and laughing at idiots in the online superhero fan community.

Congratulations, Mr. Sulu

George Takei marries longtime partner Brad Altman