Why I’m Not Voting

My essay got published on Huffington Post. However, I must admit that since they changed their platform, it is much easier to do. All of my prior articles were approved by editors. This time they just published it, so maybe it’s not such a big deal. In any case, I wrote it.

Why I’m Not Voting
by Lara M. Gardner

I used to be a good little Progressive. I was out stumping for the vote, actively pursuing participation by everyone, doing my best to get everyone to work for change. After the 2008 elections, I partied for Barack Obama, I cheered in the streets with millions, certain his election promises would be just what everyone had been waiting for. In spite of some obvious problems staring me right in the face, I believed.

You may continue reading here.

Happy Hamster Computers Sucks

I bought a computer from Happy Hamster after struggling to maintain an old laptop I use for work years past its sell-by date. When it finally crashed, they managed to scrape some material from the hard drive for me. Windows 10 had recently reared its ugly head and, upon hearing my complaint that I did not want a computer with Windows 10 on it, sold me a business-class laptop with Windows 7. I paid more than I would have for something at Costco or the like, but figured with the warranty from HH and Windows 7, what could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turned out. The thing started crashing nearly immediately. I took it into HH. They blamed my anti-virus software, highly rated anti-virus software a close friend has used without issue for years. I removed the anti-virus software. The issues persisted. Blue screen 2-3 times a day. Crashing constantly. I took it in again. And again. And again. Each time, they blamed something in the software, everything BUT the computer (which turned out to be refurbished, not new, but whatever). They tried to sell me their service to seek out dangerous viruses, because that had to be the problem. It couldn’t possibly be that the computer they sold me was a lemon. They finally said they could send it back to the manufacturer, which would take at least a week. Now, maybe all of this wouldn’t be such a problem for some people. Doubtful, but it’s possible. However, I used this computer for work. My livelihood depended on it. In addition, I was in a master’s program and using it for school too. In no way was it possible to be without it for a week. I didn’t have another computer to use as a backup. I didn’t have $800 to throw at another computer. Never once did they offer a loaner or offer an exchange. They just kept shaking their heads and doing really nothing at all.

Finally I took it to another shop who set up another user and charged me $250 to do so, something HH had done during one of my many visits and had not worked. It didn’t work this time either. They also wanted to reinstall Windows, something I would have done, too. However, since the install disks weren’t given to me by HH, neither of us were able to do so without, you guessed it, sending it back to the manufacturer. One thing they did confirm and determine was that none of this was being caused by some big, bad virus, HH’s go-to answer for all I was experiencing. I finally determined I was going to have to suffer through until I really had a week to send it back to the manufacturer.

Nearly a year later, and close to the year warranty deadline, after dutifully backing everything up 20 different ways, I was able to leave the computer for a week while I went on vacation. I took it into HH, gave them the mile-long list of trouble I had been documenting since minute one. (Every time the thing blue screened on me, I would save the report Windows gave of the problem.) When I returned from vacation, it turned out they had not sent it off to the manufacturer, but had reinstalled Windows. I brought the computer home and the blue screen issues had resolved. Yet immediately upon return, any time I booted up the computer, I was shown yet another warning, that my battery capacity was “dangerously low” and that I needed to do something about it. The one day I took the thing off electric power and ran it on the battery, it died within ten minutes. I dashed off an email to HH asking why the battery suddenly had no capacity. I was told that batteries are notoriously iffy that way and I could get a new one for about 40 bucks. This for a battery I had been using less than a year, and mostly plugged in.

I have no faith in Happy Hamster. They might be able to recover lost data for people, but don’t buy their computers. If the computer you buy from them does not work, they will not fix it or replace it. They will give you the runaround and expect you to figure it out alone. If I were reviewing them, I would give them 2 stars instead of 1 only because the one fellow with whom I mostly interacted was extremely sweet and polite. I really liked him. Happy Hamster I don’t like. Not one bit. Today I spent 35 minutes getting into my computer after another, yet ANOTHER blue screen. What a joke.

I am Bonnie

A long time ago I used to work in the Forest Products office at Oregon State University. I worked with my best friend Debbie, a boss who was so stupid sometimes I wondered if it was possible for someone to be that dumb, and a sociopath named Bonnie. Bonnie was…I can’t even begin to describe her in a single word except to say she was a sociopath. She could and did make life hell for a lot of people. She was also very annoying. She was possibly the most negative person I have ever met. If it was sunny, she complained that it was too hot and should be rainy. If it was rainy, she complained it was raining. If we had work to do, she complained that she had work to do and that she was the only one who could possibly do it. If we didn’t have work to do, then she complained because she was bored. She didn’t like her chair. She would get another chair and wouldn’t like it and go back to the original and then complain about it. She had gossip to share on every single person who walked in our door and even those who didn’t. It was a guarantee that as soon as you left the room she was dishing something about you and turning anything you did into something to complain about and to use to make you look bad. The only consolation with her was that she was an equal-opportunity sociopath so if she didn’t have her sights set on you, she was going after someone else and there were a lot of other people for her to choose from.

Most of the time I worked with Bonnie was pure hell. Six months after I started working in the lab, I was wondering if I was crazy. Between the boss who couldn’t figure out how to explain the most basic assignments to this constantly complaining crazy woman who had something nasty to say about every human who walked into the office, I seriously thought I was losing my mind. Luckily, I made friends with Debbie and discovered that no, I wasn’t nuts, the office was. She helped me stick it out (until I got pregnant and realized I didn’t want the loony factory anywhere near my growing fetus, but that’s another story).

Sometimes working with Bonnie could be fun. It wasn’t fun because of anything Bonnie did to make it fun, but because Debbie and I could see what she was doing and it would make us roll our eyes and laugh silently from behind our hands on our lunch break. Bonnie fancied herself the sexiest woman in the office and made a great show of throwing herself at every male who walked through the door. This got to be quite amusing, especially when the male was a 20 something grad student from India or Pakistan who had no idea that what she was doing was supposed to turn him on. Many of the older, white, male professors got off on her attention, which could be kind of gross (especially the one who was married to a disabled wife with MS), but Debbie and I could still find things about this situation that made us laugh.

The lab would periodically hold grad thesis presentations whereby the student would make their presentation to faculty and other students, followed by a small reception with doughnuts and other refreshments. Prior to these events, an announcement was to be made by our office notifying everyone on our floor that the presentation and reception would be taking place. Bonnie LOVED doing this and would literally race to the microphone to make sure she got to be the one to make the announcement. She would snarl something or other to us about how “The goddamned printer isn’t working again! The piece of shit must be out of ink or something.” Then she would turn to the microphone, sexily flip her hair behind her shoulders, lean in and grasp the microphone and breathily intone, “At four o’clock this afternoon, which is in just fifteen minutes (breath, breath, breath), there will be a presentation by Rakesh Akbahr, on the role of stress-strain on the physical transformations that occur (breath) during the cure of thermosetting adhesive-to-wood bonds (breath, breath, breath). After that (breath) there will be a reception in the Buchanon room, where refreshments will be served.” She’d then flop back down in her rolling desk chair and screech at us again, “Goddamned rain. It was supposed to be sunny today.

Debbie and I could laugh and laugh at these displays (out of the office, of course).

Bonnie told us she was an expert on everything. She said she had a degree in forestry, as well as a degree in nursing, and in English, and several others I no longer remember. No matter what came up that required some knowledge by someone in the office, she was in competition to be the top person in that knowledge and she usually had a degree to go along with it. Debbie and I would wonder to ourselves why she wasn’t putting these degrees to good use somewhere considering how underappreciated and underpaid she was sharing an office with us. It is because of Bonnie’s expertise that I even bring her up in this post today. I earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 2003. Then last year, I completed a Master’s in Teaching so that I could transition out of being a lawyer and become a teacher instead.

Last week, I had a conversation with someone, the content of which really isn’t that important. In the course of the conversation, the person I was speaking to was telling me another person had complained about something and that they had to complain because they were a teacher and as a teacher, they were required to complain. This puzzled me because I knew that the thing about which this person was supposedly required to complain was not required of teachers, so I said to the person I was speaking to, “I am a teacher, and that is not actually true.” He looked at me rather consternatedly (now there’s a word) as if to say, “Huh? I thought you were a lawyer?” because in another conversation on another day, he had asked me what kind of work I did and at the time he asked, I told him I was a lawyer, so my saying that I was a teacher on this new occasion was probably a bit odd to him.

I was like Bonnie and her multitude of unrelated degrees. I don’t have a multitude of unrelated degrees, I only have a couple of them. There is my undergraduate degree in English, then there is the lawyer degree, then there is the teacher degree. So I have several degrees and they are mostly unrelated. This got me to thinking about Bonnie and my time in the Forest Products lab so many years ago — twenty years ago actually, is when I started. I’ve stayed friends with Debbie. She came to the birth of my baby and probably knows me better than any other friend.

A lot has happened since then. I wonder now, with my handful of unrelated degrees, if maybe Bonnie really did have a forestry degree and an English degree and a nursing degree, and maybe perhaps something happened that she didn’t need to work in those fields at all. I don’t know. I can’t remember her last name so I can’t look her up (even if I wanted to, which, true told, I really don’t).

If I did look her up, I would find her and tell her I’m sorry for doubting her many educational accomplishments and let her know that I too now have many educational accomplishments. We could get a coffee and reminisce and I could tell her how funny I thought it was when she made the sexy forest products announcements and she could tell me how much she hates the weather and the coffee in the coffee shop we meet in and the chairs in the coffee shop and make googly eyes at the male patrons and…

On second thought, maybe not.

How Not to React?

Modern civilization’s poisons do not agree with me. They make my skin itch, my nose and lungs snort and sneeze, my toenails crumble, my brain refuse to sleep, my body react in rashes and aches and all assortment of physiological responses. My body says, No! to the way things are.

I do the dances necessary to avoid these things. I turn up my nose at edible food-like substances pretending they are something I would want to ingest. I do not use lotions and potions and other chemicals in an effort to avoid one of those dratted physiological responses. I don’t drink alcohol because it makes my stomach ill and my head hurt. I don’t take drugs (including “legal” ones) because my body yells at me when I do. I don’t eat meat, or vegetables with chemicals on them. I don’t wear metal because it makes me itch.

I do ALL OF THESE THINGS and AVOID ALL THE BAD THINGS, yet I still, still! have reactions to the world around me because in spite of my controlling all the things I can control, there is still oh, so much that is outside of my control and damn it if my body doesn’t react to that crap, too. What the hell is a person supposed to do? How do we get away when the dominant culture doesn’t give a shit if your body reacts to the garbage they are dumping into the atmosphere and onto the surface of the earth and into its waters? They have even co-opted the attempts to avoid by making “detoxification” something one can pay for as well. Here, let’s poison you, and we’ll charge you to do it, and then, Here, let’s detoxify you, and we’ll charge you for that as well. (This ensures you stay on the treadmill this system has created to keep you a slave and take your life. (We’ll let you pretend that your life is your own, but we know better.))

I suppose the only thing that I can do is to keep avoiding as much as I can and be like the rest of the non-human world that has to contend with us and our ways, hiding under my rock or in my nest. Outer space simply isn’t an option.

Heading Home?

I found an old diary today. Well, not that old. I haven’t written in it in a year. I thumbed through some old entries and had the odd feeling of finding no familiarity with the feelings in what I had written. The words were the same words I know I had written for years and years, but I felt no kinship with them. Somehow I have been pressed into another place where I no longer feel the way I did for so long. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. Maybe it doesn’t require a judgment; maybe it just is. The diary was full of loneliness. For so long, decades even, loneliness was a mantle I wore on my back, hanging there, heavy and woolen. Even among friends, I felt it, but I just don’t anymore. Nothing has changed in my external world to fill in this blank. If anything, I have fewer friends and acquaintances than ever. I just don’t feel lonely. I love spending time with my daughters, my dogs, my horse, and our other pets, and that’s enough. In fact several times I’ve been offered the opportunity to go out and socialize and when I do, I find myself wanting to be back with the family. When I have turned down opportunities, I am glad.

Lately, I’ve had such a single minded thought focus that all else has really fallen away. I live my daily life. I’m not obsessing or anything. It’s just I know where I want to be and it’s where I’m going. I feel like I’ve been on a very long backpacking trip. Near the beginning of backpacking trips I’m always fresh and raring to go. Then at some point it gets tiring. Then I settle in and just walk, not really paying attention to the physical irritations, and somehow becoming one with the land and the landscape, a part of the trees and earth and plants, and all of it. This is how I feel lately in my life, like I’ve reached that blending place, and looking back at how I was for so long seems silly and pointless.

Interestingly, as I have settled into this place, I have felt very little desire to write here. It used to be that I had the desire, but didn’t have the time. When I had time, I had a hard time coming up with something to write because my life was so full, my brain didn’t have time to come up with anything new and interesting to say.

Lately though, I have thoughts that seem very interesting, but I have little desire to share them. I think them. I mull them over. I consider what I would say if I wrote them down, then I don’t, because I don’t need to. It has been a very long time since I have felt the desire to broadcast my thoughts to the wide world. My aging ego. It really has no need to be front and center any more.

Anyway, that’s it for now. For whatever reason, I felt like writing today. Nothing profound, just an urge. Maybe it was the diary. I don’t know.

Dogs can be Naughty

Dogs can be naughty. I have one dog in particular, George, who vacillates between extremely well-behaved and extremely naughty. When he’s good, he’s very, very good, but when he’s bad, he is so naughty that I want to hang him by his little feet and shake him.

He is the absolute best sit-and-wait dog. My other two dogs eat special dog food and eat it in the kitchen, their little bowls side by side. George, in full Dr. Jekyll mode, waits patiently in the dining room, sitting and waiting until they are done so he can go and lick their empty bowls. He waits until I tell him it is okay for him to go in and erase any possible molecules remaining from their breakfast. He stays sitting there even if I leave the room. He also is the first to run to his kennel when I call out, “Dogs! Kennels!” because we are leaving to go somewhere. When he is being Dr. Jekyll, he is an extremely well-behaved dog.

But George has another side, a more precocious side, his Dr. Hyde side, a side that is quite devilish. Since he has become an adult dog, he is much less inclined to do things like open the closet and remove the box of brand new loafers from Germany that cost over a hundred dollars and chew them up (he did this as a puppy), or open the bathroom door and eat an entire roll of toilet paper (also done as a puppy). Yet in spite of the fact that he is less inclined to do such things, it doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

A couple of weeks ago Milla and I decided to take the dogs with us while we ran to Costco. Along the way, we realized we were starving and stopped and picked up some sandwiches from a Mediterranean restaurant. They were oh, so delicious. George and Oliver and Betsy stood salivating in the back seat. We gave them several nibbles each because it just didn’t seem fair to eat in front of them without at least sharing some small morsels.

We didn’t finish eating our sandwiches before we got to Costco so we simply wrapped them up and put them into the glove box. We had also gotten a side of hummus, and we put this into the console between the seats. We did this so that there would be sandwiches for us to finish when we returned from our quick jaunt into the store. We dutifully removed the trash bin I keep in the back seat, as we always do when we leave George in the car because he has been known to chew it even when it is empty, and opened the windows so air would flow (luckily the summer has been extremely mild here and it was cool enough to leave the canines in the car). Off we toddled into the Costco to get a few supplies for our impending trip to a lovely lake in Washington.

We returned to catch George in the act of doing this:

20160827-IMG_854420160827-IMG_8542These are the doors to the glove box (removed after repair). One opens up. The other opens down. George managed to open them both and eat the sandwiches inside. He also had done this:

20160827-IMG_8543This was the console lid. He had attempted to open the console but was not successful. The hummus was still there, but George had certainly done a number on the car. We were leaving in the morning to go visit a lake in the woods. George ensured we got to go on this trip with the inside of the car looking like it had been attacked by a much bigger dog than George is. He knew immediately that he was in trouble. The moment Milla stood by the cracked window and said, “Oh. My. God.” George jumped into the back seat and then over the back seat into the way back. Luckily the retractable tonneau cover was retracted. As a puppy, George had chewed our prior car’s tonneau cover, making it impossible to retract. I learned after that to make sure the cover was fully retracted before leaving him in the car. Up and over the seat he went, landing with a thud.

We spent the next two and a half weeks driving around with our shredded glove box and console cover. Once we got home from the lake, I spent some time online finding new parts on eBay. I found a brand new console cover for $60, and used glove box doors for $75. The glove box doors arrived a couple of days ago. They were actually two full top and bottom glove boxes, I just took the doors off of them to reuse. They had obviously been part of a car that had been sitting out and getting dirty because they were absolutely filthy. Today, the console cover arrived. I unpacked it and immediately went to work figuring out how to install everything myself. It was my hope that I could figure it all out so I wouldn’t have to shell out even more money to pay someone to install them. Luckily, I was able to do this and now our car looks like its old self again. In the end, those sandwiches cost us $135, dang dog!

Here is the car post installation. I’m grateful I was able to do it myself. Thanks, George, for keeping me on my toes and my skills sharp. And now we know, no more sandwiches in the glove box or hummus in the console, at least not with George around!



My brain feels as if it has lost the capacity to write. In the lack of practice, I have lost an ease that allowed me to sit and compose and produce something of substance within a rather short amount of time. Having gone from being compressed most moments to actually having some freedom of time, I have not adapted. My brain doesn’t get it. It’s like something that has been squished into a package for so long it retains the shape long after the package has gone. I’ve gone hiking several times, went on a 3-day backpacking trip, have been riding really regularly and reading actually quite a lot, and still the brain is only gradually unscrunching itself. It’s not sure what to do. I suppose I’ll have to get into practice again. Perhaps if I write tidbits like this one I’ll get there. As it is, right now I just want to brush my teeth and crawl into bed with my three dogs.