Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Beware of anyone who 

In my post of 3-29-06, I promised to start sharing with you a list I've compiled of things to look out for in people's behavior and attitude that are red flags; I'm sorry it's taken me so long to follow up on that post... I don't know where 2 whole months have gone to, it feels more like 2 weeks. In my original post I outlined my intention to describe red flags specific to the psychology of leaders and followers, but having re-read the list I've decided to include those things that are general red flags as well... I might as well go all the way with this if I'm gonna do it.

The list is still in a semi-raw state, but it's roughly ordered such that the red flags to look for in someone who's trying to initiate or intensify a relationship with you come 1st, and I'll stick to that; be forewarned that alot of these points are conceptually similar, but I've found that people understand better when they see each case and variation stated separately, so that's how it's written. I hope the way the list is formatted doesn't confuse anyone; it looked silly when I had "Beware of anyone who" written on each line, so I switched to having it implied. If you think I'm being melodramatic by saying "beware," keep in mind that these red flags mean that the people showing them are about to mistreat you, or are bad people who'll get around to mistreating you sooner or later (usually sooner), or are so messed up, because of clinical depression or other reasons, that at best they'll become black holes into which all your time and emotional energy will be sucked if you don't grit your teeth and push them away, and at worst they'll repay your attempts at friendship in the usual way they do with relationships they can't handle or understand... by turning on you like rabid dogs. I've witnessed every single one of these "bewares" over and over, and I truly mean it when I tell you that if you encounter one of them you need to take it VERY seriously... before it's too late. With no further ado:

Beware of anyone who:

1) Is over 20 and has no friends.

Lots of people end up friendless in childhood because of stupid things like their being fat or shy, but anyone who's been an adult for more than a couple of years and hasn't been able to find friendships with adults either is at the very least seriously lacking in social skills, and thus won't know how to BE a friend... and you can't TEACH them how even if they swear they want to learn, trust me.

2) Has no LIFE.

This one's even worse; folks who're passionate about their careers, or their art, or SOMETHING, may still be interesting and worthwhile to know even if they wouldn't make good friends per se, but anyone who's just drifting through a joyless existence looking for a lifeline to grab has serious issues.

3) Is “fighting” with a mutual friend or acquaintance and is suddenly eager to be YOUR best friend.

They haven't suddenly, coincidentally, developed an intense interest in you; they're doing it because they know it will hurt the other person to see you getting closer to "the enemy," and that it'll make them look like the more popular combatant, and thus somehow in the right, to other observers... and as a bonus they're hoping you'll openly take their side because of this newfound chumminess and join their battle against the other person. This is dirty fighting... and nice people don't do it.

4) Showers you with attention and affection, especially if they start soon after you meet them (with the obvious exception of prospective romantic partners).

Normal people don't gush over their friends, and certainly not over near-strangers; a person who does so is either a clueless depressive trying to "bribe" you into befriending them or a manipulator who has something they intend to use you for if they can succeed in luring you into their circle.

5) From the moment you meet, seems to REALLY want to be your friend, although you have little or nothing in common and you don’t share their desire to become buddies.

They either have a hidden agenda that's not for your benefit, or they clutch onto anyone who says a kind word to them, which means they've got emotional problems (and probably no friends in the bargain).

6) When they barely know you, offers you the sorts of gifts and/or favors that are only appropriate for family and close friends (especially if they do this for other near-strangers too).

Someone who does these kinds of things is NOT being sweet and generous, and they're not trying to help you, in fact they're not thinking of your needs at all; this is the most pitiful, blatant type of attempt to gain friendship via bribery, and indicates crushingly low self-esteem and all the emotional problems that go with it.

7) Gives total trust to strangers (including you when you are a stranger to them), especially if they see it as “proof” of how “nice” they are.

Giving trust indiscriminately is a sign of being STUPID, not nice. Normal, healthy people give trust gradually, as it's EARNED; people who see giving trust as a shortcut to emotional intimacy, or plain don't understand how trust is supposed to work, have never had any real friends, and lack the ability to change that, no matter what they tell you.

8) Proclaims extreme love, closeness and eternal friendship too soon, or based on nothing.

This is either the same sort of problem as the trust issue or an attempt to dazzle you into thinking they're far more important to you than they are, as a prelude to manipulation.

9) Blankets you with “pity me” stories.

This is one of the sick ways a depressive will try to persuade people to be nice to them; they never grasp that pity is NOT the basis for a friendship.

10) Is relentlessly negative, and hasn't just has a death in the family or other major tragedy.

Someone like this is either a naturally negative person with no clue how unpleasant they are to others or is a hard-core depressive.

I hope that gives you some food for thought; there'll be more soon.

I'll leave you with a bit of humor: A couple of days ago, my husband inexplicably suggested that *I* should move some heavy planters on our patio; when I pointed out that I wouldn't be able to budge them a millimeter, much less totally change their positions, he replied in a tone of great victimization (poor baby, having to move things that HE could move easily with one hand) that I acquired "superhuman strength" only when I was mad at him... this is a SLIGHT exaggeration, but I DO manage to perform feats while enraged (regardless of the target of said rage) that seem far beyond what anyone my size could have done. Now here's the funny part; mimicking me, he said, "Here I am, spinning a Buick on my little finger..." I started laughing... "... whacking my husband in the head with it on each rotation..." I laughed harder... "... because it makes such a nice HOLLOW sound"... by which point I was SCREAMING with laughter, and kept on laughing until tears were pouring down my face and my stomach hurt.

I don't suppose anyone else will find that QUITE as funny as I did, lol, but I still can't even think about it without cracking up; of such moments is a happy marriage made.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Odds and ends 

My husband is a MORON. If you're a new reader and need proof, here it is: Because of the massive clearing out of old shirts that no longer fit that I posted about on 2-16-06, I generated a big pile of spare hangers, which, since we have nothing resembling empty storage space in my house, got put on top of a pile of boxes; I started getting new shirts, but instead of taking hangers from the pile to put them on I got rid of another old shirt for each new one. Eventually, I got to the point where I FINALLY had all the "bad" shirts cleared out, and went to get a hanger from the spares to put a new shirt on... and they were GONE. I tore the house apart looking for them, but couldn't find them. I confronted my husband to find out what he'd done with my hangers, but, as usual, he denied all knowledge of them, and that he could possibly have been involved in their disappearance; when I pointed out that there's no one in he house but US, and since *I* don't move things around at random and forget about them, and he DOES, that he HAD moved the hangers, he grudgingly admitted that MAYBE he had. An exhaustive search of the many towers of boxes that fill our rooms took place; no hangers. He told me that he vaguely remembered seeing them in a box, and thought maybe he'd taken them to storage; he checked... no hangers. We figured he must have hauled them up to the attic; he checked... no hangers. This isn't doll-clothes hangers we're talking about here, we're talking several dozen big, brightly colored plastic hangers... and we can find no trace of them.

The moronic part isn't that he's displayed even more ability than usual at losing things, or even at losing them so thoroughly that they're gone for ages, or forever... well, ok, that IS pretty moronic, but it happens literally every day and I've become somewhat inured to it. The truly moronic thing is that his brilliant idea of what to do with all the spare hangers in our home was to stick them in a BOX and then put them, not in a closet, but somewhere obscure, and FORGET what he did with them; what's next, all the linens not currently in use will vanish, or all the pens other than the one HE'S using, maybe? And let's not forget that they were MY hangers, and so he should never have TOUCHED them without asking me, much less HIDDEN all of them. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

He says that THIS weekend he's really really really gonna gonna gonna take the @#$%^&*! Christmas tree down; he said, "You know how you're not supposed to wear white after Labor Day? I say you're not supposed to still have your tree up after Memorial Day." He thought he was quite clever; *I* thought about where I could hide his CORPSE if he piddles another weekend away without dragging the boxes out to pack the tree parts in.

A couple of days ago I added a new sidebar doodad; it says "Save the Internet," and if you're in the USA and don't want big corporations like AT&T deciding what you can do and see online, click on it, go to the "act now" section, and take a couple of minutes to at least use the 1st option to send messages to your representatives demanding that they back measures to preserve "net neutrality." This isn't like the waste-of-time petitions that you see so often online, that all officeholders rightly ignore because they're easy to fake, it sends actual emails to your specific representatives, and they ARE taking it seriously; one of my state's senators wrote me back the next business day, and the other the day after that, and, while of course they must be form letters sent out by underlings, they assured me that my senators DID get my message, are aware of the issue and view it as I do. Be sure and use your correct personal info, so that they can verify that you are in fact a registered voter in their state/district, and take a minute to add a line or 2 to the prefab letter to drive home the point that you consider this a serious issue, that many voters agree, and that NO voters want their online freedoms reduced.

Some day, when I get my muscle car, I'm going to put one of these on it;


They're called Exhaust Tip Spinners, and they're just what they sound like, cool spinning things that go in your exhaust pipe; I want the "Flare" style... it'll go well with my big spinning chrome wheels, don't you think?

Here's one of the coolest cams ever; it's trained on an eagles' nest, complete with eaglets


I've seen some amazing stuff on this site; the best one was with both adults in the nest with a carcass that one of them was tearing shreds off of to feed the babies. Give it a try-but beware, it's addictive.

I've seen some fantastic movies lately that I'd inexplicably never heard of before:

"Stage Beauty"


"The true story of two performers whose careers were changed forever by a shift in gender roles on the British stage comes to the screen in this adaptation of the play 'Compleat Female Stage Beauty' by Jeffrey Hatcher. In London, in the latter half of the 17th century, Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup) is a noted star of the legitimate theater with an unusual specialty -- at a time when it was considered unseemly for women to work as thespians, Kynaston specialized in female roles, and was described by one writer as the most beautiful woman on the London stage."

I don't want to tell you any more, because it'll spoil your enjoyment if you know too much in advance; just take my word for it that the plot and acting are wonderful, Crudup is beautiful as both a man and a "woman," and there are some highly unusual sex scenes.

"Triumph of the Will"


"'Triumph of the Will' ('Triumph des Willens') is a filmed record of the 1934 Nazi Party Convention, in Nuremberg. No, it is more than just a record... Possibly the most powerful propaganda film ever made, 'Triumph of the Will' is also, in retrospect, one of the most horrifying."

Horrifying; that's it in a nutshell. I'd never seen Hitler speak for more than a few moments at a time, and to see him make entire speeches (subtitled), to watch how he projected himself to his audience, to hear the sorts of lines he used to push people's buttons... he was evil and insane, but a brilliant demagogue as well. And the SCOPE of the Nazi events is mindboggling; one had 200K people, and another looked to be closer to 500K... bigger than any rock festival you ever saw, and all to hear Hitler talk about... well, watch it and then you'll know.

There are many lengthy stretches of film in this documentary that are endless footage of parades and such that's fairly boring; it's worth having to fast-forward through them to watch Hitler in action. If you have any interest in history and/or psychology, you'll want to see this one.

"In My Country"


"The many emotional scars left by South Africa's history of institutionalized racism come under the microscope in this drama. As South Africa comes to terms with the legacy of apartheid, their government has created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in which the perpetrators of racial violence and injustice must come face to face with their victims if they are to be forgiven for their crimes."

Yes, FORGIVEN; in accordance with traditional African ideals, anyone who'll fully admit to his crimes and ask for forgiveness from those he's sinned against can receive absolution rather than punishment... very different from Western concepts of how to deal with criminal behavior. I'm sure that ample dramatic license is taken in the movie, but at least in a broad sense the events portrayed DID really happen, and the story of how it was handled, and of the abuses that made it necessary, is compelling.

The more I pursue movies outside of the mainstream, the more I realize just how uninspired, and uninspirING, the vast majority of well-known movies are; the best recommendation I can give someone seeking to watch top-quality stuff is to get Blockbuster online and work their way through the documentaries and the search results for "Sundance"... yikes, I'll be watching art films next, lol... actually, I DID get a Warhol movie that I think was supposed to be arty... anyways, there's a goldmine of stuff that they don't "waste" space on in your local DVD rental places that'll blow your mind-try some and see.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Free online services prove that you get what you pay for 

Before I get to the rant, there's some exciting news; those of you who use BlogMad


might have seen that my blog buddy, Little Orange Fox, whose terrific blog is here


was running a contest for the prestigious Fox Award; although we haven't known each other very long, she nominated ME as one of the contestants, which was pretty darned nice of her. She had a poll for her readers to vote for the winner... and posting on everyone's blog, and having my banner everywhere, paid off, because that, along with the help of my blog buddies who're also on BlogMad, allowed me to emerge victorious; check out the cute trophy in my sidebar that this honor entitles me to!! Thanks to everyone who voted for me, and to those who took the time to pay me a visit during the contest even if they picked one of the other fine blogs to give their vote to.

Speaking of which; you can find links to my competitors' blogs here


and it'd be well worth your time to check them all out; every one of them would have been an excellent choice as the winner.

Ok, here's the rant:

I don't expect free online services to be perfect, even when they're owned by huge corporations and/or include optional paid services, as most of them do; there's minimal impetus to fine-tune stuff for non-paying users, and the vast majority of these services are run by volunteers who have jobs and lives that are a higher priority than hashing out the minute details of how to optimize what they're giving away. But STILL:

I could go on and on about the stupidities of eBay (yeah, I know, but it's free for buyers), which are exponentially grimmer since they make massive $ from their sites and their nonsense impacts their ability to get that $ from people; I'll just mention the latest one I've noticed, which is how inconsistently the searches work... you know, the searches that lead to most of the business being done and fees being paid? Let's say that sellers have items of the specific type you want in both the auction listings and in eBay stores; ideally, your search would show you stuff in BOTH of these categories, right? Sometimes it does. Sometimes the store results appear at the bottom of the 1st page so that you SEE that you have choices in the stores. Sometimes the store results appear on the LAST page of the search... even if it's 20 pages long and you're highly unlikely to ever reach the last page to see them. Occasionally, the store results are kinda tacked onto the end of the regular search, with nothing to indicate that you've left the auction zone except the "buy it nows." And a scary % of the time you don't get ANY store results with your search even though checking the stores reveals that there ARE appropriate items there. Can anyone explain to me why a multi-BILLION dollar corporation can't get a simple search to work correctly?

Yahoo is trying to reduce the amount of spam being sent from its email accounts, which is overall an admirable idea; sadly, their implementation leaves much to be desired. The latest twist is that every so often you have to enter an anti-spam code to get an email to send, which is flawed in 2 pitifully obvious ways:

1) What they SHOULD be doing is launching the anti-spam thing ONLY if the inbox detects questionable emailing activity, NOT aggravating the people who send a few emails a day with the struggle to decipher the code.

2) If you get the code wrong, which is VERY easy to do, not only does the email not get sent, it isn't even SAVED, thus guaranteeing that innocent people will be losing emails on a regular basis.

Come on, isn't there a single programmer or executive at Yahoo who's capable of grasping that you're supposed to be targeting actual spammers, not making the lives of honest folks more difficult?

Pingoat has been a reliable pinging service, but now they're trying to get clever and refuse to ping spam or porn blogs; again, this is admirable, but they don't have their software sorted out yet, and they're not having a human being verify that blogs are indeed problematic BEFORE they're blacklisted until they DO get their system squared away... with the predictable results. I got an error message a couple of days ago telling me that my blog, which doesn't have so much as a dirty word or a Google ad, had been blacklisted as spam or "objectionable" (aka porn); I clicked the contact link and reported it, and to their credit they responded fairly quickly to tell me that I'd been "whitelisted," but there was no apology, no explanation... not very professional. It later occurred to me to check out their forum, and there was a LONG list of people who'd gotten the blacklisted message that same day, so clearly they REALLY don't have all their ducks in a row; there are other pinging services to choose from, so hopefully they'll wise up and improve their customer service and their judgment about the trustworthiness of their algorithms so that this doesn't keep happening.

NeoWorx is a cool service, but they REALLY blew it over the past few weeks; your blog avatar gets positioned on their member page based on how many other avatars you've clicked, which affects how many hits you get from the listing, and my position started to drop inexplicably last month. At 1st, I thought I must be spending enough time on BlogMad to significantly reduce my # of daily clicks and impact my standing... then, I'd dropped so much that I contemplated asking about it, but it seemed crazy to think my account had been singled out... then, I started doing what I never like to do, just clicking on an avatar every 60 seconds rather than reading and posting on the blogs, and I STILL dropped a couple more notches... and then I FINALLY wrote to the admin... and GUESS WHAT?!! I got a reply that didn't make sense, which is a sure sign of someone fumbling to cover up for a major screwup:

"I had to disable that function for short while to check potential abuse from other users. It's back on now. Let me know how it goes."

SHORT WHILE?!! grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I wrote back asking why MY account tally function, and ONLY mine, had been disabled to check for abuse by OTHER users, and got no reply; I assume that he was monkeying around with all the top blogs on the list at some point, possibly to check for abuse as he said, and accidentally failed to restart my tally along with the others... for which I deserved an explanation and a frigging apology, since this has cost me a HUGE # of hits, and continues to do so because he hasn't put me back at the position I should be at on the list based on my # of clicks (which is still being tracked in my account). He might eventually make good on this, but for now I'm very un-thrilled; just because I'm not paying him, is it too much to expect him to admit his mistake and fix it sooner rather than later?

Last but far from least: Ripway. I store my favicon and Flash files there, and, although like all sites, paid as well as free, they have occasional down time, they'd done fine by me... note the use of the past tense, and I do mean TENSE. A few days ago, I noticed that my pizza clock wasn't showing, but didn't think much about it; when I eventually realized that it was STILL not showing, I went to Ripway's site to see what the announcements were... I thought maybe they were switching servers again. I entered my login info, and this is what I got:

"This account has expired or has been marked for removal.

Please contact us if you wish to reactivate."

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!! Nothing has ever been said anywhere on that site about accounts "expiring," and there's nothing whatsoever that should cause my account to be "marked for removal"; I'm not using up my daily allotment of bandwidth by a long shot, I'm not storing porn or copyrighted files, my account isn't empty or unused, so what's their excuse for this? And IF I wish to reactivate the account that I was using right up until the moment they pulled the plug; don't you love it? I sent them an email, and, to my relief, my account returned the next day; however, I've gotten no return email, and thus no explanation or apology for their inexplicable actions.

To add insult to injury, although my pizza clock came back, my favicon didn't; they'd changed how they named the URL's for files stored with them a while back, and turning my account off and on somehow erased the older version of the URL for the favicon file, so that it no longer worked. I copied the new URL into my template, and... it loaded, but the default favicon overrode it when the page finished loading. This had also happened when I'd originally installed it (see my post of 5-3-05), and I'd never been able to fix it; it had just started working suddenly, and had worked perfectly ever since. My husband, who'd had no more idea than I had as to what was going on last time, has apparently learned a little since then, because this time he told me that it was because of how the operating system store favicons, and that eventually the correct one would override the default one; fortunately, he was right... all seems ok now. I appreciate that they store my files for free, but isn't this a little more effort and aggravation than I should have had to go through as a result of not being a paying account?

Like I said, I don't expect perfection... but are professionalism, courtesy and common sense too much to ask, even of a free service?

Friday, May 19, 2006

The bigger the corporation, the greater the stupidity 

Today's post concerns what I went through during a nearly 2 hour period courtesy of 2 of the biggest companies in America; Bank of America and MBNA. The latter is "the world's largest independent credit card issuer"...or rather it WAS, because it was "acquired by Bank of America in 2005"


so they're technically the same company now, although the deal wasn't sealed until January '06 and the integration process has apparently not been completed yet.

The insanity started innocently enough; I got a bill from my AAA credit card, on which my AAA towing service dues are billed each year, and, since I have online banking with B of A now, I naturally wanted to pay this bill online. I logged in and went to the list of established payees; there WAS a listing for AAA, but it didn't specify that it was the credit card branch, so I assumed it wasn't, and called them to find out if they could receive payments via online banking... I've learned the hard way that just because ONE division of a company can take online payments does NOT mean that they ALL can. After the usual endless floundering around in their automated system trying to find a way to talk to a person, I finally got a guy who thought I wanted to talk about something very different than my actual issue but claimed he could handle whatever I needed; after verifying that they could in fact receive online payments, my next question was whether to enter my account # into the B of A system with or without the spaces it's formatted with on my statement (I've been assured by all involved when adding previous payees that it makes a difference):

AAA guy: I don't know-you have to ask B of A about that.
Me: They say that I have to ask YOU about that-they have no information about how different payees want their account #'s formatted.
AAA guy: I can't see their system, so I don't know how they want it.
Me: THEY don't want it any particular way; they say to format it the way YOU want it, the way your system expects it to be.
AAA guy: I don't know what that would be, because I don't work for B of A...
Me: You clearly don't know enough about this topic to assist me; please connect me to a supervisor.
AAA guy: Yes ma'am... (long pause)... Ma'am, I've spoken to my supervisor, and he's asked me to connect you to a supervisor at B of A who will help you with this.
Me: You're connecting me to a *B of A* supervisor?!!
AAA guy: Yes ma'am-hang on, and I'll transfer you.

(long hold with bad Muzak)

B of A lady: Ma'am? You wanted to add a payee to your online banking, is that correct?
Me: Yes; AAA Financial Services.
B of A lady: Please allow me to verify your security info, and I'll assist you in doing that right now.

She talked me through the absurdly complicated process of adding the payee; the high points were when she insisted that I use the section for paying an INDIVIDUAL rather than the one for paying a company, for which no coherent explanation was forthcoming, and the struggle to figure out how to format the account #:

B of A lady: Just put it exactly as it appears on your statement.
Me: Thus far, every company I've added to my payee list has instructed me to format the account # in a DIFFERENT way than on the statement.
B of A lady: Ma'am, just put it exactly as it appears on your statement.
Me: Are you speaking from specific knowledge about this company?
B of A lady: No ma'am, but you can use the format that's used on your statement.
Me: (entering the account # withOUT the spaces that it has on the statement) Uh-huh.

Several steps later, I was at the point where I should have been able to make a payment, but she stopped me because something looked wrong at her end, and she wanted to figure out why it didn't seem like they had whatever it was that would have indicated that AAA Financial could accept an online payment from B of A; she asked me to hold while she sorted it out. When she came back on, many minutes later, she'd added a manager from MBNA to the conversation, which is what she'd ended up with when she called AAA Financial for some answers.

MBNA guy: Ma'am, you need to be sending that payment to US rather than to AAA; your card is from them, but we actually handle their credit cards for them.
Me: {sigh} It'd be nice if it SAID that somewhere on my statement; there's no mention of MBNA on here anywhere, and no way for a customer to guess that online payments should go to you rather than to AAA Financial.
MBNA guy: You must be looking at an old statement.
Me: No, I'm looking at the statement I got YESTERDAY, my May 2006 statement, and all it says is AAA, which is what's on the card itself.
MBNA guy: Yes ma'am, but WE actually handle the credit cards for them.
Me: I understand that, but you're still not mentioned on my statement.
MBNA guy: I don't know why your statement is that way...
Me: They didn't make a special statement just for ME; ALL their credit card statements look like this, withOUT any reference to MBNA.
MBNA guy: That doesn't make any sense, but you can still pay US and that will pay your AAA card.
Me: OhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhK, let's give it a shot.

MBNA was on the list of payees for B of A's online setup, so I clicked on them and:

Me: How do I enter the account #, with or without the spaces?
B of A lady: Put it exactly as it appears on your statement.
MBNA guy: Do it withOUT the spaces.
Me: We have one vote for spaces, and one for withOUT spaces; what am I supposed to do?


Me: Well? Do either of you have any specific experience with the B of A/MBNA interface, or are you just guessing?
B of A lady: Just put it exactly as it appears on your statement.
MBNA guy: Do it withOUT the spaces.
Me: LOL!!!!!!!!! You DO both see how ridiculous this is, don't you, that you're giving me contradictory answers?
B of A lady: Ma'am, you should probably do it the way MBNA Guy says to, that's probably safer.

So I did that, and again got to the point where I should have been able to enter a payment:

B of A lady: What I'm showing for MBNA is the blah bah certificate, not the actual credit card blah blah, will the payment still go to you?
MBNA guy: The blah blah certificate is a different thing, I don't know why it says that, but it'll still go to us.
B of A lady: I have the following address for MBNA; blah blah blah.
MBNA guy: That's not right, we don't have any PO Boxes that start with those #'s, we just have blah and blah blah.
B of A lady: I don't have any of those #'s showing here. Ma'am, what PO Box is on your statement?
Me: Blah blah blah.
MBNA guy: I don't recognize THAT # either.
Me: (laughing half-hysterically) So, we have all these different PO Boxes for MBNA, none of which overlap and some of which MBNA Guy can't even identify as being associated with his company? This is CRAZY!! All I'm trying to do is pay a major company via online banking with the biggest bank in the country, and we can't even agree on what ADDRESS the payment is supposed to go to?
MBNA Guy: You're the 1st person to have this problem, so...
Me: So WHAT? What does that change? Every other AAA Financial customer gets the exact same statement that I got, every B of A customer has the same list of payees that I do, with the same information attached to them in the B of A system, so this is NOT a problem with ME.
MBNA guy: There shouldn't BE a problem, we're merging with B of A and they should have all the correct information.
B of A lady: Merging!! I didn't know that!! (And this is a MANAGER!!)
MBNA guy: Yeah, so... hang on, let me check on a couple of things. (he puts us on hold)
Me: How thrilled are you to be merging with THIS company?
B of A lady: Not thrilled at all!!
Me: If this were YOUR bill, how willing would YOU be to pay it via the MBNA link you've got in your payee list?
B of A lady: I hate to say this, but I would not try to pay with that at this time.
Me: Me neither; I'm going to pay by mail, which I KNOW will go to the right address.
B of A lady: I've never heard of the information on a statement being the wrong thing to use to pay online; for everyone else, you use whatever the statement says.
Me: I'm far from convinced at this point that an online payment should go to MBNA directly rather than to AAA Financial, too; I'm not going to risk any version of payment of this bill online until you've got AAA Financial on your payee list, which I hope you will by the next time I need to pay off this card.
B of A lady: That's probably the best thing to do, yes.
MBNA guy: Thank you for holding; I wasn't able to verify that any of those other PO Boxes are ours, sorry.
Me: LOL!!! Sorry, but this has been a VERY long process, and it keeps getting more absurd!! LOL!!!! I'm going to MAIL my payment; despite your concerns about all the info on my statement, I'm totally confident that my $ will get where it's supposed to go, just as it always has. Am I correct in assuming that both of you are going to have to give reports of some kind to your higher-ups about this inexplicable inability to make a simple online funds transfer between you?
MBNA guy: Yes, I have to report this.
B of A lady: I'm going to try... but I don't know if anyone will believe any of this.
Me: You have my permission to pass along my contact info to whoever has any doubts; I'll be happy to back you up.
B of A lady: Thank you, ma'am.
Me: I'd appreciate getting some verification that this has been handled, and knowing what the results were; I'd like you each to send me a letter explaining what happened on your end once this is settled... can I get that?
Both: Yes.
Me: Good. I want you to know that I don't blame either of you personally for this mess, as neither of you is responsible for setting this stuff up.
Both: LOL!!
Me: I'm really looking forward to hearing what the explanations are going to be for all this...

That's not really true, as I don't actually expect to GET the promised explanations; I might get form letters assuring me that everything is fixed, but I'll be amazed if I even get that much... big corporations do NOT want to spell out their screwups in writing.

Why did I invest nearly 2 hours in that train wreck? Because there was obviously all sorts of stuff messed up with these 2 giant companies, whose customers # in the MILLIONS, and by forcing all the problematic issues to be handled I'll be preventing who knows how many people from experiencing various forms of disaster... and I'm expecting some hard-core positive karma to come my way as a result.

Wasn't online banking supposed to make our lives EASIER?

Monday, May 15, 2006

The official Mother's Day post 

The annual Mother's Day post is always hard for me to write, because there's no affection between my mother and I, and she's such an unpleasant person that I don't have much good to say about her. The situation between us is weirder than ever now, because, although most people with cancer cling to their families, unless she needs a ride she doesn't contact me. She also doesn't tell me anything that's going on with her treatment; they switched her from the previous chemo regimen to taxol, and told her that she'd be ok to drive home afterwards, so she didn't feel the need to tell me that she'd had another chemo session... even people who know how squirrelly she is are amazed at how distant and secretive she's been. You hear alot about bad people being faced by their mortality and suddenly being sorry for all the rotten things they've done, and trying to get everyone to forgive them; if my mother's going to do anything like that, there's no sign of it yet... the only change is that she's too tired to be as belligerent these days.

Still, it's Mother's Day, so I gave it some thought and came up with something nice to say about her; she didn't complain about my playing heavy metal music for hours a day. I was considerate, naturally, and didn't play it when she was sleeping or on the phone, or when I couldn't close my door because she wanted all the windows open to cool the house down, but she was still hearing it much of the time I was playing it (thin walls), and I don't remember her ever demanding that I turn it off just for the sake of having it off; she actually liked some of the songs, not in any sort of "cool rocker mom" way but as a tangent to her general preference for livelier music (this was melodic 80's metal, remember, not the jackhammering speed metal that followed it in the 90's), but it's reasonable to assume that she wasn't thrilled to hear as much of it as she did, so she gets credit for not hassling me about it.

To all the mothers out there who are raising, or have raised, their kids with love and devotion; my hat's off to you, because you're doing/have done the toughest and most important job in the world. As my gift to you, let me tell you a little secret about how to help your kids become happy adults that you won't find in the countless articles by supposed experts that appear in every women's magazine; you do NOT set the stage for successful adulthood by trying to make your children into superkids that play every sport and instrument, speak 10 languages and so forth... there isn't a single prospective employer, friend or romantic partner that'll ask or care about any of that stuff, and many who'll be put off by it. The single most important skill to make sure your kids possess is the ability to fit in; knowing how to figure out what the "rules" are of whatever group they find themselves in and adhere to enough of them to be seen as "one of us." That goes x10 if your kid's an oddball like I was, because every little difference between them and the other kids is a strike against them that they have to overcome if they're going to have a shot at being well-liked with lots of friends, rather than ostracized and missing out on gaining crucial social skills... and social skills are the key to getting ahead in the work world and attracting a quality mate as well as to having lots of buddies.

If your child has no friends, or is too clueless to interact with anyone but a few other social rejects, don't just shake your head sadly about it over coffee with your friends; TAKE ACTION... and by "action" I do NOT mean demanding that your child magically change themselves, constantly asking them what's "wrong" with them, or anything else whose sole result is to increase the child's stress and self-esteem problems. The 1st step is to make the maximum possible effort to ensure that everything about your child's appearance, from their haircut down to their brand of shoes, is within the range of what's acceptable to their peer group; screw the ivory-tower ideal of appearance not mattering, kids require that others look like them in order to accept them. If your child has created a look that they like but their peers don't, and wants to keep it because they supposedly don't care what anyone thinks or if anyone likes them, it can be tempting to let them "express themselves" as long as their grades are good and they're not getting into any trouble... but if a kid honestly doesn't care if anyone likes them, or SAYS they don't but really does, it's a sign that they need some help. A kid that truly doesn't care is deeply depressed or otherwise "emotionally challenged," and needs medical attention FAST; a kid that's pretending they don't care and is using an atypical style as camouflage needs counseling to help them admit to their true feelings so that they'll accept assistance in getting the friends they long for.

If your kid's a clone of their peers but still isn't accepted, find out what it is they're talking about that's putting the other kids off; teach them to keep quiet about their passion for ant farms and collecting popsicle sticks (or whatever) until they make some solid friends, and to make a loud, repeated point about how they like things that the other kids like... and if they don't HAVE anything in common with their peer group, teach them to fake it, because if they can't make it look like they've got common ground with the people around them they're sunk, both now and throughout their lives.

Yes, that's right; you've gotta teach them to find and be themselves while at the same time fitting in with kids who might be very different from them by whatever means necessary... motherhood isn't for wimps. Happy Mother's Day!!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Reality? Objectivity? WHERE? 

Quantum physics shows us that the act of observation alters reality, and if the only way we can perceive reality is by observation, er... ??!!

We also hear from quantum physicists things like how something doesn't actually exist in a specific form until it's measured, that particles can be in 2 places at once, pop in and out of existence, and affect the spin of other particles miles away, and that light is both a wave AND a particle, but then again isn't a wave OR a particle until it's observed, but exists in an "undefined state"; the more you read on this topic, the more it sounds like the ravings from someone in a padded cell, but it's the closest to seeing the very fabric of reality that we've managed thus far... and the central message is that you can't pin anything down, that at its base reality is more like quicksand than bedrock.

So, what's the true nature of the things in the omniverse? Our sense of touch tells us that things are solid, but in reality they're almost entirely empty space. Our eyes are easily-fooled, primitive organs that perceive a minute fraction of the total electromagnetic spectrum; how much does what something "looks" like matter, REALLY? Our other senses are equally limited; creatures far down the food chain have better ones than we do... and much good it does them, as what they perceive is just enough of the nature of reality to function, NOT the full true nature of what is.

What can we be sure exists? Matter and energy? If string theorists are right, they might just be different manifestations of strings, rather than actual types of "stuff"; if string theory is wrong, that still doesn't help us, because we hear that matter is made of energy (type undefined), and that energy is carried by messenger particles (made of WHAT?)... you go round and round and never find out what it is that isn't made of something else, so you never know the nature of what you're looking at. All we can say is that there's vacuum and "stuff"... or is vacuum really the nothingness we think it is? If time doesn't exist, if it's just the result of an organic structure like a brain not being able to grasp everything happening at once, which seems likely, again thanks to our quantum physicist friends, no bit of space could ever be truly empty unless no matter or energy was ever there, because if it ever was there it's still there... in some way that's beyond my ability to grasp, but the point is that we probably don't have vacuum, all we have is "stuff" that appears to us to be matter and energy that exist in forms totally dependent on the way our brains, senses, and the mechanisms we've created to enhance them are capable of perceiving them.

Why do I care about the true nature of reality when within my own existence I have to continue acting as if there's time and matter and energy and so on? If I'm standing in the middle of the street and a car is bearing down on me, do I not have to act as if it's solid, as if it's what I perceive it to be, as if time exists because in a small amount of it I'll be roadkill if I don't move? Yes, BUT; my spirituality is based on trying to figure out how things really work, and how can I ever fully do that if I don't have any sort of grasp on what reality is?

I can't tell you how desperately I hope that string theory is proven in my lifetime, or even DISproven if that means that something else has been demonstrated to be the true foundation on which everything is built. But, let's say that we DO manage to see the very threads of which the fabric of reality is woven: How can we ever be SURE that we're seeing it all? How can we be sure that we're correctly interpreting what we see? How can we even objectively report what we see?

Objectivity; the more I try to find it, the more convinced I become that it doesn't exist in any meaningful sense. What's an objective truth? Where can we find one? People SAY they're objective about all sorts of things, but an observer who's not blinded by emotional attachment to them can point out glaring elements of SUBjectivity in anything they say beyond trivial cases like "there are 2 apples on that table"... hang onto the concept of those trivial cases, because they're about the only secure oases in this maelstrom.

How about science; isn't it supposed to be made up of objective truths? You'd be hard put to find much of anything that the scientists in any area of expertise ALL agree on, and whatever the prevailing "truths" are that most of them believe are constantly being overturned as new discoveries are made; where there's disagreement there's SUBjectivity, and where there's wrongness truth is lacking. Again, there are the trivial cases, of what they can observe, measure, and to a certain degree test... but subjectivity creeps in there too, because, being human, they're convinced they've got all the data when they don't, and often misinterpret what they see until something that contradicts their theories hits them in the face. Don't get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for scientists, but an awful lot of what they say beyond the trivial cases is neither objective nor the full truth... perhaps ALL of what they say is, at the deepest level.

Remember, science studies things that we don't know the nature of; matter, energy, time, all of it is beyond our ability to properly describe currently, and how can science possibly give us an explanation about anything (beyond the trivial cases) that's complete, much less complete and objective, when so much of it is guesswork?

Ok, how about math? There's plenty of disagreement between the experts about the upper levels of math, so there's clear subjectivity there... but how about basic math? Like basic science, it's obviously correct for most things most of the time, or none of our technology would work... heck, hardly anything in a modern person's life is without the imprint of math and science, when you think about it, so virtually NOTHING would work. Is it ALWAYS true, though, that, say, 1+1=2? In the trivial cases of apples and oranges and such being added together, of course; if you add 2 subatomic particles together, though, you MIGHT get 2... or 1 might vanish, leaving you with just 1 rather than 2... or they could both vanish, leaving you with 0... or another particle could pop into existence alongside them and you'd have 3. Basic math doesn't apply to everything, then, and the complex math that describes the quantum world is still far from complete, so... where's the objective truth from math?

What are we left with? Given the right circumstances, we can say that the often-mentioned trivial cases are true: Although there've been plenty of experiments that prove how unreliable eyewitness accounts are, for simple observations we can assume that statements like "there are 2 apples on the table" are objectively true. There are plenty of things that science has observed and measured so many times that, although their explanations as to WHY they are the way they are are likely to be flawed, thanks to that not knowing the true nature of reality thing, when they tell you how many protons are in a copper atom or what happens when you mix compound X with compound Y you can accept that as objective truth. And basic math applied to the non-quantum world is certainly reliable in producing results that are true and objective.

Is that IT? Isn't there anything other than what can be independently verified by every observer (with a minimum level of education in the case of some of the science and math) that can be considered objective?

When we analyze things outside of the realm of math and science, the normal result is value judgments; we all have countless things that we label good, bad, right, wrong, interesting, fun, boring... and they're all matters of opinion. Unless you have an outside agency, eg a deity, laying down rules for how those terms should be applied, they have no objective meaning; you can't "prove" that a thing is objectively good, bad, etc. You could of course create objective standards to judge some sorts of things by, such as that a "good book" would be one with between 50k and 100k words, but the choice of what you'll use as the standard is in itself subjective, and therefore so is your conclusion... ALWAYS. Are you thinking about things like murder, rape, and child abuse, telling yourself that those things are exceptions, that they're objectively wrong? There are cultures throughout the world, throughout history, that have disagreed with you, and their reasons for their views are as powerful to them as yours are to you; again, without the intervention of a deity, you can't "prove" which moral standards are "correct," and thus no judgments of this type can be considered objective... we can reasonably decide that the majority opinion is a fair way to decide what we're going to SEE as right, wrong, fun, whatever, but that's a long way from having an objective judgment.

What difference does this lack of true objectivity make to our lives? None, for the most part; to those of us who are spiritual without the assistance of religion to provide answers to the tough questions (Why? God. How? God.), however, who have to search for The Truth all by ourselves starting from scratch, trying to sort out the objective truths, and trying to learn to be ruthlessly objective ourselves, is crucial... otherwise, we might as well just create a pretty fantasy and believe THAT, and save ourselves the endless time and energy being a mystic uses up.

What do I want? To know all aspects of reality, and to see and understand them clearly and objectively. Can science ever explain reality to us? Maybe. ALL of reality, including the unknowns, from precognition to ghosts to synchronicity? Less likely, but possible; there's nothing magical about that stuff, it's just part of the universe like all the other forces, so if science gains the ability to perceive the rest of reality, they could answer all those other questions as well... as long as the culture of science changed sufficiently to allow serious scientists to pursue such things. If all this information IS collected, and I get to learn it, will I be able to summon total objectivity so that I can know what it all REALLY means?

I don't know... and it's like a knife in the heart. What I DO know is that I'll spend countless hours trying to prepare myself for The Truth in case it ever presents itself; I just hope I don't drive everyone nuts with the process in the meantime.

What sent me off on this latest tear? You knew there was something; this time, it was a very odd documentary movie I saw. Lemme ask you this; what would you think of a man who got a sexual thrill out of acts of extreme masochism, up to and including nailing his penis to a board? Even if you're relentlessly open-minded like me, you almost certainly thought, "That's SICK!!" Not coincidentally, the title of the documentary is "Sick"; there's more to it, though:

"Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist"

"This documentary profiles poet/performance artist Bob Flanagan, who was born with cystic fibrosis. Flanagan explains, with engaging humor, how his obsession with controlled, self-inflicted pain has helped him to deal with his uncontrollable suffering. His philosophy forces one to look at sado-masochism with fresh eyes."


So, he was "sick" physically, but, as far as I could determine, NOT sick mentally; if enduring all that pain inflicted from without helped him deal with his disease, and helped him to live to be the oldest person with cystic fibrosis, doesn't that change the things he did to himself, and had done to him, from hideous and possibly psychotic deviations into unusual but valid coping mechanisms? This got me thinking about how you could tell where the line is between extreme but rational behavior and sick behavior, and if there's really any such line or if there are just crazy people and sane ones, with each group doing all sorts of things, if objectively there's such a thing as "sane but sick"... and eventually I went right off the deep end with the concepts of objectivity and reality.

What does it mean when seeing a man nail his penis to a board (oh yes, they showed that in the movie, up close and personal) leads to this sort of philosophical contortionism? I probably don't want to know, lol. In any case, I highly recommend "Sick"; be aware that there are lots of genital closeups, scary things being done to Flanagan's body, blood, and blunt discussions of sexual matters and bodily functions... it's not for the squeamish.

IS there such a thing as "sane but sick," or does "sick" in that context just mean "significantly different than the cultural norm"? I see a future post on this topic coming soon; stay tuned.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gross stuff 

Bugs are gross (except for butterflies and ladybugs), although they can be fascinating in their alienness; nothing has made this more clear than the advances in photography that have allowed us to see all their creepy details. You've seen super-close-up pics of flies, I'm sure... but have you ever seen one where the fly had GLASSES?

"An entry in a German science-photo competition, this image shows a fly sporting a set of 'designer' lenses crafted and set in place with a cutting-edge laser technique. The glasses fit snuggly on the fly's 0.08-inch-wide (2-millimeter-wide) head."


How did they get those glasses on the fly, and how did they make it hold still long enough to get a photo?

Can you imagine when someone stood up in a meeting and said, "I've got an idea-let's make a pair of really tiny glasses and photograph them on a FLY"? If German geeks are like their American brethren, the response was along the lines of "Wow, what a cool idea!! Let's do it!!"

The grossest all of bugs is the cockroach; if filth had legs, it'd be a roach. If you ever feel like they're outsmarting you, swarming everywhere EXCEPT where you've got traps and baits put out, you may be right; it appears that they're more intelligent than we give them credit for:


"Cockroaches govern themselves in a very simple democracy where each insect has equal standing and group consultations precede decisions that affect the entire group, indicates a new study."

This requires something closer to thinking and reasoning than I'd ever guessed they were capable of, but that's nothing compared to their MATH abilities:

"Halloy tested cockroach group behavior by placing the insects in a dish that contained three shelters. The test was to see how the cockroaches would divide themselves into the shelters.

After much 'consultation,' through antenna probing, touching and more, the cockroaches divided themselves up perfectly within the shelters. For example, if 50 insects were placed in a dish with three shelters, each with a capacity for 40 bugs, 25 roaches huddled together in the first shelter, 25 gathered in the second shelter, and the third was left vacant.

When the researchers altered this setup so that it had three shelters with a capacity for more than 50 insects, all of the cockroaches moved into the first 'house.'"

Could YOU tell by looking at a shelter, with no measuring devices, whether it could hold 50 people or just 40? More impressive than that is something you CAN do; how are the roaches able to divide themselves into 2 identical groups? At the very least, this would seem to require an understanding of what I've seen described in reference to chimps as "pre-mathematical concepts," in this case the ability to grasp the idea of more, less and equal; combined with how they're able to tell how many of them can fit into a given amount of space, it really does look like they're doing simple math... I HOPE there's some other explanation, though, because otherwise it's too much like something out of a horror movie.

This site has something gross in a totally different way:


It sounds like a porn site, but actually it's owned by Norelco, and exists to advertise a trimmer/shaver meant for a man to use to groom his body hair, called, unoriginally enough, Bodygroom; the guy in the Flash movie on the site discusses such topics as how grooming in the genital area can lead to, er, objects in the area appearing larger... and if you keep watching after the speech has been given, he does various odd things, including scratching his groin. Can you believe that a major company did something like this?

And now, for tales from the grossest thing of all; MARRIAGE.

We got some Chinese takeout, which included fried rice with peas and carrots; since I don't eat veggies, I tossed all of mine on my husband's plate. At one point in the meal, inspiration hit him; he ate one of the peas and announced, "I've got your pea in my mouth"... and I didn't need to hear the resultant snicker to know that he was in fact making the pea/pee pun. A little while later, I was on the floor working on my laptop, and he was half-heartedly wiping the table; as always, he was knocking more stuff onto the floor than he was picking up. When a pea went bouncing onto my keyboard, I returned it with a disgusted protest, to which he replied, "I'm pea-ing on you." He was SO proud.

Later, we were talking in his study, and he interrupted me to say, "You'd better wrap this up quickly... depending on how fast the air currents are flowing..." and I, having known him for over a decade, instantly grasped that a wave of flatulence strong enough to melt the paint off the walls was about to hit. I bolted from the room, slamming the door and yelling through it "You stay in there and breathe it all in!!"; his laughter followed me down the hall.

At least he WARNED me; that, single readers please take note, is what true married love is like.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Relationship karma 

A major spiritual epiphany I've had this year is about how when you influence people with your actions or words, making them think, feel or act differently than they otherwise would, the karma generated by whatever actions they take, or energy they emit, flows back to you, as does karma from whoever those people influence because of YOUR influence, and on and on (see my posts of 2-18-06 and 4-7-06). It occurred to me today that there's another avenue that would connect your karma to other people's; having a relationship with them. I'm not talking about how the karma of those around you overlaps your karmic sphere, which is old news, but about how, just by being someone's friend, lover, or family member, you affect them, and in return receive some of their karma directly.

What do you suppose that means if you persist in maintaining close ties with an EVIL person?

Have you ever known a bad person who DIDN'T have friends, a romantic partner, and family who loved them? Probably not. Why do even decent, intelligent, mature people cling to bad apples? Because no one realizes or admits that someone in THEIR sacred group of loved/liked ones could possibly be anything but wonderful. You know what's coming next, right? Unless you, like me, have made a major lifelong effort to make SURE that only decent people are allowed to have more than distant, formal contact with you, there's a good chance that some unpleasant people are impacting your karma with their ugliness.

We can't expect people to be saints, but we CAN expect basically good behavior and attitudes, and we SHOULD be rejecting people who don't manage that, although for the most part we don't; we say things like, "Well, yeah, (s)he hates gays/cheats on their partner all the time/spreads vicious gossip/takes credit for other people's work/goes on a serial killing spree every week, but (s)he's my friend/lover/sibling, so...", as if the existence of the relationship somehow counteracts the often lengthy list of serious wrongdoings they're guilty of. I don't care how much you love them, how long you've known them, or if you share DNA or a name with them, if they do bad things they're a bad person; the new twist is that withholding your affection and support from them is not only the right thing to do to, it's karmically correct as well.

How do you get karma from the people you have relationships with? When you interact with someone in a chummy way, or, even more meaningfully, in a loving way, you become part of the foundation of their emotional life, one of those from whom they gain strength and confidence... which evil types then use to hurt people. While there are certainly folks who are natural loners, in general we're social creatures who want the approval of, and attention from, those around us; we're quick to use this power to pressure people into wearing the "right" clothes and getting the "right" haircuts, but we're utter failures at using it to make them BEHAVE. The friendship and love that we give bad people emboldens them to MISbehave, and opens up a pipeline through which the bad karma they receive from their victims comes to US; based on their lack of intervention, it's clear that few people care about the harm done to the victims of their nastier buddies, but maybe realizing that staying close to toxic types is in itself harmful will persuade some folks to take off their blinders and stop clasping the vipers to their bosoms.

Rotten people eventually get around to slamming everyone within reach, including those they supposedly like/love; I've warned over and over that this is an ironclad reason to kick any baddies in your life to the curb. We find it hard to be concerned about the vague future, though, especially when we refuse to truly believe that it'll be anything but rosy, so maybe this realization will help you do the necessary kicking; no matter how virtuous you are, you won't have clean karma unless the people in your life are also virtuous, or at the very least NEUTRAL... select your friends and lovers, and which family members to be close to, accordingly.

There are plenty of terrific people in the world, folks who don't hurt or hate; I know they're not as glamorous or exciting or sexy as the baddies are, but you're an adult, and you can get beyond that... cultivate relationships with them, CHOOSE to favor good over evil, and you'll reap the benefits.

Here's the news:

The Christmas tree STILL isn't down, but everything's off of it now, so maybe by the end of the week... or MONTH, sigh...

My grandmother's in her 90's, and she's been losing her mental sharpness in the last few years; in our most recent attempted phone conversation, for the 1st time she couldn't seem to grasp who my husband and I were... she had us confused with my cousin and her fiance despite our best efforts to straighten her out. OUCH. :-(

The alpha male raccoon, who'd had an injured front paw, suddenly stopped coming. The beta male stopped coming too. The gamma male has yet to return after I accidentally scared him off the 1st time he came to eat. The female had stopped coming also, and we thought we'd been completely abandoned by coonish society, or that they were all


trapped and relocated, but a few days ago she came back... and SHE has an injured leg/paw (we can't tell which, we just know she tries not to put that paw on the ground), a rear one this time, which makes it VERY hard for her to walk. TWO raccoons that hang out together BOTH with major injuries within a small time frame? If I find out that someone has been pelting them with rocks or doing something else to hurt them...

Don't worry, I'll leave you with a bit of humor; I got a "gun" that fires foam projectiles, which is intended to allow kids to shoot each other without causing injury... but there's ways around the harmlessness of that particular toy. When it came in the mail, my husband got it set up for me and we went to the "firing range" (aka the hallway); he got to the far end and dropped his pants... and he didn't turn his back to me, either, let's say, hehehehehe. I'm an awful shot, but he tells me each time where I hit him so that I can gradually correct my aim; eventually, the shriek of pain tells me that I hit the target... and then we both laugh and laugh.

Does that seem crazy to you? Believe it or not, this was originally my husband's idea; I've been pelting him in the groin with stuff for YEARS, and his explanation for it is that it makes me laugh, and that'll help keep him alive when he screws up. Between you and me, as entertaining as this game is I'd prefer that he pick up after himself instead, or show up on time, or flush the toilet more often; still, I'm the envy of my female friends, and that's gotta count for something.

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