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Neko

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Odds and ends 


Amazon.com got me AGAIN, I don't believe it!! You might have read my post about them on 10-13-05, in which I described how they'd changed their shipping policy but not the wording thereof, so we didn't know that they were no longer shipping items as they became available, but were instead shipping them all together when they were ALL available, and thus when a pre-ordered item from a small publisher suddenly no longer had a set release date the entire order went into limbo... and they didn't even send us an email to let us know. I was really going to hesitate before ordering from them again, but then when I was on there on 1-20 looking something up they showed an ad with a good deal for the new Stephen King book, "Cell"

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743292332/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_1/002-8570383-1034463?%5Fencoding=UTF8

which was at that time 4 days away from being released, and... I did some searches, found another book I wanted which had just been released on December 30th with which to qualify for Super Saver Shipping, and placed the order. Fast forward 10 days; it occurred to me that the books should have gotten here already, so I logged in to see when they'd been shipped, and... ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!! They not only hadn't been shipped yet, they were showing an estimated shipping date a WEEK from now. I couldn't believe that there'd be a delay like that for a major author like King, but I brought up the page for "Cell" to take a look; it showed the expected release date of 1-24, and made no mention of being out of stock or delayed in any way. What the heck? The only thing left to do was bring up the other book, so I did, and... and... it went from claiming to have BEEN released in December to having an INTENDED release on February 16th!!!!!!!!! Once again, no email, no apology, no explanation... and the discrepancy between when they say it'll be available and when they say they'll be shipping the order doesn't inspire confidence in me, as you might imagine.

Buyers beware; be VERY hesitant to buy any small-press books from Amazon... their info on availability is unreliable, their customer service is nonexistent, and, while this probably isn't usually an issue, if you're in the market for less mainstream stuff, try to find it elsewhere.


On a happier note; I found another Flash clock... one so good I literally salivated when I saw it:

http://imgjungle.jungle.co.kr/magazine/up_img/category/xouclock_multi(3).swf

The site it comes from, Hanlee.com, is Korean, thus demonstrating that someone outside of Japan CAN make a slick Flash clock; it's just one, but it's 1st-rate. Look at the attention to detail; the #'s BOUNCE slightly once they've flipped, the light reflecting off of them changes as they drop, AND you've got a choice of current time, time elapsed since 9:00 and "time remaining until quitting time"... and if it's past quitting time, the #'s come up RED. Lovely. :-)


And finally, some more eHarmony.com humor; one of their ads came on, and the old guy who does them proclaimed that somewhere out there your soul mate was waiting for you... and my husband, emerging from the kitchen, said, "Yeah, she's about 10 feet away." AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW Ok, that's more sweet than funny, but this one's still making me snicker; I was looking for a windchime on eBay, and had winnowed it down to 2 choices, which I called my husband over to look at... and of course he picked the one I liked less. I asked him "How come you don't like the one *I* like?", and he said "Because we didn't meet on eHarmony.com." LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sunday, January 29, 2006

When is a health problem NOT a health problem? 


Haven't you always assumed that having intestinal worms was 100% bad, in addition to being GROSS? It turns out that there are BENEFITS to having them, according to the February 2006 issue of Discover:


"Breathe Easy, You've Got Intestinal Worms

It's hard to believe that there's an upside to parasitic worms, but statistics indicate that people who are infested have lower rates of asthma and allergies. A group of Scottish biologists has figured out why.

Rick Maizels at the University of Edinburgh and his colleagues find that the worms manipulate their hosts into producing cells called regulatory T cells, which calm the immune system. 'The parasite, for its own benefit, exploits these regulatory cells so that the immune system isn't able to expel it,' he says, 'but a side effect is that it also dampens the allergic response.' With the immune system mellowed, the host's reaction to other foreign objects such as dust mites or dander is much milder."


That may not sound like a big deal, but remember, in the absence of medical care allergies and asthma can be DEADLY, so in early human society harboring these worms could give a significant survival edge, especially since they often don't cause much harm; could this be why our immune systems never developed a way to rid our bodies of them?

There was something on the opposite page as the above quote, in the sidebar, that caught my eye; "Artistic types have more sex-which may explain the persistence of schizophrenia in the human population, according to two British psychologists." I've always pointed out the inescapable (because of the endless examples) connection between abnormal mental/emotional functioning and creativity/genius, so I had to look this up... here's what I found:


http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,1653761,00.html

"Daniel Nettle, a psychologist at Newcastle University, and Helen Clegg, at the Open University in Milton Keynes, carried out the survey in the hope it would answer a question that has been puzzling scientists for some time. Schizophrenia is so debilitating that those with the condition are often socially isolated, have trouble maintaining relationships and so reproduce at a much lower rate than the general population. But cases of schizophrenia remain high, at around 1% of the population. 'On the face of it, Darwinism would suggest that the genes predisposing to schizophrenia would eventually disappear from the gene pool,' said Dr Nettle."

"On analysing 425 responses, the psychologists found that artists and schizophrenics scored equally high on 'unusual cognition,' a trait which gives rise to a greater tendency to feel in between reality and a dream state, or to feel overwhelmed by one's own thoughts.

But the artists and schizophrenics scored very differently on another measure called introvertive anhedonia, which is characterised by social withdrawal and emotional emptiness. Unlike schizophrenics, artists, in line with the general population, scored very low.

According to Dr Nettle, the results suggest that the creativity of some artists is fuelled by the unique world view mental illness can provide, but without the completely debilitating aspects of the condition. Instead, the artists are able to direct their creativity into artistic projects.

The second part of the survey found that compared with the general population, artists claimed to have had twice as many [sexual] partners since the age of 18, and the number of partners increased with the seriousness with which they pursued their art.

Dr Nettle believes that this provides the answer to the question posed. Some of the genes that predispose to schizophrenia might be carried by artists and in many cases play a factor in their creativity, but because the artists do not develop full-blown schizophrenia and are able to direct their creativity, they are able to pass the genes on to their children."


This set all the bells in my head ringing, because it makes perfect sense, explains why brilliant minds are usually messed up, ties in with how Einstein, who possessed perhaps the most innovative mind in human history, carried the recessive gene for schizophrenia (we know this because his 2nd son, Eduard, was schizophrenic)... AND, most importantly, dovetails with the amazing fact that there are a variety of ailments that, while awful if you have them, provide you with benefits if you only carry the recessive gene for them:


http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/educators/course/session7/explain_b_pop1.html

"Sickle Cell disease... carriers are resistant to malaria"

"Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency... causes life-threatening hemolytic anemia... inheriting the enzyme deficiency gene somehow protects against malaria."

"Phenylketnonuria is an inborn error of metabolism... with devastating effects on the nervous system unless the individual follows a restrictive diet... Physicians have observed that women who are PKU carriers have a much lower-than-average incidence of miscarriage"

"Carrying Tay-Sachs disease may protect against tuberculosis"

"Cystic Fibrosis... the anatomical defect that underlies CF protects against diarrheal illnesses, such as cholera."

And one more quote... note the similarity to what the previous article said:

"If natural selection eliminates individuals with detrimental phenotypes from a population, then why do harmful mutant alleles persist in a gene pool?"


Being more creative combined with social functionality, and thus getting laid more, isn't exactly the same sort of thing as getting resistance to a disease, of course, but conceptually they ARE the same; having a little of the "bad genes" makes you more likely to be able to pass on ALL your genes (well, technically, half at a time), and that's why those "bad genes" don't fade from our gene pool.

There are probably endless other things that we currently see only as health problems that confer some sort of benefit under the right circumstances... so we'd better be a little bit more careful about what ailments we try to totally eradicate, don't you think?


Friday, January 27, 2006

Sinking deeper into geekdom 


Turner Classic Movies came through for me again; they apparently didn't have access to any of the other movies directed by anime genius Hayao Miyazaki to round out their month of paying homage to him, so today they showed a couple that he produced for long-time friend and associate Isao Takahata, "Only Yesterday"

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102587/

and "Pom Poko"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?channel=Movies&subChannel=sub&movieID=149336&displayBoxArt=true#Full

Although neither of these movies has the magic that characterizes Miyazaki's writing and directing, they're still both fantastic... and mind you, "Only Yesterday" hasn't been dubbed yet, so I had to watch it with subtitles, TWICE (since I was only able to halfway watch it the 1st time around, which doesn't cut it with subtitled movies), and I won't do that unless the movie's REALLY worth watching.

We got 2 DVD's from Blockbuster in the mail today, another anime feature and one of the Babylon 5 movies, and when the final credits for round 2 of "Only Yesterday" finished up, we had to decide what to watch next; I said "Well, I just watched almost 7 hours of anime, so..." and my husband, laughing, pointed to me and chanted "Geek! Geek! Geek"... despite the fact that he'd watched nearly all of it with me, the hypocrite. I don't know what would've been more geekish at that point, watching 2 more hours of anime or watching the scifi movie, but we chose the latter... and we're both working on our computers as we watch it, too, so we're hitting the geekdom on all cylinders.

Also in geek news; I found another site with cool Flash clocks. These are all digital, some mimicking the "flip" clocks that preceded the ones with actual digital readouts, and some with a slowly scrolling lineup of #'s for the hours with a little doodad that moves between them to mark off the minutes; once again it's a Japanese site that's got 'em... isn't anyone outside of Japan making Flash clocks? As always, it's easy to get the code for a clock you want even if you don't understand Japanese; it took a little bit of intuitive maneuvering to get from the front page to the one with the clocks, and I was vaguely proud of how quickly I managed it, but this URL is for the actual page with the clocks, fear not:

http://www.postpet.so-net.ne.jp/webmail/blog/

I swear, some day when CPU usage isn't an issue for anyone anymore, I'm going to have a site with nothing but all the neat Flash clocks I've found; I dunno if anyone other than me would find it cool, but it might at least be useful, especially if I got ambitious and included download and posting instructions for all of them so that anyone who wanted one could have it.

The final proof of geekdom, or perhaps of incipient insanity, is if, when you're dreaming or half-awake, you're always trying to do some sort of computer-related thing. Wherever I am in my dreams, I'm always finding keyboards and screens as part of tables and dashboards, buried in the carpet, poking through the sand on a beach; usually, I'm trying desperately to place an eBay bid, or do something else that I'm convinced is ultra time-sensitive, and nothing's working the way it's supposed to... the geek's deepest fear. Even weirder is how often I'm waking up and looking at my digital clock expecting to see a computer screen, or to be able to push the buttons on it and GET computer stuff on there; sometimes I expect a screen to be on the wall over my head, like in a scifi show, or to maybe find my laptop next to my pillow... and sometimes I have to be fully awake for a minute or 2 before I realize that there's no computer equipment in the room.

An even worse example of this sort of confusion just came to mind; periodically, when I'm reading a book or magazine, I'll want to take another look at something I saw a while ago, or jump forward to a different subject, and my 1st reaction is to try to do a "find" or "search," as if I were reading on a screen instead of on paper... and I come to a complete stop for a few seconds while my brain snaps back to reality, after which I feel irritated, not that some part of my mind wasn't remembering what I was looking at, but that there's no way to search/find on printed material.

If there's a way to be MORE of a geek, I don't wanna know about it.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My disgust knows no bounds 


WARNING: much of the commentary in this post is political in nature. Despite what some people think based on my opinions on social issues like gay marriage, and my hard-core PC-ism in many areas, I am NOT a liberal; if you'll be upset or offended by opinions that don't adhere to the liberal viewpoint, please skip this post.

You might have seen the cover story in this past Sunday's "Parade," "The World's 10 Worst Dictators"; if not, at least for now you can read it here:

http://parade.com/articles/editions/2006/edition_01-22-2006/Dictators

Because that URL might not be valid for long, and I think people need to see this stuff, here's the list; if your country, or country of origin, appears below, please keep in mind that no criticism of you or the other citizens of these nations is implied... it's only the actions of the dictators that are being criticized:


1) Omar al-Bashir, Sudan. Age 62. In power since 1989. Last year's rank: 1

Since February 2003, Bashir's campaign of ethnic and religious persecution has killed at least 180,000 civilians in Darfur in western Sudan and driven 2 million people from their homes. The good news is that Bashir's army and the Janjaweed militia that he supports have all but stopped burning down villages in Darfur. The bad news is why they've stopped: There are few villages left to burn. The attacks now are aimed at refugee camps. While the media have called these actions "a humanitarian tragedy," Bashir himself has escaped major condemnation. In 2005, Bashir signed a peace agreement with the largest rebel group in non-Islamic southern Sudan and allowed its leader, John Garang, to become the nation's vice president. But Garang died in July in a helicopter crash, and Bashir's troops still occupy the south.


2) Kim Jong-il, North Korea. Age 63. In power since 1994. Last year's rank: 2

While the outside world focuses on Kim Jong-il's nuclear weapons program, domestically he runs the world's most tightly controlled society. North Korea continues to rank last in the index of press freedom compiled by Reporters Without Borders, and for the 34th straight year it earned the worst possible score on political rights and civil liberties from Freedom House. An estimated 250,000 people are confined in "reeducation camps." Malnourishment is widespread: According to the United Nations World Food Program, the average 7-year-old boy in North Korea is almost 8 inches shorter than a South Korean boy the same age and more than 20 pounds lighter.


3) Than Shwe, Burma (Myanmar). Age 72. In power since 1992. Last year's rank: 3

In November 2005, without warning, Than Shwe moved his entire government from Rangoon (Yangon), the capital for the last 120 years, to Pyinmana, a remote area 245 miles away. Civil servants were given two days' notice and are forbidden from resigning. Burma leads the world in the use of children as soldiers, and the regime is notorious for using forced labor on construction projects and as porters for the army in war zones. The long-standing house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and Than Shwe's most feared opponent, recently was extended for six months. Just to drive near her heavily guarded home is to risk arrest.


4) Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe. Age 81. In power since 1980. Last year's rank: 9

Life in Zimbabwe has gone from bad to worse: It has the world's highest inflation rate, 80% unemployment and an HIV/AIDS rate of more than 20%. Life expectancy has declined since 1988 from 62 to 38 years. Farming has collapsed since 2000, when Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms, giving most of them to political allies with no background in agriculture. In 2005, Mugabe launched Operation Murambatsvina (Clean the Filth), the forcible eviction of some 700,000 people from their homes or businesses-"to restore order and sanity," says the government. But locals say the reason was to forestall demonstrations as the economy deteriorates.


5) Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan. Age 67. In power since 1990. Last year's rank: 15

Until 2005, the worst excesses of Karimov's regime had taken place in the torture rooms of his prisons. But on May 13, he ordered a mass killing that could not be concealed. In the city of Andijan, 23 businessmen, held in prison and awaiting a verdict, were freed by their supporters, who then held an open meeting in the town square. An estimated 10,000 people gathered, expecting government officials to come and listen to their grievances. Instead, Karimov sent the army, which massacred hundreds of men, women and children. A 2003 law made Karimov and all members of his family immune from prosecution forever.


6) Hu Jintao, China. Age 63. In power since 2002. Last year's rank: 4

Although some Chinese have taken advantage of economic liberalization to become rich, up to 150 million Chinese live on $1 a day or less in this nation with no minimum wage. Between 250,000 and 300,000 political dissidents are held in "reeducation-through-labor" camps without trial. Less than 5% of criminal trials include witnesses, and the conviction rate is 99.7%. There are no privately owned TV or radio stations. The government opens and censors mail and monitors phone calls, faxes, e-mails and text messages. In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, at least 400,000 residents of Beijing have been forcibly evicted from their homes.


7) King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia. Age 82. In power since 1995. Last year's rank: 5

Although Abdullah did not become king until 2005, he has ruled Saudi Arabia since his half-brother, Fahd, suffered a stroke 10 years earlier. In Saudi Arabia, phone calls are recorded and mobile phones with cameras are banned. It is illegal for public employees "to engage in dialogue with local and foreign media." By law, all Saudi citizens must be Muslims. According to Amnesty International, police in Saudi Arabia routinely use torture to extract "confessions." Saudi women may not appear in public with a man who isn't a relative, must cover their bodies and faces in public and may not drive. The strict suppression of women is not voluntary, and Saudi women who would like to live a freer life are not allowed to do so.


8) Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan. Age 65. In power since 1990. Last year's rank: 8

Niyazov has created the world's most pervasive personality cult, and criticism of any of his policies is considered treason. The latest examples of his government-by-whim include bans on car radios, lip-synching and playing recorded music on TV or at weddings. Niyazov also has closed all national parks and shut down rural libraries. He launched an attack on his nation's health-care system, firing 15,000 health-care workers and replacing most of them with untrained military conscripts. He announced the closing of all hospitals outside the capital and ordered Turkmenistan's physicians to give up the Hippocratic Oath and to swear allegiance to him instead.


9) Seyed Ali Khamane'i, Iran. Age 66. In power since 1989. Last year's rank: 18

Over the past four years, the rulers of Iran have undone the reforms that were emerging in the nation. The hardliners completed this reversal by winning the parliamentary elections in 2004 -after disqualifying 44% of the candidates-and with the presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2005. Ultimately, however, the country is run by the 12-man Guardian Council, overseen by the Ayatollah Khamane'i, which has the right to veto any law that the elected government passes. Khamane'i has shut down the free press, tortured journalists and ordered the execution of homosexual males.


10) Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea. Age 63. In power since 1979. Last year's rank: 10

Obiang took power in this tiny West African nation by overthrowing his uncle more than 25 years ago. According to a United Nations inspector, torture "is the normal means of investigation" in Equatorial Guinea. There is no freedom of speech, and there are no bookstores or newsstands. The one private radio station is owned by Obiang's son. Since major oil reserves were discovered in Equatorial Guinea in 1995, Obiang has deposited more than $700 million into special accounts in U.S. banks. Meanwhile, most of his people live on less than $1 a day.


I'm sure you're as appalled as I am at what the people in those nations are enduring... and also appalled at how little of this is being shown in the mainstream media. We in America are eager to hear every detail of celebrities' lives, but the horrible conditions that millions of people in distant lands live under apparently doesn't concern us at all; think about it, when's the last time you heard ANYTHING about some of those countries? Even those countries that ARE in the news get far less coverage that what Brad and Angelina are up to, and the average American can tell you alot more about the latter than about the former.

Just when I thought I couldn't be any more nauseated and dismayed, I noticed that Parade.com has a setup for people to post comments on this story, and... words fail me. I copied an example of what's in the comments area, and I copied it EXACTLY, so as to provide an accurate reflection not only of what's being said but of what kind of person is saying it:

"Is prarade a subsidery of the US State Department?
By tef on 1/24/2006 01:05:50
Not that I disagree with who is on your list, but it looks like all the countries that the State Department does not like is on your list while some clear leaders are missing... Here are my top 5 1. George Bush... He stoled the 2000 election... Holds American Citizens without acsess to a lawyer... spays on Americans violating US law... kills 1000's Iraqi children with 'smart bombs'... itimidates those who have opposing opinions and probabley reading my email to you before it gets to you."

When will these blithering idiots learn how to use a spellchecker? And how about a FACT checker? I'm so TIRED of seeing these gross exaggerations and distortions of the truth, and outright lies, being spouted as gospel all over the internet!! I don't care if you hate Bush, it has no impact on me or my life, but if you want to say something about him how about staying somewhere near the truth?

That's not what I'm disgusted about-I just wanted to get it off my chest. The thing that revolted me to the point of needing to post about it is that there are a bunch of others just like this cockroach "tef" who feel justified by their hatred of Bush to call him, not just a dictator, but a worse dictator than the monsters on the list. Granted that these people could easily be stupid enough to not know what a dictator actually IS, but the 1st thing in the Parade article is a definition:

"A 'dictator' is a head of state who exercises arbitrary authority over the lives of his citizens and who cannot be removed from power through legal means."

There's no gray area here; the president of the United States absolutely, positively, does not, can not, qualify as a dictator, EVER, because he's an elected official with very limited authority, and in fact NO direct authority for the most part over the lives of his citizens, who CAN be removed from office through legal means. I don't care how many things he does that some people don't like, that does NOT change the definition of the word "dictator," nor does it alter the fact that the word doesn't apply.

It's not the misuse of a word by some ignorant twits that's the real issue, though; it's that their claims imply that the safe, free, easy, cushy lives that we Americans enjoy are somehow worse than the lives of the victims of REAL dictators. Imagine if someone from Sudan or North Korea, or any of the other nations on the list, read that cr@p, that what they and those they know have suffered is somehow BETTER than living in the richest, freest, most powerful nation on Earth because BUSH is president-how would they react? Do you think that one single person living under a REAL dictator, and not in a favored group or class, would choose to stay there rather than come to America? Can you imagine one of them saying, "Yeah, there's alot of horrible things going on in my country because we have a dictator, but I don't want to go to America, because BUSH is there"? Even more tellingly, and at least one person said this in the comments on Parade.com, if you offered "tef" or any similar commenter the chance to live in any country with a REAL dictator, would a single one of them agree to it? HELL NO.

What kind of a person reads about the horrific conditions the dictators are imposing upon their citizens and then takes time out of what 99% of the people who ever lived would see as a life of unimaginable laziness and luxury to compose a post to declare that BUSH is worse than those madmen? Hate Bush all you want, it's a free country, blame him for everything that goes wrong everywhere on Earth, stupidity isn't illegal, more's the pity, but show some frigging respect for the people in other countries who actually have VALID things to complain about, who know what REAL suffering, poverty and fear are, and maintain some shred of perspective and grip on reality when you compare Bush to other leaders, and America to other countries, in a public forum.

Do you know what the really sad thing is? After seeing the abuse that Bush has taken, no sane person would want to be the president... so what are we going to have in the Oval Office in the future?


Monday, January 23, 2006

Nothing is free 


We all know that things like sunlight and air, and intangibles like friendship and love, are free; what I'm talking about here are those goods and services to which a monetary value is normally assigned... which means nearly everything. It seems totally unnecessary to point out that things for which $ must be paid ARE in fact paid for, but some people still don't get it, apparently.

The recent example I saw of this, and you knew there was one, was a friend in another country who was astonished to discover that in America we pay for cell phone service, because in her country being connected to a cellular provider is "free." This isn't a little kid I'm talking about who said this, or someone with a developmental disability, this is a reasonably bright woman in her 30's; she genuinely thinks that the ability to have a dial tone on a cell phone, and make and receive calls, has no costs associated with it, and thus no one is paying for it... she thinks that only actually making a call costs something, because in her country you only get charged when you make a call. Now mind you, she still has a regular phone, and knows that it costs a certain amount each month even if she makes no calls, so she doesn't even have the excuse of not being used to the idea of a usable phone costing $ automatically; just because she doesn't get a special bill for just cellular service, is that any reason to think that it's "free," eg that's it's just magically appearing out of nowhere?

I made it clear to her that in her country the cost of the cellular network is either paid for by:

a) Taxes (if the gov't is involved in any way)

b) The insanely high monthly price they pay for regular phone service

c) The high price they pay per minute for the calls they make (they naturally get no pre-paid monthly minutes or free calling)

d) Some combination of these things

It had honestly never occurred to her that the costs of running a cellular network weren't being covered by donated goods and volunteer service, or whatever, but that somehow it HAD to be paid for by the users, and probably by non-users as well... and that unless it was being funded 100% by the charges on calls made, she WAS paying for cellular access even though due to her financial situation she never makes any outgoing calls (can you imagine having a cell that you can't ever make calls on?).

This incident reminded me of a truly pitiful thread I saw on a forum a while back, in which people were talking about the various sorts of taxes they paid in their states, and concluding that, since not all states impose sales or personal income taxes, those things are just cheats to take people's $ and... well, they didn't seem to know what that $ went to, but they were sure that it wasn't anything necessary. They also argued that there shouldn't be any property tax, because it was "unfair" to have to pay "extra" for a property beyond the mortgage. It ticked me off so much that I posted a response, along the lines of:

"Where do you think the $ comes from to provide all the services you get from your state and local gov'ts? The Federal gov't does NOT cover all of it, so the states have to make up the difference somehow; the various sorts of fees and licenses you pay for DO cover some things, but the rest of that $ has to come from YOU in the form of taxes... so unless you live in Alaska, where severance taxes on oil extracted from the state pay for pretty much everything, you have to pay some combination of sales tax and personal income tax. In addition, your local gov'ts need more $ than they receive from state and Federal sources, so they have to levy property taxes to cover THEIR services to you; the lower the sales and income taxes are in a state, the less the state has to hand out to counties, and thus the higher you have to expect property taxes to be... somehow, some way, the combination of those taxes has to cover your services from state and local gov'ts. If you want to eliminate all those taxes, the only way would be for the Federal gov't to pay for everything, and then your Federal income tax would skyrocket to cover it, doubly so since alot of the $ they receive gets eaten up by bureaucratic processing... there's NO FREE LUNCH."

That shut 'em up. :-)

You'd think that most people DO grasp the connection between taxes paid and benefits received, but I can't tell you how many times I've heard/seen people saying that we should have, for example, socialized medicine, and in the same breath screaming about how they're paying too much income tax... HUH?!! America is a gigantic country, with an intricate and inefficient bureaucracy, and the most expensive way to do anything is to have the Federal gov't pay for it; if you think your health insurance is expensive, just imagine how much the same services would cost you via taxes if we had national health care.

You'd think that most people grasp in general that anything they get was paid for by SOMEONE... but think about how many complaints you see about online services that allow free access to and/or use of their stuff (which costs THEM $ to offer up) having banners or popups to try to defray the cost. Are we REALLY so childish that we think that everyone, not just our parents but total strangers too, should finance things for us, that everything should be just handed to us by people who shouldn't dare contemplate trying to make a little $ so they're not draining their savings to provide us with handouts, much less make a PROFIT?

Yes, we ARE just that childish; as a nation, we want to pay a little bit in taxes and have the gov't give and do everything for us, and we want the companies we work for to provide us with an endless laundry-list of fully-paid benefits without reducing our salaries, and we want everything online to be free and without advertising... we must subconsciously expect rich people, or Martians, or Santa Claus, or a heavenly choir of angels to show up and pay for everything. Until that happens, just remember that every time you hold out your hand to be given something, someone else had to open up their wallet; nothing is free.


On a lighter note:

I was working on my laptop yesterday, and was vaguely aware that one of those eHarmony.com ads was on, with that smug old guy talking about how their magic compatibility calculations are the way to insure lasting relationships that got even better over time; my husband, emerging from the hallway, retorted at the screen, "Oh yeah, well WE have NO areas of compatibility, and OUR relationship keeps getting better over time... how do you explain THAT?". We don't go around proclaiming how wonderful our relationship is like some folks do, but I'll take that sort of spontaneous affirmation of the power of our bond over hand-on-heart declarations any day.

Today, we were talking, and I suddenly needed a potty break; I told my husband that, and he immediately headed for the other bathroom, telling me that he had "sympathy urges" and needed to go because *I* was going.... and I said, "Two hearts beating as one is romantic... but 2 bladders emptying as one is less so." We both howled with laughter.

I read a long time ago that similar senses of humor was the best indicator of REAL relationship compatibility; sorry, eHarmony.com, but your 573 levels of compatibility pale by comparison.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Frenzied 


That's me in one word; on top of everything else that's going on, I've had a series of visitors, and have been trying to keep the house clean in between them... and it turns out that it simply can't be done. My husband makes so much mess so fast that it's literally impossible for me to clean all of it up and still do the other things I need to; he's been making what for him is an extraordinary effort to pick up after himself, for which I'm grateful, but despite that my constant efforts are analogous to shoveling the walk while it's still snowing... an exercise in futility. It might be over tomorrow, since the last scheduled visitor, my mother, is coming then; the highest level of cleaning is necessary for her, but we'll be able to breath a sigh of relief and let things go after that... unless this couple we owe an evening of hanging out at our place to comes here soon, that is, sigh.

An update on my mother; all her tests came back negative, including the one on the lymph node biopsy, which means that, although her breast cancer is still considered stage 3 due to its size (5.5 cm and still growing), it has NOT spread to anywhere else in her body-good news at last. She's having a port put in on 2-1, and the 1st dose of chemo gets put into it on 2-6. They hope to shrink the tumor enough to be able to do a lumpectomy rather than more invasive surgery; they've even said that it might eradicate the tumor completely, although since it's been so fast-growing (she's got the kind of breast cancer young women normally get, which is why it's so aggressive) that doesn't seem too likely to me. I got her some little "get well" gifts; maybe she won't shove them in a drawer and forget about them like she does with most things she's given.

Here's an important health-related tidbit:


"Men with hernias but little or no pain can safely go without surgery unless things really start to hurt, a study found. 'Not every hernia needs to be fixed,' said Dr. Olga Jonasson of the University of Illinois at Chicago, co-author of the study in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

U.S. surgeons fix more than 600,000 hernias a year, making it one of the most common procedures. The study offers guidance to doctors on whether it is OK to leave a pain-free hernia untreated.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. David Flum of the University of Washington's surgery department said hernia surgery for patients without pain may soon disappear, just as preventive tonsillectomies have done."

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20060118/D8F75BQ03.html


As I've said in the past, alot of unnecessary surgery's being done in this country; Western medicine is devoted to curing problems by cutting things out... and that's how surgeons make their $, so their tendency is to push for it on any pretense. If you or a loved one supposedly needs surgery of ANY kind, do some research and make sure there aren't other options, such as less extreme surgery, non-surgical treatment, or leaving the problem be.


I found this fascinating:

"The scientists scanned the brains of 16 men and 16 women after the volunteers played a game with what they thought were other volunteers, but who in fact were actors. The actors either played the game fairly or obviously cheated.

During the brain scans, each volunteer watched as the hands of a 'fair' player and a cheater received a mild electrical shock. When it came to the fair-player, both men's and women's brains showed activation in pain-related areas, indicating that they empathized with that player's pain.

But for the cheater, while the women's brains still showed a response, men's brains showed virtually no specific reaction. Also, in another brain area associated with feelings of reward, men's brains showed a greater average response to the cheater's shock than to the fair player's shock, while women's brains did not.

A questionnaire revealed that the men expressed a stronger desire than women did for revenge against the cheater. The more a man said he wanted revenge, the higher his jump in the brain's reward area when the cheater got a shock. No such correlation showed up in women."

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20060118/D8F7B6LO0.html


There are all the usual reasons to expect women to feel greater empathy than men; women need it because they're the child-bearers, caretakers, etc... and don't think I'm patting my gender on the back when I say that, because I don't find it laudatory that women apparently don't like to see wrong-doers get their well-deserved reward. You probably weren't surprised that women showed more empathy over all, but did you expect men, and only men, to feel good that the cheaters got zapped? I'D be cheering on the zappers, myself, telling them to zap harder, to shock the cheaters right off their chairs... yet another of the many ways that my brain works like a man's instead of like a woman's. It gets better; my husband thinks he'd feel empathy for the cheaters, as the women did... total gender role reversal, and also indicative of his personal moral shakiness.


Something my husband and I feel the SAME about is Japanese animation genius Hayao Miyazaki, who I wrote about on 1-13; in addition to the movies I mentioned then, we've now seen:

"My Neighbor Totoro"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=106111&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

"Porco Rosso"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?channel=Movies&subChannel=sub&movieID=132006&displayBoxArt=true#Full

"Spirited Away"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=128274&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

and "Whisper of the Heart" (for which he did the screenplay but didn't direct)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113824/

and we both loved every one of them. It's belatedly occurred to us that this is ANIME, and thus getting sucked into it represents a higher level of geekdom for both of us; we'll go higher still once we start getting the t-shirts. You don't have to be a geek to love these movies, though; they're all spectacular, and kid-safe, so rent them and give yourself and your family a treat.

Hopefully, Sunday will be a day of rest, and I'll have a more cohesive post in a couple of days; the ideas are there, it's just finding the time to write 3-hour essays that's lacking. I'm getting caught up with my tasks and my sleep, although not on the same days, as you might imagine; I'm still devoted to blogging, so hang in there, more rants are on the horizon.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

A few animal stories 


First off, the possum report: Our littlest male showed up after a several-day absence with the fur missing from one side of his neck and chest, and the foreleg and ribs on that side; there were only a couple of little dots that might have been breaks in the skin, so he wasn't actually injured, but having had all that fur ripped out must have been AWFUL. He was also utterly filthy, although possums are normally very fastidious animals, washing their faces constantly, plus he wobbled a little when he walked, so my guess was that he'd had a very recent fight and was still disoriented. He ate a fair amount of food, wandered off... and a few minutes later, my husband called out from the kitchen that there was a commotion on the patio cover, so I put 2 and 2 together and sprinted for the door, knowing that there must be further fighting going on. When I got outside, I could hear them thrashing and "barking" in the foliage, and yelled "STOP THAT!! Bad possums!! Bad!! You stop that fighting!!"; silence fell, there was a rustling of leaves, and the little possum's head poked out and swung around to face me... and yes, he was looking right at me. He stayed there with his head out, but the other possum could be heard stomping around; when he tried another bark, I scolded "Be quiet, you bad, bad boy!!"... and HIS little head appeared through the branches, and he looked inquisitively at me. "You behave," I told him, and, after another minute or so of watching me, he quietly moved away; when he appeared at the feeding area a few minutes later, the wound on the side of his head looked red and wet, which tells me that it probably re-opened while he was fighting.

Mating season isn't for several months; what happens when the little female goes into heat, and the males realize they have something more than the unlimited supply of food on my patio to fight for?

On a lighter note; do you ever wonder why you're always hearing about dogs saving people from burning buildings, but never hear of cats doing so, even though there are more cats than dogs being kept as pets in this country? The reason, of course, is that to dogs people are family, people are virtual gods, and because they're loyal and loving creatures they of course do their best to rescue their humans... while to cats, humans are litterbox-cleaners and food-servers, and when disaster strikes they save themselves and then sit at a safe distance laughing, or, if it looks like the people might escape, they run back and tangle around their feet and trip them up, and laugh as they flee back to safety. There's one cat, however, that's an amazing exception to this dynamic:


"MANCHESTER, Pa. (AP) - A cat interrupted a catnap, possibly saving two lives. Jean Poole and her 9-month-old granddaughter were dozing Tuesday in Poole's home in the Newberry Estates mobile home park. Poole's 7-year-old cat, Princess, woke them up, meowing loudly.

Poole got up, smelled smoke and heard crackling flames. She went to check the wood burning stove in the living room, and saw flames at the picture window. With fire blocking the front door, Poole grabbed the baby and went out the rear door. Then she returned to get Princess.

'She woke me up. I don't know if I'd have smelled the smoke otherwise,' Poole said."

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20060118/D8F7BCC82.html


While it's unclear to me whether that cat was trying to save or BE saved, the people would almost certainly have succumbed to smoke inhalation and/or been burned alive without her intervention, so I'd say that Princess should get the credit for a save.

I found an even MORE astonishing animal story today:


"TOKYO (AP) - Gohan and Aochan make strange bedfellows: one's a 3.5-inch dwarf hamster; the other is a four-foot rat snake. Zookeepers at Tokyo's Mutsugoro Okoku zoo presented the hamster - whose name means 'meal' in Japanese - to Aochan as a tasty morsel in October, after the snake refused to eat frozen mice.

But instead of indulging, Aochan decided to make friends with the furry rodent, according to keeper Kazuya Yamamoto. The pair have shared a cage since.

'I've never seen anything like it. Gohan sometimes even climbs onto Aochan to take a nap on his back,' Yamamoto said.

Aochan, a 2-year-old male Japanese rat snake, eventually developed an appetite for frozen rodents but has so far shown no signs of gobbling up Gohan - despite her name.

'We named her Gohan as a joke,' Yamamoto chuckled. 'But I don't think there's any danger. Aochan seems to enjoy Gohan's company very much.'"

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20060118/D8F7AO08F.html


WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!! Seeing is believing; here's a pic of them together in their box:

http://apnews.myway.com/image/20060118/JAPAN_HAMSTER_AND_SNAKE.sff_TOK301_20060118045630.html?date=20060118&docid=D8F7AO08F

Could this be more than friendship? This is a male and a female, so... could it be love? It seems crazy, but so is a starving snake's refusal to eat a plump rodent, and its permitting said rodent to SLEEP on it, so...

It's nice to know that little miracles like these happen in the world, isn't it?


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Here's an idea; show some sense at work 


For 2 decades or so, the alleged experts in work psychology have been telling us that the way to get ahead is that, when our boss notices something good we've done, we should switch their attention to what our co-workers did, that we should LIE and claim that our co-workers deserve part of the credit even if they don't, and, if something goes wrong, we should take the full blame; they called this insanity "being a team player"... but *I* always called it "making your employer think you're a far less valuable employee than you really are."

Guess who's been proven right?

In a little blurb on page 184 of the January 2006 issue of Cosmo, it says; "A study found that employees who describe themselves as team players were the least likely to be promoted-probably because they put the needs of others before their own career goals." I'm sure that's part of it too, but giving your boss the impression that you're never more than partially responsible for anything good, and are always fully responsible for anything bad, still gets my vote as the primary cause.

The so-called experts have made a repeated issue of how employers want to hire team players, but they misunderstood what employers meant by that; they want people who can act effectively as part of a group, yes, and they love the fantasy that you'll put the best interests of the team, and thus the company, ahead of your own, but no sane person actually expects or wants you to LIE about what part you played in whatever happens at the office, or to lose your opportunities to tell your boss about what you've produced by singing the praises of other people instead... so remember that your salary is tied to what YOU accomplish, NOT what the team accomplishes, and act accordingly.

A tangential issue is; in general women are more likely to be willing to hide their lights under bushels to be part of a team, whereas men, although trained from earliest boyhood to be part of teams, will ALSO try to be seen as the star players. The cold hard truth is that traditional male behavior in the workplace is still seen as the standard for correctness, for professionalism, and for being management material, so any ladies out there who are still following their childhood programming to be non-threatening and "let the boy win" need to do a 180 and start acting more like men in the office.

Another dead-wrong piece of advice I've seen many times is for women to use their attractiveness (in addition to their skills) to influence people and get ahead in the workplace; we're all aware that hot babes who sleep with the boss can leapfrog over more deserving folks to get the goodies, but it turns out that aside from that special case it's a BAD idea to flirt:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2005-08-04-sex-usat_x.htm


"Study says flirtatious women get fewer raises, promotions

By Del Jones, USA TODAY

Women who send flirtatious e-mail, wear short skirts or massage a man's shoulders at work win fewer pay raises and promotions, according to a Tulane University study to be presented Monday at the Academy of Management annual meeting in Honolulu.

In the first study to make plain the negative consequences of such behavior, 49% of 164 female MBA graduates said in a survey that they have tried to advance in their careers by sometimes engaging in at least one of 10 sexual behaviors, including crossing their legs provocatively or leaning over a table to let men look down their shirts.

The other half said they never engaged in such activity, and those women have earned an average of three promotions, vs. two for the group that had employed sexuality. Those who said they never used sexuality were, on average, in the $75,000-$100,000 income range; the others fell, on average, in the next-lowest range, $50,000 to $75,000.

The women in the study ranged in age from their mid-20s to 60. The average woman was 43 and had received an MBA 12 years ago."


Here's the list of "sexual behaviors" they were asked about:

I wear a skirt or something more revealing than usual around clients or supervisors to get attention.
I flirt with people at work.
I draw attention to my legs by crossing them provocatively when in meetings or sitting with a group of men at work.
I hint or imply that I am attracted to a man (men) at work even if I am not.
I purposely let men sneak a look down my shirt when I lean over a table.
I massage a man's shoulders or back while at work.
I sent flirty or risque e-mails to male co-workers.
I tell male co-workers or clients they look sexy or 'hot.'
I allow men to linger at certain places of my body while hugging them.
I emphasize my sexuality while at work by the way I dress, speak, and act.

I cringe to contemplate what % of women that are younger and/or not MBA's do these things... and how much success it's costing them.

From that same article comes a prime example of how even a wildly successful businessman can have no clue as to how to advise women about workplace behavior:

"... Donald Trump, who has advised women to 'use those God-given assets' and be sexy, at least to a point."

Using sexuality as a "tool" in the workplace is just plain unprofessional. Why? Men don't do it. Can you imagine a MAN wearing a sexy outfit to work to try to get a female manager to give him special treatment, or even trying to flirt his way into being given the best assignments? The traditional workplace was overwhelmingly male, remember, and since a man's boss was always another man, it'd never have occurred to a male employee that doing anything "sexy" at the office could have ever been anything but a disaster. Nowadays, there are lots of female managers, but men still do NOT (as a rule) try to use their sexuality to get ahead; they expect their skills, hard work, and networking ability to get them what they want. Since flirtatious behavior has no place in the office anyways, as work and social time are very different things, this is one old-time rule that should remain unchanged... and that means where clothes are concerned, too, ladies.

The point of a suit is to cover, conceal and totally de-sexualize your entire anatomy; why else would men be going to work all these years looking like gray or navy rectangles? A man's suit is baggy and structured so as to not reveal any of the contours of his body, and the kind of shirt he's required to wear ensures that all of his skin is covered except his face, hands and part of his throat; any more skin visible than that, or anything that shows the shape of the body, is unprofessional. The only exception is the skirt, which, although it shows the woman's legs, is counter-intuitively seen as more conservative than wearing pants as the men do; however, the skirt must NOT be short, tight, sheer, lacy, or in any other way confused with a non-work skirt, and bare legs are absolutely NOT acceptable. Plenty of women manage to wear appropriate skirts, but forget that sleeveless shirts and necklines that dip lower than the throat, which show more skin than a man ever does, are NOT professional; many of the colors and prints that women wear but men do NOT are likewise unprofessional... like it or not, what women wore to the office in the 70's, which was essentially a skirted version of the male work outfit with a bow on the throat-hugging shirt replacing the tie, is still the only truly professional thing a woman can wear to work (minus the bow, in most parts of the country), just as the male version is the only professional thing a MAN can wear to work.

It never ceases to amaze me how women who go to work in the same sorts of outfits they'd wear to parties or clubs, with their cleavage showing, miniskirts, stiletto heels, animal prints, flashy jewelry etc, will then whine about how they're not being taken seriously... is the cause and effect so hard to see here? Yeah, I know, it's not fun to wear plain, severe, neutral clothing every day; MEN don't like it either, but THEY do it, and without complaint, even though they're stuck with ties and really ugly shoes, so just suck it up and dress to be seen as equal in professionalism as the men... or accept that your fashion choices are sabotaging your success.

And finally, there's my biggest pet peeve for the workplace; crying. It seems crazy to even have to bring this up, but it is absolutely, positively, NOT OK to boo-hoo at the office, EVER. Have you ever seen a MAN cry at work? No. Why? Because it's unprofessional, childish, and guaranteed to make your co-workers, not to mention your boss, see you as weak, immature, pitiful, and unable to cope with life. I've had to hammer a friend of mine about this, because she'll start wah-wah-ing at the drop of a hat, and it's gotten her sent to talk to personnel, but she still claims there's nothing wrong with it... and in the same breath, wonders why she's being passed over for promotions, of course. Her argument is that it's ok because it's a "natural function"; my reply is that a bowel movement is a natural function too, but you shouldn't do THAT in the middle of the frigging office either. She'll say "Yeah, you're right," but a week later I'll hear about some other trivial thing she was crying about in full view of her co-workers; I've tried to persuade her to at least run to the bathroom before breaking down, so as not to make a public spectacle of herself, but she hasn't managed that one either, sigh.

The workplace is a society in miniature, and, exactly as with any other society, there are unwritten rules about every aspect of each member's behavior, and strategies that'll get you what you want (within reason); if you use some common sense to figure out what the rules and strategies are, that gives you an edge over everyone else... and isn't that the quickest way to achieve success?


Sunday, January 15, 2006

What is WRONG with people?!! 


Do you remember the sites run by folks who claimed they'd kill their bunnies if they didn't get certain sums of $ donated to them? They'd have cute bunny pics, and sick pics like the bunny on a cutting board or in a cooking pot, rabbit recipes and even pics of butchered and cooked rabbits (GAG), and they supposedly actually got some $ until PayPal closed them down... if you don't remember any of this, you can read about them here

http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/savetoby.asp

Now, someone else is using the same idea on a much smaller scale

http://cgi.ebay.com/Dead-or-Alive-Goldfish-from-an-Aquarium_W0QQitemZ5656595910QQcategoryZ1467QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

I don't know how long that URL will be good, because the auction is probably contrary to some eBay rule, so here's the text from it:

"FOR SALE:

1 DEAD OR ALIVE GOLDFISH

The fish has been in my aquarium for 2 week and has been eating my guppies, I either kill it or sell it, the choice is yours!

Will send fish in a bag with enough air for probably 2 days, the bag will be in a box.

PS. At end of auction if there are no bids, I will flush the goldfish down the toilet."

And then there's a pic of the little fish... it's probably going to end up dead no matter what, the poor thing, because it's unlikely to survive being shipped even if some kind soul DOES bid on him.


If you had to dispose of a mouse, how would you do it? Whatever your answer was, I bet it WASN'T "toss the live mouse in a fire," right? Sadly, a New Mexico man did exactly that

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/01/08/mouse.fire.ap/

"Vengeful mouse sets house ablaze

Monday, January 9, 2006; Posted: 2:24 p.m. EST (19:24 GMT)

FORT SUMNER, New Mexico (AP) -- A mouse got its revenge against a homeowner who tried to dispose of it in a pile of burning leaves. The blazing creature ran back to the man's house and set it on fire.

Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner said he caught the mouse inside his house and wanted to get rid of it.

'I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house,' Mares said from a motel room Saturday.

Village Fire Chief Juan Chavez said the burning mouse ran to just beneath a window, and the flames spread up from there and throughout the house.

No one was hurt inside, but the home and everything in it was destroyed."

I've seen comments from other bloggers about this shameful episode, and the phrase "instant karma" keeps coming up; I'm sorry that an elderly man lost everything, of course, but when you do something cruel you have to be prepared for the karmic backlash.


Here's the worst one:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/lancashire/3647835.stm

"A 10-year-old boy is in hospital with serious burns after a prank inspired by cult TV programme Jackass went wrong.

Joe Armstrong from Lancashire was engulfed in flames when he jumped over a fire after seeing a similar stunt on the MTV show.

He suffered burns to his chest and thighs after petrol was apparently squirted on to the flames."

Where were this child's PARENTS when he was jumping over a FIRE? What were they doing while the wood was collected, lit, and the boy was gearing himself up for this insanity? Ten years old is too young to be playing anywhere without an adult keeping an eye on him... but old enough for him to know better than to do such a stupid thing, and if he was that lacking in judgment he clearly needed even closer observation than others his age.

"Joe's parents have called for the show to be banned, but Channel 4 has said Jackass was shown responsibly."

This echoes the incident I posted about on 1-7-06, where an unwatched toddler ate magnets and eventually died from it, and the mother's response was to scream about the dangerousness of the toy they came from, rather than the dangerousness of not watching a little kid.

"Joe, from Darwen, is being treated at Booth Hall Children's Hospital and will be scarred for life."

Please take a minute to send good thoughts out to Joe; hopefully, with plastic surgery he'll be able to have a normal appearance eventually.

"Joe's friend, 15-year-old Michael Davies, was filming the stunt for his own website.

The site mimics the Jackass programme, which shows people carrying out dangerous stunts.

On Wednesday Michael said there would be no further stunts and that the website would be closed down.

'He's like my little brother and he's a little kid as well,' he said."

Where were this moron's parents when he was working on that website?!! Do you see why you have to monitor EVERYTHING your kids do online? That this boy thought that having a much younger child do something so dangerous was somehow ok means that he's got serious problems, and shouldn't have been allowed to wander around unsupervised either... and on what planet is it acceptable for a 15 year old and a 10 year old who aren't related to be hanging out together? Would YOU let a 10 year old go off alone with a 15 year old?

In this final quote, the asterisks are mine:

"Joe's mother, Allyson Hughes, says it is time Jackass and similar programmes were taken off air.

'Just stop it, ban it. How would they like their children in this position that I am, going what I'm going through.'

In a statement Channel 4 said: 'Jackass is always shown well after the watershed, when young children are not expected to be watching.

'In addition, at the start of each programme strenuous targeted warnings are issued.'

***Police said parents needed to be more aware of what their children [are doing]*** and have launched an investigation into the incident."

Our world is, for the most part, an adult world, and things have to exist to accommodate adults, some of which won't be ok for kids; while it's wise to have laws in place that restrict kids from buying booze, getting into theaters that show porn, driving cars and so forth, beyond that it's the job of the PARENTS to prevent their kids from seeing, hearing, eating, drinking, smoking or whatever those things that aren't appropriate for their age group. Those boys wouldn't have been trying to duplicate a stunt from that show if they'd never SEEN it, and as clueless as they clearly are they absolutely shouldn't have been allowed to see a show that's meant for adults... what were they even doing up that late?

Folks, kids are NOT miniature adults. They do NOT have adult knowledge, understanding, analytical ability, logic, reason or judgment. They can NOT navigate the dangers of the modern world without constant adult input and adult SUPERVISION... and if you fail to provide it for them, there's likely to be trouble eventually.

Wouldn't it be nice if parents went back to providing proper guidance to their kids BEFORE something like this happens again?


Friday, January 13, 2006

Ok, here's some pleasant stuff 


Purely by chance, when I was desperate for something other than a sitcom to watch and it was the only interesting thing that was starting right then, a few days ago I saw the wonderful movie "Princess Mononoke"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=123325&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

It's a Japanese animated film, dubbed in English in the version I saw, and it's about "a mystical battle between Animal Gods of the forest and humans during Japan's Muromachi Period"; it's beautiful, innovative, and deals with hard issues and gray areas... very different from American animation. The style is so distinctive that when I saw the even MORE wonderful "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?channel=Movies&subChannel=sub&movieID=132012&displayBoxArt=true#Full

today, I actually recognized it as being done by the same master hand... namely, "acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki." The humans vs nature theme is a central one in this movie too, and once again trying to create harmony rather than win victory by force is the solution to the problem. Much to my pleasure, the very next movie shown on that channel (Turner Classic Movies) was another Miyazaki masterpiece, "Castle in the Sky"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?channel=Movies&subChannel=sub&movieID=127922&displayBoxArt=true#Full

which is about the search for a mythical floating city... and how some sorts of power are too great for human hands to wield. One of its many unusual elements, at least from an American perspective, is how a group of people who start out as hard-core enemies of the heroes do a sudden change to becoming allies in the face of a common enemy; it made sense that it happened that way, but American movies tend to have characters that are either "good" or "bad" and stay that way (with the only significant exception being when it turns out that a good guy was actually a bad guy in disguise), and the idea of just changing the perspective and showing how people can be "good" or "bad" depending on circumstances is so foreign to our black and white worldview that it was hard for me to change how I perceived those characters... this sort of challenge from an animated film, from which we normally expect nothing so grandiose, was very refreshing.

I'd never even heard of Miyazaki before today, and now my husband and I are big fans; we're going to rent every movie of his that Blockbuster has... and I strongly recommend that you check out his films if you can.


I saw a super-cute ad for the KIWI Express® Shine Sponge; it showed their trademark kiwi (bird, not fruit) with a rocket strapped to him, looking as freaked out as a simple silhouette can, and, eager to share it, I looked for the ad online... but no dice. However, if you go here

http://www.kiwibirdfilms.com/

you can see a hilarious MOVIE of the jet-propelled kiwi, along with movies of him being shot from a cannon and driving a racecar; I'm impressed that such an awesome campaign was created for something as un-glamorous as a shoe shine product.


And finally; I had a world-class example of how something that seems to be bad can actually be part of a process that works to your benefit. Because I have digital cable, I normally use the only online guide I've found that both shows all the channels I get AND allows me to weed out the channels I'm not interested in

http://tvlistings.zap2it.com/grid.asp?partner_id=national

That site has been undergoing some code updates, and as a result was only showing 20 channels rather than the 100 or so I want to keep track of; as a result, I was using this site

http://www.excite.com/tv/grid.jsp

which shows ALL the channels, wanted or not, to pick things to watch. I was feeling pretty bummed about having to take so much longer to check the listings... until I found that "The Pink Panther" was being shown on a channel I'd never heard of, Boomerang

http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/boomerang/index.html

which shows only classic cartoons... the GOOD stuff, rather than the icky stuff they make nowadays. I checked my customization page on the other listing site, and it DID have Boomerang available, I just hadn't selected it because I didn't know what it was; it's been selected NOW, though, trust me.

And it gets even better; also in the Excite listings, I saw a program that I instantly knew I had to see, called "We Are the '80s," which was on yet another channel I'd never heard of, VH1 Classic... a channel that purports to play videos from the 60's, 70's and 80's, but since there AREN'T many videos from the first 2 decades they show mostly 80's stuff even when they're not showing that particular program. Given that my entire musical life came from watching MTV in the 80's, I was THRILLED to find a station that not only was playing nearly all videos rather than rarely playing videos as both MTV and VH1 have been for years, but was mostly playing the videos I care about. They have an unfortunate tendency to play the LEAST appealing videos of each band, including boring live clips and videos so obscure that even my countless hours watching MTV had never exposed me to them, but overall it's been a fab blast from the past, and I've seen enough videos I really like to make it worthwhile watching.

I'd never have found these 2 cool channels if my regular listing site hadn't been having problems; this is why it's so important to be on the lookout for new opportunities every time it seems like something has gone wrong. Between the cartoons and the videos, I feel like a kid again...


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The year is ruined already 


Does that sound melodramatic? Silly? Do you assume that I'm upset and spouting nonsense? That I'm a drama queen? What if I tell you that I'm a mature and level-headed adult? What if I tell you that I'm speaking totally dispassionately? What if I tell you that I NEVER make sweeping statements without an inarguable reason? What if I tell you that I just found out that my mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

In the flat, factual tone that people use to discuss issues of deep personal meaning with strangers, she told me what everyone else who knows her has known for WEEKS; that in December a lump came out just below her collarbone, that at 1st she thought it was another of the "harmless fatty tumors" (she couldn't remember the proper name for them, but I'm fairly sure from her description that they're lipomas) that she's apparently been getting lots of for at least a half dozen years and never mentioned to me, but then it suddenly began to grow rapidly, and she went to the doctor... and it's cancer. I'm not sure how it can be BREAST cancer when it's not in her breast, and if it started out as a lipoma (they CAN occasionally turn cancerous), which is one of the things they're trying to determine, you'd think it'd be different from breast cancer, but those little details don't matter much; it's still cancer.

Actually, in ONE way it DOES matter what the specifics are; if it IS truly breast cancer, MY risk of it just DOUBLED, from the regular-risk population's 1 in 8 to 1 in 4... except since she's my only 1st-degree female relative (I have no sisters or daughters) we can't validly say "at least it's only ONE 1st-degree relative," which is important because TWO 1st-degree relatives with breast cancer would quintuple my risk to about 85%, and we can't judge my actual risk without them to offer evidence one way or the other... and if her cancer came from an alteration in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, and she passed that on to me, my risk is now 80%. Since there's never been anyone with breast cancer in her family (or ANY cancer, I kid you not), it's wildly unlikely that she's got altered genes, or that if I had other 1st-degree relatives that we'd suddenly go from no cancer ever to 2 cases in my family subunit, but we can't be sure... and doubled risk is plenty damned bad enough, don't you think?

Does it seem selfish for me to be thinking of myself at a time like this? You must be a new reader, then; let me bring you up to speed. There's no love between my mother and I; there's not even any LIKE. She made my childhood and young adulthood miserable, causing emotional damage from which I'll never recover. She's a bad person. A psycho. To this very day, years after her power over me ended, she still TRIES to get me worked up and freaked out, knowing that I can get keyed up for days, weeks, MONTHS if I start worrying about something. She lives a few minutes drive from me, and we virtually never see or speak to each other; if I never had to interact with her again, I'd be thrilled, and she'd probably feel the same. Do you doubt that? This is the same woman who, although I was living in her home, had seen my then-boyfriend ONCE in the year and a half between when we started dating and when we married, except for a couple of brief moments in the final pre-marital week when he was over a bunch of times to handle final arrangements. She never showed any shred of interest in him, never asked anything about him, confidently proclaimed until 48 hours before the ceremony that the wedding would NEVER happen, and then switched to how it'd never last a year. I have over 1200 wedding pictures (lots of people brought cameras), and there's only ONE with me and her together, because she was pointedly as far away from me as she could get all night long; in that one picture, she's looking grim and standing with as much space between us as the photographer would allow... while my husband's mother, in contrast, is holding my arm and looking up at me lovingly in that same photo. That's how little emotional involvement my mother has with me... and how psycho she is, that it never occurred to her that people would notice her behavior and find fault with it (years later, my friends are still commenting on her sick behavior every time my wedding is mentioned).

As a consequence of all that, her sufferings don't move me any more than a stranger's would, in fact maybe not as much; I did NOT suddenly get overwhelmed with tender feelings towards her when I discovered that she's seriously ill... in fact, what I mainly felt was puzzled at how this could happen in my freakishly healthy, extraordinarily long-lived family. The other thing that kept popping into my head was; karma. She's the most negative person I've ever known, both in the regular definition of seeing everything in the worst possible light and the karma-specific definition of always having negative thoughts and feelings, and causing negative thoughts and feelings in those close to her... is it really so surprising that she'd be the one to break the generations-long cycle of health?

Why, then, does her cancer mean that my year is ruined? Since I'm the only relative within 1000 miles of her, when she starts needing to be driven around, monitored, and having things done for her, who do you suppose is going to get stuck with it all? ME... and my husband too, of course, which means that HIS year is ruined also. Considering how unpleasant she is under the best of circumstances, I cringe to contemplate what she's going to be like once she starts treatment (which should be in a couple of weeks). Worse, although she's spent her entire life trying to force everyone she knows to do everything her way, she's turned into a doormat with the doctors, so much so that she's resisting getting a 2nd opinion; everyone else in the developed world knows to get, and demands, a 2nd opinion for all but the most trivial procedures, and she's arguing to undergo major surgery, plus chemo and/or radiation that'll radically affect every cell of her body, without considering for a minute that doctors are fallible human beings, not gods, and that they can and do make deadly mistakes all the time, and so you have to check and double-check everything they say and prescribe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hammered her on that one, and will continue to do so; if necessary, I'll enlist the help of other family members... I'm not thrilled with the idea of having to fight her every step of the way to get her to make some sort of effort on her own behalf, but this whole mess is my responsibility, because I'm her daughter and I'm here, so....

I remember how every time *I* was sick as a kid, her attitude was put upon and petulant, as if I'd gotten sick just to inconvenience her, and she'd complain about having to hear me cough, about how many tissues I was using, about how my laryngitis (I used to get it with every cold) made me hard to understand, about how the necessity of me touching things meant that she had to go around disinfecting them, and would overall be even nastier than usual rather than sympathetic... and now I, of all people, am the only one she can turn to when she has a life-threatening illness. Ironic, isn't it?

As I said, my year is ruined; I'm going to be spending it taking care of the person I like least in the world (aside from my father). That shouldn't affect this blog, since I don't intend to dedicate any more posts to it, and DO intend to keep thinking about things and spewing my thoughts into cyberspace... but in case I vanish for a chunk of days without prior explanation at some point in the future, you'll know the reason why.

sigh


Monday, January 09, 2006

Sunday was a big day 


The lead-up was pretty major too; hour after hour of cleaning and putting stuff away, with it getting steadily later and both of us getting steadily tireder and more short-tempered. There were some high points on my journey to a 7:30AM bedtime (and that's not a typo), however:

I saw the movie "Walk on the Moon"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=123220&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

which features Viggo Mortensen, not brown-haired and scraggly like you've probably seen him in the "Lord of the Rings" movies, but blond and babelicious; more importantly, the movie features him without his shirt in several scenes. And he's got a hairy chest. A BLOND hairy chest. Ohhhhhhh, give me a moment..... ahhhhhhhhhhhhh... My husband was taking a protracted nap during the movie (with all that cleaning to do, yes), and I woke him up to announce; "I'm in LOVE!!" He was amused as always by my enthusiasm for certain hotties (he himself barely notices that there ARE attractive people in the world other than me, how's that for a role reversal?), and by my intention to see whatever other of Viggo's movies seem likely to have him with his shirt off; he might not always have the tight bod he had in the movie I saw, but with blond chest hair there's alot of leeway. I suppose a more extensively nude scene is too much to ask for... but wouldn't it be dazzling to discover if he's, er, blond all over?

Amazingly, I had another movie-related epiphany; that Ashton Kutcher, who hadn't previously impressed me with either his screen presence or his Oedipal fixation, could actually make a movie that was, not sorta cute and vaguely funny, but complicated, clever, and truly engrossing... "The Butterfly Effect"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?channel=Movies&subChannel=sub&movieID=1083404&displayBoxArt=true#Full

"Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher with facial hair) wants to free himself from his disturbing childhood memories. As a kid, he often blacked out for long periods of time and tried to detail his life in a journal. As a young adult, he revisits the journal entries to figure out the truth about his troubled childhood friends Kayleigh (Amy Smart), Lenny (Elden Henson), and Tommy (William Lee Scott). When he discovers he can travel back in time in order to set things right, he tries to save his beloved friends. However, he finds out that relatively minor changes can make major problems for the future."

I don't want to risk spoiling the movie for you if you haven't already seen it by saying anything further; watch it, and you'll see why I liked it so much.

Between the movies, my husband and I had a hilarious marital moment. I was in the family room, and faintly heard him calling "Help, can you hear me?", so I muted the TV and asked him what the problem was; he sheepishly admitted that he'd used up all his toilet paper, hadn't replaced either the roll or the backup package, and was now stranded in his bathroom in dire need. Laughing, I told him to hang on and I'd bring him something; I was almost to the doorway with a piece of sandpaper when he said "You're gonna bring me sandpaper, right?". I yelped in dismay that he'd wrecked my joke, and then we both howled with laughter; he admitted that he hadn't REALLY expected me to bring sandpaper, so it was just perfect that I HAD. My next ploy was to go off again, supposedly to get toilet paper, only to return with 1 of the countless toothbrushes he has strewn around (as he's apparently incapable of brushing his teeth in the bathroom, or returning brushes there once he's used them) and present it to him with the suggestion that he "do the George Carlin thing with it"; this refers to Carlin's line about how he wants to have just one brush for all his grooming, teeth, armpits and... well, you get the picture, lol. More laughter ensued, and then I finally got the TP.

It gets funnier; there was a full box of tissues right behind him on the toilet tank. It gets even funnier than that; he told me that he knew about them, but didn't trust ANY # of tissues to hold together when used as toilet paper substitutes (I suspect that if he hadn't been able to get my attention he'd have sacrificed one of his socks instead of braving the imaginary risks of tissues). There was a little more banter, mostly in reference to what he thought was a hilarious reference to Star Trek and Klingons... only a married couple will understand how all this occurred from a simple need for TP.

When my husband went to bed, with much cleaning left to be done, he claimed repeatedly, not to mention pompously, that he'd be back up again in a few hours because he'd already had a long nap, and that I was being foolish staying up and doing more work because he'd have done a couple more hour's worth by the time I got up, and there was nothing to worry about. What actually happened is that he sacked out in his study as he sometimes does when we're going to have radically differing bedtimes and/or wake-up times, and, instead of getting up when he was supposed to, he hit the snooze alarm for 2 HOURS, was up for less than half an hour before I was, and had wasted all of that time staring vacantly at a chair he was supposed to have fixed and hadn't... he hadn't done ANYTHING. The kitchen surfaces were gross, the bathroom surfaces were unspeakable, he hadn't cleared his boxes of junk out of the way, and the vacuuming and mopping hadn't been attended to... and my friend was due in an hour and a half.

If I hadn't gotten up half an hour earlier than I thought I needed to, we'd have been totally screwed; as it was, I got to work in a panicked frenzy, screaming and cursing at him to change his usual dead-slow pace to something more appropriate, and the race against the clock began... and mind you, I hadn't even had a chance to wash my face yet, much less get ready. After about an hour, he started telling various lies to stop the cleaning; "She won't go in the kitchen, so it doesn't need to be cleaned" (it's fully visible from the family room), "I already cleaned the kitchen surfaces" (when there wasn't a single square inch without crumbs or smears on it, and there were chunks of petrified food on the stove big enough to choke a horse), "She probably won't use the bathroom, so you don't need to clean it" (she NEVER fails to use that bathroom), and, my favorite, "That's not dirt on the toilet seat, that's where the paint has worn off" (when the dirt was washing off). He started demanding that I go get ready; since HE could let her in the door and entertain her even if I was still half-dressed, the cleaning was still the higher priority, and I refused. He came closer to death than he'll ever realize when he actually tried to blackmail me into stopping by refusing to vacuum any further (and mind you, the carpet was covered in birdseed and other stuff that he drags in constantly because he never wipes his feet on the doormat) unless I went and got ready; the murderous fury with which I greeted that little ploy apparently convinced him that he needed to just shut up and turn the vacuum cleaner back on.

I ALMOST made it; I was running down the hall with her gifts in my hands within 5 minutes of her arrival, even though she was a couple of minutes early... I was exhausted, stressed, and emotionally over-wrought beyond words, but physically in the room, which is all guests seem to care about, so she was satisfied.

There were a few unpleasant moments, like when she sat down on the floor with me to look at some pics on my laptop and it was abundantly clear that my husband had failed to vacuum under the table, and when we were looking outside and I saw that the fruit-fly-encrusted bug strip was still dangling from a kitchen cabinet, but other than that it went pretty well.

We eventually headed out, and had a blast shopping; I got so much stuff it took 3 trips from the car to bring it all in... mostly greeting cards, gift bags and snack foods, I hasten to add-I didn't break the bank, I took advantage of super sales for stuff we'll need to get anyways. We then pigged out at a "homestyle cooking" restaurant we both really like, where I get a pot roast sandwich, she gets meatloaf, and we split a gigantic dessert; I'd forgotten how pleasant going out to dinner can be when you're not dealing with someone who's dedicated to making you late and other passive-aggressive stunts.

While we were gone, my husband established that my desktop computer's a dead loss; tomorrow he'll (supposedly) be getting a new one, and the complicated and disaster-filled process of both of us switching to different machines, with all the attendant issues with software, external hard drives and the network, will get underway... it's gonna be a loooooooooooong week.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Who's to blame when a child dies? 


A toddler died in a freak accident:


"Two-year-old Kenny Sweet died last month after swallowing two magnets that fell off his older brother's 'Magnetix' building set.

At first, his parents thought he had the stomach flu - but his condition got worse.

'We just know in the middle of the night he was crying a little, and then in the morning he began throwing up at 10:00,' said mother Penny Sweet.

As his symptoms got worse, Kenny's mom rushed him to the hospital, where he died after only a few minutes.

Two tiny magnets in the toy are believed to have caused Kenny's death.

'They said there were two cylindrical magnets in his intestine,' Sweet said. 'One was at the bottom of the GI tract, and one was at the top of the GI tract. When they got close enough, they magnetized and they pinched his intestine between the magnets ... and they closed his intestine down, basically.'

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/122205dnnatmagnet.7afac44.html


I'm sure that every person on the planet would agree that this was absolutely tragic... but it's a FREAK ACCIDENT. Have we forgotten what that means in this country? Read on:


"Kroger Co. stores voluntarily pulled Mega Bloks Inc.'s Magnetix building sets off their shelves until the investigation of the death of a boy nearly 2 years old is complete."

"The Magnetix set was purchased at a Fred Meyer store. Fred Meyer is a unit of Kroger."

http://money.aol.com/news/articles?id=n20051229135809990003&cid=403


Say WHAT? We're not talking about some defective, dangerous thing, we're talking about a terrific educational toy that a 1 in a billion set of circumstances caused to be involved in a, I'll say it again, freak accident, so why does it need to be pulled off the shelves, much less investigated?

And there's more:


http://www.katu.com/stories/81908.html

"'It does say there is a choking hazard on here,' Penny Sweet said. 'Unfortunately, they don't say it causes serious injury or death, which is the kind [of] warning they need to have on here.'"

NO, it's NOT... and not just because choking KILLS, which means that the current warning on the box provides sufficient incentive to not led your kid eat the parts of the toy. Literally ANY item you can name could, under bizarre enough circumstances, cause harm or death; do we therefore need to put warning labels on EVERYTHING? I feel really bad for this woman, and I know that she's speaking out of unimaginable grief, but people are listening to her claims, and significant official actions are being taken based on them, and that's just ridiculous:

"Mega Bloks reported Kenny Sweet's death to The Consumer Product Safety Commission. The commission confirmed for KOMO 4 News it does have an 'open investigation.'"

Investigation of WHAT? Toddlers will stick anything in their mouths, and swallow it if they can, if you don't watch them every single second, and the list of things that could cause injury, or death, that are small enough to be swallowed is virtually endless; are we going to investigate every single one of those things? No, and we shouldn't be scapegoating any particular one of those things because it happened to be the one that a child died from swallowing.

What's next? A toddler will swallow a pushpin from his sister's corkboard, or a pierced earring from his mother's dresser, or a nail from his father's workbench, and have it pierce his intestines and kill him, and they're going to "investigate" and... what? Recall or ban pushpins, earrings or nails?

Americans have lost total sight of the difference between a faulty product and lack of personal responsibility; we try to blame corporations because we got fat from eating too much high-calorie food, spilled hot coffee on ourselves because we're too clumsy to drink it while driving, and now because we've forgotten how to monitor a toddler.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world, especially with little kids, because in just the blink of an eye they're running into the street, sticking their hand on a hot burner, chugging a bottle of bleach... a friend of a friend lost her little boy when she took her eye off of him long enough for him to run into the back yard, jump in the pool and drown. Each of these scenarios is horrible, and we all feel sad when they occur, but that doesn't change the fact that in each of those cases the fault for the harm to the child belongs to the PARENTS, not to the manufacturers of the stove, the pool, etc; while it's true that modern parents are far more busy and distracted than parents in the past, their responsibility to their offspring has NOT changed, and they need to either make sure that their small children are being monitored every minute by an adult or other mature caregiver... or be prepared to take the blame if the unthinkable happens.

My heart goes out to the Sweet family for their loss, doubly so because it could have easily been avoided if they'd been watching Kenny when he decided to eat magnets and prevented it, and I understand their urge to point the finger; instead of essentially "warning" parents to not have anything with magnets in the house, though, they should be warning parents to watch their toddlers as if their lives depended upon it... because they DO.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

1st new sidebar doodad of the year 


It didn't take me long to find one, did it? ;-)

Be glad that CPU usage is an issue, or I'd have about 20 new Flash clocks, and looking at my sidebar would either blind you or drive you crazy; after much agonizing, I only chose ONE, although I'll probably start switching among the others I liked after a month or 2. The clock I picked was the lowest-tech looking one, but that made it different and thus more interesting, plus I LOVE pizza; take a look, and see what you think.

Isn't it FAB? What's even more amazing is that the same guy who made it made a staggering array of other brilliant clocks

http://www.mat.gr.jp/fc/library.html

Yes, it's a Japanese site, but all you have to do is click on the pic of a clock you want to see, and then there's a "download" button if you want it. Once you've got it on your computer, you can upload it to a file-storage site such as this one

http://ripway.com/

and then use my embed command (you can get it from my source code), with my URL replaced by the one for whatever file you chose, to post it on your blog.... but take a moment to check and see how much of your CPU your chosen clock eats up, because there are plenty of folks in the blogosphere with slow computers, and it's a good idea to make your site accessible to them as well as to those of us lucky enough to have fast machines.

I had a trouble-free doodad installation again; I'm not gonna get too used to it, lol, but it was nice. The only hitch was that my "clock code" is in a Word file, which is on my desktop machine, that's STILL dead (the files are safely on a hard drive, thank goodness, but my husband's been procrastinating about detaching it from the computer and making it available to my laptop via the network, grrrrrrrr), so I had to go to a site that I knew had a Flash clock, copy their code, and change the URL and size to what I wanted in order to put my new find in my template.

Speaking of my desktop; my husband said that there was only about a 5% chance that the expensive part he'd ordered for it would fail to fix it... and guess what? Now, he's going to pull some part from one of the other dead computers, swap it for the comparable part on mine, and see if that'll do the trick; if it doesn't, that'll mean that my motherboard's fried, and THAT would mean that it's time to get me a new computer, sigh... or, rather, HE would get a new computer, and I'd inherit his old one, since he needs far more power and speed than I do. He's dragging his heels getting this handled, and meantime my back is KILLING me from having to just use the laptop (because it's on the family room floor, which is literally the only place in our nearly furniture-free home to have it)... and trust me, when I get cranky, ain't nobody happy.

A friend of mine called tonight and announced her intention to drive down and visit me on Sunday, so that we can eat, shop, and have our Christmas gift exchange (yeah, it's pretty late, but hey, we haven't done the gift thing with my mother yet, either); this is good news, of course, but it means that my husband and I have to get going on our 30 hours or so of work to get our house, which hasn't been "cleaned for company" in about 6 months, ready for her arrival... I'm going to be REALLY grateful for only blogging on alternate days, and catching up on sleep, because my husband and I are always up, screaming and cleaning, until 5-6AM of the day a guest is due, trying to get it finished, and this way I won't be so wiped out when she gets here.

I've missed 2 nights of blogging now, and am amazed that it doesn't bother me at all; maybe it will once I stop being so eager to leap into bed early, but for now it's clearly a positive change... it really was unhealthy to be letting every other aspect of my personal life go hang to have time to blog, and now I'm headed in the right direction. I'm not remotely thinking of stopping blogging, fear not, but it's a whole new world to not live every day with finding time to blog being my main focus; I'm hoping that the reduction in my exhaustion, stress and distraction will kick-start my spiritual growth for the new year, although it hasn't happened yet... karma, are you listening?

And finally, a possum update; there's clearly been more fighting going on, because now the littlest possum boy has showed up with an injury, a scarily big patch on his back with no fur, and with dried blood all over it. He seemed to be walking around without pain or difficulty, though, and he had his usual good appetite, so it must not be as bad as it looked; still, it's dismaying to see a sweet creature smiling in at me with a wound like that on him. Wild animals bring a certain amount of grief with them, because they don't live in bubble wrap cocoons and bad things DO happen to them; I get so much enjoyment out of being close to them that it's well worth it, but on days like today I do alot of worrying about them.

I've found that some people are dubious about possums smiling, so here's a site with 2 smiling babies on the front page; enjoy!!

http://www.opossum.org/


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Everything fell apart, except ME 


I had my 1st non-blogging night in 2 years last night; although I expected to have symptoms of blogging withdrawal, I honestly didn't miss it... I guess I'm NOT a blogging addict, although most of you probably thought I was. I got a good night's sleep, and I'm feeling optimistic about continuing with alternating days; I hope I'll be able to have time to read a BOOK sometime soon.

You know how disasters always seem to cluster? That's certainly the way it usually works in the Omni household, especially around the holiday season, and the past few days are a classic example; my desktop died right before the long weekend, adding extra delay to the part it needs, which of course isn't available in any store, arriving in the mail, we discovered a fruit fly breeding ground in our kitchen, as I mentioned in a recent post, and it's been a huge project to clean that up, an evil cat broke our birdfeeder from its many leaps at the innocent tweeties eating on it, and the poor birds didn't understand about the new feeder and wouldn't eat from it, they just hung around chirping anxiously for DAYS (I saw them using it today, thank goodness), my husband damaged one of our chairs when trying to clean it, something freaky happened with one of my bank statements, and of course that couldn't be resolved over the holiday weekend either... and then, yesterday, my husband's monitor died, again taking advantage of the long weekend to maximize the time until it can be fixed, AND the deadbolt on our back door broke, and if my husband hadn't made an issue to the guy at Home Depot when he tried to purchase a new one moments before closing time that he had a "hysterical wife" at home who was screaming about not being able to secure the door, THAT would have had to wait a couple of days, too... can you believe all this? Oh, and then tomorrow we have an adjuster coming to decide how much damage was done to my husband's car when he got rammed into in a parking lot a few weeks ago... yes, WEEKS, it's taken that long for them to get around to handling it.

sigh

On a lighter note:

We got a super-yummy snack from Whole Foods; it's a gourmet popcorn called "LesserEvil," and the flavor we got was "SinNamon"

http://lesserevil.com/an_sin.html

We found my husband's long-lost brother:

"It's a good thing for Oklahoma that Clint Ingram didn't listen to his coach.

On Oregon's last offensive play of last night's Holiday Bowl, the Oklahoma senior linebacker was supposed to blitz the Ducks, according to the call made by Sooners co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

But Ingram didn't get the message.

So he did something else instead: He went back into pass coverage, watched a pass coming his way toward the end zone and leaped to intercept it for a game-saving play. He landed at the 10-yard line and threw the ball into the stands in celebration of a 17-14 win for Oklahoma."

http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/college_football/holiday/20051230-9999-6s30hbnotes.html

He screwed up, and that led to him becoming a HERO; my husband is always messing things up and having it massively benefit him, so he couldn't wait to share this with me. He also gave me this one:

"Theresa Smith used her change from buying Christmas cookies to buy what she thought was a Powerball ticket. Instead, the clerk printed off a Lotto ticket. The clerk asked what she wanted to do, and she decided just to keep the Lotto ticket. Good thing. The ticket mistake was worth the $2.5 million jackpot in the drawing December 21, 2005."

http://www.coloradolottery.com/happenings/newsdisplay.cfm?newsid=108

Again, this is the sort of deal that would happen to my husband; he'd get the wrong thing, decide to just stick with what he's got, and profit from it... if it was ME, the ticket I DIDN'T get would have been the winner, lol.

It's been a lively year so far.





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