Friday, January 31, 2014

Invasion of the school lunch snatchers! And other assorted annoyances of yesterday...

Yesterday, I, along with many Americans, watched as a news story out of Utah went viral.  I first read about the school lunch snatchers at Uintah Elementary School on RfM.  As the day wore on, the news spread like wildfire.  About forty kids at the school had just sat down to eat their hot lunches when they were snatched away and tossed into the trash by the lunch ladies.  Why?  Because the kids' parents apparently hadn't kept their lunch accounts current.  Someone in charge had ordered a crackdown and the kids whose accounts were in arrears had their lunches replaced with a piece of fruit and milk.

Now I'm sure none of these kids were in danger of starving to death by missing their midday meals.  What concerns me about this incident is that it no doubt embarrassed and humiliated the kids involved.  Young kids often have a tough time assimilating into their peer groups and being singled out can be devastating to them.  Even if they don't get teased by their classmates for being "poor", it's still very upsetting for something like this to happen.  It makes me wonder just how much learning went on after that lunch fiasco.  More than one parent interviewed in the rash of news stories about this situation has said their child came home crying.  It seems to me that very upset and possibly hungry kids would be very disruptive in the classroom environment.

I understand that schools have to pay their bills and they need parents to meet their financial obligations.  But we shouldn't punish or embarrass little kids for a situation that their parents control.  Of course, this whole debacle has been an embarrassment for the school, too.  Not only did they humiliate a bunch of kids, they also wasted food.  So no money was saved or collected by taking this action.  All they did was waste perfectly good food and upset a bunch of innocent children.  FAIL.

Moving on...

Perhaps it should come as no surprise to me that Amanda Knox has been declared guilty of murder yet another time.  This time, the Italian courts have sentenced her to 28 years and a bunch of fines.  Fortunately, she is in the United States, so it's not likely she'll see the inside of an Italian jail cell anytime soon.  In the meantime, she will live in limbo as her case gets appealed yet another time and more bills are racked up.  The whole thing seems utterly ridiculous to me.  I mean, I know the Kercher family lost their daughter and sister to murder and wants justice, but from what I've read, the evidence tying Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito to the crime is just not there.  But hell, my opinion doesn't count for much.

And finally…

Facebook is ever annoying.  A couple of days ago, a woman I knew in school asked for help locating a source of used car parts.  I happen to know someone who works at an online car part store, so I passed the link on to my old schoolmate.  Her response was that the prices were too high for her.  Shit, I was just trying to be helpful by offering a source.  I don't know what her financial situation is.  Next time she asks for help, I'm ignoring the call.

And yesterday, I posted about Bristol Palin and was having an interesting discussion with a few people.  Another acquaintance came along and wrote "I didn't read past the first few comments here nor that information posted on that site ( I couldn't believe someone would take so much time to write that lengthy piece) I will say in reference to her son "being teased unmercifully as he grows up," it will be because of all the catty and ridiculous attention given to a person who is really a nobody unless all of you keep on talking about her. Just my take."

My response?  "So why are you posting a comment, then?"

He came back with, "Snark!"

I thought about that for a moment and wrote, "I'm just puzzled as to why, if you say you aren't interested in the article or the comments posted here, you would take the time to leave me a comment essentially telling me I'm wasting my time. I saw this article posted by someone else, read it, and felt like sharing it. I don't usually give Bristol Palin much thought one way or the other, but you know, sometimes you find stuff on Facebook. If you don't think it's worth discussing, why bother commenting at all? I should thank XXXX, not just because he sent me some NC beer, but because his comment led me to learn more about Wendy Davis. I don't think that's time wasted, given that I live in Texas and may have to decide if I want to vote for her."

So then this guy comes back and says he thinks I'm taking his comment too personally.  He apparently just meant to be "snarky" and was trying to be funny.  I don't really see what's funny about his comment.  To me, it came across as a bit shaming and accusatory.  I think what happened is that he didn't expect me to take him to task over his comments and was backpedaling a bit.  He probably expected me to say nothing out of embarrassment.  If you say something accusatory and someone reacts more seriously than you expected them to, it's easy to say you were kidding and brush it off.  I've done it myself.

It's my Facebook page.  If I want to share something on it, that's my prerogative.  Telling me you didn't read the article or the comments but think the discussion is unimportant just makes me think you're a bit of a control freak.  You control what goes on your page.  I'll control what goes on mine.

Incidentally, the guy who posted that is a category lead on Epinions and a moderator.  I get the feeling he gets off of his moderating gig and the "power" he has to control what other members-- presumably all adults-- can post in the Epinions forums.  It's pretty pathetic if you ask me.  I have actually met this guy in person and he's a nice enough man, but he's also a bit pushy and opinionated.  On the other hand, so am I.  ;-D

It's true, I do take things more seriously than I ought to.  Too bad I don't have any real responsibilities.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

And… a very dramatic video about a "spiritually wounded" young man...

Remember not long ago when I wrote about Mormonese?  I think the term "spiritually wounded" definitely applies…

I just saw this totally overdramatized, icky video put out by BYU-Idaho on the evils of masturbation.



This makes me want to puke.  Of all the issues they could be focusing on, they focus on looking at porn and masturbation?

Sheesh.  Hideous.


However, this YouTuber's epic response makes this drivel worth watching…



(Don't watch this if you are offended by swearing or your kids are around)

Bristol Palin… keep your legs crossed and your mouth shut!

I have a shameful confession to make.  In 2008, when John McCain brought Sarah Palin into the public consciousness, I was actually impressed.  My first opinions of Sarah Palin were favorable.  But then as time went on, I lost more and more respect for her.


By the time I saw this video called "Mama Grizzlies", I realized I couldn't stand Sarah Palin or her politics.  Bristol Palin was, at around that time, a pregnant teenager.  While I certainly don't condone teen pregnancy, I didn't think ill of her… until it became clear that she was going to use her mother's VP bid, her pregnancy, and the son that resulted from it to propel herself into some sort of relevance.  She showed her ass on Twitter and TV on her very own ridiculous reality TV show, Life's a Tripp.  As far as I know, that show didn't last very long.

So now Bristol Palin is opining about Wendy Davis and the truths that have surfaced about Wendy Davis's fudged life story.  I gotta say, Bristol Palin has some big nerve addressing Wendy Davis and her life choices.  Wendy Davis worked her way to the top and legitimately earned her way into Harvard Law.  Yes, she left her daughters behind so she could go to school, but she graduated in 1993.  She stayed married to her ex husband, Jeff Davis, until 2005.  And while Jeff Davis may have paid her loans, there's no question that Wendy Davis worked and contributed to the marriage.  If she hadn't, she wouldn't be where she is today.  Moreover, people who are married pool their resources.  Bristol wouldn't know about that, though, because she is an unwed mother.

Now, I'm not picking on unwed mothers at all.  I know quite a few of them and most of them are doing fine for themselves.  But I do think that if you have the nerve to shame someone for not living up to your idea of "conservative family values", you ought not be preaching from the standpoint of a teenager who got knocked up.  By most peoples' standards, Bristol Palin grew up privileged.  Had she not had premarital teenaged sex with Levi Johnston, she probably could have gone through college and finished with minimal debt and then made something legitimate of herself.  Instead, Bristol is riding her mother's coattails and speaking out about issues she clearly knows nothing about.  In her open letter to Wendy Davis, Bristol points out that her mother was the Governor of Alaska.  Yes, Bristol, but your mom didn't stay the course, did she?  She resigned her office.  So much for responsibility.  So glad Sarah Palin was never our Vice President.  What an embarrassment.

Wendy Davis, by contrast, was legitimately poor when she was Bristol's age.  She clawed her way out of poverty, got an education, became a lawyer and a Senator, and now stands a chance of being the Governor of Texas.  Moreover, Wendy Davis's now grown daughters are standing by their mom.  I shudder to think what poor Tripp Johnston is going to be dealing with as he comes of age.  He may have a very traumatic upbringing fraught with a lot of teasing and embarrassment.

Simone Sanner of Americans Against the Tea Party had this to say about Bristol Palin's bullshit posting.  I think Sanner pretty much gets it right, though her "open letter" is pretty full of piss and vinegar.

I don't consider myself conservative or liberal.  I am for fairness and common sense.  But when I read drivel by someone like Bristol Palin directed at someone like Wendy Davis, I just shake my head.  

Yes, of course, Bristol Palin is entitled to her opinion, but so is everyone else.  And my opinion is that she'd be wise to STFU about politics and concentrate on seeing that her young son doesn't make the mistakes his mother (and frankly, his father) have made.  I think she'd be wise to focus on getting an education so she can support her son and, if she insists of being a conservative poster child, not getting knocked up again.  These are real life goals she should have.  As the mother of a young son she irresponsibly conceived as a teenager, she needs to focus on her own life and that of her son's.  She has no business trying to school people who have already been where she is and have flourished.

As the child of a politician, Bristol should know that politics is a dirty and often pretty classless business.  There will be plenty of mud flung among the candidates without more non-sensical crap from from her.
  

Random musings...

There's an ad on Oprah Winfrey's OWN channel featuring Marie Osmond, who, in all her Botoxed glory, laments that she's been "offered so many times to pose nude" many times.  After she says that, she adds, "I was just offered to pose nude, actually."  I don't like Marie Osmond that much anyway, but I cringe when I hear her say something that makes it sound like she's some kind of slave.  I think what she means is that she was "asked" to pose nude, not "offered".  Unless she has a master of some sort, no one can offer her naked body except her.  Someone could offer to shoot photos of her nude, but that's not what she said.  Poor editing, OWN.

The JG Wentworth ads are getting more and more outlandish.  I just saw one that was done in a German Oktoberfest theme.  I've seen another done in a Hawaiian theme.  What do these themes have to do with getting lump cash payments from settlements?  Is it a subliminal message to take a vacation to an exotic place?  I mean, those ads have been running for years and they've always been kind of campy, but the most recent ones are reaching a fever pitch of absurdity.  Oddly enough, in their ads, they constantly sing the phone number 877-CASH-NOW.  But go on their Web site, and there are totally different ones there.

Arran's explorative nose has been getting him into a lot of trouble.  Yesterday, he broke into my closet and chewed up several Spanish feminine hygiene products I purchased in Seville.  They were very deodorized maxi pads, so I guess he couldn't resist them.  Thank heavens they were unused!  Of course, had they been used, I would have put them in the appropriate trash receptacle instead of my closet.

I think we're going to an ice hockey game tomorrow night.  I haven't been to one in a long while, but the last time I went, I had a really great time, despite being with my parents.  Ice hockey is a lot of fun to watch if you don't mind a little violence.  At the last game I attended, the puck hit the plexiglass barrier so hard that they had to stop the game to replace it.

I am currently reading a book called Prisoner of X: 20 Years in the Hole at Hustler Magazine.  It's about a guy who spent twenty years working for Larry Flynt.  I'm not enjoying the book as much as I thought I would, but I have to admit there are some pretty funny stories in it.  One story involves Pat Boone's penis.  I hope to be done reading soon so I can post a review.

Bill's blood pressure has varied from slightly high to low.  Obviously, his meds need to be adjusted yet again, but he definitely does have lower blood pressure when he's not in a doctor's office.

Things are getting back to normal.  My anxiety about the future is about to erupt into full blown panic.  Just kidding… I'm not that bad off yet.  But I did tell Bill I wanted him to try to finish the third and final level of this computer security course he's been taking.  If he's able to do it, it will probably mean he has to go to Washington, DC for a week.  He was going to settle for just two levels and try to take the third level course later, but when he retires, he will only be one class short.  So I nagged him to finish up, which he can probably do when he's on terminal leave (using up all his accrued leave in the weeks before he's officially out of the Army).  I figure it can only help him.

A friend of mine wants me to read a book about self-publishing books.  He thinks I should try to write a book and sell it and he wants to help me do it.  Once I'm done reading the book about the guy at Hustler, I guess I'll get cracking on the book my friend sent me to read.  I met this man when we were in Armenia.  I don't think he's blowing smoke up my ass about self-publishing, either.  He is a businessman and has the academic pedigree and experience to back up what he suggests.  My problem is, I have trouble with self-promotion.  It's only been recently that I've even advertised this blog.  It was intended to be a place for me to blow off steam and vent my spleen and I didn't want to stir up shit with some of the people I write about.  But now it's picking up steam anyway, so I guess I might as well reap the benefits.  I have nothing to lose and commutes, co-workers, and corporate bullshit are not my fortes.

It's amazing how I can find things to keep me busy.  ;-)  I remember when I first became a housewife, I was bored out of my mind and aching to get to work.  Now that I haven't had a job, I find things to do.  Most of the things I do aren't not particularly financially rewarding, but I do continue to surprise myself when I find things I can do that raise some bucks.  I wish I'd known about some of these things when I was in grad school.  They would have been a huge help.  But then, back in those days, I was writing a lot of vaguely pornographic short stories that helped me lure Bill.  So maybe that was time well spent after all.

So ends today's random musings post...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bill and his 24 hour blood pressure monitor...

Back in 2007, I had to get a physical because we were moving to Germany.  Because I get really stressed out in military medical facilities, my blood pressure was reading high when I had my appointments.  However, when I took my blood pressure at home, it was uniformly normal or even low.

The physician's assistant who was completing my physical was sure I had high blood pressure.  I assured her I didn't.  I expect I will have it at some point.  My mom has it and her mother had it.  It stands to reason that I will get it at some point too.  But I was sure I didn't have it in 2007.  She made me come in five times over the following week.  Three times, my blood pressure was high.  Still, when I took my blood pressure at home or at the drug store, it was always normal.

I told the PA this and she said we could do a 24 hour ambulatory blood pressure test to confirm whether or not I had what is known as "white coat hypertension".  I completed the test, which involved my wearing a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours.  Every twenty minutes, the monitor would take my blood pressure and record the results.

I noticed that as soon as I walked out of the military hospital, my blood pressure dropped to normal.  The next day, when I came back with a bruised arm, I felt pretty certain that I was going to be diagnosed with white coat hypertension.  And I was.  The PA agreed that my blood pressure only spiked in the hospital and the test proved it.

Bill has high blood pressure.  He takes his medication faithfully.  However, when he visits doctors, he gets stressed out, which causes his pressure to spike.  The doctors and nurses always scold him for not taking his meds.  Whenever he's suggested he might have white coat hypertension, the doctors and nurses balked.  They said it was rare.  I don't see why the doctors and nurses would think white coat hypertension is a rare phenomenon.  Going to the doctor is stressful, especially when you get scolded about your blood pressure or weight all the time.  We all know that blood pressure is affected by stress.

The nephrologist Bill saw the other day is apparently more forward thinking than other medical professionals have been.  She said that in order to get the doctors and nurses off his back, Bill would have to prove that his pressure was normal outside of the medical facility.  So she arranged for him to have the ambulatory monitor.  He just got it put on a couple of hours ago.  I told him it would bruise the hell out of his arm.

He said that already, his numbers are going down.  Something tells me he's going to have the same diagnosis I have.  Hopefully, that will put an end to the scolding.  I hate visiting doctors for that reason alone.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

He said/she said, Wendy Davis and Marlise Munoz...

I have friends of every political stripe.  I have some friends who are extremely liberal and some who are insanely conservative.  Naturally, when I see these people on Facebook, they have a lot of opinions to share about their convictions.  Last summer, Texas lawyer and politician Wendy Davis made history when she donned a pair of pink running shoes and filibustered for eleven hours straight in order to prevent a vote on Senate Bill 5, a bill that would tighten Texas abortion laws.  Davis got a lot of attention for what she did.  Many people admired her, myself included.

Let me be frank about how I feel about abortion.  I personally find it horrifying.  It's not a choice I would make with ease.  I certainly would never do it for the sake of convenience.  There would have to be some seriously compelling reasons for me to ever consider having an abortion.  Fortunately, I am getting close to the age at which it won't ever be a consideration.  I have never been pregnant and it's doubtful I will become pregnant before I hit menopause (seems like my child bearing years just flew by!).  However, at age 41, if I did become pregnant, there is an above average chance I'd have a problematic pregnancy anyway.  Hell, I might even be in a situation in which I might need an abortion to save my life.

I strongly believe that no one has the right to force a woman to be pregnant if she doesn't want to be.  While I do think there should be a point in a pregnancy at which abortions are no longer allowed, I believe that abortions should be legal for early pregnancies.  I would hope that anyone considering an abortion would do it as soon as possible.

I also believe that until a woman gives birth, the baby is a part of her body.  I do not like the idea that a woman is an incubator or a vessel for carrying a baby.  The recent case involving Erick and Marlise Munoz is one that scares the hell out of me.  Marlise Munoz was fourteen weeks pregnant when she collapsed, presumably from a pulmonary embolism.  Her husband rushed her to the hospital where she was kept on life support for over two months because she was pregnant.  Marlise Munoz had made it clear to her family that she never would have wanted to be on life support.  But Texas law mandates that pregnant women can't be taken off life support, so Marlise's family had to watch their beloved wife, mother, and daughter as her condition slowly deteriorated.  Her husband spoke of how she smelled of death and how her bones cracked when he moved them.  Her eyes were dull and lifeless.  She was not now and would never be the woman he loved… and the baby she was carrying was significantly deformed.

Still, many wing nuts in Texas insist that Marlise should have been kept alive until that poor baby was born without its mother.  They claim that the baby had a right to live, regardless of what condition he or she would be born in, regardless of whether or not the child's family would be able to deal with the burden of a "significantly deformed" child.  Indeed, had Marlise Munoz not collapsed during the fourteenth week of pregnancy, she would have had the right to have an abortion.  Where would all the wing nuts yelling about the right to life be when it came time to pay the medical bills or deal with all the  other issues that come up with a child with extreme medical problems?  And don't they realize that the only reason Marlise Munoz and her fetus were living was because of modern medical science?  That's right.  God wasn't keeping that woman alive.  Machines were.  Machines that were designed and operated by people.  Without man's intervention, Marlise and her baby would have naturally gone to God many weeks ago.

What does this have to do with Wendy Davis?  I think it has a lot to do with her.  Wendy Davis has proven that she will fight for women's rights and it appears to me that Texas is a state that needs reform when it comes to laws regarding women's reproductive health issues.

Last week, some of my conservative friends on Facebook posted news articles about Wendy Davis and her "selective biography".  It seems she fudged some of her life events to make herself look and sound better to voters.  She claimed that her first marriage and divorce was earlier than it actually was.  She didn't mention the fact that her ex husband supposedly paid her school loans and then she promptly dumped him.  She said she'd spent a lot of time living in a trailer when she'd actually only spent months in one.  And the conservatives are all tsk tsking the fact that when Wendy Davis went to Harvard, she left her daughters behind in Texas.  When she divorced her ex husband, he got custody of their daughter and she paid him child support.

One of my Facebook friends posted this article about Davis…  It is an editorial that explains why Davis can't win the election.  Most of it has to do with the fact that she lied and let her ex husband raise their kid.  To that, I say "what politician hasn't lied?"  I don't hold it against her that she gave up custody of her kids, either.  Men do it all the time, whether they want to or not.  I have learned, by virtue of being Bill's wife, that simply having a uterus does not automatically make someone a better parent.  Maybe Wendy's ex was the better parent for their daughter.  Maybe he lived in a more suitable climate.  Maybe he had a more suitable home.  If Wendy Davis determined that's the case, then she should be commended for giving up custody for the sake of her daughter.  She should also be commended for paying child support.  A lot of divorced parents don't-- male or female.  Moreover, how she raised her now adult kids is none of my business.

I think being a politician requires a healthy level of narcissism.  You have to be single-minded and have self-worth to run for a high ranking office.  It takes chutzpah.  Most politicians are dirty.  Some have better character than others do, but I have yet to find one that doesn't have something dirty in the closet. Moreover, what Wendy Davis did would probably not be an issue had she been a man.  Okay, maybe if Wendy were a man who let his wife pay his loans, it would be an issue.  But I think that situation is pretty much what they call a "he said/she said" thing.  When people divorce, all kinds of things get said.  And if Wendy Davis was gainfully employed during her marriage to her second husband, I am sure she contributed financially.  Most of all, I don't think it's right or fair to hold her to different standards than those we would hold male candidates to.

The situation with Marlise Munoz is a good example of why I may consider voting for Wendy Davis.  Texas needs a politician who will back laws that preserve women's rights to make decisions about their own bodies.  Do I approve of Davis's fudging?  Not necessarily.  But it sounds to me like she's done what so many politicians do to get ahead.  Politics is a dirty business.  I think Texas needs someone in office who can effect change and will stand up for women's rights.  I am not a feminist in the way that many people think of feminists.  I don't believe that women should have rights at the expense of men.  I just think that they should be treated with dignity and respect.  What happened to Marlise Munoz and her family was neither dignified nor respectful.  Pregnant women should have rights to self-determination.  If they are incapacitated, their families should have the right to make decisions on their behalf.  They should not be a separate class of people subjected to laws passed by males who will never face what they are facing by virtue of being pregnant.  They should not be treated solely like incubators or vessels, useful only for nurturing another life.



I think this pretty much says it all...

So if we are still in Texas come Election Day, I may very well vote for Wendy Davis, whether or not she gave up custody of her daughter or fudged her life story.  Because as a woman, I think Texas women need a woman on their side.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Zane's tummy troubles...

So Monday got started with the sound of Zane throwing up in the corner.  I'm not sure what made him sick, but it took him awhile to settle down.  He's been snoozing in his bed for the past couple of hours, but hasn't had his breakfast.  I'm hoping he's feeling better now.  I hate it when my dogs don't feel well.

I wrote two more travel blog posts, but for some reason, not all of my pictures are easy to find on my computer.  I uploaded some more pictures to Facebook so I could save them to my hard drive, but now Facebook is acting weird.  So it's been kind of a frustrating morning.

It's very windy outside and I see our umbrella got broken, probably from falling over.

Bill has to visit a nephrologist today because he has hyponatremia and hypertension.  They want to see if his low salt levels are related to his kidney function.  I think it's really because the doctor is curious and doesn't have to worry about billing an insurance company.  I'm getting caught up on some of the housework that didn't get done while we were gone.

Yep, hard to believe a week ago, we were in Spain…  How quickly life gets back to normal.

Got a few more posts to go before I'm done travel blogging...

And since I've written so many travel posts and one music blog post, I don't have much to say on my big blog.  However, I will say that I'm kind of inspired to make some new music…

Bill's mom came by today and I showed her my beautiful new flamenco shawl.  Now I want to go out so I can wear it in public.

I think Bill and the dogs all lost weight on our trip.  It was all the walking and bag hauling we did and the dogs didn't get any scraps from the table and played hard at Camp Bow Wow.  I might have lost a couple of pounds myself.

I still have lots of writing to do and other stuff that needs to be done.  I predict life will be back to normal in no time and I'll be wishing I was in Europe again soon.  One crazy thing about our trip is that Bill works in an office where a lot of Spanish and Portuguese is spoken and we were revitalizing our crappy Spanish skills while we were gone.

In a way, it was sort of an instructional trip for Bill.  Maybe he'll learn Spanish now.  It couldn't hurt.

I scheduled some payments so some of the credit card bill will be paid down a bit.  I hate that so much was done on credit… but after February, we will experience a quick bump in pay because my car will be paid off.  I suspect our tax bill will be lower this year too.

There are a few things we need to get taken care of before Bill retires.  Then, with much luck, we will be on our way to our next adventure and not life on the streets.  ;-)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Heads up, travel lovers!

I am now blogging about our adventures in Portugal and Spain.  If you want to read the story and see the photos, I invite you to visit my travel blog.  This link will take you to the beginning of our Space A saga.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wearing rank...


Someone posted this on Facebook tonight.  A friend of mine who is a former Marine shared it and I happened to see it right after waking up from a four and a half hour nap.  Like many people, I thought the photo was ludicrous and it provoked feelings that were a mixture of disbelief and revulsion.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of military spouses who wrongly think they deserve to wear rank.  Because of that stereotype, this photo is now viral and people are leaving nasty comments.  I am ashamed to admit that I left one of my own on my friend's FB page.  But then I got curious because I wanted to know more about the photo.  I made the mistake of reading the comments left by servicemembers.

I went to the original source and someone commented that the photo was posted by the woman's husband as a "joke".  That made me stop and think for a minute.  If that is the case, I feel very sorry for her.  The comments directed at this post are absolutely hateful and vile.  Any husband who would subject his wife to that "for laughs" is a massive asshole.  Seriously, if Bill ever did that to me, I would strongly consider filing for divorce.  The comments people are leaving are definitely no laughing matter.  In fact, they show a disturbing animosity among service people toward family members, particularly those who are Army spouses... And that hateful term "dependent" came up again, bastardized to "dependapotamus", implying that the woman is a fat, lazy, parasite who deserves no respect or consideration whatsoever.  Anyone who would willingly and deliberately open their spouse up to such hostility for shits and giggles has some severe issues.

That being said... A military spouse does have a role and deserves recognition for supporting their service member, but they do not deserve "rank" and shouldn't be demanding it.  But people in the military should also remember that spouses are people too, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  The military lifestyle is not easy for anyone, spouses included.  It would be nice if everyone in the military community remembered that.



Friday, January 24, 2014

F-f-freezing!

Missouri is COLD and windy.  We heard San Antonio is not much better.

Bill and I booked a night at the Embassy Suites by the airport.  We have showered.  Bill is in bed and I'm about to join him.  We leave early tomorrow for home.  We have to fly to Atlanta first, which sucks.  I probably should have shopped longer for a more direct flight, but I just wanted to get us booked.

Gotta say, flying with the Air Force rocks.  Will blog up a storm when I get home.  Looking forward to it.

Missouri...

We made the flight to Whiteman AFB in Warrensburg, Missouri.  Luggage is checked and we should be on the plane for about twelve hours.  Though we will arrive in the morning local time, I'm guessing we will be exhausted and want to sleep.  We'll get a rental car and drive to Kansas City, where we will book a flight to San Antonio.

I love travel, but look forward to going home.  I miss the boys.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Still in Rota until the wee hours of tomorrow morning...

I'm holed up in our lodging because I feel no need to go walking around Rota right now.  Maybe we'll go out in search of lunch in a bit.  We have a show time of 00:10 for a flight back to the USA early tomorrow morning.  It stops in Bangor, Maine with a stop at Whiteman AFB.  That will probably put us in Missouri at an odd time of day, but it'll be a good place to get off.  Then we'll rent a car, drive to Kansas City, and get a flight to San Antonio.  With luck, we'll be home Saturday.

There is another flight that has a show time of 5:55, but it originates in Turkey and by the time it gets to Bangor, Maine for fuel, the crew will need rest.  That will mean we'd be stuck in Maine or taking a complicated and potentially expensive series of commercial flights to Texas.

I read a post on RfM by a woman who is frustrated because she got divorced from her Mormon husband when she stopped believing in the church.  She's having trouble finding a new man, even though she's just 30.  In an attempt to be supportive, I related about how I found Bill online.  I wasn't looking for love at the time, but it happened.  I realize I might have been lucky, but others had given me the advice to live my life for me.  I think it's good advice, actually.  I did find a man when I least expected it;  but the point is, I wasn't looking.

A rather embittered poster in her 40s who has not had the experience I have contends that it's wrong to tell people that the right person will come along.  I guess I agree... My point was more that it's best to get on with your life and stop worrying about when Mr. Right will come along.

Now... This poster who admits to being "bitter" and in her 40s may still be single because she is bitter.  Bitterness isn't all that attractive.  And finding a love interest is a mutual project.  You aren't shopping for someone for you.  You and the other person are each looking for a partner, so there has to be compromise.  Of course, I don't think people ought to "settle" just to have someone as a partner.  That is usually a recipe for disaster.  But I do think that the spouse shopping mindset is what gets people in trouble and it may be why the poster who thought my (and other people's) advice is bad is still single, bitter, and lonely.

Find someone to be friends with.  Live your life.  Follow your interests and passions. That's when you may find someone of a like mind who wants to be your partner or spouse...

That being said, I never dated much before Bill.  And yet, I managed to find an awesome guy anyway.  Go figure.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In Rota...

We got here by bus this afternoon.  Walked all the way from the bus station to lodging and have the bruises on my shoulders to prove it.  Rota is a very cute town by the Mediterranean Sea and very close to Morocco.  There is a Naval base here and we will attempt to pick up a flight to the USA here within the next day or two.

We are in Navy lodging, which isolates us somewhat.  But we did manage a walk into town for lunch.  The weather is nice here.  It also seems to be true that the Navy has better shit than the Army does.

I decided I needed to post here because I couldn't take the America bashing a German friend of mine insists on engaging in on a regular basis.  She is basically a great person, but she's married to an American soldier and apparently, that has caused her to sacrifice her happiness because to be with him, she has to live in America.  So she regularly bitches about America and Americans and her consortium of German expat friends chime in and join the chorus of complaints.  But they mostly all married Americans, too.  The funny thing is, this friend doesn't like it when she hears American expats in Germany bash her country.

Seems to me if you're that miserable and have the choice to live in Europe where things are supposedly so much better, you should just get a divorce and go home. Either that, or get a fucking grip and learn to make things work.  I hate to sound so bitchy, but I'm on the rag and don't have the choice to live in Europe.  I have to go back to America and make it fucking work for me.

These folks were complaining about how school gets cancelled or delayed so much in the States. When I explained that they close school for safety reasons, I got a lecture about how not being able to drive in snow and ice is no excuse because in Germany, people do it.  Okay... But Germany gets a lot more snow than the southern states do.  And you can't practice driving in snow if you never get it.  Then one of them made an insulting crack about how the school cancellations are why southerner are so uneducated/dumb.  I am a southerner and I'm neither dumb nor uneducated.  I also know how to drive in snow... Or, at least I've done it without crashing on more than a few occasions.

Anyway, I don't have the strength to deal with the stupidity tonight.  

Flamenco shawl...

I had been wanting one of those beautiful silk flamenco shawls ever since my last visit in 1997.  I wanted one I saw in Barcelona in 2009, but it was expensive.  I came home with a silk scarf instead.  On this visit, I was determined...

So yesterday, while on a pharmacy run for feminine hygiene supplies (I can now compare Italian and Spanish brands of maxi pads), Bill and I stopped by one of Seville's ubiquitous shawl stores and I bought a beautiful turquoise silk shawl.  It was on sale, to boot.  I didn't want a cheap one and am proud to admit I didn't succumb to the urge to buy one.

Yesterday was a tough day for Bill, as we were accosted by Roma women trying to scam/pickpocket us as we walked near the cathedral.  Will write more about this incident when I get home.  Suffice to say, it shook Bill up.

We're headed to Rota today to see if we can catch a flight out of here soon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Extra night in Seville...

Given that no flights to where we want to go are leaving Rota tomorrow, we decided to stay an extra night in Seville.  It turns out the room I booked as a standard was a superior, so we have to pay extra. No big deal...

We went to a bar last night and drank too much red wine.  Consequently, this morning was rough.  I felt better after breakfast and am now having a rest.  I'm glad I don't have to take a two hour bus ride to Rota and check into Navy Lodging today, though I would love to do laundry.

I'm kind of ready to go home... though an extra night in Seville isn't a bad thing.  We're winding down, though.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Full day...

First off, we may be delayed getting home.  This morning, there was no flight going out from Rota to the US.  Then there was one, but it was going to Germany, then Bangor, Maine, then Tacoma, Washington.  And we'd have to be there very early Wednesday morning.  So Bill is going to extend his leave so we can try for a different flight.

He was all stressed about this turn of events, so we went to a hammam.  We got massages and hung out in several pools for awhile.  Then we had lunch and took a carriage ride.  I managed to tell our driver, who spoke only Spanish, that I used to have a horse.  So he let me pet his mare, Rosilla, and took photos.  Glad I was wearing black.

I miss horses...

Bill is starting to stress about going home now.  Must ply him with wine.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seville... As beautiful as I remember it...

We got here just before 4pm after a very pleasant train ride.  It appears there are few Americans here, though we've seen lots of Asians.  Bill and I were hungry, so we had a big meat dish for two.  Then later, after walking around some, we had tapas and wine.  Eating and drinking is cheap here.

I love Europe and Seville is one of my favorite cities.  But... I have to admit missing my dogs and my computer.  I think it's time to get a laptop.

I have a feeling Bill will love Seville as much as I do very soon.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Seville tomorrow...

Feeling better today.  We bought train tickets and visited the Prado.  Afterwards, we walked back to Puerta del Sol and had a very nice paella lunch.  I'm now having a rest after booking our next hotel.  The Prado was interesting but exhausting.  I look forward to beautiful Seville.  It's my favorite Spanish city.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Think I'm getting sick...

I haven't felt well all day.  I've been queasy and had heartburn and a dry cough and fatigue.  I napped earlier, which helped some, but my stomach was all messed up.  We had a nice tapas meal... but it didn't stay with me.  At least the queasiness went away once I finally hurled.

I'm going to sleep early... Or at least I'm going to try.

In Madrid...

Just arrived on a tiny plane out of Lisbon.  I was feeling a little queasy, but otherwise it was a quick and uneventful flight.  We're staying at a nice hotel... Hotel Atlantico. Our room was ready when we arrived at about 10:30am. As we took the elevator up, Richard Carpenter's instrumental "Karen's Theme" was playing. I thought that was kind of funny, given the uproar my post about Mindi Carpenter caused on my music blog this week.

I suspect we will soon venture out for something to eat... Then we'll wander around Madrid.  My last visit was 16 years ago.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Off to Madrid tomorrow...

We're leaving early on Air Europa.  I'm a little nervous about it, but it was a cheap ticket and the flight is only an hour.  We should get there by 10:00am and have time to enjoy the city for a day or two.

We visited the oceanarium today.  It's really cool.  I got lots of photos that I can't wait to post on my travel blog.  We also took the cable car and had lunch at an Irish pub, where we ate more vegetables.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In Lisbon...

We had a very nice flight out of Lajes.  The aircraft was a large Airbus 330 and the flight wasn't full.  We were not charged extra  to check bags and a small lunch and wine was included.  The lunch was actually edible and quite nice.  I'm a fan of TAP now.

We are at the Hotel Tivoli Oriente.  I have booked a cheap flight to Madrid for Friday and we plan to go to Seville from there.

We found a nice dinner that had vegetables in it and wasn't fast food.  I'm sure my body will now revolt.

Last night, Bill and I enjoyed a roll in the sheets.  My hair was wet and the next morning, it was all matted.  Leave it to me to get bed head after sex.

We overheard some English speaking guy use the f word as we left the restaurant where we ate dinner.  It never fails.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Heading to Lisbon tomorrow...

We bought a round trip ticket, in case we have to get back here to catch the rotator flight back to the USA.  We will spend at least two nights in Lisbon, then probably go to Spain.  Today, I took some beautiful photos.  Can't wait to put them on my travel blog.

We ran into a young captain who flew in with us.  I love how friendly this base is.

Hope to rent a car today...

Then we will decide if and when to fly to mainland Europe.  The problem with staying here in Lajes is that if we leave on the hop back to the States, we won't use all of Bill's leave.  And we like being in Europe too much to do that.  Also, we're in a prime position to see mainland Portugal and Spain.  the Navy has a good sized terminal in Rota, which is not far from Seville.

Bill has not been to Madrid or Seville and I haven't been since 1997.  I am partial to Seville and I think Bill would love it.

We could also decide to go elsewhere in Europe because it might be a problem to get on Rota, since we aren't based there.

I am hoping we find a decent restaurant today.  I've had my fill of junk food.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Puking, exhaustion, and the best pizza I've had in a long while...

Bill and I spent most of yesterday resting.  After we got our room, we ate lunch at the ubiquitous bowling alley (there's one on most military installations) and then Bill went to sign up for another flight (home).  I promptly got into a coughing fit, probably a combination of cough variant asthma, acid reflux, and remnants of the flu.  The coughing made me puke up lunch, which was just as well, since it was stuff I shouldn't have eaten anyway.

The toilet in our room flushes scary slowly and seems weak.  I was afraid I was going to clog up the toilet when I hurled.  I know... TMI.

I fell asleep for about five hours or so and didn't feel like dressing.  So we watched AFN and saw a cheesy film from Christmas on base.  I recognized a woman from our flight on it.  I guess Lajes is a place where one can easily end up on TV.

Later, we ordered pizza and it was delicious.  The cheese was especially good and I am not a cheese person, really.  Turns out The Azores are well known for excellent cheese.  Figures, given all the cows that live here.  Today, we may try to go to town or something, since most everything is closed on Mondays.

We also had wine... Very dry, tart wine...  Will take getting used to.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

We're here!

We got a very warm welcome!  I am hungry and exhausted and the flight was bumpy, but Lajes is pretty nice otherwise!  Will write more when I'm less tired.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Delayed...

We were supposed to leave at 9:30am.  Rain and fog delayed the plane, which pushed the crew past he maximum time they can fly.  So now we're leaving sometime after 11:00 tonight.  I am going to be fried tomorrow... But it'll be worth it.  We have been at the airport since about 5:30am.

The Azores it is...

Well, we made the flight to Portugal... Or at least we've paid $34.40 for our two seats and if no one on duty status shows up at the last minute, we'll be on our way.  23 seats were released and all were claimed.  It looked like a couple of folks didn't make the cut.  We have already met some interesting people, including the very cool guy who checked us in.  Can't wait to blog ths trip already...  I have a feeling I'll have a lot of tales to tell.

I brought our portable hotspot with me and it's coming in handy.

We may go to Spain while we're at it.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Off to Baltimore...

Bill woke me up nice and early and I've just packed for our trip out of here.  We have a flight to Atlanta leaving at 12:30 or so; then after about two hours in Atlanta, we will head for Baltimore.  We should get there at about 7:00.  We have a night in Baltimore, then we'll go to the airport very early and try to catch the flight to the Azores.  If we don't make it, we'll try to get the night flight to Germany.

This should be fun.  It was last time…  I expect we'll have many photos!  I've tried to pack lighter.  Not sure I succeeded.  Hopefully, I won't get sick or start my period while we're gone.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tomorrow is the big day...

We are going to attempt to go somewhere this weekend.  My guess is that we will end up in Germany, but we could end up somewhere else.  I'm hoping it works out because I want to get out of here.

At the same time, I think another one of my molars might be cracked.  I notice the last molar on the left bottom side of my mouth is now sensitive.  I guess it's just the process of getting older and having old dental work that needs to be redone.  But I really don't feel like starting the dental drama again.  I guess I'll be focusing on beautifying my mouth in the spring, just as I did in the fall of 2013.

Last night, Bill and I were eating dinner and he said that the conference he's been working on all week has been going well.  One of the generals told him that his reputation is very solid, while another told him it was a shame he has to retire, since he's really done a great job turning around the state partnership program he's been working on here in San Antonio.  Hopefully, that will translate into someone finding a position for him… although more often than not, Bill ends up finding his own work.  I'm very proud of him, though.  Which leads me to my next topic…

I just finished reading Shanna Hogan's book about Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander.  I will be adding this book to my ExMormon Lit. list, as well as a link to my fresh Epinions review.  However, before I do that, I just want to say that reading about Travis Alexander really drives home the reality that things are not always as they look.  Although Travis Alexander was brutally murdered and didn't deserve to be, he is also often portrayed as this "really great guy".  However, the evidence points to the fact that he wasn't really so great.  Jodi Arias is bat shit crazy, but Travis Alexander apparently didn't mind having sex with her, despite his devout Mormon convictions.  She probably felt used and disrespected by a guy who, by all appearances, seemed to be above reproach.

I am actually kind of familiar with this phenomenon.  Bill's ex wife had similar complaints about him… that he didn't really love her.  She apparently felt "used" and disrespected, even though Bill had married her and did his best to make things work with her.  She repeatedly told him she knew he didn't love her.  She was often enraged by him and on more than one occasion, threatened his life.  As it turned out, Bill probably didn't love her… and I can't blame her for feeling upset about that.  However, being disrespected or feeling "used" by someone does not justify brutally murdering them.  After reading about Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander, I feel all the more grateful that Bill got out of that relationship alive.

Women who are suffering from Cluster B personality disorders can be very dangerous.  If you read true crime stories or watch shows like Snapped, you quickly realize that unbalanced women can be deadly under the right circumstances.  I don't know that Jodi Arias was going to kill someone regardless, but the conditions seemed perfectly suited for her to "snap" with rage.  I'm grateful that she is in prison where she belongs and that no other man will be victimized by her.  At the same time, I wish Travis had used the right head when he got involved with her.  From what I read, he was also very manipulative and deceitful in his dealings with Jodi Arias.

Anyway, after tomorrow, I may not be blogging as much because I will hopefully be out of the country.  But when I get back, I'm sure my travel blog will be getting a lot of attention.








Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Abortion and gun violence...

I don't see a connection, do you?  Nevertheless, this quote was on a friend's Facebook this morning.

"Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned abortion on demand. And we wonder why our culture sees school shootings so often." Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) on the hidden connection between Roe v. Wade and gun massacres.

What the hell do school shootings have to do with a woman's right to have an abortion?  Women who have abortions don't have embittered kids who grow up hating the world.  Or, at least the kid who was aborted doesn't grow up that way.  Maybe the aborted kid's siblings might, but I doubt it's because their mother chose to have an abortion.

I think school shootings are a scary side effect of many complex problems, none of which have a damn thing to do with abortion.  I think it's sad that we have so many elected officials who are as idiotic as Rep. Kevin Cramer is.  Unfortunately, he's just one of a few ding-a-lings empowered to propose new laws.

Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona said,

"The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." – Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, mansplaining why abortion bans don't need rape exceptions.

Really?  So I guess women who get pregnant due to rape ought to just grin and bear it because they are oddities…

Franks must have been taking lessons from former Rep. Todd Akin, who on the topic of pregnancy resulting from rape, infamously said, 

"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."

And probably one of the saddest dipshit comments from a politician came from Texas Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, who said

"In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out,"

Clearly Rep. Laubenberg has no idea what rape kits are.  She follows up with a somewhat more intelligent comment that totally got overshadowed by the previous stupid one…

"The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development."

I don't disagree that a five months pregnant woman probably should have made a decision regarding abortion before she got to the five months mark.  But how many people heard that and weren't reeling from Laubenberg's first comment about rape kits, which for your edification, are used to collect evidence after a rape, not to "clean a woman out".

I don't necessarily agree with the following joke, but thought it seemed kind of appropriate for this particular post.

HOT AIR BALLOON

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're 840 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.29 minutes north latitude, and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude."

She rolled her eyes and said, "YOU must be a democrat."

"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

The balloonist answered, "Everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with your information, and I am still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The man smiled and responded, "YOU must be a Republican."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "How did you know?"

"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep, then you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same situation you were before we met but, somehow, now it's my fault."

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk...

Candace Cameron Bure is "submissive"...

I just read a most suggestive headline.  Candace Cameron admits to being "submissive" to her husband.  I know this is a biblical thing.  There are a lot of people out there who believe in the biblical principles that wives should submit to their husbands.  They base their ideas on submission on the following Bible passage…

Ephesians 5:22-33

New International Version (NIV)

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The idea is that the wife is to submit to her husband and the husband is to submit to the church.  The husband is to take care of his wife lovingly and be a leader.

I don't have a huge problem with this, even though I don't think I am a particularly submissive person.  I think if being submissive works for you and you have a mature husband who doesn't abuse that privilege, it can work out fine.  I would have no problem submitting to Bill.  He is not abusive and I know he loves me very much.  He is also a good leader.  Hell, if I really think about it, I probably do submit to him.  I pretty much became an Overeducated Housewife due to his choice in careers and the fact that it forced us to move so often.  If I had wanted to, I could have tried to do something to maintain my equality to him and my career.  But that would have complicated our marriage.   

For me, it was more important for the marriage to work than it was for me to be a public health social worker.  For other women, what I've done would not have been okay.  Other women might have tried really hard to maintain their careers, even if it meant lengthy separations from their spouses.  I didn't get married to be separated, though.  I trust Bill and after eleven years of marriage, I have found that I was right to trust him.

Anyhoo, while I wouldn't count myself one of Candace's biggest fans, I did actually read her first book.  I don't remember being overly impressed by it.  But I would much rather read her thoughts on Christianity than her brother's.  Kirk Cameron was once the stuff of teenage dreams.  I never had a crush on him, but I remember a lot of my friends did.  They watched Growing Pains every week to see Kirk in all his mulleted glory, never realizing that one day he'd become something of a wing nut.

I'm sure that a lot of men would love to have Candace Cameron Bure submitting to them.  Here's hoping that her husband is mature enough to handle the responsibility of being head of the household.  I'm assuming he is, since they've been married for so long.  However, given the way so many people on the Internet are, I won't be looking at the comments of any article that mentions Candace Cameron Bure "submitting"...




Tuesday, January 7, 2014

$1035

That is all that remains on our car loan.  We bought my Mini Cooper S Convertible brand new in 2009.  It was specifically ordered and built for me as we were on our way out of Germany.  I think the loan was for about $27,000.  We put $1500 down and ended up paying more than we had to on the loan, since the finance company had originally advised us to get car loan insurance.  We ended up not getting the insurance, but kept paying as if we had, so we were soon ahead on the loan.

And then last year, when we paid off our 2006 Toyota RAV 4, we added $200 from that former car payment to the Mini payment, which put us even further ahead.  I'm pretty sure we had a 66 month loan, but I'm not totally sure of that.  In any case, we're going to be done way ahead of time.  I expect in less than a month, we will be car loan free.

This is a very sweet thing for us, since when we bought our Toyota in 2006, we were broke.  Since I wrote that story a year ago, I won't rehash it here.  Suffice to say that I remember the big car loan we took out and how much it was going to cost us every month.  I didn't think we'd ever finish paying.  We finally did after refinancing to a much better interest rate.  That allowed us to get the next car loan at a great rate.

The Toyota only just recently passed the 100,000 mile mark, while my car still has under 20,000 miles on it. I don't think we'll need to buy a new vehicle anytime soon.

I'm pretty excited to have yet another car loan discharged.  Because if Bill doesn't find a good job, we may have to sleep in them!

Epinions… dumbing things down even more

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I often write product reviews on Epinions.com.  Over the last year or so, my participation on that site has waned a bit, mostly because things there have gradually become pretty fucked up.  The database for finding products is pretty messed up and has been for years.  We have advisors and category leads who take things way too seriously and alienate people by being too heavy-handed with low ratings while not helping reviewers to improve.  We have lost the ability to suggest products, which especially sucks for certain categories like travel and restaurants and gourmet.  We have a lot of fly by night folks who try to scam the site.  I've personally run into quite a few nuts there, too…

But I keep writing there because in 2003, when I was struggling for relevance, I found a voice at Epinions.  I met a lot of great people, both on the site and in person.  I also made money writing there.  In almost eleven years, I've made well over $11,000 writing product reviews for Epinions.com.  It's not a living wage, but it's a pretty nice chunk of change for writing my opinions of products I would have spent money on anyway.

I have faithfully written on Epinions despite all the dramas, crappy Web site design, lagging page views, and most recently, smaller payouts we've all been getting.  I keep writing because I still find rewards in it, though to be honest, my efforts there have dwindled.  Last night, we got an email from one of the Epinions powers-that-be which said that our ratings system is going to change…

I wasn't around Epinions in its infancy, back when reviews were "recommended" or "highly recommended".  In those days, people who wore "hats" weren't called advisors, leads, or top reviewers.  They had different names for them… I believe advisors were called "editors" and I'm not sure what the top reviewers were called.  At some point, there was a huge overhaul of the site and the hat titles were changed.  So was the rating system, which allowed people to rate Very Helpful, Helpful, Somewhat Helpful, Not Helpful, or Off Topic (which basically amounts to an NH rating).  Leads and advisors were also given a Most Helpful button, which they could give to their favorite review of a certain product.  Since so many products only have one review and for so long Epinions encouraged and rewarded first and only reviews, the MH button didn't get used that much.

As of sometime in the next week or so, the ratings system will change so that we have "Expert" (which I think is supposed to denote what Very Helpful denotes now and will only be available to advisors and leads) "Very Helpful" (which is sort of a combination of Very Helpful and Helpful) and "Helpful" (which denotes what Somewhat Helpful denotes now).  We also get a "Flag" button, which is supposed to only be used when someone breaks the site's rules.

Personally, I doubt these ratings will really change much in the way the site functions.  I think they are intended to prevent new people from getting offended by low ratings and make the site more "fun".  However, given the fact that most of the reviews are currently being written by the few diehard folks who have been around forever, I doubt the ratings will mean much.  Recently, Epinions seems to be rewarding the newest content more now anyway, rather than the content that got the highest ratings.  Old members who have been around awhile will still be offended if someone gives them a "Helpful" rating, only now it means that the rater would have rated "Somewhat Helpful" if they still had the ability to.

At the same time, those who take a lot of pride in their writing and in properly rating reviews will not like having to say a review is "helpful" when they don't think it is.  And since we aren't supposed to flag reviews unless they break the site's rules, I suspect what will happen is that the more mediocre reviews won't get rated or people will simply leave comments that indicate how they really feel.

As I wrote before, I've sort of been slacking off on Epinions.  There was a time when I'd write a couple dozen reviews in a month.  Nowadays, I'm writing less than half that amount.  Lately, I'm writing more on my blogs, which doesn't earn me as much money, but is more personally fulfilling.  And I have been noticing that things are picking up around here anyway.
 
I do think it's sad, though, that Epinions is doing this with the ratings and apparently ignoring the much larger problems on the site.  It seems to me like they should have just rebuilt the site with updated technology.  That would go further in retaining new members than changing the ratings and dumbing them down so that people don't get offended and leave.  There's an old saying that I heartily believe in. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.  Epinions was set apart from other sites like Amazon because while the reviews tended to be lengthy, they were usually well-written and very comprehensive.  While I understand that people get offended by low ratings, it's not that hard to figure out how to write good reviews in most categories.  If you care about your writing, you'll improve it.  If you don't, you won't.  Dumbing down ratings won't do anything to help a person achieve that end.

I don't like getting or giving low ratings, but sometimes they are appropriate, especially when they are coupled with a comment that explains how the writer can improve or at least explains what's missing.  If we give everyone a "helpful" rating just for posting something, we may have more writers… but the writing will probably not be quite as good as it could be.

However… as I'm not a particularly strict rater, I suspect this new development will annoy me a lot less than it does other people.

Monday, January 6, 2014

This is way messed up...

There ought to be a law…


A friend of mine still lives near Fort Bragg and I'm guessing she found this on Craig's List.  Some crazy bitch is trying to raise money by selling her positive pregnancy tests so that other crazy bitches can trick their boyfriends into marrying them.

Here's the thing, though.  Those pregnancy tests are notoriously unreliable after a certain amount of time has passed.  You take one and it's negative.   You wait awhile, and it will look like you got a positive result.  So you don't really need to buy a positive pregnancy test from some crazy woman at Fort Bragg.  Besides, while I understand that some people use marriage for financial stability or launching a life, starting a marriage with something like this dooms it to failure.  Marriages built on lies almost never last.

Anyway, I knew there was craziness at Fort Bragg, but this is pretty damn crazy.  Guys, watch out.  If your woman says she's pregnant, I would advise you to watch her take the test before you put a ring on it.  I know it seems strange for a woman to advise something like this, but I have been on the other side of a man who was married to a nutcase.  Don't be dumb.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why should I care if this guy starves himself to death?

And finally, here's a post on the idiot in Utah who has decided not to eat until Utah nullifies its recent decision to allow same-sex marriages.  I first read about Trestin Meacham on RfM, when someone posted a link to a news story about his crusade to end gay marriage.  Meacham is reportedly subsisting on water and the odd vitamin in his bid to get legislators to act.  He has apparently lost 25 pounds since beginning his hunger strike on December 21, 2013.

Personally, I think hunger strikes are stupid.  However, I guess if you feel the need to stop eating in order to make a point, you have that right.  It seems kind of counterintuitive to me to stop eating in order to win an argument, though.  What happens when you don't eat?  You get dizzy and tend to make irrational decisions.  You get weaker and your body eventually starts to consume itself.  Once you lose your fat reserves, your health begins to suffer and eventually you will die.

Now, the vast majority of Americans are in no danger of starving to death.  I doubt that Trestin will die from his efforts to get Utah lawmakers to nullify the same-sex marriage ruling.  But regardless of whether his actions bring results, why should I care if he stops eating?  Hunger strikes are only effective if someone gives a shit.  I don't, and I have noticed that a lot of my friends don't, either.  In fact, quite a few of them have invited Trestin to starve himself to death.  More than a few have noted that his strike is, in fact, Darwinism at work.

Trestin claims that this strike is not about being disrespectful to homosexuals.  He adds that he has many gay friends and always treats them with love, kindness, and respect.  But he thinks this gay marriage shit signifies a government running amok and he also claims that Utah's decision to allow gay marriage tramples on his religious freedoms.  Okay, then…

Well, I suppose hunger striking has gotten Trestin Meacham's name out there for the masses.  We'll see what ultimately ends his strike… or if any politicians care enough about this man's dwindling body mass index to frantically overturn Utah's decision to allow same-sex marriages.  It's my guess he'll have to stop the strike at some point and I doubt it will be because he gets what he's striking for.  Because really, why should we give a shit?

Seems like a bright guy like him could come up with a better way to fight gay marriage if that's an issue that affects him so greatly.  I don't happen to agree with his stance on gay marriage, but I support his right to fight for what he believes in.  I just think self-imposed starvation is a stupid way to go about effecting change.

Speaking of healthcare costs...

Have a look at this video…



It's very informative and I think it shows why healthcare is probably not going to be fixed in my lifetime, even with the "Affordable Care Act" in the works.      

Poor people and drug testing...

Several of my more conservative friends are posting this photo on Facebook and saying "Yes!"…


They are cheering the fact that some states force people who are looking for welfare benefits to be drug tested beforehand.  On the surface, maybe this seems like a reasonable request.  The conservatives get to talk about how they are keeping the druggies from getting their paws on government benefits and "saving kids" from their drug abusing parents.  Except that this week, a judge in Florida just struck down the mandatory drug testing law as unconstitutional.  Judge Mary S. Scriven of the United States District Court in Orlando wrote that “The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied.”

What?  Say it isn't so!  Poor people have constitutional rights too?

As it turns out, the drug testing wasn't even saving taxpayers any money.  Florida passed the drug testing law in 2011 and in the ensuing years, found that less than 3 percent of people who had been tested actually came up positive for taking illegal drugs.  The vast majority of people desperate enough to present themselves at a government office to apply for welfare benefits were not using drugs.  If you think about it, that makes sense.  Why would someone illegally using narcotics want to attract the attention of government officials, who might then sic the law on them and/or send CPS to their house to take their kids?  Especially since if you're abusing illegal drugs, it would seem you'd have more lucrative opportunities doing something more profitable outside of the law to get the money for your next high.

I have been fortunate enough never to need welfare.  However, because I have worked with poor people as a social worker, I know something about what it takes to get government benefits.  By and large, going on welfare actually involves some hoop jumping.  Yes, there are people who abuse the system and I did run into a couple of people like that when I practiced social work.  But in my experience, the vast majority of people who apply for welfare benefits are not proud to do so.  Being poor is very demoralizing.  Moreover, we have plenty of food in this country and there just isn't any reason why we should deny temporary aid to people who need it.

You really do have to prove that you need welfare benefits before you can access them.  They don't just hand you a check if you show up at the welfare office.  And I don't think that drug tests for poor people looking for welfare benefits is reasonable.  It costs money to buy and administer those tests and the fact is, they aren't actually doing anything but humiliating poor people.  To add insult to injury, the poor folks who were being tested had to pay $30 for the test upfront… and then if they passed, Florida reimbursed them for the tests.  Since over 97 percent of the people who took the drug test passed, that means taxpayers were footing the bill for all this unnecessary drug testing.  But hey, I guess at least the people who made and sold the tests were happy… and so were the folks who got jobs administering the tests and analyzing the results.

Now…  drug testing in the workplace probably makes sense if you're in a job where public safety or trust is a big concern.  For example, I think it makes perfect sense to drug test airline pilots, physicians, cab drivers, cops, and any other job in which someone who is high could hurt a lot of innocent people.  I think it makes sense to drug test someone whose profession puts them at a high level of public trust.  But in a lot of workplaces, drug testing is really just a means of weeding people out of work and invading their privacy.

Check out this article that was posted on the American Civil Liberty Union's blog.  In the post, the author recounts the story of a 35 year old single father and Navy veteran named Luis Lebron.  Lebron was raising his child and trying to take care of his disabled, elderly mother.  Money was tight for the law abiding citizen, so he decided to apply for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).  Mr. Lebron was asked to pee in a cup so the state could make sure he wasn't a druggie.  The amount of money Lebron would have gotten from TANF was just $241 a month.  I haven't priced illegal drugs lately, but it seems to me that $241 wouldn't actually buy that much of the good stuff.  In any case, Lebron decided to sue and was represented by the ACLU, which ultimately ended in victory when a judge ruled that it's unreasonable to force people to undergo drug testing simply because they have the misfortune of being poor.

Not surprisingly, Florida Governor Rick Scott, whose salary is paid by taxpayers and who had championed this law, was reportedly not willing to pee into a cup himself.  And why not?  Because he's not a criminal?  But he gets money from taxpayers, right?  And governors and legislators who shame veterans and other rank and file citizens for not wanting to pee in a cup shouldn't be treated the same way, right?  Bullshit.


Watch how the politicians react when they are asked to provide samples...

What really surprises me is that the folks I see posting the above photo are, more often than not, people who are or were in the military.  Frankly, I think anyone in the military who bitches about government benefits going to American citizens is a colossal hypocrite.  Servicemembers get more government help than anyone.  Granted, they get these benefits for doing the jobs they do and I don't begrudge them for that.  But I do find it curious that people in the military are so often opposed to people being helped by their government.  God knows they don't usually turn down the entitlements they get for being in the military.

Being poor is not a crime.  People who are poor should not be treated like criminals because they dare to ask for help.  What's more, drug testing everyone who asks for welfare benefits is a waste of resources.  I'm glad to see that Judge Mary S. Screvin and her colleagues were wise enough to see this point and strike down an unconstitutional law.




Saturday, January 4, 2014

Peeking into a stranger's life...

In 1989 and 1990, I was in high school.  I had a job at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia during the summers of 1989-1992.  The first two summers were more fun than the second two, mainly because I was really young and it was my second ever job.  I was mingling with kids from other areas and making new friends as well as getting to know some of the people from my own hometown.  I finally started getting a social life.

During that first summer, a guy I knew from my hometown-- I'll call him Jay-- started dating a girl I worked with in the German Ice Cream shop.  I'll call the girl, Linda.  That first summer, they were quite a hot couple.  They seemed to really like each other.  They continued to date after the summer ended.  In fact, I even remember running into them a couple of times, since some of Jay's friends were also friends of a mutual friend of mine.  

I remember all too well coming back to work in German Ice Cream in the early spring of 1990.  Linda had chosen to work there again, too.  She was very popular with our bosses and seemed poised to climb the corporate ladder at Anheuser-Busch.  I, on the other hand, was considered hard working and punctual, but a little crazy.  Nobody wanted to promote me.

Linda was from another community about a half an hour from where Jay and I lived, but they still got together frequently.  In fact, they got together so much that Linda wound up pregnant.  In May of 1990, she announced her pregnancy to everyone at the ice cream shop.  She claimed she hadn't known she was pregnant.  She was very upset about it, since she had wanted to go away to college.  Though she didn't get into her first choice school, she had been accepted at another school located on the other side of the state.  But now that she was pregnant, she wouldn't be going off to college.

Since Jay had gotten Linda pregnant, her family was very angry with him.  Jay and Linda split up and her father apparently got so upset that it was rumored that he took out a restraining order against Jay to keep him away from Linda.  Linda and her family didn't want him involved with the child.  Jay was broke, so he eventually ended up giving up his rights to the boy, who was born in August 1990.

I remember thinking what had happened to Jay was very unfair.  He did care about his son and wanted to know him, but Linda's family was supposedly dead set against it.  This happened even though Jay had gotten along fine with them prior to Linda's pregnancy.  Her family was very Catholic and close-knit.  In an odd, unrelated twist of fate, a couple of years after Linda got pregnant, her brother Tim was killed in a car accident.  

Meanwhile, Linda's sister-- I'll call her Sally-- was two years behind Linda and me and was no doubt watching what was going on.  A couple of years after her sister got knocked up, she ended up attending Longwood University, which is where I was going to school.  Jay was friendly with her and even visited her at college a couple of times.  Sally also worked at Busch Gardens.

Although I knew Sally as an acquaintance, I never became "friends" with her.  Thanks to Facebook, I see her name and image pop up regularly because she's friends with people we both know from Longwood.  And, of course, I used to work with her sister.  I am also still friends with Jay, who later married and had another son.  He went on to get a respectable job and lives in Northern Virginia.  I have heard Jay's side of the story and actually kind of witnessed Linda's side, at least up until she quit her job because she was about to give birth.  

Last night, I got curious about what had happened to Linda and her baby.  I knew that she had eventually married a man who lived on the mountainous side of Virginia and they had a couple more kids.  Her husband adopted Jay's son and the young man now has that man's name.  So… following her sister's Facebook and relying on all the knowledge I had of Linda and her story, I traced my way to Linda's Facebook and eventually found that long, lost boy.  

I figured out who he was pretty easily.  He is the spitting image of his biological father.  It looks like Linda might have split from her husband and is now living in a city not far from where she grew up in southeastern Virginia.  She apparently got her education and her kids have all turned out fine.  Jay's son… whom I never met in person but felt kick when I gave Linda a hug while she was pregnant with him… apparently graduated from the school Linda had dreamt of attending.  I had to stare at the product of Jay's and Linda's tryst for a few minutes because I knew Jay when he was his biological son's age.  Jay's son looks just like him, save for the facial hair and slightly more polished look.  I wonder what he would think if he knew Jay.  Jay has told me they have no contact.

Stranger still is the fact that I know this man's story, even though we've never met.  I know his mother and his long, lost biological father, who is easily found on Facebook.  There I was last night, staring at Linda's Christmas photos and the picture of that handsome young guy who is the son of my friend Jay.

It's hard to believe all of that was going on 24 years ago.  It seems like it wasn't that long ago that we were so young and on the verge of launching into adulthood.  

Bill has told me I should become a private detective because I'm pretty good at finding information and dirt when I put my mind to it.  I have a good memory and remember details of stories.  I have a way of getting the information I seek, even if it takes a lot of time.  I mainly do it because I'm nosey… and I'm interested in peoples' stories.  I'm sure Linda has forgotten all about me, but I remember her very well.  And more importantly, I remember her son.          

Friday, January 3, 2014

Super creepy doctor...

I don't generally like visiting physicians if I can help it.  I'm especially glad I don't live in Pensacola, Florida and never saw Dr. Brian M. Lee, a general practitioner who was busted trying to arrange sex with a 14 year old boy yesterday.  A friend of mine on Facebook lives near Pensacola and shared this man's photo and the accompanying news story.

What's really creepy about this is that I did some checking and it looks like this guy doesn't tend to get very good reviews from his patients.  More than one person has commented on his lack of people skills, roughness, and general unprofessionalism.  And yet he's a board certified physician who apparently has been treating people since he graduated medical school in 1995.  He went to a pretty good school, too.  I mean, I've always heard that the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor was a good school, right?

I think if I were a patient… hell, especially if I had a child who had seen this man… I'd be freaking out right now.  I did a brief check of Escambia County's court records and it looks like he's been in a lot of trouble over the years.  I wonder how it is that he owned a practice and managed to maintain a clientele when he's been accused of the unthinkable and apparently freaked out a lot of people even before he got arrested for soliciting sex from a minor.

It really drives home how important it is to Google the people who are providing your medical care.  For more on Dr. Lee and his ickiness, check out these health grades he got on ucomparehealthcare.com and vitals.com.  The comments are pretty telling.  

Borrowing trouble...

I have a bad habit of "borrowing trouble".  I think of all the bad things that can happen and worry about them.  This morning, at about 3:30 am, Zane woke up and needed to puke.  I had a hard time getting back to sleep once he was done barfing, so I picked up my iPad and started reading the news.  I read a piece on a sleazy property management company in Dallas that regularly screwed over its tenants.

I started thinking about how much I hate the property managers that manage the house we live in and how I dread being screwed over by them.  That led to my thinking about Bill's looming retirement and worrying about what his prospects for future employment are.  Then I started worrying about my own prospects, given that I have been an "overeducated housewife" for so long that I doubt my graduate degrees would be anything but a liability in today's job market.

In all actuality, there are reasons why I shouldn't fret so much.  We now live in a city that is very military friendly and housing costs are somewhat low, especially given the fact that there's supposedly a lot of work here.  We're paid ahead on our car loan and my student loans.  The car loan will be paid off next month.  Bill has a good reputation and there are folks who are actively wanting to help him get a job.  He's also going to have a retirement pension and is getting trained in a hot field-- computer security.  But still, it's hard to ignore all the scary news about the economy…

So now I have this free-floating anxiety about the future.  I really shouldn't read the news.  Either that, or I should try to be more proactive about preparing for the future.  Even so, I realize that our situation is not as dire as it could be.  At least we have a little money saved and thanks to retirement, we will never be truly destitute.  But transition is always scary.