Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best music of 2009 (IMO)

This list does not include a couple of songs that were officially released in 2008, but had most of their airplay in 2009 (Supermassive Black Hole by Muse being the most painful exclusion). However, there's still some pretty good tuneage here:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The year in review

My good friend over at Raine's Kitchen posted an upbeat review of her decade. I was so inspired that I thought that I'd follow suit with this review of the year. Later this week, I'll actually do what she did and review the decade.

I could do as she did and just focus on the good stuff. However, life is a balance. I want to review both the good and the bad. Like her, I think there's more good here than bad. That's amazing this year.

The Good Stuff

  • Goblin was laid off from a job he had grown to hate.
  • Goblin trained for and got his license as an LNA
  • I completed a writing seminar online last spring that reminded me how much I love writing.
  • Goblin got into and started LPN school
  • Grendel got straight A's for his sophomore year of high school.
  • Grendel is very active on his FIRST team. He's made some great friends and he's getting a lot out of the experience.
  • We went to WPI with Grendel for a FIRST competition. We got a really good look at the place and can see why Grendel wants to go to college there.
  • Grendel got his first job. He didn't stay long, but he used the money to buy his own computer.
  • I had a fabulous vacation on Star Island. I met some great people, and I committed to go back every summer.
  • I made a couple of new friends this year. One who promises to re-meet on Star Island this summer.
  • I earned my CISSP, which makes me professionally more employable and relevant in my field.
  • I reconnected with lots of friends on Facebook.
  • Grendel completed driver's education
  • Goblin's unemployment benefits were extended through the end of the year, possibly into March 2010
  • Goblin got the H1N1 shot at school because of his new profession.
  • The basement is looking good.
  • Grendel had a LAN party in the half-finished basement. Having six additional teenage boys in the house wasn't so bad.
  • I committed to go to Atlanta with Grendel in April for the national FIRST competition.
  • Family and friends have been very supportive this year.

--- SPOILER ALERT: Go no further if you want to stay positive ---

The Bad Stuff

  • Goblin lost his job, which has really hurt us financially.
  • The worse year for our marriage.
  • Grendel's grades are all over the place again.
  • Credit card fraud in November, still arguing over charges with company.
  • My weight and chronic pain are the worse ever. Menopause has not been kind to me either.
  • Progress on the basement has been much slower than ever anticipated.
  • Had to cancel our trip to Europe last spring because of financial issues. We may not get to see my brother in Paris before his tour is over in 2011.
  • Unemployment will run out sometime this coming year, and then we're in big trouble unless Grendel's flaky per diem work becomes less flaky.

The year really was more good than bad, even if some of the bads really do stink.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The woes of having a credit card

I just went to review my credit card charges (which I do about once a week). I discovered that nearly $1000 had been charged to my card last weekend in another part of the country.

On Tuesday, I did get a call from a merchant I had purchased something through saying that she couldn't get my credit card to go through. I gave her another form of payment and then called the card company. The idiot I reached at the other end of the phone said that they had locked my account because a charge from Amazon had come in with the incorrect CID #. I told him that was ridiculous, so he unlocked the account. Apparently, the card company had locked the account based on the odd charges from the west coast. But, he could not discern that or communicate that to me.

I was ticked at the time because the reasoning seemed moronic. Plus, when I'd first gotten the card last year they had locked the account with the first purchase I tried to make with it (my iMac). In both instances (last year and this week) the company did not attempt to contact me. I had to call them to ask why the charges weren't going through.

So, now I have to wait two weeks to get my new card. Thirteen months ago I didn't even have a credit card. I was paying for everything with my check card. Now I have two credit cards. The one that was compromised is the one that I use for everything, including recurring bills. The other one I barely use, mostly for car related expenses. Fortunately, I've done most of my holiday shopping already.

What a frustrating situation.

Monday, November 30, 2009

We're all Droopy Dog

Do you remember the cartoon Droopy Dog? His infamous tag line was, "That makes me mad."

The January 2010 Consumer Reports featured a short piece on "Top gripes: What bugs America most." Here are were the top gripes of those surveyed:

  1. Hidden fees
  2. Not getting a human on the phone
  3. Tailgating
  4. Cell-phone use by drivers(1)
  5. Incomprehensible bills
  6. Dog poop
  7. Unreliable Internet service
  8. Discourteous cell-phone use(2)
  9. Waiting for repair people(5)
  10. Spam
  11. Shrunken products
  12. Very slow drivers(4)
  13. Unreliable cell-phone service
  14. Traffic jams(3)

The numbers after a few are my biggest peeves on the list.

Thank you for joining me this NaBloPoMo. It's been fun, but I'm glad it's over. I can now go back to my irregular posting. I hope to post a few times a week, but it may just be weekends again. I do plan to keep up the musical accompaniment.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pope canonizes little green man?

A few weeks ago the Vatican held a 'study week' with "over 30 astronomers, biologists, geologists and religious leaders to discuss the question of the existence of extraterrestrials." In an interview last year, the Vatican's chief astronomer stated:

"Just like there is an abundance of creatures on earth, there could also be other beings, even intelligent ones, that were created by God. That doesn't contradict our faith, because we cannot put boundaries to God's creative freedom. As saint Francis would say, when we consider the earthly creatures to be our "brothers and sisters", why couldn't we also talk about a "extraterrestrial brother"? He would still be part of creation."

If there is intelligent life out there, will they be Catholic? Will they believe that they too were created in God's image? Will they be tolerant of our Catholics' version of worship? I already know the flip side of those questions. Let's hope that ET is better at spiritual charity than we are.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Saturday?

We had an extra six teen males at our house over night. Most of them were up until 0430. I got up around 0830 and tried to stay somewhat quiet. There was a very animated wind storm going on outside. Around 1030 the power went out. We have multiple UPS devices throughout our house, including in the living room where the guest teens were sprawled. They were all (more or less) awake within fifteen minutes.

The power came back on at exactly noon! So, I only have to make the clocks stop flashing. They all have the correct time. Seems like a conspiracy to me. Maybe someone at the power company thought it would be a little gift to help people correct the time on all their digital clocks?

Hubby did a little Black Friday holiday shopping yesterday, for me. He told me what he bought me when he came home so that I could go pick up an extended warranty on my new digital SLR camera. He got me a Sony, which was the least expensive DSLR that Best Buy had. At first I was squeamish about getting such a pricey gift considering our current financial circumstances. Then I started warming up to it, since I love photography. And then I decided that I would prefer the slightly pricier entry-level Cannon DLSR. We're probably going to go exchange my 'gift' shortly. Should be 'fun'.

Welcome to Black Saturday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday is usually not my thing

I normally refuse to participate in the insanity-for-a-bargain that is Black Friday. However, right after this post appears I will be joining the mindless slobbering lemmings in my own personal quest for a bit of savings. The reason? My basement project.

A couple of days ago we realized that we could probably use a new bookcase with slightly smaller dimensions than any of the bookcases we currently have, to optimize the wall space in the new basement living space. Then, low and behold, I got an email from my favorite unfinished wood furniture store: The Mill Store. The email contained a number of great coupons, including a 40% off early bird coupon for Friday morning, good between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Considering the amount of money that we've poured into the basement already, and the fact that Goblin is unemployed, I could use the break on the bookcase. (Really wish I could have gotten it on my desk, which I got 20% off on a few weeks ago. But, I'll take this one too.)

Our musical selection for this post is one of my favorite songs of all time. I definitely feel like one of the Ants Marching by joining this ridiculous tradition of rampant consumerism.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is about alot of things: food, family, parades, football, the beginning of the 'holiday season', and the day before Black Friday (see tomorrow's post). Enjoy the day and take time to remember at least one thing you have to be thankful for.

History of Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Turkey History and Lore

If you're looking for a surprisingly good Thanksgiving movie, check out Dan in Real Life. I'm not a huge Steve Carell fan, so that's saying something. John Mahoney and Diane Wiest are charming as his well-meaning parents, as he struggles to hide the fact that he's fallen in love with his brother (Dan Cook)'s new girlfriend (Juliette Binoche) after years in misery as a widower. Carrel ends up sitting at the kids table to avoid his discomfort during the big dinner. He also loses his driver's license after several stops for speeding during his mesmerization. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Cult of the Mac

Over the weekend my husband and I went to the mall on 'the great pointy-toed shoe hunt' ... for him! My friends from college will never let me forget the torture I put them through roaming from one end of Potomac Mills Mall to the other on 'the great brown pump hunt'. So, I definitely deserved being dragged from one shoe store to another (including a few before we even went to the mall).

As we neared the end of our options in Pheasant Lane Mall I turned around and fixed on a blissful (for me) vision: The Apple Store! I had completely forgotten that an Apple Store had opened up in the mall the day before. This was the answer to one of my minor prayers. Not long after I got my beloved iMac last year, the DVD drive bit the dust. I had to drive 35 minutes to Burlington, MA, to take it to the nearest Apple Store for service. Pheasant Lane Mall is much much closer. Plus, I can now stop in regularly to drool over the accessories to my adopted faith.

Faith? Faith, you say? Well, um, yes.

My husband and I had the amusing conversation after I dragged myself out of the Apple Store. (No, he didn't have to drag me out. I was capable of extricating myself, thank you.) We decided that people who buy Macs end up being like cultists. Most Mac users love their Macs. They are obsessed with all things Mac. Their eyes light up whenever they are exposed to new Mac products. They can barely contain themselves as new product releases approach. Why is this?

In the most recent issue of Macworld (I subscribe), they had two little side-by-side pieces that caught my attention. First, 'nearly 12 percent of U.S. computer-owning households now have a Mac.' That's a 3% increase over 2008. 85% of of Mac households also have a Windows PC.

There are probably two factors contributing to that. First, there could be Windows machines that pre-date the Mac in the household. In my house, I only use Windoze on my work laptop. My old intel machines are now Ubuntu systems. Grendel and Goblin are still under the influence of Windoze. Second, some software is still only available under Windows. I still have a Windoze-VM on my Mac for one program. That will end in February, hopefully, when Intuit finally releases an updated version of Quicken for the Mac.

The other article compared adoption of new OS versions by Mac users verses Windows users. Snow Leopard was released late this summer. Within a month of the product's release, 60% of the visitors to the Macworld website had upgraded to Snow Leopard. While the population is somewhat skewed by the type of Mac user examined, that's still pretty impressive. After more than a year on the market, Vista accounts for around 15% of the market. Then again, Vista suffers from the every-second-release-is-a-dud problem that MS seems to have. Maybe Windows 7 will fair better. After all, it only took Windows XP eleven months to surpass Windows 98 installations (as measured by visits to Still, one additional factor in the quick adoption rate to Snow Leopard verses any Windoze release could be price tag. Snow Leopard costs less than $30. Windows 7 can be found for that much if your a student; but everyone else has to pony up around $100 for an upgrade.

I have purchased Snow Leopard. I plan to spend part of the long holiday weekend installing it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Never under estimate the power of human ... anything

Suppose you thought you had cancer. Suppose you had a son who was in dire straights for money. Suppose you had an insurance policy that was worth quite a bit of money. Would you kill yourself for the insurance money and try to make it look like murder? Why not just wait for the cancer to kill you? Well, maybe you don't want a long gruesome death. Maybe your son needs the money sooner rather than later.

How would you kill yourself so that it wouldn't look like suicide? Maybe a car accident on a mountainous road on a rainy night? No? How about stripping down to your socks, walking into a cemetery, binding your ankles and wrists (the later kind of loosely), writing "FED" on your chest (to make the whole thing look like some redneck hate crime), and then hanging yourself from a tree?

Federal Census worker, Bill Sparkman, should have picked a higher branch to hang himself from. Investigators had several clues that Sparkman's death wasn't a murder. The biggest one was that his knees barely cleared the ground below the branch he was hanging from. If he wanted to live, he just needed to stand up.

Instead of life insurance, maybe Sparkman should have purchased stupidity insurance. (BTW, the autopsy showed that he did not have cancer.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Facebook is for friends, not for investigators, or is it?

A Canadian woman recently lost her disability benefits that she was receiving for major depression when an insurance investigator found pictures of her on Facebook having a happy vacation and a jovial birthday party.

I'm not posting this to side with the woman or the insurance company. I'm posting this to remind folks, be cautious what you post on social networking sites and lock down who can see what. You definitely don't want your boss seeing wild pictures of you partying. Facebook allows you to limit who gets to see what kind of information from you. Familiarize yourself with those features and use them, while still exercising your common sense.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Odd family bonding time

My family has slowly been finishing the basement so that my son can move down there and I can take over his room as an office/craft room. This morning Grendel and Goblin were staining some paneling while I rode my exercise bike. We were all in the same space, which is kind of odd for us. Even our younger cat hung out down there with us. I was having such a nice time with them that I stayed on the bike an extra twenty six minutes.

Since Goblin wanted musical accompaniment while he worked, and I'm used to listening to music while I work out downstairs, I hooked up my iPod to my little iPod boombox. We played it on shuffle, and I kept the right to skip songs that just weren't fitting with my workout. That being said, we had an interesting mix of songs particularly considering that the audience was two late 40's parents and a 16 year old. Some families might not have considered the resulting mix totally family-appropriate.

The first song that I noticed that might not have flown in just every household was the Geto Boys' It's Good to be a Gangsta. Check out the lyrics link and you'll see what I mean.

The next song that might have raised an eyebrow or two was Crystal Methods' Name of the Game. For an electronic song, there are a good deal of lyrics. While the song has been used in a commercial or two, the original version is not G-rated. Check out the lyrics link.

While the lyrics on those two songs were bad enough, Goblin misheard the lyrices of one song and had to ask me if he heard it right. "Did he just say 'I want to do you from behind'?" No, no, no. The song is Leave You Far Behind by Lunatic Calm. Grendel agreed that it did sound like Goblin's interpretation was correct.

This is not a new sharing experience. When Grendel was a preschooler, Goblin drove him to daycare a great deal of the time. Sometimes they listened to kid music, sometimes they listened to grown-up tunes. One day, when the three of us were driving around town we were listening to a Third Eye Blind album. Grendel started singling along to Semi-charmed life. After he sang "She comes round and she goes down on me" I looked at Goblin and said that he couldn't listen to that album in the car with Grendel any more. The last thing I wanted was a call from his daycare teacher expressing her dismay at Grendel's musical repertoire.

So, yeah, that's how we spend quality family time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Don't worry ladies, everything will be all right

Earlier this week, a government task force stated that most women don't need to start having annual mammograms until age 50. And now, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says women don't need a PAP every year. Having a PAP every other year is just fine.

How many women have been saved by these tests? How many women in their 40s would die if their insurance companies stopped covering mammograms before age 50?

While the studies show that most cancers can be caught under the new guidelines, what about those that would be missed until it was too late? Don't let the hoopla regarding the less stress, less false positives, and any inconvenience fool you. These findings are about cost effectiveness not about actual health care. How much are the lives of a few women worth I wonder?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Unhealthy Women's Health piece

I subscribe to Women's Health Magazine. Generally, I find the articles to be useful and interesting. However, they ran a piece on The Little Black Dress this month that disturbed me.

Women's Health is not a fashion magazine. It's supposed to be about helping women make healthy choices in their lives. Does this woman look healthy to you?

I plan on contacting the magazine to share my feelings on this. Such images only encourage young women to strive for an unhealthy weight, doing unhealthy things to get there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

World Toilet Day is no joke

When a friend emailed me that today was World Toilet Day, I thought he was sharing a joke. This is a serious organization attempting to promote sanitation in places where it is scarce. There are millions of people in the world who do not have access to toilets. These people are used to eliminating their wastes in open areas or directly into water supplies that are used for drinking, bathing, and cooking.

While this is a noble cause, it's difficult for me to get behind (er... sorry about that) an organization that wants its supporters to:

At exactly noon on November 19th, gather your family, friends, classmates, colleagues and everyone you know to squat in public for 1 minute in support of World Toilet Day.

This drives home the point "where would you go?" and how people without toilets are forced to go in public places.

Notify the press to attend. Upload a photo of you squatting to encourage others to join.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why parents drink

The following is something my sister-in-law forwarded to me. She felt I might appreciate it after some recent melodrama with Grendel. One of his big arguments with me is that there were worse things he could be doing besides spending five or more hours every day playing video games. Enjoy!

A father passing by his son's bedroom was astonished to see that his bed was nicely made and everything was picked up. Then he saw an Envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed to 'Dad..'

With the worst premonition he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.

Dear Dad:

It is with great regret and sorrow that I'm writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom, and you.

I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice. But I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercing, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am. But it's not only the passion...Dad she's pregnant.

Stacy said that we will be very happy.

She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole
winter. We share a dream of having many more children.

Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn't really hurt anyone.
We'll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with the other people that live
nearby for cocaine and ecstasy.

In the meantime we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Stacy can get better. She deserves it.

Don't worry Dad. I'm 15 and I know how to take care of myself.

Someday I'm sure that we will be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren.

Love, Your Son John

PS. Dad, none of the above is true. I'm over at Tommy's house. I Just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than a Report card That's in my center desk drawer.

I love you.

Call me when it's safe to come home.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'll have a Kamakaze and some aspargus

If you like to drink, but hate the hangover, I hope you like asparagus. Apparently, a compound in asparagus can help the liver metabolize alcohol faster, which may help ward off the effects of a hangover. Hollandaise sauce is optional.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cursing is good for you

According to the journal NeuroReport dropping an F-bomb or two can make sudden injuries hurt a bit less. Test subjects plunged their hands into icy cold water. One group did it while cursing, the other group said a neutral word. The foul mouthed were able to keep their hands in the icy way for 30 percent longer and reported about half the pain as the clean mouthed. Dr Richard Stephens, author of the study, said, "Cursing can trigger the body's fight-or-flight response, which masks pain." So, go ahead and curse if you feel the need when you get that flu shot I mentioned yesterday.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vaccines aren't just for little kids

According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Infections Diseases, adults ages 18 to 26 are more clueless about preventable diseases than older adults. The CDC as a recommended schedule for adult immunizations. Among those important for young adults: heapatitus B, tetanus booster, HPV, meningitis, and flue. Here are some of the measures of cluelessness among young adults:

  • 70% don't know that the flu kills more Americans than any other vaccine-preventable disease each year.
  • 55% don't know that the virus that causes chicken pox also causes shingles
  • 51% don't realize that they need a tetanus booster every 10 years
  • 34% believe that the common cold is preventable via a vaccine (um... nope)

From my own misspent youth I can believe these numbers. When you're young you kind of think that you're invulnerable. Other than my annual gynecological exam, I don't think I saw a doctor on a regular basis until I was in my late twenties. And, vaccines? I thought those were for little kids or people traveling overseas.

My husband developed shingles when he was in his early 30's. It was horribly painful for him.

After missing a week's work for the flu in my early 30's, I started seeking out a flu shot every Fall. Got mine this year in mid-September. I haven't gotten the Swine Flu vaccine. I would if the supplies weren't so screwed up.

I think I'm about due for a tetanus booster, come to think of it.

Suck it up, kids. You're not indestructible.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Support the STANDUP ACT of 2009 (teen driving safety)

My son completed Drivers Education recently. In New Hampshire, he cannot get his license until he has logged 40 hours of supervised driving, 10 hours of which must be night time driving. The earliest that he will complete this requirement is early January. More likely it will be the end of February or even March. Once he gets his license, the state of New Hampshire forbids him from having any non-familial passengers in the car for the first six months. Also, he is not allowed to drive (unsupervised) between the hours of 1AM and 5AM (like I'd let that happen anyway).

These are great restrictions. However, Congressmen Tim Bishop (D-NY), Michael Castle (R-DE), and Chris Van Hollen, Jr. (D-MD) do not believe this is enough, since more than 4,000 teenagers died in auto accidents last year. They introduced H.R. 1895: The STANDUP Act. The following is from the Safe Roads 4 Teens site:

  • States must meet the following requirements under the STANDUP Act:
  • Three stages of licensing – learner’s permit, intermediate stage, and full licensure – should be used
  • Age 16 should be the earliest age for entry into the learner’s permit process
  • Nighttime driving while unsupervised should be restricted during the learner’s permit and intermediate stages, until full licensure at age 18
  • Driving while using communication devices (cell phone calls, texting) should be prohibited at least until full licensure at age 18
  • Unrestricted, full licensure should occur no earlier than age 18
  • Passengers should be restricted – no more than one non-familial passenger under age 21 unless a licensed driver over age 21 is in the vehicle – until full licensure at age 18

  • Any other requirement adopted by the Secretary of Transportation, such as a minimum duration of 6 months and a minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving for a learner’s permit, may be included
  • Compliance with the requirements within the first three years after enactment will make states eligible for incentive grants
  • Three years are provided for states to meet the requirements, after which sanctions are imposed to encourage states to meet the requirements

Regardless of whether this law passes, I like the restrictions for teen drivers and will be adopting them for our son. Sorry, Kiddo, I love you too much to risk your life. I'm sure you'll turn out to be a great driver. But, I need to make sure that you take this privilege and the risk it represents quite seriously.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Book of Genesis meets Fritz the Cat

In the 1960's R. Crumb created the cutting edge x-rated comic Fritz the Cat.

After more than four decades building a subversive reputation, Crumb has entered new territory that seems to ideally match his talents by illustrating The Book of Genesis. Remember folks, the Old Testament is full of lust, incest, rape, knowing and begotting.

The cover of the book carries the warning "ADULT SUPERVISION RECOMMENDED FOR MINORS." If you consider the substance of most Biblical tales, you may wonder why straight up print editions don't carry that warning as well.

So, I gotta wonder how the Fundies will feel if they find their teenagers slobbering over this particular tome.

The best musical selection for this post would be Tom Lehrer's "Smut". Sadly, I couldn't find it or Leave it to YouTube!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"The Blob" coming to an ocean near you

I thought this was a joke when I first read the blurb in The Week. As reported in The National Geographic instances of "sea-mucus blobs" are on the rise. These phenomena are 'clumbs of living and dead organic matter that aggregate into vast, noxious, gooey masses called mucilage.' (Sounds like the ocean needs some decongestant.)

Sitings of these things were recorded all the way back to the 18th century. However, scientists speculate that rising ocean temperatures are to blame for the increased frequency and size of these bodies. (Quick, someone call Steve McQueen and have him bring his CO2 extinguisher again.) Some can 'stretch for more than 100 miles, often near coastlines and beaches, and can be teeming with harmful viruses and bacteria...'

Blobs can gum up the gills or smother sea life. Swimmers who get caught in blobs can develop nasty rashes.

And, yes, there was even a campy theme song from the movie written by Burt Bacharach:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you, Veterans!

This is an especially poignant holiday after the events at Fort Hood last week. Please thank a veteran or soldier for their service.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Move over Sarah Palin

Liz Cheney, former Vice President Dick Cheney's eldest daughter, recently announced the creation of a new conservative group: Keep America Safe. Cheney's group asserts that President Obama should 'stop raising the white flag of surrender to terrorists'. The mission of this group is : provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues. Keep America Safe seeks to influence public policy by encouraging dialogue between American citizens and their elected representatives in order to produce legislation and executive action that enhances the national security of the United States.

Cheney is a former State Department official who has been making the rounds on cable television defending her father's post-VP statements and the Bush administration's policies, while attacking the Obama administration. Some postulate that the organization's conservative platform on national security is a springboard for Cheney's own political aspirations which may come to fruition with a Senate bid in Virginia. Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post has dubbed Cheney a "red state rock star."

Michelle Cottle of The New Republic says, "Liz Cheney is a particularly dangerous combination of sweet-as-sugar looks and savage instincts."

Geez. And we thought Sarah Palin was bad.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Even Baby Einstein rots your toddler's brain?

Loads of parents out there, including some I know, swear by their Baby Einstein DVDs. In 2006, the Boston-based In 2006, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) complained about Disney's use of the word "educational" in the series' marketing materials. When Disney complied and dropped the word, CCFC made rumblings about filing a class action law suit against Disney for misleading parents into buying the DVDs after a research group out of Washington University published a study claiming that infants exposed to the DVDs actually knew 10% fewer words than children not exposed to the DVDs.

CCFC has claimed victory now that Disney is offering purchasers a refund of up to $15.99 per Baby Einstein DVD purchased. However, this is not a new refund. The company has had this refund option in place since the beginning of the product line. Baby Einstein says that they have always stood behind their product with a money-back guarantee.

By the way, the Washington University study didn't target just Baby Einstein DVDs. It encompassed ANY supposedly 'education' vidutainment product aimed at toddlers and infants. So, guess what, the American Academy of Pediatrics had a point. Prolonged exposure to vidutainment for children of any age impedes intellectual growth.

Duh. However, two career families can take heart. Allowing your children to enjoy visual entertainment for limited periods of time (so you can decompress, make dinner, do laundry, etc.) As long as you interact with your children (perhaps sit down with them and read a book) on a regular basis, they probably still have a chance at Harvard.

Couldn't make up my mind for a theme song for this post, so you get two:

Sunday, November 08, 2009

If Supersize Me didn't do it for you

The New York Times recently reported that most prepackaged ground beef and hamburger patties is a mish mash of meat grades from multiple slaughter houses containing heavily treated fatty scraps and trimmings, sometimes tainted with bovine feces. Most meat processors do not even test each batch for E. coli for final packaging and shipping.

Quarter pounder anyone?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Celebrities gagged on Twitter and Facebook?

Apparently, Hollywood is adding clauses to movie contracts regarding social networking (particularly Facebook and Twitter). There are non-disclosure clauses regarding the plots and on-set happenings on major motion pictures now. Just ask Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz.

Come on folks! What else would we want to hear tweeted from celebrities. Certainly not what they had for breakfast.

As an aside, my favorite celebrity to follow on Twitter is Zane Lamprey from FLN's "Three Sheets". The guy is wickedly funny on his show and in his tweets.

BTW, this is a great cover of the 1980's Wham hit:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Shakespeare unearthed ... with drool

I enjoy Shakespeare's work. I've seen virtually every film adaption of his plays. Now, a little produced work is going to be filmed with one of my favorite actors. Gerard Butler has agreed to costar in Coriolanus

Yes, he and co-star Ralph Fiennes will probably die by the end of the film, since it's a tragedy. But, I'll be riveted until they keel over.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Another extension on unemployment ... please???

Looks like the Senate has voted to extend unemployment benefits another 14 weeks beyond the end of the year. New Hampshire's jobless rate (7.2%) means we won't qualify for the 20 week extension (available for states w/8.5% or higher). But, hey, we'll take the 14 weeks.

Hubby is in school full time now, chasing a career as an LPN. He works part time as an LNA. He could work full time and go to school full time. However, it's hard to juggle shifts around the school schedule. Even so, there are few full time positions for LNA's. Most are per diem jobs, like his.

Unemployment is just a bit more than what he makes part time. So, most weeks he gets a pay check and an unemployment check. While neither is much, we'll definitely feel the bite come April when the benefits run out... Unless, they extend the benefits yet again. We're already in record-setting territory on extensions to benefits at this point. I guess we've exceeded all down turns now except for The Great Depression, huh?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Saving the world from zombies, as a pink fuzzy bunny?

Several decades ago, the "choose your own adventure" book was all the rage. The path of the story was decided by the choices you made. It was kind of the Monty Hall of literature. Choose to go up the stairs and your attacked by a three headed monster. Choose to go through a door instead and you happen upon a chest of gold.

I was never really into those books. However, this one has sparked my curiosity sufficiently that I may just have to order Zombocalypse Now from Amazon:

You're a stuffed bunny, and it's the end of the world. Between you and your objective are forty or fifty ­zombies gorging ­themselves on the flesh of the living. If you disguise yourself as one of them and try to sneak past the feeding frenzy, turn to page 183.If you grab a tire iron, flip out and get medieval on their undead asses, turn to page 11. Zombocalypse Now is a comedy/horror ­reimagining of the choose-your-own-ending books you grew up with. You'll be confronted with undead hordes, ­internet ­dating, improper police procedure, and the very real ­danger that you'll lose your grip on reality and wind up stark raving mad. The zombie apocalypse has never been this much fun.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Goodbye Drivers Ed Tuesday (and Thursday)

I can't believe it. Tonight is my son's last drivers' education class. He still needs about 30 hours of supervised driving practice with us before he can apply for his license. However, the time has gone by too quickly.

K is actually a reasonable driver for someone with his lack of experience. Not only is he a pretty smart kid, but we did pick an awesome instructor for him.

The earliest K will probably be able to qualify to take his test will be New Year's Eve day. So, sometime in early 2010 I will age astronomically as my son embarks on the next phase of his independence (and worries the crud out of me while he does it).

Monday, November 02, 2009

We all hate Mondays, right?

It's the Monday after a clock-changing weekend. Also, I'm on the hook to work at least until 5pm tonight. Most of my team is out the door by 4:30. So, in order to be more customer-service oriented we all agreed that we would each take a turn at being available until 5pm.

In my quest to be more positive, there is one thing I am really looking forward to today: my hour long commute each way. Yes, you read that correctly. Since I'm listening to an audiobook that I really like, I love my commute. However, I'm getting close to the end of the book. This is even more bittersweet than usual since I'm on book three of a series of three books. Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instrument series is marketed to teens. However, I have loved them. They're kind of a cross between Harry Potter and Twilight.

Today's theme song is in honor of my 5pm commitment, my messed up internal clock, and for all of you out there who won't be enjoying your commute:

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Back in the saddle again - NaBloPoMo

Since becoming a Facebook addict, my blogging has suffered. At best, I've been posting on the weekends. Since it's National Blog Posting Month (aka, NaBloPoMo) I decided to challenge myself to get back in the saddle and try to post at least once a day for a month like I've done in years past.

Since I love music so much, I've decided to give myself the added task of including an embedded song link with each post. I'll aim for something that fits my post, but it may just fit my very eclectic musical moods.

Song links will (hopefully) be courtesy of

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A future for Sikhs in the U.S. military?

I totally applaud the decision to allow a Sikh to keep his beard, hair, and turban while he serves in the U.S. military. Sadly, the decision only applies to this particular individual and is not a blanket allowance.

Why do we have to be so backwards and hide-bound? Are we that flush in recruits that we can afford to be so dictatorial in so many ways (facial hair, other hair, sexual preferences)?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"...come tumbling down"

It's time to put more stimulus money into our literally crumbling infrastructure. It is amazing to me that a national icon like the San Francisco Bay Bridge can start falling apart before we actually sit up and take notice of this issue. Oddly enough, the bridge recently underwent some repairs. Maybe the workmanship was shoddy? Maybe the contractors were the same ones who worked on The Big Dig?

The bridge will remain closed until the structure can be fully inspected. 280,000 daily commuters are NOT going to be happy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Don't ask; don't tell... Phooey!

Call me a bleeding heart liberal, if you will. However, I am sick to death of the political banter over gays in the military. While I could paraphrase, I'm just going to lift this fabulous bit from the October 23rd issue of my favorite news magazine, The Week:

"...An essay just published in Joint Force Quarterly, a journal published by the National Defense University Press, shoots cannonballs through the argument that gays undermine troop morale and unit cohesion. Among its findings: Australia, Britain, Canada, and Israel, all of which lifted bans on gays in the military, have seen 'no impact' on troop performance, readiness, or cohesion. Did I mention that the essay's author, Col. Om Prakash, works for the secretary of defense and that the article was personally reviewed by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? That's not the only sign of change, said Gabriel Winant in A discharged gay Arabic linguist, Lt. Daniel Choi, was even invited to lecture at West Point recently. In the end, it might be admirals and generals, and not Obama, who put 'don't ask' where it belongs: in the trash can."

Look around folks. American politicians are again showing that the U.S. is far from a world leader on yet another issue. Remember, don't ask them what is right. Tell them!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The next Chinese safety issue: Hummer?!?!

The Hummer line has been sold to a Chinese manufacturing firm. The firm, Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machine Company, has agreed to protect more than 3000 U.S. jobs in the deal. They plan to 'introduce more fuel-efficient models, including electric vehicles.'

While this deal sounds intriguing, especially electric Hummers, I can't help be wonder about safety issues. In the last several years, China has exported dozens of defective products and poisonous consumables to foreign markets. Considering all that can go wrong with a car (witness all the recalls of cars in America already) does the world really want China manufacturing one of the worlds heaviest and potentially deadliest vehicles?

More fodder for our nightmares.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Civil liberties verses public safety

The New Hampshire Department of Safety has ordered police to stop running background checks before returning confiscated firearms to owners. The National Instant Criminal Background Check system is supposed to be used only by federally licensed gun manufacturers, dealers, and importers, to research buyers before selling them firearms.

That's all well and good. However, if a citizen has a run in with police and that citizen is in possession of a firearm, it is in the public's best interest to make sure that that citizen has not done anything since the acquisition of that firearm to possibly revoke the privilege of firearm ownership.

While this may seem like a violation of Civil Liberties, let's consider a different scenario. A police officer pulls you over for speeding. He runs a routine check on your vehicle and on your driving record. He finds out that you have had your licensed revoked or suspended. Therefore you are not allowed to drive your car away from the scene.

THE NICS database tracks whether persons have any of the following disqualifications for having a firearm license according to the FBI NICS index:

1) Persons who are aliens and are illegally or unlawfully in the United States
2) Persons who have renounced their U.S. citizenship
3) Persons who have been adjudicated as a mental defective or have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
4) Persons who have been discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions
5) Persons who are unlawful users of or addicted to any controlled substance
6) Persons who are federally disqualified when a record is not already included in the NCIC or the III.

Items in bold above are things that can change after you initially get a license for a firearm.

Considering how many factors can change, why on Earth would it be incorrect to check the database for someone who has a firearm who has recently garnered the attention of law enforcement?

Considering how many disturbed individuals go on shooting sprees every year, I think it ought to actually BE a requirement to check the database.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Interracial couples still face prejudice

Earlier this month, a Justice of the Peace refused to issue a license to or marry an interracial couple.

The Justice cited the problems children of such unions still face. Really? Tell that to the President. Tell that to Tiger Woods. In fact, the more mixed race couples there are, the higher the acceptance there seems to be of racial differences and mixed race people.

Catch up, Louisiana boy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A mostly 80s workout morning

While not quite as good as yesterday's mix, today's didn't suck. Here's to a mostly 80's workout mix:

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Great workout music

I had another great workout this morning, again I must thank the iPod shuffle and skip gods. I even increased the resistance on my ride TWICE. Forty five minutes of heart pounding joy. had almost all the tunes. I had to substitute Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon for Dirty Little Religion; and I also had to substitute Block Rockin Beats for Leave Home by the Chemical Brothers. But, you'll definitely get the idea.

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Bring on the mushrooms to fight breast cancer

In March, the International Journal of Cancer published a study stating that eating mushrooms daily could reduce breast cancer risk by 64 percent.

Since October is Breats Cancer Awareness Month, I had to share. Besides I absolutely LOVE mushrooms! Now I have an excuse to eat more.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Trying to be a more positive person

One of the reasons that I went of my vacation to Star Island was to spend some time alone to begin some deep personal rewiring. Most of my life I've been plagued by negativism. I know where it comes from (Yes, Dr Freud, it does have a lot to do with my relationship with my late mother.) However, that's no excuse for living with a aspect of your personality that you are not proud of.

Star Island helped me a lot. Unfortunately, I came back to a home and work life full of turmoil. I cannot go into the details of either, out of respect for my family on the home front, and due to confidentiality agreements on the professional side. As a result, most of the foundations I laid on Star for my own personal reworking were like fresh shoots in a garden that were trampled on by a marching band wearing combat boots. In the last month I've started seeing a psychologist in an attempt to start replanting that garden.

I've been doing a lot of reading on relationships and other self-helpish topics. Yesterday I was chatting with some friends at work about my attempt to be less negative. There was a lot of laughter since I have quite the reputation for cynicism. One friend said that there was nothing wrong with my attitude. Another quietly encouraged me to read Daniel Wallace's Yes Man (which he said is way better than the movie made of it). So, on the way home I picked the book up and started it this morning.

I've been a bit behind on my blog reading lately. So this morning I decided to try to catch up a bit. Imagine my amusement when I encountered a post on my good friend Dr Momentum's blog about strangers telling you to smile.

I do see this as connected to my starting to read "Yes Man", if only in a somewhat tangential way. In the one case there are strangers telling you to smile; in the other a stranger told Danny Wallace to say 'yes' more often. While I do not like strangers telling me to smile, or saying something cutesy like "It can't be that bad." when they see me walking around with a frown on my face, I really do not like the presumption or intrusion into my emotional frame of mind by a complete stranger.

On the other hand, I have quite the reputation amongst my work friends for acting like a goof in front of complete strangers in an attempt to engage them or to get them to grin. (OK, I will do this in front of people I know as well, but it only embarasses my friends when I do it in front of people we don't know.)

So, while I know that there is way more negativity in my personality than I would like, I am not all about the negative. Maybe I'm a clown with a dark side?

In any event there's more darkness in me than I'm content to continue with. No one's perfect and we are all a 'work in progress' whether we realize it or not. I'm just a little more focused on 'the work' right now.

Maybe I'll write a review of "Yes Man" when I finish and let you all know if I found any personally inspiring wisdom within.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Outting ourselves

While I'm not a prolific blogger these days, I do cherish my blog friends. While I'm not keeping my real world identity absolutely under wraps (photo links give some of my identity away), I don't want to publicize my name on this blog.

If anyone wants to connect with me over on Facebook, or via email, you can leave your contact information in a comment here. The comments on this blog are moderated. I have to approve them before they get published to the blog. If your contact information is in your comment, I will note it for my private usage and then delete the comment.

Hope to see some of you in other venues! But, I will continue to post here.

I love Fall, so I hope to start posting some photos soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Neglectful blog mom

Oh, my poor neglected blog. I am so sorry I haven't paid attention to you these last few weeks. I do still love you, really. You are the companion that I choose for my long term commitment. Sadly, I must admit that I've been spending time with a sexier more shallow attraction (FB). He isn't as engaging as you. However, he is a bit younger. And, he can do things that you just can't do. I hope you will hang in there with me while I live out this mid-life crisis. I'm sure all his bells and whistles will eventually bore me and I'll yearn for a deeper and more meaningful relationship, like the one I've shared with you.

Please reserve a place for me in your heart, and your bookmarks. :D

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Where will you be at 09:09:09 on 09/09/09?

OK. I am a complete numbers wienie. I am all aflutter looking forward to 09:09:09 tomorrow (that's 09/09/09 on the calendar). This doesn't happen very often. Actually, I ignored last year's 08/08/08 celebration. I will not miss out on the next three year's numeric coolnesses (10:10:10 on 10/10/10, 11:11:11 on 11/11/11, 12:12:12 on 12/12/12), but after that we have to wait another 89 years for synchronous date and time phenomenon.

Why is 09/09/09 so special?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Beware the Mad Scientists

Playing around with and went down a thematic road:

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The yin and yang of Texas justice

Yesterday I heard this story on the radio about the Texas policy of compensating the wrongly incarcerated $80,000 for every year they spent behind bars, in addition to annuity payments and free tuition at public colleges.

I think this is a wonderful policy. Considering the Texas reputation for death sentences and "decisive" justice, it's very interesting that when they make a correctable mistake (too bad if they wrongly kill you) they own up to it and try to make up for it in some way.

According to the Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2005 Texas has more correctional facilities than any other state. It's total prison population was exceeded only by California. And, oddly enough, it's number of inmates per 100k population was only exceeded by Delaware. Delaware?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Farewell Mr Kennedy

For me, Edward Kennedy was one of the last of the old guard. Early in his career he suffered a number of personal missteps that kept him from shining in public memory as brightly as his brothers John and Robert. Be that as it may, Ted gave his all to public service and did a lot of good.

Teddy, you will be missed