Saturday, August 31, 2013

Just got reprimanded by a TBM "friend" on Facebook...

Because I posted this...

And I wrote that the Book of Mormon musical is coming to San Antonio and maybe it was time Bill and I saw it.  I love the music... I love comedy... and my husband is an exMormon whose family was pretty much ruined by Mormonism.  That doesn't mean I necessarily think that Mormonism ruins all families.  But I have seen it fuck up my husband's family.

Why the hell shouldn't I see it?  Why shouldn't Bill see it?  Considering what happened to his family, I think he is owed a laugh or two at Mormonism's expense.  Mormonism was not the sole cause of his family's disintegration, but it made an awfully nice tool.  And it hurts to see his formerly bright daughter so indoctrinated and entrenched in her church that she thinks her father is going to outer darkness for "rejecting the one true church".

This guy wrote...  "I would highly recommend not seeing this play or supporting any production that makes money by poking fun a religious beliefs...."

Dude... there is no such thing as bad publicity. And some of the more enlightened LDS folk have recognized that they can spin the musical so that it's a good thing. I know of at least one person who joined the church because she saw this show. That won't be happening to me, of course, but there's no reason to assume that seeing the BOM show is going to turn off people. And the fact that it's a hit show pretty much means that even if I don't go see it, it's still going to be running for years. Sorry.

For his part, this guy's scolding pretty much talked Bill into buying tickets. He said a Sunday performance would be fine, since the show was relevant to his apostate tendencies. And he just wouldn't brew beer that day. When I met Bill, he was LDS. Now he's a smartass!

So I got us a couple of good seats for the September 29th show at 7:30pm. It's the last show until they go to Austin. Should be lots of fun! I look forward to writing about it on my travel blog.

I like to support the arts. And I like to laugh. This should be a winning combination... me, Bill, and lots of snark. I can't wait.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Update on Shannon Guess Richardson...

A couple of months ago, I posted about Shannon Guess Richardson, a bit part actress who tried to frame her soon-to-be-ex husband by mailing ricin tainted letters to President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  In that post, I wrote that I thought Shannon Guess Richardson was a cluster B.  Now that new information is coming out, I'm pretty certain she's a cluster B.

Richardson was pregnant when she was arrested, but gave birth to her son four months early.  There was a "custody battle" and the boy's father was granted temporary custody of the baby, named Brody.  Richardson is the mother of six sons from different relationships.  She's just 35 years old and her oldest son is 19.  It's hard to know what caused her to go into labor so early.  Was it because of the stresses of jail life?  Was it because she had handled ricin?  Was it because she's 35 and has had a bunch of kids?  It's hard to tell.  Sadly, the boy faces a lot of health challenges due to his early arrival.

Today, I read an article about Richardson's upcoming court dates and noticed that as she got out of the police car, she actually offered a half smile/smirk at the camera.  She appears to still be very concerned with her image.  She also appears to have aged ten years and lost some weight.  Her elbows look very bony under the drab jail jumpsuit she's wearing.

It seems to me that if I were a woman who had just given birth to a very premature baby and was facing ten years in the slammer, I would be anything but noticing the paparazzi.  Click this link and check out the photo.  I watched the video it was captured from and the smile is just for an instant.  But it's definitely there.  This is not a woman who thinks she's seriously messed things up for herself and her children.

I hate to sound like Nancy Grace, but I am convinced this woman is not playing with a full deck.  Other people notice it too, but that doesn't stop guys from noticing her.  One commenter said Richardson was crazy, but he'd still "hit it and quit it", then change his phone number and address.  Are most men really this dumb?  What is it about women like Jodi Arias and Shannon Richardson that draw men in like moths to a flame?  They are batshit crazy and dangerous, not just to the men they seduce, but to innocent children.  And yet so many men don't heed the signs and determine they want to "tap that", risks be damned.

It's at times like these I am grateful my husband's brain is bigger than his libido.


Cinnamon repels ants and other interesting factoids...

The other day, I noticed we had new guests in our home.  There were ants crawling all over the counters in the kitchen.  So I went to the trusty Internet and searched for a solution.  Turns out, ants hate a lot of things.  They don't like chili powder, baby powder, cloves, or cinnamon.  I spied a large container of cinnamon that we must have bought when we lived in Georgia less than three years ago.  I sprinkled some on the counters and sure enough, the ants disappeared.  Supposedly, you can also find where they're coming into the house and spread some Vaseline.  That will also stop them.  I don't know how the ants are coming into this house; I suspect they come in somehow behind the oven/stove.  Since I am not the owner of the range, I'm not going to go exploring.

The electric company sent over a guy yesterday who took a new reading of our meter.  Later, Bill got an email from them letting us know that they had misread our meter and would be issuing a credit.  Our bill is now -$147.

I really think that after we've lived here a year, we'll be packing up and moving again.  I don't see myself staying here much longer than that.  For one thing, if Bill doesn't find a comparable job, we'll need to downgrade.  For another thing, I am not wild about this house or its managers.  If we do move in a year, it will not be the shortest time between moves we've ever had.  In January 2007, we moved to a new home, then moved again in September of that same year.  I don't like the idea of moving, but even if we stay in San Antonio, I think I'd rather live on the other side of the city, on the way to Hill Country.

Something tells me we probably will stick around San Antonio... though if we have to move again, I'd be just as happy to go somewhere with less intense heat in the summer... like Germany or the Pacific Northwest.  But we'll see...   I think it'll be okay.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

No, we're NOT on a first name basis...

Proper business etiquette seems to be lacking these days.

Our new property managers, who were not ones that I wanted, but were foisted on us because Housing 1 Source decided to get out of the property management business and didn't bother to tell us, are sending us a bunch of stuff we have to sign and read.  Yesterday, they sent me an email about ACH payments, which I then had to forward to Bill, because he's the one who handles that.  Why they were emailing me instead of him is beyond me, especially since Bill had already spoken to them about it and thought he had it all set up.

But then today, I got another email, this time with a "new tenant handbook" and some form we have to send them.  In the email, the property manager called me by my given first name instead of the name I prefer.  I have never met this woman before, so of course she didn't know I go by a nickname.  For that reason, she shouldn't have been addressing me by my first name at all.

I know it sounds snotty, but that's really a pet peeve of mine.  I hate it when people I'm doing business with presume to address me as anything but Mrs.  The reason for that is two-fold.  First off, I really hate being called by my formal first name.  It's not that I think the name is bad (property manager happens to share my first name), but because it doesn't suit me and brings back a lot of bad memories of being yelled at.  My nickname is what people call me.  It suits me.  If she knew me, she'd understand that.  But she doesn't, so she made a mistake.  It's a mistake she could have avoided if she had called me by my title instead.

Secondly, I think it's very rude to call adults you don't know by their first name unless that is what they've asked you to call them.  I actually prefer to be called by my nickname and if you call me Mrs., I will tell you that.  But you shouldn't presume to call me by my first name if I'm doing business with you.  It's just poor form.

When I was a kid, I lived in a rural community where my neighbors were all called by their first names.  Being a kid, I figured that's how it was and called my best friend's parents by their first names.  They were pretty formal people and I probably really offended them.  As I got older, I started to realize why they would feel like I was being disrespectful.  They never corrected me, but as I matured, I started calling them Mr. and Mrs.

One thing that annoys me even more than people who call me by my first name, though, are people who call me "honey", "sweetie", or "darling" when I'm trying to do business with them.  I know it's a southern thing and, if it's someone obviously older than I am, I am willing to let it slide.  But when it's a waitress or a receptionist or something, especially if she's really young, it really pisses me off.  Those kinds of pet names by strangers are demeaning.  If you don't know me personally, how can you know if I'm sweet or not?  If your insistence on calling me "sweetie" makes my teeth grind, it's a fair bet I'm not all that sweet.  ;-)

I think it's sad when I have to educate people on the proper way to address people with whom they are doing business.  I don't like to have to do it and I know they don't like to have to hear it.  But if I don't say something, they end up calling me by a name I can't stand and that puts my teeth in jeopardy.  Seems to me knowing not to call strangers by pet names or their first name is just a no-brainer that is based on respect and good manners.

On a related note, I have a feeling I'm going to hate moving from this house.  The tenant handbook has all the shit we are expected to do... which was not done for us before we moved in.

/end rant

Babies everywhere...

A whole bunch of my friends and several family members are pregnant or just had a baby.  One woman I know from my years on a second wives/stepmoms Web site is 43 years old and about to have her fifth child sometime between now and a few weeks from now.  I read on Facebook that her blood pressure spiked a lot last night, so she's in the hospital.  I know she had a few weeks to go and apparently will be stuck in the hospital until her son is born.  I think that would drive me nuts.  Edited to add, the baby's birth is now underway.  He will be born today or tomorrow.

I have another friend that had a baby a few days ago.  It took her and her husband a couple of days to decide on a name.  Names are very important.  Makes me wonder, though, what they called their little bundle for the couple of days they were deciding.

One of my cousins' daughters is pregnant with her second baby.  When this girl was growing up, I didn't know her because my cousin and his wife were Jehovah's Witnesses and didn't celebrate holidays.  We used to see the family every Thanksgiving, but since they didn't celebrate Thanksgiving, they were never at the reunions.  I suspect that the fact that they had five kids and lived in Alaska or Texas the whole time, it was a financial hardship for them to come to Virginia.  I remember meeting these kids for the first time in 2000, when the oldest kid was 16.  They've since left the JWs and are actually pretty awesome people.  They live not too far from us and my cousin's wife is having a baby shower for her daughter.  That same daughter and her older sister are throwing a birthday party for their mom!  Both mom and sisters asked me for my address so they can send us invitations!  I wonder if they know about each others' shindigs...

I have another cousin who had a baby in June and just found out her dad, my uncle, has leukemia.  Her mother has Alzheimer's Disease.  She is posting photos of them holding her baby.  Sadly, I have doubts that they will get to watch the little girl grow up.  That's what makes these photos even more precious.

I have a friend in Scotland who is pregnant with her fifth child.  I met her and her husband in 1994, when we all worked at Camp Paddy Run.  Hubby is from Belfast, while mom is from Stafford, Virginia.  In 1997, we traveled through several European countries together.  They got married and now have three sons and a daughter and one on the way.  Mom earned a PhD and, I think, is now attending medical school.  Talk about a busy lifestyle!

I always wanted to have a baby, but looking at all these people I know who are having kids makes me think I'm good with my current lifestyle.  The prospect of having a kid at 41 or 42 is kind of scary.  I imagine if I did get pregnant, it would be considered "high risk" because of my age.  Given how much I dislike doctor's visits, I doubt I would enjoy the making of a baby knotty.  Also, any baby of mine would probably be more obnoxious than the world could stand...  On the other hand, the baby would also be Bill's, and he has a remarkably nice personality.  So you never know... but it's unlikely we'll ever know.

It's fun to look at all the baby photos, though, and read all the stories from my friends and family members who are becoming parents.  I wish them luck with it.  This world gets more complicated and scarier every day.   

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Today's post is inspired by my #1 reader and commenter Alexis, who has the opportunity to give a commencement speech next year.  Alexis is trying to decide whether or not she wants to accept an invitation to speak at her alma mater.  It is a big honor to have people listen to you, no matter the medium.  Whether they are reading what you write, listening to you speak, or giving you their attention during a music recital, it's a privilege to have an audience.

I realize I'm now just an overeducated housewife, but I did earn dual minors in speech and communications in college.  I actually took my very first speech class in high school during the 1989-90 school year.  I was then a 17 year old senior and my teacher, Mr. Raynes, also taught drama.  Mr. Raynes died some time ago.  I think he had a heart attack.  He was a very good teacher, though... quite demanding, yet fair.  In fact, I think his speech class was tougher and frankly more enjoyable than most of the speech classes I took in college.

For awhile, I was writing speeches every week, which was hard yet exciting work.  I was surprised by how much I liked Mr. Raynes' class, especially given how many people hate public speaking.  I kind of got a rush out of it and enjoyed the challenge of coming up with compelling subjects every week, arguing both sides of an issue, and writing speeches that were long enough... or short enough, as the case might be.

My speech class in high school became surprisingly close-knit.  It wasn't a very big class and the students who took it were pretty diverse in terms of their ages, achievements, and personal goals.  Indeed, there were kids from all four classes in attendance.  From my own class, the salutatorian and #3 in my class both attended, as did another member of the top ten.  #2 and #3 are both now lawyers.  A freshman who was later valedictorian of her class and went on to attend Princeton University was also in the class.  The guy who was voted class clown was in my speech class, as was one of his friends, a weird guy who was very smart and entertaining, but a tad on the whacked side.  His father was a well-known podiatrist who later ended up having serious legal issues that pretty much ran him out of town.  There was also a young woman in the class who was very intelligent, but a bit of a social pariah.  I remember her giving several speeches about a perpetual motion machine she was trying to invent.  I also remember her having some trouble with authority.

There were a few other folks in that class who weren't particularly high achievers.  I was definitely among that group, though I'm sure some of my classmates would describe me as "weird", too.  In fact, the whacked out guy used to call me "Psycho".  For some reason, I took it as a badge of honor.

On my desk, there is a coffee mug a freshman girl from that speech class, who befriended me for some reason, gave me for my 18th birthday, which happened four days after I got my high school diploma.  I don't know why I've kept it for all these years.  I haven't seen or spoken to her since high school and it's basically a mug that you'd likely only use on your birthday, since it says "Happy Birthday" on it.  I bet she'd be very surprised I still have that mug 23 years later.  I use it to hold pens and pencils and remember how much fun I had in speech class all those years ago.  I learned a lot about my classmates and, in a weird way, it was kind of like my own Breakfast Club experience.

Today I thought I'd list a few things I learned in that speech class and elsewhere.

Rule #1: Be authentic.

Have you ever heard someone get up and talk about some subject they don't give a shit about?  I have.  At my high school graduation, the valedictorian, a guy who eventually went to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, gave a speech that was full of a lot of trite bullshit.  Now, I don't mean to say that this guy chose a poor topic.  What he said did make sense.  For instance, I remember him advising us not to drive drunk.  That's good advice.  What made his speech boring and mostly forgettable was the fact that he lacked authenticity and conviction.  He was saying the right things, but there was no passion, personality, or actual experience behind what he said.  He came off as fake and completely uninspiring.  Had he been in Mr. Raynes' speech class, he would have gotten quite a critical tongue lashing for that speech.  After all, we all had to sit out in the sun and listen to him talk for about ten minutes about subjects that didn't seem to mean much to him.

Some time ago, I was on YouTube and ran across a PSA O.J. Simpson did for the American Seat Belt Council.  It's a prime example of a guy delivering advice he doesn't really believe.  In that seatbelt PSA, O.J. Simpson was talking out of his ass, big time.  There he stood in a 70s era tux, telling viewers that he knew they didn't like being "tied down", but they should wear their seatbelts anyway.  His advice comes off as hollow and unbelievable, even though what he said made sense.  I'm sure he made bank or got street cred for making that PSA, but I doubt it saved many lives.

I'm certain O.J. is "tied down in one spot" fairly frequently these days...

Rule #2: Mind the time.

Pay close attention to the amount of time you've been allotted.  Listening is hard work; so is planning a ceremony to run within a certain amount of time.  Practice your speech until you have it at just the right length and have cut out all extraneous bullshit.  Be especially careful not to go over your allotted time.  Otherwise, you run the risk of annoying people.  Most folks have their limits on how long they can focus, anyway.  For a prime lesson on this, check out Lyle Lovett's epic song, "Church".  He illustrates this point brilliantly.

My mother, who was a church organist for many years, really gets this song...

Rule #3: Don't read.

There's nothing more boring than listening to someone read a speech.  Besides the stilted way it tends to sound, when you read, you run the risk of not maintaining eye contact with the audience.  Unless you have  a TelePrompter, you usually have to look down to read, which means your audience will be looking at the top of your head instead of your face.  A lot of communication is non-verbal and your facial expressions are a big part of that.

In Mr. Raynes' class, I learned to make outlines of what I wanted to say.  I would put single words or short phrases that would serve as reminders of points I wanted to make.  And then I would practice in front of a mirror until I had the speech nice and tight.  I'd take the notes up to the lectern with me and, if I needed a prompt, would glance down at it.  It was on one side of a 3x5 index card, so there was no temptation to write too much.  The good thing about having very brief notes is that you're less likely to panic if you miss saying something.  One or two words in an outline, designed to remind you of what you mean to say in a natural way is all you need.  Look down very briefly, take a breath, and speak.  Don't read to your audience.

Listening to OJ's PSA, I realize he's also very likely reading from a TelePrompter, which makes his PSA even more ridiculous and weird... 

Rule #4: Don't over rehearse or memorize.

When I was in grad school, I once watched a classmate give a speech that she had obviously memorized word for word.  I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if, during her speech, she somehow got distracted by something and lost her place.  I mentioned to her that it seemed like maybe she had rehearsed a bit too much.  She didn't appreciate that observation, but I made it with the intention of pointing out that she was coming off stilted and unnatural and I worried that she would lose her place, which could have spelled major embarrassment.

Rule #5: Say what you mean.  Mean what you say.

One time, in Mr. Raynes' class, I made a huge error and misspoke in a way that would have been a disaster had I been speaking to a group other than those in my class.  I was talking about euthanasia and how I felt it should be a legal option for those who have an illness or disability that made their life unbearable.  Somehow, I made a statement that made it sound like I wanted to exterminate sick and disabled people.  When Mr. Raynes pointed it out to me and said I sounded like Adolf Hitler, I was completely mortified.  Of course that wasn't what I meant... but it sure was what came out.  Fortunately, I wasn't running for public office or acting as a spokesperson because what I carelessly said could have easily ruined my career.  In the 24 years since I made that mistake, I have never forgotten it.

At the same time, never apologize for what you say.  Don't start a speech with an apology.  Let your audience determine whether or not you should be sorry.  Say what you have to say and try to let the chips fall where they may.

Rule #6: Don't make up new words or phrases.

Again, in grad school, I once had the privilege of seeing a colleague give a fantastic presentation on sexually transmitted infections.  Her speech was passionate and she spoke with conviction.  I listened to every word, coupled with the very graphic photos she had brought to show us what could happen if we weren't careful about sharing sexual intimacy with others.  And then, instead of saying the word "taken", she said "tooken".  It was a word that she had used in a slangy way-- one that I heard often heard said in that area.  Everybody knew what she meant, but it still really detracted from her speech.  I pointed it out to her.  Later, I explained that I hoped I hadn't embarrassed her by pointing that out, but I thought she had given a stellar presentation and I hated to see it needlessly marred by her use of a non-word like "tooken".  It was a very simple fix-- just to remember to say "taken" instead of "tooken"-- and it would leave her audience with a better impression.  She thanked me for telling her.

I also made the same mistake when I used a oxymoronic phrase in a speech that didn't actually make sense.  Beware of non-sequiturs, too.  Use solid facts and figures when you give examples.  Don't just pull things out of your ass... literally or figuratively.

Rule #7: Insurance is a good idea.

This actually has little to do with giving conventional speeches, but I did still learn this valuable lesson in Mr. Raynes' course.  During that class, we had to make a video.  We used Mr. Raynes' CamCorder, which was a pretty high dollar, sophisticated piece of equipment in 1990.  Somehow, the camera got dropped while we were filming and was ruined.  Fortunately, Mr. Raynes had insured it and it was replaced free of charge.  *Whew!*

Rule #8: Appreciate your audience.

I don't know that you always have to specifically say "thank you" to your audience.  After all, if you say something that means anything to them, they should probably be thanking you.  Just remember, listening is hard work and having people listen to you is an honor.  Appreciate your audience for hearing you.  Don't waste their time.  Respect them for respecting you enough to sit still and listen.

So... those are my eight rules for public speaking, along with a little walk down memory lane.  Thanks for reading.    

There's an "I hate beagles" group on Facebook...

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I am the proud mama to two overindulged hounds.  I have so far rescued five dogs with at least a little beagle in them, though I think only a couple of them have been all beagle.  I know they're loud and can be annoying.  But they're also sweet and make good company.

These are my current hounds, Zane and Arran...

Today, I became aware of a "hate group" on Facebook called I Hate Beagles.  Personally, I think it's a pretty stupid group.  But, just as I felt the people who hate the troops deserve to have their say, I think the beagle hating folks deserve a group if they want to have one.  Just as I was against joining the "Shut Down the Fuck the Troops Page" cause, I think people who want to express their hatred of hounds have the right to do so.  It's all about free speech, people.  This is still America.

Personally, I think anyone who hates beagles has no soul.  But I could be wrong about that.  There must a be a reason why these people feel the way they do... and frankly, they have the right to their opinions, even if I think they are morons for feeling that way.  Of course, I would probably happily join a "I Hate Mushrooms" group because I do hate them with a passion.  Other people who love mushrooms would never understand my hatred of most things fungus.  But hey, if I hate mushrooms, don't I have the right to say so?  And can't other people join in if they want?

A few years ago, I actually wrote an article about how I hate mushrooms.  Actually, in my case, it's a full-blown phobia.  I posted it on what was then Associated Content and it got a lot of hits and made me some money.  I also got a lot of emails and comments from other people who share my "little problem".  I suppose there are people out there who hate beagles because they have a phobia... or because they think beagles are too loud, or stink, or are otherwise a pain in their asses.  It's not my place to judge them for that, I guess... As long as they stay away from me and my dogs, I can live and let live.

Yeah, hatred can be ugly and uncomfortable.  A lot of people don't like to talk about hatred.  But it does exist and there's often a reason for it.  I think it's better to talk about it than suppress it.  You may never get past your hatred of something... but, hey, if you express how you feel, someone or something might help you change your mind.  If you never acknowledge or express how you feel, how do you process it or even have a prayer of moving past it?  As Dr. Phil says, "You can't change what you don't acknowledge."  Right?

One of my Facebook friends actually ripped off a photo of one of the group members, who happens to be hugely pregnant right now and has an open Facebook page that shows her in a sports bra.  Her husband has his arms around her and they look like they are in love, even though she has expressed such vitriol for my favorite dogs.  My friend referred to her as a "Fat Cow" who hates beagles.  My immediate thought was that it's a shame the woman was reproducing.  But then reason took over and I realized the woman has a right to her opinion.  And I have a right to mine.

I won't bother reporting this group for its "hate speech".  However, I think others have reported them.  And I think the ones who made the report should probably find something more productive to do with their time.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

There are so many things I could blog about today...

There's the fact that Arran, who sleeps with me, Bill, and Zane, has a mysterious issue with his butt that rears its ugly head sometimes.  This issue causes him to poop while he sleeps.  Thankfully, it doesn't happen often and it's always one well-formed little nugget or two.  But this morning, it happened and I apparently rolled on it.

Then there's the fact that I'm watching Dr. Phil this morning and there's a yucky guy on there who tricked his wife into getting pregnant... not once, but THREE times.  She didn't want to have more than the one son she had prior to the marriage.  Her husband took steps to overrule her wishes and now they have three more sons.  And her husband, who is not very attractive to me, apparently thinks it's a joke.  He has a beautiful wife and he has been really disrespectful to her.  She apparently is a very deep sleeper and he has been having sex with her while she sleeps...  That would never work on me, since I am not a deep sleeper.  Watching him sitting there smirking is disgusting.  He doesn't understand that he totally violated her.  On a related note, Dr. Phil has got to be one of the most condescending jerks on TV.

Last night, I felt like watching an old episode of Mork & Mindy, the show that put comedian Robin Williams on the map...

This episode features Raquel Welch, who was about 38 or 39 at the time.  You'd never see anything like this nowadays.  It's very much a late 70s early 80s relic.  I am still struck by how sexy Raquel was. From the way that she looks to the way she moves.  Even today, she's almost 73 and still looks like a sex symbol.  This show was pretty amazing anyway, though, because Robin Williams managed to sneak a lot of stuff past the censors.  A lot of his double entendres went over my head when I saw this as a kid, but I totally get them now.

The dogs just had a shit fit over a squirrel that climbed a telephone pole outside our fence.  It took a good twenty minutes for me to get them to calm down and come inside.  I think we all miss the country.

We got our security deposit back yesterday, so at least that part of the move is finally done.  I also posted a review of our movers on Angie's List.  I tell you what, denying our $648 claim is likely to be very costly for them.  

The weather is cooling off a bit.  We had rain yesterday and it's cloudy today, so it looks like fall may be on its way.

Hey Lawfrog...

Just had my first taste of Bill Miller BBQ tonight.  Bill brought home some chicken with pinto beans, Spanish rice, mashed potatoes with gravy, and bread.  It was quite tasty.  Will have to try the brisket sometime soon.  Curious about the fried chicken, too...

Obviously, I love fattening food.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My dentist sent me a letter...

This is the first time this has ever happened.  It was basically a generic thank you letter for using their practice and included a $50 gift card I can give to friends or family members who are new patients.  Unfortunately, I can't give it to my mother-in-law, because she wouldn't be a new patient, even though she really could use the visit and the money off the expensive denture relining procedure.  Maybe I should send them a letter pointing out that as I am very new in town and don't know many people yet, they should make the gift card less restrictive so I can use it to coerce/reward my mother-in-law for making the referral.

Anyway, the dentist hand wrote a note next to her signature saying that she hoped to trade restaurant suggestions with me.  I think I'm going to like her.  Hopefully, if I ever need a doctor, I will find one who is similarly likable.  Of course, San Antonio is a big medical town, so I'm sure there are doctors of every stripe around here.

ETA... I just sent an email to the dentist's office, letting them know they should make sure they got my address right and suggesting that they let people give those gift cards to those who make referrals, too.  That's my good deed of the day.   Of course, now that I've done that, I can't find the card.  I think I gave it to Bill and told him to give it to someone who's looking for a new dentist.  He sees more people than I do.

Yesterday, I got really bored and ended up going swimming/wading in our shallow pool.  Bill joined me, then we got out of the pool and Bill made some very potent margaritas.  While I was enjoying his expertly prepared "knotty-sized" margaritas, I watched some funny old films that were posted on Facebook.  Have a look...

Ah... the good old days!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Terrible infomercials...

Just stumbled across this on YouTube.  Wonder if Bill would let me have a Tiddy Bear...  I think I'd like a Kush.

Wow... The golf club that lets you pee while out on the course is hilarious.  So is the product that helps you wipe your ass... and the wearable towel.

Talked to my sister last night...

One of my sisters had called me the other day and left a message.  I called her back yesterday.  She wanted to know how we were doing and if we are planning to go to Virginia for Thanksgiving.  I said I doubted we'd be going to Virginia because we're still trying to figure out what our budget is.  And, though I didn't mention it, I also don't really want to go.  Then she said she didn't think Mom expected us to be there.  I haven't told her yet... I guess if it comes up the next time I talk to my mom, I will let her know.

Then she wanted to know if we had another trip planned.  I said no... I can't do any trip planning until I know how much money we have.  I would like to go to Ireland or France next year.  I can't start planning until I know when Bill will retire and what we can afford.

My sister then started telling me about her real estate adventures.  She lives in the DC area and owns two condos.  She bought one in the early 90s and lived in it for many years.  Then she bought another one in 2006.  It was built in a brand new building and was very tiny, but luxurious.  But she never really liked living there and ended up renting it out.  She got tired of being a landlady and decided to sell it.  Originally, she had asked a friend to help her list it, but then another guy offered his services and was apparently prepared to help her make more money.  So she was put in the difficult position of having to fire her friend... a guy who had once been a boyfriend.  I think that's a valuable reminder not to do business with people you've shared a bed with.  In any case, it looks like selling her luxury condo will make her some decent money.  She made the whole thing seem pretty complicated, though.

We had a nice chat.  This sister and I have had our fair share of dramas, but she finally learned to respect me somewhat when Bill and I left her stranded at my parents' house after she threw a temper tantrum.  She had gotten a ride with us and was acting like a nightmare-- literally screaming at me like a toddler.  I decided I didn't want to spend four hours in the car with her screaming like that, so we left her.  She took a bus home.  Since then, she has mostly treated me with more respect.  It's the sister closer to me in age who still needs a reminder that I'm not 12 anymore.

I just posted on my travel blog about my adventures at HEB...  I think it might be time to investigate online grocery shopping.  I really hate grocery stores that try to be Wal-Mart.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nothing like getting your car serviced, and...

The other day, Bill made an appointment to get my Mini serviced.  Originally, I was going to take it in, but we determined it would be too much of a pain in the butt for me to take it in.  Bill, being the very swell guy he is, decided he'd get it serviced today instead.  So he got up early and took my car to the local Mini dealer.  It was overdue for many services and got a big overhaul.

Got the oil changed, brake fluid flushed, filters replaced, and a good washing... I'm sure there was more done to it, but I don't remember the list of things Bill rattled off to me.  I was just glad I wasn't the one dealing with it.  Bill later said the dealership is hard to find, so it's probably a blessing I didn't go during the work week.

Anyway, the car runs great now... but about three minutes after he got it back, he got on Interstate 35 and apparently got too close to a gravel truck.  A rock hit my windshield and cracked it, leaving a nice starburst.  So now we've got to have Safelite come out and fix it.  An added bonus is that my windshield wipers will get replaced.

It's always amazing to me what the Mini technicians know, too, just by plugging in the key fob.  The guy knew we bought the car in Germany and it doesn't get driven often enough.  It'll be paid off in a few months and still has less than 17,000 miles on it.  We did take it on our date last night, though, and Bill got a thrill.  I dropped the top because the temperature finally got comfortable enough to go topless.  I love having a convertible.

In other news, the electric company is sending someone to test our meters and we will have someone check our thermostat.  We'll get to the bottom of why our first electric bill was so freakin' high.

Friday, August 23, 2013

"It's the plumber. I've come to fix the sink."

When I was little, I loved watching The Electric Company.  For you whippersnappers who weren't around in the 70s and 80s, The Electric Company was an educational variety show that aired on PBS.  Some big name talent was involved in the show.  Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and Irene Cara were all cast members.  The show featured hilarious songs, skits, and cartoons centered around learning how to read.

I have always been a reader and am very musical, so the show really appealed to me, despite the funky early 70s era clothes and weird sound effects.  The Electric Company was by far my favorite PBS show.  In fact, it probably still is my favorite show from PBS.  They tried to update it, but I'm not sure the magic was still there.  Back in the 70s, things weren't as politically correct as they are now.  Life was probably simpler in many ways.

Anyway, this morning, the plumber came to fix our sink and I was immediately reminded of this...


Which, of course, reminded me of this...

I'm glad I was a kid in the simple 70s.  My favorites are the ones with soulful music.  LOL... "Who's the dummy writing this show?!"

Our kitchen sink, by the way, turned out to be fine.  We called the plumber because we weren't getting hot water.  At first he thought the cartridge was bad and was starting to tell me about how the faucet was a piece of crap from Home Depot.  But then he turned it all the way to the wall and let the water run for awhile and we eventually got hot water... after a long while.  Bill was embarrassed when I told him, but even the plumber thought the faucet was messed up, so there you go.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bradley Manning wants to be ladylike...

I will admit I haven't really been following the Bradley Manning case very closely, even though my husband is a soldier.  I remember seeing photos of him in his dress blues looking pale as a ghost.  Guess he's not been getting much sunlight under the circumstances.

I did sit up and take notice, though, when I read that Bradley Manning is apparently transgendered and wants the government to pay for hormone therapy so he can begin living life as a woman named Chelsea.  I don't know anything about what it's like to be transgendered.  I'm sure it must be hell to feel trapped in the wrong gender.  However, Pfc. Bradley Manning is now a criminal who is being sent away for 35 years.  As a convicted criminal, Manning's healthcare will be administered by the U.S. government.  I have no idea what that means for military prisoners... I suspect it means he'll get care similar to what other military and their families folks get, albeit under police escort.  I realize I could be wrong and, if I am, please forgive me.  I don't have any personal experience with the military prison system.

As someone who has been getting government healthcare for most of my life, I have a hard time supporting Manning's desire to have taxpayers pay for his gender reassignment therapy.  There are millions of people out there in the United States who have no access to healthcare because they lack health insurance or have deductibles so high that they can't afford to see a doctor when they need one.  Moreover, the government is famously restrictive about paying for certain things.

For instance, a few months ago, I blogged about a former Peace Corps Volunteer who was raped while serving in her host country.  She got pregnant and had to be medevacked to Washington, DC.  Then, she had to pay for her own abortion because government funds cannot be used for abortions.  Here's this woman who has gone abroad to do something amazing for her own country and her host country.  She is a crime victim and winds up pregnant as a result of having been the victim of a violent crime.  But she had to pay for her abortion anyway.  I'm sure the whole experience was hell for her.  Besides the pain and humiliation of rape, she had to come up with the funds to remedy the situation.  Had almost anything else happened to her, the government would have taken care of it.  I'm sure the thought of coming up with the money to pay for the abortion (before someone stepped forward to help her out), was also nightmarish for her.  Peace Corps doesn't pay much and not all volunteers have savings of their own.  When I was in the Peace Corps, I had no savings to speak of.

I'm not sure why Pfc. Bradley Manning feels that he is entitled to hormone therapy at taxpayer expense when he is now a convicted criminal.  Regardless of how you might feel about what he did, the fact is, Manning is in prison because he broke the law.  He made a conscious choice to break the law.  Had he not broken the law, he could have made the choice to have hormone therapy or any other healthcare he wanted.  And he also could have paid for it himself.

Like I said, I don't know much about Manning... and I don't know much about being transgendered or what it's like to get healthcare while in a military prison (though I have experienced it plenty of times as a civilian and it ain't that great).  I imagine that Tricare won't pay for gender reassignment therapy to family members and I'm fairly certain that active duty servicemembers can't get gender reassignment therapy unless there is some reason the government would want them to have it.

When you're in the military, you are obliged to be healthy... Uncle Sam pretty much owns your ass.  But that means that sometimes you can score free healthcare not available to others.  Case in point, my husband got his vasectomy and vasectomy reversal surgeries completely free of charge.  Why?  Because the military has physicians who need to keep up their skills doing certain procedures.  Urologists in the military need to be competent in all aspects of care and that includes reversing vasectomies.

I know another officer who contracted a rare form of leukemia that would have killed him within weeks if he had been a civilian.  Because he was in the military, he was able to get experimental treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  Last I heard, he was still among the living, though that was in 2007.  Either way, he got at least a couple of years he would not have gotten had he been a regular person out on the street thanks to some very high level care at the NIH.

Who knows?  Maybe the government has a doctor on staff who needs practice giving hormone therapy to transgendered folks.  But somehow, I doubt it... and even if they did, I don't think that kind of therapy should be going to someone being punished for a crime... even though I can muster some empathy for Manning if he really is a female trapped in a male body.  Besides, taxpayers' funding of Manning's hormone treatment sets a precedent that could be potentially expensive and exploitable for others in the prison system.  It could turn into a seriously slippery slope that could one day lead to some people committing crimes so they can access elective treatments they otherwise couldn't afford.  

On a related point, this story gets weirder and weirder by the day.  Maybe it's time I read up on it from start to finish.


Aw James....

Just found out that James Taylor is going to perform with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I have to say I'm pretty surprised about this.  I hope this isn't a sign that he's fall on hard times.  Guess he won't be singing "Steamroller".


Making dinner...

There was a time in my life when I fancied myself a pretty damn good cook.  I actually worked as a cook at a rustic Presbyterian summer camp in Star Tannery, Virginia about twenty years ago.  It was probably one of the best jobs I ever had, even though it didn't pay much and the hours were long.  I got to spend all day dressed the way I wanted to be dressed and cooking for kids and teens.  And they actually liked what I cooked.  I even had a few kids ask for recipes.

I made this "potty" birthday cake for my boss when he and a bunch of other campers got sick with a virus...  It reads, "Hurling into #33..."

Sure, I was making things like spaghetti, Mexican beef casserole, grilled cheese sandwiches, and pancakes, but I got very good at cooking for a crowd.  People really appreciated what I did.  Even the three smartassed teenagers who worked as my dishwashers and assistant cook liked my cooking and praised me over the woman who had the job the year prior.  I worked there for two summers and really enjoyed it.  It made me think maybe I'd like to go to culinary school.

Bill's favorite cake...

A couple of years later, I joined the Peace Corps and had the opportunity to show off my cooking talents there, too.  I was recruited by some business volunteers who had dried produce that they were trying to figure out a way to market and export.  They asked me to help come up with recipes for things like dried apricots, dried tomatoes, dried onions, and dried plums.  That project ended up being a lot of fun.  The USDA even gave me an oven to use in my apartment.  I made pizza sauce with the dried tomatoes and onions and we hosted a pizza party at the US embassy restaurant in Armenia.  It was a big hit.

Pretty soon, I was asked to help teach the ladies who worked in the restaurant how to cook food that was a little more in line with the tastes of Americans.  It was a big ego boost when I'd make something like apple pie and it would sell out in ten minutes.  I also went to an Armenian restaurant and showed them a few things.  That was an interesting experience.  Armenian restaurants in the 90s were very bare bones.

When I came home from Armenia, I really thought I would embark in a career in the restaurant industry.  I found it very satisfying.  But then I waited tables for awhile...  It was something I needed to do, since I needed to understand how restaurants work.  I realized I wouldn't be happy working in a restaurant.  Or... perhaps I wouldn't be happy working in THAT restaurant.  I learned a lot and made some great friends, but decided that maybe I should go back to school.  And we see how that turned out... I became an overeducated housewife.

I partially won over Bill through his stomach.  When he visited me for the first time in my tiny apartment in Columbia, South Carolina, I made him a very nice meal consisting of roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, and green beans sautéed in amaretto...  even though he was LDS at the time.  I also made a chocolate blackout cake for him and to this day, when there's a special occasion, he likes it when I bake that cake.  At the time, he was as broke as I was, so that meal was a nice treat for him.  It also scored me big points in the potential wife department, though I think he enjoys my sense of humor over my cooking skills.

Yes... I was a good cook at one time, even though I am mostly self-taught.

When Bill and I first got married, I used to do most of the cooking.  Nowadays, he does it.  When we moved to Germany, I got frustrated, because I never knew when he was going to be home.  And I didn't like the oven in our house.  Bill also likes to cook, so he took over.

I have to say, in our almost eleven years of marriage, he has come a long way.  When I first met him, he knew how to cook a few things.  Now he's game to try all sorts of things.  He's even braver than I am.  I'm still a better baker, though he has learned how to make bread by hand about as well as I do.

The other day, Bill said he would take my car in to the MINI dealer to get it serviced.  I said I owed him a dinner.  Last night, he was late getting home because one of the bigwigs at his job talked for too long.  He sent me an email letting me know he was on his way.  I determined that I'd rather cook dinner than watch Stepmom again.  I went to the kitchen and started cooking some Virginia sausage links I purchased from Whitley's Peanuts, a company located in my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia that has the best peanuts I have ever tasted.  I bought some peanuts and peanut butter and decided to try the sausages... which turned out to be fabulous.

I added peppers, onions, fresh basil, garlic, and a little olive oil.  Then I mixed all of that stuff in with some tomato sauce and red wine.  I started making a loaf of bread and boiled some bowtie pasta we needed to use.  I put the pasta in a baking dish with the sauce, topped it with a little cheese, and baked it.  Bill came home and was delighted that I was making dinner... and he made simple green salads and a balsamic olive oil vinaigrette.

I put on some music and lit some candles.  Bill poured some excellent red Mulderbosch wine from South Africa that we discovered at a South African restaurant in Atlanta.  We had a very nice dinner.  Then we retreated upstairs to watch the results of America's Got Talent.

While we were watching, Bill dozed off.  He happened to be holding a glass of red wine, which spilled all over the crappy carpet.  He woke with a start and on my direction, got a cup of hydrogen peroxide, mixed it with a teaspoon of dish soap, and went to work cleaning up the mess.  I am happy to report the wine stain is mostly gone.  Thanks, Internet domestic gods...

Maybe it's time I started cooking again.

Last time I used the bowtie pasta, I made mac n' cheese...  I refer to this as a present for my ass.

As you can see, I really like my carbs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Better news...

Bill has passed his last class for the first level of his computer security course, so that means he has earned enough credits to be certified at a basic level.  After December, he will be ready for the next level of certification.  And the moving company paid for their damages, so we will be getting our security deposit back from North Carolina.

Bill also qualified with a 9 mm pistol for the first time in six years.  Prior to today, he didn't have to be qualified.  I think he gets a kick out that.  He's talking about purchasing a weapon for himself and maybe even me.  We both enjoy target practice, though he probably likes it more than I do.  I'm not a particularly good shot.

We have a "date" to have pizza Friday with one of Bill's high school classmates who lives in San Antonio.  The guy's wife works for Novica, which is my favorite cash drain of all time.  Should be a fun time.

As an aside, just sent me a survey for adult incontinence products.  That's fun.

I think someone may be ripping off our power...

Yesterday, we got our first power bill.  It was for fifteen days of service, but we were billed over $300. I know this is a big house and it's August in San Antonio, but I just don't see how the two of us have used that much power.  There were charges for overuse during peak hours and while we did have the doors open one day while moving in, I just can't understand how we could have used that much juice.

There's also a suspicious looking cord in the backyard.  It appears to be hooked up to a Time Warner cable box, but we don't subscribe to Time Warner.  This neighborhood looks like there are shady folks around.  So Bill sent a note to the power company and we'll have them check things out for us.  If we're going to be paying $600 a month for electricity, it's time to be looking for a new place to live now.

Besides, it's very hot in this house.  I'm sitting here sweating and it's not even 9:00am.

I know Texas has got to be better than this.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Me at sixteen...

The above letter is from the Appaloosa Horse Club.  When I was sixteen, I was very much into horses and I had an Appaloosa pony named Rusty.  I wrote to the Club to get information about his ancestors and actually wrote letters to a lot of the folks who owned the horses that went into the making of him.

The lady who bought his mom also got Rusty, because Rusty wasn't weaned when his mom was purchased.  She wrote that she'd had to put her down a few years prior because she developed diarrhea and she couldn't keep weight on her.

Rusty's mom

Rusty as a young horse

Rusty's grandfather

I also heard from the people who owned Hell's Afire, who I think was Rusty's sire.  I'd have to look at his papers to know for certain.  Rusty was born April 22, 1969... a long, long time ago!

Rusty and me after we won a huge pleasure pony class at the 1988 State Fair of Virginia.

Jumping a low fence...

I miss having horses in my life, even though it's an expensive, time consuming, and occasionally inconvenient hobby.  I used to spend most weekends in the show ring or fox hunting.  At the time, I didn't realize how having horses in my life to occupy my weekend was such a good thing.  Now that I have too much time on my hands, I see how much horses enriched my life.

41 year old me also thinks it's cool that 15 year old me (the letter is dated four days before I turned 16) thought to research the way I did.  It was a lot of fun to hear from the nice people who had the horses that went into the making of my best high school friend.  We were quite a successful pair back in the day.  Rusty taught me hard work, because from the age of 12, I worked hard in a barn in order to help pay his boarding bill and for my riding lessons, which I took for many years.  I don't miss cleaning stalls on blazing hot summer days or bitter cold winter mornings, but I do miss the companionship of horses and some of the people who love them (of course, a lot of horse people can be snobs).

The older I get, the more I appreciate the animals in my life.  They have helped me be a better person.  I may have more natural talent as a singer, but back when I was sixteen, I was all about horses and dreamed of spending my life in a barn.  It still doesn't sound so bad today.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Some people are just too evil...

I just ran across a Facebook post by the lady who does the STFU Parents blog.  She posted a photo of a letter than originally appeared on Twitter, posted by Lennon and Maisy.  If you click the link, you can read a letter that was put under the door of a woman who has an autistic son.

The letter is shockingly mean.  It was written by a "pissed off mom" who thinks that the mother of the autistic child is imposing on her neighbors by letting him go outside, where he apparently "wails" and upsets people.  The letter writer is upset that the kid lives in a neighborhood with very close quarters and suggests the mom should euthanize her son or move to a trailer park with him.  She thinks he should be taken to a nature trail or a park for fresh air, where he will apparently not disturb people.

I just don't understand how people can become so hateful.  It's very sad that there are people in the world like this.  I feel sorry for that mom and her boy.

Picture purge...

Yesterday, Bill and I were going through the garage, where we had some boxes that hadn't been unpacked since our 2007 move from Virginia.  There are still some things I'm looking for, namely my diplomas.  But one box I found yesterday was full of stuff from the past.  I found my prom invitation, high school graduation announcement, a letter I got from the Appaloosa Horse Club in 1988 when I wrote to them about my horse and wanted information on his genealogy, an autographed Broadway Playbill, college acceptance letter and a letter from my college's English department, old cards and tons of old pictures.  The pictures were both mine and Bill's.

There were photos of mine that were taken when I was in Armenia and after I earned my master's degrees.  There were photos of Bill when he was posted in Germany the first time.  He found pictures of his mother and her ex husband and other long lost relatives.  And there were also photos of his kids, his ex wife, and even a couple of her current spouse.  The box also had a copy of his divorce decree, which Ex had drawn up herself, and an unfortunate shot of her in a bathing suit and chambray shorts.

Back in 2000, Bill went to Arizona to visit his kids at Christmas.  Ex had her new squeeze shacked up with them.  There were photos of ex, her now husband, and the kids opening presents.  The previous year, Ex had told Bill's mother, stepmother, and father that he was a pervert and that they should reconsider having him over for the holidays.

I also found a couple of old cards Bill had sent Ex.  One was a Valentine's Day card and the other was a birthday card.  Both were from 1998 and Bill had professed his undying love for his ex wife.  It amazed me that they were separated the following year, given how gushy they were.  I now know it was Bill trying to keep the relationship going.

Bill's mother came by while he was going through all this stuff.  I was upstairs uploading a few photos to Facebook to give some of my old friends a thrill.  While I was upstairs, Bill ultimately gathered up all the photos of the kids and threw them away.  He cried when he did it and his mother said, "What you don't have with the kids, you have in spades with your wife."

He's carried around those photos for years but looking at them causes him enormous pain.  So he finally let them go.

This morning, he told me that for a brief instant, he felt some regret because he had the thought that maybe one of the kids' own future children will find him.  Then he said, "I'll just tell them the truth."

At the very least, we managed to get rid of another box that was all beat up and full of old memories.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

We had a date night last night...

I posted the specifics, complete with foodie pics, on my travel blog.  But while messing around with my web cam, I managed to get this shot of me and Bill.

I might have to send the above picture to my mom.  I think she'd love it.  For some reason, my smiles look best when Bill is in the photo with me.  We have a lot of chemistry.  I actually think the way I look in the above picture is a good representation of my personality.  I may seem like a curmudgeon on this blog, but I actually laugh a lot.

I guess in our case, the old song "I Can't Smile Without You" really rings true.  

We had a good time last night.  We even ran into my new dentist, who apparently knows where to dine in San Antonio.

This is the night we got engaged...  As you can see, we're still smiling!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why I don't write electronics reviews on Epinions anymore...

A few days ago, a new reviewer on Epinions wrote an electronics review and got low ratings.  She took to the messageboard to ask why the ratings were so low since, as usual, no one had bothered to leave her any comments.  She got the usual advice about emailing the "hatted" people, advisors and leads, for tips.  More people chimed in.  The electronics lead left his usual spiel about how no one is "owed" a comment from anyone.

Frankly, I heartily disagree.  Back in May, I wrote on this blog about my last experience with the electronics category.  For the first and only time in ten years on Epinions, I deleted a review because it was downrated with no explanation from the hatted folk.  Since then, I have avoided the electronics category, because Epinions income share is no longer what it used to be and it's neither fun nor profitable to write electronics reviews for Epinions anymore.

I left a comment, reiterating that I think anyone who has a lead or advisor "hat" has the obligation to engage reviewers with supportive and/or constructive comments, even if they are very brief.  They are actually paid extra to do that.  Granted, they reportedly aren't paid a lot extra, but they do get a small financial bonus and increased clout in ratings weight.  Moreover, they don't have to accept the responsibility if they can't be bothered with it.  I have never had an "advisor" hat myself because I don't want to deal with the drama that crops up when one rates properly, which means occasionally leaving lower ratings and constructive criticism.  Many people, myself included, tend to take ratings and comments personally.  Even as I logically understand that Epinions is not worth getting in a tizzy over, bless my heart, I do anyway.  An overall "helpful" rating, while technically a "good" rating, feels like a blight to me, no matter how many times I tell myself that "helpful" is "good".

Certain members of the electronics clique seem to think that their category is the only worthwhile one on the site; therefore, their standards have to be higher than everyone else's do.  It's true that big ticket items like televisions, phones, stereos, and cameras do bring in a lot of readers and therefore money.  But my highest paying review ever is actually a music review, not an electronics review.  Indeed, my second highest paying review is also a music review, followed by reviews in home and garden.  In fact, I even have quite a few book reviews that have earned more income share than the electronics reviews I have written, though I will admit that the odds that electronics reviews will earn more are much greater than they are in the books category.

I have top reviewer "hats" in books, travel, and music, while I have no prayer of ever having a "hat" in electronics.  Epinions recently stopped rewarding people for writing reviews outside their areas of expertise.  It used to be that a top reviewer in any category would enjoy a boost in all categories.  Now you only get the boost in your area of expertise.  Given that, the elitist bullshit that often goes on in the electronics category has just become more than I want to deal with, even though electronics reviews are very valuable to the site and to consumers.  To me, anyway, writing in electronics became more of a chore than a challenge.

Epinions is also not getting the hits it used to get.  I reposted my deleted camera review on my travel blog.  So far, that review posted on my own blog has gotten 77 hits from all over the world.  My last review on to get more than 77 hits was posted June 27th.  It was a book review that I had  promoted on Facebook and the Recovery From Mormonism site; without that promotion, I doubt it would have gotten as many hits.  It helped that I am now Facebook friends with the author, who also promoted the review.

Prior to that review in June, I had another book review posted in February that has 107 hits.  All of the other reviews I have posted since then have fewer than 77 hits. is a big site that used to get a lot of traffic.  That's no longer true today.  Therefore, I am left with the impression that my review is better off on my own site, which could use the traffic.  That content attracts hits to my blog, whereas on Epinions, it might never get seen because it might be buried by low ratings or the generally paltry traffic Epinions is getting these days.  Moreover, if on the off chance someone actually buys a camera through my blog, I get the whole commission instead of sharing it with everybody else.

One reviewer who used to be a travel lead and was very friendly with me when he was around Epinions a lot, commented in the newer thread about low electronics ratings that it took him years to stop worrying about pleasing everyone.  He came to understand that for most people, simple really is preferable-- certainly for the people who read Epinions, who don't tend to be techies.  Hell, techies can read complex reviews that go on for days in many places online and off.  Most folks probably neither need nor want to read four pages of technical specs, particularly if neither the reviewer nor the reader knows what the specs mean and never actually use them.

Anyway, I'm not going to go back and read the usual apologist spew that many of the hatted electronics folks leave when they are criticized for their ratings practices.  It's not worth upsetting my peace or screwing up my weekend to read that stuff.  I've done it too many times over the years and it never goes anywhere.  Suffice to say that if I feel the need to write about something that has an on/off power button and isn't a kitchen gadget or computer gizmo, you're now more likely to read about it here than on  That's now how I roll.