Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nefarious nurse... A review of Death Angel, another case of a murderous nurse

Since I just reviewed Perfect Poison by M. William Phelps, I am going to repost this older review I did of Death Angel, a 2005 book by Clifford L. Linedecker and Zach T. Martin.  This book is about Charles Cullen, a nurse who, over the course of sixteen years, killed as many of 40 patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  I gave it three stars because I didn't think it was a great book.  However, if you're looking for stories about nurses who kill, this is one case you should read about.

Nefarious nurse

Feb 16, 2006 (Updated Mar 13, 2006)

Review by knotheadusc

Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Charles Cullen's case is very interesting.
Cons:Annoying writing style. Editorializing about the death penalty.
The Bottom Line: This is one book I'm glad to have finished reading.

I just finished reading Death Angel (2005). Written by Clifford L. Linedecker and Zach T. Martin, this book is the story of Charles Cullen, a nurse who spent sixteen years killing as many as 40 of his patients. It took me at least two weeks to finish reading Death Angel, a book that runs 350 pages. Normally, I'd be able to finish a book of this length within a few days. I have to be honest, though. For a few days, I thought finishing Death Angel was going to be the death of me. But I'll get to why this book was so hard to finish later. First, let me explain a little bit about Death Angel and why I picked it up in the first place.

I bought Death Angel last month while I was waiting for my husband, Bill, to meet me at the airport. His plane was delayed, so I took the opportunity to go shopping at Border's. It happened to be Friday the 13th and I came away from Border's with several true crime books. Having read all of the other books, Death Angel was at the bottom of the stack. And Death Angel was by far the hardest one for me to finish. Sure, I was interested in reading about Charles Cullen, the murderous misfit who spent his nursing career taking care of the sickest patients in hospitals and nursing homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The book's description on the back cover was compelling and Cullen's story is fascinating. But I could never get further than a few pages every time I sat down to read this book. As someone who is used to whizzing through paperbacks at a good clip, I found reading Death Angel a frustrating exercise. And Charles Cullen's story should have been riveting.

Cullen held nursing licenses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and he worked in a number of hospitals and nursing homes in both states. He liked to work at night, when he had independence and privacy, making it easy for him to carry out his dastardly deeds unhindered. Cullen worked in intensive care and critical care units, where he would inject his very sick patients with drug overdoses. Sadly, some of Cullen's victims weren't even on the brink of death. In some cases, the patients were starting to rally from their illnesses when Cullen appointed himself grim reaper. Most of the time, he used Digoxin to kill his patients, but sometimes he used other drugs like insulin or Pavulon. According to the Linedecker and Martin, Cullen's victims did not die peacefully. In fact, some of them fought back valiantly, only to have Cullen snuff them out with another round of drugs.

The authors make it clear that Cullen was a lifelong loser. Although he was paid well for his work and he worked many hours, Cullen was unable to pay his bills and had to declare bankruptcy. His five year marriage failed and he found himself unable to keep up with child support payments for his two daughters. And Cullen was also chronically suicidal. He attempted to kill himself at least twenty times. Though he was able to kill his patients without a problem, Cullen was never able to pull off killing himself. The authors infer that Cullen's inability to kill himself was yet another personal failing.

Linedecker and Martin go to great lengths to impress upon readers that Cullen wasn't much to look at by using a lot of derogatory adjectives to describe the man. They call him "skinny", "sallow", "gaunt", "sickly", "puny", "creepy", "anemic-looking", "disturbing" "bloodthirsty", "a loser" and "a loner", among other names. Granted, any person who spends sixteen years killing people, especially those who are helpless and sick, probably deserves to be called a few names. But I got the point after the first few pages. The namecalling got tiresome for me after awhile. And the authors didn't just confine their overly descriptive language to Cullen. They used the same technique when they described other players in the story, including Cullen's victims.

Clifford L. Linedecker certainly should know how to write. He was a newspaper reporter for over twenty years and it shows somewhat in his writing, although at times his writing seems to lean more toward an editorial style. He's worked for a number of newspapers, written articles for several popular magazines, and written thirty-four nonfiction books. Zach T. Martin is a popular radio personality in New York and New Jersey. Martin's mother was one of Cullen's first victims.

Death Angel includes a brief pictures section as well as a couple of appendices. The authors laid out a timeline of Charles Cullen's disastrous existence, starting from his birth and ending in late June 2005, when Cullen pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder. There's also a copy of Cullen's plea agreement. He agreed to cooperate with investigators by telling them who he killed in exchange for life in prison. The authors express obvious disgust because Cullen isn't going to be executed for his crimes, although even if Cullen had gotten the death penalty, it's likely that he would end up dying on death row anyway. Of course, had Cullen killed in Texas or Virginia, he'd likely be as good as dead.

The two authors make it very clear that they felt that Cullen should have gotten the death penalty for his crimes. They repeatedly refer to New Jersey's and Pennsylvania's records for carrying out capital punishment as "miserable". Since I'm against the death penalty myself, I found this aspect of Death Angel a bit irritating. There are a number of places in the book where the authors editorialize about capital punishment. I think I would have preferred it if they had just stuck to telling the story and left out their opinions and excessively derogatory comments about Cullen. I imagine that Martin has very strong feelings about Charles Cullen since Cullen murdered his mother. Perhaps for that reason, Linedecker should have chosen a more objective co-author.

Yes, Death Angel was a tough read for me. I'm a bit disappointed because I think this book could have been a lot better than it was. Charles Cullen got away with murder for sixteen years. Amazingly, despite the fact that Cullen frequently attempted suicide and was repeatedly fired for poor job performance, his records with the nursing licensure boards in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were clean. Administrators were reluctant to report him because they were afraid of being sued for breaching his privacy. The authors do go into this a bit, but mostly, it seemed like they simply focused on vilifying Cullen. It's not that I don't think Cullen deserves to be vilified; I do think what he did was reprehensible. Death Angel just seems to lack objectivity. What's more, the authors' writing style really grated on my nerves. I can excuse Martin for both the writing style and his justifiable anger, but Linedecker, as a veteran author, should have known better. This should have been a better book.

UPDATE

Charles Cullen was just (in 2006) sentenced to a total of 18 life sentences in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

A review of Perfect Poison: A Female Serial Killer's Deadly Medicine by M.Willam Phelps

As regular blog readers know, I read a lot of true crime.  I find criminals fascinating, even though I hesitate to say I "enjoy" the stories about them because they always involve someone else getting hurt.  Kristen Strickland Gilbert is one fascinating criminal.  I had not heard of her before I purchased author M.William Phelps' book, Perfect Poison: A Female Serial Killer's Deadly Medicine.  Now that I've read the book, I may have to look at certain medical professionals with a more careful eye.

Who is Kristen Gilbert? 

Born in Fall River, Massachusetts on November 13, 1967, Kristen Heather Strickland is the elder daughter of Richard and Claudia Strickland.  Blessed with good looks and keen intelligence, Kristen did well in school and, in 1988, became a registered nurse.  But friends and loved ones noted that Kristen had a flair for dramatic behavior.  She would fake suicide attempts and lie excessively.  She was very manipulative.  She was also known to threaten people.  This behavior was evident from the time she was a teenager and continued into her adult years.

In 1988, Kristen Strickland married Glenn Gilbert and took his last name.  Kristen and Glenn did not have a happy or stable marriage, but they did manage to have a couple of sons with him.  She took a job at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she was known as a competent nurse.  She was even featured in VA Practitioner, a professional nursing magazine.

Sometime around the mid 1990s, Gilbert started an affair with James Perrault, a hospital police officer.  And around that time, patients on Gilbert's shifts started having fatal cardiac events.  Co-workers jokingly started to refer to her as the "Angel of Death".  After her patients died, Kristen was known to leave work early for dates with Perrault.  She was also known to make odd and inappropriate comments about people.  When one man was dying and his wife was justifiably upset, Kristen remarked that the scene was "hysterical"... as in funny!  And yet, she continued to work as a nurse at the VA hospital, tending to veterans who had served their country and sometimes killing them with a little extra epinephrine.

My thoughts

First off, I am delighted that Kristen Gilbert was eventually caught and is now doing time at the Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas.  It scares the hell out of me that someone entrusted with safeguarding other peoples' lives could get away with surreptitiously killing patients for so long.  Kristen Gilbert has the distinction of being one of the very few female serial killers in history.  She was convicted of claiming the lives of four men and may have been responsible for as many as 80 deaths and 300 medical emergencies.  As Phelps notes in his book, Gilbert had an incredibly high average of deaths on her shifts compared to her co-workers.  And for some reason, this aberration went unnoticed and unaddressed for a long time.

Given her disturbing history, which was well documented before she ever donned her first nurse's cap, I am shocked that Kristin Gilbert was able to enter the nursing profession.  Before she was a registered nurse, she was a nurse's aide.  During that time, she deliberately scalded an eight year old boy with mental retardation.  There were records of her making violent threats against people from the time she was a teenager.  While attending nursing school at Bridgewater State University, Gilbert faked a suicide attempt and had to undergo psychiatric treatment.  Even when she was a nurse, she did some time in several psychiatric hospitals.  Why she was allowed to continue working as a registered nurse, I will never know.

Kristen Gilbert's story is certainly interesting and disturbing, although it may make some people think twice about submitting to medical care.   VA hospitals already have a pretty bad reputation for being overcrowded and overextended.  My father and husband have always gotten decent care through them, but this tale will do nothing for the VA's image, especially since Phelps also writes about a hospital administrator who never actually had any real training for the job and remained in that role for years.

Phelps also covers the court case and includes photos of Gilbert and other players in this sad and scary tale of a nurse gone wrong.  Crazily enough, Gilbert's husband, Glenn, testified on her behalf even though she tried to poison him at one point in their relationship.  Gilbert's crimes were serious to warrant consideration of the death penalty and Glenn Gilbert asked the court to consider their sons, who would be devastated to lose their mother to the death chamber.  

I think Phelps does a good job with Kristen Gilbert's story and I recommend his book, though it did take me awhile to finish it.  Phelps does get somewhat repetitive at times, but the story is definitely interesting and tragic.  You may never think the same way about epinephrine again.






    

Day two of window restoration...

So the windows guys finished a lot of their work yesterday, but apparently, there's a lady who works in their front office who always manages to mix up the measurements of the windows.  The way the landlords describe it, it sounds almost like she has a type of dyslexia.  But she is the owner's daughter, so she stays in that job.  Consequently, the windows that go in the living room didn't fit properly.  They are now covered with wood and will hopefully be finished at some point this week.  It would be nice if they were done today, but I have a feeling that's not happening.  They're going to have to cut new glass.

I also got a surprise from Novica.com yesterday.  I ordered a sweater last week because I had some store credit.  Because we're in Germany and they don't ship to APO, I had to use my German address.  The sweater got here super fast, but it turns out I owe a customs duty of just over 20 euros.  I wasn't prepared with cash when the guy came, so I had to rebook the delivery.  I'm actually kind of proud of myself, since I called DHL and asked in German if the person on the phone spoke English.  It turned out they did and I successfully rescheduled the delivery.  I may end up actually learning some German on this tour.

It's nice to have new windows, but if I'm honest, having people in my house all day is a bit nerve-wracking.  If you were to meet me in person, you'd probably think I'm very extroverted.  I'm actually not that outgoing, though.  I like peace and quiet and privacy.  Also, one of the men working had some very pungent body odor that made the whole downstairs reek.  I know a lot of European men are less interested in using deodorant than Americans are, but this guy's pheromones about knocked me over.  It's good that most of the windows were out of the house, if you know what I mean.

The landlords are very nice folks, though.  They rode here on their new motorized bikes.  I had never seen one before.  Apparently, they have small motors in them which make climbing hills easier.  I think the landlady is coming by today to mow the lawn.  I don't mind her doing it because she does a great job.  I don't enjoy yard work, though it does give me an excuse to exercise.  Unfortunately, there were a few land mines in the backyard that got missed yesterday.  She pointed them out to me in the most polite way.  I think I got them all so the yard will be ready for her.

I have been reading some horror stories on the Stuttgart Friends group about government contractors getting screwed over.  I full expect that will happen to us, too, eventually.  So I told Bill we should keep our eyes peeled for the next opportunity.  Another contractor recently emailed him and asked him to stay in touch...  Good sign.  And this job he's doing now will give him valuable experience in yet a third theater--  Europe, South and Central America, and now Africa will all be on his resume after this experience.  Meanwhile, I'm focusing on German.  If it looks like we're going to be here awhile, maybe I'll even consider going back to school...  again.  I might as well use my time wisely, even if I'm just an overeducated hausfrau.

Monday, September 29, 2014

New windows...

Bright and early this morning, two guys who work for a window company showed up to replace the upstairs windows in our house.  They will be here tomorrow, too, doing the downstairs.  Our landlords came by to talk to them and ask me to make them some coffee at lunch time.  I am hoping the new windows will make the house a little more sound proof so I won't worry so much when the dogs go nuts or I practice my music.

The Kong trick is working very well now.  It used to be when Zane and Arran noticed Bill and me getting ready to go somewhere, they'd start getting upset.  Now when they see me or Bill putting peanut butter in a Kong, they get excited.  It's almost like a consolation prize for them and they're starting to be happy when we go out.  They get rewarded for letting us go in peace.  I suspect they don't stay noisy when we go out; it's only at the beginning when they see we're leaving them alone for awhile.  They are always quiet when we get back.

By contrast, our old dogs Flea and MacGregor would make noise when we were gone.  MacGregor was particularly naughty sometimes.  He would actually howl mournfully for us.  We caught him in the act more than once.  The only time he ever howled was when he was alone, but he would definitely howl to beat the band!

Now that our cars are here, we've been able to enjoy Germany a bit more.  That's making it easier to like being here.  Not that it's hard to like being in Germany.  It's mind-blowingly beautiful in this country and now that fall is here, there's a chill in the air that makes everything seem so crisp and clean.  I really do prefer it to the heat of Texas.

It appears that today is going to be a noisy day, so I may not be able to hear myself think enough to write a rant.  On the other hand, since the room I used as my office is now getting new windows, I may need to find something constructive to do.  I can't very well watch cheesy 7th Heaven episodes on Amazon with that racket.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Had a great day yesterday...

And I blogged all about it on my travel blog.  Days like yesterday make all the hassles and expenses involved with moving to Germany completely worth it.  We had great weather, too!

Nothing is coming in mind for me to rant about today.  I'm sure once we've gone to get our weekly AAFES fix, I'll have something to bitch about.  Stay tuned!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

I love it when people read my WHOLE blog in one sitting...

I have never made it a secret that I pay attention to who visits my blog.  That's mostly because I'm curious about who reads my drivel, which is often entirely too personal.  It's also because there are certain people out there who probably should read what I have to say, but I know if they do, it will cause hard feelings.  I figure if I know they're reading, I can be prepared for the eventual fallout.

For example, I know my brother-in-law has read this blog and showed it to my sister.  I know that my sister was shocked by the personal nature of some of my writings.  She told another sister who then told me.  I have to say, I was kind of surprised they were interested, although I guess I am not surprised my sister's husband was.  I think he enjoys drama and gossip.  To my sister's credit, she realizes that I am a writer and writers write about their lives.  It's hard to be interesting if you're not willing to get personal and sometimes overshare.  To my brother-in-law, I can only say "Thanks for the hit."  Every time you read my blog, I make ad revenue.    

Then there are people like my husband's ex wife and former kids.  There was a time when I didn't really want them to read my rants, so I tried to stay somewhat anonymous.  Now that my husband's kids are adults, I no longer care if they read what I write about them.  I think they ought to know the truth.  I think they should see a perspective that doesn't come from their mother's side.  I think they should know that they really aren't victims, especially now that they are grown.  I might have seen them as innocent victims when they were kids and had no control over their lives, but they are all adults now and they are wholly responsible for acting like shitheads.  I can concede that they were trained to be shitheads by their mother, but that doesn't change the fact that that's what they've become and they don't seem motivated to change.  It's a damn shame.

Every once in awhile, I get a visitor who, for some strange reason, gets interested in this blog and reads the whole damn thing from start to finish.  Whenever I see that, I have to wonder why.  I started this blog in 2010.  I didn't write that much back then because no one was reading, so I wasn't motivated to write every day.  I also didn't have that much to say.  As time went on, I decided to write more and I started picking up the occasional regular reader.

Now this blog pulls in hits every day-- not a whole lot of hits, but enough that I know there won't be any posts that get absolutely no reads.  My other blogs do have occasional hitless posts in them, though my travel blog is picking up a bit.  But shit, some of my posts are really about nothing.  Why anyone would be interested enough to read this thing from start to finish is puzzling.  It's also kind of flattering, even if whoever is doing it is doing it for nefarious reasons.  I didn't realize I was that interesting.

Of course, sometimes I notice a person's location, especially when I see they're reading the whole thing.  If they happen to be in a location that is near someone I know offline, I wonder if it's a friend or a family member or a foe.  Sometimes, it's obvious.  Oftentimes, it's not.  I also think it's funny when I write something about a certain company or corporation and they hit my blog repeatedly looking for updates or comments.  A few months ago, I blogged about USAA and they had people from their company stalking this blog for days.  They also had a PR firm in Dallas hitting the blog repeatedly.  They finally lost interest when the post in question didn't end up going viral.

By the way, none of my posts have ever gone viral.  I have had a few that have been oddly popular.  Like, I wrote about Jessica McCord after being freaked out by an episode of Snapped.  I was later very surprised by the epic shitstorm that post generated by people who apparently think divorced fathers are always at fault for marital breakups and they should all be willing to let their exes murder them for the sake of the children.  My post about not putting unstamped mail in mailboxes is very popular.  So is my post about getting a dog hair splinter.

I have had a few posts that have enticed spammers.  In fact, up until yesterday, I only had one post where comments were closed.  I finally closed comments on a review I wrote about a book on cosmetic dentistry because I kept getting spam comments from people in third world countries or, very oddly, Provo, Utah!  It must be a lucrative business for people in Provo to spam peoples' blogs with ads and links to businesses.  I have gotten spam comments from lawyers, plumbers, and mattress salespeople.  Sometimes the comments are even somewhat genuine, like the person actually read the post and contributed a comment that would be welcome if s/he wasn't also advertising.  Most spam comments, even the constructive ones, get automatically deleted.  Very occasionally, I will leave them up if they are entertaining.

In any case, I decided to write today's post because I want to address those who are taking the time to read my whole blog.  If you are reading it because you are sincerely interested, then that's great and I hope you'll stick around.  If you're reading it because you're digging up dirt, more power to you.  If you are a member of my family or a long lost friend, "Hi."  If you are one of my husband's former daughters, "The truth will set you free.  But first, it will piss you off."  (Gloria Steinem)




Friday, September 26, 2014

Unwanted updates about former friends...

Ever had something like this happen to you?  Say you were friends with someone for many years, but then you had a big falling out.  You decide you're done with this person and you proceed to walk in another direction, intent on maintaining no contact.  But a well meaning person who knows both of you is relentless about keeping you in the loop about what's going on with your former friend's life.

That's what happened to me last night.  I was getting ready to go to bed and was doing a last minute email check.  I got a message from a woman I knew when I was growing up.  She used to sit next to me in church.  My ex friend now attends the church I was raised in and church lady sees her somewhat regularly.  I, on the other hand, haven't been to a Sunday church service since about 2001 and I haven't been to that church in particular since I was a junior in high school.

Apparently, ex friend's daughter was christened the other day.  The woman who used to sit next to me in church, and who invariably gets my friend's name wrong (ex friend and I were formally given the same first name, but I go by a nickname), sent me an email to tell me about it.  I couldn't be less interested, especially since this friend didn't bother to tell me about said child in the first place.  I found evidence that it wasn't just a mere oversight, either.  For some reason, she deliberately took pains to prevent me from finding out about her little bundle of joy by filtering me on Facebook, yet keeping me as a friend so she could keep track of my comings and goings.  That's not something a "friend" would do and when I realized what happened, I blocked her.

But even if she had told me about her baby, I don't think we'd be friends now.  The truth is, we grew apart many years ago and, even before I unceremoniously found out about her "secret baby", I had determined long ago that we were no longer meshing.  There is something about her personality that brings out the worst in me.  And I realize that she may very well feel the same way about me.

The fact is, we really shouldn't be friends.  I resent the drama queen soap opera way she handles the people in her life.  You know?  If you have such strongly negative feelings about someone that you have to filter them from reading your Facebook updates, yet still maintain them as a "friend", you're an asshole with no integrity.  If I feel that way about someone online or offline, I just drop them from the friends list, both literally and figuratively.  And that's exactly what I did.  I honestly can't say I miss her.  

I have to admit I was annoyed to get that email... at the same time, church lady is in her 80s and she did know my ex friend to be my "best" friend for many years.  So, though I doubt she will remember it, I wrote back to the church lady and reminded her, matter-of-factly, that I am no longer friends with ex friend.  I added a few pleasantries in response to the rest of the email and then closed it.  Fortunately, Advil PM put me to sleep before I could dwell much more on it.

I know that last year, when she broke the news of my ex friend's secret baby, I told church lady that we were no longer friends.  I also know that the church lady has asked my mom what happened to our friendship.  I'm not sure what my mom told her, nor is it any of their business.  Of course, I can't very well lay this drama on the church lady and tell her exactly what happened.  She's 80+ years old and means well and I'm sure this situation would seem ridiculous to her anyway.  But at the same time, I don't really want to be updated about my ex friend.  I find the updates hurtful and I'd like to move on with my life without ex friend in it.

It's kind of the same way I feel about Bill's ex wife and ex kids, though I don't have near the same history with them that I do with my former friend.  I've determined that we're better off without their presence.  They shunned us, but they probably did us a favor.  If you want nothing to do with us, we want nothing to do with you.


This song about sums it up...


Goodbye Stranger

It was an early morning yesterday
I was up before the dawn
And I really have enjoyed my stay
But I must be moving on

Like a king without a castle
Like a queen without a throne
I'm an early morning lover
And I must be moving on with you

Now I believe in what you say
Is the undisputed truth
But I have to have things my own way
To keep me in my youth

Like a ship without an anchor
Like a slave without a chain
Just the thought of those sweet ladies
Sends a shiver through my veins

And I will go on shining
Shining like brand new
I'll never look behind me
My troubles will be few

Goodbye stranger it's been nice
Hope you find your paradise
Tried to see your point of view
Hope your dreams will all come true

Goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again?
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame
Come tomorrow, feel no pain

Goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again?
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame
Come tomorrow, feel no pain

Goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again?

Now some they do and some they don't
And some you just can't tell
And some they will and some they won't
With some it's just as well

You can laugh at my behavior
That'll never bother me
Say the devil is my savior
But I don't pay no heed

And I will go on shining
Shining like brand new
I'll never look behind me
My troubles will be few

Goodbye stranger it's been nice
Hope you find your paradise
Tried to see your point of view
Hope your dreams will all come true

Goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again?
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame
Come tomorrow, feel no pain

Goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again?
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame
Come tomorrow, feel no pain

Goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again?
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame
Come tomorrow, feel no pain

Goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again?

Songwriters
DAVIES, RICHARD / HODGSON, ROGER




  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pleased...

My mom asked me to sing at my dad's memorial in November.  She also asked me to make her a CD with hymns on it.  This was one of the songs she mentioned, so I recorded it this morning.  It turned out pretty damn well, once I figured it out.



I bet my German neighbors think I'm a Jesus freak.

The virtual repo man...

This morning, I read about scary new technology that allows creditors to shut off a car remotely simply by accessing a computer or a smart phone.  This technology is mostly used by lenders who sign off on subprime auto loans for people with less than stellar credit.  In exchange for the loan, the debtor has to agree to allow the creditor to outfit their car with a "starter-interrupt device".  Then, if the debtor doesn't pay their car loan on time, the creditor can disable their vehicle.

Besides allowing the vehicle to be disabled, the technology also allows creditors to track where the cars are located.  That means the creditor will be able to tell if the car is parked at home, at a work location, or somewhere else.  Safety and privacy issues have already been raised by this creepy equipment.  A woman in Nevada reported that her car was disabled while she was driving on the freeway, which caused her to almost have a serious accident.  And the equipment is programmed to alert the debtor as his or her bill due date approaches, which is annoying and humiliating.

When Bill and I first got married, his credit was terrible.  It was mainly because he trusted his ex wife to pay their bills and she didn't.  Their house went into foreclosure and they went through bankruptcy.  By some miracle, he was able to buy himself a used Dodge Neon, replacing the unreliable K Car he'd inherited from ex's stepfather or father, can't remember which, when he helped pay for the funeral.  Bill later gave that Neon to his former stepson after having paid it off.  Former stepson repaid Bill by screwing him over.

As I read this article, I realized that Bill could have been forced to use that degrading application had his financial issues happened when the technology was available.  It was hard enough recovering from his financial mess without something like that to make things more difficult.  I know there are true deadbeats out there, but it seems really unfair to people who just happen to have bad luck or have made a mistake to force them to give up their privacy and dignity so they can buy a car.  Perhaps the solution is living in an area where public transportation is readily available.  Of course, housing in those areas is also usually more expensive.

I think this technology can and will been used for good things, like tracking pets.  And I imagine it might be useful for parents who are trying to keep track of their kids.  But what's next?  I know some homes have keyless locks now.  Are mortgage brokers or property managers going to start locking people out of their homes if they're late with the rent or the mortgage?  Seems like a potentially slippery slope that can quickly turn into hell for regular people, especially since it's not unheard of for mistakes to be made.  This technology may make life easier for bill collectors, but it comes at a huge price to those who need to borrow money.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My mom is doing fine... and soaps

I finally got ahold of her the other day.  She had been taking a nap.  Apparently, since she had her breast surgery, she's needed a lot more sleep.  She falls asleep whenever she sits down.  But she's doing fine.

In fact, my mom told me that her surgery was last Monday at 7:30am and by 12:30pm, she was at home, watching The Young and the Restless.  That was a ritual she shared with my dad for years.  They were both hooked on that soap from the time I was a teenager.

I, on the other hand, only watched Guiding Light.  I started watching it when I was about 12 (1984) and kept watching on and off until right before we moved to Germany in 2007.  By the time I stopped watching, it had really gone downhill.  I mean, the show was always full of improbable and ridiculous plots, but by the time I quit watching it on a regular basis, it had really gotten stupid.

I got back to the States just in time to see the very last episode, which aired on September 18, 2009.  It had been on the air in one way or another since 1937 and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running televised drama in history.  It was broadcast on TV starting in 1952.

We left Germany on September 15, 2009.  We were actually supposed to leave on the 14th, which would have given us just under two years there, but a plane happened to land with faulty landing gear.  It messed up the runway, so our flight was cancelled.

I thought I would be sad when Guiding Light ended, but I really wasn't.  The show's budget had been sliced to smithereens and it had become unwatchable.  They'd tried all kinds of weird camera gimmicks and story lines, none of which were all that appealing.  Plus, I think I had just outgrown the show.  It no longer interested me.  The characters annoyed me almost as much as the ones on 7th Heaven did.

I still remember a lot of great scenes from over the years, though... and a lot of great actors and actresses got their start on Guiding Light.  It will always be a nostalgic part of my life.


Among all of my GL memories, this one stands out the most.
  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Big dumb ox...

Today, as Bill and I were driving to Boblingen to pick up our cars, I was telling him about a friend of mine from college.  She lived next door to me for a year and we got to be somewhat close.  The girl never lacked for boyfriends.  Unfortunately, her boyfriends tended to be abusive jerks.  One guy she dated was a football player from a nearby men's college.  His name was "Ox".

I'm sure that Ox was not the guy's real name, but everybody called him that.  My friend thought he was the shizzle.  Unfortunately, he often left her in tears after his infrequent visits.  More than once, I found her crying in our shared bathroom after Ox had stood her up, called her fat, or addressed her by an offensive nickname like "cumdumpster" or "little whore".

I'm not really sure what my friend saw in Ox.  He wasn't great looking.  He wasn't a great football player.  He didn't have a lot of money.  And he certainly wasn't nice to her.  But she dated him for a couple of years before they finally broke up.

I'd like to say my friend wised up after Ox, but she moved on to yet another asshole.  The guy's name was Jimmy and he also attended the nearby men's school.  He had a lot of money.  Rumor had it one of his relatives had helped found a major juice company in the United States, though I have never confirmed that.  Jimmy drove a brand new Lexus.  In the early 90s, that was a pretty sweet car, especially for a college student.

My friend fell head over heels for Jimmy.  But he appeared to treat her even worse than Ox did.  My friend worked at a fast food restaurant to earn extra money so she could stay in school.  Jimmy didn't want her working in fast food, so he ordered her to quit her job... and she did.  Before long, my friend pretty much moved in with Jimmy and quit going to class.  She stopped talking to her friends, too.  All kinds of rumors were flying around about her and those of us who cared about her were very worried.

Twenty years later, my friend showed up on Facebook with her husband-- not Jimmy-- and her two kids.  It looks like her life is going well.  In fact, she looks a lot like she did when we were good friends.  I hope her husband treats her as well as it looks like he does.  She always seemed to appreciate guys who were "bad".

Bad guys never like me.  I'm way too outspoken.

    

Monday, September 22, 2014

There will be no sex tomorrow...

I wrote that in German on my Facebook page.  My Italian friend, vicfar, made fun of my translation and said I needed to work on my prepositions.  There ain't no doubt.

I said, "Nah, I'd rather have sex."

He said, "Trust me.  You really need to work on your prepositions."

Then I wrote that we tried to speak German the other day while having lunch at a restaurant, but the waitress immediately answered in flawless, accent free English.  That happens a lot around here.  And then I reminded him that sometimes, not speaking the language can be a blessing.  Like, for instance, when Zane got loose and it took me about forty-five minutes to catch him.  As I was taking him home, some old guy stopped me and, based on his demeanor, seemed to be either chastising me or making fun of me for losing my dog.  

I wasn't all that interested in talking to that guy about my wayward beagle, so I said "Ich spreche kein Deutsch," and continued on my way.  I probably should have spoken Armenian to him.  Transliterated, that would be "Yes ch'yem khosum Germaneren."  Of course, I don't have an Armenian keyboard to write it using the Armenian alphabet...   But just for you curious folks reading this blog, this is what it would look like if I wrote that in Armenian.  "Ես չեմ խոսում գերմաներեն."  I wasn't as good at speaking Armenian as some of my colleagues were, but I got by...  One would think I could get by in Germany, too.  But even if I wanted to speak German, most folks seem to revert to English.  It's probably gotten that way in Armenia by now, too.

Incidentally, if I wanted to write "Thee will be no sex tomorrow." in Armenian, it would look like this  "Կլինեն ոչ sex վաղը".  I like how the word "sex" stays in English.  It reminds me of when I first moved to Armenia and got terrible diarrhea.  I was living with a host family and the "mom" was a doctor.  

She found me in my bedroom kind of doubled up with stomach cramps.  She asked me what was wrong.  My Armenian skills at that point had not progressed to the point of being able to explain it to her.  So I told her I was "sick".  Then I got up and ran to the toilet.  She handed me a Russian/English dictionary.  The word "diarrhea" was apparently too dirty for the Russian dictionary.  Frustrated, I handed the book back to her.  Then she got a bright idea and asked me if I had tampons.

I laughed and shook my head.  That was not why I was sick, although it is why "there will be no sex tomorrow."  I finally stood up and pantomimed stuff coming out of my ass.  It was then that host mom got a clue and started laughing.  She said, "Դուք ունեք լուծ եմ կպել."  Transliterated, it sounds something like "Du’ unes’ luts yem kpel."  The word "luts" (pronounced "loots") is very useful when you first get to Armenia, but apparently to the Russians, it's a dirty word.  I guess diarrhea literally is dirty, given what it is.  

She gave me green tea, which did absolutely nothing to stem the tide.  Fortunately, the next day, I went on a site visit and a colleague had some Pepto Bismol available.  That's what finally helped me get over my "luts".        

I am capable of learning different languages, but I think I've gotten to a point in my life at which if I don't have to, I won't.  Sometimes not knowing the language isn't a bad thing.  At least if someone insults or makes fun of me in German, I won't have to know what they are saying about me and it won't piss me off.  That has happened before here, too.  If I don't speak the language, it's a lot easier to ignore such rude behavior.

On the other hand, not knowing German makes getting to know the country harder.  So I've been trying to boost my language skills and I probably do need work on my prepositions and conjunctions...  I guess I'll spend some time on Duolingo today and see if I can't improve my German a bit.  Later today, we'll probably buy our plane tickets back to the US for Thanksgiving.  What fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

May you live in interesting times...

My ex friend once wrote this ancient "Chinese" curse on a birthday card to me.  At the time, I didn't think much about it.  I didn't know the origin of the saying, nor did it occur to me that she meant me ill.  Given how things turned out in our "friendship", the fact that she put that on a birthday card of all things seems especially suspicious.  Based on my research, no actual Chinese curse exists; the saying is apocryphal.  Apparently, the closest thing is a saying that goes "It's better to live as a dog in peaceful times than a man in times of war."  Some have speculated that the saying was mistranslated by a British diplomat.  Robert F. Kennedy also used it in a speech

Today, on our way to the PX, Bill and I were talking about the so-called ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."  I told him about how my former friend had "wished" me this on my birthday.  Maybe she was trying to tell me something back then and apparently I was too dumb to get it.  She was my enemy, really, and was using me to bolster her own lagging self esteem.  I was just a warm body who could serve as tangible evidence that she had friends.  But she was never really my friend.  Fortunately, I was never in a romantic relationship with her.  I think her ex boyfriends fare worse than anyone.  In fact, I feel pretty sorry for her husband.

I remember one guy she dated told me about how one night, my ex friend got mad and swallowed a whole bunch of grain alcohol.  Her boyfriend at the time, being a good and responsible guy, was worried about her and demonstrated his concern by taking care of her.  A few years later, they broke up.  I remember how she went on and on about what an ass he was.  She had nothing good to say about him, though I remember that he was quite solicitous.  In fact, he was a pretty nice guy all around...  not gorgeous, but  reasonably attractive, very intelligent, witty, and probably way too good for her.  I hope he's living a good life now with someone who treats him better than she did.

I distinctly remember one time my ex friend invited me to her house.  Her ex boyfriend (who was at that time not an ex) was also there.  She decided he needed a haircut.  Despite not having any training in cosmetology or barbering, my ex friend proceeded to cut this poor guy's hair while I looked on.  He had thick, luscious, wavy red hair and I remember him looking more than a bit humiliated as she sheared him like a sheepdog.  Fortunately, when she was finished, it didn't look as horrible as it could have.  It definitely wasn't a professional job, though, and he didn't look too happy with her handiwork.  

I watched her treat another ex boyfriend like a slave.  He always kind of carried a torch for her and she ate it up, even decades after they had ceased to be a couple.  I kind of hope he's wised up and realized that he deserved better.  But then, it took me years to finally dump her, despite wanting to for several years before I actually did it.

I would be lying if I said I didn't still think about her at times.  She was a big part of my life for many years and we did have a lot of fun when we were growing up.  But anyone who puts an "ancient Chinese curse" on a birthday card is definitely not a friend.
  

Ahhh... the weekly PX ritual...

When we lived in Germany last time, we often did our PX/commissary shopping on Sundays.  I think it was mainly because a lot of stuff in Germany is closed on Sundays, although I do know there is a fest going on in Tuebingen this weekend.  We did need to go there today, though, because it looks like we might finally be getting our vehicles this coming week and we had to go buy vests.

Germany recently passed a law requiring all cars to have at least one safety vest in it.  We had the first aid kits and traffic triangles in both cars from last time, though the first aid kits are probably in need of retirement by now.  So we went to the PX and picked up the vests, as well as a new DVD player to replace our broken one and another WiFi booster.

Then, after lunch at the Phuket Inn stand right outside the PX, we went to the commissary for groceries.  I generally find grocery shopping a nervewracking experience, especially at the commissary.  The one at Patch Barracks is basically two big buildings hinged together by a hallway.  It can get rather crowded and it doesn't always have everything you need.

Then we stopped by the Class VI, where we picked up some beer, a bottle of wine, and a couple of mini bottles of amaretto for our green beans.  A chef I used to work with taught me a great trick of sautéing beans in a little amaretto and adding a few toasted almond slices for good measure.  I don't always bother with the toasted almonds and had gotten out of the habit of using the amaretto, but since it was right there, I figured I'd pick up some.

I never thought I'd say this, but we really need to get some beer glasses.  We have some in storage...  actually, we have a shitload in storage, but thought it'd be easy to get more here.  Sometimes the beer racks come with a free glass.  So far, that hasn't happened yet.  You can buy beer by racks of twenty here.  We probably ought to just go to a drink market for them, since the beers at the Class VI tend to be kind of boring.

Yesterday's trip to Nagold was kind of fun.  See my travel blog for pics.  I'm itching to take a trip.  Columbus Day weekend is coming up.  Maybe we can do something then.  Of course, I also have to buy tickets to go back to the States for Thanksgiving.  Will be glad to be done with that.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hoping for an outing that's more fun than going to the PX...

And when we get back, I hope to have something fun to write about...  I've been entertaining myself by watching reruns of 7th Heaven and reminding myself of how irritating Stephen Collins is.   Recently, he reconnected with most of the gang from that show, sans Mackenzie Rosman (aka Ruthie) and the "twins", who were really quadruplets and never developed as anything more than annoying extraneous characters.  I was surprised to see Jessica Biel there.  Looked like they had a good time and, perhaps, Collins gets along better with Catherine Hicks (aka Annie) than his real wife, Faye (who could be his ex by now).

Having read Stephen Collins' books, I know that he's not really like RevCam... but it sounds like his and Faye aren't getting along so well anymore.  Pity.  I remember when she starred in an early episode of 7th Heaven.






Friday, September 19, 2014

Minimum wage wars...


A Facebook friend posted this to my wall and invited me to comment... so I will...

It's been a long time since I had a minimum wage job.  Hell, it's been a long time since I've had any real job.  So maybe, when it comes to the controversy surrounding wages, I don't have any right to speak my mind.  After all, I am not struggling to pay my bills with a minimum wage job, nor am I paying anyone to do a minimum wage job. 

For the record, I do think it's a bit much for fast food employees to be asking $15 an hour to flip burgers.  That's a lot of money.  In fact, it's 50% more per hour than what I earned as a graduate assistant at the University of South Carolina (although the 80% tuition break totally made up for the lack of pay and benefits).  On the other hand, a lot of people who have minimum wage jobs at places like McDonald's and Burger King are well past their teen years.  Some of them have those jobs because they can't find anything else.  Minimum wage is not a "living wage", but there are people out there who are trying to support their families at those positions.  



Just a couple of months ago, I blogged about a woman who got in trouble with the law because she sent her nine year old daughter to play in a nearby park while she worked at McDonald's.  It's my guess that this mom wasn't working at Mickey D's because she necessarily wanted to; she was working there because there weren't any more appealing or better paying jobs available to her.  She couldn't pay for childcare for her daughter, so she sent her to the park to play... something that would have been totally okay for our own moms to do when we were kids.  She got in a lot of trouble for doing that and very nearly lost her minimum wage job that requires "minimum skills".  And yet, the people who run fast food corporations are extremely well paid.  They are among the best paid executives in the United States.    

In May 2013, I met a couple on a SeaDream cruise.  SeaDream Yacht Club, if you don't know, is a luxury cruise line.  It costs a lot of money to sail with SeaDream.  We've managed to do it three times on Bill's Army salary, but it required saving and planning.  While we were on our last cruise, I met a Wendy's executive, whose job it was to spread the brand internationally.  Granted, that's not a low skilled job, but it obviously paid very well, since he was joining us on that cruise.  While I didn't ask him, I doubt he worked his way up to that position from manning the drive thru window.  

I'm not saying the man we met needed to be making a whole lot less money than he does, but I do think that fast food executives should pay a bit more to people who do an honest day's work actually selling the products that made them famous.  It can only help our society by giving people with less earning power more economic security and the ability to develop "non minimum wage skills".  And it can help parents who work at places like McDonald's or Wendy's find appropriate child care so their kids don't end up being taken by CPS and they don't end up with a police record and all the expenses caused by involvement with the legal system.  A police record and legal issues don't make it easier for the down and out to rise up and move forward.  

Add in the fact that some fast food outlets are paying in debit cards that charge fees.  If you're making minimum wage and it costs $1.75 to $2.25 simply to access the money you earned, that can translate to making less than minimum wage.   Last year, McDonald's embarrassed itself by showing how out of touch they are with what living actually costs for their lowest level employees.  I think it's time they did raise the pay scale a bit.  And while they're at it, they can invest in better food, too...  stuff that doesn't stay preserved for years on end.  Perhaps that would help make health care costs lower for the population as a whole, thus freeing up more cash to pay the low level workers so they can stay off welfare.   

Now, as for the military, which is also referenced in the above photo, I want to make it plain that there are no "kids" serving in a military uniform.  Anyone who wears a military uniform is an adult who, you'd better hope, is capable of making grown up decisions.  Therefore, it really bugs me when I read someone referring to people in the military as "kids".  It belittles them.  Think about it.  Children are generally thought of as innocents who need protection.  While there may be some folks in the military who are immature, and some who are even flat out stupid, by and large, our nation is blessed with a great military staffed with people who chose to do the job.  And the job they do is sometimes very dangerous.  I doubt they'd want to be called "kids" when what they do for a living can turn out to be as real as it gets.  

Secondly, while the military doesn't pay its lower ranks well at all, there are opportunities for advancement and benefits available to those who seek them and that can translate to a better paycheck, too.  My husband, who grew up in a household with little money, joined JROTC in high school and managed to get scholarships for college.  He ended up graduating from a very prestigious and expensive private university in Washington, DC.  Then, he embarked on a successful career as an Army officer, during which he earned a master's degree.  He is now retired and earning a second master's degree, courtesy of the Army.  These benefits weren't handed to him on a silver platter.  He took advantage of them because they were offered through the Army and he was willing to work for them.  

Not everyone can wear a military uniform.  I probably couldn't have, even if I'd had the appropriate physique.  I don't have the right temperament for the military.  But I recognize that there are a lot of benefits to being in the military, especially for those who come from a place where good jobs are in short supply.  The military gets a bad rap for the number of poor people who serve and later end up in harm's way.  It also gets a bad rap for not honoring promises made to those who sign up.  However, as employers go, the military can be a good gig, if you play your cards right and if you're lucky.  The military can help disadvantaged people become middle class.  

I think, across the board, people should be less selfish.  Employers should be willing to pay more for work performed.  I don't think everyone who works at McDonald's is "unskilled", and I think it's very ignorant to assume that they are and arrogantly and offensively treat them as if they are.  Moreover, I don't think it serves society for fast food workers to be paid slave wages.  Some fast food jobs can be great training environments that translate to excellent work skills.  Off the top of my head, I can think of two people with whom I went to high school who worked in fast food restaurants and are now doing fine work in their careers.  They no doubt got a good foundation working in fast food restaurants.  

Those who start working at a fast food restaurant and are considered unskilled don't have to leave the job unskilled.  It's a mistake to assume that anyone who works in fast food and earns minimum wage is automatically someone with minimum skills.  In fact, I don't believe any job is truly unskilled.  Every task requires some level of competency.  Unfortunately, our economy has dwindled to the point at which high school kids are being edged out by older people who have bills to pay.  There are a lot of parents working in fast food restaurants who are just trying to get by in any way they can.  

We talk a lot about being concerned about children, but it really rings hollow when a woman working at McDonald's can't afford child care for her daughter and ends up in jail for letting her kid play in the park.  Our country needs more jobs that pay decently and allow people to take care of themselves and their families.  As long as we have overpaid CEOs making money hand over fist on the backs of low paid "unskilled" flunkies, that can never happen.  While many people can rise above being fast food flunkies, some people working at McDonald's, being paid with debit cards that they have to pay to access, will never rise above their "unskilled" status and it's possible that their children won't, either.  And when those kids grow up and expect better conditions, some people will still be berating them for not being able to get ahead.  And then the cycle will continue apace.        



Thursday, September 18, 2014

This carpet looks like shit...


Ah... this rug comes from the "House of Excrement"...

No, really, it does.  I bought it at Robinson Barracks, where the AAFES furniture store is.  It was one of a couple of rugs that wasn't totally offensive to my sensibilities.  I brought it home in an effort to dampen some of the noise that comes from uncarpeted floors and concrete walls.  And Arran, bless his heart, seems to have adopted it as a place to poop instead of telling me he needs a potty break.  Due to its color and the brown and red designs on it, his poop often blends into the rug.

Bill has accidentally stepped in dog crap in the wee hours of the morning, which he then tracked into the bedroom, which does have carpet.  Since that fiasco, he's been more careful about where he walks.  I've taken to scanning the rug in search of turds and more often than not, I've actually found them.  

Adding to the problem is the fact that Arran's poop doesn't have an especially offensive odor.  I have a more sensitive sniffer than Bill does, so I pick up on the aroma sometimes.  But even then, sometimes the crap blends in so well with the rug's pattern that I don't get it all up.  That happened this morning.  I never thought I'd own a rug that would actually hide bowel movements.  

Arran was excited about the new German dog food Bill bought yesterday.  I don't know what's in that stuff, but it must be akin to canine crack.  Instead of going outside for his constitutional, he laid a dump on the rug.  I got up and could smell the faint scent of dog crap, so I scanned the rug.  I found a few pieces and cleaned them up... and completely missed one stray turd that was positioned in the middle of a flower. 

I guess I should be glad Arran poops on my cheap, ugly rug instead of on the landlord's carpet.  I just wish we could straighten out his issues.



My rug doesn't pull the whole room together....


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Unbridled anxiety...

I have way too much time on my hands, which means that I have too much time to think about stuff.  I'm worried about Zane, my dog, not because he's acting sick or injured, but because I read too much on the Internet about canine cancer.  I've already lost two dogs to cancer and both situations were so sad.  I felt so helpless.  

Zane has a soft lump where he got his rabies vaccine.  I have read that lumps after vaccines are very common and sometimes they can take forever to go away.  They can be completely harmless cysts or hematomas.  And sometimes they can turn into fibrosarcoma, which is a type of cancer that is linked to rabies shots.  It seems the rabies shot tumors are more common with cats than dogs, but since we've lost two dogs to cancer, I am inclined to want to have a fine needle aspirate done.  The German vet didn't seem too concerned about it, but I can't help but worry.  You can't accurately diagnose cancer visually or by palpating.  Hopefully, it will set my mind at ease, but if it doesn't, at least we can try to do something.

Zane also has a little pink growth on his lip.  I went looking for information about that, and, wouldn't you know it, any growths on a dog's lip warrant a vet's attention too.  It's just one growth, maybe the size of the head of a pin, and it looks a little cauliflower-ish.  It's probably a wart.  But I want it gone, because it could be cancer or it could become cancerous.

And, of course, there's his paw, which he somehow managed to tear the skin off of the other day.  Bill got mad at me because I took the wrapping off of it a couple of nights ago.  I didn't want to do that, but it was clearly really agitating him to the point at which none of us were going to be able to go to sleep because Zane was running around the house and chewing at the bandage.  He's not lame on the paw, which is from the same leg where his lump is, but I still worry...  

Zane is still eating and playing, though he chose to sleep on the futon for most of last night instead of in bed with us like he normally does... and that makes me worry, too, though the extra room was kind of nice.  I try to tell myself that he's fine and he probably is.  I've just lost three rescues earlier than I would have expected to to nasty diseases (two to cancer and one to a rare mycobacterial infection).  Besides, Zane and Arran are kind of like my kids.  If I lose one of them now, I don't know what I'll do with myself.  Arran doesn't do so well when he's alone.  

If our cars were here, I could deal with this vet stuff myself.  But we're still waiting for them to be delivered.  It's taking forever and we didn't even use the same shipping service that has confounded so many military folks who have moved to or from Europe since the new car shipping contractor took over.  We were told the cars are in Germany, but they haven't been unloaded from the shipping container yet.  I wish they'd hurry up.  I want to drive with the top down on my Mini.  Pretty soon, it'll be too cold for that.

I'm also fretting about going back to the States for Thanksgiving and all the drama that could result from that, my mom's breast cancer (and the fact that now I'm at a higher risk of getting it), money, my teeth, and making too much noise...  I need to relax or find something productive to do... or maybe try to make some friends.  It's always hard getting settled in a new place.  I know I have a bad habit of "borrowing trouble".  I need to cool it, but it's so hard for me to do that because I am very neurotic.

Bill is working hard in his new job and on his new graduate program, which is turning out to be pretty challenging.  He come home from work, eats dinner, then does his homework on a laptop computer that is probably not really up to the job.  He's going to be doing this program for the next 18 months or so, then he'll get his second master's degree and be as overeducated as I am.  Hopefully, all that schooling will pay off better for him than it did for me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Zane kicks the boot...

Bill took Zane back to the vet yesterday to have his paw pad checked.  The vet re-wrapped it and said to bring him back on Thursday.  Up until last night, he had been tolerating the wrapping very well, but then I think it started to itch and get on his nerves.  He started running around the house in the middle of the night and kept trying to chew it off.  I worried that it might have been too tight or something, so I unwrapped his paw, which he then frantically started chewing because it itched.

He finally settled down some.  I wish I'd had some Benadryl, which could have helped with the itching and getting him to calm down.  But we don't have any in the house right now because I forgot to get some last time we were shopping.  Being the worrywart that I am, I started thinking of all the horrible things that could go wrong... like a bad infection or mast cell tumors showing up.  That kept me up for awhile, until I finally drifted off to sleep.  He seems fine today, though.  He's not limping and the paw doesn't look too much worse for wear.

Then the last molar that hasn't yet been crowned and has a big filling in it has started annoying me, which means I'm going to be back in the dentist's chair soon.  Joy.  I really hate getting crowns.  It took awhile to get used to the last one I had done.  At the same time, I'd rather not have a dental emergency or need a root canal, though if this filling falls apart, I'm pretty sure that's what could be coming.  I wish to God I had taken better care of my teeth when I was a kid.

My mom had her surgery yesterday and is supposedly doing fine.  My sister says she's "loopy" due to the painkillers.  I'd expect that.  In fact, I'm sure it's entertaining in an odd sort of way.

The property managers in Texas decided to give us the rest of our security deposit.  They went to Housing 1 Source, who were our original property managers, and they confirmed that the window was broken before we moved in.  They also evidently paid to repair it.  So that situation turned out okay, even though I still hated renting from them.  I'm just glad we don't have to litigate.

Bill left looking really spiffy this morning.  Apparently, some folks from the home office are coming in, so he decided to wear a suit.  He cleans up nicely, though I miss the Army ACUs.

Hopefully, our cars will be here soon.  I'd like to be able to get out of here at will.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Marriott launches "tipping education" campaign...

Ah, Marriott hotels...  I generally try to avoid them because I don't like to support the LDS church.  It annoys me that there are BoMs in the nightstands and I can get drunk and watch porn while reading about Joseph's Myth.  Today, I ran across a news article about Marriott's new campaign to "educate" people about the need to tip hotel maids.

Now, I have worked in the service industry.  I used to wait tables.  I get that some people rely on tips to get by.  But tipping in hotels is one of those gray areas where people don't know if they are supposed to tip.  Hotel maids aren't paid like wait staff is.  People who work as servers only get paid a couple of dollars an hour, while maids get at least minimum wage and sometimes a lot more, depending on the market.

In some hotels-- usually cheap ones-- there are envelopes that make it obvious.  Marriott never struck me as a particularly cheap hotel chain, but I do think it's tacky that they are trying to get hotel guests to pay their people.  I've read that even when people do leave tip money, it doesn't necessarily go to the maid, especially if the money isn't properly marked as a tip.

Maria Shriver, who has likely never had to work a tipped position in her life, is helping to spread the word about this "custom" that many Americans apparently know little about.  I mean, if people don't know about it, how can it be "customary"?  And why doesn't Marriott just pay their people?  I'd rather pay a little more for people who are properly compensated than be asked to leave cash.  This just gives me one more reason not to stay at a Marriott hotel, at least not in the United States or Canada, which is where this campaign is being launched.

Apparently, Shriver is involved in this tipping business because of her organization, "A Woman's Nation", which aims to empower women.  So Shriver thinks that getting travelers to leave tips for hotel maids helps to empower women?  I think what she should be doing is encouraging Marriott to pay their people instead of buying BoMs for their hotel rooms.

Reading about this makes me glad I'm in Europe, where tipping is appreciated but not expected.

  

Zane and his "boot"...

Bill and I walked Zane and Arran the other day and evidently, Zane ended up stepping on something that cut his paw pad.  I later found him chewing on it and a large piece of skin missing from the main part of his right hind foot.  That happens to be the same leg where he still has a lump after his rabies shot.

We worried that the cut might get infected, so we looked to see where we could take him to get looked at.  Here in Germany, the local vets take turns with weekend office hours and it turned out our old vet in Herrenberg, Dr. Rupp, was working on Saturday.  Bill called and she said we could bring him in at 6:00pm.

Bill used to take our old dog, Flea, to Dr. Rupp.  Flea was like a smaller version of Zane with a Napolean complex.  In all seriousness, they look like and kind of act like brothers.  Sometimes I'd swear Flea took up residence in Zane and visits us.  We lost Flea to prostate cancer in November 2009, but they still had him in their records and when Bill brought Zane in, the receptionist wondered if it was Flea.

I'm not sure Dr. Rupp remembered Bill or Flea, but she took a look at Zane's paw and wrapped it up in a "boot".  Bill will take him back for a recheck this afternoon.  She also looked at the lump on Zane's leg where the rabies shot went.  She wasn't too concerned about it, though she did think it was weird that they gave him the shot in his leg.  I read somewhere that American vets were doing that because of the risk of needle sarcoma (which is more common in cats than dogs).  It's a cancer that develops near where rabies injections are given.  Supposedly, the rationale is that if a cancer develops in a leg, it can be amputated.  If it develops between the shoulders where the rabies shot is often given, the pet is more likely to be a goner.



She thinks the lump could be a fatty tumor, but I think it's odd that it would spring up right after a rabies shot, especially since rabies shots are notorious for causing lumps.  But we were told to watch it and bring him back if he goes lame or it grows.  I'm hoping it'll just go away.  It's pretty soft and round, though, and kind of does look like a lipoma.  Our dog MacGregor had a few of those, but he was kind of a roly poly dog.  Zane is a lot leaner.

My tooth is not annoying today.  Hoping it can hang in there a little longer.

I also found out there's a castle that is a restaurant, hotel, and riding stable near here.  I'm tempted to check it out.  It's been a long time since I was last in the saddle, though...


Me and Rusty circa 1988...
  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review of I'm No Monster: The Horrifying True Story of Josef Fritzl

If you've been reading this blog recently, you know I've been reading about Austria's infamous Josef Fritzl, a man who imprisoned and raped his daughter, Elisabeth, in an underground cellar for 24 years.  Fritzl had seven children with his wife, Rosemarie, and seven more with Elisabeth, not including one that was miscarried.  Six of Elisabeth's children are still living.  One of the seven, a twin to her son, Alexander, died just a few days after he was born in the cellar.  Three of Elisabeth's children were raised above ground, while the two eldest, Kerstin and Stephan, and the youngest, Felix, stayed underground with their mother.

The first book I read about this case was Secrets in the Cellar by John Glatt.  I followed up with I'm No Monster, written by Stefanie Marsh and Bojan Pancevski.  Overall, I think I'm No Monster is the better book, although I did notice there were some typos and errors in it.  For one thing, the authors repeatedly refer to St. Poelten as St. Pollen.  I almost wonder if the word was "spell checked" as they wrote it and they never noticed it.  For another thing, there are some awkward sentence structures in the book that could have used editing.  The writing is also frequently somewhat repetitive.

The information presented within the book, however, is very interesting.  The authors go into more detail about Fritzl's upbringing that Glatt omitted.  For example, I didn't know that Josef Fritzl's mother had spent time in a concentration camp for not housing German officials.  She had been a very cold and abusive woman before she went away, but was much worse when she came back.  Fritzl was supposedly beaten bloody by his mother until he finally got big enough to fight back.  He was left with emotional scars that supposedly drove him to violate his daughter.  He has been quoted as saying he was "born to rape" and having Elisabeth gave him someone to victimize, as sick as it is.  I didn't get as much of a sense that the authors of I'm No Monster were injecting their own opinions about the case as much as Glatt did, although obviously neither book paints Fritzl in a positive light.  

The authors of I'm No Monster also write about the community of Amstetten, where this crime took place.  It is apparently a very straight-laced kind of town at a perfection junction between Germany and Italy.  It even sounds like the kind of place I might want to visit sometime.

Now that I've read two books on Josef Fritzl, I think it may be time to move on to another topic.  I hate to say I enjoy reading about true crime, though I do find the people involved in these cases fascinating.  Josef Fritzl is a liar and a narcissist.  According to this book, he wanted to be studied by the top psychologists and psychiatrists and was even working on his own memoirs...  As if being infamous gives him the right to become a celebrity of sorts.  Maybe reading books about Josef Fritzl is counterproductive in that sense, since it gives criminals notoriety that they don't deserve.  For me, personally, reading these books offers a glimpse into the mindset of criminals.

Anyway, I would recommend I'm No Monster, though I do think it could have been better written.