Monday, November 30, 2015

"This is what happens when you don't shut up..."

That was the caption under a photo of a beautiful labrador retriever whose mouth was duct taped.  The dog's owner stupidly posted the photo on Facebook, where it quickly went viral.  Many people, myself included, reported the photo to Facebook.  Facebook responded that the photo wasn't against their community standards.  It stayed up for a couple of days, then was deleted.  My guess is that the owner of the dog was getting a lot of heat from local law enforcement officials and animal control.

It's funny.  I don't get too hot and bothered reading about a woman breastfeeding her daughter while drinking beer.  The sight of an innocent animal with its snout taped shut makes me want to act.  The dog was otherwise healthy looking and apparently suffered no harm from this little stunt.  Still, it was disturbing to see it on my Facebook feed as many times as I did.  When someone posts a picture of an animal that has been abused or killed, I usually have to hide it.  I can't stand looking at those kinds of pictures.  And yet, I still eat meat and wear leather.  Go figure.

Interestingly enough, the woman who posted the photo of the taped up dog muzzle, also posted this...

I'd venture to say that posting a picture on Facebook of a dog with a duct taped muzzle isn't intelligent or classy... and I'm confident she will be dealing with the aftermath for awhile.

This story made Fox News as well.  I had to go look and read what some of the comments were.  Naturally, some had to mention abortion, as in how many "babies" are slaughtered in their mothers' wombs.  Others commented that they like to shoot the woman or beat her senseless.  One person offered this beaut of a comment...

The Liberals are Hippocrates!! I know for a fact the Obama Administration has duct taped Joe Biden's mouth on more than one occasion!!

Hippocrates? Really?  Fox News is a riot.

It'll be interesting to see if we get an update on this situation.  Meanwhile, I find Facebook's policies regarding what is and what is not acceptable a bit strange.  Show a nipple and you're in Facebook jail for a few days.  Tape your dog's mouth shut and it's alright, even though people call the police and they actually investigate.

ETA:  Apparently, the Facebooker was nabbed in Cary, NC.  The dog remains in her custody, as long as she stays out of Florida.

I really need to find a hobby.  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Losing followers... do I offend?

I maintain a Facebook page for my three blogs.  It's not a very popular page, mainly because I don't really publicize it that much.  I do have a link to it on this blog, but not on the other two blogs I write.  I mainly put it up as a way to communicate with readers in a way other than the comment section and advertise links to people who aren't friends but want to keep up with my blog.  I do have a few regular readers who lurk and never comment.

The Facebook page for The Overeducated Housewife is also a good place to put links to blog posts when I don't want to put them on my personal page.  Sometimes I write about friends and family and I don't necessarily want to invite drama by encouraging them to read posts that might upset them.  Of course, if a family member of friend ever did call me out over something, I would explain myself.  But it's not my wish to upset people if I can avoid it.  I don't think my family reads this blog much if at all, anyway.  Only a handful of my friends read it and usually only certain posts.

Yesterday, I noticed that I lost two followers.  I don't know who they were or what I wrote that turned them off.  One of them was likely a friend, too, since I also lost a friend on my personal page.  Since I am not actually missing the person who dropped me, they couldn't have been too much of a friend to me.  I can't help but wonder, though, which of my most recent posts prompted unfriending and unliking.  Was it the one about "dependas"?  I do have a few military friends and a few of them are staunchly in favor of calling out "dependasauri" and "dependapotamuses".  That's their right, though I don't necessarily agree with it.

Was it the post about drinking while breastfeeding?  I'm not a mother myself, so I am probably less protective of children than a lot of people are.  I do like kids, but I don't have those "mama bear" instincts.  I wonder if someone was upset that I wasn't outraged that Tasha Adams was drinking while breastfeeding in a restaurant.  Not that their being upset with me would change my mind.  I happen to think that people have gotten a little nutty when it comes to child welfare.  Maybe I'm just getting old and crotchety, though.

Maybe it was my Turkey day posts...  Did people find them tasteless and horrifying?  Hard to tell.  I guess it doesn't matter that much.  Personally, I was surprised I didn't lose a lot of friends over my Woody Allen post from 2014.

I don't do a lot of interacting on the blogs' Facebook page unless someone specifically addresses me.  I probably should post more to the masses rather than just use the page for disseminating links.  But then, maybe people don't like the Facebook option because they are identified.  I don't allow anonymous posts, though I do get a lot from "Unknown", which is pretty much the same as anonymous.  I don't know why people bother with "Unknown".  If you called yourself some other name, I'd never know the difference.  You'd be just as unknown to me if you went by Stevie Ray as you would calling yourself "Unknown" or "Anonymous".

While I guess I don't like it when people unfriend me, I find that as I grow older, it matters a lot less than it once did.  When it comes down to it, I have a small core of people I talk to regularly.  The rest of the people I wouldn't immediately miss if they dropped off the face of the earth.  It's sad to write that about so-called friends, but that's the truth.  In the days before social media, people flowed into and out of each others' lives often without much fanfare.  Someone could be part of your life one day and disappear the next.  You might stop and wonder what happened or where they went, but then you'd probably shrug and simply move on.  What other choice do you have?

I used to have a "friend tracker", which would tell me when I was unfriended and by whom.  I eventually got rid of it, though, because I found that it caused me a lot of angst.  I'd see someone's name in red.  It would say whether or not they deleted or deactivated their account or they just decided to unfriend.  While it was useful to know who was no longer on my list for the sake of not trying to friend them again, I found that those who dumped me evoked feelings of bitterness.  If you read this blog regularly, you may know that I'm already fairly bitter and jaded about some things.  I don't need more of that in my life.

I think I'd like it if Facebook made it optional to show the number of friends you have.  I know you can hide your friends list from non friends.  That's not what I'm referring to.  What I'd like is the option not to know the number of people on your friends list.  If someone drops off, I'd rather not know about it.

But anyway, if anyone is wondering, yes I do notice when my number of followers suddenly goes from 80 to 78 in two days.  Maybe I should worry more about offending people.  On the other hand, it's my blog and these are my thoughts... and I can't please everyone or even anyone but myself.  It's my place for expressing myself as I please.  And I've been annoying and pissing people off my whole life.  I certainly can't change now!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Drinking while breastfeeding...

The "On this day..." feature on Facebook is interesting.  Sometimes it's fun to look back on the things that were on my mind a year or more ago.  Two years ago, I read a story about a 28 year old woman who was drinking alcohol and breastfeeding in an Arkansas restaurant.  An off duty waitress called the cops on her and she ended up getting arrested for endangering the welfare of a child.  The story I originally read is now gone from the Web, but here's a story from ABC about the case.

Evidently, Tasha Adams of Toad Suck, Arkansas (a dry town, by the way) didn't know that drinking while breastfeeding could get her arrested.  I didn't know, either, though I think if I had a child, I wouldn't want to breastfeed in public.  It's not that I don't think moms should be able to breastfeed wherever they want.  I just don't know that I'd want to do that with people looking on.  But that's just me, of course.  Actually, given how everybody watches moms and their babies, I think I'd want to be a shut in until the kid was at least three.

It turned out it wasn't against the law to drink and breastfeed, at least at the time when this incident occurred.  But the officers made a "judgment call" and arrested Adams anyway, without offering her a Breathalyzer test.  Since prosecutors couldn't prove that the two beers Adams admitted to drinking had actually harmed the baby, the charges were dropped.  The off duty waitress who called the law was fired.

Anyway, I posted about this on Facebook and one of my friends, who is a certified women's health nurse practitioner and delivers babies for a living, posted an article from La Leche League that basically says the baby was likely never in any danger.  Naturally, it probably is safest not to drink alcohol while breastfeeding.  On the other hand, I don't know that throwing a breastfeeding mom into jail is all that great, either.  I mean, sure, she should go to jail if she's a danger to the public, but if she's not, putting her in jail deprives the baby of his or her meal ticket.

Here in Europe, it's not uncommon for women to drink while pregnant, let alone while breastfeeding. They are more concerned about what a pregnant woman eats than alcohol use.  But the United States has a long history of puritan attitudes about alcohol.  We also have a lot of folks out there in the world who seem to think pregnant women or new moms need a keeper.  To be honest, these kinds of stories scare me.  It's very easy to be thrown in jail these days.

Comments on stories that involve lactating moms always bring out the most self righteous all knowers.  It's always fun to read the comments, especially when they come from men.  Sometimes, I like to respond.  One guy wrote this...

Gary  • an hour ago
Nope... not insane... just looking out for the innocent and defenseless in harsh world.

And I responded with...

You enjoy the smell of your own farts, don't you Gary?

Of course, that is a reference from South Park...

It's fun being crude.

I don't know if he responded in kind.  I just thought it was funny.  I haven't checked out the comments on the ABC article I posted.  I'm going to do that now and see if there are any holier than thou ones I can post here.  Sure enough, there are...  Check out this conversation.   Commenter 2 is on a soapbox.

Commenter 1

Wow, talk about the nanny state! Throughout much of Europe and South American and many parts of Asia it is more common to drink wine than water due to the quality of he water supply. the children are routinely breastfed because of the cost and convenience. Are we saying that the entire world (except for the US)has developmental problems? Talk to the CERN scientists and engineers and thy will tell you that breast-feeding while having their dinner wine is normal. We are hampering the formation of natural antibodies and creating susceptability to super bugs.

Commenter 2

ive heard that too...that a glass of red wine once in a while is ok supposedly gets the blood that means drink a couple beers and possibly long islands and then breastfeeding is alright?? no i don't think so

Commenter 3

I would say the mother who actually drank the 2 beers knows what she did or did not drink. The waitress was guessing, because there were glasses on the table in front of the mother when the waitress came in, that she drank long islands. Many times I've been out with friends and glasses get moved around on the table. Just because they're in front of you doesn't mean you drank them. The other thing everyone is missing is that beer doesn't leak out of your throat and into your breast as you are drinking it. It takes time to get into your milk and I expect if they could have tested her milk on the spot for alcohol, it would have come up clean or close to it. So the breastfeeding at the restaurant did not likely endanger the child at all. It's the next session that would have had the alcohol. Further, how about knowing the facts of alcohol and nursing before we start passing laws about it-

Commenter 2

ok when she got home and breastfed then that's when the beer would get into the baby's system right...?...ok...and we don't need more laws... what we DO need are mothers who don't need to drink at all while pregnant or breastfeeding....but i guess that's not gonna happen huh?

Commenter 3

A lot of mothers pump out the milk a while later and don't feed it to their baby if they've had some drinks. I'm not trying to be antagonistic but the mother says she had 2 beers and I expect she knows what she drank rather than the waitress who did not witness what she drank but made a guess based on the glasses on the table....  I think that if she wanted to lie, she wouldn't have admitted that she had the two beers. Are 2 beers the best thing for baby? No. We can agree on that. Are 2 beers going to do so much harm that it should classify as abuse? Really? Is that a reasonable standard? Would you ever give your kids mac & cheese from a box? Is that the best thing for them? Apples with pesticides? The truth is that through life we and our children sometimes ingest things that aren't the best choice. It is a matter of balance.

Commenter 2

matter of balance? really?...listen...i have 4 kids and ive been a smoker since i was 19....every single time i found out i was pregnant i quit cold turkey...thinking about the baby in my belly drinking and smoking it up made me quit's that simple...i don't understand half of u people...alcohol does things to adults that should not have to happen to babies....doesn't make sense to me...

Commenter 4

So you still smoke then? Around your 4 kids?

Commenter 2 (she clearly doesn't see how rich her comment is...)

i do smoke yes....outside and not in the that ok with u?

Commenter 3

This right here is the whole point. You are entitled to make a decision about your habits and how they relate to your family. So should the rest of the mothers. We are not talking about abuse in this case. In fact, there is debate about whether there are any detrimental effects as long as this is an occasional behavior. I agree it wasn't the best decision but neither do I think what she did warrants the humiliation of a public arrest and the ridiculous vilification to which she is being subjected.

Then a male commenter weighs in with this...

Commenter 5

..not that I am supporting a law against it, just personal responsibility based on scientific fact. Two beers would definitely affect, and even harm a newborn. It is suggested that for 1 12 oz a mother waits 2-3 hours to metabolize before feeding, she had 2. Studies have clearly linked increased rates of developmental disabilities due to newborn exposure to alcohol.

Commenter 6

Baby was not a newborn. Anyone can google 'drinking and breastfeeding' but that little question and answer can not cover all implications of consuming an alcoholic drink and nursing a baby. If the mother was also consuming food that would slow the rate the alcohol was absorbed by the mother's bloodstream.

Let's ask this question: If everyone was concerned about the exclusively breastfed baby, why would they arrest her mother and separate them? Because formula is just as good? It's not, especially to an infant who has never consumed it.

Commenter 7 addresses Commenter 2 with this...

So you clearly have a line that is different from other people How would you feel if others jumped down your throat and said "she says she smokes in the car, but I doubt it. The pack of cigarettes was right there in her pocket and she was holding that baby." The point is, don't judge based on assumed facts.

Commenter 2

oh i don't judge!! im not the one on here calling her trash and other things like that....

Commenter 7

I thought you said "She is on TV. Do you think she is really going to say how much she really drank."

Commenter 2

yeah i did....that's not judging her though

Commenter 4

You need to look up the word Judging

Commenter 8 to Commenter 2

Pot, meet kettle. You so judged her. You can't back out now. done. Oh, and I get to add HYPOCRITE. Nicely done!

Commenter 9 to Commenter 2

That's calling her a liar. You JUDGED her a liar.

Commenter 2

it's true though....everybody says they've only had 2 drinks when they are in trouble...its like a happy medium i guess

Commenter 10

Everyone says they smoke outside when they have kids... everyone says they quit cold turkey when they found out they were pregnant... everyone says they only smoke 5 a day... you see how easy it is?

Commenter 2

me smoking outside and not blowing smoke in my kids face is way better than chugging 2 beers and then breastfeeding...sorry

Commenter 11

wow, you really need to read up on some second hand smoke studies. Even if you smoke "outside", you are exposing your children on a daily basis to the toxins in those nasty cigarettes.

At this point, I quit reading.  Here's what I would tell Commenter 2, who is so hellbent on shaming Tasha Adams for drinking and breastfeeding.  You say your smoking habit doesn't hurt your kids.  And for right now, as long as you're not doing it in front of them or in the car with them, maybe you're right.  But what about years later, when they are adults?  When you end up with cancer or emphysema or COPD, are you going to expect your kids to take care of you?  What if you get sick before they are fully grown?  What if you die when they are teenagers?  What if your nasty habit influences your kids to smoke? 

Of course, you could do everything right and still die.  Or your child will end up exposed to something bad, no matter what you do to prevent it.  The point is, everybody is living life.  You should worry about your own life and not other people's, unless of course they are doing something that is immediately dangerous to themselves or someone else.  A woman drinking beer while breastfeeding doesn't fall into that category in my humblest of opinions.  

The thread continues with lots of people enjoying the smell of their own farts and yelling "Educate yourself!" to strangers on the Internet.  It's very amusing indeed.  Commenter 4 gets especially pompous.  Personally, I think if I had a baby and wanted to drink booze, I'd simply do it at home, away from the prying eyes of the moral brigades of do-gooders.  Problem solved.  :D

Friday, November 27, 2015

Oh Army Times, now you've done it...

This morning, I noticed the Army Times reposted an article about "dependa bashing".  I'm pretty sure I might have opined about the content of that article the first time it ran.  I'm not going to opine about it again in this post.  I just want to put down in words something that occurred to me this morning.

First off, people who go around ripping off other peoples' personal photos and post them solely to make personal attacks against them are, plain and simple, bullies.  It's one thing to poke fun at someone who makes an egregiously dumb comment on a public forum.  It's quite another to go "hunting" for embarrassing photos and comments on private Facebook pages and post them on public forums, simply for the purpose of insulting them.  That behavior, in my mind, constitutes an invasion of privacy and harassment, among other things.  It's especially wrong when the photos ripped off include pictures of minors.

Secondly, it seems that a lot of servicemembers who make these kinds of comments are guilty of some "dependa" behavior themselves.  I've been around military members my whole life and I have found that the ones who join the military because they felt compelled to serve and truly enjoy the job are not the ones who make derogatory comments about other people.  The ones who join because they qualified and it's a job that offers excellent benefits may not be as happy with their work.   But instead of leaving the military and finding their true passion, they stick around and continue to suck off the US government's tits, enjoying the benefits even as they are mediocre at their jobs and don't behave with honor.  They can't pick on their higher ranking bosses who might be making their lives hell, so they pick on fat, unemployed housewives whom they think are freeloaders.  Happy people don't have to pick on others to get their jollies.  They're already high on life.

Maybe it's not even a boss making the bullies' lives hell.  Maybe it's a spouse.  Maybe they weren't loved enough when they were kids.  Maybe they felt they had no other choice but to join the military because for whatever reason, they didn't think they could make it in the civilian sector.  Who knows? But bullies are always cowards and hurting people hurt other people.  The ones that seethe with venom and contempt for those they deem "dependas" are like that for a reason.  My guess is that someone made them feel inadequate.  Instead of taking on the person who made them feel that way, they direct their vitriol to people who are defenseless.  That is the very height of cowardice.

The thing I find most disturbing about the Army Times article is that one woman reported that a colonel was doing the bashing.  Here's a guy, entrusted with leading troops and taking care of the mission, and he's ripping off Facebook photos, posting them in open forums, and insulting them.  How can troops and their families trust a "leader" who behaves like that?  And why would anyone want to be a part of an organization that allows that kind of public behavior from a leader, whether or not he's on duty at the time of the offense?

It seems to me that other peoples' spouses are no one else's business.  I may not approve of the skanky behavior I see from the wife of a deployed soldier who is entertaining other men at the officer's club.  When it comes down to it, though, it's not my business.  She doesn't affect my life in any way.  The wife who spends her husband's paycheck on Coach bags, makeup, or booze is also not my problem, unless I'm working in the capacity of a social worker and it's my job to deal with people with that problem.  It's not my business.  Neither is it my business if someone is ugly or fat or otherwise unappealing to look at.  I have my own life to lead.  I don't need to concern myself with other peoples' lives, especially if they aren't people I know.

Those who defend the "dependa bashing" say that if you're not a dependa, their bullying behavior shouldn't be bothersome or disturbing.  First off, as an American, I have the right to be offended by any damn thing I please.  Servicemembers put on their uniforms every day to protect that right.  You have the right to be offended by a fat woman who doesn't work?  I have the right to be offended by your boorish, tacky behavior.  Secondly, regardless of the real reason why someone attacks so-called "dependas" and other people who are easily picked on, it just isn't decent behavior.

Sadly, I don't think it will end until the perpetrators have to deal with real consequences.  I'm not a fan of lawsuits, especially over "hurt feelings", but I think there is a difference between hurt feelings and harassment. People have the right not to be harassed by others.  And really, if you have the time to engage in online bullying and harassment, your work obviously isn't keeping you busy enough.  Again... I could call that "dependa" behavior too, couldn't I?  Aren't you wasting time Uncle Sam is paying you for?  Isn't that a form of freeloading?

I want to ask some of these people what a so-called "dependa" could do to make themselves respectable...  Would they qualify as fellow human beings worthy of a modicum of regard if they lost some weight and got jobs at AAFES?  What about someone like me?  I am now a retiree's wife.  Many would say I'm fat.  I don't have a regularly paying job, but I write blogs and earn some money from that endeavor.  Am I worthy of respect?  Or would you call me a "dependa" for my lifestyle?

Ah, no matter.  I know I am worthy of respect.  Those who don't want to give it to me aren't worth worrying about.  Anyway...  I probably shouldn't bother reading the comments on articles about so-called "dependas", because while some are genuinely witty and funny, too many are just plain sad. Life is tough enough without people acting like assholes.  The opinions of people who lack decency and humanity are worth about as much consideration as what is extended to "dependas".

Happy T day!

I figure this is the perfect photo for today's post...

I am sure today, there will be many pictures of my family in Virginia enjoying the holiday meal.  Our own meal was memorable, though I hope to find an even better one today or tomorrow.  I will probably also put up our freakin' Christmas trees.  I like looking at the lights, but actually putting up the trees is a pain in the ass, especially since it's just Bill and me anyway.

 It's all foggy this morning, though, so it's the perfect time to "Christmasify" the house.  And hey, since I didn't burn it down last night when I left the dryer running unattended, we have even more to celebrate.  Egg nog, anyone?  Here's another reason to cheer.  There will be no Christmas drama.  Or, at least it will be dramatically reduced.

I purchased Bill a special Christmas present this year.  He already knows what it is, so I'm going to share it here.  I bought him a special Advent calendar.  Last year, we did the beer Advent calendar, but to be honest, drinking 24 days worth of very good but kinda boring German beers isn't all that special.  So this year, I made him a custom Advent calendar with a variety of liquors.  I used rum, vodka, gin, whisky, liqueur, and cognac.  It was not a cheap endeavor, but I have a feeling it will be well-received.  In fact, I hope it'll be well-received today; I see it's on the truck for delivery.  If I've piqued your interest, you can find them here.  And yes, though it is a British company that makes them, they do ship to the United States... not that I'd know from personal experience or anything.  ;-)

Bill is now downstairs making cheese soufflés for breakfast.  That was sort of a "gift" for our wedding in November 2002.  We stayed at the Hummingbird Inn and the couple that owned it at the time were great cooks.  The female half was a British lady who was brilliant in the kitchen.  She made the soufflé and I went home, found a recipe for cheese soufflé and adapted it.  Now Bill makes them.  Then, after we have breakfast and put up all the Christmas crap, we'll probably venture out for some fun.  It would be nice if the weather was better, but crappy weather is the price you pay for living in beautiful Germany.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and will get to enjoy today... preferably not fighting at a store over cheap Chinese crap.  

ETA:  It's here!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy turkey day...


Hope everyone has all they need today...  I will be writing about today's experiences on my travel blog.  If you're interested, hope to see you there.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hand wringing, teeth gnashing, moaning and groaning...

Thirty years ago, I could have never conceived that I'd live in a reality that includes keeping up with so many people by way of computer.  For most of my life, I only dealt with people face to face.  Imagine it.  For a very long time, I had no concept of memes.  Very few people could get up on a soapbox and successfully engage in mass shaming and preaching.  Those were the heady days before social media.

Now, of course, any schmuck with a keyboard can opine publicly.  Every time there's a tragedy or crime of some kind, you'll see these folks line up with their memes, their preachy "open letters" (which I too am occasionally guilty of writing), and most of all, their shaming of other people.  I'm not sure why people feel the need to do this as much as they do.  I have to say, I'm getting kind of sick of it.  And I write this not really wanting to shame anyone, but just to make a statement...

Take, for instance, the recent attacks on Paris by ISIS.  That was a horrible thing.  One could spend plenty of time simply expressing grief over the people who died in the attacks.  But no, many people aren't content to simply express sorrow and sadness over the senseless waste of human life.  Instead, we have to post memes that explain how it's all America's fault.  Then they post this shit on Facebook.

I have to wonder why people do this.  Why do we feel the need to bring up past atrocities and link them to current ones?  Isn't it bad enough that people got killed in Paris and Mali and elsewhere?  Why do we have to bring more shame and misery into those events?

The average American had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan.  No one alive today had anything to do with the fact that slavery was once legal in America.  Most people don't have the power to influence what world leaders do and no one on Earth can change the past.  I don't think it's a bad thing to remember history and even discuss how certain events can be linked.  I just don't get why we have to bring guilt and shame into it, especially on social media.

Seems to me that times are difficult enough without a bunch of blaming, shaming, and guilt mongering.  I know I feel pretty helpless when I read a sad story about people being killed.  But I have many friends who want to add to that by mixing the sadness for the current event with shame over past events.  The misery compounds and there's much hand wringing, teeth gnashing, moaning, and groaning.

Then you get people who want to argue about stuff.  Like, for instance, the other day when Bill responded to a bleeding heart post he read.  He added comments about his own personal experiences, particularly with being at the Pentagon on 9/11 and with having spent 30 years in the armed forces.  Sadly, he was taken on by a guy who seemed hell bent on showing everyone how big his dick is.  He just couldn't leave it alone and even accused Bill of being a "fear monger".  No, Bill isn't a fear monger or a hate monger or a war monger.  He simply reports what he knows.  But some people aren't content with that and want to engage in shaming, arguing, and personal attacks.

Shoot, all I want to do is have a good time.  I can get guilt and shame from family members.  Don't need it from people on Facebook, especially when it surrounds stuff that had nothing to do with me.  Anyway, as of tomorrow, the "holidays" have officially begun.  And that, in and of itself, can be a special kind of hand wringing, teeth gnashing event.

An example...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crime logs...

It's amazing what you can find out by reading crime logs in local newspapers.  Not all towns run a crime log.  I think it's the kind of thing one usually sees in smaller cities and towns.  The town I grew up in does run one and, since I lived there for years and it's a relatively small, close-knit community, I still know people there.

Sometimes, when I'm bored, I Google people I used to know.  Last night, as I was watching the rolling credits of Tom Hanks' 1986 film Nothing In Common, I looked up someone I've never met.  You may be asking yourself why I would look up someone I don't know.  It's because he's married to someone who played a significant role in my childhood.  I don't know this guy, but I know his wife and her family.  I lost touch with them several years ago, but still think of them sometimes.  I do have a curious mind and a penchant for being nosey.

Anyway, when I was still in touch with these folks, I heard stories about the man I Googled last night.  I heard he was an abusive drunk.  In fact, while I don't know the guy at all, the way he was described to me, I'd guess he has issues with Histrionic Personality disorder.  He was described as attention seeking to the point of being toxic.  None of his wife's children liked him.  However, I have to consider the source of the information, since the person giving me the information admitted to pretty much hating the guy.

Well...  according to my Google search last night, the "abusive drunk cluster B" guy was arrested a few years ago for assault and battery on a family member.  It happened a couple of days after New Year's, which makes me wonder if the stress of the holiday season, along with potential alcohol consumption, got to everybody and led to a fight.

Naturally, I wasn't there when the incident occurred and I don't even know the arrestee.  However, I do know most of the other people involved.  I can just picture the scenario in my mind, adding that the people I knew are now older and perhaps more rigid in their thinking... or perhaps even suffering from medical issues themselves.

A few years ago, I might have found out about this incident from my former contact within the family.  She probably would have told me about it.  I wouldn't have had to read about it in the crime log.  We aren't in contact anymore and I'm not wanting to re-establish contact with her.

I looked up Virginia's laws on assault and battery on a family member.  In Virginia, it is a class 1 misdemeanor to commit assault and battery against a family or household member.  In Virginia, a person who commits a class 1 misdemeanor can be sentenced to spend up to a year in jail and fined up to $2500.  Assault and battery against a family member consists of a person in the home injuring or pushing another household member.  Slapping, spanking, punching, and pushing are all forms of battery.  Police usually only pursue charges when there's compelling proof that injury occurred, whether physical or emotional.  A person can also be charged if he or she threatens someone in the household and there is a reasonable expectation that the threat is credible.  Threats constitute assault.

If they come to a person's home on a domestic violence call, the police will arrest someone.  Generally, it's the person who appears most likely to inflict damage.  Oftentimes, it's males who end up in the pokey, whether or not they were the actual aggressor.  Knowing the female half of the couple involved in this case, my guess is that when pushed, she might give as good as she gets.  She can be manipulative and is not averse to resorting to emotional blackmail to get her way.  She has even been known to lash out physically on rare occasions.  However, from what I've heard, her husband is a drinker.  Alcohol abuse can cause some people to lose control of themselves.  I saw it firsthand growing up with my dad.  Fortunately, my dad didn't often become violent, but when he did, it was truly scary.  He wasn't in control.

Even if someone says something provocative, is rude, or insulting, that's no excuse for physical violence.  However, if it can be proven that the attack is provoked by insults, that can be used as a mitigating factor in the defense.

Out of curiosity, I looked up local court cases in the area where I grew up.  I didn't find anything related to this case, so my guess is the charges were eventually dropped.  That doesn't surprise me.  Anyway, I should probably mind my own business.  But I will admit that sometimes Googling can lead to surprising discoveries.    

Monday, November 23, 2015

Freedom of expression...

One of my cousins has a son who just started his freshman year of college.  He's a very bright young guy and, much to my delight, doesn't appear to be hyper-religious like a few other people in my family.  This morning, he posted this...

People that share this kind of post:
Stop pls.

I liked this...  It's not something I would post, but I understand the sentiment... I didn't necessarily like the post, but more that yet another family member hasn't gone totally religious.

Another cousin, uncle of the young man who posted the above, wrote:  Ignore the post....its a public medium for expression...the option is to delete or block. "It's not all about you" 

To which I felt compelled to respond:  Isn't A also expressing himself? He could offer the same advice to those who don't like what he puts on Facebook.

I'm sure my cousin, who once used to be fun, but then found Jesus, won't like that I wrote that.  But I think I have a valid point.  The young man was being a smartass, sure; and I'm certain that some people might be offended by his Jesus bashing post.  However, if you're making the point that Facebook is a medium for freedom of expression, perhaps you shouldn't chastise other posters for freely expressing themselves.

I'm not quite an atheist.  I have a spiritual side.  However, I think many religious posts are kind of stupid.  I might not say so directly.  Generally, when I see something I don't like, I do what my cousin suggested and ignore, delete, or block.  However, there is a case that could be made for saying something when someone posts something annoying, offensive, or stupid.  Maybe it will get them to think twice about it.  Or maybe not.  I just think that if you're going to cite the whole "free country" with "free speech" argument, it has to go both ways.

All my cousin's nephew did was ask people to stop sharing stupid religious posts.  You can choose whether or not to honor his request.  You can choose whether or not to read and heed or simply ignore, block, or delete.  You can even choose whether or not to stay friends.  Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if my cousin unfriends me after pointing out his logic fail.  He's become quite macho in his Christian flavored middle age.  Of course, if he unfriends me, I won't be firing his weapon at the next family gathering.  

This particular cousin was pretty wild when he was younger.  He is responsible for giving me my first taste of bourbon and Coke at a family party when I was 15 years old.  I got rip roaring drunk on it and trashed a hotel room by throwing up all over the place.  Many years later, my cousin quit drinking because he had some serious problems with law enforcement owing to his habit of driving while intoxicated.  I'm glad he quit drinking because I think alcohol was ruining his life.  On the other hand, since he quit drinking, he's become a bit of a killjoy.  I mean, he still loves your garden variety adrenaline rush.  He's got a gift for gymnastics and won't hesitate to jump off bridges into water holes or, as I mentioned before, fire his weapons into mountainsides while not being particularly careful with wear he points his gun.  But he's gotten all churchy and preachy and... annoyingly conservative.     

Ah... I see now that my cousin agrees with me.  I have a feeling that my comment may have gone over his head.  His response to me?  "Exactly."  Hmm...

I think I may have to go think about that for awhile.

Life as a secret service agent...

I just finished reading Ronald Kessler's 2014 book
The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.  Although I'm not usually one to follow politics, I do think celebrities are interesting.  Let's face it.  A lot of high level US politicians are really celebrities more than anything else.  

Ronald Kessler is an investigative journalist who has written for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.  Many of his books are about politicians and government agencies.  The First Family Detail is Kessler's book about what it takes for Secret Service agents to protect presidents and vice presidents and their families.  Kessler interviewed Secret Service agents who worked with all of the most recent presidents, throwing in some anecdotes about US history and what it was like for earlier presidents who didn't have Secret Service protection.

According to Kessler, the Secret Service is underfunded and agents have no home lives.  They work long shifts and don't get much time to sleep, let alone spend time with their families.  Many of the people who work as Secret Service agents are the type who are instinctively protective.  It's their job to take a bullet for those they are tasked with protecting.  However, sometimes protectees don't make it easy for them.  In fact, sometimes those being protected by the Secret Service deliberately sabotage their efforts to safeguard them from those who might do them harm.

Kessler includes stories about Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush and the hellraising they did, particularly when they were in college.  He writes of Joe Biden and his frequent expensive trips to Delaware, requiring agents to stay well out of sight.  Hillary Clinton gets a lot of mentions as well.  She is supposedly very difficult, something that one of Bill's co-workers, who once had some dealings with Mrs. Clinton, verifies.  Nancy Reagan is likewise reputed to be very hard to work for.  By contrast, Laura Bush and Barbara Bush are supposedly much loved and respected by Secret Service agents.

There are some times when Kessler repeats himself.  For example, he writes several times about Mrs. Clinton and her famously nasty disposition.  He writes more than once about how Secret Service agents work all the time and are underfunded.  He repeatedly writes about Bill Clinton's trysts with mistresses.  On the other hand, I did learn a lot about presidents as I read this book, including a few I forgot ever existed because they didn't last very long.  

I also felt that sometimes Kessler was too political.  To me, he came off as being pro Republican.  Everybody knows that George W. Bush was a very polarizing president.  A lot of people dislike him intensely.  Kessler makes him out to be this great guy who isn't how he seems in public.  By contrast, Bill Clinton was a very popular president, but Kessler depicts him as a complete scumbag.  While these characterizations may have truth to them, they also make Kessler seem a little biased.  It seems to me that this book should have been more objective.  Kessler should have made the observations more obviously those of the agents working with the presidents and less like they are his personal opinions.

A number of reviewers on have noted that The First Family Detail is much like an earlier book Kessler published.  One reviewer went as far as to comment that this book is more like an updated version of Kessler's In The President's Secret Service, which was published in 2009.  I haven't read the earlier book, but enough people have mentioned the similarities between the two that I probably won't bother with it.

Overall, I thought this was a good read, though it would have been better with a thorough editing to remove the redundancies.  It held my attention and informed me, though I will admit that some of the revelations are a bit gossipy.  I would recommend it to those who haven't already read the other book and those who find presidents interesting.  This book puts a human face on people the vast majority of the public will never meet in person.  At the same time, the look Kessler gives to presidents and their families confirms to me that anyone who runs for president must pretty much be a narcissist.  And, if I am to believe Kessler, Hillary Clinton is likely the antichrist.  He as much as flat out says he hopes she won't be president... or, at least many folks working for the Secret Service hope she won't.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Showing your...


Someone showed their ass to me last night...

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I have friends on all sides of the political spectrum.  One of my friends is a positively gushing bleeding heart liberal.  A couple of days ago, this person posted a holier than thou status update about Syrian refugees.  Now, to be clear, I support allowing Syrian refugees to leave the war zone.  I think the world should help them.  However, I also support not being so damned open minded that your brains fall out.  This person and some of his friends seem to be in that group of folks who are too open minded for their own good.

Bill is a mutual Facebook friend with this person.  They don't have that much in common, other than the fact that they are about the same age and both attended American University.  Bill added a more moderate response to the guy's sanctimonious Facebook status shaming people for being wary about the refugee situation.  In retrospect, he probably shouldn't have done that.  However, as a guy who literally survived 9/11, has worked with foreign militaries in three different world regions, and is actually seeing Syrian refugees up close and personally, Bill actually knows what he's talking about.  He makes his living in the field of national security.

In our area, a lot of the refugees we're seeing are young males unattached to families.  They aren't allowed to work for four months after they get here, so they don't have much to do.  They take a German culture and language class and that's about it.  So far, there have been reports of people loitering around the American military installations and bus stops taking photos.  Are these people innocently sightseeing?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  However, given that Paris is not so far away and there have been documented reports of terrorist activities, I think it makes sense to be vigilant.  While many people like to preach about not being prejudiced about others, the truth is, prejudice can be a vital part of self-preservation.

Bill never said that we shouldn't help the refugees.  What he advocates is being vigilant and paying attention.  He thinks those who are wanting refugee status ought to be willing to let the rest of the world know who the troublemakers are so they can be dealt with.  I think he makes sense.  He's a reasonable guy, too.  Last night, when he wrote his comment, a man who is also friends with our mutual friend took Bill to task in the most arrogant, holier than thou fashion.  He basically responded to Bill as if he's a knuckle dragging Rush Limbaugh fan.  In short, he did to Bill what he and our mutual friend have been preaching about not doing.  He made assumptions about Bill based on the fact that he's a veteran and has a different perspective.

Since Bill is such a reasonable guy, he thought to himself, "Well, maybe this man knows something I don't.  Maybe he has information that qualifies him to make these extremely condescending remarks."  But then Bill looked at the guy's Facebook page and it turns out that he's a math teacher or something.  He's also a proponent of Common Core.  In fairness to him, I'm sure that some people think Common Core is a great thing.  It doesn't seem to be the norm in thinking among my friends who are parents, though.  

Anyway... last night, due to the snow and overall shitty weather, I was a bit lit.  So I basically told the guy that he was extremely arrogant and that Bill knows of what he writes.  He wrote me two paragraphs of sanctimonious drivel.  I was tempted to tell him off, complete with the f word.  Initially, I actually did just that.  But then I thought better of it and deleted the comment.  Then I added the guy to my block list.  I don't have a problem with people who disagree with me.  I do have a problem with condescending, arrogant, dickheads who think they can school me and can't respond with basic respect.  

Sorry... I am allergic to bullshit.  When it comes down to it, I think most of the refugees are just people who want to be free of the violence and danger of their homeland.  However, while the refugee program is not the easiest, most efficient, or only way for terrorists to gain access to other countries, it is a viable method.  It may take longer, but nothing says that terrorists don't have time to kill.  And even with the best vetting, some will slip through.  Something needs to be done, though, and I am much more likely to listen to someone in Bill's position than a rude Common Core loving math teacher who talks to other people with such disrespect and disdain.  Glad to have that reverse centaur out of my midst.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Granny's house...

Everybody should have a "Granny's house" like this one...  My dad and his siblings spent many growing up years in this house.  My uncle and aunt bought it and Granny lived there until she died in 2007.  Two of my cousins grew up here.

It's that time of year again.  Thanksgiving will be upon us next week.  I won't be attending the annual festivities held in Virginia at my Granny's house.  I went last year to celebrate my dad's life and sing "Softy and Tenderly" at his memorial service.  This year, we're staying in Germany and will likely have a low key celebration somewhere at a restaurant.

I'm feeling kind of bittersweet about not attending the festivities.  I mean, getting back to the States, especially at this time of year, is an expensive logistical hassle.  Given the recent spate of terrorism, it's probably even more obnoxious in 2015 than it was in 2014.  And then, once you get there, you have to contend with personality clashes and the inevitable stress of being around family.  I have a very large family and it's hard to fit everyone in Granny's house.  I love my family, but a lot of my baggage comes from the time I spent with them.  Depression, alcoholism, and the byproducts of those demons affected me, just as they affect everyone.  Several of us have sharp tongues and short tempers, which can make things more of a challenge.  I also tend to feel overwhelmed at large gatherings. 

Still, despite all of that, I do have a wonderful family.  My father's mother, Granny, lived to be almost 101 years old.  She died in July 2007 and her funeral was huge.  My dad, who was 74 years old at the time, was still functional when we laid her to rest.  The next year, he had back surgery and his life was never the same.  He died not quite seven years after his mother did.  Then six months later, I lost an uncle.  Three months after that, another uncle died.  And in October, I lost my only uncle on my mom's side.  It's not lost on me that my family is starting to move on to whatever's next in the eternal universe...

This time of year, my relatives post photos of the festivities on Facebook.  I always feel wistful when I look at the pictures.  Today, some of my cousins shared these photos of Granny's house, so I thought I'd steal them and post them on my blog...  I doubt any of them read this rag, so it's probably okay.  Or, they'll never know...  

By the creek, looking up the hill to the barn and granary.  This property is bordered by two creeks that intersect near where this picture was taken.

If I'm honest, I feel a bit like an outcast among most of my relatives.  I'm not nearly as politically conservative or religious as most of them are.  However, I will admit that I did inherit the family music gene and sense of humor.  Somehow, my sense of humor is more raucous and profane than everyone else's is.  I'm like Bette Midler in a sea of staunch Republicans (which most of them are).  And it's not even that I'm all that liberal myself.  I mean, compared to them I am, but compared to the general public, I'm not really.  

Oddly enough, I think my more liberal outlook comes from my dad, who was interested in the world.  He loved to travel and had a heart for helping people.  When I told him I wanted to join the Peace Corps (though for admittedly selfish reasons), he was very happy and so proud.  A lot of military folks think the Peace Corps is for tree hugging granola types.  That wasn't the case in my family.  My sister was a Volunteer in Morocco and I was one in Armenia.  I had another cousin who wanted to join, but didn't end up going for some reason.  My Aunt Jeanne died the night I was completing my application.  At that time, it was a very long application that took several hours to complete.  I remember it was my second one.  I threw the first one away because I didn't think they'd ever accept me.  I was wrong.

This was taken last year at Thanksgiving.  We had a rare November snow, which I got to see in person.

Down near the horseshoe pit.  My uncle did the masonry by the creek.  In 1995, my Aunt Jeanne died and her kids planted a tree in the front yard.  It's now grown large and beautiful.  

Anyway, my dad fully supported my Peace Corps endeavor.  He wanted to visit me in Armenia, but he and my mom never made it.  It was too expensive to go there and, I suspect, it was too much of a hassle for them.  I don't blame them, really.  Armenia in the 90s was not the most visitor friendly place.  However, if you're a Christian-- and most of my family members are devout Christians-- it is a fascinating country to visit.  It is widely accepted to be the first country to embrace Christianity.

The two years I spent in Armenia changed my life.  I didn't realize it at the time.  I came back from there profoundly changed.  It changed the course of my life, everything from my goals to my world view.  I started to think more globally and, having been to and seen real suffering in a struggling country, developed more empathy for people outside of the United States.  I went from being pretty conservative and seeing things in black and white to seeing things in shades of grey.  I became less comfortable with absolutes.  I became less patient with dogma and closed mindedness.  At the same time, I am definitely not fully liberalized.  I have little patience for "butt-hurtedness" or overly politically correct bullshit.  I have a lot of love for the practical, sensible, and useful.

Part of my very large and growing family.  I think we may be missing about twenty people in this photo.  The days of everyone making it home for Thanksgiving have pretty much ended.    

My time away also changed the way I saw other people.  I don't know if I became more street wise or cynical, but I stopped seeing people with the same idealized vision I used to.  My feelings became more acute in some ways and less acute in others.  I didn't get as emotional and depressed as I used to, but I also became less tolerant and forgiving of people who were unkind to me.  It was like I became saturated and less able to tolerate slights, whether or not they were intentional.  I was less willing to ignore barbs.  I don't think I'm as sensitive now as I was a few years ago.  Life with Bill has been really good for me.  He makes me happy and he fits right in with my big family.  They all love him... probably more than they love me!

You'd think I'd be more conservative being married to a military guy (and though he's retired, he will always be military).  What happened is that Bill became more liberal.  He went from being a politically conservative Mormon Army officer to a guy who is still spiritual (probably more of a Catholic than anything else), but doesn't go to church.  He is truly one of the kindest people I have ever met.  In fact, it seems like he would have been a better choice for the Peace Corps than I was.  But, I think I would have made a terrible Army officer.

Well, I've rambled on long enough with this post.  I will miss my family at Thanksgiving, but I'm grateful I can spend the holiday with Bill and our dogs.  It will be peaceful and relaxing and comparatively inexpensive, if not very exciting.  I'm sure I'll hear all about the family reunion, though.  There will be Facebook posts and emails... and maybe even a Skype (though I doubt that).  I mentioned it to a cousin who said I'd be missed.  Maybe I really will be.  Who knows?

Friday, November 20, 2015


My uncle's wife has a brother who is my Facebook friend.  I notice that he often posts quotes as his status updates.  I have to wonder what the reason for that is.  

I mean the occasional quote can be thought provoking, I guess.  Some quotes are pretty damn awesome, in fact.  You can't write a decent paper without including some quotes, right?  However, if you're always quoting other people, doesn't that mean you have nothing original to say?  And if you have nothing to say, why post at all?

This particular relative-- and I'm not sure if he is actually a relative or not-- his sister is my aunt by marriage-- also likes to chastise me sometimes for swearing.  It pisses me off.  I know he knew me when I was a baby and has a daughter my age.  That doesn't mean he can tell me to stop cussing.  I'm 43 fucking years old.  If I want to use the f word, I will.

Is it better to post quotes from "great" people than it is to post your own thoughts, profane though they may be?  I don't think so.  Do your friends go around spouting off quotes when they talk to you offline?  I hope not.  Think of how boring that would be.  

"Hi Jim!"

"I think, therefore I am."

"Nice weather today."

"The truth will set you free.  But first it will piss you off."

"Okay, have a good one..."

"Smile and the world smiles with you."

"Fuck off!"

"Bad Jenny!  Don't cuss!"

See what I mean?  I'm sorry... this blog post is kind of lame.  I'm feeling kind of yucky today and not in the mood to write much.  Ooh... I did just have a brainstorm, though.  Last night, I got an email from one of my sisters.  Apparently, the same annoying relatives who planned Thanksgiving last year are doing it this year.  While Thanksgivings with my family are always fun, they are also overwhelming.  I am grateful that this year, we will stay in Germany and enjoy the fact that it's not going to be a holiday here.  That means Bill and I will be able to fuck around and things will be open.  No one who is related to me will upset me.

Yeah.  So there's something to be thankful for, not just for me and Bill, but for those who have to be around me when I get into a mood.  Other than that, I've got nothing.  Maybe tomorrow, inspiration will strike.    

Oh... and here's something else I just thought of.  The other day, I wanted Southwestern Egg Rolls from Chili's in the worst way.  We don't have a Chili's near us.  There is one at Ramstein Air Force Base about three hours north.  I think it's the only one in Germany.  Bill and I ate there last year during our hop and I got so pissed off at the server that I wrote a rant on this blog... then ended up deleting it.  Anyway, I was curious, so I went searching to see if there are any international Chili's here besides the one at Ramstein.  I found a blog post about an outing to Chili's written by an American woman whose husband was based there.  As I was reading, I got Mormon vibes.  Like... there were little hints that the woman was LDS.  Sure enough, I looked to the left where her tags were.  Sure enough, Mormon as can be!

This is not to bash her for that, by the way.  I just thought it was funny that once again, my "Modar" was working.  And to think I've never even been LDS.  Odd.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A pox on...

people who come over unannounced.  Yesterday, in the mid afternoon, I decided to take a shower.  Since it was about 3:00 and I wasn't planning to go anywhere or see anyone, I decided to change into my nightie.  Lo and behold, not ten minutes after I put on my nightgown, the doorbell rang.  The dogs went nuts.  I closed them into the downstairs half of the house and opened the door.  There stood the male half of the couple who own the house we're renting.

He needed to go into the basement.  I said it was okay, though I wasn't dressed.  I went back up to my office, feeling kind of embarrassed and annoyed.  I don't like it when people drop by unexpectedly.  I used to do it when I was younger and dumber.  I wouldn't dream of doing it now unless I had a standing invitation or it was an emergency of some kind.  Of course, he wasn't looking to be entertained.  But if I had known he and his wife would be coming over, I would have been dressed for the occasion.

Grrr...  I look forward to the day when we own our own home.  I know it'll be a big responsibility and all, but at least I won't have to worry about my privacy.

The weather is cold and windy today.  I think we may get snow this weekend.  Or snow showers, anyway...  And we'll be paying off our Scottish cruise, which means I'll need to start planning the trip in earnest.  Should be fun.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My feed is awash in opinions...

It's interesting to have friends from either side of the political spectrum.  They all have opinions that run the gamut.  My liberal friends are pointing to why the United States and Europe should open their doors to refugees from the Middle East.  My conservative friends are shouting about how we must close our country to people seeking refugee status.

The arguments for and against are equally vehement.  The liberals are yelling about how hard it is to be declared a refugee and how refugee status is much harder to get than political asylum is.  They claim that no refugee has ever been a terrorist in the United States.  And those who want to say the Boston bombers were refugees are technically wrong.  They were the sons of people who sought asylum, which is not the same as refugee status.

The conservatives are offering common sense platitudes and memes.  Like, for instance... I have 10,000 M&Ms and ten are poisoned.  Want to grab a handful?

Honestly, I can't blame people for running away from Syria.  They need to go somewhere.  I fear that if they aren't given somewhere to go, they could become radical.  But at the same time, I understand that letting people come to Europe or the United States with no vetting or filtering of some sort may be dangerous.  At the same time, I figure that bad people are everywhere and it's hard to contain them.

I wish I had something else on my mind today.  I need to go read RfM or find some very argumentative messageboard with people who piss me off enough that I don't think about refugees or ISIS or terrorism...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Back to a simpler time...

I don't really want to write about terrorism today.  I want to curl up in a cocoon and remember a time when things were so much simpler.  Of course, the reality was that they weren't really simpler.  I was just a lot younger and knew less.  I didn't pay attention to the economy or threats to national security or finances.

I think that's why I love to watch shitty movies from the 70s and 80s.  They remind me of a time when I was less worldly and had simpler tastes.  There are some films that I loved as a kid that I find unwatchable now.  On the other hand, there are some movies from back in the day that I will never get tired of watching.  One movie that immediately comes to mind is Revenge of the Nerds.  Even thirty years on, it makes me laugh... especially the belching contest.


I was lucky enough to grow up in a time when John Hughes films were all the rage.  They were funny and poignant and I still love them.  They make me forget about ISIS, horrifying ex wives with personality disorders, diseases, financial problems, etc.  The weather today is kind of shitty, so I may have to watch some old movies.  I've been on a Tom Hanks kick lately.  I just ordered four of his 80s era films.

Bill and I had a very nice anniversary yesterday, by the way.  I posted about the super weird restaurant we visited on my travel blog.  We also took a new photo, which turned out really nice.  Something about Bill makes me light up and I smile pretty.  I can't smile in a selfie, though.  It looks really forced and fake.  Probably because I'm too busy thinking about terrorism.

In all seriousness, we live in interesting times.  George Carlin predicted it back in 1999 or so...  ISIS and related groups are making it so...

Seriously...  listen to this.  He knew this shit was coming and he was right.

Anyway, if something else crosses my mind, I'll write again.  For now, I think it's time for grilled cheese.  That's something else I find comforting.

Monday, November 16, 2015

It's all Obama's fault...

This morning, Bill and I are celebrating our thirteenth anniversary... in the wake of tragedy in Paris.  I notice on my newsfeed that France launched a massive airstrike on Paris.  The article that I linked adds:

The operation was carried out in coordination with U.S. forces, French officials said. The targets were identified based on previous reconnaissance missions conducted by France...

I take that to mean that the United States helped in this operation.

Of course, lots of people still want to blame Obama and claim he has "no balls".  These cries for war are the same ones I remember back on September 12, 2001.  I remember listening to the radio in Columbia, South Carolina and hearing people calling in, demanding that we attack the people responsible for visiting terrorism on U.S. soil.  It took about six weeks for George W. Bush to respond to those demands.  We've been fighting ever since and plenty of people were pissed at Bush for his decision to declare war.

Personally, I don't think diplomacy is going to work in dealing with ISIS.  I don't think they are the type of people who will listen to reason.  They need to be destroyed.  But, I also know that destroying them will mean more innocent people will die.  More families will be destroyed as members of the military are deployed to war zones.  More people will end up badly injured or go crazy from PTSD.  More children will be orphaned.  More money will be spent on bloodshed.  I don't know that war will make our world safer, but we can't go on doing nothing.

I would not want to be a world leader for anything.  It's a thankless job and the people who do it cannot win because their decisions will never please everyone.  And honestly, as much as I don't understand Islam and don't agree with what I do know about it, I feel sad for the very many innocent Muslims who have nothing to do with ISIS, yet are going to be blamed for what ISIS does.

My former shrink posted this quote on his Facebook page.  It comes from an article in the Huffington Post.  

"The cab ride I just had home was the saddest 25 minutes I’ve experienced from another human being. This Muslim cab driver said I was his 1st customer the past 2 hours tonight because of the Attacks in Paris. People have been scared because of NYC being on high alert. For 25 minutes, I had to tell this stranger, this human being like you & I, that he was not a part of what was happening and how sorry I was people were looking at him with fear or anger.

He cried the whole way to my apartment and it made me cry too. He kept saying, “Allah, my God does not believe in this! People think I’m a part of this and I’m not. Nobody wants to drive with me because they feel unsafe. I can’t even do my job."

It was one of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve ever experienced in my whole life. He was such a sweet guy, around my age. He couldn’t have been older than 25."

Having been to the Middle East and met some of the people from there, I have some empathy for their situation.  But many Americans do not have empathy and don't care.  Just this morning, one of my uncles sent me a racist rant.  He's been doing that for years.  I give him a pass for it because he's elderly and his thinking will not change.  This morning's email was about halal certification and how, if we buy products that are halal, we are "subsidizing Islam."  My uncle and other relatives think that Islam is a religion of hatred.  He forgets that Christians have also engaged in murderous acts.  

At the same time, I can understand why so many westerners feel the way they do.  I'd like to see Muslims as fellow human beings with wants and needs like I have.  But, at the same time, I can't ignore what's been happening in the Middle East.  

I don't think it's as simple as blaming world leaders for ISIS, though.  God help us all.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mizzou vs. Paris...

I'll be honest.  I haven't really spent much time reading about the racial tensions at the University of Missouri.  I have a friend who lives in Columbia, Missouri and she has been posting about the situation on her Facebook.  But given that I am not in the United States right now and don't have any personal ties to Missouri or Mizzou, I haven't followed the news coverage of the trouble going on there.  I did, however, spot this post about how some Mizzou protestors and supporters are upset that so many people are focused on Paris right now.  One person went as far as to Tweet "Fuck Paris."  Yeah.  That makes me want to stop and listen to him speak about his cause... Not.

I reposted the admittedly snarky post to a group I run on Facebook.  One member, who has a biracial son at Mizzou, took me for task for not caring about the racism issue.  It's not that I don't care about racism.  It's a huge problem that has been going on since the dawn of time.  It'll be going on long after I'm dead.  However, I have to admit that when Bill was explaining to me just what all the hubbub about Mizzou is-- it involves racist remarks by students, a hunger striker (and those who read this blog may know how I feel about those), and a potentially cancelled football game with BYU,  I had to stop him.   I literally held up my hand and said, "Stop."  

I'm sorry.  When I think about all the things one could be upset about right now...  a crashed airliner full of Russians, 37 people killed in Beirut, people killed and wounded in Paris, ISIS claims responsibility for all of these events, by the way.  I just find it hard to believe that people are actually being shamed for being more focused on these ISIS perpetrated tragedies that affect the whole world rather than racism at Mizzou.  Talk about a first world problem.

Simply being able to get an education is a privilege denied to many people worldwide.  Being able to attend a university and speak one's mind is an even greater privilege.  Yes, it would be better if we didn't have racial tensions anymore.  It would be a good thing if everyone in the world was suddenly made oblivious to another person's skin color or religious beliefs.  However, the reality is that these issues are not going to go away anytime soon, if ever.  To my knowledge, no one has been killed at Mizzou.

Right now, I happen to live fairly close to Paris.  I could be there in an hour if I took a plane.  Moreover, a car full of weapons was reportedly stopped by German police in Bavaria.  It was apparently bound for Paris, based on the GPS system.  Fortunately, the German police stopped the vehicle and arrested the man, who was apparently smuggling weapons from the Balkans.  Here's another story about a car stopped on the ferry to Denmark, also loaded with weapons.

Who's to say what happened in Paris couldn't happen here in Stuttgart or anywhere else in the vicinity?  I currently live in a country where thousands of "refugees" have come from the Middle East.  According to CNN, one of those "refugees" was a bomber responsible for the attack on Paris.  ISIS is a problem that affects the whole world and, one could say it's also a problem rooted in racism and one group wanting to avenge and overpower another group.

So... it's not that I don't care about racism or even Mizzou.  It's just that in the grand scheme of things, random people being killed by a group of murderous Middle Eastern criminals is an issue that is more important to me than racist remarks said at an American university.  And I don't need to be shamed for feeling the way I do. 

A review of Leah Remini's Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

When I heard that actress Leah Remini had decided to leave Scientology, I was definitely intrigued.  Over the years, I've read a number of books about fringe religions, which I certainly consider Scientology to be.  Leah Remini is also my age and I have seen her in a number of television shows, though not her big hit, The King of Queens.  According to Remini's book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, her sitcom, which aired for about nine years, was one of the most successful in television history.  She achieved this success while still a devout Scientologist.

I decided to read Leah Remini's book because I wanted to read her story and learn more about Scientology from the standpoint of a celebrity.  Remini was not a celebrity when she became a Scientologist.  She and her sister, Nicole, joined the church with their mother when they were young girls.  Remini's father was, from what she writes, an abusive and angry person, while her mother was more free spirited.  When her parents split up, Remini's mother sought a belief system that could help her make sense of the world.

Leah and Nicole joined the Sea Org when they were adolescents.  The Sea Org is an elite group of Scientologists who are basically supported by the church in exchange for their work.  They dropped out of school when Leah was in the eighth grade.  Both signed "billion year contracts", which meant they were expected to serve the church for a billion years.  The girls didn't last long in the Sea Org, though.  Leah got in trouble for messing around with boys.  Their mother saved the girls from being "RPF'd", which would have meant they would have been basically Sea Org slaves for a time.  But because they didn't submit to the punishment, it meant they were out of the Sea Org.  After that, it seemed that Leah devoted herself to becoming an actress.  Lo and behold, she was eventually successful, but not before she and her family lived in poverty for awhile.  There is a picture of Remini in a used Toyota Tercel that she bought.  It was later repossessed.

As she became more and more successful, the church began to place more demands on Leah Remini's time and money.  She began to notice a lot of shenanigans and outright toxic behavior among church members, especially Tom Cruise, who has pretty much become the de facto kingpin of Scientologists.  Though Leah enjoyed more prestige in the church, there were also more demands that she set a good example for other Scientologists.  Meanwhile, she was asked to donate as much as $1 million at a time.

Never one to hold her tongue, Leah began speaking out against Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and David Miscavige, whose wife, Shelly, seemingly disappeared a few years ago.  This outspoken behavior got her into more trouble with church leaders, who sought to stifle Leah's outbursts until she finally decided to leave the church and tell her story.

Troublemaker was ghost written by Rebecca Paley, who does a pretty good job of making the book sound like it came straight from Leah Remini.  In fact, I kind of think Paley did too good of a job projecting Remini's voice.  I am not known for being a shy, demure type myself, but even I got tired of some of the profanity in this book.  I am not offended by the word "fuck", but when it gets overused, it becomes annoying.  I thought the crass, over the top, language used in this book, while certainly true to Remini's reputed coarse vocabulary, was a bit overdone.  I'm no stranger to obnoxiousness, but even I felt like Remini sometimes came across as obnoxious rather than funny.

I also got the sense that while Leah Remini is out of Scientology, she sort of misses some of it.  She admits that some of the techniques she learned were useful to her in her career.  It seemed to me that had the Scientologists not been so heavy handed and shifty in their treatment of her, she might have even stayed in the church.  At the same time, Remini writes of protecting her friend, Jennifer Lopez, from being recruited by the church.  It seems that Scientologists are on a never ending quest to find new celebrity members with big bank accounts.

Aside from Remini's revelations about Scientology, she also writes about working with the likes of Sharon Osbourne and Sara Gilbert on The Talk.  She was one of the original panel members when the show started in 2010.  After the first season, she was let go.  Then we saw her on Dancing With The Stars... or, at least some people did.  I didn't.

To be honest, I have read better celebrity memoirs.  Also, while Remini's stories about being a celebrity Scientologist are interesting, I have read better books about the church itself.  In fact, just a few months ago, I read Going Clear, which is a vastly superior book.  Those who really want to learn about the church should read that book over Leah Remini's Troublemaker.  From the standpoint of celebrity memoirs, I would say that Troublemaker is about average.  Leah is probably laughing all the way to the bank, though, and more power to her.

Leah Remini on 20/20.