Friday, September 30, 2016

Off to the fest...

Bill has today off work.  His co-workers bought tickets to the Canstatter Fest in Stuttgart and the company boss is allowing everyone to go.  So in a few minutes, I will don my dirndl and go drink a lot of beer and eat chicken with Bill's co-workers.

Tomorrow, Bill has to attend a farewell lunch for his soon to be former boss, who is moving to Hawaii.  Bill's promotion is effective next week and he did manage to get a modest raise.  Tomorrow's festivities also include a round of golf.  If not for the golf, I'd probably be joining Bill at the lunch.

Bill doesn't golf and did not actually sign up to play.  However, he was signed up by someone and now feels obligated to go.  So I guess tomorrow, he'll be making up for today on the golf course.  It's actually not a bad skill to have.  A lot of business deals are made on the golf course.  I probably know more about golfing than Bill does, though.  I used to work at a golf course in South Carolina waiting tables and bartending.

I'm kind of pissed about the golf game, but I guess I'll find some way to use the time.  Maybe I'll make some music or wash the sheets... or plan our trip for next week, which looks like it'll be in France.

Or... if I know myself, I may have to take some time to recover after the festivities at the fest.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Toxic leadership...

Several times on this blog, I have written about toxic leaders.  More than once, I have described a certain leader Bill went to war with, a man who got off on publicly humiliating his subordinates, especially the women.  I have also described my husband's marriage to his former wife, a woman I believe, but admittedly cannot prove, is a full blown narcissist.  Having observed these people and how they have affected Bill and other people, I have become very sensitive and wary of narcissists.  Unfortunately, a lot of them end up in leadership positions, where they have the ability to make life a living hell for innocent people.

This topic comes up again today due to a story I read yesterday about Miss Universe 1996, Alicia Machado.  I posted about Ms. Machado on Facebook and a lively discussion started, with several people-- mostly males-- not knowing what the big deal is about Machado's claims regarding Trump.  In the interest of clearing my mind, I'm going to write here about why I think Alicia Machado's story is so important to note and why Americans should be very concerned about a possible Trump presidency.

In 1996, Venezuelan Alicia Machado was nineteen years old.  According to Wikipedia, she's 5'7" tall.  When she won the title of Miss Universe, she weighed about 118 pounds.  During her reign as Miss Universe, Machado gained some weight.  Donald Trump, who had just purchased the pageant at the time, was upset about Machado's weight gain and publicly confronted her.

Trump and Machado on TV in 1997.  He actually doesn't sound too bad on this particular clip.

In 1996, I lived in Armenia and was halfway through my Peace Corps service.  I received a lot of news magazines during that time and well remember Machado being profiled in People or one of the other magazines I received.  I also remember hearing about how Trump forced Machado to work out in a gym in front of the press while he called her names and claimed she'd gained 60 or 70 pounds.  He also apparently threatened to take her title away from her, though he never did.

Machado claims that in the wake of Trump's public scolding, she developed an eating disorder that has taken years to get under control.  Personally, knowing what I know about eating disorders, I seriously doubt that Trump's abuse alone was enough to cause Alicia Machado to develop one.  I am certain there were many other factors involved, including some that are biochemical in origin.  What I do take note of are her comments about how he treated her and the names he allegedly called her in public.

Again, in 1997, with Donald Trump.  If I'm honest, Alicia is also a little narcissistic, though I suppose you kind of have to be in order to compete for Miss Universe.  

Alicia Machado, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, talks about being mentioned during the first Presidential debates.  

Donald Trump could have spoken to Machado privately about her weight gain, but instead, he turned the lights of the press on her.  At the time, she was eighteen or nineteen years old, legally an adult, but very inexperienced.  There was Trump, a famous businessman with money, fame, and power and, as the owner of the Miss Universe pageant, he was ostensibly Machado's boss.  She was his subordinate.  Instead of allowing Machado some dignity, Trump publicly humiliated her in front of the entire world.  Plainly put, that behavior makes him a toxic leader.

Consider that Trump is also known for his reality show, The Apprentice.  What was the tag line for that show?  "You're fired!"  And he relished saying those two words week after week in front of millions of viewers, who tuned in to watch the tasteless shaming on national television.  

Hillary Clinton calls out Trump.

While many people want to make this situation with Machado simply about women, I won't even go that far. I think the way Trump treated Machado is indicative of what kind of boss he is.  And I'm not just thinking about his sexist, misogynistic comments toward women.  I'm thinking of the damage Trump, as President of the United States, could wreak upon the many people who work for the U.S. government, to include men and women in the military and their families.  It's true that the military is rife with toxic leaders who regularly put subordinates in harm's way in order to feed their egos.  Those people, at least, have an ultimate boss.  If Trump is in power, he'll be the ultimate boss with only checks and balances and voters regulating his behavior.  He will have tremendous power to humiliate and demoralize people around the world.

Now...  Hillary Clinton is also pretty narcissistic and I'm not sure she won't similarly terrorize her staffers.  However, she's been in the public eye for decades and I have never seen her treat people the way Trump regularly does.  If she is terribly abusive, at least she has the sense to keep the abuse out of the public eye.  That shows she does at least have some awareness of it.  Trump simply says and does whatever he wants we no regard for how it will be perceived or the ultimate effect it will have on other people.  Consider that as the president, he will be a role model to children.  They will see and hear what he does.

They'll be listening...

Besides...  Donald Trump has absolutely zero experience as a politician.  He simply parrots what disenfranchised Americans want to hear.  He often contradicts himself and gets very flustered when he gets caught in a misstep.  How will that tendency affect him as president, when he's dealing with world leaders?  

I think the United States needs a president who has some regard for other people.  Donald Trump's blustering rhetoric may make some voters feel better in the wake of President Obama's legacy, but in the long run, I think he would be disastrous as a world leader.  I think he's toxic.  

That being said, I still believe that people have the right to vote as they please.  Let the chips fall where they may.  God help us all in 2017.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fat fighting 70s Mormon style...

Yesterday, while screwing around on YouTube, I came across a most bizarre film from 1971.  It was evidently put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Behold...

A film for "sweet spirits" who could stand to lose a few... or more.  The music on this is nightmare inducing...   

The LDS church has a long history of producing audio visual learning aids.  If you were around in the 70s and 80s, you probably saw some of their ads on television.  I hesitate to refer to them as PSAs, because they were really put out as a means of attracting people to Mormonism.  As someone who was born in 1972, I vividly recall several different ones that were regularly rotated on daytime TV.

I must admit, watching this video makes me cringe.  I'm embarrassed and humiliated for the women who are in it.  Having never been LDS, I can't really speak to what this film was really intended to do, other than remind women that they need to be thin and pretty for the Brethren, so they can find a temple worthy husband who will take them to the Celestial Kingdom.

One woman talks about how she still gets "dates" even though she's fat, so she has no motivation to lose weight.  How sad that is.  The only reason she could possibly have to want to lose weight is to find a man?  What about losing it because you want to?  I also find it very strange that this film makes these women out to be binge and compulsive overeaters.  Yes, it's true that many people are heavy simply because they eat too much, but that's not always true.  The truth is, being overweight is a complex problem that can be caused by a variety of factors.  I am myself overweight, but I don't eat three bowls of ice cream in a sitting, as is depicted in this film.  

As the film continues, the male announcer says...

This is part of our commitment action approach to weight control.  The girls meet weekly in therapy sessions where behavioral change is emphasized.  Overweight people tend to be dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible.  How often have we said or heard people say, "I don't know why I can't lose weight.  I hardly eat a thing." or "I was nervous and upset.  I just couldn't help myself."  All kinds of alibis and excuses.  Our sessions together tend to debunk these excuses and instead focus on behavioral consistency, control, and commitment with an emphasis on action.

How sad it must have been for the young LDS women who watched this video.  They are automatically considered "dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible" simply because of the way they look.  And consider the fact that the church is very food oriented.  Women in the church are encouraged to be excellent homemakers and cooks.  

The very sexist announcer goes on to say...

Group members help Judy improve the consistency between what she says she wants to do and what she actually does.  If Judy wants to be thin, she has to engage in thin activities, such as eating less and exercising more.  Sometimes she sees the problem as impossible to control.  We try to help her refute this.

Notice too, that it's a man leading this group and he has all the answers.  As if a man really understands why a woman might feel compelled to overeat.  He keeps referring to the women as "girls", too, and talks about them like they're all a bunch of simple minded twits.  

The horrible music continues and they show video footage of heavy women swimming, their fat rolls jiggling underwater.  They show twin little girls laughing openly at a heavy woman biking past them.  Nowadays, someone would be calling CPS on the girls' parents for letting them walk alone in a neighborhood!  They show a fat woman diving into water and when she hits, there's a sound of gunfire, as if the sheer volume of water displaced has moved the earth somehow.  One woman is doing stretches only to get exasperated and give in to the temptation of potato chips.  It's as if the filmmakers are saying "Shame on her for being so weak!"

A woman named Dawn says that she was sick all week and had a sore throat.  She ate ice cream to make her throat feel better.  And, don'tcha know, that's why she's fat!  She could have used ice cubes, you know... as the announcer tells us.  What a dick.  He says, "We try to help her see herself through the eyes of other group members.  To realize her self deceit."

The video is rife with closeups of heavy women eating, shoveling fattening foods into their mouths in a way that is supposed to be disgusting.  I could continue to quote from this nasty little film, but I think you get the picture. 

Apparently, the answer to getting thin is to start dating.  A man will fix everything.  Get yourself a good man and you'll have all the motivation in the world to lose weight.  "Being 'feminine' can be fun.'" the announcer says.  It's a load of nasty bullshit.  

I know this film is 45 years old.  Since I'm 44, it doesn't seem like it's that old.  I guess it is, though.  I have my doubts that the attitudes among church members has necessarily changed a lot, although they are almost certainly less "in your face" about it than they are in this very offensive film.  

Here's another film from BYU...  

More fat shaming, though at least this one isn't leveled strictly at women.

There is certainly nothing wrong with eating right and exercising.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight.  What I find offensive is the attitude that a person's character is being judged by what size clothes he or she wears.  It's offensive that a person's worth is being measured by how heavy he or she is.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fatuous oratory?

In the wake of the first 2016 presidential election debates, I'm seeing my Facebook feed explode with opinions and impressions.  Lots of people are commenting about what they saw and heard in the debates last night.  I, of course, was blissfully slumbering when the head to head verbal battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump occurred.

I generally don't read a lot of political stuff, mainly because it's often offensive and irritating.  I figure I have enough things irritating me in my daily life.  Hell, if I get irritated by coffee and beer, I probably ought to stay away from the really controversial stuff like politics, right?

I did happen to skim over one Facebook friend's impressions, though, and I couldn't help but shake my head.  What had me sighing in disbelief and reaching for my smelling salts was his description of a long diatribe someone posted about Hillary Clinton.  I didn't take the time to read the diatribe, for it was much too long and not something I really cared to read.  I simply noticed that my friend wrote this...

I respect your opinion my friend.  But will lend your above stated oratory to support my point.  Just like your candidate, you ramble on and on and on, without saying a word.  That is what concerns me with your candidate and many of you who support him.  That being said, I do respect your fatuous oratory, and your right to have and state your opinion.  However, we shall agree to disagree and let the best candidate to lead us win in November.

Friends, do you know what oratory is?  I do.  It's a word I learned in the 10th grade.  According to, oratory is defined:


1.  skill or eloquence in public speaking:

The evangelist moved thousands to repentance with his oratory.

2.  the art of public speaking, especially in a formal and eloquent manner.

Now, given that this was a written post on Facebook and not a speech, it cannot accurately be called "oratory".  The word oratory denotes the spoken word, rather than the written word.  Moreover, my friend goes on to describe the "oratory" as "fatuous".  The word fatuous is another I learned in high school.  It is so defined:


1. foolish or inane, especially in an unconscious, complacent manner; silly.

2. unreal; illusory.

While I suppose someone's oratory could be fatuous, it seems highly unlikely.  The definition of oratory implies that the speaker would be skilled.  But then, I guess a person can be a poor orator.  Or a person can be a gifted speaker who says stupid things. 

In any case, in the post in question, I highly doubt the person who supposedly is guilty of "fatuous oratory" actually wrote the diatribe she posted about Hillary Clinton.  It looked to me like she'd cut and pasted it from somewhere else-- probably a mass email.  So even if the post was stupid and had been spoken, they weren't actually the poster's words but another person's.  In other words, it wasn't my Facebook friend's Facebook friend's "fatuous oratory".  Clear enough?

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong about this and I know I need to both get a life and not be so nit picky.  I just tend to be very particular about words.  I read a lot and write a lot and, whenever I am unsure of something's spelling or definition, I get out my dictionary.  Now that dictionaries are online, it's faster and easier than ever.

I'm not going to comment directly on this person's post, by the way.  I doubt it would be appreciated.  Usually, when people say or write things like "fatuous oratory", they are trying to sound smart.  Calling him out in public isn't likely to be met in a spirit of fun.  Since I highly doubt the guy pays any attention to this blog, it's probably best if I simply vent here.

In other news, this election has probably been the most obnoxious in my lifetime.  Thank God I'm not in the States to experience it directly.

A review of Tracey Gold's Room To Grow: An Appetite for Life...

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, which were prime years for television sitcoms.  I watched a lot of TV when I was coming of age.  One show I rarely missed was Growing Pains, a family comedy starring Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, and Jeremy Miller.  A few years into the show's run (too late to save it), Ashley Johnson and a young Leonardo DiCaprio would also join the cast.

Since I watched a lot of TV as a kid, I also saw Tracey Gold in plenty of other shows.  She was a guest star on Trapper John, MD, starred in several After School Specials, and was also on CHiPs.  It was Gold's appearance on CHiPs that finally prompted me to read her 2004 book, Room To Grow: An Appetite for Life.  I probably wanted to read this book when it first came out, but was scared away by all the negative reviews.  Now that I've read the book, I can say that although it's now a bit dated, it's probably not as bad as the many bad reviews would have you believe.  

Tracey Gold and her younger sister, Missy, were both child actors with some acclaim.  Missy Gold was the star of Benson, a show I never watched.  Benson aired for several years and, for awhile, Missy was probably more popular than Tracey was.  Both Tracey and Missy were products of their mother Bonnie's first marriage to Joe Fisher.  When Bonnie and Joe split up, Joe was no longer in the picture.  Later, Bonnie remarried actor and agent Harry Gold (shortened from Goldstein).  He adopted Tracey and Missy and he and Bonnie had two more daughters naturally and adopted a third.

Apparently, the Golds were a very close and loving family, but had no boundaries.  Tracey explains that even if she had not been a child actress, she probably would have developed anorexia nervosa, which she had suffered from in two bouts.  The first one occurred when she was a pre-teen (and indeed, I remember reading about it when I was in the eighth grade).  The second happened in the late 1980s and early 90s, when Tracey was a young woman at the height of her career.  

Although she claims she did not become anorexic due to the many fat jokes hurled at her on Growing Pains, the jokes clearly did not help matters.  But, I suspect based on what I know about eating disorders and what Tracey herself reports, part of her problems with eating stemmed from having a mother who had bulimic tendencies.  And though she apparently loves Harry Gold as if he were her natural father, I suspect her biological father's departure from her life also helped form the conditions that led to anorexia nervosa.  But that's just my opinion and I could be wrong.

Room to Grow is a memoir that is mostly about Gold's struggles with eating disorders.  Those who want to read about Tracey's childhood growing up on television may be somewhat disappointed with this book.  She is interested mostly in explaining how the eating disorder developed as well as her relationship with her husband, Roby Marshall.  Since the book was published twelve years ago, it doesn't cover the births of her youngest two sons, Aidan and Dylan.  It does discuss her pregnancies with older sons, Sage and Bailey.

This book is also basically well written, but does have a few editing glitches within it.  They are basically minor mistakes.  Ghostwriter Julie McCarron does a pretty good job of making this book sound as if it was coming straight from Tracey Gold.  I could pretty much picture Tracey saying aloud what was written on the pages.  There are photos included, but they are hard to see on a Kindle app.  

Room to Grow is not a bad book, though I think I would have found it more compelling had Tracey included more details about everything.  By this, I don't just mean the eating disorder (which I'm pretty sure she deliberately tries to keep vague to prevent "thinsperation"), but everything...  I would have enjoyed reading a little more about her career and her family.  She offers a few teases, but doesn't generally follow through.  So by the time I was finished reading, I didn't feel like I got the whole story.  She's had a very interesting career and comes from an interesting family.  More details would have been very beneficial to the end product.  Hell, I'd be interested if she'd just offered a few more details about her well known anorexia TV movie, For The Love of Nancy.  She had originally said she didn't want to do this movie, but as you can see, she changed her mind... 

But overall... I think I'd give this book 3.5 stars.

The 1994 made for TV film, For The Love of Nancy...  They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Taste wars...

My kingdom for Peet's!

It's time for a Monday morning rant.  It may seem like a really silly rant, but I'm going to express myself anyway.  Why?  Because I have nothing better to do.  Before you start reading, bear in mind that this is a rant and isn't meant to ruffle feathers.  I am simply venting, as I feel I have the right to do in this particular forum.  If you see yourself in these comments and are feeling pissed off or attacked, I advise you to take a deep breath and back away slowly.  Still with me?  Good.

So, I have mentioned before on my travel blog that those of us in Germany under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) are subjected to rationing of certain luxury items.  If we shop on American installations for liquor, coffee, or cigarettes (I think, anyway-- not a smoker, so I don't actually know), we have to present a ration card.  Gasoline is also rationed.  Supposedly, these items are cheaper on the installations.  I know gas is and booze probably is.  I'm not sure about coffee.  You can buy Starbucks coffee on post and not have to use the ration card or you can get it in a German store with no rationing worries.  It's all about the German Kaffeesteuer, a tax to which coffee sold in the commissary and BX/PX is not subjected.

Anyway, coffee seems to be the big thing here.  People have certain brands they love.  Bill and I happen to love Peet's coffee.  Last month, I wrote a blog post about the process of ordering it from the States and paying duty for it.  It was expensive to get our Peet's, but well worth it for us.  We have really been enjoying having Peet's again, for however long it lasts, as well as some excellent Ethiopian coffee that Bill picked up on his last business trip.  We don't like most of what is available on the installations and we have yet to find any European coffees we enjoy.  It's just a matter of personal taste.

Every once in awhile, a newcomer will ask questions about coffee.  I know I did when we moved back here in 2014.  When we lived here the first time, we had coffee sent to our APO mailbox.  It was and still is illegal, but the rule was not enforced.  Lately, they have been cracking down.  I have not tried having coffee sent to my APO this time and, for two years, we've been getting by on the coffee available locally.  We don't like it and, after living here a total of four years, see no reason to actively keep trying to find one we like.  That's why I ordered my beloved Peet's.

When someone asks about coffee and wants to know the process of getting their favorite American brand, I share my experiences.  I know there are people out there who simply want the information about buying American coffee and not pressure to try something new.  Also, having been here awhile, I know that it's easier to bring coffee with you in your shipments than trying to have it sent through the mail.  At the very least, having that favorite brand of coffee (or whatever else you love from home) at the beginning can ease the effects of culture shock and leaving all that is familiar in the United States.

Invariably, there's a huge chorus of comments from people who swear European coffee is better than American.  Sometimes they even go into lecture mode about the importance of "expanding your horizons" or "broadening your palate".  That kind of talk especially pisses me off.  Most people affiliated with the military have had the experience of moving multiple times.  I would guess many of them have had to step out of their comfort zones more than once.  Sometimes people simply want what they want.  Having now lived in Germany for a total of four years, I know by now that I'm not a big fan of the coffees I have so far found here.  So I get what I want.  That doesn't make me picky or small minded.  I simply prefer Peet's to Illy, Jacobs, Dallmayr, or Tchibo.  Sue me.

Yesterday, this topic came up again.  Sure enough, there was a huge barrage of commentary from the community.  Quite a few people went into didactic mode, writing about how *good* German coffee is.  Actually, I shouldn't call it "German coffee", since coffee isn't produced in Germany.  The beans come from elsewhere and are roasted according to local tastes.  Folks, I'm here to tell you, that not everyone thinks German style coffee is great.  You might enjoy it very much and that is your right.  But please don't tell me I have a limited palate because I don't like it.  Tastes differ.  And please, unless I request it, don't offer to show me which brands are the "best".  You may think they are the best, but that doesn't mean I will.  Your tastebuds are not superior to mine or anyone else's.

I finally had to turn off notifications for that post because someone else, claiming not to be a "coffee snob" wrote that she much preferred the local coffee to American.  Then, she went on to explain that she is a "beer snob" and German beer is the *best* in the world.  She mentioned the German beer purity law and why that makes German beer so "good".  Then she dissed most American beers wholesale.  As a true beer lover myself, I had to laugh at that.  Actually, I was a little bit offended by it.

It's true, German beers are uniformly of excellent quality.  However, having tasted my fair share of German beers, in a blind taste test, I'd be hard pressed to be able to tell one brand of German beer from another.  They all pretty much taste the same, no matter which brewery makes them.  Only the styles are somewhat different.  By that, I mean a Hefeweizen is different than a Dunkelweizen, a Kolsch, or a Pils.  Even still, they aren't that different, at least not in my experience.

For sure, German beers are much better than many of the mass produced American beers like Budweiser or Coors, but I can think of many, many American craft beers I'd choose over a German lager.  There are some small craft breweries in the United States that are doing amazing things with beer and they are not bound by the Reinheitsgebot.  Even Germans are recognizing this fact and are trying to get in on the craft beer craze, with varying results.  I surmise they are having a hard time letting go of those purity law conventions and letting loose with their creativity.  But they'll catch up eventually and then, look out!

If you really want to impress me with your beer snob cred, tell me about all the Belgian beers you've tried.  Or hell, the Portuguese beers...  Portugal has some surprisingly good beers.  You can also find good suds in The Netherlands and the United Kingdom and in various other countries around the world.  And yes, you can find them in the United States, too.  You are not really a beer expert if you haven't tried a shitload of American craft beers.  If you are only basing your beer "snob" cred on having compared mass produced American beers to German beers, in my opinion, you still have a long way to go, my friend.  Even still, I would be wrong to tell you that you should stop liking what you like and "get with the program".  Tastes differ, and that's certainly okay.  And, like I said before, no one's tastebuds are necessarily superior to another person's.

I refrained from leaving a snarky comment to the self-proclaimed beer snob because I figured it would only stir up shit and I was already feeling pretty perturbed.  There was a time some years ago when I referred to myself as a beer snob and really hadn't tried enough beers to call myself that.  Actually, I still don't think I'd call myself a beer snob, per se.  I think of a snob as someone who is unwilling to try other things because they think they've already found the best.  By that definition, I probably am a coffee snob.  But I am definitely not a beer snob.

I just like what I like and, when it comes to beer, am very enthusiastic about trying new and different styles.  I don't like them all and there are some that I will never willingly drink again.  But I would never say German beer is necessarily the best.  I don't think it is.  In fact, I doubt I'll ever taste "the best" in my lifetime because things are always evolving.

And I also don't think American roasted coffee is necessarily the best, but I do know that I like what I like.  And if I want to drink my fucking American coffee, that's certainly what I'll do.  It doesn't make me closed minded, nor does it mean I have a limited palate.  Okay?

/end rant

German beer... excellent suds, but if you've tried one, you've tried them all...  ;-)


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why I dislike Scarlett O'Hara...

Recently, there's been this thing on Facebook where people put up the three literary characters that define them.  A number of my friends include Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind in their three.  Every time I see Miss Scarlett held up as a heroine, I roll my eyes.  I certainly don't think she's a heroine, although I can understand why people are dazzled by her.

I'm basing my comments in this post about the movie version of Gone With The Wind.  I haven't yet read the book, although I probably should.  Books are usually much better than movies and I have a feeling the book would offer more insight into Scarlett's character.  Given my fascination with narcissists, reading Margaret Mitchell's depiction of Scarlett might be very interesting.  But I am so busy reading other stuff that I haven't gotten to any novels in a long while.

Anyway, back to why I hate Scarlett.  I didn't always feel this way.  In fact, for the longest time, I remember thinking Scarlett was an amazing character.  Portrayed by the strikingly beautiful Vivien Leigh, she was vivacious and spunky and crafty.  This was a woman who would always survive and stop at nothing to get ahead.  On the surface, she seems like a person to be emulated and admired.

I think my opinion about Scarlett changed the last time I watched Gone With The Wind.  It was 2010 and we were living in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Fayetteville is located in Fayette County, which is just south of Clayton County, the setting of Gone With The Wind.  Since we were living so very close to where Gone With The Wind was set, I decided I needed to buy a copy of the film.  So I did.  And then I watched it, just like I have many times over the course of my lifetime.

The difference was that when I'd watched Gone With The Wind in the past, I didn't realize how profoundly my life had been touched by people with Cluster B tendencies.  Scarlett O'Hara comes across as someone with profoundly narcissistic tendencies, but she's also very histrionic.  As I watched her flounce and flit about, teasing young men who were interested in her, screwing over friends and family, and behaving like a temperamental brat with no empathy, I started to realize that if I ever met Scarlett in person, I'd probably dislike her intensely.  Then I realized that, in a way, I have met Miss Scarlett many times.

Scarlett meets Rhett Butler after having a tantrum.

Miss Scarlett is the woman who smiles as she stabs you in the back.  She's selfish and petty.  She wants what she wants and everyone else be damned.   She throws temper tantrums shamelessly.  And yet, everyone is fascinated by her because she has incredible beauty and charisma.  Men stand in line to be used and abused by her.  She takes full advantage and leaves them worse off than she did when they first met.  My husband was married to a woman much like Scarlett, though she certainly didn't have Scarlett's intoxicating good looks.  My former best friend had some "Scarlett" tendencies, too, and I was left profoundly hurt by her.


A lot of people mistake Scarlett O'Hara for being free spirited and vixenish.  But watch her closely and you see someone who is ruthless and unkind.  She is a survivor, though, and will survive until the bitter end.  At the end of her life, she'll probably be alone and bitter.

I realize she's just a fictional character in a famous book, but Scarlett O'Hara represents toxic, narcissistic women who think they are justified in being cruel and duplicitous.  It bothers me that so many people hold her up as someone to be admired.  If you've ever spent much time in the company of someone who is a full blown narcissist, you might understand why I had such a visceral reaction to Scarlett the last time I watched Gone With The Wind.  

I can appreciate that Scarlett is a very intriguing character and Vivien Leigh did a fantastic job portraying her.  In fact, I remember in 1994, there was a sequel to Gone With The Wind written by Alexandra Ripley.  The book was called Scarlett and I remember that it really paled in comparison to the original and probably should have been left alone.  A movie was also made, starring Joann Whalley, who couldn't really hold a candle to Vivien Leigh.

Joann Whalley as Scarlett.

I notice a lot of the people who admire Scarlett O'Hara also admire the late Princess Diana, another woman who probably gets more credit than she deserves.  It's not that I don't think Diana was special.  She was.  She was very beautiful and charismatic.  But she was also very troubled and had many character flaws that were overshadowed by her very inflated public image.  I found Diana fascinating, but I could never worship her or even look up to her as an example.  Indeed, I think a lot of the reason people are so attracted to characters like Scarlett O'Hara and real people like Diana is that these individuals are often extraordinarily good looking.  It's hard to look away from them.  And they are so charming and alluring that many people are willing to ignore their bad behavior just to be in their midst.

I will admit that when it comes to Cluster B types, I have what Dr. Phil would call a "psychological sunburn".  I am very sensitive to abusive behaviors that come from Cluster B types.  And that's probably why I have such strong reactions when I run into Cluster Bs, either in real life on on the silver screen.

In the end, Rhett's response was best...


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Don't talk to cops...

I have a very eclectic collection of friends.  Quite a few of them are liberal types I know from my artistic pursuits.  Others, such as family members, people I grew up with in rural Virginia, and people I know from my years affiliated with the military (as a spouse and brat), are much more conservative.  Sometimes, if I post something slightly controversial, they'll end up interacting.  Sometimes the interactions can become somewhat explosive.

Last night, I shared an article I read about why people shouldn't talk to the police.  It was inspired by advice given by James Duane, a law professor at Regent University in Virginia.  He's featured in a very interesting video about the Fifth Amendment.


In this 2008 video, James Duane speaks about why you should never speak to police officers for ANY reason.

And part 2...

In fairness, I knew this might be a controversial topic.  I have a couple of friends who are police officers.  I have a couple of friends who are spouses of cops.  I also have lots of very liberal friends who do not trust the police.  So I posted this article and the comments ensued.

Naturally, I heard from a couple of liberal friends who liked the advice.  I heard from one of my police officer friends.  And I also heard from a spouse of a cop.  You could probably guess how this went.  Personally, I usually take a middle of the road stance on this subject.  I think many times cooperating with the police works out okay.  Other times, it can be disastrous.  

One friend wrote that she has never had any problem just being courteous with the police and minding her manners.  This particular friend happens to be a young, blonde, white woman who has probably never had any really serious issues with the police.  Other people have not been as lucky.

Another friend, also a white woman, had written about being harassed by the police in a neighborhood near where she used to live.  That friend got into it with one of my cop friends.  They had a very long discussion.  My liberal friend who was against talking to the police explained that she felt harassed by the police.  She explained that she hadn't broken any laws and the cop was bothering her because she felt he thought she was in the neighborhood buying drugs.  She wasn't, and the officer apparently didn't find any reason to detain her, so she went on her way.

My cop friend was being defensive of the police officer's actions.  He explained what he's done when he's been on a beat (granted on a military installation).  They argued, and then another friend, who is married to a cop declared, "You're making a mountain out of a molehill." 

Things went downhill from there.  My liberal friend brought up the very real problem that people of color face when they get stopped by the police.  And my cop friend sarcastically made a comment about how he was just waiting for someone to play the race card.  With that, my liberal friend got disgusted and left the conversation.

I'm a little sad things went down this way.  I really think this is an interesting topic of discussion.  Many of us are taught to trust and respect police officers without question.  Many people think all they have to do is tell the truth and it'll all be okay.  However, as Mr. Duane explains in his video, there is a huge risk that a person who is stressed, tired, or unsure of the laws of the land might inadvertently say something that incriminates them.  People can and have found themselves behind bars for making that mistake.  Sometimes, they're there for a long time before they are finally released.

I appreciate the work that good police officers do.  It's important work, and police officers deserve respect for facing danger in the name of keeping their jurisdictions safe.  But too many Americans are ignorant about their rights.  You could be totally innocent and end up saying something that gets you in serious trouble.  I think it makes sense to ask if you're being detained.  If you are, get a lawyer to advocate for your rights.  If you aren't being detained, be on your way and don't talk to the police.  It's your right not to.

Also, for the record, I don't think my liberal friend was making a mountain out of a molehill.  It's true that her particular situation was more of an inconvenience than anything else.  But it could have turned out very differently.  

If you don't speak to the police, you can't lie to them.  You can't get carried away when you speak to them.  You can't give them any information that can incriminate you.  And it's your right not to speak to the police.  I think it makes good sense to wait until you have a lawyer who can advise you and be your advocate.  Yes, lawyers are potentially expensive, but if they can keep you out of prison, I'd say they're worth the money.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Digging your own grave with words...

So, a couple of days ago, I wrote on my travel blog about my new dirndl.  That post has been surprisingly successful.  It's not my most popular yet, but it's up there in hits.  Lots of women in the community have commented on the dirndl and my success in purchasing it, especially since I bravely bought it having converted my US size to a German size.  The dirndl fits pretty well, all things considered, although I probably could have gotten the next smaller size if I had wanted to.

I felt super cute when I put it on.  It's not so often I feel "cute" anymore.  I'm middle aged and rather fat.  Even when I was younger, thinner, and supposedly "cuter", I was never what anyone would consider a hottie.  People have told me they think I'm pretty, but not in a way that necessarily attracts boyfriends.  It's usually my personality that men tend to like... and probably my boobs, too.  Anyway, enough about that.  The point is, like a lot of American women, I'm vain and insecure about my looks.  I feel self-conscious, especially in photos and on film.

I took a couple of successful head shots, that showed the top of the dirndl.  Then, knowing that people would want to see the whole thing, I attempted to take a body shot.  I couldn't get one by myself, but I did get one that showed about two-thirds of the outfit.  It was enough so people could see the bodice and my waist.  I tried to get Bill to take a photo of me in the whole outfit, but he doesn't have a gift for photography and his pictures made me look kind of hideous.  We also didn't have the benefit of natural light because he got home after dark.

In any case, the vast majority of comments about the pictures I posted were overwhelmingly positive.  That made me feel great!  Isn't it funny, then, that I should be so annoyed by the very few comments that were a bit thoughtless?  It's not so much that they were intended to be mean, either.  I seriously believe they were made with good intentions.  A few people just didn't stop and think before expressing themselves.  It happens to the best of us.

One lady, excited about the idea of buying a dirndl, asked me publicly if I would tell her what size I bought.  Then she mentioned her size and, I guess, figures I wear the same.  When I first saw that comment, my first thought was "Is she kidding me?  Does she really believe I'm going to tell everyone in Stuttgart what size clothes I wear?"  Then I thought to myself, "Why didn't she send a private message?  Or, at least, ask me how I determined what size I should wear?  Why would she ask another woman to publicly reveal her clothing size?  Especially when it's obvious the woman isn't exactly slim?"

Of course, I figured the woman just had a brain fart and couldn't think of a graceful way to ask her question.  So, although I was a little tempted to be sarcastic, I wrote "Here is a conversion chart.  If you wear 'such and such' size in US clothes, you should wear a 'such and such size' in German clothes."  She thanked me, and that was that.

Later, I vented about this situation in a private group and someone in that group immediately typed, "How tactless."  I was a little taken aback by that comment.  It hadn't initially occurred to me that the first comment was anything but simply thoughtless.  And now, someone was trying to tell me that the person was intentionally being rude.

I explained that I thought the woman had just had a brain fart and meant no harm.  I would have thought that would have been the end of it, but the person persisted, pointing out that the size tables are available on the Web site and she could have figured it out without publicly pointing out my zaftig figure. (That's not precisely what she wrote, but it was the gist of what she was saying.)  She seemed sure that the first commenter was deliberately trying to humiliate me, rather than simply being clumsy and thoughtless.  Even if that had been the case, why would you point that out to someone?  I mean, if I'm willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt, why wouldn't you?  Unless, of course, you actually want me to feel bad.

I responded by telling her that here in the American community in Stuttgart, we have many people who are not long on common sense.  Lots of people ask what some would consider "dumb" questions with answers that are easily discovered after some casual Googling.  In fact, we have people here who ask what time the Black Forest opens and closes!  Here's a hint.  The Black Forest is not like a state run park and it has no specific operating hours.  I added that I may not be skinny, but I write, sing, cook, and fuck like no other!

You would think that would have been the end of it, but the person persisted by telling me "the good thing is you don't have to be skinny to look good in a dirndl."


So I wrote, "Or to my husband... which is really all that matters anyway."  In saying that, I meant that he's the only one who *has* to find me reasonably attractive, but I guess it didn't come across that way.  So much for "shaking it off."

Again... I thought it would be over, but then she basically told me I needed to be "true to myself".  So I decided to be totally flippant and say, "Nah, my whole life revolves around Bill.  He is my reason for living... certainly for living in Germany!"  With that, the awkward comments finally stopped...  I had been tempted to add that some of my friends don't know when to STFU, but figured that would be too tactless.

Later, another woman wrote, "I love your dirndl.  It's very flattering!"  That's not necessarily an offensive thing to say, except that she's basically pointing out that my body needs to be "flattered".  Why not just say, "That's a pretty dirndl." and leave it at that?  Why make a comment that alludes to my figure flaws?  Yes, I'm sensitive, dammit.  I probably wouldn't have been irritated by that comment, though, had it not been precluded by the others.

The truth is, I almost never post pictures of my current body on the Internet simply because people are brutal and I don't necessarily want to be the subject of fat shaming.  In our community, it is especially risky to share photos because of the so-called "dependa hunters".  These are assholes who go around ripping off people's photos, posting them in Facebook groups, and making fun of them.  I might not care about that so much, except that sometimes that sort of thing gets out of hand and one becomes aware of the nasty comments.  I mean, you can make shitty comments about me privately, but no one wants to be publicly humiliated.  And unfortunately, although military folks can be wonderful, there are quite a few bullies within their ranks who get off on being abusive and cruel.  I've blogged about that many times, if you need examples.

But, in fairness, I suppose I am guilty of making fun of people, too.  I try not to be mean, but I'm sure I fail.  So maybe I deserve some blows to my ego sometimes...  Maybe.  But I must admit that yesterday's encounters stimulated my creativity.  I may have to record a new parody song called "Tactlessly"...  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review of Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley Sullenberger...

How many times have you gotten on an airplane, tuned out the flight attendants' safety briefing, and just took it for granted that you would make it safely to your destination?  I'm sure I've done it more than once in my lifetime.  I'm sure that many of the people who boarded US Airways' Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte on January 15th, 2009 also took it for granted that they would be taking a run of the mill flight.  There were 155 passengers and crew on that airplane that day.  How many of them had been lulled into a state of complacency?  How many of them are still complacent seven years after their flight landed in the Hudson River, just minutes after take off?

Like a lot of people, I very well remember reading and hearing about Flight 1549 and its pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger, affectionately nicknamed Sully, who managed to ditch the aircraft in the river after its engines were overcome by a flock of Canadian geese.  This year, the film Sully is being released, with Tom Hanks playing the title role.  I suppose it was the buzz about Sully that made me decide to download 2009's Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.  Written by Chesley B. Sullenberger and ghost writer Jeffrey Zaslow, Highest Duty is basically Sully's life story in book form.  But it's also the story of what happened on that fateful day in January, when all of Sully's years of flying and thousands of hours of training came down to one moment when he and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, had 155 lives in their hands.

Highest Duty begins at the very beginning, as Sullenberger describes growing up in Texas and being fascinated by flight.  He found early inspiration and training in a local crop duster, who taught him the basics of flight and rented him the use of his plane and air strip.  Later, he went on to attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was trained to fly bigger airplanes, skills he used as an Air Force officer.  I got a kick out of reading about Sully's training, especially since it turns out he and my dad were stationed in England during the same time.  Sully was at Lakenheath Air Force Base and my dad was at Mildenhall Air Force Base; the two are very close to each other.  Of course, Sully is a lot younger than my dad, so they were not running in the same circles.

After leaving the Air Force, Sully began his career as a commercial pilot.  He writes about how difficult it was, even back before commercial airlines had to contend with the challenges they face today.  There were more pilots than open positions and everything an airline does is based on seniority.  Sully just happened to be at the right place at the right time when he scored his first job.

Like many people, Captain Sullenberger fell in love and got married.  His wife, Lorrie, has been along for the ride, coping with Sully's many trips away from home.  They have two adopted daughters, Kate and Kelly, and live near San Francisco, California, which is where Sully's first job was based.  As airlines began disappearing, swallowed by bankruptcies or mergers, Sully's "home base" changed.  In 2009, he was based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, but still commuted from California.

As he made his way to that fateful flight out of New York, Sully worried about his finances.  I'm sure he never dreamed that he'd one day write books... or be the subject of a major motion picture with Tom Hanks playing him in the starring role.  No... on January 15th, 2009, Sully was thinking about his looming mandatory retirement and the property he owned that had been leased by a Jiffy Lube franchiser.  The franchiser had decided not to renew the lease and Sully wondered how he would pay the mortgage.  Sully's pension had dwindled down to being worth a fraction of what it once was.  And he lived in a very expensive part of the country.  It's a feeling many readers will be able to relate to, even before he gets to the story about his historic landing in the Hudson River.

Those who do decide to read this book may want to know that it's not all about that flight.  In fact, readers are "teased" throughout the book as he mentions the event that put him in the public eye, but writes more about what led up to that moment.  Some readers may find that technique a little tedious and frustrating.  I know I picked up Sully's book because I wanted to read about how he ditched the airplane in the river, but I now appreciate reading about how Sullenberger became the man and the pilot he is.  Aside from that, he has spent so many years in the airline business that he offers some interesting trivia about it.  In fact, he even laments how sad he thinks it is that so few children are interested in seeing the cockpit anymore.  Nowadays, kids are plugged into any number of devices.  It doesn't occur to them to want to stop in and see where Sully works.  He mentions that a lot of people seem to think pilots are not much better than glorified bus drivers.

Anyway... I pretty much hate flying in airplanes and try to avoid them when I can.  But I can definitely appreciate a book about how the airline industry works, especially when it's written by a man who could be credited with keeping so many people safe when they could have been so easily killed.  Think about it.  It's a miracle that 155 people were able to go home to their families after Sully ditched their airplane in an ice cold river.  Through his talented ghost writer, Sully even describes how it felt to receive his personal effects months later, after they were found by the company contracted to take care of that.  He muses that most people who receive personal personal effects after a plane crash are the people who have survived the crash victims.  But there he was, receiving a box of his stuff that happened to be on the plane.  Everything was there, save for an $8 tuna sandwich he purchased and never had the chance to eat.  And he was the one to take possession of that stuff, not his wife and children.  It's amazing.

I think Highest Duty is well worth reading.  I give it a solid four stars.


My take on the dissolution of "Brangelina"...

So, a couple of days ago, the whole world learned that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are divorcing after two (count 'em-- two) years of marriage.  Pitt and Jolie, who had been collectively referred to by the press as "Brangelina", had been together since 2004 and were raising six children, three of which were their own biological creations.

I can't say I was totally surprised about the news... although George Clooney was apparently taken aback by it...

Clooney was surprised because he was doing something more meaningful than stalking celebrity news...

Anyway, I generally think it's sad when couples divorce, although there are certainly exceptions.  Like, I'm glad Bill and his ex divorced, even though I am sad for the pain he went through during that process.  And I'm probably glad that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split up because I think Tom Cruise is batshit crazy and living in a cult and I would hate to see Suri Cruise raised in a cult.  I also hated the whole TomKat hype. 

One thing that does bother me, though, is a certain meme going around the Internet.  Behold...

Yes, it's true.  Angelina Jolie was "the other woman" when Pitt was married to Jennifer Anniston and now another woman has allegedly come between her and Brad Pitt...

A lot of people think Angie is getting her just desserts for "stealing" Brad from Jennifer.  But I'm here to tell you, no functioning adult-- especially someone like Brad Pitt-- can be "stolen" from someone.  Brad is the one who made the commitment to Jennifer and, later, Angelina.  Brad is the one who should get the lion's share of the blame for homewrecking.  This is my opinion even though I know Angie knew Brad was married when they started messing around all those years ago.  The fact is, Brad broke a promise, not Angie.  If anyone's a "homewrecker", it is he.

That being said, I don't think it's a good idea for people to try to have relationships with married people.  I know there are many reasons why people do it.  Sometimes the reasons even make sense.  I had a neighbor who was married, but her husband had Huntington's Disease and lived in a mental hospital for many years.  She dated.  I don't know that I necessarily agree with that, especially since the guys she dated were usually abusive creeps.  But I can understand why she dated because she was in her 30s at the time and lonely... and she had a very sick husband who needed her, lived in a hospital, and would not be the wiser about her extramarital activities.  I don't know that I would have done what she did had I been in her shoes, but I could have some empathy for her situation.

It appears to me that Brad Pitt is simply not the marrying kind.  He likes a variety of women.  He should probably not marry again because he can't be faithful.  I don't know how that feels for him.  I can only have empathy, for him and the women he gets involved with, as well as his children.  However, even though a lot of women think Angelina was a skank for "stealing" Brad, the fact is, she wasn't capable of stealing him.  He made the choice to go along with her, even though he was married.  It probably would have been better if he had ended his marriage before getting involved with Angie.  That's not what happened, though.    

I think if anyone should be the subject of a snarky meme, it should be Brad Pitt.  He's the one who cheated.  He's the "homewrecker".  Angie, bless her heart, probably should have seen it coming from miles away.  On the other hand, since she's also been thrice married, maybe she's not the marrying kind, either.    

I do feel sorry for the kids...  I hope this situation doesn't fuck them up too much.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My very weird dream...

So yesterday, we decided not to go ahead with Zane's surgery tomorrow.  It may turn out we have his cyst removed if it gets big again, but at this point, it's really tiny.  I hate to put him through a surgery if he doesn't really need it.  It turns out it was a good thing we decided to cancel, because Bill went by to talk to the vet yesterday and they were also wanting to cancel the surgery.  I guess they had bigger fish to fry tomorrow.

All of the thinking I've been doing about Zane's surgery must have really gotten to me, because this morning I had a dream we were in Belgium and I needed surgery.  I was admitted to the hospital with a bunch of other people and my nurse, a young woman dressed in a polo shirt and casual pants, was very laid back.  She took me on a tour of the hospital and then fed me lunch.  I remember thinking that if I was going to have lunch, I probably shouldn't have surgery.  She assured me it was all okay, though.  

Just as they were about to wheel me off to surgery, I woke up.  Zane was sitting there whining at me.  Sometimes in the morning, he wakes up with an upset stomach and doesn't want to eat right away.  Such was the case this morning.  Bill tried to feed him and he wasn't having it.  Consequently, he was hungry and wanted me to give him his morning rations.  I was still pretty groggy upon waking, so I needed a few minutes to get my bearings.  Meanwhile, Zane was still whining.

I gave him his food, accompanied by a couple of little cookies to settle his stomach.  He ate.  An hour or so later, he was demanding a walk.  So I got dressed in long pants and hiking boots because fall has now arrived in Germany.  We took our walk and now I'm sitting here with indigestion, thinking that it's time for me to have some lunch.

I watched several episodes of CHiPs from 1979 yesterday.  I realized how fucking old I am now.  It was a good episode, though.  Leif Garrett was starring, playing an overworked rock star.  I have to say, he was quite cute back in the day.  I don't know who told him he could sing, though.  Anyway, that episode had a whole lot of stars from that era in it, some of whom are now long dead.  Quite a few of the stars were people who had been on some of my favorite childhood shows.


Am I really this old?  I was seven when this originally aired.  Dana Plato looks wasted.

I see Philip McKeon, of Alice fame, is roller skating.  Here is a video of him with his sister, Nancy, who starred on The Facts of Life. 

This is a very awkward looking video...  Philip and Nancy are obviously reading and the kids all look shell shocked and bored.

Anyway... I may spend some time today deciding if and where we should go over Columbus Day.  Again, it'll have to be a pet friendly locale, since we aren't booking the dogs.  The things I do for them.

I do love this time of year, though.  Germany is lovely in the fall.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

For the love of a mouse...

There was a very funny thread going on in one of our local Facebook groups yesterday.  A woman found a dead mouse in her laundry basket and wanted to know what she could do to get rid of the mouses's buddies, who were bound to be living close.  The woman quickly got answers from the community, including one from yours truly.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a few mouse droppings near our house and went looking for remedies.  I found out that peppermint oil supposedly repels vermin.  We have a big peppermint plant in our backyard, but that's nowhere near where I saw the poop.  Fortunately, I do happen to have some peppermint oil on hand that I bought when I wanted to try out some other faddish claim I found on the Internet.  I sprinkled the peppermint oil liberally near the areas where I've seen mouse crap.  I can't say it's totally eliminated it, but I do see a lot less.  Of course, we also have some pretty good mouser cats living nearby.

This cat is a monster mouser!  She also likes to jump out of hiding places and scare the shit out of our dogs and us!  Fortunately, she's very sweet.

Most of the other suggestions this lady was getting involved more violent methods of dispatching the mice.  Lots of people suggested traps.  Poisons may have been mentioned, although given Germany's strict rules about animal cruelty and toxic substances that may harm the environment, I don't think they were heavily discussed.  Personally, I am for methods of getting rid of pests that don't endanger other creatures.  Poison can easily end up harming cats, birds of prey, dogs, and children.

Anyway... there was one person in our group who was very much against killing the mice.  She left an impassioned plea that those who encounter the creatures simply catch and release them.  I thought that was kind of funny, since where I live, catch and release is no guarantee that a mouse will live out all its allotted days.  Besides the many cats and dogs who live in my neighborhood, there are also farmers working with heavy equipment.  Most days, I come across some dead creature that has been squashed by a tractor or combine.  Actually, my dogs usually discover them before I do.

I have a feeling the person who was commenting is a local who was distressed by the bloodthirsty attitude a number of Americans seem to have toward mice and rats.  Never mind the fact that our local groups mostly consist of people who are in the business of war, as well as their loving spouses, who are often in support of their mates' line of work.  We Americans see mice and rats as disease ridden varmints, but the lone dissenter among us sees them as intelligent, cute, and as deserving to live as protected as any human being is.  This song instantly comes to mind as I write this...

Michael Jackson sings to "Ben", a hapless rodent...

On the other hand, perhaps it was lost on the poster, a young woman who may not be well versed in history, that between 1346 and 1353, many Europeans died when rats infested with Oriental rat fleas came into contact with people of that time.  Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in the history of the human race.  I guess, even though it happened hundreds of years ago, many people are still holding a grudge and see mice and rats as disease carrying pests.  I, for one, also don't like rodents because they are messy and destructive and they can make a lot of noise.  But I grew up in a house with mice as well as in a barn, where mice and rats were forever trying to get into the sweet feed.

The drama that ensued over the dead mouse and the original poster's desire to kill more mice ended when the poster determined the heat had gotten to be too much.  She deleted her post, then issued an apology for "offending" people.  I would say that 99% of the people in our local groups have no sympathy for mice and thought it was crazy that the lady was being handed a ration of shit over her natural desire to be rid of the rodents.  But her apology post has ended up spawning a new post, which is now full of hilarious jokes and memes...  I may or may not have participated in the hijinks.

Sometimes it's fun to sit on my can and hang out on Facebook while watching trashy reality TV.  This is clearly what I spent seven years in college to do.

Incidentally, I recently discovered a trick for getting rid of maggots in my trash, which has been a real problem over the summer.  It turns out all you have to do is put a dryer sheet in the bin.  The flies don't like the scent or something, so they vamoose.  I tried it the other day and sure enough, the maggot population is vastly reduced.  I'm amazed by all the handy household tips I've learned as an Overeducated Housewife, especially since we've been in Germany.  I could write a book!  ;-) 

Monday, September 19, 2016

I spent yesterday binge watching Below Deck...

I think I discovered Bravo's reality show Below Deck sometime in early 2015.  Below Deck is about young, good looking people who work on chartered luxury yachts.  I quickly got hooked on the show, as I do when I have limited TV access, and binged watched two seasons worth.  Then I forgot about the show.

Last week, while trying to pass the time, I noticed that Below Deck had more episodes available.  Indeed, they have just started a new season.  I started watching.  Yesterday, since it was cold, rainy, and depressing outside and I was feeling kind of icky, I parked myself on our futon and watched...

I find the show oddly compelling for a few reasons.  Believe it or not, it kind of reminds me of when I worked at a church run summer camp.  That was a job that required everyone to live where we worked.  Days were long and exhausting.  We rarely got time off.  The intense work was only for twelve weeks, though.  Then it was over.  It seems that the yachting business is kind of the same way.  You work your ass off for some weeks, make lots of tip money (which we didn't get at church camp), then go on your merry way.

Most of the people on the Below Deck yachts are young and gorgeous.  They're often horny and want to party and they do.  We at church camp were the same way, though we were fairly limited in what we could do out in the wilderness.  There was a lot of hooking up at the camp, though.  It was a lot of fun and I left that job having made some good friends who remain friends to this day.

Another reason I like Below Deck is because I like luxury cruising.  However, I have to admit that watching the show is a reminder that the really excellent service and friendliness of crew members is mostly driven by the perceived promise of a good tip.  And since most of the people working on the yachts on Below Deck are Americans, the drive to get a good tip is especially intense and, frankly, kind of disheartening.

But then... I have worked a a waitress myself and I understand the drive to make money in the service industry.  Waiting tables is very hard work.  It's actually a lot harder than a lot of people realize.  You have to learn how to be fast and efficient and think on your feet.  You have to put up with people who are shockingly rude.  When you are living and working on a luxury yacht that people have paid tens of thousands of dollars to charter, the work becomes even more intense.  On the other hand, I watched one episode in which the staff replaced mint for a mojito with what they said was basil (it looked more like cilantro to me) and mint extract.  I figure if your guests are spending so much money to be on the yacht, the least you can do is have some mint.  And if you don't have mint, don't lie and say you do.

So yeah... I like Below Deck.  I guess I'm getting old, though, because I realized yesterday that I was getting a little annoyed by the language on that show.  There really is a lot of cussing, which I understand on one level due to the nature of the work.  But half of the words are bleeped out, which becomes tiresome after awhile.  And sometimes, the bleepers mess up and let things slide.  I don't really care if I hear the word "shit", though I wish they were consistent about the bleeping.  Frankly, I wish American TV would just let people express themselves.  Bleeping is annoying, especially since it's pretty obvious what is being said anyway.

I didn't feel very well yesterday.  I was tired and my stomach was upset.  It was raining outside.  I sat in and watched trashy television, just like I would if we were back in the States.  Bill watched with me, as did Arran, my TV buddy.  Zane spent the day buried under the covers on our bed.  The weather is changing, just like it does every September in Germany.  It magically goes from sunny and warm to cold and rainy.  There will be snow before we know it.  I'm actually glad to see the weather change.  I love autumn.

Zane is supposed to have his surgery this Thursday, but the cyst that had me all concerned has shrunk down to almost nothing.  I'm trying to decide if I still want the vet to remove the cyst.  I probably should just go on and get it done, since it'll probably just fill up again and get me all worried.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Trainwrecks online...

Yesterday, I wrote a post about a family I learned about yesterday.  The post was up for about thirty minutes or so.  Then I took it down, because I felt bad about writing it.  Twenty-four hours later, I have decided to rewrite the post.  I just feel like I have to, even if I do feel kind of bad about it.  So here goes...

There's a guy on my Facebook friends list who posted a link to a GoFundMe campaign yesterday.  I don't actually know this guy.  I think he added me because I'm friends with one of his mutual friends. We used to have one friend in common, but now I see that he's added several other exMormon Facebook friends of mine, also people I don't really know, but kind of enjoy following.

Anyway, I noticed the GoFundMe pitch on this guy's page.  He has a married nephew who lost his three month old infant son in a freak accident on Friday.  The family is very obviously Mormon.  Until Friday, they had eight living kids, several of whom have names that only very devout Mormons would bestow upon their offspring.  The baby who died was named Kolob.

I noticed that my Facebook friend had posted the GoFundMe page, but so had the baby's parents.  They share a Facebook account.  The mother, who writes a blog, also has a Facebook page for her blog.  With eight kids, I'm sure finances are stretched tight and the parents said they needed help with the burial expenses.

I was curious about the family, so I navigated to the mother's blog, which has only been in existence since August.  There are several posts.  The first one I read was about how amazing the infant son was.  It was posted before his tragic accident.  It seems the baby was born a month prematurely and had spent some time in the NICU before coming home to live with his family for a summer.  The boy's mother wrote that her son had fought to get well.

The next post, which is the one she most recently wrote, was posted yesterday.  It was about her baby's death.  When I discovered that post, I realized that the baby hadn't even been dead for twelve hours.  People process things differently; I know I need to write when there's something on my mind.  Still, it seemed really strange to me that this mother had taken to her blog to write about her dead baby so soon after it happened.

So I kept reading.  I discovered that this family has struggled with a lot of problems.  One son has autism.  A daughter broke her neck, though was apparently able to recover.  Another daughter had a broken leg as an infant.  Another son had "brain issues" before he was born.  The baby who died had been given a bottle and placed on a blanket while Mom went to cook dinner.  He apparently aspirated some fluid and was discovered by his dad and sister about fifteen minutes later, blue and unresponsive.

Having not had children myself or been around a lot of very young infants, I asked some of my friends who are mothers if it was common for parents to put their babies on a blanket and leave them there.  They all said it was, although it sounded to me like this mom left her baby alone in a room while she was cooking.  Given that he was a preemie and had other young siblings, one of whom has autism, it seemed to me that this mother should have had the baby within eyeshot.  And maybe she did.  The details or what actually happened are fairly sketchy.  But then, if the baby had been within her line of sight, perhaps she would have noticed he was in distress.

I happen to have a background in child welfare.  I studied social work and public health and have worked as a social worker.  If I were still practicing, I probably would be calling child protective services and asking them to check on this family.  However, given the many strange medical dramas this family has faced, my guess is that someone has already called about them.

I realize this family has suffered a tremendous loss and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt...  however, the mother's blog raises a number of red flags.  At the very least, it shows that the woman has poor judgment.  I'm sorry if my comments about this are in poor taste or come off as judgmental, but I truly think this family has got some pretty major issues.  I felt like I needed to write about it because it's profoundly sad as well as very strange.

I probably need to cull my friends list, too...