Wednesday, May 31, 2017

People annoy me...

I'm feeling rather snarky this morning, so here's a top ten list of Facebook "personalities" who annoy me.  Here we go-- in no particular order.  Sorry in advance for all the swearing...

10.  People who feel like Facebook is their platform for "setting a good example".  It's annoying when people post preachy, sanctimonious diatribes about how other people ought to conduct themselves, especially if they do so with holier than thou or religious overtones.  Yes, God bless you, I know you're dealing with special trials that have somehow given you more insight into how how shitty other people are.  I can do without the syrupy melodrama, though.

9.  People who try too hard to be cool, especially if they are aggressive about it.  There's a woman who recently arrived in Stuttgart and, over the past few months, she's tried so hard to show everyone how "cool" she is.  But she's obnoxious and overbearing and needs to STFU more often.  She also needs to learn what "passive aggression" actually is before she accuses other people of it.

8.  People who get involved in political discussions and type in all caps.

7.  The same people who type in all caps are moronic idiots who don't vote and then say things like "NO ONE CAN FORCE ME TO VOTE."  And then it becomes clear that they shouldn't vote because they've proven they're not very bright, anyway.

6.  People who tell other people what or how they should post on other people's Facebook pages, especially if the person they're telling is another "friend".  Why take it upon yourself to tell a person's fellow Facebook friend not to post in all caps if it's not your page?  If all caps annoys the host, let him or her sort it out.  It's not your concern.

5.  While were at it, people who make a request and then add a "thanks" at the end.  For example, "Please don't type in all caps.  Thanks."  Fuck you, and your "thanks in advance."  What if I don't want to stop typing in all caps?  What if I've had eye surgery and can't otherwise read Facebook's tiny print.  You post your way and I'll post mine, motherfucker.

4.  People who...  aw fuck it.  Presumptuous people.  For example, someone who posts a comment like "Heh... I can 'tell' you're upset!"  No, asswipe, I'm not "upset" about your comment.  I am upset that I'm thousands of miles away from you and you think you know how I feel.  Shut the hell up and leave the mind reading to the professionals.

3.  Perpetual ass kissers.  Thankfully, there aren't too many of these on my friends list.  It does annoy me, though, when someone is too eager to be friends with me and acts more like a "fan" than a friend.

2.  Annoying blahgers.  Oh... yeah, if I were reading my posts, I'd probably annoy myself.

1.  Overly helpful people.  Oh man... I do get pissy when someone strokes their ego by offering unsolicited advice.  I really could rant about this right now, actually.   I think I will.  It will help me blow off some steam.

The other day, Bill and I were on our way to the store and I remembered Ms. Overly Helpful, who once used to get regularly bitched about in my blog.  I finally blocked her a few years ago because I just couldn't take her passive aggressive little digs anymore (having endured them for years).  Just talking about her got me riled up; but then, I don't claim to be a very laid back person.  I wish I had a thicker skin.  Scratch that-- my skin is plenty thick with adipose tissue.  I just wish it had fewer nerve endings.

Anyway, Ms. Overly Helpful was basically this smug bitch who used to communicate with me with the most annoying, condescending overtones.  She'd feel free to send me emails and private messages, sometimes with unsolicited advice.  More than once, she actually scolded me in a private message.  When I finally decided to oust her from my online world, I knew I'd get an email demanding to know why.  And she didn't disappoint.  I don't actually think about her much anymore and I don't really miss her at all.  Sometimes, she pops back into relevance when someone does something that reminds me of her.

Yes, I will admit, I am full of angst right now.  I keep looking at the calendar and realizing that some big changes are about to happen and I have little to no control over my life.  We're either going to stay where we are and Bill will start a new job with a new company or we're going to move and Bill will start a brand new job with the government.  There are pros and cons to both situations.  I know Bill really wants the Italy job, but the timing and salary may not work out.  And I love Italy, but I hate moving, especially in such a tight timeframe.  This move probably wouldn't suck as much as our move from Texas to Germany, but it would definitely be annoying and expensive (even if the government gives us a living quarters allowance).

I guess writing a top ten list of annoying people on Facebook is one way to take my mind off of the angst.  And I do realize that there are people out there who have real problems.  Take, for instance, Olivia Newton-John.  She just announced that the breast cancer she had suffered from in the past has now recurred and spread to her sacrum.  Hell, take Bill's co-workers.  Bill, at least, has another option besides staying here and working for a contractor.  Most of his buddies don't even know if they're going to be hired by the new contractor.  In fact, neither does Bill.

And... on top of all of this, we are planning to go to Scotland in September.  It's likely Bill won't be able to come with me.  But as I was sitting here, thinking of what I'll do if he doesn't go with me, I realized that it's entirely possible that he'll have to go TDY or something.  And I realize that I have really lost a lot of my autonomy.  It would probably be good for me to go on this trip alone.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Frank Deford has died, Joy Anna Duggar has married, and Pat Robertson is still a crazy bastard...

Last night, I learned that the great sports writer Frank Deford passed away.  He was 78 years old.  I first heard of Mr. Deford in 1985, when I was about 13 years old.  He had published his book, Alex: The Life of a Child and it was excerpted in Reader's Digest.  In those days, I used to read Reader's Digest quite religiously.  Alex was the nickname for Mr. Deford's beautiful daughter, Alexandra, who was afflicted with cystic fibrosis.

Alex was less than a year older than me.  She was born at a time when many kids born with cystic fibrosis didn't survive babyhood.  Alex lived eight years and was a very special girl.  Her father immortalized her with his beautifully written book, penned in her honor.  Later, the book was turned into a television movie starring Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia.  It was almost as moving as the book was.

Frank Deford also wrote for Sports Illustrated and, for 37 years, was a mainstay on Morning Edition on NPR.  I did not know him as a sports writer, though.  I knew him as a devoted father to a girl who died much too young.  I almost feel like I should have been into sports just so I could be more familiar with his work.  I can only hope Mr. Deford's lovely daughter, Alex, was waiting at the pearly gates when he arrived.

In other news, yet another Duggar daughter has tied the knot.  19 year old Joy Anna Duggar is now Joy Anna Forsyth.  On the occasion of their nuptials, they produced this video.  My guess is the burden Austin speaks of lifting is a constant case of blue balls.  They always talk about being married to "their best friend".  But all they do is talk about Bible verses.

Joy Anna is the youngest Duggar daughter old enough to be married.  However, lest you fear that there will be no more Duggar weddings, you can take heart in knowing that Joseph Duggar popped the question at his sister's wedding reception.  He is engaged to be married to Kendra Caldwell, who appears to be heavily drinking the fundie Kool-Aid.  I always laugh when I hear these young folks talk of how excited they are to be doing church work.  Joe isn't a particularly interesting speaker, but Kendra is a pretty lady.  Hopefully, he won't sing to her at their wedding, like Josh did to Anna.

And finally, I found this two year old post about Pat Robertson's opinion that kids who aren't religious should be taken out to the woodshed and "disciplined".  A woman wrote in to the 700 Club about her disrespectful son-in-law and grandson and how they don't respect their religious beliefs.  They write that they decline visiting their daughter at Christmas because their grandson cusses and smokes weed.  They've told their daughter to get their son to respect their beliefs, but she is somehow unable to get him to do that.

It seems to me that the grandparents are guests in their daughter's home.  They bring up religion and it causes an argument.  Perhaps a better solution is to stop talking about religion in their adult child's home.  Then maybe there won't be any fighting.  But then, you know, they might have to talk about other things and get to know each other.  That might be too hard to do.

Of course, I have pretty much sworn off gatherings with my own family because there's always fighting.  Maybe it would be different now, since my dad is no longer living.  At least our fights are not about religious beliefs, though, and everybody drinks and cusses with wild abandon.

I was going to write about a more personal topic today, but I decided it was too risky.  I'm not really in the mood to invite bad karma.  But I may change my mind later...  We'll see.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day shaming...

It's Memorial Day, which means many Americans have the day off work.  Since the weather is usually nice in late May, if not a bit hot, many people spend the day enjoying themselves.  But some people don't think you should be enjoying Memorial Day.  They post memes like this.

I think the top one is the shittiest of the three examples I've posted here.  

Look, I get that this holiday is intended for people to remember the fallen.  I just don't think we need to shame people for having a good time on a legitimate holiday.  The weather is nice.  The weekend is long.  Junior wants to do backflips into the pool while Dad grills up some steaks.  Big deal.  Memorial Day can be fun and there's no need to shame people who aren't feeling mournful.  Most veterans I know would rather people enjoy their day than sit around moping.  You can have a good time and still have respect for the fallen.

I don't understand why so many people feel the need to shame others.  Moral superiority is for the birds.

As for me, I'm sitting here on Memorial Day wondering what will happen in the next couple of months.  The Italy job is still a possibility and we haven't heard about the Germany job.  It pains me to think of moving, even if we get help with the move.  That is a process I absolutely hate.  But I do love Italy.  I also love Germany.  In any case, we won't be moving back to America this year... that is for certain!


Saturday, May 27, 2017

A review of The Pharmacist of Auschwitz: The Untold Story by Patricia Posner

For some reason, I often read about the Holocaust during the late spring months.  It was definitely true when we lived in Germany the last time.  It's been true this year, too.  Maybe there's something about the sunny weather and warmer temperatures that make me want to read about the grotesque history of Naziism and Hitler's Final Solution.  I don't know.

I just finished Patricia Posner's fascinating book, The Pharmacist of Auschwitz: The Untold Story, which is the remarkable tale of Victor Capesius, a Romanian man who served as the chief pharmacist at Auschwitz during World War II.  Posner's book, published in January of 2017, apparently breaks new ground with a story that, until now, had not been widely reported.  Having finished reading it this morning, I feel like I learned a lot by reading this well-written and solidly researched book.  It was particularly interesting because I happen to live not too far from where Victor Capesius eventually settled after the war.

Dr. Victor Capesius was an ethnic German who was born and raised in Transylvania.  He studied pharmacology, married his wife, Fritzi, who was also from Romania, and had three daughters.  Eventually, he started working for Bayer, a German pharmaceutical company.  Capesius dispensed medications, but he also sold them.  He did business with people throughout Europe and was well-liked and regarded.  Then, in 1943, when he was 35 years old, Capesius joined the Nazi SS.  He was sent to work at Auschwitz, where he quickly rose the ranks in power to become the chief pharmacist.

As chief pharmacist, Capesius had many duties.  Some of his work involved providing medications to people who were sick-- those people being other officers and their families.  He was also in charge of procuring and dispensing Zyklon B, the deadly cyanide based pesticide that was used to murder Jews in gas chambers at death camps around Europe.  Another one of Capesius' duties was to help select Jews arriving at Auschwitz for the gas chambers.  Apparently, Capesius wasn't happy about having to participate in selections, not because he was morally opposed to it, but because he didn't want the extra duty.  Like Josef Mengele, the infamous "Angel of Death" who capriciously chose who lived or died, Capesius decided whose lives would be spared and who would be gassed within an hour or two of arrival at the death camp.

Because of his work as a salesman and pharmacist, it wasn't unusual for Capesius to see people he knew arriving at Auschwitz.  These were former friends, colleagues, and customers who had known him as a kind, friendly person.  When the prisoners saw Capesius' familiar face, they trusted him.  They had no way of knowing that this man they had once regarded as a friend, or at least someone worthy of respect, was making the decision to exterminate Jews.  Sometimes Capesius would spare people he knew and send their families off to be gassed.

Capesius was also notorious for stealing.  He stole the belongings of the arriving prisoners, many of whom had stashed their valuables in their luggage, thinking they were simply going to be working for awhile.  The pharmacist also stole dental gold from the corpses.  He stockpiled these treasures and, once the war was over, used the booty to establish a comfortable life for himself.  After World War II, Capesius moved to Göppingen, a town not far from Stuttgart, and started a successful pharmacy.  Eventually, his wife, Fritzi, and daughters Melitta, Ingrid, and Christa, were able to leave Romania and join him in Germany.  Capesius and his colleagues had pretty much reintegrated into German society after the war and the government seemed content to simply whitewash the past.

Twenty years after the war ended, Capesius and his cronies were brought to justice by a very determined prosecutor.  Against the odds, the men were tried and most were found guilty and sentenced to prison.  Sadly, the sentences they received for their crimes were ridiculously light.

Patricia Posner's book is a very interesting read.  But more than that, it's a cautionary tale that Americans should expose themselves to, especially given our current government situation.  Victor Capesius was once a fairly decent person.  Once he was given unconditional power, he underwent a metamorphosis into a monster.  And then, when the war was over and he went back to his regular life, he wanted to bury the past and not be held accountable for his crimes.  It seems that many Germans were content with simply forgetting about the horrors of the Holocaust.  The same thing could happen in the United States if we're not careful.

Capesius died in 1985.  He was stripped of his pharmacy degree, but he still owned his home and his business, which he ran even after he was convicted of war crimes and served some time in a German prison.  His wife, Fritzi, died in 1998.  His three daughters went on to earn high level degrees and launched successful careers in Germany, attending schools very close to where I'm currently living.

Another aspect of this book that I found interesting is Posner's discussion of the company I.G. Farben, which was a conglomerate of several German chemical and pharmaceutical companies, a few of which are still operating today.  I.G. Farben consisted of Bayer, BASF, Hoechst, Agfa, Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron, and Chemische Fabrik vorm. Weiler Ter Meer.  At the beginning of the 20th century, German chemical companies led the world in the production of synthetic dyes.  The word "Farben" in German means colors.

I.G. Farben had a pretty dirty history.  The company used slave labor provided by prisoners from Auschwitz to produce its products.  In fact, when it became clear that there was a need for more prison labor, the company was even responsible for the construction of the Monowitz concentration camp, which was a sub-camp of the Auschwitz concentration camp system.  It was named after the Polish town where it was located.  Prisoners at Monowitz were used at I.G. Farben's Buna Werke industrial complex, where synthetic rubber was made.  The prisoners were starved and sickened and they could not work as hard or as efficiently as the regular employees, despite being threatened with beatings.  Prisoners who died while working were dragged back to the camp at night by their colleagues so they could be properly accounted for.  Female prisoners were forced to work as sex slaves at Monowitz's bordello.

I.G. Farben cooperated closely with Nazi officials, producing goods used by the Nazi regime.  The conglomerate also owned the patent for Zyklon B, which was invented by a Jewish-German Nobel Prize Winner named Fritz Haber.  Zyklon B was originally intended to be an insecticide, but it was very effective for killing people, as well.  I.G. Farben profited directly from its use as a murder agent in the gas chambers.

After the war, the Allies considered I.G. Farben to be too morally corrupt to continue operating.  Indeed, since 1952, the conglomerate ceased any real activity and remained a shell of a business.  However, legally, the conglomerate still existed until just fourteen years ago.  And most of the individual companies that were involved with the conglomerate are still operating today.

I highly recommend Patricia Posner's book for many reasons.  I think it's a good reminder of what can happen when good countries fall victim to bad leadership.  Greed, corruption, and hatred can cause a decent society to fall into moral bankruptcy.

Certainly, anyone interested in the history of the Holocaust will find Ms. Posner's book a great read.  She provides plenty of sources for additional reading, so the especially curious will find a rich supply of information.  Yes, the subject matter of The Pharmacist of Auschwitz is horrifying and depressing, but it's a cautionary tale to which we should all pay heed.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pillars of the community who turn out to be molesting creeps!

A couple of months ago, I read the sad tale of former teacher Leslie E. Deane, Jr.  Mr. Deane, a 65 year old Virginia resident, was a middle school teacher in Hanover County for 25 years.  He also coached soccer.  Last June, he stopped working for the school system.

For 18 years, Deane's wife, Aura, ran a home based childcare in Chesterfield County that had the capacity to serve up to twelve children between the ages of newborn to 12.  Mr. Deane was initially arrested for molesting a four year child last June.  When news of his arrest got out, more victims came forward accusing Mr. Deane of molesting them, as well.  The abuse went on from 2001 until 2016 and the victims were all between the ages of four and six years old when it occurred.

Eventually, fourteen charges were brought against Leslie E. Deane, Jr.  Prosecutors withdrew eight of the charges in exchange for Deane's agreement to plead guilty to six of them.  Additionally, Aura Deane closed her childcare and mailed in her license.  Mr. Deane was sentenced to about twenty years in prison and will probably not be a free man again.  I'm sure many of his former students and parents of children who were in his wife's care are horrified.

This story is outrageous, but it seems it's not entirely uncommon.  About fifteen years ago, I became aware of a teacher and sex offender I knew from my days in Gloucester, Virginia.  Olen H. Lewis, Jr. taught history and government at my high school for many years.  He taught my sister and my former best friend.  He also taught at the local community college for about ten years.  I knew him because he was a pillar of our community-- a devout Republican who was friendly with my dad and whose wife used to sing in some of the same groups my dad did.  He had a daughter who managed the local movie theater.

I remember Mr. Lewis in the hallways at my high school.  He was always friendly and nice.  I never would have dreamed that one day, he'd be a registered sex offender.

It seems Mr. Lewis's troubles came to light in November 2001, when, at 64 years old, he was charged with taking indecent liberties with children.  Apparently, the trouble started on November 1st of that year, when Mr. Lewis was caught standing nude in his yard.  Three children were nearby and Lewis was evidently aware of them.  They said he was posing like a weightlifter and calling to them.

Mr. Lewis's punishment started off very light.  He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, be on good behavior, have no contact with minors under age 16 for a year, and complete a sex offender evaluation.  Sounds easy enough, right?  His case was handed to a prosecutor in adjoining Mathews, County because Mr. Lewis was a friend of the Gloucester County prosecutor.

Well... four years later, Mr. Lewis got caught with his pants down again.  That time, he was exposing himself to another girl from Gloucester, although they were in Hampton when the incident occurred.  Mr. Lewis, then 69 years old, had evidently exposed himself to the girl several times during the summer of 2006.  He was in a custodial relationship with her.  I don't know what the ultimate outcome for that case was, except that I see that Mr. Lewis is now a registered sex offender and apparently lives in an apartment in Williamsburg, Virginia.

So far, I've written about two former teachers who turned out to be molesters, but sometimes even social workers end up being perverts.  A few years ago, I blogged about Arthur Bracke, a man who served as the sole social worker in Middlesex County, Virginia, for over twenty years.  In 2008, after having retired from his job, Mr. Bracke committed arson and attempted to kill one of his three adopted sons.  It later came to light that Bracke had molested an eleven year old boy at least six times.

Bracke was eventually sentenced to 39 years in a Virginia prison, but he died in March 2013.  He was 66 years old and it was said that his death was due to "natural causes".

It's really troubling to me that I can now list three cases of men entrusted with the care of children who turned out to be criminals.  I certainly know that not every guy out there is a creep, but these stories do make me kind of glad I don't have to worry about raising a child who could be victimized.  I have written a couple of times in this blog about my own experiences with the neighborhood pervert.

Like the three other men I've written about, this man was a pillar of the community-- well known and well liked by a lot of people.  He had a respected job with the county.  But he used to show me pornography on a regular basis.  Fortunately, he never touched me or exposed himself... He used to say he wouldn't do it because it was against the law.  I was too young and naive to understand that he was abusing me and my parents were too trusting... or maybe they just didn't care.  To this day, whenever I go to a Burger King, I think of this man, who used to call his penis "The Home of the Whopper".  Unbelievable.  He has been dead for a long time now.  I shudder to think of other kids he abused.  I'm pretty certain my neighbor, who was my age and died when she was 39 years old, was another one of his victims.

Spunky redheads! Annie vs. Pretty Woman...

So, yesterday, as I was fretting over the future, I turned on Netflix.  I watched the original Dirty Dancing, since everyone was talking about the allegedly horrible remake on TV.  I felt super old as I was watching, since that film came out when I was a sophomore in high school.  I can't believe thirty years have passed since then.

When Dirty Dancing was over, I noticed that Netflix recommended Pretty Woman next.  Pretty Woman was released in 1990, when I was 18.  I didn't see it for the first time until it had been out for some time.  It's a classic romance comedy starring Julia Roberts and Robert Gere.  Spunky redhead from the wrong side of the tracks wins over gruff, wealthy businessman with a heart of gold, and ends up in the lap of luxury.  Hmmm... where have I heard this story before?

Annie.  I mean the 1982 movie version, which I actually did see in the theater with my older sister.  Granted, I'm sure Annie's story never changes no matter who does it.  Annie is a spunky orphan with red hair who captures the heart of Daddy Warbucks, a short tempered guy who just needs a little more love in his life.  Ultimately, it's basically the same Cinderella story as Pretty Woman is, minus the need for condoms and the risk of STDs.

Pretty Woman is set in Los Angeles, while Annie is set in New York City.  Julia Roberts, as Vivian, is level headed, feisty, and charming.  Aileen Quinn, as Annie, is street smart, cute, and idealistic.  Richard Gere, as Edward the shrewd businessman, has no desire to let another woman in his life.  But Vivian wins him over with her warmth and integrity.  Likewise, little orphan Annie wins over Mr. Warbucks with her winning smile, singing and dancing skills, and scrappy attitude.  Ultimately, both men let the redheads into their hearts and we end up with a happy ending...  In Edward's case, the happy ending might have even entailed more than just a feel good finish to the story.  ;-)

Edward gives Vivian a borrowed necklace to wear for a night at the opera...

Daddy Warbucks also presents Annie with a necklace... a new locket to signify their relationship.  Annie initially rejects the locket because she hopes to find her parents.  Vivian gives back the necklace because it's borrowed.  

If you think about it, even the supporting characters are similar.  In Pretty Woman, there's Kit DeLuca, another scrappy prostitute who represents Vivian's old life.  In Annie, its the other rag tag orphans left at the orphanage.  In Pretty Woman, a kindly hotel manager helps out Vivian when she can't find anyone to sell her an appropriate dress for dinner.  In Annie, Miss Farrell is Annie's fairy godmother.  Both characters enchant almost everyone they meet.

Annie gets into a fight with a bunch of hoodlums.

Maybe if Annie hadn't been rescued by Daddy Warbucks, she might have grown up to be like Vivian. Either way, both women were destined to climb up out of the ghetto and into the good life.  Just like the song, "Fancy".  Fancy isn't as virtuous as Annie is, but like Vivian, she's a whore with a heart of gold who rises up from the ashes of her damned childhood and becomes a high society lady.

And look at this?  It's sung by a redhead!

Yeah, yeah, yeah... I could be thinking of other things besides how Vivian and Annie are alike.  I just thought it was funny how Hollywood, Nashville, and Broadway present us with so many feel good stories about people climbing out of adversity... especially when they're redheads.  It surprises me that I just noticed how much alike these stories are after watching them umpteen times over the years.  I really do need a hobby!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sometimes I have entertaining dreams...

As I was waking up this morning, I had a dream about my former best friend.  It was more like a funny vignette, really.  I dreamt I was working in men's wear store, just like I did over twenty years ago.  She came prancing in and said she needed help finding clothes in a size 2.  I haven't seen her in person in years, but I highly doubt she wears a 2.

Anyway, I was very pleasant and businesslike when I said, "You do realize you're in a men's wear store, right?"

She rolled her eyes and pointed at a couple of ladies' fashions hanging on racks.  There were maybe two outfits and neither would be appropriate on a woman our age, regardless of the woman's figure.  I kind of shrugged and she grabbed this mini jumper looking thing and went into a dressing room.  I think her husband was with her.  I had a good laugh.

Bill and I did some more talking about our possible move to Italy.  This job that he's being offered is an excellent one.  It's a well-connected, high powered position and it would really be great if Bill could do it.  Unfortunately, because we live in Germany, it's likely that Bill would be considered a "local hire".  Local hires are not usually authorized "living quarters allowance" (LQA) because there's a law designed to discourage people from "homesteading" in Europe.  If you get hired in the United States, the government pays to move you and pays for your housing.  If you get hired somewhere else, you may or may not get LQA.  It depends on whether or not it's clear you were planning to move back to the States.  You have to produce a document from your employer specifying that they were planning to repatriate you in the US.  Bill has such a document, but it may not be specific enough to justify getting LQA.

Personally, I think this is a pretty stupid law because a lot of good people get discovered as overseas contractors.  Bill got his offer because he's worked with the people in Italy.  They know him and like him.  If we had been in the States, it's likely that he would not have had that contact.  What's more, if he doesn't take the job, it's likely that someone from the States would... and they would be getting financial help.  So the money would be spent anyway, but on a candidate that wasn't at the top of the list.

If Bill took the job, we'd have to move back to the States within 3 to 5 years.  The same would be true of a person who was hired in the US.  What the law is supposed to do is prevent people from staying in Europe indefinitely and give other people the chance to live abroad.  So what difference does it make where a person was hired?  If they were hired abroad, they'd still have to move back to the States in 3-5 years.

If this job were located in Stuttgart, it would be a lot easier to accept it without a second thought.  We could live on less money every month if we're already established.  But we don't want to pay thousands of dollars to move all our shit to Italy and then take a big pay cut.  There's a lot that goes into moving.  It's not just paying the moving company; it's also having to find a house and paying the start up fees for moving in (three months rent, anyone?).  It's having to pay taxes on the salary, too.  As a contractor, most of Bill's salary is currently tax exempt.  Maybe we could do that if we were younger, but we have to think about what happens when Bill retires.  On the other hand, getting into the GS system is also a good thing for Bill's retirement.  It's pretty hard to get laid off from a GS job.

Supposedly, there are GS jobs opening up locally.  They haven't been advertised yet.  I think if LQA doesn't come through, Bill will probably stay a contractor and then apply for the local GS jobs.  We live in an inexpensive place now and we like our landlords.  A move to Italy means new landlords and loads of money spent.  And even if they did give us LQA, there is always the chance that some asshole down the line will say we shouldn't have gotten LQA and demand all the money back.  Bill just got finished paying off the government for the bonus he got in the 90s when he temporarily left the military.

So... this is a difficult dilemma.  It would be nice if the logjam would break.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ciao Germany?

So... while we were in Italy, I had a very strange feeling that we could end up living there.  It was the same feeling I had three years ago when we visited Germany and I told Bill that I had a feeling he'd get a job there.  In April, when we found out that Bill's company lost its contract, Bill started job hunting.  One of the jobs he applied for is a government service position in Vicenza, Italy.

Bill got an email about three days after he applied, but never heard anything else until yesterday, when he got a tentative job offer.  They didn't even interview him.  Instead, the guy doing the hiring (who knows Bill) called up Bill's military boss and asked for a recommendation.  We now have two days to decide if we want to move to Italy in a couple of months.

It sounds like this would be a no brainer, right?  I mean, it's Italy, for Chrissakes.  But there are a few things we need to consider.  First of all, moving is a huge pain in the ass.  I have done it way too many times over the past ten years and I don't want to do it again.  It means exhausting cleaning, heavy lifting, finding a new place to live and decent landlords, and everything else that comes with moving.  Since Bill would be an overseas hire, it would also mean the government probably wouldn't give him a living quarters allowance, which might make our financial situation leaner than it needs to be.  We could definitely survive on what they'd pay him, but it would be a pretty deep pay cut.

I have seen Vicenza, and while it's by far not the worst place to be, it's a bit frenetic for my tastes.  I would probably learn to love it-- and being an hour away from Venice by train isn't a bad thing.  But I think I prefer Germany's cleanliness and orderliness.  I cringe at the thought of driving and parking in Italy, finding a new dentist, a new vet, and hoping no one breaks into our house.  Apparently, breaking and entering is a problem in the Vicenza area.

On the other hand, it IS a job.  It's also in the government system, which would mean more stability and support.  We would have to move back to the States in five years, but Bill would be building retirement and have actual authority instead of being treated like a temp.  And hopefully, in a few years, we won't have Trump running/ruining things anymore.

Given my 'druthers, I think I'd rather stay in Germany.  But Italy is exciting and beautiful, too, and it's nice to know that Bill is wanted there.  It's crazy that I accurately predicted this job offer, too.  Sometimes my intuition is dead on scary.

Bill still hasn't heard from the new company.  They interviewed Bill last week and will probably offer him a job.  And it will probably be more money.  However, if they don't offer him a job, that will mean moving back to the States... and where, we don't know.  So we have a lot to think about before Friday.

This is just nuts.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back to business...

We're back from Italy and I have written up our trip on my travel blog.  Now I can get back to the business of bitching.  Today, I could be bitching about the latest suicide attack in England.  But I figure everyone's going to be complaining about that today.  So instead, I want to share a link to an essay I read with interest on yesterday, while we were waiting to check out of our apartment.

Writer Ijeoma Oluo titled her essay, "I’m So Tired of Being Told that my Fat Body is Going to Kill Me".  Like so many of us who are fatter than we ought to be, Ms. Oluo has heard many health warnings about her weight from doctors.  The daughter and granddaughter of type 2 diabetics, she has been told since she was a teenager that she would inevitably get diabetes, have to give herself shots, and would probably die young.  She was told this even though her blood sugar usually runs low and she's had to be treated for hypoglycemia more than once.

I have to admit, although no one in my family has diabetes that I know of, Ijeoma Oluo's essay hit home for me.  I haven't gotten too many crappy comments from doctors, mainly because I don't go to doctors unless I am damn sick.  And that hasn't happened in a very long time.  Still, I have read a lot of comments from fat shamers who think they have a crystal ball and can read the future.  Somehow, in our country, a lot of people are under the impression that if you're fat, you're gonna become a diabetic.  And if you're not fat, you're perfectly healthy.  That's not so.

Anyway, I won't rehash Oluo's essay because y'all can read it for yourselves.  Instead, I want to write about the comments I got when I shared it with Facebook friends.  I have one friend, an American citizen originally from Italy and now living in Germany, who loves to take any opportunity to bash Americans.  He also enjoys fat bashing.  He writes that it's the doctor's job to tell his or her patients about the risks of obesity.  And you know what?  I agree.  However, what I relate to is Oluo's comments about how doctors keep insisting that she's going to be diabetic, even though she has no signs or symptoms of diabetes.  She's been repeatedly told that she's going to get sick, even though she's not now.

At one point in her essay, Oluo writes about how she had just given birth and was getting to know her brand new son when she heard a nurse ask about her weight.  The nurse assumed incorrectly that Oluo had suffered gestational diabetes.  Indeed, the medical folks had expected her to be diabetic and asked her to be tested numerous times throughout her pregnancy.  And there she was, gazing at her brand new baby while the doctor and nurse made comments about the miracle that she hadn't had gestational diabetes.  Way to fuck up the mood!

I get that medical people are supposed to be concerned about a person's health.  They are supposed to offer suggestions of ways to be healthier.  However, I think a lot of them have become lazy and think that a person's weight, particularly for females, is the only reason they might be suffering from an ailment.  Rather than looking at a patient objectively and individually, a lot of them simply tell the patient to lose weight.  For some healthcare providers, it seems that's the solution for everything.  It's not helpful to visit a doctor who can't see past a patient's size.

I have a friend who, until very recently, was very slender and petite.  She has gained a lot of weight over the past year or so.  Why?  Because her thyroid gland crapped out.  She's now significantly overweight, despite having been tiny for most of her life.  I'm sure people who don't know her assume that she eats a lot of junk and doesn't exercise.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have another friend who became a type 2 diabetic after giving birth to five kids and going through menopause.  She is heavy, but she's also fit.  She runs half marathons with her twin daughters and works full time as a nurse.  She's also a good cook who knows the value of nutrition.  Yet many people probably look at her and think she's irresponsible and in need of shaming and/or unsolicited advice about her diet and exercise regime.

I am myself a big lady and have never spent a single night in a hospital since I left babyhood.  I haven't taken any prescription drugs of any kind since 2004, except for prophylaxis antibiotics I took last year after I had a dental implant placed.  Granted, I haven't seen a doctor since 2010, but I think if I were unhealthy, I would have had a real need to be seen.  There may come a time in the future when I do become sick.  It might even be because of obesity.  However, obesity is just one risk factor and causative agent for becoming sick.  What's more, if you're overweight, you still have to live.  Is it healthy to go through life worried sick that your body is going to turn on you?

I really related to Oluo's essay.  I have spent a good portion of my life hating my body, even though it's strong and basically healthy.  I don't fit the image of beauty that many people have, but some people also think I'm "unhealthy".  Well, if I am able to do all I want to do and my body performs as it should, how can I be "unhealthy"?  Maybe I am at risk for getting sick, but I would venture to guess that most anyone is "at risk" for getting sick for any number of reasons.  Far too many people are far too free with their opinions about other people's lifestyles.  And most of them are judgmental simply because they don't like the way another person looks.  They don't give a flying fuck about the person's health, as they so unhelpfully claim.

Life is hard enough without someone insisting that they know what's going to be another person's cause of death.  The truth is, everyone dies and no one knows what is going to cause death.  I prefer to enjoy my life rather than listen to other people's opinions about my appearance and whether or not I'm "healthy" enough for them.

Rant is now over.  Hopefully tomorrow, I will find something new to bitch about.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The beauty of not living a 24/7 lifestyle...

I didn't write yesterday because the Internet was down until the afternoon.  I took it as a sign that I needed to take a day off from writing.  I will definitely be writing about our trip on my travel blog, probably starting on Monday, when we get back to Germany.  I would start writing now, but the sun is out and I think there may be a chance that we'll go out and do something today.

Yesterday, I spent the morning napping.  The bed in this house isn't great, but it's especially not great when you share it with two dogs and a man.  I didn't sleep that well the first night here and made up for it after breakfast.  Then Bill and I walked the dogs, brought them back, and walked down to the main drag for lunch.  We spent a couple of hours enjoying a simple Italian meal.  Then we came back to the house, turned on music, and drank wine.  The weather was a bit stormy, so we watched the clouds over the lake and I took lots of pictures.  Anyway, I'll write more specifically about that on the travel blog.

It's been really great to get out of Germany.  I need the occasional change of scenery to remind me why living in Europe is worthwhile.  Actually, it's worthwhile to Bill and me for a lot of reasons.  I think some Americans don't like living in Europe because it's not as convenient as the United States is.  There isn't a 24/7 lifestyle in Europe.  People take days off and things move at a slower pace.  You can't always go grocery shopping in Europe on Sunday like you can in the States.  

The lack of a 24/7 lifestyle is precisely why I like Europe.  I like the fact that people aren't work obsessed and there's time to look around and smell the flowers.  I like all of the different types of people here and the many things to see and do.  I like that sometimes, I'm forced to take a day off from writing blogs because the Internet isn't working.  I need to be reminded sometimes that I lived over half my life without Internet access.  It wasn't a bad thing not to be connected to my electronics all the time, especially since they tend to cause me a lot of angst.

Think of the time I spend writing about Facebook, which I realize is pretty much a waste of time.  I mean, sure, I have met new people and learned new things courtesy of the Internet.  I have been able to keep in touch with some people that I might have otherwise lost track of years ago.  But then, some of those people turn out to be jerks.  Or they think I'm a jerk.  It's nice when you can unplug and remind yourself that life is best lived offline.

Well... the Internet is being wonky again today, so I'll stop here.  In a couple of days, I'll have lots to share about this trip.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My male Facebook friends are dropping like flies...


I just lost yet another male Facebook friend I know from life off the Internet.  This time, it was another guy I knew in college.  Back in January, I lost a male college friend over Natalie Maines.  Last month, I lost a male friend and his wife, presumably over my thoughts on abortion.  Last night, I lost one over a stupid click bait article about Melania Trump.

I was feeling my oats and decided to share an article about Melania Trump.  Granted, it was a dumb article with a click bait title promising photos that Donald Trump "doesn't want you to see."  There was nothing "wrong" with the photos in the article.  In fact, my friends and I weren't even discussing the article as much as we were the Trumps.  I commented that I don't think Mrs. Trump is that beautiful because, to me, she always looks like she's scowling.  Actually, so does Donald.  But I would probably scowl too if I had to screw Donald Trump.  The point is, we weren't really discussing the actual article or the photos appearing within it.

Along comes my former Facebook friend, same guy who, just two weeks ago, complained about women who breastfeed in public.  He chimed in on the discussion.

Now, in fairness to my former Facebook friend, I probably was a bit more abrupt than I should have been.  I think I was still feeling a little perturbed by his comments about public breastfeeding and other things he's said about women over the years.  He strikes me as the type of guy who wants to appear sensitive and evolved, but regularly lets sexist attitudes slip out.  I am usually fairly forgiving and ignore those comments, but I was kind of on edge last night.  Also, it was after dinner and I'd had more than a couple of drinks.  Anyway... he posts a comment that there's "nothing wrong with the photos".

I said, "I never said anything was *wrong* with the photos.  She was obviously a successful model at one time."

Then he complained about the clickbait title, to which I responded that I didn't "come up with the title."

But then he wrote this...

I just commented on the title. Ease up. If you post something, expect the world to scrutinize every detail. That's how the internet works.

That comment is what flipped my bitch switch.  So I wrote this.

It's my page... and I am not the one scrutinizing. You are.

I now realize that I misread what he wrote, probably because the condescending tone of his post set me off.  But, in fairness to him, my tone was also a little hostile.  That's probably because I wondered why he was looking at photos that Donald Trump supposedly didn't want him to see.  It seemed to me he was disappointed that they weren't more scandalous.  And it was also fresh in my mind that this is the same guy who apparently thinks breastfeeding mothers should be forced to cover up.

Anyway... the conversation continued thusly...

I was actually very calm when I wrote my comments and not really "upset".  I would say that if I was feeling anything last night, it was annoyed.  But even if I was feeling upset, it would be my prerogative and my right to express that, especially on my own fucking Facebook page.

Again, in fairness to him, I suppose I could have been nicer.  He happened to catch me at a bad time.  He probably also doesn't know that I have issues with authority sometimes.  Or... people who think they have authority over what I can and can't say or how I express myself.  I look at my Facebook page and my blogs as my "home".  I wouldn't go into someone's home and tell them to "Ease up." or "Relax." or "Chill out."  It just seems rude to me.  

Actually, last night's exchange seemed a bit more like "projection" to me.  Looking back at that post about projection, it occurs to me that he's the one who inspired that one, too!  He accused me of "projecting" because I don't like the Olive Garden.  And now he's telling me I'm "upset" when he has no way of knowing what my actual feelings are.  If he had been talking to me in person, he would have heard me speaking in a calm tone of voice.  But he assumes I'm "upset" because I asked him not to tell me what to do or presume how I feel.  I'm probably more upset as I type this than I was last night when this happened.    

Anyway... he did unfriend me.  It's probably for the best.  It's not the first time he's annoyed me and, I'm sure, I have been regularly annoying him, too.  I get the sense that he likes women who are quieter, more demure, and "nicer" than I am.  I do have an edge and can be bitchy sometimes.  Aside from that, if a disagreement about a stupid clickbait post about Melania Trump is enough to make you want to cut ties with someone, you weren't really friends in the first place.  But, I will be 45 years old next month and I don't see myself changing.  I was moved to post the following status.

I really need a change of scenery.  Glad I'm getting the hell out of Dodge.

Well, it's time to pack a bag and head to Italy.  Hopefully, tonight, I'll be sitting in a really nice restaurant instead of posting on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Goodbye zero balance...

Last night, Bill called Hebridean Island Cruises and paid off the balance of the cruise we're planning to take in September.  I was a little sad to do it, since I've had a negative credit card balance for the past month.  That hasn't happened since the mid 1990s, when I lived in Armenia.  The balance for the cruise was a hefty hunk of change and I still need to buy plane tickets, so it may take a couple of months to get everything back down to a debt free balance.  We have been saving for the trip, though, so it won't take years.  ;-)

We still don't know if Bill is going to be able to take this trip with me, although it does look like we won't have to move this summer.  Bill's job interview was rather cursory, seemed to go very well, and afterwards, he was told someone from the benefits department would be calling him to tell him about what the company offers.  So I have a feeling he'll get an offer and it would really have to be poor for him not to take it.  If Bill isn't able to go, either his mom will go with me or I'll just go alone.  The dogs are already booked for boarding and I know where to go in Scotland to catch the bus to the ship.

I hope if Bill gets the job, he'll be able to negotiate coming with me on the cruise.  A lot of people will be starting the job at the same time, which means they will be accruing time off at the same rate.  I figure many of them will want to go somewhere for Christmas or Thanksgiving.  We don't have a need to go anywhere during those times and Bill can stay in town and cover for those who want to go home.  The time we want to travel is just after Labor Day, which means a lot of people will be at work.  By contrast, we could be in town for Labor Day, just as we plan to be local for Memorial Day (Bill's boss is going to Spain).

In a way, it would be interesting if I went on the trip alone.  I haven't done anything like that without Bill in a very long time.  I would miss having him with me, but it would also give me a chance to function by my lonesome.  And that would be good for me...  Besides, Hebridean takes excellent care of its passengers anyway.  I still want Bill to come, though.  I would miss him if he didn't.

Tomorrow, we are headed to Italy for a long weekend.  We're bringing the dogs with us and I hope for delicious food, good wine, and beautiful scenery.  It's been really nice to be able to take these long weekend trips to different places.  One luxury about living in Europe is that you can see a lot of places that aren't necessarily tourist destinations.  We are going to Lake Como, which we have seen before, but this time, we're staying in an apartment right on the lake.

Last time, we stayed in a hotel on a mountain near the lake.  There were no lake views, although the hotel itself was pleasant enough and offered good food.  Actually, the last time we were in the vicinity of Lake Como, we got trapped. But we were only there for the day as opposed to spending the night.  I hear there are storms expected on Friday.  Hopefully, they won't affect us too much.  I could just hang out in the apartment and watch the storm while sipping wine.  That would actually make me happy!

I actually prefer to stay in hotels.  I like really nice hotels with good bedding and awesome showers.  But it sure is nice to be able to bring our dogs with us when we can't book them somewhere.  I would rather not have them with us on vacation, but in some ways it's nice to be able to have them.  It means we save money and don't have to worry about dropping them off or picking them up.  Also, although they can get into trouble when they're with us, we also don't have to wonder how they're doing.

It may seem like we're always taking trips.  Our last one was in February to a tiny French town in Burgundy.  Even though no one has really heard of St. Marcelin de Cray, that trip remains very memorable in a good way.  I'm hoping this weekend's trip is similarly awesome.  At the very least, I hope to eat some good fish or something.

Well, it's time to get dressed and walk the dogs... then I'll make pasta sauce and maybe vacuum and do a load of laundry.  Yep.  I got big plans for the day.

But tomorrow, I get to see this again...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ringing the devil's doorbell to my "sin cave"...

I'm finally inspired to write something of substance again.  I owe it all to my gay cousin's husband, who shared the following meme yesterday...

The person who made this meme needs a lesson in proofreading...

I couldn't resist sharing this with some select friends in a couple of groups.  It definitely got some people talking, too.  There was a debate as to whether or not the above meme and others like it were real or satirical in nature.  I'm pretty sure this is satire.  What makes it good satire is that it's believable.  There are some religious groups that believe masturbation is dirty, sinful, and leads to a one way ticket to Hell.

But really...  this is clearly a joke.  

And the person who made this meme doesn't know the difference between Soldiers and Marines.

I have shared the video below a few times on this blog.  I do so because it offers real proof that there are people in the world who would dare to chastise you for "ringing satan's doorbell".  In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's referred to as "self abuse".  Catholics also have issues with masturbation.  So do fundies and Muslims.  Like anything else that is pleasurable and makes life more worthwhile, many religious people think that jerking off will send you straight to Hell.  

Masturbation is seen as "selfish" behavior that deprives society of potential life.  If you're stimulating yourself or a partner solely for the purpose of pleasure, you aren't engaging in the business of bringing new souls to the world.  One of those new souls could end up being the next Pope.  Or, conversely, that soul could be a mass murderer.  Both could be potential tithe payers.

Mormon Mission Pres Allan Pratt On Masturbation!! von samueltheutahnite

Seriously.  This is a thing in the LDS church.  It's also a thing in other churches.  I'm pretty sure it's all about avoiding lust, keeping one's thoughts pure and chaste, and not looking at porn.

Folks, everybody masturbates.  I figure if God didn't want us to masturbate, our arms would be shorter and we wouldn't be able to reach the "joy button".  

This isn't to say that I don't think a person can have a problem with "sex addiction" or that excessively viewing pornography isn't harmful.  If you are spending all of your time and money looking at porn and jerking off to the point at which your genitals are raw and bleeding, that is clearly a problem.  Anything done in excess is unhealthy.  But most people don't spend all day masturbating or obsessively hunting for porn.  For most people, it's simply a pleasant way to pass time, relax, engage in a little fantasy.  

There is absolutely nothing wrong with masturbation.  It's completely natural and healthy, especially if you wash your hands when you're finished.  Masturbation is the safest sex a person can have.  If you do it with your significant other, it's also a way to bond.  It can even be a physically necessary thing to do for both men and women.  I can't speak for men, but I know that when Aunt Flow comes calling, nothing makes me feel better than self stimulation.  It relieves cramps, relaxes me, and makes it easier to fall asleep.

I think the attitude against masturbation has a lot to do with the idea that sex is somehow dirty or sinful unless you're doing it solely to make babies.  If you're making babies, you're making "arrows for the Lord".  More arrows for the Lord means more money and power for religious organizations and ideologies.  More power for religious organizations can lead to more political power and perhaps even eventual world domination.  If you're beating off to relieve tension, you won't be as pent up on the basketball court or the board room.  You won't have that edge that might push you over the top, right?  But you also might be more stressed out, angry, and unhappy.  It's not healthy to be on edge all the time.  Excessive stress can lead to strokes, heart attacks, depression, anxiety, and a host of other ailments that might lead to an early grave. 

Bwahahahaa... really?  Nah...

So I say you should keep masturbating.  It's no one's business if you do it.  It's healthy and normal and all the cool kids are doing it.  My sin cave is waiting for the doorbell to ring.

Just don't get any on ya...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Judith Ann sings the blues...

It's Monday morning.  Mr. Bill has a job interview today, having passed a phone screening the other day.  Meanwhile, I'm sitting here in my nightgown and watching this ridiculous Gong Show act from the 70s.

Someone commented that this lady, name of Judith Ann, was high on cocaine.  I don't know if she was, but I would not be surprised based on her "enthusiasm".  Another person commented that her pants are so tight he can "read her lips"!  I miss the 70s...  but this song sucks!  I'd love to know where it came from.

I talked to my mom yesterday,  who told me that she's going to move out of her apartment at some point.  She got on a waiting list for a place in Durham, North Carolina, which is a lot closer to my eldest sister's home in Chapel Hill.  Although Mom has a beautiful view and a nice place to live, the apartment has become prohibitively expensive and the place apparently isn't run very well.  The building was once a grand hotel and is very beautiful, but it has a lot of maintenance issues.  And they also keep raising the rent.

I am grateful that my mom is so independent and pragmatic.  She makes her own decisions.  I'm not sure when she's moving; it could be years.  But she is making plans to go, which would mean I would no longer have any family living in the area where I grew up.  I will always have a lot of friends there, though.

Bill's mom is having a partial hip replacement this week.  She's nervous about the surgery, but is very healthy and independent.  She has a few friends helping her in Texas.  Hopefully, all will go well and she'll get to come see us in a few months.  Maybe she can even take Bill's place on my cruise to Northern Ireland in September, if it turns out Bill can't go.

As for me...  well, I am eagerly planning our weekend trip to Italy.  We're leaving Thursday and bringing the dogs with us.  Hopefully, it'll go well and we won't get trapped down there again.

I suppose I'll get dressed and walk the dogs.  Later on, I'll gear up to call Hebridean Island cruises and pay off the trip that I hope we'll still be able to take in a few months.  I know... first world problems.

This is a really dark photo because the sun hadn't yet risen.  Arran wishes Bill luck...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

80s era Mormon films...

Somehow, I landed on this today...

This was made in the 80s...

Filmstrips were kind of a thing when I was a kid.  I would have thought by 1988, they would have gone out of style.  But apparently, the Mormons were still making filmstrips in '88...  This one is about a nasty bitch who spreads malicious rumors about her rival in a school election.  Edited to add, I see that someone has corrected the uploader and said these were actually produced in 1983-84.  That makes sense.

I remember watching filmstrips when I was a kid, but I have a hard time watching this now.  It seems so cheesy.  The plot line for this appears to be straight out of The Brady Bunch, too.  Crappy acting abounds.

It's Mother's Day.  I suppose I could come up with something to write about my mom.  Right now, I'm not inspired and I'm distracted by Mormon filmstrips.  We didn't do this stuff in the church I was raised in.  

Here's a film from 1980.  I think the kids must be adopted.  They are far too pale to be their parents' kids.  

In the above film, a little girl willingly donates blood for her older, injured brother, even though she thinks she will die doing it.  I love how the nurse doesn't wear gloves as she handles the girl's blood.  I am probably about the same age the girl is.  

Here's one from 1986...  This one is about how sinful California is.

And one about a girl who ends up paralyzed after an accident.  The guy doing the sign language is very distracting.

I guess these films and filmstrips were shown during Seminary... which means kids had to get up way early in the morning to watch this crap.  Seems like torture.  I'd rather be sleeping.

I don't know what we're going to do today.  For the past two years, we've gone out on Mother's Day and encountered big crowds.  But the sun is shining and yesterday was kind of a bust that led us to McDonald's.  So maybe we should make an effort.  And maybe I'll call my mom and be inspired to write something more substantial.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Yesterday was military spouse appreciation day...

As God is my witness, I somehow never knew that military spouses had a special day set aside for recognition.  Even though I was an "Army wife" for twelve years, Military Spouse Appreciation Day was not something I ever celebrated.  In fact, three years after my husband's retirement, I'm just hearing about it for the first time.  And I heard about it for the first time, not from military spouses looking for a pat on the back, but from people who bash the special day and regularly make fun of so-called "dependas".

I have written about my dislike of the term "dependa" many times on this blog.  I feel no need to rehash too much about that.  Suffice to say that while I think there are a few spouses who take the military life a bit too personally and seriously, for the most part, I think a lot of military spouses handle their lot in life with grace and class.  It truly isn't easy to be the spouse of someone who is in the military, especially if you've ever had your own education or career ambitions.

What a shame that some people see all military spouses in this way.  How does the artist know she didn't just do some fundraising or volunteer with the FRG?  And really, are all "dependas" fat?

Military spouses often can't win.  Either they are "dependas" milking the system and spending their spouse's paycheck (and it's usually the wife supposedly doing this), or they are uppity bitches who don't know their place and are looked down upon for seeking something for themselves.  I was lucky enough to have a fairly easy time being married to an Army man.  I will be the first to admit it.  I only endured one six month deployment and Bill mostly had good bosses who let him take time off when he wanted it.  Bill also made enough money that I didn't have to worry about working, even though I initially wanted to work.  Not every spouse is as lucky as I have been.

Military culture is one in which the government tells you where you will live.  In some cases, the government even forces you to live in their quarters, where you might have to tolerate people you'd rather not.  Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about a woman whose husky shed in the dog park on one of our local installations.  Another spouse actually called her husband's command over the dog hair and the husband, who was simply the "sponsor", got in trouble.  That shit would not happen in the civilian world.  It would get laughed out the door.  Most spouses are considered civilians (unless they are serving, too)... but they often end up living according to military rules.  That's not necessarily easy, because it basically means having to put up with stupid shit, yet not earning a paycheck or, really, even having a choice-- unless the spouse gets a divorce or the servicemember quits the military.

While I'm not necessarily a fan of self-congratulatory behavior, I do think it's nice that the military now recognizes spouses and whatever contributions they make, even if it's just being a good partner and parent, if that applies.  What sucks is that so many people in the military belittle the contributions and sacrifices made by military spouses.  Some servicemembers do it to incredibly offensive and disrespectful levels, too.  I have written about that in this blog, as well.

Since Bill is retired, I guess I no longer have a dog in this fight.  I am now a contractor's wife, happily married to a retiree.  But I'm now hanging around more military folks now than I ever did, even when I lived on Fort Belvoir.  For the most part, I really enjoy folks who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses.  It's one area where you are sure to meet people from every walk of life and from all different corners of the world.  I think people from different cultures are fascinating.  I have also been around the military my whole life and am mostly used to the crusty ways they handle things sometimes.

I just think it's too bad that so many people in the military community think they have to degrade spouses for having a special day of recognition.  Quite a few spouses really do add a lot to the military cause and they mostly do it without a paycheck.  Besides that, regularly making fun of military spouses is just a low class and moronic thing to do.

I also notice that a lot of the people who have no trouble bashing military spouses get their noses out of joint when people bash military servicemembers.  In fact, I know a guy right now who likes to pick on "dependas", but will get pissy when my Italian friend jokes about US military servicemembers being knuckle draggers and thugs.  Basically, both of these guys are promoting unfair stereotypes.  Anyway... I know I'm wasting my time complaining about this issue.  It's not going to go away.  But count me among those who don't think dependa bashing is funny.  People need to grow up and get a life.

Judy Collins shares her thoughts on Cravings...

I have loved Judy Collins' beautiful music since I was about 18 years old.  She's recorded so many beautiful songs over the years and inspired others as well.  Although I knew she'd had trouble with alcohol and eating disorders, I didn't know the extent of her problems until I picked up her latest book, Cravings: How I Conquered Food.

Published on February 28, 2017, Cravings offers readers insight into what may have caused Judy Collins' issues with booze and food.  Collins' theories may also be helpful to other readers.  The book is also about Judy Collins' life, so if you read it, it helps to also be interested in her life story.  I suspect a lot of younger people may not be fans of Judy Collins' music, although I think they should be.  I should also mention that this is the first book I've read by Judy Collins, so I wasn't perturbed to read about her life.  Others who have read her earlier memoirs might feel like parts of this book are reruns.

Here Judy sings "Someday Soon" with Stephen Stills, who famously penned "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" in her honor.

Collins writes that when she was growing up, she loved all things made of flour, sugar, wheat, and corn.  She was addicted to sugar and would eat sweet things constantly.  That sugar obsession later turned to unsightly pounds and a neverending compulsion to eat more.  She eventually went on to become bulimic and would binge and purge to the point of developing a vocal cord hemangioma.  It almost destroyed her voice.

As she got older, Collins took up drinking and smoking.  She became an alcoholic and, for many years, would even drink heavily before and after taking the stage.  Although she indulged in self-destructive behavior, Collins somehow knew that what she was doing was dangerous.  She sought help from doctors, most of whom told her she didn't have a problem.

Eventually, Collins realized that there was a link between her cravings for sugar, flour, wheat, and corn and her addiction to alcohol.  She eliminated the problem foods from her diet and adopted what looks to me to be a paleo diet.  She says now her weight is stable and she know longer has such intense cravings for unhealthy foods or booze.  She also credits spending time in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and employing the Grey Sheet Diet Plan for helping her to stop the insanity.

"Suite Judy Blue Eyes"

Aside from explaining her secrets to eating and drinking success, Collins writes about her son, Clark Taylor, who sadly died after committing suicide.  Collins herself attempted suicide, although she doesn't delve too much into her experiences with suicidal ideation.  Before he passed, Clark fathered Judy Collins' only grandchild, Hollis, who is now herself a mother.  I enjoyed reading about Judy's family and can tell that she loves them very much.  She writes that not a day goes by that she doesn't think about and miss her son.

I also enjoyed reading about Collins' musical training.  Originally, she was trained as a pianist and she studied great and challenging classical works.  I never knew Judy Collins was once being groomed for the classical music world.  As she became a teenager, she was lured into folk music.  She picked up a guitar, learned how to play, and began to sing.  I was astonished to read that she once had a very limited vocal range.  Work with an excellent voice teacher eventually stretched her range to about three octaves, quite respectable for a singer.  I have always liked her voice for its ethereal quality.  I think my own style is kind of like hers.

Anyway... I thought Cravings was well-written and engaging.  It didn't take forever to finish.  Because I haven't read Collins' other books, the material and new for me.  It's also relevant for me personally on many levels.  I liked that she drew in interesting examples from history to backup her theories about diet, drinking, and health.  I learned something new in those passages.  And, given that Judy was born in 1939 and is still making albums and writing books, I figure she must be doing something right.  I recommend her book to those who are thinking about reading it.


Friday, May 12, 2017

So I watched "13 Reasons Why"...

Not long ago, I read and blogged about the new Netflix drama "13 Reasons Why".  A lot of my friends had opinions about the show.  Always one to embrace a good melodrama, I subscribed to Netflix again so I could see what was generating all the hype.

Over the past couple of days, I've been watching the series.  Much to my relief, last night I finished the last show.  Folks, I have to say, I am not a fan of the Netflix version of "13 Reasons Why", which was based on a bestselling novel of the same name that was published in 2007.  But it's not because I don't think there should be TV shows or movies about suicide.  My reasons for not liking "13 Reasons Why" are much more pedestrian than that.  I simply found it an annoying and unrealistic show.

"13 Reasons Why" is the story of Hannah Baker, a teenager who decides to kill herself and leaves behind cassette tapes for people who had to do with the reasons why she takes such desperate measures.  I must admit, I was amused at seeing the supposed teens (all of whom were clearly in their 20s) asking their parents if their "boom boxes" or classic Walkmans still worked so they could play the cassettes.

Hannah sounds very confident and clever as she explains the tapes.  She does not sound depressed.  In fact, there's an edge to her voice that sounds almost as if she's enjoying herself.  The first one to discover the tapes, at least onscreen, is Clay.  Hannah had a crush on Clay and apparently he's one of the 13 reasons why she decided to slit her wrists and hang out in a warm bathtub.  Clay is the one character who seems pretty "good".  The rest of the people in Hannah's midst are assholes who, I guess, screwed her over (literally in one case).  She plots her suicide as a means of taking revenge.

Allow me a minute to say that it seems pretty dumb to take revenge by killing yourself.  It's not like you'll be around to see how that affects the people who have pissed you off.  And you'll be dead.  Death is final.  But maybe that was the one realistic thing about "13 Reasons Why".  Teenagers are not necessarily known for being rational or logical.  Nevertheless, it doesn't make Hannah very likable or relatable.

Okay...  well, I think the premise of the story is interesting enough.  A lot of suicidal teens are angry and hopeless and maybe some would fantasize about leaving tapes letting the people who hurt them know what they did.  But in my experience, a person with clinical depression would not undertake such an auspicious and lengthy project of making multiple cassette tapes.  Depression often makes you tired, distracted, and apathetic.  Based on this story line, I'm not sure if Hannah is supposed to suffer from depression or if she's just throwing a hissy fit.  If she's just throwing a fit, would she have really taken the time to make tapes?  If she's depressed, would she always look well-groomed and "normal"?  And would she have had the ability to concentrate long enough to make those tapes?

Many people who attempt or commit suicide are suffering from some degree of clinical depression.  It is a significant problem for teenagers.  I was a depressed teen.  I have pictures of myself during those years when I was young and pretty and I often had a very sour, glum expression on my face.  There were days when I wanted not to give a shit, but I had enough anxiety to keep me caring about things.  Hannah just doesn't strike me as depressed or even that angry.  But if she were very depressed, I'd have trouble believing that she'd have the energy or the will to make audio tapes for the people left behind.

Consider that she would have had to talk for hours to make those tapes.  That would have taken energy and planning.  It doesn't really ring true.  At most, maybe one side of one tape might be somewhat realistic.  And since teens are often impulsive, especially when they get angry and dramatic, it doesn't ring true that Hannah would make so many tapes before killing herself.  Again, that requires a lot of pre-meditation that I don't think a lot of teens-- even the very bright ones who sound like they're 30-- would necessarily be capable of.

I also really don't think a teenager of today would use cassettes.  Why would they?  What would motivate a teen in this day and age to record a bunch of monologues on old fashioned cassette tapes?  I would think that if a person went to that much trouble to make the tapes, they'd want to be heard.  And yet, Hannah used a medium that would force their friends to find obsolete boom boxes on which to play them?  It sounds like bullshit to me, but I guess it makes for a nostalgic hook that will get the 40 somethings watching.

The characters irritated me due to everything from the fact that they all looked at least 20 and spoke like they were in their 30s, to the repeated and completely overdone use of the word "fuck".  I am certainly not offended by the "f-word", but when it is used over and over again by teens who are otherwise very intelligent, I'm just left scratching my head and wondering if no one teaches vocabulary anymore.  I certainly don't have a problem with blue language, but it really gets tiresome to listen to non-stop vulgar language (my dad would be so PROUD).   Yes, teens use a lot of profanity.  I sure did when I was a teen.  But these "kids" used the word "fuck" in every conceivable part of speech over and over again.  I would have been more impressed if the writers had found a few other obscenities to use.

I noticed that the soundtrack sounded very 80s inspired.  I have not had a look at the musical credits, but it sounds like they used music by The Cure a lot.  If you were a teenager in the 80s, as I was, you know that The Cure was the quintessential "teen angst" soundtrack for that era.  And as a music lover, I'll admit that their music has aged well.  Do today's teens listen to it?  I dunno...  But it seemed more like music intended to appeal to people in their 40s than teenagers.  Maybe that was done by design.  Maybe today's parents should be watching shows about suicide with their kids.

I have to admit, I paid close attention to the first couple of episodes, but before too long, I lost interest.  By the final episode, I was starting to get really twitchy with every utterance of the word "fuck" and its many incarnations.  I squirmed as each very attractive, very precocious, very annoying and teen-angsty "teen" shouted about those tapes and Hannah Baker (whose name also annoyed me... it reminded me too much of Studebaker).

I grew up in an era when we had Afterschool Specials and Movies of the Week on TV.  A lot of those programs, never longer than two hours, were melodramatic and smarmy.  But at least they got to the point quickly, and a lot of times, were entertaining enough to hold my attention.  I just got really bored and annoyed watching "13 Reasons Why".  It made me miss Aaron Spelling.  

In all seriousness...  in the mid 1980s, I remember watching an excellent movie of the week called "Surviving".  It was about teen suicide and starred Molly Ringwald, Zack Galligan, River Phoenix, Heather O'Rourke, Ellen Burstyn, and Marsha Mason.  Thirty plus years later, I still remember that movie.  And... lookie here!  Someone has posted it on YouTube!  No Netflix subscription required!

You're welcome. 

If I had a teenager, this movie is what I'd be watching with them if I wanted to address teen suicide.  I would not watch "13 Reasons Why", not because I would fear them being inspired by the show, but because the show simply sucks and lacks realism.  Sorry. 

Edited to add...  I could probably write even more about what I think is wrong with "13 Reasons Why"...  maybe later, I will.