Thursday, August 31, 2017

Melania's shoes and Joy Anna's baby bump...

Yesterday, the Internet was ablaze with commentary about Melania Trump's decision to wear six inch stilettos to the flood zone in Houston.  I, too, shared a news story about her footwear with the comment "What a moron."  Apologies for that, since I don't generally like to namecall.  I was just disgusted by this latest tone deaf response from the first family in the face of a disaster.  Who the hell purposely goes to a flood zone in heels?

Quite a few people commented on my post, including a couple of folks who wondered why anyone cares about Melania's shoes.  First of all, obviously people do care because they are talking about it.  Members of the press shared the photos of Melania and her designer super high heels.  I was certainly not the only one who had something to say about the shoes.  So, yeah, people do care and are discussing it.  That's what makes it newsworthy.  Maybe not everyone finds Melania's shoes newsworthy, but plenty of people do-- enough so that the press's efforts to share them were worthwhile.  As long as people talk about that kind of stuff, it will be in the news.  The press has to find some way to fill 24 hours of news coverage.  The days of two daily newscasts and/or newspapers are long gone.

I can't speak for anyone else but, to me, the shoes represent the huge disconnect between the Trumps and the average American.  Granted, Melania later stepped off Air Force One in a pair of sparkling white Adidas sneakers and a baseball cap that read FLOTUS, but it was pretty clear that she'd rather be wearing spiked heels.  It just smacks of impracticality and of a woman who doesn't give a shit about the people who put her husband in power.  It was evident to me that she was in Houston only out of a sense of duty as the First Lady, an honor which she has only very recently seemed to have grudgingly accepted.

Secondly, as far as I'm concerned, neither Donald nor Melania have any business working in government.  Donald Trump is a disgrace.  If he weren't filthy rich, he'd probably be in prison for rape and/or sexual assault.  And, as long as I have to see their faces on social media or in the news, I'm going to bust on them.  They are public citizens and, as such, they will be criticized.  Don't like it?  Don't follow me.

One person commented on Melania's ability to speak several foreign languages and how that somehow makes her "intelligent".  The person who commented wrote that she speaks nine languages, but CBS news reports that she speaks five: Slovenian, Serbian, French, English, and German.  Other sources claim that she also speaks Italian, including Melania herself.

An interesting video about Melania's alleged language skills...  

The first two languages on that list seem like a given, since Melania is from Slovenia, which was once part of Yugoslavia, as was Serbia.  It's not uncommon for younger Europeans to speak English, either.  If you think about it, a lot of popular media is in English.  Having studied several languages myself, I know it's hard to learn so many, but I'm not sure being multilingual, in and of itself, makes her particularly intelligent.  Moreover, I am not convinced she is actually fluent in all of those languages, including English.  But it makes for good press, I guess.

Melania did have a successful modeling career and that is an accomplishment, but she seems to lack common sense.  She could have done anything she wanted with her life, yet she willingly married an abusive jerk who disdains women.  It has never seemed to me that she cared too much about being the First Lady, yet she tolerates the duty and her dumbass husband and his ridiculous and scandalous comments.  In my book, that makes her pretty dumb... and wearing six inch heels to a flood zone also makes her really dumb, even if she changed shoes before she got off the plane.  Just my opinion, folks.

Moving on...

Not that I'm surprised, but it seems that 19 year old Joy Anna Duggar Forsyth, who just got married in late May, is now pregnant.  The news broke yesterday on  Looking at her photo and noting her already prominent baby bump and huge boobs, I conclude that she's either carrying twins, or she and Austin did more than side hug when they were courting.  Not that it really matters, of course, since she's over 18 and should be allowed to do whatever she wants with her body... but, let's just say that I won't be surprised if she has a nine pound preemie that arrives before February.

If I recall correctly, Joy Anna's wedding was originally supposed to be in the fall, which is why they had those fall decorations at the ceremony.  It was mysteriously pushed up to May and all of the Counting On episodes that came after the wedding were about her courtship with husband, Austin Forsyth.  Could it be that her wedding was of the shotgun variety?  It's hard to tell.  Hope she has a happy and healthy pregnancy, though.

Good on Jinger Duggar Vuolo for wearing pants and not being pregnant.  She's an inspiration to us all.  I hope some of the younger Duggar girls follow her example, even if Jeremy is a wingnut.

It's raining this morning, which makes me very happy.  Yesterday, it was really hot and sunny and the awning we use to keep the sun out of the living room pretty much collapsed after a stiff breeze.  The rain will cool things off, once and for all, and I won't have to sleep on top of the covers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Perpetuating the genetic nightmare...

I have written a few times about my childhood neighbors, people who lived across the dirt road from us in Virginia.  In 1980, when we moved to Gloucester, they were a family of four.  There was a mother, father, brother and sister.  The father did not live at home.  He was in his early 30s and lived at the local psychiatric hospital in Williamsburg because he was suffering from Huntington's Disease.   The mother was raising her children, twelve year old Michael and nine year old Leslie, by herself.

In 1980, Michael was also suffering from Huntington's Disease, having inherited the defective gene and developed the disease much earlier than most people with Huntington's Disease do.  He died in 1982.  His and Leslie's father died a couple of years after that.

I was eight in 1980.  I met all of these people when I was a child.  Leslie's mother worked for my dad for several years until Leslie's paternal grandmother died and Leslie's mom inherited some money.  Leslie's mom bought her own picture framing business and competed against my dad.  The business eventually failed.

Leslie and I weren't close friends, but we did grow up together.  My parents included Leslie and her mom on a couple of family trips.  In 1985, I remember we all went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina together.  I seem to remember Leslie and her mom coming with us to Natural Bridge, Virginia once, too.  I grew up waiting for the bus with Leslie and used to dog sit for her mom when they'd take trips to the Smoky Mountains.  Leslie was bright and talented and probably could have done some great things had she not been doomed to get Huntington's Disease while still fairly young.

Leslie died in 2010, having battled the disease for several years.  She was 39 years old.  She'd given birth to three kids.  One of them died in a freak accident in 1995.  Leslie's little daughter, just two years old, was accidentally run over by Leslie at the local Walmart.  For some reason, Leslie had allowed the little girl to stand up behind the driver's seat.  If I recall correctly, she was just coasting forward to the drink machines and, for whatever reason, decided not to put the kid in a car seat.  Leslie had inexplicably left the car door open and the girl fell out and ended up under the car's tires.  Her older child, then just three years old, was also there.  In 2012, when he was 21 years old, that child would also die in a car accident.  I have to wonder if the accident was really an accident or if the young man had started getting symptoms of Huntington's Disease and decided to commit suicide.

In 1996, Leslie had her third child, another son.  He is the only one of her children still living.  I have never met Leslie's youngest child, but I know his family well.  I also know his dad, since he was in my class in school.  In the 80s, Gloucester was the kind of place where everyone knew each other.  I also knew of Leslie's older son's family, since his grandmother used to clean my parents' house.

Last night, I decided to look up Leslie's sole surviving son.  I see that he recently became a father.  I have to wonder how much exposure he got to his mother when she was sick.  I didn't see Leslie during those years because I left our hometown, but I do remember meeting her father and seeing her brother on a daily basis.  I remember what Huntington's Disease looked like at an advanced stage.  It's absolutely devastating.  

I just started reading a book about a woman who married into a family with the Huntington's Disease gene.  The woman fell in love with her husband before he knew his mother had Huntington's Disease.  She was dating him when he and his three older sisters found out why their mother wasn't around when they were growing up.  She'd been in a psychiatric hospital.  The family patriarch wasn't much of a father figure, so it was left up to the eldest daughter to take care of everyone.  Somehow, the four kids grew up not knowing that their mother had a genetic disorder.  I'm probably halfway through the book so far... The author decided to play the odds and have a son with her husband.

I learned in the book I'm reading that famed songwriter, Woody Guthrie, had Huntington's Disease.  He had eight children, five of whom died young.  His second of three wives, Marjorie Guthrie, started what would eventually become the Huntington's Disease Society of America.  Marjorie had four children with Woody, including famous singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie.  Woody was married to his third wife for just a year before they split; he died in 1967 at age 55.  Woody was never really treated for his disease.  People thought he had schizophrenia or was an alcoholic, due to the extreme mood swings the disease caused.  Because he was famous, his death brought awareness to Huntington's Disease.  It looks like Arlo and two siblings have escaped their father's fate.  Today, I very much enjoy listening to music by Arlo's daughter, Cathy, who plays ukulele in the duo, Folk Uke, with Amy Nelson (Willie Nelson's daughter).

One of Woody Guthrie's most famous songs...

Arlo Guthrie performs "Alice's Restaurant"...

Cathy Guthrie and Amy Nelson performing as Folk Uke.

Every child who has a parent with Huntington's Disease has a fifty percent chance of developing the disease.  Huntington's Disease, although genetically perpetuated, is not like cystic fibrosis.  With CF, both parents must have the genetic defect.  Even then, a child born to parents carrying the CF gene has a one in four chance of getting cystic fibrosis, a one in four chance of being clear of the gene, and a two in four chance of being a carrier.  With Huntington's Disease, it's a one in two chance.  And if you have the gene, you will get the disease and likely die from it.  There is no treatment or cure for Huntington's Disease.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the ethics of knowingly passing along defective genes.  That post was inspired by Zach and Teri Roloff, stars of the TLC show Little People Big World.  They'd just had a baby and some people were saying that they shouldn't have, since Zach has achondoplasia. Their son, Jackson, also has achondoplasia, which is a type of dwarfism.  For the record, I will say that dwarfism is not quite the same thing as something like CF or Huntington's Disease.  A person who has achondoplasia can be basically healthy, though abnormally short.  CF and Huntington's Disease are very serious and debilitating.

I think Huntington's Disease, in some ways, is crueler than CF is.  Many people with CF are sick from babyhood.  They grow up sick, although some sufferers are much sicker than others.  They often know from a young age whether or not they will be affected by CF.

A person with a family history of Huntington's Disease can start life completely normal and not get sick until they're approaching middle age.  They can develop lives, start families, have careers, and ultimately be stricken by a disease that makes them lose control of their bodies and their minds.  People with Huntington's Disease grow up wondering if and when it will strike and whether or not they should get tested for the gene.  If they get tested, the news could be good.  They might not have the gene.  Or it can be bad; they have the gene and will eventually get very sick and probably die young.

Leslie's family was devastated by Huntington's Disease.  It seemed the gene in her family was worse than some others.  I remember hearing that her grandfather, whom I never met, had the disease.  He'd been adopted and never knew he had a genetic anomaly, so he and his wife, Vashti (whom I did meet), had a family.  I know that besides Leslie's dad, at least one other sibling got the disease and died young.

I remember my mom telling me, quite emotionally, that Leslie's mother should have had her daughter's tubes tied when she was a baby.  I explained to my very practical mom that it would have been unethical to tie Leslie's tubes.  What if she had been born clear of the gene?  There was a fifty percent chance that she had the defect, but there was also a fifty percent chance she didn't.  She could have lived a completely normal life.  In 1971, when Leslie was born, I doubt the technology was there to know.  By the time genetic testing was available, I'm sure Leslie didn't want to know.

I wish Leslie's grandson much luck.  I truly hope he isn't going to be afflicted by this terrible disease.  Life is a crap shoot.  He has an aunt and uncle who may or may not have had the genes for Huntington's Disease and still died very young.  Not having the misfortune of being burdened by a genetically passed disease myself, I can't even know what it's like to live with the knowledge that I'm doomed.  Hopefully, Leslie's son and grandson have escaped Huntington's Disease.  That disease is a fate I would not wish on my worst enemy.  On the other hand, if Woody Guthrie hadn't had children, we would be missing out on some great music.

I'll write a review of the book when I'm finished with it.  It's amazing what provides food for thought...  And it's also crazy that I know so much about someone I've never met.  It's not the first time this has happened, either.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Entertaining RfM thread about the Missionary Training Center...

Today's second post is inspired by a thread I read yesterday about the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah.  This is where prospective Mormon missionaries gather to be trained for their assignments all over the world.  I have never been Mormon, so I read this thread as an outsider.  Bill's younger child has served a mission and she recently started emailing Bill.  From what we can tell, the mission might have been a good thing for her.  For a lot of people, Mormon missions are evidently nightmarish and being in the MTC is not fun.

A poster on RfM wrote about a tour she had of the MTC.  Although I'm assuming she was raised LDS, she did not serve a mission.  It's my understanding that women were historically not expected to serve missions.  It used to be a lot of women did them if they didn't get married before they were 21.  Nowadays, things are more egalitarian and a lot of young women serve 18 month missions anywhere the church offers them.  Supposedly, the location of where people serve their missions is "inspired" by the head of the church. Thomas S. Monson (or one of his minions?  Who knows?), but there is plenty of evidence that there's no real inspiration involved.

Folks who go on missions are expected to pay for them.  Barring that, sometimes wards will pay for a missionary to go spread the gospel.  I am pretty sure that's how Bill's daughter went.  I highly doubt her mother paid for her to go on a mission and I know we didn't pay (and wouldn't have if she'd asked us to).

Anyway... this lady was in Provo visiting family and they toured the MTC.  It was the first time the poster had ever been to the MTC and she shared her rather candid opinions of the place, as well as her perceptions of the inmates... er, missionaries in training... she encountered there.  A lively discussion on RfM ensued.

Evidently, a true believing Mormon professor named Dan was hanging out on RfM.  I don't know what Professor Dan was doing on RfM, since I'm pretty sure true believers are discouraged from reading anything that will challenge their critical thinking skills regarding Mormonism.  But anyway, apparently, he read the poster's comments about the MTC and decided to pen a blog post about them.

For the record, I don't necessarily think it was wrong for the professor to write about what he read on RfM.  I do it all the time.  I also write about my impressions of encounters I have with other people, online or otherwise.  I would not be the least bit surprised if I inspired someone to write a rebuttal to me on a blog.  I don't go looking for the rebuttals, as a general rule, because I think reading other people's impressions of me will disrupt my peace.  Anyway, someone cut and pasted the professor's remarks and posted them on RfM, then I read the post at its source.

I noticed that the professor's tone regarding the post on RfM was pretty snarky.  He didn't actually write that much about the post, except to discount the poster's impressions.  For instance, the RfM poster toured the older buildings at the MTC and described them as depressing and windowless.  Apparently, the new buildings are nice and have lots of windows, so the professor pointed out that the RfM commenter's impressions were baseless, even going as far as including a link to a picture of one of the newest buildings.

Next, the RfM poster wrote about her impressions of the missionaries she met.  She described them as depressed, fake, and glum.  The professor concedes that there is "no arguing such perceptions", but his experiences touring the MTC were different.  Based on his tone, I'm guessing that although he doesn't say so outright, he thinks the RfM poster doesn't see the truth because she's rejected Mormonism.  If she were a believer, she wouldn't characterize the missionaries in training as "arrogant" or "depressed".  And because the professor is a believer, his perceptions are more valid than hers are (and I would definitely beg to differ on that!).

The professor also missed that the RfM poster is female and referred to her as male in his post.  I noticed that the comments to the professor's blog entry, apparently published by true believers, were rather nasty and dismissive.    

The plucky lass who posted on RfM left a rebuttal to the professor's post.  She rightly pointed out that the prof had pretty much "cherry picked" parts of the post and misled his readers about what she'd actually written.  And the professor, who is apparently a first class jerk, wrote this...

Again... nasty and dismissive.  Makes me very glad I didn't attend BYU.  Who wants to pay to study under a professor with this attitude?

I am reminded that a lot of narcissistic people are drawn to teaching.  Although teaching doesn't usually pay very well, it is sometimes a position of respect.  Many people listen to teachers and take notes on what they say.  Teachers are in a position of being able to evaluate students.  They can hold the keys to the better things in life.  Do well in school and you can attend a good college or graduate school or score letters of recommendation for jobs.  My guess is that the professor may be one of those people who decided to teach college because he fancies himself very intelligent and worthy of being listened to by masses of people.  I'll bet he enjoys the power he gets from being a professor at BYU, but he doesn't appear to be a very good teacher.  I don't know for certain, but only based on that one post, the prof appears to be an intellectual narcissist.  Just as a disclaimer, I realize that it's hard to make a judgment about someone based on a single post.  For all I know, the prof is a swell guy who happened to have a bad day.  However, I will observe that having read that post, I'm not inclined to explore any others by him.  He strikes me as an asshole.

In my opinion, good professors are always curious.  They approach others with respect and humility, even if they may feel they have been disrespected.  Good teachers never stop considering alternative viewpoints.  Good professors have the wisdom to realize that even if someone else says something they find disagreeable or unpleasant, they may have a valid point worth considering.  They are adult enough to take a deep breath and consider what was communicated and, even if they disagree, realize that there is a reason why the other person came to a different conclusion.  They are, above all, willing and eager to listen to and learn from others.  They never stop learning.

Naturally, teachers are human, but those who actually care about their vocation don't regard other people's opinions as dismissively as Professor Dan has in his blog post.  Frankly, I don't find Professor Dan very inspirational.  His example in that post wouldn't make me want to check out Mormonism, if I were so inclined.  In fairness, I have already decided that Mormonism is bullshit, so I would be harder to convince than many people.  But just because I think Mormonism is bullshit, that doesn't mean I'd be outwardly nasty to people who believe in it.  Whatever makes you happy, right?  Likewise, I don't think it's right to be nasty to people who reject Mormonism.

I still wonder what the professor was doing hanging out on RfM.  Clearly, he knows what he believes.  Why does he concern himself with what other people are saying about his church if he is so sure it's true?  Isn't he concerned about preserving his testimony?  Why does it matter what a bunch of apostates and atheists write about the missionary training center?  Are they not entitled to their observations?  I'm sure the professor feels entitled to express his observations... Indeed, he probably expects people to take notes.  Sadly, it seems he's not interested in allowing the others the same freedom of expression without somehow dismissing them as "dumb" or flat out wrong if he doesn't agree with them.  How sad that is.

Appalling customer service by PayPal...

My customer service nightmare with PayPal continues...  A few weeks ago, I wrote about an issue I was having with PayPal involving a subscription that they erroneously tried to charge me over 30 times for.  Or, at least I think that's what happened.  At this point, I really don't know.

Anyway, somehow I ended up with a balance of negative $123.89.  I did not think I should have to add the money to my PayPal account, but I did anyway.  I then had a balance of zero.  A few days later, PayPal inexplicably refunded the money to my wallet and I had a positive balance of $123.89.

Then I called my mom on Skype.  Because I had a low balance on Skype and had set up payments through PayPal, my wallet was debited $25.  I now have a positive balance of $98.89.  I have since cancelled all of the revolving accounts I had through PayPal, all of which had been debited through my bank account because I never kept money in my PayPal wallet, precisely because of this kind of shit.  If you have money in your "wallet", PayPal takes the funds from that instead of your bank account.

Yesterday, I got an email from PayPal saying that they were going to debit the $123.89 again and that my account would be negative if I don't add funds.  They wrote that the request was rejected by my bank, though the vendor was paid.  PayPal writes they never got paid.  Well, I can see in my bank account that they did get the money I added and then they refunded to my wallet for no apparent reason.

I'd like to add funds to the wallet, but I can't, because my account is limited.  I can't add more money to my PayPal wallet (nor do I think I should have to) because they want me to verify my identity by sending them copies of official ID cards.  I don't feel safe doing that over the Internet.  That's how identities get stolen.  Since I don't use PayPal that often anyway, I was fine with my account being limited.

Apparently, if your account is limited, they will let you add money if your account is negative, but not if it's positive.  So when they try to debit the money, it will go negative again.  I will add money and they'll probably refund it.  The email they sent indicated that they need a street address, but my street address is not my billing address and I can't find a way to indicate that in the account.

This cycle will continue, I guess, because when I tried to call them on two occasions yesterday, I never could get a human being on the phone.  And they also make it almost impossible to email them.  I had to search for a good while to find a way to do it.  Also, their Web site is confusing and difficult to navigate.  If you have problems, they want you to ask their community instead of someone who actually works for the company and has the power to fix things.

This situation is convoluted and annoying... and I don't expect anyone to understand what happened.  Just know that I am beyond irritated.

I happened to get upset by PayPal's latest email just before I took the dogs to the vet for their vaccines, which I didn't really want to have to do, because I worry about the vaccines causing them to form more mast cell tumors.  But since we spent five figures on our upcoming vacation and I don't want to miss it, I loaded the dogs up on Benadryl and crossed my fingers.  Hopefully, they won't have a reaction.  They seem okay for now, but these things can pop up weeks later.

The vet noticed that I was upset.  She asked me if I was okay and I said I had a headache, which I did.  I had one all day yesterday, despite taking Advil and a nap.  Although it wasn't hot outside yesterday, it was hot in the house and I was uncomfortable and sweaty.  Add in that I was also worried about the dogs and Bill's relatives in Texas and you have someone who looked pretty perturbed.  Anyway, the vet seems to like me.  She offered me a glass of water.  It's funny, because when I first met the vet, she was rather cold.  But after so many repeated appointments with Zane and his allergies, she's warmed up a lot.  On the whole, Germans are like that.  It takes awhile to break the ice, but once you do, they are really lovely people.

I did manage to find a way to email PayPal, so I did.  I told them I simply wanted to zero out the wallet and close the account because their customer service absolutely sucks.  I'm tired of fucking with it, especially over such a piddly amount of money.  And I am so ready to get out of here for awhile.

The good news is, Bill's mom, aunt, and uncle, who are in the Houston area, checked in yesterday.  They are okay.  Also, in two weeks, I will be on a boat in Scotland.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Houston... we have a problem...

I'm a bit worried about the flooding in Houston.  Bill's mom is there.  She's been visiting Bill's aunt for the past ten days because Bill's uncle went on a golf trip.  Rather than try to go back to San Antonio, my mother-in-law decided to stay in Houston with her sister.  So now I'm reading about the reports of how flooded Houston is and I'm worried about their safety.  I'm sure they don't have power now, so there's no way to check on them.

I hate hurricanes.  Growing up near the Atlantic Ocean, I've been through my share of them.  They usually hit North Carolina instead of Virginia, but that doesn't mean they weren't scary and destructive.  We were lucky enough not to ever have any really serious hurricane destruction when I lived in Virginia, but I do remember enduring power outages and minor flooding, as well as the odd tornado.

It doesn't make me feel good to know that idiot Cheeto is in power.  I suspect his response to Harvey is going to be even worse than George Bush's was to Katrina.  Hopefully, they are both okay.  Damn hurricanes always show up at the worst possible times... just when people are getting in their last summer vacations before the weather gets cold.

I have to take the dogs to the vet today for vaccines.  I don't want to get them the shots because I worry about mast cell cancer, but they need to be boarded when we're in Scotland.  I guess all we can do is load them up on Benadryl and hope for the best.

In other news, Bill tried on his blues and they still fit.  He did have to have the jacket let out a little bit last year, but it seems he didn't gain a lot of weight since he last wore his uniform.  So at least that's okay... and maybe if we do another Hebridean cruise, he'll wear a tux or a kilt.  Personally, I'm hoping for the kilt.

And finally, I have been experiencing a lot of headaches lately.  I get them when I exert myself too hard, like this morning, when I was walking the dogs and they pulled me up a hill.  I also get them during sex.  It's probably related to my blood pressure.  I know... it's very interesting when I write about my health.

Maybe later, when my head stops throbbing, I'll have more to write about.  For now, it's time for some Advil.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Critical thinking and God's "hurt" feelings...

Deep thoughts on the Sabbath...

It's Sunday morning, so I thought I'd offer a little religious discussion to my blog.  Yesterday, after Bill and I spent a few hours at a textile free spa, we were heading home on the autobahn.  I was checking Facebook to pass the time when I noticed this status update.

I don't know who wrote this.  It kind of has the look of one of those boilerplate Christian statuses that get passed around Facebook.  I guess the person who posted this could have written it, but I doubt she did.  It doesn't really sound like her, even though she does have a habit of posting about Jesus.

Anyway... I couldn't help but feel a little confused about this post.  It's not just because of the excessive punctuation and apostrophe abuse, either.  Maybe someone in the know can offer some clarity.  I was taught that God is a being way higher than humans.  God doesn't get hurt feelings because God is above that.  God is beyond pain.  I think God must be beyond gender, too, which is why I avoid using the pronouns he or she when discussing the concept of God.

The above status update seems to place God in the same position as fallible human beings whose feelings are hurt when someone does something shitty.  The person who wrote this seems to believe that God is personally aggrieved by every single wrong thing that every single person on the planet does.  It's mind boggling to me.

If God is capable of having "hurt feelings" over every human being's slight, how does God have time for anything besides feeling offended?  Is God even bound by time or is that simply a human convention?  And why, if God is a perfect being, would humans have the power to offend?  How could people offend God?  Supposedly, we are made in God's image, but humans are very far from perfection.  If we are made in God's image, I would guess that we are made so in a very primitive way.  Which, again, makes me wonder about God's perfection.  Would God make something imperfect that was supposed be in God's image?

Readers who have been following my blog may know that I'm not quite an atheist.  I was raised in a church and can see the value of attending church, even though I don't go to one now.  I was raised to believe in God and I'm not quite ready to say I don't believe.  I do sometimes see things in my daily life that make me think there's something out there, even as logic tells me there probably isn't.  I like the ideas of faith and hope, but I have never been very religious.  I like to think there is a loving being out there who wants me to be good and might reward me when I die someday.

And yet, I can't imagine God to be like the description in the above status.  I don't see God as a fellow person who is capable of being upset by someone's decision to sin.  To me, God has always seemed to be above that in a way that I could probably never come close to accurately describing.

So... the above statement seems rather simplistic and naive to me.  It's apparently one person's attempt to shame other Facebook users into behaving the right way so God's feelings won't be hurt.  I'm not sure what prompted her to post this, either.  What made her think that her friends and family members needed to be reminded about God's hurts.  Really... can God feel hurt?  How can any human being know for sure?  And who has the time and energy to worry about it?

I think this person means well.  She has a warm and generous heart.  She's religious and, I think, craves attention.  So she shares this for her Christian friends in an attempt to appear righteous and noble... moral, even.  A few like minded religious friends like her status and that probably makes her feel good.  But has she really stopped and thought about this stuff?  Is God really capable of being upset by a person's decision to flip someone the bird?  Does God really feel disappointed when a person lies, steals, or cheats?  Are sinful actions truly grievous to God?  Or are they simply disappointing to other humans who simply want to use God for their own gains (whether they be negative or positive in nature)?

You see, if there is a God out there, it seems to me that God is perfect.  A perfect being is just that.  Therefore there is no way God could experience all of the negative emotions and hurts that people experience.  God, as perfection, must be above all of that.  And yet, it's hard to wrap my head around a being that is perfect without somehow assigning some human flaw.  Hurt feelings and emotional injuries are weaknesses based on ego.  Does God really have an ego?  Maybe if you read the Old Testament, you'd come away with the idea that God is a megalomaniacal narcissist.  But remember, the Bible was written by men who were supposedly inspired by God.  Men are human...  God isn't.

Now... all of this doesn't mean that I don't think people should go out of their way to sin.  But, if I'm honest, I don't give sin a whole lot of thought.  I don't sit around thinking God will strike me dead if I utter a swear word.  As I pointed out last week in my discussion with a relative, I don't think there is such a thing as a truly "bad" word.  Words are neutral and they are tools used by humans.  Humans are imperfect and highly fallible.  And I don't think God sits around feeling devastated about the things I say and do.  Why would God do that?  And why should I torture myself worrying about it?

It's nice that my friend is thinking of God's feelings, but I don't believe God has feelings the way humans do. And if God did, how would we ever know?  I think people should be good for themselves, not simply for God's sake.  The odds are, God is above being offended or disappointed by what you say or do.  I think God must be, if God is really a perfect being.

I'm tempted to point this out to her, not because I want her to feel bad, but to reassure her.  But I know if I do respond, it will cause upset.  I'm not in the business of causing pain to others.  It's a beautiful Sunday morning and I'm not wanting to wreck it with a discussion about God's supposedly petty feelings.  So I'm offering my thoughts here, on my little read and acknowledged blog.  What say you, my friends?

Music by the O'Neill Brothers and Amy Grant and Vince Gill...

If I have to acknowledge God, I often do it when I listen to Beth Nielsen Chapman's music...

A review of My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth

Lately, my reading material has been kind of heavy.  I read several books about the Holocaust a few months ago, as well as The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian novel about women who are forced to breed for the state.  I also just re-read Alex: The Life of a Child, a beautiful memoir about a little girl my age who died at eight years old due to Cystic Fibrosis.  Although I had read that book several times, I decided to look at it again in honor of her father, Frank Deford, who recently died.  After all of those sad reads, I was ready for something funny.  So I picked up Wendy E. Simmons' My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, which was published in May 2016.

For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would willingly visit North Korea, which is probably one of the most hostile places on the planet, especially toward Americans.  It's not easy to get permission to visit North Korea and, once you're there, you will be guided by "handlers", who watch your every move.  You also run the risk of being accused of committing a crime and getting detained.  It's not exactly cheap to get to North Korea and I'm not one to spend money on something I'm certain I won't enjoy.  A few days from now, Americans will be banned from visiting North Korea by our own government, anyway.  While I am certainly no fan of Donald Trump's, I do think that when it comes to North Korea, most Americans ought to stay away.

Nevertheless, despite warnings from the government, Wendy Simmons prides herself on traveling to far flung places.  North Korea was on her bucket list.  She decided to go and has written a rather irreverent book about her trip.  Simmons is a good writer and she's a bit snarky, which I enjoy to an extent.  She includes a number of photos with references to Alice in Wonderland.  I suppose the Alice in Wonderland references would be my first critique of Simmons' book.  I didn't enjoy the references because, believe it or not, I'm only vaguely acquainted with Alice in Wonderland.  I don't think I've ever read that book.  I'm certain that other readers haven't, either.  Yes, I have been exposed to plenty of references to Alice in Wonderland, enough to recognize that was what Simmons was referencing.  But I think I would have preferred it if she'd simply labeled the photos in a straightforward way.

Anyway, Simmons writes about what it was like to visit North Korea.  She has a male driver and two female handlers, whom she refers to as "Old Handler" and "Fresh Handler".  When Wendy is not locked in her dingy hotel, she is always flanked by her handlers.  She can't even sit outside for fresh air without them by her side.  The hotel is pretty much empty, save for a few other brave tourists from other countries.  As a matter of fact, Pyongang, North Korea's capital, seems pretty empty.  It's as if it's just a showplace intended for tourists.  I got the impression that no one actually lives there.

Here's a speech given by Yeonmi Park, a North Korean woman who managed to get out of the country in 2014.  Wendy Simmons can laugh about North Korea, but I have a hard time laughing after hearing this woman's harrowing story.

Simmons seems to develop a love/hate relationship with her handlers.  Old Handler is described as kind of passive aggressive, as if she loves hearing about the outside world, yet hates the people she has to guide.  It's as if she's extremely jealous of Simmons' freedom, so she does all she can to curtail it when Simmons is in North Korea.  Fresh Handler is described as being much less jaded and somewhat more friendly.  The driver is gruff, though Simmons seems to develop a superficial rapport with him.  These three are charged with looking after Simmons, yet North Koreans as a whole have been trained to hate Americans.  I'm sure it was interesting to witness the cognitive dissonance between what North Koreans had been taught about the United States and Americans and what they experienced actually interacting with an American.

A lot of Simmons' descriptions of North Korea are snarky and borderline disrespectful.  She sometimes seems a little too happy to laugh at North Koreans and the fact that they have been so sheltered from the rest of the world.  Yes, it's funny in a flabbergasted kind of way... but it's also very sad.  It's not until the very end of the book that Simmons reveals some sensitivity toward the plight of North Koreans.  She actually acknowledges that she was fortunate to be born somewhere other than North Korea.  But then... perhaps most North Koreans are happy enough.  Can you miss something you have no concept of?  

I wondered about Simmons' handlers and if they got in trouble for what Wendy wrote.  She doesn't identify them by name, but she does include a photo of their legs.  My guess is that it wouldn't be hard to figure out who they were, even just based on photos of their legs.  There were times when it seems Simmons was miserable on her trip.  However, I would be lying if I said I didn't think some of her descriptions were funny.  I enjoyed Simmons' writing style, which was witty and conversational, and I didn't find her book a chore to read.  I do think she was a little mean spirited at times, though.

Those who are looking for descriptions about what it's like to actually live in North Korea are bound to be disappointed.  Wendy Simmons would probably like to know herself.  Remember, she was given a very sanitized look at the country.  She recognizes that she wasn't allowed to interact with North Koreans, see their living quarters, or venture anywhere without her guides, who made she didn't see or photograph anything that wasn't government approved.  Even so, Simmons describes seeing brand new factories that had never operated and were watched over by guards who sleep on the job.  She describes sitting in on classes in school that are full of cherry picked students.  She attends a football (soccer) match that is clearly put on for her benefit.  She dines alone in the hotel restaurant, eating food that sounds very unappetizing and ice cream that kind of looks like a Creamsicle, but tastes bland.

All in all, it sounds like Simmons didn't have a good time over her nine days in North Korea, but she did at least get to see it and write a book about her visit.  It's lucky she has such a good sense of humor and can laugh about some of the sad things she saw there.  It's even luckier that she managed to get out of there without being detained.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Female federal prisoners will finally be getting feminine hygiene products for free...

Wow.  I am really on a roll with alliteration this morning.  I also have a horrible neck spasm that is making it difficult to turn my head without pain.  I woke up in the middle of the night to pee and somehow knocked my neck completely out of whack.  It sucks.

Today's topic is inspired by a news article I read yesterday about how female inmates at U.S. federal prisons will now be issued feminine hygiene products.  Yes, it's true.  Female inmates were not guaranteed tampons or pads while incarcerated.  I can't be sure, but I think they had to purchase them.  Jobs in prisons typically pay slave wages and products in commissaries are typically overpriced.  So you can imagine who ended up paying for things like tampons and maxi pads...  it was probably the inmates' families.  Those without families to help them probably had to make do with whatever they could find.

Those days are over now.  Federally run prisons must now provide a variety of products free of charge to inmates.  Frankly, I think it's long overdue.  The vast majority of healthy women of childbearing age menstruate.  Menstruation is messy, smelly, and potentially hazardous, since blood is a body fluid that can carry disease.  It seems only logical that prisons provide protection to inmates so they they don't have to bleed all over themselves and make the prison less sanitary.

Of course, there are still people out there who take the position that prisoners should be treated inhumanely.  I saw more than one comment from people who think that prisoners should have to pay for their feminine hygiene products like women who haven't broken the law must.  I saw another comment, this time from a guy, who claimed that giving women sanitary protection was sexist since men didn't get them.  I hope he was joking, but it wasn't immediately clear that he was.

I totally understand that some people think prisoners should suffer their entire time behind bars.  A lot of people, particularly certain segments of the American population, seem to have this rigid black and white mindset when it comes to right and wrong.  They seem to think that everyone who is behind bars deserves to be there and should be treated like shit.

I will agree that most of the time, the guilty people are caught.  Prison is intended to be a punishment; therefore, doing time is supposed to be unpleasant.  However, most people who are in prison will one day be released.  I think it's better to treat prisoners with dignity and a modicum of respect, simply because they are human beings.  Being shitty and abusive to people doesn't help them become better people.  It breeds rage and aids in continuing the cycle of bad decisions that lead to incarceration.

I think many people also forget or don't realize that incarceration is a big business in the United States.  Many prisons are privately run, which means prisoners are a source of profit for the prison owners.  I am happy to report, though, that private prisons in the United States are on their way out.  The Department of Justice is phasing out private prisons, which I think is the right thing to do.  On the other hand, we have an idiot in the White House who thinks privatization is the way to go in all things government.  And he seems to like private prisons...   So who knows?

Anyway, it seems to me that it's not too much to ask for prisons to issue sanitary products for incarcerated women.  At the very least, it keeps things cleaner and healthier for everyone, right?  Really, pads and tampons are akin to toilet paper.  They are a necessity.

I shared the article about this on my Facebook page and a very interesting discussion ensued.  One woman said she wished menstrual cups were being offered to inmates to help cut down on waste.  I have never used a cup myself, so I don't know how they work.  Some of the women on my friends list were discussing its benefits and drawbacks.  That led to my reminding some college friends of our former classmate, Erin McCay George, who is currently serving a 603 year sentence for murdering her husband for insurance money.  I read a book she wrote about what it's like to be in prison.  It was very well written, although I think Erin herself is a sociopath or, at the very least, a narcissist.  Erin pointed out that it's a myth that prisoners get everything for free.  It turns out they have to pay for things beyond the most basic.

People have a pretty fucked up attitude about menstruation, anyway.  This morning, I found that another friend of mine shared a story about a woman who got fired because she leaked menstrual blood at work.  She happened to be experiencing a heavier flow because she was in peri-menopause.  Her hormones were fluctuating and her periods were more spaced out, which caused them to be heavier than usual.  She leaked through her clothes and onto an office chair and was promptly warned that if it happened again, she would be fired.

Well... it happened again.  The second time, she leaked blood onto the carpet.  And her male boss fired her for failing to “practice high standards of personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat appearance while on duty.”  And yes, her supervisor was evidently a clueless person who has no idea what women endure every month.  Fortunately, the woman, name of Alisha Coleman, is plucky enough to fight back.  She got the ACLU involved.  And good for her.  More people need to have empathy and compassion for others... especially at that time of the month. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Who are you calling a...

I just watched this video on YouTube.

It's a pretty funny rant, even though it's kind of offensive.

I was interested in what people had to say about this particular rant, given that the actress seems to be saying that breastfeeding in public is wrong.  Some commenters seemed to forget that she is an actress and her personal views probably do not reflect what she's acting out in her performance.  As I was reading the comments, I came across another one of my pet peeves...

@ProjectRANT because it's difficult to see that this isn't a serious rant, I think you're adding to the problem. While reading through the comments, I saw a lot of people talking about how women should't be breastfeeding in public, but in bathrooms instead. I see nothing but hate instead of support. It's not really a suprise, given the video. As a "breastfeeding mother", don't you think you should be fighting for a mothers rights rather then adding to the problem?

I'm a little confused by this person's comment.  Is she saying that she's a breastfeeding mother?  Or is she saying that Project Rant is breastfeeding?

I see this kind of thing all the time.  People try to declare their expertise on a matter by letting everyone know their status.  They type things like "As a ...." and that's supposed to set them apart as someone in the know.  My guess is that the commenter is declaring that she's a breastfeeding mother, or at least she was when this video was posted several years ago .  But based on how she's posed her question, it sounds like she's saying Project Rant is a breastfeeding mother and therefore should know better.

I think the woman's comment would be better understood if she had typed, "As a 'breastfeeding mother' myself, I think Project Rant should be fighting for mothers' rights rather than adding to the problem."  

I won't even complain about the rest of the comment, which is also riddled with spelling and punctuation mistakes.  At least she spelled "you're" and "a lot" correctly.

And for those who are curious, here's the last of what the commenter had to say about the above video.  Wow, she's articulate.

It's funny how upset people get over public breastfeeding.  Last weekend, Bill and I visited the local spa and, for the second time this summer, got naked with a bunch of Germans.  People were walking around completely nude and nobody cared at all.  I saw all kinds of bodies.  Fat bodies, thin bodies, old bodies, young bodies....  perky boobs, saggy boobs, circumcised junk, uncircumcised junk...  it was all on display and no one was batting an eye.  

We Americans could stand to learn from Europeans, many of whom simply see the human body as something everyone has.  Personally, I find textile free spas very liberating.  Aside from that, I'm sure if I were still a baby and wanting to nurse from a breast, I'd prefer not to be covered with a blanket.  Most people would prefer to eat sans cover, right?  But I'd probably draw the line at public fucking on the table at a restaurant.

Anyway, I think if you want to establish yourself as an expert, you should be very clear.  Before you start a sentence with the words, "As a ..." think about who you're calling what.  Are you saying you breastfeed?  Or are you saying someone else breastfeeds?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I know it's not my business, but...

Five years ago today, I wrote this post about "overly helpful people" who offer unsolicited "sage" advice or observations.  Five years hence, this issue is much less of a problem for me than it used to be.  The people who inspired it have mostly left my sphere.  I'm inspired to write about this subject again, because I think the issue is relevant for a lot of people out there in Internetland.  Don't we all have someone in our lives who chimes in with inappropriate comments about subjects that are none of their business?

I was looking back on Facebook posts from August 24 and ran across one that was inspired by watching The Doctors.  OB-GYN Lisa Masterson told some guy that he should have a vasectomy because his wife had three children for him and it was "the least he could do".  Vasectomies are cheaper and less invasive than tubal ligation.  The wife was "done" having kids, so apparently that means the husband should willingly give up his fertility.

Masterson's comment pissed me off, because I realized that I'd be outraged if someone tried to shame me into giving up my fertility for someone else.  I think people should have full autonomy over their own bodies, especially when it comes to elective surgeries.  It's very wrong for a doctor to contribute to family politics by trying to goad a woman's husband into getting snipped.  That decision should be his and his alone.  

I posted my feelings on Facebook about Dr. Masterson's comment to the guy on her show by writing this...

It really annoys me when people try to guilt guys to have vasectomies just because it's easier and cheaper for a man to get fixed than it is a woman.

A few women commented and we were having a good discussion.  I explained how I formed an opinion about this issue.  My comments referenced Bill's decision to get a vasectomy because of pressure from his ex wife.  Ultimately, it was good that he went through with being snipped, since she wasn't actually "done".  She even said, as they were headed to the doctor to get the surgery, "Maybe we shouldn't do this.  I might want more kids."

If Bill had backed out of having the vasectomy, he would have ended up with more babies with her.  That would have led to more years of child support, parental alienation, and heartache.  But it's no lie that his decision did, in the long run, affect us both.  In truth, Bill did end up regretting the decision to have a vasectomy.

I eventually got an obnoxious response from someone.  She wrote...

"'s really none of my business, but you've put it out there about your husband and his exwife. Ahhmmm, with my own experience, and not knowing the exwife or your everybody, people try to make the best decision they can with the information they have at that time. There is no shame in it, and there are decisions that can not be reversed. It's not healthy to hold grudges. Your Husband must have married her for a reason. It's as much his fault as hers for his feelings. He can look back and blame her (along with you) but it's over and done with now."

Folks... if you have to start a comment with "It's none of my business, but..." perhaps you should think twice about what you're about to communicate.  Chances are, your comment will do nothing more than piss off the other person.  Maybe that's okay, if you're alright with alienating people.  On the other hand, if you feel the need to point out that something is none of your business, you probably should heed whatever prompted you to observe that it's not your business.

I think a phrase like "It's none of my business, but" is an attempt to soften the blow.  If you think you need to soften the blow, you probably ought to reconsider saying anything at all, unless you are prepared to deal with the fallout.  Below was my response to the above comment.  I think I was pretty civil, under the circumstances.

"...this actually doesn't have that much to do with my husband's ex wife. It's true that I did start thinking about this issue because of my husband's situation, but I've always felt that people should be able to make decisions about their own bodies without pressure from another party. As for my personal situation, it's true that I always wanted kids, but I've come to terms with the fact that I don't have them. As for holding a grudge against my husband's ex, I agree that it's generally not healthy to hang onto anger. On the other hand, it's my mental health and I'm free to abuse it as I see fit."

In the situation I referenced above, a woman I have never met in person decided she needed to weigh in on my comments about men being pressured into having vasectomies.  Because I had mentioned my husband's first wife in an earlier comment, she seemed to think my opinions regarding coerced vasectomies were based entirely on my so-called "grudge" toward Bill's ex.  She came to that conclusion after having admitted that she didn't know any of us and was simply basing her comments on things I had posted in the past.  She perceived that I am a certain type of person based on Facebook comments.  She didn't know me.  She didn't know Bill.  And she didn't know the ex.  Then she admitted that it was "none of her business".  

I wonder, given her limited understanding of the three of us, how she came to her conclusion that I simply have a "grudge" and am "emotionally unhealthy".  What qualifies her to make such a comment, especially after never having met me in person?  Why did she need to make a statement about my "mental health" simply based on my opinions about coerced vasectomies?  Think about it.  If the situation were reversed and Dr. Masterson told the wife that she should get her tubes tied because of all the money her husband earns, wouldn't people think that was shitty advice?  Wouldn't people be offended?

It's true that my feelings on this matter were inspired by Bill.  My husband willingly gave up his fertility for a woman who said she was "done" having kids but actually wasn't.  Consequently, I don't have children of my own.  I was negatively affected by Bill's decision to cave in to his ex wife's demands.  Ultimately, Bill was too, since he later had the vasectomy reversed.

Yes, I know I could have tried to adopt or perhaps undergone medical procedures to get pregnant.  The fact that I could have become a parent in an alternative way was not the point.  Nor was it the point that Bill "did what he thought was best at the time."  I know he did.  In fact, I'm now glad he did.  Bill's situation simply got me to form an opinion about something I might not have otherwise considered.  I would probably come to the same conclusion about coerced elective surgeries even if Bill and I had never met.

My feelings about coerced vasectomies have nothing to do with Bill's ex wife.  Bill's decision to capitulate and the results of that decision were simply a catalyst for feeling the way I do.  Moreover, I think my opinions about coerced elective surgeries are perfectly normal and healthy.  They aren't based on hatred or grudges; they are based entirely on common sense and respect for other people and their right to control what happens to their bodies.

By the way, I also think that a woman has the right to decline sexual intercourse if she doesn't want to get pregnant.  Or, really, she has the right to decline sex for whatever reason she likes.  It's her body, right?  Well, I feel the same way about men's bodies.  And that was all I was trying to communicate with my post.

The person who commented probably meant well when she wrote, "It's none of my business, but..."  She felt compelled to be "helpful", I guess.  But I wonder what she thought the end result of her comment was going to be.  Did she think that all I needed to hear was, "You should just let go of your 'grudge'.  It's not 'healthy'."  Did she think that by telling me that, I was going to say, "You're right.  All of my opinions are based on an unhealthy obsession.  I need to let it go.  I feel much better now.  Thank you.  You're a lifesaver."?  She tried to soften the blow with her observation that it was "none of her business".  Obviously she realized that her comment was going to be offensive.  She expressed it anyway.

Actually, if you think about it, "I know it's none of my business" is somewhat akin to "No offense, but..."  The person who says such things knows that he or she is about to say something that will be painful to hear.  Sometimes it makes sense to say such things.  For instance, if you're about to visit your boss and you have a big booger hanging out of your nose, it might be good for a co-worker to say, "No offense, but I think you need a tissue."  Yeah, it's embarrassing, but at least you can get the bear out of the cave before you sit down with your boss, right?  In the long run, your co-worker did you a solid.

On the other hand, someone could say "No offense, but I think you're a whore and if you don't stop screwing around, you're going to get AIDS."  Depending on the situation, that statement could be inappropriate and hurtful, despite the feeble attempt at softening the blow.  In fact, I would probably be a lot more offended if someone said, "No offense." before saying something like that to me.  Because I would have every right to be offended by a comment about my sex life, right?  Especially if it came from someone who likely doesn't know what he or she is talking about.

When it comes to the phrase, "I know it's none of my business..." I think most people should really consider why they feel the need to preface their comment with that disclaimer.  And then, most of the time, they should simply heed that impulse and STFU.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Waking up horribly...

At approximately five o'clock this morning, I was slumbering peacefully, completely unaware that I was about to be rudely jarred out of sleep.  The first thing I remember doing this morning is screaming bloody murder.  Why?  Because I woke up with a horrendous cramp.  It was at the top of my right calf and it lasted at least a minute or two... longest minutes ever.

I was screeching and cussing and Bill came into the room and said, "What's wrong?"

"I have a cramp!" I yelled.  "Oh my God, it hurts!  It HURTS!"

Bill came over and stood next to the bed.  "Your toes are pointed." he noticed.  "Stop pointing your toes and the muscle will relax."  Then he gently took my leg in his hands.  Bill has a surprisingly gentle touch, especially for a retired soldier.

Of course I was unaware that my toes were pointed because I had been sound asleep.  Flexing a cramped muscle is hard.  It hurts to move the muscle and you have consciously will yourself to get your toes out of that pointed position.  Somehow, I managed to will my heels to go down and the muscle finally stopped contracting.  But now I have a sore spot where the cramp happened.

I hate leg cramps, especially when I'm waking up.  I don't get them very often.  It's usually after I've been forced to sleep in an awkward position or when I've been on an air mattress.  I've read that these cramps tend to strike middle aged people, so I guess it will happen again and again.  Bill says he gets them a lot, but I have never heard him cry out like I did today.

I suspect the calf that cramped has issues anyway.  Sometimes that leg swells a little so it's noticeably bigger than my other leg.  The ankle tends to retain water and gets puffy sometimes.  I should probably drink more mineral water before bed.  I have a feeling the cramp came on because I was dehydrated.

Today's topic is kind of boring, but I bet it'll get a lot of hits.  For some reason, my most mundane posts always attract readers.  To date, two of the most popular posts on this blog are a post about getting a hair splinter from my dog's coat and the fact that putting unstamped mail in U.S. mail boxes is illegal.  On my music blog, the most popular post by far-- in fact, more popular than any post I've ever written-- is the one I did on Mindi Carpenter, the daughter of Richard Carpenter.  For some reason, people find that post fascinating.  It's got a hit tally in the six figures by now.

Last night, I noticed that Zane still has a stitch anchored under his skin.  A long blue thread is hanging out and, if I pull on it, it doesn't come out.  I'm afraid of causing more injury to the incision area, so I just left the thread hanging.  Hopefully, it will eventually disintegrate.  Somehow, the vet always manages to leave a stitch.  I found one last January that had been lodged in Zane's skin for weeks.

Bill drove the Toyota to work today.  He's taking it to a garage to see if it can be fixed for a reasonable amount of money.  If so, he'll get it fixed and we'll drive it while we shop for new wheels. If not, I guess he'll figure out some way to get rid of it while we shop for new wheels.

The kind of car Bill wants is going to be expensive.  He probably shouldn't buy an expensive car.  On the other hand, he's lived a lifetime of mostly denying himself.  He now has a really good job.  So maybe he'll go for the nice wheels...  We'll see.

I hate car shopping.  I guess I'd rather do it here than in the States, though.  Any time you look for realty or a car, you subject yourself to the hungry vultures that are real estate agents and car salespeople.  They can get really aggressive.

At least car shopping will keep my mind off of passing the next three weeks as we eagerly await our getaway to Scotland.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Friends don't let friends flame each other all night...

I have a very diverse group of friends on Facebook.  I have many conservative friends.  I also have many liberal friends.  Consequently, sometimes these folks clash, especially when I happen to post something that is political or religious.

Last night, just before I went to bed, I posted the following...

The term "snowflake" has sadly become a cliche.

I know that it's become de rigueur to call people snowflakes.  The term refers to entitled people who think they are special.  Lately, a lot of conservatives have been using it to describe liberals who expect special consideration for any number of things.  However, it doesn't have to refer to people with certain political leanings.

The first time I ever saw the term used was not even in a political sense.  I was reading an article by Dr. Tara Palmatier, otherwise known as the "Shrink4Men", and she used it to describe a guy's ex wife, who was also the mother of his kids.  The mother had insisted on some unreasonable conditions for the kids, so Dr. T referred to them as "special snowflakes".  I thought her use of the term was funny.  

Fast forward a few years and now people are hurling that term around willy nilly.  It's gotten tiresome and annoying.  So I decided to post my thoughts.  A few people commented.  I turned out the light and went to sleep.

Much to my surprise, this morning I woke to an all out flame war on my Facebook page.  Three guys got into and, I swear, must have been arguing all night (which would have been evening in the United States).  I woke up just as they were apparently going to bed.  I would love to post the whole thread here for your entertainment, but it would take too long to preserve everyone's privacy and, frankly, I'm just not in the mood to do it.

Instead, I think I will just describe the argument and the people involved.  One participant is a federal marshal who has very conservative views, but is basically a decent guy.  One is a liberal guy who sells seafood and is Judge Alex's brother in law.  One is a guy who is sensitive to terms like "snowflake" and "libtard" because he has a physical disability and used to be called names when he was growing up.  This guy does not have any intellectual disabilities whatsoever, but because of his physical problems, rode the "short bus" at school and was in special education classes.

Basically, after a few people made their thoughts known about snowflakes, the conservative guy piped up with "Like Faux News.  LOL."

For some reason, that comment was like waving a red cape in front of Judge Alex's brother-in-law.  He shot back a snarky response, which, in turn, pissed off my conservative cop friend.  They immediately commenced to arguing.  Then, my friend with the disability chimed in, as did another friend, who has the conservative guy blocked.  

What's really funny to me is that despite their differences in politics, these two men-- both of whom are named John-- are actually very similar to each other.  Neither is willing to back down.  They remind me of a couple of rams head butting each other.

Like this...
I was slightly annoyed that these fellows decided to have a pissing contest on my Facebook page, but I guess they wouldn't otherwise interact.  I know them from different places and happen to be the one friend they have in common.  It does surprise me, though, that people enjoy having arguments with other people who aren't even their friends.  And it always surprises me what people will argue over.  It's like they have no video games to play, books to read, or TV shows to watch.

Facebook is pretty annoying, anyway.  Until yesterday, I was a member and an admin of our local beer group.  I joined the group shortly after we arrived here in 2014 and used to be pretty active.  We used to have beer tastings and everything.  But then the guy who started it and made me an admin (without asking me, I might add) left the area.  Other people kind of took it over and the group became less interesting and a lot less active.  Yesterday, I made the mistake of letting someone in who wasn't local and I got a chastising private message from the guy who, I guess, has decided he's the boss.  He changed the name of the group and it seemed to become pretty lame.

This guy once invited Bill and me to his home for a beer tasting.  We had a pretty good time, although the host got really drunk and ended up passing out.  He continued to have tastings, but didn't invite us to any other gatherings.  I got kind of a strange vibe from him after that.  So when he sent his very impersonal PM to me, I was annoyed by it and told him maybe he should find someone else to be an admin.  He offered to "strip me of my powers", which he didn't need to do because I left the group.  Actually, if I were him, I wouldn't bother finding another admin.  That group isn't active enough to require more than one.  I have a wine group that has almost twice as many people.

In other news...  Zane finally got his stitches out.  Unfortunately, he developed a seroma at one incision site.  It looks ugly.  I hope the swelling goes down soon.

It also looks like it's time to start shopping for a new car.  Our eleven year old SUV is starting to have mechanical problems.  Bill has been eyeing luxury SUVs for some time now, but we both enjoy not having car payments.  However, eleven years is a long time to have a car, right?  Maybe not for some people.  I think it may be time for an upgrade.  The bonus is, here in Europe, you can go to the factory and pick up your vehicle, right?  I think Bill would love to have a Volvo or a BMW.  We could turn either purchasing experience into an exciting vacation.  Although if Bill wants a Volvo, it might be best to get it before winter hits Sweden.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It's fun using the f word with friends and relatives...

I know I have mentioned it before, but I was raised not to swear.  For some reason, my father, despite being a career Air Force officer, was very much against cussing.  He rarely used profanity and he didn't like it when my mother would swear.  I can remember more than once getting smacked upside the head for using blue language in my dad's presence.  My dad didn't like to hear curse words, but never learned appropriate physical self-control.  Consequently, I can remember getting immediate physical negative reinforcement when I would let a so-called "bad word" slip from my lips.

All of the spankings, slapping, verbal chastisement, and corrections I used to get from my dad never amounted to a hill of shit.  I am now 45 years old and I cuss like a sailor.  I always have.  I don't know why I do it. Maybe it's a form of rebellion for me.  My dad passed away three years ago.  We were not on the best terms during his lifetime.  Although I remember adoring him as a little girl, as I grew up, there was a lot of friction.  He didn't like the way I looked.  He hated my laugh.  He thought I was rude, arrogant, and obnoxious.  He thought nothing of belittling me in front of other people, including Bill.  He once told me I would never make more than minimum wage.

More than once, my dad said I reminded him of Joan Rivers, a comedienne he never could stand.  He hated that I cursed.  I think it embarrassed him, but then, there were a lot of things about me that he seemed to find embarrassing.  My dad seemed to think I should turn into a genteel, obedient, soft spoken Southern lady.  He hated that I was so outspoken and loud.  I think he also hated that I didn't take his abuse without complaint, although a part of him probably felt some pride that I fought back.  He did tell me on more than one occasion that I'm a survivor.  He was right about that.

Yesterday, I wrote about how Bill and I were "triggered" by each other.  After Saturday night's mini drama, I was determined that yesterday would be better.  For the most part, it was.  We had a good talk, went out to lunch, and visited a spa, where we enjoyed a swim, sat in a couple of saunas, and hung out with a lot of naked Germans.  Although it's strange to be naked in front of strangers, once the initial weirdness wears off,  it's surprisingly liberating.  In all seriousness, I probably could get used to living in a nudist colony, even though I've never had the best body image.  As Bill and I were soaking in the nude among a bunch of German strangers, I asked him if he would ever wear a Speedo.  He said he wouldn't.  That's funny, isn't it?  Bill would willingly get naked in front of strangers, but he wouldn't wear a Speedo.  

We came home, both feeling great, and I posted "Bill and I should get naked with Germans more often."  Not surprisingly, a few people made comments, including the same guy who instigated the triggering incident Bill and I experienced Saturday night.  He has since deleted his comment, but he wrote "I'm glad I ate an hour ago."

I'm sure he was kidding, but lately those kinds of mean spirited insults are becoming a regular thing from him.  Since we're online, and I don't actually know the guy offline, I never know how seriously to take them.  Moreover, while I can take that kind of kidding in small doses, I don't find it funny and I don't actually enjoy engaging in cut down fights with other people.  Despite my salty tongue, I'm not a mean person and I don't enjoy insults.  So, instead of responding in kind, I wrote "What the hell is wrong with you?  Why are you picking on me?  Kindly fuck the hell off if you can't be nice."

A few minutes later, I got a comment from my aunt's brother, Ralph, who has known me most of my life and is partly responsible for helping to facilitate my first offline meeting with Bill.  I rarely hear from Ralph.  When he does comment, it's usually to express disapproval over my political leanings or use of swear words.  Last night, he chastised me for cursing.

Again, it's impossible to know if he was kidding or serious, since we were online.  Ralph was raised by a minister and grew up in rural Virginia.  His sister, my aunt Gayle, is probably one of my favorite people in the world, even if I haven't felt much a part of my family lately.  Ralph is also basically a great guy.  However, on Facebook, he doesn't act like a friend.  I'm really getting tired of men, especially conservative leaning ones, telling me what to do.  So I wrote this.

If it bothers you, you can always hit the fucking unfriend button. Spare yourself and me a lot of fucking grief. I am 45 years old and I will cuss if I fucking want to. Got it?

That comment spiraled into a surprisingly entertaining thread about cursing and how I think the concept of "bad words" is ridiculous.  Words are not good or bad.  They're neutral.  They only have as much meaning or impact as a person is willing to give them.  I have written about this many times on my blog, so I'm not going to rehash my theories.  If you're interested, you can search for my posts on swearing and/or bad words.  Today's post is less about that and more about how, for some reason, people in my family don't seem to know me very well... or care too much about me.

My friends know me and a lot of them even love me for the language I use.  I doubt any of them would ever say my vocabulary is limited.  A lot of them know me as someone who speaks the truth most of the time.  What you see is pretty much what you'll get.  It's funny, too, because I have heard that from a lot of people my whole life.  People have told me they like me because I'm "real" or "genuine".  Of course, a lot of people don't like me for the same reason.  They'd rather I be less forward about some things.

Anyway, Ralph did kind of back off a bit after making a cryptic comment that makes me wonder if he or his wife are having some health problems.  He even said that the thread was full of "deep thoughts all generated by bad words."  Maybe, if I were a more caring person, I might have asked him if he was doing alright...  Instead, I wrote this.

I don't know what the hell you're trying to say here, but I would appreciate it if you would let me be me. I'm not a bad person, nor am I stupid or in need of special guidance from my elders. I promise you that when I need to be articulate, I can be articulate. I don't even have to use what you refer to as "bad words". But I choose to swear sometimes and that is my right as a grown ass American. If it offends you, there are steps you can take to spare yourself the injury. I, for one, will fucking cuss as much and whenever I want to... especially on Facebook. Good night.

This morning, Bill and I were talking more about the exchange we had last night.  Bill said something along the lines of, "People in your family either don't care or don't seem to understand how you are 'triggered' by being chastised.  They don't understand your past and how it's turned you into who you are today."  Actually, I have a feeling most of my family members would roll their eyes at Bill's use of the word "triggered".  They have little use for it.  They're "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" types of people.

Bill is probably right about my family.  Most people in my family don't seem to know or understand why I haven't grown up to be more like them.  I think on some levels, I am definitely one of the family.  I share a lot of traits with people who are my kin.  For example, on my dad's side of the family, people tend to be kind of loud and funny.  Most everyone loves music and quite a few have a gift for making it.  I share those traits with my dad's people.

But... unlike a lot of my dad's people, I don't feel close to my immediate family.  I don't mind living thousands of miles away from my kinfolk.  I am not particularly religious, nor am I politically conservative.  I don't have kids to raise or a typical job.  I don't think America is the greatest country on Earth.  Although I married an Army man, we are not a stereotypical Army couple.  I don't fit in with a lot of the military spouses, either.

It's been a long time since I last felt "at home" when I was at home.  Sometimes I feel like I've evolved into someone foreign.  When I go to the old homestead, where Ralph's sister lives with my Uncle Brownlee, I don't feel like I belong there the way I used to.  The last time I visited, I walked into the house and, no lie, there were people there who seemed to be looking at me like I was a stranger to them.  To some of them, I probably am a stranger, since I live thousands of miles away and don't attend family reunions as often as I once did.   But even some of my cousins, aunts, and uncles didn't seem to know me very well.  It made me uncomfortable and now I'm not so inclined to go "home" anymore.  I feel like my home is wherever Bill is.

In 45 years on Earth, I have learned that I am who I am and it's a lot easier to be that person than to try to be someone I'm not.  I will never be the genteel, sweet, refined Southern lady my dad apparently hoped I would be.  I will never be tiny, demure, super feminine or ladylike.  There was a time when I really suffered because I wanted to be those things... I was pressured to be those things by my father and, to a lesser extent, my mother.  To her credit, my mom has mellowed out a lot.  I think it helps that she's seen that Bill and I are happy and being who I am hasn't hurt me.  In fact, a lot of people seem to enjoy who I am.  The ones who don't probably aren't worth the effort anyway.

Trying to be someone I'm not eventually led to depression and anxiety, along with years of flirtation with eating disorders.  It took years for me to move beyond those crippling and very damaging feelings of low self-worth.  I don't want to go back to those days.  In fact, I refuse to do it.

I'm 45 years old and and I am who I am.  Who I am is not a bad person.  Take it or leave it.  And if you don't like my use of the occasional four letter word, kindly fuck the hell off and leave me alone.