Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Awakened in the night...

My dog Arran has been causing a lot of drama lately.  A few days ago, he sneaked out of the house and went for a run on his own, prompting Bill to go hunting for him.  Fortunately, a neighbor took him in before he got into any trouble.

Then early this morning, at about 2:45am, Arran woke me up because he was licking himself and hitting me in the back.  I got up to pee and when I came back, he had moved to my spot of the bed and was starting to retch as if he was going to vomit.  There's nothing like the sound of a dog about to throw up to cause a person to spring into action.  Bill jumped out of bed as I turned on the light.

I urged Arran off the bed, which had freshly laundered sheets on it, and he puked on the floor.  Then, as I started cleaning up the mess, he let out a blood curdling scream and acted very disoriented.

This is not the first time Arran has done this, although it is the first time in over a year.  In late November 2016, he was sitting next to me on the couch, sleeping, when he woke up, screamed, puked, pooped on himself, and acted very disoriented for a few minutes.  The one he had this morning was a less severe version of the one he had in 2016.

Although these spells don't really look like full blown grand mal seizures, I'm pretty sure they are some kind of seizures.  But since he doesn't have them often and is completely normal afterwards, I haven't had him tested for any diseases.  He did have a full battery of blood tests a few months ago because he got a dental cleaning.  He was completely normal.

My other dog, Zane, stayed under the covers the whole time as Bill tended to Arran and I mopped up yet another puke stain on the carpet.  I need to get Zane in to the vet for an allergy shot, so maybe I'll bring Arran, too.  He's otherwise acting just like himself, though.  Some dogs have these idiopathic spells, I guess.  If it happens again anytime soon, I'll have the vet check him out more thoroughly.

Good thing he's so gorgeous and cute.

Zane and Arran a few years ago, when we were in North Carolina and they were less gray...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Joy Anna gives birth, Ensa Cosby dies, and Georgia's Lt. Gov. goes on the warpath...

After a few days of not much on my mind, I woke up to a trifecta of blog topics.  Fortunately, they aren't the kinds of topics that require lengthy posts.  I'm going to start with the latest Duggar news, because I know some of my readers are looking for that.

Apparently, Joy Anna Forsyth (nee Duggar) has given birth to her first child.  The ten pound three ounce boy was named Gideon Martyn Forsyth and he entered the world on February 23...  Or so that is the official story.  More than a few people have speculated that the baby was born prior to the 23rd.

Joy Anna, as you might have heard, has been the subject of nasty rumors that she and her husband, Austin, had premarital sex.  She allegedly got pregnant while they were honeymooning in Geneva, Switzerland.  Given that Joy is 20 years old and healthy, I suppose that's entirely possible.  On the other hand, she was awfully big early, especially for her first pregnancy.  Also, there's the fact that her wedding was suddenly rescheduled from October to May.

Personally, I don't really care too much if she and her husband fucked before they wed.  In fact, I'd say that's a pretty normal thing to do and perhaps even a sign that they haven't drunk too much fundie Kool-Aid.  It looks like they have a beautiful, healthy son with a somewhat normal name.  I'd say that puts them ahead of a lot of people, myself included.

Many congratulations to the happy couple, even though it was pointed out on Pickles' dynamite Duggar Facebook page that Joy looks like she could use a glass of wine... and she's not yet legally old enough to drink wine.  If she really did have a ten pound three ounce baby, more power to her.  I've never given birth myself, but the idea of that makes me wince.

Moving on...

This morning, Zane woke me up with one of his plaintive whines to go outside.  The first thing I saw when I checked my tablet is that Ensa Cosby, Bill Cosby's 44 year old daughter, just died of chronic kidney disease.  Although I can't be sure, I think she may have been the inspiration for Vanessa Huxtable, who was played by Tempestt Bledsoe, also aged 44.  I always related to Vanessa on The Cosby Show because she was my age and kind of a smart ass.

This would be Cosby's second child to die.  His son, Ennis, was murdered in a botched carjacking back in 1997.

Although there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Bill Cosby and his alleged penchant for drugging and raping young women, I never got the impression that he didn't cherish his children.  I'm truly sorry for his and his family's loss.  Ensa was a mother of one and much too young to die.

And finally...

I just read that Georgia's Lieutenant Governor, Casey Cagle (R), has threatened Delta Airlines, which recently cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA).  Cagle tweeted:

This seems rather "un-Republican" to me.  I thought they were against meddling in private business ventures...

I really never had much of an opinion one way or another about the NRA, at least not until recently.  With the most recent school shooting, I'm starting to think that organization is full of a bunch of thugs.  I also read how the NRA has sent letters to Wisconsin judicial candidates, demanding to know where they stand on gun control.  Choosing not to answer the NRA's demand means the candidates would get a "?" rating, which could be interpreted that the candidate is hostile to Second Amendment issues.

I get that the NRA is full of lobbyists and a lot of people's livelihoods are at stake, but the United States has a real problem with guns these days.  I think the NRA needs to be reined in for the sake of US citizens.  

In any case, it appears that Republicans, despite having extreme political power right now, are pretty desperate.  November is coming and people are PISSED.  I predict the next election could be very exciting.  We might see an extreme shift in power, which is probably why the NRA and people like Casey Cagle are so "up in arms" about protecting gun rights.

I realize that the Second Amendment was very important when it was added to the Bill of Rights.  In those days, though, our country and our government were both a whole lot smaller.  Guns, in those days, were not capable of killing dozens of people within minutes.  We didn't have dozens of children being murdered by crazed white male lunatics running amok with semi-automatic weapons.

Isn't it time our government actually worked toward making life better for all citizens?  I'm pretty sick and tired of these paid off flunkies in government being more focused on money than protecting the people.  Children should not have to fear for their lives simply because they go to school.  Something needs to be done.

As for Cagle, he sounds like a first class idiot, trying to force Delta to change its position.  Perhaps Delta's response will be to move its hub from Atlanta to another airport more in line with the company's vision.  Atlanta will still be a busy airport, but if Delta moves, so will a whole lot of jobs.

Honorable mention... 

Our fuckheaded president claims that given the opportunity, he would have confronted Nikolas Cruz, the Florida school shooting suspect, even unarmed.  This, coming from a man whose bone spurs prevented him from joining the military during the Vietnam era...  I only wish he would have been there and sacrificed himself.

What an asshole.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Runaway Arran...

We had some excitement yesterday after our fabulous day in the Black Forest.  The front door to our house doesn't close properly on its own.  If you aren't careful to close it securely, it will come ajar without your knowledge.  Yesterday, when we got home from our day trip to Wolfach, Arran discovered the door that Bill neglected to close.  He slipped out without either of us knowing.

There's no telling how long the door was open before Arran escaped.  He had been playing with his toys just a little while before Bill discovered he was gone.

I was in the shower when Arran went on the lam.  My hair was soaking wet, so Bill went out on his own to look for our wayward hound.  Since he didn't see Arran run out, he didn't know which way to go.  He started down to the area where we usually walk the dogs and ran into some people who know us and our dogs.  There's a beagle who lives in our neighborhood named Oskar and he's friends with Zane and Arran.  Oskar's people saw Arran run by, so they pointed Bill in the right direction.  Then, an older guy with a van and a large border collie actually picked Bill up and drove him in the direction Arran went.

It turned out Arran basically ran a big loop.  He took himself on a high speed version of one of our walks and he'd actually gotten very close to home when a neighbor coaxed him into her house.  She was standing outside waiting when Bill arrived, courtesy of the guy with the van.  He collected Arran and brought him back home, maybe 30 minutes after he'd first gotten out.  Arran was very excited when he got home and was jumping around.  He almost got Zane playing with him.

It's not like Arran to run off.  When he's escaped, he's always been easy to catch.  He doesn't usually go far or run away from home.  Usually, Zane's the one who freaks us out when he escapes.  However, Zane is not as fast as Arran is, and he gets easily distracted by smells.  Also, Zane usually stays within eyeshot of us and will follow us if we start walking the other direction.  What made yesterday so scary is that we didn't see Arran escape and didn't see which way he went.  He apparently bolted anyway.

I am very grateful to our neighbors for helping us corral him and keeping him safe.  The last time this happened in Texas, I asked a neighbor to grab Zane's collar and the guy just walked away.  Here, they were bending over to assist, which is very refreshing.  We live in a friendly neighborhood.  Not every neighborhood is as dog friendly as ours is, but I think Germans, as a whole, are more community minded than Americans are.  Of course, it probably depends on the area.

Anyway, Arran is fine.  He slept on the futon last night instead of between Bill and me.  He's also been snuggling up to us, though, as if to say he's sorry for running off.  

He's very proud of himself after his daring escape...

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Nothing on my mind...

It's another beautiful Sunday here in southern Germany and I'm sitting here with nothing on my mind.  I had another one of my vivid dreams this morning.  It involved my being back in college, still young and faced with my entire life ahead of me.  My college has actually changed a lot since I graduated in 1994.

For instance, one of the streets I used to drive down is now part of a green space.  They tore down the building I lived in for my junior and senior years.  The building I lived in for my sophomore year is now full of offices.  Only my freshman year dorms (I lived in one for a week before moving) still function in that capacity.  They even changed the name of the school.  When I went there, it was Longwood College.  Now it's Longwood University.

There's been a whole lot of building at Longwood.  It's so much that I might not even recognize it as the place I spent four of my most formative years.  I still have dreams about the place, though, even though I don't think I've set foot on campus since 2002 or so.

This morning, I dreamt I went back there... or was still a student there.  I was involved in some kind of trip that involved flying from Farmville, Virginia to Spain, Dubai, then on to Hawaii.  I think it was for Cameratas, which was the auditioned choir I was in when I was in college.  It had the feel of one of those trips.

I was just about to hop on the plane and make my way across the pond when my dog, Zane, woke me up.  The sun was up and shining and he was ready for breakfast.  So I don't know how the dream ended, although I remember being bewildered by all the changes to that once familiar campus.  Once again, I see how long ago that was and how old I am.  Life is fleeting.

Maybe I'll be back later when I have something on my mind...

For now, here's a song by Too Much Joy that I used to play when I was a college DJ at Longwood. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

"Blahger" envy... or, it must have been cold there in my shadow...

I run a Facebook group for local wine and food lovers.  I started it a couple of years ago when I realized that our community has groups for almost everything but wine and food.  It's grown a lot.  At this writing, I have 598 members.  Most of them never post anything, but they're still in the group, right?

Until a few days ago, I had 604 members.  A few people dropped out.  I don't know why they left the group.  I generally don't trouble myself wondering, since most of the people in that group aren't necessarily my friends.

I recently had to remove a couple of people from the group.  One of my rules is that if someone blocks me or I block them, they can't be in my group.  I don't think it's an unreasonable rule, since I am the only admin.  I could add another admin, but that group doesn't generate enough traffic for that.  Basically, all the job consists of is adding members and very occasionally enforcing the rules.  Besides, I don't need the drama of collaboration with someone who has a different vision than I do.

Yesterday, when a few people dropped out over the course of the day, I decided to check for people blocking me.  I noticed two people's names coming up in black.  I think one person may have deactivated her account.  The other one definitely had me blocked.

I realize that not everyone likes what I do.  A lot of people don't like me, period.  They have their reasons for not liking me.  They may even be very good reasons, for all I know.  God knows, there are also people on Facebook that I don't like.  Plenty of people I've never even met can annoy the piss out of me on social media.  I even get annoyed by people who are offline friends and family members.  Some have pissed me off to the point at which I hit the block button.

The person who blocked me is not someone I ever had any dealings with, although I did notice a couple years ago that she agreed with a guy who openly insulted me and my blog in one of our local Facebook groups.  I remembered her name because it's an unusual moniker.  Two years later, I still haven't met her in person or engaged her on social media.  She joined my wine group, though.  And I guess she got pissed off about something I posted in there, because she hit her block button.  So I hit the "remove member" button.

It's not really a big loss that she's gone.  She never contributed anything anyway.  I was just curious about why she dislikes me so much that she blocked me.  My guess is that she finds "blahgers" annoying.  I did a cursory search of her on Google and discovered that she's quite the Instagram user.  Based on her posts, I'm thinking she may be thinking of me and perhaps other blahgers as her competitors.  It could be that just seeing links to my posts, which she could simply scroll past, raises her blood pressure.  Either that, or she just thinks I'm an asshole.  She wouldn't be the first person to think that.

She hates me...

I'm going to be very honest.  While I certainly don't begrudge anyone's right to write blogs, I can understand how people feel competitive in English speaking expat communities like the one we have in Stuttgart.   I try not to compete with other bloggers and, while I know I sometimes fail, I try not to be annoying about sharing my posts.  However, I would be lying if I didn't feel a twinge of envy sometimes when other people steal my thunder.  ;-)  I can admit to also being annoyed when another blogger asks me about something, uses my suggestion, and doesn't even give me a shout out.  That did happen a couple of years ago, though that blogger has since moved on.  She referred to me as "another blogger".  Gee, thanks!

Everything About You...  

I got curious about blogger envy, so I did a quick Google search and found that it's a common problem in social media circles.  Quite a few bloggers have written about feeling jealous of other bloggers or Instagram users.  The truth is, people who blog for money or attention are very possessive of their followers.  They're also jealous of other people's followers.

This is just one page of Google search results about "blogger envy"...  Clearly, it's a common issue among writers.

I don't actually pay a lot of attention to most other bloggers.  Every once in awhile, I find one that I enjoy and I follow regularly.  I read Alexis's blog pretty regularly, for instance.  But, for the most part, I don't read other people's stuff.  I figure not much good can come from it.  I'm actually surprised people read my blogs.  I mean, I guess I understand why certain people read the travel blog, since it offers ideas on places to go and things to do.  But this blog, which I think is the more interesting one, attracts readers for all sorts of reasons.  My music blog mostly only attracts people wanting to read about The Carpenters, especially Mindi Carpenter.  I guess Karen and Richard still have a devoted following, even though Karen died 35 years ago.

I realize my theory about this person may be wrong.  She may just be the type of person who gets easily annoyed by other people simply because they're living.  Or maybe I said or did something that upset her somehow and she just couldn't take it anymore.  However, looking at her Instagram and how many selfies are on it, my money is on her feeling a twinge of envy... not because I'm any more successful than she is, but because she resents that I exist and post stuff that "steals" attention she could be getting from our community.      

"She'll do anything to make me feel like an asshole."

Anyway, I hope she enjoys success in her future endeavors... and stays out of my shadow.  ;-)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Artistic personalities... a look back at my first English professor and his ilk

Because I'm tired of writing about politics and mean-spirited people who send me hate mail, I've decided this morning's post will be about one of my old professors at Longwood.  He was an interesting character and I loved his class, although his methods were very unorthodox.  I'm not sure, but I don't think he got a lot of love from the other English professors.  It's probably because he was a very eccentric man... or at least that's how he seemed to me.

Last night, I looked up Otis Douglas III.  There isn't a whole lot about him online.  I never knew how old he was, but when I knew him, he had a rather rumpled look, with wild white hair and old sweaters.  Some might think of him as an "absent minded professor", although I never really thought of him in that way.  I figured he was well-seasoned by the time I met him in 1990.  He'd been teaching at Longwood for almost as long as I'd been alive.

The class I took from him was called Rhetoric and Research, otherwise known as English 100.  It was a basic class that almost all freshman took upon arrival at Longwood.  It was supposed to help us learn how to write.

A short blurb about my former English teacher from a 1974 issue of The Rotunda...  If any of my classmates are reading this, I highly recommend checking out the whole paper.  It's a hoot!  Especially the letters to the editor!

As I was researching Mr. Douglas, I learned that his family was from Reedville, which is a town not too far from where I grew up.  I've only been to Reedville once.  It was in 1998, when a friend and I caught a ferry there.  She was working for a bike tour company, scouting out places to do new tours.  Since she was visiting my neck of the woods, she and I got together and spent the day driving around the Northern Neck of Virginia.  We stopped in Urbana and Irvington, then went to Reedville with bikes, which we brought to Tangier Island.  

Tangier Island is a tiny, fascinating place in the Chesapeake Bay.  It's accessible from Reedville, Virginia, Onancock, Virginia, and Crisfield, Maryland.  Unfortunately, environmental concerns now threaten Tangier Island's existence.  I'm sure there were concerns in 1998, too.  Beach erosion and serious storms are big problems for the little island.  I'm just glad I got to see it twenty years ago.  It's a very interesting place populated by just a few families who have been there for generations.

Mr. Douglas's roots were apparently near the water, not far from Tangier Island.  I found evidence that he has many kinfolk from Reedville and the Northern Neck, and ties to the College of William and Mary.  I also noticed that there was a United States Navy minesweeper known as the U.S.S. Otis W. Douglas.  She was purchased from the Douglas Company of Reedville, Virginia in 1917 for use in World War I.  Sadly, after serving in Brest, France until 1919, she encountered storms on the way back to the United States and sank.  I'm not sure, but it appears that the Douglas family of Reedville might be linked to McDonnell-Douglas, the company that makes airplanes.  At least the Wikipedia article about the ship implies that maybe it does.  Reedville is not a big place, so I can't imagine there were many other Douglas families there in the early 20th century.  

I grew up near the water, in fact in a county not far from the Northern Neck, but my family comes from Virginia's mountains and valleys.  I found out that Mr. Douglas's father was kind of a famous man.  Mr. Douglas is the son of Otis Douglas Jr., a very well-regarded football player and coach who once played for the Philadelphia Eagles.  I don't have to read too much about Mr. Douglas's father to know who he is.  The photo of Otis Douglas Jr., included in his New York Times obituary, reveals that his son bears a striking resemblance.  In fact, when I looked at Otis Douglas Jr.'s picture, I was momentarily stunned by how much he looked like a cleaner cut version of his son.  

I learned in an obituary about Mr. Douglas's sister, Eleanor, that their family moved a lot, due to their father's career in sports.  They lived in twenty-six states and Canada.  Mr. Douglas never mentioned any of this in class.  Much like my former philosophy professor, Dr. John Peale (son of Norman Vincent Peale), he kept it quiet.  Instead, he engaged us with stories about how to publish articles and talked about how difficult writing well is. 

My very first English professor at Longwood was very intent on teaching his students how to gamble.  I remember Douglas telling us that writing well is one of the hardest things a person can do.  He taught us that it takes many drafts to get something just right.  He wanted us to write many drafts of papers about rather mundane subjects.  Our class consisted of nothing but keeping a portfolio with assignments that I recall seemed either bizarre or tedious.

Mr. Douglas didn't have us write essays.   He'd have us write directions to locations.  We had to pay close attention to specific details as we wrote our directions.  I found the process pretty boring, although I enjoyed Mr. Douglas's offbeat teaching style.  He wasn't like any of my other professors.  He would tell us stories sometimes, but mostly, he talking about playing games of chance, like Blackjack. 

He even had us learn the basics of shooting craps.  I had never shot craps before I met Mr. Douglas, and I haven't in the 27 years since I was a student in his class.  I don't gamble.  But Mr. Douglas taught us the basics of the game, and as he taught us, he had us write about how to shoot craps.  It was bizarre and I'll never forget it, because it was so unconventional.

I also remember the one final paper I wrote for that class.  I really don't know where my wild streak comes when it comes to writing things down, but for some reason I decided to write a paper about sadomasochism.  I titled it "The Chains of Love".  I think I was inspired because I was reading a lot of Nancy Friday's books at the time.  

The late Nancy Friday was famous in the 1970s for writing My Secret Garden, which is a book about women's sexual fantasies.  It was shocking and groundbreaking at the time.  I think it was published in 1972 or thereabouts, right around the time I was born.  In those days, people evidently didn't talk frankly about sex, but it was obviously a topic of interest.  Nancy Friday went on to write several other very successful books about sexual fantasies, most of which I read when I was in high school and college.  Because there's a provocative side to my personality, I guess I decided to write about them in Mr. Douglas's class.  He must have liked my paper, because I got an A in the class.  I had been told by an older hall mate that Mr. Douglas didn't give out As.  Obviously, she was wrong about that.

Incidentally, I was a piss poor English major.  I mostly got Bs and Cs in my major, except for classes that focused on creative writing.  I also got an A in a non-fiction writing class.  That class was taught by a similarly eccentric professor named Mr. Woods, who would never correct anyone who called him "Dr. Woods" by mistake.  Mr. Woods could be spotted riding his bike around campus.  I had him for two classes.  One class mostly involved him talking about Madonna's Sex book, which had just been published and was causing a scandal.  He also talked about the Price Club a lot.  I got an A in his class because I wrote about being flashed while riding on a bus on I-95.  I'm sure I've written about this incident before, but since I'm in a stream of consciousness mood, I'm going to write about it again.

It was during my junior year spring break at Longwood and I had gone on spring tour with the Camerata Singers, which was the auditioned choir.  We went on a recruiting tour every spring break that generally culminated in New York City.  We'd perform at churches and schools, then take in a Broadway show.  

The choir was usually pretty exhausted by the end of the spring tours.  Such was the case in 1993, as we headed south toward our college.  I was looking out the window, daydreaming.  Some guy in a bright yellow car pulled up alongside the bus.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  I looked away.  He dropped out of sight.  When I turned to look out the window again, there he was.  But he'd pulled out his penis and it was kind of flopping there as he drove alongside the bus, flashing everyone who happened to be looking out the window.

Naturally, I let out a yell of surprise, which woke everyone up.  I think more than a few people were traumatized by that guy, getting his jollies exposing himself while speeding down Interstate 95.

I figured I might as well get some traction from being flashed, so I wrote about it and actually drew a crude picture of what I saw.  Mr. Woods was apparently impressed.  He wrote, "Oh my God!  Is that what I think it is!"  And yes, the paper got an A.

Mr. Woods was often compared to Mr. Douglas.  The two of them were kind of outliers in Longwood's English department back in the 90s.  They were affectionately regarded by students, especially those who were kind of slack.  I'm not sure they were as well-regarded by other professors.   I remember being at a department social and mentioning to one professor-- one I never had, though she had quite a reputation-- that I liked Mr. Douglas's class.  I noticed a flash of kind of a disgusted look on her face.  Then, she diplomatically said, "Well, he has what you'd call an artistic personality."  

Maybe that's what's "wrong" with me, too.  My whole life, I've been annoying, bewildering, shocking and offending some people, while apparently delighting others.  My husband seems to adore me, even if my parents never really did.  I never had a lot of really close friends or even too many close family members.  Some people I thought were "close", actually weren't.  And yet, here I am, married to the nicest guy ever who loves my inappropriate sense of humor and love of shock value.  On the other hand, maybe my experience is everyone's experience.  Maybe everyone feels like they're "weird" and eccentric.  I may have to think some more about that today as I wait for the weekend to begin.  

I am sitting here realizing that I have a lot of time on my hands, time that I'm using to look up people I used to know, learning their histories.  I hadn't thought of Mr. Douglas in a very long time, but it appears that he has a very interesting story.  I love it when I make these discoveries and uncover cool stories.  It feels kind of like striking gold.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My right wing dream...

I guess last night's drama affected me more than I initially realized.  This morning, as I was waking up, I had a very strange dream.

For some reason, I was married to Derick Dillard, husband of Jill Duggar Dillard.  We had a rather comfortable home.  I was playing jazz and he was talking about going to visit his other wife, Jill.  Yes, that's right.  In my dream, Derick Dillard was a bigamist.

We also had plans to go to Thanksgiving dinner at a former Facebook friend's house.  I don't know why she entered the dream.  I've never met her and unfriended her years ago, mainly due to the fact that she's extremely conservative, opinionated, and obnoxious and thinks nothing of belittling people who disagree with her.  While she was never overtly rude to me, I got tired of reading her mean comments to other people and her very provocative right wing posts.  The only thing she was good for was when I used to play Zynga games.  She was a "good neighbor".  Other than that, we had nothing in common.  I don't know why Derick Dillard and I would be eating Thanksgiving dinner with her.  In fact, I don't know why I would even dream he's my husband.  He's not my type at all.

While Derick and I were discussing our holiday plans, Jessa Duggar Seewald came over and helped herself to a large plate of food.  She had a cup of pineapple juice, too.  While I like pineapples, I don't like the juice.  It's too sweet.  It's not something I would have in the house unless Bill was planning a special recipe of some sort.  I guess I played too much Cooking Dash yesterday.  The restaurant I'm working on is a beverages based one and involves making complicated bar drinks.  Apparently, Jessa came over for dinner because I played better music than her parents do.  Also, in my dream, I think she was pregnant.

This is the restaurant I'm playing now.  I must have overdosed yesterday.

I'm pretty sure this dream came about as a combination of reading too much about the Duggars, playing too much Cooking Dash, and being called a fat, murderous CUNT by some pro-life freak who reads the Army Times.  With people like that in the world, is it any wonder I support a woman's right to choose?

I know I shouldn't take those kinds of comments to heart.  I guess the truth is, I don't care that that specific person called me a filthy name.  It's not like he knows me, right?  I guess what is more distressing to me is the complete lack of empathy some people have for others.  The men who were calling women who have had abortions "murderers" had absolutely no compassion for whatever problems put those women in that position.  And that disgusting pig who PM'd me has no idea what kind of person I am and doesn't know that I have a heart.  Maybe I don't have a heart for developing embryos, but I do for scared young women with no money, no moral support, and no hope.

What's more, it really scares me that there are men out there who are more concerned about keeping women pregnant and under their control than they are about helping those women who are already living in the world and struggling.  I really don't think anyone cheers about having abortions.  Some people are more blase about them than others are, but it's not exactly a procedure that people get for fun.  And it seems to me that most of the men who are against abortion are men that are also pro-guns and anti-social justice.  Fortunately, most of the men who are against abortion are also people I wouldn't want to fuck in the first place.  Special thanks to George Carlin for that last joke.

Well, I guess I'll go do something to take my mind off of the shitheads of the world whose mothers didn't choose abortion and inflicted their meanness on other people.  Sometimes, I wish my mother had... because then I wouldn't have to be exposed to hateful people with no self-control.  Hopefully, my next post will be about something more fun.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dissecting "hate mail"...

Warning: this post contains language that is rawer than usual.  Proceed with caution.

A few days ago, I read a news article on the Army Times about a woman who left her newborn infant out in the cold.  The baby girl, whose mother called her Parker, later died.  Her mother was arrested and charged with murder, which was eventually reduced to a conviction of manslaughter.  She was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Posting this photo because the other photo in this post includes objectionable language.

A man decided the comment section would be a good place to spout off his anti-abortion beliefs. Several women piped up, including yours truly.  My first comment was "What the hell does this have to do with abortion?"  Basically, the guy had said that if the mom had aborted her fetus, we'd all be applauding her choice.  But to me, there's a world of difference between abortion and murder.

I was going to just leave it at that, but several more men chimed in about how abortion is akin to murder.  They had awful things to say about the women who choose abortion.  I started thinking about all of my friends, single moms, who don't get any support from the fathers of their children.  I thought about my friends who have struggled through the physical, emotional, and financial demands of pregnancy.  I thought about the women who died during childbirth or were even artificially kept alive after having collapsed from a medical condition while pregnant, basically being used as a vessel and referred to as a "host".  I thought of all the girls-- still children-- who get pregnant due to rape or incest and are forced to give birth even though they were barely out of babyhood themselves.  It pissed me off.

So I responded that I don't think men should have a right to an opinion about abortion, since it doesn't directly affect them.  That's pretty much all I wrote, although I will admit to referring to "pro-life drivel", because that's pretty much what it is.  I simply don't believe men have any right dictating that women must remain pregnant on their say so.  Especially since so few of them really care that much about supporting women or babies or even social programs that would help them get by if their partners don't stick around.  A woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock might be called all kinds of insulting names with people making terrible assumptions about her character.  If she decides she wants to have an abortion, for whatever reason, some people will try to shame or bully her, but they won't offer her any help, other than to suggest giving the baby up for adoption.  And it's not their health or life on the line, is it?

I think it's very offensive to compare abortion to the murder of a person who has already been born.  If any of those guys had the opportunity to either save a child or a petri dish full of embryos, they would likely choose the child, right?  The embryos have the potential to become a living person, if the right conditions are met.  The child has already survived birth and therefore has personhood.  An embryo doesn't have personhood; it has the potential for personhood.  It doesn't seem right to me to consider an embryo's rights over its mother's, especially when we can't even offer mothers affordable, accessible medical care.

Anyway, I made that post a few days ago and had pretty much forgotten about it until someone asked me to PM them some information about apartments Bill and I found in France.  I took a look at my filtered messages and found this:

Poor Jason.  He can't handle a woman with opinions.  Maybe I should have sent him a thumbs up to make him feel better?

Now let's dissect this message.  I don't know Jason and Jason doesn't know me.  I did not specifically call him out in my comments.  I did say that I don't really care about the opinions of men who want to force women to be pregnant, since they aren't the ones who will be dealing with the consequences of pregnancy.  But I didn't directly insult Jason, nor did I invite him to "die", publicly or privately.

He called me a "fat murderous cunt", with the word "cunt" all in capital letters.  He didn't call me ugly.  He didn't call me stupid.  He called me fat.  For the record, it doesn't bother me that he called me fat, since I am  admittedly pretty fat.  However, I don't think he could necessarily tell that by my profile picture.  He probably only wrote it because there's a false perception among men that that's currently the worst thing you can say to a woman.  Personally, I think a person can be both fat and beautiful, but then I'm open-minded like that.

I don't think I'm a cunt, though, and I'm certainly not murderous.  I have never killed anyone, nor have I ever had an abortion.  I probably wouldn't choose to have one, even if I managed to get pregnant at the ripe age of 45.  I would probably only consider abortion if the fetus I was carrying had severe medical problems that would make giving birth crueler than having an abortion.  Oh... and it's likely I would abort a fetus that was conceived due to rape, even though I recognize that it wouldn't be the fetus's fault.  But even in that circumstance, I couldn't say I would definitely have an abortion.  It would depend on how I felt.

I do think it's odd that someone who is apparently pro-life would invite me to "go die".  What does he mean by that?  Does he want me to commit suicide?  It seems counterintuitive for a pro-life person to tell someone to "go die".  If you feel so strongly about protecting the unborn, why wouldn't you feel similarly about those who managed to be born?  Do these men have some sort of pregnancy fetish?  Do they like unborn fetuses because they can't express opinions?  Why are these men more invested in the lives of the unborn than they are people who have been born?  And... here's another question.  How many special needs babies have Jason and his ilk adopted?  How many needy pregnant women have they supported?  Do they vote for politicians who support the needs of women and children, so that choosing life over abortion would be more feasible for them?

Immediately calling a woman you don't know a "fat cunt" says a whole about your attitude toward women.  Why would I want to bring an innocent baby into a world where so many men feel free to use such filthy, misogynistic language toward women they don't even know?  Why would I even want a man like Jason within a hundred feet of an innocent baby?  He clearly doesn't recognize that I was once myself someone's unborn baby.  Would he have defended the unborn me, even though he apparently wants the born me to "go die"?  Jason may not like my opinions about abortion, but that doesn't give him the right to try to debase me with abusive language.  

I am tired of reading outraged comments from men about abortion.  Men do not have to face abortion.  They don't have to face pregnancy or any of the major life upheavals that can come from pregnancy.  Therefore, in my view, when it comes to abortions, they shouldn't have a vote.  Now, once the baby is born, then hell yes-- they have equal rights.  But until that fetus turns into a live baby outside of the womb, then no.  It's not their body.  It's not their health.  It's not their business.  If stating that makes me a fat murderous CUNT, so be it.

Would Jason really like it if I did "go die"?  How would he know?  He wouldn't, because we don't know each other, just like he doesn't know the vast majority of women who are contemplating having abortions.  It's none of his business, just like my life or death is none of his business.  I'm puzzled as to why my comments inflamed him so much that he felt compelled to swear at me in a private message using the most vulgar term possible.  Did it make him feel better to do that?  Especially since it took me three days to find it?  Does he want the world to be full of pro-life people who continually reproduce?  Does he just want meek, submissive, docile women to populate the world with more people who will never have all they need?  

He probably says the same thing to all the women who turn down his advances, and I'll bet more than a few of them have.  He seems to have the personality of a pissed off rattlesnake, which probably affects his love life.  His mommy obviously never taught him to respect women, which in turn, probably means that he doesn't get the chance to spread his seed very often.  He's just a pathetic example of a man.  I'm glad I have Bill around to remind me that there are real men out there who can handle and even love a fat murderous cunt like me.    

Florida lawmakers tossing off about porn...

It's been a week since America's latest mass shooting that sent seventeen people to premature graves.  You'd think lawmakers, tasked with making laws that benefit society, would be working on legislation that fixes our gun violence problems.  Since the latest mass shooting took place in Florida, you'd think Florida lawmakers would be especially on the ball about this.  But no... it seems that banishing porn has taken priority over making sure more youngsters don't get killed at their schools.

This morning, I read that the Florida House has declared pornography a "health risk".  Yes, indeed.  The Florida House of Representatives has approved the resolution by a voice vote.  Gee... I feel safer now, knowing that the porn industry is a menace to my health.  I'm sure that will be a comfort the next time some angry young man gets pissed off and decides to open fire on a public building.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not that I don't see potential problems when a person views too much porn.  Yes, there are issues with the industry itself, with young women being exploited and the promotion of violence and sexual deviance in some situations.  I do know that some people, males especially, get hooked on porn and spend too much time and money on it.  However, like anything else, porn can be used in moderation to no ill effect.  I haven't heard of anyone having to bury their child due to a sudden violent porn attack, either.

I'm just very puzzled as to why this resolution was a priority in the Florida House yesterday.  Why are they talking about guys jerking off to videos when they should be talking about stopping people like Nikolas Cruz from killing kids?  I understand a similar resolution will be brought up in the Senate.  Really?  This is what they're focusing on?

I think we have some pretty whacked out priorities in the United States, anyway.  Just this morning, I watched this video about a thirteen year old kid who tries to buy beer, cigarettes, a porn mag, and a lottery ticket.  Each time he tried, he was turned away by the cashier.  But when he goes to a gun sale, he has no problem buying a .22 caliber rifle.  He hands over the cash and the seller hands over the weapon, no questions asked.  He doesn't have to prove that he knows how to use the rifle or that he's mentally sound.  He doesn't have to answer questions about where he intends to use the weapon.  All that matters is that he has the money to buy the gun.

This video is now four years old...  We haven't learned anything from it.

It seems to me that a person who is distracted by porn may be less likely to reach for a weapon.  If your hands are busy jerking off, you'll be too occupied to kill people with them.  I know that's a simplistic comment, but isn't it true?  Sex is a stress reliever and it's very healthy.  Maybe the porn industry isn't healthy in terms of how it's made and distributed.  But I am far more concerned about young people having access to powerful weapons than I am about people looking at porn.

I see that the Florida House has also rejected considering a ban on assault weapons.  The bill in question, HB219, has been stalled for months in a House subcommittee.  In the wake of last week's horrific school shooting, Democrats used an unusual procedure to move the proposal to the floor.  And now, a week after a 19 year old killed seventeen innocent people, some of whom hadn't even finished puberty, Republicans very decisively voted down the measure.

Indeed, it wasn't even the latest shooting that brought about the creation of this bill.  HB219 was sponsored by Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando who personally knew some of the people who died in the Pulse nightclub massacre back in June of 2016.  49 people died that day.  58 people were wounded.  They were shot by Omar Mateen, a 29 year old security guard, who was armed with a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol.

But apparently, porn is a bigger and more urgent health issue than access to semi-automatic weapons is.  Florida, and the United States in general, has some pretty fucked up priorities if you ask me.  Although many Republicans really only care about making money, a lot of them like to crow about their love of family values and Christianity.  I have many relatives who are devout Christians and vote Republican.  They are proud of those Ten Commandments.  And yet, they continue to vote against the Ten Commandments.

I think that most Republicans can't really be Christians.  Not only are they apparently all in favor of anyone having the right to own a gun and no one having the right to an abortion or to watch porn, they also want to cut off energy assistance for elderly, sick, and poor people.  This is in addition to wanting to send them shelf stable food instead of letting them use an EBT card to choose their own food.

Let's face it.  There's nothing Christian about these ideas for America.  Jesus was not about denying help to the poor and sick.  Jesus was not about allowing violence in night clubs or schools or at concert venues.  Everything I ever learned about Jesus Christ was about being kind, humble, empathetic, and generous.  Did I simply go to the wrong church?  The mind boggles.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Going places...

I've finished my latest travel blog series, Cheap Thrills in the Czech Republic.  To be honest, I'm not sure why I write these blogs.  I guess they're mostly for me to look at down the road, when I'm no longer living this lifestyle.  I'm sure there will come a day when this nomadic lifestyle will be in the past.  I've always enjoyed telling and writing stories.  Some people enjoy reading them.  Most others don't really care.  I keep writing anyway, since otherwise how will I make my mark on the world?

Like a lot of people over the weekend, I've been paying attention to the news.  I happened to hear Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, speak to the public about the shootings that took place at her school.  I was amazed on so many levels listening to Ms. Gonzalez.  She's so bright and articulate and her voice expressed the fear, frustration, and anger that so many young people must be experiencing right now.  It's hard enough to navigate youth without worrying whether or not you're going to be killed while studying at your school.

Emma Gonzalez is going places... if she survives.

I remember what it was like to be eighteen.  It was a time of excitement and hope, but also fear.  I wondered if I would be accepted to college, since I had aimed high.  I applied to four schools and only got into one; fortunately, that turned out to be a great place for me to go to school.  I ended up loving my experiences at Longwood.  I would even say going there changed my life in a profound way.  It was like I was meant to go there.

Longwood always seemed like such a safe place.  It was in Farmville, Virginia and the name of the town described the place's mood to a tee.  I never would have expected anything violent to happen there.  Certainly nothing like that ever happened when I was a student there in the early 90s.

And yet, in September 2009, Farmville was the site of a quadruple homicide perpetrated by one Sam McCroskey, a young man from California who'd had an online relationship with Emma Niederbrock, the teenaged daughter of Dr. Debra Kelley and her ex husband, Mark Niederbrock.  McCroskey had come to Farmville to accompany Niederbrock, her mother, and a friend, Melanie Wells, to a "horrorcore" music festival in Michigan.  After the festival, they'd come back to Virginia and McCroskey attacked them with a maul.  When Mark Niederbrock later came to Kelley's house, McCroskey attacked him with a maul, too.  All four were bludgeoned to death at the hands of this guy, who now sits in a supermax prison in Virginia, far from his home in California.

I remember being profoundly blown away by the violence of this crime, perpetrated by a nineteen year old who could have been mistaken for my husband at that age.  And yet, it's just one of many violent crimes by angry, mentally ill, dangerous young men.  It's getting to the point at which I can't remember a time when something like a school shooting was shocking.  Well... at least McCroskey didn't use a gun when he committed his murders.

Getting back to Emma Gonzalez... there she was, speaking to the masses.  Her voice was strong.  Her words were full of truth.  Her mood was resolute and angry.  She has every right to be pissed off.  Every kid in America should be.  This is their time to be young, make mistakes, and be protected.  But here they are, enduring drills in which they learn what to do if someone shoots up their school.  There's talk of arming teachers, installing metal detectors, giving up more freedoms that are taken away when someone proves that they can't be trusted to be civilized.

When someone wigs out and goes on a murder spree, everyone else pays the price.  However, for some reason, Americans still demand the right to carry weapons.  The pro-gun people insist that they want to be armed in case they run into a "bad guy".  They want to be able to fire back.

This showed up on my feed yesterday.  It was shared by a friend who carries a weapon and attends safety trainings.  I wish everyone who carries guns were that sensible.  Sadly, too many of them aren't.
While I can understand wanting to be armed when the bad guys attack, I also think that a regular person with a gun firing on a "bad guy" could end up facing tragedy.  This also showed up in my feed yesterday.

Yes, this is from a "liberal" Web site, but I think it makes a lot of sense.  Who's to say that you won't be mistaken for the shooter if you pull out your weapon and start firing?

I was very impressed by what Emma Gonzalez had to say.  I think she's going to go places, if she manages to survive young adulthood without being shot by some lunatic with a gun.  I used to be more in favor of the Second Amendment, but I now believe that something really must be done about the ease at which gun enthusiasts can purchase weapons that can kill so many innocent people.

I have to admit, this makes a pretty valid point...

No one needs to own an AR-15.  No one needs an assault rifle to protect themselves or hunt for food. It's time for stricter gun laws.  Americans have proven that we can't be trusted not to kill each other.  Children have the right to be able to go to school without being blown away by an angry young man. And even the small towns, where nothing ever happens, are being hit by the violence.  Count me among those who have had enough of this shit.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Them's fightin' words...

Smile when you say that...

Greetings from the Czech Republic.  We arrived here, near the city of Plzen, on Friday afternoon.  We've spent the last couple of days checking out the Czech Republic after a nine year absence.  Last time we visited this country, it was President's Day weekend 2009.  We visited Chodovar, which is a "beer wellness land".  In those days, it was still fairly new, but over the past nine years, it's gotten bigger and better known.  I gave some thought to going there this weekend, but since we had to travel with the dogs, we thought it would be better to rent self-catering accommodation.  So that's what we've done...

As I expected, this weekend has been cold and cloudy so far.  Consequently, we didn't do as much yesterday as we probably should have.  By about 4:00pm, we were kind of tired and wanted to come back to our little cottage.  The dogs were so welcoming that we didn't feel like leaving them to look for dinner.  We've been watching the Czech coverage of the Winter Olympics.  And... of course, there's Facebook, too.

One of my Facebook friends is a former professor of mine.  She's a lovely southern lady who specializes in American literature.  I try not to engage her too much out of respect, since I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes.  Contrary to popular belief, I wasn't raised in a barn (although I came pretty close given all my years spent riding horses).  Anyway, she's known me long enough to know that I've got quite a mouth on me... or happy fingers when I'm typing stuff online.  She knows I cuss and have rather liberal proclivities.  She's pretty liberal herself.

My professor and I have things in common other than having spent time in the English department at Longwood University.  We also have southern family members who are very politically conservative and religious.  The other day, my professor posted a quote from a family member of one of the shooting victims from Parkland, Florida.  A discussion about gun control ensued.

Initially, I resisted getting involved in the discussion because I have found that these things never go well.  People tend to have very strong opinions about controversial issues.  Most people want to have their say, but having one's say rarely amounts to much more than an argument.  Such was the case with my professor's discussion.  Although most people, quite sensibly, think it's high time we Americans did something about gun violence in our country, there was at least one lone dissenter who insists that the reason so many kids are dying in school shootings is because they don't have decent parents and haven't been raised with morals.  This person specifically indicated that kids today are missing out on the Bible and direction from God.

Just to be clear, I'm not an atheist.  I was raised in a Christian household, although I am no longer a churchgoer.  I do have a belief in God, although it's not a particularly devout belief.  I don't thump a Bible.  Moreover, I have seen religious organizations do a lot of damage to people.  Still, although I do have strong opinions about what this person was claiming, I chose not to enter the debate.  Instead, I sat by and watched as the gentleman proceeded to be very condescending to others who were responding.  It wasn't lost on me that they were all women, many of whom are at least my age-- meaning mid 40s-- and none of whom would qualify as needing "special help".

I watched as this man then brought abortion into the argument, reminding everyone of how many unborn babies are "murdered" in utero every year.  And, with that being the case, he didn't understand how we could all be so outraged about seventeen people who were killed by a shooter in a Florida high school.  For the record, I really HATE it when people bring up abortion in cases where a lot of people are gunned down or otherwise killed.  To me, abortion is a completely different thing than mass murder is.  I have never once met anyone who remembers what it was like to be in the womb.  A fetus does not have a concept of what it means to exist.  That doesn't happen until the fetus is born, and even then, it takes time for a human being to develop enough to understand the difference between life and death.  The people who died last Wednesday were all old enough to know about life and death.  A fetus cannot and does not.

I noticed yesterday, on a different article about murder, a pro-life male brought up abortion in much the same way.  A woman decided to leave her newborn infant out in the cold in Alaska and the baby died.  She got nine years for manslaughter.  In the comments, some guy reminded us that had this mother aborted her baby a few months earlier, no one would care.  Yeah... stupid comment from a stupid person who will never face the decision of whether or not to have an abortion.  It made no sense whatsoever.

I will admit, the abortion comments upset me, but I still managed to avoid entering the fray on my professor's page.  I made one comment yesterday.  It was in response to a woman who called the male poster out for being so condescending.  I told her she was my "hero".  Well...  I should have known better than to do that, because then it was "on".  The thread then went totally off track, because instead of discussing gun control, the commenter proceeded to lecture me about how to be a lady.  Folks, I'm four months from turning 46 years old.  The ship has sailed.  Being a lady is pretty boring, anyway.  I'd rather be a foul mouthed hooligan.

Earlier in the thread, the condescending commenter wrote:

I was a firefighter for 40 years and because of the skills that God gave me...I have saved many lives. I don't think you want to go there with me. 

There was more to this comment and it's taken a little out of context.  I have only cut and paste the part that I zeroed in on when this guy decided to address me.  I wrote:

As you put it upthread, “I don’t think you want to go there with me.”

I didn't add that while he may be very experienced at fighting fires, I'm pretty good at fightin' words.  And, much to my regret, we verbally tangoed for a few hours while I watched Olympic coverage on Czech TV and played Cooking Dash on my iPad.

It was actually a pretty funny exchange, for the most part, although I probably should have stopped responding after the first comment.  It reminded me a little of some of the spars I've had with a  few of my own family members, although this guy was not as mean-spirited as they tend to be.  Indeed, I expect that in a few days, I will be reminded of last year's argument with one of my cousins, which ended with my decision to oust him from my social media.  Although I hated to do it, I can't say I'm sorry it happened.  I don't miss having him on my page.  A few months later, I dropped his brother, too, mainly because he couldn't refrain from starting arguments with me and being really insulting and condescending.  Condescending language is like an allergen to me.  It makes me itch to fire back.

I posted a picture of a dead horse being flogged along with the comment that immediately followed...

A couple of excerpts from yesterday's discussion.

One happy thing happened as a result of yesterday's verbal sparring match, though.  I ended up making a new friend.  She went to Longwood at the same time I did.  I knew of her; she is friends with a lot of my friends.  Our paths never crossed in those days, though.  She enjoyed some of my snark yesterday.  My prof did eventually tell us to knock it off, which she was entirely justified in doing.  However, I think we had already pretty much knocked it off an hour before she asked us to.

Anyway, if my former professor ever reads this post, I hope she will forgive me for getting involved in that melee.  I usually don't do that on other people's pages.  I don't even want to on my own page, most of the time.  But if you come at me in a condescending manner, you can expect that I'll return fire.  Them's fightin' words and I've got nothing better to do.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Facebook friendships spread like the flu...

It's funny how social media friendships develop.  There are many friends on my Facebook friends list that I have never met in person, but have "known" for a long time.  A lot of them come from different groups.  Then there are the people I knew growing up, way before Facebook existed.  There are family members, old neighbors, military friends, college friends and former work colleagues.  A couple of people are on my friends list that I knew in graduate school.  A couple of people aren't actually my friends offline, but they know someone in my family and friended me for some reason.  I know a few people from cruises Bill and I have taken, too.

By and large, though, a lot of my "friends" are people I met online.  I hang around in different parts of the World Wide Web, so my friends are pretty diverse.  But just for the record, most of my online friends come from these main groups, two of which I don't haunt anymore:

Recovery from Mormonism
Second Wives Cafe (and a few splinter groups)

These folks come from different walks of life.  Some are not from the United States.  A lot of them have different life experiences and political leanings.  Sometimes the friendship doesn't work out and I end up having to drop them from social media (or vice versa).  But most of the time, people get along fine.

One thing that kind of intrigues me, though, is when my friends become friends with my other friends.  Case in point.  I have a friend from high school who befriended one of my online friends.  My online friend, name of Barbara, is someone I've never met in person, but we've "known" each other for, oh, maybe thirteen years or so.  I met Amy, my high school friend, sometime during my teen years.  Amy and Barbara hit it off, strictly based on their comments on my Facebook posts.

Amy also discovered another friend on my Facebook page.  My dad's first cousin (who is also my first cousin, once removed) married Jo, a woman from Newport News, Virginia, which is very close to where I grew up.  I don't actually know Jo's husband (my dad's cousin) all that well, although I do remember his hilarious late mother, my Aunt Estelle.  Jo is a Facebook friend, though.  One day, Amy was commenting on one of my posts and Jo asked her if she was the daughter of her old friends.  Sure enough, she was.  It turned out Amy's parents were buddies with Jo when Amy was a kid.  So now Amy and Jo are now friends, all because they "met" on my Facebook page.

Sometimes I'll notice that two seemingly unrelated friends will have friends in common.  For instance, I have a friend from high school and college and a friend from the Second Wives Cafe.  These two women aren't friends with each other, but they have a mutual friend (besides me) that they know from different places.  One time, I called their attention to it and they commented on how they knew this third person from offline.  Turned out one friend is a teacher and the other works for a historic organization and that was how they both knew this other lady.  The same thing happened to me.  There's a lady who lives in Germany who is friends with two guys I knew in college.  I used to be friends with those two guys, too, until one of them unfriended me because I got tired of reading his sexist comments and called him out on them.

Then there are the Facebook friends who will casually absorb your friends.  It's the "any friend of Jenny's is a friend of mine" phenomenon.  I have a friend who does that, too.  I notice that he befriends people from his other friends' social circles.  Like, he's become friends with people I met on Second Wives Cafe, which is a site strictly for women.  He's also friended people I met on RfM, although I know he doesn't hang out there.  If I'm honest, this practice seems a little weird to me... but it's probably because I'm neurotic.

Even Alexis, probably my biggest "fan", and who is herself another online friend I've never met, has, in a roundabout way, contributed to this friending phenomenon.  Several years ago, an Irish guy named Paul used to comment on Alexis's posts.  I thought Paul was funny, so I engaged him.  He commented on some of my posts, too.  One day, Paul shared a hilarious post from a now defunct blog called List Of The Day.  List Of The Day was written by a guy named Cary.  Paul told me I should friend Cary on Facebook because he's funny.  So I friended him and started sharing his posts, which were universally witty.

Soon enough, several of my female friends from Second Wives Cafe became friends with Cary.  Sadly, Cary stopped writing his blog, but he's still active on Facebook and he's still funny.  Hell, I've even made a couple of "friends" from a group he started and I subsequently left.  I noticed he commented on a post by one of my Second Wives Cafe friends this morning.  It just struck me that I've never met any of these people in my life, but now they've become friends with each other, possibly because of the Irish guy who commented on our blogs years ago.

When I was a young woman, it never occurred to me that I'd be friends with so many people I've never actually met in person.  I remember being sixteen years old and learning in sociology class that most of your friends are people who live near you.  I also remember hearing that you were most likely to marry someone who lives within a fifty mile radius.  That sure isn't true today.  Bill and I met online when he was in Kansas and I was in South Carolina.

In 1988, we didn't have a concept of what would be a reality for most people less than twenty years later.  Social media has opened up the world in ways we never dreamed of back in the day... and it's made it possible for old friends to reconnect.  Sometimes, those new connections aren't necessarily a good thing.  There are times when it's best to leave the past in the past.

I think if I were going to go back to school, I'd like to study how social media has changed the world. I suppose I could do that from home if I wanted to, although formally studying it would be more stimulating and, perhaps, even more rewarding on some level.  At least it keeps me from thinking about the horrors of the world.

Actually, Facebook sometimes distracts me from the news by providing a good laugh.  My old friend, Donna, has a hilarious daughter who is about fourteen now.  I met her daughter once a few years ago. She's an unusually precocious and funny kid and Donna very generously shares her hilarity with her friends.  Donna's daughter used to refer to me as a "cusser", for instance, because apparently I swear a lot on Facebook.

Anyway, this morning I woke up to another one of Donna's stories about her daughter.  It seems Donna and her husband went out for Mexican food last night.  Their daughter stayed home because she doesn't like Mexican food.  When Donna and her husband came home after their date, they found the girl had taught herself how to play "Creep" by Radiohead on her ukulele.  When I read stories like that, it makes me wonder what kind of kid I would have had.  With my luck, I probably would have had a prissy, uptight daughter, embarrassed by everything I say and do.  She would have taken after my father.

I guess the world will just have to settle for my own goofy shit.

I must admit, I don't know this song as well as I probably should.

Don't read this last bit if you don't like scatological humor...

I'd rather read about Donna's quirky daughter than post about my own potential mishaps...  For instance, I had to keep getting up last night because Auntie Flow has arrived.  There was a sponge on the toilet tank last night and I guess it somehow got knocked into the bowl this morning.  There I was, taking my morning dump, which was messier than usual.  I tried to flush and noticed that the toilet paper wasn't going down.  That's actually not an uncommon occurrence with our toilet, because it's fucked up.  Thankfully, I noticed the paper was yellow and green.  I managed to pull the sponge out before it went into the plumbing.  It was covered with shit, though.  Thank God I managed to fish that sponge out before it went down the drain, because a plumbing disaster is the last thing we need around here.  Especially since we're going to the Czech Republic today.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another day, another school shooting...

Last night, I read about the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  At the time I read about it, there were fourteen victims, which at that point, hadn't been confirmed dead.  By the time I woke, up, news reports confirmed seventeen people dead.  Twelve were killed in the school, two were killed outside, one died in the street, and two more died in the hospital.

My reaction to this latest shooting was, at first, numbness.  It's gotten to the point at which school shootings have become so commonplace that I almost don't even react to them anymore.  I can remember the horror of Columbine back in April 1999.  In those days, school shootings were completely foreign.  There were days and days of news coverage about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two young men who went on a shooting rampage and murdered twelve students and one teacher, injuring another 21 people.  Those who survived that horrible day are now in their late 30s.

These days, schools are taking a lot more security measures to protect students against gun toting lunatics.  Unfortunately, despite all the precautions, young people are still being killed at an alarming rate, simply for being at school.  I never thought I'd be a proponent of homeschooling, but I can really see why so many people are opting to do it nowadays.  Schools have become truly dangerous.  You never know when someone is going to snap and just flip the fuck out.

The suspect from yesterday's shootings is one Nikolas Cruz, who is just 19 years old.  He was once a student at the high school, but reportedly expelled for disciplinary reasons.  Peers who remember him have said that Cruz didn't have any friends.  He was verbally combative and got into verbal altercations with others and some students even predicted he would be the one to perpetrate a school shooting.  It's hard to tell what caused him to lose it yesterday and go on his murderous spree.

Donald Trump, not surprisingly, issued a trademark tone deaf statement about the attack.  One of my former English professors noted yesterday that Trump had not made a statement about the attack, so at least one network was showing past comments made by former President Obama.  I think Mr. Obama will go down in history as an even better president than he actually was, simply because his successor has proven to be such an enormous disaster at the job.

Really Trump?  Well no child, teacher or anyone else should expect to get SHOT in an American school, either?  What do you plan to do about it, Mr. MAGA?  Prayers and condolences do not solve the problem.

I grew up in a time when it was not unusual for kids to bring guns to school.  In the 80s, in my rural Virginia county, a lot of boys had guns in their trucks.  They went hunting before and after school.  As long as they didn't bring their firearms into the classroom, no one cared.  I have at least one Facebook friend who was a teacher at my high school and is now the president of a college.  Every once in awhile, he tells the funny story of a young man who did bring a rifle to class.  It was the first day of dove season and the kid remembered he had a test.  His truck didn't lock effectively and he didn't want to leave his gun in the unlocked vehicle, so he brought it with him to class.  He took his test, grabbed the rifle, and left campus to go hunting.  It was fine.  People barely batted an eye at it.

Nowadays, kids practically have to go through airline style security to go to school.  I'm probably only exaggerating a little bit.  Policies have been made.  Safeguards have been enacted.  None of it's enough.  We are a mere 45 days into 2018 and there have already been 18 school shootings.  Something has to be done.  I tend to be fairly gun rights leaning, but I'm changing my mind now.  There's way too much violence in the United States.  Way too many people are dying simply because they chose to go to school on a day when someone decides to open fire.  I have many friends who are teachers and I know this trend scares the ever loving shit out of them.

What is going on today that so many young men are choosing to be violent?  It was bad enough in the pre-Trump era, but it seems to be getting worse now that he's in office and emboldening uncivilized and uncouth behavior.  We're seeing a lot of people losing their empathy toward others and resorting to killing and injuring people rather than seeking real help for what's bothering them.

I can't even begin to wrap my head around it.  All I can do is sit here helplessly and watch.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sixth graders in Utah now have the "right to reject" dance partners...

A few days ago, I wrote about Natalie Richard, a Utah mother of a sixth grader who was upset that her daughter was told she couldn't say "no" if a boy asked her to dance at an upcoming school Valentine's Day party.  Richard took exception to the school's requirement that students accept dance requests from other students.

I'm happy to report that the school district where Natalie Richard's daughter attends sixth grade has since changed its policy.  Students have now been given the right to reject prospective dance partners.  Although I understood the school's policy as intended to promote kindness and inclusiveness, I think it's very important to teach students the value of the word "no".  Certainly, they should be encouraged to always be kind whenever possible.  But they should also have the power to protect themselves.
"No" is a protective word.

I think it's much more important to teach children about their right to "bodily autonomy" than niceness.  Moreover, niceness is best when it's sincere.

We live in an era where women are just now going public about sexual harassment.  It sends a mixed message to young people when we embrace concepts like #metoo, but we don't allow them to turn down dance requests at a school event.

I'm glad the school officials in the Weber School District have come to their senses.  Kindness is important, but so is the right of young people to say "no".