Monday, December 16, 2013

Joyous Festivus

I was going to write a sweet Christmas spirit kind of entry today, but it just isn't happening. Some years I'm overwhelmed by comfort and joy. This is not one of them. If I go to Hell when I die (If?) there will be a choir of nitwits singing "Little Drummer Boy." Another group will follow with "The 27 Days of Christmas" or whatever number it is. For the solo, I want a lounge singer with a boozy version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Whatever."

Our newspaper gives a "Sour Orange" award for the worst scoundrels of the year. Sort of like hoping Santa reads the Times and will bring them a lump of coal. Instead, their misdeeds are richly rewarded. The runner-up was Duke Energy, who has collected billions in advance to build a nuclear power plant that they have decided not to build after all. They not only get to keep the billions they collected but never spent, we are also going to spend billions more to decommission their old, broken plant. They will just keep on burning oil, thank you anyway.

The winner was Congress, who is refusing to reconsider a bill passed in haste last year that blows the lid off flood insurance. They were assuming that the "subsidies" being given to owners of homes in flood zones were rewarding rich people with waterfront mansions. Actually, the average homes affected in our area are about 1500 square feet, are not on the water or even in view of the water, and met all building codes when built. Their flood rates are going up from $2,000 to $40,000 a year, but they don't know for sure until the bills come in. The required affordability study was never done, and they voted with erroneous data, but they shrugged it off.

The third pisser of the week was Texas Governor Rick Perry getting a bill passed making it legal to say "Merry Christmas." This has people surprised and angry that it was illegal (it wasn't) and makes Perry a hero. Brilliant! I wish everyone Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Festivus, and Good Ramadan, just to make a point.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Christmas Trip

Started playing around with "Tell us 10 things about yourself that we may not know," and anyone that comments is supposed to add their own. I remembered a train trip I took, quite by accident, when I was six.

The train trip was only an accident because I did it alone. Mama was going to take me to New York to see the Christmas lights and windows. We were living in Princeton, N. J. for a few months in 1943 while Daddy was in training with the Navy before going off to war. The train pulled in to the station, the doors opened, so I got on. I didn't notice that Mama wasn't with me until the doors closed and we were off and going. I figured she was in another car or maybe the bathroom, but it was no big deal. I wasn't worried, because we were both going to New York, and I'd just find her there.

It didn't seem like long before we pulled into a tunnel. It wasn't scary because there were lights. No one got off at the first few stops, so I didn't either. Then, it seemed like everyone got off, so I did too. There was a big sign that said "MACY'S'"with more toys and Christmas trees and music than you could ever imagine. This must be Heaven! You just walked across the platform and right in the door and it went on forever. There were big moving elves and snowmen and deer and Santas of all sizes. I picked up a baby doll and decided to keep that for my own. I danced to the music, climbed up to a big tree, and sang along.

It was wonderful until I heard loud screaming. Mama came running in with a couple of policemen and a little Santa guy I had seen by the door. A policeman picked me up and asked me if I was alright. He tried to take my doll so I kicked him. He held me way out in front of himself when he carried me over to Mama. She was really crying and I didn't know why. It wasn't a sad thing, because we were just where we had planned to be. I guess she was sad because she missed the train. She told me not to tell Daddy, but I did. And I got to keep the doll. Her name was Barbara.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Opinions, Mistakes, Lies

I got the same e-mail from two friends, listing facts I don't know. For instance, I never knew how many ridges are on a dime, or that butterflies taste with their feet. Now I believe these facts, because these friends wouldn't just make them up. What's the point? But the main reason I believe things they tell me is that, as far as I know, they have never lied to me before.

There are others that I would go outside and check if they told me it was raining. They are the "friends" in Facebook terms, that send me bogus e-mails. There are lots of ways to check a story to find out if it's true or a big lie. Call your library, ask the nice lady in the reference department. Call your Congressman's office. But if you send me a story, you are telling me that you believe it's true.

Instead, you tell me you got it from Rush, or Sean, or Glen, or somebody else you're on a first-name basis with. If I listened to your guys, I would know the truth about the government coming for your guns, your home, your horses. They would tell me about how our leaders are violating the (non-existent) 28th amendment, or the dreaded Agenda 27 of the U. N., whatever that is. 

The problem is that once you send me a lie and expect me to believe it, I can't believe anything else you say. I'm not talking about mistakes. God knows, I may tell you it's Tuesday when it's Wednesday, just because my pill dispenser got off on a wrong start this week. I forgive your mistakes as much as I hope you forgive mine. But don't lie to me. 

OK, you can tell me I look like I've lost weight. That's an opinion, based on a mistake, and I really appreciate it. You can say that you truly believe Obama is a Muslim. I will chalk you up as a racist, but that's your opinion. Tell me he created this gazillion dollar deficit since he took office, and that 's a lie, not an opinion. Tell me he has to follow the 28th amendment, and it's a mistake, unless you know better, then it's a lie.

By the way, I'm very glad we don't taste with our feet. It would make for a disgusting dinner party. And do you know where those feet have been?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Too much Anger

I don't understand where all this anger is coming from. I've lived through some decades of election year vitriol, and we expect that and shrug it off. Or we used to. Then we'd all cool off, have a beer, and plan how to change the world next time. Not now.

If you can't figure it out, I'm talking about the shutdown of the federal government. Don't tell me both sides are to blame. When I hear that, I know which TV network you watch. I'm worried that the inmates have taken over the asylum, the bonafide crazies are claiming victory over putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work, turning little children out of day care, and they're dancing around giving each other high-fives.

There are some people ignorant enough to think this is about health care. It's not. we already pay for health care for everyone who needs it, just not very well and not at all efficiently. I'm not insulting you if you are among these ignorant, which just means you are not well informed. If you want to be better informed, read more than one newspaper, listen to more than one radio or TV station, and ignore any of them that claim to be telling you The Truth. It's about a bunch of prima donnas who got elected in gerrymandered safe districts and are preaching to their little choirs that they know what's best for the country, not the rest of us who form the majority.

Notice I have not called you poor deluded souls dumb, just ignorant. Ignorant can be fixed with leaning. There ain't no cure for dumb. Dumb is voluntary, and is best pictured as the monkey sitting there with his hands over his ears, saying "Don't confuse me with the facts." If we want to let the crazies wreck the economy, put millions out of work, and change the way this country works, cheer 'em on. Otherwise, scratch your head and say "What would Reagan do?"

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Real Malpractice Problem

Had an occasion recently to talk to a bright young doctor about malpractice. He didn't know, for one thing, that it's harder to sue doctors than most anyone else. You have to hire your own expert witnesses, as though you are going to trial, who will testify in your favor, and have a mediation session where they will lay out your case. Local doctors aren't eager to do this, so you may have to go out-of-state. All told, the cost estimate for pre-suit activity was around $50,000, and that was twenty years ago.

That's when CJ fell and broke his hip. When he got to the emergency room they whisked him away for X-rays, told us nothing was broken and we should take him home. Well, this was a problem because he couldn't stand up, much less walk. They reluctantly admitted him, put him in a room on the stroke patients' hall. Well, yes he had had a stroke 15 years before that kept him from talking much, but he had been walking with just a bit of a limp. He walked the dogs until they were exhausted, morning and evening. Well, the doctor thought that some physical therapy would help.

After a couple of days I went in during his therapy session, and they were trying to get him to walk between parallel bars. He couldn't take a step. As I watched, the therapist poked him with a stick, and his leg twitched. CJ was crying, so I told them to put him back to bed. I asked the therapist about the stick, and was told it was an electric stimulator. A cattle prod!

I found the doctor in charge and told him that this was cruel and unacceptable. He replied that they had run out of options, that CJ was not cooperative, and we should just take him home or to a nursing home. Our daughter, June, suggested they call a meeting with the doctors, nurses, and staff who had been working with him, and they did. She asked where the orthopedic doctor was, and they replied that he hadn't needed one because no bones were broken. Well, they did call one, who found that his hip was snapped in two. The only X-rays taken in the emergency room were of the chest.

After getting a new hip and months of physical therapy, CJ was walking slowly, now with a cane. I worked part-time for months, son Jason took a semester off from college, but things would never be the same. We visited several lawyers we knew who were specialists in medical malpractice. Each of them declined to take the case. The reason? Negligence was clear, but it was "garden variety negligence," meaning that it happens so often as to be predictable. Also, he was already disabled, so we couldn't sue for lost income. My lost income, our son's lost semester, CJ's lost ability to do things like walking the dogs, all fell under the "too bad" rule. Even if a jury felt especially generous, it was unlikely that an award would reach the $50,000 it would cost to file suit, much less the costs to go to trial.

So the next time you hear that medical costs are soaring because of greedy lawyers, put on your skeptical hat. The next time you see glossy ads for doctors or medicines, do not get sucked in. The next time you hear that doctors are leaving their practice for fear of lawsuits, get the facts. Just don't depend on your insurance salesman to give you the straight stuff. He makes a living off scaring doctors.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Animusic HD - Resonant Chamber (1080p)

There are times when I think I could play music really well if I just practiced more. Then a slap myself in the forehead and know to forget it, just play for the pure fun of it. Same with painting, writing, even cooking. Just have fun and get on with your day. That's enough.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

NSA, FBI, other spooks

Our grandson, Daniel, just posted a picture on Facebook that lets you push a button to find out the words and phrases that will flag the NSA that you are worthy of monitoring. Of course, by doing this you are automatically making yourself monitor-worthy. I was curious enough to push the button, but stopped my hand just in time to save myself a lot of grief.

Many moons ago, about 50 years or so, I believed that if you didn't have anything to hide, it didn't matter if you were watched, followed, phones bugged, searched or whatever. After all, we had nothing to hide. How naive was that?

We began to get clicking sounds and an echo on our phone. I was going to call the phone company, but one night about bedtime a neighbor called to say there was a man up on the telephone pole in the alley behind our house. I was amazed that the phone company could read my mind. I went out back to thank the repairman, but he clambered down and ran away. Maybe I looked scary in my robe and curlers.

A few days later, I was over at my friend Joanne's house, and she noticed a plain white sedan parked in front of her house, behind my car. Two men wearing snap-brim hats sat in the front seat. And sat. And sat. We laughed and said they must be gangsters or FBI, because we had seen movies and knew they wore those hats. It wasn't so funny when they followed me home.

Within a short time I wondered if I was still being followed, and I mentioned it to CJ. He had also noticed a strange white car showing up regularly. He was practicing criminal law at the time, so he knew quite a few police officers and mentioned our concerns to them. They frowned and took notes. He mentioned it to a couple of his criminal clients, who took more of an interest and started following the followers. Of course, then the police followed the clients.

I went out to lunch with my friend Betty Ann, and as I'm telling her these stories, two men at the next table seemed very interested. Their snap-brim hats were in the vacant chair beside them. I wrote a note that said "We know who you are and we know what you're doing." After showing it to her, I folded it and left it under the salt shaker as we left the diner.

Turns out the men were indeed FBI, who had a hunch that CJ was hiding a witness they needed, him being a criminal lawyer and all. I must have been guilty by implication too. My sassy note just made things worse. I was turned from a law and order citizen to a shady moll who had a sudden urge to rob a bank. Years later, I am still a bit suspicious of the government, and we all should be, a little.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Now It Can Be Told

Talk at book club today turned to President Obama's memories that made him identify with Treyvon Martin. He was profiled as a teen, followed around in stores by suspicious clerks. He heard the clicks of car doors locking when he walked through parking lots, saw women clutch their purses a little tighter when he came near. Several of the Bookies confessed that they had done the same thing, and now felt bad about it. I confessed this story that trumped theirs.

I had gone to Tampa, some 20 years ago, to get some paperwork from the Sheriff. I was directed to a substation in Ybor City. I got lost, and found myself in College Hill, a particularly scary section of Tampa that showed evidence of firebombs, burned out cars, and a total absence of people on the street at noon. I saw a building that had a flagpole, slowed down and saw that it was a Tampa police station. I pulled into the parking lot, and went to ask for directions to the Sheriff's station. I walked up to the door, but it was locked. I looked in the windows of the door, and saw policemen and others working, but they ignored my knocks and yelling.

I turned around to see a large black man running toward me. I tossed him my purse, and he caught it.
He laughed, came over and returned my purse, and said "Let me walk you to your car. This is a dangerous neighborhood." I said "I'm so embarrassed. I was afraid of you." He said "Don't feel bad. All those police in there are afraid too. They don't take walk-ins in this neighborhood." I felt better, but I still felt like a fool.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Smell memories

Took a break from blogging while I got a new hip and took up journaling, instead. In a book. With a pen. Just for me. I didn't think anyone but me would want to know about my adventures in helplessness. (Hey Frank, would you get me off this bedpan?)

I'm getting pretty used to after-market parts. Three hips and a left breast, not to mention a couple of teeth. I'm also getting over funny looks when I walk Romeo by looping his leash over CJ's scooter. He gets to run, I don't have to worry about getting yanked off my feet and bounced along behind him. One old lady still points and snickers. Fuck you, lady.

Summer is here in full force, with blinding heat and blinding rain. It happens every year, and every year we're surprised. Finally had to replace the air conditioner. This followed 6 weeks after replacing the car.
We grew up without air conditioning, or TV, or washers and dryers or freezers, but now we're spoiled. We lived at the beach with the windows open, and our memories of that time are rose-colored.

The air smelled of ocean breezes, tinged with DDT from the mosquito truck. We ate canned beans with our fresh fish, and washed our clothes in the kitchen sink. We put light bulbs in the closets and even the piano to fight mildew, and mothballs were scattered everywhere,

Today we put sunscreen on first thing, so we smell of coconut. A little hairspray adds a whiff of mango. The spray of "OFF" is necessary to ward off mosquitos, and if you add cologne you might explode. Someday our kids will remember these smells with nostalgia.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Florida, Heaven for Lobbyists

I just read in the Tampa Bay Times that we may have more lobbyists per capita than any other state.

Okay, I made that up. However, we do have 3,235 lobbyists registered to tug on the elbows of the legislature (of 100 members) and 4,925 to pressure and pester the governor and his aides in the executive wing. These are only the registered, official lobbyists, mind you. This doesn't count the people that pay these lobbyists, either, and they are not volunteers. What's wrong with this picture?

Back in my working days (!) one of my jobs was to communicate with Pinellas County's lobbyist, or legislative liason as she was known. I would get copies of thousands of proposed bills, figure out which county employees or officials might be affected, and ask them to comment back to the lobbyist. Typical comment: What the f*ck to those Tallahassee morons trying to do to us? 

A recurring theme is for the state government to pass duties off to the local governments to pay for. The jobs they keep for themselves are largely privatized, which means a way to hire somebody's unqualified son-in-law to do something that didn't really need doing, and funnel lots of money to him as a favor to the family for contributing lots of money to the "job creator."

As the legislature goes into session, keep your wallet hidden and your eyes and ears open. Perk up when you hear the terms "privatized" or "job creation." They mean different things to different people.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Who are these people?

Who are these people that enjoy posting fibs on the internet? I know who signs their name and pretends to quote Billy Graham or Mr. Rogers or Bill Cosby or Andy Rooney. You may think they are actual quotes, except they never said such mean, untrue, and offensive things. Someone, perhaps many someones, sits in a smelly dark room and makes them up. 

If you checked with any one of the many fact-checker services, you would know there is not a grain of truth there, or maybe enough of a grain to hook you. Maybe you want to believe it is true, that “The Newtown shootings would never have happened if we had prayer in our schools.” Maybe “Obama has a secret agenda to come to your house and break down the doors and take all your guns, or ammunition.” Maybe you want to believe that “Hitler rose to power by restricting gun ownership,” when the opposite is true. Maybe you know these statements are not true, but that if they are spread far and wide they will become true.

One thing is true. When you pass these quotes on, you are telling me and others that you think they are true. You are also telling us that you agree with them. You are also telling us that you’re too lazy to find out whether they are true or false. And that makes us lose respect for you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pop Quiz

The Christmas group, 2012

Standing: Lazara, Doug, Emily, Daniel, Jason, Sarah Jean, Jacob
Seated: CJ, Carol, Miley the Dog
Elsewhere: Mima (Ft. Lauderdale), June and Kevin (San Francisco)

We didn't photoshop the missing persons in this year, but then we didn't do another cookbook, either. How well do you know us?
Which 3 are stage hands? Which 2 used to be? Which 2 are lawyers? Which one will be? Which 2 were born in Cuba? Who has grown more hair in the last year? Who is a CPA? Which 2 are aeronautical engineers? Who is a U of Washington alum? U of Miami? USF? Which two are FSU? Which one is a Gator? Which 2 are Baylor? Which two are Stetson? Which one poops in the yard? (OK, that one should be easy.) Who is the best cook? (OK, this one should be hard.)