This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Growing Up In A Gun Society

In July of 1984, I was 15 years old, getting ready to start my freshman year at the ginormous high school at Homestead Senior High in Florida City, Florida (it appears to have a Homestead city address but if you look on the map, it's really Florida City...but whatever).

I remember clearly this, WARNING - EXTREMELY DISTURBING, photograph on the front page of the newspaper from the San Ysidro McDonald's Massacre. The young boy, lying dead next to his bicycle, the image haunted me for a long time. Even at 15, I was struck with the rumination disorder, along with my empathy and walking in someone's footsteps. How did that boy feel when that was happening? How did those police officers feel when they came to the scene? What was Huberty thinking when he saw that boy and did what he did? Why did he do what he did? How can anyone feel such anger to people he doesn't even know?

It would be one of many mass shootings that unfortunately, I would grow up with. This is an era of mass murder. I'm not sure if I really focused on the fact that Huberty had a 9 mm uzi semi-automatic as one of his weapons during his rampage of killing 21 people, which was the worst massacre in US history until 1991, when George Hennard drove his truck through the front window of Luby's and murdered 23 people.

But Friday's beyond-horrific event reminded me of these other "there-really-is-no-hell-because-we're-living-it" and all these other travesties that I grew up with, and unfortunately, still 'grow' up my children now are.

When I was a teen, I was so gung-ho anti-gun. I didn't grow up in house full of guns, nor did my dad talk about being pro-gun. It wasn't a conversation we had in the house. Ironic because my dad made bombs for a living and I was surrounded by EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) folks, who my dad worked with. My dad would show me various ways I could make explosives, which I ignored because, well, he's my dad and as his daughter, that kind of stuff was boring to me. NOW, I wish I had listened, not because I want to make bombs but because the knowledge is fascinating and interesting to me.

I was also very anti-hunting. Save the animals! Then I moved to Guam in 1985 and, while the island is small, they do hunt on the island and some of my friends did. I didn't agree and I was still somewhat anti-hunting but I didn't think they were bad people for doing it. They seemed to really _like_ their food...I sure the hell wasn't going to eat it but I was slacking on my judgement for people who hunt.

In time, I would meet more family that were hunters, and more friends and I pretty much gave up on the anti-hunting slant. Just don't make me eat it. It's hard enough to accept the fact that I eat Wilbur, Bessie, and Chicken Little but I refuse to eat anything outside of those food groups (in the meat category). I don't give a rat's ass if it tastes like heaven, I do not want to eat it on principle. It's fine for those of you that like lamb, gator, venison, bull nuts, crocodile tears, whatever. I don't judge you for it. Don't judge me because I don't want to taste it. Don't sneak it on my plate and tell me it's something else just so you can get a laugh because I say it's great and go HAHA! It's really squirrel tail!!! I KNEW you'd like it! Because that's not the point. I know I may like some of it. I. Don't. Want. To. Eat. It. Think of me as something like a Muslim that can't eat pork based on religion. I don't want to eat anything like that based on my own fucked up ethical principal. If you sneak it on me. I will not think it's funny. I will be offended.

Okay. Back to this...

So, I was extremely anti-gun. Never heard my dad speak about being pro-gun or anti-gun. But I guess he couldn't be anti-gun because he was a military guy and he fought in the war. But because I'm pretty literal and don't think really about the next pool shot, I never put two-and-two together and just thought about my own little world.

Then I met Tim. When I met Tim (also a military man), he was a security policeman (SP) in the Air Force. While we were dating, guns never came up. And since we dated for two months THEN got married (no, I wasn't pregnant), we really didn't have a lot of time to talk about our philosophies, hopes, ethics, morals, etc.  I don't know when guns came into the conversation but imagine my surprise when he said he WASN'T for gun control. WHAT????

I made my argument. Blue in the face. And back then, Tim was very patient with me. I remember how very calm he was about the whole thing. But essentially, it was "Sweetie. I'm a cop. I use a gun. I have to have a gun. We will have guns in the house." And I then realized, I was defeated.

But defeated is not the right word. Living with Tim changed my stance. Not because he brainwashed me but because he helped me evolve. And this is where my stance is now. And I'm here to tell you, surprisingly, we still disagree. He'll have to tell you himself what his stance is but he's certainly not pro-NRA. It's much more sophisticated than that. But I can tell you my little naive way of where I think gun control should go. And let me tell you first, and foremost: I know NOTHING about guns...but a little more than those who have no exposure to guns and I think you need to study up on your guns before you speak about 'em.

It's pretty simple: No one should have assault weapons except the military or police force (or anyone that needs these type of weapons...this is just my CYA on). Assault weapons are meant to kill people. Period. Military (and whoever are meant to kill people) are trained to use these weapons for the sole reason of killing people. These weapons should be reserved only for those trained to use them. I don't think an uzi is necessary to kill deer.

For other types of guns, I don't know much about them. I don't know about semi-automatic pistols like the Glock used by the dude at Luby's. I mean that literally. And as I've said before. I use the word literally in it's literal use.

But what I think gun control cannot do is what very few have spoken to but two very brilliant and brave people have posted. One a very smart dude that barely posts anything on FB and another, one of MiMi's preschool teachers...and that's mental healthcare.

I don't sympathize with Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold, or Eric Harris. But I empathize. Could any of this ever be prevented? We will never ever ever know. But I strongly believe our mental healthcare in the U.S. is in strong need of help, especially in our young.

Tim and I met a guy that works as a psychiatrist at the Federal Correctional Facility in Butner, NC. Man, this dude was amazing. I could have talked to him forever. But what he said to us about the people he meets was eye-opening. He meets kids. The people incarcerated there that he sees are mainly late teens and early 20s who are suffering from mental disorders. He went into technical psychology details but essentially, these types of disorders do not get treated and many times, don't really showcase themselves until right at these ages. He was sad for them that they end up in prison.

I know some of you out there that I went to high school know that we knew people like Dylan and Eric. But for whatever reason, these guys stayed on the right side. And I don't mean that they turned out OK but they didn't kill 13 classmates. Did they get help? I don't know because I didn't see that kind of help available when I was a teen. But something 'right' kept them from going ballistic.

So gun control will help. But we need mental help. We need the right tools to help people, not just children, but all people. Huberty called a mental health facility the day before the massacre. But he didn't get help...

I don't have answers. Just observations, as many people do. But I'm not yelling at the killers, the parents, the NRA. Wait, no, I am yelling at the NRA because they won't budge. I can't stand 'folks' that don't budge. They're not taking any stance except 'we won't move'. That's just ignorant.

But there's more than just one thing wrong in this system and it's not just gun control.

And if I hear one more pro-gun person tell me that a psycho can bring another a knife...I'm going to...point them to this story. Any other weapon a psycho can bring to a massacre will be more apt to NOT do as much harm as a gun.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Strange Stories and Amazing Facts

There's nothing more fun than making fun of people. But even more so is making fun of myself. This blog, of course, is to be as narcissistic as possible, which, ironically, makes me cringe in real life. But I can "hide" behind the words and write out all my feelings and be as bold as I want to be. It's my blog and I pay for the domain, dammit.

So, to combine the 'make-fun-of-myself', be narcissistic, and provide some strange stories & amazing facts, here are some more 'things you didn't know about me' items I want to add about myself.

* I ruminate like nobody's business. I have been adding these items to post about in my head for weeks. How I remember them, I have no clue but my brain does not stop thinking and over-thinking. I've mentioned before how I count (there's quite a few posts about my counting). Just for the record, my number of late is "four"...meaning, I count in "fours".  I was recently asked "What is it that you ruminate the most about?" And I couldn't come up with an answer so I just said "me". But that really isn't true because it is all over the map and I think I just think about the most obscure things: what I'm going to blog about next (then I never do), the book I'm reading, what I'm going to make for dinner, what I plan to do at work, how I'm going to handle something at work, when am I going to get my laundry done, what's on my DVR (this makes me excited), my recent conversations, my games, recent emails, time to count my steps, what am I doing over the weekend, what's going on in the news, it. is. endless. My brain does not stop.

I think it calms down when I watch TV, read a book, or when I do yoga. I'm surprised that yoga can actually turn my brain off but it does. Running does not. I am constantly thinking about something while I run, if I'm not counting. I guess sleeping makes me calm down but then I dream...does that count?

* I alphabetize my spices. I recently learned that this is not normal. I truly thought everyone did this and am still reeling from the fact that the person who asked me this is not psychic.  My friends say they actually sort theirs by frequently used and have offered me to sort theirs alphabetically. They laughed but I am literally excited about the prospect. I had my books in our family room sorted alphabetically by author until MiMi decided to resort them alphabetically by title. Interesting...I'm not sure if she has my same alphabetical disorder.

* I chew my jello, milkshake, smoothie, ice cream, and mashed potatoes.  I never noticed this until my Uncle Don (which he will never remember) pointed it out years ago, when I was a teen. I was staying over at his house with my cousin, and at the dinner table, he asked me: are you chewing your jello (or whatever it was)? And I remember being stunned by his comment...and I was like Yeah? But internally, I thought "I am...why am i?  But I can't help it and I still do it to this day.

* Not only do I literally cross at crosswalks, I walk almost in right angles. Sometimes I wonder if I am on the asperger's spectrum. I say that not to be funny but because I think I have some tendencies, emotionally and because I am such a literal person. But I do have _some_ emotions :) and I also realize what I am doing, so that's why I think I'm on it just an iota. But I have to cross on the crosswalk...although if I'm with a group, I can jaywalk but, as mentioned in the first bullet, I'll ruminate about how wrong it is and are they doing this because they think *I* don't want to cross on the crosswalk? Anyway, if alone, I will walk on the sidewalk, whether they are in straight lines or not. But if crossing roads, I cross almost as close to 90 degrees as possible. BTW, I drive that way too. I cannot stand people who turn at 45-65 degrees because, you know, you're actually turning into *my* lane. But they do it all the time.

(And yes, I loved trigonometry.)

* I am an introvert by nature. Most people would not believe me but this is true. At work, I am very gregarious. In high school, I was described as a wallflower, which really upset me because, in high school, that's the last thing a girl wants to be called. Of course NOW, I could care less, but as a teen, I was trying to find my way to social butterfly.

Last week, I read this article about the Nine Signs of Being an Introvert. I don't even have to have validation because I know I am but I read it anyway just to see if *they* were right. And for the most part, they are. Let's see: I go to parties/socials and once I get there, I want to leave. TRUE. Fortunately, Tim feels the same way. :) But there are just a select few friends that I am comfortable with where this does not apply. But for the most part, I'm ready to flee. I like to be with my family, at home.

I can be very social, at work, or at parties, anywhere. This is the only child in me, the ruminator, the empathizer/sympathizer, the nomad.  I was always the new person at the school, or the runt of the litter. And since I am the crusader, no matter if I was the runt, I stood by the person that no one cared to stand by. So I look around a crowd and make sure to make someone feel at home. I have no problem sitting down with someone and striking up a conversation, when what I prefer to do is sit at home, or in a corner, or if at a conference, be at my hotel room by myself, just reading.  But I feel a sense of duty to make others feel welcomed, not alone, at peace, wanted. It's all that ruminating...

And for introverts, it's exhausting. So I end up being more tired from being social and that takes away from my favorite release, blogging. In a way, blogging is 'socializing' and by the time I get home, I just don't want to do anymore.

In that list from the Huffington Post, the phone is one of the items that is the bane of an introvert. I already mentioned in my Twelve Things post how much I hated the phone.

* I do at least one crossword puzzle a day. I have a very specific brand I like to do, which is by Kappa puzzles. Dell is too easy. And no, I'm no brainiac because I don't like them too hard. But they have to be hard enough for me to figure out and learn. I need a challenge and I need them to be something that I can figure out. But there's an art to crossword puzzles and they have clues that are common to all of them. I have had a blog post on my crossword puzzle obsession stewing in my brain *for years* because, well, I've been doing a puzzle a day for many, many years.

I enjoy other puzzles. An occasional sudoku is enjoyable but once in a blue moon. They tend to drive me bonkers because they make me think *a lot*. I enjoy cryptopuzzles immensely but they are hard to find and usually, you have to buy a dell puzzle book and I generally don't want to invest in an entire puzzle book just to get to my cryptopuzzles. But I feel like I missed my calling when I do I could have worked for the government as a cryptographer. Logic puzzles are also fun. When I was a kid, I used to laminate logic problems (with scotch tape) so that I could do them over and over.

* I hate diamonds and the way women have pissing contests over who has the biggest diamond engagement ring. Seriously, I don't have the gene in my genetic makeup so I literally (and when I use the word literally, I literally mean literally...I don't use the word as slang) do not understand the hoopla over these jewels and why anyone has a fascination over them. When my friends get engaged and show me their ring, I am very happy for their engagement and I feign appreciation for their bauble but inside I am thinking "great, another one who likes these things". I would really love to find a kindred spirit. No, it's not the blood diamond but I tell you what, when I heard this in Bill Maher's routine, it made me happy because I could have another more legitimate reason to hate these stupid, superficial things more.

I can't help but think that women don't really like these but society makes them believe they are supposed to like these. So it's all very stepford-wives-like. But then again, it may just be me thinking that because I'm missing the genetic material that all other women have that diamonds are a girls best friend. But I cringe when I hear about hollywood's next movie star getting engaged and having an 8 karat diamond on her finger because, not only do I hate them, but I think the bigger they are, the gaudier.

Oh there's so much more weirdness for me to discuss but I'll stop here and let you all enjoy these for now.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

My first introduction to Quindlen was a book club read called Good Dog. Stay. What a great club choice because the book was like a picture book, with a total of 95 pages. I saw this new one from her, added it to my queue on goodreads and then my BFF AudreyPodrey sent me a note on goodreads and said 'we should get together and read this one'. So I did. Ann - you have to read it before you read the spoiler so we can get together and discuss. :)

***Spoiler Alert***

Just a note about spoiler alerts on - I always check the checkbox for my reviews so that it hides it. Apparently, if you get the newsletter and I'm your friend, it doesn't hide the review. Someone was going to unfriend me (which is fine; I don't get offended by that) because my entire review, with spoilers, would show up on her email. Why you just don't read it, I don't understand, but maybe some folks can't avoid it.

But the other part is this: when I read comments and see the link to read the comment WITH the spoiler, I am expecting to see, um, SPOILERS. But more often than not, I read this: "I don't want to give away the plot but it's shocking..." or "it was just tragic..." or something to that effect.

In the instance of this book, I get it: one would have to do that. There is something tragic. But if you continue to read THIS post, I'm giving away the whole fricking plot. I don't actually call these "reviews" fact, I'm going to rename the ones I've been doing in the latter years to "book post-mortem", since it's more of my own analysis of the book, sometimes in great detail, sometimes not.

So now, on to the book...

As I read from many others, the book starts off very mundane. I really wasn't sure where Quindlen was going with it. I wasn't completely turned off but it was very Seinfeld-like: a book about nothing.

The "nothing" being a description about her life: Mary Beth Latham is a mother of three children: Ruby, a beautiful, perfect -- and secretly the favorite - daughter, who is about to graduate high school; Max, a brooding, possibly depressed, introverted middle-schooler, who is one half of a fraternal twin; and Alex, another perfect child, who is the star athlete in every sport (basketball, lacrosse, soccer), out-going, and the other half of the fraternal twin.

Her husband, Glen, is an ophthalmologist. She owns her own landscaping business and we read about how she worries about the Mexican workers she hires (illegally) and doesn't pay them well, but doesn't pay them extra or advances them because she doesn't want to be taken advantage of. It's a strange dialogue - a supposedly good-hearted woman who is supposed to be a strong business woman too? These pieces in the book seem oddly placed and make no sense but there are tidbits like this throughout.

Things that bother me with a lot of novels are the "perfect"ness. In this case, the perfect children. Ruby is the most perfect girl. She writes poetry and novels perfectly. Her teachers love her. Her friends adore her. She dotes, cares deeply in an extraordinary way for any teenager, for a friend Rachel, who seems to be described as a teen on her way to an eating disorder and a life with bad men (according to Mary Beth).

Ruby is just so in touch with herself that it's just unreal and, while I liked her fine, it's just a ridiculous, stereotypical notion that I've seen too many times in novels.

And then we see it again in Alex. An eighth-grader who is just the star athlete in every sport he is in. He makes the athlete of the week in the town (?) paper nearly every week. And, at least according to Mary Beth, no one seems to envy him. We do not meet a single person who hates Alex. And he's great with kids too, as we find when he becomes a camp counselor to 9 year old boys. Just perfection.

The one character with interest is Max. He mumbles. His hair is long. His teachers complain about how he isn't engaged in school, in life. She worries about him but then moves on to the next obscure thought in her head. Finally, Max sees a counselor (who is also the perfect counselor because he breaks through to Max, and eventually, to Alex) and the counselor decides to meet with Glen and Mary Beth about Max's concerns. I love this part of the book, which is one of very few parts.

The doctor tells them that Max feels overshadowed by his twin (perfect) brother Alex. Glen argues that they do not ever try to make Max feel any inferior than Alex. And Mary Beth finally breaks down all the ruminations that goes on and on and on in the first 100 pages of this book:
"I think he feels like he doesn't belong anywhere anymore," I say, and shocked and dismayed at my own words, I begin to cry. [Side note, so do I.] "I love him so much. I don't want him to feel bad about who he is."
I love these words because I can't tell you how many times in my life I have felt like this. Being an only child, having to move so many times...forget the context of this novel, these words spoke to me. It's this family I have now that I feel I belong.

The doctor goes on about how Max says he knows his parents value him (deep for an 8th grader, don't you think? Again, stereotypical writing in novels...but whatever. Despite the storyline, this woman writes well.) but how the world values him is different and _that's_ what matters.

Mary Beth asks the doctor: did he tell you he plays the drums?
"Yes, he did. "And that he's an ace computer programmer. But you should know that at some level he doesn't feel that his gifts are important. And he doesn't feel he's entitled to his negative feelings. That's another reason he doesn't feel comfortable discussing them with you. He says that he has a great home, great parents, great siblings, and that he should be happy because of all that. In some ways, he's as distressed by what he sees as the wrongness of his emotions as by anything else. I think one of the phrases he kept repeating was 'I just can't help it.'"
Wow. Now we are getting somewhere. I loved this. I could relate. I thought of my own kids - remind myself to think of this as a mother.

But unfortunately, this is not where the book would go. And it really wasn't a surprise. There was a build up of something bad that would happen, even though it didn't seem appropriate, the way this novel was going.

Ruby, the perfectly confident-in-her-ways Ruby, had been dating Kiernan, who was a lifelong friend of the family. Kiernan practically lived with the Lathams. Ruby and Kiernan dated for most of their tween-to-teen years and Kiernan appeared to be obsessively in love with Ruby. But now, Ruby was ready to let Kiernan go. And she did. And Kiernan was beyond broken-hearted.

It was pretty obvious that Kiernan came from a broken home with a crazy mom. And about midway through the book, Kiernan murdered not just Ruby (this seemed somewhat obvious but again, I didn't really want to see this happen), but Max, Glen and attempted to kill Mary Beth. Alex was on a skiing trip in Colorado when all of this took place.

So the second half of the book becomes ruminations of Mary Beth's mind over the deaths of her family, except Alex, and how they would've been the people they could've been, had they lived.  There is virtually no relationship with Alex. She's like a zombie and it reads this way too.

Alex spends more time with his best friend's family. She inherits a butt load of money from life insurance. She lets her business go. She does nothing. She ends a friendship with a woman who was her best friend through the first half of the book but inexplicably, we have an accusation of an affair with Kiernan's father (Mary Beth) from long ago...and now, Mary Beth thinks: three sexual encounters causes my perfect life to become this tragic?

It's just a lost cause...what was the point of the book? Not that I think there should be a point to any novel. I'm just looking for a story to be told. But this story was bizarre to me.

Don't get me wrong. I cried a lot throughout. I couldn't help it. This woman writes well. But I just didn't understand what the story was supposed to be. A build up of a perfect, mundane life that kills the family off almost entirely, then a mundane recount of a life that could've been?  It didn't work for me.

What I found disturbing of it all was, as the police comb through the house, looking for survivors, Mary Beth, who is on the bedroom floor -- Kiernan had stabbed her in the shoulder, she fell to the floor and was stuck between the side of her bed and a wall -- overhears two of them  as one says 'are they all dead?' and the other replies 'every last one.' And hence, the title of the book.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

I actually finished this one several books ago but never got around to writing my review. Here it goes.

***Spoiler Alert***

This one really had a lot of promise. It's all how you end it that can make or break it and this one just lost it in the end. So terribly sad because it really had me going for awhile. I couldn't stop thinking about it, which is why I need to write this post.

First: there's a world of the almost dead. Not like zombies or anything but a 'middle' world, as in you die but you go to this other world and you live there until every single person in this world that has any memory of you dies. Then you're gone and whether you go to heaven or yet another world, well, no one knows.

And the middle world is just like this world. You can go to work, you can eat, you can hang out with your dead relatives. Although you may not know when you'll just disappear forever, you can estimate how long you'll have in the middle world, which will pretty damn long if you think about all the associations you could have in one lifetime.

In the middle world, there is no way to know what's going on in the real world. News only comes from those who are recent arrivals.

Second: there's life in the real world. We meet Laura Byrd, who is alone in a research station in Antartica, decides to go out on her own for help.

But we, the reader, soon find that it may be that Laura Byrd is the only life left in the real world. The middle world, or the City, first fills up with people who have been killed by a deadly virus called The Blinks, because of what it does to people's eyes. Eventually, we figure out that the virus was possibly an act of biological terror and planted in water supply that was used to manufacture coca cola (how did he get away with that?). So it hit everywhere, quickly. With no cure.

The book alternated chapters: first would be The City then the chapter with Laura. I was really into the chapters with Laura. I loved Laura. She was clueless to what was happening in the world around her and was just fighting to survive. Back in The City, the 'survivors' that were left all eventually figured out their only link was Laura...and that she was the only person left alive in the world.

I really didn't want that ending. I was hoping for a pocket of other people somewhere in the world that were alive. How they'd be able to save Laura, I had no idea. She was in fucking Antartica. I hoped that maybe she had a cure, or would figure out the cause of the virus (she worked for coca-cola and was there doing research on the ice for potential water supply for manufacturing). But her journey was to see if her fellow researchers were alive at a distant station (they weren't), then going to another station to call out for help (which was destroyed). This was the end of the hope for Laura, who had no way of transporting herself back to the fully stocked research station from the destroyed communications place.

And it ended with some weird sci-fi Laura as a light, walking through a desert or something, I don't know. It was just weird and didn't fit into the storyline. I hated the ending.

But up until that, it scared the shit out of me. And I found a new heroine in Laura. And then Kevin just blew it up and made it into something else. I mean, I _assume_ she died and so did everyone else in The City and we all (humans) became extinct. Really, I love a good indie, unusual, ending but this? Bleh.

Catching Up On DNFers

After a promising run of really fun reads, I had a string of books that I could not finish...WOULD not finish. They just sucked.  Here's a recap of those Did Not Finish novels.

***Spoiler Alert***

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta
I made it to page 241 of this 528 tome. I never really got into it and I'm not sure why I felt the need to keep forging on but I did. Bad timing too because I had no book for two days since the library was closed Thursday and Friday.

Basically, there's a guy, Eric, who apparently has psychic abilities. He used to be a cinematographer in Hollywood but got canned because he speaks his mind (cheesy) so instead, he puts family videos together, or shoots weddings, back in his hometown. At a family gathering where one of his videos is shown, he impresses a family member with a picture he put in, because his psychic ability managed to put in a meaningful picture that only that family member knew about. So she hires Eric to put together a video of her dying father-in-law for her husband. She pays him *a lot* of money and sends him off to the father-in-law's hometown, to gather memories of said FIL for the video.

There's water involved - mineral water in a bottle that FIL has kept for many years. The hometown is known for having this magic water that was sold as a cure-for-all back in the day, when elixirs like that were being touted. This bottle, however, is cold. Like abnormally cold. So daughter-in-law loans it to Eric to research while he's in FIL's hometown.

The bottle gets colder and colder and for some weird, unexplained reason, that becomes more and more prevalent in the book (unexplained reasons for doing things), Eric opens the frozen bottle and DRINKS it. Later, he drinks another bottle. That bottle does not freeze. But both bottles help relieve excruciating headaches that he gets. Why he gets these I don't know. I didn't read far enough and frankly, I couldn't give a shit.

There's also FIL's distant relative Josiah, who is a mean motherfucker. He doesn't like anyone snooping around about his family. Why, we don't know other than he's just grumpy all the time. Eric befriends a black dude who drive a Porsche who could've been in the NBA but instead, his brother went (that's how he got the Porsche) but he decided to pursue education and now a doctorate. He was looking into the FIL lineage and the name of the FIL matches the name of some guy who should be well over 100 years old.

Yeah. This story was going nowhere...slowly. I went to goodreads to read the reviews with spoilers and focused mainly on the negative reviews because I was pretty much fed up with the book. Nothing was going to make me like it. Reading the reviews made me realize I wasted way too much time on it.

American Purgatorio by John Haskell
I made it to page 132 of 264 (purely coincidental). The first few pages intrigued me as he writes that he "...was in the middle of living happily ever after when something happened." And that something is that his wife, Anne, went missing. And for 132 pages, he went looking for Anne.

But he didn't call anyone. He didn't call Anne's family, who they were supposed to see when she went missing.  He would stop and interact with people, stay at campsites, schmooze with women, on his journey to California (from New Jersey, where she went missing) to find Anne. This whole book (well, 132 pages of it) was like being drunk and reading words that made no sense. Or maybe being high and writing it, then waking up the next morning and re-reading what you wrote and going "What the fuck?" I went to the end to see if he found Anne. He did. It didn't make sense. I went to goodreads to find out what the fuck happened. She was dead. They both were. Apparently, when she went missing, they were both killed at the gas station in New Jersey and all those people he met on the way to California were dead too.  Whatever genre of novel this falls into? It's too deep for me.

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
I made a mistake when I added this to my "to read" list because this book ended up being a compilation of short stories. I don't like those types of books. I don't know why but I don't. I tried. I read one story; tried another but just didn't feel good about it.

The story I did read centered around two married couples who were long-time friends. But one from each couple (man and woman) were having an affair. Eventually, they would leave their respective husband/wife and marry. Then the husband would die and the woman would mourn his passing. That's it. All the details in between are just descriptions about how she feels about him, how he looks, how her kids don't condone the relationship, etc. The end.

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
This one started with a plane crash. The pilot is trying to land the plane like Captain Sully did on the Hudson River. But he doesn't and instead, 39 people die. The pilot, Chip, lives with the guilt and shame and his wife, Emily, decides they should relocate to an old Victorian house in a small town in New start over.

They soon find that most of the town becomes obsessed with their twin 10 year old daughters. This is where the problem starts: every party, social gathering, casual meeting these people show up to, the adults fawn over the twins and leave the parents standing alone. And the parents do not seem to find this odd at all.

Chip starts seeing dead passengers in his house, especially that of a young 9 year old. The dad (also dead) is really pissed off at Chip for killing him and his daughter and tells Chip how she has no playmates. So Chip feels bad and does what any dad would do: thinks about which twin to kill to keep the dead 9 year old company.

If this sounds the least bit intriguing to you, let me just say that when I went to goodreads to read the spoilers, there is a disconnect between Chip and his ghosts, the twins, and the townspeople...meaning, those storylines are apparently NOT connected. FYI: 197 of 378. I think that was just a hair off of being over a waste of time.

Twelve Things You Didn't Know

...About Me

With the holidays here, I thought I'd share in my joy by listing out things that bother me. Since November was the month of being thankful, and by golly, didn't we see enough of that shit on facebook? "Day 14: I'm thankful for my momma, poppa, granmomma, granpoppa, aunties and uncles, cousin It, blah, blah, blah"... Then there's Day 15, Day 16 and so on. Seriously? Jeezuz-fucking-christ. I read them just to drive myself batshit-crazy.

I'm sick that way.

This is probably insight to my OCD, or just my demented way of ruminating, which I do 24-7. Some of these list items are actual objects so instead of giving me coal for christmas, you can get me one of these things.

1. I do not like speeders in general but people who speed around school zones, neighborhoods, or in areas that have slow mph zones (<= 35) piss me off the most. I think cities can monopolize on this greatly by making quota *and* revenue by having police monitor school zones during school hours and just pick off each Richard Petty wannabe. There is lots of money to be made. I see it every day I drive to work and go through school zones.

2. The sound made by making the 'pfffft' with your lips. It irritates me as much as fingernails on a chalkboard does for most people (that also bothers me). I have to put my hands over my lips, rub them, or do something, to make the annoying, irritating feeling go away. I usually don't say anything out loud so that people don't do it again. I suffer in silence. Until now.

3. The smell or taste of peach flavored anything. Almost instantly, if I don't know a candy is peach flavored, I will know once my taste buds hit it and it's coming back out. I could be sitting with the President of the United States, at an extravagant dinner, and pop in the most beautiful piece of dinner "mint". Taste like peaches? It's coming back out and landing on the white linen table cloth.

4. Tailgaters - Not tailgating parties, although that seems weird but that's because I don't do it and never did. So what I don't know and don't understand just bothers me in general. This bothersome point relates to speeders. I hate people who speed behind me and then ride on my ass because *I'm* doing the speed limit. When I was younger and more obnoxious, I used to throw paper out of my sunroof at them. Or if they eventually passed me, I would shoot them with my finger gun and make "pow pow" noises.  Or blow kisses at them.  I had a lot of road rage back then. But I am recovered now.

5. People who talk in theaters - I will let them get away with it during the trailers but once the movie starts? I will tell you to be quiet. And I know one thing for sure: *I* wouldn't want anyone to tell me to be quiet. So that would piss me off. So why even talk during the movie? Why do people come to a movie to talk? It just doesn't compute. I am completely flabbergasted at this notion. Movie <> social interaction. PSA for the day.

6. The smell or taste of american tea. I don't know how you people drink that stuff. It smells awful. I've tasted it and it's been ingrained in my memory and, yuck. When I lived in Thailand, my mom told me to be careful about strangers. Of course, NOW I know what she meant, but back then, I was around elementary school age. She said that there were men that would kidnap little girls and would make them do things they didn't want to do. For me, at that age, I clearly remember thinking they would make me drink tea.

7. Being told that I look like Pocahontas. I probably look less like her now that my hair is short and shaved on one side :) but after the Disney movie came out, numerous, disparate people would tell me this over the years. I don't know why it bothers me but I point it to the fact that the first time it came up, it came from a person I thought was a friend who actually liked me but, as she told the story, it became apparent that it bothered her to watch the movie (Pocahontas) and be reminded of me. Plus, I felt like it was a bit racial, not in a bad way but in a I-know-a-brown-girl-and-I-see-a-brown-girl-in-a-cartoon-movie-so-now-they-look-alike kind of way.

8. Thankful posts. Can you get any cheesier than that? Seriously. If I was on top of my game, I would have done "what I would be thankful" posts (I'd be thankful if my kids would do their chores), or wrote shitty "what I'm thankful for" posts (I'm thankful that I hate thankful posts), or I'm not thankful for posts (I'm not thankful for George Clooney).

9. Fine point ballpoint pens. Why were these ever invented? It's like writing with your fingernail on paper. It just doesn't feel right and the line of ink is indistinguishable. Medium point is the way to go. This does not apply to felt tip pens, where fine tips, and extra-fine tips, are the bomb.

10. Bluetooth. Just not cool. Put this in the cheesy category. First: you look like an idiot walking around with that thing in your ear. Second: No one, especially me, wants to hear your idiotic conversation.

11. Phone calls. Don't call me. I hate talking on the phone. Unless you're my husband or one of my daughters, I absolutely have no desire to talk to you. I can't explain it but when my phone rings, I get anxious and pissy. If I don't recognize the number, I will not answer. If you don't leave a message, you will not get a call back. Texting? I'll text you all day. But something about actually speaking to someone on the phone makes me sick. I did get used to talking to my good friend Vikram. He was incessant...and insistent in talking to me on the phone. He knew about my 'disorder'. But eventually, I came around and he became one of few people that I would talk to on the phone because I could just hang up on him when I got tired of talking to him. And he wouldn't keep me on long, or rarely called. But one of the initial phone calls, before I turned, I told him "You're breaking up. I can't hear you. I need to hang up." He cut me off "Nah. Can't happen. I have Verizon. My line never breaks up."

12. Personalized plates that I can't decipher. I know some people probably make personalized plates for themselves but if I can't figure out what 82pst*b is, it will bother me. I will spend WAY too much time trying to decipher the code. Can't you just make it easy for the rest of us?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Big Leagues

Last Saturday and Sunday was our first swim meet with our year round swimming club. We decided that this year was the time to get MiMi involved in year round swimming. This involves up to three times a week swim practice and, of course, swim meets throughout the year.

The swim meet was at NC State's Carmichael Gymnasium, which has a natatorium - a really nice facility.  Probably very intimidating for a nine year old, who is used to a smaller pool, with snow cones being served and the aroma of burnt burgers in the air.

No, this was the big leagues baby. In the background in this picture is an electronic timer board that shows exact times, including splits, of each lane. The times are done by touch for each lane.

MiMi had six events: three on Saturday and three on Sunday.  Arrival times for both days was 7 AM, where they would have their warm-ups. This is not a big problem for MiMi, who is, so far, a decent morning person. This is NO PROBLEM for Tim, who gets up with the roosters (like 3:30 AM). But for the rest of us, this is not ideal. But for MiMi, I'd get up at any time and apparently, CJ was up for it on Sunday, which warmed my cold heart.

Saturday's events for MiMi were: 100 yard breaststroke, 50 yard freestyle, and an individual IM. Wow. In the summer league, all she has to accomplish is 25 yards.  So she was freaking out about going 50 even though the Wednesday before, there was a swim-a-thon and she had swam 133 lengths of a 25 yard pool.  Her coach told them all: 100 yards should feel like nothing after all of that, right?

After her 100 breaststroke, she told me that she felt like quitting (during the swim) because her legs felt like spaghetti. I told her that she did it and that's what counts...and that, that's what it _does_ feel like when you're competing: you work hard to run, swim, bike - whatever it is one is doing, and it usually feels like you can't make it but you pull through. And *that's* what is amazing: the sense of accomplishment to endure when you think you can't. Not winning.

She apparently DQ'd her IM. I don't know how or where and apparently, initially, her coach didn't think she DQ'd either as he said, after her event, she swam it cleanly.

She had _just_ learned her flip turns the week before and kept saying "I'm not doing a flip turn". OK.

But she tried during her freestyle and missed the wall so she had to get her bearings to get some oomph to get her last 50 going. Overall, I thought she looked great.

Day two was just as stressful for her. She had 50 yd back, 100 yd free and then a 50 yd breast. She DQ'd one of these - I think her back, as she attempted a flip turn and didn't get close enough to the wall. I saw the arm go up from the ref (or whatever they're called) and her coach turned to us and said 'she was perfect for every one of them during warm-ups'.

But for these two days, she cried and cried and cried. She was even more hysterical on day two than she was on day one. It was so stressful for everyone and I hated for her coaches to see her so upset. Of course, I hated her being so anxious that she put herself in a frenzy and, IMO, put herself in an anxious state while swimming.

I tried. I spoke to her telling her how much of a rock star she was. How she could swim this - she knows how to do the strokes. Treat this as practice. Just do the swim. Don't worry about how fast you are. Don't think about anything else, just swim.  You rock. You're a warrior.  Don't worry about your flip turns. Do what you're comfortable with.  Don't worry about DQs.

Tim did his own encouragement. The coaches did too. But it just wasn't enough to curtail her fears. And I get that. I really do. I know it's extreme butterflies and she just has to get used to this. I think it's hard for a nine year old to take this all in but it's something she can become accustomed to.

She is an excellent swimmer and has great form. She seems to enjoy it and she's attentive. I see her listening intently to her coaches where everyone else is horsing around. But, as I've already said to her, she has little choice. Our girls have to have a sport. Some parents 'force' their kids to do art, music, bible study, math, science, girl scouts. Well, this is what we 'force' our kids to do. You can think it's cruel -- although, apparently, it's OK for boys to be 'strongly encouraged to do football, basketball or soccer -- but whatever. In the case of MiMi, she likes it and like the other things I've just mentioned, kids will be lazy about it. They don't want to practice, they don't want to do any of that stuff (the average kid) because they'd rather play games, read or lie around and do nothing.

But how many of you think about how you wish your parents forced you to finish out your piano lessons, or do more sports, or whatever? Well, I wish my parents forced/encouraged me to be more sporty. I'm a late in life sports girl...although, I *did* play softball as a kid. But all on my own. I signed up because I wanted to. I went to all my practices on my own (lived in the Philippines at the time so I had to walk to the end of my subdivision, hail a jeepney to the Air Force Base ALONE, take a bus to practice and then, if my dad remembered, he would pick me up after work and take me home)...ditto for my games. I wasn't that good but man, I'm proud of myself for that and it shows, IMO, a lot of my personality THEN that I have now.

But how little time people have to play sports...especially girls. Not that I expect them to be professional players but how many professional women's sports are there?'s the time to play...and hopefully, enjoy it. But it's also a great way to learn self-confidence - another big thing for girls. And a great thing to keep in shape. And as a parent, I know it's the right choice and, as I told MiMi, when she becomes an adult, she can decide for herself if she wants to continue. But for now, she will do this and if that means we sit away from the coaches while she cries her anxiety out, then so be it.  But I'll be there rooting her on and supporting her all the way.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In The Woods by Tana French

I'm a bit lax on my book reviews. I think I've missed the last three books I've read. Maybe I'll write about them. It's kind of hard to write about a book you've read weeks, months ago.

In The Woods was on my list for quite a while. It was released in 2008 and French has since published four more books in her Dublin Murder Squad series.

The book starts out very intriguing: in 1984, three children disappear in the Knocknaree 'wood' - why it's "wood" vs. "woods", I will never know. I know that Winnie the Pooh calls its woods the "Hundred Acre Wood"...  One of the missing children is found, battered, clinging to a tree, his nails dug into the tree, with his socks soaked in blood within his shoes.  He's catatonic and has no recollection of what has happened to him or his friends. His friends are never found.

Fast forward to present day, 2000-something. That kid is now a murder detective with the Murder Squad in Dublin. No one but his partner, Cassie, knows his history. But a new murder involving a 12 year old girl in the Knocknaree woods brings back those memories, and perhaps, the killer(?) of the event from 1984.

This is what In The Woods is about. Detective Rob Ryan, AKA the missing child Adam Ryan, deals with his past throughout this novel, plus the elements of this new murder. The partnership he has with Cassie is written amazingly. The reader (yours truly) can see this played out well in a movie.

While the novel is a bit long-winded in places -- I think it could have been condensed in many places but hey, I'm not a writer -- overall, it's quite good and I look forward to reading the next dublin murder case.

Let's Set The World On Fire

The morning after President Obama was re-elected, I said to Tim: "CJ was just ecstatic about President Obama winning".

"Good" he said, "she should be. It's her world now."

I loved these words...because it's true. And if you watched this wonderful speech that President Obama gave to his campaign staff, he essentially said the same thing.

Yes. Us older folks still need to participate and care about this great nation but, truth be told, we have less time in it than our younger counterparts. And my passion for ethical treatment of all people is for the next generation NOT to have to deal with the shit I have seen/heard.  The best way to erase racism, prejudices, is to educate and do away with antiquated laws and regulations that support that kind of issue.

According to this past election, 19% of our youth demographic: those between the ages of 18-29, came out to vote. And most of them voted for President Obama. According to The Sophian, Smith College's Independent Student Press:
“The research shows that young people are more likely to support LGBT rights, and the chance to vote for a president who repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, supports marriage equality and has done more for LGBT Americans than any other president is a huge deal and definitely brought people out to vote.” Rich also cited marriage equality, the legalization of marijuana, protection of reproductive and healthcare rights and higher education policies as possible reasons for young voters supporting Obama, as well as the Democratic party’s use of social networking campaigns.
From my own, very minute demographic statistical analysis, my youth surrounding suggests the very same. My teen writing group are brilliant thinkers, who are so much aware of policies and issues going on in the world than I ever cared to think about when I was their age. They are agnostic-to-atheist, so the religious overtones are a huge turn-off. They are huge supporters of LGBT issues and marriage equality, which again, knocks out the religious overtones.  They are strong women *and* strong women supporters (if they are men)...and it's hard to write/say that because it's not that they ARE strong women supporters because, I think we just live in a 'society' where we don't think like that. There just isn't this notion of a woman not making a decision for herself, or treated with respect in making decisions (and I'm being general, not specific to the political issues dealing with contraception and abortion).

The same goes for CJ and her circle of friends. They support LGBT, gay rights, gay marriage. CJ loves that Obama addresses young people. Tim said he came home one day and she was watching the President interviewed on MTV. *She*, on her own accord, *watched* an interview with the President on MTV. I mean, at 14, would I have wanted to watch the President interviewed anywhere? I'd like to say YES, that I was that intellectually motivated then, but I'm pretty sure I would have had my nose stuck in a Stephen King book.

And while these "kids" weren't old enough to vote in *this* election, they will be in 2016. And that's where progress comes in to play. Our nation is progressing: people like Tim and I, for whatever reason, walked away from the "traditional" beliefs our parents tried to instill in us.

Will our kids walk away from our beliefs? I don't think so. Our relationship, as I try so hard to convince Tim, is so much more different than what we have with our parents. I can't speak for Tim since I don't know anything about his upbringing but for me, my relationship with my girls vs. the relationship I had with my mom as a child is vastly different. My girls have the freedom to think for themselves and express it out loud.  They can disagree with me. There are times I wish I had what my parents had so I can shut them up and be right :). They can believe in god or not, although it's kind of hard to believe with an atheist in the house (Tim) and a now acknowledged agnostic (me) who continually blasphemes for pleasure.

But my dad was a "kids should be seen not heard" kind of guy. And Tim is far from that with his girls.  This clip of Sasha nudging Obama? That would be Tim. Because he _listens_ to his girls. He respects their voice, even when he disagrees.

But they also SPEAK to us, knowing they may get in trouble. And sometimes they do. But THAT is what we've taught them: to speak for themselves, think for themselves, even if it means there are consequences.

And it's what I see in most of my friends' upbringing. And I hope that is the future. Progress to making this nation, this world, a better place, free from the iron fist of assbackward beliefs of what "traditional" women were, what "traditional" marriage was, what "traditional" americans looked like, or what defined religion, in this great nation.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

You Prayed for This

For the religious right, you can take the election results - these in particular: recreational marijuana legalized in two states, same sex marriage approved in three states, a binder full of women (thank you Michael Moore for that line) elected into Congress, including the openly gay Tammy Baldwin, in one of three ways:
1. God does not exist.
2. Your prayers were answered.
3. Your fanaticisms have pissed the rest of us off.

Let me explain.

God Does Not Exist
You prayed and prayed for anyone but Obama. But Obama won? Hmmm...

Your Prayers Were Answered
You prayed and prayed for god to provide guidance. Obama won. Same sex marriage passed. A gay woman was elected. Todd Akin, Tom Smith, and Richard Mourdock - ousted. A record number of women - voted IN.

I said to Tim this morning: well, 'they' (the religious folk) should feel that god answered their prayers. "No, no, no. It doesn't work that way. It's the prayer that they WANT answered." Hmmm... I didn't think a god was supposed to work like that.

Your Just Pissing The Rest of Us Off
You all want so much to do good things. At least you SAY that but, IMO, you don't really DO that. If you DID, you would DO more for immigrants, for gays, for women, for all religions, or NON-religions (like atheists and agnostics), for the poor. Your constant barrage of moans and groans against gays, gay marriage, abortion, immigration, women's rights to choose, and human rights to choose to believe in a god, several gods or no god, is just beyond irritating. It's fucked up. I won't use the word condescending because it has no effect on _me_ anymore other than being as irritating as a mosquito. But you affect other people who aren't so "over" it as I am and THAT's what pisses me off. Leave your shit out of the rest of our lives.

So, there you have it. Pick one.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Canvassing for Obama

Last night, CJ, Mimi and I volunteered with one of my most favoritist people, Elizabeth, for Obama's reelection campaign and canvassed a portion of [scary] Cary.

I've known Elizabeth for many years and she is one amazing person. There are many things I can go on about her: she creates beautiful, unique jewelry, not only does she sell it, but she is part of the Carolina Designer Craftsman Guild and helps to set up its annual show, which is held Thanksgiving weekend.

She cooks WONDERFUL gourmet meals (my family and I have been treated to this and I expect more in the future), she MAKES handmade chocolates, some with her homestate Kentucky bourbon (Tim's favorites), and she is extremely, politically active. She is well-connected - but you never would know it because she doesn't brag or boast, nor does she do it to BE well-connected...she's just that way because of her passion for the things that I just mentioned above, and more.  She's just an amazing person, with a big heart, who has taken great care of her elderly parents, and once you enter her circle of friendship, you are warmly welcomed and FEEL like you are THE well-connection in her life.  I love her for thank you Elizabeth, for being my friend. You are such a wonderful inspiration to me.

So when I mentioned that another mutual friend, Sam, and I stopped by the Cary Obama campaign office and signed up as volunteers, she told me about her experiences canvassing. It sounded fascinating and she invited me to do it with her. We set up a date and last night was it. I invited CJ and Mimi, which amazingly, CJ ended up being excited about it.

We met at Five Guys to have a quick bite and fuel up before we hit the pavement. I was very happy to see how comfortable CJ was at talking, while very little, but she's usually not talkative at all with anyone outside her friends and us. She doesn't even talk to other family members. But with Elizabeth, she spoke right off the bat.

After our meal, we headed to the campaign office to find out what neighborhood we would be canvassing. There we met Cathy and she gave us the rundown of what we would expect, as we went to meet people. For those who haven't done this before, canvassing is targeted to registered Democrats and Independents who have not voted in either the last two elections and have not yet voted in *this* election (we have early voting in North Carolina). Or, more often than not, they are first time registered voters: 18, 19, 20, 21 year olds who were not old enough to vote in the last election.

We visit them, ask them if they are aware of early voting, where their nearest early voting location site is, and if they plan to support our President. We fill out a form that gives them the location details, the time to go, and a slate of Democratic party candidates to reference.

As I mentioned before, surprisingly, CJ had fun. That evening, afterward, I took her to Barnes & Noble to buy the CD of her choice as a reward for her great effort. In the car, she said it was the best day ever. She did say she didn't think she could do this by herself. I said 'because it would be scary?' She replied 'No, because I would be angry at anyone that said they were voting for Romney.'

Meeting people was the most fascinating part of this. I love people-watching, or interacting with people by observation. I think sociology or some type of psychology would have been a good career choice for me. Fortunately, I'm in that type of career now, somewhat.

The standouts for me:

Walking up to a house where a car with a "Parent of a marine" bumper sticker, ringing the door bell, then having the door swing open rather abruptly with a very muscular, young "marine" in a wife-beater stare at us bug-eyed. I mean, look at each one of us (all four of us) intensely. And he was the target. Elizabeth spoke to him about early voting. I was thinking: a marine. A new Jaguar, a new Saab, and a convertible in the driveway. I'm not thinking they are Obama supporters. And when she said: will you be supporting our President? I heard his mom from upstairs yell down "Yes! His mom and dad already voted for Obama!!!" He managed a bewildered look upstairs and stared back at us without acknowledgement or denial. He took our literature and stared back at us and I think he said thank you.

At an Asian family's house, I could see a young tween see us at the door. He didn't open it (good choice) and called for others. Eventually, I saw about four others come to the door. It took a second or two, then the door opens and an older gentleman asks, with about six pairs of eyes looking at us, 'can i help you?' Elizabeth asks if we can speak to "Jimmy", who is supposed to be 70 years old. The older gentleman says 'Um, there is no Jimmy here...I think you have the wrong..." and then a kid on the staircase in the background says "Oh, that's our uncle!" and then some murmurs and someone else says "No, that's our grandpa."  We learn that Jimmy is traveling back to China. But to go from 'there's no Jimmy, to he's the uncle, to he's our Grandpa', was pretty hilarious.

There was the guy in the empty house (just moved in? moving out?) who came to the door breathing heavily and in a panicked state. Did he just do something bad? Before Elizabeth could say anything, he said "wait, I need to get my baby." Um. Okay. He was gone not even 30 seconds and when he came back to us, there was no baby. He continued to pant, and just had this look of paleness and dramatic-ness that it took everything in me not to laugh. He stated he was an Independent and did not want to share who he was voting for. Fair enough. As we walked away, I told CJ and Mimi not to say anything until we got into the car but Elizabeth blurts out "I thought he was going to pass out or something!"

Lastly, we met an older middle eastern gentleman who greeted us with "who are you supporting" with his wonderful accent. I love those accents...and Russian ones too. ANYWAY, we said Obama and he said "Ah, you are safe with me." Great. I didn't know I was in any danger. Really, he was jovial so I didn't feel in danger but it was just a funny use of words. He chatted with us a bit - talking about how he couldn't understand there was still "red"...meaning people supporting Romney. It was just dumbfounding to him. But his wife and daughter had already voted for Obama and he and his son were voting Tuesday for him...and he is very worried. He was asking US, what do we think will happen. "It's very close. So please, make your vote on Tuesday. Every vote counts!" Elizabeth added "Take all your friends with you!"

There were others along the way. Anyone that we saw that supported Obama were happy to hear from us. We only met one house that stated outright they were not voting for Obama but we could sense from a few others, like drama-panting-where's-your-baby-man, that they were leaning right. But they were still nice to us and we had nice interactions overall. I would definitely do this again and it made me consider being more proactive in politics.

It was a great evening. The weather was wonderful. The company was wonderful.

I asked CJ: what is it that you like about Obama? The first thing she said was: "he likes gay people and is trying to provide equal rights for them". I loved that. One of our new favorite shows is The New Normal and the episode where the gay couple are in the department store and kiss, and a father with his family sees this and says something to the effect that they are setting a bad example in front of his kids, she literally was angry and pissed and yelling at the TV. That came from her heart and soul and it made me proud. I didn't do that. For you religious folks, your god did that. That is what comes with being a good person with a moral character.

One of the other things she said that I love love love was: 'Obama seems like he treats everyone like a friend, like you matter. If I met him, he seems like he would try to remember me. Like he cares about who I am. Like the time that girl couldn't remember her question during the debate, and he said to her 'you're doing fine'. But Romney, he doesn't seem like he would care to remember who I was.'

So profound and an amazing observation that I thought: wow. She summed him up exactly how I think about him too.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vote for Obama

I love this clip from Bill Maher, who has just been eloquent at speaking against the Republican party, and the religious fanatics that encompass the politics of that party.

I'm a bit afraid that Romney will be elected. Just by the sheer volume of Romney signs over Obama signs that I see in the area. BUT, it may be that I happened to be in a segment of society that is more red than blue. It's quite possible there's a pro-Romney thinking the same thing about Obama, because they are in the opposite situation than I'm in.

My Facebook stats are different: 67 of my friends Like Obama vs. 38 for Romney. These aren't all folks that vote because many of my FOR Obama are the young, which is a great thing because, while it does nothing now, at least I know our future is looking good. 

MiMi, my bright Buddha-like-Lisa-Simpson-glass-is-always-have-full daughter thinks Obama will win because she saw a thing where the children got to vote for the President and Obama won. Her observation on this? Most likely, the children that voted picked Obama because their parents like Obama. Love that girl.

Then CJ mentioned it was very close. In her Civics class, they saw a website with the poll numbers and while Obama is ahead, Romney was not far behind. Let's hope he stays that way.

Yes. I've told my children I could _never_ be a Republican. The Republican platform has never catered to my independent beliefs of freedom of choice for all people: minorities - not just black people, but let's talk about them Mexicans. What's going on in Arizona is appalling to me. And when I see people post 'humorous' things on Facebook about ' shoots people for crossing their borders. Why shouldn't we?' I am SHOCKED. I am fine at being called a 'bleeding heart liberal' because I don't think anyone should be shot for crossing the border ANY-FUCKING-WHERE but especially in my own country. And that, motherfuckers, is not coming from a christian heart because I ain't christian. 

But the people that post that shit also post about being god-fearing, I love god, god this, god that, forget that they hate Mormons (BTW, Romney is mormon...if you christians forgot that tidbit), god is my savior, don't kill the babies, but kill the mexicans. Oh. But probably don't kill the Canadians because...they are _white_? Oh no I didn't!!!

More freedom of choice: the right to believe in what we want to believe. The refluckpickans don't seem to want anyone to believe in Buddha, multiple gods, magic underwear (that's a Mormon thing), the Koran, praying to Mother Mary, NO god (Gasp!)...but only *their* god. The god that apparently doesn't like mexicans, sex before marriage, maybe let's just correct that and just say sex, but the men really are sickos and pretend to be something else for appearances (until they get caught)...bring back prayer in schools because that was what they had in their backwoods, non-Mexican, blacks-repressed era of their days. Well, FUUCCCCK YOU. That is just ignorant.

I like how it is today and I know quite a few others that do too and WE don't want our children to grow up in that kind of environment. But you know what, if that's what you want, you can have it. But you say your little prayers on your own time and leave my agnostic children out of it. My kids aren't Mexican but they're brown and LOOK Mexican, so I don't need your racist shit messing with my Mexican-looking kids. Who, BTW, not only can have black friends, but one day, if they want, can DATE, even MARRY a black man *OR WOMAN*. THAT my friends and FAMILY, is the type of family *we are*. And it is the type of environment they are surrounded by, THANK THE GOD I DON'T KNOW IF I BELIEVE IN.

Back to Bill Maher. His message is plain and clear: A vote for Mitt is like:

...what I’m trying to do is make an analogy to that old public service announcement about how when you go to bed with one person, you’re not just sleeping with them, you’re…. Well, it’s like that with Mitt. When you elect Mitt, you’re not just electing him, you’re electing every right-wing nut he’s pandered to in the last ten years. 
If the Mittmobile does roll into Washington, it’ll be towing behind it the whole anti-intellectual, anti-science freak show. The abstinence obsessives, the flat earthers, home schoolers, the holy warriors, the anti-women social neanderthal, the closeted homosexuals, and every end timer who sees the Virgin Mary in the grass over the septic tank.
The more I learn about who is on this Science Committee, the more I am sad and dismayed that more of "us" didn't pay attention. How the fuck did these ignorant bible-thumpers get on a fucking SCIENCE committee???? When Bill Maher speaks this quote below, the video has a picture of a dude standing in front of a wall of deer heads.
A few weeks ago, we heard from a Republican Congressman named Paul Broun. Here he is at a dead deer convention telling his supporters that evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang Theory are all “lies straight from the pit of Hell.” And he’s on the Science Committee! Along with Todd Akin. Fuck, even the deer are rolling their eyes.
People like Congressman Ralph Hall, who is Chairman of the Science Committee, and says we don’t need to address global warming because: “I don’t think we can control what God controls.” 
By that logic, why ever put out a fire? Or open an umbrella? Or wipe your ass?
These truths will NEVER EVER convince the religious right. They are done for. They will never open their eyes from their deluded sense of reality. But for the rest of you who are not lost, do this nation a favor and vote for Obama. It *is* the right choice. What scares me more than Romney as President is Paul Ryan as President. And Romney ain't looking to fresh...

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The First Debate

I was excited about the first presidential debate.

During the 2008 elections, I watched several of the debates. It was the first time twitter was around for debates, as well as Facebook, and I remember tweeting and facebooking comments during the debate. I think I was alone in the world of FB with my comments (within my social circle) but I had fun.

I planned a menu for the debates: homemade chicken nuggets, cheese fries and fried shrimp for the vegetarian. Nice and healthy. :)

I was excited about getting the kids involved. At least they could watch some of it (I mistakenly thought the debate would begin at 8PM), just to get a gist of how these things took place, and then they could go off and watch something else. After all, these things could be quite a bore for someone who might even be remotely interested in politics.

Alas, the debate didn't start until 9 and the girls would be tucked away by then, so they would miss out. Tim would also be in bed soon...he stayed up for a few to hear Mittens repeat nothing for 15 minutes before he got tired of it.

Me? I stayed up for the entire thing.

Unlike everyone in the media and a few of my disappointed friends, I did not thing Obama "lost". I didn't think Mittens won. I call it a flop, personally. I was disappointed in the questions (were there any? I think there was one and the rest was hijacked). But most of all, I wanted theatrics. Remember the debate with John McCain, where he starts wandering around the stage? That's what I wanted. I realize the format was not structured for wandering. But I wanted to see more movement, more veins popping out, hair pulling, yelling, you know, a good ole-fashion 2008 debate that was fun to watch and listen to! Not this lame, boring, yawn-fest that we were subjected to on October 3rd.

My set up: up to four twitter pages: one following #debate, one following Michael Moore, which, well, I absolutely LOVE Michael Moore but he was a bit on the boring side during the debate, another following @witorsch, who said he was "IN" on the debate follow but actually wasn't, and another following Markos Moulitsas from the Daily Kos.

I also had my Facebook page up, Daily Kos - in which I frantically tried to find their live blog because it appeared I had to keep refreshing the page to get updates, and THIS is not a live blog, The Huffington Post and the tumblr page in which my teen BFF pointed me to, where I assumed some of my teen writing club friends were hanging out. This, by far, was my favorite place to be because this was the YOUTH of America who were assessing the debate far more intellectually (in places) than in all of the other places I was at.

Sure, there were the other silly posts, but so were the Bill Mahers' and my favorite from some random guy:

Anyway, yes, like many Obama proponents, I am disappointed that Obama didn't go for the jugular. Why didn't you attack Romney on his 47% comment?
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
This is one of the most offensive things I have ever heard and I welcome the ad that plays it everyday. I want everyone to hear this EVERY. DAY. Why? Because this is what this man thinks. This is what I think most republicans, conservatives, the stereotypical ignoramus thinks about poor people, mexicans, blacks, people on welfare, people that work at 7 eleven, the single mom. But not the single dad.

If that's you, then shame on you. You probably consider yourself a christian too. You go to church, study your bible, pat yourself on the back about how good of a person you are, then turn around and think this about other people.

THIS IS NOT WHAT PEOPLE THINK. How do I know? I don't. But I don't assume this is how other people think because I am not a god, I am not a seer, I don't read people's minds and I have no knowledge that other people do this kind of thing nor do I think they do. You may have heard one story, and it was probably told to you by someone in your church, or in a bar (if you're not a christian but you're just an ignoramus), or in passing, that someone was on welfare but they really made 40 grand a year and were cheating the government.

Or you heard another made up story about someone who didn't want to work and just took advantage of the government and got unemployment checks, or welfare checks, or subsidies, or disability or something else.

And now that's your stereotype of all people who are a minority, poor, or single mothers, or uneducated, or whatever.

And that's why you support republicans, and Romney, but you don't really like Romney because he's mormon but you hate Obama because either he's Black, muslim (you know he's not, right?), or because he's really a Democrat. Weellll FUCK YOU. Because it's bullshit.

And BTW, who are these 47% that he's talking about? More details here but the majority of them are the elderly. The TPC - Tax Policy Center - did a study on how people were moved off the income tax rolls. The numbers below are based on roughly half the population, or 46% in the report:
"The TPC found that of the 38 million households that are made nontaxable by tax expenditures, “44% are moved off the tax rolls by elderly tax benefits and another 30% by credits for children and the working poor.”

That's Life

It's been awhile, I know. I don't like being away from my blog.

As I've written before, my brain is constantly "on". This means my mind is writing my posts all the time. But finding the time, correction, _making_ the time to blog about those mind-writing-posts is not so easy.

As I have learned over the years,  I think that a summer break will bring me a break from the hectic-ness of the school year. That doesn't happen. I often think that the summer break is busier than the school year...until the school year begins.  That's when I realize how easy the summer break was.

On top of it all, work has been a bit crazy so time is crucial all around. And when I do get a moment of free time, the last thing I want to do is touch a computer.  Except for "Cindy's BFF", which is my iPhone's name. :)

REGARDLESS, I'm alive and barely pulling through.

I get CJ and MiMi to their orthodontist appointments. Leaving work early, despite the massive amount of work I have left to do, or the VIP meetings I have right before leaving to 1) endure traffic; 2) pick up whatever child I'm to get at school; 3) managing traffic and then 4) getting to the doctor *on-time*. Yeah. That rarely happens but I manage to get in there within five minutes.

I get MiMi to swim practice. This goes on three times a week but, as Tim kindly reminded me which eased *so much* of my anxiety, we only need to attend twice a week.

Swim practice starts at 5:30 in downtown Raleigh. Not too far, about 7.2 miles away (guess that's not an 'about'). But it's at "5:30", which is quitting time: more traffic. And because it's downtown, there's more traffic lights to contend with. So I HAVE to leave at 5 but, yeah, I'm not good with being on time.

This also requires me having the discipline of leaving my busy job at a responsible enough time to: 1) deal with crazy traffic in order to 2) pick up MiMi at after-school at a decent time so that 3) she can get home and comfortably take time to unwind, then put her swimsuit on so that we can then 4) leave by 5PM to get to the pool by 5:30.

While, so far, we only have to do this once during the work week (the other practice is on a Saturday), I want to do this three times a week because I think she needs the discipline and I really, really like this program and see such immediate potential for her with one extra day a week. But I digress...

We eat dinner! Well, Tim and I can get cooked meals on the table. Yes. Even on these hectic days of doc appointments, swim practice, picking CJ up at the her after-school programs, we still cook meals and enjoy dinner together. We may not get CJ to tell us about her low C, maybe even a D, in her Geometry class (we found out the hard way...the Sunday we had to sign her interim reports before the Monday it was to be turned in), we still manage to put it all together.

Am I bragging? FUCK YEAH. The stress, the anxiety that I go through, is all worth it. I feel like superwoman. I work hard - at work - and I love it. I work hard - at home - and I love it. And I can do it. It's not easy. And I may not always look, or sound like, I'm enjoying it. But I am.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Bad Books

After a good run of amazingly entertaining books, I have entered a streak of bad ones. I don't finish them so I don't usually rate them on goodreads, and since I haven't made the time to keep my blog up-to-date, surely, I won't make the time to write up books that I don't like and especially, finish.

But I also don't like to lose track of what was attempted. My brain is not as fresh at keeping memories as it used to so it's best to at least cite the book title and my attempt to read it.

These will have 'spoilers' but how can one spoil a terrible book?

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
This was supposed to be a scary book. It could've been scary - there were parts that were creepy - but it was weird. I gave it up about halfway through the 378 pages and went to to find spoiler reviews so I could find out how it ended.

The book started off pretty good: a pilot's account of taking his plane off, only to hit geese and lose his engines. He decides to follow Captain Sullenberger's miracle landing on the Hudson, but on a different lake. However, just as he was about to land on the smooth lake, a wave from a passing boat hits the plane at the same time causing it to turn over and over and break apart...and kill 39 of the passengers. I _think_ that's how many but regardless of the exact number, that number and that incident replays over and over throughout the book.

The family move to a town somewhere away from the lake, and where he would live with that memory. Here we meet some weirdos of the town: supposed witches or women who do stuff with herbs from their greenhouses. The pilot's wife is forewarned about these strange people but she continues to ignore the people who warn her, and doesn't seem uncomfortable with the fact that the weirdo witches are obsessed with her twin daughters. The weirdo adults invite the family over for socials but only devote their insane behavior and attention to the daughters.

Also, the pilot continues to replay the plane crash...with the ghosts of those who died. One being a young girl, about the age of his twin daughters, and the father and/or mother tells him that the ghost girl is lonely and needs playmates. The pilot dad goes, literally in a matter of a few pages, from 'no way will I kill my daughters' to attempting to kill one of the daughters in a eeny-meeny-miny way.

I couldn't take anymore. It just sucked. Stupid characters. When I found a spoiler, I found that the story had these two literal, separate paths: witches who were trying to sacrifice the twins (as they did previously with the town's twins), as well as the separate storyline of the PTSD pilot seeing ghosts and trying to kill his own daughter (whichever one that gets the tiger toe).

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
I read, what I thought, were the first two chapters of this book. I don't know if it was at the second chapter that I realized this was a book of short stories, or if I decided to _read_ the second chapter and give this book of short stories a try. Regardless, I don't like short stories. Seems weird not to since it's like a big book full of different novels but, there you have it, I absolutely do not like short stories.

The first story didn't really do much for me _anyway_ and I was considering tossing it while I was reading it. Basically, the story was about a cheating couple, who's two families were best friends for years, who eventually marry. It took a long time to get to the marriage part; it was a lot of writing about the woman, about the man, blah blah blah. They finally end up married, despite protests from their grown children. And then the guy dies. And the new wife spends the rest of the short story obsessed with his memory within her home and never leaves. For anyone. The end.

The second story I don't really remember. I looked for spoiler reviews again and most people seem to like this one. There are a handful, like me, who were not thrilled. And apparently there's one love story about a woman who has an affair with either her friend's son or her son's friend. Yeah. Not interested in these stories...

American Purgatorio by John Haskell
This one started out intriguing. "Something happened" according to the protagonist of the book. He was at a gas station, while his wife Anne waited outside in the car, as he purchased candies and snacks for them. When he comes out of the gas station, Anne and the car are gone. His journey begins to search for his wife Anne. Instead of going to Anne's mom's house, as they intended to go, he figures out how to get back to their home and replays the events to figure out what happened to Anne.

Do you like how much I name his wife Anne? He does this all the time. Anne, Anne, Anne. And the journey to find Anne is to go from NY to California. He saw a  map where Anne had drew a line to the coast of CA so that's where he decides to go. He rents a car, starts driving, and ends up meeting people along the way. Sometimes seeing Anne in their car and trying his best to turn his car around -- but goes on for miles because he can't find an exit ramp - before he tries. It's like a bad dream...

It was well before page 134 (of only 239 pages) that I was so fucking annoyed with this guy. He was going nowhere slowly and this book's dialogue was annoying as hell. I just couldn't stand it but I wanted to find out where the fuck Anne was so I skipped to the end to see what happened.

What happened was, the two of them both died at the gas station. As he made his purchases and got into the car with Anne, a car hit them and they both died. So all that shit about him coming home, getting a rental and searching for Anne was just him trying to get used to being dead. Wow. So bad!

I again read spoiler reviews and more than a few did as I did, although it seems I got further in the book: they stopped reading and jumped to the end.

Here is an example of the dialogue:
I wanted to find Anne, or the scent of Anne, hidden somewhere in or on this person. But there wasn't any Anne. I could feel the old despair imploding inside me, and I wanted a glass of water. But there wasn't any water.
I was able to overlook the knowledge that she wasn't Anne, so that to me, she _was_ Anne. In the back of my mind was the fear that she would say something or do something to wake me up, but because this new reality was preferable to the earlier one, I was able to maintain it. I settled into the more comfortable mode of lying with Anne, and the reality of Anne, such as it was, because more solid and stable, and when it got to the point where I was sure of its solidity, that's when she decided to go to the bathroom. 

So here's hoping for no more bad books.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Marathon Man

So I stumbled upon yet another 'gaffe' (that's putting it mildly) that Paul Ryan made this week. This time, he was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt, a talk show host (republican). In the interview, this is what was said:

HH: Are you still running?
PR: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or yes.
HH: But you did run marathons at some point?
PR: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.
HH: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?
PR: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.
HH: Holy smokes. All right, now you go down to Miami University…
PR: I was fast when I was younger, yeah.
A "two hour and fifty-something" personal best in a marathon? WOW. He was fast because that would be about a six and half minute mile PER MILE for 26.2 miles. That IS fast. And if that was really your personal best, you would know EXACTLY what that time would be.  Meaning, it is THAT good that you would never forget your time, down to the second.

And you would never say "under three, high twos" because you would say: My personal best is 2:50:45. I'm not even FAST and I know all of my personal bests...and I proudly display them at the bottom of my blog...and it's been over two years that I've raced competitively. A runner just doesn't forget these details!!!

But alas, the TRUTH comes out. Not only did Paul Ryan not run a sub-3 hour marathon, he ran only one recorded marathon (no one would run 26.2 miles for shits...well, maybe some extreme runners would do that as part of their training...) in over FOUR HOURS. That is NOT EVEN CLOSE to "two hour and fifty-something"...NOWHERE CLOSE. And IMO, only someone who is used to playing themselves up with lies and exaggerations would ever say such a thing.

And how stupid? That runners in the world wouldn't realize how fast that is...makes me think he doesn't know how fast that is because he just flippantly threw it out there.

Yeah. You may read my hysteria but that's because I don't like the man. I don't like his policies and one little white lie, such as this, just speaks even louder to what kind of character he may be...and it ain't good.

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

I am not sure how I screwed up the order but I did. This is book #3 of the Jackson Brodie series. I read #1 - Case Histories but not #2. No matter since I read Case Histories in 2007 and have very little recollection of it, other than I loved it. By the way I wrote my "review", I have no earthly idea what it was about. I mean, I have figments of the characters and story lines but not enough to remember the entire thing. And I sure didn't help with, yet another, lame write-up of a book.

So I'll have to start with little remembrance of Jackson Brodie but I do remember he was the main character in Case Histories. We meet him at a park where he's watching a group of children play soccer. He notices one in particular (oh, we don't know it's Jackson yet), and manages to pluck one of the boy's hair from his head as he returns a soccer ball to him.

This hair will be the one to determine if this young boy is his. The mother, an ex-lover, claims he is not but Jackson has to know for sure.

This part of the story isn't really revisited but it's the beginning of a wild ride for Jackson. He drives for hours trying to get back "home". He manages to finally get to the town he needed -- after what seemed to be an endless amount of writing that really didn't amount to much, IMHO -- to catch a train back to London, where he will meet back up with his wife. The new wife, who is on a business trip in the U.S.

Somehow, Jackson gets on the wrong train and heads away from London...and then, the train crashes. In Edinburgh.

Jackson is saved by a young girl, Reggie Chase. We already know Reggie by this part of the novel, as the story lines of Reggie and Jackson and Louise Monroe are intermingled.

Reggie is a sixteen year old girl who is a nanny for Joanna Hunter (more on that later), a doctor. She adores Joanna, as her own mother had passed away and she's pretty much on her own...except for her drug and troubled brother, who is never around.

Joanna Hunter and her son mysteriously disappear, leaving behind her dog, who Reggie knows would never be left behind. Joanna's husband acts very suspicious and somehow, Reggie is able to connect with Louise Monroe, a detective inspector who had earlier visited Joanna Hunter, before her disappearance.

Since Reggie saved Jackson in the train crash, she discovers that he is a retired private detective and, since she feels Louise is not believing her about her suspicions, she states that Jackson must find Joanna, since he owes her for saving his life.

Joanna Hunter, as we learn in the very beginning of the book, was six years old, walking alongside her new baby brother, her mom, their dog and her older sister when a man came out of nowhere and stabbed them all to death...except Joanna, who managed to hide in the fields until a young policeman named Jackson Brodie (we know this from Jackson, but no one else knows this) finds her.

Louise Monroe had come to Joanna earlier in the week (when Reggie met her) to warn her that the murderer of her family was about to be released from jail. So the mystery of the novel is: where is the murderer now and did he come back to finish what he started? Why is Joanna's husband lying about where Joanna really went?

It's a good book, nothing great. It was a long-winded novel as a lot of dialogue was in here that seemed to be extraneous. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Brodie's character and most especially loved Reggie Chase.

The most exciting part of the novel for me, however, was the killing spree of Joanna's family - the very beginning. Nothing came close to the drama of that horrific but well written story line.

In the end, Joanna and her son are safe. It had nothing to do with the murderer, who ended up committing suicide in Jackson's London apartment. Jackson also finds that he was duped by his wife, who managed to steal the millions of pounds he inherited from a cat lady from book #1.

There was never an explanation as to why the murders happened in the first place: why did this guy stab to death a baby, an 8 year old, a dog, and the young mother of all of these children? He was young enough that he wasn't that old when he was released from prison. But we never meet the murderer in the book, we never know why he did what he did and with something so brutal, his suicide is wrapped up as guilt for doing what he did...which just didn't bode well for me.

Granted, the book was very so-so but I wouldn't put the Brodie series out. I'll probably go back to book #2 and read that one...and maybe even the fourth. As I said, I'm not big into these one-character detective/mystery series but this one may be more for sentimental reasons as I have fond memories of Case Histories...although I may have to reread it.