Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul (and I'm not even going to remark on these two otherwise, although it's tempting to) are co-sponsoring a bill to modify the illegal status of pot, to make it not illegal to use, only to abuse. Just like booze. (Didja like my rhyme?) You all probably know this by now.

For the sake of full disclosure, I'm probably the only surviving member of the 60s generation who has never tried the stuff. When I was in high school, it still had an aura of "badness" around it. That is, those who smoked were hardcore. I was anything but hardcore, and frankly no one ever offered. I don't know what my answer might have been if they had.

I married extremely young, and while I was a wife, again the offers never came. I didn't travel in those circles -- or perhaps I simply had the aura of a goody two-shoes. In any event, the first time anyone ever offered me weed, I was 36. And not particularly interested.

Nevertheless, I am in full agreement with the proposed law, although it probably doesn't go far enough. It ought to also allow for a modest garden for those wanting to grow for personal use. You know, just like tomatoes.

Even if the law is enacted, don't look for a big run on pot sales. This would only affect federal laws, not state laws. I don't see most states rushing to change their laws -- although they should. In my state, the current budget deficit is extreme. Potential students are being shut out of college because the state can't afford to educate them. But it will pay to incarcerate them if they run afoul of locoweed laws.

Proof positive that those who champion these laws are kidding themselves appears on the DEA's site (I'm not linking -- see the article):

Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety. It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior, and drugged drivers.
Got that? Now substitute "alcohol" for "marijuana" in that sentence. As the relative of too darn many alcoholics, I can attest to the truth of every syllable of that modified statement.

Yet the DEA is not going after drinkers.

Leave the responsible pot smokers alone. We have more important things to do.


I'm squinting and doing my best to see the changes at work as a half-full glass.

Rather than a half-empty one.

It's hard and it's giving me a headache.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Service is Key

Just yesterday, my daughter called me to ask exactly what laptop I owned because she was on her way to Wal-Mart to buy one.

"Do you have a special reason for going to Wal-Mart?" I asked, thinking that maybe she was going to buy it with a WM credit card.

"No..." she said slowly. "Why?"

"Go to Best Buy," I said. "They can actually answer your questions there."

Recently Tall Son bought a laptop at Wal-Mart. But Tall Son knows a lot about computers and can understand those info little cards that they stick on the shelf that offers all the specs. Tall Son is the kind of person who can effectively buy a computer at Wal-Mart. He knows what he wants and doesn't need help.

Last month, I bought a computer at Best Buy. I had an ad in hand and a mission. I "knew" what I wanted. However, when the sales person asked me why I wanted that particular one and exactly what I do on a computer, he pointed out that the computer of my choice might not have sufficient memory. He could sell me more memory for $100, or he could sell me a computer that cost $100 more that already had that memory installed (same kind of computer, different model). (Lest you think that he was trying to beef up his commission, I quickly discovered he wasn't. I went to apply for credit so I could get the "6 months no interest" deal, and I told him I'd come back to see him when I was finished. He told me I could get the computer from anyone available because they didn't work on commission.)

So I paid $550 for my little computer instead of $450, and we're living happily ever after.

Today I came across an article that says my take on Best Buy was accurate. It's thriving despite the economic downturn precisely because it offers service.

Some things, like toothpaste, customers can find on their own. More complicated purchases often require the help of knowledgeable staff(and plenty of it to go around, not one expert with four people lined up to talk to her). And the company who provides that knowledgeable staff wins, period.

Someone should forward this article to Home Depot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some Days You Can Find What You Want on the Intertubes

And then you decide maybe you wish you hadn't.

I've been looking at old photos, and among them were some photos of friends of my grandmother. I don't know how intimate a relationship this was, but these people showed up several times. In one photo, infant me was sitting on the lap of their son, a boy about 10 years older than me.

I went looking for these people out of nothing but curiosity -- and found the obituary for the boy on whose knee I sat (who was, in fact, 11 years older than me).

How very, very strange.

I don't know how I feel about this.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One of the Many Reasons I Hate to See the "Ugly" Comments Thrown at Maggie Gyllenhaal

Because she's the one famous person ever whom I think I resemble. I won't post a current photo of me, but I will post a childhood photo.

Here's Maggie:

And me at about 10:

(There's another reason, too: she's not ugly.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There's a Word for That

And it's mondegreen.

When we hear Jimi Hendrix sing, "'scuse me while I kiss this guy," or John Fogarty croon, "there's a bathroom on the right," we're creating a mondegreen: "a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung."

Mondegreen was first coined by author Sylvia Wright in 1954 in Atlantic magazine, when she confessed to a childhood misinterpretation of the Scottish ballad 'The Bonny Earl of Moray.' When she first heard the lyric "they had slain the Earl of Moray and had laid him on the green," she felt terribly sorry for the "poor Lady Mondegreen."

Mondegreen made MW's new words for 2008, and to celebrate, it's collecting mondegreens through July 25, after which time it will publish the best of them.

The only one that occurs to me offhand is the one that puzzled me for years (until the internet cleared it up), part of the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light" as performed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, which sounded to me like "wrapped up like a douche in the middle of the night."

The real lyrics, apparently, are "cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night."

I'm not sure that I'm any less puzzled by the real lyrics.

What's your mondegreen?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Girl of My Dreams

After more than a decade and a half, it has finally happened: I've found the girl of my dreams.

That is, Tall Son has finally brought home the woman I've been waiting for him to bring home.

She's phenomenal. I liked her instantly. I mean, instantly.

Her kids are phenomenal, especially her clever, smart, articulate 11-year-old son.

But every silver lining apparently must have a dark cloud wrapped around it: in this case, an ex-husband who makes the husband in Sleeping With the Enemy look somewhat normal.

But she has a restraining order (for what that's worth), he lives in another state, and there is past evidence that he's actually a coward when any third parties are around.

My mood: worried, but hopeful.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just Like Crack

...looking stuff up in the public records.

In comments just below, I discussed how Tall Son and I were checking out local criminal records last night.

Then, because one of my neighbors told me yesterday that he was probably going to sell, I decided to look at his property records.

Which led me to looking at the records of all my neighbors on this 7-house cul-de-sac. Upon reflection, I don't think anything I learned surprised me.

You know about me and Neighbor Guy. On the corner next to Neighbor Guy, the couple, who have been there since 1997, have only their original mortgage and a second, signed the same day, to the county, for $5000 with 0% interest. Must have been one of those incentive programs we hear about now and again.

On the other corner, Lawnmower Man and his wife have refinanced several times, but always modest amounts. I think they did it the first time to finance their addition, but after that, it's always been for about $50,000. I think they've just been shopping interest rates. Who knows?

Then, oh dear, the neighbor who says he'd like to move. He and his wife also have refinanced a number of times, each time pulling out more equity so that their most recent mortgage is nearly $120,000. In this modest neighborhood and knowing the condition of their house, I suspect that's over its value. And I suspect they used a subprime lender.

Next to them are the people directly across from me, and their story is also quite similar. They've only been with us for five years and have refi'd three times. Again, I suspect that if they're not over value, they're kissing it with that last mortgage. This time I'm almost certain their loan is subprime: it's with Countrywide.

Finally, my neighbors to the left quietly paid off their only mortgage two years ago, right on time at 30 years old. And that's it for them.


While I was busy on the court records, I found a link to the property appraiser's office. Like the court's, the appraiser's website is far more fun and useful than it used to be. I can literally check out the whole neighborhood by clicking on each lot on a plat map. The map is color-coded: if the house sold in 08, 07, or 06, the lot has a corresponding color. If the last sale was older, it's white. Very few houses have turned over in my neighborhood in the past three years. I suspect that's because the neighborhood is modest, but also reasonably well-kept. In the old market, who could afford to move out? And what would have been the incentive?


In the last election cycle, "we" the voters approved a real-estate tax "relief" measure. The good news is that according to the appraiser's office, my taxable value is now only $34,000.00. Except, because the county is having desperate trouble making ends meet, that's really also the bad news. But what do I know? I'm a tax-and-spend liberal.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fun With the Public Records (Shame on Me!)

So that I could prepare the satisfaction of mortgage for Mrs. P's signature (I used to be a real estate secretary, so this is something I can do with confidence), I puttered around on the Clerk of the Court's site, looking at all of my real estate docs, making sure I had all the right numbers and dates, as well as looking to be sure all the other, old stuff has been satisfactorily recorded.

I was about to log out when I got curious about my ex. The kids have told me that he and his wife own several rental properties, in addition to their half-mil* (value before the bust, anyway) personal residence. A search says this is true, but only two additional properties, and no foreclosures, despite the fact that both of them make their living by selling real estate. Good on them.

Then I looked up Neighbor Guy and his wife. It's always been clear that they're on firmer footing than most of the rest of us. Check this out: back in '84 when they bought their house, they only mortgaged $4000.00, and they paid that off 19 years ago. Apparently they were able to cover the rest in cash. Now remember that I only paid $29,200 for mine; theirs probably was a bit more. And it's very possible that they'd owned and sold another home before they bought this one. Still.

At that, I decided I knew quite enough about the people around me for one day. Maybe more snooping in what is, after all, public records another day.

*Jealous? No. Grateful I don't have to make the payments.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

And Just Like That, It's Over

When my phone rings at 10:30 pm, I assume it's one of my children, who know about my nightowlish ways.

Instead, it was Mrs. P, the holder of what used to be my second mortgage. A little over two years ago, I paid off the original mortgage, the one my ex and I took out to buy this little house on the peninsula in 1976 for $29,200. Upon satisfaction of that mortgage, Mrs. P became my first mortgage holder.

She was calling because she'd received my July payment, and she was about to deposit it when she decided to consult her amortization schedule.

According to her records, which were compiled by her late husband, a CPA, I owe her a partial payment for July, and then I'm done. She's tearing up the old check, I'm issuing a new one, and after 20 years we're going our separate ways.

(According to my records, payoff should be in September, but who am I to argue with a deceased CPA???)

Although I was having some YouTube trouble on the 4th of July, I figured out today how to sweet-talk the "embed" feature, so let the fireworks begin:

Musical Metaphors Two, Or, Blogger Is Being a Pain

In my post below, I asked for more suggestions, but for some reason, comments aren't working, just for this latest post. I got them going by disallowing and then reallowing, but when I surfed out and in again, comments were once again gone. I did a test (now deleted) that allowed comments.

I have no idea what's up and I don't have time for this.

Consider this to be the comments section for the post below. I really do want some suggestions!!!!

Musical Metaphors

Because some plans changed along the way, when it was time to come home from vacation, my daughter couldn't bring me. We decided I would drive her husband's truck home and work out a plan later for returning it. She also supplied me with a dozen CDs to entertain me on the 9-1/2 hour trip.

Yesterday I drove the truck to work to give it a little outing and keep its juices flowing. In the CD player was Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. The stereo system is quite a good one, and while "Bridge over Troubled Water" was playing, I got goosebumps, and said -- maybe out loud -- that that had to be one of the greatest musical metaphors ever.

"Yeah, that and 'The Long and Winding Road,'" I said, continuing the conversation with myself.

I'm afraid that from there my mind wandered to The Commodores's "Brick House." Oh dear.

Sing it, Lionel.

From there, "Like a Rolling Stone."

All these show my age, for sure. And now I'm stuck. Help! What do the rest of you have?

NOTE: I have no idea why I can't get comments to work for this post, but I can't and I'm done dealing with it. I suspect I might even have a comment on this one because in the "Post Options" section, I'm offered the options or showing or hiding my existing comments. Comments I can't see. I give up. Please comment in the post directly above.

NOTE TWO: Or, you might see comments after all. There one minute, gone the next. Comment wherever Blogger will let you.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth!

I must be the only soul in Bloggerland who can't easily embed YouTube videos. I can never copy and paste the whole URL and I don't have the patience today to do it in pieces. So although I found a grand fireworks video, never mind.

I've been working today. That might be occasion for me to feel sorry for myself, but not really. Not today. I'm grateful for the opportunity to actually get ahead of my boss on the editing project I'm doing this summer. She has family in town this weekend, so my little fingers are stiff from trying to catch up. I had my fun times last month, and I have no regrets.

But it's time for a food break, and to give the fingers a rest.

Imagine popping sounds, and lights in motion, and oohs and aahhs. Happy Fourth of July!

Please Watch This Show!

Aliens in America. You'll be glad you did.

It's been cancelled, so this isn't a save-this-show effort. But over the past year, I've had three favorite shows: Lost and Mad Men, tied for first place. (Not a competition because they don't run at the same time of year.) Number three (or two, depending on how you count) was Aliens in America. It's like The Wonder Years, Freaks and Geeks, and Arrested Development all rolled into one. It's funny, poignant, smart, sweet, clever, and cancelled.

It's not too late to watch: episodes are still rerunning on the CW on Sundays at 8:30 pm EST, but full episodes are also online here.

I think I got them all recorded and saved to the DVR, awaiting my finding time to rename them and burn them. That's the only thing about all this that makes me happy. The CW can cancel all it likes, but I'll have the 18 little gems of Season Only as long as DVD technology is still playable.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fox News: Fun With Photoshop

Submitted for your review with minimum editorializing because words fail me. Summary is about all I can pull off:

First, New York Times writer Jacques Steinberg writes an article claiming that Fox News' ratings are declining.

Then, Fox responds in a mature manner. See the video at the link.

However, the nyah, nyah tone of the on-air "personalities" is not the point here. The point is that they projected highly photoshopped photos of Steinberg and his editor, to-wit:


His editor, Steven Reddicliffe:

Remember those fun pictures from childhood, where you look closely to see the differences in the two pictures? Have at it, friends.

Fair and balanced, my foot.

If you can't stand behind our troops, do us all a favor and stand in front of them

While I was on vacation, I met an in-law of one of my many sisters, and very, very early in the conversation, while we were very much strangers, he made reference to "the idiot Bush." As the conversation went on, I told him how amused I was that he got into the politics so easily and vehemently, because where I live, Super Dooper Red State, liberals tend to test the waters very carefully before launching into political invective. (Turns out he was from upstate New York.) For instance, at a party my son threw several years ago (Alanna, you may remember this), someone we didn't know well said something political, but very carefully (no longer remember what), upon which one of us said that it was ok, we were all liberals here. The group laughed, visibly relaxed, and then began chatting in earnest about politics.


Today I was proud to come across, on CNN, a nationwide broadcast of an example of the prevailing mindset of my region. Here's a link to the video:

(If it's possible to embed CNN videos, I don't know how.)

In brief for those disinclined to watch the video, an antiwar activist who attended some kind of local veterans event won a gift bag --

and I'll stop here for a moment and point out that if the woman won a gift bag, she obviously came not as rabble-rouser but as supporter. She must have behaved in a friendly way at the meeting or they'd have escorted her out. It is, surprise, surprise, possible to not support the war but support the troops and the veterans. (Some people, however, see it as all about Love Me, Love My Boss's War.) My son is a Marine and not until we invaded Iraq did I ever strongly feel that he and his colleagues were being misused by our government. Anyway, back to our story.

When she opened the gift bag at home, she was horrified to find a t-shirt with a graphic of a sharpshooter on the front and this friendly message on the back: If you can't stand behind our troops, do us all a favor and stand in front of them.

The anti-war grab-bag winner was further horrified to discover that the shirts were donated by the county sheriff (using his own money) and she believed that this sent a message that the sheriff condones violence against anti-war protestors.

You misunderstand, says the sheriff's spokesman (and I am reminded again why I didn't major in communications...), emphasis mine:

The sheriff purchased the shirts with his own money to support local vets …

It’s simply this: the sheriff bought the shirts, he didn’t design the shirts, he hasn’t done anything to promote the shirts, he just handed a few out after he purchased them to help them raise money to support our local families.
In other words, handing the shirts out is not the same as promoting their message, and he takes no responsibility whatsoever for his actions.

The message on the shirts is not neutral. What if, for instance, a sheriff were asked to buy some t-shirts to support a successful after-school teen program, one that is proven to divert teens away from criminal activity, but the shirts contained a message promoting the legalization of marijuana? (Of course, this is not likely, but the point here is cause good, message on shirts more dicey, at least for a law enforcement officer.) Of course he would distance himself, and fast, even if the after-school program was highly effective and award-winning. In other words, there'd never be a moment when a spokesman would have to say that the sheriff bought the shirts, didn't design them, isn't promoting them, etc. The sheriff would be very careful not to be associated with that message in the first place.

People are like that, after all, all about CYA.

It's safe to say that the sheriff is not that naive, probably sees nothing wrong with the message -- after all, the spokesman doesn't appear to have denounced it -- and is probably very proud of disseminating these shirts.

And this is the red world in which I live, one that my New York friend couldn't wrap his mind around.