Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I've Seen Better Days

The dust never settles. If that's what anyone is waiting for then it will be a long wait. Might as well take a deep breath and go. Shit or get off the pot, as the old folks said. And Mae West once said, "He who hesitates is a fool." Sure, that goes against that other famous saying about fools rushing in where angels fear to go, but not all of us are angels. ;-) And for some of us, life has conditioned us to be "jumpy" (quick to act/react) with a constant stream of big events.

2008 has been an absolutely brutal year. I hate to sound like a whiny cry-baby, but objectively looking at it all it's pretty obvious that life has been hard. Not the average hard anyway. But I don't really want to revisit all of those details.

On the other hand, life's been good, and I really shouldn't complain too much. I guess it's a matter of finding some balance between feeling grateful for an interesting life and feeling beat up and permanently scarred from so much excitement. Well, it's just a fact of life. I've seen better days...

May we all have a peaceful and healthy 2009. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

JibJab 2008 Review

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vicious Momma v. Knox County Schools, part 2

This is the follow-up to "Knox County School Violates Fourth Amendment."

Knox County Schools apparently decided that they have the authority to unreasonably seize personal property and to impound it 15 miles away from the school where it was seized. My son's cell phone fell out of his pocket at school the other day and a teacher saw him pick it up, so she seized it and sent it to the school office. Okay, fine. I understand that cell phones are not allowed to be used in class. But he wasn't using it. He was only picking it up and looking at it to make sure it wasn't damaged from falling. Anyway, I don't have a problem with them keeping it in the school office until I can pick it up, but I do have a problem with them sending it off the school grounds to some kind of "security" office, which is essentially the county's school police station.

I am probably overreacting to this situation that is ultimately pretty trivial, except that I just can't see it as trivial when our Constitutional rights are violated, even in regards to something like a cell phone. I understand that they have rules, and that they are necessary. But all of this unreasonable seizing personal "effects" and then imposing excessive and unusual punishments is just plain WRONG.

I can't see how anyone could really believe that requiring a parent to drive a 30 mile round trip to pick up a simple cell phone that was seized merely for its own existence is not excessive punishment. And "cruel and unusual" too since it was very rainy, windy and bad holiday traffic going to pick it up in the middle of one of Knoxville's worst public housing slums (where the SS security office is located). While this 30 mile round trip to pick up our illegally seized phone was not a hardship for us in the purely physical sense, there are many people for whom it would be excessively inconvenient and a hardship to do so. Some people don't have easy transportation for such things and some can't take time away from work.

It is obviously a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of "excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishments" to make a parent go to this much trouble to reclaim a cell phone that was already practically stolen by the school. Imagine if you replace "cell phone" with a $100 bill. Clearly it is an illegal theft for the school personnel to seize that money, send it away, and require a parent to go out of their way to retrieve it. Any other personal property is no different from the money and no one would stand for their money to be extorted in this way. Even people who have their cars towed or otherwise taken away for some "offense" have to sign for it. The school basically stole our phone. The school personnel are guilty of extortion and coercion.

And while those issues are big enough for a serious complaint, there is even more to the story. When I called the security office to make sure the phone was there before driving all that way to get it, I also asked for directions since I'm not so familiar with that part of town. I simply asked "where exactly is the office located?" After some vague and useless information like "in northwest Knoxville" and "off Western Avenue" from the woman on the phone, who I am assuming was the secretary, Debra Dexter, I asked if she could give me directions. If her reply had not been so incompetent and lazy I might not have been quite as angry about having to go there. This woman is a "public servant" and is paid with my tax dollars so I don't think it is unreasonable to expect her to be somewhat helpful. But no, this is what she said, "Oh, it's just too hard to describe how to get here so look it up on one of those map things on your computer." Wow. My tax dollars at "work."

There are some other small, annoying, hypocritical details about her and the other "security" staff. At the front door of the office which had a big "No Smoking" sign, there was a group of men, some of them cops, standing there smoking! Right in front of the entrance with the no smoking sign. Typical! In the office I asked why they felt it was necessary to send phones to this location, but of course, they would not give me a good answer and only continued to coerce me to sign the form stating that I was picking up our phone. I couldn't contain my anger then and did tell them that the policies are stupid and violate our 4th and 8th Amendment rights and that this isn't Nazi Germany. And now they know our names and we'll be blacklisted forever.

And you know, how do we know that they didn't examine our phone, look at the personal information contained in it, copy the SIM card information, or any other invasion of our privacy? If they think nothing of illegally seizing it then what's to stop them from further violating our rights by copying private information and so on? All of this was done without "probable cause" and without any kind of warrants, and so why should I expect that they are respecting ANY of our rights if they are so unscrupulously violating the 4th and 8th Amendments?

The Superintendent and many others will be receiving letters of complaint from me. If they do not change their policy regarding seizure of personal property then perhaps some further action will be required. I really don't want to start some big thing because I am a private person and I don't want to be dissected like other citizens who have questioned authority (Joe the plumber, for instance). But I refuse to be intimidated, extorted, coerced, bullied, violated, and abused by the people who are paid with my tax dollars to serve me and everyone else. They do not have the authority to violate my rights, my kids' rights, or anyone else's rights. Period.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Knox County School Violates Fourth Amendment

Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Carter Middle School in Knox County, TN, has violated my and my son's Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable seizure of personal property. His cell phone was confiscated by the School Gestapo and has been sent to the County's "central security office," whatever the hell that is. I understand that cell phones and so on are a distraction at school and that students are not supposed to use them during school hours. However, my son was not using his phone. It fell out of his jacket pocket, and because it had been unintentionally left on, a teacher confiscated it and sent it to the office. I went in this morning to pick it up, and that's when they told me it had been sent off because this was his "second offense." The first was when he had my video camera at school which was also confiscated and demanded that I delete any "unauthorized" photos/videos he might have taken at school. What country is this anyway? Seems like Nazi Germany or Totalitarian USSR. Outrageous!

I was furious but did not make a scene. I've found it is unnecessary to do that because I am capable of expressing my displeasure with my eyes only.

Now I have this dilemma. Do I just do as they expect and cower to their unreasonable policies? This is surely what they want everyone to do... they want us to be intimidated and comply with their oppressive methods. They don't want us to question this erosion of our fundamental rights and protections. That cell phone is our personal property which they have very unreasonably seized and impounded. Clearly and obviously, their actions are way beyond a reasonable response to the "offense."

I think that goes against the Eighth Amendment:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Yeah, I really do think that requiring me to drive all the way down to some office near the old Rule High School, which is in the middle of one of the worst and most dangerous public housing projects in the city, to reclaim my wrongfully seized personal property is an excessive, cruel, and unusual punishment for my son's trivial mistake.

I need a Constitutional attorney. I swear. If people can sue McDonald's for hot coffee and so forth, then I should be able to sue the Knox County Schools for violating our Fourth and Eighth Amendment Constitutional rights. I think we need to take this all the way to the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

F-theory Bottom-up Phenomenology

Sorry, this isn't really about theoretical physics. ;-)

(image borrowed from http://www.geocities.com/comicpostcards/BigButt.html)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Black Parade

I'm actually feeling a little better today, so maybe this is just an exercise of some word association game inside my head. Or an exorcizing of some darkness...

Welcome to the Black Parade

Paint It Black


Black Hole Sun

Back to Black

Back in Black

Friday, December 12, 2008


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(same shit, different day)

Nobody volunteered to help me with my coup d'etat. Pussies. (I guess now I'll have to get started on that clone army.) ;-)

I like using bad words now because the Odiogo podcast voice is so serious and proper. It makes me laugh.

I wasn't joking about my blood pressure being very high. It really was, and the other day I thought I might be about to die so I went to the doctor. The medicine he gave me has dropped it back to its normal level, but the huge change has caused some weird things too. It's a bit of a physical mystery because all my other tests and things are fine and normal so far. Of course, like most Americans I need to lose some weight, but it is actually lower than a year ago so it doesn't seem like the culprit. Can I please go through 6 months without some big illness or other trouble? That's not too much to ask, is it?

I worry that my husband is going to trade me in for a younger, healthier model. He seems to be annoyed and inconvenienced by all my problems. Well, I can't say I blame him. I'm pretty annoyed too. Sorry, all these things just happen. It's not like I have any control over people dying and all these other things. It's exhausting for all of us. But the last thing I need right now is to feel resented and defective...

Okay, is that pitiful enough? ;-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Business Plan For GM

Despite my evil ranting sometimes, I really can be pretty generous with nice things too. ;-)

Here's my free advice to GM, if only they would listen.

1. Do away with Buick. Seriously. Anything that sounds like vomiting is a bad idea. If the old people want "luxury" let them buy a Cadillac.

2. Do away with GMC. All of those cars are just the same as Chevys with different skin. Wasteful repetition.

3. Do away with Hummer. They were just a fad, a passing fancy, mostly for guys who were trying to compensate for lacking something.

4. Do away with Saab. Boring. Nothing special.

5. Do away with Pontiac. This is a little painful for me since I grew up in Pontiacs, and I still have my first car, a 1978 Firebird. But Pontiac has pretty much become more redundancy and nothing very exciting.

6. Keep Cadillac. There will always be some market for luxury, even in a bad economy. Hey, I'd buy an Escalade if I wanted to take on making car payments again, but my car is paid for and that's too good to change right now.

7. Keep Corvette. This is a no-brainer, but they really need to improve their marketing for it. These are consistently highly rated and good performers. But they are also pretty good with fuel mileage. GM should emphasize this fact. Advertise that getting good mileage will never look or feel better, or something like that. Mine can get 30 mpg on long trips and between 22-24 in the 'city', depending on how I drive. ;-)

8. Keep Saturn. Give it a chance. I'm not too familiar with them except the Sky, which is stunningly cute. The other Saturns I've seen on the road don't look so bad.

9. And of course, keep Chevrolet, at least most of them. Maybe eliminate the duds that just haven't moved. And keep the planned 2010 Camaro reintroduction. There is a nostalgia market for that.

Eliminating so many lines will of course result in lots of lay-offs, but that's just the way it will have to be. There is no market for so many cars and it just can't be sustainable for all those people to keep getting paid to make what isn't wanted or needed. As I suggested previously, if the UAW thinks it is so indispensable then let them buy out some of the lines that GM needs to shed.

Obviously, I don't like these bailouts in the guise of "loans" to companies that haven't operated profitably for a long time because of their own bad decisions and poor planning. I do feel a little sorry for the actual factory workers who will lose their jobs, but then again, how bad can you feel for people who have pretty much been babied and coddled in a world that isn't realistic? I've toured the Corvette assembly plant, and some of those people are paid $30+ an hour plus excessive benefits for steering a machine that tightens some nuts and bolts and that's about it.

Maybe the workers should file some class action lawsuits against their stupid bosses? That would be better than demanding money from the government.

Times are tough for all of us. But it can get better if everyone gets their heads out of their asses and accepts that they will have to adapt and adjust instead of expecting everything to always stay the same.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Declaration of Independence Today

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism,

it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

I'm just about insane enough now to actually do something about the abject condition of our current government. I shouldn't admit this publicly, but I'm not a coward and I am ready abolish this system which has ignored the governed and disregarded our consent and protests and has reduced us to absolute despotism. We have suffered enough and it is our right and duty to throw off this government.

Ours are not "light and transient causes" and if one needs to list "a long train of abuses and usurpations" all it takes is to read the headlines of the last few months.

I'm serious. And I'm asking for help from anyone who is brave enough to stand up for our rights.

And if they come to arrest me for conspiracy and sedition, well, that's fine too because my blood pressure is about 180/110 these days and it would be okay to get some "free" medical treatment. My own personal bailout, if you will. ;-) But that is highly unlikely anyway since the likes of William Ayers can become a media star from being an actual unrepentant terrorist. I'm only talking about it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wake Me Up When December Ends

Sorry that I seem to have lost my sense of humor lately. It's been such a tough year and everything is worn out from it. While the holiday season is supposed to be joyful and fun, the pressure to be joyful and fun can kill what little joy and fun that tries to emerge. This morning I woke up with a horrible, splitting headache as well as an irritable bladder, which means pain though usually not from a UTI. Often it is stress induced.

One good thing today was that the Titans won again, beating the Cleveland Browns.

It has been unusually cold here for a while, and today the temperature never got above freezing at our house. Manmade global warming/climate change my ass. We have roughly 30 year cycles of warming and cooling.

It sounds like they are going to give the auto companies billions more dollars. Well, I was thinking yesterday about all these economic "theories" that the "experts" are trying to make work in reality. Sorry, but it just doesn't look like any of them are working so well. Why is it that some people are so attached to theory and their own expectations and demands of how reality should work? Theories are fine and great sometimes, but too many people can't accept when reality does not agree with their own ideas. This is true in economics and "climate science." Neither one is really accurately predicting and describing reality. Enough with it already. And stop trying to make reality fit the theory. Change the fucking theories instead. Again, this year's Economics Nobelist comes to mind. He apparently won for his ideas about the US auto industry. Isn't it ironic that this very industry is collapsing this year too? Well, it just doesn't look so good for the Nobel people when they give awards to stupid people whose theories are failing in real time.

We were watching some shows on the science channel last night and one did make me laugh. They don't have the video up on their website yet. Too bad. Anyway, this guy has made a roach driven robot, yes, seriously it is driven by a roach bug. Actually, it is pretty cool, but somehow it just cracks me up that someone's life has been devoted to such a project. Imagine how it would sound to a girl who meets him and asks what kind of work he does. Or imagine how a girl might tell her friends what her boyfriend/husband's work is. It would be a funny thing on The Big Bang Theory, I think. There are many women in the world who would never be able to appreciate a man whose life work is building bug-driven robots. Likewise, there are also many women in the world who could never appriate a man who lives only in the theoretical. I'm not placing judgment on these things, just noting that they usually aren't as important to the functioning world as the guys who are doing them think they are (or should be). It's just a fact of life that most people don't care about theories so much. They only care about what actually works. And the cold, harsh truth is that real life and reality are much, much more difficult, challenging, and unstable that some "elegant" and comfortable theory in someone's head.

I didn't really mean to go off on that tangent, but whatever. I'm just trying to make it through the day and the rest of this month and year. If I could go to bed and sleep through it I would.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Healthcare: The Next Bursting Bubble

I am certain that the US economy is already in the beginning of a depression and not just a recession. Not that I'm saying we will see the same horrible life as in the Great Depression, but relatively speaking what is going on now is quite serious and is not going to improve for quite some time. As all the "experts" are saying, it will likely get worse before it gets better. That is about the only thing they're saying that I do agree with. (forgive my laziness about ending sentences with "with")

The intelligence of our "leaders" seems to have declined considerably in the last few decades. Maybe it is because of the birth control pill? Messing with Nature usually doesn't end well, but maybe no one ever reads Frankenstein anymore? Anyway, the whole lot of them* are total idiots, regardless of whatever degrees and so-called education they've had. Well, look at it this way. How intelligent is it to continue doing the things that consistently fail? That's exactly what they do.

Incidentally, and this is just my own insecurity and need for validation, whether it comes extrinsically or intrinsically, I have evidence that I really am smarter than about 95% of my peers. It's not an "IQ" score, but there are some other standardized test results that consistently place me in about the 95th percentile. If you don't believe me I can scan and post them, godddammit. So all the dumbfucks who try to call me stupid are only being dumbfucks. Okay? Thank you. I just had to get that out of my system. *sigh* :-)

Now back to the economy. And healthcare specifically. While everyone is hand-wringing over the mortgage meltdown that is the result of lots of people being really stupid and making really bad decisions, there is another bubble that will burst soon enough. Too many people are expecting the government to pay for their healthcare. But what they don't realize is that it is completely unrealistic and will be disastrous when/if that happens. Some people seem to think that free healthcare is a basic human right, but you know, nothing is really free, although recently it looks like 95% of the people have forgotten that, if they ever knew it in the first place.

Sure, access to healthcare is a "right" but how can anyone really think that any vital service can be free of cost? Someone has to pay for it, and until recently it wasn't common practice for the government to just make up billions of dollars to pay for every little thing that people asked for.

There are some ways to make the healthcare system more "fair" and accessible to everyone, but they require some big, serious changes to the way that business has been done for the last few decades. Just like the auto industry. Nothing will improve until they drastically adjust their way of doing business. Sometimes successful evolution takes really big steps.

Well, let me ask some questions. Who is really making the most money from the healthcare system today without actually doing much? The doctors? Not really, though most do make plenty enough, they do work for it usually. The drug companies? Meh, they make a lot but they also contribute a lot with their research and development, as well as advertising that helps pay for our entertainment. The hospitals? Some make money and some lose money but they are vital to the system. What does that leave? Ah, yeah, the insurance companies. What do they really do anyway? They are just an extra, very costly and very profitable, step in the process of delivering healthcare. They are not really vital. Basically they are middlemen who get paid to negotiate between the medical services and the patients. Why can't the patients deal directly with the medical services themselves? Cut out the fat, the wastefulness, the unnecessary.

Anyone who promotes a "universal healthcare" that trusts those same insurance companies to administer it efficiently is a total idiot, or at least seriously deluded. Although the government isn't exactly good at efficient administration of services it would be preferable to make the medical service providers actual government employees instead of keeping a wasteful third party in the system. Make it more like the military if necessary, where the doctors are enlisted and trained by the government and rise through the ranks according to ability and accomplishment. Yeah, maybe this is a radical idea, but it has got to be better than what all the other dummies are suggesting. I'm just saying let's look at this thing from a new perspective instead of always trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

No, there are no perfect plans or ideas for solving the big, serious issues that our country is facing now. But come on, let's stop it with thinking that throwing money at ill-designed and poorly functioning things is actually going to change anything for the better. It won't. It never has. And it never will. Why is it so hard for people to understand this simple fact? I really don't believe it is so difficult that one has to be in the 95th percentile to get it.

*correction: My own Tennessee Senator Bob Corker was just giving hell to the stupid auto bosses, thank God. I guess he's one in the top 5%. ;-)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I Know My Candybars

Name That Candy Bar

The only one I missed was a Mars bar because it has been many, many years since I've eaten one of those.

Took Seven Minutes

I named 50 US states in 10 minutes How many US states can you name in 10 minutes?

I'm a little slow.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Stuck in the Middle (Age)

I guess it's to be expected to see a bunch of old people shopping at JCPenny's on a Tuesday mid-morning. And maybe that's why I was there too. ;-) Well, I figured it was safer to go with the old people than later in the day since there have been at least three shootings at the mall in the last year, most in the afternoon or evening. Anyway, old people, bless their hearts I hope I live long enough to be as old, are so slow when they are paying for things. I shouldn't complain. What's my rush? Maybe they are just as lost in this world of expanding technology as I am finding myself.

It's like I'm stuck in the middle between these old people who barely get around and hardly know how to use a debit card and the younger people who are constantly texting friends on their high-tech phones while negotiating all sorts of other gadgets and whatnot that are intimidating to me. While my cell phone can receive text messages, and all I get are spams, my service does not include allowing me to send text messages. I could add that option, but not that it really matters because it seems like texting is mostly for people who need to sneak around about their communications. Okay, not really, but isn't it easier just to call?

One of my reasons for shopping was looking for a cute phone for my daughter to put in her room so she could answer her own calls. Not a cell phone, but a nice old-fashioned land-line phone. There were none to be found. Anywhere. Not cute ones anyway. Man, I'm getting old and behind the times. See, where we live cell phone service is still kind of iffy sometimes, so I don't think it's a good idea to eliminate the land-line like many urban/suburban people are doing. Besides, in some circumstances a land-line is more reliable and possibly more secure (though I don't really know about that for sure.) I ended up buying a plain phone and will just "bling" it up with some rhinestone stickers.

Then I went to Hot Topic because my kids are at the age of liking that kind of stuff. The music was too loud and there was way too much stuff. Sensory overload for a middle-aged momma, so I had to ask the nice young guy working there to help me find things. Pathetic.

Just in the last couple of weeks I've been fretting over getting older and all the things that go with it. It sucks! I'll never be the cute little 20 year old or even 30 year old I used to be. And what really sucks is that I didn't even really know I was cute then and therefore didn't actually enjoy it as much as I now know I should have. Yeah, it's a mid-life crisis thing. We get to an age when we regret our stupidity and wasted youth. If only we knew then what we know now. These cliches are hard and real. I can't even look at myself in the mirror sometimes. Who is that fat old lady I see?

I have to admit that I offered God a deal after my mom died nearly 12 years ago. I told him that I would accept whatever aging brought me as long as I got to live much longer than she did. And then after my dad died earlier this year I realized that I've certainly been paying on my deal already and wondered how much more I owed. Mom died shortly after her 54th birthday. Daddy died a few months before his 71st birthday. Both died about 10 years after their appendices blew. Averaging their ages at death is 62.5. Adding ten years to my approximate age when my appendix blew is 50. Those numbers probably don't mean anything, but when you're feeling old already they don't look so good.

Sorry if this is a downer. Maybe next time I go shopping I'll be adventurous and go at night. ;-)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Snow Today

This heavy snow shower is already gone now, but we will probably have more later. It's so pretty and watching it snow always makes me hum "Winter Wonderland."