Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

One month down, 11 more to go

January has flown by and given me an “interesting” month.  At least February is a short month.  It will help having that extra day in there this year so I can meet my goal as well as wish friends I have who were born on February 29th a truly “Happy Birthday.”

It’s been fun this month posting every day.  People have loved some of my posts.  People have hated some of my posts.  Sometimes they were the same posts.  And many of them have been largely ignored.  It doesn’t bother me either way how people feel about them or whether or not they’re read.  I’m doing this for myself and so far I’m liking it pretty well.

The hardest thing is coming up with a good topic each day.  Often something will happen and it gets my dander up enough to write about it.  Other times I’m reminded of something I’ve heard/read/watched and want to share it with those of you who read this.  The majority of the time, however, I’m sitting and staring at the computer trying to think of a topic that won’t bore you to death or be so incredibly dull that it becomes the most-read item on the blog and then I’m known not for my humor or intelligence or opinion but only for the most incredibly successful cure for insomnia published on the Internet.

I can only write about the dogs so many times and I’ve still got a LOT of the year left to go.  I’d write more about my family but I’m just not there yet and not everyone wants to hear every little thing happening.  And though my most popular articles so far have been about television shows, I don’t sit and watch television all day enough where I’d be able to comment on a really wide variety of awful shows.  And they’d have to be awful because all of the great shows have people writing and tweeting and blogging about them already.

So, thanks to those who have stuck with me since day-one.  And thanks to all who have shared my articles with their friends and brought new readers to my little corner of the interwebs.

Oh, and don’t worry….the “voices” are still there and still driving me insane and still keeping me up at night.  Fortunately they’re starting to try to schedule dates for certain subjects, so maybe the blog will be a little more organized.  But I wouldn’t count on it.

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A rose received on any day is still pretty sweet!

Yesterday I received a very nice surprise.  Husband and Youngest Son went to the grocery store for me and when they returned, they didn’t bring just the groceries home.  Both had picked out a bouquet of roses that they thought I would enjoy.  And they were right!

A nice bouquet of yellow roses.  That’s one of the many, many things I really appreciate about “the guys.”  I enjoy that they like to spring surprises on me like that.  No special occasion — just because.  They know I’ve been stressing over a lot of things recently and wanted to help me cheer-up.  Even though flowers don’t last for a long time (and I kill plastic plants), it’s still nice to see something so pretty that reminds me of how much they love me.  They’ll send me flowers when I’m working away from home.  They do it to remind me how much they love and miss me and also to make my co-workers jealous when I have them sitting on my desk.

I know it may not seem like much, but to me it means a lot.  And that’s what matters.

Kritzinger’s warning — a moral for today

Today’s post comes from a story told in the movie “Conspiracy” by Reinhard Heydrich to Adolf Eichmann and Rudolf Lange that supposedly was told to Heydrich by Friedrich Kritzinger.  There has been some debate over whether this story was actually told by Kritzinger to Heydrich or if it was mentioned at the Wannssee Conference during one of the breaks when the meeting was not being transcribed.  However, it is a fabulous story and the moral is something very worth remembering.

He told me a story about a man he had known all his life, a boyhood friend.  This man hated his father.  Loved his mother fiercely.  His mother was devoted to him, but his father used to beat him, demeaned him, disenherited him.  Anyway, this friend grew to manhood and was still in his thirties when the mother died.  The mother, who had nurtured and protected him, died.  The man stood at her grave as they lowered the coffin and tried to cry, but no tears came.

The man’s father lived to a very extended old age and withered away and died when the son was in his fifties.  At the father’s funeral, much to the son’s surprise, he could not control his tears.  Wailing, sobbing….he was apparently inconsolable.  Utterly lost.  That was the story Kritzinger told me.

What was it about the story that the listeners didn’t understand?

The man had been driven his whole life by hatred of his father.  When his mother died, that was a loss, but when his father died and the hate had lost its object, the man’s life was completely empty.

That was the message.  That was the warning given in the story.

Do not let hate fill your lives so much that, when it is gone, you have nothing left to live for.

Where do you get squirrel-flavored cake at this hour?

Today’s post is going to be very short because I have two birthdays to celebrate today.  And, as anyone who’s had to organize birthdays for a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old will know, it takes a lot of time.

Fortunately, though, these two celebrants aren’t going to mind that there are no decorations, cakes, or overly-expensive presents with which they’ll never play.

I’m sending Happy Birthday wishes to Harley and Celeste, my pet and service dog respectively.  I know Celeste’s birthdate because of the papers that came with her since she’s an AKC registered dog.  Harley is a shelter rescue and we can only estimate when she was born based on her age the vet gave us when we adopted her.  So, why not have them share a special day?  Makes it easier on us owners who have a lot of dates to remember!

Happy birthday to them both!  They’re both two of the best dogs I’ve ever had in my life and I’m very thankful they’re here.

I have a stupidphone and I’m not afraid to use it!

I was sitting here staring at the screen just begging my brain to come up with something worth blogging about.  Husband suggested politics.  I quickly shot that down because everyone’s blogging about it.  Youngest Son said I should write about not being able to think of a subject.  I’ve already done that one this month.  And then, it happened.

The “incoming message” tone on my cellphone rang.  I looked at the screen and saw that it was from Biological Mother.  I opened the message and there was a teeny-tiny photo of some sort that even if I had 20/20 vision I’d still not be able to see it.  I sent a message back to her stating that I couldn’t see the photo and reminding her that my cellphone isn’t like hers.  She replied that it was a photo from PeopleOfWalmart.com and that she thought my phone could show any photo she sent.  I had to text her back to explain (for the I-don’t-know-how-many-th time) that my phone doesn’t work like hers and I can see photos she takes and sends but not something forwarded from the Internet.  I sat my cellphone down and started to get comfy on the couch before it rang and vibrated again — only to show her incoming message of “OK.”

Gah!!!  I hate that!!!  I really used to hate that when I had to pay for every message I sent or received and she would send “OK” or “K” after anything I texted to her.  I would tell her that her little ending notes were costing me money, but she’d only remember that for a few minutes and I’d get tons more messages.  When we had a horrendous ice storm in January 2009, we lost power and in order to save our batteries I sent a text to family members that we were fine and would only call or text if something important happened.  I lost track of the number of texts Biological Mother sent asking questions about things that didn’t mean diddly-squat when we were trying to keep ourselves from freezing.

And she’s not the only one in my family who does that.  Half-Sister does it too.  She and our mutual mother have a thing about wanting to send stuff by text.  As a matter of fact, while I’ve been trying to type this far into this post, Half-Sister has already attempted to forward the same thing to me.

Both of them have smartphones.  You know what those are, right?  The cellphones that can do all of the neat photos and videos.  They run applications that are useful, entertaining, and occasionally both.  People have been known to line-up outside of stores for days or weeks waiting for the latest and greatest to be released.  Some even now will talk back to you if you ask it a question.  I guess that’s good for those who are too enamored by their techno-gadgets to have relationships with real people.  And Biological Mother and Half-Sister have both, at one time or another, offered to “give” me one of theirs that was being replaced by a newer model.

I have a stupidphone.  You’ve probably never heard of one of those.  Actually, if you’ve ever had a cellphone prior to the days of touchscreens and voice recognition, you’ve had a stupidphone too.  These are the ones that allow their owners to place calls, take a photo, or even send a text message.  But not all at the same time and certainly not with any great fanfare about it.  I do not have an unlimited data plan or worry about how many bits/bytes of memory I’ve sent over the airwaves each month because I can’t do those things.  I have unlimited texting, but that’s because it’s a family plan and when you have Youngest Son receiving messages from his friends who also cannot remember that you have to pay for every message, it gets expensive.

Another reason I have a stupidphone is because I can think of many, MANY other things I’d rather spend my hard-earned cash on instead of a piece of plastic that will scratch or break easily and the “privilege” of using it by paying outrageous phone charges along with the basic plan and taxes.  I don’t Titterbook or Fweet on my phone and as a serious sufferer of ADD, I don’t need something like that distracting me.

I’m not a technophobe.  I try to stay as up-to-date as I can.  But I’m not going to bankrupt myself and my family to fling birds across a screen.

Now that I’ve spent over an hour trying to type this while still having to send texts back to the two of them explaining why my phone doesn’t do what theirs does, I’m going to end my post, put my phone back on the charger, and maybe watch a movie or two.  It’s Friday night — gotta have some fun sometime!

Persistant Portal Preoccupation

What is it about video games that make grownups want to sit for hours and “prove” their mastery of what five-year-olds can do with little thought?

I’ve already posted about my love of Lego-branded video games.  But Youngest Son wanted a special game for the holidays.  One that has become a part of today’s pop culture that you’ve either played it and get all the jokes or you have no idea about what everyone is blithering.  People have begun to decorate their houses, cars, and even themselves in the new meme.  It took me a while to find the game because he wasn’t sure how to locate the original game that has everyone raving about the sequel.  And now, I’m addicted.

Portal.  Little red/orange and blue circles.  Why are they so intriguing??

I did the research and found that the original Portal game came out in The Orange Box along with two other games that most people played until they tried Portal and then totally forgot about them.  I didn’t know that at first and had been searching everywhere for a stand-alone game that didn’t exist.  When I happened to stumble upon the needed game for the PlayStation 3, I made sure to snatch it as quickly as I could.  And then I went back and paid for it.

I gave Youngest Son the game because I knew he’d need to be familiar with it before I could purchase the game he really wanted.  I sat and watched him figure out the puzzles and followed the storyline.  It was cute and I figured if he could do it, so could I.

What took him just a few days to complete took me well over a week.  The game actually requires you to use concepts of physics and critical thinking to solve the puzzles.  I took physics.  I did pretty well in the class.  I consider myself very intelligent.  And I have no idea how even after watching the puzzles being solved I would get really confused on where to go or what to do.  Simple tasks seemed to be the most challenging and I had to remind myself to “think smarter, not harder” throughout the game.  I was determined to finish it and finally did….with help from Youngest Son.

So when the holidays came along I was ready to give Youngest Son the present he’d been hoping for all year.  Portal 2.  The sequel.  A bigger storyline and even cooperative play ability in multiplayer-mode.  Famous guest stars doing voiceovers of new characters that help expand the Portal universe and make it even more fun to play.

Youngest Son was beside himself with joy and promptly began playing.  Within less than a week, he was finished and then began again in order to win all of the trophies.  And as of this moment, I’ve forgotten how many times he’s replayed the story mode.  I’ve only been able to finish it once all the way through and there are many trophies that I should have easily obtained but for the life of me I can’t figure out.  Sure, I could go online and look for cheats and walkthroughs but I should be able to figure it out on my own.

Every site I went to told me the same information and I analyzed the videos of “professionals” playing the game and tried to copy their moves.  Still I haven’t been able to complete them all.  But I refuse to give-up.  Sooner or later, I’ll have those trophies and I’ll even try to earn all of the cooperative play trophies.  I’ve got to get to 100% finished.  It’s a goal — not a major goal, but a goal just the same.

We have strict rules in the house about how much time the kids are allowed to play video games.  If we didn’t, I know that Eldest Son would have never finished any homework in high school and Youngest Son would only be able to speak  like the villans in Crash Bandicoot.  Each child is given one hour per day if all homework, instrument practice, and chores are completed.  Even with these limitations, both were always able to speed through every game they bought.

What is it that makes it so easy for them?  Here’s my theory — they don’t care.

Being kids who’ve grown up in a world saturated with computers, electronic gizmos, and made-up characters they’re able to disconnect from the character and attempt the impossible jumps and dash through dangerous puzzles without a second thought.  Adults, who didn’t have the luxury of video games and had to actually interact with others while using their imagination when playing, subconsciously become “attached” to the character as if it’s an extension of themselves and aren’t so willing to take chances.

Does this have any impact on the future of our world?  I have no idea.  It’s just a theory I have and I’ve not had time or desire to absolutely test it.  I’m sure there are scientists somewhere that have begun a full-scale experiment based on this theory and are preparing their dissertations as we speak.

All I know is that for now I need to be able to move through those colored rings without firing the wrong color and ending up bashing my character against a wall again.

Discovery’s “Combat Cash” goes MIA tonight.

It’s Wednesday and I settled in for an interesting evening.  Two weeks ago this blog lit up after I said that Discovery’s Combat Cash was awful.  That’s not exactly what I said, but you can go back and read the original post for yourself.

I looked up when it would be on again and found that today was the next air date.  TV Guide said that I’d have to be ready to watch at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time.  Here are the descriptions of the episodes:

7 p.m. – Real GI Joe; 1795 Springfield Musket:  A 1795 Springfield musket is test fired; a rare GI Joe is sold; the guys meet a helicopter crew from the Vietnam War. New (CC)

7:30 p.m. – Hellcat Ammo; Flamethrowers:  Flamethrowers from WWII and the Vietnam War are used for a photo shoot; the guys search for ammo for a Hellcat tank. New (CC)

I started flipping channels to find something to watch until 7 p.m. and switched to Discovery a few minutes early so I could get settled-in with a snack.  The show advertised above as the 7 p.m. episode was ending!  What’s up with that??

So, I went to Discovery’s website and pulled-up the schedule for tonight.  Here’s what they advertised (times are Eastern Standard Time):

7 p.m. –  Hellcat Ammo/Flamethrowers TV-PG; Bob and Owen roll up their sleeves to search for WWII-era ammunition for a Hellcat tank. The owner offers them the bonus of getting to fire off some live rounds. Then the guys light up a special photo shoot with WWII and Vietnam War-era flamethrowers.

7:30 p.m. – Real GI Joe/1795 Springfield Musket TV-PG; Vintage Productions owner Bob and partner Owen connect passionate collectors with rare military items. They sell a very rare GI Joe and test fire a 1795 Springfield musket. But it’s their job for a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter crew that really strikes home.

I did get to see the guys test fire the Springfield musket and the video of the new owner placing it in his customized display which, when the musket is inserted, looks like a “life-sized” Combat Infantry Badge.  That’s actually pretty awesome.  A neat idea for displaying a nice firearm.

But that’s all I got to see!  TV Guide and the satellite guide say one thing; Discovery says something else.  TV Guide and the satellite say the episodes will rerun at midnight Central Standard Time.  Discovery says they’ll rerun at 1:30 a.m., 2 a.m., and 2:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, January 26th.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I do enjoy sleeping.  It’s one of my favorite activities.  And I function a LOT better when I have an average amount of it each day.  I’m not staying up until “0-Christ-Hundred” to watch a show that may or may not be worth watching.

So what’s up, Discovery??  I’ve already been getting emails and questions from friends/family if maybe the episodes weren’t aired when they were advertised because they didn’t want me to see it again.  While that’s flattering, I don’t believe my blog post would cause a full-scale schedule makeover.  But I still don’t understand why Discovery would change its schedule when it’s already been printed and programmed for one time and decide to air the episodes when people are not usually watching Discovery.  Do they want it to fail now?  Are they hoping only the diehard militaria fans will stay-up to watch it?  Do they hope that those who are usually up at those times will “appreciate” the show more than those who made sure their schedules were open to watch at the advertised times?

Shame on you, Discovery.  Shame, shame, shame.  I was actually looking forward to watching the episodes — and not just to be snarky about them.  I wanted to see if there was any improvement from the first two episodes and be able to comment positively on that.  I have no idea why anyone would want WWII-era ammunition for a Hellcat, so not having seen the episode I can only imagine that it’s an idiotic reason since ammunition does become unstable over time, but I don’t know and I’m not going to speculate.

I’ll wait and see if new episodes are forthcoming, but I’m beginning to seriously doubt it.  Especially since there’s an article on Discovery’s website saying “Combat Cash Finale” and dated today (January 25, 2012).

Oh well….at least I’ve got time to watch something else, and it sure as heck isn’t going to be Sons of Guns that they’ve decided to show in the scheduled time slot for Combat Cash.  If you thought I didn’t like Combat Cash, you don’t want to go into the deep waters of Sons of Guns.  Trust me.

What you missed while not watching the Florida GOP Debate – reprinted

I am very much against plagiarism.  I would never pass off someone’s work as my own.  That’s why today, while I’m trying to ice-down my head in hopes of relieving a migraine, I am reprinting this FABULOUS article by Michael Scherer from Time.com.  It’s everything I would have written had I been able to keep as detailed notes or give as much of a crap about what did and didn’t go on in last night’s debate.  Let’s face it — they’re no longer debates and never were.  I only wish I could run a major political debate — they’d all be standing onstage and Rule 1 would be that if they start campaigning instead of answering my “Yes or No” question, their microphone would be cut and no one could hear them.  Rule 2 would be that if they did it again, they’d be dropped through the floor to not return to the rest of the debate.  I know I’d stay up to watch reruns of that debate!

Anyway, here’s Mr. Scherer’s article and I certainly hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

0 minutes.  TV Guide lists a new episode of Fear Factor at 9 p.m. on NBC.  It’s called “Leaches & Shaved Heads & Tear Gas, Oh My! Part 1.”  And yet, as the hour strikes, the screen shows another patriotic montage, this time from Tampa, Florida, introducing the 18th Republican debate.  The NFL plays a 16-game regular season.  There are nine circles of hell.  God got it done in six days.  But democracy is unrelenting, a bit like Joe Rogan, with less forced regurgitation and fewer critter challenges.  Which is to say, Fear Factor has been preempted.  A fearful nation takes its place.

2 minutes.  Blue gels on the audience again, like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, except there will be no “dum-dum-dum,” at least as sound effects.  Brian Williams, the handsomest man to have never been a movie star, is not wasting any time.  He lists a lot of bad stuff former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been saying about former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.  “Erratic, failed leader,” it goes on.  “Your response tonight Mr. Speaker?”

3 minutes.  Gingrich responds by reciting his resume, with extra emphasis on confusing historical analogies that only he knows.  He says Reagan carried “more states than Herbert Hoover carried — than Roosevelt carried against Herbert Hoover.”  As is often the case with Gingrich, his words form a shield.  By the time he gets to, “they’re not sending somebody to Washington to manage the decay,” it’s impossible to remember what was asked.

4 minutes.  A wide shot shows Romney standing there, next to Gingrich, with his right hand hanging at his side, ready to draw.  But dapper Williams tries again with Gingrich, which allows the speaker to continue taking credit for everything good that happened during his decades in the House.  “When I was speaker, we had four consecutive balanced budgets, the only time in your lifetime, Brian, that we’ve had four consecutive balanced budgets.”  This is not true.  The four years of surplus ran through 2001.  Gingrich resigned from office in 1999.  Newt gets two out of four.  If this were a history class, he would fail.

5 minutes.  Romney gets his chance.  “I think it’s about leadership,” he says, “and the speaker was given an opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994.  And at the end of four years, he had to resign in disgrace.”  This is the same Mitt Romney who said in the last debate that he wished he had spent more time attacking President Obama, and less time attacking his rivals.  Romney calls Gingrich an “influence peddler,” says he encouraged cap and trade and called Paul Ryan’s budget plan “social engineering.”

6 minutes.  Gingrich, doing his best imitation of Romney, from when Romney was the frontrunner, acts like he is too big a deal to worry about the criticism.  “Well, look, I’m not going to spend the evening trying to chase Governor Romney’s misinformation,” he says, adding that he would rather be attacking Obama.  “I just think this is the worst kind of trivial politics.”

8 minutes.  Williams still looks like every 1940s radio drama detective sounded.  He asks Romney whether he can appeal to conservatives.  Romney says he does, and pivots.  “Let’s go back to what the Speaker mentioned with regards to leadership,” Romney says.  He notes that Gingrich was the first speaker in history to resign.  “I don’t think we can possibly retake the White House if the person who’s leading our party is the person who was working for the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac,” he adds.

9 minutes.  Romney says almost exactly what Gingrich said after Iowa:  That the last election taught him he can’t sit back.  He has to go on offense.  “I had incoming from all directions, was overwhelmed with a lot of attacks.  And I’m not going to sit back and get attacked day in and day out without returning fire,” Romney says.  The two men have traded strategies since South Carolina.  Or traded bodies.  Gingrich is now aloof and focused on the general.  Romney is trying to muddy the field.

10 minutes.  Gingrich returns fire with a couple of zingers:  “He may have been a good financier,” he says of Romney.  “He’s a terrible historian.”  So is Gingrich (See minute 4).  Then Gingrich proceeds to respond to a lot of stuff he just said he would not waste his time talking about.  He tells a rosy version of his fall from the atop the U.S. House that would not please his fellow historians.  “Apparently your consultants aren’t very good historians,” Gingrich tells Romney.  “What you ought to do is stop and look at the facts.”  The intellectual insult.  A classic Gingrich move.  Like I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I?

11 minutes.  Debonair Williams, he of the slender face and half-Windsor knot, throws it to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has apparently been standing on stage this entire time.  How, asks Williams, is Santorum going to actually win?  Santorum hits his stump speech, saying he is positive, and that this is not a two person race.

14 minutes.  There is actually a fourth person on stage as well.  Texas Rep. Ron Paul gets a question that is basically this:  You have no chance of winning, you said you don’t envision yourself in the Oval Office, so will you run as a third-party candidate?  Paul says he has been winning the under-30 vote, and otherwise doing “pretty darned well.”  Then he calls the historian on his rosy history about giving up the speaker’s gavel.  “This idea that he voluntarily reneged and he was going to punish himself because we didn’t do well in the election, that’s just not the way it was.”  True that.  Then Paul says, once again, that he has “no plans” to go third party.

17 minutes.  Gingrich gets a question about Paul.  Gingrich praises Paul for his criticism of the Federal Reserve and desire for a “gold commission,” which is nothing like a blue-ribbon panel.  It would study bringing back gold as currency.

18 minutes.  Romney says he will release his tax returns for two years on Wednesday morning.  But again he gets tongue tied.  Rich people don’t like to talk about their own money.  It is impolite.  So Romney says, “The real question is not so much my taxes, but the taxes of the American people.”  Suddenly, out of nowhere, Romney, who previously opposed any debt compromise that raised any taxes, is praising the Bowles-Simpson plan, which raises tax revenues by nearly $1 trillion.  But Romney doesn’t talk about the deficit part.  He talks about the cutting marginal rates part, which by itself would make the debt problem worse.  He chastises Obama for having “simply brushed aside” the Bowles-Simpson recommendations, in much the same way that Romney did previously.

20 minutes.  More discomfort, as Romney is asked again to talk about his money.  “I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more,” he says.  “I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”  Now that is settled.

21 minutes.  Gingrich tries to needle Romney by saying he wants everyone to enjoy Romney’s 15 percent tax rate.  Romney points out that under the Gingrich tax plan, investment gains would be taxed at zero.  “Under that plan, I’d have paid no taxes in the last two years,” Romney says.  This is true.  It is the reason Gingrich’s policies are better for wealthy financiers than Romney’s policies.  Romney would keep his own tax rate on investments at 15%.

22 minutes.  More awkward talk about Romney’s wealth.  “I will not apologize for having been successful.  I did not inherit what my wife and I have, nor did she.  What we have, what I was able to build, I built the old-fashioned way, by earning it,” he says.  This is true, if you discount the fact that his father’s money helped to put Romney through college (Bringham Young, Stanford) and joint degrees at Harvard (Law, Business).

25 minutes.  Now it’s time to talk about what lobbying means.  Gingrich worked for lobbyists at Freddie Mac, a quasi-government agency that conservatives despise.  He also took lots of money from health care companies, while at the same time writing articles and giving talks that furthered those company’s agendas in Congress.  But technically none of it was “lobbying,” which is a legal term of art.  Williams asks the right question, by avoiding the L-word.  “You never peddled influence, as Governor Romney accused you of tonight?”  Gingrich can’t answer.  “You know, there is a point in the process where it gets unnecessarily personal and nasty,” he says, before avoiding the question by saying he never lobbied.

28 minutes.  Romney and Gingrich go at it.  Romney accuses Gingrich of profiting from an organization that destroyed the housing market in Florida.  Gingrich tries to compare his consulting work for lobbyists with Romney’s consulting work for corporations.  “Wait a second, wait a second,” protests Gingrich at one point, after Romney admits that his firm made money too.  “We didn’t do any work with the government.  I didn’t have an office on K Street,” Romney says.  It goes on.

33 minutes. Never-a-bad-hair-day Williams cuts them off and goes to commercial break.

36 minutes.  We’re back, with charity time for the other two candidates on stage who have not had much time to talk.  Paul and Santorum talk about the housing market and say nothing new.  Then Romney says he wants to help homeowners too.  And Gingrich says he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, the banking regulation bill, because of its effect on smaller banks.  Romney agrees.

43 minutes.  Cuban question:  “Let’s say President Romney gets that phone call, and it is to say that Fidel Castro has died.  And there are credible people in the Pentagon who predict upwards of half a million Cubans may take that as a cue to come to the United States.  What do you do?”  The premise is a stretch, since Fidel has already ceded most government control to his brother, Raul.  Romney tries to make a joke about how Fidel is a bad guy.  “First of all, you thank heavens that Fidel Castro has returned to his maker and will be sent to another land,” he says.

44 minutes.  Gingrich retells the joke, but gets the punchline right.  “Well, Brian, first of all, I guess the only thing I would suggest is I don’t think that Fidel is going to meet his maker.  I think he’s going to go to the other place,” he says.  Fidel in hell jokes must poll really well in Miami.  Then Gingrich says he would authorize “covert operations” to overthrow the Castro regime.

46 minutes.  “I would do pretty much the opposite,” says Paul.

47 minutes.  Having stirred up the Cuban pot, Williams now accuses the candidates of pandering for votes.  Why don’t they care as much about Chinese dissidents and embargo China?  Santorum says China is not 90 miles off the coast.

49 minutes.  Iran time.  Romney criticizes Obama, “We ought to have and aircraft carrier in the Gulf.”  Nevermind that the USS Abraham Lincoln is there right now.  Gingrich picks up where Romney left off.  “Dictatorships respond to strength, they don’t respond to weakness,” he says.  The same can be said of Republican primary voters.

52 minutes.  Romney tears into Obama on Afghanistan, saying the president should not have reduced troops so much, allowed elections to go bad or announced withdrawal date.

53 minutes.  Paul pretty much has the opposite view.

54 minutes.  Another break.  “I’ll welcome two colleagues out here to the stage when we continue from Tampa right after this,” says Williams.  Hope for Joe Rogan and Donald Trump.  Or Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey.

58 minutes.  We’re back.  It’s National Journal’s Beth Reinhard and the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith.  After Santorum gets a chance to talk about the evils of Iran, he is asked about offshore drilling.  Santorum said the economy in Florida went bad in 2008 “because of a huge spike in oil prices,” which is like saying people watch Fear Factor to see Joe Rogan.

62 minutes.  Reinhard asks a great question:  How can the candidates be against bilingual balloting, even as they advertise in Spanish to Hispanics?  Gingrich and Romney don’t really have answers.  So they dance around the edges.  Everyone on stage is against multi-lingual education, except Paul who doesn’t mind if states do whatever they want.

66 minutes.  Immigration time.  Same as before, except Gingrich makes clear that he would support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.  Romney agrees.  Then Romney says of other undocumented immigrants, “Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”  Self-deportation is one of those neologisms that gets added to dictionary at the end of the year.  Sign of the times.

70 minutes.  Questions about sugar subsidies.  Gingrich says you can’t beat the sugar lobby, because “cane sugar hides behind beet sugar,” and there are “just too many beet sugar districts in the United States.”  Surely someone can work that into a Haiku.

71 minutes.  Romney says he is against all subsidies.  Then he pivots into a long rant about the awfulness of President Obama.  It is telling that it has taken Romney 71 minutes to get into this rant on Obama.  South Carolina has transformed him as a candidate.

72 minutes.  Paul is asked is he supports federal funding for conservation of the everglades.  Paul lets down his strict libertarian guard to pander for Florida votes.  “I don’t see any reason to go after that,” he says.

73 minutes. Another break.  Things are speeding up.

77 minutes.  Some talk about Terri Schiavo, a woman in a vegetative state who became a cause celeb for conservatives in 2005.  The answers are inconsequential.

81 minutes.  Space cadet time.  No, really.  Romney says Obama has no space plan, and America needs a space plan.  Gingrich gets asked about going to Mars.  He says he wants a “leaner NASA,” but then lists off a terribly expensive list of goals:  “Going back to the moon permanently, getting to Mars as rapidly as possible, building a series of space stations and developing commercial space.”  At least something new is happening.  First time in 18 debates that anyone has talked about Mars.

84 minutes.  Gingrich is asked why the Bush tax cuts in early 2000s did not create a lot of jobs.  His answer is priceless.  He channels Obama, seemingly unaware of the irony.  “In 2002 and ’03 and ’04, we’d have been in much worse shape without the Bush tax cuts,” he says.  That’s what Obama says about the stimulus bill.  Both are basically right, though neither would give the other credit.

85 minutes.  Last break.  Almost there.  Actually scratch that.  You will never get there.  When this debate ends, there will be another.  The next one is Thursday.  No joke.

90 minutes.  We’re back.  Romney is asked what he has done to further the cause of conservatism.  He is sort of stumped.  Talks about his family, his work in the private sector, neither of which is all that ideological.

92 minutes.  Gingrich talks about how he went to Goldwater meetings in 1964, when he would have turned 21.

93 minutes.  Santorum is asked about electability.  Suddenly he comes alive.  It’s the best moment of any of his debates.  Yet few will ever notice, and it will almost certainly not matter.  He makes the case that he is the only true conservative who can take on Obama, and that both Romney and Gingrich are fundamentally flawed because they are too close to the political positions of Obama.  “There is no difference between President Obama and these two gentlemen,” Santorum says.  This is not true, if you were wondering.

95 minutes.  Paul talks about the constitution.

97 minutes.  Romney talks about RomneyCare and ObamaCare.

98 minutes.  Gingrich says, “I never ask anyone to be for me.  Because if they are for me, they vote yes and go home and say, I sure hope Newt does it.  I ask people to be with me, because I think this will be a very hard, very difficult journey.”  No doubt.

99 minutes.  Romney, who talks all the time about “restoring American greatness,” is asked when America was last great.  “America still is great,” Romney says, thus undercutting the meaning of his signature campaign message.

101 minutes. That’s it. See you Thursday.

Up to my eyeballs in auditions!

Sorry folks but there won’t be a long post tonight.  Our local Community Theatre is getting ready for a new production and tonight was audition night.

I was there as the technical director looking over the hopefuls because there’s a lot of special makeup and costume notes that needed to be made.  I wanted to be sure to have a good idea of the folks we were considering before I start sketching out anything.  I loved majoring in theatre in college and still really enjoy working on any theatrical production I can get going.  It’s going to be a fun show and we’ve only got until the beginning of March to make it happen!

So, sorry again!  But I’m sure something will be getting me on a rant or a remembrance soon.  Heck, a new episode of Hoarders is coming on and that’s always good to go!

Rednecks with money equals “American Stuffers”

And just when you think you’ve about seen it all on television, along comes something else that makes you wonder, “Who comes up with this stuff?”

Now, I must confess that I like a lot of different shows.  I don’t like soap operas (daytime or nighttime) and I certainly don’t like most sitcoms.  The majority of the time you’ll find my television tuned to History (even though they really don’t show many historical shows anymore), Discovery (absolutely love Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs), Science Channel (I really would love to own a store like Oddities and the things they find are awesome), or BBC America (Top Gear, Doctor Who — just a small sampling of the British shows I love).  If I can find something educational I’ll be more than happy to watch it over any tarted-up “reality show” where every other word has to be bleeped.  I used to enjoy Hell’s Kitchen but you can only listen to someone be so BLEEPingly BLEEP BLEEP without it getting really old.

So last night I sat down to surf the zillion channels available on satellite in the hopes of finding something, anything, worth watching.  Occasionally I’ll tune-in to Animal Planet.  I like their shows Dogs 101 and Cats 101 and occasionally they have a few others that might hold my interest.  I’d watch some of the animal rescue shows but then I’d just get upset seeing how people mistreat their pets and be in a crappy mood for the rest of the day.  And don’t get me started on Animal Hoarders — we can’t even have that show on because Youngest Son gets so angry at the people and cries when he sees the animals that can’t be saved.

Suddenly, a show started from which I could just not look away.  It wasn’t in a “that’s so incredibly awesome” sort of enrapturement as a “really bad car accident” kind of not being able to look away.  Their new show was starting — American Stuffers.

Now, if you’ve not heard of this show yet, I’d suggest you sit down before continuing because it is certainly not like any other reality show on television.  The Ross family of Romance, Arkansas, owns and runs Xtreme Taxidermy.  And when I say “family” I mean ALL of them.  Mrs. Ross is a school teacher, but Mr. Ross and their three sons get very hands-on with the preparation of animals to be stuffed.  There are also two other employees of the shop (one that showed-up one day with a roadkill deer on the back of his moped) and a veterinary student intern named Dixie who gets incredibly grossed-out by dead animals or the idea of having to touch them.  I think she needs to rethink her major!

Other than the standard taxidermy that is performed in their little shop north of Little Rock, Xtreme Taxidermy specializes in a very odd form of preservation.  They taxidermy pets.  And they don’t just skin them and put them on mounts like you do your prized deer or moose head.  The pets are freeze-dried so that they’ll last forever.

I’d already heard of freeze-drying animals, especially in the scientific community where specimens could be preserved.  If you had a two-headed pig or a set of conjoined lambs that didn’t survive, you could have a scientific group prepare them by freeze-drying so that they could be used in the classroom to explain biological anomalies.  Seeing a real, three-dimensional representation is much easier to learn from than a photo in a textbook or just trying to take someone’s word for it.

But pets?  Yes, there are pet cemeteries all around the United States where people pay a lot of money for their pets to be buried in elaborate caskets with ornate headstones.  I have Cody, my previous service dog, buried in the back yard with a plaque over the site.  The only reason we buried him is because we couldn’t do what we normally do when a pet dies — have them cremated.  No one in our area does that.  But in the past when a pet has finally gone to wait at the Rainbow Bridge, we’ve taken their body to the vet’s office to have them cremated and then sprinkled their ashes in places they loved to play or just lay in the sun in the backyard.  I had considered getting an urn to keep Cody’s ashes if we could have had him cremated, but it just wasn’t to be.

I totally understand how people are so attached to their pets.  Anyone who tries to brush-away your grieving by saying, “It was just a dog/cat/hamster/rabbit/etc.” has no idea how much a part of the family they become.  True, I can get another dog/cat/hamster/rabbit/etc., but it’s not going to be the same animal and it’s still not going to fill the void the recently deceased has left.  And don’t get me started on those who are trying to clone dead pets….

But freeze-drying a pet?  I love my pets and service dogs immensely, but I’m not so sure I’d want to have it staring at me for the rest of time.  Or even if you get it done with its eyes closed, it’s still going to be there and you can’t hug and cuddle it like a live pet.  Plus you have to dust it just like any other knick-knack in the house and heaven forbid you have company over and someone’s toddler decides to play with it and snaps off a body part.  Don’t laugh at that — there was an episode last night where after having a Chihuahua in their freezer for four years a family decided to have it freeze-dried along with another dog that had just recently passed away and their kid kept trying to play with them like dolls.  Even Mr. Ross said it would be a miracle if they got home with them intact or if he didn’t receive a phone call in the next two months because she’d snapped the head off of it.

Part of my family is from that northern-central/northeastern part of Arkansas.  I grew up in the Bootheel of Missouri.  We were rednecks and we knew it.  When I got a job as a newspaper editor in one of the “hill-country” counties just north of “Southeast Missouri-proper,” I knew I was a redneck.  They were hillbillies and darned proud of it.  They couldn’t understand me and vice versa.  It was almost a Deliverance-like experience that has shaped (and scarred) my life forever.  So when I watched the show, I understood their accents (even the one shop employee whom the network thought needed subtitles to understand), and I understood that hunting wild hogs or picking up a road-kill deer wasn’t something considered out of the ordinary.  Seeing a young girl coming into their shop to claim her oven-dried hog skull from her first kill didn’t faze me a bit.  Husband, however, was laughing himself silly because nothing seemed to shock me or appear disturbing in my opinion.

And then the lady with the racoon appeared.  I’ve had friends that have had all sorts of weird pets.  And, yes, I’ve seen the horrible tourist-trap taxidermies that have been done like the lizards that are supposed to be a mariachi band or the snakes posed as if they’re going to strike.  And, yes, I’ve even seen the ever-famous jackalopes.  But I’ve never known anyone to keep a racoon as a pet.  Those things are mean.  Really mean — as in “eat your neighbor’s small dogs or cats” mean.  This lady had a 40-pound racoon that she’d raised as a pet that had, sadly, become roadkill.  She wanted it mounted so she could always remember it.  I guess the large photo album she brought with her wasn’t enough.

When Mr. Ross went to the lady’s single-wide trailer to deliver the mount, she proudly showed the places where the racoon had chewed through cabinets and left a path of destruction through the home.  Of course it did!  It’s a wild animal!  But instead of spending money to repair or replace the damages, she gets the animal stuffed.  This is the part of the show where I’ve got issues.

I don’t want to assume bad things about anyone.  And I certainly have had my time (and probably will many additional times) where I couldn’t really afford to have or do the things I wanted and hard choices had to be made.  And when you’ve grown-up in that environment and in an area where it’s very prevalent, you try to remember where your priorities are.  Sure, an income tax refund seems like something that needs to be spent immediately — but I’m not freeze-drying a pet with it!

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’ve not been so traumatized by a pet’s death that I need to have it’s freeze-dried carcass taking up precious floor or shelf space and having it stare at me.  I had major surgery once and Youngest Son bought me a toy owl that had huge plastic eyes that I had to turn the thing away from me at night because it looked as if it was staring into my soul.  I certainly don’t want that from a 40-pound-or-more animal glaring at me.  And if it’s eyes are closed, then what’s the point of “having the pet there” where you can “interact” with it (as many of the customers said)?

I like the fact that the show is family-friendly and probably the harshest word you’ll hear would be “darn.”  But I do have to agree with Mrs. Ross — you bake hog skulls in my good oven and you’re gonna hear about it!

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