May 31, 2013

Discount Tire Rocks

Last month I replaced the tires on my gas guzzling SUV.  Due to prior positive experiences with Discount Tire, that is where I made the purchase.  When we went to get the tires, my kids were lined up on stools, watching the men in the garage mount the tires on our car.  We watched as one of the men removed the old tire and then began searching the area for something.  He eventually came in and told me that I seemed to be missing a tire monitor.  I shared with him the story that the GMC dealership had told me SIX FREAKING years ago when my 'check tire monitor' warning first came on - that it was a $250 fix, and replacing one generally led to the rest going out.  The dealership had told me I could fork over $1,000 to replace all four, or ignore the warning message EVERY SINGLE TIME I TURNED MY CAR ON, which is what I had been doing.  FOR SIX YEARS.

Friendly DT guy said that simply wasn't true, it was a $60 part, and one should have no bearing on the rest.  I agreed to the additional charge, they installed in along with my tires, and we were on our happy way, with no warning message blinking at me as I pulled away!

Two weeks later, I spent the day in Oklahoma City.  (BTW, Tina, what the heck is that bridge across I-40?)  I had a lunch break in between meetings, and went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch.  When I came out and started my car, the 'check tire pressure' light came on.  There was a wicked black cloud with lightning closing in fast, fat raindrops beginning to plop down, and I was not dressed for tire maintenance.  I quickly scanned the shopping area that stretched out on either side of the restaurant, a-ha!  The distinctive red lettering of a Discount Tire was three doors down, so I hopped in the car and headed that way.

They checked my tires, finding one that was 20 pounds low, but holding air.  They told me that they thought it would hold, so that I could get back for my meeting and then return for them to take the tire off and check it.  They gave me the store's phone number and told me that if it didn't hold air during my meeting to call and they would come rescue me.

It did hold, and when they took the tire off that afternoon, there was a horseshoeing nail in the sidewall of my two week old tire.  My heart dropped, knowing that my brand new $200 tire couldn't be fixed.  Then, they explained that they were going to replace it for free, it was sort of an unwritten policy for the first 90 days after a purchase.  Unfortunately, they didn't have the same tire.  They knew I was headed home to Texas, so they started to look for a Discount Tire that had the stock, that was located between there and my route home.  They found a tire at their Yukon, OK, store.  Not quite on my way, but not far out of it. 

As one of the gentlemen was giving me directions, the others were in the garage putting my spare tire on, and removing the damaged tire from the wheel, so the other store would be spared some labor.  It really struck me that they were considerate, not only to me, but to one another.

Now, my spare tire was the 2004 original.  They didn't scold me, but one of the guys mentioned that he lived out toward Yukon and could follow me on his way home to make sure the tire got me there. 

Once at the Yukon location, they got the new tire on and one of the gentlemen did mention that my spare was reaching the end of its useful life.  I figured I should buy a new one, I needed it, and they had been so kind.  They quoted prices to me, starting with a base model and going up.  When I opted for the base model tire, knowing that we probably won't even have this vehicle much longer, the manager instead decided to put a better tire in the spare slot, for the same price as the cheaper one. They soon had me headed home with my two new tires - all with the same friendliness and courtesy that their sister store had displayed.

I don't know what sort of customer service training those guys go through, but it works.  It almost makes me sad that tires don't need to be replaced more often.

May 30, 2013

Obamacare Consequences

I don't ever remember having a doctor make a house call.  But I do remember seeing them portrayed on television at the time (right along with pharmacies that delivered whatever the doctor prescribed), so I would conclude that it was still a fairly common practice in the United States at the time.

While I can see the challenges of cost and time affecting a doctor's ability to accommodate office hours and home visits, house calls have always seemed like a really smart idea to me.  Doctor's offices are ground zero for taking home more than you came with, germ wise.  When already ill and immune-compromised people are exposed to other sicknesses, the problems are compounded.  There have been times that I would have gladly paid a little extra to have a doctor come to me.

I have read of these 'boutique' or 'concierge' practices, where patients pay a retainer as a sort of annual fee for guaranteed and expedited access to their doctor.  I like that idea, but think it is probably hard to effectively manage the balance between a number of patients that keeps you in business, versus the number that overwhelms you and results in poor care to those that are supposed to have speedy access.

I think that Dr. Michael Ciampi is on the right track:
Dr. Michael Ciampi took a step this spring that many of his fellow physicians would describe as radical.
The family physician stopped accepting all forms of health insurance. In early 2013, Ciampi sent a letter to his patients informing them that he would no longer accept any kind of health coverage, both private and government-sponsored. Given that he was now asking patients to pay for his services out of pocket, he posted his prices on the practice’s website.
It isn't as if you can't use your health insurance, he is simply reverting to the system so many of us grew up with - filing your own reimbursement claims.  Gasp!  The horror of personal responsibility.  It makes perfect sense that there is immediate cost savings from not needing a bloated office staff devoted to filing insurance claims.

Instead of conforming to insurance company's allowed charges, Dr. Ciampi is able to set his own prices, and work with patients who may struggle financially.  He can spend time with his patients, not worrying about throughput to meet high overhead costs.  He is available for phone consultations. 

Isn't it ironic that reverting to a 1960s business model may set a new standard of care in 2013?

May 29, 2013

Define "Speedy"

The sixth amendment to our Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial.  Granted, the clause was written with the emphasis being to get the wheels of justice turning and prevent people from being jailed for long periods without formal charges or indictments.  There are prescribed time periods in which things are supposed to happen, with exclusions for pretrial motions and hearings, and other legal wrangling that occurs before an actual trial.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice has stronger language in regard to speedy trial, with language that dictates that "immediate steps shall be taken" to inform the accused of the charges and to either bring the accused to trial or dismiss the charges.

So why in the hell, three years and six months after the terror attack on Fort Hood, has Nadal Hasan not been convicted yet?

Adding insult to collective injury, the American taxpayer has been footing the bill, not only for his confinement, not only for the untold amount of medical care he has received, but also for the $278,000 of pay Hasan has received while jailed.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that servicemembers accused of crimes continue to receive their pay until convicted, Army officials said.
“He’s an active duty major in the United States Army and he’s being paid as such,” said Chris Haug, a Fort Hood spokesman. “He’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Even if convicted, the military court will not require him to forfeit pay received after the attack, Army officials at the Pentagon said.
Yes, you read that right, the military continues to pay accused members until their conviction.  And that is money that no one is getting back.  I am not sure why there isn't at least an "inactive/confined" duty status that can be conferred upon jailed service members, with provisions for, at least, decreased pay, as they aren't serving our country in any way.  Do other government jobs continue to pay people who are sitting in jail?

I love my country.  I appreciate, usually, our justice system (just watch Midnight Express or read this recent story for a reminder of how it could be).  I even understand the premise of innocent until proven guilty.  Except that there is really no question of guilt in this case.  There are, what, a hundred eye witnesses? His own family has acknowledged his guilt.  And Hasan himself, in September of last year, tried to plead GUILTY, twice.  (UCMJ rules prohibit a guilty plea in a death penalty case).  

There has to be a better way to do this.

May 27, 2013

Decoration Day

No FOD, just thanks.

I am not sure when or why the name of today's 'holiday' changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.  I suppose someone thought 'memorial' was more fitting to the occasion.  Some towns, including the one my kids go to school in, still call it Decoration Day, and, true to the name, decorate the graves of veterans at their small cemetery, and have a ceremony befitting the occasion.

Our flag is out, we have plans to spend the day quietly with family - I hope that our reverence and remembrance makes up for those that think this day is meant for something else.
In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915. 
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Click here to be taken to the Military Times' 'Honor the Fallen' webpage.  There is a photograph and information for service members that have died for our freedom fighting in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.  Thank you, and I hope that your families have found some peace in knowing that so many other people grieve with you.

May 26, 2013

Not Martha Stewart

In a very un-Sunday-like turn of events, I am cracking the whip today, forcing room cleaning and other house and yard chores upon my weary family.  Our normal Saturday was hijacked by other commitments, and the house, and yard, have reached critical status for the amount of neglect they can withstand.

I don't like to be this person, but, none of my children turned out to have the neat-freak gene.  They are all content to live amongst unorganized piles of their belongings, dodging Watership Down-sized dust bunnies.

I am not a great example, as several temporary storage solutions have become rather permanent, piling up in my room, or shoved in closets that are now overflowing. 

While I love having a life that has provided so much to my children, the excess is really the root of all housekeeping evil.  Combined with the hand-me-down items, the younger kids 'have' things that they don't appreciate - or, really, even know they have.  My childhood room might have been messy, but I knew where everything was.

While I haven't ever put an emphasis on keeping a house that is eat-off-the-floor clean, I am suddenly preoccupied with thoughts of much less stuff.  Of everything in its place and a place for everything.  I would like to believe that I suddenly have some new-found cleaning impulse, but, truly, I think it is a desire born from the fear that I soon won't be able to remember where things are. 

May 25, 2013

Vacation Ideas?

My family doesn't have any big vacation plans this summer.  We are still adjusting to the financial impact of having one kid in college, two kids driving, and the acquisition of one preemptive-strike-at-the-impending-midlife-crisis Harley Davidson motorcycle.  And, while we really do have money squirreled away for a reasonable vacation, the planning part presents a time challenge that I haven't yet overcome.

Some of the family wishlist trips need to be planned months, if not a year in advance - and these aren't even of the once-in-a-lifetime sort - we would like to go to Yellowstone and stay a few nights at one of the historic park lodges, a reservation that is hard to come by.  We would like to go to NYC, but should have been shopping for flights months ago.  I want to take my kids to DC for the Smithsonian and monuments, but would rather wait for someone else to occupy that house on Pennsylvania, assuming they would reopen for tours.  Bang is headed to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, so he isn't keen on another long car trip to any points that direction (Grand Canyon or Zion were considerations).

We want to visit Mackinac Island, but, in addition to the length of the drive, the route we would take includes more mandatory stops to visit family than we have the time (or patience) for this year.

With the range of ages, it is always a challenge to find someplace that will appeal to all.  Everyone is supportive of Orlando, it is the happiest place on earth, after all.  It is also one of the most ridiculously expensive for no good reason places on earth.  It is insane, the trance that sweeps over you.  'For the children' must be the most frequently repeated phrase.  $500 a night room with Magic Kingdom view for the nightly fireworks?  Sure, it's for the children.  Children that ended up terrified of the fireworks and would hide in the bathroom crying every night. 

Currently our best idea is to head east, to Tennessee.  Memphis is an easy drive, but I am left to wonder how much of Beale Street the grown-ups can take in, without the little ones clamoring to do something else.  You can bring a child to the blues, but you can't make them love it.

Whenever we talk about Memphis, the conversation starts to creep further east.  Nashville, Knoxville, Gatlinburg - the beautiful Smoky Mountains that I remember from my trip to the 1982 World's Fair.  But, sheesh, that is a lot of time in the car with a 6-year old.  And a lot of planning we haven't done.

I guess I better get busy, because that whole stay-cation thing isn't going to fly this summer.

May 24, 2013

The Cartel Comes to Town

Wednesday evening, in broad daylight, a Mexican drug cartel executed a hit on a lawyer in the parking lot of a busy shopping center, in Southlake, Texas, some 420 miles from the nearest border point.

Southlake is no slum, it is an upscale suburban area near DFW airport.  The shooting location is/was one of the most popular places in the area, Southlake Town Square, a pedestrian oriented outdoor shopping area.  I can't tell you how many times I have dropped off a kid for movie and food with friends.  I have a shopping bag in my car with some items that need to be returned to a store there.  In the center of the shopping area is the Town Hall and Library.  But, even considering the very intentional nature of the murder, the sense of safety is shattered.
Guerrero-Chapa was shot dead at 6:47 p.m. in a parking spot in the 100 block of Grand Ave. at the Town Square, a popular outdoor shopping mall. He arrived with his wife about 45 minutes prior to shop. And as Guerrero-Chapa's wife loaded bags into their SUV, another newer model white SUV pulled in behind it. 
Mylett said a man wearing a piece of cloth over his face exited the passenger side of the vehicle and immediately fired a barrage of shots into the car. Guerrero-Chapa was hit multiple times. He died Wednesday evening at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine. The suspects were gone within seconds, last seen driving westbound on FM 1709.
Today, word started to trickle out, that it was definitely a hit, or as the police said, "a targeted affair conducted by professional killers".  Then the FBI and DEA came to town.  And then, some people got smart, and used their bilingual skill to add the missing pieces to the story.  Mexican newspapers were reporting more detail:
 Mexican journalists have reported that Guerrero-Chapa represented high profile members of the brutal Gulf Cartel, including one man who was once its leader.  

Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported that Guerrero Chapa in 2002 represented Osiel Cardenas Guillen, a federal drug trafficker and former leader of the violent Gulf Cartel. Cardenas, who was known as the 'Friend Killer' and 'El Loco', is currently serving a 25 year sentence for drug dealing, money laundering and the attempted murder of federal agents related to a standoff in 1999.
Guerrero Chapa's former client oversaw a criminal outfit that flooded the United States with tons of cocaine and sparked a bloody conflict that has claimed nearly 50,000 lives in his home country. 
Jose Reyez, a reporter with the Mexican investigative magazine Contralinea, also cites Guerrero Chapa as a defense lawyer for members of Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel prior to their acrimonious, bloody split in 2010. 
 Man, this is getting scary.  Sadly, you kind of expect this sort of thing in border towns, but north Texas?

May 23, 2013

Right in the middle of it...

My son is in the room for the Boy Scout announcement meeting. They voted to allow openly gay boys to join.

I seem to be breaking the story before the news outlets lining the parking lot.

Now no one is happy.  The gay side says it isn't enough. The others say it is too much.

Gotta start sometime

I have seen in my children fierce streaks of independence.  I think that is wonderful.  I have heard my children pronounce lofty ideals and beliefs, which is great, as well.  I don't expect or demand that my kids think the way I do.  We have tried to establish solid morals and values which are based, of course, in our beliefs - but there is certainly some wiggle room, and strong encouragement for independent thought.

Whenever my children express something, in agreement with my beliefs or not, I ask them to explain their position.  I don't want to hear them parrot my opinions.  I also don't want them to grow up with wonky liberal ideas, but if they can make a case for what they think, I will listen and support them (and try to steer them to information that helps them see the light!)

Today may well be Bang's first foray into an ugly political situation.  Sure, he has heard and seen many a national and, even uglier, local political scrum.  But today, Bang will likely be yelled at, or toward, from both sides of a heated battle.

Today the Boy Scouts of America, at a meeting held in Grapevine, Texas, will vote on a resolution that will determine whether or not openly gay children can be members.  My son was asked to volunteer at the meeting.

We have talked about what the people protesting may say or do.  I have encouraged him to do nothing more than smile and exhibit the Boy Scout characteristics;  trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. (Okay, so he struggles with thrifty and clean...)

My son is a Life Scout, with only his final project left to achieve Eagle.  I don't know that there is anything to gain in making some big political or religious statement dependent on the decision made today (or tomorrow) and yanking him out of Scouting so close to the ultimate goal.  Bang is likely to keep on trucking, earning the highest rank in an organization that will be diminished because of the decision, no matter what it is.

I don't care what gay people do, right up until they start demanding accommodation that heterosexual people aren't allowed.  They can have gay clubs and special treatment, but demand recognition, acceptance and open arms in clubs and organizations that were established with very "straight" religious foundations.  This has nothing to do with equality, in fact, it reeks of bias.  This is America - everyone is free to form their own group, club, organization, with their own values and rules.  I have no patience for those who want to do nothing more than tear down what others have built, in the name of equality.

May 22, 2013

It is a lie, liar.

What is it about politicians that they don't want to call someone on their outright lies?  Twice this week, I have heard elected officials rant on and on about the lies coming out surrounding the various scandals, and then, at the moment of truth, when the reporter asked the interviewee if the president or White House spokesperson had lied, they answered with the same statement, "Well, they didn't tell the truth."

In one case, it was John McCain, and he went on to explain that, while he felt that the president had not told the truth, he was still the president, claiming, I suppose, some misplaced respect for the office.

I guess I can see the old school desire to want to appear supportive of our country's leadership, although I am not sure who we need to keep up that facade for.  Certainly not the people of this nation.  And most foreign countries got their dose of Obama reality long ago.

What is this aversion to calling a spade a spade?  Oops, that is now considered racist, isn't it?  Why can't politicians call them like they see them?  They can go on and on about "not telling the truth" but won't utter what is essentially the textbook definition of "not telling the truth" - lying.

May 21, 2013

Sorry Glen, no forgiveness for Winstead

She thought she was making a topical political joke, but a co-creator of ‘The Daily Show’ managed to enrage many of her followers after tweeting joke about the Oklahoma tornado’s political motivations.
‘This tornado is in Oklahoma so clearly it has been ordered to only target conservatives,’ wrote comedian Lizz Winstead, in a tweet, around 3:30 Monday afternoon.
The tweet was an apparent attempt at using the occasion of the May 20 twister to comment on the scandal currently plaguing the IRS and Obama administration.
Of course, the tweet quickly disappeared and the apologies began, including a Glen Beck tweet telling people to leave her alone, insinuating that all of us has made "a bad joke" at one time or another and using the hashtag #castfirststone.

Sorry, Glen.  What Winstead said wasn't a joke.  It was never funny, it was horrifically timed, and I will spend part of my day going out of my way to make sure that I don't support any endeavor she is involved with.  Since she writes for the Daily Show, it shouldn't be hard for me to avoid her and her toxic stream of vomit.

May 20, 2013

Praying for Moore

I hate tornadoes.  Of course, no one really "likes" them - some may admire or appreciate their awesome, albeit destructive, power.  Some may be inspired to study them, and therefore, get excited by their appearance.  Some may think they have some form of beauty.  But no one can really like something that can do so much harm.

I have lived most of my life in Tornado Alley, taking out the few years that I was in Germany.  I would argue that they are the worst weather phenomenon on earth.  The way a tornado strikes makes it seem vindictive and emotional.  One house can stand unscathed, while just feet away there is total destruction.  Children are plucked from their mother's arms.  Items are picked up and moved, unharmed, miles away.  It is often beyond explanation, the way things are found after a tornado.

If you have listened to a few minutes of television coverage, or read an article about today's tornado, you will be aware of the instant comparison to the tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, in May of 1999.  I drove through Moore just days after that tornado, I-35 had just barely been cleared, and there were massive piles of debris on either side of the highway.  At that point on the road, looking left and right, there was little more than a wide swath of trash - except that the trash was actually the remains of people's lives and livelihoods.

Just last week, Crash and I watched a documentary about tornadoes, and noted that tornadoes usually only strike the same place every 2,000 years.  Not to diminish the scientific basis of that bit of weather knowledge, but Moore, Oklahoma, gets more than their share:

from kfor.com

I can't imagine this level of loss.  To emerge from a storm shelter and there be nothing but debris.  To run to my children's school and see rubble.  The pain is incomprehensible.  God Bless the families affected by this horrible day.   

FOD

In case you were concerned that all of these scandals would impact Blowie's time on the links, have no fear, he was golfing with Sebelius over the weekend. Twelfth time this year, 123rd of his reign.

Also on tap over the weekend, a commencement speech at Morehouse College.  His speechwriters spent hours crafting an address that evoked racial imagery, sought to remind the young graduates of a time they were born well after, and rather than celebrate unity, used phrases like "someone who looks like you".

At one point Obama said:
Every one of you has a grandma or an uncle or a parent whose told you at some point in life as an African American you have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by.
Huh.  So, since he is half-black does that mean he works half as much as anyone else?

After he stirred up the crowd with Jim Crow and Dr. King, Blowie let this (clarifying phrase) fly:
Whatever success I achieved, whatever positions of leadership I’ve held, have depended less on Ivy League degrees or SAT scores or GPAs, and have instead been due to that sense of empathy and connection – the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who needed it most; people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had, because but for the grace of God, I might be in their shoes
Oh, that's right, I had forgotten that the man that first campaigned with a mantra that he was half-white, then, upon his election, suddenly became Kunta Kinte, straight off the boat.

Does it strike anyone else as startlingly hypocritical that the African American community has had convenient amnesia about Blowie's insistence that he was only half-black? 

I suppose it is to be expected when so many have had convenient amnesia about the sort of president he said he would be and the things he said he would accomplish.

May 19, 2013

Not so lazy Sunday

I am here typing, which means I didn't win the Powerball money.  And yes, I know the odds, and I only ever play when the jackpot hits news-worthy heights.  And I don't even buy my own ticket, I toss money in the pot and let a co-worker schlep to the Minimart.  I wouldn't take the time to do it myself, but do enjoy the camaraderie of dreaming about all of us not showing up for work on Monday. 

I have a mountain of laundry to tackle, yard work to do, kids to harangue about homework, and homework of my own to knock out. 

Or I could go 'help' my parents with their new fishing boat...

May 18, 2013

Taken to the woodshed

I am sure that most stopping by here have seen this beautiful statement of facts from Pennsylvania Representative Mike Kelly.



While thoroughly entertaining on several levels; the schadenfreude of watching the IRS chief squirm and hearing a politician speak plainly among them, I was most struck by this one point:
You talked about that you’re a horribly run organization. If you’re on the other side of the fence, you’re not given that excuse. When the IRS comes in, you’re not allowed to be shoddy. You’re not allowed to be run horribly. You’re not allowed to make mistakes. You’re not allowed to do one damn thing that doesn’t come into compliance. And if you do, you’re held responsible right then.
And that is it, dead on.  There are what, almost 74,000 pages of federal tax code?  (Not to mention state and local laws).  But the IRS expects the average Joe Plumber to have full command of those laws.  The IRS does not accept "my accountant scammed me", or "I am a crappy bookkeeper", or "I'll resign" as viable excuses when they send their audit henchmen.

Kudos to Rep Kelly, nicely done, sir.

May 17, 2013

Oh, what a night

Wednesday evening found me traveling home from a meeting in Oklahoma City.  Originally, I was supposed to have others riding with me (which had prevented me hitting up Tina for dinner plans!), but their plans changed at the last minute and I found myself alone on the way home. 

I stopped briefly in Moore, OK, to hug my Uncle Mo on my way out of town.  He has a new retiree dream job at a golf course, working two days per week in exchange for all the golf he can play.  As we sat visiting in his domain (the cart barn), it began to rain steadily and the golfers came pouring in off the course, saying that it wasn't going to let up.  I soon decided they were right, and made a run for the car to head south.

My phone's weather app was acting wonky, so I called home to get a read on the weather between Moore and home.  At the time, the line of storms was just that, rain storms, and my traveling speed would put me south of the rain in about 50 miles.  If there were no other distractions, I could make it to the Fried Pie shop at exit 51 before they closed at 7 pm.

I hadn't gone far when my phone rang, with motherly advice to keep my radio on local stations instead of satellite, as the storms that were supposed to dissipate were starting to spin up.  I had already made that switch, as the rain was only getting heavier and the skies to the south and west looked pretty menacing.

About ten minutes later, the first of the National Weather Service severe storm warnings sounded.  While a great and necessary service, the list of cities affected doesn't help travelers who aren't terribly familiar with the names of surrounding towns.  If it isn't on a highway sign, I don't necessarily know where the hell it is.  Just after I passed through Ardmore, they sounded a tornado warning, with another list of unfamiliar town names, but I caught "Love County" just as I passed a highway sign declaring that I was in it.

As I was talking on the phone, trying to verify the location of the storm and the path, the sky turned that eerie shade of green - if you have been in or near a tornado, you know what I am talking about.  I got off the highway at the next exit and pulled into a gas station where I hunkered down with the family that owned it, and a handful of other wayward travelers that were either anxious to protect their vehicles from hail, or didn't want to drive into a tornado.  I can't say enough nice things about the lovely owners of the Valero on Oswalt Road.  They were just as scared as their customers, but welcomed everyone inside and let us know the layout of the backroom areas, in case we needed to take cover.

Eventually, that line passed and I continued south toward home, in fits and starts, pulling off the highway two more times to wait out the purple splotches and hook echoes on the radar.  I had just committed to staying on the highway near the Texas-Oklahoma border, when a storm chaser truck flew by me, making me wish all the more that I had used my better judgement and gotten off at the last exit (where I could have spent the night at Winstar Casino).

I finally made it home, and feel blessed to have done so unscathed, considering the extreme weather that struck to our north and south. 

May 16, 2013

Is it Friday yet?

Trying to catch up after a harried, long night of weather and travel related issues.

So, what did I miss yesterday as I traversed the wilds of Oklahoma?

The IRS head got canned.  Yeah, that will fix it.  What I have read of Obama's address reeks of him trying to head off what many think is inevitable - the appointment of a special prosecutor.  His talk of supporting Congress, of Democrats and Republicans working together without politics or partisan agendas...in other words, anyone demanding that there be actual work product and results from an investigation - documents, names, timelines - will only be politicizing the issue. 

The White House revealed a whopping 94 pages of emails related to Benghazi.  I don't know about you, but my kindergartener's room mom can generate 94 pages of email soliciting juice boxes for field day.  A terrorist attack that resulted in the death of four Americans probably generated 94 pages of email in the first 3 minutes.  How deep, how destructive, how disturbing must the truth be, if it took this administration eight months and all they came up with was 94 pages, filled with redaction black boxes?  And poor Jay Carney.  He probably only thinks for himself about 5% of the time, being a puppet of the administration, who must go into the press briefing room everyday and say what they tell him to say.  And now they go and release 94 pages of emails that prove he stood there and repeatedly lied. 

And scandal numero tres of the week, the capture of AP phone records, seems to be taking a back seat, but still, I hope, has the press riled up enough, that they will give these other two stories the coverage they have deserved all along. 

I am not generally an optimist, but I figure it is worth a try.

May 15, 2013

I got nothing

Woke up to rain, a three hour commute to a meeting (and then a three hour commute back), and a host of home and work-related worries.  It was probably the worries that had me awake for over an hour in the middle of the night. 

Needless to say, I have a million thoughts that I can't seem to unscramble to form a cohesive blog post (no jokes about it never having stopped me before).

Ya'll have a good day. 

May 14, 2013

Abuse of Power

Last month, Senator Ted Cruz released a report in which he outlined six Supreme Court cases that displayed the Obama administration's attempts to expand federal power. 
Cruz’s report summarized the six Supreme Court cases, saying “[if] Obama’s Department of Justice been successful in its cases, the federal government would have the power to:”
Attach GPSs to a citizen’s vehicle to monitor his movements, without having any cause to believe that a person has committed a crime (United States v. Jones);
Deprive landowners of the right to challenge potential government fines as high as $75,000 per day and take away their ability have a hearing to challenge those fines (Sackett v. EPA);
Interfere with a church’s selection of its own ministers. (Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC);
Override state law whenever the President desires. (Arizona v. United States);
Dramatically extend statutes of limitations to impose penalties for acts committed decades ago. (Gabelli v. SEC); and
Destroy private property without paying just compensation. (Arkansas Fish & Game Commission v. United States).
While the DOJ has failed to win any of the cases featured by Cruz, we are left to wonder what abuses of power every other department of our government is carrying out.

Despite the egregious reach this president has displayed through his use of executive orders, passing laws that haven't been read, denying information to the citizens, and covering up terrorist attacks to preserve his presidential campaign, I had resigned myself to the fact that he was going to get away with it.  All of it.

I have a glimmer of hope today.  One would surmise that the death of four Americans at the hands of terrorists would be the turning point for holding this administration accountable, but that is not what is turning the tide.

Most recently, news that the IRS was targeting conservative groups began to rile both sides of the aisle.  And yet, that wasn't even blowing up at full tilt.

And then, the AP discovered that Blowie and friends have been tapping the phones.  Keeping tabs.  Noting numbers.  I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of key sources have disappeared, or found themselves in some sort of inexplicable legal trouble.  While the media has been a lapdog, the master has been eavesdropping. 

And, suddenly, the media is starting to light their torches and sharpen their pitchforks.  Part of me thinks that it will all get swept under the rug again, illuminating nothing, making no difference, but the other part of me thinks it just might...

May 13, 2013

FOD

On Friday, news dump day, we learned that the IRS has been specifically targeting groups with horrifying words like "patriot" in their names.  They targeted groups who listed threatening activities such as trying to "make America a better place to live".  Groups that targeted government debt, spending, taxes, and education were also under the IRS microscope.

It shouldn't escape notice that each of these groups was legally formed and filing tax returns.

It also shouldn't escape notice that the IRS is the agency charged with enforcing Obamacare.

As I alluded to at the top of this post, I concur with the theory that the IRS story was dumped on Friday as a distraction tactic to take the focus off of the Benghazi hearings.  I have no guess as to the level of administration trying to control the puppet strings right now, but think that things might be unraveling a bit around the Oval.  Jay Carney's skewering during Friday's press brief, to me, seemed to be a scared little man's last ditch effort to show his allegiance to a failing idol.  Somewhere I read it characterized as Carney doubling down on denial.

And I also read this bit from Joseph Curl, which I loved:
Mr. Obama has only a few trusted aides, and occasional leaks from the West Wing show a paranoid president suspicious of nearly everyone around him. Supremely confident, convinced by the fawning minions at his feet that he is untouchable, the president dismisses all controversy as partisan attacks by an overzealous opposition. A pliant press corps of stenographers follows in lockstep.

Except that the press corps is starting to turn on him.  The blinders aren't quite coming off, but they have opened them a bit wider.

May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to those sharing the holiday with me. 

I'm taking the day off.

May 11, 2013

Learn the lingo or GTFO

A group of Hispanic janitors in Colorado have filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination because they are not given special accommodation in the form of communication in their native language.

In a stunning display of common sense, one of the custodians, Bertha Ribota, summed it up perfectly:
“If I could speak English I wouldn’t have the problems that exist,” said Ribota.
Unfortunately, Bertha thinks her lack of English-language skills is society's problem, not hers. 

Though other Colorado universities have internal policies that require foreign language translations, this campus does not, nor is it a state law.  Call them crazy, but:
The Auraria Campus believes employees should understand some basic English.
“It’s not our goal to provide every document translated or every conversation translated. Our employees are expected to interact with members of the public and that interaction we expect them to be able to understand English,” said Nickeson.
I think we are well past the point of needing to declare a national language.  Our country was settled by English speakers.  Our founding documents are in English.  Our government conducts its business in English.  Our laws are written in English.  No one is saying that people cannot legally immigrate to our country and continued to speak their native language, but to be an American, and to live and work in this country, it is a reasonable expectation that we all share a common language.

May 10, 2013

Tofu and Tonto

I can think of nothing more unappetizing than winning lunch with these two women:

from White House Dossier



I didn't get the original email, but I understand it comes from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  I don't have the time, or really the desire, to pull up the financial filings of the DSCC, but I do wonder how much of these events are paid for by the American taxpayer.  Certainly the Wookie's travel, lodging and security is on our tab.  Wouldn't be surprised if Fauxcahontas travels on our dime, or that of the people of Massachusetts.

If the skeezy 'win-a-date-with' ploy doesn't bother you, then surely the thought of what sort of healthy crap they would serve you will.  The Wookie would probably want you to do some calisthenics after each course.  Let's Move!  Perhaps Fauxcahontas will lead in a rain dance to get the juices flowing.

What a bunch of classless trash.

May 9, 2013

The hilarious heroes among us - UPDATED

By now I am sure you have read and seen a number of stories related to the Cleveland kidnapping case.  It is unimaginable, the horror that those women have endured.  I am taken aback at the vitriol that is flying, how did the police not know, why had they never escaped before, etc.  Walk a mile in someone else's shoes, why don't you?  There are some sick people in this world and they do some really sick things.  Let's celebrate the victories, even when they seem too long in coming.

This victory in particular, the escape of Amanda Berry, was aided by a neighbor, Charles Ramsey.  Mr. Ramsey has a future in front of the camera.  Let's face it, many people would have ignored a woman screaming if they thought it was a domestic matter, but Charles is so genuine.  And unapologetic.  And descriptive.  With an eye for detail. (And apparently with a little history of his own).

And now, Mr. Ramsey has said that any reward money should go to the victims:
“I tell you what you do, give it to them,” Ramsey told CNN. “Because if folks been following this case since last night, you been following me since last night, you know I got a job anyway.”
As the article's title suggests, this is one of the greatest interviews of all time: 


May 8, 2013

Today's conspiracies

I swear I am not a conspiracy theorist, but more and more, there are things going on in our world that make me ever more suspicious of nearly everything.

Today, there will be testimony about the terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans.  You don't have to be very smart to look at the timing, the events, the silence, and the ridiculous story trotted out by Susan Rice to know that there was a calculated cover-up to protect the president during election season.  Throw in the future plans to elect Hillary to lead our country, and there was even more sweeping under the rug.  I won't be surprised by anything that comes out of today's testimony, more likely to continue stomping my foot in outrage as the truth may illuminate the facts, but nothing will come of it.  Heads should roll, but I doubt they will.

In a completely different vein, I read this story about antibiotics being able to cure an estimated 20-40% of chronic back pain, and possibly prevent half the number of spinal surgeries done. 

Why wasn't this discovered before?  Even though doctors knew that many cases of back pain were caused by bacterial infections?  How many of us have been to the doctor only to be told to take it easy, use ice and/or heat, take anti-inflammatory drugs (are Doan's pills still around?), exercise, build core strength, lift with our knees, etc., etc.?  And how many of us have ever had a doctor give us a course of antibiotics for back pain complaints?

$10 Rx co-pay versus millions of dollars a year raked in for doctor visits, physical therapy, OTC remedies, braces, surgeries.

Nah, couldn't be any conspiracy there.

Any guess on how many years it will take for this course of back pain treatment to get the backing of the AMA and FDA?

May 7, 2013

Oh my achin' ass

There are some things in life that I find very insulting, for instance, if I am folding your laundry (children) don't stand there watching me, or even worse, ask if you can do something fun.  Help fold your damn clothes! 

When I get a LinkedIn request from a co-worker, click to accept, and then see that their current job description more accurately describes the part of their job that I do for them, I am a little put out.

And when I read about a celebrity (of sorts) bitching about having to pay their taxes, I am not only insulted by their arrogance, but also feel a burning need to punch them in the mouth.
Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill stood in federal court Monday and compared her experience in the music business to the slavery her ancestors endured before a judge sentenced her to three months in prison for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes over the past decade.
"I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them," Hill said before U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo. "I had an economic system imposed on me."
I wonder if her computer programmer father or English teacher mother is the slave that she speaks of?

Thank goodness that the judge didn't buy the 'imposition' excuse:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Moser acknowledged Hill's creative talent and work on behalf of impoverished children but called Hill's explanation for her actions "a parade of excuses centering around her feeling put upon" that don't exempt her from her responsibilities.
 Ms Hill is about to have another system imposed on her, as she serves a brief prison term.  

May 6, 2013

FOD

Golf Count: 10th round this year, 121st of his reign of terror presidency, and on a Monday, no less.

May 5, 2013

Our first rodeo

Boom's first year of college is coming to an end, and with it, many lessons learned - both from the standpoint of a young adult growing up and into real world responsibilities, and from a family viewpoint of "shit they don't tell you about sending a kid to college."

Here is a million dollar idea for anyone in the College Station area...dolly/hand cart rental during move out weekends.  If you could get university approval for, say, 4-wheeler or Gator-pulled trailers, all the better.  Cha-ching.

When we arrived with Boom to move her in last August, we were directed to park adjacent to her general dorm area.  We were then greeted by volunteers that marked all of her items, loaded them on a U-Haul truck, and told us to go eat lunch.  When we returned, the items had been delivered to her (second floor) room.  What a lovely way to kick off her college experience.  Everyone was so helpful and friendly, and they move your stuff for you!

That is how they suck you in.

At the end of the freshman year, there aren't any eager volunteers to help you move out, the jig is up. Move out involved thousands of huffing and puffing parents balancing all manner of dorm furnishings and clothing as they hike a mile to their car in the no-permit-required lot.  The massive dumpsters and Goodwill trailers strategically placed on campus seem to call out to you, promising to relieve you of your burden.  Fate was on my side today, as I outstayed, by a long shot, the prescribed 30 minute limit on the parking space I used, and did not get a ticket. 

There are, of course, some smart parents.  The ones that have done this a time or two.  They had carts, plastic tubs, bungee cords, and smug condescension for those of us schlepping two handfuls at a time to the parking lot.

The also don't tell you this little gem...despite what the academic calendar says, and what you thought you were paying for, your kid cannot stay in the dorm until the actual end of the school year.  Students have to vacate their dorm room within 24 hours of taking their last final.  And good luck getting little Johnny to tell you, well in advance, when that magic 'last final' date is.  And, since finals happen during the week, the weekend during finals becomes prime move out time.  Tonight, thousands of co-eds at Texas A&M University are cramming for tests in bare rooms, while thousands of parents are back home, icing their backs and soaking their aching feet, after transporting Junior's pile of college crap back home this weekend. 

May 4, 2013

Wasting Oxygen

I really don't know what to say that will illuminate the stupid anymore than the bare facts do:
On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie posted a video showing him smashing a spider on his desk in front of a group of visiting school children. In a statement provided to TPM, Ingrid Newkirk, president of People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals, described Christie's killing of the spider as a thoughtless act.

"He probably did it without thinking. Some people put the spider outside, but spiders are often scary to people, and that can prevent them from pondering their worth," Newkirk said.
From here.

May 3, 2013

Into the fray

I find it ridiculous that 15-year old's may soon be able to purchase Plan B over the counter. 

Children who are NOT allowed to buy spray paint, permanent markers, rubber cement, tobacco, an 'M' rated video game, or lottery tickets, can buy a drug that prevents pregnancy after an un- or under-protected sexual encounter. 

For the record, I don't think 15-year old's should be knocking boots to begin with.  If they feel they are mature enough to have a sexual relationship, and they have some sort of birth control mishap, then surely they are also mature enough to discuss the matter with an adult, preferably a parent, and seek appropriate medically-guided intervention. 

How do you verify a 15-year old's age?  Does a school ID card work?  Maybe their report card?

I won't pretend that the moral implications don't bug me, they do - but I am more ticked off about the government intervention in parenting (and non-parenting, such as it were).

I can go to jail if my 15-year old misses too many school days.

I am legally responsible for debts incurred by my 15-year old.

Yet the government thinks that young teenagers should have unfettered and un-parented access to powerful, bodily-function altering drugs.

The proponents say that teen pregnancy will go down!  What they don't say is what will happen to teen sex rates.  Free condoms at school, and Plan B for when they fail.  Geez, what is this world coming to?

May 2, 2013

A little more help for our 'friends'

The president of these United States will be trying to sell his immigration plan today, to an eager crowd of supporters...in Mexico.

Blowie is set to meet with Mexican President Pena Nieto, to discuss how American taxpayers can support Mexico through trade deals, cash infusions, and lax border security.  That isn't exactly how the White House words it, but isn't that what it boils down to?

We've given Mexico over $1.9 billion since 2008.  Blowie and the libs are doing everything they can to grant citizenship to the $11+ million people who entered our country illegally. And still, they want more.
For Pena Nieto, Obama's visit is a chance for him to showcase his country's economic gains. After suffering along with the U.S. during the recession, its economy is now growing at a better clip than that of the U.S. Per capita income has gone from an annual $7,900 two years ago to $10,146. But Diana Negroponte, a Latin America expert at the Brookings Institution, says corruption remains endemic, human rights are still a problem, and efforts to change and improve the judicial system have been too slow.
"There is concern on our side of the border that greater help needs to be given in order for Mexico to reform its system," she said.
That sums up my battle as a parent, friend, and business person.  Fighting those who believe that the answer to their problems is dependent on someone else doing something for them.  I call bullshit!  The American Dream, as I learned it, is about self-reliance, hard work, and perseverance.

Greater help, indeed.  

May 1, 2013

Forced Desensitization

What is is that the breast feeding-in-public, bare boob brigade is hoping to accomplish?

I don't have to link to any of the stories about "nurse-ins" and other ridiculous faux protests, today I have a real life example.  Two, actually.

The first is from one of my company's affiliate businesses.  It is a business that specializes in offering a type of instruction to children.  Parents are provided with a viewing room to watch little Johnny and Jane, through one way glass.  Recently one of the moms has taken to breast feeding while the older child is at their lesson.  She is not one to be bothered with any sort of covering.  Nor is she discreet.  Apparently the latching and unlatching is a full frontal extravaganza for the dads in the viewing room.  Several have complained.

Legally, there is nothing the manager can do.  No one has actually approached bare boob Barb, but most of us are in agreement that people who put on such a display are doing it with more than just infant nutrition in mind.  If she wanted privacy, or cared about exposing herself to complete strangers, she would seek some other sort of accommodation. 

Do these mothers think that making people uncomfortable will somehow morph into a societal acceptance of nudity in public?  I understand that breast feeding is natural, and the healthiest choice for babies.  But if you wouldn't walk into your boss's office, or your kid's kindergarten class and flop out a breast, how does wrapping a baby's mouth around it suddenly make nudity acceptable? 

There are men who have had to register as sex offenders for urinating in public in view of children - how is this any different?  Urination is a necessary bodily function that requires a part of the human body that is also featured in sexual activity, same as a breast. 

The second part of my story is how a local restaurant (national steakhouse chain) handled a woman breastfeeding in their dining room without any sort of cover.  Shortly after she began exposing herself in the process of feeding her child, several waiters approached, and turning their backs to the table, formed a row, fanning out their aprons to create a visual screen between the breast feeding woman and the rest of the people in the dining room. 

Kudos to them. 

And for militant publicly exposed breast feeders everywhere, I would simply say that I support your right to nourish your child, but ask that you don't forget the basic principle of American liberties - your rights end when they infringe upon someone else's.  Be considerate.  If you don't want your husband or sons to see my boobs, keep yours out of my family's face.