August 31, 2014

Filters for Sale

We had to replace one of our heat pumps earlier this summer.  It was timed rather fortuitously, as I had recently replaced the filter with the last one we had on hand.

I generally buy the filters by the case, first comparing a local HVAC supply house against the going price on Amazon.  There are several companies that sell filters on Amazon, but upon arrival I always get a case that is direct shipped from the manufacturer (Glasfloss), on behalf of the seller.  This time, some company in Florida was the seller, but I got the box direct from the Glasfloss factory in Dallas.

Our new heat pump requires a 20x20x2 filter.  A mistake was made somewhere in the ordering process - I am fairly certain that I ordered the correct size, but there is no size designation on the order confirmation or invoice - just a part number that they now claim equates to what they shipped me, which is 16x16x2 filters.  A dozen of them, in a giant box.

Once they arrived, and the size disparity was discovered, I requested, and received, return authorization.  I trotted down to the local shipping store only to be told that shipping a box that size was going to cost me considerably more than I paid for the merchandise.  I took my box back to the car, returned to the office, and began to get quotes at my company's negotiated rates through Fed Ex and UPS.  The best rate quote was $30, about half the value.  Now I am stuck deciding whether to cut my losses and get a net refund of $30, or list them on Craigslist or something and have to deal with that hassle.

Which brings up the bigger issue, how much are these things marked up?  I save about $35 per case over the Home Depot and Lowe's prices, by buying online.  And, while I am sure that Glasfloss gets a heck of a good shipping rate, it can't be free.  And, the Amazon re-seller has to be getting their cut somewhere in there.  Are their margins razor-thin, or are brick-and-mortar end consumers getting completely screwed?

August 29, 2014

Texas Football

You are probably expecting some tribute to the greatness that was the Texas A&M football team last night.  Well, okay, but just a little.  I hate me some Steve Spurrier.  If the Aggies lose the rest of their games this season, I am okay with it.  Defeating Spurrier and his Gamecocks - and setting several records in the process, is enough to last me for quite awhile.

What I really wanted to talk about was a different level of football...

I have been avoiding Crash's football practices.  I am not terribly hung up on it, but I am a little bothered, especially considering that every day I see another story about sports-related concussions and the long term effects that are becoming evident.  The youth league commissioner and my husband had tried to allay my fears by putting it in simple terms of physics, telling me that the boys, at this age, simply aren't big enough, strong enough, or fast enough to hurt one another when they tackle.

I call bullshit.

I took Crash to practice last night.  I had a good, and expected, chuckle over the number of dads on the field, the amount of beer guts straining T-shirts, the reek of testosterone in the air.  There were moms, too.  The sort that questioned every call during the scrimmage, and encouraged their little darlings to, "Hit him HARD!."

I was not expecting the brutal recoil of little heads, as helmets made contact.  I wasn't ready for the clash of shoulder pads.  I cringed as those sweet little boys grunted and groaned and got knocked to the ground.

The more brutal the hit, the more excited the dads became.  I fantasized about kneeing them in the 'nads when they picked my kid up off the ground by his shoulder pads and smacked his helmet in some brutish display of congratulations.

I love football but I was not at all prepared for the visceral pain I would feel, watching my little guy play the game.  Fortunately, I have a plan.

As with most youth sports of today, the season kicked off with a parent's meeting, complete with 15-page manual of expectations and rules of conduct.  If I get mouthy at a game, they bench my kid - and I can do 'mouthy' pretty damn well.

August 28, 2014

The Limelight

Back in February I wrote about the school district in my town putting up some signs that advertised the fact that some of the school employees were armed and prepared to protect students.

For reasons I do not know, the national media made a thing of it this week.  Of course, the headlines are more along the lines of, "What this Texas school district has done will make liberal heads explode", rather than, "How one Texas school district is trying to improve school safety and security".

When I posted my picture of one of the school signs, I intentionally blocked out the name.  In this post, I haven't linked to the articles currently running, that identify the school district and list the name of my friend and co-worker that developed the program the school used to identify and train the appropriate people.  Why?  Because liberal heads don't really explode, they tend to craft evil schemes, and spew vile hatred that brings harm to good people.

After my friend appeared on Fox &Friends yesterday morning, I sent him a text, telling him he didn't look all that nervous(!) and that it was time to declare a moratorium on the media at his household.  Turn off the television, disconnect the internet router, put the newspaper straight into the recycle bin, and listen to recorded music over the radio.  

There is no reason that he should be pilloried for developing a program that may save a child from a school shooter.  There is no reason that his family and friends should be threatened by gun control crazies, that only have the right to speak their minds, because men like him stood on a wall with a gun and fought for them to have that right.

Cockroaches and rodents tend to scurry away when light is shined upon them.  I wish the same could be said for the vile people of America, those who can accept no beliefs other than their own, and who are attracted to the limelight, only because they want to do harm to those who are in it.

August 26, 2014

Therapy Dogs

My office is generally quite casual. We occasionally have visitors that warrant dressing up a little, but that generally means that the men wear clean boots and freshly starched jeans, and the women switch out their flip-flops for something less beachy for the day.

I have two co-workers that bring their dogs to work.  Both are small yippy Shorkie-somethings, one being the offspring of the other.  In fact, she was born here at the office, in what was a memorable experience, not just for being present at the birthing of a litter of pups, but for watching the men run for the door shouting ridiculous excuses over their shoulders.

I am a big-dog kind of a girl, always have been.  I still would not like to have a small dog in my home, but I have grown fond of having the little ankle biters around the office.  Each morning, when she arrives, she makes the rounds, stopping off at the offices that have dog treats stashed in their desk drawers.  She barks only at Hispanic men, new UPS drivers, and children.

Best of all, there is a tangible physical benefit to having a dog in the office.  I can feel my blood pressure drop, as she curls up in my lap on a stressful day.  People find it hard to be ugly to you when you are holding a ball of fluff.  

August 25, 2014

FOD

36 and 193 - that is the golf count for the year and cumulative total.  Whomever is in charge of keeping the presidential image intact failed miserably, as the main stream media has (finally) taken notice of the habit - and the president managed to play 9 rounds during his two week vacation - Ferguson, Foley, ISIS, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Ukraine/Russia, Ebola, etc., be damned.


It is Monday, and my day already sucks, so that is about all I am going to say about the poser in the Oval.  Here is a picture of a baby koala to brighten your day...



August 24, 2014

The Joke's On You!

Over at Bergheim Follies, my friend Tim is celebrating his upcoming empty nest.  Every Sunday, Tim posts a selection of cartoons and jokes related to a current or Tim-related life event, and today's jokes were all about the kids leaving the house.

Tim has two wonderfully bright, capable young adult children, the youngest of which is leaving for her freshman year of college today.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I have never met Tim's children, but am judging them partially on having survived Tim's influence on their upbringing, and mostly on their choice of higher learning institution.

My hope is that all of Tim's retirement dreams come true.  I wish for him breathtaking travel experiences (and I don't just mean the walking up a hill kind), and years of spontaneous, precious, heartwarming, and memorable moments with his lovely wife.

I won't point out that he, his very own self, has posted on more than one occasion, stories such as this one, that could ruin a man's plan for his golden years:
One in five people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with his or her parents. And 60 percent of all young adults receive financial support from them.
These boomerang kids are not a temporary phenomenon. They appear to be part of a new and permanent life stage. 
And, in case you doubt it, a recent article points out that homebuilders are now catering to "multi-generational households".  Perhaps more alarming, still, is that more and more economists think sharing a home across familial generations is a great financial strategy:
...pooling financial resources among the generations is a smart way to lower the overall cost of home ownership. That’s before taking into account built-in child care (at least for emergencies and date nights) and easy monitoring when aging parents turn frail. Shared ownership allows young adults to build up savings and the older generation to draw down less on retirement savings.
 Sheesh, how long before kids just assume they are supposed to move back home as an adult?

August 23, 2014

School Daze

My kids started school on Thursday.  I am already sick of it.

It never starts well.  How could it, when the first thing out of the gate is the demand for $100 worth of school supplies that will be put into the community pot in the classroom?  We are down to one kid that is of an age that requires the purchasing of a pre-packaged school supply kit.  The others are simply responsible for having the things each of their teachers require for class each day.

Meet the teacher night begins with an hour long hostage session, in which all participants are locked in the gymnasium and forced to listen to grown men plead for donations of cash and appreciated stock, for the educational foundation, so that little Johnny and Jane can have the Very Best Educational Experience.

The first two days of school, for the older kids, weren't even spent in class.  Instead, a motivational/team building group was hired to come in and get them all excited about the coming school year.  (This is the sort of thing that educational foundations think distinguish normal educations from exceptional ones, and they only need a donation of $2500 per kid to keep things exceptional).

Dropping my kids off the first morning was a treat, as dozens of newbie mommies and daddies decided that parking their car in the drop off lane, was the best way for them to get a keepsake 'first day' photo by the school sign.  Then there was a mom screeching at anyone that was blocking her view, as she videoed an artful long-shot of her little darling walking down the sidewalk toward her first day of kindergarten.  GMAFB.

Picking up wasn't any better, as the school, which has no mass transportation or pedestrian options, did a piss poor job of planning when they designed thoroughfares that can handle about 300 cars fewer than their actual capacity twice a day.

Some new teacher demanded that I roll down my window, through which she thrust this year's 'carline tag'.  She told me to write a last name and grade on the tag.  I have avoided this for the past six years because my children have actually been taught that they are to keep an eye out for me, and be at the appropriate place when I pull up to the loading zone.  This year they are insistent, that they must have a tag, it is for SAFETY.  Oh, safety.  That is why you use a bullhorn to broadcast my child's name and grade to all potential pedophiles that you claim to be protecting them from.  Ever wonder why other schools assign a number for these purposes?

I didn't fill out the tag on the spot.  And, I rather snottily told the insistent teacher, that my blended family has more names than their little tag calls for, which necessitates a family discussion as to which name we will put on the tag, so that all kids listen for the correct name to be called.  Which is kinda half true.  I have no intention of putting any actual names on the tag.  We are narrowing down our choices for a family pseudonym.  In the lead are "Von Liechtenstein", "Wong", "Safety", "Yes" (because I love the idea of the teachers hollering 'Yes!Yes!Yes!' in a bullhorn), and "Danger".

August 21, 2014

Fanning the flames

It is now widely reported that the police officer that shot Michael Brown, had been seriously injured prior to the shooting.
Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer whose fatal shooting of Michael Brown touched off more than a week of demonstrations, suffered severe facial injuries, including an orbital (eye socket) fracture, and was nearly beaten unconscious by Brown moments before firing his gun, a source close to the department's top brass told FoxNews.com.
“The Assistant (Police) Chief took him to the hospital, his face all swollen on one side,” said the insider. “He was beaten very severely.” 
That kind of changes things, now doesn't it?

Not, apparently, for Attorney General Eric Holder, who met with the family of Michael Brown and told reporters of traffic stops from his own past, that he is certain were some sort of racial profiling and intentional humiliation.

Holder also ordered that Michael Brown's body undergo a third autopsy, because two just isn't enough, and allowing the family to bury the body sooner rather than later, doesn't keep the race hate at an acceptable level.

I don't have all the facts, I don't know all the players, but one thing is certain.  Our government is encouraging the violence in Ferguson.  They are taking deliberate steps, making inflammatory statements, and putting on a show that they know will only fan the flames.

August 20, 2014

Back to School

Yesterday I helped Boom move back to college.  Though she is a junior, this is the first semester that she has been granted privileges that most college freshman take for granted.  Boom is in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, which is a military-style college experience within the confines of an otherwise 'normal' university.  Cadets earn various privileges by class year and junior year she is finally allowed to have dorm furnishings like a rug, refrigerator, microwave, and television.

Wouldn't you know it, the first year she can have all of these things, she is also moved to the third floor of her dorm building.  Sheesh, that extra flight of stairs hurt.

We got an early start, but College Station, Texas, is hot and humid at nearly any hour in August.  And, 'The Quad', which is home to the 12 dorms that house 2,600 cadets, has no immediately adjacent parking.  And, Boom's dorm is smack in the middle, so no matter where you start from, it is a hike.

I am moving a bit slower this morning, but am glad to have helped her get settled in.  A co-worker with grown children told me that his daughters always wanted help moving to college, but with his boys, they loaded up the car and waved goodbye.  I feel better knowing that she is settled, has fresh sheets on her bed, and a stocked mini-fridge, with mostly healthy food, to start off her school year.  I think that mental picture gives me more peace of mind for the next 9 months, rather than wishing her the best as she pulls down the drive, as I am picturing a bare mattress and a beer pong table.

August 18, 2014

FOD

Golf Count: 32 on the year for a grand total of 189.

Not to get stuck on Ferguson, but it is the easiest domestic target for the day.

I can't imagine what the protesters hope to accomplish, but I have a sneaking suspicion that, like all petulant children that act out because they haven't figured out a more productive behavior, they are doing it for the attention.

If the media weren't there with cameras trained on them, if Al Sharpton and local ethnic leaders weren't fanning the flames, don't you think they would have grown tired by now?

Think about those two components; the media and black cultural 'leaders'.  Who could be a better peacemaker, than the first black president with an administration that unquestionably controls the media?

Instead of golfing and biking around the Vineyard, instead of putting on a show and returning to Washington to take a meeting with Eric Holder, perhaps the president should exercise his might (don't laugh) and call in a few favors with the media.  He could make a few phone calls to Sharpton and the rest, asking them to lay off.  He could get a few of his celebrity friends to exercise their star power, which, unfortunately seems to influence the sort that are protesting in Ferguson - but, at this point, whatever works to get them to stop committing assault by cop.

How many past presidents, in times of localized unrest, quietly and resolutely used their position to calm the waters?  There were many, in a variety of situations, and with a variety of outcomes, but they did take action.  They did it without public outcry, they did it behind the scenes, without need for accolades or attention.

August 15, 2014

Ferguson Idiots

Don't let the post title fool you into thinking I am taking a side, there are plenty of idiots in Ferguson, Missouri, on both sides of the street.

The idea that local police forces have military-style weapons, and have them trained on their citizens is disturbing.

The idea that a community would rise up and act in ways that justify the use of military-style weapons is equally disturbing.

I have no call to argue the issues, the death, or the response that brings us to where we are today.  The jury is out on that until FACTS are known - which may be never, as convoluted as the situation has become.

The idiots I prefer to call out are on the 'protester' side of the street.  I don't mind you protesting.  If you have weapons, Molotov cocktails, smoke bombs - then you are justifying the very actions you are protesting.  Even still, those aren't the idiots I am speaking of.

It is the people with their kids (and pets).

From here.
A violent protest is no place for you to bring your child.  I don't care if it started out peaceful, there has been constant violence since Saturday, you should know better.  When you are standing, child on hip, in the middle of a street, facing a wall of riot police, with protest slogans written on your child's flesh...you should go to jail for placing that child in danger.  There is no cure for that level of stupid.

August 14, 2014

Shark Week

When did Shark Week become a thing?  And is it really just a once a year thing?  It seems like I hear commercials for it two or three times a year.  I am aware that some channel (Discovery, maybe?) features shark shows every now and again.  I am aware that they call it 'Shark Week'.  But when did it become such a thing?

More importantly, when will it stop being a thing?

I love my children.  I love educational television, which is always better than any reality or animated alternative.  But I am growing quite tired of the shark trivia. "Mom, did you know...", followed by some bit of shark information that I could have gone my entire life not knowing, and still die happily.

Sure, sharks are interesting, cool, fierce.  But, I am not a marine biologist.  I generally dislike animals that can eat me.  A trip to the aquarium every few years is about all the shark I need.  Perhaps it is because I was a child when Jaws came out.  And, like any responsible parent of the 70's, mine took me to see it.  I am sure it was intended to be a lesson in water safety or something.  It left an impression.  I can still picture the theater, and the very seats we sat in, nearly 40 years later.

Enough with Shark Week.  When is Beer Week?

August 12, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

I won't write a monologue about suicide, or the torments of creative types.  The media and seemingly everyone on Facebook and Twitter have that covered.

I just want to join the thousands, perhaps millions of people, that today are thinking about how many emotions they felt watching Robin Williams.  Was there a character he didn't, or couldn't, portray?  Mork, Garp, John Keating, Genie.  He was a Julliard trained actor, he did Shakespeare and he did Disney.  And he did everything in between.  He did all of it exceptionally well.

Even things that the public, or the media, would characterize as a box office failure, displayed talent and genius.

I hate that he is gone.

August 11, 2014

FOD

Sorry for the late FOD post, just following the president's lead on punctuality.

This week, prior to the president's departure for a Martha's Vineyard vacation, the most transparent administration in the history of the world, did this:

From White House Dossier
"At 11:18 am, the pool was brought to the windows outside the Oval Office for a photo spray. It lasted 10 seconds.
We spotted the president sitting at his desk, talking on the phone – his left hand to his left ear. He briefly fiddled with his pen. Several aides were sitting on the couches. The pool has requested a list but the pool did spot Tony Blinken, deputy national security adviser."
That's right, the press pool was allowed to press their noses against one windowed door, outside of the Oval Office, to snap a picture of the president pretending to be on the phone.  This photo:
WTH?  These are White House reporters.  People that have the security clearance needed to enter the WH every single day.  They couldn't be escorted inside the damn office to get a photo?  This is little more than a thinly veiled attempt by Obama's aides, to make it seem as if the Narcissist in Chief is actually attempting to do something resembling his job.
No worries, he quickly made his way to the Vineyard, dumped off the luggage and hit the links within 30 minutes of his arrival.  That makes the 28th round this year, 185th of his presidency.  He is totally going to blow my estimate of 200 rounds during 2 terms out of the water. 

August 10, 2014

Sad and confused

My small town is reeling this morning, as we are faced with the loss of a local family from a car accident.  A mother, a father, and their two young children, 7-year's old and 12-year's old.  All gone, pronounced dead on impact from a head-on collision in another state, as they returned home from a summer vacation road trip.

I wasn't much of a worrier growing up.  As I became a mother, I certainly had a bit of a life and attitude change, worrying about my children's well-being.  I generally think I handle it pretty well.  I don't check in on my kids every 5 minutes.  I don't pull my hair out or chew my nails as Boom travels back and forth to college and spends 9 months of the year living 200 miles away, though I do wait anxiously for her safe arrival.

But there is always that something in the back of my mind. A little worry, a little anxiety.  More and more, I feel like it wouldn't take much for it to consume me.  Health, travel, safety - so much could go so wrong at any minute.  Life can change in the blink of an eye.  I think that it is likely the sum total of life, the accumulation of tragedies that I have witnessed, both personal and from a distance.  How can a decent person not be affected by senseless loss, disease, violence, and death?

Perhaps it is a crisis of faith.  I am told not to fear, to know that those who have gone before me are in a better place, without pain, joyously waiting for me in a place so wonderful that my earthly mind can't really grasp it.

I am, understandably, profoundly sad at the loss of a sweet family that I knew.  I draw the parallels from that family to mine, and wonder what forces decided that my family could travel 2,000 miles safely, and this family could not.  There is little I can do, other than pray for the peace of those left behind, hug my family about a million times today, and tell them how much I love them, since we never know what tomorrow brings.

August 9, 2014

What the postman knows

I was expecting a UPS delivery yesterday.  I didn't really think about it much until after dinner, then remembering to ask the kids if it had come.  They hadn't seen it, so I went to the computer to track the package.  Delivered to the porch at 3:34 pm, they said.  Not my porch, unfortunately.

A call to UPS resulted in a dazzling display of their ability to immediately shift blame.  The customer service rep, finally convinced that I had looked everywhere around my home, announced that this was now classified as 'lost in shipment' and they would begin investigating.  I suppose 'driver delivered to the wrong porch' doesn't win them any gold stars, so 'lost' is ambiguous enough to cover all situations when the box isn't where it is supposed to be.

Hours later, we retrieved the voice mail from our neighbor, telling us the box had been delivered to their porch.  Mr. H walked over and retrieved it this morning, while I sat thinking how thankful I was that it wasn't a box full of something embarrassing.  

I was also thankful that it was a box full of something of only moderate value and that I have honest neighbors, unlike the time that NHL playoff tickets were delivered to our former residence and it took a visit from law enforcement for the envelope to get returned.

Have you ever stopped to think what the postman, FedEx and UPS drivers know about people's lives?  I am not sure why people stress out about internet security without stopping to think about who delivers all of those online purchases, and what that might say about them.  Those risque purchases, in their 'plain brown wrapping', are supposed to be free from scrutiny, but I'm too chicken to order anything like that.  With my luck, the package would be delivered to my neighbors, with the contents spilling out on their front stoop.

August 7, 2014

What 80's pop groupies do today...

I was a rock-n-roll kid.  I listened to a little country, a lot of rock, classic rock, metal, and as little Top 40 radio as I possibly could during my formative years.  I have memories of cheerleader-types with MTV darling-pop band posters in their lockers, and though I haven't really given them much thought over the years, I think I know now, what they do in their spare time...

They vote in (what should be dismissed as) meaningless internet polls.

Case in point: musicradar.com's '60 Greatest Bassists of All Time'.

Granted, bassists are often treated like the band stepchild.  Not many rockin' solos or stage spotlights for them.  But, there are great, notable, and historic bass players out there.  You might not even know their name, but you can likely recall any number of songs that have a memorable bass line, a great bass riff, a solid bass back beat.

If the question had been posed to me, who is the greatest bassist of all time, or who belongs in a top 20 list, several names come to mind.  Number One - hands down, Geddy Lee.  Granted, I am not a bass player, so I am not ranking on technique, just musicality from a listener's perspective.  From there, it would likely be more difficult for me but names like John Paul Jones, Les Claypool, Cliff Burton, Billy Sheehan, Steve Harris, Roger Waters, and Roger Glover come to mind.  There were some great funk bass players whose names I do not know.  There are great R&B bass players, I am thinking of bands like Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & the Gang.  Heck, Gene Simmons has an impressive body of work.

Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have named the same Number 1 bassist of all time, as the musicradar.com poll did.  In fact, he wouldn't have made my top 100 list.  I am fairly certain I could name 500 musical acts whose bass playing would rank above the band and bass player that they named number one.

Let's just rename their poll, 'Who would be the last person you would think to name to a bass player poll?'

Answer:  John Taylor of Duran Duran.

August 6, 2014

Graceland

Day one of our family vacation started at 0'dark-thirty.  We planned one overnight stop on the way to the Great Smoky Mountains, and Memphis fell conveniently in the middle.

I have not been to Memphis before (other than an airport layover), and though we wouldn't have time to do all of the things on our wish list, we all agreed that Graceland was a requirement.

I didn't have high expectations.  I am a fan of Elvis, not a Superfan, but aware enough that I know Graceland wasn't/isn't what today's standards would describe as a 'mansion'.  I know that Elvis had a surprisingly low net worth at the time of his death and that the Elvis 'brand' is something that Priscilla built after his death.  Despite my mental preparations, I was still a bit disappointed by how schticky the experience was, mostly on the entry side of the street.

I was also disappointed in the amount of vandalism and graffiti along the street-side wall at Graceland.  When did society decide that the way to pay tribute to someone is to paint/carve/write your sentiments on their property?

I thought Graceland was a lovely home.  I suppose I would applaud someone of Elvis' ego not going waaay over the top, though some of his choices might have seemed so at the time.  The Jungle Room wasn't that much different than many 70's-era 'rec rooms', Elvis just had the resources to take things up a notch.  My kids thought it was fantastic.  I thought it looked like it needed to be dusted.  And I wondered if they vacuum the ceiling carpet.

The audio tour, as expected, glosses over everything negative in Elvis' history.  I wouldn't expect them to give the gory details of his drug abuse and death, but they seem to go to great lengths to pretend otherwise.  Not being a Superfan, I was a little ignorant about the details of the story told on audio, while viewing the piano in the racquetball building, and hearing about how Elvis played and sang for friends on the morning of his death.  Later, while fact checking something else, I learned that he was playing that piano at 4 am in a drug induced haze, after calling up friends and making them come to Graceland to play racquetball with him in the middle of the night.

Overall, I found the experience of touring Elvis' home to be sad.  I was melancholy the rest of the evening, and it still makes me frown to think about.  I'm glad I can say I have done it - and managed to leave without purchasing anything in the gift shops, or buying entry to any one of 4 additional presentations.  I appreciated the opportunity to (shell out $42 and) see Graceland, but the rest of it was tacky and unnecessary.  While some point to the astute business savvy of Priscilla and the empire she built after Elvis' death, I am left thinking that, at some point, you need to let the man rest in peace.

August 5, 2014

A photo representation of literally

'Literally versus Figuratively' is a common source of various internet memes directed at grammar-challenged folks.   Kids and lesser-educated adults tend to use hyperbole that includes the word 'literally', when what they really meant to say was 'figuratively', but, somehow, 'literally' makes things sound So Much More extreme.

Several times over the course of my life, I have heard people describe car accidents in which they say that the vehicle was 'literally cut in half'.  If it didn't look like this, it wasn't.

Wreck in Arlington, Texas on 8/4/14.  Car vs Gas Meter.  Photo from DFW Scanner via Facebook.

August 4, 2014

FOD

Back to the real world, and it ain't pretty.

Does anyone else feel like the U.S. is a ship adrift in an angry sea?  As I scan the news, I see a border crisis that isn't being dealt with, unrest and fighting around the world, disease, natural disasters, crime.  We have no leadership, no comfort that we are safe, secure, or strong.

Not that Obama could fill the role of 'great comforter' for me, in any scenario, but, heck, he doesn't even try to reassure those who would be confident in him.  What is he doing?  Oh, wait, there it is:
He took questions last week from the White House press corps — not just once, but twice. He didn’t call only on the reporters who were selected ahead of time by his senior aides. He even stuck around longer than he wanted at a briefing Friday to appease the room of shouting correspondents.
“Hold on, guys. Come on. You’re not that pent up,” Obama joked. “I’ve been giving you questions lately.”
This never used to happen in the Obama White House, a place so obsessed with message control that the president could go months without talking with the press corps. However, in the past seven weeks, Obama has taken questions an average of once a week.
The shifting media strategy is part of a new White House effort to jolt its communications operation, especially as Obama fights weak poll numbers and wages an intense campaign to keep the Senate in Democratic control this November.
Obama himself has been feeling isolated, aware that he’s not breaking through to the public. Senior advisers say they have noticed their message gets lost when the president holds what has amounted to quarterly formal press conferences.
So the White House is going the other way, setting up the president for casual lunches with Americans who write him letters, late-night games of pool and surprise strolls around Washington. And it means more interaction with White House beat reporters, not just the kind of nontraditional outreach through celebrity magazines, sports radio and social networks that the administration used to great effect throughout his presidency.
Casual lunches, games of pool, strolls around town.  In between games of golf, vacations, and once-per-week press conferences.  Yep, that is the sort of leadership we should expect from a president.

August 2, 2014

Home again

I realize that it is a privilege to be able to travel with my family.  We might not stay at 5 star hotels, or spend a month in Europe, but we have taken many a memorable trip together.

This year we left the planning a little late - we just couldn't decide on a destination, and eventually resorted to a complicated weighted-voting system to narrow down, and then ultimately choose, where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do.

After deciding that we would be going to the Smoky Mountains, we made a conscious decision to focus on the destination, and not so much the trip. Because we chose to drive, and we knew that time spent doing other things would take away from time spent in the mountains, we wanted to get there, and maybe take some extra time coming home.  Among our other destination choices had been western Tennessee, and we set out to make sure that we weren't trying to see too many things in one trip, lest we not see enough of anything worth remembering.

Traveling with kids means that you stop.  A lot.  Short of forced dehydration, there really isn't a way to coordinate bladder capacity and holding times for an age range that spans 40+ years.  No matter how hard we tried to plan a swift road trip, I kept getting distracted by all the things we could do in the predetermined overnight stopping points, so we made a couple of concessions, all turning out to be worthwhile.

I'll recount the trip in the coming days, and get some pictures uploaded.  During the same time period that my family took their All-American Road Trip, my stepsister and niece did the opposite, heading across the pond to see the sights in London and Paris.  I am sure they had a fabulous time, eating at the best restaurants, drinking French wines.  Good for them.

Somehow I can't see a trip like that ever filling my heart the same way that it was earlier this week, when I called out to my family ahead of me, capturing all of them in one photograph, heads turned back to me, sun streaming down through the trees, as we hiked the Appalachian Trail together.

Different strokes, I guess.