January 2012

The cruise ship Costa Concordia is partially sunk off the coast of Italy. It is a tragedy. There are varying numbers for the fatalities listed by various media outlets. The number is unknown because there were “unregistered passengers” aboard. I don’t know what this means, but stowaways would be my guess.

There were perhaps 15 fatalities with 23 people still missing. Two of the missing people are Americans while none of the known fatalities are listed as coming from the US. There were 64 people injured, three of them seriously. There were 4,197 people aboard the ship when the dimwitted captain sailed off course.

Remarkably, 4,095 people were removed from the ship without injury. There were only 102 unlucky people aboard ship that night. Several media outlets are comparing this to the sinking of the Titanic. I guess they are doing this because they were both ships or something. The Titanic sunk in the middle of the ocean and there were 1,517 fatalities among the 2,223 people aboard. Even if all the missing persons become fatalities, that is less than 1% of the passengers of the Costa Concordia lost. That doesn’t seem even remotely akin to the 68% of passengers aboard the Titanic.

The Miami Herald published an opinion piece fretting about cruise passengers giving up their rights when boarding foreign cruise ships. All those wishing to file a lawsuit against the ship’s owners will have to do so via the Italian court system. All claims must be filed with the country of the ship’s registry. In Italy, they don’t treat accidents, even stupid ones, as a lottery event with anyone injured being the winners of a huge jackpot.

Apparently, this means “a Costa Concordia passenger who could expect a $2 million damages award, based on similar cases in the United States” won’t be able to just have someone give them lots of money. (quote from the Herald) They would have to put up 10% of the damages they were seeking and there is no contingency fee structure in Italy. They would have to pay the lawyer no matter what and it could take years and years to settle the dispute.

I’m not sure what the $2 million is supposed to be for. No Americans have been declared dead, as of this writing. I don’t know the nationality of the three severely injured passengers. I don’t know what is considered a severe injury, either.

I’m interested in that $2 million figure.

I can find figures for life insurance in the US. The number of households in America without any life insurance coverage dropped from 78% in 2004 to 70% in 2010. There may be less households covered now as people have dropped this “extravagance” in a tough economy. That 70% figure means there are 35 million American households with 11 million of them housing children under the age of 18 are without life insurance.

So if people themselves are going to say what their lives are worth, 35 million of them think that would be zero. They don’t insure themselves or their families against this loss. However, if some other person is going to have to cover the worth of their life, that worth has all of a sudden jumped to $2 million.

I’ve seen million dollar policies and some pay double indemnity for accidental death. I know they make higher policies, but there is some explaining you have to do to the insurance company before they will issue such a policy.

I don’t know when Americans thought that getting hurt meant you won some sort of odd lottery, but we seem to have that as a mantra. I’m hurt; you pay and you pay a lot.

If an American is found among the missing, and if that person had a life worth that $2 million figure as proven by an in force insurance policy, it would pay out enough money for the survivors to pursue further damages in the Italian court system.

I’m not sure why we have come to believe that our misfortune, even at the hands of the inept and stupid, is an opportunity for monetary gain.

I know I am supposed to feel outrage at the parent company for hiring such a jackass, as well. They need to be punished for having this cretin in charge. However, Captain Schettino had worked for 11 years for the company and never sunk a ship before. How is anyone supposed to know when a trusted and competent employee is going to turn into an asshole and compound problems and be a complete idiot under stress?

Costa Cruises is probably a lot madder at the dunce than we, out in the world, are.


I am not a very good housekeeper. Well, I keep the house, just not clean. I don’t really care about clean. I only dust when the dust becomes noticeable, because then it looks like clutter. I hate clutter. Same with dog hair. I don’t mind the wisps of LC floating around, but when they form a group and look like tumbleweeds in a windy desert, I pick them up because they have become clutter.

Dick’s work computer never would talk to the wireless router. I don’t know if it was some sort of setting they installed or he was just a doofus at setting it up correctly. The reason why it wouldn’t work was immaterial. What mattered was that it had to be hardwired directly to the router or it wasn’t going to work.

So it was wired directly to the router because his paycheck was very important to me. However, his office was upstairs. That meant the cable box and the router had to be upstairs. Since Time Warner has a real problem with keeping the signal arriving, every time it went out I had to <gasp> walk up the 14 steps to reset the thing.

Now, I never really minded the first trip up and down, but when something was still amiss and I would have to go back up and then down and find it still not working, then go back up with a laptop this time and finally make it work or call them to come fix it – well, by that point I was cranky.

As soon as Dick retired, we moved the stuff down here. I have no idea what I was thinking except that it went out and I wanted it down here instead of fixing it up there and then bringing it down here. So I didn’t think my cunning plan all the way through.

We brought the cable box and the router down. We also have digital phone service. One day, about a year ago, we somehow lost all the phone wiring functionality in the house. That means the phone has to be plugged directly into the router as well. So that came down with us. And since we have seven phones from two systems, both system bases also have to be plugged in which I can do with a beam splitter.

So we moved the cable box, the router, and two phone systems into my office. Each of those had power wires and at least one connecting wire, but since there were split wires there were even more. There was about 47.468 miles of cording involved in this – I swear.

And it was sitting right here next to Command Central looking like one hugeass mess. It irritated me always. All those miles and miles of tangled cords. And all the boxes of crappy mechanical things. All right here. All messy. Drove me nuts.

And, the living room has looked lopsided since my last redecorating stab. All the seating was clumped too close together. We also kept tripping over the footrest in front of the rocking chair.

So this morning, in a fit of nervousness over too much clutter, I redecorated. I put Nana’s marble topped cabinet next to the couch and moved the couch down slightly. I put the rocker over where the cabinet was along with the smallest end table. I moved the cable box and router to the bottom shelf of that table and hooked up the best phone system right there. Then, in a surge of brilliance, I took the other box and made it reach the breakfast bar, giving me a phone in the kitchen again.

That also gave me a bit more table area near Command Central so my MP3 player and speaker set doesn’t need to sit on the floor. Next to me is the cord to the computer, which I can actually hide if I need to, but one cord not tangled doesn’t irk me.

I then had to take a phone from the entryway and bring it to Command Central. So I had to rearrange furniture in three rooms to get this place looking less cluttered. Good thing it was all on tile floors. It was easy to do, but probably not the best thing to do so recently after hurting my back.

Thank goodness I have such an interesting life and can use it for material for this blog.

This is a letter to Dear Abby, copied only in part.

DEAR ABBY: My son is chronologically 12 and the size of an adult, but emotionally he is age 5. He’s a moderately functioning child with autism, ADHD and behavioral issues.

The letter goes on to say how the author is often accosted in public places because of outlandish behavior from her child.

Abby (and I) feel sorry for her and wish her and her son the best.

However … and I know this is going to tick off every parent of a special needs child … what?

It is supposed to take a village to raise a child, thank you Hillary Clinton. We are supposed to be involved in the clan’s future and we are all to give to increase the benefit of the future clan. Of course, any time you interfere with a parent who is dealing with a child, you run the risk of getting yourself in trouble. The village is supposed to only fork out the cash and shut the hell up.

Unless the kid is in any sort of trouble. Then the village is supposed to step in and protect the child from inadequate or abusive parents. The village is supposed to report suspicious behaviors and unlikely bruises to the proper authorities.

Someone should step in and protect the child from whatever harm may come his or her way. We are responsible, en masse, for the nurturing of our children.

Now, as an outsider and part of the village, how the hell am I supposed to know which camp you and your offspring fall into?

And if you have a special needs child who is doing behavior X in a public place and the person next to you has a special needs child who is sent over the edge and into the abyss when confronted with behavior X, who wins that battle? Whose special needs trump the other?

We live in a society and it would be just wonderful if everybody could function perfectly in it. I doubt that will ever happen. However, when someone is behaving outrageously in a public place, we the public are now witness to this event. We the public are simply out in our combined world. How are we to know which option to follow?

Is this something to give the Mean Mother Look to – which has truly stopped some egregiously bad behaviors? Even small children know that look and when a stranger gives it them, they will stop the screaming and kicking even though they wouldn’t do that for their mother. The stranger’s look is somehow different.

Is this something to report to some authority figure somewhere who will help or bring resources to the problem? Are we somehow magically supposed to know that your child isn’t a snowflake, but a special needs child?

I know it is difficult, even in the best of times, to rear children. I know they can be darling one minute and seemingly possessed by the hounds of hell the next. I know it is even more mercurial when one is dealing with special needs. What I don’t know is how I’m supposed to know what part of the village you live in and what part of the village I’m supposed to be camped in at the moment.

So, in conclusion, I have no answers.

It is often difficult to remember exactly how much trouble a new computer is. Oh, it is so pretty right out of the box and doesn’t have any of those quirks they seem to pick up as they become old computers.

My Windows XP liked to tell me each time I started it that Hook Load .dll failed or something like that. I was always rather grateful, since when I looked it up, it was something not nice and the fact that it failed each time I restarted my computer was reassuring.

It took me a long time to get all the files I was going to want to keep on my new computer put onto some temporary storage device to get it there from the old one. And then I would remember one more thing I was going to need and have to add more files.

I got the new computer and started it up. So far, so good. I got it connected to our wireless network which always takes a WEP key because even though I thought I knew what password I assigned to the network, it never likes what I wrote down as the password. So, WEP key it is.

Then I needed to know if I could migrate my antivirus from the old to the new computer. I could, but then I had to find the key to that and like all good key keepers, I had no idea where to even look. I called them and some guy helped me get it all taken care of. While cleaning out old emails last night, long after all this was done, I found the email with the key, but I no longer needed it.

I got Office loaded and all went well with that.

I got online and got Chrome downloaded and hid away Internet Explorer and then got my preferences set for Chrome. Next up was getting my bookmarks all installed. I did that, but as always, it likes to put them in a folder as imported bookmarks and I had to get them simply into one level higher. Not difficult, but I have no idea why it does that.

It took me most of the day to get the old computer cleaned up and all the important files moved over to the new computer.

A million years ago, when the Earth was young, there was a file in the Office folder called normal dot doc. In it, all your preferences were saved along with all the stuff you might have placed into the AutoCorrect thing as well as Dictionary additions. All you needed to do was get that file and put it on the next computer.

They don’t have that any more. At least it wasn’t anywhere I could find it. I use AutoCorrect so often that I knew this was going to be a pain in the rear. I found a place where I could get a macro and maybe break my brand new computer in order to save me some time in getting my AutoCorrect set up. I opted to take the time.

So this morning, forgetting my resolve to do it myself, I began to type. I really don’t like to type. It is the worst part of being a writer. I especially shun the shift key. It makes typing much more difficult, in my opinion and possibly in my mind. So, I had my work cut out for me.

I had to put in each state, many countries, the presidents’ names, some cities, and various contrivances I use to keep from having to type or ever touching the shift key. I don’t know how to spell Massachusetts, so to help me along, massa will do that for me. Typing cincy gives me Cincinnati. Well, it does after I teach it to do that.

Many words are not always capitalized, so my system is to type the beginning letter twice. eearth becomes Earth while earth remains earth. At least, after I tell it to do that for me. So I spent about an hour teaching my AutoCorrect to actually correct all the things I had automatically set it to correct. Then I typed in four essays I had written out and found that I had lots more words to teach it as I typed.

Soon, I will have it all fixed up to my liking again. However, I wish they still had that normal dot doc thing somewhere. It sure was easier.

I know I am going directly to hell because I can’t stop thinking bad things about this car.

I work on Main Street in Summerville, South Carolina. It is part of historic Summerville. My building is over a hundred years old and it is divided into many different offices. The downstairs contain some offices and businesses and along the street are many different store fronts.

Right next to the building, and attached at the roof, is a store that was once Prima Ballerina. They moved to a location around the block over Thanksgiving weekend. Since that time, a car has been parked in front of the now vacant store front.

The car is a beat up, paint peeling, green station wagon. On the passenger door at least, I’ve never seen the driver’s side door, is a sign. It is one of those magnetic signs that are printed up and then slapped on vehicles.

It says lots of things but I can’t remember all it says. The first line, however, is burned in my brain and reads: JESUS IS COMING AGAIN!

And that’s my problem. I have no idea what I was thinking about the first time I saw this car, but it just sounded like something from a porn place.

I can see the massive round bed covered in red satin sheets and a bevy of nubile women fanning a heavily breathing man who wears only a satisfied smile.

Perhaps the man in question is Hispanic and Hey-soos is bragging about his masculinity. Perhaps I just have a dirty mind. Maybe it is the exclamation point that put me over the edge.

I can’t seem to get the image out of my head. I’ve never been tempted to think such things when someone mentions Jesus’s second coming – that always just seems like a Biblical prophecy and nothing untoward.

Whatever it is, I know the sign is affiliated with some church in Jedburg and I know that each and every time I see it, I now think of the same thing. And so I know I’m on my way to hell.

Fark reported on an article in The Atlantic concerning the state of education in the US vis-à-vis that of Finland. It is an interesting article but it leaves some questions unanswered, at least for me, a non-teacher.

Insisting that we are all the same because the only difference is if you are first generation import to a country seems a bit of a stretch to me. I don’t think that kids born in New York City or Los Angeles are culturally the same as kids born in say – oh Elyria, Ohio. Probably not the same as those born in Maineville, Ohio or Summerville, South Carolina either.

But that is an entirely different subject.

I was reading the Fark comments and enemy of the state had this to say (in part):

US colleges are ranked at the top. [I have no idea where that statement came from or if it is anywhere close to true. – me] There are two reasons for this. First, that professors answer to no one but themselves. Second, college is designed to teach only two things (to undergraduates):

1) How to learn, and,
2) How to think.

And now I think I see part of the problem with our Occupy everyplace people. They didn’t learn how to think soon enough and majored in Psychology (the degree with the lowest hire rate after graduation) or some other degree that left them without any job skills.

I’m not sure what enemy of the state (who obviously eschews the shift key but claims to have “taught college” whatever that may be) would have to say about a nurse or teacher who had learned to learn and think but didn’t know anything about disease or education upon graduating and just prior to entering the work force.

I would like every college graduate to be able to write a cogent essay, letter to the editor, or even a properly spelled and grammatically correct Tweet. But alas, this isn’t the case. I guess they will all learn this when they rack up tens of thousands of dollars of more debt in their post-grad classes.

However, accruing tens of thousands of dollars of debt to learn how to learn and think without learning anything else at all seems like a rather stupid thing to do. So if this is what our universities are teaching, I see a problem.

I’ve listened to Steve Job’s speech to some graduating class. It seems the other thing colleges are good at imparting is that you should “do what you love” because your life is too precious and if you just take a job for a paycheck, you are selling yourself short. Find your bliss and follow your star and get out there and make money doing what you like.

I’ve yet to see a job for social networking, partying, and acting stupid which seems to be the great pastimes on college campuses. So we give brilliant learning and thinking adults this message. College wasn’t supposed to teach you any actual subject matter and get out there and do what you love.

Recent graduates ranked being able to check their Facebook page as more important than salary. How’s that for knowing how to think?

Every year there is a list of the dumbest classes offered at American Universities and they are simply mind-boggling.

There are jobs out there that simply need to be done and they pay fairly well. But it is beneath the thinking learners to do them. They are also untrained and can’t do them, but who would want to point out the emperor is naked? All those school loans and you aren’t trained to do anything.

I’ve had jobs I’ve absolutely loved. But I’ve never had a job that I loved every moment of work. It’s called work because it is. Even the jobs you love come with stuff that you can’t stand.

We keep telling our teenagers that college is the answer to all their problems. Because once you get a college degree, you will be worth millions or at least many tens of thousands of dollars per year to some employer who just wants someone who can learn and think and doesn’t actually have any life skills, job experience, or training.

I’m not really sure of the state of our educational system, but it seems to me that much of the problem might lie in the stuff being posited about what it is school should teach.

Today is a new year. I’m supposed to have some goals or something to work toward. I don’t. I’ve given it quite a lot of thought in the last few days and I can’t come up with any goals or resolutions.

It isn’t that my life is perfect. It is that I’m too lazy to want to do anything to actually improve my life.

If I was driven, I would be like my sister and make out a list of things to do to make my life a completely balanced creation. Instead, if I was going to make any resolutions, they wouldn’t look like hers at all.

I think it is amazing that she has two weekly things she intends to do that – get this – demand she leaves the house. I do get out of the house to go to work four days a week. I try to schedule things to happen either before work or on the way home so that I don’t have to leave the house after I arrive home from a grueling five hour workday.

My sister has committed to a healthy lifestyle. I cut back on caffeine about 1.5 years ago and remain on the same restricted amount. It was one of my most horrific vices which means I live a very boring life. But I remain at one cup of half-caf and one cup of full caffeine a day. The rest of the coffee is decaf and I don’t feel bad about that at all.

My sister is going to exercise daily. My plan is to eat less (although not necessarily a lot less) than a full serving of chocolate each day. It will always be good chocolate because what is the sense of eating bad chocolate. I love good, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. I enjoy it tremendously.

Mt sister has commented that she finds my life to be a source of – well, not envy, but something less tinged with any bad connotations. She would like to be as organized as I am. Anybody could be as organized as I am if that’s all they did with their life. If I was working full time, a more-than-a-few-hours-on-the-occasional-weekend Nana, social butterfly my sister is, I wouldn’t have the time to be as organized as I am. But that isn’t me. I sit here and alphabetize my spices. I know, it’s enough to make one turn green with envy.

My sister wants to schedule at least 15 minutes per day to do something she loves just for fun. I’ve got that covered here. After dinner, I sit down for a few hours and waste time doing not much of any consequence. I play on my forums or social network. I play really stupid computer games. I listen to books on CD or MP3 and crochet. Sometimes I watch college classes that were taped for Academic Earth. Then, when I’m really tired from all that, I put myself to bed and read for a while.

My sister wants to eat healthy and drink lots of water. These are Weight Watcher things and I believe I would be healthier and thinner if I did them, too. However, the chance of that happening is just about zero. If I switched from coffee to water, I could probably hit that goal, but see above about the whole chocolate thing.

My sister is going to look for something positive from each day. I love this idea. When we moved to Cincinnati and my then eight-year-old son was devastated, we began a tradition of Best Thing/Worst Thing each night at supper. You got to whine about ONE worst thing that happened to you that day, if there were any. You HAD to come up with one best thing that happened that day, even if it turned out to be something like, “I didn’t wet my pants on the bus” or something equally ridiculous – but at least that would make us laugh. Looking for something good in each day became a habit and we played that game until the kids moved out.

My sister is also going to perform 365 Radom Acts of Kindness, apparently taking off for Leap Day. I think that would be a great resolution for me as well, if I only did that sort of thing.