A Bit About Me

My photo
Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

29 December 2006

Out With The Old...In With The New

I was going to label this blog "Top Ten Things I'd Like To Do Before I Die"...but as I own/run an online comedy website...here comes my "shameless plug" for my site, www.HumorMeOnline.com, as Kyra Phillips (of CNN "microphone left on talking about Bush and her sister-in-law whilst in the bathroom" fame) once called it when she interviewed me after I won the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in 2003...I would only attempt to make them "funny" and "somewhat amusing" for your benefit. (Talk about being able to shamelessly plug so much in so little space.) So...I won't do that blog...well...just yet. But I will elaborate about one of the items that would be on that list somewhere: I would LOVE to go to a gala-terrific-type New Year's Eve party.

Oh, I'm not talking about a few friends over to the house or vice-versa...I'm talking one of those types of shindigs that could have cameras panning in on uber-rich Paris Hilton-dressed "girl-women" as they gyrate around the dance floor with silly grins on their faces after having way too much champagne poured down their Harry Winston-adorned throats. That kinda party. A full-blown "could have has-been singers like David Lee Roth and The Captain and Tennille singing there" celebration. Okay...the more I think about that scenario...the more I'd opt for some unknown cover band instead. I do want to drink, after all...but I'd rather not get sick.

Why? Why would I want to go out and get all dressed up and festive-like and hang with people I'll never talk to again in my entire life? Because I haven't done it. That...and the fact I'm an extremely social person. I'd have parties and host dinners every weekend at my house if I could afford it...I could single-handedly keep the conversation going if I had to and I can cook remarkably fantastic if I do say so myself (and I am). Here's where I could say a bunch of stuff about my eventually to be ex-husband being just the opposite of me...but I won't. I'll just casually mention that the next time (if I ever get remarried)...well, I'm going to get all gussied up and taken to a New Year's Eve party...and ya know what?

Maybe, just maybe...I'll despise it! ;)

25 December 2006

Holiday Wishes

I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish each of you out there who take the time to read this blog, "Merry Christmas" (and a belated "Happy Hanukkah"). I hope each of you are enjoying this day with your family and are having a wonderful time...but I know that this is not always the case...we don't live in an "Ozzie and Harriet" world and bad things happen and depression sometimes prevails during the holidays. To those people, especially, I would like to wish them serenity and guidance...and honestly hope they find a gladness to replace their sadness.

Happy Holidays...and happiness to everyone!


20 December 2006

The Way Too Many Gifts of Christmas

Gone are the days when I knew what to buy everyone for Christmas. Christmas isn't special to me anymore...at least the gift-giving part, and it seems that everyone I run across shares my same feelings. Let me elucidate...

I was speaking to a man who works in the vegetable/fruit section of a grocery store I frequent (for the purpose of not getting anyone into trouble...I'm not naming which) the other day...and for the sake of this story he shall be named "Pete". "Pete" pointed out that a little package of what appeared to once be mushrooms, had fallen underneath this draining table they use to collect the water into when the ice melts. He picked up the package and commented that it had been there a couple days...but he was interested in seeing if anyone else would attend to it. They didn't...so he reluctantly got on with the job himself...commenting that people, and especially kids, aren't usually interested in going out of their way to do little things like that without being told...really just a lack of motivation...yet they expect so much to be given in return. I went to the deli counter and bought some prosciutto...and I apologized beforehand for her to drag the whole leg out just to give me a taste (sometimes it's very salty and not so great tasting...sometimes it's fabulous). She gave me my taste and I opted for 1/4 pound of it...sliced very, very thinly...I didn't have the heart to make her stand there for 30 minutes cranking out 47 little slices each separated by a sheet of plastic so you can "unstick" them readily later on...and I told her this. I told her I wouldn't eat all of it as I was the only one in the family who eats it and the other 1/4 pound would undoubtedly go to the cats eventually. Lucky cats...that stuff's 'tres expensive'. The other deli lady who was there overheard our conversation and remarked about having to cut two pounds the other day for some woman...but super-incredibly thinly sliced...and didn't even get so much as a "thank you" out of the deal. What IS wrong with people?? I believe they think they alone count. Someone else will pick up that nasty mushroom package...you are just a deli worker...you work for the store...that's your job...I don't need to be pleasant with you...you are here to serve ME. Well, my friends...that mentality sucks...and I see more and more of it...oh, yes, I'm a great observer of humankind.

I think this "selfish motivation" might indirectly have its origins in Christmas and for those of you who don't celebrate Christmas...these same "me-tovated" acts still manage to find ways to manifest themselves. Now, I'm not saying everyone is this way...not at all...please don't send me hate mail...but the trend toward Christmas just being a day of obligation...and irrational expectation, is prevalent...in fact it's rampant.

Segue back to "Pete"...our conversation started about that leftover yucky, waterlogged pack but then mushroomed into one of ungrateful people in general and Christmas when we were kids vs Christmas today. I told him that I remember never getting any presents throughout the year...that Christmas was a real special event to look forward to as a kid...but my parents hardly went overboard...the gift I remember the most was a purple Schwinn bicycle with a silver glitter banana seat and those sparkly tassel things in silver and purple that would hang from the hole in the handlebar grips. Oh...that was some Christmas that year. He recollected a similar tale...his best Christmas was also a bike...and a bike he had for many, many years...there was no new bike for next Christmas...when we received bikes...they were there for the long ride. People today seem to give their kids "things" all year long. I know I'm guilty of it...perhaps it came from my never getting things thru the year...perhaps my kids are better at persuading me...perhaps it seems like I am obligated to as it's "the norm". When my kids open their gifts at Christmas they aren't overjoyed...it's just another day of "getting something"...only this time it has some paper and a bow on it. It's just not magical...it's just not special...and most times they know exactly what's inside. They have to...toys being as expensive as they are...you have to know ahead of time which colour Gameboy to buy...which colour controller they need for their machine...which games they want...because at $50 a pop...you can't afford to have one NOT played with. Pete nodded his head in agreement and spoke his like comments about it all as if it were dialogue we were reading...all scripted...Pete is a watcher of humankind, too.

We both can't tell you how many times we've actually heard this one..."My kid got 10 presents last year...he asked how many he was getting THIS year."...or "I got my kid $500, $1000, $2000+ worth of stuff last year...I don't know how I'm going to swing it beating that figure this Christmas". Now, what is wrong with your child being satisfied with what you give him? Why do you feel you have to one-upmanship yourself the following year? How are you going to manage it all as your child is only 5-years-old...what happens when he's 15?! I don't know exactly what will happen, but I'll tell you what MIGHT happen...he just might turn into that kid who won't pick up the icky mushroom pack because someone else can do it...or that lady who thinks that everyone is less deserving than herself...her possessions prove it.

I'll share a little story about my online friend who goes to college in Georgia. We've known each other for ages and talk pretty much every day even tho, as you guessed it, my age is a hair under twice his. He is a Wii-fanatic...he's been waiting for that thing to come out more days it seems than the company did. The links I had to endure over these months...I tell you! (Yes, I inserted that line strictly for his "enjoyment".) ;) He had a birthday not too long ago and was, as you can well imagine, disappointed that he didn't get one. Oh...it was a done deal...it's just that there are only so many and so many more people in line ahead of you. Well, he hit pay-dirt the other day and after waiting in line for about eight hours...managed to walk out triumphantly with a Wii in hand...even being accosted by someone in the parking lot offering him twice the going price if he'd part with it. Trust me...I know this guy...I don't think he would have parted with it for ten times the amount. Well...I don't know for certain...I'd have to ask, but I know I would have...even IF it would have been for my kids.

So...remember those of you who try to "buy off people" in 'Best Buy' parking lots, and push people aside at the sales the day after Thanksgiving, and show absolutely no good will toward men when you're trampling over people to get that last item...there's always AFTER Christmas, and after all...it's just another day...only with the paper and bows...even if it really shouldn't be. "Maybe Christmas", as the Grinch even came to realize..."doesn't come from a store. "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

15 December 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, it's my birthday today...so I'm going to sit back with my birthday Grey Goose Martini and try to make the most of the remains of the day.

I'll write a whiney little blog tomorrow...I have several in my head that aren't whiney...but I think I'll just do it and be done with it and then I can move on. Everyone likes to read stories about people who are more miserable than themselves anyway...if they didn't, soap operas never would have caught on...so I'd be doing nearly everyone a service. ;)

Until then...cheers!

09 December 2006

Bubblefest 2006

Saint Bede's science lab "blew up" yesterday and everyone was happy about it. No, it wasn't a science experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong -- just the opposite in fact. Members of the school's award winning 4-6th grade Science Olympiad Team showcased their bubble engineering skills to the younger students in Saint Bede's third annual "Bubblefest".

Employing such everyday objects as straws, strings and a hula hoop, they dazzled and delighted the preschool through first grade children and their teachers alike. From blowing a bubble inside another bubble to being encased inside one themselves, the children were both entertained and educated at each of the seven event stations.

One by one the succession of classes filed in, and with each advancing age group, their interest and interaction changed. From the quiet reluctance of the preschoolers to "step into the bubble pool" to the hands-on exuberance of the first grade classes witnessing "frozen" bubbles, one could discern a building fascination and comprehension of what was being shown them. But one thing typically remained the same -- I posed a question to many of the students, "How often do you get to make bubbles on your table at home?" Six-year-old Annie Bach replied, "Ummm...never." That general sentiment was shared over and over.

Since it's inception, sixth-grade teacher Nicholas Bourke noticed something that has stayed constant as well...how excited everyone always get when a "Bubblefest" date is finally chosen, and how for weeks they anxiously look forward to the presentation. He further stated, "The 4-6th graders take such pride in what they are teaching the younger children who, in the end, take away how much fun it all was. If they don't realize how much fun science is at this age, they probably won't go into science-related fields in the future."

So, while most of the students came away today never knowing that dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide or that the nifty "cube within a cube" bubble they made was technically a tesseract hypercube, they did leave with a renewed outlook on bubbles and perhaps learning in general. I believe sixth grade Science Olympiad Team member, Conner Preston, summed up it up best when asked what he enjoyed most from this experience, "The best thing of all of this were the smiles of the kids."

03 December 2006

Montgomery's Going Through "The Change"

Had Joyce Kilmer been driving around Montgomery recently, all those years ago (a contradiction in time there I know)...he would still have penned "Trees". What you might not know is that Kilmer was from New Jersey, supposedly (according to a few sources) wrote "Trees" IN Jersey...and that I have my "roots", so to speak, there as well. Here in Alabama I've never heard anyone talking about making the yearly pilgrimage to New England to "see the leaves change"...in Jersey you'd hear it with each approaching fall. The fall here, of course, is skewed a bit datewise later seasonally than in the northeast...but routinely comes roughly about this time of year. And this year it is spectacular!

I was driving around last week and was amazed by how the colours of the leaves are so vibrant. Usually it seems that the leaves change quickly and go from green to "off the tree" with little "hang time" if you will. Also, the change is not so apparent...one tree goes through it, then another and another...not generally in unison enough to get the full-blown impact. This year that just isn't so...in fact if you were going to take a trip to New England to see them (other than the obvious fact it's too late) I would have told you to save your money and take a nice leisurely drive around town. Lawn after lawn, street after street depicts a landscape that is "picture perfect". There's this one ginko tree on Dalraida Drive that was such an awesome sight I would have loved to take a photograph to remember it...and had I been a poet, that image alone would have inspired me to sit down and try to capture it as well...in words.

But the time, like all these leaves, will soon pass...so if you haven't opened your eyes and observed what nature's own canvas can paint...I'd say you really are letting a once in a lifetime exhibition pass you by. And if you thought that poem about trees was just a silly ode to an oak or some other such leafy thing...read it again...and then look around you.

01 December 2006

Excuses Excuses

Well, seems the blogger site hasn't liked me the last couple times I've tried to go online...that and our Bellsouth connection that has been wonky for the last two months. So, on that note...after trying to sign on here for the past 30 minutes more out of curiousity than posting something since I've decided for the time being to forgo my previous "pity party/rantfest" blog which I would have posted had I been able. Maybe I'm being otherwise intercepted for a reason unbeknownst to me...hmmmm.

But tomorrow I shall do a tribute to trees. I wish I could find my digital camera so I could post a few photos...but we've misplaced it somewhere in the house, unfortunately. Finding it now would take three search parties and some type of high-tech sonar device...but we will find it, of course, when we are looking for something else.

22 November 2006

The Age of Innocence...Before We Knew About Guidelines

This is my first in a series of what I like to call "versus" blogs. What I intend to do, periodically, is to take two sides of things and attempt to convince you why I am right. ;) Hey, I'm from Jersey originally...and I'm a woman and I'm very competitive...so that's my plan. I welcome you to challenge me...in a nice way...not just "you are wrong, you moron"...to see your perspective. Some planned to come are Krispy Kreme vs Dunkin' Donuts and Hoagies vs Everything Else They Claim Is.

My topic this time around I think is quite appropriate: Stuffing vs Dressing

Now, as you might have just read...I am originally from New Jersey and have been living here in the Montgomery area for the last 17 years. Up in Jersey, we always referred to it as "stuffing"...hence shoving it in the dead animal's orifice and cooking away...to be retrieved later as is usually the order of business.

Now they tell you "don't stuff things in the bird's cavity...if you do...you are going to risk harmful bacteria...and if you must...shove it in there loosely so it gets a chance to cook". Well, this is probably a wise idea...but for all those years my parents didn't so much as have a meat thermometer and we survived. I run around now changing forks each time I turn a piece of meat - clean the counters dozens of times and make sure everything is cooked to bacteria-ridding degrees as per the USDA's guidelines. Ah the days of being able to eat raw hamburger and over-easy eggs. Nowadays...well, you can't even chomp down on raw spinach or lettuce without worrying about it. But I digress...back to the matter at hand...stuffing.

Stuffing is stuff you basically shove into another thing...the thing usually being a nice dead piece of animal. You can stuff poultry, seafood, pork, beef, lamb, and whatever animal I might have missed...you know, like goat and wildebeest. Oh...wildebeest is terrific by the way...seriously...it is.

I think "dressing" came about as it sounded too cretinous...no stodgy inherited-thru-the-ages rich folk would kowtow to the nouveaux riche or heaven forbid, sub-classes and call their stuffing "stuffing"...or even worse, "stuffin'". They needed something to differentiate themselves...think of watching Daniel Day-Lewis in "The Age of Innocence" reluctantly accepting the snobbism of late-19th century Victorian era well-to-doers "dressing" up...all because Winona Ryder slyly weaseled her way into his good graces...altho we all knew he really wanted to stuff things with Michelle Pfeiffer instead.

"Dressing" also sounds like anything you could put "off to the side to compliment some other food". Kinda like a glorified condiment..."Oooh...would you like some dressing with your smelts?" "Uhhhh...isn't that JUST ketchup?" "Why, yes it's just ketchup...but it IS off to the side in one of those tiny little paper tub-like devices only seen in fast food places and seafood restaurants of lesser stature at the beach...I mean...uh...um...it's a 'condimentier'...it's like one of those fancy individual salt servers with the equally miniature spoons...because heaven forbid 'shaking' our own salt is soooooo beneath us." Also, "dressing" seems like it's supposed to mask the otherwise unpleasantness of the other food...it has to "dress it up" - as it really can't "stand alone". Face it...when was the last time you actually served smelts...and did you serve them alone? I nearly rest my case.

So, I decided I'd do the only logical thing I could think of because I didn't have time to quiz a cross-section of people this late in the day...I Googled. And this is what I just found...whether or not it's one-hundred percent accurate is anyone's guess...but it does rather foot the bill and serve my purpose and theory on stuffing/dressing.

So, tomorrow as I am stuffing my stuffing into a separate oven-safe casserole-type container...which will also be temperature-tested with a thermometer before it comes out of the oven and ever sees the artificial light of day in my kitchen...I will reminisce about how you once could cram as much stuffing as you made into the turkey without fear of death. And even IF you went to a relative's house for Thanksgiving...you never had to "dress" for dinner...just the opposite in fact, as that weird "uncle" of yours inevitably and unfortunately...always ended up loosening more than just his belt.

15 November 2006

The Fun Zone

I've just now seen video of the Fun Zone (Montgomery, AL) here on television...and all I can say is that the manager (I don't know her name...I've only been hearing information on the news here for the past few hours) and anyone else responsible who had the forethought to move 31 children out of that (part of the) building before weather warnings were even issued, really needs to get some great recognition. Without those timely actions there could have been...and most probably would have been...lives lost. They really deserve some praise...and more than just at the local level.

I've just heard the name "Lisa Elliott" (sp?) mentioned by the owner of Fun Zone, Lisa McIlwain, stating that Elliott is the manager of The Learning Zone...I am not sure if she's the sole person responsible or if there are others, but I did hear the owner credit her for moving the children out of the building. Again, all involved should be duly acknowledged.

They have since given credit to Liberty Duke...and I definitely wanted to make that known here as well. She did a wonderful thing and again, I hope she gets the recognition that is due her...altho I think just knowing what she's done in her heart and the gratefulness of the parents has got to be such a terrific feeling in and of itself.

Fun Zone: The Aftermath of a Possible Tornado

14 November 2006

Einstein, Heisenberg and Bohr...Oh My!

What happens when you combine lying in bed trying to get back to sleep with thoughts of helping your child memorize a bunch of scientists for her Science Olympiad competition? You get "brilliant" wacky ideas to explain other theories...at 4:00 in the morning I had transformed into a postulating potentate.

Oh, not one of those run-of-the-mill boring scientists...I have the benefit of absolutely no real technical knowledge on my side...but gobs of B-movie sci-fi melodrama. Now that doesn't mean I am without some knowledge...I could probably beat the pants off most celebrities who compete on Celebrity Jeopardy!, but let's just keep that our little secret. Please??

I am a great believer in the power of mnemonic memorization skills..."No, Ashley Olsen, that has nothing to do with films Keanu Reeves has been in...but you can't really remember what they were about"...it does, however, have to do with remembering something by remembering something else...like that "ROY G. BIV" thing. So once these bits of info are floating around in my head...after coming up with a bunch prior to the competition and drilling them into my daughter's brain...eventually they tend to group together and spiral out...much like that DNA Helix that Watson, Crick and Wilson are so famous for establishing in our minds.

As Bette Davis once infamously said with such finesse, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night"...so I, too, advise you to strap yourselves in as you are about to be taken on the ride of your lives...inside my brain. Okay, it's not so much a ride like one of those extreme rollercoasters...more like those slowly revolving teacups at Disneyland. Pasteur? Nah...can't do anything with that. Salk? Nah. Röntgen? Röentgen? The spelling...the spelling...can't anyone get it right? And what ARE umlauts anyway? We should use more umlauts...slowly revolving teacups...slowly...revolving. Hey, how about that Hubble guy?!

The universe is expanding...Hubble said so, so it must be true. I wouldn't win an argument with Hubble...I can barely win one with my son. But...how do we know this to be true. Einstein didn't even like it...he wanted the universe to be static...an expanding universe wouldn't support his findings of a "cosmological constant" universe. Einstein, by his own assertion, called this his "greatest blunder".

Einstein also had a heated debate which lasted years (until Einstein's death in fact) with Niels Bohr, Danish Nobel Prize winner in Physics, over Quantum mechanics...a role which Einstein pivotally played and then later tried to discount as he firmly believed that there were no accidents...everything was predictable...nothing was up to chance if you knew the factors going into it..."God does not play dice with the universe". Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and Bohr's own beliefs in Quantum physics put the mathematical and scientific community at odds with Einstein...who searched endlessly for an elegant equation to express it all...in essence, to literally read God's mind. Bohr's counter to this was to say to Einstein, "Stop telling God how to roll his dice"....Einstein, even more determined, shunned the community he was such a pioneer in to work feverishly to prove once and for all that nothing was up for chance...if you knew the values of the "dice" you were throwing, their velocity, their angle, the rate at which they were dropped, the distance, etc., you would indeed be able, not to "predict"...but to say with certainty, how they would fall...thereby tossing out that whole "uncertainty principle" once and for all.

But let's head back for a moment to the uncertainty which dwells in my head...let's say the universe isn't expanding as we know it...but everything in our little corner of the universe is contracting...we are getting smaller...everything else, as Einstein surmised, is indeed following the laws of a cosmological constant universe. I don't know how many of you have ever seen the 1950s classic sci-fi film, "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (if you haven't...you should...there's more to it than meets the eye...no pun intended)...but this is an exceptional analogy of how I can explain my "Ambien-induced theory". Cue obligatory segue to a voice-over sounding disturbingly similar to Rod Serling...only we can't use the stark contrast of the white smoke against that black background...we have to be socially aware even tho it loses all that "aura" mystique which this set up so needs. "Consider if you will...that if you change your size but everything around you maintains the same dimension...you will perceive yourself as getting further away from your surroundings, when in essence, you are just shrinking...albeit shrinking in a vast void larger than anything we can imagine, yes, even larger than Paris Hilton or Tom Cruise's ego." The minutiae that our world becomes against the backdrop of this vast expanse would seem as if everything else were rushing away from us, and at considerable speed, thereby causing the only effect that we could rationalize in our brain...that we were indeed the same proportion in size...but that everything was expanding around us.

I would love to believe there is nothing left for chance in this world...that everything is done for a purpose...with a clear purpose in mind...and if you held the key to unlock that purpose...there before you would befall riches the likes of which we have never fathomed. And even without a fancy equation...I can tell you that...for certain.

06 November 2006

The Theory is Relative

E = mc² oh sure, we've all seen it before...Einstein's Energy = Mass x speed of light in vacuum² ...but I am suggesting another equation for it...Education = Mass x Collaboration² . Face it...if you have enough people en masse grouping together and applying what they know to education and to educating others...that's some pretty powerful stuff going on there...and not just for destruction...but for creating...for creating a lasting love of science...or whatever else you happen to be teaching.

And that's just what happened Saturday at the University of West Alabama in Livingston at the Science Olympiad competition for students in the 3rd-6th grades. What? You didn't even hear about it? Well, I'm here to tell you that is definitely a shame...as Bill Nye would put it..."Science rules!" And these kids ruled! They should ALL be commended for undertaking such a task...on a Saturday of all days...forgoing their day to sleep in, their soccer games, their sleepovers...for a cause...a cause that literally went unreported. Oh, sure...ABC news out of East Mississippi/West Alabama reported this...but I think it should have gotten more notoriety than that...and not just because my daughter participated (and won first place in all three of her events...hey, I can brag, she's my kid, after all) - but because there are so many children out there who are doing something positive in their schools who never get mentioned...who go unnoticed in their community...unless they do something bad. That is just not right...it's extremely prejudiced in a society that prides itself on trying not to be.

I'll be completely honest here...I didn't know there were any of these competitions until my daughter started participating two years ago. And that is sad. Personally I think there should be many more schools getting their students involved in these competitions...and many more news stories reporting about them. It's not just about winning...altho, yes, it's always nice when you do...but it is about getting kids involved in something they ordinarily wouldn't. As my online friend just stated to me a couple minutes ago about a school competition where he lives in California..."It's done with kids at all grade point levels...which means the coaching is all important". The key here is to instill in children that they CAN have fun at these events...and they can learn something from it...which is an all important key: If you make learning fun...you learn without it being tedious. And we, as parents, educators, and adults...owe it to children, be it ours, or someone else's...to inspire them to keep plugging away at it and someone will take notice.

Well...I noticed this past Saturday, for what it's worth...and I would like to sing the praises of all those involved...especially those at the University of West Alabama's campus (which hosted this event)...and the people at Alabama Power (who helped sponsor the event)...and of course the individual school coaches and young adult volunteers...but MOST of all...the children who wholeheartedly delved into this with such positive attitude and gave up many, many hours of their free time for the chance to become involved in something very worthwhile which hopefully they can remember all their lives. Would a little memento such as a newspaper clipping with their names in it be too much to ask for? I certainly don't think so...I think they are definitely worth it...they are OUR future, and that's extremely relative.

(I will try to get all the names and post them here at a later date.)

As promised...and graciously supplied by the University of West Alabama's Science Olympiad coordinator, Ms. Ketia Shumaker...who, with her team, did an exemplary job hosting this past Saturday...I give you the names of the students who participated (in no particular order) and their coaches/volunteers:

Linden Elementary School (Linden, AL) 2 teams

Aiyana McCaskey
Kyana Reese
Willisia Bruno
Alaiya Taylor
Anthony Poellnitz
Christien Rogers
Sapphire McCaa
Diamond McCaa
Shana McCorvey
Jeanneatta Taft
Diamond Miller
Jasmine Taylor
Akeyah Little
Anthony Aldridge
Willie Hudson
Tierra Jacobs
Quinesha Smith
Senteraca Brown
Velma Harris
Martes Wheeler
Kathelin Bishop
Tamara Tucker
Tajiona Monroe
Alexis Johnson
Kennedy Sewell
Jacori Gray
DeQuinton Bell
George Dial
Eddie Parker

St. Bede Catholic School Blue Team (Montgomery, AL)

Broghan Freeland
Mary Frances Miles
Matthew Neo
Tara Bourke
Ann Marie Dean
James Sherman
Chad DuBois
Paige Barranco
Lindsay Guin
Stone Miller
Tiffany Camacho
Jordan Heymann
Alex Castanza

St. Bede Catholic School Gold Team (Montgomery, AL)

Marisa Pickard
Kristina Vanella
Giselle Simms
Connor Preston
Sean Federspill
Andrew Roberts
Will Littleton
Michael Moussalli
Geoffrey Myers
Zach Hulcher
Ashley Kim
Ryan Norris
Jacob Hulcher

US Jones Elementary School (Demopolis, AL)

4th Grade-U.S. Jones

Jeremy Chu
Meredith Hill
Bailey Petrey
Nicole Martin
Wallace Tutt
Tripp Perry
Caleb Washington
Nick Tyson
Kathlene Saliba
Jervarkis Hurns
Andy Tarpley
Taylor Cooper

5th Grade U.S. Jones

Makaila Eicher
Riley King
Michael Brooker
Stephen Stewart
Heath Stanford
Jess Harwell
Sam Yeager
LaKendra Bruno
Brantley Kilgore
Wesley Dunn
Chase Compton
Josh Tyson

5th Grade Team B- U.S. Jones

William Tutt
Chandler Stuedeman
Grabbie Lay
Branden Spiller
Zoie McPherson
LaTimberly Washington
Jordan Williams
Kathleen Jackson
Rachel England
Charlie Parten
Morgan Godwin
Madelyn Couch

3rd, 4th & 5th Grade U.S. Jones

Cal Logan
Will Webb
Rachel Smith
Amanda Martinez
Jennifer Belcher
Megan Akins
Jessica Adams
Troy Pontilas
Alston Dinning
Mikala Thornton
Trent Crepps

Livingston Elementary (Livingston, AL)

Team 1: Livingston Tornadoes

Daja Hale
Ashley Willingham
Richard Jones
Latera Hodge
Mantricia Densmore
Anfrenee Rencher

Team 2: Twirling Tornadoes

Keiavis Mitchell
Drayton Foy
Jeremy Hines
Scoteesha James
Anfrenee Rencher
Eryson Crockett
Tamara Pickett

West Alabama Preparatory School (Demopolis, AL)

Caitlin Andrews
Carolyne Baker
Allen Campbell
Melanie Campbell
Kimberly Campbell
Drake Holtzclaw
Noah Long
Spencer Martin
Seth Strable
Nick Vann
Allen Walker
Susan Walker
Cassie Warren
Garret Edwards


Livingston Elementary

Jacqueline Hill
Aubrey D. McElroy
Tywannia Spencer
Ollie H. James
Angela Dubose

US Jones Elementary

Mary Stuedeman
Mrs. Mackey
Stephanie Polk

Linden Elementary Teachers

Angie Scales
Deborah Boykin
Sara Blackmon
Shirley Johnson

Linden Elementary High School Student Coaches

Quantarryia Harris
Miltesha Anthony
Quentin Thomas
Samantha Jones
Brittany Bright
Renae Jones

St. Bede Catholic School

Nick Bourke
Melanie Grayson
Larry Meiers

West Alabama Preparatory School Coach

Roger Campbell

Again, I would like this opportunity to congratulate each and every one of these people on a job well done...you are to be commended. Give yourselves a well-deserved round of applause...you certainly earned it.

02 November 2006

Of the Haul and Warhol

Well, Halloween has come and gone again..."Party City" had a whopping two cashiers again...Houdini failed to show up again...and sure enough we were late to hit the houses again. Consequently our candy haul was drastically reduced. I don't even EAT candy...but the thrill of begging door-to-door for free diabetic-coma inducing substances, most of which will get thrown out around Christmastime still is fun to me.

My 19-year-old son still dresses up...he doesn't "technically" go up there with my daughter to "Trick or Treat"...as he doesn't have a bag...but people see two...and they toss more into my daughter's bag...or urge him to "take some, too"...which is good as he's the one who sucks down the majority of the sweets. This year he wanted to dress up as an Anime character from "One Piece"..."Sanji" to be exact. This is where "Party City" came into play...as he needed a blonde wig...a blonde wig that apparently had to be procured Halloween day when they only have two cashiers...and 87 people in line. Yes, we waited longer in line than we ended up gathering candy later. Now since they don't sell wigs that look like "Sanji's" hair...especially that shade of blonde...we had to get a platinum-coloured long-haired wig and then cut it (and when I say "we" I mean "me") to resemble his hairstyle. I must say I did a pretty close facsimile to it given the fact my cutting skills stop at being able to neatly trim 8 1/2" x 14 inch paper down to 8 1/2" x 11"...and even then I bend it back and forth and rip the excess off...so I don't think that really qualifies as "cutting".

Then he scurried around the house looking for items to complete his "look"...meanwhile my daughter comes home from soccer later than I would have liked and I had to get her put together. This year she decided she would go as a cat again, which meant we didn't have to shell out another $25 for a costume to get $5 worth of candy. Hey...you do the math...you know how much candy you can buy AFTER Halloween for $25??? So after sewing her tail onto her leopard-print cape and drawing on her nose, whiskers and eyes...we were nearly set to leave. My son comes out dressed in a suit, actually looking better than I've seen him in years...and I totally blow his costume prepping self-esteem by telling him "You look like Andy Warhol"...and then promptly showing a photo of him online. I told him that people aren't going to know who Sanji is and are going to assume he's Andy Warhol. I then get told by both him and my husband that no one will say it...as no kids know Warhol. I tend to disagree and figure at least the adults handing out candy will indeed figure he is. Again they disagree.

So, off we go, I reiterate, MUCH later than I had wanted...driving over to the "good candy" place which shall remain nameless...where two houses always get into the Halloween "spirit" to the max...one with strobe lights and everyone dressing up and trying to scare the kids. Personally, I think it's a family of psychiatrists and psychologists...and this is the way they drum up business...kinda like those dentists who toss in toothbrushes embossed with their info along with their candy. Oh...the kids surely will need therapy after going there...plus I think more than half of them run off without taking any candy which is also part of their brilliant plan. Now don't get me wrong...I'd actually walk around where we live for candy, but we all sit on large lots and there are like maybe five kids who live here. By the time we'd walk around the block we'd have gotten about three candy bars...plus we'd have gone six times as far to get them...in the dark since we don't have streetlights...therefore we do our yearly pilgrimage miles from home.

First house we go to...this conversation ensues:

Lady: "Hey, nice costume...you're Andy Warhol, right?"
My Son (loud enough for me to overhear): "That's who my MOTHER said I looked like...I'm Sanji."
Lady: "I don't know Sanji...but you DO look like Andy Warhol."

I am totally reveling in the moment...and the next...and the next. I was redeemed. Yes, as I figured, he didn't get one "Hey, you're Sanji"...but did in fact get a few "Warhol" comments.

Actually I thought it would be pretty nifty to dress as Warhol...and quite original...and I told him...not that it helped much...but I did honestly believe it. In fact I even told a couple of my friends about the whole thing...and they thought it was quite funny...and, as one put it..."I bet it WAS funny...for about 15 minutes". I'd really like to take credit for that comment, but I can't...but I can take credit for making one awesome looking Warhol wig even if my son didn't want to humour me and take a can of Campbell's soup along with him.

29 October 2006

C'mon Get Happy...I'm Almost Done Talking

"Whoa, Leela...slow down, you're talking a mile a minute." That's a quote from Futurama's "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" episode...when the less than brainy character "Fry" is speaking to "Leela" whose brain (along with everyone else's but Fry's) is pretty much fried when powerful alien brains try to invade Earth. Oh...did I mention Leela is speaking very s-l-o-w-l-y when Fry tells her that? And what does that have to do with anything? Well...I'll get around to it...I hope.

I might have let slip that I talk a lot. Oh, let me rephrase that. I talk a LOT. Ask anyone who knows me...I don't shut up...BUT at least I'll be the first to admit it. I give people the common courtesy to let them know ahead of time what they're up against if they start talking to me. If you talk to me on the phone...well, don't plan on hanging up anytime soon. I've single-handedly made the phone company and others give in to whatever it was I wanted...face it...they either acquiesce or talk to me for a couple more hours. Ever see "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" with Jimmy Stewart? Oh...that filibuster scene has nothing on me - and I don't even get hoarse. I've even had one doctor here in town ask me how I manage to talk without ever stopping to take a breath...and he was from Philadelphia...where they can talk! And that brings me to my point...

I'm watching "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" Friday night, speaking of someone who can talk...but altho I think this guy is brilliant and extremely witty amongst being extremely chatty, he's not who I'm going to talk about. I'm going to talk about his guest...Danny Bonaduce, who has been on his show a bunch of times already. Now if you are old like me...or if it's made it to Nick at Night, you might better know him as "Danny Partridge" of "The Partridge Family"...and if you pay any attention to Entertainment Tonight or tabloids, you might know him as "that guy from The Partridge Family...with the drug problem who has a radio talk show and did some homelife reality show that you've probably never seen...but the one who wasn't "Keith" aka David Cassidy". Now I know that Craig has mentioned a few times that he bought Danny's pick-up from him a while back and something tells me they actually know each other off the show, but this guy is extremely entertaining. Oh...I know what you are saying "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout??" Uh...wrong show, but...yes, I think I do.

Yes, I will be the first to admit it...possibly in the country...but Danny Bonaduce is extremely interesting. He's funny, energetic, enthusiastic and above all else...talks a mile a minute. Now, yes...that could be drugs talking...but I've heard people on drugs talk and they usually don't ramble on cohesively...usually something ends up being disjointed (pun intended) and they go from one thing to another like...well, I could name celebrities here...but I'll let you fill in your own. Plus he's still kinda cute. Oh, c'mon...you thought he was cute in "The Partridge Family"...and I'm not talking about that creepy kind of cute that child actors usually end up being...again, I'll let you fill in your own celebrity here.

So, I call my son out to come see him show...well, a Craig Ferguson "Late Late Show" tattoo he was sporting...um...uh on his...well, let's just say I got to see a side of Danny Bonnaduce I'll probably never see again. And I TiVo'd it back a bit and he (my son, not Danny) remarked that this guy talks about as fast as I do and was he from Jersey? Now, I always thought he was from California, but I'm game, I'll look him up on the IMDb...and lo and behold, he's actually from Philadelphia (sure, he probably moved when he was 3...but it still counts in my book)...so that would explain it all. Usually whenever I really like a guest on a talk show, I'll look them up and 9 out of 10 times they are from my "area". My "area" being Jersey. There's still a difference about them...and I think the difference is just the ease they have being totally open, being rather interesting, and also speaking a mile a minute.

Now you might totally disagree with me here...but...you gotta ask yourself this..."Are you actually willing to talk to me about it...and even with the time change...do you really have THAT many hours to kill doing so?"

26 October 2006

The Basic Instinct To Not Attempt To Do Much Of Anything

I was going to write an extremely interesting blog the other day...oh it would have been my best, I'm sure...but I've had this stabbing ice-pick headache that has decided to take up residence in my brain the last couple days. Hopefully it will vacate the premises any time now...of course that scintillatingly brilliant blog idea of mine is lost forever...but I'm sure I can muster up something next time. :)

21 October 2006

A Very Strange Election aka Swann's Song

I was watching the news tonight and they had a story about how the race for Lt. Governor here in Alabama was now embroiled in controversy. It seems Republican Luther Strange's election campaign ad being shown on television mocking Democrat Jim Folsom, Jr., was undoubtedly a complete and utter rip-off of another one which is simultaneously airing...in Pennsylvania, for gubernatorial candidate, Lynn Swann (R). The ads depict both Folsom's and Ed Rendell's (Swann's opponent) careers throughout the last three decades (portrayed by an actor prancing around in disco duds, jogging suit, and Miami Vice-alike attire) and alleges such things as Folsom putting his family and cronies on the state payroll and Rendell never owning up to his "reform" promises.

Just some comments here that I'd like to make, altho I'm not at all usually political by nature...

It's an AD...get over it...it's not the first time someone is going to steal, borrow, or otherwise engage in a form of this...dare I say "plagiarism"...period. It happens in television...heaven knows if only one person could have kept the idea of a "reality show" to themselves, we wouldn't be in the predicament we are nowadays. How many times is the "two buddies and a girl" situation comedy going to happen? How about a "life at home" scenario? Or one about writers who work on a comedy show? Ooops...sorry, we can't do that, they had "The Dick Van Dyke Show" years ago. "Lost"? Sounds too much like "'Gilligan's Island' revamped for the 00's" to me. Something with a lawyer? Sorry...no can do. Forget doing anything CSI-ish as there was a show on The Discovery Channel called "The New Detectives: Case Studies in Forensic Science". Oh, but you say that one was real? How about that show back in the 70s with Jack Klugman modeled after real-life Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi. Oh...wait...do we see a pattern here? Most ideas are rehashed...political commercials are no exception. Granted it is an awfully irritating ad to watch...and it's pretty much the same as the Lynn Swann one...but if the first person to do political mud-slinging ads had the patent on it...well, we wouldn't be talking about this right now...and no one else would be either.

Oversight or brilliant campaign strategy? Now from what I've gathered, the same Washington, DC firm to do the Folsom ad was also the one behind the Swann ad. Either they really put one over on both candidates or this is some form of genius. Face it...what sticks better in the minds of the collective consciousness than controversy? Is this really going to plague the Strange campaign? The most you can determine from all of this is that their spin doctors are now engaged in counter-control and they were stupid in not determining that this ad was already out there in some shape or form. Did Strange know about it? Well, he's a politician...he'll answer that by avoiding it...and why even BOTHER to answer it? Does this have any bearing on the platform he's running on? Let's see...it's going to be like those Teen Beat magazines..."Uh, Mr. Strange...what colour do you like best? What did you eat for dinner last night? What do you look for in a girl (oh, wait...that's a question for Clinton...ba-da-bing)...Did you purposely know that there was a gubernatorial candidate/ex-football player running the same annoying disco ad as you? And, by the way, what's your fav disco song?"

So, I say this really is a reality show of its own...and further testament to the dumbing-down of our society as a whole. Do we really want to base our political decisions...waste our precious votes...and further degrade ourselves in the process by letting THIS "issue" be a militating factor this time around...and then surely in the future?

I don't know about you...but I vote "No".

12 October 2006

Some Alarming Facts aka Dauphin Island 3

A little back-history for the moment...not recapping my last blog, but about Dauphin Island itself which I found interesting. It wasn't named for dolphins per se, although by the way people pronounce it, you'd certainly think it was. Just like people pronouncing "croissant" the way most people in America do...I have an issue (which has been handed down to me from my mother who was born in Belgium) about pronouncing French words...well...the French way. But I am getting a little ahead of myself...

...the island was originally mapped in fantastic detail by Spanish explorer, Alonzo Pineda, the first European in documented history to visit it in 1519. In 1699, French explorer, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville renamed it...quite appropriately..."Isle de Massacre" based on the fact there were human bones heaped up in piles lying around. This "officially" kicked off the island's French history and colonization along that area...but being named "Massacre Island" seemed a tad too icky and didn't sit well with the locals...and in 1707 was changed to "Dauphin Island" to honour their then heir to the French throne, "the Dauphin". Ironically, the Dauphin used a coat of arms with dolphins on them, hence his nickname "le Dauphin" meaning of course, "the Dolphin". Over the next 100 or so years, Dauphin Island's "ownership" (via lots more piles of bones I'm sure) changed from France to Great Britain and then in 1780, to Spain. Finally, in 1813 the United States seized the territory around Mobile Bay, encompassing the island as well...and now we have it - and there you have it...a little history about an island you possibly haven't ever visited...and some have never heard of. But something you might have heard of...the quote "Damn the torpedoes...full speed ahead". Well, Admiral David Farragut uttered that phrase just a few hundred yards away from Dauphin Island, which is home to Fort Gaines, built between 1821-1848 and subsequently occupied by the Confederate forces in 1861 until being captured by Federal troops during the Battle of Mobile Bay. This battle was also Farragut's last hurrah...after which he retired upon returning home to New York in 1864...dying only a few years later in 1870.

So we have now come full circle as to why you see symbols of dolphins all over the place there and not some rich dead French dude. As far as the pronunciation...well I'll still pronounce it the way I want to until they change the spelling. And speaking of spelling, nothing makes a bus load of little kids go "Ooooooooooooooh they are showing a bad word" more than a big brick wall outside of Fort Gaines with the word "Damn" on it. Good thing this wasn't a trip to New York City or Los Angeles. And speaking of trips...back to my trip story.

My daughter's teacher (and one of the Science Olympiad coaches) was nice enough to let me follow him on the way up to Dauphin Island (and this guy followed behind me)...and we were all ready to do it on the way back...but her teacher first wanted to stop at this quaint little sandwich shop on the island to get a sandwich instead of eating at a fast food place, which, of course, all the kids wanted to go...so our plan was to get our food there and then consume it at the place we ended up going for the kids. So...off we go and get our sandwiches and then I proceed to open my car door and I set off the alarm...something I've never ever ever done before...and my auto-door-alarm doohickey just broke the week prior...as luck would have it...and I couldn't "disarm" it. So...this was so incredibly prescient, as right before we left I checked the owner's manual to find out what to do in case I set it off...I kid you not. AND, true to Murphy's Law...what they recommended...or at least what I remembered reading...failed to do anything except let the exceedingly loud alarm continue within feet of this little place with old ladies on the porch sipping tea. This alarm, by the way, turns itself off in three minutes. Three minutes, which seem like 15 when you are the loudest thing on the island, unless you count the cannon they fire at Fort Gaines (yes, they do and yes, it is pretty insanely loud). So, we...the teacher...the other guy...and me (and all our passengers) sit around waiting for the time for the alarm to go off since it didn't cut off as the manual said...and yes, I did dig it out after the first few seconds and recheck...and yes, I did as it said all along.

And after I try to start the car, about five times unsuccessfully...since the engine cuts off when the alarm goes off...I figure...well, this is totally unsuccessful...and start doing all manner of other things to get the darned thing to stop the alarm and allow me to start my car and go on about my merry way...none of which work...I am forced to (well, it was easier to get my husband, Doug, to do it as he knows the people at the dealership) call my husband. Meanwhile, since Doug never answers his phone when he sees it is me calling...the guy (whose name from the other point on until the end of this story will be known as "the guy") starts suggesting we yank fuses out to disengage the system and try to bypass it. I am thinking "oh, I bet that would really make the system mad and it would probably not work again until some Dodge guy came over and keyed some 'magic Dodge combination' to get it to ever start again". Luckily he listened to me and didn't have the faith in his own mechanical know-how to even attempt to open the trunk without a diagram.

Doug finally answers the phone and he agrees to call the Dodge people to see what I'm supposed to do...after telling me that I should probably do what the manual tells me...like I haven't the brain-power (and apparently the teacher or the guy hasn't either) to have thought of that on my own by then. After another 10 minutes, and a couple more three-minute interludes of alarm mishaps (yes, I'm still trying to get the stupid car to do as the manual suggests)...he calls back and tells me that I should do what I've been trying all along...which doesn't work. And if that doesn't work to go and lock and unlock the door then start up the car. Well, locking and unlocking the car turns off the alarm...but lo and behold...doesn't allow you start the car...which, by the way...you guessed it...sets the alarm off again in the process of turning the ignition switch. So...I get a revelation: Get one of the kids to unlock the door from the inside after I relock it...figuring that someone has to be INSIDE the car and thus might bypass the whole stupidness. Well...that doesn't work worth a damn (in the torpedo sense because I'd like to start going "full speed ahead") as the alarm sets itself off and the car automatically shuts itself off again when I try to start it. So, I'm about to resort to Plan B...which is to systematically do the lock/unlock to each of the doors and then the trunk...when I say "oh let me try this a couple more times on the driver's door...when it finally figures out I must have the key and if I have the key...I MUST have the key...and duh...I should therefore be able to use said key to start my car and leave whatever place I've already disrupted for the last 30 minutes. Which I did. Luckily I will probably never see these people again as long as I live because I am probably now going to be front-page news in "The Dauphin Gazette" or something with the word "IDIOT" plastered next to it with a nice cell-phone photo of us all standing around looking totally dumbfounded like none of us could figure out that all we had to do was press the "Panic" button to turn off the alarm (they'd never figure out it wasn't working after all).

Anyway, needless to say, when we finally arrived to the fast-food place I was more than reluctant to lock my car...but I mustered up the courage to do it anyway...and was exceedingly proud of myself to not set it off when the time came for us to leave. The simple things in life...for the simple...I guess.

And needless to say we all arrived much later than our rendezvous time of 4:30 at the school.

But it could have been worse...much worse. I could have been on Dauphin Island until the following Monday waiting for some guy (not to be confused with "the guy") from Mobile to get the part from Detroit to work on a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan.

Lastly...and ironically, the sandwich I purchased from the quaint little restaurant...was on a croissant.

09 October 2006

Sea Hunt at Sea Lab

Last time around I left you waiting in line...so I think we will move ahead now. I had no doubt in my mind that Dauphin Island's Sea Lab food would be terrible and that the atmosphere would be rather the same as when I went to Space Camp...which, in a nutshell, was as soon as I sat down to eat, literally, we had to get up and move on to our next event. I wasn't going to be a happy camper...I just knew it.

One of the kids pointed out the sign right over the trays which said we could return in line and get seconds. Things were looking up...as I was assured that I would indeed choose the ickiest thing on the menu the first time around and be forced to eat it or go without...at least I'd now be able to get a second try. But wait...this food actually looks edible. And the servers...so incredibly nice...I guess I should have suspected something was amiss with the little hand-made "thank you, lunch ladies" cards taped on the fridge behind them. So, I told the woman what I wanted and scurried off to my table...my table which was clean...and so was my silverware. So, I bit into my chosen fare...a chicken sandwich and french fries...and altho salty...they were quite edible. They also had a massive salad bar - but right after that spinach scare...I'm not biting into anything leafy lately (speaking of which they just recalled some lettuce today)...so I passed on that...and actually too bad, too...because it did look quite tasty...but hanging out in a communal bathroom isn't an idea...or reality...I wanted to entertain. We also had plenty of time to eat our food and drink our drinks before we moved on to our scheduled event.

Enter Hazel Wilson, our designated marine educator guide, who proceeded to show us, via school bus, the devastation on the island that Hurricane Katrina exacted on it. You could see quite a few houses which have not been torn down...houses which were left standing...like a Hollywood set...with the exterior wall removed...and we were the eye of the camera which panned from one room (still appointed with furniture) to the next. In a way I felt like a voyeur...peering into these houses from the safety of a bus...knowing I was only invited in by something evil and malevolent. Other houses, their bodies long removed...the only remaining proof they once stood there being their "legs"...the pilings still sticking in the sand like toys left by toddlers in a gigantic sandbox. Then we went pretty much as far as we could since the island was cleaved in two...a mile-wide canal now where land used to be..."thanks" to Katrina...showing us yet again the power of the forces of nature in action.

On now to more fun events...Ms. Wilson led us down to the beach and encouraged the kids to pick up hermit crabs and dead things. It was getting interesting now. Then on the bus as we didn't want to delay mucking through the marsh...that's why we had to bring shoes we didn't mind messing up or losing. Oh, the kids found all sorts of things from snails to crabs to shrimp...and mud. Lots of mud. But it was okay as we were going to wash it all off in the Mississippi Sound picking more living and dead things up anyway. We were given hand-held nets and buckets...and even seine nets to drag around scooping up even more unsuspecting things. This was far from a boring, run-of-the mill trip staring at things while the guide spoke...this was not only educational but enjoyable for both children and adults...and Ms. Wilson was exceptional.

Fast-forward to dinner...which again was better than I expected...and the dinner crew was as friendly as the lunch people were. These people all had their act together...maybe it was the Gulf air or the area in general...but whoever is in charge of this operation certainly should be running the country. Next on the plate...not the dinner one...but the scheduled events...was a night-time walk on the beach finding and subsequently catching ghost crabs by flashlight...and we didn't lose a single kid. I guess I've seen "Jaws" a few too many times in my life...but even without the shark, the dangerous undertow, the Gulf, and a bunch of kids all running around in the dark didn't seem like a good combination - but luckily the kids were good.

Bedtime came earlier than usual for me...and so did the start of the next day...and I wasn't looking forward to either, but the kids quieted down quickly...I'm sure they were quite worn out from the events of the day. Even the boys stopped running around upstairs and I think even without the aid of Ambien I might have been able to sleep through the night...had the night lingered on until 3:00 a.m...but as it were, I, too, had an early start and a long day of foraging for more sea-things the next day. This place was no place like home...but it wasn't like my previous overnight trip either. It was remarkably quiet. Perhaps being on the far end helped, but no doors clanked...no people screamed in the hallway...and best of all, I didn't have to share my room with a bunch of others who got up every hour on the hour for one reason or another. I slept.

The following day started out with an early breakfast...again edible served with the same graciousness as the previous meals. Ms. Wilson, to my delight, was again our guide and this time we'd be tasked with going out and catching things from two different waterways to take back to the classroom to view under microscopes. We also had plankton "races"...using wire and Styrofoam each table had to construct a "plankton"...and the slowest one to sink to the bottom of the jar of water was going to be declared the winner. I was at a table of all parents...and my ingenious plankton design coupled with the Styrofoam bits added on by another parent was destined to be the sure winner...ours drifted down so incredibly slowly...ONCE. Each subsequent try hardly matched that one magnificent time...and we were beaten by our own kids...how humiliating is that? But I guess if you have to lose to someone - it might as well be your own. But still...and I still resent one of the chaperones, who happened to be the older brother of one of the students...telling us "old people" that our "sea-based" name for our table should be "The Ancient Mariners"...okay, it was extremely funny - I'm just annoyed by the fact I didn't think of it myself. We went with "Exoskeletons"...hey...we were a bunch of old skeletons after all...I admit not nearly as good...but then again, unfortunately, neither was our little plankton display.

Our last scheduled stop before we left was to check out the Estuarium only a short walk away...which was chock full of all types of Alabama marine life...rather like a mini-aquarium, but done nicely nonetheless. They even had a display of dead things we could touch and another with live horseshoe crabs...kind of like what we experienced before only this time we didn't have to run off into the water to retrieve them. Pity. As what we'd done up until that point had all been extremely enjoyable...made even more enjoyable by the staff and the "edutainment" factor of Hazel Wilson. I was sure going to miss this place once we left...but as you shall read in my next blog installment of this story...well, I'll just leave it at that for now.

04 October 2006

Bloggus Interruptus

Well, I was going to continue my story the other day, but my daughter started running a high fever and has been out of school...and then again, because I am sharing a computer with my son...by the time I finally had my hands on it I wasn't in the mood to finish it. She's going to be out of school for at least one more day here...so I am going to try my best to write Part 2 of my blogstory either later tonite or sometime tomorrow.

01 October 2006

What a Long Strange Trip It's Going to Be

Going on your child's field trip isn't always fun. Personally, I am not into trying to corral five kids whilst traipsing around Fort Toulouse with 25 other school bus-loads of kids there at the same time. Yes, I DO watch the children in my charge...but it's not exactly a piece of cake with 14 activities going on and them all thinking they can each go their separate ways...nuh uh, girlfriend...not on my watch. And staying overnight at a trip? Don't even get me started...I have two words that changed my outlook on that: "Space Camp". And didn't change it for the better. So, you can bet I was reluctant when I heard we were doing it again...only this time at Dauphin Island's Sea Lab.

First off, picking up sea-life from the Gulf of Mexico and mucking around in the mud finding things that only an estuary can hold was pretty darned intriguing to me. A nighttime walk on the beach to "hunt" for ghost crabs...well that sounds like fun...and so does looking at minute squirmy things we just plucked from the water under microscopes...so I actually was looking forward to this trip. Driving the 3 1/2 hours with three other children besides my own and staying overnight with public restrooms and showers...well THAT I wasn't. Keep in mind I did stay two whole nights at Space Camp in Huntsville...sleeping six to a room in bunkbeds...lights literally turned out on you at 9:30ish to be turned back on for you at around 5:30ish. This was a "joy" I didn't soon want to relive. But things started to look a little up when they said we'd be staying at the dorms and they sleep two to a room. Now when they said we were going to sleep on "cots"...that kinda didn't sound too appealing, but this was only for one night. I think I'd be able to rough it.

Meeting up at the school at 7:15 isn't exactly a night-owl's dream...and then imagining "can you PLEASE stop singing that same song over and over and over...and by the way, stop kicking my seat" for 3 1/2 hours wasn't exactly helping. But I made it up there, packed up the van, and proceeded to head out for our destination to arrive sometime around 11:30 just in time for "lunch". Oh...lunch..."yummy"...visions of a previous trip's version of "food" dancing in my brain like so many rancid sugarplums.

But, wait...these kids were pretty good...in fact they were excellent. No "I have to go to the bathroom, Mrs. Simms"..."Why didn't you go the last exit when we stopped?"..."I didn't have to go then." antics...no "A million bottles of..." song to drive me completely insane...and apart from my coaxing to get them to stop that one game they were doing and try this other one I made up instead...it was ideal. In fact the worst part of it was thinking that the rest stop I was supposed to meet up with the teacher wasn't the right rest stop and maybe we are hanging around and they are hanging around...15 miles apart. But they finally showed up...so our worries about that were all for naught.

So we made it there...unloaded the van and dropped our stuff off in our room...which, by the way, to my delight, didn't have measly cots but actual "mattressed" beds. The showers had individual little stalls AND curtains...Space Camp didn't. As a plus the bathroom was next to our room and didn't have a clanking door and you couldn't hear anything really thru the wall. The only discernible noise were the boys who occupied the upper level of the dorm and the fact that boys must run wherever they go...and apparently the average 11-year-old boy's weight while in run-mode is comparable to that of a full-grown elephant. And speaking of elephants...it was time to herd up outside the dorm and go grazing at the cafeteria...with no doubt in my mind this shall be about as tasty as an elephant's hide...

...but enough for now...I am going to play Scheherazade and continue this blog tomorrow.

23 September 2006


And "the rest" as they say "is history"...

I was talking today, ironically, to someone who edits textbooks. Ironically, I say, because although I've talked to this man on several occasions, this is the first time we've really spoken in-depth and after voicing a few of my opinions about teaching and teachers...found out what his present vocation is.

He started by asking me if I ever watched a certain show on HBO...and I remarked that mainly I watch AMC, TCM and The History Channel. The latter being the last bastion of documentary television since TLC and Discovery have, unfortunately, segued into the realm of reality TV. Then from there I got on the topic of how I probably never would have been interested in history at all without the intervention and innovation of my 8th grade History teacher, Phil Marder. Mr. Marder...if you are out there...and I Googled you the other day and couldn't find anything on you...I would like to take this opportunity to say "thank you...you made History...one of the most misunderstood and maligned of subjects...interesting".

Oh...sure, we all cringed and thought he was corny with his "Where are you heading? Bering Strait." and "Sideburns...Burnside" remarks...and countless others of that ilk...but to this day I still remember their significance. I also remember the films he used to "sneak in"...oh, he'd be fired in a heartbeat if he showed them today. Let's say they were less than acceptable, by today's standards...films he "procured" by, as he always asserted, by a friend who worked at Washington DC's National Archives Building...excerpts I don't think they'd even dare show on The History Channel. Graphic footage of mutilated Mussolini and his mistress, the Holocaust, and more were shown to us...and to the best of my knowledge, since they continued...and he continued teaching...no one complained. We were appalled...but morbidly, like that horrific roadside accident we've all passed, we crooked our collective necks and watched. And because of a grisly fascination and roll-your-eyes "Welcome Back, Kotter" approach...history became something not just to read in some boring old book...but something tangible that everyone experiences at one time or another.

I've had only one other teacher who actually truly influenced and inspired me...my High School English teacher, Tom Bauer. But for now I'll leave the writing of my past and the writing of my present to the future...and talk about him and how one teacher can make a difference...in a subsequent blog.

18 September 2006

Nobody's Fault But My Own

I don't know if anyone has ever noticed but I typically post these blogs quite late...as that's usually when I'm writing them. You can say I do my "best" work at night...or at least I think so. Well, I was indeed thinking so last night...but this might not necessarily be the case. Case in point:

What I usually do is think of some ideas I could use for blogs...then I sit on them as I think of something else to write instead. Just the other night I was sitting around and thinking..."ya know, I bet people don't even know there is a fault line nearly outside our door...and those people further north probably never think of the New Madrid Fault Line". I remember watching a program on television years ago which talked about how we here are "due for one". I thought of all this and sent the idea to my friend on the 5th of September...and then sat on it. Oh sure, I gathered up the geologic info on earthquakes and on fault lines and such...but I didn't do anything...blogwise. And then what happens? A 6.0 earthquake in the Gulf of Mexico on the 11th. How timely would that have been? Well...at least there is one person out there who believes me when I say this.

So, what does all this have to do with thinking I do my best work at night? Hang in there...I shall try to illuminate you.

I grew up in New Jersey as many of you are aware if you've read my blogs...and I also have trouble sleeping...a fact I've also mentioned. So, last night I take half an Ambien and then decide to forage thru some of my blog ideas I've sent myself and pull one out and work on it. One I've been meaning to do is about prescription drugs and how drug companies are supposedly trying to make them affordable to the elderly and lower income bracket people...especially those with children.

"What does all this have to do with New Jersey? And really...what does it have to do with you thinking you do your best work at night??" Those are the two questions that are probably still sticking out as unanswered to you at this point...but please don't give up yet...there's a method to my madness.

Growing up 45 minutes from Philadelphia meant we received the Philadelphia news channels, and one year one of them started doing this "experiment" which was really fun and enlightening to watch. With the aid of the local police department the news team would, one by one...and literally "one by one"...get behind the wheel of a car on a closed test track and go all around the little orange cones like you've seen done in those car commercials...darting in between them and on a curve...being careful, of course, not to smash into any or knock them down. "Pretty easy" you say, huh? Well...have a beer! And another and another! Each time they drank one down they would ask them how they were feeling and if they felt at all impaired. Then they would let them drive around the track. It was actually quite comical after a while...they honestly thought they were fine...that they could literally drive their "best" after a few. Then when they all sobered up...they played the tape back for them and boy were they surprised...cocky attitudes...cones all over the place...and not as many beers tossed back as they'd have imagined.

So...although not nearly as dangerous...but equally as comical I assure you - is my Ambien-taking and blogging, ironic as it may that my intended blog was about prescriptions drugs. As for my self-assuredness? Let's just say it's not very likely that I am ever going to produce the evidence to show you, even if it is, essentially, "on tape" as well.

13 September 2006

Don't Abandon All Hope...

Like many of you who watch or read the Montgomery, Alabama news, I was sickened and saddened by the story of a woman who drowned her newborn baby daughter in the toilet tank of a gas station on West Fairview Avenue on the morning of September 1. The surveillance video shows an unidentified woman, who appears to be pregnant, entering the service station and leaving some 40 minutes later.

When I heard this, having two children of my own, I had to think "what kind of monster would do this to a baby...what kind of monster does this to their OWN baby"...but I try not to judge people as I don't know the circumstances which led to the event. But one has to wonder how someone can put their own welfare ahead of their own child's. We've seen the 9/11 tributes the past few days which show how unselfish people can be...putting their own lives on the line for complete strangers...and police and firefighters do this nearly every day of their careers...how can someone not for a completely innocent child?

Yes, the person could have been afraid for their own life...could have been under the influence of drugs...could have been mentally unstable. We won't know until they apprehend and question this woman...but one thing I do know is that they could have taken another course of action. One that perhaps they don't even know exists. I am speaking of the "Baby Moses" or "Safe Haven" laws which many states have adopted whereby a person, usually the parent, can drop off (abandon if you prefer...I prefer "drop off") their child at a designated location, usually a hospital, police station, etc., without criminal investigation...totally without retribution. They can literally walk away...no questions asked. Ever.

That's the second thing which entered my mind when I heard this story...how much differently this ending would have been if only she had gotten back into her car and headed to a hospital. Now not only is an innocent life snuffed out...but her "life" as well. She cannot keep running...someone will find out...maybe not in a week or a month...but eventually. And even if they don't, imagine the inner turmoil of dealing with committing such a heinous act. You might say "well she's a monster...she doesn't have any remorse"...but you cannot be the judge of what a person thinks any more than I can. Please don't get me wrong...I am not at all saying any excuse she gives will be justified...and certainly nothing she or anyone says on her behalf will change the end result.

All I do know is that educating the public, thru Public Service Announcements, billboards, word of mouth, etc., might have prevented this from happening...and might prevent the next one. I don't believe, as some things I've read regarding this "drop off" system stated would lead to countless children being abandoned. I don't think they have the statistics to back that up...and face it, if someone abandons a baby...that child is most probably better off than suffering the consequences had they not. All is not 'Ozzie and Harriet' in this world...we need to educate people in that respect as well...as I believe all too well people don't necessarily turn a blind eye to the bad things...but they just don't know.

Knowing things is the key...and that key can unlock so many life-changing possibilities...but it cannot happen without someone teaching us...and I think we can all benefit from learning something...and from teaching others.

10 September 2006

A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Will someone please tell Hollywood they can stop already with the "shaky-camera technique"...I tuned in to watch this (probably) horribly bogus show on Sci-Fi Channel tonite...altho I completely forgot about it, and only caught the last 20 minutes. It was this film with Lance Henriksen (of Aliens and MillenniuM fame) - something about Sasquatch. Then I changed the channel to this movie called "Primer"...granted it was made in 2004...but it is replete with the "shaking"...every single frame.

Anyway, not only did they (the Sasquatch film) have the annoying "must be your first day with the studio camera" thing going on...they also had this eye-strain-inducing severe colour contrast thing happening...where it was totally too intense in the white/black realm to watch comfortably. Hopefully this will not be a mainstream manifestation...and this begs the question..."what is next"...perhaps that horizontal hold from the past brought back?

"And, no...I won't attempt to adjust my picture...I'll just change the channel...like I did watching Sci-Fi tonight."

06 September 2006

Something to Whine About

Well, it's been over two months now that I've gone without my computer. Sharing a computer with my two children isn't very much fun...really that's not fair...it's basically just with my son.

I guess in the grand scheme of things that above statement does sound rather ridiculous...most people in this world don't have any computer...let alone one computer to share with their kids, so I guess I shouldn't whine. In general I think Americans whine a lot, so why should I be any different?

So, I guess what I'm trying to convey here is that I haven't had access to a computer whenever I want, so when I want to write a blog or update my humour website, I usually am "computerless". Heaven forbid I do it the "old-fashioned" way and hand-write something out to type up later...I have a standard to live up to...I have to have something to whine about.

30 August 2006

Goodbye My "Baby"

Well, I was going to write something yesterday...but someone ran over and killed my cat...he was also dragged about 20-30 feet. Now, we live in a very nice development that doesn't have a lot of traffic...has a road with barely a two-car width...and also has 25 mph posted speed limit signs. But, unfortunately, save for a few people, no one pays much attention to it...I can't begin to tell you how many times I've reported the Wetumpka school bus driver, who I've clocked from my car behind, going faster than 45 down this narrow curving wisp of a road. Just imagine him trying to swerve out of someone's way at that speed with no shoulder and with the "Montgomery overlook" drop-off up fast approaching around the bend. Good luck, especially not wearing any seatbelts...I don't want to see what you or your passengers look like when they finally manage to winch your car/bus from 80 or so feet below.

Anyway...cats aren't stupid - they don't usually go dashing across the street when a car comes...my cat was only two-years-old...a gorgeous Lynx-Point Siamese (named Balthazar...but we called him "Baby")...so I wanted to take this opportunity here in my blog to say "thanks" to the person who apparently couldn't avoid hitting (and subsequently dragging) my cat at about 10:00 yesterday morning in broad daylight with excellent road conditions and equally favourable visibility...and of course I am sure they were indeed following the 25 mph speed limit. Lastly, from the "point of impact"...it seems they did indeed have to swerve...nearly hitting our mailbox...to "avoid" him.

27 August 2006

Trivia Pursuit

"Did you know he's 6'5"...supposedly the tallest actor to star in a leading role...and was born in 1922?" "He tries to use a different accent in each of his films." "Oh...she died at age 26, of renal failure, in 1937...the same year the Golden Gate Bridge was opened for traffic...in fact nearly a week apart." What do these things have in common? They are all things that I blurt out for no apparent reason whilst I'm watching a film, talking on the phone, or otherwise engaged in some form of conversation in which I somehow conveniently manage to work them into...yes, I am essentially the bar know-it-all, the Cliff Clavin if you will...of nearly useless information gathered from years of watching films and years of reading the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)...years of watching The History Channel, and years of other things I must have done because it's in there...in my head...for some reason. Sometimes I don't know how it got in there to start with...believe it or not...it baffles even me.

I think it has something to do with being the youngest child of the family. I have a couple much older siblings...who were teenagers by the time I came along. My mother always said that I actually did 'The Twist' before I could stand up unaided...pulling myself up in my crib while watching my brother's and sister's friends 'cut a rug'...literally...I was also told of the many rugs that 'Twisting' wore holes into. So...this unconscious listening to late 50's/early 60's records in my very early youth must have somehow gotten in and stayed there. Sometimes, very late at night, coming back from a trip to Atlanta, I'll put the radio on "auto-scan" and the oldie station will come in and I'll listen. Not "oldies" as in Zeppelin, kids...this is "oldies" as in what oldies actually were when I listened to Zeppelin...yes, I'm afraid to say it's "them oldies". But I know every word practically. How can I know every single word? I never listened to these when I grew up. I grew up, because I also had a sister five years older than me (by this time my brother and sister were out of the picture, i.e., out of the house) listening to secret messages of "Paul is dead" on Beatles records. Yes, I strung my fair share of beads. This was the 60's...I also know the words to all of Donovan's songs, too. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing...I just know they're in there...somewhere...stored in there with Freddy Cannon's "Palisades Park"...and "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The fact I also knew this without the aid of "Googling" is even more disturbing to me the more I think of it.

Being the youngest child of the family...you have to grow up faster to gain acceptance I think...and to do this, you have to be able to relate to those around you who are older...therefore you are subjected to things much earlier in life than had you been the first born. So, the youngest child's tiny little infant brain has to make hardwire connections that it normally wouldn't do...and I think that helps in the long run with memorization of things you never realized you had memorized from such an early age. This also helps you remember things without much effort...or perhaps you just have to listen much more intently being the younger child as no one is going to repeat it...to "the baby". Oh, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it...at least it sounds plausible as to how all these songs ended up my in head and stayed there.

Unfortunately, for me, my siblings were not rocket scientists and literary scholars...as, frankly, I'd much rather be able to rattle off complex mathematical equations, Quantum physics principles and quote Keats and Thoreau...more thoroughly than I can remember the fact that Marilyn Monroe was born in 1926 and died in 1962...as the last two numbers are transposed. That's about as mathematical as I get...altho I do know that Marilyn Monroe badly wanted to be in a production of Dostoyevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov'...sadly, that's about as literary as I get as well...but she also reportedly had sex with Albert Einstein...so I've now nicely linked math, science AND literature in one fell swoop. Let's see your average physicist do THAT!

So, I will have to remain content with the realization that my entire family never wants to play Trivial Pursuit with me...that 'Jeopardy!' comes on some weird time here...if at all...and that one day, probably in the not too distant future, I will have memorized the IMDb in its entirety.

By the way, in case you were wondering, regarding my opening paragraph...in order...I'm referring to Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman and Jean Harlow. Cliff Clavin was, of course, John Ratzenberger's character he played in Cheers...which, upon not doing well trying out for the "Norm" role, supposedly turned on his way out and asked "You guys do have a bar know-it-all, don't you?" They didn't...and he ended up getting a key role he himself created. Not at all bad for an irritating trivia buff.

25 August 2006

Our Plutonic Relationship

Well...Pluto has been demoted. No, nothing to do with Walt Disney or Mickey Mouse...the planet...or the "dwarf planet formerly known as a planet" is just too tiny a cosmic speck to be ranked up there according to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). For the next week or so prepare yourself for the onslaught of "planet envy" and obligatory "Uranus thrown in for good measure" jokes.

Now this is nothing new...planetary science has changed their minds lots of times...the Earth is not flat...the sun doesn't revolve around the Earth...Neptune has more moons than originally thought...but this changes everything. The effect is literally of cosmic proportions...Clyde Tombaugh will now be stripped of the honour bestowed upon him in 1930 of discovering the 9th planet...textbooks will have to be rewritten...those $8.99 glow-in-the dark mobiles they sell at all science stores will have to sport "take out the tiny one...no, not that one, that's Mercury...the other tiny one...throw it away" stickers...the very boring guy at the planetarium who's recited the same speech he's memorized and rattled off to visiting 3rd grade school groups since nearly 1930 will have to be "reprogrammed"...or worse...or...uh...maybe better yet - replaced.

But the thing that the IAU failed to take at all into consideration when they voted poor little Pluto off the solar system was the fact that the "My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas" mnemonic acronym will now have to be totally revamped. Oh...this is not a very simple undertaking whatsoever...just imagine having to erase that "Roy G Biv" thing out of your head...or "Every Good Boy Does Fine"...sure we've all heard the alternate versions, "Deserves Fudge" and "Deserves Favour"...but it's like that "i before e" thing...or the "It's a Small World" song... it's IN there...it cannot be taken out or altered...it's just NOT done...what on EARTH were they thinking there in Prague today?

So, I call upon everyone out there to make up a new "planet order" version and send it to the IAU...well you can send it to me, too...but maybe a flood of emails to this scientific group will get them to rethink their decision...and revote. Come on, it IS a union after all, right...aren't they supposed to deal with changing demands...sometimes even on a universal level?

20 August 2006

The DVD Conspiracy

I had a dilemma I faced a while back...if you've kept up with my blogs you're going to hear it again for the benefit of those of you who haven't. The story goes a little like this: I never watched The X-Files when they first came out...by the time I wanted to, too many people were gaga over it and it would seem like I was going along with them all...like I was just another donkey going around in circles turning that millstone. So, I bade my time hearing my friends say they had to be home by whatever time and day it came on so they didn't miss the next episode. One by one my buddy list on my computer would trickle down to just one or two...talk about "spooky".

Years passed...and what I thought was just a passing fancy didn't pass...in fact it attracted even more people to it...it was like a horrible accident...people just had to stop and look. One day I thought I'd find out what all this fervor was about...I tuned in to an episode. All I can say is that it must have been the "Jersey Devil" one...because there was just no intrigue. THIS is what's been captivating the public for years now? THIS? I turned it off never to turn it back on until the Sci-Fi channel had it on a couple years ago. "Eh...why not...I've already seen the "Megastructures" show on The History Channel...let me have a quick looksie." I wasn't going anywhere...I was now hooked...only the dilemma I spoke of earlier reared its ugly head. The imdb stated that it ran for nine seasons...I looked up the one I was watching and it was smack in the middle somewhere. But wait!...FOX is also running their shows...and so is that TBS channel! This is great! Or IS it? Oh...season five at midnite, season two at 1:00 a.m...and season eight at 2:00-5:00? I'll NEVER be able to figure it out this way...maybe I can just buy them all? No, not at $90.00 a seasonal pop. Then someone suggested Netflix to me...I checked and for a mere fraction of the cost I could have them delivered to me and I could play them when I wanted and I'd have the added bonus of being able to watch the show for the first time without any influence of anyone saying I "have to watch"...and now I could be the one to disappear mysteriously off buddy lists. Payback time...and all for the low price of $17.99 a month for 3 dvd's out at any one time...most delivered to you the following day. Or so they claim...

So...I fill out all the little online forms and I'm going to get my three dvd's in the mail the next day! And lo and behold they come...The X-Files - Season 1 - disc 1, 2 and 3. This rules! I send them back...in the prepaid envelope they enclose (clever design by the way) to my "Nearest Netflix Shipping Facility" - in my case this means Birmingham, Alabama. By my calculations...given the fact that I could watch at least one of these 4-show dvd's in one night...and return it the next day...I could be finished viewing all 69 dvd's in...uh...well...did I mention the return envelopes were designed really niftily?

Now, please keep in mind these shows have a reason for the way they were released...one episode after the other...as they follow a plot and timeline (or at least 85% of their shows do)...so the one thing that you don't want to do...is watch them out of order. So, what's the first problem with Netflix that I encounter? They said they shipped the next disc, let's call it "disc 4" for the sake of easy identification purposes...to be due to me on Tuesday...and then I return disc 2 on Monday...which supposedly will allow the next disc on my list, disc 5 to be sent when they receive disc 2. I wait. Tuesday comes and goes...no disc 4...Wednesday...no disc 4...now I send out disc 3...and what comes in the mail? You got it...disc 5 on Thursday. Sill no sign of disc 4 by Friday and it's been sent out prior (supposedly) to disc 5. Netflix offices don't mail anything out on weekends...I am at a stalemate...I have the whole weekend and with no disc 4 to watch, I am not going to jump the gun and watch disc 5 out of order. Hmmm...a mail problem or done on purpose? I am from Jersey...we're skeptical there...so naturally I opt for the "on purpose" reason.

The following week disc 4 shows up...but this already has put a delay in the whole "watch a disc...send it back...we send the next one to you the next business day" process. But, perhaps it is an isolated event...I will go against my better judgment and give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they couldn't do this to everyone all the time and get away with it, right? Things start going again smoothly...for a little while...and then a disc I've returned to them goes missing. Then one they've sent to me does. By this time I'm figuring they are doing this on purpose...sure, it's one silly disc to me...but you multiply that by a million discs running around there across the country and X amount of customers...that's a whole lot of delay that adds up. Adds up nicely in their favour. So, I get on my "bud list" and query some people..."Do you have Netflix? You do? Has THIS ever happened to you?" The response I get is overwhelming...anywhere from missing discs to "at least one wrong disc appearing a month". Oh sure, they are nice about "rectifying" the situation...they send you out a replacement one...the correct one they should have sent all along - but they don't take in account the time delay. One time I had a broken disc sent to me - it was a clearly done from their end...the envelope was pristine...the disc wasn't. It's reminds me of that old joke about the guy who buys a broken vase very cheaply for a friend...thinking his friend will assume it was broken in the mail...so he tells the merchant he'll take it anyway and here's the address to send it to. His friend calls a few days later and tells him about the broken vase. "Oh, my...that's awful...can't trust the mail, can you?" His friend agrees that is indeed so true...but it was very nice of them to wrap each broken piece individually. Busted! The vase AND him. Same here with the broken dvd...no way I'm going to believe there was not the slightest indentation, the slightest bit of tear or wrinkle on the envelope - but the dvd inside is nearly cleaved in two.

So...even with claims of "throttling" going on and a class-action lawsuit, Netflix continues to maintain their innocence...even tho they did agree to "settle" by "upping everyone to the next level for a month". Wow...let's see...so instead of getting my typical 3 dvd's late a month...I'll get 5?? Wow! What a great deal, guys!

13 August 2006

My "Tag" Line

I've been tasked to drive my son around since he was rear-ended a few weeks ago and his car is now history...something that has good and bad points. Bad being I have to drive my son around since his car is now history; good being that it gives me the opportunity to talk to him some more...my captive audience, so to speak. That has nothing to do really with this blog...but it was actually the impetus behind it...I was actually behind it when I said "enough is enough in this town...I'm going to write a blog about it...I have the power...I have the three people who read this...I owe it to all of mankind". Well, I didn't exactly say all of that...which part I said is what they commonly refer to in the "business" as "a trade secret". That fact that I'm not actually "in" the business is of no consequence to this story...sometimes I just like to whine about it all...and technically YOU are my captive audience at this moment.

I used to live in Jersey (that's New Jersey to those of you who aren't FROM there) until I was 26...I grew up driving in Jersey...and Pennsylvania once in a while. I can honestly say that in my "driving" years there I don't ever recall seeing anyone without a license tag (of which we had both front and back plates)...even the "Temporary Tags" were very few and far between. We also had state Motor Vehicle Inspections once a year...there's nothing more comforting than waiting in a line halfway to the shore only to fail your inspection...which meant you had 30 days to come back...wait in line all over again...and hopefully not fail...again. Now I'm not at all insinuating that Jersey was so much better than anywhere...sure there were morons who had their mufflers strapped onto the underside of their cars with a length of rope...I had witnessed people having to push their cars out of the inspection line due to various reasons...and I heard stories of people knocking their driver's side window out because as long as you didn't have one...you wouldn't get cited for not being able to roll it down and back up again. For the benefit of those of you who don't know...Alabama has no yearly vehicle inspection...their inspection consists of someone coming out of the Motor Vehicle Bureau when you first get tags for your car...and visually verifying it's the vehicle...and that the windshield wipers and horn works. A godsend really if you've grown up in Jersey...and failed as many inspections as I have.

But the thing I cannot understand in this town is how so many people...and I saw it again today driving to the mall to pick up my son...in fact I made a concerted effort to look at each passing car after I jotted down the mental note to myself to use this idea as a blog...have no license plates on their vehicles. This fact apparently goes totally unnoticed to the Montgomery police...maybe it's okay to drive around without plates...I never looked it up, altho I would figure the purpose of HAVING plates to begin with would negate that idea totally. I do know that in Jersey they'd stop you in heartbeat (or at least they used to) if anything was amiss with your plates...and again we had a whopping two of them to keep up with. I was stopped once...well, three times actually...driving directly home...after someone had swiped my rear plate from a shopping mall...so I know they paid attention. How I wish they gave me the power to pull people over and fine them for this infraction...I would have made $301,260 for Montgomery County alone. This year alone...and it's only August.

I, as the mindful, watchful eye of license tags since my arrival to this state 15 years ago, like to think I was wholeheartedly instrumental in getting Alabama State University's tag changed to something that the human eye could read. I don't know how many of you remember, but their tag used to have gold letters/numbers with what looked to be black scratch marks superimposed over the whole tag. Even when you were 10 feet behind this plate you couldn't make out half the alpha-numerics...certainly speeding away at the scene of a crime you couldn't get even one. I took it upon myself to write Alabama's "license tag" bureau addressing this fact and they were nice enough to write me back stating that they were happy to hear from me and letters such as mine were the ammunition which was instrumental in their taking a more in-depth look into the matter which ultimately resulted in the plates being redesigned. Chalk one up for being able to actually help make a change in this world...even if it was only a tiny one.

I also feel compelled to point out a major design fault with most license plate holders...you know, the ones that have your college, a saying, etc., which "picture-frame" your tags...why is it that most seem to crop the "state" right off? I don't know how many of you have taken a look lately...and I think I've mentioned it before in an earlier blog...but I believe Alabama is the state with the most differently designed tags out there (also look at the "License Plate Information" link at the top...then to "Distinctive Plates" menu). A whole slew of tags in fact that you'd never be able to identify again at a crime scene. "What state was it, ma'am?" "Uh...I don't know...I think it had an apple or a spaceship on it...I'm pretty sure it was blue or green." Used to be, long ago...that you knew what a Jersey tag looked like, what a Pennsylvania tag looked like, etc. without having to second guess yourself. I can still spot those...and the very boring blue on white of Virginia (whose DMV site sports the fact you can now get 180 different specialized plates)...but Alabama?? I just saw one today I had never seen before and I make a habit of looking at plates...then to make it even more difficult, they had that "tinted window" convex license tag covering obscuring the whole plate. Again, good luck making a tag ID as they are speeding away from you.

I know that Alabama is a lot more trusting of people than we ever were in Jersey...where we are not only born a skeptic...but we also marry it with cynicism, but you can't tell me that crime doesn't happen in this state or town...Montgomery already has had 18 homicides alone this year; Birmingham, 60. Most I know probably weren't driving cars when they occurred...but you have to ask yourself who would drive a car without tags constantly...and why? I don't think asking for a little step up on the vigiliance of non-plated cars is too much to ask...in fact it just might be the first step in stopping Montgomery's 20th...or 21st...or...