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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Thursday, 21 July 2005
But My Friends Think It's Wondefrul

You’ve got a great idea. You’ve come up with a revolutionary new product that will make millions. All your friends tell you they love it and they’ll buy it. You contacted the Help For Inventors group you saw advertised on television and they’re telling you it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen and it will sell like hot cakes, especially when you do the infomercial. You’ve gotten your patent and all you need to do is find someone to manufacture it. Shouldn’t be a problem, this is a gold mine. Anyone would be a fool not to jump on your bandwagon.

So you find a plastic molding injection firm and you talk to the person in charge. If you happen to call Continental Plastics of Florida, it would be my sister Amy. And it’s her job to stomp all over your dream. She even posted an inventors' FAQ on her website, but it doesn’t keep the inventors from calling to pitch their great ideas.

The truth is that it’s damn near impossible to persuade people to part with their money for something they don’t buy on a regular basis.

Think about all the Kay-Tel commercials you’ve seen (It slices! It dices! It julliennes!) Did you buy any of that stuff? No, of course you didn’t. You didn’t need it. Or want it. You went right on chopping your vegies with a knife, like always. And when was the last time you bought anything you saw on an informecial?

Amy tells me of the inventors she deals with all day long. Like the sippy cup lady. She had come up with a plastic shelf for storing sippy cups. Apparently that’s a huge problem. Sippy cups all over the place. Her little shelf provided a handy place to store ten cups.

There was a time when we had sippy cups at our house, although I think it was just one or two. Looking at photographs of my daughter, there was always one sitting on the kitchen table. Sippy cup storage was obviously not a priority for me. The kitchen table worked just fine.

When Amy explained that Continental Plastics was not interested in producing the shelf because there was no market for it, the woman was incredulous. Up until that phone call, she’d only received praise and encouragement for her idea. No one had ever told her that people wouldn’t want to buy it.

Bringing an invention to the masses takes a huge amount of time and money. Watch Oprah and you’ll see stay-at-home moms who are millionaires now because of one great little invention. But they’re the exception. That’s why they’re on Oprah. I’d like to see Oprah inteview one of the thousands, if not millions, of people who lost $100,000 or more on some great little invention that nobody wanted to buy.

It’s been said during the California Gold Rush that the only people who got rich were the merchants who sold supplies to the miners. And it’s the same for inventors The real money in inventions comes in providing services to the inventor, like the patent lawyers, the inventor’s assistance groups, the infomercial production companies. Just as the shop keeper in California didn’t care whether the miner struck gold with the pick axe he'd sold him, none of these service providers has any stake in your product taking off. They make just as much money if you fail miserably.

So if you think you've got a great idea, by all means follow your dream. But don't bet the farm on it.

Posted by judy5cents at 8:31 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 20 July 2005
The Middle Aged Woman Who Read A Book

I have finished Harry Potter And the Half Blood Prince. I now know who dies and who the Half-Blood Prince is and who snogs who. It takes a lot of time to get through a 652 page book, so I skipped yesterday’s entry. Hope you all don’t mind.

Anyway, I feel as if I’ve eaten an entire box of Chocolate Frogs. An immensely enjoyable experience to be sure, but you feel a bit bloated when you’re done and more than a bit sad that the candy’s all gone now. It’s even worse knowing that there’s only one more book left in the series. After that one, there will be no more Harry Potter books. That truly is a sad prospect.

J.K. Rowling is an amazingly gifted story teller. She has what Stephen King calls “the gotta.” As in you just gotta keep reading to find out what happens next. When describing “the gotta” in the book Misery, King even goes so far as to compare it to a particular sexual technique practiced by cheap hookers. It’s that guilty pleasure of staying up late with a book that you can’t put down.

I’d say Rowling has more of the gotta than any writer in history, but her writing style is not the greatest. Since I’ve read the books so many times, I find her overuse of the word “muttered” instead of the word “said” irritating. And she has an annoying habit of describing how every character says each sentence– Hagrid said gruffly. Harry said loudly. Ron said brusquely. Hermione said uncertainly. Dumbledore said calmly (Those were all found at random in Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, by the way.)

There’s a cardinal rule among writing groups–if you find an adverb, kill it. The idea is that the reader should be able to tell how the character said the sentence by the words themselves. “I know what you’ve been up to, Malfoy, you sleazy dark wizard!” he said. See? You already know he said it menacingly or icily, or forcefully or whatever.

Now of course, you’re all reminding me that Rowling has sold something like 200 million books. And you’re right. With that kind of success, she can use all the adverbs she wants. You can bet that hundreds of millions of people, including me, will still read the next book, adverbs and all.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:39 AM EDT
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Monday, 18 July 2005
Hangin's Too Good For Him
I believe the death penalty should be abolished.

For a long time, I waffled over the issue. On one hand, I honestly felt that killing was wrong, but then I would hear horrific descriptions of what a soon to be executed killer had done and my reaction was “Yeah, fry the bastard.”

It was Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing that changed my mind. Now here was a bastard who definitely deserved to be fried. He drove a truck full of explosives up to the Murrah Federal Building, fully aware of the daycare center on the first floor, where there were at least a couple dozen babies and toddlers.

He knew he was killing children.

McVeigh’s justification for the bombing was that it was in response to the siege by federal agents of David Karesh’s Waco, Texas compound. The standoff between Karesh and the Feds ended when the compound burst into flames. Depending on who you listen to, the fire was set either by Karesh going out in a blaze of glory, or agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms hoping to take him out for good. It was this second version of events which McVeigh believed.

He was also angry about a similar incident at Ruby Ridge and the execution of a leader of the militia movement.

The bombing was an act of revenge.

When I read about McVeigh’s reasons for this atrocity, I could see the possibility of more revenge bombings happening if McVeigh were executed. And then I realized that capital punishment is in reality state sponsored revenge. It has to stop.

Death penalty proponents ask me how I’d feel about capital punishment if it were my daughter who was raped and killed.

I know exactly how I’d feel. I’d want to go after the monster who killed her with a machete and hack him to pieces. Then I’d most likely want him to come back to life so I could kill him again. I would want to inflict as much pain and agony on him as I possibly could.

I do not want the state acting on behalf of my worst instincts. And I don’t believe the execution is humane or any less cruel just because it’s been made painless.

The National Coalition for the Abolishment of the Death Penalty (NCADP) gives these reasons for opposing state sponsored killing:

"First and foremost, the death penalty devalues all human life - eliminating the possibility for transformation of spirit that is intrinsic to humanity. Secondly, the death penalty is fallible and irrevocable - over one hundred people have been released from death row on grounds of innocence in this "modern era" of capital punishment. Thirdly, the death penalty continues to be tainted with race and class bias. It is overwhelmingly a punishment reserved for the poor (95% of the over 3700 people under death sentence could not afford a private attorney) and for racial minorities (55% are people of color). Finally, the death penalty is a violation of our most fundamental human rights - indeed, the United States is the only western democracy that still uses the death penalty as a form of punishment."

Timothy McVeigh died believing he was a martyr to his own cause. If he’d been given a life sentence without parole, maybe one day he’d have gotten out of bed and finally realized he had killed children. That what he had done in the name of freedom was wrong.

Abolishing the death penalty does not mean the inmates on death row will get away with murder. Life in prison is a miserable life, and if the killer lives a long time, that’s a lot of misery. And if it turns out he was wrongly convicted, we have the opportunity to make it right.

Except of course, in Texas, where they’ve never executed an innocent man.

Posted by judy5cents at 1:47 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 18 July 2005 1:50 PM EDT
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Friday, 15 July 2005
I Know, I'll Just Write A Bestselling Book And Become Stinking Rich
At the stroke of midnight tonight, J.K. Rawling’s book Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince will go on sale.

We’re buying it. We’ll be waiting until Saturday morning, ready to pay $17.95 so we can find out what happens to Harry this time around.

And that is why J.K. Rawling is so outrageously wealthy. Because people like us, that is people who never buy books in hardback, will always buy the newest Harry Potter book as soon as it comes out.

That’s an astounding feat, considering how many books were published this year. And I’m just talking about the ones from the major houses. You know, your Random House, your Harper Collins, your Simon and Schuster, your St. Martins, your Scholastic Books and so on. These are the books with the reviews in The New York Times and the feature articles in Newsweek and the author appearances on the Today Show.

We don’t buy those books. We wait for them to come out in paperback. Or we buy them used from Amazon Marketplace. Or borrow them from the library. Or maybe we’re just not interested in reading them at all, no matter how much advance publicity or how many rave reviews the book has received. We just don’t care.

And therein lies the paradox for authors. Because, even though we know we don’t spend that much money on books ourselves, especially the brand new hardcover editions on display at Barnes & Noble’s, we believe that Other People will buy our book. All yet-to-be published authors are absolutely sure that once their books get into print, they will fly off the shelves. All published authors (except for J.K. Rawling, of course) can attest to the fact that this particular scenario isn’t going to happen without a lot of work.

There’s a huge difference between somebody showing interest in your book and actually shelling out the money to buy it.

Now I happen to be a published author of an obscure mystery called Caviar Dreams. (Aside from a place to vent, this blog is also a feeble attempt at self-promotion.) As you probably have noticed, I’m nowhere near the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. If you look me up on Amazon, my official Sales Rank is #1,523,225. (It would help if Amazon didn't take three months to send it out and charge extra because it's a "hard to get" book) My royalty check this year wasn’t enough to cover dinner for one at Longhorn Steakhouse.

If you judge me by my book sales, I’m a dismal failure. But it’s not about making money. I decided a long time ago that success as an author would be when people I don't even know read my book, and they write to tell me they enjoyed it. That’s happened. More than once. I have a real book out there, it was published by a real publisher and anyone who wants to pay $15.00 (a bit much, but I don’t get to set the prices) can buy it.

And even though it’s not flying off the shelves anywhere, it’s still pretty damn cool to have a book out.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:51 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 15 July 2005 1:17 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 12 July 2005
Someday We'll Live In A World Without Photo Albums
This has to be quick because I'm up to my eyeballs in Nichols Family photographs. For some reason I thought it would be a great idea to make an official scrapbook for my mother's 80th birthday.

It's this Saturday and I'm way behind.

I'm discovering I'm not a scrap book person. I don't get the edges straight and my backings are kind of bumpy from the special acid-free glue. I understand there's practically a cult of women out there who do this kind of thing for fun (what's up with that?) but I never want to do this again.

For me, organizing my family photos means stuffing them all in the same box in the closet. I stopped putting them in albums around 1998. Which explains why I couldn't find any pictures of my daughter for Christmas that year. I made do with a photo of her wearing a snowsuit and standing by the front door, which has a wreath on it. For all I know that picture could have been taken in January or February. Sometimes we leave the wreath on the door for months.

We have a scanner and after this I'm now inspired to commit all our photographs to the hard drive. The photos we take now are all digital anyway.

Okay, you can't touch them. But you're not supposed to touch pictures anyway. You leave fingerprints.

Already, you can buy digital frames that display your pictures just like they were printed on paper. And this gadget will change them automatically.

I've found photos I'd forgotten existed. I can't help but thinking what a waste it is to keep them in a box. Memories should be seen and not lost.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:56 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 12 July 2005 10:58 PM EDT
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Monday, 11 July 2005
Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child?

Listen to talk radio and sooner or later you’ll hear somebody, most likely old and conservative, call in and say this country would be in a lot better shape if corporal punishment were used in the public schools.

That call is usually followed by a conscientious young mother who passionately affirms her belief that spanking is nothing less than child abuse and no teacher or school administrator has the right to lay a hand or her child or anyone else’s.

I lived through corporate punishment. I went to elementary school in Batavia, Ohio in the 1960s, where it was standard practice. For the record, I got swats for talking in seventh grade study hall–something that is sure to bring a law suit now. With that notable exception, in general, I was well-behaved and attentive in class, along with everyone else. So obviously corporal punishment worked.

I can’t speak for everyone I went to school with, but on the whole we were not in favor of it. We thought it sucked. But we didn’t question it. We were spanked at home, it made perfect sense that we could be spanked at school.

If anyone did complain to their parents about it, the typical answer was “Well, do what your teacher says, and you won’t get paddled.”

I don’t recall feeling abused at school. It wasn’t like we sat down at our desks every morning, cowering in fear of the beatings that were sure to come. It didn’t happen that often and when someone did get swats, it was always one of the “usual suspects.”

These boys were tough, though. They took it like men. They gritted their teeth and didn’t make a sound. And they didn’t cry, that’s for sure.

You’d think the teachers would have figured out that with these kids, corporal punishment was failing as a means of behavior modification. I’m pretty sure they knew that. My guess is they used it to keep the rest of us in line.

Except it wasn’t the paddle that kept us in line. It was our parents. These were people who’d lived through the Great Depression and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. They drilled into us that it was our duty to work hard in school and respect the teacher, and not to forget that if we ever got in trouble at school, we’d get into trouble at home too. And most of the time, they would believe the teacher over us.

It was a different time. Nobody’s mother worked. There were only three channels on television and it was all soap operas and game shows when you came home from school. There was no internet and no violent video games. There was a strict dress code at school. Who’s to say which of these things caused us to sit quietly at our desks and pay attention to Mrs. Whosits?

In education, theories come and go about behavior management. Kids do need limits. And I can tell you that corporal punishment will not warp you for life.

But it still sucks. And it doesn’t work.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:43 PM EDT
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Saturday, 9 July 2005
Shameless Attempt At Website Hits

No pithy comments on world events tonight. (As if there ever are any here) Instead, I am pandering to all the losers out there by appealing to their baser insticts. I'm going to use the word "Nude" and then name as many celebrities as I can, so anyone out there doing a search for something like "Dwight Yoakum Nude" will be directed here. Please understand I have no desire to see any of these people nude, although, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, "Even the president of the United States must someties have to stand naked.

Feel free to add any I missed.

Hillary Duff
Sandra Day O'Connor
Dick Cheney
David Letterman
Johnny Depp
Oprah Winfrey
Paris Hilton
Brad Pitt
Bo Bice
William Rehnquist
Katie Couric
Matt Lauer
Liza Minelli
Natalie Portman
Nicole Kidman
Tom Cruise
Katie Holmes
Angelina Jolie
Bill Clinton
Lindsay Lohan
Jennifer Garner
Jessica Alba
Reese Witherspoon
Jane Seymour
Sean Connery
George Clooney
Jenna & Barbara Bush
Terri Hatcher
Marsha Brady
Susan Dey
Pamela Andreson
Heather Lochlear
Morgan Fairchild
John Stewart
Dolly Parton
The White Stripes
Tom Waits
James Dobson
Condelezza Rice

Made you look, sleezoid.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:41 PM EDT
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Friday, 8 July 2005
MIles O'Brien And Soledad O'Brien Are Not Married

Even though I've got the low rent server, I can still check on who comes here and why. If you do a search through Google to get here, I'll know your search criteria. Lately, the most popular search has been "Are Miles O'Brien and Soledad O'Brien Married?"

Guess what? The answer is no. Soledad O'Brien is married to a man named Brad Raymond and if you watch CNN on a regular basis, she often mentions him. O'Brien is her maiden name. Like lots of women, she decided she'd rather stay Soledad O'Brien, the name she started out with, rather than go through the hassle of officially becoming Soledad Raymond. O'Brien is a fairly common last name and lots of people have it. Including her colleague Miles. They are not married. They probably don't even know each other very well.

I bet she misses her old partner Bill Hemmer. And in case you came here looking for the second most popular Google search that gets people to this site, let me say once and for all there are no nude photos of Bill Hemmer here. But let me know if you find any.

So now that you know Soledad's really married to, feel free to take a lookg at the rest of my blog.  Just like the old Seinfeld show, it's about nothing, and a complete waste of time, but it's kind of fun.

Posted by judy5cents at 8:19 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007 10:38 AM EST
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Thursday, 7 July 2005
War On Whatever
How do we choose names for wars? Who gets to decide?

Because we’ve had so many of them, it’s imperative for us to name all our wars so we know which carnage we’re talking about when we study them in American History.

It’s been said that history is written by the winners. But the losing side still has its say.

Take the war that occurred in the 1860s between the Union Army of the northern states of America and the Confederate Army of the southern states of America. I was taught that it was called The Civil War (although there was nothing civil about it). Or The War Between The States. That’s in Ohio. Here in North Carolina it’s referred to as The War of Northern Aggression.

Not surprisingly, the war which we call The Viet Nam war is known as The American War to the people in Viet Nam. And the Iraqui people have taken to calling the war going on in their country The American War, even though the Americans refer to it as The War in Iraq. Or just Iraq.

Which brings us to The War On Terror. That’s what we call it. The folks on the other side call it something else. The War Against The Great Satan. Or The Holy War Against The Evil Crusaders.

I don’t believe you can really call what happened in the London subways this morning part of a war. In a war, there are two sides and they face each other in battle. We take your guys out then you take our guys out and we go back and forth like that until one of us gives up. That can go on for years, Having the president dress up in a flight suit and announce “Mission Accomplished” doesn’t do much toward ending it either.

But terrorists fight a different war. They don’t face anyone in battle. They hide in plain sight, taking advantage of the lack of restrictions in free societies like the US and Great Britain. Then they kill people who have no idea that they are fighting a war. People who are basically minding their own business, on their way to work.

Terrorists don’t call themselves terrorists. They probably like to call themselves Freedom Fighters or Soldiers In The War Against The Great Satan or just Martyrs For The Cause.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been hearing about terrorist attacks. Back in the 1970s, it was the Irish Republican Army (IRA) setting off bombs all over Britain. Palestinian terrorists killed the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The Symbionese Liberation Army robbed banks and kidnapped Patti Hearst in 1974. Militant students bombed buildings on college campuses. Terror is nothing new.

And in all that time, no one has come up with a way to stop it. We can’t nuke them. We can’t invade their home bases. We can’t attack them with tanks and rocket launchers and nuclear warheads. We can’t negotiate with them because that will only encourage them. We do our best to catch them and sometimes we take down a few. But unlike the National Guard, the Terrorist Army is having no trouble meeting their recruiting goals.

And so it goes. The only way it will end is for somebody to give up. And that’s not going to happen any time soon, no matter what this war is called.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:28 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 7 July 2005 11:35 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 6 July 2005
Oh, Evolve!
Who’d have thunk it? A would-be contender for the Darwin Awards right here in Wilmington NC.

If you’ve squandered enough of your life in meaningless pursuits on the Internet, you are no doubt aware of this dubious honor given to people who have improved the gene pool by removing themselves from it in incredibly stupid ways.

This past weekend, Floyd Masters jumped into Greenfield Lake and was attacked by a ten foot alligator. Fortunately for Mr. Masters, he was disqualified from the competition for the Darwin Award due to the fact that a couple of bystanders decided to rescue him.

Generally, if you see someone swimming in Greenfield Lake, you figure they’re too stupid to live anyway.

First of all, posted all around the lake are signs with big letters that say “No Swimming, Alligators in Lake” You can’t miss them. It was seeing those signs warning of alligators that made us realize that we really weren’t in Indiana any more.

The alligators aren’t always in the lake, but the snapping turtles are. They are not at all like your backyard box turtles. These guys mean business. Once we found one in the middle of the road by the lake and my husband tried to pick it up so it wouldn’t get run over. It flailed around and chomped at the air, prompting my husband to leave the turtle to whatever fate had in store for it, as he’d grown fond of all ten of his fingers.

And then there’s the water. It’s covered with a nasty looking green goo. Local environmentalists are working on clearing out the algae blooms, but it’s slow going. In the meantime you don’t want to go swimming in that crud.

Now, Greenfield Lake is a beautiful spot. It’s a great place to have picnics and people have weddings in the exquisitely landscaped gardens. You can go fishing and boating and watch the herons and the cormorants flying across the water. You can walk the five mile trail around the lake.

So if any of you out there decide to visit Greenfield Lake while you're in Wilmington, keep in mind that when the signs tell you to watch out for the alligators, you need to watch out for the alligators.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:18 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 July 2005 10:25 PM EDT
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