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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Tuesday, 26 July 2005
Being A College Sophomore--Three of The Best Years of My Life
My husband and I won’t be paying for our daughter’s college education.

I hear all of you gasping in disbelief. What sort of parents are we to refuse to pay for our only child to attend college?

Here’s the deal. I was 39 when my daughter was born, which means I’ll be 61 when she graduates from college. According to CNN, the annual average cost of a four year state university is $11,354, and that includes room and board. Private colleges have an annual average cost of $27,516. That was in 2004. Who knows what it will cost in the fall of 2013 when our daughter graduates from high school?

We just can’t come up with that kind of money so close to retirement. That’s a time when you need to eliminate debt, not take on more. A 22 year old with a whole working future ahead of her will be in a much better position to pay off college debt than a couple living off of IRAs and pensions. We could even become a burden to her if our money runs out because we spent so much on her education.

The high cost of college makes it nearly impossible to save up enough to cover the entire cost, even if you start from the day your child is born, which we have done.

I realize it isn’t fair. I went to Beloit College, in Beloit, Wisconsin then transferred to Kent State University in Ohio. I had the opportunity to go off to a liberal arts college, take courses in Greek Mythology and 20th Century American Literature, and concentrate on finding myself.

Of course, my parents never paid for my education. I was injured in a car accident when I was seven years old and my father made some wise investments with the settlement money.

By the way, I was sitting in the front seat and not wearing a seat belt. (It was 1963 and people just didn’t use seat belts like they do now.) I suppose that’s a possible source of college funding, but I’m obviously not willing to have my daughter sit up front without a seat belt and wait for someone with insurance to cause an accident.

My daughter’s college experience will not be like mine. She won’t go off to a private college, unless she can manage to obtain a full scholarship. Most likely, she will attend a state university and live at home while she does it. She’ll also have to work part-time while she goes to school. She’ll scrounge around for grants and scholarships and she’ll take out student loans.

It is my hope that with the responsibility of paying for her education fully on her shoulders, she will choose a field that will give her the best chance of paying off her loans. I certainly don’t want her to go into debt to major in music or art history. Don’t get me wrong, music and art history are worthy pursuits, but there just aren’t a lot of employers out there with a burning need for musicians and art historians.

We want the best for our daughter, but in addition to learning to appreciate Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, we’d like her to develop the ability to manage money, to use her time wisely and to experience the pride of accomplishing her goals on her own, without a lot of help from Mom and Dad.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:45 AM EDT
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Friday, 22 July 2005
Stil Missing

Over the July 4th holiday, we went back to my home town of Batavia, Ohio, a great place to grow up by the way. Everyone knew your business so everyone stayed out of trouble.

It used to be like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, but lately it’s become a bit of a ghost town. When the Eastgate Mall opened in 1978, all the local stores that sold groceries and hardware and major appliances closed down. So most of the real estate on Main Street has been taken over by county offices. (Batavia is the county seat).

One thing you notice right away is the bedraggled yellow ribbons hanging everywhere. They’ve been out since April of last year, when Batavia resident Pfc. Keith Matthew Maupin was taken hostage by insurgents in Iraq. He was reported to have been executed June 28, 2004 when the Arab television network Al-Jazeera broadcast a fuzzy video showing a soldier identified as Pfc. Maupin shot in the head. But US officials declared the video inconclusive.

Officially Sgt Maupin (he was promoted in absentia) is missing in action, assumed to be a prisoner of war.

This was a story you heard a lot about. My parents saw the big news trucks parked on Main Street while the people from the news networks interviewed the locals about how awful it was to lose one of their own in this war. President Bush even spoke to Sgt. Maupin’s parents when he came to Cincinnati during the 2004 campaign.

Sometimes I wonder when he’s thinking about the war, which he says he does every day, if he thinks about Matt Maupin and his family and friends.

Now he’s been forgotten. The nation’s attention has been diverted by Michael Jackson’s trial and Natalie Holloway’s disappearance and who wins on American Idol. It’s only one kid from a town no one’s ever heard of. It was sad, sure. But life goes on.

Life is on hold for the Maupins. Their son is gone, but there’s no body to bury and the Red Cross can’t send him CARE packages in prison. No one knows where he is and no one seems to care.

Except for the people in Batavia. The ribbons are still there. The Snappy Tomato at the corner of Main and Riverside Drive still implores us to pray for Matt Maupin and his family. Everyone in town continues to show their support of the Maupin family. Even without the cameras rolling

Posted by judy5cents at 4:49 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 22 July 2005 8:28 PM EDT
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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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