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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Thursday, 1 September 2005
Another Ordinary Day


This morning my husband couldn’t find his car keys and my daughter forgot to put on her socks, almost missing the bus. Also, we discovered that nobody had any cash when my husband asked for some. (My fault, I’d forgotten to go to the ATM yesterday).

It was a normal Thursday morning for us. And I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.

Our electricity is working just fine and so is our air conditioning. We have phone service and hot and cold running water and the A-1 Sanitation truck rolled by around 10 am to pick up our trash. We have clean clothes, three working vehicles and plenty of food stored in a working refrigerator. We have access to internet and satellite television.

Like everyone else in this country, I’m thinking about the people hit by Hurricane Katrina. In New Orleans and Gulf Coast Mississippi, everything’s gone, even law and order. The Big Easy is underwater and dead bodies are floating by the New Orleans Convention Center. One of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen is now a big stinking mess.

Most of the residents of New Orleans managed to leave town. But with no access to cars, the poorest residents were forced to ride out the storm, either in their own homes or in the makeshift shelter of the Super Dome. Now they’re stuck, with no food and no water, waiting to be evacuated to the Astro Dome in Houston.

The state of Texas has offered to take the Louisiana refugees in, providing shelter for the long term and making room for their children in the Houston schools.

Disasters bring out the best and worst in all of us.

Perhaps the most haunting image for me is some footage I saw on CNN. An woman in New Orleans was walking through the shelter with her four small children holding hands in a line behind her. They all looked scared and confused, but they were together and you knew they were going to stay together.

These are the times we need to all hold hands and stick together. That's the only way we'll get through it.

Posted by judy5cents at 1:46 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 30 August 2005
Nine Hundred Thousand Bloggers Blogging
I am the first to admit it. I am a person with way too much time on her hands. Not that I don’t have better things to do. Right now I probably should be doing the laundry, or out buying dog food (we ran out today) or looking for a real job, or even working on that novel I claim to be writing. I have just chosen to spend the morning here, spewing forth to no one in particular.

And I’m not alone.

Out of curiosity I googled the phrase “Writer’s Blog” and got 891,000 hits. Of course even I don’t have the time or inclination to go through nearly a million websites, so I just sampled a dozen or so.

There’s WritersBlog.com, a daily journal with haiku, tanka, photos, insights and illuminations. Strictly speaking, it’s no longer a daily journal. The last entry of haiku, tanka, insights and illuminations was on February 25.

Then there’s Redwritinghood.com which bills itself as “ALL NEW ridiculously improved, fabulously superb RedWritingHood.com is now a blog! We feature a growing list of contributing editors/writers/publishers who will share their insight on the writing craft and life.” This blog is current, but do you really want to hear about the revisions of the blogger’s latest vampire novel?

Barry W. Morris writes once every two or three months. Last entry was May 26, the one before that was March 28. He is working on a book tentatively called Mediation for Writers: How to Enhance Creativity, Improve Your Writing, & Find Enlightenment Through Meditation. I guess he’s busy writing and meditating.

New York Times Best Selling Novelist James Michael Pratt kept a blog for two days. He is the author of The Good Heart and The Lighthouse Keeper.

“I look forward to sharing my thoughts this year and hearing from you. Please feel free to share our writers blog with your friends & family. Check back every Sunday for my latest posting," he wrote on January 2.

He posted a review of the film Finding Neverland on January 7 and never blogged again.

Vikk and Heather, two boomer writers, "explore the galaxies of writing, publishing and beyond." in their blog Blog Trek

On August 27, there was this a discussion of online purchasing:

“Today's technology provides us with more conveniences and options than we ever had before, but sometimes all these choices, or even the absolute need to make choices even when we don't want to do so, becomes overwhelming.”

I never knew it was such a stressful thing having to decide between cable and sattelite. You poor, poor thing.

There’s a website called Authorsblogs.com that will give you access to the insights of more writers (published and aspiring) than you ever thought possible. Here are a few examples:

Johanna Edwards - Award-winning entertainment journalist turned chick lit author dishes on the publishing industry, pop culture, and women's issues.

Elizabeth Mahon - – Blog about the quirky thoughts and madcap adventures of a thirty-something aspiring romance/chick-lit writer and administrative drone

James Sheehan - Literary news, rants, writer angst (can’t get enough of that writer angst!)

Leigh Ellwood - The trials and tribulations of an erotic romance author.

Allison Knight - My thoughts on life, living and loving as I write.

Right.

I got a blog. You got a blog. Big F***in’ Deal.

Excuse me. I’d love to stay here and expound upon my writer angst but I have to buy some Kibbles & Bits.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:49 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 1 September 2005 1:50 PM EDT
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Friday, 26 August 2005
Mindset Lists--2009 VS 1978
Every year Beloit College of Beloit, Wisconsin releases what is known as the "Mindset List" for the class of incoming freshmen. It’s designed to make everyone past the age of 35 feel really old, as it details all the events, innovations and cultural icons that mean a lot to us, but nothing to them.

Here’s some of the items from this year’s list:

Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin have always been dead.

They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors.

Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.

Pay-Per-View television has always been an option.

They never had the fun of being thrown into the back of a station wagon with six others.

Car stereos have always rivaled home component systems.

Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker have never preached on television.

Voice mail has always been available.

The federal budget has always been more than a trillion dollars.

Starbucks has always been around the corner.

Ferdinand Marcos has never been in charge of the Philippines.

Money put in their savings account the year they were born earned almost 7 percent interest.

Bill Gates has always been worth at least a billion dollars.

Southern fried chicken, prepared with a blend of 11 herbs and spices, has always been available in China.

Now, as I’ve said before, I attended Beloit College for two years. In 1974, I was one of Beloit’s incoming freshman, except they didn’t call us that. (At that time Beloit was being innovative and had no class year distinctions. We were just called first term students in our “underclass year.”)

It was truly a historic time. Three weeks before my parents dropped me and my stuff off in the wilds of Wisconsin, the government had teetered on the edge of falling apart. But the system worked. Richard Nixon resigned the presidency and Vice President Gerald Ford took over.

So what is it that those 35 and above could have said about 18 year olds in 1974?

They’ve always had television.

They were born 11 years after VJ Day.

Johnny Carson has always been the host of the Tonight Show.

Robespierre is a figure from the French Revolution, not Baby Snooks’ little brother.

There has always been a space program.

All they know about the Korean War is what they’ve seen on M*A*S*H.

Cigarette smoking has always been linked to lung cancer.

There has always been a polio vaccine.

There has always been a birth control pill.

They have never bought a 78 rpm record.

“I Love Lucy” has always been in re-runs.

Telephones have always had a dial tone.

Times change and despite their best efforts, people grow old. As I recall, 1974 was not the dark ages. There were cars and computers and cable television and video cameras and dishwashers, just like now. Ancient times are never considered ancient to the people who lived through them.

So it’s comforting to know that when the class of 2034 arrives at Beloit, there will be a list that makes the class of 2009 feel just as old as I do now.

And remember, inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:49 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005 10:54 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 24 August 2005
Doomed To An Ordinary Life

It’s the last day before school starts here in North Carolina. Thanks to the power of the tourist industry, my daughter’s summer vacation was extended two weeks by the state legislature, thereby making it possible for us to get in one last visit to Jungle Rapids.

Except it’s been so hot the last two weeks we don’t feel like moving, let alone getting in the car and going to a water park.

Yesterday we visited my daughter’s school, a brand spanking new elementary school. The place is huge. It’s bigger than most middle schools and some high schools. The reason for its vastness, I’m told, is to avoid the dreaded mobile class rooms which are used when the school population exceeds available space. (I’m OK with that. Aly spent second grade in a trailer and I’d rather she not do that again.)

Now I’m about to admit something that will shock many of you. My soon-to-be fifth grader is at a severe educational disadvantage.

She never went to pre-school.

Yes, my sweet baby was deprived the enriching experience of spending three mornings a week learning letters and numbers and all the words to The Wheels On The Bus.

It’s not that I didn’t want her to go to pre-school. There just wasn’t anyone around to take her there and pick her up three hours later. I was working three days a week. My husband had a full time job. My parents were retired, but they lived an hour away.

So Aly went to a baby sitter who lived close by and probably was taking care of more kids than was even legal. But it didn’t matter to my daughter. She loved it. Instead of learning to count to ten in Spanish, she’d spend her days outside with a bunch of other three and four year olds playing. Yes, playing–-running, swinging, going down the slide, digging in the sand, fighting over toys, doing whatever it is three year olds like to do.

If she missed anything, I haven’t noticed it. She learned how to read in kindergarten and she always scores above grade level in her reading tests. She does well in math too.

I have never understood the cutthroat tactics of parents trying to get their children into The Right pre-school. What do these places do anyway? Teach quantum physics and geometry for toddlers? Does that work?

Hey, I have no regrets. My kid had fun. And you only get to be a kid once.




Posted by judy5cents at 8:39 AM EDT
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Monday, 22 August 2005
Ask Your Doctor About....

"I don’t want to run a marathon. I just want to go upstairs and give my grandson a bath.”

Remember that ad? A very nice fiftyish woman is happily playing with a two year old boy. She is free of pain because she takes Vioxx. This wonder drug has given her the ability to the simple things she enjoys doing.

Millions of people saw that commercial and asked their doctors about Vioxx. Merck, the pharmaceutical company that produced the drug, made lots of money.

Last year Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market because of links between taking Vioxx and an increase in heart disease and strokes. The Vioxx commercials disappared, to be replaced by commercials featuring lawyers asking “Have you or a loved one taken Vioxx and suffered these problems?”

Friday, the first of 4,000 law suits was decided. Texas widow Carol Ernst was awarded 250 million dollars for the wrongful death of her husband Robert, whose heart arhythmia was believed to be caused by taking Vioxx for eight months. The final amount of money Mrs. Ernst receives will be reduced to most likely a tenth of that award, but considering how many cases are out there waiting to be decided, it doesn’t bode well for Merck.

This is a very good thing.

The reason there are so many lawsuits claiming damage is because so many people took the drug. Why? It was advertised on television directly to consumers, who in turn asked their doctors to prescribe it. The results depended on the individual doctors, but a fair amount of physicians do write prescriptions for a particular drug when asked. And that’s what Vioxx was banking on.

But that strategy has come back to bite them in the butt.

I am hoping that all drug companies will take Merck’s legal troubles as a cue to completely re-think their advertising strategy. Despite the list of warnings, commercials for prescription drugs always make each one like some kind of magic elixir. Your cholesterol will go down, your heartburn will disappear, your bones will be stronger, your ugly yellow toe nails will grow in clear, your allergies will go away, you won’t get hot flashes, you won’t get pregnant, and of course, if you happen to be a man who needs a little help in the bedroom, you can get it up and keep it up and please that lovely woman of yours all night long. (in case of erections lasting four or more hours, seek immediate medical attention).

The truth is that these drugs can help but they can’t cure. They won’t work for every one who takes them. Plus they have side effects, some of which can be serious. (That toe nail drug can cause liver damage). The cost of advertising is included in the price of the drug, which just adds to the ever increasing cost of health care. The drug companies claim they are educating the consumer about certain health conditions, but who are they kidding? They’re in it to make money.

Perhaps the drug companies will decide that television advertising is not so great for business after all and go back to marketing exclusively to doctors. At the very least, we’ll be able to watch the news without the embarrassment of having to hear about erections lasting four hours.

Posted by judy5cents at 12:39 PM EDT
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Thursday, 18 August 2005
The Reviews Are In...
Since our beloved NewsWorld International channel bit the dust to make way for Al Gore’s Current TV, I’ve been scouring the web for reviews. I’ve found them.

Things don’t look good for this supposedly cutting edge sattelite channel.

Here’s what the critics are saying about Al’s attempt to re-invent television by broadcasting (and re-broadcasting and re-broadcasting and re-broadcasting) those seven minute documentaries called pods, aimed at 18 to 34 year olds:

Christopher Flickinger of Human Events Online:

“I’ve never seen a more mind-numbing television network than this one. Viewers could find more educational content on the back of a milk carton than they could by subjecting themselves to Current TV. “

Lena Berkowitz, Houston Chronicle

“On the first day of broadcasting, Current TV seemed a lot like a grown-up version of Sesame Street — without the Muppets.”

She goes on to note that the same pods were repeated dozens of times throughout the day.

Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune:

“Ever have a teacher who tried way too hard to be ‘down’ with the kids? Who never knew that he was using out-of-date lingo or patronizing the intelligence of the people he wanted to befriend?

If you have a masochistic desire to spend hours with that kind of person, you could always tune into Current TV, a new cable channel that debuted in 20 million homes nationwide on Monday. (August 1, 2005)”

Heather Havrilesky of Salon.com:

“The hosts not only introduce each segment with inane, bubbly comments that make it sound far more fluffy and empty than it is, but they reappear after each segment to sum up their feelings about what happened. This is why we know that watching a pod about dating in Iran makes former Miss USA Shauntay Hinton realize 'how lucky I am to be free to do what the hell I wanna do! Yeah!'...As a result, tuning in to Current TV sometimes feels like going to see a moving documentary with a semiliterate preteen who insists on recasting the entire story in the shallowest of terms the second the credits start to roll."

I’ve watched snippets of Current TV since its debut (OK, I said earlier that I'd delete the channel, but I figure I should at least take a look to see if it improves) Here’s a few examples of cutting edge programming. After the birth of their daughter, a young couple discovers baby poop is smelly. Looking for real estate in New York, a young couple discovers that it’s outrageously expensive. After getting married, a young couple discovers they fight about money. After Paris Hilton’s Blackberry was stolen, Current TV staffer Jason Gunn discovers his phone number was posted on the web and he gets lots of weird phone calls.

After about two minutes of watching Current TV, I discover I want to watch something else.

My own opinion is that the Nothing Longer Than Seven Minutes format will kill this network. At best, Current TV provides something to watch during the three or four minutes of commercials showing on real television. If viewers are only clicking over and clicking back for three or four minutes at a time, they sure as hell aren’t going to stick around for the commercials. Not a good idea if you need to sell ad time to make money.

I’m predicting that Current TV will gone by September.



Posted by judy5cents at 11:24 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005 11:29 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 16 August 2005
What are the odds?
This past weekend my brother-in-law Steve won $100,000 in the Powerball Lottery. Not big money–my sister says it’s not enough to change their lives at all–but it’s better than a kick in the pants.

Now it just so happens that on that same weekend, I also bought tickets in the Powerball Lottery. I happened to be in South Carolina, which sponsors lottery games. North Carolina does not, although I understand the State Legislature is working on changing that.

I’m not a big fan of lotteries, but occasionally I will indulge in what I like to call my three dollar daydream. For the afternoon before the drawing, I know I have just as much chance of winning as anyone else does, and I can happily imagine all the things I’ll do with the money.

I always plan on giving a hefty chunk of it to charity, and to his credit, my brother-in-law says he'll do that too.

Steve bought ten tickets, so his odds of winning the $100,000 prize were ten out of 2,939,677. That’s .0000034%. Or to put it the other way round, it’s a 99.9999966% probability that he paid ten dollars for a worthless piece of paper.

Steve’s odds of winning the Powerball Grand Prize Jackpot were astronomical–ten out of 120,526,770. That was .000000008%.

So a person buying ten lottery tickets in the Powerball has a 99.999999992% chance of getting nothing (or sweet FA as my husband Nigel would put it).

It’s been said the lottery is a tax on stupid people. Or people who can’t do math. You don’t need a PhD in math to know that 99.999999992% is damn near 100% and that your chances of winning are about as good if you don’t buy a ticket.

But knowing that the odds are against them doesn’t stop people from buying tickets. I know my brother-in-law’s habit of spending five or ten dollars on the Powerball every other week is harmless and for him, it paid off. However, I’ve always believed lotteries are a sneaky way for the state to bring in money by promising people that they can win a hundred million dollars or more. Low income people are more inclined to spend money on lottery tickets and these are the people who can least afford it.

Anyway, now that I’ve gone over the odds of lotteries, I looked up the odds on other events.

The National Safety Council says that for a person born in 2002, the odds of dying from contact with poisonous snakes and lizards are 1 in 1,241,661. The odds of dying in a car accident or 1 in 228.

According to Gregory Baer, who wrote the book Life: The Odds And How To Improve Them, the odds of becoming president are 10 million to 1. The odds of writing a New York Times best seller are 220 to 1. (I find it hard to believe that I’m more likely to write a best seller than to die in a car accident) The odds of being hit by lightning are 567,000 to 1. The odds of getting away with murder are 2 to 1 against. The odds that you will be murdered are 18,000 to 1.

He also says that your odds of marrying a super model are 1 in 88,000. I’d say the odds improve significantly in your favor if you happen to be Rod Stewart.

I will leave you with the worst set of odds I found. If you are in your mid to late sixties and have smoked two packs a day since you were a teen-ager, your odds of developing lung cancer are one in seven. That’s 15%. But if you do get the disease, your chances of dying within five years are 85%.

Best bet--if you want to play the odds, skip the lottery, drive carefully and quit smoking. And forget about marrying a super model.

Posted by judy5cents at 8:03 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005 4:00 PM EDT
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Friday, 12 August 2005
Buddy, Can You Spare Some Time?

The Cape Fear Soccer Association is desperate to find a coach for my daughter’s soccer team. They need a volunteer and there aren’t any.

Yes I know. Why not me? Well, I just don’t want to do it. I don’t know anything about soccer and I’m not that patient with nine and ten year old girls. And I’m even less patient dealing with the complaints of the parents of nine and ten year old girls. It would be a disaster. I’m willing to help out at practice, but I am not qualified to coach. I believe I will do more harm than good.

So here we all are, wanting our children to participate in soccer and get all the benefits of competitive sports, but no one wants to do the work. We’re all waiting for Somebody Else to come forward.

I don’t know what happens if that Somebody Else never shows up. I expect our team will be disbanded. Hopefully the girls will go to other teams who have coaches and space for them. If not, I guess I’ll have to change my name of my blog to Rantings of a Crazed Former Soccer Mom.

I believe this situation is indicative of the attitudes of most Americans. We’re quite happy to reap the benefits of a volunteer’s efforts (in this case, coaching our daughters’ soccer team) but we’re not all that keen on volunteering ourselves.

Which brings me to the subject of our country’s all volunteer army. As citizens of this country, we are quite willing to accept the benefits provided by young men and women putting their lives on the line for our safety. We talk about how much we appreciate their sacrifice and put yellow ribbon magnets on our cars, but very few us are willing to go into the service ourselves, so recruiters are having a very difficult time meeting quotas.

I grew up during the Viet Nam era and always believed that the draft was evil and wrong. And I still do. But it also seems a bit selfish and arrogant on our part to assume that Somebody Else will make the sacrifices to protect our country.

We have it pretty easy in the U.S. Although I can’t see the draft ever being re-instated, it seems like more should be required of us, that we all sacrifice something for our country. I doubt if it will ever happen, but I’d like to see some kind of required community service when a person comes of age. Serve in the army, serve in the hospitals, serve in the schools, serve in the soup kitchens. Do something. Give back. Be that Somebody Else and do it.

As long as it’s not coaching nine and ten year old girls.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:07 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 10 August 2005
The Pottery Barn Rule
"You break it, you buy it."

I believe it was Colin Powell who cited the "Pottery Barn Rule" to the Bush administration as it was preparing to invade Iraq. No one listened of course.

Team Bush is listening now. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans do not support the war in Iraq and believe the troops should be brought home. We've broken Iraq and now we're just going to leave it in pieces on the ground.

Iraq was declared a sovereign nation more than a year ago, but the provisional government has yet to approve a constitution. The police force is woefully inadequate. Insurgents have infiltrated its ranks along with killing recruits as they wait in line to join up. The Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds can't agree among themselves and there's growing support for an repressive Islamic theocracy similar to Iran. Many of Iraq's precious antiquities dating back to the dawn of civilization were stolen and destroyed. There's still not enough clean water or power to supply the population.

Right now, American troops are about the only force keeping Iraq together. Once they leave, it will surely dissolve into civil war.

It wasn't like that when we got there.

I don't see any way out of this. If we stay, more American soldiers will die. If we leave, even more Iraqis will die, and the freedoms that we're so proud of ourselves for giving them will disappear in a repressive extremist regime.

Anyone got any ideas?

Posted by judy5cents at 2:41 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005 1:00 PM EDT
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Monday, 8 August 2005
Good-bye Peter Jennings

When Peter Jennings announced he had lung cancer back in April, I had a feeling he wouldn’t be back. But like everyone else, I didn’t expect him to go so quickly.

Of the three network news anchors, it was Jennings’ low key delivery I preferred. And as I look back on the last 20 years, whenever I remember any sort of major news events, it always has a Peter Jennings voiceover.

Who’d have thought back in 1985 that all three news anchors (Jennings, along with Tom Brokaw for NBC and Dan Rather of CBS) would be delivering the news well into the next century? And that they’d all leave the desk within a year of each other?

I don’t know who will replace Peter Jennings, and I don’t really care. As I’ve said before, I don’t like watching the American news networks, the coverage is too biased. Not liberal or conservative. Just catering to American tastes and interests.

I’m inclined to believe that whoever officially replaces Jennings will not be in the chair for twenty or thirty years. The era of the iconic news anchor is over. With so many news outlets, and so many choices, we can pick and choose who and what we watch. There’s no need for a father figure news anchor whom we’ve gradually grown to trust over the course of three generations. We’re not that patient and loyal any more.

I will adjust to this change, as I always have. But I sure will miss Peter Jennings.

Posted by judy5cents at 2:26 PM EDT
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