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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Monday, 18 October 2010
"Draculas" Making Vampires Scary Again

This is not your daughter's vampire novel.

There are no pretty pale immortals, locked in a valiant struggle to overcome their bloodthirsty nature. The Draculas embrace their bloodthirsty nature. In fact, they revel in it.

And they're not pretty.

It all begins innocently enough when eccentric millionaire Moritmore Moorecook purchases the so called "Vampire Skull." After coming in contact with the fangs, he morphs into a hideous monster, right in the emergency room of a rural hospital. He goes on a rampage, attacking anyone and everyone, turning his victims into Draculas too.
No one in the hospital is safe, not even the clown. (yes, there's a clown in this book). 

Of course there's a small band of brave wise-cracking heros, standing up to the hordes. They are hopelessly outnumbered and even when they do manage to overcome the monsters, the things just regenerate and come right back at them. Before the night is over, the hospital is piled high with blood and gore, and you don't know how these guys will get out of this. Or if they will.

Reading "Draculas" was like sneaking into the drive-in for a double feature of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Night of the Living Dead." It's a gory scarefest and not for the weak stomached.

In the introduction, JA Konrath says he wanted to make vampires scary again. He and his cohorts, Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand and F.Palu Wilson, succeed in doing just that.

The ebook comes with lots of bonus material--short stories, alternate endings, author interviews and biographies, just like a DVD. Pretty nifty, eh? And you can purchase it here:



Posted by judy5cents at 7:22 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 8 September 2010
What If They Had A Kuran Burning And No One Came?

By now everyone has heard of Terry Jones. The nutjob preacher is the head of a church in Gainsville Florida, with a congregation of 50, (count 'em, 50) fellow nutjobs. And right now he is the center of everyone's attention.

Apparently all it takes for the world to beat a path to your door is to threaten to burn the Kuran.

The last time I checked the Google news page, there were 5,447 articles on Jones's intention to burn books. Compare that to 2,039 articles on the Colorado wildfires, fires that are already in progress, I might add.

At this point, whether Jones goes through with his plan or not doesn't matter any more. The genie is out of the bottle. It's not possible to say "Never mind, he didn't mean it. Just a false alarm."  It's too late. Now some very dangerous people will use it as a reason to kill Americans. Just as Jones plans to make good on his threat, they will make good on theirs. 

Years ago, I was a journalism student at Kent State. I was required to take a course called "Ethics of Journalism." One of the thorny issues covered in the course was considering the consequences of printing a story versus not printing it.

For example, a council member makes an offensive personal remark to another council member during a meeting. Should you print it, even though it would ruin one's career and it has no bearing on the city business conducted that night?

Or what if a gunman is holding people hostage, demanding that the paper air his grievances. Do you let him, knowing that others will do the same thing in order to get their own personal forums?

And finally, what if an obscure preacher of a tiny church announces his plans to commit an act that would cause world wide outrage, leading to the killings of Americans everywhere, including the troops?

Things were different in 1978. You had to go to college to become a journalist, and then you had to get yourself hired by a newspaper or a radio station or a television station. These institutuions were run by intelligent, thoughtful people who prided themselves on their impartiality and good judgment. It's not like today, when any idiot with an internet connection can call himself a journalist and even the major news outlets broadcast rumors and wild speculations, leaving it to the rest of us to sort out what's true and what's not.

If these editors were still around, perhaps they would have said "Terry Jones is a pastor of a tiny church. He has zero influence and let's keep it that way. We won't let him use our paper (or radio station, or television network, or internet site) as a means to spread his message of hate. Let him burn the books in the church parking lot. He'll cause a little smoke in Gainseville and that will be the end of it. What else you got?"

I know. Not going to happen. Ever.

But I do wish that all the journalists out there would get it through their heads that just because you can print something, doesn't mean you should.

Posted by judy5cents at 3:28 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 8 September 2010 3:31 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 1 September 2009
The RC Soles Show

Last month, WWAY-TV in Wilmington broadcast a truly juicy story, about a 17 year old Allen Strickland of Tabor City, North Carolina. His house was set on fire and he described on camera how he had to jump out of a second story window to escape the flames.

But it doesn't end there. In addition to his new house, Strickland also owned a $60,000 Corvette and a four wheeler, all purchased with money given to him by North Carolina's longest serving and most influential state senator R.C. Soles (D). Strickland said the 74 year old senator was his lawyer and had given him the money on the condition that he stay in school.

A reporter from WWAY-TV asked Sen. Soles about Allen Strickland ten minutes into a telephone interview.  The senator developed a hearing problem, saying he couldn't make out the question, although, as the reporter pointed out, he hadn't had any trouble hearing the conservation for the last ten minutes. Then he hung up.

Although Sen. Soles would have liked it to end there, it didn't. In the weeks that followed , stories have come out about calls to the Tabor City police by Sen. Soles complaining of altercations with former clients, all young men in their teens and twenties. Each time, Soles refused to press charges.

Then a year old television interivew with another former client aired. In it. Stacey Scott accused the senator of molesting him when he was 15. He later recanted, saying that he was on drugs when he did the interview.

A couple days ago Strickland was arrested for setting the fire himself, and in a second incident, he led police on a high speed chase in the afore-mentioned Corvette which ended with him wrecking it. (Corvette lovers all over North Carolina are surely decrying the stupidity of allowing a 17 year old to have such a fine vehicle).

People in Tabor City and surrounding Columbus County are standing by the senator.  When you live in one of the poorer counties in the state, it helps to have the most powerful state senator looking out for your interests.

But  I'm sure, like everyone else in eastern North Carolina, they have to wonder about Sen. Soles' judgment.  Helping someone pay his heating bill when he's down on his luck is generosity. Giving a teen-aged boy who's been in trouble with the law thousands of dollars to do with as he pleased is--well, the only word I can think of is idiocy.  The sort where you just want to say "What the hell are you thinking?" 

My husband and I have been watching the local news, eagerly awaiting the latest tidbit in this lurid story. It is a guilty pleasure to be sure, but I don't know how much longer "The RC and Allen Show" will continue.

I'm still waiting to find out why he gave money to all these unsavory, dangerous young men. There's more going on here than the senator wants us to know.

I can't wait to find out. 

Posted by judy5cents at 10:57 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Billions and Billions of Canadians Seeking American Health Care

There's a comment on my last post saying how Canadians are so dissastified with their health care system that they are forced to come across the border for treatment that's denied them in their own country.

Lots of people trot the Canadians out when opposing the proposed public option in health care reform. But aside from the Canadian woman on the Republican attack ad, I've never heard any actual Canadians saying this. Of course, I don't know anyone in Canada, it's a long way from Wilmington, NC.

I realize that medical records are confidential, but if a huge amount of Canadians were seeking treatment at American hospitals, wouldn't someone in hospital administration notice it? Wouldn't someone write about it in professional journals articles with titles like "Dealing With The Influx Of Patients From North Of The Border?"

Now I've heard plenty of American health care horror stories. After being diagnosed with an agressive form of breast cancer, Robin Beaton was dropped by Blue Cross for misinforming them about her medical history.

President Obama often talks about his mother struggling with insurance companies as she was dying of ovarian cancer.

And my own healthcare story--I didn't have health insurance for close to five years. I was lucky, I managed to avoid getting sick until I got full coverage with a call center job at GE Capital. But the worry was always there. Once I slipped on the ice, falling flat on my back and my first reaction was "Oh, God, now I've got a pre-existing condition."

So if you're a Canadian, share your health care story with me.  I don't want to hear from anyone who knows someone who knows a Canadian. I just want comments from real Canadians.

Do you like it? Do you hate it? Have you experienced both the American and the US systems? Do you want what we have?

Set the record straight.

Posted by judy5cents at 3:12 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 8 October 2010 6:50 AM EDT
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The Publishing Industry's Dirty Little Secret

You walk into Barnes & Noble and see a display of the latest John Grisham novel. Stacks and stacks of the same book. Next to it is a tell-all memoir by a famous axtress. Next to the tell-all memoir is self-help book promising to change your life.  And next to that...well you get the idea.

Not all those books get sold. At $25-30.00 a piece, hardcover books are expensive and the books have to be pretty damn good read to pursuade people to part with their hard earned money. 

What happens to the books that don't sell? You'd think the bookstores would do what retail stores do. Whatever doesn't sell gets marked down, and marked down again, then sold to Big Lots or to any number of businesses who deal in overstocks and resales.

But that's not what happens in the publishing business. The books that don't sell are returned to the publisher. The publisher, in turn sells what it can to the resale people, who sell them back to the bookstores. Eventually, a good number of them end up in a landfill.

In the process, nearly 200 million pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, not to mention the damage done to the environment by the books dumped in landfills.

Which is why I'm proud that my book Caviar Dreams is produced by the Print on Demand (POD) process. The books are stored electronically, and printed out as they are ordred. A print run could be one or a thousand, and there are never more printed than somebody is willing to pay for.

I've heard that the traditional method of printing out a thousand books at a time is cheaper than the POD process, even with having to deal with the returns.

Posted by judy5cents at 3:12 PM EDT
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Monday, 10 August 2009
Death Panels!! Rationed Care!!! We're All Gonna Die!!!!

And it will all be the government's fault.

I don't understand how conservatives like Sarah Palin can make the leap from government run health insurance to death panels. I guess it's the same sort of logic that Reverend.James Dobson used to connect the gay marriage to legalizing bestiality. 

As for the warnings of rationed care, we've already got that.  If you have health coverage, your insurance company does it. Ever have an MRI? You can bet someone at the hospital or imaging center will call your insurance company to see if they'll pay the bill. If your insurer says no, you could still have the test done, but you have to pay for it yourself. That could be anywhere from $1,000 to $3500.

If you're stinking rich, it's not a problem. You get your test done and pay the bill when it arrives. But if you're like most of us, that's a big chunk of change and you have to make a choice. You can either go into debt (or deeper into debt than you already are) or not have the test at all.

Of course there's a lot of self-rationing of healthcare as well. People who are uninsured will often deny themselves or members of their families medicine or visits to the doctor because they just can't afford it.

Despite what the conservatives say, the American health care system is not the best in the world.  According to the World Health Organization, the country with the best system is France, the United States comes in 37th. That ranking is based on a number of different factors including overall health of the popluation and fairness of financial contribution.

Here is the one great truth that I hope all our elected officials keep in mind when working on health care. The number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States is the inability to pay medical bills. We are the only industrialized country in the world where that happens.

We've got lots of nifty tests and a whole host of options available to us if we get sick. But they all cost money and the price just keeps going up. Having health insurance gives you the illusion that you don't have to pay for it. But you do. You pay for it with higher premiums, with job losses (GM's generous health care benefits to retirees helped bring the company down), with increased health care cost that occur when hospitals pass on the cost for caring for the uninsured to everyone else.

I am not optimistic about the health care reform. I don't have much faith in my elected representatives. Between the pharmaceutical lobbyists and the screaming "grass roots" anti-death panel movement, whatever passes--if it passes at all---won't make much difference in fixing the problem.

And for the record, I have excellent insurance through my husband's employer. I also know that we are just one layoff away from losing it. So are all the "Hands Off My Healthcare" fokls, but they don't seem to get that.





Posted by judy5cents at 3:17 PM EDT
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Monday, 20 July 2009
Remember Where You Were 40 Years Ago Today?

Assuming that you were around and cognizant on this day in 1969, you know exactly what you were doing. Watching Walter Cronkite giving updates on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. 

I was 13 and my father was painting my bedroom (a dazzling shade of green which I loved and my parents hated, painting over it with a tasteful Federal blue once I moved out of the house). I ran back and forth between the television in the family room to my bedroom with the latest news on the Apollo astronauts. Looking back, I'm not sure if there was much to say. "They're getting closer." "They think the landing will be in two hours." "They've postponed it until this evening."

As it turned out, it was past midnight when the lunar module landed. We went up to my grandparents' house to watch it on their color television, not realizing that the broadcast would be in black and white. Still, it seems fitting that I was watching this historical moment with three generations of my family, including my grandparents who were both born before the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk.

My younger sister saw it too, but she was at 4-H camp and watched on a counselor's tiny black and white portable set, along with everyone else at camp. Four years later, history would again be made while she was at camp, and she would watch a president's resignation speech on another counselor's tiny black and white portable set.

These days, if something historic happens at camp, I expect the kids will just whip out their Blackberries which they'd clevelry smuggled in. 

Anyway, it was an experience I shared with the world. Everyone over 50 knows what they were doing when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon. Everyone went out that night, looked at the moon and marvelled at the fact that people had actually been there, walked on it and left a flag and their footprints in the dust.

And then we all began sentences with "If we can put a man on the moon., why can't we....."

Why can't we indeed?

Posted by judy5cents at 11:28 AM EDT
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Saturday, 11 July 2009
And I Got A Prize Just For Showing Up

This morning I dragged my family out of bed at 6:30 to drive downtown so I could run in the annual Wilmington Family YMCA Tri Span 5K.  I appreciate their sacrifice of their Saturday morning. I'm glad they were there to see me cross the finish line having run 3.2 miles in 34:03 (nearly four minutes less than my time last year).

And just like last year, I came in second in my age group (50-54). Even though I ran faster than the previous year, apparently the other 50 to 54 year olds are running faster as well. And that' s good.

I love running. It's fun. It's exciting.  And I got a nice blue aluminum water bottle and a round of applause. If I can do it, you can do it.



Posted by judy5cents at 11:51 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 11 July 2009 11:55 AM EDT
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Monday, 6 July 2009
Say What?

I'm going through Sarah Palin withdrawal.  She was the politician I just loved to hate and her misguided antics and rambling attacks on various bloggers and talk show hosts provided a constant source of amusement.

Now she's up and quit on me.  Last Friday, she announced her resignation (I think that's what she did, I'll probably have to play the CNN clip again to be sure) offering lots of reasons why she's leaving the post to which she was elected, although none of them sound particularly reasonable.

Somewhere in there, among the references to girl's basketball and refrigerator magnets, she mentioned there was a problem with too many ethics investigations, that people in the press were really mean, that her family wanted her to leave and it was all for the good of Alaska. 

There were ethics probes last year. People in the press have always been really mean. And this is the same family that said "Go for it, Mom!" when the McCain campaign offered her the vice presidential spot on the GOP ticket. I would think being the governor of Alaska with its total population of around 627,000 would be a much easier job than being vice president of the country. Especially if the president were to drop dead of a stroke, which men in the 70s have been known to do.

Anyway, as with all things Palin, there has to be a back story. Something she's not telling us, something she has up her sleeve. Like a lucrative talk show deal. Or a plan to run for the senate.

Then again, maybe she's had enough of politics and wants to spend more time with her family.

Like Governor John Sanford, who spent the weekend with his in-laws in Florida.

Couldn't resist posting this photo of me as Sarah Palin. I felt like $150,000 bucks but I kept wanting to shoot a moose.


Posted by judy5cents at 12:59 PM EDT
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Friday, 26 June 2009
Iconic Death

In case you've been under a rock for the last 24 hours, Michael Jackson dropped dead of heart failure.

A sudden unexpected death can do wonders for your image. Yesterday morning, Miichael Jackson was a long faded star, his glory days decades behind him.  Beset by financial woes and accusations of child molesting, he was the object of much derision due to his creepy appearance and often bizzare behavior.

Now he's much beloved. An icon who will be greatly missed. Millions of people are gathering to mourn his loss and profess their undying love.

Watching the news footage, I can't help noticing that a lot of these mourners were born long after Michael Jackson topped the charts with albums like "Thriller" and "Bad."  I suppose they heard his songs once in a a while on their parents' Mellow Rock stations, but for them, Michael Jackson had always been a "has-been," they have no memory of turning on the radio and hearing "Don't Stop" or "Beat It" for the umpteempth time that day. What is exactly do they miss? He was never there when he was there.

And of course, he had the gall to die on the same day that  Farrah Fawcett lost her long publicized battle with cancer. Poor Farrah. After all those death watch specials, she had to share the obituary spotlight with the King of Pop.  And every single story about her death featured ancient footage of her one year on "Charlie's Angels," a show that they don't even show on cable.  Her whole life comes down to just a poster, a cheesey television show and a hair style. All from thirty years ago.

I still think Michael Jackson is weird and creepy, and his life was a cautionary tale about the perils of too much fame and wealth too soon. And Farrah Fawcett was more than a swimsuit model. 

But, they are now both dead, and beyond all of the hype. And eventually we will be too.

Posted by judy5cents at 3:16 PM EDT
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