Category Archives: Daily trials and tribulations

Signs of Life: Mental Health, Guns, Storms and just… Why?

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Signs of Life #1.

My first serious watercolor pencil painting, but also a statement for 2012.

With all the DEATH, where are the Signs of Life?  Signs of Life #1

Traditionally, this is the time to run through the highlights of the past year. Vacations, accomplishments, major milestones, etc. We’ve had those. Nuri graduated from Law School and officially got engaged. Yeah! We went on vacation on Emerald Isle with Brian’s extended family. My own little version of Hell. Kat graduated from college and unofficially got engaged! Yes! Andy bought his own house. Dang! Nik got his first professional photography job. Huzzah! My Dad is doing great and is our new dog Disa’s enthusiastic walker and caretaker.

Obama got re-elected!!

My family’s Signs of Life.

None of us have been direct victims of the disasters of 2012. Drought, Hurricane Sandy, 5 horrendous mass shootings, Republicans. (OOpps, that just slipped in…) None of us got Lyme Disease, flu, had a heart attack, broke bones, killed in war. We have roofs over our heads, make enough money to pay for food and transportation. Nik had major surgery on his jaw and it went extremely well. We’ve managed to hold off Chuck the cat’s cancer for almost a year with 3 successful surgeries.

We have been so incredibly lucky.

On the other hand, some of us are in rough situations like millions of our fellow citizens. Two members of my family have no medical insurance. One is disabled. One has no job and one only has a part-time job. One depends on Food Stamps and Medicaid. Two can’t afford the physical and mental healthcare they need. Our family income has been steadily decreasing over the last 4 years, so my hubby and I can’t help the kids the way we’d like. My father has had to help with Nik’s medical bills.

We’re all still alive in our own homes.

Which is more than many families can say. So many have been hit by one of the series of man-made tragedies that characterized most of 2012.

Drought, Hurricane Sandy, 5 horrendous mass shootings, Republicans.

Global warming. Drought. A new Dust Bowl?

Hurricane Sandy. Global warming. Rising sea levels. Greedy developers and people in denial building densely on fragile barrier islands and wetlands, subsidized by Federal Flood Insurance and mortgage deductions for 2nd homes. Many insisting on rebuilding, lulled by false reassurances from pseudoscientists paid by the global warming denial lobby. Loss of life SO minimal in comparison to Typhons hitting the Philipines and monsoons in Bangladesh, but trust Americans to feel whiny and sorry for themselves.

Republicans. Pfff…. IQ-challenged toadying Tea Party minions without an original thought among 12 of them. Their fear & lie-soaked divisive campaign polarized the nation in a way not seen since the Civil War. I’ve wasted enough words on them.

This past Friday, there was the most horrific mass murder in  my memory in the United States.  I say “in the United States” because mass casualties regularly occur around the world at the hands of our government, religious fanatics, rogue regimes and greedy corporations. Even in the US, deranged killers have shot more people at one time.

For months, we’ve been hearing about a shooting in the parking lot, in a movie theater, in an emergency room, in family homes, in houses of worship. Never was it time to “talk about gun control”. The US has the highest rate of violent gun crimes in the developed world. Mindblowingly high. Our elected officials have no interest in tackling the issue. By the time I heard about the guy in the hockey mask shooting Christmas shoppers in a mall, I was getting “death-by-semi-automatic-assault-rifle-toting madman” fatigue.

But then came the children.

20 six and seven-year-olds and 6 brave adults trying to save them.

The media feeding frenzy started as soon as one of them picked up a disturbance at the school on the police scanner. “School shooting” I heard. Yawn. Another crazy high school kid. “Elementary school shooting” Ears perked, but, eh, probably a guy shooting his wife in the parking lot. “Teachers shot and unknown number of student casualties” Got my attention.  “Sandy Hook. kindergarten rooms. unknown number of children killed. SWAT team. Shooter dead”. Oh. My. God.  He’s shot the babies!

You never want to see these at your kid’s school:

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And you certainly don’t want to see this:

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So in their wisdom, the media are now providing us with headlines like:

“Mental health care in U.S. questioned amid another tragedy” ,

dealing with the mental health aspect of the Sandy Hill school shootings, pleas to not blame autism, and

“What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers”

from the NY Times, a thoughtful article detailing the convergence of factors that often lead a very sick young man like this one  to commit atrocities. Boy, no one’s ever suggested better mental health care might prevent a mass shooting, eh, VA Tech??

However, most articles focused on the gun control aspects, in about a 1:6 ratio (just a loose estimated ratio based on 5 major news sites):

“Has life in America gone insane?” ,

“Put reason back in America’s gun debate”

and one of the most important:

“Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?” ,

from the NY Times, includes this salient information:

Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.

The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.

In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.

Or we can look north to Canada. It now requires a 28-day waiting period to buy a handgun, and it imposes a clever safeguard: gun buyers should have the support of two people vouching for them.

Most of the standard crazies came out of the closet:

Despite the report that Rupert Murdoch Wants Stricter Gun Laws After Newtown (he was Australian, after all), Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News “Doesn’t Get the Memo” and “David Clark, the executive producer in charge of Fox’s weekend coverage, gave producers instructions not to talk about gun-control policy on air. “This network is not going there,”” If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist in the FOX universe, which lets you know they’ve stalled at the developmental stage before object permanence.

Cynicism runs rampant:

“Sorry, But Don’t Expect Any Change After Newtown”

“[America is] a country in which citizens own roughly 200 million guns, roughly one third of the entire planet’s supply. Ownership is allowed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, even though a 10-year-old would interpret that the right to bear arms was directly connected to the forming of a militia. The Second Amendment is not as much a legal right to bear arms as it is a psychological crutch for our great American narrative of toughness. Don’t expect great change.”

Might it be different this time? President Obama vows to see that this never happens again a priority. NYC Mayor Bloomberg has pledged to use as much of his fortune as it takes to change laws. Even previously rabidly pro-gun lawmakers are unabashedly admitting no one actually needs a semi-automatic assault rifle.

Maybe they’ve heard. Maybe they’ll listen. Maybe they’ll do something. Maybe the things they’ll do will actually make a difference.

Stranger things have happened.

A Tree Grows cartoon fuzzy

In my picture “A Tree Grows” (cartoonized Version),

roots of a stunted, neglected tree reach through broken sidewalk toward the sun.

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Hotlinking is Bad…

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A hard lesson I learned by doing the wrong thing – most of the first several posts on my blog contained images linked directly to sites, mostly in Europe.  Very graphics heavy, they were. Now the graphics have almost completely disappeared due to moving servers, removal of images, whatever. After the first couple years, they started posting notices NOT to hotlink… I did eventually get the message, but not before I’d already filled bunches of posts with the hotlinked gifs. My bad.

I get to cry, and, if I care enough, go back and reconstitute the graphics in my blog entries.

So here is my dilemma – Is it worth my time? Would more people actually look at those entries? Is it worth it for the 6 of you who regularly check for my occasional spasms of blogging? Or do I do this solely for MY artistic satisfaction – which turns out to be the main reason I write this blog, anyway, given my broad readership base (OK, so maybe only one or 2 of you are broad. Get over it…)

Think think think.

(Momentary distraction by the 1980s Peter, Paul and Mary concert playing now in place of Antiques Road Show – how many weeks can they let this “festival” go on? I’m one who would gladly pay them to shorten the frickin’ things!!!)

I have reached a conclusion drawn on enlightened self-interest. It will be an appropriate discipline for my sins of the past to go back and do the things RIGHT. Not to mention a good example for the teenager I’m supposed to be teaching 😀

All Your Allergies are Belong to Me!

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Some things in my life are just WRONG.

My newest wrong things:

Risking my life to go grocery shopping. Risking my life to eat in a restaurant. Risking my life to eat.

These are in addition to a few other major wrongs already in place:

Risking my life if I every need medication for severe pain. Having allergies to almost all drugs in several major therapeutic classifications. Being desperately allergic to two of the main components of my Korean friends & Won-Buddhist priests’ diet.  Never knowing from one day to the next if I will be able to function due to uncertainty of energy  and pain levels. Being so responsive to changes in weather I’d have been burned at the stake as a weather witch in less enlightened times. Paying for increased activity or hill climbing with yet more pain.

 I want to whine…

However, in an attempt to keep things in perspective, I want to go through positive ways I’ve been able to deal with my older issues…   (my ex-therapist would be SO proud)

I, of course, will continue to deal with all this wrongness, and even figure out how to turn even my current frustrations into something helpful for someone. Plus, I have a lovely sister-in-law whose food allergies are much, much worse than mine, so I have a great appreciation of how much worse things could be…

My physical therapist Joe   has taught me an enormous amount about controlling my pain levels. I no longer work,  which gives me much more flexibility to not leave the house on certain days if all the lows converge. My house angel, Lorraine, comes in 2-3 days a week to do the basic housework I simply can’t do, thus allowing us to have a clean kitchen, clean clothes, clean sheets and clean bathrooms!  I stopped selling on-line because I was overwhelmed with stuff and time obligations.

Changing my diet over the last year has allowed me to lose almost 60 pounds and increase my general energy level. Lorraine has helped me get rid of a huge amount of accumulated “stuff” and has organized a lot of what I’m keeping. My fabric room is functional and we can actually allow people to sleep in one spare bedroom. Much of my parent’s boxes have been unpacked and sorted, so plenty of room has been opened up in the garage.  We adopted a smaller dog so I can walk her without causing myself significant pain. ( wonderful beautiful Disa is another story).

My biggest challenge over the last year was planning and getting into shape for my European vacation.  I did it. Spent 5 weeks in Italy and Paris with a 15 yo boy, my Nik… and totally survived.

Decided to put my foot down and buy an artificial Christmas tree , so I could spend my limited energy making ornaments   & decorations.   All my kids were home over the holidays and we had lots of fun.

Hey! Those are significant positives!

I don’t feel like whining nearly as much. So I won’t. I’ll just tell the story of my new wrongnesses – which, unfortunately, seem to have resulted from my positivenesses!

Early in July,  I decided to go gluten free, in addition to other changes I’d made in my diet earlier in the year, which included giving up red meat. Nuri has Celiac Disease; odds are I have some sort of related gene. Within 2 weeks, I noticed my brain was clearer & I was remembering things I’d had problems with most of my life (names, mostly). Yay! Goodness!!

BUT I also started having reactions associated with grocery stores –  Costco and Whole Foods. If I spent much time in the bakery section, I’d start to itch.  One day, I spent a bunch of time looking at the wine, which is in the bakery section of Costco for some reason that evades me… I started itching. It starts at the tip of my nose, moves to my ears, eyes – and this day, by the time I was finished shopping, my feet itched. Now, I’m familiar with this reaction –  it happens when I’m around rodent urine proteins or cooking seaweed. (yeah, more  “interesting” allergies). Noooo!  Wrongness!

A little detective work, a little time – I’m allergic to wheat & gluten. Allergic. That’s not celiac disease. That’s “eat it and my tongue swells, my throat closes & swallowing &  breathing become problems” allergic.  Also pecans. Why Pecans, for heaven’s sake?  Diphenhydramine is my friend.

I’ve become so sensitive to even cross-contamination, my tongue starts burning with the first bite. Lovely.

I noticed it was MUCH easier to eat in Italy and France without having a reaction to something. Even though Nik and I ate out almost every day, I only had reactions a couple of times – and that was when I didn’t ask specifically about things being gluten free (teach me to make assumptions).  I figured it was because things were prepared fresher and on a more individual basis. Ham & chicken were OK for me, as was any type of fish. I didn’t think about a much more important factor in European food until I started to have reactions to meat when I returned home.

Meat. Damn. I don’t eat that much meat, anyway. It was nice, though, to be able to eat some of my mother-in-law’s roast or turkey when we go to visit – it makes her happy! More experimentation. Not able to eat meat from American grain-fed mammals. No farm-raised fish. No grain fed chicken. Eggs only from vegetarian free-range chickens fed organic  non-GMO feed. Hmmm… A few other weirdnesses popped up, but all lead me to the same conclusion…

It’s not just the stupid dwarf  “super-wheat” that I’m allergic to. It’s some part of the protein coded for in Genetically Modified Organisms.

What???? Who’s ever heard of THAT? Turns out, a lot more people than you’d think.

Guess the Europeans got it right when they banned GMOs.

So for now, I’ll stick to prosciutto from Italy, my favorite French preserves, pasture-raised, grass (and coconut) fed beasts, wild-caught fish – and only organic, non-GMO gluten-free products.  I usually carry food with me so I rarely eat out and have been able to restrict my diet to things I know won’t kill me. (boring!) Greek yogurt and gluten-free steel-cut oats are my friends!

Meanwhile, all your allergies are belong to me!

 

All illustrations are by me, the great and awesome Dragonmum. Creative Commons will eat you if you steal them!!

No! No! Bad SOPA! Bad PIPA! No! No!

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I’ve censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet–a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/45811/uncensor

I am SO ███████ ████ ██████ who don’t ████ ██████████ how the ████████ █████ ████ the █████ to ███████, and, ██████, █████, a █████-████ ██████ ████ has ██████ the █████ and ██████ █████████ ███████. The Big $ has ██████ our ██████████; our so-██████ ███████████████ are too ██████ and too ██████ to ████ ████ ████ ██████ ████ are █████ to the ███████ ██████ in the US and ██████ the █████.█████ all the █████████ who are ████ █████████████ ██████ for ████ ████ – do ████████ you ████ to do, █████ of ████████, to ████ ███████ █████ █████████ are ██████ out of ██████ and ████████ by ███████████, ████████, ██████ █████ ██████!!

Uncensor This

Are you too stupid to be a lawyer?

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Is Law School a Losing Game?

In this article (above link) by DAVID SEGAL, published Jan 8, 2011, in the NYTimes, miserable law school graduates with gynormous debts whine about:

  1. Not being able to get a high-paying job with a m ajor NYC law firm
  2. Not being able to find a job
  3. Not being able to find a job that pays $160,0 00/year
  4. Not being able to pay back huge debts accrued going to law school
  5. Having been tricked by law schools into believing they’d automatically get a job making $160,000/year
  6. Being lied to by an institution
  7. Having been robbed by law school because of high tuition
  8. Having to pay back loans they took to pay for law school
  9. Having to also pay back debt they accrued as undergraduates
  10. Not having someone tell them it wasn’t a good idea to go to law school
  11. That lady at law school didn’t tell me NOT to apply
  12. Bad, bad law schools tricked them into going in debt
  13. Law school accepted me, even though they knew I’d have to borrow money
  14. Not having someone tell them how much it would cost to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars
  15. Not being told they shouldn’t borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars
  16. Not having someone point out they’ll have to pay it back
  17. If they have a job, being made to work under conditions usually reserved for slaves & first grade teachers
  18. Being disrespected by employers, if they find a job
  19. Being fired for disrespecting their employer
  20. Thinking law school was an investment & finding out it wasn’t any more an investment than sub-prime mortgages or hedge funds
  21. Finding out that even with a job, most lawyers don’t make $160,000/year
  22. Not being told there was a good reason that particular law school was ranked in the bottom 25%, and finally
  23. you can’t eat a JD degree.

Warning! Warning!

Compassion block! Compassion block!!!

How stupid do you have to be??? I can see, if it were the 1980s, how they’d have something to complain about – after all, lawyers ruled that decade! But it’s not. DUH. It’s the 21st century. We have the interwebs. College students are supposed to know how to do research, or at least search the interwebs to buy copies of term papers… College students have even, occasionally, been suspected of the capacity for critical thinking – or at least buying a book called something like “What you should know before you apply to law school”. I can not weep for a “man” who chose his law school because he thought it would be nice to live in San Diego.

Or a boy who already had excessive debt from undergraduate & masters programs, and then decided to take on law school debt, too. Or the girl who thought they’d just hook her up with someone and a job would happen. The young women & men who continue to live in NYC, despite no job prospects & miserable living conditions.

Much Dragonmum compassion block.

Guess what? A fact of life: EVERYONE lies. Including US News & WP, law schools & your mother. (she told you about Santa Claus, right?) The more money involved, the bigger the lies. Get over it. It’s not going to change.

It’s your responsibility to check the facts.

Since it seems that no one gave these pathetic children any guidance in making responsible choices, or taught them critical thinking, research techniques or how to handle money, they had to rely on nothing but their exceptionally poor decision-making skills. In an attempt to save a future generation from making these same hideous mistakes, I offer here a small multiple choice test quiz game:

Are you too stupid to be a lawyer?

Please read the following 20 questions carefully. Choose the best answer based on your own reality & beliefs. Check your answers carefully; once you get to the bottom, you will have no chance to go back and change your answers. Keep track of your answers so you can use the ratings scale at the end. Good luck! Have fun!

1. Do all lawyers make at least $160,000/year?

a) Yes

b) No

c) As long as they pass the Bar exam

d) That’s the interest on my trust fund.

e) Only if they have a second job as a stripper

2. Are all lawyers employed by law firms?

a) Of course!

b) I think so; Daddy is.

c) as long as they pass the Bar exam

d) No

e) Only the ones willing to whore themselves for a living & give up their life

3. Does everyone look up to lawyers?

a) Of course!

b) I do! Daddy’s taller than me!

c) only if they pass the Bar exam

d) No

e) What’s a bus full of lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

4. Do all lawyers work in New York City?

a) Yes

b) Well, I want to.

c) All but Uncle Orsiruss, and he drinks.

d) No

e) Not even all lawyers in NYC work!

5. I graduated from:

a) a public university with a great GPA

b) a small, elite private school with an OK GPA

c) that place Daddy paid for. What’s a GPA?

d) the school of hard knocks with lots of experience

e) umm, college… well, I mean, it took 6 years, and I transferred… that’s why my GPA looks so low…

6. I have:

a) next to no undergraduate debt. I worked my way through school &/or had scholarships.

b) no undergraduate debt, but Mom & Dad saved since I was an embryo & mortgaged the house.

c) a lot of undergraduate debt, but, hey, it was Columbia, so it was worth it, right?

d) those people who keep calling me. Why do they have to inform me it’s an attempt to collect a debt?

e) Daddy, what’s debt?

7. Do you know at least 3 lawyers under 40?

a) Yes

b) Yes, but I don’t tell anyone I know them

c) No

d) There are lawyers under 40?

e) They’re all really nice to me at Daddy’s office, too!

8. Do you know at least 3 lawyers under 40 who think it’s a good idea for you to go to law school?

a) I told you I don’t tell anyone I know them!

b) No one has ever said I should go to law school

c) Yes, they think I’ll be really good at it & be able to find just the job I want. Really!

d) Yes, but they were rolling on the floor peeing themselves when they gasped it out.

e) Daddy says I shouldn’t listen to them

9. I want to go to law school because:

a) I want to make a lot of money

b) I want to be an advocate for a good cause; I can make a difference as a lawyer

c) I want to be a consultant for  Law-related TV shows

d) People will be impressed when I tell them I’m a lawyer

e) Daddy, remind me why I want to go to law school?

10. I think $160,000/year is:

a) enough to have a great apartment in NYC, wonderful social life, take a month’s vacation in Aruba, and comfortably pay back all my law school debt.

b) barely enough to rent a one bedroom apt & eat in NYC, much less have a family or pay student loans.

c) enough to have a life, a spouse, 2 kids, a nanny, a 2,500 sq ft house, a Mercedes, good health & dental and pay off student loans , too.

d) a pretty decent income in most parts of the country, especially without much student debt.

e) what my last car cost, wasn’t it?

11. At the school I want to attend, I will speak with:

a) the admissions office

b) a) and the 3 alums they said would love to talk

c) b) and 3 alums I selected randomly from a list of graduates from the last 5 years and current students

d) no one. They don’t say I had to do that on the application.

e) sooo many people! I meet them every time we go back for Daddy’s reunions.

12. The research I will do on this school includes:

a) Looked at their brochure & their USN&WP rank

b) a) and visited the school website

c) b) and doing extensive Internet searches to find out who graduated, where they are working & how much they actually earn

d) talking to a friend of Daddy’s who went there 30 years ago

e) research?

13. It is important to me to go to a school in:

a) a place close to home so I can take my laundry for Mom to do

b) a place it stays warm all year long

c) a place they speak English

d) a place I can live comfortably without fear of bodily harm

e) the town where Daddy has an apartment for me to use.

14. Graduating from law school entitles you to:

a) a cup of coffee at Starbucks if you have $5.

b) put J.D. on your resume

c) admiration from friends, relatives & strangers

d) live in NYC the rest of your life

e) a Porsche. Isn’t that what you said, Daddy?

15. The Bar exam is:

a) a test on what you learn in law school

b) only important if you actually intend to practice law

c) impossible to pass unless you take a $1000 Kaplan review class

d) hard & has little to do with law school classes, but I know how to learn new things quickly

e) Umm, do I have to take another test?

16. If I borrow $300,000 at 5% interest:

a) I can pay it off in 10 years if I get that job on Wall Street

b) it better be for a mortgage on a really nice house, not to go to law school!

c) I won’t worry about it. I mean, they don’t have debtor’s prisons, right?

d) Daddy will invest it for me, and I’ll have made $300,00 after I pay it back.

e) I’ll take out life insurance so my great-grandchildren won’t still be paying it off in 2080.

17. Law school is:

a) a great place to meet chicks

b) fun, if you’re into that sort of thing

c) hard work if you want to do well, no matter where you go

d) where the entire family expects me to go after college

e)  a great place to find a husband, right Mommy?

18. The government & academic institutions:

a) have high ethical standards & always act morally.

b) are usually trustworthy

c) lie.

d) lie and don’t care if you know it.

e) Isn’t an institution where Aunt Jenny is?

19. Employers:

a) often reward you if you work hard & do a good job

b) should always be respected & obeyed

c) are so awed at a law degree, they will hire you instantly

d) have to look out for their own bottom line; they usually don’t do much hiring in a bad economy

e) are just like Daddy!!

20. Life is:

a) like a box of chocolates

b)  a bowl of cherries

c) a long & miserable slog through brutish madness

d) what I make of it

e) That magazine?

Scoring – Here comes your reality check, bro!

  • You took this quiz: -5
  • It took you more than 5 minutes: -5

(Not starting out so well here, are we?)

The answers are in columns under their point score. Give yourself the appropriate amount of points for each question.  And look, if your total isn’t a multiple of 5, I’ll KNOW you cheated!

******** ** 10  *   5   *   0  *    -5  *    -10 ** ***
************************************

  • 1.         e         b       c        a         d
  • 2.         e         d       c        a         b
  • 3.         e         d       c        b         a
  • 4.         e         d       b        a         c
  • 5.         d         a       b        e         c
  • 6.         a         b       c        d         e
  • 7.         a         b       c        d         e
  • 8.         c         a       b        d         e
  • 9.         c         b       a        d         e
  • 10.       b        d        a        c         e
  • 11.       c         b       a        d         e
  • 12.       c         b       a        d         e
  • 13.       d         c       a        b         e
  • 14.       a         b       c        d         e
  • 15.       b         d       a        c         e
  • 16.       b         e       a        c         d
  • 17.       b         d       c        a         e
  • 18.       d         c       b        a         e
  • 19.       d         a       b        c         e
  • 20.       c         d       a        b         e

Your reality check…

If you scored:

195-135 You are WAY TOO smart to consider going to law school. Really! I can’t stop you, but you might be happier if you go into something lucrative, like plumbing, auto maintenance or mythbusting.

130-70 Congratulations! You are probably the perfect candidate to go to law school, do well & be a decent lawyer.

65-5 Not so bright, are we? If you go to law school, don’t count on finding a job that will help pay back any loans. Better start working on your stripper skills! Have you considered selling real estate, instead?

0- -100 You are too stupid to be a lawyer & don’t even know it. Well, I’m telling you now. You are too stupid to be a lawyer. Don’t go to law school. I hear the local auto parts store is looking for a new salesman. You probably think I really do know you cheated!!

If you scored -101 or lower, you’re definitely too stupid to be a lawyer, but you might as well go to law school anyway. You’re never actually going to practice law. Daddy’s giving you a free ride, you’ll push up everyone’s average, you’ll find a wonderful spouse, too. Isn’t that right, Daddy?

What world do these entitled, IQ-challenged young JDs live in??

My daughter  is too smart to go to law school. She’s in law school anyway, but she has a plan!  Having gone to NC State University on full tuition scholarship, she has little undergrad debt. She has a degree in Forestry & Public Policy, has worked as a high-tech forester, and is now studying Environmental Law at Pace on a full tuition scholarship. This year, she’s on Environmental Law Review, has a part-time job & has an on-line business.  She will OWN you & be Empress of the World. Bow down before her awesomeness!!!

Take THAT, stupid lawyers.

Artwork by me, the magnificent, grandiose Dragonmum

A bus full of lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start…

I HATE Vista… but WinUtilities ROCKS!

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Windows Vista is one of the most evil operating systems in the known world. I hate it. Say this lightly, I do not.

How do I know this? I use it. Or, am used by it? Trapped, anyway. It came on my lovely new ASUS; only choice at the time. Damn you, Microsoft!!

Alright, I know I’m 2 years behind in my hate-o-gram, but I managed to hang on to my XP laptop until it literally fried.

I’m sure I’ll learn to hate Windows 7, too, but it will probably be for an entirely different set of problems…

I am only waiting to upgrade to Win7 because I have to get my cracked screen fixed (the boys were playing…). I don’t know if they’ll fix my machine, or switch it out. It’s going to take at least 2 weeks; I’m not sure I can go that long using Hubby’s desktop or commandeering Nik’s netbook. Sigh.

Over the last few months, I’ve been plagued with dropping Internet connections, messed up web browsers, Photoshop crashes & an entire host of other, annoying but not as critical, failures. Tiring of having to reload sites in Firefox 2 or 3 times, I started on the trail of a solution (or at least a mild sedative…). Spent several days last month in an attempt to figure it out myself. (as if!) Finally I surrendered to the world of multiple tech support forums. A couple sites, clearly used to the “did you plug your computer in?” type of response,  made the now-obviously  simplistic suggestion of a conflict between recent updates of my antivirus & firewall sounded plausible.

Naively, I tried to uninstall AVG & COMODO firewall. Little did I know, I had plunged into a tar pit. Thrashed around for a couple of weeks before I realized I might die right there next to the saber-toothed tigers.  Those two programs get so entrenched in your system, they might as well be, as another user remarked, viruses themselves. Gave up for a while to free my holidays of computer-related despair.

Got brave again this week. The victory over Nik’s XP Home got me all narcissistic about my computer skills. Ready to take on AVG & COMODO again. Found out there are special removal programs written specifically for each product.

Even these couldn’t remove all the sticky gunk. Two more removal tools, registry cleaners, junk file cleaners….   and this wasn’t even the fix!!!

More tech forum. Now, these are the good guys techguy.org and various other groups of people who actually volunteer to help with this shit. The real problem is, no one knows what the real problem is!! So they try… and try… but it all comes out  Blah Blah Blah Blah…. Incredibly convoluted theoretical code that sometimes worked by re-writing what MS had gotten wrong –  And it was different for EACH USER!! These were interactions with motivated users, usually drawn out over several days. Unfortunately, most  were long & painful, like this:

At the MS Restaurant…

Customer: Waiter!

Waiter: Hi, my name is Bill and I’ll be your support staff. May I please have your telephone number, and address? Your visit may be monitored for training purposes. Now, please tell me your problem.

Customer: There’s a fly in my soup!

Waiter: Please exit the restaurant and re-enter through the front entrance. Is the fly still there?

Customer: Yes, the fly is still in my soup

Waiter: Maybe it’s the way you’re using the spoon. Try ladling with the other hand

Customer: Whichever hand I use to spoon the soup, the fly is still there.

Waiter: Maybe the soup is incompatible with the bowl; what kind of bowl are you using?

Customer: A SOUP bowl! Waiter: It looks like a configuration problem; how was the bowl set up?

Customer: Your colleague brought the bowl on a saucer; what has that to do with the fly in my soup?

Waiter: Did you have bread or crackers with your soup? They may have attracted the fly

Customer: No, just soup! Waiter: What was the last thing you did before you noticed the fly in your soup?

Customer: I sat down and ordered the Soup of the Day!

Waiter: Was the fly immediately visible, or did it take a while before he floated to the top?

Customer: It was right there! In the soup!

Waiter: What did the fly look like? Customer: Dead. It looked dead.

Waiter: Did you bring something in to the restaurant that could have contained the fly?

Customer: No!  It was just me! And there’s a screen on the front door.

Waiter: Maybe there’s a hole in the screen; did you make sure you closed the door?

Customer: The screen is fine. I want my soup!

Waiter: Let me look at the bowl so I can see where the fly is.      Customer: IT IS IN THE BOWL!!

Waiter: I see. Now dump out your soup and see if the fly goes away.

Customer: That’s ridiculous! Then I won’t have any soup!!

Waiter: Have you considered upgrading to the latest Soup of the Day? That Soup of the Day may be having problems with dead flies.

Customer: You have more than one Soup of the Day? Waiter: Yes, the Soup of the Day is changed every 10 minutes.

Customer: Well, what is the Soup of the Day now?

Waiter: The current Soup of the Day is mushroom. Customer: OK , I’ll try the mushroom soup

Waiter: Here is your soup of the day. Customer: Wait! This is celery soup. And it has a fly too.

Waiter: No, can’t you see? That’s the beta version of mushroom soup.

(I modified this from a site of free Vista jokes)

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10 gazillion people, all with the same or similar issues. Some brands of computers, worse than others. Some issues fixed by moving around code, adding or deleting programs, following arcane tech support advice, combofix files… but most were completely hopeless. I had visions of a sea of pitiful users staring hopelessly at the altar of Microsoft, chanting “How could you do this to us???”.

Since I tried several of said “fixes”,  I had to invoke the sacred “system restore” by Saturday night.

A few things had become clear to me at that time:

*Microsoft is evil. (I understand that sea of users coming for Bill Gates with pitchforks and torches.)

*Microsoft didn’t make Vista compatible with a large number of commonly used routers.

*Much of the problems could be traced to a 10/2 Windows “update”.

*None of this will go away completely while I’m still being used by Vista.

*I was going to have to upgrade to Windows 7 and buy a new router, in order to have any hope of my computer  working as well as my old XP machines – and this wasn’t going to happen very soon.

What could I do now? At the very least, I could optimize the heck out of what I had!

Now system was restored to beginning of December, when I had just uninstalled AVG 2011 the first time. Time to go for it!

Got rid of COMODO & AVG as much as I could. I see no reason to buy software when there are so many good free programs available. Decided to return to avast!, which I’d used a few years ago. Zone Alarm as firewall.

SpywareBlaster for good measure. Cnet editors highly recommended a new utilities suite, WinUtilities, so I went with that.  There are 2 other tools I found ERUNT, an emergency registry restorer & NTREGOPT, a unique tool that optimizes registry hive architecture (not a defragger). Kept my updated CCleaner & Malwarebyte’s AntiMalware.

Fiddled around with a few other things (decreased some indexing, disabled windows search). Cleaned & defragged & cleaned some more. There are still pieces of AVG junk stuffed so far in files, I’ll need a microscope to find them!

I do have to say, though – WinUtilities Free from YL Software ROCKS!!! I think it has every utility you could possibly need on a machine, even if  you’re an advanced user who likes to mess with code yourself! It cleans disks, registry, programs lists, defrags everything, protects documents, covers your tracks with shredding & ultrasecure deletion, searches, backs up & restores registry, accesses the built-in Windows tools…all through one elegantly simple interface.

OK, so I hate Vista even more – but at least I have a new good buddy!

And my machine is lots faster & friendlier – even if the dropped connections & page loading problems still linger on.

Of course, that’s not to say I’m going to like Windows 7 any more…

Hackers: 21st Century MacGyvers?

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There were SO many interesting and/or disturbing news stories  yesterday,  my brain nearly exploded when I contemplated blogging. No DREAM, Bev Perdue choppin’ away at the remnants of NC state government, good riddance “don’t ask, be a douche”, Republicans, Bev Perdue, Republicans…

I just couldn’t do it. I knew if I started, I’d be sucked so far into the blogosphere, they’d have to send a search party to get me to go to bed.

Instead, I read What Would MacGyver Do? by Brendan Vaughan, starting myself in another direction, which – as usual – came back to the very issues I was attempting to ignore… MacGyver is now part of our cultural heritage & English lexicon. Anyone capable of reading this bog ought to know what “to MacGyver” means. If you don’t, go look it up, or you’ll be a bit confused.

MacGyver burst on the scene only a couple of months before my daughter burst into the world. Since I was finishing my master’s thesis at the same time, naturally I spent plenty of time watching TV. A little 14″ cutie from a pawn shop, our TV kept me entertained on long Sunday afternoons, soothing me to sleep with football commentary. We’d actually bought it to play Atari, but … (slap face. get back on topic!) The series spanned a my new career, 2 children, a divorce & start of  medical school, so it swam in & out of my consciousness. Through the wonders of syndication, I could catch an old episode every now & then.

When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be James Bond. Now I realize I would much rather have been more like MacGyver.   Not only could he jury-rig himself out of almost any situation, he was also a truly good human being. What Would MacGyver Do? contained stories of real human beings improvising brilliant solution & saving themselves from the perils of arrest, embarrassment, angry spouses & heat stroke. (That whole drinking your pee thing makes me gag, but I’m sure I’d do it too if the circumstances were bad enough…) I was impressed by how imaginative deceptions people invent, but many of those are not in the good-hearted MacGyver spirit.. On the other hand, use of common sense, the tools at hand & basic scientific principles, in the face of other people wringing their hands or stomping around having temper tantrum, is what I consider truly MacGyverish.

When faced with an impending crisis, most people tend to react in one of 3 ways.  Most frequent & most familiar is the “OMG! Whatever will we do? We’re going to die! Or something horrible! Or at least have to put up with the running toilet for 4 days until the plumber comes!!!”. You can’t tell them anything; all they see is the sky falling & they must run & tell Farmer Brown. Now. Something has to be done now. Extremely short-term results oriented – they’d escape the chicken house, then get eaten by the fox.

There is also the “Whatever” denial group. Hearing some horrible crashing, grinding sound, these guys (yeah, usually guys) will poke their head up from whatever they’re doing. They’ll then look at their immediate surroundings, determine nothing can be touched, tasted, smelled or seen (yet), and promptly resume watching the 24th re-run of  “Whatever”.  Until they start roasting, they never know a B-52 crashed in their front yard, engulfing their entire neighborhood is in flames. Unobservant & immobile, these rock-like mules will never see or hear anything that they don’t already think they know or believe. Uh huh – read that one again!

Both OMG! & Whateverare maladaptive responses to fear: Fear of the unknown, the known, the might be, the what if & I might have to do something different.

In contrast to incompetent frenzied flapping chickens & self-centered  snoring ostriches, there is a third group. We’re the people who say “I’m sure we can figure something out…I don’t know quite how, but we’ll get through this…Whatever happens, I can handle it…Here, let me fix that toilet for you…”.  We’re the people who will spend 18 hours learning HTML by trying to figure out how to keep the funky script from appearing on our (pre-made) template on website x, when it worked fine on y. Having taught themselves before they were 14 to repair toilets & re-wire the Christmas lights (sometimes out of self-defense), they think – high school dropouts can do this, so can I. We know never, ever leave home without duct tape, rope, a knife and – of course – a wire clothes hanger. (Yes, that’s all based on personal experience…)

I’ve noticed there are several characteristics that set the “MacGyvers” apart. One is a sense of competence, of one’s self as a competent human being. It’s important to believe you will be able to handle whatever comes your way, including failure. Another is the ability to pause & evaluate the situation, before doing anything else. I mean really evaluate the situation & environment, making as few assumptions as possible, only as reasonable extrapolations of what you know. Willness to admit you don’t know, to be wrong, to ask for help when appropriate – these are all MacGyverish characteristics. A big helping of (un)common sense, a basic understanding of the physical world & knowing what you don’t know is needed, too.

Here’s where it comes full circle. I see state, national & international governments being shredded by the tug-of-war between the OMG! & Whatever factions.  Various groups take turns playing those roles in different situations. Currently, as US is over-run by squawking Democrats & Republican rocks, Obama has been trying to MacGyver the government. Unfortunately, there’s too much chaos & volume to accurately assess the situation, much less to expect to implement any brilliant solutions. Mr. Obama’s willingness to “be wrong” has made him a target of ridicule, instead of admiration.  Most Western politicians have been squawking about wikileaks, but the US is screeching most loudly. I believe it was the Israelis who made a comment about the US being so busy reacting to wikileaks that they didn’t have time to have talks. Not, I think, an admirable face to show the international community, eh?

Meanwhile, there are some MacGyvers in the international community, but they don’t belong to a government or any particular political ideology. They are the hackers, the new “freedom fighters”, the ones who say – it’s out there, I’ll find it… this shouldn’t be hiding under a rock, let me shine some light in there…   They have networks of resources, contingency plans, others who’ll get their back, and, above all, confidence. Often mistaken for arrogance, confidence is more self-understanding than self-glorification.

I see this in Julian Assange. He is confident that he has taken the best course. He understands he’s not the only or even most important part of the wikileaks movement anymore & has been quite willing to let it be so. He used his resources, took time to consider his actions and turned himself in to the British in a quite calculated move.

In many ways, I identify with JA. I’ve never been one to follow the crowd unquestioningly. Somehow, I know, like me, he’d never settle for “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Like JA’s mother, I’m working hard to make certain my home-schooled son doesn’t develop an unhealthy respect for ‘authority’!!