Monday, October 6, 2014

Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and just how crazy the fangirls can get.

So, straight up, a bit of coming clean:  I don't like Bill Maher.  Not since "Religulous," and the pissy way he he baits and misleads and sets folks up to be comedic foils.  The way he misrepresents doctrine in order to make it as ridiculous as possible.  There's no reason to do that--it's already ridiculous, there is no reason to twist it about for comedic effect.  I try to remind myself that he is, after all, just a comedian, so of course he's going to do that.  But for me?

It's personal.  Because *I* am also an atheist, and when this guy's sneering mouth utters that snarky anti-Arab (anti-GMO/anti-vaccine/anti-Muslim/anti-Palestinian/pro-Zionism/anti-woman/anti-breastfeeding) bullshit, and does so as a perceived representative of atheists, I get pissed.

I do have to give Bill credit.  Until I found myself in his sights, I thought he was funny.  I thought he was mean, sure, but in a GOOD way because his nastiness was dovetailing nicely with my ideas.  So thank you, Bill, for teaching me how it feels to have some half-informed stand-up comedian use snarkiness and condescension in the place of knowledge to tear at my ideas.

It was a lesson I likely needed.

As for Sam Harris, what a disappointing fount of prejudiced urp.  Thankfully, I don't do atheist heroes, so I wasn't so disappointed.  Hubby was pretty bummed, though.

Here, let me quote Sam, give you a taste:

"It is time we recognized—and obliged the Muslim world to recognize—that “Muslim extremism” is not extreme among Muslims.  Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty, gender equality, secular politics and genuine pluralism. The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center. In Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history."

Because, it would seem, Muslims are fair game.  Like overweight women and atheists, they're one of the last "hey, have at" targets out there.  It was nice to see Ben Affleck go a bit nutty on Bill and Sam, taking them to task for their sweeping generalizations.  See, I'm particularly sensitive to that whole "big, broad brush" thing because, all too often, people look at Bill Maher, then judge ME as part of that broad atheist group.

All atheists are not Bill Maher (or Sam Harris, or Hitch, or Dawkins), and all Muslims are not ISIS. Thank you, Ben, for championing that simple, obvious point.

Now, on to the "fangirls" I mention in the title.  This would be the atheists who are so enamored of whichever "atheist heroes" that they embrace their positions without really examining them with an objective eye.  Not all atheists are like this, but there are some, and they are loud.  Loud, and ravening.  They leap like a pack and tear dissenters apart.  Logic and reason fly out the window in favor of a competitive race to outdo each other with snarky nicknames, personal attacks, unrestrained ridicule, and off-topic nitpicking.  You know, like Sam and Bill repeatedly arguing that "Islam isn't a race, and therefor we're not racists."

What?  That's your defense?  You can't deny the charges, so you'll do the semantics dance instead?

How intellectually dishonest of you.

Again, I don't do "atheist heroes."  Many atheists don't.  But I understand why those who do, do. Because there are SO many out there who condemn atheists.  Who say we're un-American, evil, awful, worse that rapists and child molesters.  And there are so few of us who are prominent and willing to "come out," to risk ourselves in the spotlight.  So when someone relatively intelligent and unafraid to be open and loud shows up, it's natural that some atheists would rally around him (I say him, because so many prominent atheists are also, unfortunately, misogynistic).  And sadly?

That makes for some crappy heroes sometimes.  Some are brilliant (and some, like Maher, are just comedians), but even the brilliant ones tend to have fatal flaws, be it Islamophobia (which includes an inability to differentiate between Islam and being Middle Eastern), Zionism (I know, right?), misogyny, or a cold, Ayn Rand-style social Darwinism (this is where some smug heathen will leap in and argue that Rand's dance was "objectivism," not social Darwinism)..

Now, I'm not arguing that atheist "stars" are any MORE messed up than the general public.  No, not at all--in fact, by virtue of their disbelief, I'd say they have one less flaw than the average person. What I'm saying is that they're just folks.  Sometimes incredibly intelligent folks, but not infallible by any stretch.  And yet, so often, crowds of adoring fans gather 'round to lend support for statements that maybe don't, on objective consideration, merit that sort of cheerleading.  And that cheerleading?

Is often of the mean, nit-picky, ugly variety I spoke of above.

So Mr. Affleck?  I know you don't remember me from the first Project Greenlight, but I remember you.  And boy, what a man you've grown to be.  I applaud your bravery here, and bravery is what it is, because it takes a lot of guts to go up against Maher's caustic sarcasm and Harris' plodding anti-Islam narrative.  So thank you.  I hope we hear more from you.  I hope they didn't scare you off.


And now, for those who might be thinking it:  I have zero use for Islam.  No more (or less) than for other religions.  I am by no means a champion of Islam--it's theism, I think it, like other theistic faiths, is inherently harmful.  I think it, like other theistic faiths, lends itself to oppression and intolerance.  My problem is when people hold it up as somehow MORE damaging or MORE scary than any other.  That's just not true.  What makes Islam SEEM more violent or more awful is simply Western intervention.  The Middle East was not a roiling puddle of violence and extremism before Western colonialism.  What makes for extreme Islamic groups is outside interference, military interventions, oppression, occupation, and invasion.  You'd think we'd have learned this by now--devastation, destitution, and oppression are what makes for fanatical responses.  If we would sink money, no strings, into their infrastructure, economy, and education instead of into invasion, devastation, occupation (by us and by our "special" allies), and overthrow, there'd be no "need" for religious zealotry and violent resistance.  

I know, I know--what if it didn't work?

That's easy--what we're doing now clearly isn't working; it's creating ever bigger and badder violent groups.  Worst thing that could happen is that being nice for a change wouldn't work, either.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dueling Obits

You know, doing what I do, I traffic in obituaries.  Between Find A Grave and handling the "who died" archive for my high school, I find myself looking at a lot of death notices and memorials each day.  Today, I came across a curious and distasteful phenomenon.  Something I've come across before.

Dueling obituaries.

It's more common that you'd think (hope), and I find it awful.  What are dueling obits?

Oh, that's when one part of the family hates the other part, and so they excise them from the obituary. The excises part of the family publishes their own obituary, often (but not always) excising the other family members.

For example, today A.B.'s family (likely his children) posted a long obituary for their deceased loved one.  A lot of information about his dead wife, his loving children, his amazing grandkids.  All by name.  What they left out was "the love of his life," his long-term, live-in significant other, who, apparently, they dislike enough to omit all mention of her many happy years with him.

And A.B.'s significant other?  Well, she published her own obit for A.B., one that mentions her, her daughter, and all of his grandchildren by name.  And his kids?  Mentioned, but not by name.

Of these two, clearly the children are the worse offenders, as they completely cut her out of his life.  But hers was a bit petty, too, only mentioning "sons and daughters" instead of by name.  Who started it? Probably the kids, but that's not my point.  My point is, what a crappy tribute to someone you loved.  Clearly, you caused him astounding grief with your childish behavior before he died, must you carry it over to his obituary so it's now glaringly obvious to the world?

This isn't the first--or even the 30th--time I've seen this.  Sometimes it's been family vs friends, often it's new wife vs kids from first marriage.  I know one woman (known her since I was a child) who, when her husband died, listed herself (she was the second wife), his siblings, her family, their PETS, and then, as a last, tag-on scrap, "he was also survived by children from a previous marriage."

BAM!  WHOA!  And worse?  She didn't even call those kids to let them know their father had died. I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "What a trashy, low-rent creature."  Actually, she's a wealthy woman, a prominent attorney.  And she carried a grudge over into her husband's obituary, leaving his children with that last, final jab as a lifetime reminder that she never could manage to get along with her step-children.

Do yourself a favor.  Do your family a favor.  Do your dead loved one's memory/legacy a favor and check your bickering and grudges at the door when it comes to writing up that obituary.  Unless your deceased family member was Josef Mengele in a housecoat (if that's the case, absolutely be honest if that's what works for you), the obit is the place for memorializing, not carrying on family feuds.  You may think you're getting in that final, grand smack, but what you're really doing is making yourself look like a creep of the first order.  And if you're doing it because you know THEY'RE going to do it?

Don't.  Be the better person.  What better revenge than coming across looking like the good guy?

Remember, Christmas is coming up and it doesn't cost anything extra to shop through me.  Even if you're not shopping now, please consider bookmarking the link for when you're looking to shop!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Laura Ramadel

Because sloppy, self-aggrandizing, entitled misogynists.  Use the googles if you're curious.

That's all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hey, not dead yet!

So, we made the move.  It was rough.  The puffed up pile of "used car sales wouldn't have him" real estate agent said we'll get our entire deposit back.  Said we left the place better than we found it.  Which we did.

It's been 48 days, still no deposit.  This is the guy who, at the first "landlord is selling" get-together, insisted that state law requires a deposit be returned within TEN days.  Luckily, we knew he was lying even as it rolled off his tongue, so we're not too panicked yet.  Yeah, he said that to keep us from making any "we won't leave" noises.

What an asshole.

While the law seems to say we should have had the deposit back within 45 days, the renter protection laws here only speak to landlords with more than a certain number of properties (I believe it's five). We emailed the landlord last week, and he has--can you guess?  That's right, not answered.  Because that's what Scott does.  He doesn't answer.  For weeks.  My money is on this--he didn't keep the $1950 deposit set aside for refund.  He threw it in with his cash and is now near-bankrupt and doesn't have it.  The old place STILL hasn't sold.  Remember how they told us we couldn't stay until it sold because "houses in this neighborhood don't last a week in this market?"  Yeah, my ass.  I knew that was a lie then.  Not only is our old place still on the  market (it went on the market July 1st--you do the math), but remember how they tried to palm it off on us?  For "low 300s?"

The price has been reduced a number of times now.  They're now asking 249K.  In other words, they tried to rip us off for over fifty grand.

Next step is, I guess, to send a demand for our deposit via certified mail.  And then, I guess, small claims.  Which is incredibly scary because there is the chance that, even though we have the pristine walk-through in writing, even though the time period allowable for submitting deductions from the deposit is well gone by, we could wind up with a judge who decided he likes landlords more than he likes tenants.  We could wind up with a judge who is an old golfing buddy of Scott's.  He has a lot of them around here.

It is so unfair that he would do this to us.  By his own reckoning, we were "the best tenants ever."  By his agent's reckoning, we "left the place in better shape than it was at move-in."

Way to reinforce the "scuzzbucket slumlord/all landlords are thieves" stereotype, Scott.


So, other things have changed.  Pretty big changes.  Our boy, who has been homeschooled since day one, announced that he wanted to go to school.  Understand, this is an abrupt about-face--every time I've suggested it, even as recently as last spring, he's shut me down with pleas to not make him.  He sprung this on me a mere two weeks before the start of school, and made it clear how important it was to him.  At first, I demurred, and he became very despondent, saying he understood, it was a stupid idea.  Broke my heart.  Understand, I have NO experience with the public school system, other than my own 30+ years ago.  I scrambled, I hoop-jumped, and I got it done.

We decided on part-time, just a couple of classes.  That way, if it turns out it's horrid and he hates it, it's not a huge deal.  So it's a sort of "getting his feet wet" thing.  He's got Guitar Ensemble and French.  He seems to be enjoying it, and he's making friends.  He joined the Gamer's Club, Drama Club, and the Planning Committee.  Has get-togethers at a local burger joint and a sleep-over this weekend.  He gets to have his picture in the yearbook, and was even issued a laptop.

He's excited.  So are we.  I hope it turns out to be all that he wants.  

Silly as it will sound, the lack of yearbooks has always troubled me.  Hubby and I both have all our yearbooks, and I've always been sad that our boy wouldn't have that.  Now he will.


Haven't been to a doctor since January.  I'm having a terrible time with my weight, and I just can't bring myself to deal with the constant, devastating disapproval from doctors.  It's hit the point where I am just so humiliated and so completely overwhelmed with anxiety that not going is the only option I see.  I know how stupid that is, I do.  But I just can't.  Walk in, first thing they do is throw you on the scale and an eyebrow cocks just a little.  Stress so bad by the time they take the blood pressure that it feels like a full-blown anxiety attack is in the offing.  Doctor finally comes in, and the disapproval is palpable.  Is that disdain in her exotic eyes?  Doesn't matter, because it feels like it.  I'm almost in tears just typing this.  So I don't go.  


The new place, btw.  You know all those horrendous, petty, obstructionist, self-righteous nightmare stories you've ever heard about home owners associations?

Yeah.  First thing, first day, we ask the real estate agent if we can put in a gate so our dog doesn't run away.  Yeah, fenced yard, no gate.  He says we can't, HOA won't allow it.  Yet we've driven around and some folks have gates.  Some are nice matching gates, some are cheap, fake wrought iron that don't match at all, some are plastic baby gates, and some, like our next-door-neighbor's, are crappy white latticework leaned against the gate posts.  So we took two solid boards, put them together, painted them to match the fence, and attached magnets to lightly keep the thing in place without it actually being attached.  It took ONE day for a note to be taped to it, telling us that it's not approved, and giving us an application to the design board.  Problem is, the design board application requires permission of all neighbors/OWNERS whose properties adjoin OR who can SEE the "addition."   Yeah, not likely; these are all rentals, none of the OWNERS actually live here.  Plus, plans, photos, proposed paint colors, and cost/construction proposals must be submitted in advance.  

For a damned barrier to keep the dog in.

So we figured maybe it was too tall.  So we disassembled it, removed the magnets, and just leaned it like the folks next door with the cheap, ugly latticework.  We were taking it up when the dog came back in, but one evening we forgot.  By 7 am the next morning, another note, nastier, telling us that the "partial barrier is unapproved."  Again telling us we must submit an application.   And then another nasty note, telling us that we cannot have bird feeders in any form.  Which means I'm stuck for at least two years with no birds.  Bastards.   I cried while taking them down.

I was very upset, made my way to the website to read the HOA guidelines and there was no mention of bird feeders (though there was mention of bird baths, which was scary).  But then I dug deeper, and discovered we're not in that particular HOA--we're in a SUB-HOA specifically for Condos.  And it doesn't allow gates AT ALL.  Because our front yards are considered part of the "open area."  That's right--our front lawn is actually part of their open space.  No wonder they MOW it.  

So, in other words, their nosy-assed neighborhood narc is handing out design applications that will not be approved because we're in the Condo area.

Thanks, folks.


Here are some pics of the new place--it's not as nice as the old, but it's also not awful.  The carpet is a cheap Berber, which concerns me on the vacuuming front, and the master bedroom is a giant (19x19) loft-type set-up with no door.  The stairs are murder on my knees (four flights of 8 stairs a pop to get to the bedroom), and the kitchen is minuscule (we had to leave most of our cooking stuff packed because there's just no room).  But the blinds are nice, and the front yard is nice (even if we can't have a damned gate), and the stove is gas.  The tubs are slightly larger, and being two floors up keeps the TV from driving me nutty at night.  We don't know much about the neighbors (other than the chain-smokers across the way who throw loud parties and beat each other up), but those awful rat-children are no longer our neighbors, and that is everything.  I can let our boy walk to school or Hapkido without worrying that those kids are going to ambush him.

So, all in all, it works out slightly to the better.  And I will take that any day.

And finally?  If you're reading this and you see an shopping spree for Christmas in your future, please consider using my Amazon link, which is the search widget below.  This public school thing, with yearbooks, ensemble uniforms, daily lunches, etc., is pretty pricey.  Christmas is coming, and every bit helps, especially with the landlord tugging us about on the deposit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Obama is the Worst President EVAH!

Today, some puddle of garbage came sliding across my Facebook feed.  It was from (get this) "RIGHT WING NEWS."

Oh, yeah, there's a source you can trust.  

It was being forwarded by one of the stupider people on my list.  She's got a kind soul and an empty head. The phrase "bless her heart" leaps to mind whenever she posts anything political.

Today, it was this:

It was all I could do to resist going point-by-point.  I DID resist, because people like this aren't looking for information, they're looking for inflammation.  Specifically, inflammation that allows them to continue hating the black guy. 

Yes, that is what it boils down to.  If that's not YOUR problem with him, understand that you're being manipulated and lied to by groups who DO feel that way. 


Move mostly set up.  Got the utilities arranged, the truck reserved, and (hopefully) the ID and car registration handled so we can get our parking decals.  We're cutting it super-close on that one.  Cross your fingers. Because if the licenses and registration doesn't show up in time, the HOA will have our car towed.

Moving used to be easier.


Found this, thought it was interesting:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Good is Good

Well, thanks to the generosity of hubby's old school pal, we're good to go.  The gift (and it is a gift, not a loan) came out of the blue.  Old friend said it was for "gas money for all those rides back in high school, plus interest."

Whew.  After the devastating screwing we took from my half-sister Cory, I wasn't sure we were going to make it.  Eternal gratitude, you know?

Gotta say, though, that moving out here is a markedly different affair.  In Utah, a grand and some friends with a truck was enough to get you into a nicer place.  No deposits for utilities, no hassling with HOAs.  You just moved.  Out here?

Holy COW!  We're moving FIVE miles from our current place, and it's ALL new utility companies.  All new utility companies and each one has a hefty deposit.  That was an unforeseen expense.  Plus, the landlord won't sign the new lease until the utilities are turned on.  But the utilities refuse to turn on unless we can provide a copy of the signed lease.  Which we can't until the utilities are turned on.  Yes, Laurel and Hardy would be proud.

Add to that the parking situation there.  Unlike in Utah (or our current place, to be fair), it was simple--here's your spot.  New place?  Two spots, BUT we must have two CARS in order to have them.  One car?  Only one decal, which means our guests can't use our spare spot.  They WILL tow.  Plus, we can't park there until we have the decal (fifty bucks!), and we can't have the decal until we can show our car's registration and our driver's licenses with THAT address.  No, a change of address card won't do--they want a photocopy of the new licenses.  That's forty bucks for the two of us.

Or eighty, if hubby messes up and they send new licenses with the OLD address.  Which is exactly what happened.

The landlord has gone silent again.  So has the real estate agent.  The fear, of course, is that they're looking to make the move-out a mess so they can hang onto the deposit.  Called the landlord and asked if the cleaning (doesn't need it, carpet was stained and dog-pill smelling when we moved in) and deflea/detick treatment (doesn't need it, we don't have fleas and ticks) company we chose was okay.  No answer.  Called (and emailed) to let them know our move-out date.  No answer.  Zero help.

And speaking of zero help, I don't think I'll be able to resist letting the real estate agent representing the landlord know what a dead-beat, lazy, uncaring, shmoozy, glad-handing, insincere creep he is.  See, when the landlord announced that we were out, he promised his agent would definitely find us a new place.  But when Skeezo (who insists his name is FRENCH, not MEXICAN!) came over, he made it very clear that he wouldn't.  Told us, in no uncertain terms, that there was NO way ANY real estate agent would EVER represent us because of our credit, that we needed to "try Craigslist" because nothing with an MLS# would ever be open to us.  He was VERY clear about this.  Of course, he became very clear about this once we made it clear we weren't shopping for a mortgage.  Conveniently, his wife is a mortgage broker.  I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.

So we went into this disaster scared to death--not only did we not have the cash, but a guy who should have provided us with accurate information, a guy whose words should have been reliable, told us we didn't have a hope in hell of getting a nice place unless we stumbled across a private landlord on Craigslist.

Thing is, he lied.  Flat out.  First MLS listed property we viewed, the real estate agent practically begged to represent us.  Even knowing what our credit is like.  And the first property we applied for?

We got.

So, yeah.  I won't go out of my way to slam the bastard, but when we're in the market to buy?  We won't be buying from him.  And should anyone ask for a recommend?  The woman who got us into our new place gets the recommend.  And Mr. "French, not Mexican?"  I won't refrain from telling folks just what crap treatment we got from him.  Just how lazy, uncaring, uninterested, and disingenuous he was.

No doubt.

Gonna try something now, see if it works:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Prince William, Princess Kate, and the four MILLION pound remodel

You know, I don't begrudge rich folks their riches.  I don't.  I am a bit put off by the gratuitous extravagance I see, but hey, I'm sure someone could look at me today and find something wrong with my spending habits.  However, when the following story came across my news feed, I admit, the bitterness rose up in a big way.

Buckingham Palace defend spending £4m on refurbishing Kate and Wills' flat

Why bitter?  Because this isn't some busted up, broken down, run-into-the-ground hovel requiring a from-the-floorboards-up renovation.  The place isn't in tatters.  And that Wills and Kate paid for their own curtains?  Doesn't really appease my sour heart.  

We are in SUCH a bad way here, and we're about to drop an application fee and deposit on a place we almost certainly won't get.  The hundred bucks is a throw-away--we'll never see that again, either way.  And the deposit?  If we don't get the place, we won't see that money refunded for weeks.  That's weeks we don't have.  And if we DO get it?

Well, we don't have the rent and truck money.  We're operating on pure hope here.  Hope that folks will come through for us.  Because the alternative is us being utterly toast.

So hey, Prince William?  Princess Kate?  Do you think you could spare .001 % of your remodeling budget?  That would be all we need and more.  It would be enough so we could have someone help us with the heavier furniture, AND we could keep our boy's dog!  So how 'bout it?  Please?  Pretty please?  Just .001% would totally SAVE us, and you might be out one fancy brass spittoon.