Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Facebook Says to a Naked Lady

According to a report on Gawker, a French user of Facebook is suing the company because his profile was deleted after he changed his profile picture. The new picture was actually a painting of a naked woman's nether regions. Gustave Courbet created the work, titled The Origin of the World, in 1886, and it hangs in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

This Frenchman's account was deleted right before his birthday, according to the Gawker report, so he wasn't able to get birthday wishes from his 800-or-so friends. Awww.

A couple of other Europeans became so outraged that they switched up their profile pics to the Courbet painting. Then they got madder because Facebook deleted their profiles, too.


I haven't researched this story; I have read only the Gawker report, and I have some questions:
  • Is anyone else on Facebook allowed to have a close-up of genitalia (photo or artistic depiction) as his/her profile picture? I would imagine that it's against the terms of service, but does Facebook have someone looking at all images posted or did image analysis software pick it out or did someone report it as offensive?
  • What are the privacy settings for these three men? Are their profiles only visible to their own friends or are their profile pictures likely to appear on anyone's wall - including people who didn't expect to see exposed genitalia (fine art or not) appearing on their feeds.
  • Why is no one pointing to the biggest pussy on Facebook - the "unnamed Frenchman." He is so outraged that he cannot place any image he chooses on a public forum, and yet he is unwilling to reveal his name. What's up with that? Dork.


A Facebook profile is not a basic human right or a God-given privilege. It's a fancy bulletin board where anything and everything you post could potentially be seen by any of the service's nearly 600 million users. About a quarter of the users are between the ages of 13 and 19. That means probably 10-15% are minors. About 300 million Facebook users are outside the United States. Some of those people come from countries or cultures with different sensibilities. We're not talking about a handful of conservative Midwesterners; we're talking about potentially hundreds of thousands of people who, because of their cultural mores or religious beliefs or personal hang-ups, don't want to log onto Facebook and find themselves face-to-face with exposed genitalia. Fine art or not.

I don't know art, but I know what I like, and in my opinion, Mr. Courbet's painting may be exquisitely rendered, perfectly detailed - in short, brilliant - but I don't want it to appear on my Facebook wall. 


If you disagree with Facebook's Terms of Service, don't issue tirades against them, sue them, or send nasty emails to Mark Zuckerberg. Just cancel your account. The world won't end if you're not on Facebook.

I do have a Facebook profile. Almost everything in my profile is visible to friends only, and my photos are visible to friends of friends. Why?  I created the profile to enter sweepstakes. I had a few friends, but didn't use it a whole lot. Then I won a big prize in a contest, and some sore losers found out that I'd won, and they started trolling around the internet looking for information about me. They went back to their sore loser club forum and made really nasty and in some cases, threatening comments, in which they referenced the photos on my Facebook and MySpace pages. That's when I set about making everything really private. I only kept the account because I wanted to keep entering sweepstakes.


That was in 2007. Since then, I began using Social Media at work, for public relations and marketing. I added a lot of friends. I have visited the Facebook and Twitter accounts of businesses and posted comments (praise, questions, and complaints) on those corporate pages. I have interacted with some of my favorite authors via social media. I reconnected with one of my best friends, who I'd lost track of. Social Media has its benefits.

More recently, every company in the world seems to be jumping on the Facebook bandwagon, and I'm getting really irritated about sweepstakes and contests that require you to like someone's Facebook page, and even worse - the ones that want unrestricted access to my account before I can enter. 

Sorry, I'm not comfortable with that.

So please, if you're furious with Facebook because you can't do whatever you want to with your account, or because some closet art lover got his feelings hurt, close your account. Shut it down. Delete it. Find another social media outlet or just use email. Or pick up the phone. Whatever. Take some of the steam out of Mark Zuckerberg's "evil empire." That'll carry a lot more weight than a petty and frivolous lawsuit.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Coming August 2011

A darkly delicious new fantasy world
of sizzling romance amid the pageantry
of Georgian England.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

John Lennon magazine winner

The winner of the Billboard magazine with the special section devoted to John Lennon is Ginger, with comment #9. Ginger has been notified by email and has already responded with her mailing address. Thank you to everyone who entered. I'm glad to know this very special issue is going to a good home with a big Beatles fan.

Monday, April 04, 2011

TV: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast was a fairly popular urban fantasy back in the late 1980s. I didn't watch the series in the beginning, and I don't recall what prompted me to tune in late in the second season, right before Linda Hamilton (Catherine) left the series and everything changed.

I never did see how the series began, so when I found Season 1 on DVD for $10 at Big Lots, I picked it up.

Wow. It's really sappy and weepy. I don't know how different it was when I started watching it from how it was in the beginning. I've been reading a bit online, and I gather that the producing staff (perhaps to meet network demands) made a bunch of changes in the second and third season to try to draw in more male viewers. Or maybe I was just dumber 20 years ago.

Right now, I'm watching episode 9 "Dark Spirit." In the first scene, a mature man is at a dinner party when he starts to appear ashen, he's complaining of being hot, and he's hallucinating that bugs are crawling on him. So, he's acting really strange and he looks ill. The people around the table keep trying to make toasts, and then when he jumps up from the table and stumbles across the room, they're just standing there. How about asking if he's okay and calling for an ambulance? Later, Catherine is in her office, and now she's been drugged, and her boss is just saying, "Take the afternoon off," when he should be insisting that she go to the hospital for a tox screen.

Every episode, it seems, someone does something incredibly stupid like that.

Plus, Catherine and Vincent (Ron Perlman) are clearly in love with each other. Vincent is not grotesque or anything. What's keeping them apart? Their own prejudices? 

It's not like the stories don't make good points sometimes, but they're mostly just cheesy, and that's not a word I use lightly.

If it gets any better, I'll write an update.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Libya and the United States

I haven't really been following the situation in Libya and the other Arab states where citizens have been rising up against oppressive governments. I've read a little bit about it online, but we don't have television, and since I left the news business four years ago, I haven't kept up with a lot of stories.

Today, I read an email newsletter from my congressman, Jeff Miller. I once had great respect for Rep. Miller, but lately, all of his newsletters seem designed to cast doubt and suspicion on the actions of President Obama. All it does is make me doubt Rep. Miller's motives.

You can read Congressman Miller's newsletter in full online. Here, I'll quote excerpts, in italics, beginning with the following:

The situation in Libya has been evolving constantly since unrest emerged there in February, following similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and other Arab states. Muammar Gaddafi—the man President Ronald Reagan called the “Mad Dog of the Middle East” for his sponsorship of terrorist activity against the United States and her allies—responded violently to opposition protests and threatened to treat protesters like “dogs” and to “show no mercy.”

He goes on to criticize President Obama for not speaking out against or taking action during the uprising and Gaddafi's violent reaction to it.

He does not criticize Republican President Richard Nixon, who was in office in 1969 when Gaddafi overthrew the sitting monarch and seized control of the Libyan government. Why didn't the U.S. take action then to protect the Libyan people from falling under a military dictatorship?

In February 2006, in the Libyan city of Benghazi, some 30 Libyans and foreigners were killed during civil unrest. Also in 2006, Middle East Quarterly quoted Gaddafi as saying that "execution is the fate of anyone who forms a political party." Rep. Miller does not criticize then-President George W. Bush for failing to take action against Gaddafi for restricting political freedoms in his country or for the murder of both Libyan citizens and foreigners.

Gaddafi has been in power for 42 years - through eight presidential administrations, including 28 years of Republican leadership - but Rep. Miller mentions none of that. Instead, he writes:

For three weeks the President remained silent while the world waited for some sign of American leadership, some indication of America’s intentions.

Now, let's approach things from a different direction.

On September 11, 2001, Muslim terrorists launched an attack on the United States. When the U.S. initiated military action against Al-Qaida and its leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, the world was behind us. A few weeks later, the Bush administration concocted  a story about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and declared war against that country and its leader, Saddam Hussein. As the truth came out, the world slowly began turning against us. Even in Iraq, the U.S. is criticized for its interference. I've spoken to a young man who was deployed to Iraq several times, about his experience with the people there, so my opinion is not just based on media reports.

Rep. Miller, in his newsletter, says that President Obama initiated his war in Libya without seeking the approval of the Congress.

But wait! Rep. Miller admits that President Obama consulted with The Arab League and the United Nations on the best course of action for the U.S. to take in this situation. As I began reading a few news reports this evening, I saw that U.S. troops are being deployed to Libya as part of a U.N. mission to Libya, a mission that includes troops from a number of other European nations.

So, in essence, President Obama is keeping the United States out of war, while still allowing the U.S. to take part in helping protect Libyan citizens.

I think this is the right approach, for these reasons:
  • The United States can't afford the wars that it's in, much less a third front. Our limited involvement is costing the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Rep. Miller. A full-out war would cost much more and would likely prolong our involvement in Libya.
  • The United States needs to be part of a larger response, in order to reduce criticism of the U.S. for once again meddling in another country's affairs.
  • The United States must take some action, because we have always tried to assist other nations, other peoples in their quest for freedom. It's a part of who we are and what we are.

President Obama did not declare war against Gaddafi or Libya. The limited action he authorized in support of the United Nations mission is, in my opinion, the best way to help a nation of people speaking out against oppression without earning more anti-American sentiment among the world's nations.

Rep. Miller concludes his newsletter by saying that our Nation [should commit] to war only when we must.

Really? Was that a "must" when the Bush administration lied about and faked evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Because instead of building a false case against Iraq, we should have focused all our efforts on finding Osama bin Laden and disbanding the terrorist group Al-Qaida, the ones who actually attacked the United States, both here at home and abroad.

Finally, I must acknowledge the one thing Rep. Miller wrote that I can agree with:

...our men and women in uniform deserve our highest thanks for their loyalty, patriotism, and professionalism.

 Amen to that. Thank you to all our men and women in uniform, and to your families, for service and sacrifice on behalf of freedom.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How Mary Ann peels a potato.

I love Gilligan's Island, and if you've ever watched the show, you know Mary Ann was the best cook on the island. The actress, Dawn Wells, is a pretty good cook herself. A few years ago, she even wrote Mary Ann's Gilligans Island Cookbook.

More recently, Dawn got herself a gig with the Idaho Potato people, and in this short promotional video, she demonstrates a quick and easy way to peel a potato.

The contest she references will be long over; the video was first posted in 2008.
Cute idea, though, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Billboard Special Tribute to Lennon

A few months ago, Billboard celebrated what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday with a special section.

Along with eight pages of editorial content - including an interview with Yoko Ono and a preview of several album re-releases - the issue contains a number of full page tribute advertisements.

I don't know why I'm receiving Billboard; I figure I must have won it in a sweepstakes. I don't usually hold onto them, but I felt this issue was special.

I like the Beatles, but I wouldn't really call myself a fan; a true fan would be able to name all their albums, know all their music and their history, and I just like hearing it on the radio. So, rather than keeping this issue any longer, I decided to give it away to someone who will appreciate it more.


Comment on this post with the title of your favorite song by the Beatles or John Lennon.

No, your favorite song by Wings or the Traveling Wilburys doesn't count.

If your email is not visible on your GFC profile, please leave it in your comment.

EXTRA ENTRIES: For each item you complete, leave another comment here and be sure to include a link to your comments and tweets.

  • leave a relevant comment on any non-giveaway post on Rhymes Schemes and Daydreams (1)
  • follow Rhyme Schemes and Daydreams on Google Friend Connect
  • visit my Crazy Kitty Chick blog and leave a relevant comment on any non-giveaway post (1)
  • *visit my Hurricane Safety blog and leave a relevant comment on any non-giveaway post (1)
  • *follow Auriette on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway (1)
  • *follow CrazyKittyChick on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway (1)

You can earn a maximum of seven entries per household. Eligible comments must be made no later than 11:59pm ET on April 8, 2011. Entrants must be 18 or older, with shipping addresses in the United States or military APO/FPO addresses. One winner will be selected by random drawing no later than April 10 and notified by email. Winner must respond to the email with mailing address within 72 hours or another winner will be selected. The magazine will be packaged and sent media mail.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Health Care in America

Today, I read a newsletter from my congressman, Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida. It got me fired up. You can read the newsletter online. Here is my response:

As a constituent and a United States citizen, I respectfuly request that you and other Republicans cease to refer to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "ObamaCare." The use of this moniker is just a fragment of the partisan propaganda that aims to disrail the national health care plan.

President Obama's health care plan may not be perfect, but neither is our current system of health care, which is controlled by big business instead of by medical professionals. Instead of spewing generalities and party rhetoric, politicians who oppose certain aspects of the plan should offer concrete and positive suggestions that will lead to the creation of a workable health care program that's good for everyone.

In your newsletter, you wrote: "[Democrats] continued to use voodoo mathematics to support their bizarre claim that government run health care would save the taxpayers money."

In what way?

You wrote: "Under ObamaCare, taxes will be imposed on individuals who try to use their Health Savings Accounts to purchase over-the-counter medicines."

What taxes? Do they apply to everyone or only those in certain income brackets? Do all Health Savings Accounts now allow use of the funds to purchase over-the-counter medications?

Republican politicians have had a year to read and study this law, but still, you never give specific reasons why the program is bad. You never offer viable alternatives. Why don't Republicans create a document that gives the wording of each section of the Act followed by a plain-English explanation? Don't forget to include the contents of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, and please, take full responsibility for any changes and amendments added by the Republican Party.

I sent the above to Rep. Miller via the contact form on his website. I do not expect to get a response.

What do I think would work to improve health care in the USA? Sweeping overhaul of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, which are at the root of the health care problem in the United States.

**Eliminate insurance companies completely.
Right now, insurance companies are for-profit corporations who answer to their stockholders first. They allow profits to dictate what medications they cover, what treatments are allowed, and which doctors you're allowed to see.

**Require pharmaceutical companies to sell the same medications for the same price everywhere.
If a drug company can sell a tablet in Africa for $1.00, they should sell it to people in the United States for the same price. These unequal values contribute to rising insurance costs and to insurance companies refusing to cover certain prescribed drugs.

**Require insurance companies to cover any drug prescribed by a physician.
Right now, it doesn't matter what the doctor thinks will work best to treat the patient. Insurance companies, working directly with pharmacies, can decide to send a generic, a completely different medication or simply deny coverage.

If these three changes could be wrought, I believe we would see an improvement in medical care in the United States. These suggestions of mine certainly wouldn't solve all the problems, but they would help.

What do you think?

Please, don't just repeat something that you've heard somewhere else. Read the summary on Wikipedia. Find a truly unbiased article from a legitimate news source (FOX News doesn't count). Spend some time learning about the Act, then share what specifically you don't like and why. What alternatives would you suggest? Make this a positive discussion, not a rant or a slam against whichever party you don't like.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What do you think is the biggest social issue facing America today?

I was recently asked to complete a survey with two primary questions. The first is in the headline, and I found it very difficult to choose one social ill in the United States as the top issue facing the country.

Finally, I decided on this response:
The social issue with the most repercussions is that children are being raised by cell phone with videogames as their constant companions, and they seem to be growing up self-absorbed, wild, and sociopathic. They are a danger to themselves and to others.

The second question was: What do you think could be done to resolve this issue?

I'm not of the "marriage should only be between a man and a woman" ilk, but I do believe that children should have complete families with two parents. Some people will say it's cruel or harsh, but I don't think people should have children who cannot afford for one parent to be home with them instead of being focused on their careers, dating (in single parent households), and "me time." Sure, parents need some "me time" too, but the child should be the parents' first concern.

That's all I said in the survey, but I will say a bit more here.


I've known several women who got pregnant because their relationship was in trouble. They thought having a child would force the man to "start acting responsibly." I suppose, in a few rare cases, some people who unexpectedly find themselves "with child" have done a complete 360 and changed their whole outlook on life, but I wouldn't count on it.

The problems in the relationship are typically going to be amplified by having a baby. Any money troubles are going to get worse, because kids are expensive. If you think you don't have time for a proper date night when you're childless, what's going to happen when you have a baby who needs constant care?


My husband and I both like science fiction, and we've both known people who were forced to (or at least expected to) give up their collections or their hobbies or their friends because the spouse (typically the women) didn't like it. In another case, a women who went to all her boyfriend's sporting events while they were dating thought that, once they were married, he'd stop playing on those teams.

Here's a tip: You should date people, and definitely marry someone, with whom you have something in common. It gives you something to talk about and enjoy together because sex and having a date on national holidays does not a strong marriage make.

Talk about the issues and events of the day. If you're shocked and heartbroken by the events in Japan and he's cracking jokes about it, maybe he's not the right man for you. If she likes to go to the gun range on Saturdays and you think that individuals shouldn't be allowed to own firearms, guess what? It's probably not going to work out. You won't know that if you watch a football game together, have sex and go home, because she's probably only watching the game because she knows you want to, and she'll be offended if you want to spend your Saturday on the couch once you're married.


Let's say you have really good insurance that will cover the pregnancy, birth, and pediatric child care. You still have to buy special food, and clothes, and toys, and baby gear, and dishes, latches for the cabinets, and a locking gun cabinet for her firearms. Some of the expenses will go away as baby becomes toddler becomes student, but they'll quickly be replaced with new costs.

Look at ways that you can adjust your spending. Can you live in a less expensive home or apartment to reduce monthly rent/mortgage payment? Can you make do with one vehicle instead of two, to save on insurance and maintenance costs? Which one of you is going to clip coupons (or print them from the internet)? Do you really need cable TV? What other monthly expenses can you reduce or eliminate to pay for what the kid needs?

Because what the kid really needs is a parent to guide him or her. A child learns from the parent. You can put them in school, but the teachers aren't supposed to teach morality any more. You need to be the one who explains what bullying is and why it's wrong, who tells your child to take a few steps to a trash can instead of throwing a drink cup or bottle on the ground. Plus, teachers can't give your child the personal attention that a stay-at-home-parent can: one on one reading help, going over math problems one by one until s/he gets it.

In a single parent household, the parent usually has to work. I applaud that. I certainly don't want my tax dollars going to pay for someone else's mistake. The solution is to abstain or use protection in order to avoid an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy, to use common sense in selecting a suitable lifemate, and to provide a two-parent family for the child. In cases where the mother or father is widowed, I am truly sorry for your loss. Those are the situations where extended family and good friends are important to providing adult guidance for your child.

In many two-parent households, the money earned by one of the parents is "gravy." It pays for the extra vehicle s/he needs to get to the job, for the child care while both parents are at work, for unnecessary luxuries like store-bought cakes, iPods, cell phones with unlimited texting for every members of the family, and so on. In the great scheme of the universe, are those things, those inanimate objects, worth more than personal pride, integrity, honesty, cleanliness, a good work ethic, appreciation for diversity - those intangible things that come from fathers and mothers spending time face-to-face with their offspring?

Of course not.

If you've wondered why you're hearing more stories of children killing each other or their parents or their grandparents or the neighbor's dog, I believe it's a direct result of parents not being actively involved in their children's lives every day. And with each successive generation getting less attention and education from their parents, it's only going to get worse.

And that's why I answered the survey questions the way that I did.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

If I could eat the spam in my inbox, I'd never go hungry!

Somehow, I have ended up on at least one spammer's email address. I can't quite figure out their gimmick, unless it's phishing. I've been offered free Southwest Airline tickets, gift cards for completing surveys, and a free home security system. I'm receiving offers for free grant money for school, learn-at-home opportunities, electronic cigarettes, and great deals on 2010 automobiles. Each offer comes two or three times a day, at least, from different email addresses. They all kind of look alike.

I guess maybe they think I'll eventually fall for their trap and fill out a form that gives them all the information they need to steal my identity.

I just forwarded 107 spam emails to the government's address - - in hopes that they'll investigate and stop these jerkwads. I had sent a few more, with full headers copied and pasted into the forwarded mail, however at least two of those bounced for containing a blacklisted URL (ya' think?).

I've tried using the blacklisting/whitelisting/graylisting feature provided by our ISP, but it ends up stopping legitimate mail, too. I'm already mad enough at Powweb (they promise unlimited email, but what they mean is that you can have as many email addresses as you want, but they won't allow you to keep much email on the server), without them stopping the emails that I want to receive.

Let me just verify - I'm not forwarding to the spam address any newsletters or sales documents sent from a legitimate company or retailer from whom I have requested information. They usually have an unsubscribe button, and if it doesn't work, I contact the company and tell them. The ones I'm reporting are obviously scams or phishing schemes or rip-offs in one respect or another.

I'm not sure how I got on this list. Did I enter the wrong giveaway? Are they finding it online through my blog? Did a "legitimate" giveaway sell my information to a list service? Or did Facebook or Google sell my address?

Here's what I'm considering doing. Tell me what you think of the idea.

I'll get my own domain and email service with "unlimited emails." Instead of creating one email box, I'll create one for every sweep I enter. I'm not saying it won't take time to set it all up. Or maybe I let all those "random" addresses feed into a catch-all mailbox that I'll check. So, when I sign up at the official Hershey chocolate site, I'll use hershey@mydomain. When I sign up at a freebie site, I'll use thisfreebiesite@mydomain. With that naming pattern, I will easily be able to track who sold my information, and take good solid action against them. I can try to contact their ISP and forward very specific information to the government's spam address, so that hopefully, they'll be blackballed. I can confidently report the issue to the sweepstakes website I use, and maybe their "giveaways" won't be listed anymore.

Do you think this could work?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Day 9: Why I Want the OED

Today's topic in It's Gravy Baby's 31-day photo and post challenge is to write about your most treasured item. Since I'm not sure I can pick just one item from my treasured Star Wars collection, I turn to my bookshelf to find one of my most beloved books. 

I'm reading a book right now called The Glamour of Grammer, in which the author, Roy Peter Clark, says that his two favorite dictionaries are The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and The Oxford English Dictionary.

The AHD 4th edition,
was published in 2006.

I have an AHD, 3rd Edition, which I dearly love, because it doesn't just define words, it gives some word history and peculiarities of usage. Here's an example that I remember because of a personal story.

My parents grew up in Pensacola, Florida, and it's colloquial for people to use the word "carry" in connection with giving someone a ride. My mom used to talk about how, when she was in Spain, one of her good friends poked fun at her about it. The friend needed to go to the commissary or exchange, and my mom said, "I'll carry you up there." Of course, she meant that she'd give her a ride in the car, not that she'd physically pick her up and carry here there. That usage of "carry" is regional, and the AHD explains that. It makes the dictionary cool.

Yes, I am one of those people who can pick up a dictionary to look up one word, spend three hours on digressive journeys into word meaning, usage and history, and maybe, by the end of it, I'll actually get around to looking up the word I started out to look up.

I don't recall what I was trying to look up the day I learned the words "putti" and "étagère." I think putti was one of the guide words at the top of the pages. It's the plural of putto, which is an Italian word for a little cherub. I found étagère because of the lovely illustration of an ornate piece of furniture with shelves, and I see it all the time now on multi-lingual boxes containing plastic shelf units. A far cry from the gorgeous antique piece pictured in my AHD. has a whole lot of
putti on its étagère.
I discovered these two words on the same day, while working in our family-owned craft store. We had little ceramic cherubs and we had shelf units, and so, I used my new words in a sentenced and with a related action. I put the putti on the étagère. Go ahead. Say it.

It's fun isn't it?

It's been at least 15 years since our store closed, and my husband and I will still point to an angel figurine on a shelf and comment about the putti on the étagère.

I can't remember exactly how I got the AHD. I won a box of books from American Family Publishers, and I remember a red Webster's Dictionary in there, and the AHD might have been part of it, too. I know when I worked at B. Dalton Booksellers later, we had the same edition on the shelf and I used to recommend it when someone was looking for a good dictionary, especially if it was a graduation gift or something special, because it was $75.

While I was working at B. Dalton, we also had a two-volume set of the OED that came with a little magnifying glass because the text was so small. I want to say it was $150 or $200. I always kind of wanted that one, too.... Until I discovered the real OED. The one with 20 volumes.

All those words!

The OED covers word history, and usage, and includes quotes to show the words in usage. Oh how I would love to own a set. The closest I ever got was when an online store offered a set on sale for $500. It's going for about twice that right now on Amazon, and I think the price has come down; perhaps because a third edition is in the works or maybe because print is going by the wayside. It might as well have been five million dollars, as Scarlett O'Hara sort of said about the taxes on Tara, because we didn't have an extra $500 to spend on an overblown dictionary.

Sometimes, like this evening, I plug the title into my favorite search engine to see if any sales come up. I will own an OED someday. And I'll read it, too.

In the meantime, if you're looking for a good dictionary, I recommend one of these.

Why I Oppose the "Road Rage Act

Today in Tallahassee, state lawmakers heard the first reading of Florida House Bill 177, the Motor Vehicles/Highway Safety Act.

While some portions of this bill sound like a good idea, I am opposed to its passage in its current form. Here’s why:

We have a lot of roads in this area that have two or three lanes of traffic flowing in the same direction. This proposed legislation would make it illegal to drive in the left lane if anyone else wants to drive faster.

Here’s a scenario. I own some property on the Nine Mile Road in Beulah. It’s a rural two-lane road where people routinely drive 10, 15, 20 miles over the speed limit. There’s been talk for years of widening the road due to increased traffic from housing developments and the Navy Federal Credit Union call center. It’s very unlikely that a turn lane will be installed in front of my driveway. That turn-in leads to three pieces of property and two are currently uninhabited. Other nearby driveways are the same. When you get to the neighborhoods and the call center, which are congregated east of my place, it’s a different story.

So, I get off the interstate and turn west. My property is a few miles down the road, on the south side. I have to turn left, and to do so, I take my life in my hands, because the, um, numbskulls that want to drive 70mph in a 55 zone certainly don’t want to slow down. They blow their horns, they pass on the shoulder.

If the road is widened to four lanes, my inclination would be to get in the left lane when I get off the interstate. It’s not that far to my turn, and if I get in the right lane, there’s a real possibility that I will not be able to get into the left lane when it’s time to make my turn. If they won’t slow down for me now, when there’s only one lane going west, what makes you think they’ll be willing to slow down or move right when I change lanes in front of them? The other possibility is that a steady stream of speeders in the left lane will effectively block me from getting over anyway.

Let’s look more closely at what the bill says:

1. On roads, streets, or highways having two or more lanes that allow movement in the same direction, a driver may not continue to operate a motor vehicle in the furthermost left-hand lane if the driver knows, or reasonably should know, that he or she is being overtaken in that lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed. Paragraph (a) does not apply to a driver operating a motor vehicle in the furthermost left-hand lane if: The driver is driving the legal speed limit and is not impeding the flow of traffic in the furthermost left-hand lane;

In other words, if I’m driving the speed limit, I’m allowed to be in the left lane, unless someone else wants to race past me. Then I’m required to make it easier for the speeder to break the law.

2. The driver is in the process of overtaking a slower motor vehicle in the adjacent right-hand lane for the purpose of passing the slower moving vehicle so that the driver may move to the adjacent right-hand lane;

Now wait. If there’s a bus or an older person driving less than the speed limit in the right lane, I’m allowed to pass on the left. But am I required to wait until all the Speedy Gonzalezes are past before I can move into the left lane? Can I impede someone else in order to avoid being impeded?

3. Conditions make the flow of traffic substantially the same in all lanes or preclude the driver from moving to the adjacent right-hand lane;

I guess if both lanes of traffic are moving at about the same speed, it doesn’t matter which lane I’m in. But, if only speeders are supposed to use the left lane, then how did the traffic get backed up in that lane?

4. The driver's movement to the adjacent right-hand lane could endanger the driver or other drivers;

Okay, I’m not required to hit another vehicle in order to get out of Speedy’s way.

5. The driver is directed by a law enforcement officer, road sign, or road crew to remain in the furthermost left-hand lane; or

I hope this includes Florida’s mandatory rule that you move into the left lane when passing a law enforcement or emergency vehicle parked on the right shoulder.

6. The driver is preparing to make a left turn.

Ah, here we go. I’m allowed to be in the left lane to make a left turn. From I-10 to my turn on Nine Mile Road, it’s probably two or three miles. Is that too soon? Is five miles away too soon to get in the left lane, if I know that traffic usually gets heavier near where I need to make my turn?

Moving on, the next section is pretty convoluted with statute numbers, so I’ve removed most of those to make it easier reading.

Section 5. Section 316.1923, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
Aggressive careless driving.
(1) "Aggressive careless driving" means committing three, two or more of the following acts simultaneously or in succession:
(a)(1) Exceeding the posted speed;
(b)(2) Unsafely or improperly changing lanes;
(c)(3) Following another vehicle too closely;
(d)(4) Failing to yield the right-of-way;
(e)(5) Improperly passing or failing to yield to overtaking vehicles;
(f)(6) Violating traffic control and signal devices.

A few years ago, a truck full of people who I don’t think had been driving in this country for long, was weaving in and out of its lane and, I felt, putting me at risk. I sped up a little to get past them. It was a 45 zone dropping to a 30 zone and there’s a traffic light in the middle that was yellow when I passed under it.

The truck full of immigrants turned left.

The policeman hiding on a side street pulled me over and ticketed me for speeding and for speeding up to run a red light.

He was old, his hands were shaking so much I’m surprised he was able to write the ticket, and he gave me no opportunity to speak. I wanted to fight the red light portion of the ticket in court, but my husband was certain the judge would take the cop’s side over mine in a he said/she said, and we’d have to pay court costs on top of the tickets.

So, under the proposed legislation, I would have received an additional ticket for Aggressive Careless Driving. The immigrants would have qualified for the same and were certainly driving more dangerously than I was, but I was the easy catch.

And that’s what’s going to happen with this law. A law enforcement officer looking to boost his ticket count at the end of the month is going to be looking for an easy mark so he can tack on that extra “road rage” ticket.

The rest of the month, law enforcement personnel will do what they do now. They’ll talk on their cell phones while vehicles race through red lights in front of them. They’ll ignore the tailgaters and the speeders, and they won’t even bother to use their own turn signals.

If there’s any chance the driver really is exhibiting signs of road rage, they’ll quickly turn off, because they won’t want to deal with someone who’s already steaming mad even before they see the blue lights in their rear view mirrors.

If lawmakers really want to cut down on dangerous driving, here’s what they’ll do:
  • Make it easier for drivers to report the reckless behavior of other drivers. I don’t think law enforcement does anything to investigate that kind of complaint right now. They can’t write a ticket based on a civilian’s report and the typical attitude around here is that the perp will be gone before they can respond, so why bother. The rule could be something like if they get six or ten complaints about a certain license plate number, they need to check out that driver, watch for him, and see if they can catch him at it. Road rage is probably regular behavior for that type of person.
  • Pass a law against using a cell phone while behind the wheel of a car. Period. No talking. Hands-free or not. No texting. No reading the message. No listening to voice mail. No surfing the internet. If you need directions, pull over, then make the call. If the phone rings, wait until you can pull over and then call them back. Unless you’re a transplant surgeon waiting for a donor organ, it’s probably not anything that can’t wait five minutes.
  • Encourage law enforcement officers to do their duty every day and not just the last few days of the month. If they put down their phones and pulled over the people who are twenty feet from the intersection when the light turns red and they still go through it, a lot of people would learn to slow down and stop in time, and that would help reduce the frustration that builds into road rage.
  • Conduct more license and registration checks - I haven’t seen one of those in years – and don't advertise the locations in advance or allow people to turn around and get out of the line. The point is to nab people who are driving illegally before they cause a wreck.

This legislation is unnecessary. It's somewhat ambiguous. And I believe it holds more opportunity to hurt the average person than to stop any truly dangerous and aggressive drivers.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Six Songs for Sweepers

Here's my lucky playlist: the songs that make me feel lucky, the songs I hum when I'm feeling happy about a win or just dreaming about one.
1. "Something's Coming" from West Side Story [full lyrics]

This song is on my list because it's all about anticipating something good coming to you. What sweeper who's checking the mailbox, reading email, spotting the message light flashing on the answering machine, can't identify with this sentiment:

I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great! 

2. "Luck Be a Lady" from Guys and Dolls [full lyrics]

We all want luck to be good to us, don't we? Here's how the chorus to this song goes:

Luck be a lady tonight
Luck be a lady tonight
Luck if you've ever been a lady to begin with
Luck be a lady tonight.

3. "The Gold Diggers' Song (We're in the Money)" from Gold Diggers of 1933 [full lyrics]

I know this song mostly from the stage musical 42nd Street but Ginger Rogers sang it first in the 1933 film.

 It's the tune I hum or sing when I get a really good cash win, and not nearly as often as I'd like. All together now....
We're in the money,
We're in the money;
We've got a lot of what it takes to get along!
We're in the money,
The sky is sunny;
Old Man Depression, you are through,
You done us wrong! 

4. "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover" [listen here]

This cute little ditty was written in 1927, and it's very short, so I'm going to print all the lyrics here.

I sing it to myself when I'm looking for four-leaf clovers and especially when I find one. 

I'm looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before.
One leaf is sunshine, the second is rain,
Third is the roses that grow in the lane.
No need explaining, the one remaining
Is somebody I adore.
I'm looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before.

5. "Money (That's What I Want)" [full lyrics]

Apparently this song was most famously recorded by a group called the Flying Lizards. I know it because it's on the Josie and the Pussycats movie soundtrack.

Don't the song's opening lyrics say it all for the sweeper on a quest for cash prizes?

The best things in life are free,
But you can give them to the birds and bees.
I want money!

6. "I Wanna Be Rich" [full lyrics]

This is the refrain that comes to mind when I'm buying a ticket to Lotto or Powerball.

I want money, lots and lots of money
I want the pie in the sky
I want money, lots and lots of money
So don't be asking me why 

And those are my favorite songs about luck and money. Sorry, I couldn't come up with four more to make it a top 10 list. Do you have any songs to add to the Sweeper's Playlist?

Day Seven - My Day

I woke up this morning at 7:08am. Actually, I woke up 15 minutes earlier than that, but I have the bedroom clock set ahead, so those are the numbers I saw. I got up a few minutes later, and just a few minutes before the alarm was set to go off.

Remy made a diarrhea, which is good, because it was his first bowel movement in several days. He appears to have an enlarged colon, to go along with his abnormally small liver, and the x-rays last week showed that he's kind of impacted right now. Now, in addition to taking a syringe full of Clavamox, he also gets a syringe full of a laxative. He starts drooling when he sees the syringe.

I woke up with my shoulder aching, and my back knotted up even more the closer I got to work. With a major fundraiser coming up plus subscription renewals beginning soon, plus all the usual stuff, it's just an extra stressful time. One person was taking a vacation day and another was out sick, so it was pretty quiet. I did get a little bit accomplished, but not as much as I'd like.

We were hoping we'd see signs that Remy went to the bathroom more, but nothing in the boxes was soft, so he probably didn't go any more. Tim and I will both feel better, I'm sure, when he's cleaned out and hopefully back to normal.

After doing the evening medicating, feeding, my shower, calling mom, I finally had a chance to sit down. Then I found problems with our email service online. I've got to find a new service. My husband says use Gmail because it's got unlimited online storage, which is what I need, but I figure if I'm paying someone to host my domain and provide me with "unlimited" email, which should that mean unlimited email addresses but a cap on how many messages I can have in my box. So I ended up spending time trying to make sure that the mail I already had downloaded won't disappear like the last time I tried to download anything. I hope I have it set up now. I lost a lot of irreplaceable messages from friends and my late father when Thunderbird "synched" with webmail and deleted everything that I had downloaded. Stupid me, I didn't think I had to keep it online AND offline. I thought the point was to be able to download the mail to keep it.

Dealing with all that (and the memory of what I lost and my anger that I had set everything up to download the mail so that we could change ISPs, and it turned out to be for nothing because my husband renewed the hosting package anyway) has only made me more tense.

Then I started trying to check my current mail and enter my sweeps for today. And now, look at the time, it's already tomorrow. Like sands and all that.  My day.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Day Four - An Experience That Made Me Who I Am

In the late '80s, I attended some major science fiction conventions and a bunch of smaller ones. Here are the highlights:
  • 1986 - World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), Atlanta, Georgia
  • 1987 - Official Star Wars 10th Anniversary Convention, Los Angeles, California
  • 1988 - WorldCon, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • 1989 - WorldCon, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1991 - WorldCon, Chicago, Illinois
Most of the big cons were attended by publicity reps from the major Hollywood studios. (The only name I can remember is Jeff Walker from Warner Bros). Remember, back then, you couldn't go to YouTube or Apple to see upcoming movie trailers. You had to wait for publicity stills to be published in a magazine (probably three months after the studio released them). When the studio reps did their slide shows about upcoming science fiction, fantasy or comic book-related films, the rooms were packed.

I thought that would be the coolest job in the world. Of course, I'd already graduated from college, and I don't even know if UWF had a public relations degree back then. (They have a great program now.)  I have no idea what these guys did when they weren't traveling to science fiction conventions to talk to geeks about movies.

A few years after my first convention (that Atlanta WorldCon), I was offered an unbelievable opportunity to live that dream.  A friend of mine (we met at the Star Wars con in '87 and later worked together at Walt Disney World) brought me a flyer for the Sci-Fi Channel. Imagine! A television channel that would show SF movies and TV shows all day, every day. (Too bad we don't have one now.) This was something that I'd dreamed of, but I certainly didn't have the money or connections to start a TV network. I wrote a passionate letter saying that I'd love to work for them, and they offered me a job!

This was before the Sci-Fi Channel ever got on the air. First, the cable companies had to be convinced to carry the channel. You have to have an audience (or at least a potential audience) before you start broadcasting. SFC reps would travel around talking to all the different cable systems, large and small, rural and urban, and try to get them to sign an agreement to put the Sci-Fi Channel on their line-up, if and when the Channel launched.

It was my job to encourage fans to write to their cable companies, demonstrating their interest in watching an all-sci-fi network. I spent all day, every day responding to letters from interested people, taking phone calls, making calls and writing letters, mailing packets of flyers to conventions and fan clubs, and speaking at conventions, mostly the ones in Central and South Florida within easy driving distance of Sci-Fi HQ. It really was a dream job.

It also led me to my husband. One of the conventions I was able to attend as a Sci-Fi Channel representative was the big one, ChiCon, the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in 1991. Several fan club leaders I'd been working with were going to be there, so it was chance to meet them face to face; distribute flyers, posters and buttons; and to answer questions at my very own panel. (I didn't have a slide show.) The president of a big Doctor Who fan club in the midwest was an SFC supporter, so I had arranged to meet him, and when I went up to his room, his wife and a couple of friends were also there. One of those friends and I hit it off, and two weeks later, we were engaged.

Over the next few months, USA Networks decided to buy the Sci-Fi Channel (which consisted primarily of all those signed agreements from the cable systems), and I didn't know if I'd have a job or not. I wasn't sure I wanted to live in New York anyway (I'd spent a couple of days there on my home from the Boston WorldCon, September 1989, and it smelled). So, I resigned, got married, and moved to Missouri, where they never feed you snakes before ripping your heart out and lowering you into hot pits.

Fast forward and I'm now working in the public relations field again. The whole ball game has changed, and I don't know if the studios still have people who travel to conventions to present slide shows (if so, now they're Powerpoint presentations), show video clips, and tell the fans all the wonderful things happening in Hollywood. I'd still love to have that job.

I can safely say that I am who I am, a happily married wife and a public relations professional, because of my experiences at those conventions a long time ago in states far, far away.

Day Three - The People Who Make My World Go Around

My mom (in Mansfield, Indiana; left), because she's always been so supportive of me. She's also a little crazy, and I think it runs in the family.

My husband, for making me laugh, for encouraging me, and for always making me feel special.

My friend Liz, because we're so different and yet so alike, and because she is such a strong, smart, vibrant personality.