Thursday, February 20, 2003

A short response to Brian's most recent blog post:

We played king of the hill on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome and then we got our butt spanked. Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49 bottle of antibiotics and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.
That portion of the email forward he posted jumped out at me because when I was a kid, another kid from my church was out playing at a vacant construction site with friends when a huge pile of sand collapsed on him. They dug him out and rushed him to the emergency room, but he'd already gone into a coma. He died a week later due to complications. That's the only time in my life so far that a peer of mine has died. It sucked.

That aside, however, I generally agree with the email Brian posted. You should consider reading it if you haven't already.

Alright, alright, so that you don't have to actually click a link and browse over, I'll post it here. You lazy bum.

Looking back, it's hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have.

My Mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn't seem to get food poisoning. My Mom used to defrost hamburger on the counter AND I used to eat it raw sometimes too, but I can't remember getting E-coli.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs, toys and rooms were painted with bright colored lead based paint. We often chewed on the crib, ingesting the paint.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. We played dodge ball and sometimes the ball would really hurt.

We played with toy guns, cowboys and Indians, army, cops and robbers, and used our fingers to simulate guns when the toy ones or my BB gun was not available.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda, but we were never overweight; we were always outside playing.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students weren't as smart as others or didn't work hard so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade.

That generation produced some of the greatest risk-takers and problem solvers. We had the freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring), the term cell phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager was the school PA system.

We all took gym, not PE... and risked permanent injury with a pair of high top Ked's (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in light reflectors. I can't recall any injuries but they must have happened because they tell us how much safer we are now.

Flunking gym was not an option... even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be much harder than gym.

Every year, someone taught the whole school a lesson by running in the halls with leather soles on linoleum tile and hitting the wet spot. How much better off would we be today if we only knew we could have sued the school system. Speaking of school, we all said prayers and the pledge and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention for the next two weeks. We must have had horribly damaged psyches.

I can't understand it. Schools didn't offer 14 year olds an abortion or condoms (we wouldn't have known what either was anyway) but they did give us a couple of baby aspirin and cough syrup if we started getting the sniffles. What an archaic health system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours wore a hat and everything.

I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed to be proud of myself. I just can't recall how bored we were without computers, PlayStation, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital cable stations.

I must be repressing that memory as I try to rationalize through the denial of the dangers could have befallen us as we trekked off each day about a mile down the road to some guy's vacant 20, built forts out of branches and pieces of plywood, made trails, and fought over who got to be the Lone Ranger. What was that property owner thinking, letting us play on that lot?

He should have been locked up for not putting up a fence around the property, complete with a self-closing gate and an infrared intruder alarm.

Oh yeah.... and where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed!

We played king of the hill on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome and then we got our butt spanked. Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49 bottle of antibiotics and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.

We didn't act up at the neighbor's house either because if we did, we got our butt spanked (physical abuse) here too ... and then we got butt spanked again when we got home.

Mom invited the door to door salesman inside for coffee, kids choked down the dust from the gravel driveway while playing with Tonka trucks (remember why Tonka trucks were made wasn't so that they could take the rough Berber in the family room), and Dad drove a car with leaded gas.

Our music had to be left inside when we went out to play and I am sure that I nearly exhausted my imagination a couple of times when we went on two week vacations.

I should probably sue the folks now for the danger they put us in when we all slept in campgrounds in the family tent

Summers were spent behind the push lawnmower and I didn't even know that mowers came with motors until I was 13 and we got one without an automatic blade-stop or an auto-drive. How sick were my parents?

Of course, my parents weren't the only psychos. I recall Donny Reynolds from next-door coming over and doing his tricks on the front stoop just before he fell off. Little did his Mom know that she could have owned our house. Instead, she picked him up and swatted him for being such a goof. It was a neighborhood run amuck.

To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that we needed to get into group therapy and anger management classes?

We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills, that we didn't even notice that the entire country wasn't taking Prozac!

How did we survive?

So, yeah. I agree with a lot of that. I believe our society has become paranoid and stupid. I hate the litigation-happy mentality that we seem to have slipped into. I hate all the ass-covering that schools, hospitals, individuals, businesses, organizations, etc. end up engaging in due to fear of litigation.

I worked as a counselor at a girl scout camp one summer a few years ago. They were so paranoid about litigation that they just cut out all sorts of activities that had I enjoyed at the same camp as a kid, and they really put limits on how counselors could interact with kids. This got in the way of a good camp experience for the kids more often than not. For instance, the girls are no longer allowed to learn how to put up tents. Knife safety courses are gone; no more whitling, no more carving sticks for marshmallows. They could hurt themselves. Girls aren't allowed to share or trade food; what if one is allergic to something the other give her?! When I was a kid and it rained at the camp, we put on our ponchos and continued with whatever we were doing. We felt good about ourselves because we were "roughing it", and it was fun. Now they force all the kids indoors; wouldn't want anyone to catch a chill.

One week when I was assigned to one of the five-year old units, one of the girls whacked another with a stick. The injured girl came crying to me. She wasn't really hurt all that badly; she just wanted to climb up on my lap for a hug and some consolation. I had to tell her no and keep her at a distance, which left her feeling all the more upset. Any sort of contact like that was distinctly against the rules, rules which had been put in place to give the camp administrators peace of mind about protecting themselves from any sort of sexual harassment litigation.

I loved the kids, but it was just depressing for me seeing how much the camp had changed in 10 years and how much it was still changing (for the worse, in my opinion). I didn't go back to be a counselor again for any of the following summers.

It's good to worry about safety. It's good to hold people, organizations, schools, etc. accountable for bad things that they are responsible for. But I think we've gone way overboard. And it pisses me off.
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I drew that. Isn't it pretty? Ah, the joys of ASCII art.
Damnit. I just screwed up my post and now have to re-type it. I hate when I do stupid crap like that.

For whatever reason, last night as I was falling asleep I found myself trying to come up with an analogy for a stifling relationship.

Imagine two flowers in a field. One is blue and gold, rounded petals, a soft scent. One is a stunning red with a clean white center, its petals more angular. Both are stunning and beautiful, but they grow well next to each other. Neither draws away from the other. Both have ample access to sunlight and to water and minerals in the ground, and both are able to grow to their full potential; healthy looking, good size, vibrant colours.

Now imagine the same blue and gold flower in the same field, but neighbored instead by a large bush full of delicate yellow buds. When they are small both the flower and the bush may grow well together for a time, but as the bush becomes larger and more beautiful it will begin to block the sunlight available to the flower and it will draw more water and minerals out of the ground, thereby limiting the resources needed by the flower.

The flower in the second example may still live a full life, and it may still be pretty, but in having its resources limited it will never be able to reach its full potential. Its growth will likely be stunted, its colours will never be as bright, and it will never look quite as healthy as it might under other conditions. Looking at this particular flower on its own you might not even realize that was the case, but if you were familiar with the breed of flower, if you could see it in comparison next to the flower in the first example, it would be blatantly apparent that the flower here was ultimately something less than it could have been.

So I fell asleep thinking about flowers and bushes.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Ooh-oo child, things are gonna get easier.
Ooh-oo child, things'll get brighter.
Ooh-oo child, things are gonna get easier.
Ooh-oo child, things'll get brighter

Some day, yeah, we'll get it together and we'll get it all done.
Some day when your head is much lighter
Some day, yeah, we'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun.
Some day when the world is much brighter...

("Ooh Child" - written by Stan Vincent, sung by many)

I was a little unhappy earlier, and this song started playing in my head. I don't even know the song all that well so I'm not sure where it came from, but I found it strangely comforting.
So I was looking at plane tickets, found some really nicely priced ones... I went to just browse around a little bit to see if I could find anything else comprable, not more than 10 minutes, and then popped back to the original site to find that the original tickets I'd found jumped up in price by $70. Coincidentally, it turns out those 10 minutes were the difference between "before midnight" and "after midnight" (a new day). Blah. Suck.

Other than that, it's been a nice night. It's Tiff's birthday, and she's all about Karaoke, so they set up a machine! And games night has been Karaoke night. Lots of fun. Back to singing...

Tuesday, February 18, 2003


I had just left to go over to a friend's place, and turned around to come back before I'd even left the apartment complex because I remembered that I'd left the coffee-maker on. Ran upstairs, and found that my dog had ALREADY gotten into the kitchen. He found the most recent bag of dog treats I'd purchased for him and was busy helping himself. (Better that than chocolate.)

Well, at least he's a go-getter. Or something.

This time I caught him before he'd feasted, but soon enough into it for him to feel guilty. He's on the couch in submissive mode as I type this.

Anyhow, I'm off again, now that I'm certain I'm not going to burn down the apartment while I'm away.
I feel indescribably happy right now.

Monday, February 17, 2003

My electric griddle is the ultimate kitchen tool. It can do anything.

I just manged to use it to make popcorn. Mmm, freshly popped popping corn with just a hint of butter and salt, and none of that microwave @#%$.

Wow. I never realized just how profound Brian really was.

Along the same lines, I wouldn't mind a suga-daddy. Or a suga-momma, even. I'm not picky. :)
Jeremy knows about the blog now. Hmm.

I tried to make him promise never to get offended at anything I might write before giving him the address, but he didn't really go for that. Bah. Guess I'll have to bad-mouth him someplace else. ;)

Anyhow - hi, Jeremy.
Mike comes home tonight!

Well, not "home" so much as in "where my home is", but "home" as in "where he lives, thousands of miles away". This means, though, that he'll be available online again, and that I'll be able to call him. That makes me happy.
After finding that, in the last 4 days, TurboTax's live chat system has changed such that it now costs more for one session than the entire amount of the refund I'm seeking, and after filling out a few more web forms only to get more stock responses directing me to web chat (despite the customer support FAQ indicating the forms as being the correct line of action to take), I gave up.

I filed an online complaint with the Better Business Bureau detailing all my woes, and although that doesn't change anything, I feel much better now. I'm ready to move on with my life.

Petty? Yes.

But if I feel like a load is off my chest now as a result, is it really all that bad? Intuit charged me more than they should have and has subsequently wasted my time and given me no end of frustration. It may all be over a trivial amount of money, but it's still not a good way to run a business.

On to new and better things...
Why are there so many stupid people in the world?

I filed my taxes on the web through TurboTax. Microsoft had a deal with ProBusiness, the company that handled their W-2s, that should have ended up giving me a 15% discount on the TurboTax price. I was charged full price.

  • I did a Live Chat with a TurboTax support person and explained my problem.

  • They directed me to contact ProBusiness. I attempted to call ProBusiness, but their customer support line only takes calls for a limited portion of the day and was closed down.

  • I emailed ProBusiness.

  • ProBusiness emailed back after several days and said, "Not my problem! Talk to your company benefits or to TurboTax."

  • I emailed ProBusiness again, along with MS Benefits, and ProBusiness responded by saying, "Oh, it is our problem. But you'll have to talk to TurboTax anyway."

  • I spent a long time searching the TurboTax and Intuit web sites looking an email contact address, but couldn't find any. I DID eventually find a FAQ Question for my specific problem ("I didn't receive my 15% Employer Program discount. How do I get a refund of the difference?") that directed me to fill out a Refunds web form.

  • I filled out the form. Some required fields were irrelevant to TurboTax on the Web, so I had to choose answers that didn't apply. It was annoying. I entered LOTS of information in the comment box; should have been plenty.

  • I recieved an email response saying that they need more information and I need to do a live chat. (Argh - straingt back to where I started!) There was no case number included. The page they pointed me to has a link to do live chat if you have a case number, but not otherwise.

  • I browsed around for a while looking for a live chat link that didn't require a case number but couldn't find it right off, so I responded to the email.

  • My email response BOUNCED BACK. They sent me email from an address ( that is apparently not even a valid address.

All this for a refund that will amount to less than $2.00. At this point I'm not even doing it for the money, just for the principal of the matter, but #@$@#%. I'm thinking now that it's just not worth it; I'm pretty peeved and this is probably doing horrid things to my blood pressure.

Then, I logged back into my mail account to find another, unrelated email. Several days ago I emailed the MS charitable giving program. In the email I indicated that I no longer work at MS and thus cannot access their internal website, and I asked if there was any other means for me to get a record of how much money had been pulled out of my salary last year for the organizations I'd chosen to donate to. Their response gave a link to their internal website and directed me to look it up there. Hello! I mailed you because I can't access the internal website since I no longer have access to the internal network! @#$@#^%.


I feel like banging my head against a wall.
Well, I finally changed my blog template, and I've customized it to my heart's content. I think the page is much prettier now. If you don't, well, get your own page or something. :)

Dogs having nightmares are so sad.
Reason #537 for not smoking around your kids: I was talking to a friend about smoking the other day. He's never smoked a cigarette, but his dad smoked for the first 16 years of his life. He says that sometimes when he hangs out around smokers he'll feel as if his body is craving cigrettes, despite the fact that he wouldn't even know how to smoke the damn things. Not cool.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

I wonder if some of my restlessness is from not dancing.

Going from being really active every day, to hardly at all...


It'd make sense.
I'm restless lately. I don't know what the deal is.

I'll idly surf the net; it feels like I'm looking for something, but I'm not sure what it is. I check Brian's blog, nothing new, Mike's blog, nothing new, Mary's blog, nothing new... and I sit there filling unfulfilled, not sure what I want, what I'm looking for.

I sit here in my chair, or I walk around, or I drive, and it feels like something in me's just about to burst.

I've been burning out on dance a bit, maybe; I'm not going out as much, perhaps 1/3 to 1/4 as often as I was just a month ago. I took much of last week and most the weekend off; I know some of my friends wanted to get together, I know there are any number of social gatherings I've been welcome at, I know that people have noticed my absence and have missed me, but still I've chosen on a number of occasions to just stay home. Hang out with the dog, do chores around the house, read.

I'm not sure what's up, what I'm looking for, what's driving me to all of a sudden act differently than I had been.