Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Scan and destroy: learn it, live it, love it.

Yeah, I was still having some crap pop up on my computer - nothing too heinous (I thought I'd removed it all but I'd now and then get a pop-up. Like I was reading an online forum where they were facetiously discussing the Snuggie, and I got a pop-up ad purporting to be from the seller of the Snuggie.) And the browser was running slow.

(Seriously: does this happen to everyone or is my internet connection just a slut? 'Cos it seems to pick up an awful lot of "social diseases." And I even try to limit where it goes and who it goes with. Maybe they need to make a firewall program called "Chastity Belt.")

So I groaned and did the download-updates for MalwareBytes anti-malware program, and Spytbot search and destroy. Together they found a lot of crap, all of which I removed. (I think Malware finally zapped the pop-up generator).

Spybot Search and Destroy is a seriously awesome program. I just feel like I have to say that right here.

On the one hand, I feel kind of like I kicked a bunch of ass tonight. On the other hand, it ticks me off that I even am having to do this. (And I've also changed my WOT settings to block "suspicious" sites. I had to monkey with them a little because the most restrictive setting actually blocks this blog - I presume because there's no "trusted vendor" certificate or somesuch attached, but that's OK that I turned that part off, I only shop at sites I KNOW and have verified on my own are safe. But hopefully sites that load malware will still be blocked.)

I guess I'm going to have to do this at least once a week (even with WOT, I can see stuff could get in - just this evening, McAfee kept announcing that it had blocked a bunch of trojans. I don't know if this is related to that Fick-whatever worm (I can never remember the actual name) taking over people's computers and sending out instructions to try to invade other computers or not. Or maybe my ISP is just being really lax, I don't know, but it seems I've had a lot more trouble lately.)

The most recent XKCD....

Oh, you KNOW you've wanted to do this some time.

Especially to the Special Snowflake with the shiny new pickup who parks across parts of THREE separate spaces, just to avoid his truck getting dinged.

(N.B.: I don't have a problem with people doing that IF they are parking in the outer, BFE end of the parking lot where there are few other cars. But it makes me burn with hate when someone is doing it within reasonable walking distance of the store and when there are NO OTHER near spots)

I hate "nutrition EXPERTS."

I think when it comes time to renew my subscription to my local paper, I'm not going to. The paper is, on some days, six pages long, four of that being local high-school sports. And recently, they dropped two of the Sunday supplements that I tended to consider "essential" to a paper.

First, they eliminated the color comic supplement. Now, granted, most of the comics my local paper subscribed to were kind of stupid and pointless (A particular un-favorite was something called "Dinette Set," which was never funny, and which gave me the distinct impression that the artist/author really hated the average American and thought they were stupid). But still. To me, a Sunday comic supplement just is part of the paper, and it seems almost heretical to eliminate it.

Then they got rid of the TV Guide (sorry, the "TV advice" - it is not an actual product of TV Guide, tm). That wasn't so bad - I have the on-screen guide through my digital cable, and they had really been phoning in the tv listings for the past few years (they were often wrong, and the guide section didn't list many of the channels that even the mid-range cable subscribers got).

So, we're down to one supplement. That glossy USA Today weekend thing. (You may know it). It's usually kind of lame, celebrity "gossip" that is calculated to bring certain celebrities "top of mind" the week before they release a new CD or movie. Or they have pseudo-heartwarming stories on some kid who gives up his birthday party so that homeless kids can have one. Stuff like that.

But they also have snippets of advice. And you know, sometimes snippets of advice do more harm than good.

There was a particularly infuriating one this weekend. Some "nutrition expert" I've never heard of made the claim that "The typical American breakfast is pure poison"

Hyperbole, much?

There are two failures (perhaps three) contained in that statement.

First, nowhere does he state the "typical American breakfast." So you don't know what he means. Donuts? Cereal? Eggs and bacon? While I can see that donuts do not a nutritious breakfast make, some cereals are certainly nutritionally sound. And eggs and bacon - provided you don't have cholesterol or triglyceride issues - are probably fine as well (I can't face that much protein so early in the day)

So, unmoored from any reference, we simply have a scary statement.

Which is the second failure of the nutritional "expert." And golly day, do I hate it when people do what he just did there. There seems to be an assumption among much of the "para-health" (I am calling it "para-health" as opposed to "health," as a lot of these people are not MDs and many of them are selling something) community that Americans are Teh Stupidz! and the only way to convince of of anything is to scare the pants off of us.

And you know? That just makes me angry. Health reporting is SO poorly done in this nation. I see it all the time in my non-majors class - I have these kids come in who are afraid to eat, afraid to drink tap water, afraid of all this stuff that's pretty harmless, because someone on CBS National News or CNN or some website told them it was gonna kill them. And some people get SO convinced that they are right and a couple hundred years of actual health experience is wrong, that you can't even argue with them. (see: vaccine opponents.)

I don't know what this nutrition "expert" thinks we SHOULD eat (well, he does say "veggie omelets," the though of which makes me want to hurl, at least the though of eating them before 10 am) but I get really tired of being "shoulded" at.

One of the recent new villains? Fruit juice. Even good old orange juice.

It's loaded with sugar, we're told. It has no fiber, we're told. It spikes up insulin and can lead to obesity and (Booga booga booga!) DIABEEEETUS!

I swear, they think that saying "diabetes" is like holding a crucifix up to a vampire. The American people are supposed to recoil, hissing in horror, and immediately switch to a diet of steamed broccoli and brown rice in repentance for former food-sins.

Okay, first off: yes, people with diabetes do need to watch what they eat. I GET that. However, most of us do NOT have diabetes, and regardless of what some doctors would like to do, we are NOT all "pre diabetics."

(Another rant for another time: declaring chunks of the population "pre" some condition, when there are actually very few indications they will actually develop it: pre-diabetic. Pre-hypertensive. They even tried to class all women of childbearing age as "pre-pregnant" a couple years ago. And while I heartily support taking care of your health carefully if you plan to have a child (especially in the next year or so), I also think calling women - like me - who are not married and DO NOT PLAN on having children - and would not put ourselves into a position of unplanned pregnancy - as pre-pregnant is, well, a little bit Big Brother. Like, "Don't drink, don't be exposed to pesticides, eat all your folic acid like a good little girl, so you can make more new taxpayers to feed Uncle State.")

And diabetes is NOT 100% tied to diet. It is NOT 100% tied to obesity, lack of exercise, anything like that. Yes, poor diet and lack of exercise can accelerate someone getting it - and good diet and exercise MAY slow it down. But telling people "OH NOES YOU'RE DRINKING OJ! DIABEEETUS!" is unhelpful.

(Ironic, isn't it? We used to be told there was only one kind of OJ that would kill you. Can I get a rim shot?)

I have a particular objection to the anti-orange juice crowd.

Because, I guess I have to say now, orange juice is one of my few vices. (Gah. Am I in bearded-Spock world, that that sentence even makes sense now?)

I need my orange juice first thing in the morning the way some people need coffee. (I don't drink coffee; I can't. It upsets my stomach). Orange juice is an essential part of my morning.

Now I know how the coffee drinkers felt back some years ago when all the medical experts were nannying at them to give up their favorite morning beverage in the name of health.

The thing is - I've been on a cross-country ski simulator for an hour before I down that OJ. So the whole blood-sugar issue is actually probably in the opposite direction for me - I've burned up any and all remaining muscular glycogen in that past hour, my body's been churning out insulin. I need that damn OJ. (You really wouldn't like me when I'm extremely hungry).

And again - this comes down to the whole, "It works for me, therefore it must be prescribed for everyone else on EARTH" mentality. Okay, fine, some people can't metabolically deal with the big slug of sugar in orange juice. But for those of us who can, don't make us feel guilty for enjoying it.

(Or even if we maybe CAN'T, but aren't suffering any immediate symptoms, leave us the hell alone).

In the same issue there's some advice from Suze Orman, about how the bad economy is apparently making people fat. My one issue with her "advice" is that she falls into the logical fallacy that many naturally-thin people do: "I do not have to work hard to keep my body the slim size it is. Therefore, people who are not thin like me just are lazy bums who don't try hard enough."

I know people who are way UNDERweight - one woman whose doctor actually told her to start drinking milkshakes to try to put some weight on. And it didn't work. Would I go to her and say, "Look, you need to gain weight. But you're just not trying hard enough. Or you have the wrong attitude, or something. Because look at me - I can gain weight easily, without even trying."

I don't know. These kind of stories make me twitchy and sad. Because I am kind of fat - well, "fat" by modern standards of beauty. And because I like good food - but I do not like the typical stuff (broccoli, brown rice, raw things) that the foodists tell you you should eat. I think I do OK - I do eat fruits and vegetables and not much meat and lots of beans and whole grains. And I just get so tired of being told, "I know you're trying but you're doing it WRONG" and being told that even the few healthy pleasures I have in my life either aren't so healthy, or should be replaced by something even more healthy (but far less pleasurable - I've read how some people are pushing other greens, more bitter greens, over baby spinach, because apparently they contain more of the stuff that will keep you from getting dead. And you know? Spinach is about the limit of what I can manage, thanks. Don't tell me I must eat something that tastes like the south end of a northbound horse, and if I don't, I'm totally wasting my time and I deserve whatever horrible illness I get.

Because that's the vibe I get off of some of these people: if you don't take my advice and enter into the dietary equivalent of wearing a hair shirt, you DESERVE diabetes and heart disease and cancer and all the rest. And people like that are heartily welcome to take a flying leap, because what happens if someone does all they recommend and still gets sick (as all of us will?))

I don't know but I suspect as there's a run-up to pushing for socialized medicine there will be more and more of these scare stories, and if we DO get socialized medicine, they won't be stories any more - you will be TOLD by your doctor what you can and cannot eat, and perhaps even in the future you will be permitted only to buy certain foods. (You think it can't happen? Remember the story last year about some state - Alabama, I think? where a legislator proposed banning the obese from certain restaurants? It could happen.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I win, spyware loses! I win, spyware loses!

That's what I was singing this morning.

Yesterday, while surfing around, I mis-clicked on one of the ad sites that are on Cute Overload. (Be very, very careful of Cute Overload - the site itself is OK but apparently some of the ad sites are not. I didn't intend to click on it but my touchpad is sometimes a little wonky on this laptop. And DON'T go to "Daily Puppy" - I think that was the source of the earlier highjacker I had, and I know at least one other person who got whacked with spyware from that site).

I got the Web-Of-Trust (and thanks again, Alli!) "Uh Oh, this is a BAD site" warning.

I immediately clicked it off, but not fast enough. It had apparently installed some kind of trojan that started opening pop-ups every time I surfed to a site, and that slowed the browser way down.

Oh crap, I thought, another $80 to get it removed.

But I decided, just on a whim, to TRY updating Spybot Search and Destroy and running it. (I had run it, but without updates, a bit earlier.)

It found 10 pieces of #$(*$&#$#@ spyware. So I told it to remove them.

No more popups! No more highjacking! And my browser is back up to speed.

So, Spybot Search and Destroy: BIG WIN
Trojan Horses: FAIL. (At least for this time. I hate that we have to constantly, arms-race-style, be evolving new defenses against them).

I will admit to doing a Nelson-esque "HA ha" when I saw that Spybot Search and Destroy had successfully removed all 10 items. There's something perversely satisfying about seeing the dastardly beggarly (there are two other similar words I could use there but won't) spyware writers be defeated.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My fellow motorists

Are a bunch of blazing idiots.

I had to drive about an hour and a half (each way - morning and afternoon) today for an activity I take part in every year. I enjoy it, it's good PR for my department, it's "service to the profession." So it's good.

The drive there and back, though, NEVER is. Today it was worse, because it was misty and cold in the morning, and we had enormous, heavy downpours (at a couple points you couldn't see much more than 10 feet in front of the car).

And yet, people continue to drive, dee-dee-dee, as if nothing were different from a bright sunny summer day.

Driving up, I had to deal with twin terrors: first, the drivers who figure since it's "not night any more" they don't need their headlights. Even though it's totally overcast, misting, and the sun might as well not have come up. Oh, and these folks usually drive gray or light blue cars. Cryptic coloration is not a smart evolutionary strategy in this case.

Second, the drivers who HAD THEIR BRIGHTS ON SO THEY COULD SEE AND BY GOD THEY WILL NOT TURN THEM OFF FOR ANYTHING, not even oncoming drivers who get blinded.

In both cases I "flashed" my lights at them but heaven only knows if they figured out what that actually meant ("Turn your lights on, stupid!" or "Turn off the brights, stupid!"). I suppose given the different meanings of the gesture, some of them were wondering where the cop was set up with radar, or if I was actually someone who knew them.

Then there are the big-rigs who come RIGHT UP ON YOUR TAIL before huffily pulling out into the pass lane and passing you. Um, being able to read "Mack" backwards doesn't make me any more prone to go over the speed limit, thanks.

Coming home it was even worse. We had unbelievable, torrential rain (at a couple points, if there had been somewhere safe like a parking lot to pull off into, I would have pulled off and waited, but there wasn't).

And yet, there are still people SPEEDING. And this is on a two-lane. With a set limit of 65.

I was going 45 and even 40 at a couple points because that was literally as fast as I felt it was safe. (Granted, my tires are maybe a little bald, and I found that out today, but still). And yet, I still had some loser riding my tail for miles and miles. It's like, dude, either pass me or hang back a little. If I have to stop fast you WILL rear-end me, and we will BOTH be unhappy, but you will be unhappier because you will be in the wrong and your insurance will have to pay for the repairs to my car - which incidentally is bigger, heavier, and better made than yours, so you will probably take more damage.

I also was passed at one point by a truck pulling tandem semis. That was scary and unpleasant - can barely see, am trying not to let Speed Racer on my butt run up my tailpipe, and then this TRUCK comes blaring into the left-hand lane, blowing roostertails of water up into my field of view.

Just as the rain would abate a little, and I'd be thinking, Thank God I came through it, it would start again. So I was pretty exhausted and stiff (I tend to tense up when it's bad driving) when I got home.

It was bad enough with the bad weather but the other clueless and impatient drivers made it worse. I guess they didn't have dads like mine - when I was learning to drive, one thing he impressed on me is that it was ALWAYS better to be late somewhere than to get in an accident. And that you need to take road conditions into account when driving, and drive slower (and not use cruise control) during heavy rainstorms.

(Fortunately, he also taught me not to freak out and how to get out of it when the car hydroplanes; that happened several times today.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"I'll take 'Clueless Idiots' for $200, Alex"

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

I love FailBlog so much.

If FailBlog were a man, I'd want to marry him. Because there's something to be said for having a husband who can make you laugh every day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Have these guys been watching CNN?

Except I'd substitute "40 days" for "A month" on that last one, there.

I wonder what the statute of limitations is on blaming your predecessor for problems. And I wonder at what point the MSM is going to throw up its hands and go "Enough already!" (Probably NEVER, but whatev's_)

Little indulgences

I got to wondering when my Amazon Prime subscription would expire, so I looked it up.

It expires today. If I do nothing, it charges me $79 but gives me another year of free two-day shipping.

I briefly considered hitting the "do not renew" button - after all, it's $79 - but then I changed my mind.

Because Amazon Prime is one of the little things that makes my life better. Even when gas spiked up to $4 a gallon here and I was driving even less than I do now, I could still get the books I wanted. When I hear about a book I want to read (the most recent suggestion coming from Kate P. - "Why Manners Matter") I can have it in two days.

Because I live in the land of (essentially) no bookstores, and a very limited library (yes, even the campus library. They've been chronically underfunded and though they do a good job of covering the "basics," the kind of fun want-it-now books I like to read don't tend to be in their collection).

And there's something comforting about it to me - being able to get a book I want on short notice. Or a dvd. Or a CD. (I'm not sure if Prime extends to other of Amazon's items, but I swan if I have to deal with roving bands of 14 year olds in the wal-mart again, I will look at their "grocery" option, at least for stuff like canned goods*). I can get something from them usually FASTER than I can find the couple-hours free to drive to the next biggest town (1/2 hour away) and search their Books a Million (and if it's a mystery novel or a literary novel, and it's been more than a year since publication and it's not a best-seller, good luck on finding it.)

(*Hey presto, for at least some items, they DO. So if I really go the hermit route - to avoid the burgeoning population of rude special snowflakes - I can at least get steel-cut oatmeal and dried cherries sent to me)

(And I will admit - at times - when there's something I've been wanting for a while and not bought, I will often decide to buy it and time its arrival so it will come after what I foresee being a particularly tough day. A little bit of self-care).

I don't know. I keep feeling like I have to justify the expense, especially in this new world of "Why don't you tell the American people they have to SUFFER more?" (which is apparently one of the complaints leveled at Obama's speech last night. Which I did not watch).

But you know? It's like $7 a month. If I order two things in a month, I've covered my costs right there. (And I've also found I can use it to send gifts to people on the cheap as well). But it's more than the cost savings - it's that feeling of knowing I can get something, fast, when I want it, without the effort of driving an hour's round trip (and dealing with the decidedly mixed bag of clerks at the Books A Million - several of them are wonderful (and in fact there's one guy a bit younger than me who always flirts with me a little when I go in), but there are also some of the "typical" eye-rolly, never-grew-up types)

I tend to be very frugal about a lot of things - as I said yesterday, I'm the light turner-offer in my department (and also at home), I rejoice over finding a new lentil recipe because I can buy lentils for less than a buck a pound (well, it helps that I LIKE lentils as well), I rarely buy clothes except to replace something that wears out. But there are other things that I'm willing to spend my hard earned money on.

Amazon Prime is one of those things. Another is spending the money for "good" chocolate - I was happy to find when the Walgreens opened up here that they carry Green and Black's chocolate and a few other of the more "premium" brands. And tea. I have many different varieties of tea at home and I'm always looking for new ones I want to try. And good soap. It's getting harder to find (I never mentioned it but Boutiqueville is sadly changing - I don't know if it's the economy or what, but several of my favorite stores there have closed and been replaced by restaurants. Which is fine if you LIVE in Boutiqueville, but for someone traveling there for the day - there's really only one (two, at the outside) meals you can eat there. And I don't like driving an hour each way just for a restaurant meal, no matter how special).

So, I don't know. I'll give up a lot of things in the name of frugality. But the comfort, the happiness conveyed by knowing I can order a book and have it in my hands within two business days is not one of them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Earth Hour"

Have you heard of this? There is a push for cities to turn out lights Saturday evening at 8:30 pm local time. (Fortunately, NOT streetlights - that was my first thought, "Oh great, then we'll have a crime wave in the darkened cities).

One of the things they're talking about is turning off office lights in the big office towers. Now, I know - perhaps leaving them on is a security thing, so there's less chance of break-ins. But I tend to wonder - why do they leave them on over night/over weekend when no one's working anyway? Couldn't companies save a bundle by doing that?

Even on my own campus, they harp at us to conserve, but when I go over on a Saturday when classes are not in session, lights are blazing - more lights than what would be needed for security - in many of the buildings. Lots of the classrooms have lights left on 24/7.

This is why symbolic stuff like Earth Hour bugs me a little bit. People are making a BIG BIG deal about "turn your lights off!" (are they going to have guys in tin helmets, with CD armbands, knocking on doors telling people to "kill the light!") when there's lots of stuff - sensible stuff - that could be done every day.

(I also have to admit I'd like to see the crime stats for "Earth Hour" - whether break-ins and assaults go up because there are fewer lights around. I can't help but think some of the criminals are just waiting for an opportunity like that to take advantage).

Most big office towers have security systems - or should - so turning lights off shouldn't be an issue. But it grates on me to harp at citizens to turn off their lights. (They are trying to be cutesy and suggest things like candlelight dinners. Well, for one thing, 8:30 pm is too damn late for me to eat - I get heartburn - and for another, why should I have to?)

I've also heard that some websites are "going dark" for the hour (yeah, I bet not any of the ones that sell stuff). I don't know about television channels but I remember back when MTV was on some enviro kick and nannying at its watchers, my response was, "Well, then, if you want to save energy, why not shut down your transmitters for a couple hours each day?" Again - largely symbolic gestures, and trying to push people to participate.

(Oh, I know - some people get a tremendous feeling of solidarity out of this. But first off, I'm not a "joiner" - I tend to be grumpy and misanthropic and not like group-think, and second, as I said, this seems a largely symbolic gesture in a situation where businesses, especially, could actually do something more conservation-minded more of the time - maybe they couldn't trumpet it with a big advertising campaign - but they'd save money).

I grew up in the 70s. During the first "energy crisis." During the time of Carter's infamous cardigan-sweater speech. My dad used to yell at my brother and me daily: "Do you think we're made out of money? Turn off that light/television/radio when you're done using it!" So I kind of live that now.

I don't do it to cut my "carbon footprint." I do it because it saves me money. And because maybe, we can stretch out the supply of fossil fuels a little longer until we find a valid replacement.

I'm also hoping and waiting for the new LED bulbs I read about coming on the market - for one thing, they seem not to have the mercury issue that plagues CFLs, and another, they last reaaaaaalllly long. And I've got stuff hooked to power strips - that was originally done so I could shut everything down fast during electrical storms but it's also a convenient way to stop the drain from "always on" stuff. And I do some of the (safer) "hypermiling" things to save gas (but I will never, ever "draft" behind a big-rig; that's kind of suicidal)

So I know about saving power. I know about conservation. I don't like slogans and being told what I "need" to do.

(I feel, I guess, kind of like I feel about the "new frugals" - the people who have, OH MY! discovered you can PACK A LUNCH TO WORK! How cunning! What a great way to save money! It's like, welcome to my world, idiots, why did it take you so long to get here.)

I think one of my other annoyances is that, just like diet and exercise are, this will probably ratchet up into a "it's never enough" campaign. First they told us to eat four servings of fruit and vegetables. Then five. Now it's something like 8-11. There are not enough vegetables I like for me to be able to get that many servings in in a day. And exercise: first 20 minutes a couple times a week was cool. Then it was deemed 30 was better. Then they said 30 every single day. Then 60. Now there are even some experts suggesting 90 minutes of exercise a day is what's needed.

So, plug these same "experts" on the energy problem:

"In the summer, set your thermostat at 80 to run your air conditioning less" Then, next year: "Set it at 85." Then the next: "hell, you don't NEED air conditioning. Here's a complimentary paper fan with the president's picture on it. Enjoy!"

Which is why I tend to be suspicious of these feel-good things.

Oh, and if you want doing something to help out the environment, what about going out and picking up damned litter like I do a couple times each year? Litter infuriates me but I'm not going to push some feel-good "no littering day." Because frankly, it's easier - and it makes me feel better in the long run - to go out on my street and clean it up. Even if I bitch about it being just as messy again in a couple weeks.

"Grassroots" activity is great, but I tend to be suspicious of the kind that seems to me to be mostly talk and flash and not a lot of real action. It seems there are always plenty of people willing to come up with cute slogans, or to tell people what they "should" do, or to sit around and complain that "someone needs to DO something!" and precious few who actually want to go out and pick up the trash, or help restore old people's houses, or plant stuff that prevents erosion on slopes...

oh no he di'int!

Scanning a news site today, I saw mention of a "prime time presidential conference" where Obama is going to (try) to dig himself verbally out of the mess he's in.

And then I thought: wait, one of the two network shows I still watch is on tonight in prime time.

Oh no don't TELL me I'm going to see Obama when I try to tune in NCIS tonight. No no no no. They were even promising a new one!

I checked the tv listings - apparently they're going to show it, but an hour later, whew.

And I know, I know - it's maybe irresponsible of me to prefer to watch an unrealistic crime drama than to watch the Prez, but if I'm going to be partaking of bread and circuses, I prefer the kind with David McCallum, thank you very much.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Not sure

I'm not sure what to do about some stuff. I don't know, I know I let things people say bug me more than I should, I tend to interpret tossed-off comments as slams or criticisms.

This has to do with the Youth Group. We (finally) had a decent-sized group last night. But there is this one girl. She is very pushy and opinionated. And I dislike dealing with pushy and opinionated people.

She started talking about all these things that would be "great" - stuff she had seen in other church's youth groups (and I hasten to add - other youth groups that have four times as many attendees, plus a full-time youth pastor whose paid job it is to shepherd these kids and plan activities).

I have me, plus my co-leader, plus the occasional help of one other person. None of us are paid. We don't even really have a budget anymore; if I want to do anything snazzy I need to buy the stuff out of my own pocket.

But here's this girl - who, incidentally, hasn't attended for the past 2 months - telling me how we need to have rocket-building contests and send cards weekly to people and stuff like that.

Part of it was, she used my Least Favorite Phrase Ever: "You need to."

No, honey, I don't NEED to. You WANT me to. There's a difference. I NEED to breathe. I NEED to eat nutritious food. I NEED to sleep. I NEED to do my paid job so I continue to have income so I can pay for food and the roof I sleep under and clothes to keep me warm.

Other than that, I don't NEED to do a whole lot.

She also talked about the "peer counselor" idea - about how it would be "cool" if some of the "older kids" (meaning: her) had "input" on the lesson plans (for Heaven's sake, I'm sometimes planning my Youth lesson at 1 pm on the Sunday I am to give it) and how they could "counsel" the younger kids with their problems.

And I'm sitting there, looking at her, going, honey, you have NO idea. No idea at all.

This is my big frustration. I'm dealing with a generation raised to expect dancing ducks and Powerpoint animations and loud music and craziness. And that's just not me. My style is much more quiet, more sit-them-down-and-talk-with-them. More "turn off your cell phone and listen to the person next to you."

Part of the problem - and the conflict I'm feeling - is that while I don't WANT to give up "control" to the point of allowing the chaos I've seen in some other youth programs - and while I don't WANT to vet my lessons past a group of "peer counselors" who could then say, "That's boring; do something else" and I'm faced with a couple more hours of work with no help - I wonder if maybe I SHOULD.

I kept hearing - and maybe it's me - under her words the implication that "I find this boring and want it to change. I want to change it."

But the thing is this, and this is what stays my hand - I've had some minor successes. There's one kid - who describes himself, as much as I wince at it and tell him not to say it, as being in the "retard" class at school - who has grown so much. He asks such good questions. He has such interesting viewpoints. He GETS it on a level some of the supposedly "smarter" kids don't.

And I get the feeling that it's the structure and the quiet and the calmness that this kid responds to - that if he were dropped in a more distraction-filled space, he'd be lost, he'd be run over by the louder pushier kids (like he is, apparently, at school).

So I don't know. Until last night I was fairly content with my quiet little C.S. Lewis-esque way of doing things - keeping it low key, letting the kids talk, not being afraid of silences. But now I get someone saying we need MUSIC! and we need GAMES! and we need stuff to GRAB THEM AND DRAW THEM IN!

And I just don't know. I wonder, honestly, how much of my resistance to that is "my stuff" - I've been doing this with pretty much the only help coming from my co-leader for four and a half years now. I've lived through some very serious criticisms of the program; I've dealt with bad situations. I rarely hear words of praise for what I'm trying to do - though I don't mind that so much, I realize that we're kind of invisible to a lot of the adults in church; we meet at a time when most of them are not around. And at any rate, praise from others is not why I'm doing this.

But I feel like - I've built this up largely from nothing. I started in after the church split doing this, thinking I'd do it for a few months and then hand it over to someone "better equipped" than I. And here I am, still. Apparently my co-leader and I are the only ones who "can" do this, or, more likely, the only ones willing to put up with the complaints about marks from rubber-soled shoes on the Fellowship Hall tiles, or the complaints about spilled soft drinks (we MAKE them clean them up but they don't always get every drop, and besides, we do have a custodian), or the complaints about the kids being noisy. I feel like I've weathered all that stuff, and finally the worst of the complaints have died down, just to be attacked from "within" as it were.

And also, the idea of the "peer counselors" concerns me a little. One reason I have a very hard time delegating much responsibility is that I have had no fewer than four different adult "volunteers" crap out on me - they come, all gung ho for a couple weeks, then they realize they don't get paid, and they don't get much thanks, and there are more "interesting" things to do....and they drift away. And they tell me they're sorry but they're "tired," or they have a real busy day at work the next day, or they want to relax in the evenings. And I feel a bit sad because all of those things apply to me, too - and to my co-leader, even MORE. (She has aging parents she is partly responsible for caring for).

I was also at one time promised a college intern, but that fell through.

So I'm not sure about giving tons of responsibility - especially something like "peer counseling" - to someone whose attendance has been spotty.

(I'm also not sure whether a person can call themselves a "peer counselor" with no training. And if I had to send them for training - well, again, that would probably be out of my own pocket).

I don't know. It's hard. I get tired of it sometimes. I will say most weeks I'm surprised and pleased by the response; someone will say something that makes a lot of sense, or someone will ask a good challenging question. But all the administration process of it - if we had money to hire a youth pastor, I'd have absolutely zero complaint about handing over the program. (I don't see that happening any time soon; we are very small, constantly fighting for financial survival, so most things have to be on a volunteer basis).

I've actually reached the point where I've quit asking for volunteers because I've been disappointed so many times. But I don't know...what that girl said keeps eating at me. Is the program small just because we are a small church, or is it small because I'm not doing enough exciting stuff?

And for that matter, should we even HAVE to do "exciting" stuff? I know it's how things work now, but it frustrates me that well-delivered content loses out to toy rocketships. I don't like the idea of surface trappings maybe obscuring what is really important. (And that's really the crux of my concern about how a lot of worship and faith-related things are being done now - there seems to be such an emphasis on slickness and coolness and technology that the idea that there is a Message, one that's been around for some 2000 years, that's far more important than slickness and coolness and technology - in fact, that is so important that trying to "dress it up" to "make it relevant" actually does a disservice to it.)

(Right now I'm reading Eugene Peterson's "Eat this book" where he makes a similar argument - that there are too many people out there seeking to make the Bible "relevant" to their lives, and that they have it exactly backwards - that they should be striving to make their lives relevant to what God wants. Which is maybe why I feel irked by the impression that I need to make things more "interesting" or "slicker.")

Sunday, March 22, 2009

TOTALLY random

(I'm back. I think I caught a cold though. So I don't feel like saying much right now. But I found this while surfing around):

Did you know they have SpongeBob in Germany?

Oh, they do.

If I knew German better I bet this would be even funnier but I like how Plankton seems to sound even more evil in German:

Friday, March 13, 2009


I could NOT make this up.

PETA proposes flavoring tofu with George Clooney's sweat.

(Oh, and Google scores a Big Win with their headline on that).

Seriously, this is about the most WTF of WTF news stories I've heard lately.

If we are, as some philosophers have proposed, living in a giant computer simulation, I think its virus-protection program just failed, and we're dangerously close to the Fatal Exception Error 00X13Q45 screen.

There are a lot of jokes I could make about this (starting with Soylent White), but frankly, I'm too freaked out by the thought that this entire reality might JUST be a computer program that is now on the edge of crashing, and news stories like this one are our early warning signal of fatal program instability.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Here's to...

...a Speshul Snowflake-free week next week!

Next week is my spring break. I am going to visit family (as I pretty much always do). My family is pretty much the opposite of annoying special snowflakes so it should be a good week.

But I'll tell you, the flakes have been out in all of their flakitude this week. I have had:

1. A student e-mail me a paper, even though I told them not to, e-mail it A WEEK before the due date, which I assume means she won't be in class then, and THEN she re-e-mailed me the illegally-e-mailed in the first place paper because she realized she hadn't double-spaced it, as per my instructions. So she gets ONE instruction (one of the ones I'm actually willing to overlook in some cases) right, but messes up two other ones.

2. Had several flakey e-mails from people begging for "excused" absences from that class. We. Don't. Do. Excused. Absences. They have five "absences without penalty" they can use up. After that, too bad, so sad.

3. Had several requests to hand in late papers. Turned them all down. I'm getting a lot tougher about that and amazingly in most cases people do not whine.

However, that's not to say that ALL the special snowflakes are students. In fact, the special-est of special snowflakes in my life are all people over 50. Who should know better:

1. Someone who can't stop flapping their lips over something totally unrelated and meaningless in an evening meeting where the rest of us are wanting to get home to kids, spouses, work we have to finish up, or just to go to bed.

2. Someone who doesn't understand that "volunteer work" means "we can't pay you."

3. Someone who calls a meeting and then is 15 minutes late to it, just because he can be and because he apparently enjoys knowing people are sitting waiting for him.

4. A particular person who CANNOT stop to proofread or fact-check an e-mail before sending it out, and this is a MASS e-mail, so everyone on the mailing list gets three or four e-mails daily: first, the original e-mail. Then the corrected version with the corrected meeting date. Then the corrected-corrected version, either because there was no time listed for the meeting, or because there was a conflict between the numbered date and the day-of-the-week (apparently they didn't get rid of their previous year's calendar). Then sometimes a correction to the corrected correction because something else was wrong.

I said to my secretary: this is probably mean of me but I wish you were in charge of sending out these mass e-mails; they'd be RIGHT the first time and we wouldn't get piles of "corrections." She kind of laughed; the problem of e-mails plus CORRECTED NEW E-MAIL!!! has become a joke.

But at any rate - this time tomorrow I SHOULD be on a northbound train, going to see my parents, going to spend a week where the only thing of real consequence I do is my taxes. (Yeah, boo, but I didn't feel like I had time to do them before. I have investments so they get complicated. I could hire someone, I suppose, but they're not THAT complicated, and I'm cheap that way, and I also feel like I have "won" if I can figure out all the instructions and do them right the first time.)

And oh yes, I've been saving up special snowflake stories to share with my parents, both of whom are retired college teachers. I already told them about "I just had things to do" woman and they laughed but also were moderately horrified.

I'll catch you all on the flip side.

Your media stupidity for the day...

...and there's plenty to go around.

Harvard psychologist slams PBS "Good Night Show", claims it is keeping kids awake.

And then on the other side: Group says PBS show is like "sleeping pill for toddlers."

Apparently both groups are working to get the show pulled.

Now, I don't know. I don't have children. But I remember in my childhood, my parents had a solution for dealing with shows they didn't want my brother or me watching. It was called "'No,' and the OFF button on the TV."

And at any rate - we had television "budgets" where we were allowed a certain number of hours per week. Use up your hours early in the week - and no getting to watch The Muppet Show when it came on later in the week. Too bad, so sad, plan better next time. So I doubt we would have wasted our tv budgets on some dingus "good night show."

My parents also enforced bedtime rituals - about an hour before bedtime, we were notified. Told to put up whatever we were working on (I was five years older so my bedtime was later, and by the time my brother was big enough to be told, rather than just be picked up and taken to bed, I was expected to follow the bedtime ritual on my own). Then you took a bath. Then you put on pajamas. Then you brushed your teeth. Early on, the next step was being read to, or later on, you could read quietly in bed for a while - but just for a while. Lights out was pretty strictly enforced. (And I don't really remember trying to circumvent it; I was not one of those kids who read under the blankets with a flashlight).

But stories like this one worry me. "It's not goooooooood for my kids, you need to take it away!" or "There oughta be a law!" instead of parents going, "You know, in our house, we're not going to partake of this."

Because I worry - when people begin relying on outside forces to "control" behavior within their families - stuff that parents COULD do with a little willpower and a little willingness to let their kids be "unhappy" because of their choices - well, where will the outside forces stop?

What if someone starts demanding that all TV go away after 9 pm at night, so children won't be tempted to stay up and watch? What if someone says that every old movie in which people smoke needs to be sharply edited for television viewing so that impressionable kids don't see Hollywood actors and actresses smoking?

Seriously. If people think the program's a dumb program, if they think it's bad for their kids, they just should turn the tv off. Tell the kids why. Give alternatives. Sure, it's harder work than whining to some muckety-muck until you get your way, but in the long run it's better for everyone. (And if it is a truly bad program, and enough parents decide it is, it will go away. Market forces and all that.)

But I just worry because it seems daily there are more and more people crying for an abridgment of people's liberty to do stuff, because they don't want to take the responsibility for avoiding bad stuff.

It's like the cell-phones in cars issue. On one level, I'm not too bugged by legislation limiting cell phone calling and texting by drivers - for one thing, it does not affect me directly, because I know that driving safely takes up all my concentration so I would not call or text-message while driving. And frankly, if people are going to be idiots and make the road unsafe for those of us who are driving safely, they need to be stopped. (I have been in six near-misses in the past year - either someone running a four-way stop where I had the right of way, or someone turning to their left in front of me when I had the right of way at a green light - and in every case the person had a cell phone jammed up to their ear).

But on the other hand, it makes me sad that the people who CAN'T talk and drive are requiring legislation that hits everyone. I do know people who can talk and drive - at least in low traffic situations - but now they can't do that even when they deem it safe because of the laws.

And I once heard someone - and this may have been tongue-in-cheek but I don't think so - float a proposal that all new cars come equipped with a Breathalyzer device attached to the ignition. To prevent drunk driving, you know? So EVERYONE in the country - even people who don't drink, like me - would then be required to experience the inconvenience and humiliation (and yes, it would be kind of humiliating) of huffing down a tube every time they wanted to start their car. (And what about the inevitable malfunctions - the false positives?)

Sure, stopping drunk driving is a noble goal. But treating everyone in the car-driving population as a potential DUI - assuming guilt while they are still innocent (and while the vast majority would remain innocent of this particular infraction all their lives long, because they're not stupid and reckless) - is insulting.

But it's what I see coming. People all too happy to abrogate their responsibility and let some other entity take over.

Maybe what we need, instead of having the government slap it to all of us, is Personal Nannies.

This would be a fantastic idea. It would kill two birds with one stone - first, it would employ some of the out-of-work people, and second, it would keep those of us who know how to run our lives freer of government intervention.

The idea of a Personal Nanny is thus - the person who feels they cannot run their life - who spends hours playing online games, who cannot bring themselves to eat healthful food, who will not go to bed at a decent hour - hires a Personal Nanny. (Perhaps there could even be a government program to pay for this? The money that would have gone to new legislation requiring restaurants to post calorie counts or some similar idiocy?). The Personal Nanny observes their charge for a couple weeks, and then in consultation with them, decides what behaviors are unacceptable. Then the Personal Nanny moves in - oh, they get a room in their charge's house, just like an old-time nanny - and they run this person's life for them. Put out their breakfast in the morning. Tell them what to wear. Turn off the television when they shouldn't be watching. Ride in the car with them and rips the cell phone out of their hand when they start driving and dialing. All of that.

Now, granted - the Personal Nannies would probably face a certain amount of hazard in their jobs. Perhaps they'd even need bulletproof vests in some cases. But I like the idea of the clueless Special Snowflakes who can't manage their own adult lives getting a Personal Nanny, instead of all of us getting a de facto Government Nanny in the form of more regulation, laws, taxes, and irritating PSAs.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Or perhaps not.

Here's a rough breakdown of exam grades, related to student behavior in the class:

Present every day, sits in front 2 rows, takes notes, asks questions: 88-97
Present every day, sits in the back, seems to daydream part of the time: 70-75
Present most days but sits in the back and I've had to speak to them for carrying on side conversations: 65-70
Skips a lot: 60-69
Only shows up on test days, apparently reads textbook though: 48-55

Of course, the thing is, the people in the last three groups generally don't imagine that correlation exists. They are more prone to blame me for being "boring" or "not teaching well."

Sunday, March 08, 2009


A couple days ago, I was talking about the ABC Weekend Specials, and I mentioned another show (one that was on PBS) where a narrator talked about a story and there were chalk or charcoal drawings to bring it to life?

I remembered the name! It was "Teletales" (there was an earlier incarnation that I also remember, called "Gather 'Round").

I remember many times as a kid, home sick from school, either lying on the sofa (ro if I was sicker, lying in bed and watching the tiny portable black and white TV my mom would bring up to my room) and watching all of the educational programming the PBS stations used to run (KET - Kentucky Educational TV - was apparently a big producer of these). These were the funny, quirky, low-tech 1970s and early 80s sort of programs - not the slick network-wide stuff you see today. I loved them and I kind of miss them - Teletales, and "Dragons, Wagons, and Wax" (a science show), and Readit....and all those things.

(There's a website devoted to these programs here. Wow, so many memories!

Tiny Houses

Okay, so Tracey has her yurt.

I have to admit I fantasize about Tiny Houses - I have, ever since I saw a story on them in a magazine. I ran across the Tiny House Blog and have been enchanted. (My favorites are the ones where they show the interiors, and where the interiors are all wood-paneled, like the inside of a log cabin or a ship's cabin).

I like the idea of a tiny house. Now, granted, it would never work for me with the lifestyle I have now - I have too much stuff (too many books, furniture inherited from family) for it to actually WORK - and I fear I'd maybe wind up getting a bit stir crazy in bad weather - but I love the idea.

I love it because it seems so self-reliant. I'm not in love with them because of the "tiny ecological footprint" idea (though I admit, if you can do that without major discomfort, there's nothing wrong with it. Though I don't like the actively preachy, "look how PURE I am because I am living lightly on the Earth" attitude that so many who devote effort to reducing their footprints exude. They are the environmentalist equivalent of the Pharisees praying loudly in the temple, IMHO.)

I like the idea because a lot of these little houses, the emphasis is that the owner can build them - you go out, get a plot of land, put up a house (and maybe get a plumber and electrician to help you with that part). They're not complicated. But they are well thought-out - in my favorite examples, there are things like built-in bookcases (next to the kitchen to hold cookbooks), and bay windows designed to hold a desk, and all that kind of thing. The idea that you could personalize your house rather than taking some existing box appeals to me.

And I have to admit, the part of me that is kind of a hippie (or maybe, a better description is "kind of a survivalist") likes the idea of a tiny little house where you could just maybe live "off the grid" by using solar and having your own well and maybe having a wind turbine. I like the idea of being able to tell the rest of the world to go to blazes, and only being dependent on my own self.

Oh, I know I could never do it. I try to garden and at least in the climate where I live now, it rarely works out well - the tomatoes wither on the vines. Or a borer gets the squash. Or it gets really hot all of a sudden and the lettuce bolts.

But I secretly cherish the idea of making it "all on my own" - of chopping my own wood for the winter, of growing my own food, of not needing to depend on other people. I have enough of the "git off my lawn!" cranky old lady in me to like the idea of going off and living off my (posted No Trespassing) land and not having to deal with other people.

And when it gets loud in my neighborhood, I fantasize about buying a big plot of land somewhere, and clearing the middle part of it, and building my tiny house there. And then being surrounded by this giant sound buffer. (Oh, I know, in reality, I'd probably wind up with coyotes howling or loud birds or something else, but somehow coyotes seem more tolerable to me than the boom car of the post-teenager down the street).

I think also the coziness of the space - the idea of everything being so close at hand, of sleeping in a loft bedroom like Heidi did (though the thought of having to climb down a ladder in the middle of the night to get to the bathroom does not appeal so much. Perhaps I'd have to have the bathroom up on the same floor as the sleeping loft. Or a fireman's pole so I could at least get DOWN to the bathroom quickly).

I greatly prefer the wood-paneled ones. The ones on that blog that are super-modernistic, the white boxy rooms with minimalist furniture, leave me cold. If I'm going to live out in the woods, I want it to be a CABIN. I want it to look like that. I want little nooks in the kitchen to hold my cookbooks and spice jars, I want that wooden look, I want to feel like I'm living kind of like Heidi or kind of like Laura Ingalls or kind of like some character in a folk tale.

A lot of the tiny houses are designed to be transportable - hook a trailer hitch onto them, put wheels under them, and go. I'm not sure I'd want that, though if the neighborhood deteriorated it would be nice to be able easily to pick up and leave. (or if a forest fire threatened - maybe this is the solution for those who INSIST on living in fire-prone or flood-prone areas - make houses that they can drive out of there if conditions get bad). But I'm not sure how you'd do plumbing on a house like that, and one thing I would HAVE to have, would not live without, is plumbing - I need a bathroom and a shower and a sink in the kitchen. I would not want to have to haul water. (Even if that made me a conservationist goddess). I also don't think I'd want a "modern Murphy bed" as the Tiny House site shows; I use my bed for other things than sleep (I like to read in bed, I also sometimes sit in bed to crochet or knit or listen to music) and I don't like to think of having to make it up every night and put it up every morning - I'd want a designated sleeping area that was my sanctuary and ALWAYS had a bed ready in it. (And also I get migraines - sometimes which the only solution to is to collapse into bed and sleep for a couple hours - and I'd hate to have to put down my bed before I could crash).

I think I'd also want a tiny dishwasher as well. (and of course, my own washer and very likely dryer as well. Which might mean I couldn't "live off the grid," but oh well). I like my comforts, and I dislike washing dishes.

I can kind of imagine the house in my mind. Oh, it would have to be bigger - with my washer and dryer and a decent sort of bathroom and my tiny dishwasher and enough space for my cook books and my books and some of my craft stuff - than the really micro houses, but still I can envision a small place - a place with a tiny living room, and a little kitchen, and upstairs a little sleeping loft. And it would be all mine. And it would be way out away from all the noisy Special Snowflakes, away from the people who look at me hopefully and say things like, "We're having this group of high school students come through and we need host families who can give them a place to sleep...?" or any of that. Somewhere where I can be alone and people cannot find me to bug me. And where everything I want and everything I love is close at hand.

You can see I've thought a lot about this. As I said, I know it would never work - I have too much stuff, some of it stuff I really could not part with - but oh, is it a nice fantasy - curling up with a book in the sleeping loft as rain drums on the roof, cooking a pot of soup in a tiny kitchen that looks like Hobbits designed it, being able to look out my windows and see only trees...

Saturday, March 07, 2009


My favorites of the LOLcats things, at least lately, have been the ones that seem to tell a story. This one made me laugh. Because I can just imagine a little turtle marching band. (I think it's a good thing to hold onto a little bit of that childhood imagination.) I wonder if a snail would be their drum major?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Respect mah workplace!

(First off - Alli, thanks for the WOT recommendation. I added it on to Firefox and hopefully it will help.)

We have a new administration on my campus. With that comes new challenges. One of which is that there are people who apparently think faculty and staff do not have enough to do.

There are all these MEETINGS. Meetings on wellness, meetings on alumni issues, bla bla bla. So far I've been immune (thanks to my teaching overload, I'm in class practically all the time people choose to have meetings).

But this week, another one came down the pike:

"Lessons for a Respectful Workplace."

It's an anti-sexual harassment (and anti-other harassment, I guess) workshop. So far we have not been required to go (and anyway, I am in class for both the sessions). But everyone in my department has had the same response to the announcement:

(furrowed brow) "Why do we need this? I've never seen anyone be disrespectful in this department and I've never felt disrespected."

My secretary (and no, before you ask, she does NOT want to be called an 'administrative assistant') says that she feels the same way. She did observe, "From what I've heard, there are places on campus where the workplace is not very respectful."

But in my department, we all pretty much like each other. We're all pretty sane, and the quirks and fidgets we have are pretty much tolerable, or, we can write them off as, "Well, I've got weird things about me that surely bug other people."

Only one time in the department did I ever feel someone showed disrespect to me - and that was someone who was leaving, and apparently burning his bridges as he went. He told one of my colleagues that he was "incompetent" (this being someone who has written two textbooks), he told another guy that he was "lazy," and he told me I had "anger issues" (because I got irritated with him ONCE, three years previously, because he did not fill out some paperwork for a project we were doing together by the due date).

But anyway - that's water under the bridge because dude is long gone, and he won't ever be back, not with what he said to us. (I think he said stuff to other people but my two colleagues were the only ones that I heard about).

So in my department, the "respect" thing quickly became a joke. We either say to each other, "ooooh, that doesn't sound like a very Respectful Workplace" or "But you're not Respecting my Workplace!" in a doleful, Eeyore-ish tone.

And then we laugh. Because the "not respectful" stuff is usually the stupid stuff that comes up - someone sends a terse e-mail, or a student expects to be given a make-up exam at a time that's impossibly bad for the prof, or something.

(Actually, we better be careful. It would not be wise to make a Respectful Workplace joke if one of the administrators happens to be in earshot).

But really, that's how we deal with a lot of stuff - with humor. Because it seems to be that when people begin to take themselves or stuff too seriously, that's when lawyers get run to. Or when the person, instead of going, "What do you mean by that?" when someone makes a silly offhand comment, go to their supervisor to get the commenter in trouble.

And to me, that seems like a cowardly way to operate. I was taught, if you have a gripe with someone, you go talk to them face-to-face first. Because, in my experience, 90% of the stuff that sounds "bad" falls into one of three categories:

a. the person made a joke and it came out really wrong and wasn't funny. And then they apologize when you ask them about it, you laugh and forgive them, and everything's cool.

b. you misunderstood them, or they didn't express them well. Then they explain it, it makes sense, and everything's cool.

c. they were in a bad mood when they said it. They apologize to you, admit that an apology and explanation don't excuse the remark, you say, "No problem, we all have bad days," and everything's cool.

In the rare cases where you feel there's some hostility, you can get a neutral third party to sit in - but I was always taught the honorable thing to do was to ask the person FIRST, before going over their head, to the lawyer, whatever, because most of this stuff is easily cleared up, and even if it isn't, it's only fair to give the person a chance to make it right.

So that's why I'm so puzzled by the whole Respectful Workplace thing. I mean, the people like my colleagues who already live it, don't need to have their time wasted. And the people who might run off to lawyers - or who might be rude, coarse, retaliative, whatever - sitting through an hourlong presentation won't change them.

I'm guessing a university somewhere in our system is being sued for being a Hostile Workplace and we're all catching it as the regents swoop in to do CYA. But still, it's annoying to be told, "You will sit in a room and we will spend two hours telling you how you are expected to behave."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

It's back

My home computer! I'm about $80 poorer (it took the guys a while to find the rogue file and get rid of it), but it's home.

I asked the guy behind the desk - I go to church with him - what I could do, other than keep my spyware/virus software updated and run scans regularly.

"Go to sites you trust" he said. Well, now, how am I supposed to know that for sure? I mean, I don't go to pr0n0 sites or gambling sites or some of those places. But are some of the little online storefronts - the used book places, the places that sell hand dyed yarn - are they safe? What about people's blogs? What about any site (like Weather Channel, even) that wants to trigger popup windows? What about some of the religion sites? Are they all safe - because they mention God? Or did someone install something without knowing what it was and have it turn out to be a trojan?

"So other than that, I suppose there's nothing...other than not going on the internet?" I asked.

"No, not really" he said, kind of laughing.

So now I'm a little scared to browse, other than the five or six sites I regularly visit and had no trouble with.

I wish the hackers were all sent to deserted islands where they had no internet access. And where they had only coconuts and dried fish to eat.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Peanuts - what happened...

I'm doing some research right now that involves a couple hours a day of staring down a microscope at stuff. Mostly it's pretty dull, so I kind of let my mind wander while I do it.

This is what I was thinking about this morning: I wonder what would have happened to the Peanuts kids if they had grown up.

And then I began to make scenarios in my head. I realize for some this is near-blasphemy, but considering that some (notably the writers of Family Guy) have speculated on Marcie and Peppermint Patty, I think maybe I'm not doing too much wrong here.

First of all, Linus. (Who was always my favorite). He wound up going on to college and working on a degree in philosophy and theology. A couple years later, Sally followed him to the same school - she being still in love with him. Sally pursued a degree first in Home Ec, but then moved over to Design when she found she had a knack for textile design. During this time she and Linus reconnected, and he realized that she had shed a lot of her earlier selfishness and pettiness and grown up to be quite a lovely young woman.

They were married the year before Linus started graduate school. During his work on his Divinity degree, Sally supported them by designing fabric for a major manufacturer. Later, Linus got a professorate at a small Midwestern liberal-arts college. Once he was granted tenure, Sally concluded that what she really had always wanted to do was be a wife and mother, so with Linus' blessing, she gave up her design business and they started a family, ultimately having two daughters and a son. They became sort of the quintessential faculty family, and lived pretty much happily ever after. Their son grew up to work for the State Department; one of their daughters became a veterinarian and the other, a schoolteacher.

Marcie went to college to study biology with the ultimate aim of being an RN. She and Charlie Brown (who was at the same school, studying English) dated briefly but decided they weren't that compatible. Later, while she was in nursing school, Marcie found that Franklin was studying to be a pediatrician. They fell in love, were married, and after they got their degrees, Marcie helped her husband in his practice. When they could get away from the practice for a time (and every seventh year, when Franklin took a sabbatical and had one of his partners mentor a new pediatrician, to take up the slack) they would go to Africa to provide health care for children in developing countries.

Charlie Brown started out majoring in English. However, in the middle of his junior year, he decided that what he really wanted to do was to be a barber like his father. So he dropped out, went to barber school, and ultimately took over his father's business. A few years later, the "little red-haired girl" (whose name was Tess) took her two sons in for a haircut at Charlie's barber shop. It turns out she had weathered an unhappy divorce and was raising her two sons alone while working as a second-grade math teacher. She and Charlie got to talking, she brought her sons back for later haircuts, and eventually Charlie worked up the courage to ask her out on a date.

A year and a half later they got married. Charlie petitioned to, and was ultimately allowed to, adopt her sons so he could be their "official" father. He continued to cut hair and Tess continued to teach. On the weekends, he coached his sons' soccer team (it turns out he was better at soccer than he was at baseball) and he served as their Boy Scout troop leader. He and Tess live pretty much happily ever after, and certainly more happily than Charlie ever anticipated he would.

Peppermint Patty turned out to have skill at sports photography. She was hired by Sports Illustrated to cover NBA games and she wound up being romantically linked to a couple of famous players - one from the Chicago Bulls and one from the Boston Celtics. However, she was never one to kiss and tell, and being a photographer, she knew all the tricks for avoiding paparazzi.

Lucy took a business degree and ultimately wound up serving as Schroeder's manager. Schroeder traveled the world as a concert pianist and Lucy traveled with him as a manager and caretaker of sorts. However, the romantic relationship she hoped for never blossomed - Schroeder turned out not to be interested in women, but he was too shy and, with a misplaced sense of caring and not wanting to break Lucy's heart, he never told her. So she spent her life following him, expecting he would eventually fall in love with her, but she could never quite see the signs that should have tipped her off. (Lucy's business acumen was much better than her skill at personal relationships).

Pig Pen moved to New Mexico and went into politics. He served for a number of years in state government despite his appearance and hygiene challenges. In fact, he turned a rival's criticism of him on its head, and his slogan became: "Pig Pen - dirty on the outside, but clean where it counts" because he was known for his honesty and transparency. Later, he served as a university provost.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Something happier

Yeah, my computer's in the shop. Hopefully they can get it cleared up. (The guy I delivered it to was not quite as chipper as the guy I talked to on the phone.)

But at least I can still compute from work. (They so-far haven't issued Internet restrictions beyond the obvious of not gambling or looking at nudie pictures, which I wouldn't do anyway). And one of the LOLcats today made me laugh:

And from Epic Win:

ABC Weekend Special. I remember those! They usually came on at the very tail end of the Saturday cartoons. They featured a book or short story - sometimes they were live-action, sometimes animated. Some weeks it was all in one episode, other weeks, you had to be sure to catch the continuation (and oh, how my brother and I complained if we had to do something that next week and were going to miss the continuation - this being in the days before VCRs were common, and before DVR was even a glimmer in a techie's eye).

They were great fun. And often made you want to read the book the special was based on.

PBS had some similar series - I remember one where the narrator would do charcoal drawings as he talked about the book. (I don't know if that was national PBS or local to the Cleveland-area station we got).

Monday, March 02, 2009


I called the 'good' computer techs (I've used them before) and described the problem. Before I had finished, the guy was like, "Yeah, it's something that installs itself as a fake registry file. We've seen a lot of this. If you bring it in we can clean off whatever it is."

So rather than wrestle with HiJack This any more, and maybe delete a file I shouldn't, I'm going to pay someone who actually knows what he's doing.

But gah. I really would like to kick whoever wrote this program in the nuts.

At least I didn't have plans for "Marine One" on my computer. (and, closer to home - I haven't used my credit card to order anything since before the infection occurred, so on the offchance the thing's a keystroke logger, all it would see is me writing on the blogs - and there's no sign of those being taken over - and me searching on books of the Bible for Sunday school. Luckily I lead a rather dull life. As one of my friends said, "At least you aren't having to deal with random pr0n popups." Apparently her son went somewhere he wasn't supposed to on the internet...)