Monday, September 30, 2013

Drama queen much, CNN?

Right now, the CNN online page has THE COMING DARKNESS as their lead headline for the stories about the possible government shutdown.




Please, CNN. Yes, I won't be able to go to a national park for the nonce, if I applied for a new gun permit or passport I'd have to wait. Some folks aren't getting paid who probably should be.

But really? You make it sound and look as if electricity is going to go off, dark clouds are going to gather, and we're all doomed.

Uh. I think the government shut down before? In fact, I'm quite sure it did at least several times during my lifetime.

Stop making me laugh and shake my head in disgust, CNN.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I just found out a friend from church probably has leukemia. Now, it may well have been detected early, it may well be one of the treatable forms - we don't know for sure yet.

But I'm still angry and sad and I want cancer to FOAD and stop taking so many of the people I care about.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Another entry in the "Why are people so effing self-centered?" book.

Yesterday afternoon, after class, I stayed over at school because I had a lot of grading. (I am done at noon on Fridays and could leave then). As I was leaving, the school buses were making their rounds. No biggie, I know the law, you stop when the bus stops and wait so the kids can get out and across the street safely.

But then, as the bus moved and I started back up, someone pulled out of an apartment complex drive and wound up in the same lane as I was. I mean, they were coming TOWARDS me and were in the wrong lane.

I did what I always do - laid on the horn and swerved. As the car veered past me, missing me by about 6", I noticed the driver was juggling her smartphone. Yeah. Apparently she was texting as she pulled out of the drive. No, apparently the text could not wait a bit longer until she got to the stop street a block up. And apparently she could not wait the extra 30 seconds in the drive to send her text.

I'm not a fan of increasingly intrusive laws like seat-belt laws and no-cell-phone laws, but, SERIOUSLY people, you have to use a little freaking common sense. Almost NO ONE can text and drive safely. So just don't do it. Just because the government isn't telling you explicitly "You will be fined for doing this" doesn't mean it's ok. They also don't have laws against sticking beans up your nose, are you going to do that next?

(And yeah, I get that some places already have no-texting-while-driving laws. We don't, or at least outside of school zones we don't. As I said, I'm not a fan of increasingly restrictive laws and would prefer people to use their God-given brains to go, "Oh. Maybe it's not smart for me to do that" but also, I'd like to see some statute where if someone causes an accident that can be linked to them texting or being on the phone, that they get double the penalty AND lose cell-phone privileges FOREVER. Kind of like multiple-times DUIs with their driver's licenses. I've had two near-miss accidents with idiots texting who swerved over into my lane and nearly hit me head on)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall is here. Thank God.

We had a big cold front come through a couple days ago. It has changed everything. The sticky, nasty, smelly weather (yes, my town gets SMELLY when there's been high pressure for too long - outside my house I can smell what everyone is cooking, even down to the Dairy Queen a couple blocks away). The light is taking on that more muted quality that fall light has, and the sky is no longer that hard metallic whitish-blue it is in the summer.

(I don't like summer. I especially don't like it here because it gets into a rut where it's hot, humid-but-no-rain, high-pressure, and dusty for WEEKS on end).

I cleaned house yesterday afternoon; I have to get the piano tuner in and I don't like having people come into my house when it's a mess. (I admit it: I worry a bit every time it gets bad and I'm too busy to clean it - "What if I fall and break my leg and friends have to come and save me? What if I get really sick and my colleagues have to bring me food?")

I also gathered up the old boxes I had been saving up. We don't do much recycling here, but cardboard recycling is a thing. The bad news is if it's not 7:30 am to 4 pm M through Th, you have to take the stuff way out to the edge of town to leave it at the center. I thought about just leaving it in my car until later today when I might have time, but, meh - I had to get a can of pineapple anyway for something I was cooking, so I had to go out.

I drove out to the south of town. The recycling center is in kind of an industrial area and on a Sunday afternoon it's deserted. You get the "last person in the world" feeling going out there. It's not an unpleasant feeling to me, especially when I really know I'm not the "last person in the world." These days I don't just go out and drive much - I know a lot of people who do, some of my students talk about how the big thing on Saturdays after you got your license and access to a car was just to drive around and see what there was to see. I'm too busy for that, a lot, and I'm also too cheap. (I look at the price of gas.)

But it was nice to get out, in the lengthening light of an early-fall afternoon, and just drive a little. And clear all those boxes out of my house. (I could just put them in the trash, but my rollcart is smallish, and you can get fined if it's overfilled).

I feel a lot better feeling like fall is coming. Intellectually I know summer cannot last forever, but emotionally it feels that way to me sometime - that it will never cool down, that the weather will never change.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mildly disturbing

I learned something yesterday, while in discussion with a fellow-faculty in another department.

We have a lot of International students. In the past, I had some really great students from other countries, but of late, I've had some who really struggled.

Well, I found out why. My campus either no longer or never required the TOEFL (Test of English for Foreign Language Speakers) for International Students. So if you meet the other criteria, whether or not you speak English well enough to cope, you're in.

I find this disturbing. I have a couple of students this semester who apparently have either French or a tribal language as their primary language and who do not speak English well. They have misunderstood directions on the homeworks, and I'm dreading grading the first test. (Couple this with the fact that they are frequently absent because of work pressures, and you've got a problem).

The thing is, I feel like we're committing malpractice against these students - admitting them, therefore tacitly saying, "You have a chance at success" when that chance is actually lower than it could be, if they added that extra hurdle of the TOEFL. We've also been told that under ADA, we cannot allow students who are non-English speakers to use dictionaries in class unless we allow ALL students to use a dictionary in class.

The thing is, dealing with this is above my pay grade, so to speak. I can't refuse to teach students with a poor grasp of English - not only would some interpret that as me being a xenophobe, I'm sure it runs afoul of some ruling somewhere. But I hate seeing students who are clearly smart earn poor grades because they do not understand.

I suppose this is a personal-responsibility thing, that people need to figure out, "Wow, I am really in over my head" and do something - but I suspect dropping out is not a possibility, they'd lose their visas. We don't have any kind of support group for English learners (the larger campuses I have been on did). (I'd consider trying to start one, but I have so much on my plate right now I know I couldn't do it).

I like getting the international students because many of them have good work ethics and want to do good over in their own countries, but when someone really can't understand's frustrating.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

And yet again...

Another mass shooting, another dozen or so people who will never be coming home again, a dozen or so families left to ask why and feel they never got an adequate chance to say goodbye.

The horrible things people can do (whatever their motivation) always boggle my mind.

And the level of speculation that was flying around yesterday was mind boggling. And the fact that apparently the issue is already becoming politicized, even before all the bodies of the dead have been carried out of the building, disgusts me.

I guess I see these things not so much as a "gun" issue or a "workplace" issue or whatever, but as an "evil" issue. That people are capable of stunning evil and violence, and that some decide to go and do that for whatever reason.

It just makes me frustrated. And again, I think: it's a good thing I'm not God;  I'd probably have wiped out the human race a long time ago and started over with making the kangaroos or something my "chosen" species instead.

I try to do what is right, I try to be kind, I try to help people. But some days it feels like spitting into a windstorm.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

They didn't win

I can still go to the grocery store without fear of being bombed. I am not required to dress to a  standard of "modesty" greater than my own. Nor am I required to rely upon a father, brother, or other male relative for "chaperoning" to "protect" me when I venture from the house.

Yes, there are things that have changed - I remain unconvinced that the TSA is better protection from a would-be attacker than a bunch of alert passengers with a "Hell, no, that's not gonna happen again, not if I have anything to do about it" attitude. I'm really, really not crazy about the idea that information about what phone numbers I dial and when, and also very likely what sites I visit on the Internet is being collected and stored somewhere.

But we're fundamentally okay. The world didn't become the hellhole (or, well, the vastly bigger hellhole than parts of it already were) after September 11.

Yes, thousands - THOUSANDS, and the number still boggles my mind - of innocent people lost their lives. Moms and dads and brothers and sons and daughters and sisters and friends and grandparents and firefighters and cops and emergency technicians and soldiers and.....just people. An entire cross-section of America. And I am still mad and sad about that. And even a year ago, four people lost their lives in a mob that was apparently determined to celebrate the anniversary of what they saw as our downfall.

And yeah, I'm not happy with a lot of what our leaders are doing now. A lot of it seems like kabuki theater as played by a seventh-grade class where all the cliques are in a snit with each other. But the average American person - the people I work with and go to church with and know well enough to say "hi" to at the grocery store - they're still keepin' on keepin' on. Most of them, at least most of the people I associate with, are working for a living, paying their taxes, obeying the law, loving their family, and going about their day to day life. Most of the people I know seem to have it together better than a lot of world leaders. So I still have hope.

But I also have hope that nothing on this scale ever happens again.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Does this whole "international solution" thing with Russia mean that World War III is unlikely to start this year?

I mean, I know they say that even a blind pig finds an acorn occasionally, and it seems like that's what John Kerry has been of late.....

I mean, still, in the longer term we're still probably screwed given the rise of the facist strain in Islam, but maybe I should go back on my diet since I'm unlikely to be blasted to smithereens in the next few weeks?

Friday, September 06, 2013


First exam time.

Two scenes from an exam:

1. Student asks me, "Do you want me to be more specific on this question?" I had written "State an example of an acid." S/he had written, "Acid." Um, yeah. I would like you to be more specific.

2. Student hands in test and s/he says to me, "You didn't say THIS TOPIC would be on the exam" pointing to one of the questions. I said that yes, in fact, I had noted that it would be, right at the start of class the previous day. (I REMEMBER THAT). Student huffs and grumps his/her way out of the room. Really? This kind of grade grubbing is starting this early? And anyway, when did it happen that I have to explicitly list everything that's going to be on the exam? Back in my day, if it happened in class, it could show up in the exam. (Sort of a reverse "What happens in Vegas...")

It's too damn early in the semester for me to be this fatigued.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

It happened again.

This is one of the things that makes me craziest.

In my town, a guy (I'm not gonna call him a "man") was arrested for allegedly molesting one of his girlfriend's kids. The police have put out a request that anyone else who might have had "contact" with him to come forward (allegedly, there are up to 7 kids he's abused).

There's a lot of culpability to go around. The child-molestor, of course, is the primary guilty party. (I wonder: are there people out there who have desires they know are wrong, they know they should not act upon, who DON'T act upon them? And what do they do? Avoid being around kids? Get treatment? But surely there are people with self control....I know there have been men I have been attracted to, where as soon as I found out they were married, I was like, "Okay, that's a big No-Fly Zone right there" and I took steps never to be alone with him, to only socialize with him when his wife was also present.)

Anyway. The primary blame falls on the molestor, but what about the mom? This is something I don't get. When you're a parent, isn't the safety of your kids supposed to be paramount? Aren't they your first priority?

There have been so many cases here of "mom's boyfriend" abusing (physically, emotionally, or sexually) her a few cases a kid even died. I wonder - are there women who are so desperate to have a man around that they will be willing to put their kids in harm's way just for a bit of fun? I've read about how hard it is for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, but is it also that hard to avoid getting into one in the first place?

Is it really that necessary to have a man in your lie that you're willing to let some guy into your home that you know so little about, that you're not 100% sure he's safe with your kids before you let him share your bed?

I mean - I won't go out on a second date with a guy if he's rude to the waitress and drives like he has a chip on his shoulder. I just don't want to deal with it - being alone, as much as society tells you you're a loser for that, is better than being with a guy with an anger problem or who could get abusive.

It just makes me so sad. It's such a waste. Probably the molestor will go to prison, he might meet the fate that I hear child molestors tend to meet there, but that makes no difference, really - he already stole something from those kids that can never be put back, he damaged them in a way that's very hard to overcome even with good counseling and lots of hard work.

I'm generally not an enormous fan of the death penalty, for both practical and philosophical reasons, but if we're gonna have a death penalty, I wouldn't have too much trouble including "serial child molestor" within those who are eligible for it.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


I have no idea if this is an actual growing tragedy*, or whether it's something ginned up by the news media right now.

There's a new form of Ecstasy out there, they are allegedly calling it "Molly." There have apparently been a couple overdoses, and at least one death, among teens in the area where I live. There have been a few violent acts committed, beatings and stuff, and it's alleged the perpetrators were high on the stuff at the time. (Though I thought Ecstasy didn't generally make people violent....)

And you know? While I feel for the parents who are grieving their child, my overwhelming feeling is this: If you take illicit drugs, ESPECIALLY drugs cooked up in God-knows-what back room, you're an idiot. You're playing Russian Roulette with your life.

For one thing: I have seen how our Chemistry and Biology majors make solutions or compounds in class. Now, these are smart kids. They have experience in a chem lab. And still, sometimes they screw it up. What about the person who might have no chemistry background (Breaking Bad notwithstanding) cooking up drugs in a hotel room, or in the back of a car, or who knows where? Someone who might themselves be high or be coming off a high?

And that's even assuming the manufacturer or the seller is ethical and isn't intentionally putting other stuff in the drug, or cutting it with things that might be toxic. (I have a relative who is a forensic chemist. She's told me horror stories of people being taken into morgues with the needle still in their arm from bad heroin - that's how fast it kills. And she's told me horror stories of the stuff that coke is "cut" with)

I'm not going to get into the "legalize it and regulate it" argument. I know the reasons given for that and some of those are good reasons. However, I also suspect that legalizing drugs would (a) not affect the black market in them greatly and (b) it might lead to certain idiots getting addicted, because "If the government allows it, it must be okay" and then (c) those addicts demanding SSI disability or whatever, because addicts can't hold down a good job. (I have seen statistics predicting either no change, or a rise in the number of addicts under a legalization scenario. I don't know which one's correct but I'm not sure I'm wanting to gamble on it)

But as I said: if you're buying mystery chemicals off of some guy at a party, with the intention of getting high, you're an idiot. There's a good chance you will die, either right away because of an OD or poisoning, or later, because of chronic problems brought on by screwing with your body's chemistry in unpredictable ways. I realize I was in some ways an unusually mature teenager but I knew that fact when I was like, 12. And as a result, I avoided situations where drugs were being used, just because I didn't want to be around that junk.

I suppose if you don't have much of a life, and much promise ahead of you, you maybe don't care whether you live or die, and that's part of the problem. I don't know what to do in the cases of kids who are just stuck in bad situations and don't see any way out other than becoming the drug dealer or meth cook or something. I don't know how we can reduce demand for drugs, which is what I think it would take to cut into the problems with gangs and meth labs and everything else. I mean, short of mandatory death sentences for dealers and cooks and importers and stuff, which I'm not sure would do anything more than raise the stakes and make the drug violence worse.

It's a problem I don't see a way out of, unfortunately. It's a problem we've had for a long time....apparently enough people find reality sufficiently distasteful that they're willing to risk their health to escape it via chemical means. And the cost is, in some ways, paid by those of us who have no desire to use that chemical means....the violence, the degradation of public areas (there is one park in my town that is unusable, because of the syringes that are found there), the folks who wind up in the ER because of an overdose or bad drugs or whatever and can't pay their own way, the houses that blow up because of inexperienced meth cooks.....

(*Yes, of course, if your kid dies of it, it's a tragedy for that family. However, I think a fault in our news media currently is to take individual stories and milk them for all they're worth - on the one hand, manipulating the emotions of the viewers, generating outrage when none might be really necessary, and also, stripping the grieving family of a certain amount of privacy and dignity)