Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I have read several articles about the report on Sandy Hook shootings, and they are most disturbing.  It is not only the fact that we will probably never know why he did what he did, but that there were so many signs pointing to the potential of what could happen and nothing was done.  I will admit that I haven't been the best parent in the world, but I think I would have done something if my son was obsessed with mass killings and probably not made guns so readily available.

However, I know the resources that are available to parents dealing with mental illness are very small, especially for those whose financial situations are not good.  Aside from the impression I have that dealing with the mentally ill is such a challenge for anyone, especially a parent whose feelings toward their child can be somewhat defensive.  The stigma of mental illness is such that I would imagine no parent would want to admit that their child has the potential to act out in a manner that could hurt so many.

It is not just the right to bear guns that is the issue here, but the lack of attention to those who can use guns so horribly.  Often even if teachers see behavior that raise red flags they may not have the ability to do anything about it.  I am by no means an expert in these matters, but I would imagine that if more knowledge of warning signs exhibited by the mentally ill toward the potential to mass killings is available, maybe future incidents could be thwarted.  Still there are questions, but it is better to be safe than sorry about this issue.

Monday, November 25, 2013


My husband and I don't have cable.  Yes, I know that makes me about as un-American as they come, but we figured we have saved a lot of money over the years.  We love to watch movies, and so for many years, we have had a base subscription to BlockBuster and gotten DVDs through the mail.  We purchased a large HDTV a few years back and the set up has been perfect for us.  Now we hear that BlockBuster has been bought out by Dish Network and going out of the rental business.

No problem.  There is BlockBuster OnDemand, NetFlix, and other streaming services like Hulu.  But I the only computer that has an HDMI cable capability was the Chromebook that I had purchased for my husband last year.  Enter Chromecast.  I saw it advertised and found it on Amazon for $35.  However since my TV was not hooked up to the Internet, I was concerned that I would not be able to use it.  No problem, as it turned out.  You simply plug the device into the HDMI cable input and go to your tablet or laptop and download the Chromecast app. It acts like a wireless HDMI cable and connects any device to your TV through your home network.  It is really very easy.

Now we can stream movies from any service on the Internet we want and have it show on the big screen and we are back to enjoying the movies we like. You can connect other devices, even your phone, to the TV through the app and eventually I will connect my husband's Chromebook to it too,and maybe my phone, but in the meantime when BlockBuster goes dark on December 15, we will still have access to anything we want.  In my mind, it's just as good as cable.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Day of Horror

Many of my Facebook friends have been changing their profile pictures to pictures of JFK to honor him this day, the anniversary of the assassination. In addition, they have been relaying their memories of that day. My personal memory of that day is a little foggy simply because I was 9 when it happened and obliviously not fresh in my mind.

I do remember being in school.  I believe I was in 5th grade.  Our teacher was called out of the room and then came back with tears in her eyes and told us.  I remember at some point after that a large television was brought in and we all watched the news about it.  I don't remember what went on when I got home, but considering my mother's liberal leanings, it was probably not the best of days.  I remember watching the funeral procession days later and thinking to myself that he must have been a wonderful, powerful man to have such a procession through our nation's capital.  I suppose being 9 years old, the severity of the event was somewhat lost on me.

We all have memories of world events that shape our lives.  Some of them such as the assassination of JFK, 911, and Columbine are things that one is likely to remember for years to come.  They not only shape us but shape the world.  I only hope that those horrible days do not repeat themselves too often and that we can begin to heal our nation of the hate that surrounds us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Okay, call me geeky, I don't care.  I had the chance to attend an election recount yesterday and found the whole process fascinating.  This year, there were several very close races and two of the three races that ended in a tie were no better off after the official tabulation that is always done on the Friday after the Tuesday's election.

Even though the process was a little tedious, it was very interesting to me.  The room was filled with supporters of the two candidates; Democrats on the left of the room and Republicans on the right (I am not sure that was intended, but it ended up that way). Each precinct was taken individually and the chair of the election board read the tapes and then looked at each absentee ballot, made a judgement, and then passed it to the other commissioner to agree or disagree.  Finally the third commissioner had a chance to weigh in. Four times during the review, the commissioners broke off into executive session to argue any differences there were on the ballots they had looked at and then came back with a report of their decision. One of the two races still ended in a tie and lots will be drawn, as per the process, this Friday.

Maybe it was because it was my first time to attend a recount, or maybe it was just another way of witnessing Democracy in action, but I was enthralled with being able to witness thee process. The more I learn about this operation the more I am intrigued with it.  It may not be perfect, but there is much that is in the works to make it as fair as possible.  It has been working for over 200 years, so we must be doing something right.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's A Mad, Mad World

My husband and I were watching the news last night and amid all the shootings, stabbings, natural disasters, and people going crazy like the Toronto Mayor, we turned to each other and asked "are things going crazy?"  It seems like lately more and more violence and craziness is a happening.  Is it just me?

Social media and digital news allows mankind to report things faster and more accurately than ever before.  Couple that with the fact that people love to spread dirt around, maybe it's just that we are able to see more reports of bizarre behavior.  It's kind of like thinking there is an epidemic of an illness when in actuality more people are reporting it.  That could also be the case for the increase in violence that I observe.  According to a site I came across, the FBI has been reporting statistics since 1957 and there has been an increase not only in criminal acts, but incarceration for those acts as well.  This site also supports the theory that violence media is a cause. I used to poo-poo that idea, because I grew up with westerns where people were shooting people all the time and I didn't grow up to be a killer.  But I recently heard that PG-13 rated films have had a dramatic increase in violence scenes over the last 5 years so now I think that there really is a whole media-induces-violence thing going on.

Apparently killing for humans is not natural, again according to this site, and people have to be trained to do so. Violence also begets violence; we learn this behavior from our parents and therefore from others close to us as well.  According to the writer, when a young person sees a violent act happening on TV, it is as if it is really happening because that's how their brain works.  Seeing violence over and over again desensitizes the brain to these acts and after a while they bear no relevance to the difference between fantasy and reality and they begin to act in kind. So yes, I think the world is going crazy after all.  It's time to make a change.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rub a Dub Dub

I attended a class this weekend on handmade soaps.  It was really easy, but very precise and time consuming, and I came home with a huge block of soap that I am going to cut up and give away.  The soap has to cure for several weeks before it is able to be used, but it smells fabulous!

I like making things by hand because it makes me more aware of the effort that goes into having items that we all take for granted.  So when I saw this class advertised I just had to attend.  It's not that I am going to continue in this, largely because there is a rather expensive investment for specific equipment that I might not use elsewhere, and it takes a lot of time to do properly.  But it was fun and I was able to create something that I can now take to various parties over the holiday season as hostess gifts.

Soap making is nothing recent.  I learned that ancient people were making soap around 2800 B.C. and that the lye ingredient was found by accident after the noticed that fats boiled with ashes from sacrificing animals cleaned the clothes they were washing in the stream. I then found by doing a Google search that the Ebers papyrus revealed that the ancient Egyptians mixed animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to produce a soap-like substance. But I think the addition of all kinds of chemicals to make lather and fragrance is a US manmade invention.  I like getting back to basics when I can so even though this was a fun thing for me to do, if anything happens at least I can still stay clean.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Public Apathy?

Last night I attended a budget workshop held by the municipal administrator.  This is the first step in the budget process where the administrator makes a proposed budget to the council and lays out all the things he would like the next year's budget to cover.  From here, the budget is poked and prodded and possible changes are made and then the council votes on it at the end of the year. 

I was rather surprised at the lack of attendance both from council and the public. Granted, this is the first step and there is not really much that happens here, but only two council people showed up, along with one director and one person from the public.  Not only was the meeting not mentioned on their website, but I did not see any advertisement in the paper even though someone told me it was there.  The only reason I knew about it was an email from a friend, who incidentally was not there himself.

Something like this is important for the public to weigh in on.  This proposed budget recommends a $32 average tax increase, which for me and other working folks is doable, but for many others is not.  I understand the need for the various things they mentioned, and I was pleasantly surprised that the administrator talked about a 5 year capital plan, something that has not been presented in a long time.  The presentation given last night will be on the website and there is a public input period that has to happen.  I will be watching closely to see if there will be more notice given.  I am anxious to see what happens from here out and if the public apathy continues or they suddenly wake up and scream because a tax increase is pending.  Perhaps it was just poor notification that the meeting was ill attended, or perhaps the public just doesn't care anymore.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

East Coast High

A news article came to my attention this morning that Portland, ME passed a referendum, known as Question 1, to legalize pot for adult recreational use.  The city already has medicinal use legalized and they have become the first east coast city to do legalize recreational use.

For several years I have argued that the decriminalization of marijuana would help our economy, and the slide show associated with this article supports that theory.  For example, according to the New York Times, the city of Oakland, CA raised $1.3 million in tax revenue from medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011 alone, which is 3% of the city's total business tax revenue. During the same time frame, the state of Colorado took in $5 in sales tax revenue.  That would pave a lot of streets.

While I do not smoke pot myself, partly because it is illegal and because I don't really like the effects, I understand the end result. We are not winning the war on drugs and it is senseless in my opinion to spend tax money fighting a substance which in my mind is no more dangerous that alcohol, and probably healthier for you anyway. I advocate decriminalizing marijuana and treating it just like we do several other drugs of choice; booze, cigarettes, and coffee. We are not going to stop people from needing a release from the grinds of everyday life, and while many can do without anything to take them away, using something such as pot is going to occur. We might as well realize what we can financially from it and stop fighting a war we cannot win.