December 2008

Post-Christmas Thanks

I’ve had a wonderful week with my parents, both sisters, and my youngest sister’s husband and two boys… we had a ton of fun.  LK’s boys are just a few years younger than my girls, so Delta gets a chance to be the big one for a while.  They’ve played Halo 3 and other assorted XBox games well into the night at my mother’s house, and engaged in some sort of Wii free-for-all at our house Wednesday afternoon.

With the kids all thoroughly entertained, that gave the adults a little time to just sit and catch up.  I enjoyed that.

Somewhere along the line — probably in those last few days of frantic shopping — I picked up a gift that I’d just as soon return: a cold.  The good old-fashioned winter cold, complete with aches and a feeling that my throat has been stripped raw.  But, it’s okay — I have my tea, and my schedule today is light.  Tomorrow, LK and her crew will drive back to Houston; Alpha’s returning to her apartment at UT tonight.

Middle sister KD is going back to Bristol on Sunday.  It was wonderful to see them all, to know that everyone is thriving.

I’ve missed my friends this week, but after the hectic schedule of the holiday subsides, we’ll plan a quiet evening somewhere along the way.  It’s about time.  Might have to learn to play Texas Hold-Em, so that HWTFM can get some use out of that spiffy new card set.

Next week, we’ll get to visit with siblings and cousins from HIS side of the family — and another good time will be had by all.

Xmas 911

Sometimes, despite the best of planning, the most organized advance effort for the perfect gift, something goes wrong.  Yeah, that’s how my day has gone.

Back in November, I ordered Gamma’s gift.  You know, that very special jacket with a name embroidered on the front, the school’s letter, a sport emblem (golf, in this case), and the last name in carpet-like letters on the back?

It was due to be ready on December 20, but there was a bit of a delay.  So, when I went to pick it up today, the poor young fellow came out and said, "there’s a problem."

Heck yeah, there’s a problem.  They misspelled her name — front and back.  It wasn’t the local store’s fault; they had it correctly spelled (in several places) on the order form.  The company they get the jackets from messed it up.

The store is making it right, but the problem is, this was a Christmas present.  Cold weather is here, and I know she’d love to show it off to her cousins on Christmas Day (they’re both younger athletes, so this would be impressive to them).  So, it will be made right, but not for a few more weeks.

Dang.  Now what do I do for Christmas?

O, the weather outside

O, the weather outside is frightful… dreary, rainy, and just useless.  Six days before Christmas, it should be snowing — and don’t give me any song and dance about global warming, since most of this part of the globe is under a frightful winter storm.  Even Malibu.

So, my Frivolous Friday Friends, I’ve conjured up a little cyber-snow of my own.  On Sunday, it’s supposed to get colder here, so maybe we might have weather more like Christmas soon.

My skis are waxed and ready.

‘Tis the Season

For me, this is a season of wonder and joy.  My older girls are home from college, the younger two are filled with excitement — baking gingerbread cookies, decorating the tree, looking forward to visits with extended family that we don’t see near often enough.  There have been holiday parties with our friends, and a few quiet evenings to ourselves.

My sister called last night from Houston to ask what I want for Christmas, but I don’t really have an answer.  I have all that I need, and really don’t have many wants.  What I want is to enjoy her visit next week, to play with her children, and be thankful that my loved ones are doing well.

Joy is not a product of economic circumstance, though having one’s basic needs met certainly makes it much easier.   That said, some of the happiest, most joyful, grateful people I’ve ever met live in a little mountaintop village in Mexico; though they live in one or two-room abodes, with a single telephone in the entire village and electricity so scant that they have to choose between powering the refrigerator or turning on a light, they wake up every day praising God for what he provides. 

In that village, a hot water heater is a 50-gallon drum on the roof, pre-heated by the sun.  To take a hot shower, the father builds a small fire beneath the drum filled with rainwater.

In this country, we have so much more, but happiness is more elusive for some.  It’s a choice, I think, but one that some folks simply don’t realize that they have.  As the holidays approach, observing others’ joy can lead to depression and envy; in the worst cases, those attributes can actually drive away the real treasures — love, friendship, sharing, and gratitude. 

Many have noticed in the past few weeks that the online activity over at the dead-tree daily has gotten downright ugly.  I cannot begin to explain why the management of the paper has allowed this, as it’s a poor reflection upon them.  However, the story behind the story is a sad one — of how one individual’s poor choices, bitterness and envy destroyed all that really mattered.

I will not tell Boater’s story to the world, but for my friends who are wondering, log in as a registered user to continue reading.  If you’re not registered, e-mail me and I might send it. 


[hide]I quit even looking at the Oak Ridger forum quite a long time ago, but around Thanksgiving, a friend of mine e-mailed me a heads-up that I might want to check on it.  So, I did.  A new poster going by "Boater" had begun a thread calling for drug and alcohol testing for school board members… following up with an allegation that I am an alcoholic.

If I were not a public figure (even school board qualifies as such), that statement would constitute libel.  But since I am, there’s not much I can do.  However, it would help to understand where that stuff is coming from.

Boater is the ex-wife of a friend of mine.  Although I and other friends tried to get to know her, tried to include her, and tried to befriend her (because married people generally tend to be friends as couples), she didn’t really want to be part of our circle.   But, I did get to know her well enough that she told me she was a reformed alcoholic.  I also know that she has a problem with hydrocodone — as in addiction.  And that she has a history of psychiatric illness, for which she was hospitalized within the past year.

About a year ago, her adult son died of a drug overdose, and that pushed her over the edge.  Although her husband tried valiantly to stay by her side and be supportive — tried as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen — within months, she had destroyed her marriage, severed her relationship with her mother, and moved to a trailer in Andersonville where she now lives, bitter and alone with the demons in her mind.

So, the postings about Ashley Paine, about a school board member drinking beer and making decisions about school transportation (though these never occurred at the same time, mind you) weren’t really about Ashley… or even about me.  It was about a mother who allowed or ignored her son’s drug use, possibly because of her own, mourning his death.

I cannot begin to imagine the sadness of losing a child.  Worse, of knowing that her own habits may have encouraged his use of the substance that killed him. 

Why am I her target?  I’m not really sure.  My friend, her ex-husband, told me that she had always been jealous of me, and she referred to such in an e-mail that she sent near the beginning of this mess on the Oak Ridger forum.  But I am the most happily married woman I know, and though my friend is my friend (he’s my husband’s friend too, BTW), I’m definitely not looking for any extra curricular activity. 

My best guess as to the reasoning is this: the holidays are a hard time to be alone, and she was spoiling for a fight with the good man that she left in her madness.  Thus, she chose to attack me, knowing that his first response would be to respond to her.  He did not, only because I made him promise not to.  You see, the only way to make it go away is to ignore it; if she gets what she wants — attention, even negative attention — then she will continue to harass his friends.

So now you know the story behind Boater.  Rest assured, I’m not losing any sleep over it, but I do pray for her to find peace in this life.  It must be so hard to be so unhappy, when all around, others are celebrating.

If you’re loved, if you have food for today and warmth against the cold outside, feel good.  We make our own attitudes, and I choose for mine to be one of joy.
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Geekery Test

I’ve been pondering on a piece for days, but looking for an elusive code snippet that will let me put part of the post out for public view, while keeping part of it available only to a chosen few.

So this is a test of that new plugin.  I’ve been learning a new language along the way, because while there’s a ton of good open-source stuff out there, there are a few things I’ve wished for that just don’t seem to exist.  Or, at the very least, I’d like to be able to modify some of what’s already out there.

I’ve already accomplished some of what’s been bugging me, but here’s the test of this new toy:

[hide]You should have to register to read this part.  Because the next post is the one where I’m going to speak what’s been bottled up for a good two weeks now, some things will make more sense. [/hide]

 

There.  I feel better already.

MSM Demise

Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today — the owners of eight major daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun.

Last week, the Tennessean laid off 92 people.  The News-Sentinel has recently downsized, eliminating some sections and changing to a smaller format.

Close to home, Gatehouse Media, the parent company of the Oak Ridger, has seen their stock fall from $8.96 per share on Dec. 10 of last year, to 6.9 cents per share just now — less than one-hundredth of the value it represented one year ago.

Jack McElroy of the Sentinel opines that it’s not a lack of readership or faith in the traditional media that is driving the woes, but rather a significant change in their real revenue source:

the problems the newspaper business is facing are due primarily to changes in advertising, especially classified ads, which lend themselves to online searching. Ads pay the bills at newspapers, and when there are fewer ads or they are selling for lower prices, it’s harder to pay the bills.

 

It costs more to print the dead-wood edition than it used to, and it costs more to deliver it.  The online edition is far cheaper to produce and distribute (and for people like me, brings the added value of not having to pick it up after being strewn all over the kitchen table or living room, then hauled out to the recycle box).

Competition from sites like eBay, Craigslist, CarSoup and others are probably part of the issue, but for some, credibility remains an issue.  When local papers lust for the sensationalism of a tabloid, credibility flies out the window.

Many online newspapers allow reader comments at the end of stories, but this requires vigilance in moderating such comments, as people can and do vent with impunity.  The Sentinel does a decent job of moderating, as evidenced by the many "comment removed by site staff" entries that appear daily.  Unfortunately, the Oak Ridger does not.

It pains me to enjoy the apparent demise of my local paper, but there is hope: with the audacity of youth and sweat equity, one locally-owned, locally-operated newspaper is prepared to weather the storm.

I’ve said before and still believe, Oak Ridgers are intelligent enough to read more than one newspaper.  But only if both are worth reading.

Pearl Harbor Day

The day that will live in infamy.

It was, up until 9/11/01, the most horrific day that any living person could remember.  We were attacked, completely without warning or provocation, and gravely wounded.

But we are the United States; we calculated our response and executed.  It may not have been swift, but it was certain and decisive.   So many of our "greatest generation" warriors are gone now, but to those of you who remain, thank you.

You taught America and the world that we are not to be trifled with.  That we are strong, resilient, and capable.   As we navigate these times of great uncertainty, it is imperative to remember what you taught us.

I remember.  I will strive to be like you.

Frivolous Friday: Zen wisdom

1.      Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me the hell alone.

2.      The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.

3.      It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

4.      Don’t be irreplaceable; if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

5.      No one is listening until you make a mistake.

6.      Always remember you’re unique, just like everyone else.

7.      Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

8.      It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

9.      It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.

10.     If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

11.     Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

12.     If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

13.     Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat & drink beer all day.

14.     If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

15.     Don’t squat with your spurs on.

16.     If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

17.     If you drink, don’t park. Accidents cause people.

18.     Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield.

19.     Good judgment comes from bad experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

20.     The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

21.     Timing has an awful lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

22.     A closed mouth gathers no foot.

23.     Duct tape is like the force: it has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

24.     There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.

25.     Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your mouth is moving.

26.     Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

(courtesy of the godfather)

The great thing about kids is…

… the things we learn from them.

Delta introduced me to the concept that one doesn’t "turn" the next year older until birthday cake is consumed.  I haven’t aged in a decade or so, having assiduously avoided birthday cake ever since.

Alpha, immersed in college culture, has tipped me off to several really good TV series this year.  I don’t usually watch much TV, so something good may come on, and I never know.  But, she called a few weeks ago to tell me that I ought to watch Fringe — sort of an updated version of X-Files, but with better acting.

And, since I’d already missed the pilot and a couple of episodes, she pointed me to Hulu, where you can watch missed episodes of almost anything online.

Over Thanksgiving break, she got me hooked on Prison Break, which has been on for a few seasons now.  Of course, only this season’s episodes are on the show’s website, so Alpha clued me in to another resource: SurfTheChannel.  There, I can go back to the very first season, and watch them online to my heart’s content.

On SurfTheChannel, the Megavideo selections are the highest quality, but they set a time limit per day on how much you can watch without joining (for a fee).   The Sina.com clips are the next best in quality, and allow unlimited daily viewing without signing up for anything.  The only downside is the Japanese subtitles, but I can live with it.

It’s Tuesday night, 8 p.m., and I’m off to watch House on realtime TV.