Saturday, February 21, 2009

2279 Water

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I still have no water. I suspect whatever's wrong won't be cheap, so I didn't want to call just any plumber in the yellow pages. I've spent the past week trying to get a recommendation from someone, anyone.

I was in a fairly new gourmet deli in the village this afternoon, and they had a scrapbook on the counter detailing their gutting and rebuilding process. I thought, "Hey, I'll bet they used a plumber!" So I asked. Turns out their plumber was the brother-in-law of one of the partners, and she recognized me as a friend of Piper, whom they know well - so now I have a plumber. He's coming tomorrow to take a look.

Jay always liked the guys that put in the well, but I couldn't remember who that was.

The desk I'm sitting at right now is an oak manager's desk, purchased used from The Company at a warehouse sale . The wide, shallow, center drawer has a trough in the front where I have pens, pencils, paper clips, and so on. I sit here with the drawer slightly open, to rest my elbows on the top edge as I type, so that trough is always visible, and I get a pen or pencil out several times a day.

Now, the weird part. The part that makes me think I may be losing it.

This evening I happened to glance down, and in the left end of that trough, clearly visible, covered by nothing, info side up, is the business card for the well company. It's been there for 20 years.

2278 Tax Clinic 2

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I volunteered at the tax clinic again today. Donuts and coffee provided in the morning, and big sandwiches at lunch. Sixteen low wage workers got their taxes done for free. (Twenty-seven last weekend. They're expecting a huge crowd next weekend.)

The people are to fill out a general information form first, before they see the preparer. One young man was there with his girlfriend and a baby. He came up to me with the form and asked "It says occupation here. I'm not sure what to put down." I asked what he did. He had three jobs, one at Burger King, one at McDonald's, and one at Dunkin Donuts. I told him to write "food service", and his expression was like I'd just promoted him. Then he asked what the line about child care meant, and I said that's if you pay for child care or babysitter so you can go to work. He said "No. My girlfriend stays at home."

My head spun.

I found out that if RSVP asks you to volunteer for more than 4 hours at a clip, they have to feed you. Sheesh. In all those long days I put in at the Maritime Museum, nobody once offered me anything. I even had to pay for bottled water from the gift shop.

I don't miss the museum at all, and not just because of the lack of feeding. They really did expect too much of the volunteers. We were expected to do things a paid employee should have been doing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

2277 Repeat - On adversarial Law

Friday, February 20, 2009

I found this old entry from December of 2005. I like it. I decided to repeat it.

#498 Adversarial Law

Neighbor Nan and I got to talking about mediated divorces yesterday. I complained that as soon as you get two lawyers involved, if things weren't nasty before, they get nasty real quick, because the lawyers aren't really fighting for their clients, they're just fighting to score against each other. Nan said that in Austria, a divorce is handled by one lawyer, who advises both parties on what is equitable, fair, and legal.

That isn't allowed in the US.

I've known a lot of lawyers, and I've found that when you find one who likes to go to court, who looks forward to the fray, he or she is usually less interested in truth and justice, and more interested in simply winning. Regardless of what's right.

I used to laugh at The Company lawyers. When they smelled conflict, you could almost hear the swords rattling against the shields. And once they mounted up, they weren't going to let anything like compromise or offers or new information deter them from battle, from that taste of blood and victory.

In France, according to Jay and his father at least, the object of the courts is to find the truth. Cases are presided over by a panel of judges, who direct the research and investigation, and choose, summon, and question the witnesses. They want the whole truth, not someone's filtered and slanted version of it, and they keep probing until they are satisfied they've got it. Contrast this with American courts, where the object often seems to be to prevent the whole truth from coming out, to pit one attorney's skill at obfuscation and blocking against another's, winner take all.

This means that in the US, the outcome of family, civil, and criminal cases is often determined not by the truth and law, but by whose lawyer could dance faster. Which actually translates to who had the most money. Which explains a lot about the demographics of the prisons.

If I were innocent, I'd want a French court. If I were guilty, I'd want an American court and a rich uncle. That doesn't sound nice at all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2276 - I just don't get it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When the current governor of New York took office, he noted that the real estate situation in the Albany area was terrible, not so much foreclosures as that nothing was selling. Nobody was buying houses. Nobody could sell a house. He said somebody should do something about that. So he fired 3,000+ state government workers.

I don't understand. Good luck with that relocation, folks.

Meanwhile, in Saratoga, Marylou Whitney has canceled her annual ball celebrating the opening of the racing season. The ball is huge, themed, enormously extravagant. Costumed invited guests are inside, but outside, the masses, anybody who shows up, are also fed and entertained. It's the biggest thing in Saratoga, I guess. She can afford it.

She and her husband have decided that the ball is "inappropriate" in this economy.

Inappropriate? What about the local businesses that depend on the ball to make their nut every year? How many jobs will this move cost?

In this economy, spending, if you have the money, is the most appropriate thing to do! Keeping money out of circulation is the absolute worst thing.

I don't understand.

2275 Blah Faceb00k

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Well, another blogger has decamped, moved to Faceb00k, "Come visit me there!" Well, you can't do much with Faceb00k unless you register with them. And they insist on real names. Sure, I could make up a name, but that isn't the whole problem.

First problem is that Faceb00k tracks your internet activity, especially shopping. I don't want that.

Second problem is that (and most people don't realize this) Faceb00k OWNS everything you store with them. Your writings. Your photos. They can use anything in any way they wish. Once you put something on Faceb00k, it's no longer yours, you have no say in its use, and they can even alter it any way they want. You could put a photo out that you are proud of and want to share with friends, and a month later find that it has been sold for use in a condom commercial. You have shared the copyright with them.

Yeah. Read the terms of use. They recently expanded them. (I'm willing to bet nobody told the users.)

I was on Faceb00k for all of maybe 36 hours when I realized how dangerous it was. I tried to delete my profile and the few photos I'd put out there, and surprise - they'll "unregister" you, but they don't delete your material.

Don't believe me?

Set up a dummy account, store some stuff, wait a few days, and then request that the account and profile and all materials be deleted. Wait another few days, and reregister. Surprise. Your stuff, that they claim had been deleted, is still there.

Why not? It's theirs now. They just let you look at it.


Later: This guy says it well. Also, it's interesting that the TOS were changed to allow them to keep your material about two weeks ago. The previous TOS, which they have gone back to, didn't say they'd keep stuff. And yet - it was about six weeks ago that I had my run-in with Faceb00k, and they kept my material then! (I wrote a very nasty email to them, threatening legal action.) So just because they withdrew the statement that they are keeping your stuff DOESN'T mean they're not keeping your stuff. They're just not saying so.

2274 If you find it racist....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

...what does that mean?

All the morning talk shows today are upset at yesterday's New York Post cartoon. You can find it here. Everyone finds it racist. And violent.

Ok, I'll grant the violent. But it took me several minutes to wonder if it was racist.

My first thought was, "That would have been funnier if they'd printed it during the Bush administration."

My second thought was, "Are they saying the bill was written by chimps?" - a thought I've had myself. (Not monkeys, by the way. A chimpanzee is an ape, not a monkey. And humans are also primates. Let's get the terms right.)

It wasn't until after I'd heard the arguments about the cartoon being racist that I wondered if they were equating President Obama to a chimpanzee, and then I had to wonder why it was ok to equate Bush to a chimp, but not Obama.

So, am I insensitive to racial issues? Whoopie says that people who are racist are insensitive to racial slurs, don't even realize when they make them. Does being insensitive make me racist? I don't think I am.

In fact, by thinking that it's ok to equate Bush to a chimp, but not Obama, you divide the two solely on the issue of race. Isn't that in a way racist? To differentiate solely on the basis of skin color? To treat people differently based solely on the depth of their tans?

OK, I guess you do have to be sensitive to a person's history. You don't make Nazi jokes to people with numbers tattooed on their arms. But the whole issue is tangled in my mind.

Feminists went through this. Women want to be considered strong, capable, intelligent, and as worthy as men. We don't want to be treated differently just because we're female. But we do like it when men open doors and carry things for us. When The Man opens the car door for me AND adjusts the seat AND pulls the seat belt out and passes it over to my left hand, is he being a chauvinist pig, treating me like a child? (Yes, he really does do all that. He even guides me around with a hand on the small of my back.) I think we woman resolved it simply. OUR chosen man can ACT like we're small and delicate and need to be taken care of - but only in ways we define, and only with our permission. Another man better not try it, or we'd have to kill him.

Maybe that's how things that look racist work. It's allowed only with permission, and otherwise you have to be sensitive. But a man who treats a woman the same way he'd treat another man, not even considering her sex, is not being insensitive, and he's not being chauvinistic - in fact, that's what we'd want. So howcome we have to be so sensitive to race? Wouldn't the goal be to treat all the same with no consideration to color? Isn't that the goal?

So if it's ok to compare Bush to a chimp, isn't the goal to be able someday to compare Obama to a chimp? Is my being "racially insensitive" an indication of latent racism, or a sign that I'm more advanced than most?

It's very tangled. We have to feel our way. Someday I'll have to ask The Man if I've ever inadvertently offended him by saying or doing something I would have said or done to any other man.

I mean, like, is it bad if I forget he's Black?

So, back to the question. If you do or don't find the cartoon racist, what does that mean?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2273 Legal Bits

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ok all you folks with the Swiss bank accounts - get ready for a visit from the IRS. (New York Times article here.)


"A Florida jury has awarded $8 million in damages to a widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer, The Associated Press reports." The finding is that the company hid the dangers from smokers.

The man was two years older than I, so he must have had pretty much the same knowledge as I. And when I was in high school and college, we called cigarettes "coffin nails". Oh, come on! Everybody knew! Nobody can claim they didn't know! In my opinion, smokers know, and they make their decision. And to claim the companies hid the information is bullshit.** We knew. Everyone did.

Enormous awards are simply punishment, vindictiveness, and since this case opens the door to thousands of similar cases, it's a blatant attempt to put them out of business.

No matter what you personally think of cigarettes, this is a perversion of the justice system, and I don't like it. Like, maybe one day we'll decide we don't like people with blue eyes, and juries will convict blue-eyed people just because their eyes are blue. (Oops, sorry. Bad example. We already do that with skin.)

**That is not a word I often use. In this case, it fits.


Where is Geronimo? Descendants of the Apache chief Geronimo have sued Yale University and Skull and Bones, asking for the release of Geronimo’s remains. The descendants believe that in 1918, members of Skull and Bones, including Prescott Bush, the father of George H.W Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush, dug up Geronimo’s grave at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, and stole his skull, some bones and other items buried with him." (Story here.)


Seventeen Chinese Turkic Muslims cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay are still there, in limbo for the past seven years, never having been charged with anything, AND they are not considered enemy combatants, not considered terrorists. Story here.

The men are from Xinjiang, and are part of a military/political group agitating against repression by China. They are afraid to return to the Chinese-controlled territory because they fear torture. China has warned other countries not to accept them. So there they sit.

What I can't figure out is how they ended up in Gitmo in the first place. Another Bush/Cheney mess Obama has to untangle?

2272 Bits and Pieces

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On NPR today, a lot of people were asked to define love. There were all kinds of complicated, fanciful, and flowery definitions, most of which seemed to fit a particular situation, and most of which seemed a bit smothering to me.

I like my definition best (of course): "Love is when you want for someone whatever makes them happy, even if it doesn't happen to include you."


Evidence of the spread of the financial crisis - Dubai. Wealthy city. Very expensive. Disneyland, Las Vegas, and New York city all rolled into one, party center of the world (even though sin is against the law). Dubai has attracted speculators from all over Asia and the middle east. And now it's crashing.

In the US, when you can't pay for the house or the car, you can hand the keys to the bank or dealership and walk away. Not in Dubai. You pay debts, or you go to debtor's prison.

In the past four months, the police have found more than 3,000 cars abandoned at and near the airport, with the keys in them. Surprise. People are quietly sneaking onto planes, getting out.


I knew that the US real estate market was ridiculous, especially in California. Some people still have a distorted opinion of what their property is worth. Look at what $200,000 (down from $250,000) will get you in San Diego:

"Major fixer upper. Needs lots of work no bathrooms fixtures, toilets, tiles. No light fixtures, no kitchen cabinets, partial carpets, stucco needs finish. No landscape needs fence contractors. Dream major fixer sold as is. Needs some windows & new doors, may need some roofing & garage door, no exhaust fans present in kitchen or bathrooms & steps need repairs. Fixer Fixer Fixer!"

"Dream"? Do check the link. It has no foundation, is supported on a few widely spaced posts and whatever else they could find. It looks like you'd be buying nothing more than a small narrow trashed lot.


Quote from A-Rod: "I laid my bed, now I've got to sit on it."


I have the Maury show on in the morning because it leads into a show I really watch. I am amazed at how those people overreact! No matter what's going on with me, I'd never be accepted for the show by the producers. They don't want someone who will hear some shocking revelation and respond, "Oh. Ok. I guess that settles that." and walk away.


Along those same lines, Ben Sherwood, author of The Survivors Club, was on PBS last night. He had some interesting things to say about people who manage to survive disasters, who breeze through crises. He says there's a misconception that most people freak out in an emergency. Actually, he's discovered that in any group of people, there will be 10% who become leaders and do exactly the right things, 80% who obey and follow those leaders, and 10% who flip out and do all the wrong things, endangering everyone else.

He says that
"An international team of scientists has identified a set of genes that seem to protect people from the greatest stresses and strains in life. Researching my book, I actually underwent genetic testing to see if I’ve got the Resilience Gene."
I find it interesting that so many people these days get old sayings wrong, even mature journalists. He said that many people, in a crisis, "run around with their heads cut off", which brings up an image quite different from a chicken with its head cut off.... I guess nobody kills their own chickens much these days.

I took the test at the above link. I came up "Realist". I am, in fact, good in a crisis, and I don't easily stress out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2271 Google hits

I'm getting 4 to 6 hits a day from people searching for "how to get out of jury duty", from many different states, Canada and Europe, and even one hit from Israel. I guess that's the most interesting thing I've had to say in over 2,000 posts (well, most interesting since the abasiophilia people discovered me).

I'm glad I'm wasting their time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

2270 Why a Surgeon?

Monday, February 16, 2009

I didn't understand why, since the mammogram and the ultrasound were clear, I still had to see a surgeon. So today I stopped in at the GP's office and asked.

It's because we need to rule out Inflammatory breast cancer, which is a very rare but especially nasty variety that doesn't form lumps and doesn't show up on mammograms or ultrasounds. When found, it's automatically stage IIIb or IV.

Ok, so let's go rule it out.

I'd never heard of it before. Follow the link, look up the symptoms, and spread the word.

The only symptom I have is what appeared to be a brief infection in a duct. So either I don't have it, or we're catching it early. The miserable survival rate is because it usually isn't recognized until it's too late.

2269 Excess

Monday, February 16, 2009

The View is on, and they mentioned that Las Vegas is suffering because companies are avoiding the "fiscal stigma" of meetings in Vegas.

I had lunch with Piper last Thursday, and he told me about a NYC investment company that had called him as an advisor to a meeting, in NYC, concerning their losses. They told him that the meeting where the numbers would be presented and decisions made would be in a few weeks, and he said, "Oh, so you'll want me down here again then?" And they said, yes, but not down here, that meeting will be in Hawaii.

All of the people who will be at that meeting are local to NYC.

They really STILL don't get it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

2268 Dressage

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Beautiful. (The tail fascinated me.)