Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Teen, mom sue for $30 million

According to an article published in yesterday's Austin American-Statesman newspaper, a 14-year-old girl and her mother have filed a lawsuit against over it's "utterly ineffective" security for under-age members.  The girl claims to have met a 19-year-old boy through MySpace who claimed to be younger, accompanied him to dinner and the movies, and then was sexually assaulted afterwards in a parking lot.

My take on the story?  Blame the parents, not MySpace.  It's her parents that should be watching out for her and teaching her how to be safe in today's changing world.  MySpace does have safety measures in place to keep underage profiles private and inaccessible by anyone 16 years or older, but it shouldn't be a replacement for quality parenting and involvement in your child's life.  On top of that, the girl admitted that she willingly went with him to the movies and dinner and then with him afterwards to his home.  Come on, a guy goes out with a girl on a date and then invites her home with him... what else do you think he was planning on doing?  This family is just looking for someone else to blame for their problems and hoping to make a lot of money off of it at the same time.

Here's hoping the judge for this case is like Judge Judy (yes, despite how much I dislike her), tells the mother to be a better and more involved parent, and dismisses this frivolous lawsuit altogether.

Blessed Midsummer!


The sun has reached his peak today on the longest day of the year... or at least I think it's today. Apparently the difference between the calendar year and the actual revolution of the Earth around the sun is off by a little bit and this causes the date to be continually shifting. I've always been accustomed to the solstice falling on the 21st of June, so I'm at least going to observe the sabbat today. For an interesting read on different countries' traditions, check out the Wikipedia entry. Regardless of when you celebrate, have a blessed and safe Midsummer!

Friday, June 16, 2006

The umbrella you want to forget on purpose

Ambient Umbrella

A generic umbrella from the corner store: $5

The new Forecasting Umbrella with a glowing handle to warn of rain: $100

Expression on the woman's face in the Forecasting Umbrella's promo flyer (note the lack of rain in the background): Priceless

Check out some of the other wacky items the company is selling, too.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Amusing political quotes

First, a quick definition:
Politics: n. [Poly "many" + tics "blood-sucking parasites"]

"Where else but in Washington could they call the department that's in charge of everything outside and out-of-doors the Department of the Interior." --Ronald Reagan

"Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber." --Plato

"The mistake a lot of politicians make is forgetting they've been appointed and thinking they've been anointed." --Claude Pepper

"Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half." --Gore Vidal

"Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair." --George Burns

"You know the world is going crazy when the top rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the US of arrogance, Germany doesn't want to go to war, and the three most powerful men in America are named 'Bush,' 'Dick,' and 'Colon.'" --Chris Rock

"The president has kept all the promises he intended to keep." --George Stephanopolous

And in light of my recent crap-tacular life, I end with my favorite political quote:
"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full." --Henry Kissinger

Bargain tech alert!

Just a heads-up to fellow frugal electronics shoppers out there... therefore, most Fry's Electronics locations too--have the Emprex MP-1003 digital music player on sale right now for $15. (Also on sale is a 2GB SD card for $60.) I picked up one of these about two months ago and have been really happy with it. The only three complaints I have about it are minor.

The unit fades the start of every track in, which isn't really a bad thing and isn't that noticeable unless you listen to an album with continuous tracks. The second complaint is a very faint warbling background noise produced by file access, only noticeable by picky ears like mine at high volume levels. These problems may very well stem from the fact that I purchased a slow, generic SD card and may be solved with a faster and higher-quality media. Finally, the unit can only play back MP3-format files, though they are so prevalent and easy to convert that this shouldn't pose much of a problem. Those looking for high-quality AAC formats should look elsewhere.

Other than these three minor details, the unit performs solidly with 15 to 20 hours of play time on a single AAA battery (located under the removeable silver panel on the face of the unit). Four different preset EQ modes further enhance the listening experience on this gem of a bargain. The packaging includes a pair of tiny stereo earbuds, one battery, a USB 2.0 cable to upload your tunes to the unit, and a mini CD that includes Windows 98 drivers (any newer version of Windows has generic drivers already built in).

The thing that sold me on this unit was the memory slot: it supports Secure Digital and MultiMedia Cards up to 4GB. No built-in limits, the size and speed of your portable music collection is only limited by your budget and is expandable in the future. I managed to pick up a 512MB card with mine for $18, bringing the total up to $33 plus tax. The closest thing to compare is the SanDisk Sansa 512MB at $60 or the trendy iPod shuffle 512MB for $70.

The bottom line: it's a solid, dirt-cheap unit with expandable memory that gets the job done.

If they made a TV show of my life, would anybody watch it?

How's this for an episode?  Start it with me on Monday morning fretting about my rent being a day late and my electricity about to be shut off.  I had found out over the weekend that my car's windows, radio, locks, air, and cruise control had gone out again and the car itself wouldn't start on Saturday night--the fourth time in two months the same thing had happened.

By some miracle, the Blue Beast actually cranked and started up Monday morning, so I drove Kaylee two minutes down the road to daycare.  The windows and A/C were still out of commission, so sweat had already covered my forehead by the time I dropped her off.  Fearing the worst, I left the car running at each stop while I quickly paid my electric bill and rent before finally dropping the car off at the dealership for repairs again at 11AM, drenched in sweat and throat itchy and parched with thirst.  A glimmer of hope sparkled as the owner agreed to provide me with a temporary loaner this time.  After an hour's wait and a quick breakfast at the nearby Village Inn, I stepped into the grumpy, broken-down gold Dodge Stratus as he smiled at me saying, "Please don't judge us based on the condition of this car."  As long as it turned on and had air conditioning, I didn't think I could complain, but there's this old saying... be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

The driver-side door doesn't always open, the seat adjusters were broken, the radio ripped out, and the roar of the engine was very prominent in the interior of the vehicle.  I feared for my safety as every growl from the engine and threatening near-stalling putter drew me closer to work, of which I only managed to get in about four of my eight hours that day.  I sputtered home, picked up the little one, and breathed a sigh of relief.  I made it through Monday, how much worse can it get?

Tuesday, still no babysitter was found, so I had cancelled my plans to go out that night with a dear old friend from high school driving to town to go to the HIM concert.  Even after spreading the message to friends, coworkers, and fellow netizens on MySpace, nobody would even take the tickets I had to the concert for free.  The itchy throat from yesterday had progressed into a painfully irritating sore throat, so despite the kind last-minute offers of babysitting assistance I received late Tuesday afternoon did no good as I knew the excitement and yelling that my vocal chords would endure at a concert would bring me nothing short of misery for days.  I figured I might feel better with a dose of Panda Express for dinner (I could only finish half, but Kaylee sure enjoyed hers), but even my fortune cookie seemed to mock me with its message:  The night life is for you.

Wednesday morning was somewhat fuzzy.  Lack of sleep, thanks to the pain I felt every time I swallowed or moved my head, does that to you.  I managed to eke in about three hours of work in before Andrea gives me a call, frantically screeching at me because I wasn't home.  Apparently I had agreed to give her a ride to work before taking Kaylee in to the doctor for her checkup.  Racing across town in the grumpy car, I managed to drop her off only five minutes later than she was scheduled to arrive (which I thought was pretty good for the distance I covered) and raced back to Gilbert for the pediatrician's office.

Kaylee had been exhibiting a cough for a few days, and though I thought she was catching what I had, the doctor wasn't so convinced.  Her ear was gunked up again.  The same one she was in the hospital for in April.  The stress lately, combined with the changes in weather, and the exposure to other sick kids at daycare were likely to be the reason for the recurrence of the infection.  He called in a prescription of antibiotics to my local Walgreens and assured me that this should clear things up again and scheduled her to come back for a checkup in two weeks.

After spending a total of an hour and a half at the doctor, I spent another hour and a half trying to get back to the other side of town to pick up Andrea after she got off from work.  Annoyingly enough, the ride back home only took a half hour because rush-hour traffic had died down.  Exhausted from all the driving and being sick, I stupidly agreed to let her take the car for the night so she could get dinner with friends and then pick up the prescription for Kaylee on the way home.  Three packets of Theraflu later, I remember nothing except waking up on Thursday morning at about 9AM.

Looking outside I saw no car, and more importantly I found no antibiotics.  I decided to go ahead and start getting ready to walk Kaylee to over daycare, bike to Walgreens to pick up the prescription and drop it off at home, and then take the bus to work.  Shortly after 10AM, I was moments from leaving when Andrea comes stumbling home, muttering about a migraine.  Grabbing the car keys, I headed straight for the pharmacy and gave Kaylee a dose before dropping her off at the daycare.

Returning home to put the meds in the refrigerator, as the instructions indicated, the whining woman in the bedroom insisted that I wait a half hour for her headache medicine to kick in and she could drop me off at work before going to her work.  I argued that she should stay home and forget about work, but like almost every other argument I had with her while we were married, I got nowhere.  The half hour ended up turning into two and a half hours before I finally made it into work.

Three hours passed and I received a call from her again, admitting that I was right again and she should have just listened to me and stayed home because she got sucked into doing someone else's job.  Yeah, it was nice to be right, but the fuzzy feeling faded when she told me that she wasn't going to be able to pick up Kaylee from daycare like she thought she would be able to do.  After a lecture, some cussing, and a general expression of my displeasure of all the crap she had put me through so far this week, I finally agreed to pick up my daughter because I love her and didn't want her stranded at daycare, and I especially didn't want to pay the extra fees for her staying late because I knew that I was the only one responsible enough to pay for them.

A quick query to the local bus website yielded three results on the fastest route home.  The soonest and fastest route was one I was unfamiliar with, but I decided to try it anyway.  Three buses and 96 minutes was all it said it would take.  One bus ran about six miles east and was supposed to meet the second bus that would take me two miles closer to home.  But upon departing the first bus, I scanned the area for the next stop and found nothing.  Walking further, I noticed an odd pattern of stops on the opposite side of the street, but none on the side where I walked and expected there to be one.  Stubbornly persistent, I walked the next two miles in the 100 degree heat and found my answer at the next bus stop.  The bus that was labeled Dobson South didn't actually run south on Dobson, it ran in a loop and only went north up the route which I had just walked.

Having missed the final bus by a matter of minutes, I decided to trek another mile north to more familiar territory.  I knew there to be a convenience store at the next major intersection since it was along my normal bike route to work, so I increased my total walking distance for the day to three miles in the heat and finally cooled off in the shade with a Vault energy drink with five minutes to spare before the final bus picked me up.  After an exchange of text messages, Andrea informed me that it looked like she would actually be able to make it to the daycare before closing time.  All of my exhausting efforts were in vain as I exited the bus and met my daughter and her mother just getting into the car in front of the daycare at 7PM as they were closing.

Kaylee and I were hurriedly dropped off at home as Andrea rushed off to pick up a friend from the airport and then go to work again.  I realized too late that my Theraflu box was now empty, so I spent most of the night awake thanks to the sore throat which had been irritated back to full strength because of the afternoon's traveling.  I managed about four hours of passable sleep before stumbling out of bed with my sore legs at 9AM on Friday morning.

Thankfully, Friday was rather uneventful.  The only source of irritation was a problem with the program code I had written and successfully used earlier in the week but now didn't work.  I had apparently forgotten to save the final changes I had made because I recognized the problem, but unfortunately didn't remember the solution I came up with.  I left work at closing time frustrated, but at least looking forward to the next two days I would have off and be able to spend at home relaxing.

Okay, so I'm starting to realize this may need to be a multi-part episode, considering the length of this post already.  Think it's over yet?  Think again.

Friday night, there was a promising message on the answering machine when I arrived home, the dealership finished the repairs on the car and it was covered at no cost to me.  It was already too late in the evening to pick it up tonight and return the grumpy car that I had to share with Andrea all week.  She had to take it once more for work that night, promising to be back in time on Saturday so that I could get my Blue Beast back.

I did the usual phone call and text message routine at 9AM on Saturday, all unanswered of course, in the faint hopes that she would actually make it back before the noon deadline when the gates at the dealer closed for the weekend.  However, I was not surprised when she returned at about 1PM that afternoon since it was such a frequent occurrence.  She's ruined things in my life so often that I don't even bother wasting my time or energy being mad at her much anymore.  I took the car long enough to grab a few groceries and make a payment on my credit card before she trotted off to work yet again.

One would think that as much as she has worked the past few weeks, there would be plenty of money saved up to move out and get a car with, but I received a shock on Sunday afternoon when she tossed her wallet on the couch next to me and asked me to examine its contents... or lack thereof.  She still owed me a total of about $600 between rental car fees (from the last time the Beast died a few weeks back) and for when I paid her storage bill to prevent the few boxes I had to throw in there from getting auctioned off for nonpayment.  Now she claimed that everything in her wallet, including all her cash and the debit card with a couple hundred dollars on it, had been stolen this weekend and she had no money to pay for gas or anything else.

I still question the honesty of this statement since she just got paid on Friday and changed the "couple hundred dollars" to a slightly higher but still vague "few hundred dollars" and left with a friend to file a police report.  When she returned, she had arranged to stay with a friend all week because they worked the same locations and hours.  While she was getting ready to leave, I caught a glimpse of items she picked up and put in her pocket, including a small folded stack of cash that looked like more than the 40-something dollars she claimed was still on her debit card.  Even stranger is the fact that she had acquired this cash after 6PM on a Sunday with her card missing.  I find all of this rather unusual and convenient, especially considering that this now makes three times in the past few months that she has had money stolen while she was at work after I have asked her to repay me.

So now I sit here at 1:30AM on Monday morning, trying to recollect my crappy week and make sense of it all.  My throat finally feels better after being drowned in orange juice and vitamin C drops all weekend, but the aggravation and stress of the past week just won't let me sleep.  I'm hoping that putting it all into writing will at least help me get it out of my system, or at least make for some entertaining reading material for someone.  Okay, so maybe it wouldn't be great material for a TV series, but it's the reality of my life.  At least in every episode of The Simpsons, it always seems like a fresh new start every week at the beginning of the episode despite the previous week's disasters... so where's my restart?

Nerdy fun fact:  Word 2007 tells me that this blog post has a Flesch Reading Ease score of 63.5 and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 11.3.  Damn, my writing is pretty difficult to understand... no wonder I'm not a television script writer.