So Long, 2013 and Happy New Year, 2014!

2014

Ringing in the new year …

I’m more inclined to read “year in review posts” than to write them, and this year is no different from all the rest in that regard. A “year in review” post from me would go on and on, and who has time for that – especially on New Year’s Eve? :)

Wanted to wish all of you a very happy new year filled with much success and fulfillment, and to wave a formal goodbye to 2013 – which has been a mixed bag for yours truly both personally and professionally on the writing front. Professionally I increased my profile on social media – especially here locally in NC, but on the flip side I didn’t post at the blog as much as I’d hoped to this past year – and it had nothing to do with a lack of material with which to work. Will work on remedying that in 2014 as I strive to become better both in the time management arena and the “getting focused” department. Stay tuned.

Thank you all for your continued readership, and a special thank you to Phineas, as always, for his contributions to the blog, which are invaluable. If you’re not reading his blog, and/or following him on Twitter, you should be.

If you’re out celebrating tonight, please make sure at least one person in your party plans on not drinking and will volunteer to be the designated driver. If not, call a cab, or call AAA tonight if their “Tipsy Tow” service is available in your area. No one wants to be reading about you in the paper tomorrow. Don’t be a statistic.

And speaking of drinking on New Year’s Eve, I think Bojangle’s Chicken gets it exactly right:


Cheers!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas

I post this “meaning of Christmas” video clip from the Charlie Brown Christmas special every year – it never goes out of style. :) And always timely, when you think about it.

Feeling very thankful and blessed for many things this year, including another year with mom and dad. Am also extremely grateful for all of those who can’t be with their families this holiday season due to work commitments and important responsibilities, like those in the military and the medical profession. Please say a prayer and a note of thanks for those who make those sacrifices over the holiday – and everyday – for us. Also please keep in your prayers the military families of those who gave their lives in service of their country. They may be gone but we will never forget them.

God bless, y’all. Have a safe, happy, fun, and beautiful Christmas day.

Casa de ST - Christmas

Merry Christmas from Casa de ST to yours. : )

Merry Christmas Eve from the ST blog!

Note to Santa

Don’t forget to leave a note and some treats for Santa!

“He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice – Santa Claus is coming to town ….” Sing it, Ella!

Wanna track Santa tonight? Make sure to bookmark the official NORAD Santa Tracker online, via the iPhone, Android, or Microsoft app, and/or via Twitter and Facebook … and ignore the dum dums who say Mr. Claus has become too “militarized.” :-?

Last but not least, for those of you who STILL don’t view Diehard as a Christmas movie:


Enjoy the night before Christmas, everyone!

Warm Thanksgiving greetings from the ST blog

STHey gang! Hope everyone is enjoying your Thanksgiving morning so far.

Yours truly woke up with a sore throat – on THANKSGIVING DAY. Sigh. I have been coughing and sneezing this week but it’s been a dry cough and the sneezing hasn’t felt like anything to do with congestion, so I didn’t think too much of it. Oh well. Taking cold meds to try and contain it to where I don’t get anyone sick, and so I can still participate in holiday activities.

Things I’m especially thankful for this year: The Lord giving me another year with mom and dad, what with the health issues my dad continues to battle and my mom’s role as essentially a full time caretaker – which she is adjusting to. Dad is doing as well as he can be for someone in his upper 60s on dialysis, who also has blood pressure and other health issues. He gets around a lot better than he did when he first went on dialysis. God bless the workers at the center he goes to for all they do. I can’t praise them enough. I pray for mom and dad often, and also for strength and courage for myself to be at peace with what is going on.

Am also immensely thankful for our men and women in uniform – some of them have been able to come home for Thanksgiving this year and enjoy it when their family and friends. Others are still stationed away from their families overseas as they battle to protect our freedoms. And some families will be permanently dining at the holiday table with one less loved one – a loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice. Please pray for those families as I know the holidays have to be especially difficult for them.

From my family to yours, wishing you a happy, healthy, safe, warm, fun Thanksgiving filled with wonderful memories you will take with you for years to come.

PS: My football picks for today’s games: Texans, Redskins, Patriots. :)

Is chivalry dead? No, but …

… there are times I’d love to jerk a flippin’ knot in some people!

I am flat-out worn out tonight. As I noted over the weekend, I was wrapped up in rearranging/reorganizing my home office for a good bit of Saturday and Sunday. It had gotten too cramped and a couple of pieces of storage furniture (a 5/600 CD holder and a small bookcase) had to go. In order to do this I had to shift around tons of CDs and books to my other, bigger bookshelf, and I also had to consolidate at the same time, and movce furniture. I got rid of probably 300 CDs and 100 or so books, mostly hardback.

All of these items were, of course, upstairs, and needed to be transported downstairs. I had to snag some plastic crates in order to bring everything down piecemeal. All total, I had three heavy plastic crates, two big paper mall shopping bags – also full, and a CD storage unit with 5 or 6 shelves to go with it. Ended up not getting rid of the small bookshelf.

It was quite a chore to get everything downstairs, out of the house and into the car (to give to Good Will), but I did it – in large part thanks a hand truck I borrowed from work. Keep in mind I have three “steps” to go down to get to the car. There is the step right outside my front door that leads to the front “porch” area, there is the step that leads to the walkway below the little porch area, and then there is the curb step that leads to the parking lot. I managed to get everything into the car in three trips, but they were eventful balancing acts.

What irked me was that I saw my neighbor’s b/f sitting on the couch by the front window, looking out of it – he saw me and waved … as I struggled to get the three heavy crates in my car. Did not get up, come outside to offer to help or anything. I rarely ever ask for help for most heavy duty things I do around the house, unless it is something I absolutely know I cannot handle, but I was obviously in distress and could have used a hand.

To top it off, when I (stupidly) tried to pick up the big bag of CDs to shift them to the front seat to make room for a few more items in the back seat, the bag busted and several of the CDs went sprawling into the parking lot. As I was picking them up off the pavement, I looked at my neighbor’s window and saw that the guy was still staring. Not only that, but another neighbor was outside getting something out of his SUV and witnessed the bag busting but continued to talk on what must have surely been an important call on his cell phone. He gave me a sympathetic look. I wanted to slug him. He went back inside before I had a chance to act.

Finally, I got everything into the car – including that massive CD storage unit, and went to Good Will, where the nicest young male employee got upset with me for trying to unload the car by myself. I drove back to the house, feeling good about what all I had gotten accomplished in the last three days. Once I got home, I went back in to grab the handtruck to load back into the car. That thing is somewhat heavy and difficult to load if you don’t put it in the car just right. Wouldn’t you know but the same neighbor who was on his phone earlier just happened to come outside again while I was trying to get this thing into the car and once more he did not offer to help at all?

I know I’m not the only gal this has happened to. I’ve talked to female friends before about the fact that it seems like more and more there is a certain selfish mindset that exists today – and it’s not just with men. More and more it seems like to me – based purely on anecdotal evidence – that people are less likely to volunteer to help others today than they used to be. 10, 15 years ago situations like the ones I described earlier didn’t happen here. But my gal friends and I talk about it often – men don’t open doors as much for women as they used to, women will sell their female co-workers out if it means getting a job promotion or praise from the boss, etc. I realize some of the former comes from men being confused by rabid fems who make any polite gentlemanly gesture sound like a horrible crime, and the latter comes from the desire to be competitive in the job market, but that’s still no excuse for basic common decency.

I have noticed this more with the younger set (under 30 crowd) than the older set. I’ve read studies that talk about how the younger generations tend to be more self centered than previous generations, and didn’t want to believe it was true, but the more you see it with your own eyes, the more undeniable it becomes. I’ve got other male neighbors, friends, and co-workers, most of them my age or older, who wouldn’t hesitate to help someone they saw struggling. Same same with female friends and neighbors who are in my age range or older. But the younger crowd? Not always a guarantee.

I hate being pessimistic, but I fear it’s only going to get worse, what with the younger generations scarily wanting to be “servants” to government more so than being courteous, helpful, and respectful to their fellow average Joes and Janes.

Your thoughts?

Shock study: A year of the average man’s life is spent ogling women

Via the UK Sun:

MEN ogle up to TEN women every day, researchers have revealed.

They spend an average of 43 minutes admiring girls – which adds up to A YEAR in a lifetime.

The study shows celebs like David Beckham, Barack Obama and Bruce Willis were only doing what comes naturally when they were pictured eyeing up beauties.

But blokes don’t have it all their own way. Women ogle up to six men for 20 minutes a day – or six months of their lives.

Mark Ireland, of Kodak Lens Vision Centres, which carried out the poll, said: “Men are renowned for looking at women but it’s interesting to see just how long they spend doing it.

“A year of your life is a long time to spend with your eyes fixed on the opposite sex.”

Researchers assumed a person’s life of ogling takes place between the ages of 18 and 50 – which will surprise a lot of randy 16 and 60-year-olds.

The poll of 3,000 Britons revealed supermarkets were the favourite ogling location for men, followed by pubs and nightclubs. Women listed bars as their top spot for eyeing male talent.

The majority of both sexes said they were flattered by the attention. But men enjoyed it more and 20 per cent of women were embarrassed.

Most women said it was a fella’s sexy eyes that first drew their gaze. With men it was a girl’s figure.

Naw – really?

I wish I had the money that these “researchers” used on pre-determined outcome “studies” like this one – and like the one that “discovered” that sex was “always” on mens’ minds, and the one about men wasting more time on the road than women because they won’t ask for directions as quickly as women will. I could put the money to much better use, like on finding out which salon nationwide gives the best massages, and sampling vacation spots around the world to find out which one is the absolute hands-down best.

You know – things like that $-) :D

Yes, ladies and gents – size really does matter

And the bigger the better.

Oh – did I mention I was talking about flat panel televisions? What did you think I was talking about? :-j

I’m in the middle of taking a brief break from the work I brought home with me to brag – sorta – about the fact that I’m finally “getting with the times.” Not only am I anxiously awaiting the delivery of my 32″ Vizio TV, but once it comes in, I’ll finally – at long last – have a way of watching DVDs on something other than my computer.

Yes, I’m one of the last remaining holdouts on the DVD thing. I’ve been clinging to my “classic” (sadly, that’s what they’re called now) movies on VHS. Fortunately, I don’t have a gigantic collection of VHS tapes, so purchasing them in the DVD format shouldn’t be too terribly expensive since most of them can be found in the bargain bin at Walmart (go ahead – laugh!). My current TV was/is one of those that doesn’t lend itself to me being able to hook up both a DVD and VCR to it at the same time, so I opted to continue on with the VCR.

About the TV: I had planned on getting a 22″ – one that had a DVD on it, but when I went into the local Best Buy I found that the 22″ was too small. Not wanting to go overboard in price, I decided at the time that when the moment arrived and I was ready to purchase a flat panel, that I’d get a 26″ one.

But then decided to go even bigger and snag a 32″. The price on the one I was looking at last week was only $50 more than the 26″ and the reviews on it were really good, so I decided “what the hell” and went for it. Didn’t want to get anything bigger than that, as my livingroom is small and I didn’t want the TV overwhelming it.

Frankly, I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a delivery to my house since the arrival of Chip, Jr, who I should note was bigger than Chip, Sr.

Such.A.Geek. (Super Geek, Super Geek!):-b

Indictment in MySpace teen suicide case

Via AP:

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a Missouri woman for her alleged role in perpetrating a hoax on the online social network MySpace against a 13-year-old neighbor who committed suicide.

Lori Drew of suburban St. Louis allegedly helped create a false-identity MySpace account to contact Megan Meier, who thought she was chatting with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. Josh didn’t exist.

Megan hanged herself at home in October 2006 after receiving cruel messages, including one stating the world would be better off without her.

Salvador Hernandez, assistant agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, called the case heart-rending.

“The Internet is a world unto itself. People must know how far they can go before they must stop. They exploited a young girl’s weaknesses,” Hernandez said. “Whether the defendant could have foreseen the results, she’s responsible for her actions.”

She’s denied sending messages

Drew was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to get information used to inflict emotional distress on the girl.

Drew has denied creating the account or sending messages to Megan.

U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien said this was the first time the federal statute on accessing protected computers has been used in a social-networking case. It has been used in the past to address hacking.

I wrote about this heartbreaking case in detail last November, but didn’t focus on the issue of whether or not any legal charges should be brought against the mom, primarily because I wasn’t sure if there was any legal recourse for the family of the teen who committed suicide.

It’ll be interesting to see how this case plays out. On one hand, people need to know and understand that their deliberately hurtful words and/or actions can have serious, sometimes deadly consequences, especially if we’re talking about an adult’s playing around with a child or young teen’s mind. On the other hand, just how responsible can the justice system hold one person criminally culpable (to a certain extent) for the suicide of another? Consider the fact that many teens commit suicide because they can’t handle the intense pressure of trying to “fit in” in school – they may get teased and verbally tormented on a daily basis, and decide one day they’ve had enough. Should the teasers be held responsible in a court of law?

Morally, in the eyes of most people Lori Drew is guilty of being a Grade A witch. But is she legally guilty of anything? I don’t have the answers from a legal standpoint. Legal eagle Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy takes a look at the case, finds it weak, and believes it should be dismissed:

This case involves a terrible tragedy; I think what Lori Drew did is truly despicable. But the government’s legal theory, based entirely on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030, is very weak. Legally speaking, the prosecution is a real stretch. In my view, the courts should dismiss the indictment. In this post, I’ll explain why.

To understand this case, you need to understand the government’s theory. The indictment is not charging Drew with harassment. Nor are they charging her with homicide. Rather, the government’s theory in this case is that Drew criminally trespassed onto MySpace’s server by using MySpace in a way that violated MySpace’s Terms of Service (TOS).

Here’s the idea. The TOS required Drew to provide accurate registration information, not to harass or harm other people, and not to promote conduct that was abusive. She didn’t comply with these terms, the theory goes, so she was criminally trespassing onto MySpace’s computer when she was logging into her account. The indictment turns this into a federal felony conspiracy charge by arguing that she did this in concert with others to obtain information and to further tortious conduct — intentional infliction of emotional distress — violating the felony provisions of 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2).

But these arguments are a real stretch for three reasons.

Make sure to read his post in full.

Daniel J. Solove at the Concurring Opinions legal blog weighs in as well.

Fruit basket arrangement for a fruitcake

This has been one of those weeks where I’ve had a lot of trouble getting to sleep, and you know how you feel when you don’t get enough rest: tired, sluggish, irritable – not at your best. You sure don’t want to get up in the morning. Add to that, the after-effects of suffering from information overload, and feeling overwhelmed and frustrated from wanting to write so much about what you’re seeing but not having enough time in the day to do it – plus, cloudy skies and not a lot of sunlight, and you’ve got one moody blonde chica.

Well, imagine my pleasant surprise today when, as I’m headed out to the mailbox to put some letters I see a truck outside, with a huge picture of a mixture of flowers and sweet treats on its side. The delivery guy gets out of the truck, and has this big item in his hands, and asks, “Are you ST?” [real name withheld]. “Yes,” I answer, thinking, “no way that’s for me.”

It was. My best friend had sent me a Valentine treat of what’s called an “Edible Arrangement” – it was part Valentine’s day and late birthday gift:

She obviously knows me like a book, as it primarily consists of strawberries and pineapple, my favorite fruits.

Lemme tell ya – not only does it look good, but it smells delish, too. It’s such a pretty arrangement, though, that I’m torn on whether or not to open it, because I don’t want to mess it up :D I’ll probably break down and do it tomorrow.

Anyway, the moral of the story: Anyone who says they can go through life without the support of family and friends is lying, because if it weren’t for “R,” my day would have continued to be a crummy one.

It’s the little things, you know?

When wanting to be accepted becomes overwhelming

Tuesday morning, I woke up, got ready for work, and quickly logged online to check my Newsgator feeds before leaving, as I always do, and read this post from Dan Collins at Protein Wisdom, who linked up to commentary by Ace of Spades blogger Jack M. on a disturbing story about a 13 y/o girl named Megan Meier who killed herself after being duped and ridiculed online by two people in her neighborhood who were posing as a young boy that was supposedly interested in her.

The two people were a former friend of hers …. and that friend’s mother.

Here are some snippets from the article:

His name was Josh Evans. He was 16 years old. And he was hot.

“Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at him!” Tina Meier recalls her daughter saying.

Josh had contacted Megan Meier through her MySpace page and wanted to be added as a friend.Yes, he’s cute, Tina Meier told her daughter. “Do you know who he is?”

“No, but look at him! He’s hot! Please, please, can I add him?”

Mom said yes. And for six weeks Megan and Josh – under Tina’s watchful eye – became acquainted in the virtual world of MySpace.

[…]

[Megan] loved swimming, boating, fishing, dogs, rap music and boys. But her life had not always been easy, her mother says.

She was heavy and for years had tried to lose weight. She had attention deficit disorder and battled depression. Back in third grade she had talked about suicide, Tina says, and ever since had seen a therapist.

But things were going exceptionally well. She had shed 20 pounds, getting down to 175. She was 5 foot 5½ inches tall.

She had just started eighth grade at a new school, Immaculate Conception, in Dardenne Prairie, where she was on the volleyball team. She had attended Fort Zumwalt public schools before that.

Amid all these positives, Tina says, her daughter decided to end a friendship with a girlfriend who lived down the street from them. The girls had spent much of seventh grade alternating between being friends and, the next day, not being friends, Tina says.

[…]

Part of the reason for Megan’s rosy outlook was Josh, Tina says. After school, Megan would rush to the computer.

“Megan had a lifelong struggle with weight and self-esteem,” Tina says. “And now she finally had a boy who she thought really thought she was pretty.”

It did seem odd, Tina says, that Josh never asked for Megan’s phone number. And when Megan asked for his, she says, Josh said he didn’t have a cell and his mother did not yet have a landline.

And then on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, Megan received a puzzling and disturbing message from Josh. Tina recalls that it said: “I don’t know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I’ve heard that you are not very nice to your friends.”

Frantic, Megan shot back: “What are you talking about?”

SHADOWY CYBERSPACE

Tina Meier was wary of the cyber-world of MySpace and its 70 million users. People are not always who they say they are.

Tina knew firsthand. Megan and the girl down the block, the former friend, once had created a fake MySpace account, using the photo of a good-looking girl as a way to talk to boys online, Tina says. When Tina found out, she ended Megan’s access.

MySpace has rules. A lot of them. There are nine pages of terms and conditions. The long list of prohibited content includes sexual material. And users must be at least 14.

“Are you joking?” Tina asks. “There are fifth-grade girls who have MySpace accounts.”

As for sexual content, Tina says, most parents have no clue how much there is. And Megan wasn’t 14 when she opened her account. To join, you are asked your age but there is no check. The accounts are free.

As Megan’s 14th birthday approached, she pleaded for her mom to give her another chance on MySpace, and Tina relented.

She told Megan she would be all over this account, monitoring it. Megan didn’t always make good choices because of her ADD, Tina says. And this time, Megan’s page would be set to private and only Mom and Dad would have the password.

Read the rest of it to find out what was said that eventually led up to Megan’s committing suicide.

I’m sure the mother and daughter who set up this fake “Josh Evans” online ID didn’t intend to cause Megan to take her own life, but nevertheless it’s a reminder of how utterly vicious people can be without actually committing a crime, and how sometimes that viciousness can lead to disastrous consequences, especially when the objects of the invective are teen-aged kids, kids who are at that awkward stage in life where they are struggling to find their way, and wanting desperately to be accepted.

Of course, every kid has different ways of handling the typical stress that goes along with being a teenager: a rare few don’t sweat the stress, but for the rest of them who do sweat it, some take the lemons and make lemonade out of them, some become introverted, a handful turn to violence, while others – a tiny minority – take their lives because the pressure becomes too much for them to handle.

This story has stayed with me since I read it, primarily because Megan Meir reminded me of myself when I was her age. She was short, struggling with her looks and self-esteem, frequently down, and wanted so very much for people to like her, so much so that when an “older boy” showed interest in her, she jumped at the chance to strike up a friendship with him, clearly hoping for more.

Obiviously, we handled the pressure of being a teenager in two entirely different ways. Growing up, I was anxious for the high school years to be over, and when they finally were I eagerly moved on to college, where I had the chance to start fresh, make new friends, and get away from the negativity of my high school life. But if you’re one of those who, like me, never did quite “fit in” in junior and senior high school, I don’t think you ever can completely “move on” from some of the hurtful things that were said and done to you as an impressionable, fledgling teen.

For example: my first “serious” boyfriend in high school ruined my self esteem (not to mention my impression of men) for a very, very long time by using a mixture of methods. First, there were the conventional methods young men sometimes use: 1) like making a point of flirting outrageously with other girls in front of me – causing me to repeatedly question whether or not I was pretty enough, 2) telling me how “lucky” I – a goofy looking, slightly overweight sophomore – was to be dating him, an in-shape senior – which in turn made me ashamed for oftentimes feeling like I was getting the short end of the stick, 3) using sex as a weapon, or more specifically, constantly ridiculing my insistence on wanting to wait until the moment was right by threatening to “move on” to a more “mature” woman, 4) and as a result of his frustration on that front, there were several attempts at “educating” me on the issue, one of which was a near date-rape situation, which I talked about here (scroll).

But as bad as all that was, it was the one unconventional method I remember him using that was the most damaging long-term. My bf and I attended the same high school, and would frequently bump into each other during the course of the day. There were times when we stopped and talked to each other, hugged each other, etc, but then there were the times when he would walk right by me as though I didn’t even exist. One minute he’d be very affectionate, but then after the next class we’d walk by each other and I’d try to get his attention and he would outright ignore me. This would sometimes go on for days, what with me wondering what it was that I said or did that caused him to be angry. I would agonize for hours on end, analyzing things that I had said and done in fruitless attempts at trying to resolve the problem. Eventually, he would end up talking to me again, but he never would explain to me why he would go from hot to cold in the blink of an eye. This went on off and on for about six months. I found out later that his days-on-end ignoring of me was a “loyalty test” of sorts, to see what lengths I would go through to get his attention again, and to see if I would ever break down and ask mutual friends for help, which to him would have been the ultimate sign of “betrayal.”

Thankfully, I moved on to better things and eventually forgot about the jerk, but the damage to my self-worth had been done. It took me years and years to get to a point where I didn’t question and obsess over the rightness or wrongness of my every move every single day. It still happens, but much less than it used to.

It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I’m just thankful I made it through my grade-school years with only minor (in the scheme of things) scarring. I wish instead of reading about Megan Meier’s suicide, that she was still around, learning in school and learning to enjoy life, and telling us all in a few years about how she made it through the rough and tumble of her teenage years, too.

It is always sad to hear/read about the death of someone so young, but it is especially heartbreaking when you read that their death occurred as a result of them taking their own life, because you can surmise from it that the person was in so much pain, felt so alone and unwanted, that they figured life was better off without them in it.

Megan was a little girl who was loved very much by her family. Please remember them – and her – in your thoughts and prayers.