documentaries, law, money, Police, true crime, YouTube

America really ain’t so great, is it? A French documentary leads me down another path of true crime discovery…

There are so many things I could write about this morning. Like, for instance, I read that Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend and fellow sex pest, has been convicted. She was facing six charges, and was convicted of five of them, including: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. She now faces up to 65 years in prison. Her sentencing date has not yet been announced, and her attorneys vow to appeal. That’s what they all say, of course…

I don’t take any particular delight when anyone gets convicted of a crime and faces a long stint in prison, but I do think justice has been served in this case, just as I did when Josh Duggar was found guilty. People who endanger others, particularly when there’s violence or coercion involved, and particularly when the crimes involve preying on vulnerable people, should go to prison. They should be removed from society so that law abiding citizens are less at risk. But, of course, that’s not saying a whole lot in the United States these days.

Anyway, suffice to say, I think it’s right that Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty. I think she should be treated humanely, as I hope all prisoners are, but I believe it’s correct to send her to prison for what she did. I hope Donald Trump is next.

MOVING ON…

Yesterday afternoon, I watched America’s Broken Dream, a 2012 French documentary that was posted on YouTube. The documentary, which was presented in English, was about homeless people in the United States as of about ten years ago. It was a bit depressing, on many levels, to watch it, especially given what has happened since 2012. Several families were interviewed– people who were homeless or “half homeless”, living in cheap motels. All of the stories were compelling, although it was the last family that really caught my attention.

This was a sad, but interesting, documentary done by the French filmmakers, Java Films. There is also a French version.

Toward the end of this documentary, a young couple with two adorable little daughters is profiled. The mom, Amber Carter, is in California with her girls, presumably because California, as a “blue” state, offers better social safety nets for poor people. Dad, Daniel Carter, is in Kentucky, working manual jobs to support his young family.

At one point, Daniel comes to California to see his wife and their little girls. I am struck by how much he seems to love the kids, and his wife. Amber is shown trying to fill out job applications, but finds it impossible because she has two tiny kids to look after. I was wondering what she would do with the girls if she did get hired. I know from my days as a MSW student that decent child care is not cheap, always available, or widely accessible to everyone.

It looked like things might be improving for the young family. I had some hope that they might recover. But then Daniel Carter is arrested in Kentucky for striking and killing his neighbor, a man named Christopher Mitchell, with a hatchet. Carter maintains that Mitchell was drunk and had attacked him. He claims that he hit the guy in the head with a hatchet in self-defense.

Carter did plead guilty to fleeing and evading the police, and resisting arrest. But somehow, there wasn’t enough evidence to try Carter for the murder of Christopher Mitchell. He was released after serving 135 days in jail, time he was already credited for when he faced the judge. Another blog, titled Liar Catchers, has this article about Daniel Carter. Christopher Mitchell’s family was “furious” that Carter got away with killing their relative, especially since it wasn’t the first time he had killed someone.

I don’t believe it was mentioned in the documentary that Daniel Carter also did some time as a juvenile in Florida for killing his Uncle Jack Carter with a knife, back in the early 00s. Carter spent 19 months locked up in jail, but was later acquitted of first degree murder charges stemming from the July 2002 stabbing death of his uncle. In that case, Carter also claimed self-defense, as his uncle reportedly had come to his home to help discipline him. Daniel Carter, who was fifteen years old at the time, claimed his uncle had gone into a rage, and he had stabbed him with a rusty knife to protect himself. Jack Carter was stabbed ten times, with one wound to the neck that proved to be fatal.

Many people found it hard to believe that Carter got off in that case, too. One witness said that she’d never seen Jack Carter behave in a violent way and people were shocked that Carter wasn’t convicted. I’m sure that prior case could not be considered when Daniel Carter fatally wounded another man in Kentucky, but it does seem eerie that he killed two men in similar ways and got away with it both times.

I found the below 2015 post on Pensacola’s Community Bulletin Board:

Public Service Announcement

This is Daniel Carter. Pensacola natives might remember him as the boy who murdered his Uncle Jack Carter back in 2002. Though he stabbed his uncle over 10 times with a machete, cutting his throat and nearly severing one of his arms in the process, he was found not guilty of the crime. Why? I’ll never know. Jack’s sister, (Daniel’s mother), had called Jack over to the house that night to help her discipline Daniel, a troubled teen, whom she was unable to control. After the brutal murder of Jack Carter, members of the community, led by his mother Cindy, rallied around Daniel, who was only 15 at the time. Community members even held a fundraiser for Daniel’s defense at Bamboo Willie’s. They got him a renowned child advocacy attorney, who went on to paint a picture of a poor, abused teen, who feared for his life when he took a machete and stabbed his uncle over 10 times that night. When Daniel was release from jail after the trial, people rejoiced that he had won his freedom back. After all, poor Daniel didn’t mean to kill his uncle when he stabbed him repeatedly.  

Let’s fast forward to 2012. Daniel now lives in Kentucky. And in Kentucky, after a dispute with his landlord, (who apparently had a pointed stick in his hand), Daniel proceeded to take a hatchet, (yes, a HATCHET) and plant in right in the center of his landlord’s forehead, killing him. Believe it or not, Daniel was released from jail. Self defense again. In any case, the reason I am posting this is because Daniel is a Pensacola native, and I have no idea where he is now, but it’s defintely possible that he could be back here. If you ever happen to see him and have a disagreement with him, I would advise you to RUN. Whatever you do, DO NOT confront this man. He obvioulsy has a temper, and his history shows he is very dangerous!  

On a side note, the last time I saw Jack was about a week before he passed away. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so we exchanged hugs, and sat down to catch up over a drink. He was beaming. Smiling ear to ear. He told me he was in love. He told me he never thought “this kind of happiness was possible”. And he told me that for the first time in a long time, he was excited about the future, not just going through the motions of the day to day routine. He was happy to be alive ❤

And a few days later, he was gone.  
Rest in Peace, Jack.  
You are not forgotten.

One woman commented that she had been married to Daniel Carter. She wrote that he had conned her and her mother, and he was a very violent person. She expressed gratitude that they didn’t manage to have children together. I guess she must have been married to him before he was married to Amber, the woman who was portrayed as his wife in the documentary, as well as the mother to his two adorable little girls. If you click on the link directly above, you can read the comments about Daniel Carter and people who know him.

I didn’t know anything at all about this couple or the true crimes that were connected with them when I was watching the documentary. From what I could see on the video, Amber Carter was a good and attentive mom, even though she and her girls were living in their old car. It’s certainly not a crime to be poor. I was also struck by Daniel. He seemed to be a friendly, charismatic person. I could see how he charmed people, as he was well-spoken and seemed to work hard, and loved his daughters very much.

It just goes to show you that friendly, charming, well-spoken people really can be hiding monstrous characteristics under the surface. In the documentary, his boss says that Daniel Carter has an “amazing work ethic” and that his little girls are all he talks about. To hear him tell it, Daniel is a fine young man and dedicated provider to his family. I truly enjoyed watching him interact with his daughters, who really seemed to love him. He seemed to love them right back. I was genuinely saddened when the announcer in the documentary talked about Daniel’s arrest. The Carters seemed like they might somehow make it– or, at least it seemed like they were trying to get out of the hole they were in.

I got curious about Amber Carter, so I looked her up. Sadly, it appears that she might also have some serious legal problems. In September 2021, a woman named Amber Carter, who roughly matches the age and description of the Amber Carter in the documentary, was wanted by the police in Jones County, Mississippi. She was accused of “giving birth to a child who tested positive for methamphetamine” and was to face one count of felony child abuse. According to this article, Amber Carter was captured about a week after the news reported about her. She is, at this writing, listed on the inmate roster in Jones County, Mississippi.

As I was searching for more information about the recent charges against Amber Carter, I also ran across another item from May 2018, which appeared to involve the same woman– again, for giving birth to a baby who tested positive for cocaine and meth. If this is the same Amber, that means she’s had at least two more children who have been born into deplorable circumstances and are likely in foster care now.

A screen shot of a news brief about Amber Carter. Sure looks like the same person.

While it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the Amber Carter who was wanted in Mississippi is the same Amber Carter in the documentary, it does make me sad that it could be, and probably is, her. The Amber in the documentary genuinely seemed to be a good mom, although it could be she was only like that when the cameras were rolling. I suppose I can understand how a person in the situation Amber and the other people profiled in the documentary might fall into drug abuse, but it really does seem like a terrible shame.

Although there seems to be an age discrepancy between the documentary Amber and the Amber in the above mug shot, I do think they are one and the same. The documentary was released in 2012, but 2008 was when the recession was really bad. I think it’s very likely that the footage was filmed in the years prior to 2012, and if that’s the case, then the ages for Amber in the documentary and Amber in the mug shot line up perfectly. Also, there is a very strong physical resemblance.

After I finished watching the documentary, I happened across a guest opinion essay in The New York Times about a woman who had once owned a home and horses. She was raised in Palo Alto, California by successful parents, and went to college and studied journalism. Lori Teresa Yearwood once had it all– including her own business. But a series of misfortunes and subsequent mental health challenges plunged her into homelessness. She spent two years on the streets, where she was sexually assaulted multiple times.

Yearwood went to several hospitals via ambulance after the assaults. She was so traumatized that she couldn’t speak, so hospital administrators did not know she was homeless– or, so they claim. As she was getting back on her feet again, with the help of Utah-based non-profit organization, Journey of Hope and an accountant she knew from her days as a business owner, Yearwood discovered just how outrageously expensive being homeless is. People don’t realize that homeless people often incur debts because they get arrested and fined. Yearwood also had huge hospital and ambulance bills, due to visiting the facilities after she was assaulted and locked in a storage shed for two days.

Fortunately, once she was functioning again, Yearwood was able to advocate for herself. She’s now back to working as a reporter. She got the huge medical bills dismissed, after she explained to the hospital administrators that she would be reporting about how they treated her. From the opinion piece, Yearwood wrote:

A public relations official responded that while in the hospital’s care, I refused to speak, so staff members didn’t know I was homeless. I explained that I had not refused to speak; I had been traumatized and had gone essentially mute for two years. By this time in my renewed journalism career, I had obtained my medical records, so I showed the hospital administrators some of the doctors’ notes about me. The next email from the hospital was swift: “Upon reviewing your account, we have decided to honor your claim of being homeless at the time of service and wrote off the remaining balance.”

I asked the hospital administrators if they were going to respond to the harm they had caused by ruining my credit: the stress and sleepless nights, the fact that I could no longer qualify for low interest rates on mortgages. The spokesman apologized but said, “All I can do is make it right going forward.”

Lori Teresa Yearwood is one of the lucky ones. I know it’s hard to climb out of poverty. I remember when Bill and I were first married, we weren’t impoverished, but it sure felt that way. I seriously thought we’d never get out of debt. It took years to do it, but I had my eye on the prize, and we were very fortunate in many ways. Moving to Germany, for instance, was a great move for our finances. But not everyone can do what we did… and many people are burdened by having children to raise.

I look at Amber Carter and I suspect that years of living as she was depicted in the America’s Broken Dream documentary wore her down on many levels. I’m sure that using drugs and having unprotected sex were two escapes for her that made life temporarily more pleasant. But those decisions ultimately made her personal situation much worse, and they also made things worse for her innocent children. She joins so many Americans who are incarcerated, and will find it so much harder to function once they are released.

As for Yearwood, I think she makes an excellent point that Americans need to pay more attention to treating mental health issues. Yearwood was doing great until the 2008 recession hit, she had credit problems that led to foreclosure, the Oregon house she was renting burned down, her dog died, and then, in 2014, she had a mental health breakdown that made it impossible to continue operating her business. When she was slowly recovering in 2017, she was fortunate enough to run into people who coaxed her toward rejoining society. She writes:

Nonprofit employees who work with the homeless should be trained in how to interact with people who have experienced trauma. Otherwise, they may inadvertently shame their clients for being hesitant to return to an economic system that has already penalized and punished them. A classic symptom of trauma is avoiding the source of that trauma.

As I was emerging from homelessness, I trusted very few people. I needed what advocates call a soft handoff. I would never have considered going to a group trying to help me unless someone I trusted had referred me and would go with me. My initial soft handoff was arranged by Shannon Cox, a former police officer and the founder of Journey of Hope. She took me to lunch and drove me to the hospitals to pick up all the records that I had no idea I was going to need to later protect myself financially.

Now, Yearwood is able to advocate for herself and others, but if not for people who cared enough to help her, she might still be on the street. She might still be at risk of sexual assault and falling into illegal drug use to escape the despair. Maybe she might be in a position similar to Amber Carter’s, although thankfully, there probably wouldn’t be any innocent children involved.

The America’s Broken Dream documentary also profiles other families– people who had jobs and homes, and their children, who were forced to live in cheap motels and worry about being picked up by child protective services. I might have to see if any of those people managed to pull themselves out of homelessness. I know it’s hard, though, because as Yearwood points out, it’s very expensive to be poor. A lot of people have no idea. And there but by the grace of God go any of us, unfortunately.

Documentaries like America’s Broken Dream scare the hell out of me, and make me so grateful for what I have… and for Bill, who works so hard to provide for us. But, I swear, every time I read a news article about financial ruin– something that Bill has already survived when he was with his ex wife– I want to start another bank account. It really is hard getting by in America if you don’t have the right skills, enough support, and luck.

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condescending twatbags, housekeeping tips, money, politics, sex, silliness, technology, transportation, travel, YouTube

Lime scale, lobsters, lectures, and lost causes…

Today’s featured photo is of the Boothbay Harbor blue lobster. Bill and I visited there for my birthday in June 2011, and I got a picture.

So yesterday’s “boring” post about water and limescale actually generated a lot of comments– for my blog, anyway. I know there are a lot of mommy bloggers out there who go viral and get hundreds of comments on their posts. But they tend to be sunny people who write things like “totes amazeballs”. I’m not like that. But since everybody poops, everybody needs water, and most normal people like to poop in clean bathrooms, I guess yesterday’s potty post resonated! Good for me! And thanks to everyone who read and commented! I probably ought to take a look/see at the bathroom in the basement. I almost never use it, but it also has some lime build up.

There’s still a little buildup, but it looks a lot better than it did yesterday.

And I just looked, and sure enough, that toilet has pretty terrible limescale build up, too. So I treated it with vinegar, and then tried the sink and the water is barely flowing. I have a feeling the pipes have lime in them. I treated it with baking soda and vinegar, but it may need a professional’s attention. This house has pretty terrible lime issues. When we first moved in, the buildup was so bad that we literally couldn’t turn on one of the faucets in the shower. It was completely stilled by calcium. The basement bathroom rarely sees any action, so I guess this is a reminder that it pays to stop in on occasion. Curiously, the toilet on the main floor doesn’t have much buildup at all.

I have a few things on my mind today, so this post is probably going to be multi-faceted. Now that I’ve written more about lime scale, and the payoff from yesterday’s project, it’s time to move on to the next topic. And the next topic is lobster.

A couple of days ago, Bill and I watched some random videos on YouTube. I ran across one about a guy who rescued a live lobster from the grocery store and kept it as a pet. I don’t know what made me decide to watch that video, but I found it absolutely fascinating. It also kind of made me a little ashamed of how much I enjoy eating lobster. This guy brought the lobster home, cut the rubber bands that rendered him helpless, and dropped him in a saltwater aquarium, where he gave him the name Leon and observed his behavior.

This was an unexpectedly fascinating and somewhat sad video… I might not ever be able to enjoy eating lobster rolls again.

I’m sure on one level, Leon is happy enough not to be someone’s dinner. On the other hand, Leon escaped death, but now lives in an aquarium, where he depends on the kindness of the guy who “adopted” him. He can’t really hunt, and he has no lobster friends to hang out with or have sex with… I guess lobsters have sex, and I’m sure Google would tell me if I cared to research further… It might be too early for me to explore the potential joys of lobster fucking, though.

Okay, I have to admit, my curiosity got the better of me. I Googled, and sure enough, lobsters enjoy a rather “kinky” sex life. Apparently, female lobsters attract mates by repeatedly peeing on their faces. And lobsters have urethras under their eyes that evidently make this possible. The female lobster pees on the male, then runs away. Female lobster pee evidently has the magical essence of an aphrodisiac, and after a few days of golden showers, the male lobster gets romantic and loves the lady lobster enough to cause reproduction. Wow… the things you learn on the Internet! And this was all inspired by a YouTube video about Leon, the lobster, who was rescued from the grocery store and now has a job teaching humans more about crustaceans. Leon should be proud. Not everyone has the chops to make it as a YouTube star.

I highly recommend watching the above video, if you’re interested. I legitimately found it informative and entertaining, and it reminded me that the animals we eat are still sentient beings with personality. Sigh… I really should be a vegetarian. Maybe someday I’ll give up my carnivorous ways… live on wine and beer, instead. Which brings me to the last two topics, lectures and lost causes.

Seriously… I don’t like the idea of promoting drinking, but this COVID-19 lifestyle is a real fucking drag. Last night, I had a mild meltdown after reading an article about how Dr. Fauci thinks we’ll be forced to wear masks on airplanes from now on. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I have a feeling that this prediction of his– while entirely possible– probably isn’t going to happen. Why? Because the world is a big place, and there are parts of it that are still pretty undeveloped. I remember being in Armenia in the mid 90s and seeing that most people there still weren’t wearing seatbelts, even though they have been “required” in most modern places for many years. And I simply doubt that people all over the world are going to embrace being forced to wear masks forever. They are uncomfortable, impractical, and annoying, and while they may save lives, a lot of people are inherently selfish.

Moreover, even in so-called “civilized” places, people are still losing their shit over masks. And they are deeply polarizing, with a lot of smug, self-righteous, left leaning all knowers discounting and insulting those who are legitimately terrified of government overreach and tyranny. Look at how many people are freaking out on airplanes. There are a lot more people wigging out in the “friendly skies” these days. Obviously, the masks are causing stress. And don’t tell me they aren’t. In 2019, there weren’t nearly as many people misbehaving on planes. What’s changed? People have to wear masks. THEY ARE AN OBVIOUS PROBLEM for a lot of people, even if some people don’t think so.

The fact is, you may not mind wearing a mask at all, but that doesn’t mean your neighbor agrees, nor should they have to agree if we’re living in a free society. Disagreeing with masks doesn’t give someone the right to be unruly on an airplane, of course. All I’m saying is that telling someone that masks are “no big deal” is disingenuous. To some people, they ARE a big deal. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so much bad behavior, violence, and legal morass surrounding their enforced use. And I think that not respectfully listening and trying to understand why some people aren’t embracing face masks is going to help prolong this situation we’re in.

Now… before anybody comes at me, let me state that I realize that masks are necessary for now. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t wear them. What I am saying is that this talk of forcing people to “mask up” (ugh, hate that expression) forevermore, and dismissing their concerns about the depressing prospect of that, as you tell them it’s “no big deal”, is part of what is driving all of this stubborn rebellion. Nobody likes to be condescended to or lectured– at least not when they haven’t paid tuition and specifically asked for a lesson. Telling someone to “get over it” is rude and disrespectful, and it’s not likely to inspire cooperation. And while you may think they’re rude for non-compliance, there are always other perspectives in any situation. I just think the wise person will take a minute to try to understand the other perspectives, even if they seem ridiculous. At this point in time, even ridiculous people can still vote, right?

When I venture into comment sections and someone raises a concern about masking– even when it’s done in a respectful way– there’s almost always a slew of comments from people who lecture, insult, condescend, or outright dismiss those concerns. Those who are anti-mask, or simply have concerns, then get pissed off and more stubborn, and some of them get pissed off enough to vote in politicians who don’t support mask mandates or vaccines. Unfortunately, a lot of those politicians also don’t support other policies that are community oriented or family friendly. So maybe you don’t have a vaccine mandate or mask requirement, but you also have some white, Southern, conservative yahoo who wants to make guns easier to buy and abortions harder to get.

As for Fauci’s predictions about masks on planes… I will state that I think money will be the deciding factor on this. I think there are people who are already looking for innovations that make it harder to contract illnesses in buildings. There’s a lot of money to be made with a solution like that. You can bet someone out there is looking for a way to filter air so that people stay healthy and productive. It’s not necessarily a trend that arises for the public good, either. It’s because there’s money to be made, and money drives a lot of people into action. Healthy people can work longer and generate more money.

Some people don’t want to travel if they have to wear a mask. Just yesterday, I mentioned a dream I had about moving to New Zealand– probably been watching too many Mama Doctor Jones videos. She is moving to New Zealand. Someone on Facebook mentioned that that sounded nice. I said I don’t want to sit on a plane that long in a mask. Flying sucked enough before the masks. The seats are uncomfortable, the fares are high, the food is inedible, and there are a lot of rules to follow. Now, many people have this dystopian “hall monitor” mentality, where everybody is watching and judging everybody else. Personally, I think I’d rather stay home or drive somewhere, than sit on an already uncomfortable flight for hours with a mask on my face. At least in a car, I don’t have someone watching my every move.

Same goes for cruising. Some people don’t mind wearing masks on ships, but others won’t like it. I think of the ships Bill and I tend to frequent, where booze flows freely. A person could sit and drink all day, if they wanted to. I have also personally witnessed people on ships getting drunk and belligerent. I remember hearing about v-loggers who were on SeaDream last year, documenting the trip, which was supposed to be “maskless”. People got COVID on that trip, and the v-loggers mentioned it, causing SeaDream to force passengers into masks again. The v-loggers were on the receiving end of a lot of anger, mainly because SeaDream cruises are very expensive and people were wanting to escape the COVID rules for a bit. No such luck. I know I don’t want to drop ten thousand bucks on cruise fare for an experience like that. There ain’t enough free flowing Prosecco in the world.

I think about how Royal Caribbean just built several HUGE ships in the last ten years or so, and now they’re in the news because 48 people tested positive for COVID on a recent cruise. Having such huge ships is bound to become a liability, especially if people are turned off of traveling due to draconian rules. Cruising will be probably less popular if people have to wear masks as a general rule. One of the things that makes cruising fun is socializing, and a big part of socializing is seeing people’s faces and non-verbal communication. Masks make it hard to forget the troubles of the world. They are a visual reminder of how fucked up things are. One of the reasons cruises are appealing are that they allow people to forget things that are stressful. So I think forced masking from now on will probably not fly in the long run.

It may not be a bad thing, though, if people travel less. It will be better for the environment. But it will also force some people to find new ways to make their livings. Again, I think money will be what drives this trend. If enough people decide to stay home, the policies will be amended… and/or someone will come up with a way to make traveling maskless safer.

Either way, I think people should try to be more understanding, patient, and willing to listen to other viewpoints without turning shitty. We’re in an unprecedented era for most people who are living, but don’t forget, this is NOT the first deadly pandemic of humankind. One hundred years ago, Spanish Flu killed lots of people. Masks were a thing back then, and I’m sure the thinking was eerily similar that things weren’t ever going to be normal again. But they eventually did go back to “normal”, although we came away with more knowledge.

To take it a step further, think of all of the crazy stuff that’s happened in the last hundred years. I wonder how people felt during World War II. Did they think the war would go on forever? Did they think the world was going to end? Some people probably did… but as you can see, they were wrong. There will be life beyond COVID-19 for those who don’t die from the disease. And I think it will more like it used to be, which may or may not be a good thing. Some of the COVID changes haven’t been bad, after all.

And finally… I think it’s inevitable that most everyone will end up with COVID at some point. But it will eventually be less deadly, because it’s not in the virus’s best interest to kill everyone. I still think getting vaccinated and staying away from other people is the best way to go. And if you have to be in a crowd, masks make sense. But I don’t think they should be something we strive to normalize forever, and I don’t think they’re the end all be all of fixing this problem. They’re just one facet of the solution. This is a problem that needs to be solved, not “lived with”. Fortunately, history shows that some human beings are very good at finding solutions. So that’s what keeps me going, for now…

But, I will admit, sometimes I envy those who have already peaced out of this life. As extraordinarily fortunate as Bill and I are, I find today’s world frightening and depressing, and I wonder what the point of it all is…

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complaints, money, rants, work

Repost: Got big expectations? Want quality? Well, quality costs… and right here is where you start paying for sweat.

Here’s a repost from my original blog. I wrote this on September 23, 2018. As Christmas approaches, I think it’s relevant… and I’m still deciding on today’s topic. My mom made the socks on my feet in the featured photo, too.

A friend shared this post from Scary Mommy yesterday.  It was originally written in March 2018, but somehow I missed the viral round.  I entertained myself by reading it as Bill and I came home from our excursion.  The Scary Mommy story was gleaned from a Reddit post that shows just how completely rude and entitled people can be sometimes, especially toward creative people.  

A guy on Instagram asked a crocheter named Krafty Katt if she takes commissions.  He wanted her to make him a queen sized blanket using expensive wool yarn and employing a complicated stitch.  She told him she’d do it for $400, with $200 paid upfront.  The guy’s response was very profane and he basically told her she was ripping him off because he could go to Walmart and buy a blanket for $15. He used every trick in the book to get her to lower her price for creating something stunning by hand.  She wouldn’t budge and eventually doubled her price.  I offer mad props to her for being so calm and handling that jerk the way she did.

I must admit, she was a whole lot nicer than I would have been.  I probably would have told the guy to go eat a bag of dicks the first time he started using foul language toward me.  Some people don’t seem to understand that handmade goods don’t just cost the price of the supplies.  They also require time and effort.  The guy’s insistence that the crocheter could buy yarn on sale and basically work for free was extremely insulting, especially considering how rude he was being to her.

My mom was making this the last time I visited her.

She also made this.  I did not inherit any of my mom’s talent for needle creations.  My sister got that gift.

I probably have even more insight into this phenomenon than other people do.  I grew up watching my parents making money from their creativity.  My mom ran her own knitting and needlework shop for over 25 years.  She ran her shop out of our home and taught countless people, mostly women, how to knit, needlepoint, cross stitch, and candle wick.  When I was really young, she even used to make clothes for me.  My mom has a gift for making beautiful things and she sold high quality supplies to like minded people who wanted to create beautiful things.  She probably knows all about the yarn Krafty Katt wrote of on her Reddit thread.

My dad had a complementary business doing custom picture framing and selling art by local artists.  Both of my parents made their livings laboring over beautiful things.  People would bring their creations to my mom when they needed help.  I remember her “blocking” needlepoint done by other women or finishing up projects for people.  I remember my dad and his assistant, Deborah (who took over his business), creatively framing pictures and making shadow boxes for patrons.  It all took a lot time, effort, skill, and most of all, vision.  Most people were very pleased with the end results, although some bristled at the cost.

Edited to add for 2021– this is my mom and one of her creations. She’s in her 80s and still does this…

Besides running her own knitting and needlepoint business, my mom was also a church organist for over 50 years.  People were eager to hire her to play for weddings and funerals because she is extremely talented.  I don’t remember her charging a lot of money to play the organ, but I do remember that each event required her to practice.  She had to practice for each Sunday service, every wedding, and all funerals.  That took time, energy, and effort, and she was entitled to be paid for it.

I have run into this issue myself.  I am a writer and a singer.  Writing and singing are two of my innate talents, so they come fairly easily to me, but I still have to develop them.  I studied voice for several years and put in a lot of time practicing and learning how to breathe.  I paid for music and an accompanist, as well as instruction from a teacher.  Now I can sing pretty well, but that skill didn’t come without cost, commitment, and a lot of effort.

My mom also made these.

It takes time and effort to make music or write a piece for someone else.  A lot of the pieces I’ve written for money have required extensive research, fact checking, and equipment.  Computers cost money.  Software costs money.  So do subscriptions to publications that provide the information I need to write something factual and credible.  I went to school for seven years past high school to develop the knowledge and skills to be able to write professionally.  God knows that took money!  Some people might argue that one can learn how to write well without a college degree.  I might agree with that.  However, I went to graduate school and studied specific areas that give me expertise that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  It’s been awhile since my last freelance assignment, but back when I was writing for money, I was earning anywhere from $40 to $80 an hour in the Washington, D.C. area.

I even had a social work professor who told his students that we should never give away our work for free, even if we only charge a dollar.  When someone pays for something, they value it more.  Although I don’t always think monetary compensation is required for one person to value another person’s contribution, I do agree with the idea that nothing is really free.

A person is more likely to take another person’s work seriously if payment is required.  The payment doesn’t always have to be monetary.  It can also be given in the form of gratitude.  For instance, I would never expect someone to give me money for a gift I present to them.  A gift is, by definition, given without the expectation of money.  I would hope that the recipient would “pay” me by saying thank you, although that doesn’t always happen, either.  Sometimes people are clods… myself included.

Bill had this kilt made when we went to Scotland in 2017.  The kiltmaker measured him and created that kilt by hand.  It’s absolutely beautiful, but it cost plenty and took about three months to create.  Ultimately, it was worth it.  I’m glad we went to the kiltmaker instead of a big company that makes kilts in bulk.

Aside from the hard costs of producing something beautiful, there’s also the issue of time and labor.  No one wants to be a slave.  There has to be a pay off for being productive, and the more productive a person is, the bigger the pay off should be.  Krafty Katt is obviously very good at what she does– good enough that the guy who proposed that she make his blanket asked if she does commissions.  But then he insulted her by accusing her of ripping him off by demanding to be paid for her work.

I would not have made a blanket for the guy on Instagram for any amount of money.  I don’t think I could put my heart into creating something for such a selfish prick.  I think his best bet is to go to Walmart and buy something that was made in a sweatshop.  That’s the quality of person he seems to be… and probably the quality he deserves.  

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healthcare, modern problems, money, videos

Repost: “Overweight people tend to be dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible…”

Here’s a repost from March 24, 2018. I am reposting it as I think about what I want today’s fresh content to be. I will also repost an earlier post about the video below, in particular.

Today’s post is taken from a direct quote that was included in a 1970s era film made at Brigham Young University called “The Fat Fighters”. 

This film is absolutely cringeworthy…

I was reminded of this film this morning as I read a news story by The New York Times about America’s worsening obesity epidemic.  I really shouldn’t read the comments on these articles because they regularly piss me off.  So many people have simple “explanations” as to why Americans are so fat.  But it seems to me that if the problem is so simple, so must be the solution, right?  If that were true, then people would simply eat less, choose higher quality food, exercise more, and weigh less.  Simple, right?  But I don’t think it is a simple problem.  

I read comment after comment from people claiming that “good food” is cheap and easy to prepare.  I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that, as long as you have everything you need to make food and you have the time, energy, and know how to prepare it.  Many Americans work very long hours for low pay.  If they are fortunate enough to have work, they will have to work long and hard to make enough money to pay their bills.  If they work ten or twelve hours a day at two jobs, they might be exhausted when they get home.  And that’s if they are only supporting themselves.  A lot of people who work long hours also have families to tend.

Many Americans don’t necessarily have the ability to shop for whole foods, transport them, prepare them, or cook them.  Some people also don’t have access to the tools they’d need to make that good, wholesome food.  It takes money to buy pots, pans, electricity to run the oven and refrigerator, gas to buy the fuel to get to a store, or pay for a fare on public transportation.  Although, a lot of Americans have access to adequate housing and transportation, not everyone does.  So those people do what they can to survive.  Many times that means eating a chemical laden hot dog or microwaved burrito from 7 Eleven instead of a bowl of homemade vegetable soup.

Okay… so what if you’re like most Americans and you do own a car?  You do live in housing that has kitchen facilities.  You live in a town where there are several good supermarkets and, hey, you even have the Internet, so you can order groceries online.  You still have to have the time and energy to make that “good food”.  I happen to like cooking and Bill and I enjoy a lifestyle that affords us the ability to eat well, if we choose.  We do try to keep most junk food out of the house, although we love beer and wine, which is not exactly dietetic.    

The point I’m trying to make is that the problem of obesity seems really simple.  It seems like it has a simple cause and a simple solution.  However, if you think about it for longer than a minute, the problem becomes less simple.  If the problem really were that simple, we would have solved it by now.

I once lived in a country where poor people weren’t generally fat.  Those people didn’t eat a lot of meat because they couldn’t afford it.  Indeed, being a little bit heavy meant that you had more money. It wasn’t necessarily fashionable, but it made a statement about your income.  In that country, though, people didn’t work constantly like they do in the United States.  They spent time with their families and friends and ate with them.  The lifestyle was very different there.  You wouldn’t see poor people eating candy bars or cake because those items were expensive.  It was actually cheaper to buy an apple, especially if it was in season.

In the United States, poor people are more likely to be fat than wealthy people.  Why?  Because the food that is most available to them is cheap, filling, and of poorer quality.  And some of those people eat fattening, sugary, salty foods because it temporarily makes them feel better.  They gain weight and lose more status… and people make judgments and comments about them based on preconceived notions.  And God help you if you happen to be both poor and obese.  This was one comment made on the New York Times Facebook post about America’s rising obesity problem.

It is VERY true eating healthier is more expensive. Poor people are also more prone to addiction and food is the most common addiction.

Well… I don’t know that I’d make a comment like that.  The truth is, people are poor for many reasons.  Poverty is also a very complex issue with no simple solutions.  Some poor people are addicts.  Some are not.  It just depends.

As for the title of this post, I think perhaps what the narrator meant is that overweight people might be dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible about food and eating.  I would hope he wasn’t saying that overweight people are those things in general.  However, he did actually say that– he said that overweight people have several character defects and he didn’t qualify his statement as only pertaining to their eating habits.  So basically, he was perpetuating the idea that overweight people are lower quality human beings who don’t deserve to be as well-regarded as thinner people usually are.

Another comment I noticed came from a woman who, I’m sure, thinks she’s a “thinker”.  She posted that in the long run, broccoli is “cheaper” than a cheeseburger because it will lead to fewer healthcare costs.  However, if you have to force yourself to eat broccoli because you can barely stand the taste of it, how likely will you actually benefit from choosing to eat it over a burger?  What are the odds that you might buy that broccoli and then let it rot in your fridge?  And… what if you eat nothing but broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and then still get sick or catastrophically injured somehow?  Eating “good” food may promote better health and lower healthcare costs, but it’s not a guarantee.

Personally, I’ve decided to just relax and enjoy life as much as possible.  I don’t trouble myself with what other people are eating.  I don’t worry about how their habits will affect my medical bills.  I don’t blame fat people for all of the wrongs in the world, nor do I give much thought to shaming them.  Life is difficult and complex, and there is no magic bullet.  I think there are too many people out there who feel inclined to judge and assume what’s wrong or missing in another person’s life.  But even as I write that, I understand that we all do it to an extent.  I do it, too.

Sigh… I really need to stop reading comments on articles.  But then, if I did that, I might be writing fewer blog posts.

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law, money, social media, true crime, YouTube

Catching up on the news, and Fundie Fridays takes on Dave Ramsey…

Hoo boy… there’s so much I could be writing about this morning. Bill got home last night and had a joyous reunion with the dogs. That was seriously adorable, and I got it all on video.

Arran had been waiting patiently in the foyer for Bill every night of his trip. He’d go downstairs at about 5:00, and hang out for a couple of hours, then forlornly come back upstairs and join me. They were finally reunited last night! Noyzi was just as delighted to see Bill as Arran and I were. Notice I have “Foreplay/Long Time” by Boston playing.

I put up all our Christmas stuff a couple of days ago, because I just wanted to get it over with. Thursday is vacuum day, and the Christmas trees always make a mess. I knew I wouldn’t want to have to deal with the trees on Thanksgiving, nor would I want to vacuum twice in a week, because, I hate vacuuming with a passion. Also, as much as I love Bill, he has a tendency to get in the way when I’m decorating. So I decorated on Thursday, and now our house looks all festive and pretty. I know it’s early, but fuck it… it’s my house. I like the lights, and the trees make my living room more full.

Kyle Rittenhouse gets off…

As I predicted, Kyle Rittenhouse got acquitted of all charges he faced regarding his poor decision to bring an AR-15 to a protest. He won’t be going to state prison for killing two men and wounding one. However, I have a strong feeling that his legal woes aren’t over. I’ll bet he gets sued for wrongful death. I heard a rumor that the Department of Justice might decide to try him for crossing state lines with a weapon… although I think I would be surprised if they did that. And, even if his legal problems end, I suspect he and his family will be harassed.

Kyle Rittenhouse is now someone that people either love or hate. There are right wingers who champion him. But there are other people who would like to see his head on a platter. And then there are many other people who are just plain apathetic, and will be glad to see this particular bit of news go stale. I think Kyle will be in the news for awhile, though, because I’ll bet he gets death threats. Even though he scored a victory, of sorts, I would not want to be him for anything.

I think about all of the adolescent boys I’ve known over the years… they get this surge of machismo, which I’m sure is biological. They want the hot cars, sexy women and, if they’re into guns, they want the biggest and baddest. They have romanticized ideas about how things will play out, and they lack the maturity to understand that life isn’t a movie set. I think the adults in Kyle’s life really failed him. He could have used someone older and wiser– older than his 18 year old buddy, that is– explaining to him why he didn’t need to be in Kenosha with a gun, trying to be an EMT or the police or whatever.

I know my view isn’t popular, especially among liberals, but personally I think the verdict was mostly appropriate. Kyle Rittenhouse certainly had no business being where he was, and he should not have been carrying a weapon. But the evidence showed that the people he killed were not necessarily good actors themselves. I think it could have very easily gone the other way, and Kyle could have been the one who was killed that day. I do think he should have been convicted of at least one of the charges, and gotten a little bit of prison time, but the prosecution was probably too zealous in the seriousness of the charges they levied against him. They wanted to nail him and make him a poster child, and the facts simply didn’t bear up well enough for them to succeed.

Moving on…

Some regular readers might know that I like to watch Fundie Fridays, which is a YouTube channel in which the hosts, Jen and James, make videos about fundie Christians and related topics. Jen often does her makeup while she discusses these things. I like Jen a lot. I think she’s funny, and I am amazed by how good she is at doing her makeup. I’ve always done my makeup the same way, ever since I was a teenager. And that’s when I can be bothered to wear it!

Every once in awhile, though, her boyfriend James tackles a topic. Or, maybe he just joins his girlfriend on one of her videos. I like him, too. They’re both very engaging on camera. I hate being on camera myself, so I admire that they’re so good at what they do, and they’ve managed to marry a compelling subject like whackadoodle fundie Christians with putting on makeup. It’s a great idea, since both subjects seem to be very interesting to other YouTube viewers.

Last night (or maybe just yesterday, since I’m probably several hours ahead of them), Jen was “busy” tending to her island in a video game. James made a video about Dave Ramsey. I thought it was excellent.

I love the fact that Jen and James are willing to wade through all the cringeworthy crap put out by Dave Ramsey and his ilk and put it together in such an entertaining way.

Seriously, I really think this video is well done. I liked the way James broke down how people used to bank. For instance, he mentions that back in the 70s and 80s, a lot of people had “hometown banks” that were independently run, and loan decisions were made by people in the community. I remember doing that myself.

For several years, I banked at locally owned Peninsula Trust Bank, which was a very small chain in my area of Virginia. It was a great bank– very personal and friendly, and I appreciated the local touch! But alas, like so many other small town banks, it eventually got obliterated by one of the humongous chains that have made local banking a thing of the past. Hell, now I bank with PenFed and USAA, and have no personal relationship with my bank at all, other than to lament about how they’re much too quick to lock down my credit cards when I make a (rare) purchase.

In any case, Dave Ramsey’s issues with financial disaster, before he became a wildly successful Christian financial guru, were partly brought on by the fact that small banks used to be popular. According to the Fundie Fridays video, Ramsey’s small town bank got taken over by a much larger, less personal bank. Ramsey, who was very young to be in the real estate business, owed a whole lot of money. The small bankers were willing to trust him, based on his parents’ successful business and their good name. The larger bankers weren’t, and they called in the loan. He couldn’t repay it within 30 days, because the loan was in the millions. That caused Ramsey to go through financial ruin.

Then, like a Christian phoenix, rising from the ashes, Ramsey became “born again”. He started following Biblical principles to get himself out of financial trouble. He claims they worked for him, and now he’s very wealthy and known all around the world. Lots of people love him. Others, like me, think he’s a verbally abusive, hyper-controlling, narcissistic creep. I ranted about him myself some months ago.

You see, Ramsey doesn’t just preach about financial habits to his followers. He also seems to think he has the right to dictate how they live their personal lives. As James from Fundie Fridays points out, Ramsey might even have a point when he says that a person who will cheat on their spouse will probably also cheat in financial matters. However, I doubt that Jesus would be okay with Ramsey’s habit of abusing and disparaging people who don’t dance to his tune. I think Ramsey’s behavior is often distinctly unChristlike. He says Christians should be “cheerfully generous” in giving their money… but I would submit that Jesus would also want people to be generous in how (or whether) they judge, and ultimately treat, other people.

So anyway…. I think you should watch the above video if what I’ve written sounds intriguing to you. I think James did a great job covering Dave Ramsey, and I hope he does more videos. I love watching Jen’s videos, too, but it was a nice change seeing and hearing from her boyfriend, and they make a great team.

And finally…

There’s still more I could write about this morning. Like, for instance, how it’s impossible to leave a comment on a Facebook news article and not either get hit on by some roving creep with one Facebook friend, or have some stranger put words in your fingers and try to lure you into an argument. I did get hit on by a creepy Facebook dude, who was apparently looking for people to scam. I politely told him to fuck off, and happily, he did.

Things were going swimmingly, until some other guy came along and posted about people with “blood on their hands”. He mentioned me in his comment, and compared Europe to Texas and Florida. Having been to both of those states, I disagreed with his assessment. Europe is nothing like Texas or Florida, even in terms of COVID.

He came back and jumped on me, starting his comment with “Are you telling me that…” and more emotional posturing. I was immediately annoyed, because the comment was several hours old; Bill had just come home; and I just had no desire to get into a Facebook argument with a stranger looking for a fight. I left a longer comment explaining myself, prefacing it by writing “I never said that.” And then I ended it with, “There’s no need to get snippy with me. I was simply commenting on a news article. The COVID-19 situation is not my fault.” He tried twice more to get to me to respond, but I ignored him, because Bill’s home and we were tired… and who’s got the time or inclination to argue with some stranger on Facebook?

I do think it’s a shame, though, that we can’t have calm, rational, sane discussions on social media without it turning into something nasty and uncivilized. I get that people are frustrated, pent up, and angry about a whole lot of things, from COVID-19, to Kyle Rittenhouse, to Dave Ramsey’s bully tactics. But that’s no reason to be rude to a perfect stranger’s painfully neutral comment on a news article. I know that will never change in my lifetime, though, so I probably shouldn’t engage regardless.

So ends today’s blog post. I hope you have a great Saturday, wherever you are… and the news of the world isn’t too distressing.

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