communication, law, mental health, Police, true crime, YouTube

I’m ORDERING you to RELAX right NOW!!!

It’s Friday, and that means it’s PARTY time! Well… not really. Bill and I aren’t big partiers. But there will be a special fest in our little village this weekend. It starts tonight and will consist of live music, a wine stand, AND a beer stand! There will also be a food truck. Hopefully, it will stop raining, so we can enjoy the fun and stay dry.

This week, I’ve been watching more cop videos on YouTube. The ones that end up on YouTube are usually somewhat interesting on some level. Like, the uploaders aren’t going to just put up a video of someone getting a speeding ticket without complaint. Most of the videos that make it to YouTube involve some misbehavior or attitude of some sort.

I have a few favorite body cam channels. I like the ones where there’s a good narrator, even if the narrator is AI. If the AI isn’t super obvious, I don’t mind it that much. I just like a good story, although some of the stories are tragic. Code Blue Cam usually has good body cam videos and a compelling storyline. Their most recent upload is quite the doozy. Just a warning… this video is definitely NSFW, mainly due to the extremely profane language the woman uses as she’s being busted for DUI. I’d share it here, but it’s age restricted.

One of Code Blue Cams less “adult” videos… I offer it just for the sake of an example.

The below video comes from Real World Police, which is another one of my favorite YouTube body cam channels. As I was watching it, I had to pause and ponder…

This dude is very profane, and it’s clear the cops aren’t on his side. They order him to “calm down”.

In the above video, the older man is very upset as he’s speaking to the police officers. He uses a lot of foul language. One of the cops says, “Calm down!” And it occurred to me, when I’m upset and someone orders me to “calm down”, it usually has the opposite effect. I asked my friends on Facebook if they are ever able to calm down when someone orders them to calm down. Almost everyone responded with a resounding “NO!”, including my former shrink– a psychologist with over 50 years of experience. He said, “It doesn’t work for anyone.”

Please note… I’m not talking about speaking to someone calmly and encouraging them to calm down. I’m talking about ORDERING them to calm down. I see this all the time in the cop videos. The police are wrestling someone to the ground, screaming at them to “stop resisting”, “calm down”, “don’t pull away”, and my personal favorite, “RELAX!” Yeah, I’m gonna relax with guys in uniforms with guns, tasers, pepper spray, and handcuffs are screaming at me and my adrenaline is pumping. Not.

I liken the order to “relax” and “calm down” by police as the same as a gynecologist telling someone to relax while they have their fingers in one of their patients’ orifices. I’m sorry if that’s shocking to some readers, but in all seriousness. One of the main reasons I’ve only had two exams done in my 51 years of life is because when I had my first “female” exam, the doctor was awful and ordered me to relax as she was hurting me. When she hurt me, I cried out, and almost fainted. She basically told me to shut up, or she wouldn’t finish the exam. I needed the exam to join the Peace Corps, so I gritted my teeth.

Then, when the OB-GYN from Hell finished the exam, she said “Well, everything looked okay, but I didn’t get the world’s best exam, because you weren’t relaxed.” Duh… I wasn’t sexually active; it was my first time getting an exam; and she was hurting me in a place where the sun doesn’t shine. And then to add insult to injury, she fat shamed me, too. 😉 How relaxing! NOT. As you can see, that experience really had a traumatic effect on me.

Dang… this one was filmed in Fayetteville, Georgia. Bill and I lived there for about sixteen months after our last Germany stint ended in 2009. I liked that town. The house we lived in was on 8 acres and it was super private! The house in this video is owned by Rick Ross, the rapper. There are many mansions in Fayetteville, Georgia.

The woman in the above video– name of Precious– is completely out of touch with reality. She asks the cops to let her walk “sexy” as she’s wearing handcuffs. She claims she’s pregnant with Rick Ross’s twins and is his wife. She also says she’s a model. This video is pretty funny, too, because as I mentioned in the above caption, I used to live in Fayetteville, Georgia, where this video was taken. This brings back some good memories for me. I did enjoy living in Fayetteville, but that was before Trump fucked up small town America.

Anyway, the woman in the video isn’t relaxed, but I give kudos to the Fayetteville Police for handling her professionally. We only had one interaction with them. It was when we brought my now 14 year old Mini Cooper– then brand new– to be inspected by the police before we could register it with Fayette County and get new tags. The cop who dealt with us was very efficient and pleasant. I can see from the many cop videos on YouTube that they aren’t always that good.

Last night, for instance, I saw a video Ring of Fire did about MAGA supporter and former Obama and Trump White House physician, Ronny Jackson, who is an actual emergency room doctor, being cussed at, thrown to the ground, and cuffed. Why? Because he was trying to help a teenaged girl in medical distress at a rodeo. I’ve seen many videos where cops have seemingly endless patience and compassion. And I’ve seen other videos where they aren’t much better than the people they arrest, and in some cases, they’re even worse! I’m not saying I like Ronny Jackson is the greatest doctor, but he’s certainly qualified to help a teenager with hypoglycemia. He shouldn’t be thrown to the ground and cuffed for helping someone.

WHAT?!! Those cops need firing, now!
“You pull away from me, you’re gonna hit the tub!” How relaxing. Then the cops yells at her, while she’s hysterical. Not saying she isn’t deserving of being arrested, but the cop shouldn’t be screaming and cursing at her. It’s understandable, but not helpful.

The above video is also a good example of why our mental health system in the United States needs a complete overhaul. That woman is in need of psychiatric care. It sounds like another cop is being more gentle with her. I can understand that dealing with someone like that is very frustrating, but screaming at people doesn’t calm them down. When they arrive at the police station, you can hear the one cop screaming at her to “calm the fuck down”… but it’s really not effective at all. People who are that “amped up” are not in the frame of mind to calm down. The best you can do is put them in a safe, quiet place and wait for them to simmer down. Barring that, Ativan works pretty well… but again, you kinda need a medical person for that.

It always fascinates me to see people ordering people to relax and calm down. That sort of defies logic, doesn’t it? When people yell at me, it makes me want to respond in kind. I never calm down when someone demands it of me. All that does is piss me off anew. When I was younger, I used to get really upset and hysterical, even to the point of hyperventilating. I haven’t had a good, full-blown anxiety attack in years, though… thank God. It’s not a nice feeling. The woman in the above video, especially, needs some compassion, even though she’s clearly broken the law and needs to answer for that. I suspect she’s mentally ill, and needs care.

One of the cops in this video says she used to be a mental health counselor. I can tell. She handles panicky Ellie very compassionately (at around the 11 minutes mark), although in her case, it didn’t work out too well. She had to get “wrapped” like a burrito.

But I also know that the police, especially in the United States, have a difficult and dangerous, yet very necessary, job. It’s not work that always attracts the best and brightest, nor is the training that great, especially in some areas. It seems like cops are trained to be very authoritative, instead of de-escalating situations. One thing I have noticed over here in Europe is that cops are more interested in non-violent interactions, and they work hard to keep things peaceful, as they also keep the peace. It helps that there aren’t so many guns, here.

I’ll leave you with this old video by Beau (Justin), of Beau of the Fifth Column, who used to train law enforcement. He makes a lot of sense, and the video isn’t distressing or violent. If you watch any of the videos in this post, I highly suggest watching this one, simply because he brings up the state of mind of the person being arrested, which is an important key point that I think a lot of people miss.

Beau (aka Justin King), once again, making a lot of sense.

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23andMe, family

Another long lost relative pops out of the woodwork!

Hi everyone. I hope those who observed had a pleasant Memorial Day. We had gorgeous weather again. I meant to write a blog post, but got bogged down with moving more of my music and ended up really annoyed and frustrated. Then, I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to write about. I decided to take the day off of blogging, which was a good idea. Today, I’ll probably write two posts. I have a book review to write after I write today’s fresh content.

About a week ago, I pissed off a relative by marriage by ranting about an unfortunate interaction we had. She ended up blocking me on social media. I would like to say that I wasn’t still upset about that incident, but that would be a lie. However, as the days have passed, so has the “sting” of that situation. Especially given what happened yesterday. It was very exciting!

Several years ago, I sent in my DNA to 23andMe. A couple of years after that, I sent in a sample to Ancestry.com. I’ve gotten several benefits from sending in my samples. First of all, I’ve learned more about my origins aside from the United States. I always knew I was very English, but the DNA tests have shown just how concentrated my origins are… and instead of being English, it turns out I’m actually much more of a Scot. And it really makes sense, too, given my looks and personality. I always feel very much at home when we visit Scotland.

And secondly, submitting my DNA has put me in touch with other people in my family… people I have never met before. They all have fascinating stories! That’s especially exciting for me, as someone who likes to write.

Two people who contacted me turned out to be the offspring of an affair my great uncle had. I never knew him, because he died six years before I was born. But it turns out my grandmother’s brother, who was from Natural Bridge, Virginia, had a relationship with a woman who had gone to my alma mater (Longwood University– then called the State Teachers College) before he married his wife. She got pregnant, and they had a baby girl, who was put up for adoption. The baby was raised in Roanoke, Virginia, and never knew she was adopted until she was a young woman who was working in Washington, DC. She later got pregnant out of wedlock by a man from Ecuador, who was also working in DC. When she told her mother, she said “You’re just like your real mom!”

Instead of putting the baby girl up for adoption, the young woman raised the child, and then married and had another daughter with her husband. Years later, that baby girl submitted her DNA, hoping that maybe she might run into some of her natural father’s relatives, since she’d never known him. She always thought she was half Ecuadorian. Imagine her surprised when she found out that, actually, she was half Ashkenazi Jewish! Her bio dad’s family must have moved to South America in a bid to escape Hitler, or something. Anyway, she and her half sister contacted me for information about my great uncle, who was their grandfather. I was sorry I couldn’t put them in touch with my grandmother, who lived to be almost 101 years old and could have given them so much information. Or even, my aunts and uncles could have talked to them… but a lot of them have died.

Another relative I “met” through DNA testing was my mom’s first cousin, Pat, on her father’s side. Pat was born at about the same time my mom was, in the late 1930s. We became Facebook friends, and I was delighted by her, because she was refreshingly liberal, unlike so many on my dad’s side of the family. I never had the chance know most of my mom’s kin, since my grandparents on that side of the family died when I was very young. I did know my mom’s much older brother, who died at age 90 in 2015, and I met my one cousin on that side a few times. The last time I saw my one maternal cousin, Sue, was at my wedding in 2002. As far as I know, she still lives in Lexington, Virginia, which is near where a lot of my dad’s family lives.

I really look like my mom’s side of the family. It was especially apparent to me, especially when I first saw photos of Pat, where some of my looks came from. Pat looked a lot like my mom! They have very similar smiles. My mom used to say I looked a lot like her mother, and that was the only way she knew I was her kid (the age before DNA tests, of course). She was kidding, and said that when I was misbehaving or being obnoxious, which was a lot of the time. But now that I’ve seen pictures from her dad’s family, I can see that I got some of his side’s looks, too.

Pat was a very prolific Facebook poster, but I recently noticed that I hadn’t seen any posts from her. I got yet another message on Ancestry.com yesterday, this time from a man in Georgia named Warren, who is the grandson of my mom’s Aunt Bessie. I went to Pat’s Facebook page to see if I could connect them. That’s when I found out that Pat died a few days ago. It seems like it was very sudden, although she was in her 80s. Pat was the daughter of Bessie’s brother, and my mom’s uncle, Herbert. Mom didn’t know either of them that well, as her father, Carl, had moved from the family hometown of Marion, Virginia.

One of several photos Warren sent me. These are my grandfather’s immediate relatives. I got goosebumps when I read Warren’s comment about “our great grandparents”, who are pictured here. I’ve never met this man from Georgia, but we share something very profound.

One person that both Pat and Warren knew, and I too remember, was my mom’s Uncle Walter. Walter always dressed well and drove nice cars. He lived in northern Virginia and had a beautiful home. Herbert had also moved to northern Virginia, but died in the late 1960s. Walter used to visit us occasionally, until age and fragile health made visiting more difficult. He died in the late 1990s.

I spent a good portion of yesterday trading information with Warren. I sent him the PMs I shared with Pat, which had some family lore in them, and I forwarded a couple of photos I have available in Germany. I have more photos, but they are in storage in Texas. Maybe someday, I’ll be reunited with them, and all the other stuff we left back home.

Warren sent me several photos of my mom’s dad’s family, along with some information about the people within the images. I had heard a little bit about some of the people who were pictured, although it was kind of strange to realize that I wouldn’t be here without input from some of those folks. It was also interesting to share what little I did know about my grandfather’s family with Warren. Like, for instance, our great grandmother, Viola, was known for being a bit eccentric and spending a lot of time in her garden. She grew herbs. The one photo I have of myself with my grandfather was taken in 1975 or so, just before we moved to England. I was a toddler. We were all in Granddaddy’s beautiful garden… I guess I would have called him Granddaddy. My mom called her father, “Daddy”. I wonder if he learned to garden from his mother, Viola. Or maybe that was my grandmother’s garden. I get the sense that it was my grandfather’s project, though. My mom said he was always a very gentle, nurturing soul.

In Grandaddy Elliott’s garden in Buena Vista, Virginia, sometime in 1975. I am the blonde toddler on my sister’s hip. This was probably the last time I saw my mom’s parents. I don’t remember this day.

I called my mom to tell her about Pat. They’d had a phone call a few years ago and traded stories. Mom was shocked, because she had just been thinking about Pat… as I had. She was thinking she should get in touch with her. Pat lived in Washington State, though, and my mom lives in Virginia. Mom also doesn’t use computers. They would have had to connect on the phone, and I don’t think my mom is quite as good at keeping in touch as she once was. She was sad to find out that Pat has passed. I think they would have been great friends if they’d had the opportunity to connect more.

I never expected to expand my family tree so much when I sent in my DNA samples. I haven’t heard from anyone in my Grandma Elliott’s family, who come from Lynchburg and Amherst, Virginia… but as I explained to Bill, Grandma Elliott’s family was a bit more “feral”. Or so I’ve surmised, based on things I’ve dug up on the Internet. I wish I had known my grandparents on my mom’s side, especially since I seem to take after them, at least in appearance. But I think it’s pretty awesome that I can meet relatives I never knew through DNA tests now… I know not everyone feels that way, though. Especially those who have any “skeletons in the closet”.

Bill and I had planned to go away for the holiday weekend, but I’m glad we didn’t. I was home, and able to easily share what few genealogy clues I have with Warren.

Well, I think I’ll end this post and write my book review. Then, I’ll get back to the pain in the ass task of moving more of my music library. One nice thing that has come of that chore is that my HomePod seems to be playing some stuff I haven’t heard in ages. Both of my computers are on the same network, so it seems like the HomePod would have access to everything, anyway. But, for some reason, moving the files seems to have awakened the deepest cuts in my collection. It’s pretty cool.

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law, Reality TV, true crime

I just binge watched season 7 of 60 Days In. It might be the best of the whole series…

Earlier this morning, I reposted a blog article I wrote in January 2018, when I discovered A&E’s reality TV show, 60 Days In. I suspect I was bored one day, flipping through Apple TV, and noticed what looked like an interesting concept for a television program. I binge watched the first couple of seasons and continued to watch somewhat faithfully, until COVID-19 struck.

To be honest, I initially found the concept of the show kind of baffling. As I wrote in my first post on this topic, I don’t know what in the world would compel someone to volunteer for jail for two months. I later found out that the participants are paid to do their time, where they are supposedly treated like everyone else is. The object is for the contestants to blend in at the jail and tell sheriffs what’s wrong in their facilities and offer them a chance to make changes. I do see the value in doing that, but I also wonder how in the world they can hope to keep the participants’ identities under cover when there are camera crews following them around. Plus, some of the real inmates were interviewed on camera. How could they not know that the jail was participating on 60 Days In?

A video showing footage that wasn’t on 60 Days In.

I’ve now watched seven seasons of 60 Days In, and I think season 7 was probably among the best of the lot. Why? Because this time, the show was shot at the jail in Henry County, Georgia, and each of the participants had previously done time. In prior seasons, the participants were mostly people who had no actual experience in jails or prisons, and it showed. Most of them were too “pretty” for the job– they weren’t trusted by the other inmates. But in season 7, the participants didn’t have that “TV ready” look, and they were able to act much more convincingly as they interacted with people who were legitimately in jail.

Another reason why season 7 was especially interesting to me is that it was shot during the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which started in March 2020. It’s now May 2023, and the World Health Organization has just declared the global health emergency “over”, although I understand people are still getting COVID and some are still dying from it. I had a feeling the emergency would end in 2 or 3 years, because historically, that’s how long a lot of global health emergencies seem to last. A lot of cynical people are saying that the pandemic was all a sham. They are not people who have studied public health. I am someone who has studied public health extensively, so this news is neither shocking, nor am I feeling like I was tricked. COVID-19 was– and still is– a very real thing. It has nothing to do with politics, particularly involving Donald Trump. If this were about American politics, there wouldn’t be people in Germany still wearing masks just to be able to see their doctors in their doctors’ offices.

Because of the pandemic, there were some unusual rules in place at the jail. Sheriff Reginald B. Scandrett, who seems to perpetually sport a bow tie, had implemented some pretty tough conditions for the inmates. New arrivals were locked down for fourteen days in tiny cells with their bunkies, with only one hour outside of the cell every day. That hour was to be used taking showers, calling family on video kiosks, and getting very brief exercise. The rest of the time, they were stuck in their cells, basically listening to people go insane.

As more than one “inmate” pointed out, the conditions in the jail were disgusting. The cells themselves were filthy. One inmate said there were pubic hairs that weren’t his all over his mattress. Another complained about being forced to wear the same unwashed jumpsuit for a month. One time, there was a flood in the jail, and there was raw sewage all over the floor with no means of cleaning up the mess properly.

One of the women spoke of only getting a couple of maxi pads for dealing with her menstrual flow. I could certainly empathize with that. My own periods seem to finally be on hiatus now, but there’s no way a healthy woman with normal periods can deal with regular menstrual flow in a hygienic way with only a couple of pads. Never mind the women who bleed heavily. The lack of feminine hygiene protection seems especially dangerous from a public health standpoint, as a lot of chronic and/or fatal diseases are spread via blood.

Inmates had medical face masks to wear, but it didn’t appear that they were changed on a regular basis, nor were they worn properly. Several inmates wore them under their noses or chins. One of the show participants showed how the metal wire in the masks could be used as weapons.

The quarantine/23-1 lockdown seemed pretty pointless and cruel to me, given the lack of attention paid to other public health issues in the jail. And, as some of the participants noted, it was very hard on their mental health to be locked down for that amount of time. One participant, Lynn, had done eight years in prison, but she couldn’t tolerate the quarantine and had to quit the program. She said that she had worked very hard to overcome drug problems and the insanity of the jail made her want to start using drugs again. She also pointed out that medications were handed out to help inmates sleep, but she couldn’t take them, because they would threaten her sobriety.

Just as a side note, it surprises me that the show’s producers would risk having someone with a serious drug addiction come on that show for that very reason. Sobriety is a fragile thing for a lot of addicts, and relapses are brought on by stress. Being locked down for 23 hours a day in a place where people have unaddressed mental health issues would certainly threaten someone’s ability to stay sane– and sober. The lights are left on 24/7; there’s constant noise; and people have to be on high alert at all times.

One early quitter in Season 7 was a guy who had done federal time starting in 2004. I was reminded then that 2004 was a long time ago! This guy kept saying he wasn’t a “young buck” anymore. He probably would have been able to complete the program if not for the lengthy lockdown in the cell. But, as it was shown in the program, he was feeling really sick and stuck in a cell with a guy who kept farting. He had to make a quick exit. I couldn’t help but wonder about the people who don’t have a choice and must endure in those deplorable and unsanitary conditions.

Another participant– a guy who went by the name Chase, but was famous on Tik Tok under the handle “Lucky Chucky”– was complaining that there wasn’t enough milk or fresh fruit for the inmates. I don’t think he understood that a lot of people in jail are actually experiencing a lifestyle upgrade, although one participant said that she was more comfortable when she was homeless. This guy also brought up prisons in Norway, which I’ll agree, are pretty posh by most world standards. Norway has a very different culture than the U.S. does, though, and doesn’t have the same problems the U.S. does. So it’s hard to compare the two systems, although the prison system in the United States definitely does need a major overhaul.

I think the season was pretty much summed up at the end, when there was a two part “aftermath” episode. Soledad O’Brien facilitated the session during which the participants discussed their experiences on the show. The journalist literally and repeatedly had to tell two participants to “shut up”, because they were arguing with each other. One of them was slipping back into being an actual inmate and was sliding back into being a criminal. They had to pull him out for his own good, because he was about to “catch charges” that would have put him in the jail for real.

I think Season 7 of 60 Days In is one of the best of the series. It’s not a show I particularly “enjoy” watching. I find it interesting for a lot of reasons, but there’s also a part of me that cringes when I see their living conditions. I find it kind of stressful just to watch that show. I can’t imagine being a participant. In fact, I don’t think there’s any amount of money that would convince me to do it. That’s pretty crazy, though, since it’s so easy to be arrested in the United States and land in jail. Plenty of regular folks have “volunteered” for that experience just by committing petty crimes, and either not having enough of their own money, or not having sympathetic friends or loved ones with money they are willing to spend on them, to bond out of the jail.

In any case… I’m glad I finished watching that series yesterday. I look forward to moving on to cheerier entertainment today. Or, maybe I’ll make another video or two. The ones I did in honor of Gordon Lightfoot are doing surprisingly well.

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first world problems, travel

A true first world issue…

Because this post involves travel, I’m going to cross post it on my travel blog. The featured photo was taken in 2019, when Bill and I went to Sweden to pick up our car and drove it on a Nordic adventure.

I’m in the midst of trying to plan a summer vacation/birthday trip for Bill and myself. Because of the whole COVID-19 odyssey, and the seemingly endless lockdowns that followed, we’ve decided that this year, we’d like to fly somewhere. And because there are a lot of places in Europe we still want to see, we decided to choose our destination using the “champagne bucket” method.

I’ve written about the champagne bucket method on my travel blog. Basically, I got the idea for it from “blind bookings” on Germanwings (now known as Eurowings). I’m not sure if Eurowings still does blind bookings, but Lufthansa does, and Lufthansa owns Eurowings. It basically involves booking a surprise flight, and usually paying a lower fare. You don’t know where you’re going until after you pay for the ticket(s). Bill and I have done it four times to great success. We visited Barcelona, London, Berlin, and Munich that way.

When we moved back to the States, I decided that it wouldn’t be hard to plan more of our vacations that way. Instead of relying on the airline, we just put our choices on slips of paper and put them in the champagne bucket. Then, Bill picks one of the slips out of the bucket.

I was really rooting for a trip to Armenia and possibly Georgia this summer. That was one of the choices, too. Bill was a bit reluctant, because of political and military issues going on in Armenia right now. We may still go there this year, but for a short trip to Yerevan, instead of an all out country tour. Then, I can show Bill where I lived, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and sign him up for a more extensive trip. 😉

Anyway, when we did our champagne bucket challenge, Bill ended up choosing Finland. Neither of us has ever been there before. We have been to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Estonia together. Bill has also been to Latvia a couple of times on business. Neither of us has seen Lithuania, but we’ve met people from there and Latvia on cruises.

Originally, I was planning for us to go to Helsinki and do a land based trip, then go by ferry to Tallinn, Estonia, stay a few days, and work our way south to Latvia and Lithuania, before flying back. Then I started researching and discovered, there’s no easy way to travel to Latvia and Lithuania that doesn’t involve riding a bus. We considered renting a car, but that seemed potentially risky.

So then I thought, maybe instead of trying to hit the Baltic capitals, I could go west. Visit Finland, do a day trip in Tallinn, then head west toward Norway, which we know we love. Then I thought, maybe it would be better to start in Norway, and head east to Finland, then go to Tallinn and spend a night or two…

Then I realized how expensive flights would be… plus the stress and inconvenience involving finding transportation, hauling bags, and booking hotels… and although I’d already looked for cruises and initially didn’t see any I liked, I kept getting ads for Regent Seven Seas on Facebook. And Regent is– or was– considered a luxury line, although it’s a much bigger ship than we usually go for when we cruise.

I noticed they had a cruise available during the time we plan to travel. It starts June 23 and ends June 30, and hits ports in Sweden, Helsinki, Estonia, Latvia, and Denmark. We could still go to Norway and do a land based trip, working our way to Stockholm, a city we’ve been to, but didn’t really get to explore at all in 2009. Best of all, the cruise in question is on sale. It’s still expensive, but doable for us. We wouldn’t even have to stay in the cheapest stateroom. I pitched the idea to Bill, who liked it.

I started making a booking request. It took about a half dozen times to finally get registered. I mismatched my email address, or added one too many dots in the address, or the passwords didn’t match. Finally, I had my account, and started to make the request.

But the stateroom I wanted was listed as twice as expensive than was advertised. While we technically could do it, I’d rather spend that much money on a new car or a down payment on a house. So I stopped making the request, and sent an inquiry to Regent, asking them to confirm that the cruise is on sale.

About an hour later, I got a phone call through my iPad, which I wasn’t prepared to answer, as I was reading something to Bill. I also got a message, written in German, indicating that the cruise is on sale, and inviting me to call between 11am and 8pm today. I sent a message back in English, asking if I have to call to get that rate, and clarifying that I’m American and can’t speak German worth a damn. 😉

Then I went on Cruise Critic and started reading reviews and comments on the messageboards. The consensus is, the ship I’m looking at booking is beautiful, although Regent has “gone downhill” in recent years. Bill and I have done cruises on Royal Caribbean, SeaDream, and Hebridean Island Cruises. SeaDream and Hebridean, like Regent, are considered luxury and are all inclusive. However, they are much smaller ships. So Regent would be a different cruise experience for us, and it would offer some convenience, as we’d be hitting places we want to visit– albeit for a shorter time than we would personally plan for ourselves.

I truly am attracted to the cruise because of the itinerary and the time the cruise is going. I don’t have particularly high expectations of great service or being treated like royalty. A cruise just offers a convenient way to cross some items off our bucket list.

On the other hand, I was kind of looking forward to a deeper dive into the areas, and exploring more on our own. Also, there’s less chance of running into people with whom we don’t mesh when we do land based trips, or getting sick from any number of viruses on ships. I like to plan trips and look for interesting places to stay. I guess the pre cruise travel to Norway would offer that, but I was kind of wanting to get more of a feel for Finland.

Either way, this trip is going to be expensive. Good thing Bill got a generous raise this year. We do have the money, too… at least for the cruise. I’m just not used to having that, either… being somewhat well-heeled is kind of a new experience for us.

Sigh… a trip to Armenia would be a lot more economical. On the other hand, if I develop a bleeding stomach ulcer, I’d feel better about seeking treatment in a nordic country. 😉

This is truly a first world problem. I’m sure I should just go for it and see what happens. We’ve had some great times on cruises and made some friends. And a bonus is, since Regent ships are a lot bigger, there’s less chance I’ll get seasick this time.

We’ll see what happens. I may scrap the idea of the cruise. It is tempting, though… Regent is probably more comfortable than the Stockholm to Helsinki ferry.

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politicians, politics

Thank heavens good sense has prevailed in Georgia…

This morning, I woke up with a headache and the news that Republican Herschel Walker has lost the runoff election in Georgia. That means that Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock will remain as a Senator in Georgia.

My sense of relief about this result has little to do with actual politics. Politically speaking, I’d call myself pretty much “purple”. Before the MAGA movement, I didn’t really think there was a huge difference between Democrats and Republicans. I was inclined to vote for candidates in either major political party or, quite often, I would cast a vote for a third party candidate. Most of the time, I was voting for people over parties. However, ever since Trump invaded the political arena, the Republican Party has put forth terrible candidates who are extremely flawed and inappropriate for holding public office. For so many reasons, Herschel Walker was an egregiously bad candidate for Senate. What’s terribly sad, though, is that even though Walker was a terrible candidate, the race was still very close. It’s obvious that a lot of people in Georgia vote for parties over people, and some are stubbornly resisting seeing that some candidates for the Republican Party are just plain bad choices.

Herschel Walker never should have been allowed to run for Senate. He is eminently unqualified, can barely string a coherent sentence together, and doesn’t even live in Georgia, although he was born and raised there, and went to the University of Georgia. Walker resides in a mansion in Texas. Walker is best known for his prowess on the football field as a running back, not as a statesman or a scholar. Although he had once claimed to be the valedictorian of his high school class and graduated at the top of his class at the University of Georgia, fact checkers have determined that both of these claims are untrue. In fact, Walker never even graduated from college. He dropped out of school so he could play professional football, which was probably the right career decision for him, since he was very successful on the football field. However, his athletic ability doesn’t necessarily translate as an important skill in the political arena.

Like Donald Trump, Walker is not known for his strong sense of family values, which the Republicans supposedly push with their allegiances to Protestant and Evangelical Christians. He’s had multiple children with different women. Also like Donald Trump, Walker has been accused of domestic violence. In spite of being “opposed” to abortion and any exceptions to abortion bans, Walker has been accused of pressuring at least two women to have abortions. One of the women even produced a check for $575 and a get well card, allegedly from Walker. Mr. Walker has also spoken publicly about his diagnosis with dissociative identity disorder, and has served as a spokesperson for a mental health program for veterans. While I would never want to automatically count out someone from political service, solely because they have a mental health issue, I do think that some diagnoses are incompatible with political service. Dissociative identity disorder is a very serious diagnosis.

It seems to me that only a few years ago, people who ran for public offices, particularly on the federal level, met some minimum standards and levels of decorum. Donald Trump has introduced a new era, which includes people who are wildly inappropriate as leadership candidates. As these folks get elected to office, we find out that they’re completely and embarrassingly unprepared to do their jobs. So, instead of solving problems that affect the citizenry of the United States or even more locally within their states, they pursue issues that are irrelevant. And now, Donald Trump has openly stated that he thinks it’s time to “suspend” the United States Constitution! Why? Because the Constitution is an obstacle in his way. The man wants to be back in power, and he wants to stay there for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, he champions stooges whom he hopes will do his bidding, rather than work for the people who elected them. I think Herschel Walker is an obvious example of that type of candidate.

I have a number of relatives who live in Georgia. I’m sad to say that the probably all voted for Walker over Warnock, simply because they are dyed in the wool Republicans who are convinced that Democrats are evil “communists”. And so, instead of choosing the obviously more qualified candidate– one who isn’t a Trump croney– they will simply vote for the “R” or abstain. They’re good people, and I love them, but this inability to vote for the best interests of everyone makes me feel very sad.

I really hope that the recent election results will convince both of the major parties that it’s time to stop championing people who are suitable candidates for public office. We have a lot of problems that need to be solved, and they will never be fixed if we keep getting seriously flawed candidates like Herschel Walker taking up precious space on the ballots. Enough is enough. We’ve got lots of important shit to do, and we need people in public office who can and will do the work.

In other news…

I was right about younger daughter’s birthday yesterday. She was delighted to receive my gift to her, and sent me a very thoughtful thank you note. It’s so nice that we’re enjoying this turn of events. I just wish this could have happened sooner, but I suppose this was the way things were supposed to evolve. In any case, I’m very appreciative. It’s always a good thing when a narcissist loses. And, as we can see, it looks like Trump, the biggest narcissist of all, is finally losing, too.

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