…ok, that was a very pretty sunrise. But still.

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Mornin’ all.

I wanted to sleep in a bit today. I wanted it so bad I could almost taste the cotton candy atmosphere of Dreamland. Apparently my eyes didn’t get the memo because they popped open and insisted on staying that way. Instead of having tea on a paddle boat filled with circus side show stars (legit recurring dream of mine…and yes, it IS as epic as it sounds. We all have top hats.) I’m wide awake on dry land with zero side show friends, drinking what may just go down as the Worst Pot of Coffee of 2016 at 4:30 a.m.

Eyeballs… WTF? Why you gotta ruin shit all the time?

I guess it’s not their fault. The brain controls them, after all, and right now my brain is a’whirlin’ and a’zippin’ and a’poppin’ over shit I can’t change. Don’t you just hate that? Isn’t that the worst?

I think the next step in human evolution should be an instinctual awareness that there are things outside the scope of our own control that the brain will automatically classify as “not worth dwelling on”.

You know, I think I might be onto something here. Hey, scientist friends…how do I get the ball rolling on this “evolution” thing? Do I need to start an online petition or something? I need a grant, don’t I? Some kind of funding. I bet I need a research team.

Ugh. This seems like it might be more complicated than I thought. Damn you Pokemon for making evolution look so easy.

(…and while we’re on the subject, let me add a spare 2 cents I’ve got lying around: For the record, I’m all for Pokemon Go, though I don’t play myself and never will. I’m a gamer, sure, but I’ve never been able to get into Pokemon. However, any game that gets people up and out and makes them WANT to move and interact with other humans is BRILLIANT. Yeah, idiots are still being idiots. Yeah, some people are taking advantage of those idiots. And the dudes who fell down the bluff and got hurt probably really need to reassess their priorities in life. But the game is hands down the most revolutionary thing that’s come to the gaming world in a long, long time. Kudos to the brilliant bastards at Nintendo. I tip the top hat I wish I had in real life.)

Boy, is the news messed up these days or what? Every day I open my browser and it just seems so doomy and gloomy. I wanted to do some headlines. Folks, there aren’t enough funny ones to even attempt a Roundup. It’s all dead kids and murdered cops and suicide bombs and wild fires and droughts and locusts and mega volcanoes and asteroid crashes that wiped out half of humanity…

…well, maybe not the last couple. You get what I’m saying, though. It’s getting overwhelming, isn’t it?

And then we’ve got November looming. Say it with me: UGH.

Did you hear that Melania Trump just straight up plagiarized Michelle Obama?

Okay, okay. To be fair, I should say Melania Trump’s speech writers plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech writers.

“Uh, Bethie? Maybe we shouldn’t go after Melania. She’s just the wife.”

Welp, the thing is, I’ve spent the last 7 years listening to racist bullshit about Michelle Obama. Hillary was front and center in the press for all of Bill’s drama. Bill is now fair game. Shit, remember how the press (and, admittedly, myself) used to wonder if the hamster just stopped running on the wheel behind Laura Bush’s dead, vapid eyes? Spouses have always been fair game when they’re put on display by the candidates.

Besides, this isn’t really about Melania. The story is really about another stupid campaign slip up from the sock puppet we call a Republican candidate. Melania didn’t write the speech. She just read what Dumbo’s staff gave her to read. If you haven’t heard the speech she gave to the RNC, take a listen. Then listen to a speech Michelle Obama gave to the DNC in 2008. It’s so close that if I were the speech writer, I’d sue.

…er, I’d sue in my mind, anyway. In real life, I highly doubt I’d want anyone to know that I wrote speeches for any political figure. Lawsuits are public record. Couldn’t risk the shame being a political speech writer would bring to my family. I’d go onto the internet and bitch about it anonymously like a mofo, though.

What a mess, folks. We’ve got Chump vs. Godzillary. I’m not happy with either candidate. They’re both slick as shit. Neither is going to be able to keep a single campaign promise because they are both spending their time alienating the people they’re going to have to work with for the next four years just to scramble for one more vote. Both have terrible histories when it comes to critical decision making. And neither one of them can seem to get their head out of their own ass long enough to do anyone a damn bit of good.

It’s bleak, my friends.

So we look to the rest of the world. We take ourselves out of our own backyard and search for a bit of positivity elsewhere. And promptly end up back where we started. It’s no better anywhere else right now. Riots and killings and coups and propaganda and… *sigh*

I know we need to be global and look at the big picture and it’s our responsibility to know what’s going on yada yada. But, sometimes wouldn’t it be great not to? Maybe from time to time what we really need to ask ourselves as a society is this: Would ANY of this matter if you were standing on Europa?

I mean it. Imagine you’re standing on the frosty tundras of Europa. You spent over five years traveling 390 million miles, eating protein concentrate and cleaning the air filters constantly and checking and rechecking and triple checking every damn system log five billion times a fricken day until you just about go mad…before finally, FINALLY descend the ladder to feel the crunch of Europa’s snow reverberate through the sole of your boot and travel up your body in the delicious thrill of discovery.

Does any of the human drama matter to you right then?

Not one goddamn bit.

We’re a blip. A dot. A tiny little speck. There isn’t one single thing humans can do right now that would have an impact on even our own solar system, never mind the galaxy or the universe. If we blew our planet to smithereens, Andromedans would not even know. It would not impact their lives in any way.

Maybe that shouldn’t be comforting, but somehow it is. No matter how terrible humanity gets, we’re the only ones that are going to suffer because of it. So far we haven’t managed to infect the Universe at large.

I like that.

…and, I don’t. All of humanity’s problems right now are caused by humans. We are doing it to ourselves. There isn’t a cosmic plot afoot, no nefarious plan to destroy or disrupt or disband the human race. This isn’t happening TO us, it’s happening BECAUSE of us. And it’s getting worse because we love the gossip. We love the drama. We love to eat up the media that adds fuel to the fire. We WANT to be charged up and angry. We are twitchy to grab up a pitchfork and torch and storm the castle. We’re behaving very badly right now because, at heart, the human race is bored and itchy.

And isn’t that a wicked pisser?

I don’t want to leave you with the tang of doom and gloom clinging to your taste buds. My god, it’s bad enough that you had to smell the fumes off this witch’s brew I call coffee! Let’s get a bit of hopeful perspective instead.

In the time it took me to bitch and moan about the state of the world, nearly 1,000 babies were born across the planet. That’s 1,000 new lives. 1,000 new chances. 1,000 fresh hopes. They don’t want to fight. They don’t hate anything. They just want to live and be loved, and love in return. They haven’t yet been ruined by bitter people who are desperate to blame someone else for their position in life. They don’t know or care about ISIS or presidential candidates or border wars or drug smuggling or racism or murderers…

Every day, humanity has thousands of fresh starts. Can any other known planet say the same?

Maybe it’ll take one of us standing on the bleak and barren ice fields of Europa, seeing the vastness of nothing that is the rest of our solar system to understand what that really means.

We’re just a speck, that’s true. But, we’re a rare and exceptional speck. And I think that’s pretty damn cool.

Thus concludes a Musing for Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Work today, where I get to make peoples’ dream cakes a reality. …actually, I think I’m just making Boston Cream Pies today, but those are good, too.

Can the smell of sulfur give you a hangover?

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Mornin’ all.

Boy, what a day of celebrating our nation’s independence yesterday!

…for other people. I actually ended up going in to work for the morning to make a wedding cake. I didn’t mind going in, but it did raise a few questions that you’re probably asking as well. I’ll sum up the answers for you.

Yes, the couple was getting married on the 4th of July. No, I didn’t make any jokes to the bride about the irony of shackling herself to another human being on “Independence” Day. And yes, in fact I DO feel that it’s beyond selfish to have your wedding on a holiday.

“Bethie, didn’t we just trash on selfish brides last time?”

Fair enough. I’m just feeling a little testy this morning. I got shit for sleep last night, and I think there are some firework ashes in my morning Joe. To be honest, aside from the slight tang of sulfur on the finish, there’s not a whole lot of difference than the usual morning tar I make…

I’m in a bad mood, and my redneck town put me in this funk. It was the noise. The bangs. The booms. The whizzes and hisses and sizzles.

All.

Fucking.

Night.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I friggin’ love fireworks. We’ve spoken of my pyro admiration before. In fact, if we had even a couple bucks of spare cash this year that did not have to go immediately into fixing the cars, we would have been giddy, fireworking rednecks ourselves.

However, WE would have shot them off at a reasonable hour in consideration for everyone who has to get up this morning and face a regular old Tuesday at work.

Around 10 p.m., the barrage was constant. Makes sense. Late enough to be really dark, but not so late that people will oversleep their alarms in the morning. I could deal with that.

By 11, as I was staring up at the crack in my ceiling that looks like an “H”, I was thinking, “Okay. They’ve GOT to do the finale soon…”

But they didn’t, folks. They just kept setting them off. As the hours dragged, there started to be lulls in the activity. The drunk people got distracted by Stairway to Heaven or some shit and forgot the rest of the fireworks Bubba had in the back of his Bronco. I’d get a few minutes of silence, just long enough to be able to drift off, before Bubba had his hazy “aw shit tha’s what I was gonna do” moment and remembered he still had a bag they hadn’t lit up yet, bro.

At 2 a.m., there was a mega boom that shook my windows. In milliseconds, Panic Kitty raced across my chest, Wolverine claws out.

And then, of course, once the aftershocks of the last redneck-nuke stopped echoing through the valley, I was left trying to sleep angry.

Don’t you hate trying to sleep angry?

It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. The brain starts listing every single thing you’ve ever been mad about and you work yourself up into a good old snit. You roll over to get more comfortable, but the blankie bunches and that pisses you off more. The pillow has the audacity to be lumpy and warm, and you can’t get the goddamn fan to blow on your face without your fucking hair breaking loose and squiggling across your nose.

Trying to sleep angry is the worst.

So I got up at 4. More accurately, I gave up at 4. I’m slugging back this sulfur-infused rotgut I call coffee and hoping for the best. When my kids get up for school in a foul mood, I always tell them to go to school and come back with a sweeter disposition. Methinks I need to apply the same annoying edict to myself today.

Looming over us is another major car repair. At the moment I call it major, because we actually don’t know what caused my work horse to begin suddenly veering left and right. I wasn’t in the car when it happened. The man of the house was using my car because it had been acting funny, and he’s had much more experience behind the wheel of a hoopdie than I have. He’s fairly unflappable when it comes to limping home a broken rig, so when he came in the other night literally shaking like a leaf, I knew something was very seriously wrong.

My beastie sits in the drive, slumped down in defeat.

I had someone suggest to me that it was the steering rack. I, too, had thought of it, and immediately dismissed the idea. Not because it’s not valid or possible, because it totally is both. In fact, were I being a realist about it, I believe it’s probably even likely. But, I do not have a replacement steering rack, so it cannot be that.

…that’s how car repairs work, right?

I’m personally hoping we cracked a few major bushings or something, which is also extremely likely. Remember, we only paid $800 for the car two years ago and it was in such rough shape that it didn’t really have a functional floor. I can think of three bushings that could cause dangerously sloppy steering if they fall apart, so let’s hope for that. I mean, I don’t have spares of those on me, but they’re a helluva lot cheaper and easier to source than a steering rack for a 30 year old German diesel.

Teen Prime had his trip to Atlanta! Remember he placed third in the state for a game design competition through FBLA? The nationals in Atlanta were this past week. He said he’s not sure how he placed. They only posted the results for the top 10, and his team wasn’t on that list. He’s not a bit disappointed, though. He got three days in a new city, and seemed to love every minute of it.

I…I think somehow I gave birth to someone who…likes…traveling???

How does this happen? Is this some sort of rebellion? What’s next? Is he going to want to be an ACCOUNTANT, too!?? WHERE DID I GO WRONG???

…in all honesty, I’m very pleased that at least one of the kids wants to go out and see. He wants to go somewhere new and touch and taste. He wants to experience and do and try. And no bullshit, I love that. Somehow I managed to create a human that wants to go beyond the safe and the known, and I think that’s fantastic. Think of the postcards I’ll get!

Postcards are still a thing, right?

Speaking of travel, did you read the news that Juno has made it to Jupiter!? NASA’s latest probe locked into orbit around our solar system’s largest planet in the wee hours. Well, our wee hours. Who knows what the time was on Jupiter? There aren’t really locals there to tell us in which manner they arbitrarily mark “time”.

…or ARE there?

Maybe hidden under all those dark, swirling sulfuric clouds are Jupiterian rednecks scrambling to hide their spent, smoking firework shells from the Jupiterian cops, too.

“Wow Bethie. You really didn’t sleep last night, did you?”

Now, I’m not really expecting to find Jupiterians setting off fireworks. Do you even know the odds against that? They’re astronomical.

“*groan*”

But, there really is a chance we could find evidence of some sort of life forms that exist, or existed at some point in Jupiter’s stormy history. Just a cell. That’s all we’d need to see to help us better understand life.

And even if we don’t manage to find life, we will still be able to fill in some gaps in our knowledge void about why or why not. Juno is about to start sending us digital postcards from 370 MILLION miles away.

Fuck inconsiderate yokels and their cans of powdered thunder. We just sent a robot 370 million miles to unlock the secrets of an entirely different planet. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Thus concludes a ramble for Tuesday, July 5, 2016. Is it bad that I was only half kidding about “knowing” Jupiterians don’t exist? Come on, admit it. There’s part of you that’s hoping, too…

Oh, the electronics I’ve fried…

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Mornin’ all.

Boy, has it been awhile or what? We had happenings, folks. HAPPENINGS. And they have royally messed with my Joyous January plans. I’m hoping to get through this without smashing the computer, but after the hell this beast has put me through…

Hang on. I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

It was a dark and drizzly morning in early April, one of those days that carries on the winds a feeling of importance, as if the very air itself knew that a pivotal moment of beginning was about to occur. A twinge, a spasm, a gripping pain seared through a woman’s belly, the lone harbinger of…

“Oh dear lord, Bethie. Are you talking about the day you were born?”

…too far back? Hm. Yeah…I can see it now. You’re right. That’s probably a little too far back for this story. Fastforward almost 37 years…

THIS story began on a cold day in January, just a few weeks ago. The breeze carried with it not a sense of importance so much as a tangible fear of frostbite…or, at the least, the slight worry of chilly tootsies.

It was a busy day mostly spent on the go, but I had a half hour before I had to leave to get the youngest pup from school, and a granny square was just itchin’ to be finished. I popped a butterscotch into my mouth, turned on The People’s Court, sat on the couch, grabbed up my crochet, and got to work. I was only a few stitches in when I shivered. Fortunately, we have a cute little faux fireplace heater we got at a great bargain (no, really, half price! Can you believe it? I told Mabel she really MUST get one herself, but you know Mabel. Course, she got that oil radiator ten years ago and is still going on and on about how great the heat distribution is. I suppose I can’t blame her. Look at her husband. I’m not one for gossip, but if I had to choose between the oil radiator and Hank to keep me warm at night, it’s the radiator. How they ever managed to have children is beyond me. The man is an utter pill, not that Mabel ever turned heads on the dance floor herself…)

*Author’s note: I felt that since I was already sucking a hard candy, sitting down to watch The damn People’s fuckin’ Court, and crocheting a granny square, I should just give up and BE an old lady for awhile. Just seeing what’s coming down the pike for me in a couple decades. I can live with it. Back to current events…*

I reached over to turn on the heater and unwittingly set off the Electric Apocalypse of ’16. As soon as my finger hit the “on” switch, everything stopped.

Long and short, our ancient circuit box quit, melting the main circuit breaker switch. If the burnt, melted, and RUSTED wires are any indication, it had been going for awhile.

Because the thing is old enough to have a calligraphied paper label hand-pasted inside, we could not find a new part to fit. The unHandyman that Landlord uses (longtime readers remember both Landlord and unHandy-handyman) got a part from a “guy” in a parking lot.

I shit you not.

He couldn’t find the part, got talking to a guy in the aisle of a hardware store, and met up with him in a shady parking lot to buy a couple questionably legal parts. You have no idea how badly I want to believe they had code words for this illicit electrical transaction.

When he got back here with parts in hand, one was rusted, one was slightly less rusted. unHandyman honestly seemed confused as to why we selected the less rusted part. He said, “But this is probably an original.”

Now folks, you weren’t here, but I can assure you that when he said, “an original,” what he meant was THE original. As in, the very first circuit breaker ever. I was positive the Smithsonian would like to have it back, so we chose the seventy year old after-market part instead. I know that not having a parts-matching circuit panel probably devalues it for collectors, but I’m one of those crazy folks who believes in actually USING electricity in the house. I’m just zany like that.

Before he installed it, a couple things happened…

My bathroom is off my kitchen. It’s small, with no windows. As we had no power, I had a lantern in there so people could see when they needed to use the bathroom. We three, unHandyman, my man, and I were in the kitchen insisting the less cruddy part was our choice. unHandyman said he’d install it after he “takes a pee.” He then proceeded to walk into the bathroom and start peeing. Right there. Not five feet away. DOOR OPEN.

He’s a groaner when he pees.

There is no reason in the world I should know that.

I said, “Uh, there’s a lantern right there…” He says, “Nah, there’s plenty of light.”

With the door open. RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

The other thing that happened was that my man actually had to convince unHandyman to shut off the main power into the house before he did the job.

The main power lines were hot. They were not the problem. It was the breaker the thrumming, humming electric wires screwed into that was bad. Think about that for a sec. Let the idiocy sink in. The dude was actually, legitimately, 100% planning on taking his metal screw driver and unscrewing the hot, fully functional power lines. He needed convincing NOT to do this.

His plan to keep safe? He was going to “not slip” with the screwdriver, and make sure to grab the part of the wire where the insulation hadn’t completely melted off to steady it all.

I…I just…*blink* I mean, there are no words, right?

We were without power for about 24 hours. Not too bad considering unHandyman had to slip seamlessly into the seedy underworld of black market circuit breakers to get the job done. The lights are on. The after effects, however, continue.

The Surge, as it will now be called for the rest of all time, fried our computer. Blitzed the power supply and fried the hard drive. And before you say anything snarky, we DID have a surge protector. A super fancy one, actually. It did nuthin’. NUTHIN’. So annoyed with CyberPower right now.

Yes, I specifically called out the brand. We paid a mint for that because my computer is so important to me. And YOUR product is SHIT, CyberPower.

“Uh, Bethie? Shouldn’t you be pissed at Landlords instead?”

Oh worry not, mon ami. There’s enough ire to go around! I just wanted to give my own product review of CyberPower’s fancy schmancy surge protectors. They’re utterly useless. Don’t buy one. Don’t let your friends accidentally buy one. A dollar store hunka would have done the exact same job.

Anyway, The Surge took down my beastie. It’s limping along now. At first, we thought it was just the power supply and hard drive that took the brunt of the meltdown. Now, though, it seems to be randomly having USB problems and freezing/crashing the computer. I keep tweaking things in the BIOS, and today is the very first day I’ve been able to use this writing program for more than five minutes straight. Some things work flawlessly, though, complex programs you’d think would crash. It’s making it very hard to determine which part is still flaking. It’s vexing.

I am vexed.

We’ll get it figured out. Worst case at this point already happened, right? I lost my hard drive.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I did a full backup on an external drive not that long ago of my documents, music, and pictures. I didn’t, however, save the marathon writing session I was in the middle of when The Surge happened. I had revised a book I was working on and added…god…I dunno, at least 60 pages, maybe more. I was in a writing frenzy and didn’t back that up.

I also lost old emails. I could never figure out how to save them.

…okay, in fairness, that’s on me. When the pc wouldn’t just let me copy them to the drive, I said, “Eh, I’ll figure it out later…” and didn’t. That’s on me. I get it.

But all my emails. *heavy sigh*

I’m a hoarder, right? I mean, I’ve touched on it before that I don’t just hoard things. I hoard songs. I obsessively listen to them over and over. I’ll “hoard” a painting or piece of art I like. I’ll look at it…not just look, but feel a compulsion to stop and seek it out throughout the day, no matter what else I’m doing. Maybe it’s all part of hoarding emotions. I dunno. I don’t get paid enough to be my own therapist. And I hoard emails. I keep every correspondence from a friend or family member.

I mean, ALL of them.

Even the stupid ones. Even the links to dumb shit I’ll never actually look at again. Even the ones that piss me off or hurt my feelings. Especially the ones that make me laugh, or give me a feeling of being around that person, no matter how many miles or metaphysical planes may separate us.

I can replace the other things. Hell, I even have a “it wasn’t meant to be” attitude about the writing I lost. Maybe the cosmos thought the book sucked. I’m actually not that bummed out about losing that. But my connection to folks that are now forever in my past…that has been very hard.

I’ve got the dead drive in my drawer. The thing won’t even spin. Utter destruction on the circuit board. Physically fried. I can’t get power to it. I can’t even trick it into working when hooked up to another system. I don’t have the skills to digitally ninja that shit. So it’s in my drawer. Maybe someday the technology will exist for me to breathe life back into those files. My junk drawer is the cryogenic chamber, my hard drive is Disney’s head.

*Author’s note: Yeah, yeah, I know. But it’s such a fun and horrifying urban legend, why not use it?

That’s the skinny on The Surge and all the frustration that has happened since. Putting in a new main breaker was just a stop-gap. The whole things needs to be readdressed when warmer weather hits. If the main was so bad, you know the rest can’t be faring much better.

What should happen come spring is the complete replacement of all the wiring in the house. What actually will happen is another trip down in our scary-beyond-all-reason cellar with electrical tape to wrap everything we can reach. I mean, rust can only hold wires together so long before it crumbles, right?

Hey, on the plus, I now have an “in” with the black market circuit panel parts dealers in the area. Didn’t have that before. I think I’ll start calling them the Voltaic Underground. When I need a part, I’ll shine a lightning bolt symbol into the clouds. Maybe they’ll let me make t-shirts.

“Slow down, Bethie. No one likes it when a newbie comes into the group and starts trying to run the show.”

…fair enough. I don’t wanna Yoko the Voltaic Underground. If I piss them off, what will I do for the next Surge?

Still, I now know they are there if I need them. It’s a small comfort, but it looks like that’s the only one I’m going to get out of this experience.

Eh. I’ll take it.

Thus concludes a Musing for Saturday, January 23, 2016. I got through this entire thing without crashing! I hung for a minute, swore, and scared it back into motion. Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing wrong. I’m treating this beast with kid gloves when I should be yelling and threatening like I do with my cars. In that case, I better whip out my best old timey sailor impression while I try to upload…apologies if it gets a little salty in here…

Another year without a nuclear meltdown has got to be making them rethink the calendars…

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Mornin’ all.

We done went and had ourselves a bit of winter this week. It was sleeting so hard that when I got up the other day that it sounded like a pipe had broken. I had a momentary flashback to last years’ Pipes of Hell winter production before I got a grip and realized that it was a balmy 30 degrees, and the water was coming down from above, not up from below.

I took a look outside. A couple inches of snow, then ice pellets as far as the eye could see. What an awful mess! Fortunately for us, no one had anywhere they needed to go. Kids were home from school, man was home from work. There wasn’t a single reason any of us had to go out.

So of course we went out.

…what? Oh come on. It’s a New England tradition. The plows had already come through, so we weren’t clogging up the roads and getting in their way, and there was almost no traffic. As soon as you can, you get in your car and chug the mile to the local grocery store to make sure every other redneck congregated there still agrees with your assessment that winter is wicked fahkin’ shitty. It’s just what you do. I don’t make the rules, people.

Besides, we were low on milk. Not quite out, but low enough that the morning joe would be tan, not khaki. Couldn’t have that first world problem, now could I? I mean, I chipped a nail this week, too. There’s only so much one person can take.

We’re halfway through the kids’ holiday break. For the most part, it’s been pretty smooth. They needed to clean their rooms to make space for fresh inventory after Christmas. I remember when that meant they played with the rediscovered toys while I sat buried under the heaps of long forgotten treasures, desperately trying to throw out the crap that the kids only suddenly NEEDED because it was time for it to go.

Now, even the littlest pup is old enough to mostly guide himself in cleaning.

I’m not saying I don’t have a couple in the litter who show the same hoarding tendencies I possess. Sometimes I’ll catch the pup sneaking a broken toy under the bed. “What’s that?” I’ll say. “I can fix it,” he’ll protest. “Put it in the trash before you end up with an hour long TLC special,” I’ll tell him, carefully creasing my brow in practiced parental consternation.

Aside from cleaning, it’s been mellow and game-filled. They are my little flock of geeks and got some cool games for Christmas. And while they got out and played before the shit weather rolled in, I can’t say any of them seemed the least bit disappointed to discover that Mother Nature made sure their time was free for digital adventuring.

Pokemons explored caves. Isaacs were…bound? I’m sorry, I don’t really know how that game works. Brain puzzles were solved, and, if the excited tittering wafting from the teen lair was any indication, large battleships were thwarted.

Looks like they’ll have that same kind of morning again today, at least. It’s raining and the snow/ice is getting a fresh, glossy glaze. Hey, I suppose I can’t complain. I mean, it’s the first real sign of winter, and it’s almost 2016.

Can you believe it? Another year out. Pfft, just like that. Seems like I cracked open my free 2015 calendar the nuclear power plant sends to all the folks that live in the potential fallout zone just yesterday.

…true story. Got next year’s unusual bribe all ready to hang in the morning. If the plant ever blows, at least I’ll have the warm memories of all the free calendars they sent over the years to temper my anger at their incompetence and give me comfort. Well, the warm memories and the literal warmth of the radiation…

It’s that time of year again when we look back and reflect on the old shitstorm we’re leaving behind before our hungover asses wake up to the first misting sprays of the new one. Everyone’s recapping the year as only the internet can.

Most sites are linking their favorite lists by category. The news this year was, by and large, fairly bleak. I’m looking through these lists of murders and scandals and jihads and arrests and it’s depressing as hell. There was a link on MSN to the “20 Cutest Internet Cats of 2015.” I was thinking that would take the sting off the hell hole we’re in and clicked on it. True to their word, some of the kitties really did have squiffy wiffy faces. I was feeling more positive until I clicked on the last cat. The last cat on the list looked like Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is now ruining the palate-cleansing ability of internet kittehs. Screw you, Donald Trump. #generalmessageof2015

Then there are the usual lists of celebrity lives that ended in the course of the year. The entertainment sections have lists of actors and singers that shuffled off this mortal coil. The sports section listed “7 Sports Heroes You’ll Miss Next Year.” What a set up articles like that are. I didn’t even know these people existed until you told me, and then as soon as I find out about them, you tell me they died. I was in a world of blissful ignorance before. Any emptiness and loss I now feel for heroes I will never get to know is completely your fault, sports writers. Screw you, too.

Science and tech sections also have their loss articles, but no one reads them. I think that’s probably sadder than the fabricated depression from the sports writers. This keyboard I’m typing on could have been invented by someone who died this year, and I’ll never know. I mean, I *could* know, I guess. I just won’t.

Hey, at least I’m honest.

Aside from the news bits, many of the lists on the internet are sponsored. “Top 20 Hairstyles of 2015,” brought to you by Wen hair care. Just guessing here, but I think these styles are going to be held in place with Wen’s Dr. MacGuillicuddy Formula Super Shiny Impossible-to-Muss All Purpose Hair Shellac Elixir and Floor Polish. They’re also linking their least favorite lists. “Worst Hairstyles in 2015.” Looks like there are many folks out there who didn’t buy Wen. Tighten that shit up in 2016, folks. Just call Wen and ask for “magic hair beans.” They’ll know what you’re talking about.

Here’s a good one. “50 of the Best Cars of 2015.” How about, “80 Great Breakfasts to Start off the New Year.” This is one you cannot miss: “101 Life Hacks We Learned in 2015.”

It cracks me up when I see lists like this. 50 Best Cars…so, like…ALL the cars of 2015, then? I think they just try to one up each other. I think the folks at BuzzFeed brainstorm or interface or idea-share or whatever they call it to try and come up with a list that cannot be topped.

“Let’s see if we can think of a list that will dwarf all other lists,” some asshole in an ill-fitting plaid shirt says as he pushes thick-framed, lensless glasses up his nose.

Stanley gulps, though whether because of genuine panic or simply discomfort the starched bow tie pressing against his Adam’s apple creates is undetermined. “Dave,” he rasps. “You’re talking about…the Golden List.”

The group gasps as one, but Dave is undeterred. He holds up a perfectly manicured hand, mostly to flash the sweet 1986 Casio calculator watch he found at a yardsale that sometimes even works, and the group stills. “Yes.”

The one word gets the hipsters riled enough to forget their corporate catchphrases. “That’s fucking nuts!” someone shouts. “It’s a pipe dream, Dave!” says another.

“This is it,” Dave shouts above the din of the crowd. Everyone settles back down. “I said it in January and I meant it. This is OUR year. We’re not leaving this office until we finally do it. I want everyone to network and give each other input and no one is leaving until we come away with the Golden List.”

Stanley hitches up his high waisted acid washed jeans he’s totally wearing ironically, duh, and takes a deep breath. “You do know that’s the top, right? That’s the pinnacle. If we create the world’s most comprehensive list, it’s all downhill from there. We’ll never be able to beat it.”

Dave removes the annoying empty frames, stares long and hard at his expectant hispt-herd, and finally utters, “Then we go out in a blaze of glory, my friends. Who’s with me?”

50 cars. 80 breakfasts. 101 life hacks… I tried to do a Google search for “longest compilation lists,” “longest year end wrap up lists,” and “longest dumb lists of shit that happened in 2015,” but I simply confused the Google Overlords. They still think I want a list of armed conflicts near large rivers. Should make my autofill even more interesting next time.

Things happened this year. More things did not. We were great at realizing problems, but really shitty at fixing them. We’ve got to work on that in 2016. We’ve had some deaths, some more personal than others, and some births. Folks set records, smashed records, invented records, and some even recorded records, though they won’t just call them “records” anymore and that’s super annoying. There was a lot to 2015.

I look back on the news, the media, the trends and stories and pop culture ebbs and flows. What do I want to talk about in terms of the year we’re leaving behind? I have spent the year blogging. I got most of it out of my system when it happened. Something grabbed my attention, I hopped on and “Mornin’ all-ed”, and walked away feeling lighter and freer. I generally don’t need to recap, since it’s all archived and anyone is free to look back on their own if they want.

However, there is something nagging me that I need to get off my chest before I can move forward. Somehow I missed the news when it came out, and then it became awkward to talk about apropos of nothing. But that’s what year end round ups are for, right? It’s a time to have one last chance to air your grievances before you close the calendar, throw it away, and start fresh.

With that in mind, here’s Bethie’s Huge Annoyance of 2015. I’m not even going to try and compete for the Golden List award. It’s really simple. Just one thing.

This:

hoverboard

THIS IS NOT A HOVERBOARD!!! It doesn’t hover. It doesn’t even come CLOSE to hovering. It’s on GODDAMN WHEELS for crying out loud. It’s AT BEST a crooked skateboard. It’s not innovative. It’s not the “future”. It’s just a board with spinny wheels on it. WHEELS. No hovering capabilities whatsoever. The emperor is naked and it’s time someone stood up and said something.

STOP CALLING IT A FUCKING HOVERBOARD!!!!! GAAAHHH!!!!

*exhausted panting* *deep breath* *slicks back crazy wayward lock of hair* *clears throat*

There. NOW I’m ready for 2016.

Thus concludes the last Musing for 2015. I say this every year, and every year some dope ignores the good advice. If you want to usher in 2016 by getting utterly shit faced, cheers! Now, grab a couch. A floor. Be the huddled mass in the bathtub moaning all night. Whatever you do, DON’T DRIVE AFTER YOU DRINK!! Any is too many. I hope everyone gets to wake up tomorrow morning with a headache, cotton mouth, and a nagging suspicion that the lampshade and goat weren’t actually a dream…

Why all the anger, brah?

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Mornin’ all.

My cat is running around the house carrying with her a “plastic bag of invisibility.”

Look, cats are weird. We all know that. Mine seems to believe that all plastic bags have mystical powers. She honestly seems to think we can’t see her when she sticks her head under one. If she’s playing the chase game with the kids, she’ll use a bag the same way we used the couch during a rainy day of indoor tag when we were young. Bag is safety. Can’t be tagged “it” when she’s touching the bag.

Sometimes when there’s no one to play with and she’s feeling kitten-y, she’ll take her bag with her from room to room and try and start shit.

I haven’t had enough coffee for shit to be started, and I am the only one awake. Sorry, kitty.

I went shopping yesterday. At a dollar store. The day before Christmas Eve. What an odd experience. I have been to dollar stores often enough that I don’t really know why I would have expected otherwise. A lady had a problem with my hair.

“Huh?”

Yeah, that’s about the only acceptable reaction. She got mad when I didn’t respond how she wanted and went off to the cashier about my hair. *shrug* Dunno.

A dude was trying on socks.

Socks.

Right in the aisle of the dollar store, he took off his own shoe and sock and tried on the dollar socks. I don’t have any idea why someone would do this. First, they’re socks. Who tries on socks? And then there’s the price point. It’s a buck. For a three pack. Was he testing quality? Because if that was his goal, then no matter how well they fit, he was going to be sorely disappointed.

My cashier was a very nice and polite woman with tragically unfortunate make up.

I don’t wear make up. Every time I tried to use it, it stuck to my face, which was entirely unpleasant. I’m told that is the entire point of make up, so I guess we were never really destined to get along. Also, I hate that women are expected to dip themselves in lacquer every day while men get to actually use their own faces.

I’m just saying that I might not have the strongest grasp of beauty product application. However, my cashier used a foundation that was probably five shades too dark for her skin. It was a reverse Geisha look, and it was somehow far creepier. Her hair was on point, though. Wicked fancy style with curls in and updo that looked so out of place on a dollar store cashier that I kind of wanted to high five her for it.

The cashier in the register behind me told Crazy Hair Lady, “Happy Holidays.” That earned a death glare. The woman snatched her bags, threw them in the cart, and sniped, “It’s ‘Merry Christmas’!”

“Uh oh, Bethie. I know that tone of voice…”

That sentiment is also splashed across Ye Olde Booke of Faces today. I’ve got to be honest.

“No. No, you don’t.”

I have seen this over and over and over, and it really pisses me off when people…

“Bethie no! Not today of all days! Don’t try and stir the pot on Christmas Eve!”

…complain about the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”

“…shit. *sigh* I tried to warn you.”

You did, and I’m sure my detractors will take note and not hold you responsible. Now, sit back down. I’m just getting started.

“Happy Holidays.” Why does one little term get people so angry?

In this nation, we tend to have a really difficult time understanding that we are not the absolute. We’re really very bad at looking at our country as part of a bigger picture. I’m not knocking us. I’m actually pretty sure that the folks in every nation feel the same. Hell, we’re probably even hardwired to, when you get right down to it. On a purely scientific level, our ancestors would have had to believe that they were the most important in order to have the drive to keep their cave families alive.

I don’t fault us for it. But now that we have the internet with its instant access to the lives and living rooms of the rest of the world, we’ve got to start opening our eyes. We’re NOT the shit. No single group of people is. Everyone is different and that’s not only okay in societal terms, it’s necessary for the overall health of our species.

So for the good of humanity itself, let’s take a look at some Christmas facts.

The holiday we call “Christmas” here in the United States has, overall, very little to do with Christmas. The first Christmases were deeply religious. We’re not talking like a couple years for the holiday to catch on. We’re talking CENTURIES of strictly religious Christmases. There were no bells and whistles. No wreaths and happy carols. Unfortunately for the monks, no tasty cakes and cookies, and definitely, absolutely, positively no gifts.

From a theological standpoint, Christmas is supposed to be a “celebration”…of the soul. It’s supposed to be a time to reflect on God giving his child to the world for eternal spiritual salvation. In fact, the early centuries of Christmas observations were times for deep praying and fasting, not singing and feasting.

Over the years, the holiday slowly changed. As the Christian crusaders started to spread across the globe, they adapted and, in some cases, flat out adopted local customs into their own religion. Caroling, a tradition that dates back to the Romans who sang at every public event, not just religious ones, was started in the fourth century by monks. They sang dirges. In Latin. The point was to remind people of the somberness of the day.

How fun.

Actually, I bet locals felt about the same for those carolers as we do today. “Oh shit, Igor. It’s those monks singing in a language we don’t understand trying to make us feel guilty for eating our gruel.” “Blow out the candle, Olga, and maybe they’ll go away.”

Boughs of evergreens came into the scene when the Christians spread north. In all fairness, the early Christian crusaders probably realized hanging evergreen boughs in a closed up winter keep was a most excellent idea. They took the stank off the joint. I mean, back in those days, all food scraps were thrown on hay rushes on the floor to be either eaten or ignored by the dogs. And then left to rot. Until SPRING. I’m guessing the early Christian crusaders said, “I believe thy Lord has spoken unto me, and he hath conceded yon evil pagans mighteth be onto something,” as they pinched their noses in their own smelly homes.

The happiness and joy of the holiday didn’t come until people, most famously Saint Nicholas, began to give the child laborers a little extra pick-me-up in homage to the gift God gave to the world. He was actually a real person who stuffed things in stockings for local children to make their lives a little brighter. I mean, the kids still had to get back to scrubbing out chimneys and carrying coal and falling in wells and shit, but at least they got an orange first.

Oddly, ol’ St. Nicky there wasn’t the only one who decided to stuff gifts in footwear. I guess since they didn’t have cardboard or tupperware, options were limited. Still…foot fetish much? Anyway, Scandinavian children used to put offerings in their shoes and leave them outside for Odin’s horse, and Odin would be happy and leave them candy in trade.

Gift-giving itself wasn’t a Christmas tradition, either, until it was borrowed from other religions.

“Uh uh uh. Nope. Sorry, but I’ve got you there, Bethie. The Three Wise Men. BOOM.”

Hang on. Don’t drop that mic just yet.

The wise men gave the gifts TO Jesus, and Jesus only. Not to each other. Not to the animals laying around. They didn’t even bring Mary a little something for her effort of giving birth in a damn barn. Not even a sampler of chocolate or a “World’s Best Mom” balloon or anything. Bad form, Wise Men.

Exchanging gifts between human beings at Christmas is another borrowing from pagans, with strong historical evidence suggesting it’s directly from a tradition for the pagan celebration of Saturnalia. Again, the evergreen boughs totally made sense to the new religious pioneers trying to convert pagans to Christianity, and so did gift-giving when the crusaders thought about it.

Gift-giving between human beings on Earth was a far more demonstrative way of honoring the gift of the man they considered to be their savior. It was a physical way to show their understanding of the holiday, and one even those who had no fucking clue what they were talking about in Latin could understand. “I’m giving you a gift like God gave our people Jesus. I won’t take the gift away. It will always be yours no matter what. God and Jesus? Ditto.”

When you think about it, gift-giving on Christmas became a very effective way for crusaders to show the locals what the holiday was all about in a very succinct nutshell. It was pretty much the best way to explain everything they meant in terms everyone could understand. I mean, sure, they could have impregnated a virgin, but even in those times, that was considered tres declasse.

“BETHIE!!!”

…hm…*strokes beard*…*nods slowly*…Yeah, now I see it. A step too far there. Sorry.

“*haughty sniff* So you’re just against Christmas.”

No! Not at all.

I might not be a religious sort, but I was raised in a Christian household. The holiday season was always filled with magic and happiness, and I love Christmas for those memories and my personal family traditions. I love the lessons taught through giving. I love the idea of salvation, personal or spiritual or other. I love the trees and the lights and the songs and the hope. All of these things are messages that I have decided to borrow from Christians, because I think they DO pertain to my life, and I believe my life is better when I stop and take a few moments in an otherwise dark and dreary season to enjoy and appreciate those messages.

The difference is, when I borrow, I’m not going to forget where those traditions started. I’m just not going to pretend that all the traditional “Christmas” stuff we do wasn’t taken from other religions, and then completely ignore that those other religions exist.

There are over a dozen major religious holidays that followers of other religions celebrate around this time of year.

“Yeah, but those are small religions. There are tons of Christians in the world.”

2.2 billion, actually. 2.2 billion people truly celebrate Christmas, not just posers like me who did it for the modern meaning more than the actual religious observance. That seems like a lot of friggin’ people!

…until you realize that nearly 5 billion people do NOT celebrate Christmas. And though I’ll be the first to admit my relationship with math is almost as non-existent as my relationship with make up, I get that 2.2 is less than half of 5.

If you are one of those people who gets angry at “Happy Holidays,” you’ve got some serious thinking to do now. I’ve told you the facts. You’ve read them. They cannot be unseen or unknown. At this point, it’s up to you. You can now go one of two ways.

You can realize and accept that not only are you a minority, but your Christmas is actually based on a wonderful amalgamation from many different religions, get okay with that, and start wishing them a happy season anyway…

Or you can ignore all the facts, and keep getting angry and “correcting” people who say “Happy Holidays.” The choice is yours, but I have to be honest. If you go with the latter, you’re going to sound like a dick.

Don’t be a dick. It’s almost Christmas.

Thus concludes a long-winded Holiday Musing for Christmas Eve, 2015. To everyone who celebrates Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful holiday tomorrow! For those who celebrate other holidays, I hope you have a wonderful holiday as well! For those who don’t celebrate anything, I hope you realize you’re alive and reading this and that alone is worthy of celebration. And to everyone, Happy Holidays, whatever those may be!

The best gifts to never give…

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Mornin’ all.

Boy did I have shit dreams last night. Not scary. Just…haunting. People from the past showing up just to remind me they’re gone. I hate those nights. I’d rather wake up with my heart racing convinced that the Tallicat that’s taunted me since first grade has finally manifested than dream about people I miss.

I can shake off the heebie jeebies of a scary dream. I can shine a flashlight under my bed and remind myself I’m a 37 year old woman, for fuck’s sake, and of COURSE nothing is going to bite my feet because I chopped off its tallipole. Honestly sometimes I am such a baby. But, I get over those. Might wear an extra pair of socks and tuck my feet up under me when I sit on the couch juuuuust to be sure, but I can work past a creepy nightmare.

I can’t, however, unmiss people.

Hang on a sec. There’s a James Taylor situation happening on the radio I must take care of.

Yikes. The very last thing I need this morning is James Taylor whining about Christmas.

Speaking of…

You know, sometimes things happen in life that make you think, “Hm. Maybe someone really IS looking out for me.” I woke up in my melancholic mood and fixed my coffee…

*WARNING: This batch of coffee is not FDA approved. Consume at your own risk.*

…then loaded up the old distraction machine and immediately found an article MSN linked from Allure that turned my melancholy into incredulous exasperation.

Actually, the FIRST article I read was about that blow hard Warren Sapp claiming he has “proof” of Patriots cheating because one time in the early 2000s, his team was playing against the Pats and they were leading before halftime and ended up losing the game.

Because, you know, that’s never, ever happened before. My god it’s unheard of. Everyone knows the first team to score always wins the game and…

“*achem* Bethie?”

Yeah?

“You’re doing that sports thing again. I thought we had a deal?”

…oh. Right. Heh. Sorry. I just can’t believe the tiny, steroid-shriveled balls of some guys, ya know?

Because Christmas is right around the corner, Allure…magazine? Is it a magazine? Are magazines even still things? Well, whatever Allure is, they published a list. You know I love me a good list. I love me a BAD list even more. And this one, this one’s a doozy.

18 Gift Ideas For the Girl Who Has Everything

I would expect that a site/magazine/sad-collection-of-usurped-middle-aged-women-who-used-to-OWN-the-newsstand with a name like “Allure” would be for women, not girls. But maybe they’re going for the 30-year-olds who desperately try to convince themselves that 30 is the new 20? I just don’t know, and that means I’m already sold.

1. Hermes Double Tour Apple Watch: $1250

So the girl who has everything wants a watch that costs as much as 357 gallons of milk!?

…what? You have your ways of assessing value, I have mine.

Sorry, Allure, but I have a hard time believing that someone who could afford a twelve hundred dollar watch is reading your e-zine for gift ideas.

2. By Kilian Scented Paperweight

No, there’s no trick. No hidden agenda. It is literally a scented paperweight. A designer… scented… paperweight. Why would you give someone a smelly desk rock for the holidays? Because it’s FRENCH, that’s why. It comes in four different flavors, too, so no worries if someone else also gets her one. And at only $155 each, she can collect them all. Like Pokemon. Sad, smelly Pokemon.

3. Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Holiday 2015 Collection

Now, I know you have absolute no idea whatsoever what this might be without a photo. I could literally tell you it’s anything and you’d have no choice but to believe me. I’ll let you in on the secret, though. This is the description. “Strung on a gunmetal chain, the three creamy bullets of Rough Louboutin (in satin, matte, and sheer finishes) are gorgeous anywhere you put them…”

That didn’t really clear it up, did it? Okay. Here I go risking copyright violation for you.

louboutinnecklace

So, uh…thoughts?

*crickets*

No one’s going to chime in? You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you? *sigh* Okay. I’ll do it. I’ll say what we’re all thinking. They look like butt plugs. Sorry, but there’s no escaping it. Louboutin metal butt plug necklace. Let everyone know your kink. You know, in a classy way. Only $270 to make your coworkers never look at you the same way again.

4. Amazon Echo

I had to look this on up separately because the description went on and on about Siri and how the Echo is not that. It’s an oil filter-looking thing that does everything your smartphone does…except make calls. Or take pictures. Or video. And it’s not supposed to be very portable, more like sit on your desk next to your scented paperweight collection.

Oh, wait! Duh. I just thought of an actual use for the Echo! Unless you want her papers to smell like one of four designer eaus?

You do?

Then I don’t know. Pay $179.99 for Echo and see if she can find a use for it. And if she can’t, oh well. She’s already got everything anyway. What the hell is she bitching about? Honestly, what a twat.

5. Shu Uemura X Maison Kitsune Curious Eye-Catching Premium Make-up Box

No, I didn’t stroke out there. That’s the name of it. About the only clear part of the description is the “curious” bit. It’s a white make-up case that has little dresses, croissants, coffee cups, tea pots, nun habits (? I think?) and pretzels in circles which I think are supposed to be crowns on it. Like dotted all over. Like the girl you’re shopping for is five.

And maybe she is? I mean, clearly an e-rag that calls itself “Allure” is catering to the sub-kindergarten crowd. Gotta get those little girls into make-up and perfume early, you know. And at the bargain basement price of only $400, the little girl in your life that has everything can feel free to decorate the outside of this case all she wants!

…no, really. She should. Maybe give her a set of markers, too.

6. Underclub Subscription

“Bethie, what’s Underclub?”

I’m so very, very glad you asked. It’s a subscription underwear service.

I’m serious. You sign up for $228/year and the company will send the gift recipient monthly panties. Lace thongs are the ones pictured in the ad, but I’m sure you could find all kinds.

The description says, “Giving underwear as a gift can be a little awkward.”

THEN DON’T DO IT. Honestly, NO one wants you to get them a panty subscription. It’s just not a thing any girl or woman wants. They don’t want panties as a gift from their family, they don’t want their best girl friend to buy them skivvies… Hell, guys, let me enlighten you on your lady wanting to get some lacy unders from you… SHE DOESN’T. If you ever, EVER considered getting a woman underwear as a gift, it’s because YOU are the one that wants to know she is wearing them.

Pick literally ANYTHING else. Anything in the world. Go to a corner gas station, close your eyes, spin around, and take the first thing your hand lands on. I guarantee that will be a far better gift than undies.

7. Acqua Di Parma Benzoino Candle

It’s a $172 candle in a striped glass that looks like Mr. Benzoino picked up in bulk from the local dollar store. But it’s “spicy-green” scented and “almost too precious to light,” so, you know, totally worth $172. Better stock up before they’re sold out.

8. Artis Elite Mirror White Velvet Brush Set

It’s a set of silver and white velvet make-up brushes. The blurb says, “These tools, with the bristles perpendicular to the handle, get fingers, hands, and handles out of the way…” I’ll admit, I’m not too clear on how you use them. Or why they’re white velvet if you’re supposed to use them for makeup application. Or why you need to buy the brushes for $160, and then also by the $180 stand.

But I’m not a make-up person, so what do I know about common sense?

On the plus, they’re “100% cruelty free.” It’s about time a major cosmetics company takes a stand against forcing mice and rabbits to try and use non-perpendicular eye shadow brushes. Their paws are so little. It’s just mean.

9. Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Kiss&Love Edition

I guess we needed one more designer WTF.

Hey, I just thought of something. We can turn this into a game! Okay, so I just told you the product name. You get three tries to guess what the hell it is! Fun! Go for it.

“…I can’t even. I literally have no damn clue.”

…fair enough. It’s concealer. More make-up. Though I guarantee that if you tell someone their face is jacked as shit and needs serious concealing, this make-up will NOT be 100% cruelty free.

You’ve been warned. Spend $42 to crush your friends’ soul at your own peril.

10. Sage&Rowe Shave Club

Another subscription service, this one for shaving supplies. I suppose you can’t get your best buddy fancy thongs if she’s going to be all Sasquatchy down there. And really, is another $31/month really too much to pay to give your hairy friend with the jacked up face and butt plug fetish a little confidence boost?

11. Avion Reserva 44 With Custom Etching

Oh yeah. Now we’re talking! You might not be able to tell from the bourgeois name, but this is actually just really top shelf tequila. It’s $170/bottle top shelf-y, but come on. Your friend is clearly a hot mess and could use a night away from herself.

…unless this article really IS trying to give you gift suggestions for a girl and not a woman. In which case, no. Do not. That’s child abuse.

12. Amika Movos Wireless Styler

Phew, another beauty product! I was worried with the tequila suggestion that this article was losing sight of the overall message. Glad to see we’re back on track with a gift to make the girl spend hours every day desperately chasing an impossible ideal.

It’s a wireless hair styler. They call it a “snazzy flat iron”. I don’t know if I’d have gone with “snazzy” there. “Snazzy” makes me think of something fun. Flat irons are not fun. Especially not $150 ones. I suppose if you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, this wouldn’t be the worst suggestion on the list.

I mean, you’re reading Allure for gift ideas. I think it’s safe to say you’re desperate.

Look, brah, I’ll make it easy for you. If you’re trying to choose between unreasonably hyped-up flat irons or smelly desk rocks, I suppose you should go for the flat iron. Maybe she could use it for crafts or something.

13. Rebecca Minkoff Lightning Cable Bracelet

It’s a gold plated bracelet that’s secretly a USB plug and charger. I’m going to give them this one. It’s actually pretty damn cool. Ugly, but their heart was at least in the right place. It’s only $58. While that seems like a lot, let’s put it into the context of this article. A smelly rock costs nearly three times as much to just sit on a desk and collect dust. At least this is useful.

14. Clarisonic Keith Haring Collection

So you got your buddy the concealer and the make-up brushes to hide her hag face, but all that beauty plaster has to come off at some point. You could get her a jackhammer, but those tend to be a little unwieldy. She already takes up the counter space in her bathroom with all the products it takes to hide her hideousness, and her boyfriend’s getting a bit annoyed. Get her this electric scrubber instead! With all the power of a commercial floor stripping machine in tiny, hand held form, it’s the perfect tool for facial excavation. If you’re not sold yet, wait until you see the confusing 90’s retro hammer pant print designs. You won’t be able to get the $149 out of your wallet fast enough.

15. Soulcycle Shoes

Say, remember how ugly and hairy your friend is? Did you ever stop and realize how FAT she is, too? Maybe what she needs is to work out. I know! She can take a “spin class.”

In that case, your friend is definitely going to need these “spin” specific shoes. The company, SoulCycle “has finally launched Soul-branded spin shoes.” It’s happened! I can stop holding my breath!

The description is not clear what will happen if you try to use them when you’re NOT on a “spin” bike. I’m kind of getting an undertone of Cinderella at midnight, but that could just be me reading between the lines. I didn’t want you to go into this gift before you knew it was a definite possibility, so, you know. Be careful. $150 to keep your best girl pal in a constant state of self-loathing.

16. By Terry Baume De Rose Trip Deluxe

$339 lip balm. Not even lipstick that looks pretty. Just balm. It’s got “ceramides” in it. Oooh. And rose-flower essential wax. Ahhhh. And shea butter, because they ran out of exotic sounding shit to cram in there. That’s…nice.

Hey, don’t judge them. They had to think of THREE things. It’s not like you’re buying just one. There are limited things in this world you can put in lip balm. Are they supposed to magically know ALL of them?? What do you want from them, HUH? Blood?

“…do you think that’s what ceramides are?”

Hm. Now there’s something to ponder, eh?

17. Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb Fireworks Limited Edition Bottle

“You can never go wrong giving Flowerbomb as a gift.” Boy, if I had a dime for every time I’ve said that! Amiright?

“Laced with jasmine, orchid, and patchouli…” Sounds…uh…hm. I mean, I suppose it could… Well, everyone perceives smell differently, and… Uh. Some people enjoy smelling like a dorm room?

*sigh* Look, I’mma cut to the chase. It’s a pretty bottle. Just pay the $120 and buy the pretty bottle so the stinky desk rock can have some dust-collecting company, okay? Gawd. Why you gotta make this so complicated? Shit.

18. Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer

This is perhaps the one and only decent idea in the entire list aside from the USB bracelet. It’s a mini printer you hook up to your smartphone (no, sorry, not the Echo…your buddy can cross yet another thing off the Potential Uses for an Echo list) that will print your photos. Simple. Easy. Like a Polaroid. It’s $179, which is steep, but it’s the only thing on the list that won’t make her hate herself. Or you.

But what do I know? Maybe you read this list and thought, “Gee, I’ve always thought Marge’s nethers must be bushy and ill clad, and now I have the perfect gift idea!” Maybe Allure really does have a demographic, one that lives in an alternate dimension I just can’t comprehend? Maybe I’m just the odd duck in the gift-giving world and these ideas are actually pretty sweet?

If that’s the case, I’m going to apologize right now to my friends and family. If you were hoping for lip balm made from the creamed blood of your enemies, you’ll have to cross your fingers and hope that Santa pulls through. I’m just planning on making you cookies and fudge like the boring, unimaginative dope I am.

Sorry.

Thus concludes a snarktastic Musing for Saturday, December 5, 2015. I’m off to try hard not to think of how many people are actually going to buy their loved ones underwear subscriptions this year… I suggest you do the same.

When life gives you lemons, play video games.

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Mornin’ all.

“Ooooh, look who decided to grace us with her presence.”

…*sigh* Okay, okay. I earned that. It’s been an incommunicado week. I wasn’t shunning you. I was simply busy with car repairs and gaming. My asshole car continues to be an asshole. It’s currently in cahoots with a wiring gremlin. It’s giving the bastard sanctuary and tracking down a problem that could literally be in any single hot wire in the entire car is turning me gray before my time.

…er…gray-ER.

Thank god the car crap was tempered by awesome Teen Prime being awesome. He got me Fallout 4 for Christmas…and didn’t even make me wait to play it!!!

Raised that one right, folks. *sniff*

So Fallout 4, probably one of the most anticipated games to come down the pike in a long time. Teen Prime got it for me on the PS4. I’m told the PC version is smooth as butter, though I have serious doubts about that one. I think it’s more likely that people can easily patch the PC game if they’ve got an issue, whereas you’re at the mercy of the developers for updates on the consoles. I have a very hard time believing that all the bugs I’m getting aren’t also an issue on the PC.

How buggy? Dialogue skips. Those seem to happen a lot and suddenly I’m supposed to answer a question the NPC never actually asked. There are consequences for the answers you give, too, so knowing what I’m saying would probably help. In one area of the part of the map I’ve explored, I can’t shoot two of my weapons unless I draw the enemy back into a different corridor.

And top tip for anyone else playing on the PS4…save frequently. Crashes, man. *sigh* Crashes.

Oh, but don’t think your “quicksave” will be good. That’s a feel good gauge at best.

“Sounds like the game’s a real dud.”

Not at all! Not to me, anyway. Look, this game is huge. Absolutely MASSIVE. The game is so expansive with so many different things to do that I’ve already put in a full-time-job level of commitment and still have not started the second major quest in the story line. I love a game that lets me roam free and fart around.

But something that size is going to have its issues. Does that make the game unplayable? No. Does it really make it less enjoyable? To me, not really, but I’ve got an odd sense of humor. I love glitches. They spice up digital life. And when you get right down to it, it’s a game. It’s just a game. Does it really make it worse if you’re laughing your ass off at an NPC suddenly appearing on your shoulders for absolutely no discernible reason? No. It makes it SO much better.

So far, I’m going with a 4.7/5.00 rating. We’ll see if that changes over time.

Okay, that’s enough of a book report. I guess I should try out Real Life for a little bit, eh?

“US to Target ISIS Leader”

Um…like…shouldn’t we have been doing that all along?

I mean, for real. Either this really is a new plan, which I seriously doubt, or we’re just putting it in the paper to scare the dude, which is ALSO really stupid. Anyone reading it really should be like, “We already knew that…”

C’mon, CIA. THIS is the best propaganda you’ve got right now? Those budget cuts must have hit harder than we thought. Someone get the CIA enough funding to hire a better sociolinguist immediately. If I’m going to be brainwashed, I’d at least like a little effort put into it. Stop half-assing it, CIA.

*Author’s note: Welp, if that doesn’t get me flagged, I don’t know what will!*

Let’s look at some other news.

“14 Dead in California Mass Shooting”

My heart goes out to the families that are suffering such a loss. Anything else I could possibly say would piss at least one of you off. I don’t want to piss anyone off. I want everyone to feel sad that 14 more people were murdered. It’s getting harder and harder to feel sad about it though, isn’t it? It’s becoming numbers. People are becoming numbers.

That’s a problem.

“Stone Temple Pilots Singer Scott Weiland Dead at 48”

That’s going to get more honest tears than the story above. I’m not dissin’ Scott or his memory. He made some damn fine songs that weave themselves through my teenage memories and it’s too bad he went so young.

Maybe one of these mass shootings will have to happen to a famous person before something’s actually done?

THIS IS NOT AT ALL A THREAT TO ANYONE. I just want to make it clear that I am NOT calling for or in any way planning anything against any famous person. I don’t want ANY people murdered! I’m just saying, the way our society is going these days, I just don’t know what it’s going to take for people to actually get off their asses and DO something about the problem.

“Day After San Bernadino, Republicans Line Up to Crush Gun Control”

Of fucking course they did. Because ANY reasonable compromise that might actually help make it harder for crack pots to get their hands on mass murder machines is just utterly insane.

…oops. Guess I forgot the “not pissing you off” promise. Not sorry. Needed sayin’.

Let’s see if we can find something in real life that’s less contentious to discuss.

“Nielsen: Smartphones and the Internet Are Eating Our TV Time”

This one is interesting. Nielsen is basically an information marketing company. You younger ones might not have heard of a “Nielsen family,” but before the internet, it was the only way that tv stations could track the popularity of their shows. A box was installed in randomly selected homes to track what tv shows the viewers were into. For decades, the Nielsen numbers were almost solely responsible for deciding which shows continued and which were cancelled.

Oh, I know it’s more involved than that. I was nutshelling it.

Now, they’re getting pissy. The internet is killin’ their buzz in a lot of ways. Their services are becoming less relevant across the board. It’s interesting if you’re at all into the business side of television.

“I’m not.”

…*blink**blink*…okay then. Uh…moving on.

“New Form of Carbon Is Harder Than Diamonds, and Glows”

Screw diamonds. I want a ring made out of THIS!

“Fallout 4 Superfan Creates 3D Printed Mini Nuke”

Aw shit. I want that, too!

“A Surprisingly Small Team Created 2015 Game of the Year”

Wanna guess what game?

“Fallout 4 Sales Shatter Records”

BOOM suck it Call of Duty!! Told you it was highly anticipated.

“How to Make Your XBox One Faster (And Make Fallout 4 Better)”

Pfft. Who’s playing on the XBox One?! Newbs. That’s who. I tell ya…

“…uh, Bethie?”

Yeah?

“I’m sensing a theme in your news viewing.”

Hey. I gave the Real Life thing a try. Aside from glowing diamonds, it pretty much sucks right now.

“How Accurate is Fallout 4 to Boston and Boston’s History?”

I don’t write the news. Is it really my fault if the Fates keep leading me down a particular path?

“Fallout 4 Player Accidentally Falls into Sea, Finds Mysterious Structure”

WHAT!?!?!!! Uh, sorry, but, uh, something just came up and I…just…uh…bye!

*empty computer chair spins*

*papers flutter to the ground from the whirlwind*

*you awkwardly sit there, staring at the cat and wondering if you should show yourself out*

Thus concludes a quick Musing for Friday, December 4, 2015. I’d pen a closing quip, but it’s hard to type with one hand on the controller. You understand.

Do you think the junkyard will let me play Taps when they crush it?

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1 Effective Way to Say Hello

Mornin’ all.

I was just trying to look through the news, and it hit me that even mainstream, “serious” news sites are now clickbaiting with numbers.

10 Times the IS was More Terrifying Than Hitler

14 Ways Hillary’s Policy Changes Could Affect Everyday Life

5 Reasons You Need to Pay Attention to the Refugee Crisis

Gah. Is this really what we’re becoming?

…and is it a bad thing?

3 Important Points to Ponder While You Drink Your Coffee

1) Humans are lazy. We are extraordinarily lazy. In the animal world, we take the cake. It’s this laziness that makes us evolve. There is a constant push, our only true innate drive, to be creative and think outside the box for the sole purpose of coming up with new solutions to get our asses out of as much work as possible.

The sharpened stick was invented because killing dinner with a dull thud of an unsharpened stick was slower than killing it with a pointy stabby stab.

The wheel was invented because Caveman Ugh was sick of busting his caveballs trying to tug and pull and lug that stabbed dinner back to the cave.

Horses were tamed to do all sorts of neat things that allowed our ancestors to sit back and let someone else do the work.

…and on and on and on. Every invention we’ve come up with has been designed with one purpose: Make life for humanity easier.

Is it any wonder, then, that the news would eventually be presented in bullet point format? It’s quick, it’s efficient, and it speaks to the deep laziness in all of us.

2) News sites are lazy. Dude, it is SO much easier to make a list than it is to sit down and write a coherent article. Plus, in a bullet point style presentation, things like grammar and syntax are apparently unnecessary.

3) Reading a condensed list makes you feel smarter faster. I don’t know if the PuffHo really put much thought into this trend it widely started. I’m sure bullet pointing the news started out as a way to save space and time. I highly doubt they ever really put much thought into the psychology. However, they stumbled on a real way to make people feel more confident and sure of not only the facts of a situation, but their overall retention of knowledge afterwards.

It’s an unintentionally brilliant way to make people keep going back to their website, I’ll give them that. I’d much rather keep reading news on a site that makes me walk away feeling like I learned something, even if I didn’t really learn a damned thing.

Which leads me to…

3 Ways Bullet Point Reporting is Ruining the News

1) Bullet point news would work well if the information presented was accurate…

2)…and well written. There is no need to forgo grammar, spelling, and proper framing of a coherent thought simply because there is a number in front of the sentence. Gah. This is dumbing us down. This aspect of this style of clickbait reporting is making the average person feel smarter by making them dumber. And it’s all because…

3) HUMANS ARE LAZY. Modern reporters are lazy. Modern editors are lazy. And all this laziness sucks because people have been programmed by clickbait “journalism” to expect yet another fun filled list of anti-facts NOW NOW NOW. It’s too much work to be fast, efficient, AND accurate. Jeez. What do you want from reporters? It’s almost as if you expect accurate, reliable, dependable summations of important events that could have an impact on the world around you. Pipe dream much?

I think it’s going to stay around for awhile, so I suppose we best get used to it. Life swings on a pendulum, though. There will come a time in the not-so-distant-future when post modern hipsters will find the old style of reporting the news through well-researched, carefully crafted essays just the bees knees. It’s a cycle. We just have to wait until the pendulum swings the other way.

Until then, I suppose we must embrace it. Here goes.

1 Thing That Epically Sucked in the House of Bethie This Week

Muh car died.

The first one that I really lead the resurrection team to bring back to life. *sniff*

Here’s the sad tale of woe. The Mr. took Soppy to work.

(Er, that was the car. We named her the Sopwith Llama. A Sopwith Camel was an old timey fighter plane before new fangled fighter jets flew onto the scene. But, the kids like llamas, soooo…)

He called me from his business of employ to tell me that “Sop’s acting weird.” We hoped it was a momentary lapse in functionality, or that she was just feeling annoyed.

“Uh, Bethie. I hate to interrupt…”

Liar.

“…but, it’s just a car. It can’t feel anything.”

Yes. Yes it can. And anyone out there who doesn’t think that cars have moods, including temper tantrums and hissy fits, simply hasn’t been paying attention to their car. Shame on you. Go out and sit in your car and apologize for ignoring it all this time before it proves me right. It helps if you rub the dashboard, but don’t take it too far. Don’t make it weird, bro.

Anyway, my guy came home late. That was probably the only reason he made it home at all. There was a distinct lack of traffic and, for the most part, he had one clear last run with Soppy. Before he left work, he checked the fluids and the oil. Everything looked good under the hood. Proper fluid and oil levels. So he wished on a star and headed home.

He got within a couple miles of our house and “running rough” turned into her dumping all her coolant into the oil and seizing just as she pulled into our drive.

As far as close calls go, it doesn’t get any closer than that.

Soppy didn’t go quietly. The tail lights were upgraded LEDs that were insanely bright, a modification we did because it was a black car that was driven largely at night, and the Mr. was sick of drunk rednecks riding his bumper. She also began to belch huge plumes of thick, white smoke of doom. The bright taillights caught in the billowing clouds like Soppy was spewing forth the fires of hell itself. The Mr. told me that when he looked in his rear view, all he could see was a fiery wall of clouds.

Man I wish I was there to see it!

What we had was catastrophic parts failure. The head gasket went all at once. At that point, there was no saving her.

Oh, I know we could have (and still technically could) take her to a shop and have them completely go through it cleaning out the cappuccino colored oil/coolant from the engine block, retool the head, and replace all the gaskets. Or, we could buy a crate engine to drop in. However, it’s not worth it. I love that car, but there comes a point when the cost exceeds the value.

She’s done for. And today I must strip the parts to sell. I must rob the grave of my beloved beastie. As difficult as it is, I know it’s for the best. Through organ donation, Soppy can live on.

*hats off in a moment of silence for the brave and noble sacrifice of my Sopwith Llama*

*clears throat* *wipes tear*

Yes. Well. Moving on.

We picked up a cheapie from craigslist yesterday. Boy, I don’t know what folks did before craigslist when their cars shit the bed. The Mr. got his automotive shake-up at about ten on Thursday night. By eight Friday morning, I had already made arrangements to go see a $500 hoopdie that’ll get us through until we can really find a good replacement.

It’s a VW wagon. It needs stuff. It comes with most of the stuff it needs. The guy selling it was in the middle of repairs when a buddy offered him a Jeep that he really wanted. Nice guy…he threw in all the parts, including a new hood, for free. The engine has high miles but sounds so quiet that my guy kept thinking he stalled it…always a good sign.

Today, my tinkering cohort (our youngest) is going to help me strip parts from Sop, then pep a few things up on the newbie. I think the hubby is leaning toward the name Hobbes for the VW. Why Hobbes? We had a $400 Neon once that lasted us THREE YEARS that we named Calvin, and after the 45 minute drive home yesterday, he got out and said, “Boy does that remind me of Calvin!”

Of course, you can’t call two cars the same thing. And if you do “the second” or “junior”, the auto is instantly insulted. Rightfully so!

The only thing that’s giving him pause about the new moniker is that he feels the VW is female. I asked him why he must saddle the name “Hobbes” with gender constraints. He gave me a *blink**blink*. Heh. I love it when he has no response.

Sop gets dissected today, and Maybe-Hobbes gets spruced up. It seems a bit sadistic to fancify Hobbes next to Soppy’s corpse, but really, what can I do? I have to get one ready for the scrapper and one ready for the road.

It’s the circle of life, friends.

Hukuna machina.

Thus concludes the Musing for Saturday, October 17, 2015. Holy shit. I babbled so much about other things that I never actually got to talk about what I started writing to talk about in the first place. Damn bullet pointing getting me off track. Eh, it’s probably for the best. It was a fairly controversial point of view that would most definitely NOT win me friends or influence people. It would have been fun, though. Hm. Guess I’ll save it for another day…

The Eye of Bessie sees all…

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Mornin’ all.

Crazy week here. Seems like we’re in the middle of a run of them. I’m hoping things will slow down soon. I hate not knowing one day to the next where things are heading!

“Don’t tell me you’re having a problem going with the flow. I thought you were a hippie, Bethie?”

I am. I’m just not that good at it.

One upside is the hectic, electric vibe. While it sucks for sitting down and concentrating on writing, it’s fantastic for other projects. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve bastardized a Renoir print, updated an Italian classic, and am currently working on a third lamp. Pretty soon I’ll have enough to stop selling on ebay and Craigslist and actually give Etsy a try.

“*gasp of horror*”

I KNOW, okay? I already KNOW I’m a sellout. I don’t need you telling me that. I get it.

I want money from my crafts. I AM a sellout.

Look, I write when I need to get things out, when I want to create worlds, when I have a group of characters that just want to *be*. I make stuff out of my junk to give me $$$. That’s the difference between one type of creating and another. I truly enjoy making stuff out of my junk pile. But it’s not the same as crafting an entire universe with words.

My point is that I can sell my bastard crafts with impunity and without guilt. IF I can find the right market.

Locally, I’m not so sure I’d have an audience. I think I may have mentioned once or seventeen dozen times that I live in a small NH town. The local craft fairs largely focus on hand spun fibers, woven scarves, plaques with “home is where the heart is” inked over smiling heads of a rudimentarily rendered bovine. Painted saw blades are popular, but not quite as in demand as knitted toilet paper covers. That makes sense, since in these parts, toilet paper spoils quickly if not properly stored.

When I was a kid, a popular item at craft fairs was a disco ball…type…thing…made of Christmas bulbs and garland. ALL the rage at the annual Christmas Bazaar in the St. Stanislaus church basement (which, of course, was known in OUR household as the Christmas Bizarre. What? Not all jokes have to ooze originality.).

Also hot with the choir member crew were those creepy half-Barbie doll half-crocheted southern belle skirt abominations. You know the ones. Some sick old grandma chops a dollar store Barbie in half and glues it to this crocheted pillow that looks like a large hoop skirt. They then tat little doilies to drape over the whole deal in an attempt to make it look fancy enough for the casual observer to ignore the sadism.

You didn’t fool me, Grandma. And while I was too terrified to ask 33 years ago, I’m asking now.

WHY DO YOU CUT OFF THE LEGS???!!!

It seems like such a needlessly violent step. Couldn’t you just crochet a skirt!?

I can just see some cackly old granny, popping off the Barbie’s legs, muttering about how great her own gams used to be with a scratchy record player skipping its way through “The Jitterbug” in the background of her single bulb-lit, sepia-toned room…

Freaky.

…oh. Oh gawd I just thought of something. What if they use the legs for something else!?

*shudder*

Though the times have changed, the crafts of the area largely have not. If the showing at the craft area of the Pickle Fest was any indication (and I see no reason why it shouldn’t have been) then the local population still has an affinity for the classics. One lady was trying hard to break the mold and sell clay magnets, but the villagers drove her out with pitchforks, as well they should. Everyone knows magnets are witchcraft and have no business in a bazaar. OUT YE VILE TEMPTRESS! We put OUR important pictures and turkey-hand drawings on the fridge with Scotch tape!

Mile-high hair bows were aflutter in the afternoon breeze at one stall. Those aren’t new. They were popular in my elementary school when I was a kid. Someone had the brilliant idea to tie colorful shoelaces together and stick them on clips to make ugly, loopy hair bows. The trend died down when people realized they looked like idiots, but this year, the bows were back with a vengeance. I’m not sure if the vendor was trying to recapture her glory days, or if the bows are actually making a comeback. Several people were walking around in acid washed jeans, so who knows? The one thing I will say is that at 7 friggin’ dollars a bow, that lady was DREAMING.

Honey, no one’s going to pay $7 to put shoelaces in their hair, even if they are day-glo pink.

And if they do, I don’t really think that’s my demographic.

Now, I really might be selling my town short. There may be people ravenous for a change in the craft scene. I don’t have the money to pay for a booth to risk it. If I had hand painted pig figurines or lace-trimmed toilet seat covers, I’d go for it. That shit sells itself. But my stuff?

Besides, if I wanted to really break into the scene at a fair larger than a church basement bazaar, I’d have to go up against the old guards.

I love crafts. I love the crafting community…in general. But anyone, ANYONE who lives in a crafting area knows that it’s run by a core group of people. Around here, most of the big craft shows are juried. This means that before you’re allowed to buy booth space, you have to submit samples of your products for a group of other crafters to judge. They get to determine whether or not your crafts and art are good enough for the show. And, unfortunately, the same group tends to judge the majority of fairs in the area. Basically, if you piss one off, you’re never, ever getting a booth.

Again, a booth that you would pay for.

It’s a weird system that creates a lot of questions. Why does there need to be a jury if you’re paying for vending space? Isn’t that level of subjectivity pretty contradictory to the basic tenets of the crafting world? Why does a group of old hags (and usually one grandpa…he’s the saw painter) get to decide what’s art? Who elects these folks? Who gives them such power?

It’s a head scratcher, that’s for sure. It’s been rumored that there are Illuminati dealings, but take that with a grain of salt. Every clandestine group is rumored to be affiliated with the Illuminati these days. I’m, personally, more apt to believe there’s a secret crafting synod run by the dairy conglomerations of Vermont.

“Uh, Bethie? You okay over there?”

Think about it. Why else would there be cows on EVERYTHING? I’ve seen members give a milking motion handshake on the sly when they didn’t think folks were watching. They have a secret sign language which matches the cud chewing patterns of common Holsteins. And if you look closely enough, every member has the Eye of Bessie tattooed on their neck, just below the hairline, almost invisible unless you know what you’re looking for.

How can I possibly break into such an organization? Especially since I’m on record as saying that I prefer Wisconsin cheese?

“Oh, Bethie… *shakes head*…”

It was a great plate of nachos. I was young and naive, and surrounded by peers all hyped up on football. I had no notion of the life-long ramifications. Ah, the folly of youth. You can see, though, why my hands are tied as far as local sales go.

Etsy has their own clandestine operation going, though I’m almost positive that one IS run by the Illuminati. The Illuminati like odd stuff, though. And they don’t care a whit which cheese I prefer. It’s my best shot at a broader audience that’s not stuck under the oppressive hoof of the Ruminati.

I’ve been playing around with LED lights. Boy are they neat. We’ve refitted all our house lamps with them, and three years later not a single one has burned out and it really did drop our monthly electric bill by a significant amount. I had never tried wiring my own up before this week, though, like taking bulbs and stringing them together how I want to make my own light display.

Incandescent bulbs are easy. Connect them together with a positive wire, add a negative at the end of the string, stick it on a plug, et voila…light. LEDs use so little power, though, that they need to have “x” amount of resistors added to the lineup, depending on how many bulbs you have. If you just wired it straight to a plug, they would burn out. There’s a learning curve, and it’s a bit more work, but the benefits of the LEDs in crafting terms are worth it. Not only do they take very little energy to run (you can plug into one outlet and run 43 50-bulb strings in tandem! OFF ONE PLUG!!!), but they never get hot.
THEY NEVER GET HOT!!

This means you don’t need ventilation, you don’t have to stop and consider the fact that the entire metal sculpture is going to become a very interesting branding iron if you aren’t careful, you don’t need to put wattage warnings on them, and you can wire the bulbs near flammable glues, laces, paper, etc. and not have to worry. Little LED bulbs themselves are plastic, so breakage isn’t an issue, and the bulbs last a whole lot longer than incandescents or fluorescents. Not to mention the fact that they are so very bright that you can use about half as many to get the effect you want.

“Bethie, are you working for an LED light bulb company?”

No, but if they wanna kick me a little something for gushing, I wouldn’t be opposed. We’ve already established that I’m a sellout.

The lamps I’ve made this week all have LEDs. The discount store downtown sells LED Christmas strings dirt cheap and I keep buying them. I wonder what the owner thinks I’m doing with them all? Eh, so long as I’m not chopping Barbies in half, it’s all good. I keep hoping that my interest in his stock of them doesn’t drive the price up. It has to, though, wouldn’t you think? He’s selling them many dollars cheaper than anyone else in the area. Eventually he’ll wake up and realize he could be making so much more money off me. I best pick up some more today, just to be safe.

It’s not hoarding if I’m going to use them, right?

“Uh, I don’t think that’s how it works…”

Oh! I forgot to mention! I have quince.

STOLEN quince.

AND my hands are completely and utterly clean in the whole deal. Er, except for the fact that I knowingly received stolen goods, I guess. I had cohorts, and they stole quince on my behalf. I’ve got a whole box of them in my kitchen. I was going to cook them up this weekend, but they smell so damn good. They give off this fragrance that’s like flowers and pears. Smells a whole lot better than solder and flux, let me tell you.

I suppose I should find time today to cook them. The good thing about quince is that they’ll last a really long time. The bad thing is that you can’t tell they’re going until they’re already gone. They’re so hard and the only time they turn soft is when their insides have already rotted.

So that’s what’s going on in the House of Bethie. Crazy schedule, madcap crafting antics, laundry, and processing my pirated quince. Not a lot, and yet so much.

Thus concludes a rambly Musing for Tuesday, October 6, 2015. When you’re cruising the autumn craft fairs, remember to look for the signs of the Ruminati. The only way they’ll be defeated is if we make sure not to support them. Do it on the sly, though. Always remember that the Eye of Bessie is watching…

And through the fog shone a blinking red beacon of hope…

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The crisp air of early morning wafts through a window that was carelessly left open, carrying with it the sweet tang of ripening apples, reminders that summer is always fleeting. Somewhere in the house a teenager stirs, glances at the glaring red numbers hovering on the desk near his bed. He shivers in the chill, groans at the time, and pulls the covers over his face to close his eyes and try to escape his fate.

But, there can be no escape. And as his mother sweetly calls to him to get his ass out of bed right now before she has to come in there and do it herself, he sighs heavily and resigns himself to his fate while his mother does her best to hold in her cackles of unmitigated glee.

Mornin’ all!

This is the scene that will play out in just a few minutes. Times three, that is. Why?

BECAUSE IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FOR THE TEENAGERS!!! WOOT WOOT PARTY PARTY WOOT!!

…not for the little cub, though. For some reason, he doesn’t start until next week. However, 3/4 is still a majority. I feel that’s celebration-worthy.

This year, I’ve got a senior in high school. It hit me the other day that this is a thing that’s really happening. *sniff* Teen prime is a senior. How is this possible? Look at me. Do I look old enough to have a high school senior? Uh, ignore the gray hair. Oh, and if you could overlook the wrinkles, that’d be great too. But other than that, I look fresh as a daisy. I’m a spring chicken. I shouldn’t be old enough to have an almost adult!

A senior and not one, but two juniors. I give it a week before upper classmanitis sets in. Add to that the growing miasma of cockiness the testosterone is creating, and I have a feeling September will be insufferable around here.

Anyone want a month long house guest? Full disclosure before you decide: I don’t do windows, I suck at laundry, and I snore so loud I wake mySELF up.

But, I make cookies.

Lots and lots of delicious cookies.

Seems like a fair trade off to me.

The cub is so excited that he doesn’t start until next week. Teens pointed out that just means he’ll get out later next summer, but he’s 9. Like he cares about “next” anything! We’re supposed to clean his room today so I can get to the closet that contains school clothes. See, he had an idea, and I foolishly let him run with it.

“Oh, Bethie.”

Yeah, yeah. I know. See, I was doing a car repair, and the clever little imp knew I was too distracted to really pay much attention to what he was saying. He said he had a great idea for his room, asked me permission to “just do something real quick.” I waved it off with a “sure, whatever, I’m just inside looking for the damn 14 mm wrench because some sick maniac at Mercedes decided to be the only person ever to incorporate a 14 mm bolt in a system that clearly should either be 13 or 15 like every other thing in the engine…” He saw his moment. He seized his moment. And I…I let him.

“Newb.”

*hangs head in shame*

What he did was set up a tent. Quite impressive, actually, because he not only managed to fit a tent in his room, but filled it with accouterments of comfort. He had a little table, a fan, his water bottle, sleeping bag…he even fashioned a couch out of extra pillows and a sheet. The kid made his own little apartment.

Now, my teens are very smart boys, so don’t take this the wrong way. But if the zombie apocalypse happened, the only kid of mine I don’t have to worry about is the cub.

Unfortunately to make the tent fit, everything got pushed to the side. Since a bed takes up one corner, and another bed takes up the large wall, that leaves the closet. Mounds, folks. We’ve got to dig through mounds and heaps and piles to get to that damn closet.

Oh! OH OH OH!!! Hang on a minute. I just glanced down at the clock and guess what? It’s that magic time! I must go do my duty and wake up my teens for the first day of school. How should I play this? Sweet and annoying? Snarky and annoying? Maybe I’ll sing a little ditty…

You know what? I’m over-thinking this. I’ll just go in there and wing it. I feel confident that I can play it by ear and get the desired results. I’ll be right back and let you know how it went. *chugs coffee for fortification* *takes a deep breath* Unto the breech!

….aaaand nailed it.

I went with, “Boys, time to get up! It’s a school day. Or should I say, COOL day!?”

Their groans of appreciation for my early morning wit are really all the recognition I need.

I hear them stumbling around their rooms in various states of denial. One is already getting dressed. One sounds like he’s throwing every bit of clothing he owns out of his dresser. The upstairs one is no longer moving. Shhhh. Let me listen.

No, he’s definitely not moving. Hang on.

Damnit he fell back asleep! No way. Not happening, bucko. NOT ON MY WATCH.

I told my man this morning that it would be miraculous if I got all the teens out the door dressed, fed, clean and groomed with all of their backpacks and school supplies. Odds are very good that one or more will forget to do one or more of these things. That’s okay. As a seasoned pro in the first day of school biz, I know that some of that list is optional. Not a lot, but some.

All I need to do is to make sure three kids get on the bus with enough clothing to not get sent back home. The rest can sort itself out later.

Now that they’re up, they’re actually getting along. As any mum of a herd will tell you, the hardest thing about summer vacation is that the pups have to look at each other’s faces for months. While my boys get along way better than most siblings, there are limits, especially in the heat.

A half hour, folks. That’s all I have left before I send them off to catch their bus.

It’s a foggy morning. It’s been hot here, but that cleared out with a powerful storm system the other day. Last night got chilly, and turned the leftover humidity to thick fog. I love fog. It feels close and comforting. Sure, it hides the world from view. However, it also hides me from the view of the world. I like that.

And I think if the drone policing trend continues, others are really going to start liking the fog, too.

Have you read about this? North Dakota (of all places) just okayed the use of armed police drones.

Now wait a sec. Put those pitchforks and torches down. Let’s look at the details before we storm the castle.

…or fort? I mean, it’s North Dakota. It might be prejudicial to assume, but I just don’t picture many castles there.

Either way, let’s chill and look at the situation rationally before acting on our gut impulses to revolt and tamp down our future robot overlords.

Everyone knows that police around the nation have been using drones to spy for awhile. More and more, drone camera footage is used in courts to help convict ne’er do well jaywalkers. While the nation is not at all comfortable with those drones, it feels like we’ve kind of accepted them.

However, North Dakota just kicked it up a notch. They are the first state in the nation to okay the use of weaponized drones. At the moment, the drones are authorized to be equipped with pepper spray, tasers, and “other non-lethal weapons.” They’re not loading them with bullets, though that level of ambiguity in the last clause certainly leaves the door open. As long as a drone is trained to shoot at the foot, a bullet could technically be considered non-lethal. Right? I mean, that’s what I’m reading into this.

This…this is a hard one for me, folks.

On one hand, I’m a firm believer that robots have the potential to be our downfall. Call it too many sci-fis with my dad when I was in my formative years, but I just don’t like the idea of artificial intelligence, of putting robots in a position to make decisions for humans. I have a deep distrust of inorganic walking, talking, moving, shooting things. If a human made it, it will not be an infallible system. And if A.I. truly advances to the self-logic stage, we’re screwed. From a purely logical standpoint, humanity is a no win scenario. We’re bad for the environment, we’re bad for other species, we’re terrible to each other. I believe in humanity because I’ve got the part of A.I. that cannot be programmed…emotion. Will a robot? ANY robot?

The other hand contains a few arguments I just can’t seem to shake.

First, there’s the fact that drones are not A.I. units. They are drones. They…drone. Someone programs them. Someone watches through a camera and makes the drone change actions through a series of human controlled inputs. Someone, a person, a living, breathing, thinking being makes that drone perform every single duty.

…right now.

At the moment, it’s a failsafe. But will that always be true?

Another point is that real human police are the ones that are trained to shoot to kill. Many of them have the non-lethal options that the drones will have, yet in the time of crisis, when there’s a choice between killing or simply disabling, they act like humans.

Now don’t get it twisted here. I’m definitely pro-cop overall. I just realize that humans have a very strong survival instinct. We didn’t get to be the alpha species without it! And that survival instinct is what overrides the brain in a split second situation. That instinct makes the hand go to the weapon that is going to make certain the threat is eliminated, not just stopped in the moment. That instinct says, “Kill it and don’t let it have the chance to kill you ever again.”

Is this bad?

No. It’s simply human. It’s just part of being a self-aware meat lump that doesn’t want to die.

People can override this instinct. There are plenty of officers who will do everything in their power to choose the non-lethal option. However, there are also plenty who haven’t had the training or the personal discipline to be able to choose calm, rational thought over the gut instinct of survival at all costs. It’s not a failing on the cop’s part. It’s a failing because of the way we train our officers. We train them to eliminate the threat, put a gun in their hands, then casually mention “Oh, yeah, there’s some other shit there you could use, I suppose.”

A drone won’t be like that. If all the drone can do is act in a non-lethal fashion, then we’ve successfully found a way to take out human emotion in the moment and act with logic. If a criminal is brandishing a knife, and a drone tases that person, the person will most likely drop the knife and real officers can safely move in to slap on the handcuffs.

When viewed in this light, I can actually see the benefits of sending a non-lethal drone to take care of a dangerous situation.

“Ah, but what happens when the guy at the control end gets a God complex?”

Ay, that’s the rub, eh? The person controlling the drone is not there. They aren’t just steps away from the real human being at the other end of the weapon. There’s a disconnect. Without being the one to view the person involved, to get the sense of humanity you simply cannot feel through the lens of a camera, it would be so very easy to keep hitting the zappy button. Or to go on the attack when it might not be necessary.

The very same system that is designed to remove one dangerous human trait makes the world vulnerable to another.

And last, but certainly not least, is the aspect of officer safety. Like cops or hate them, they’re people. Real people with mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, children… In 2014, there were 133 “line of duty” deaths for officers in the US. 49 of those officers were shot or attacked by a suspect. It’s sad when an officer shoots to kill. It’s also sad when an officer GETS shot and killed. It’s a broken system with victims on BOTH sides. It’s easy to forget that when you read the news. These drones would definitely remove more officers from dangerous situations.

This one’s a real poser for me, folks. On paper, the pros of using non-lethally weaponized drones clearly outweigh the cons. On paper, it’s a no-brainer. Use drones. Save lives.

But we don’t make decisions on paper, do we? That’s exactly what makes us flawed, wonderful, impulsive, illogical humans and not simply machines. We AREN’T drones. So should we really let the drones do our dirty work? Or should we instead start recognizing the fact that we’ve gone so far off the rails that MACHINES seem like the only way out, and start really making some hard changes?

The moment a species lets another one take over, they are no longer the alphas. We’re sending in drones because we are too lazy to fix ourselves. I honestly don’t know how that could possibly sit well with anyone.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! I just watched the bus ferry the teens off to start another year of learning and growing. They were slumped down, heads hanging, the loss of summer manifesting itself in a physical cloud of disappointment that surrounded them. *sniff* Warmed this mama’s heart.