Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fraying the Social Fabric

Today was one of those days where every fifteen minutes or so, something new was threatening to inspire a blog post. Little things just kept popping up as I wandered through life, each of which going into my mental rolodex of potential topics for me to rant about when I got home. But near the end of my day, something unextraordinary happened to me, and it made me so simultaneously sad and angry that it trumped all the other minor annoyances of the day.

I attended a work-related training session/vendor event in the city today. (In case you don't know "the city" = Chicago, and I live and work in the suburbs.) I love the city. So after my work thing was over, I dropped off my work stuff in the car, grabbed my camera, and wandered around just taking pictures. Fun stuff.

It was just after 5 p.m. and I was two blocks from Union Station, so there were throngs of people (aka lemmings) all funneling their way through the concrete canyons to a single point, where they disappeared through the doors of Union Station and disappeared underground where their trains were waiting. I wandered through the crowds, snapping pictures of buildings and people. While I was wandering, I heard a couple different people, tourists or suburbanites, asking for directions, specifically, where Union Station was. The answer if you're ever in Chicago at 5:15 pm is to just ask yourself, "What would a lemming do?"

I was about done taking pictures and was headed back towards the parking garage, walking slowly, glancing around to see if there was anything that caught my eye, when a very senior black woman caught my eye. As soon as she saw me look at her, she stepped closer and asked if I knew my way around the city. (FYI: I am directionally challenged. I could not direct you to my house if you were a mile away. If you call me and ask me how to get to my house, I will hand the phone to my husband. I do not give anyone directions to anywhere.)

"Not really," I told her.

"Well, maybe could you... I just don't know... I am so scared... " She held out a map with writing on it. "I drove my car into the city and I will never do that again. I talked to the police officer/crossing guard/whatever he is, over there. And he told me what to do. They towed a lot of cars, so he told me I need to just walk to the Greyhound station and it's three miles that way. Can you hold on one second?" She steps out of the middle of the sidewalk where scores of commuters are passing us on both sides and puts down the two bags she's carrying.

Three miles? This lady's in her eighties. She's gonna' walk three miles?

She reaches for something in her bag. She's taking her time. She's muttering about not knowing what to do and telling herself to calm down. She pulls her wallet out of one of her bags. As she does so, I notice that she's got two boxes of cereal in her other bag. Interesting choice. A woman who's apparently not from the city, drove into the city and then purchased two boxes of cereal which she's carrying around with her. And of course, she hasn't told me what she wants from me yet. Just keeps muttering that she doesn't know what to do and fidgeting with her wallet, which I'm not sure why she's even taking out. By this point, my mental alarms are going off, but I'm gonna' listen just in case she's the sweet little lady she appears to be.

I offer, "Ma'am, I think you should just walk across the street to Union Station. It's that building right there." I point to the building literally one city block from where we're standing. If I recall correctly, Greyhound is not at Union Station, but CTA buses obviously are.

"No, no," she says, "the officer told me I need to go to the Greyhound station. And the ticket is $31 and I only have $22. And they're not gonna' care about me or that my car was towed. And I don't know what I'm gonna' do."

And there we have it.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am. All I have on me is my camera, as you can see. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"No, no. You smiled at me and that helped a lot. Thank you so much."

With that, we part ways. It's pretty clear that nothing about her story or her "props" were true. I head back towards the parking garage. On my way, I spot one more building to take a picture of. I pause and as I turn to get a different angle, I see her behind me. Walking towards me. The opposite direction of that Greyhound station that's supposedly three miles in the other direction.

If you've lived or worked in our city, and I imagine most others, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about this story. It's happened to me before; will likely happen again. Some wayward soul who's stranded and is $10 short for bus fare or cab fare to get home. My husband who works in the city tells me that there is a man that is a regular in front of their building and he has three different stories that he rotates between. But today it just made me so mad!

So. Very. Mad.

Here was this very senior woman, telling me that she was scared, surrounded by hundreds of Chicago commuters rushing past her to catch their trains, asking me to help her. Everything about what is good and decent in me, everything that makes me human wants to do what I can to help her. It is common decency. If you see someone in need, you do the right thing. Be a good person. You help them. And we all do just that all the time. Until people like this woman make you distrust anyone asking for help. Until people like this woman make you doubt the good intentions of everyone. It is a large part of why I, and thousands of other people in the city today, walked right past the homeless people sitting in the cold and the rain with their cups out, and gave nothing. It is why so many people despise welfare because of those welfare mothers who have extra kids just to get bigger welfare checks, regardless of how accurate or prevalent that story actually is or is not. It has become the perception. This blatant dishonesty is eroding our willingness to do good for our fellow human beings. It is so cliche, but it is tearing apart the social fabric.

And I wanted to go find her and shake her. And I was mad that I had been nice to her. And then I was mad at myself for being mad that I had been nice, because of course I should be nice and try to help her. I should not assume that someone is trying to con me. I should keep my faith in people, even though some people will abuse that trust. But I wish the punishment for abusing that trust was greater. I wish we didn't write it off as unfortunate, but not really illegal. So many of our laws are designed to protect the social fabric that keep our society whole and functioning. Laws against murder, theft, assault are all there to keep us from hurting each other in ways that hurt the society at large. And while I'm sure there is some law that this woman was breaking, I'm pretty sure that if I dragged her ancient ass over to the police officer, he would have looked at me as if I had three heads. Telling me a fabricated story and asking me for $9 is not really at the top of the priority list for Chicago cops these days.

But it's about so much more than the $9. So much more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Life Outside the Social Media

I am a fan of social media. I really am. I came later to it than many people, but what's not to like? facebook, Twitter, Blogging, it's all good. Well, mostly good. There's thing thing that's been bugging me ever since I joined facebook and has gotten exponentially worse since I started blogging: How to not talk about social media, when you're spending face-to-face time with your actual friends?

See, when something interesting happens in my life, I usually update my facebook status. When I have a random thought I've got to get out of my head, I tweet about it. When my children do something adorable or something annoys the crap out of me that cannot be contained in 140 or even 420 characters, I blog about it. Some of this is for the other people in my life. My Little Ants blog (my other blog about my kids), for example, exists primarily so that grandparents and other distant relatives can read stories about my boys and I can feel less guilty about the fact that I am horrible at sending pictures regularly. It's separate from this blog so that said grandparents and great-grandparents don't need to sift through my regular tirades to get to adorable stories about their grandkids. And I still love facebook for staying up to date with the lives of my friends whom I don't see as often as I used to. But this blog is pretty much just for me. If I hear something on the radio annoys the crap out of me, I can blog about it instead of yelling at my radio. Well, maybe in addition to yelling at my radio. (It's how I know it'll be a good post. Is it yell at nobody in my car worthy?) Don't get me wrong. I am very happy to have readers. (Hello, readers. *waves*) In fact, I love a good debate and LOVE thought provoking comments.But I truly hope that no one is reading this blog just because they think I'll be disappointed if they don't. Really, people, we've got too much going on in our lives to read blogs we're not interested in. So if everyone I know never reads this blog again, I'll really be ok with it. Same with facebook. If you're not digging what I'm putting out there, unfriend me; or at least hide me from your feed. We can still be real friends even if we're not facebook "friends".

But how do you talk to people who are friends with you on facebook without starting every sentence with, "Did you see what I posted on facebook?" It's even worse now that I have a blog. I say way too often: "Did you read my blog post about x?" 

What I'm saying is this:
You just said something that reminded me of something cute my kid did. But I've already blogged about it. So if you read that post already, I'm not gonna' tell you the story again. So I just want to know if you've already heard this story before I tell it to you again.
But here's what I think it sounds like:
Dude. I am so awesome that I have a blog that's totally about every random and awesome thought that pops into my head. My blog is so awesome. And you should totally be reading it. Every post. It's all about me, you know? So are you reading it? Because you totally should be.
So if I am ever out with you for dinner or we're talking over a nice bottle of Cabernet and I ask you, "Did you see my blog post about x?" Please know that my feelings of self-worth are not tied to your answer. I just want to know if I should tell you the personal anecdote that just popped into my head and happens to be something I've already blogged about.



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One American Family: A Parable

This is the story of Dave and Rita. They have a pretty good life: three kids, nice house, three cars, and a dog. Dave works as an independent consultant and Rita is a stay-at-home-mom. They have typical family debts: a mortgage, a couple car loans, some credit card debt, a student loan, and a home equity line of credit. The bank approved their line of credit at $100,000, which is more than Dave makes in a year. But Dave and Rita both know this and have no intention of actually using that much credit. Like many couples, Dave and Rita often have disagreements about their finances. Rita thinks Dave works too much and should should spend more time with the kids. She also thinks Dave spends way too much money on his hobbies, including his health club membership, country club membership, and restoring a classic car. Dave, meanwhile thinks that now that the kids are all in school, Rita's stay-at-home mom days should be behind her and she should go back to work. Despite their disagreements about their finances, things chug along pretty smoothly.

Then BAM, their son is in a car accident. A drunk driver slammed into his car on his way home one night. Thankfully, he survived, but needed years of intense physical therapy. Rita and Dave sued the driver, but what they thought was an open and shut case dragged on for years. All the while, the medical and legal bills kept pouring in. Dave sold his classic car and began golfing less, but the balance on the line of credit continued to creep up. After a while, Dave and Rita had a talk. They agreed that things were getting a little precarious and that, given Dave's salary, they would not let the balance on the line of credit go over $15,000.

Things didn't get dramatically better, and eventually, the balance on the line of credit started getting close to the $15,000 mark. Dave and Rita talked again. Dave said that, given the circumstances, he really thought it was time for Rita to go back to work. Rita disagreed. Dave showed her the balance on their line of credit. Rita agreed that it was bad, but insisted that Dave stop the gym membership or the country club membership. Dave didn't think he should be the only one making sacrifices. They couldn't agree on what to do. They eventually decided that this was just a rough time that they were going through. The line of credit was doing what it was supposed to do: be their safety net. They would cut back on spending together. They agreed that they would not let the balance go over $30,000.

The mortgage, the credit card bills, the legal bills, and medical bills continued to come, and Dave and Rita continued to transfer more money from their line of credit into their checking account. Months went by. Dave did not quit the gym or the country club. Rita did not get a job. Again, the balance on their line of credit kept creeping up, until finally the balance was nearing $30,000. Dave was paying the bills and realized they needed to transfer more money into the checking account to pay them. He talked to Rita, but Rita was worried. This was a lot of debt. She told Dave that she was drawing a line in the sand. Rita had to approve all transfers from the line of credit and she said that she wouldn't approve anyting until Dave agreed to quit the country club and the gym. Dave said he wouldn't do either unless Rita was willing to get at least a part-time job. Rita wouldn't give in: no transfer. Dave handed her the mortgage and credit card bills and told her that if she wasn't going to approve a transfer from the line of credit, she could figure out how to pay the bills. Dave agreed that they needed to do something, but the mortgage needed to be paid now, so unless Rita wanted to lose the house, they needed to transfer money from the line if credit now. Rita dug in her heels. She would not approve the transfer.

A week later, Rita still was refusing to approve a transfer from the line of credit. The mortgage was late. The credit card bill was late. The car payments were late. Rita and Dave finally sat down to talk. They agree that they both needed to give a little. They looked at all the numbers. They came up with a plan. Dave would quit the gym, but not the country club. Rita would get a part-time job. They would have enough extra money that they would be able to start paying down their massive debt. Rita felt so much better. They actually had a plan and the numbers worked.

Rita and Dave logged into their online account to transfer the money from their line of credit to pay the now overdue bills. Their credit line had been frozen.Since they were late with their credit card and mortgage payments, the had bank frozen their line of credit. Then they logged in to their online credit card accounts. The rates had gone up - way up. Their new minimum payments were now 5 times what they were before. Without access to their line of credit, they could not pay their bills that month. The plan that they had drawn up was suddenly in jeopardy. Without the line of credit and with the higher minimum payments, they couldn't pay the current bills. Rita did quickly find a part time job, but it didn't pay very well. Soon they were choosing which bills to pay and which they couldn't pay. Soon enough, the bank repossessed one of their cars, so Rita could no longer get to her part-time job. They struggled to try to catch up, but they just couldn't do it. Eventually, the bank foreclosed on their house and took the remaining car. Rita and Dave had to file for bankruptcy once they realized that they would never be able to dig themselves out of the hole they were in.

In the end, they lost everything. Why? Because Dave and Rita couldn't work things out? Sure, bad decisions and an inability to make tough choices got them into a deep hole. But the final push off the cliff came when instead of sitting down and facing the tough choices, Rita decided that the only way to get Dave to listen to her was to stop paying the bills, even though she could have paid them. One week late, but that was enough. Dave and Rita were already so leveraged that it started a downward cycle that couldn't be reversed. Had the bills been paid on time, the interest rates would not have shot up and they could have struggled through it. They could have made the tough choices and turned it around.

Unfortunately, Dave and Rita lost everything. Clinton, Raegan, and even baby Paley's bright future disappeared.

OK, folks. This is the time where good authors would just leave you to with Napoleon and his human friends playing cards and let you ponder the deeper meaning on your own. I, unfortunately, lack Mr. Orwell's self-restraint.

The moral of the story: Stop talking about not raising the debt ceiling. If you do not want to raise the debt ceiling, this is what you are saying: "I want to bring financial ruin to the United States of America. My beliefs are more important than the actual well-being of everyone else in this country that I claim to love. I will stand by my principles without considering the consequences of my actions."

We all agree that the nation's debt is out of control. We all agree that it is a problem that needs to be fixed. Can't we all also agree that we should not bring down the nation's economy because we can't quite agree on how to solve the problem?

Oh, and Democrats, this goes for you, too. In x years when you are no longer in power and try to do this same sh*t to the Republicans, just like you did 5 years ago.

All of you. Cut it the f*** out!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Old Cell Drunk

There is a game that I play whenever I'm out driving around town. It's great fun, so I thought I'd share. I think it's the modern day equivalent of the old punchbug game from when we were kids. Here's how you play:

First, you'll need to find an Old Cell Drunk car. Here's how you spot them:
  • OCD cars usually drive at or below the posted speed limit
  • OCD cars drive at the same speed as the car in the lane next to them, thus preventing the cars behind them from passing either of them
  • OCD cars leave significantly more space between their car and the car in front of them than their speed would require
  • OCD cars sometimes cross over the lines of their lane, but aren't changing lanes.

I think you get the picture.

Once you spot one, you have to guess: old person, cell phone, or drunk.

Now, if you're one of those people who doesn't play little mental games like this while you're driving: GET OFF THE PHONE!!!

I know you think you can multi-task. You can't. No really. You can't. "But I've never been close to getting into an accident," you say. No sh*t. That's because you're driving 15 miles an hour slower than everybody else and there's enough room for an aircraft carrier between you and the car in front of you!

Don't believe me? Play the game. Go on, do it. Drive around and see if you can pick out the schmuck on his cell phone long before you actually confirm the cell phone. I'll bet you can. Because when you're not playing the game... you are the game. Now hang up the phone.

(Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna lose a few followers here, but it had to be done.)


Friday, April 15, 2011

Signs from God and Other Faithless Ramblings

Oh how I loved your responses to my Why Do You Believe? post. So much good stuff to think about. Such great challenges to my assumptions. Truly wonderful. So today, I will answer a couple questions posed to me and also share some thoughts on your comments.

Signs from God
A couple years ago I was having a conversation with a very religious friend, let's call her Abby, who mentioned that she had prayed about something and God was "telling her" to choose a particular path. Well, the non-believer in me of course thinks that this is her seeing what she's now keyed in to see. So I thought to myself, "Let's see if I can see some signs. I would like to see some signs that Abby is right." For the next several days, everywhere I went and everything I saw was related to Abby in some way. Driving home I was behind a car with a U of I sticker (Abby went to U of I), another car had a volleyball sticker (Abby played volleyball), another car had a license plate with her birthday in it (just the month and day), the street I was on was also her birthday, a mile marker sign had her volleyball number on it, and on and on and on. For days I could not stop seeing things in someway related to Abby. A sign from God? Or am I just noticing things that I hadn't noticed before. It's not like I took a different way home, the street was the same street I always took, I had just noticed the birthday connection. So part two of my thought experiment: look for signs that there is no God. For this I'll look for things that remind me of another friend of mine, Kelly, who happens to be an atheist. Again, everywhere I looked I saw Kelly things. Kelly's car, Kelly's favorite "character", Kelly's birthday, Kelly's name. Everywhere.

After this week of suddenly noticing things that I hadn't noticed before, it is now very easy for me to understand how people see "signs." It's like when my husband first bought his Camry and suddenly I noticed the hundreds of other Camry's on the road. Up until that point, I just hadn't noticed. We filter out so much of what we encounter every day, but when we're ready to start looking, suddenly things start popping out all over the place.

Your Questions for Me
If I don't believe in heaven, does that mean I think death is the end?
Unfortunately, yes.

If so, is it correct to assume I don't believe in a soul either?
Yes. No soul.

If no soul, do I believe the keystone of humanity is the mind?
If you mean what do I think makes us human, yes, I would say our mind. But for clarification, not our intelligence, our mind.

Random Thoughts

  • Gilsner: I started reading End of Faith, but wasn't really a fan. Maybe I'll go back and give it another shot.
  • Nicole: I have had The Case For Christ on my to-do list since about 1999. I really do want to read it. (Gonna' need to buy it first.)
  • Bernadette said: I can't prove to you there is a God but you can't prove to me that there isn't one.
    I don't need proof, but I'd like some evidence. As stated above, random signs don't really do it for me. 
  • Sarah said: And how do you explain that innate, unwavering, and sacrificial love that comes with motherhood/fatherhood?
    Easy: evolution. Our species is much more likely to survive if a parent will do anything to protect its offspring.
  • Sarah said: Faith is being inspired by our resilience and being awakened by our fragility. Faith is accepting human's failings but loving despite. Faith is forgiveness in dark places. You can still be faithful without the Bible if you are willing to look at humanity as a miracle to begin with, something awe-inspiring and beyond comprehension or explanation. Something beyond science and reason, no matter how intelligent our species becomes.
    I loved this. I would just replace "faith" with "humanity." That and you lost me at, "beyond explanation." But I do think the existence of all life is miraculous. The earth is teeming with life that all evolved from a puddle of goo. It is awe-inspiring.
  • I am seriously going to need separate blog. This post has 7 different topics already and I haven't even gotten to the ancient Biblical texts being copied by illiterate scribes, using the Bible as a tool but not a basis for faith, using the Bible as a source for morality when it condemns eating pork but gives a pass to SLAVERY, and my new big curiosity about what people believe about prayer and whether and how they are answered.
OK. One post at a time. This one is a little on the scattered side, but y'all gave me so much to think about.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Want a Fee? I'll Give You A Fee...

Have you heard about the new rule proposed by the US Department of Transportation? If not, let me tell you. It is CRAZY! Get this: the DOT, headed by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, wants to implement a rule that if you pay a luggage fee for your checked bags and then those bags arrive late, the airline should refund you the fee. Crazy, right? I mean come on. You've paid a pretty nominal fee to have your bag put on a plane, now you're expecting that the airline is going to put it on the same plane that you're on? That your bag will actually arrive at the same location that you do? At the same time? That for a mere $25, the airline will actually keep you and your bag together? I'm sorry, but that is just crazy talk.


Listen up, airline industry. We have had ENOUGH. You have raised prices, instituted about 89 million fees that aren't included in the fare so we don't know how much our ticket is really going to cost, make us sit in tiny little seats designed for people who are 4'2" and have no arms, never leave on time, never arrive on time, charge us to change flights, make it impossible to use our precious frequent flyer miles without connecting in podunksville, charge us each different prices for the same damn flight, never tell us what's going on when our flight is delayed, routinely overbook flights so there is not enough room for all of us to get onto a flight that we all payed for, taken away meal service, taken away our peanuts, and even taken away those disgusting pillows and blankets that we only used because the air temperature on the plane is about 10 degrees below 0!

Last year you weren't able to get 2 million bags onto the same flight as its owner. 2 million!!! That question that they ask us at security, "Has your bag been out of your site at any time?" Our answer, "No. But once I give it to you, am I ever going to see it again?" How hard is it to get the bag onto the plane? When I arrive there, I have to walk through 15 security checkpoints, walk to the very end of the terminal because all those gates closest to the security checkpoint are only for show and don't ever get used by real passengers, and then sit and wait for the plane that was supposed to arrive an hour ago and still isn't on the ground yet. In all of that time, you still couldn't get my bag from the curb to the gate so that my bag and me are both on the same plane?

And you're really going to try to play the If-we-have-to-refund-the-fees-it-will-just-make-prices-higher-for-everyone card? Really? You know how you could avoid refunding the fees? STOP LOSING OUR F**KING BAGS!!! What the hell.

Mr. LaHood, it's not like you need my permission to implement any rule changes on the airlines. But in case you were wondering, you have my full support.

In you'd like more info, here's the full story on AP: Gov't wants airlines to repay fee after losing bag

Post submitted to Adventures in Mommyhood Sunday Funday

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Word About Corporate Taxes

There are people in the world who know a lot more about corporate taxes than I do. This isn't really saying much, because here's what I know about corporate taxes: companies pay taxes on their net earnings. That's about it. (And to be honest, I'm not really sure how accurate that statement is.) But there has been a lot of talk lately about corporate taxes, namely that some companies that make a lot of money haven't paid any income taxes. It's got me thinking: Why do corporations need to pay any income taxes at all? (Bet you didn't see that coming.)

Before you answer, let me share my thinking so that you know that I'm not completely insane. It seems to me that when a company makes money, it can only do one of four things with that money (there may be more, but I can only come up with four):

  1. Spend it to maintain or grow the business
  2. Keep it
  3. Give it to employees through wages or bonuses
  4. Give it to owners/shareholders through distributions or dividends
It is my understanding that option one makes the money non-taxable. Companies only pay taxes on net profits, so any earnings re-invested in the company are non-taxable.  (Please, somebody, correct me if I'm wrong.)

Option two allows the company to to build up a reserve, making it a stronger and more stable in the future.

Options three and four have the money passing from the company to actual people, all of whom presumably pay income taxes on that money.

So to recap, if a company doesn't pay income taxes, the only things it can do with the money is reinvest it, save it (both of which strengthen the company and presumably benefit the economy), pay it out in higher salaries, or pay it out in dividends (both of which give money to real people who pay income taxes on that money). Plus, if there is no corporate income tax in America, wouldn't that provide a huge incentive for companies to be based here (and bring  job with them).

I do see that it's possible that companies could be based here, even though all their employees or shareholders are actually not in America, but that seems pretty easy to fix. American companies can only avoid income taxes if at least 75% of their workforce and 75% of their shareholders are American, otherwise, you pay. Done.

So that's one take on the subject. Now you, many, many people who are much smarter than me, tell me where the holes are. (I am assuming there must be many, or there would be a lot more countries with no corporate taxes.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Springtime Reminder

Spring arrived in Chicago today. It was beautiful. We had our windows open. We played in the back yard. We visited my mom and played in her back yard. Yes, it was a beautiful day.

After my mom's, we came home and I brought the 7 month old upstairs to bed. He fell asleep right away. Awesome.

I hung out in his room for a bit. It's quiet. It's dark. I can catch up on my favorite iPhone activities in peace. So after twenty gloriously silent minutes of Facebook, Twitter, Words with Friends, and a crossword puzzle, I decided to head out. But it was a bit warm in the room, so I decided to crack a window.


The door to the bedroom was still cracked, so opening the window created a cross breeze and the door SLAMMED shut. Baby wakes up. Baby cries. Mommy rocks baby. Baby doesn't want to go back to sleep. Mommy mentally curses the stupid bird outside the window that won't SHUT UP!

Baby eventually falls asleep. Mommy finally escapes baby's room.

A reminder to all now that spring is upon us: Don't Forget About the Cross Breezes!

(In case you were wondering who could find something about this absolutely lovely spring day to bitch about, it would be the girl whose avatar lets you know that it's only a matter of time before someone plots to drop a house on her.)

Anyway... Happy Spring, everybody! (It was still a pretty awesome day.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Another Brilliant Idea: LLOL

Here's the deal, I am tired of having to type out "literally LOL." I do it at least once a week. (I know some pretty funny people, and they make me laugh - a lot.) But we've reached the point where LOL just isn't cutting it any more. LOL may stand for "laughing out loud," but that's not really what we mean when we type it. Now we mean, "Hey! That was pretty funny," and there's a big difference between something that's just "pretty funny" and something that literally makes you laugh out loud. And when people make me literally laugh out loud, I want them to know, "Dude! You are damn funny!"

So a couple weeks ago, at the peak of my annoyance with having to type out the word "literally" several times in one day (yes, I told you, I know some damn funny people), I decided I was going to create a new Internet acronym: LLOL.

I figured it'd sweep the globe. Everyone would use it. No one would care where it came from, but if they did, they might find there way back here to find that little old me had some damn funny friends and was too damn lazy to keep typing out the word "literally."

So before I launch this new Internet sensation, I should probably Google "LLOL" first just to make sure it doesn't already mean something I've never heard of; something I'd really rather not be associated with. Hold please....


Guess what. As almost unbelievable as it sounds, I am not the first person to think of this clever acronym. (I know! It really is amazing!) It's already got an entry in Urban Dictionary.


Well, at least I know that when you see LLOL in my Tweets and texts, you'll know what I mean: you are damn funny, and I am literally laughing out loud.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why Do You Believe?

Before I get to my "real" post for the day, I feel I need a disclaimer. I wrote this post and then thought, hmm, this really doesn't fit on my blog. But then you, my dear readers, suggested that this is my blog, so I get to decide what goes on it or not. So I decided I'll go ahead and post it here. Who knows, maybe I'll spark so much discussion we'll have to create a separate blog for this topic. Probably not. Maybe I'm the only person who finds this fascinating and I'll go back to ranting about gas stations, dumb laws, and facebook.

The post below is about religion, God, faith, and the Bible. (All holy books really, but most of the people I know are Christian.) You should know that I used to be a Catholic who went to church every Sunday. Somewhere on life's journey, I became an atheist. It is from here that I wrote this post.

And now, without further ado, my ultra serious blog post...

I just found out that Bart Ehrman has a new book out; it's called Forged. I will be running out to my local Amazon to pick up a copy as soon as I'm done with this post. I can't wait until it gets here. Bart Ehrman also wrote Misquoting Jesus, which is one if my all time favorites. Long before I read this book, it was the idea of authorship of the Bible that I found most troubling with my personal faith. Everything I believed was based on the Holy Word of the Bible. But why the Bible? Why not the Koran? Why not believe just the Old Testament but not the New? And what reason did I have to believe that the Bible was any more divinely inspired than the writings of Plato? My only basis for my beliefs was that this is what I had been taught. And what did those people who taught me about the divinity of the Bible know that I didn't know? They weren't around when the Bible was written any more than I was. It suddenly felt like we were playing a 2,000 year old game of telephone and I was pretty sure that the message had been garbled over the years. Heck, children today are taught that George Washington cut down a cherry tree and that was only a couple hundred years ago. Imagine what a tenfold difference would make. Plus, the New Testament was written at a time when the Roman gods were still believed to be real. People at the time clearly needed to invent explanations for what they didn't understand. Why should I believe that the Bible isn't part of that? Basically, I found that I had absolutely no reason to believe that the Bible was any more divine than any other book ever written. I couldn't really come up with a single good reason to think otherwise. And without the Bible, the entire foundation for faith of any kind disappeared. It was tough to deal with for a long time. I had been a Catholic my whole life and now I was an ath... I could not even say the word out loud for years. I didn't really believe there was a God anymore, I guess that makes me an athe... Years.

I'm over it now. Now I can say that I am an atheist. And I'll tell you the hardest part (for me) in going from being a Catholic to an atheist: no more heaven. (I guess that's not surprising.) News stories about the tragedies in the world are so much harder to bear. Children dying of starvation is tragic for people of faith; it is that much harder to imagine for people without a belief in heaven. To believe that the suffering some people have known is all there is or will be for those people. I've sometimes heard people wonder out loud what motivates non-believers to do good in the world. For me, it is a greater motivator. If there is no God, then we are the only ones who can help our fellow man.

In the years since I lost my faith, I have been so curious how so many people remain true to their faith when I did not. As soon as I began thinking about my beliefs and their basis, I realized that I didn't really believe any of it. I remember often thinking, "Better to believe and be wrong, than not believe and be wrong." And then I realized that this attitude wasn't really a belief, it was going through the motions just in case. I didn't really believe it. How do so many people continue their faith in the face of, what I see as, the utter lack of evidence for the divine. But it is often hard to have such conversations these days without seeming disrespectful. For example, I understand that others believe in God's existence, but to me He is as real as Santa Claus. And for many people, making that comparison in itself is disrespectful to their beliefs. So it's a fine line. But there is so much about faith that impacts the way we look at the world. From abortion and women's rights, to same-sex marriage and public education. So it seems like something we should be talking about more.

So while I wait for my exciting new book to arrive, I thought I'd throw out a question and see if anyone's open to the discussion. To my faithful readers, and by that I mean my readers who are people of faith:

Do you believe that your holy book is the Word of God? If so, why?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One Example of My Brilliance

I love to drive to nowhere. It is so de-stressing. However, it also is destroying the planet, so I don't do it much anymore. (Psst. I occasionally take the long way to get somewhere, though.) While I'm driving I feel like my brain can just wander around to wherever it needs to go; to corners of thought that may have been neglected and could use some extra attention. It is usually while driving that come up with my brilliant ideas. My brilliance covers a wide spectrum. Sometimes I think about how to better organize my projects at work or a better budget plan for our family finances. But most often my brilliant ideas come in two forms: a great new business idea or a way to help humanity. I listen to NPR and there's usually at least one story a day that makes me think either, "I should totally be figuring out a way to make money off of this!" or "There really must be a way to make that better for people."

I'll have to admit, I haven't really put many of my ideas into practice. Well really, I haven't really put any of them into practice. I usually come home and share my most recent brilliant idea with my husband who gives me a look that says, "That's really a great idea, Sweetie, but I'm not sure that it's practical." Hmph. OK, my ideas may not be perfect, but I'm trying to solve some of the largest problems on the planet: corruption in politics, unfair tax policies, world poverty... and I'm doing it all alone in my car! Come on, this is pretty good stuff for one chick alone in her car, isn't it???

I'll give you an example. Here is my last totally brilliant idea:

I was listening to a story about poverty somewhere in Central America, I think it was Guatemala. And I just kept thinking that there must be a way to harness the power of human beings in a way that will provide them with something to do (i.e. earn a wage) and also produce something that the world needs. (Kind of like the Matrix, only less sinister.) What do we worldly inhabitants need? Hmm. What could any human produce that would require no training, just the willingness to work? Well, we could build another Egyptian style pyramid, but that doesn't seem very useful. Then I got it! Electricity! What if we could use people to generate electricity? We really need electricity. We could really use a method of generation that doesn't destroy our planet. People could generate it through manually powering generators. This doesn't sound like the most efficient way to produce electricity, I know, but that's not what this is about. We could put people to work generating something that is actually needed! Sure, the people probably wouldn't make a lot of money, but in poor nations, people already live on dollars a day, so if they could produce $20-$30 a day that would be HUGE.

I told my husband. He gave me the look.

Whatever. This is a brilliant idea. It could end world poverty.

So unlike most of my other brilliant ideas, I did some research.  First question: How much does a unit of electricity cost? Well here in Illinois, it costs just over $0.08 per kWh. Wow. That's pretty cheap. I could be in trouble here, but I push on. Next question: How much electricity could a person generate in a day? I'm thinking we put people to work on spin bikes hooked up to generators and have them pedal up some electricity.

I ran this by Hubby again. He laughed out loud. "You're going to have someone ride a spin bike for eight hours!? You know they're going to be going very slow if they have to ride for eight hours, right?"

Whatever. Time for more research. Turns out there is a company that makes something called a Pedal-a-Watt, which is exactly what I was thinking: a device you hook up to your spin bike to turn it into a generator. Now the website isn't really the greatest, but from what I can tell, I can expect to generate about 250 watts in one hour. Wait... what? 250 watts? That's it? No, not kiloWatts, just plain old single watts. 250 of them.

At this point, it's pretty clear that I don't need to do the math, but what the hell, let's do it anyway just so that Hubby can feel justified for his previous look.

250 watts x 8 hours = 2,000 watts generated in one work day At  $0.08 per kWh, that's a whopping $0.16 per day.

So it seems that instead of ending world poverty, I am instead planning on enslaving human kind to just to generate enough electricity to power my refrigerator.

Ah well. They can't all be winners. I have lots more ideas though, and the rest really are brilliant. Really.

What? Don't give me that look.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Meta-Blogging (Again)

I may have dived into this blogging thing a little too quickly. I wrote my first post 28 days ago. I didn't really give it much thought. I figured I'm going to max out at about 20 readers anyway, so it's not like I needed a full-fledged plan or anything. Not.

27 days ago I decided that maybe I had been a little careless in naming my blog. (Everyone agreed.) So 26 days ago I renamed my blog. The new name is a fine name. It suits me. But today, while driving home from work, I thought of the perfect name for my blog. Dammit! Why didn't I think of this 27 days ago? Wanna know what it was? "Witch & Moan" It's perfect, right? Because basically all I do here is bitch & moan, but then it goes with the cute little witch-themed avatar over there. Oh I am so clever. But dammit, how retarded am I? Really? I'm going to change the name again? It's not even a month old. Plus, when I told my husband my incredibly clever alternative blog name, he thought the current one is just as good. Whatever. I can't even think about it. I'm a moron; let's just leave it at that for now.

Next up, let's talk number of blogs. I currently have three. That's right, three. One month ago, I had zero. Today I have three. And I'm thinking of creating another one. What is wrong with me??? Well, I'll tell you. Before I created my first blog (way back in March of 2011 as you may recall), I had a pretty good idea that the reason I would not be a very good blogger was inconsistency. I know that good blogs (i.e. blogs people actually want to read) generally A) are updated regularly and B) have an overarching theme. I figured I'd suck at both. What I'm passionate about from day to day changes drastically. (You may have noticed.) But overall, I think it's going ok. Turns out that if my theme (B) is stuff that bugs me, I've got plenty to talk about, thus satisfying A. Yeah! But then I wanted to have a cute little blog about my kids, and I wanted to keep that separate from my snarky blog, so that's blog #2. Then I decided I'm going to try to improve my photography chops, so I created blog #3 just for me to chart my progress. (Don't even worry about that one, it's totally boring.) Then today I started writing a post for this blog that was about a new book I just ordered on Amazon and it was way to serious and introspective to post here. So that would be a fourth blog. Really? A fourth blog? Meanwhile, I have a 4 year old, a 7 month old, a husband, a job, 2 dogs, & a house that doesn't clean itself.

But I guess the whole blogging thing is my new leisure activity, and it's kinda nice to have a place (or several) to "think out loud." And as my husband said today when I asked him, "How many blogs are too many?" he said, "I don't think it's the number of blogs, as much as the amount of time blogging." Oh, he is wise, my husband.

So in summary, here's what's bugging me today: my own freaking insanity! But what the heck else is new?

So I'm off to create a new blog. Or maybe not. Or rename this one. Or not. Really, I don't have a clue at the moment. Maybe I'll get a spinny-wheel out of one of my son's board games and let the Chutes & Ladders gods decide.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm Sorry, But I Still LOVE the Oxford Comma

I believe a lot of things. I believe that the sky is blue and that water is wet. I believe in global warming and evolution. I believe that Coke products taste way better than Pepsi products. Some of my beliefs I can prove, some I have good evidence for, and others are just my judgments. But one of my beliefs was shattered today. What's more, it's a belief that, had you asked me about it yesterday, I would have been 90% certain that I was right about it. I wasn't.

You see, earlier today, I was typing up a little blog post like this one, and I was becoming increasingly frustrated that my blog editor was requiring me to drastically change my typing style. Back about a million years ago, when I was in junior high or high school, I learned that when you type, these are the rules:

  • two spaces after a period or colon
  • one space after a comma or semi-colon

I have no idea when I might have learned this. I never took a typing class, so it was probably some English teacher for whom I had to type up papers. Good student that I was, I learned these rules and have followed them ever since. But after my first blog post, I realized that if I put in the two spaces after a period, it was throwing off all of my alignments. It made my posts look really bad.

Now I had heard something somewhere about how formatting rules had changed and how the whole two space thing after periods had been abandoned. But I chalked that up to lowering grammatical standards, like teaching children that it's now ok to say "fishes" for the plural of "fish" or the fact that most newspaper style guides recommend against using the Oxford comma. Rubbish. I will not be participate in the dumbing down or loosening of standards just because people don't like them or are too lazy to follow them. This is the proper way to type, so this is how I type. (Yes, yes. I'm a bit of a prude. What's your point?)

It's been annoying me that every time I type a blog post I have to be extra careful to not type two spaces after the period. I type a lot for my job and this just something my fingers do without me thinking about it, so it really does require that I pay attention to it. So after a bit of typing today, my frustration with my inability to remember if I've typed in two spaces or one was growing. So I decided to Google it. And what do you know? I was 100% wrong. At least according to this Slate Article and also this Grammer Girl Article. They both basically say that the reason for the two spaces was a rule for typewriters that used mono-spaced fonts. If you're not typing with a mono-spaced font (I'm not), then one space is the rule.

So I now publicly admit that I was wrong about the two spaces and have already begun attempting to retrain my fingers to use the one space rule.

But I am not backing down on the Oxford comma. It just makes sense, people. It looks better and it lessens ambiguity - no matter what Vampire Weekend says.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What is Wrong with my Flat Sheets?

So I may be new to this blogging thing, but I'm pretty sure that the way to attract hordes of followers to your site is not to write a post about laundry. But what can I say, I have been doing laundry all day. And when I say, "all day," I  mean ALL DAY. I started around 10 a.m.. I just finished. It is 10 p.m. To be fair, it is my own damn fault, which should be obvious to anyone who's ever done laundry. You know what it takes to accumulate 12 hours worth of laundry? Weeks of not doing laundry. Weeks and weeks. In my case, weeks and weeks and weeks. The only laundry I've done in recent memory has been preceded by the following statement from my husband, "Honey. I know you're really busy, but I have, like, no underwear left." What I want to tell him is that the washing machine does work when a man pushes the "start" button. But then I remember the fact that he does all of the cooking in our house, so the least I could do is an occasional load of laundry so that he doesn't have to go commando to work. Yeah, I suck.

So that's what I've been doing for the last several weeks; waiting until someone in the house completely runs out of clothing or underwear and then I do an emergency load - just enough to get us through the next 24 hours/crisis period. Which brings us to today, where my laundry situation makes The Next Martha's sock pond look quaint. At least her kids have clean socks. If my kids want clean socks, they need to give me at least threes hour notice. (BTW, if you don't know about The Next Martha, you can check her out on Twitter @TheNextMartha or on her blog: The Martha Project.)

Anyway, so my laundry room contained a small mountain of laundry that was finally tackled through hours of ceaseless attack. Beyond unwashed clothes, there were other obstacles that I also beat down. There was the mountain of clean clothes on the folding table that had accumulated whenever I previously washed and dried a load, but didn't bother folding it. There was the bin that I keep in the laundry room for kids' clothes that have gotten too small, that was overflowing to the point that it looked like the clothing version of Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.

But it all got done. All of it. All our clothes are clean, dry, folded, and put away. (Well, except for a couple stragglers that go in the kids' rooms and they're currently sleeping.) All the outgrown clothes have been folded and sorted and packed into bins to be saved for the baby, saved for my sister's baby, or be sold/passed on to someone else's baby. I even did two sets of sheets! Folded. Put away. Really.

Which brings me to my greatest annoyance of the day: my flat sheets. Yes, that's right, the flat ones. Fitted ones and I get along pretty well. I'm no Martha Stewart, but they come out looking pretty darn good. See...

Not bad, huh? So here's what so damn annoying. I have conquered the fitted sheet. I can stick that lovely little package in my armoire and be proud. So then why the hell does my flat sheet give me such trouble? Here's what I mean. Every one of my flat sheets has edges that look like this:

It's a creased up mess.What's with that? And how do I stop it?

A couple months ago I got the bright idea that maybe if I ironed them once a year it would help. So I actually hauled out my ironing board and ironed those babies. Yes, I ironed my sheets. Who does that? But those damn creases were making me nuts. And it worked, too. For exactly one week until I washed them again. Then those stupid creases came right back again. And I tell you, folks, I am not about to start ironing my sheets on a weekly basis. (I don't know if you were paying attention up above, but I've barely been washing my sheets, much less ironing them.)

So I put them away, without a clue as to how to resolve my crazy crease problem. My two clean sets of sheets neatly tucked away in my armoire. One tiny corner of my house, actually clean. Who knows when I will next see two sets of sheets folded and put away again? Could be months.

I found out moments later that while I was folding sheets, my four year old was busy downstairs sprinkling breadcrumbs on the kitchen floor. So there's that.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Message Received

I am a woman with faults. Many faults. For example,  I have more than my fair share of snarkiness. This particular trait can be portrayed as cleverness in this here blog, but in the real world, I'm guessing that my husband sometimes wishes I were less "clever." But even with all my faults, there are times when I am quite considerate. One of these times is when I am in my car. I usually try very hard to be aware of the drivers around me. Since having kids, I don't drive as fast as I used to and, as such, I don't hang out in the left lane where I don't belong. And if I am driving along in the right lane and a car begins driving in the left lane next to me at the exact same speed as me, oblivious to the cars stacking up behind us with no way of passing, I slow down or speed up so that the folks behind us can get by. This is not to say I've never inadvertently cut someone off or failed to use my turn signal, but in general, I just try to be a courteous driver.

And this is why it PISSES ME OFF when other people act like A**HOLES when they are in their cars.

As you may have guessed, this happened to me today.

I did not get much sleep last night. 4yo was up, then the 7mo was up, then the 7mo wouldn't go back to sleep. Daddy got up with the kids so I could sleep in, but the 4yo had other ideas. So I eventually got up, but was crazy tired. No caffeine in the house, so I headed to McDonald's for a $1 monster sized Diet Coke. (Sure it's cheaper at the gas station, but they don't have a drive-thru and this was a pre-shower caffeine run.)

I pull in to the McDonald's parking lot and there is a car at the drive-thru speaker ordering. There is a second car which is in the drive-thru lane, but is a full car length behind the first car and has its hazards on. I paused a moment and then decided that since the guy had his hazards on he was clearly trying to communicate something to the other drivers around him. I figured that "something" to be that he was pulled over and not really in the drive-thru line. Apparently, I was mistaken. What he was really trying to communicate was, "Hey, everybody. I'm an a**hole in a silver sedan!"

Since I did not get this message from his hazard lights alone, I made the CRAZY mistake of pulling around this car that was not moving and had its hazard lights on. Guy then must have realized that I didn't get his message, the one about him being an a**hole in a silver sedan, and decided to try to communicate it some other way. So he of course lays on his horn and starts screaming out his window at me about how I just cut in front of him in line.

So this next mistake was my bad. I still did not fully appreciate the message he was trying to communicate, though the poor guy was clearly doing his best to communicate to me his message of his a**holeness with the limited faculties available to him.   So being that it's a beautiful spring day and I've got my window down, I say back to him in the sweetest, most non-confrontational manner I can (really, no sarcasm, I was trying to be nice), "I'm really sorry. I thought since you had your hazards on that..."

That's as much as I got out before he just started yelling at me again.

Really? WTF???

It's not like I'm never wrong, in fact, it happens rather frequently. But I wasn't. And even if I was, I was trying to be nice. I was apologizing for the misunderstanding. W.T.F.? 

Oh wait, maybe I've been misunderstanding this guy's message.

Ohhhhhhh! You're a huge a**hole in a silver sedan!!!! I get it now! I'm sorry. I was never very good at charades. But don't you worry, anonymous a**hole in a silver sedan, I've got a blog and I'll be sure to get your message out there.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Ice Cream Fairy Godmother

I was sitting in bed. Hubby asleep next to me. I'm on my laptop. It's a Friday night. (OK. I'm lame. Your point?) The house is silent except for my clicking and typing and Hubby's occasional snoring.

Suddenly, I hear one of my kids crying in his bedroom. It's 10:00. I put my laptop down and head toward kid #1's bedroom. I slowly open the door. Sound asleep.

Was that really the baby? Didn't sound like the baby. I head back to my bedroom to check the video monitor. Baby is sound asleep. However, next to the monitor is the Snickers ice cream bar that I had brought upstairs ten minutes earlier, set on the nightstand, and completely forgotten about.

I think my conclusion is obviously the only possible explanation: There is an ice cream fairy godmother who really did not want a scrumptious Snickers ice cream bar to go uneaten.

So thank you, fairy god mother. You're the best!

Reader's Choice: April

It's April 1st. My baby blog is almost a month old. It's growing up so fast! And as of this writing, I've had 587 page views. That's amazing! That means somebody's reading it. Who would have thought?

And since we're a small little family here, I thought I'd invite your suggestions. Not that I'm lacking for a list of things to rant about. I've got four or five half-formed ideas rattling around in my head. But half the fun is getting my annoyances out there in the world. The other half is hearing what you think about it.

So I'm opening the doors to topic ideas. Is there something you'd like my opinion on? I'm always here to give it. Something you'd like me to write about? Something that's keeping you up at night because you aren't sure what my position is? A bit much? Yeah, probably.

Alright, the doors are open. Leave a comment.

(Let's see how this goes. I'm half expecting polite silence, but we'll see.)

Home F***ed-Up Home

So my last two posts have been about states passing dumb or infuriating laws that irked me. Continuing with that theme, I look to Sweet Home, Illinois.

Looking at the big picture, it's really hard to know where to start. There is so much craziness here lately. Like many states, our fiscal situation is well beyond "not good." The state is months behind on paying its bills, including money it owes to schools, service organizations, and private businesses, all of whom are having to lay people off because they can't afford to pay them if the state doesn't pay up for services already rendered. So we are adding to the unemployment numbers by making companies cut employees they wouldn't otherwise have had to cut. Some businesses have even gone out of business while waiting for the state to pay up. I guess that's one way for the state to reduce what it owes, just don't pay your debtors until they're forced to go out if business.

What has gotten us here is politics, plain and simple. Our politicians want to get re-elected, so they promise us better government services and lower taxes. A few years ago we started offering free public transportation to seniors. Why? Because Blago wanted to get re-elected and seniors are a HUGE voting block. If we are offering free public transportation to those who really need it, you know who could use free public transpiration more than seniors: poor people. It would make it easier for them to get jobs and become more productive members of society. You know who doesn't need free transportation? Middle class and wealthy seniors. You know who isn't a reliable group of voters? Poor people. But regardless of who could benefit from free rides the most, Blago didn't pay for it. Free rides for seniors, no plan on where the money that seniors used to pay and now wouldn't pay would come from. Details.

Full disclosure, I voted for Blago for his first term. But I also pretty distinctly remember the moment when he fully lost me. In 2003, Blago signed into law some pretty steep tax and fee increases for trucking companies in Illinois. At the time, truckers said that such large increases would drive trucking businesses out of Illinois. Supporters of the law claimed this was a group who was unhappy about a tax increase and were just trying to make the situation seem worse than it was.

To my untrained mind, this seemed, well, retarded. Government is offering a bajillion services and politicians don't want to upset the voters by raising their taxes, so they pick an industry and raise taxes on them. Well what do we think is going to happen? How hard is it to relocate your business on the other side of a state line. Seriously, folks, this isn't rocket science. If it's more expensive to operate your business in Illinois than it is in Missouri or Iowa or Indiana, why would you stay in Illinois?

A year later, the verdict was pretty much in. Thousands of trucking companies had already left the state, taking jobs and money with them. Again, DUH!

So that was back during the Blago era. Let's see how far we've come. A few days ago there was a big hullabaloo about Caterpillar leaving Illinois. CAT is huge in Illinois. They employ 23,000 people. Later, CAT CEO announced that CAT has no plans to leave Illinois, but that “policymakers in Springfield” are making it “harder by the day.” So a momentary respite; we have not yet driven away one of the biggest employers in the state. Good for us. Can we keep it that way?

Listen up Illinois: the party is over. We are up to our eyeballs in debt. The state can't pay its bills on time. This problem is not going to be easy to fix. It is going to mean fewer services. It is going to mean tax increases. It is going to mean that some public sector employees are going to lose their jobs. It is going to suck. But guess what... We, through our electoral choices and lax attention to our legislators, have dug this hole. And it is a deep f***ing hole. So the party is over and the bill has arrived and we are starting to realize that this is gonna' be hard for a while. Yes. Yes it is.

And this pretty much applies to the nation as well. You want the country out of debt, too? Then don't give me any garbage about how you can't have tax increases during a recession. You cannot fill the budget holes we've created through spending cuts or tax increases alone.  You need both. And you're going to need to compromise on some of your other "core principles." I know compromise is a dirty word now, but that's how you make it happen. If you want the state/country to be out of debt and that's your priority, then you have to deal with the hard consequences that go with it.  Sorry.