Times they are a'changin'

flatline

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The  past and the future collided in the Rocky Mountain foothills yesterday. Luckily my husband, the news hound that he is, was at the front lines. He’s in Denver for a few days, one of which is for the purpose of delivering a presentation on New Media. Upon arrival at his speaking engagement he encountered an Old Media frenzy. Much as he would like to think it was paparazzi, it had nothing to do with him.

It had everything do with the closing of the Rocky Mountain News today. On the same day he addressed photographers and journalists on how to reinvent themselves and retool their skills for the emerging world of new media, members of the old media were packing their boxes.

He knew about the Rocky Mountain News before he arrived in Colorado because he read it on Twitter. He knew because journalists were Tweeting the information before their old-fashioned media employer could get the word out through traditional channels. 

What a convenient — albeit painful — backdrop for his presentation. 

As for all the newly unemployed writers, editors, copy editors, designers, photographers, sales representatives, classified advertising clerks, news delivery workers, truck drivers, composing room workers, graphic artists,circulation managers and many others, it was a day of heartbreak. 

I had lunch today with my group of gal pals, all of us unemployed newspaper folks. We talked of the seemingly endless parade of newspaper funerals. We talked of our careers and dreams going up in flames.

I’m thinking, I’ll shed a few tears for the Rocky Mountain News and the others to follow. Bury the dead.

Times are a’ changin.’ Newspapers and many other industries are going down in flames. What great stories we’ll tell our grandchildren of how we rose out of those ashes and reinvented our lives.

Sploggers, plagiarists and story swipers

steal

This fake blog once carried several of my posts. It has since deleted all content except this lone entry.

I was annoyed recently to discover some faux Web sites, called splogs, have stolen my content for the purpose of marketing and moneymaking. These content scrapers and spinning spammers have plucked my words without a sound, a credit or a link. The bastards.

Maybe you already know about all this. If not, there are steps you can take to protect your work.
Before I go any further, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve made many amateur mistakes with content usage and linking. But, I’m not here to make money. You may quibble over details with me and you may win, but I maintain that there’s a difference between innocent mistakes and intentional plagiarism for profit.

This sort of Internets tackiness annoys me the way story swipers do: You know, those people on the periphery of your life who listen in on your life stories and then steal them. They snatch your one-liners and snappy comebacks out of the air and stuff them in their pockets. Reminds me of a neighbor who told me she had a sculpture stolen from her front yard. She found it days later on the front porch of a house down the street. When she confronted the homeowner she was told: Prove it.
She couldn’t, but my neighbor learned a valuable lesson: Do not place original artwork on your front lawn unless you have a security system.

swiped from www.nickjr.com

swiped from www.nickjr.com

There are no security systems for story swipers — only vigilante justice — if you’re into that sort of thing. Today I’m wising up. I’m going to install a digital fingerprint plug-in on my blog and go after these sploggers when I catch them in the act.

When I worked in the newspaper business, mostly for local papers, occasionally one of my articles would reappear under a new byline in another, smaller publication. Our editors would wave it off as small-time plagiarism not worth the bother. Corporate doubletalk translation: We cut the media lawyer expense, among other things, so we could keep our 30 percent profit margin.
But it was worth the bother to me. Often I’d call the offending paper or write a letter of complaint. Sometimes I’d post both copies of the story on a public bulletin board just to let people know what was going on.

Protect your work.

'I Can't Quit You Baby'

ledzep

I’m tearing down the highway, heading home after playing long-distance chaperon and chauffeur to my 15-year-old daughter’s  birthday night out. The car is empty except for me. I’m listening to Led Zeppelin’s first album on CD. The volume is at 11.
OK. Time to rewind.

  • First of all, I am freaking out just a tiny bit about the 15-year-old thing. All I have to do is think about what the hell I was doing at 15 and let’s just say most of it was illegal is not publishable. Fifteen was a watershed year for me in many ways. What I did then affected much of the next decade of my life. So I think of all that when I think of my Girl from the West. If she isn’t doing any of the stuff I was doing, then she will be OK.
  • Second, playing long-distance chaperon means picking up and driving six girls (in my three-seats-available car) to and from a nice little restaurant for dinner, going to nearby coffee house to while away time until I get the call to put on my chauffeur hat again. I did this a few times until my duties were done for the evening.

As I drive home, my thoughts drift as I listen to Robert Plant’s voice wail over Jimmy Page’s guitar.  I think: This was part of the soundtrack of my 15th year. I’m flooded with memories. It’s not often I listen to this music anymore. Tonight’s choice is both random and coincidental.

The window onto my older girl’s world grows smaller with each passing birthday. Gone are the hands-on experiences with colorful cakes, bouquets of balloons and parties with themes and goody bags. Even this chauffeur gig has an expiration date. Someday in the future, when she’s  on her way in the world, we’ll met up for lunch, go on a trip, who knows? We’ll reconnect.

Baby, I know you’ve got to leave me, you’ve got to ramble.

But, I can’t quit you.

Terror in the checkout line

cardburn

My dear friend,

Please accept my sincere apology for the inexcusable behavior I displayed yesterday in line at Pricey Fresh Food Mart. You see, you caught me off guard, at a vulnerable moment, and in my anxiety I acted rude and dismissive.
It wasn’t you. It was me. Me and my shaky finances. The kind of shaky that makes trips through checkout lines more emotionally taxing than a biopsy of a suspicious lump.
You are such a sweet soul. Always so breezy and chatty. You with your cart of exotic little cheeses in their bright geometric packages. You and your collection of imported waters clattering next to mesh bags of organically grown produce.
If you only knew what was tearing at my insides while the cashier scanned and bagged my food products. My mac ‘n’ cheese boxes. My pasta bags. My peanut butter.
As you chatted to me about your day at the spa, I swiped my debit card through the reader and put on my best poker face.
As you adjusted your snappy leather jacket and shifted your designer purse on your shoulder, I closed my eyes and made a wish to the gods: “Please, please, please ….”
I opened one eye to peek at the screen. It paused. It blinked. My heart skipped a beat. I clutched my wallet tighter. I wondered why I didn’t just go to Cheap-O Charlie’s where no one makes eye contact.
While the screen sputtered and you asked me what my big plans were for the evening, the cashier stopped this runaway train.
“There seems to be a problem,” he said.
I broke out in a sweat. He flipped a switch to turn off the lane light. He called for assistance.

Fearing a DECLINE to my card swipe, I avoided eye contact as you repacked your cart of cheeses and wines and exotic little chocolates and backed out of line. And that, my friend, is when my dignity was saved.

By the time you had relocated to another lane, I learned it was not a decline but merely a computer glitch that necessitated a system reboot. That’s all. But by then I was emotionally drained. I looked for you at the door to salvage the moment, but you were gone. Gone home to your Belgian chocolates and flavored waters.

Please understand.

 

Your hormonally bitchy but definitely-not-broke friend

A few of my favorite things — and a prize

fpdollhouse

I’m not a Fisher Price Little People character, but I play one on the Internet. In my fantasy life, I’d live in a dust-free dollhouse where I’d have control of all the game pieces. I’d have a perfect, plastic hairdo and a nice painted-on smile.
But, life isn’t a toy. It’s a game, for sure. And the rules? Most are not posted on the back of the box. You have to learn them the hard way.
Speaking of hard lessons, here are a few of my favorite posts. Some might make you laugh (even if they’re not supposed to be funny) and others might make you sad.

Life is like that, isn’t it? Not quite in your control, but it makes for good blog material.
Read on!

How Low Can You Go?
Scent of a Stay-at-Home-Woman
The Deer Hunter
Gender Issues
The L Word
Survival Skills


Thanks for visiting. This post is brought to you by Auds at Barking Mad, who is hosting a meet-and-greet kind of link fest. Stop by her site, check out the other participating bloggers and then peek into their worlds. Who knows, you may want to particpate yourself. Oh, and there’s a nice prize for one of the participants.
Play on!

Pack of fear

feral

A lunch date with a friend almost ended with the usual routine: the hug, the I’ll-call-you-soon, and the parting of ways to our respective cars. But my friend hesitated and stopped me from leaving. She confessed that she didn’t want  to go to the underground parking garage alone. Would I accompany her in exchange for a ride to my car?

I agreed to be her escort. Together we descended the crumbling steps and dodged water droplets leaking from rusted pipes to find her car in this shadowy dungeon. A place where Freddy Krueger and rats the size of small dogs were certain to roam.
As I wondered how she managed to get herself down here at all, she asked me if I had any fears or phobias.
I told her I don’t like spiders, but thought I might add underground parking garages to the list.

mean
But today I encountered my No. 1 fear, one I had forgotten: 
Packs of feral dogs.
I was circling a block in a not-so-nice neighborhood (think abandoned houses stripped of siding and roofing, junked cars on lawns, groups of  shady characters huddled in alleys) looking for a potential preschool  for my daughter. My nerves were on high-alert. I was wondering if I had the wrong street. Why would a preschool be in this godforsaken place? Then three dark and dirty dogs darted into the street. I slammed on the brakes and  pulled to the curb.

I grabbed my cell phone. I watched the dogs run a zigzag course around the school playground. I saw a teen girl walking on the sidewalk about 500 feet away. She stopped and stared, too. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t an owner nearby, maybe just letting his pets run on the playground. But I already knew these lean and mean canines weren’t pets, or hadn’t been for a long time.

Nope. They were feral. I knew it by the  look in their eyes. I knew it by the way they ran. They were street dogs. I punched in the number to the local police department. I saw the girl on the sidewalk slowly walk  back to her house.

A bored dispatcher answered and took my message. I wasn’t too confident he’d patch through my request. Knowing these dogs were on the prowl and deciding that I’d never send my 3-year-old to school in such a neighborhood,  I tossed the brochure onto the car seat and drove away.

But I couldn’t get the image of those dogs out of my head. 

Feral dog packs are a huge problem in Detroit. We live one-half mile from the border.  In my mother’s neighborhood, which borders Detroit on the east end, wildife officials recently  confirmed the existence of an established coyote population.

When I lived in that neighborhood,  my best friend and I came upon a pack of five or six dogs.We were about 15 years old and walking after dark. The pack trotted down the center of the street. They picked up our scent and bolted to the sidewalk straight toward us. We ran, making it to my friend’s front lawn. She was pinned by the biggest of the pack. We both screamed. Her brother threw open the door. Flipped on the porch light. The dogs scattered.

We got away without a scratch. But we never liked to walk alone after dark again. And those dogs, they still roam.

They are everywhere.

 

Day of art and beauty

sculpture

Exterior sculpture behind DIA

After almost two months of non-stop snow and extreme cold, we had a respite. The temperatures warmed to an unbelievable 50 degrees on Sunday, which melted most of the snow.
When Mother Nature peels back her heavy blanket, she reveals many forgotten things:  the dull hues of a sleeping earth, Halloween candy wrappers, and the hope of spring.
These spring teases lure most of us outdoors like cats to catnip. We cannot resist the urge to feel sunshine on our faces and solid earth under our feet. After all, it could be 10 degrees and snowing tomorrow.

I left the house early and headed into the city center to visit some favorite places. I left my coat and gloves in the car. I walked an extra block because the sky broadcast a blinding blue, birds sang in their treetop roosts (a sound I haven’t heard in months) and my spirits hovered somewhere between birds and sky.

Following some quiet time I met a friend at the Detroit Institute of Arts, a place I have not visited in a few years. Its interior space has been reinvented to better display some new things as well as many of the old treasures.
As I strolled the galleries, looking at artifacts, an Egyptian mummy, works of the masters, modern art and photography, I had flashbacks to younger versions of me visiting this place. Each visit brings with it a new perspective and experience. As a child, the place seemed huge and overwhelming (and maybe a little boring) to me. As a college student, I enjoyed contemplating the works of art for hours, having pseudo-intellectual discussions with my classmates.
I’ve had dates there, family visits and meetups with friends. There’s always something new to discover, like finding a Georgia O’Keeffe painting I didn’t know was there:

georgia

Stables, 1932

 

 
And mirrors on strings cascading from a vaulted ceiling:

mirrors1

I'm wondering

as I read the news:

— how my husband would feel if I started working as a dominatrix to supplement the family income. I hear the demand is high right now and the pay isn’t bad. Seems like there are more opportunities in freelance fetish than freelance writing.

marge

— if it’s more than just the economy. People aren’t spending their money because every food product and household item out there is either defective, tainted or programmed to explode when exposed to heat or light.

— if communal living will rise in popularity. So many families I care about are on the brink of crisis, foreclosure, repossession, utility shut-off. Families that two years ago were living large. They cannot find work. Any work. Not even Target. How would it be with two or three famlies under one roof? The upside is shared child care, food, and financial resources. Downside: too many people, boundaries and other unintended consequences.

— if we all could collectively raise our consciousness to envision and believe in an economic turnaround, a brighter future, a new course of action —could it happen? Could we get a majority to do this? Is cynicism too powerful a force to deflate? Could Americans today make the huge sacrifices our grandparents and great-grandparents made? Could we have another Greatest Generation?

Just wondering.

Like, I'm a Libra O+ Dragon

Don’t judge me by my blood type: O positive.

 According to Japanese popular culture, which takes blood type very seriously, I’m either the best or the worst. The Japanese rely upon charts, such as the one below, to determine everything from mate compatibility to job suitability. The trouble is, there are so many charts and tables on the Internet and none of them seem to have a consensus. Here is one:

chart

Source: www.japanisdoomed.com

One site says Os are the least desirable. Another declares Os to be ideal. Wikipedia expounds on the historical roots of such a belief system and some of it is tied to racism. Early theories on blood type and personality traits seem to be based on circumstantial evidence more than scientific research.

Another site offers the theory that since the Japanese are a fairly homogenous people, separating folks into distinct catergories is a fun way to feel special, different.

This site suggests O types share characteristics of the earliest humans, the hunter-gatherer types who dragged their knuckles on the cave floors and subsisted  on a diet heavy on meat and low on grains. 

typeo

www.japanisdoomed.com

This graphic, put together by a British blogger who studied in Japan, suggests that if all the blood types were roommates, O would be an evil and maniacal zombie.

It’s a good thing I’m not working the singles scene in Tokyo. I’d probably slash my wrists for all the rejection and spill my evil Type O blood all over the tile floors, sending nightclub patrons scurrying for the exits.

It’s better that I live here in the United States, where I can proudly introduce myself as a Libra, one who is diplomatic, romantic, easygoing and sociable, according to some astrological descriptions.

Even the dark side of the scales isn’t so bad, with qualities like indecisiveness (you don’t want to be behind me in a coffee house line or at a fork in the road) and easily influenced by others.  

On the Chinese astrological cycle, as one born in the year of the Dragon, I have a high rating. Dragons are considered the mightiest of the zodiac characters.

While this is all in good fun, one item did jump out at me:  The Japanese list their blood type along with their other vital stats. Many Americans do not even know their blood type. Do you know yours?