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Under Lock and Key

I just learned there is an app called KeyMe that can make copies of keys using a photograph. The blogger who wrote this article took a photograph of his neighbor’s key in their apartment complex stairwell, had a copy made via the handy dandy KeyMe app, and then later broke into said neighbor’s apartment in a “hey, let’s prove how easy this is” maneuver with the self-made key. Luckily the neighbor was a friend or at least must be, given the blogger wasn’t arrested or shot. And I’m assuming they still are friends after this little exercise in security…or lack thereof.

I must give my heartfelt thanks to Andy Greenberg for bringing this out in the open. I only wish this issue was getting more notice than it is. Although maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the one who has had blinders on. I won’t go into all the details of what the hell would possess a company to create an app like this…Mr. Greenberg does that quite well in his own writing.

What I will bring up, because it’s not mentioned anywhere in the article, is the very important fact that not only is this scary to everyone with regards to being robbed, but for women, it’s frightening on a whole other level in that we now have to worry about keeping our keys under lock and key so as to prevent some creeper who may be suffering a hurt ego, after having his advances rejected, from coming back to our house at a later date and exacting his revenge.

Although credit cards, names, and the like are clearly exchanged in order to get the key made, as mentioned in the article, who would even begin to think that an app like this even exists to KNOW to check with them to find out if that’s how the perpetrator gained access??  I mean, really!? Were any of you aware of such a horribly thought out app?  Or was I the only one in the dark here?

Small Town Problems

So you may or may not have heard of the Village of Whitesboro, New York. But there’s been a heated controversy going on up there that rivals the skills of talented sitcom writers everywhere. Okay, maybe not everywhere. But definitely one specific set of sitcom writers.  I mean, the Parks and Rec crew couldn’t have come up with a better storyline if they tried.

It all centers around a town seal. No, not the horn blowing, smart as anything, cute as a button, yet can be a ferocious predator so stay away from them seals. But rather, a town seal. The kind towns put on their letterhead, their Town Hall, their police cars, their memorabilia, and everything else they widely share in order to let the world know just what kind of people live in their little town. Yeah. That kind of seal.

What could cause such controversy you ask? How could a (normally) boring town seal be such a problem? Well, this particular seal, because Whitesboro didn’t want some lame old seal no one would notice, depicts a white man strangling a Native American “friendly” wrestling match that the town founder, Hugh White, had with the Chief of the Oneida people way back in the day. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, but seriously, who is going to research all of this history when looking at the seal? First impressions, people.  First. Impressions.

And, believe it or not, this is not Pawnee, Indiana as one would expect from the sheer outrageousness of it all. With everything going on, it sure seems like an issue Leslie Knope would find herself valiantly battling, albeit most likely failing, in her small, less than enlightened, town. But unfortunately not. This is real, it’s happening, and it’s the truth of today. Unable to decide for themselves, or you know, do their jobs, the authorities of the town decided to put the decision, of either keeping or redesigning the seal, up to a vote among the citizens.  Who would have guessed that this is how it would end up?

I found it extremely interesting (cause I’m a nerd and do research and find odd things interesting) that what the town is so proud of that they had to go and put it on a seal to begin with is based on a cheat. From their OWN story, as told on their OWN website, it would appear their founder cheated his way to victory on that fateful wrestling day.

From the town’s website:

“He accepted the challenge, took hold of the Indian and by a fortunate trip, succeeded almost instantly in throwing him. As he saw him falling, in order to prevent another challenge, he fell upon the Indian for an instant and it was some moments before he could rise.”

A fortunate trip indeed.  And fearful of a challenge that he knew he would most likely lose, the founder did what any self-respecting politician would do. He took advantage of the situation for his own personal gain. IF this is even close to the truth. Reality may be even less kind to ol’ Hugh White. Nevertheless, good Hugh came out a hero, forever immortalized on a seal for the ages.

And he will be immortalized for the ages, because the town has decided to keep this seal.  When this news story first broke, I thought to myself, it’s okay, the town will surely turn out in droves and vote this ridiculous seal into oblivion. I mean, one would hope that the town could get their act together and vote for one of the many lovely, artistic options that were being offered up as an alternative. I mean, c’mon people. No one wants to see a real life Pawnee in the world. Right?  Right!?

But alas, I was wrong, as I am so often wrong in these matters.  Just 200 steadfast individuals out of the entire 3,000 Whitesboro citizenry bothered to show up on voting day. And their voices were heard loud and clear.

Changing the seal to something that would show their town in a positive light – something their town could be truly proud of – was apparently just not an option for them.

 

Whitesboro Seal

Dark Musings

On May 14, 1998, the Seinfeld show aired its last episode.

This was seventeen years ago, but the plot of the show was incredibly perceptive, both of the characters and society as a whole. And as it turns out – prophetic.

In this episode the four main characters of Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George are spending a few hours in a tiny town in Massachusetts. They witness a mugging from an opposite street corner. Instead of trying to stop it, they simply watch and make jokes because the victim is extremely overweight. In addition, Kramer starts to film the mugging with a camcorder. Then they simply turn and walk away from the scene, completely unconcerned with the fate of the victim.

I have to say that when I watched this episode, my feelings for the foursome changed drastically from like to dislike. I’ve never felt the same about the show since. I mean they were always self-absorbed, one and all, but good grief.

So in the finale (should I say spoiler alert for a show that aired 17 years ago??), the four of them are arrested for violating a “duty to rescue” law (which I don’t think actually exists because really, if it did, our jails would be overflowing even more than they are now) and the rest of the two-part show consists of clips from past episodes showing the utter lack of compassion and empathy that these four friends have shown to the people they’ve interacted with during the ten years of the Seinfeld series’ run. Spoiler alert (ha!). They were found guilty and the karma they had been racking up for the past nine seasons came back to bite them in the ass and they wound up in jail.

Fast forward to today.

There are people today who actually do this – witness a crime or a tragedy and not only do nothing about it but actually whip out their cellphones to record it! Or in the case of the recent fire in Dubai, take a selfie in front of said tragedy (before possibly being able to know if deaths are involved or not).

Go to YouTube and you’ll see thousands of videos like this. Someone getting beat up in a fast food restaurant or on a bus or something of that nature (usually in a big city) and instead of trying to stop it, a bystander films it and uploads it to YouTube. It would be one thing if they filmed it in order to help in the prosecution of the criminal involved, but I think their main reason to film it is to put it on YouTube or their Facebook account! Take this guy for example. He saw a car crash, and since helping is for suckers, he naturally just broke into the smashed up vehicle to record the two dying kids to post on his Facebook page instead and oh, hey, wait…maybe there’s some money to be made here… so according to police, he tried to peddle the recording to news stations.

Seinfeld had an uncanny knack for mirroring society right back at you through the t.v. screen, they just made it funny. In real life it’s not quite so amusing.

We wonder why some people, especially young people, have no empathy or why situations such as rape or bullying might get videotaped but not reported (or god forbid, stopped) as its taking place. I mean, it’s no exaggeration to say the first thought of the majority of the crowd is not, “let’s stop this,” but rather, “hey, did you get that!?” or “whoa, are you getting this!?”  Of course meaning on one’s phone.

I think it’s because our society has created – and is constantly creating – voyeurs and people who are just completely immune to or simply don’t care about tragedy or violence, even when it’s right in front of them. There seems to be little respect for, well…anything anymore. People are taking playful selfies at Auschwitz these days for goodness sake. I hear it’s a “thing.”

I don’t know what the solution is. Stronger laws and more repercussions for heinous acts such as, oh, I don’t know, squeezing into a mangled car to film dying children up-close just to make a buck, would be a good start. It’s easy to say better parenting is the key, but is that it? Is that all it will take? Life is never that simple. As a society shouldn’t we do something? But really, are we even capable of pulling together as a group to create change? Or should we all just resign ourselves to the fact that the world is destined for that long trip waayy south in a hand basket when all is said and done?

Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?

Many Western women today don’t realize how easy they’ve got it. Think about it. Up until the 1960s, women were expected to get married, have children, and cater to their husbands, and that was pretty much it. That was their lot in life. Some may have worked “suitable” jobs, but once they got married of course they would quit and devote their lives to their family…which wouldn’t be a bad deal if it was a choice instead of a forced expectation. Women were looked down upon if they wore certain clothes, if they smoked, or if they swore. They were forcibly held back when they tried to achieve more with their lives.

Today, women wear all sorts of clothing, and they smoke and drink if they want to (gasp!). They also have satisfying careers in addition to having families, or instead of. Don’t even get me started on swearing.

But…of course barriers remain. I could talk about the “glass ceiling” at work, and how male supervisors who tell their employees what to do are obeyed as a matter of course, whereas women who do this are viewed as “bossy” (even by other women, by the way). Or how girls endure ridiculous dress codes at school thereby reinforcing the idea that a boy’s education is more important than their own. But that’s a rant for another time! I want to discuss something else.

I just saw this on Facebook, and it has me shaking my head. It’s an ad for a weight loss drink. Maybe it works. Probably doesn’t. I don’t really care. My eye only caught the headline.

weight loss drink ad

My husband said, “Do something about this or I can’t stay.”

The “this” being the woman’s excess weight.

And just what is this ad implying? That if your husband – who probably has his own beer belly which he thinks nothing of – doesn’t want you to be overweight, then by God and by Golly, you’d better lose weight!

Does this sort of “threat” advertising really work? Well, it must…otherwise “they” wouldn’t do it. It’s what advertising folks do, after all, it’s their job, it’s what they get paid the big bucks to do – work to create doubt and even fear in people so that they’ll buy the weight loss products, or the makeup, or this, or that…

Honestly, my first reaction when seeing this ad was WTF?

I mean really, do women still put up with this from their husbands or boyfriends in this day and age?  I’d tell mine to go to hell!  Well…maybe that’s why I’m not still married.  Could explain a lot.

Now, my issue isn’t with the pros and cons of weight loss – I’m most definitely not into fat shaming and I believe everyone should have the peace to live their own life without others judging them. Be healthy, be happy, be yourself.  It’s not up to me – or anyone else, least of all an advertising company – to tell you how to live your life.

The thing is, if you are going to try to sell a weight loss product, is this ad the best way to do it? I just want to know what the stats are on this particular marketing technique.

Personally, even if this stuff actually worked like a charm, which I highly doubt, I’d be more apt to tell any woman reading this ad that if that’s what her husband thinks, she should tell him off instead of ordering this godsend of a diet drink!

I was glad to see I wasn’t alone in my reaction, by the way.  Most of the comments under the advertisement were of the same mind as me.  It was nice to have company as I sat there rubbing my temples and muttering under my breath.

So, yeah.  Maybe someone needs do these Ad Guys a favor and let them know we’re not chattel anymore. That would be good.

Free to Good Home

While I understand the importance of Mom & Pop stores and relish the experience of finding a hidden gem in the aisles of an old, cramped market with squeaky wooden floors, I must admit that I am often very grateful that shopping can be so easy thanks to the Internet. It’s such a vast and comprehensive shopping resource these days that it’s possible to find just about anything you can think up. Gold-plated staplers. A singing salmon in the likeness of Sammy Davis, Jr. A box of 10,000 fish oil pills. Just type in whatever your mind can think up and sure enough somebody, somewhere out there has got one to sell to you.

When I say “whatever,” I used to put in automatic caveats. There’s certain things you simply can’t browse for online. No, I’m not talking about illegal stuff like drugs and guns. I have heard about the so-called “Dark Web” and although I have no clue how to find it (nor do I even want to) I am not naïve enough to think that dangerous goods can’t also be found with just a few easy clicks of the mouse.

I used to think that people, aka human beings, were one of those resources that the Internet would stay away from out of some sort of moral stance. Then online dating began. Then Russian Brides became a thing. Then Asian Brides Online. Then Oksana Love. The list of buy-a-bride sites goes on and on and covers virtually every country.

OK, I thought, so you can purchase a spouse online. Surely that’s as far as even the Internet dares to go. Children have to be off-limits. Oh, how wrong I was. Check out this link.

Yes, this is a real Facebook group where pictures of children up for adoption are posted (often with the word AVAILABLE in all caps at the start of the post). These are not just children up for a “regular” adoption mind you. These are children who have been adopted and their current parents want to re-home them because they are no longer wanted for whatever reason. Yes. You read that right.  Re-homing children.

Have we really turned into such a disposable society? It’s bad enough that animals are euthanized by the millions in shelters, but now we have kids being plastered up on Facebook walls like products that are on sale at your local Best Buy.  Or more like Craigslist. The really sad part is that this group is NOT an uncommon thing.  It’s just one of many public forums that act the same as shelter sites advertising dogs and cats. The only difference is that instead of checking out a 9 month old beagle/poodle mix that was saved from a drug den, you’re perusing pictures of a human child up for sale to see if he or she piques your interest.

You may think I’m exaggerating if you don’t go to the site and look for yourself. I assure you, I’m not. The wording in these ads is strikingly familiar to those you’d find on a dog rescue site, and hit just as close to home for anyone with a caring heart. Loves to play, gets along well with others, no behavioral problems, affectionate, listens. And the implied, or outright declared, reasons excuses for re-homing were no better.  I know I sure got a sense of déjà vu from the excuses running rampant throughout the site.

One boy’s ad states: “We would especially hope that the new family will have one stay at home parent to help him get bonded to your family, although this is not required. His current adoptive parents both work.” This child has apparently been with his family for over a year. He’s four. FOUR. I can only imagine parenting took more of their time than they expected.

Another claims a ten-year old child who has been in his home for over five years “needs more one-on-one attention than is available in his home. He loves sports however his family is not a sports-type family, and his parents are a bit older. So it is believed that a younger, more active home would work better.”  Right.

It breaks my heart that this is the new normal. This is the way our society works if it wants to move a product. Toaster? Car? Six year old girl from a broken home? Put ’em up online. Someone will bite.

Kids certainly are hard work. Trust me, I’ve had two! But that’s why mental health specialists, doctors, and therapists exist if there are behavioral problems.  Which might not even be the case with the kids on this one particular Facebook page…they all seem GREAT given their descriptions…maybe the parents just got overwhelmed with parenting and decided it simply wasn’t for them. Who knows? But to me posting an ad up on freakin’ Facebook to re-home your goddamned kid is a failure on the part of the parent no matter how you look at it, not the child.

I wonder if these kids know they’re being offered up on social media the same way a puppy is. Do they have to go thru visits with prospective families and show off their wares and hope that the next one “sticks?”  A part of me hopes they’re in “ignorance is bliss” camp because otherwise, how utterly devastating for a child this must be.

Being a Kid is Tough Work

It’s not easy being green…or a kid.

Lots of adults – too many adults – think that childhood is an easy time.  They think that kids are carefree and have nothing to worry about.  Well, childhood should be an easy time, with no cares or worries, and in a perfect world it would be, but we do not live in a perfect world.

Kids face stressors of all kinds and always have. They have to go to school – and if they are not good students that’s one type of stress, and if they are good students, that’s another kind of stress, and if they have to deal with bullies that’s another type of stress, and if they are shy and have difficulty making friends – even if they aren’t subjected to bullying – that’s another type of stress, or if they’re popular and have to maintain a certain circle of friends even if they don’t want to because “it’s expected,” that’s another type of stress.  Well, you get the picture. Stress.

Nowadays there’s more than ever for kids to be worried about. Take for instance, the chat my daughter’s teacher had with her class last school year about possible shooters in the school and how they’re basically all screwed anyway.  And then there’s the fact that my daughter went to a college conference in Baltimore recently – one of her concerns included whether or not the convention center would be shot up…given Baltimore’s latest activities in that regard. Many kids face this fear in this day and age and truly, that’s just a sad testament to our society as a whole.

Then there’s home life, which can be more complicated now than ever before, considering the proliferation of different family units – single parents, same-sex parents, step-parents and step-siblings, and so on. Which can be just fine and dandy inside the home or it can be incredibly complicated depending on how the family meshes – but the external stressors that kids in these situations sometime face can be overwhelming.

And then there’s the parents. Regardless of the type of family unit, most parents are loving and treat their kids well…but there are always the exceptions. And while the percentage of “bad parents” may be low, that still means there are hundreds of thousands of parents who have no idea how to treat kids, and shouldn’t be parents in the first place, frankly.

And all that brings me to the real subject of this blog entry, which is how frustrating it is for teenagers to be lumped into a single mass.

“All teenagers are sullen.”

“All teenagers are moody and antagonistic.”

“All teenagers have teenage angst.”

I disagree with all of these statements but none more than the existence of “teenage angst.” Not all teenagers have teenage angst! And what the hell is teenage angst anyway? There’s no “adult angst” and believe me, I’ve seen plenty of adults that ought to have it.

Oh, and just because a teenager doesn’t want to be social or outgoing, even among family, does not mean they are sullen or moody or antagonistic. Perhaps they’re introverted. Perhaps they’re shy. Perhaps they have a lot going on in their mind and life and they’re distracted. Perhaps they just don’t like you. They should be allowed to do their own thing so long as they’re not being outwardly disrespectful. Speaking of which, I’m a firm believer of “respect is a two-way street.”  There is no minimum age for deserving respect. All too often adults think that kids, simply by virtue of being kids, do not deserve even a modicum of respect, thereby completely invalidating their feelings, and this is just wrong.

But how should we treat teenagers who do have angst? (Note the intentional lack of “teenage” preceding the word angst.)

Are they to blame for giving into their feelings – when adults certainly never hesitate to give in to theirs?

Kids have a lot to be anxious about. For some, it’s worse than the norm.

Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzing numb.”

That’s a quote to think about, and to remember.

All of the stresses that affect kids are magnified a hundred fold if they do suffer from anxiety and/or depression.  First off, anxiety and depression are medical conditions. That’s what a lot of adults don’t seem to understand. Oh, they might “get it” regarding themselves or other adults.  They just don’t seem to understand that kids can suffer from these same conditions.  I mean, why would they?  They’re kids, in the prime of their carefree days for goodness sake.

Second, a lot of this angst is caused by external forces.

Take girls, for example. It’s well documented that boys and girls do equally well in school until they get into their teens, when the scores for girls (speaking overall here – there are always exceptions) go way down in certain subjects. Like math and science. Why? Because even today – even today! – girls are not expected to be good at math or science! And they are treated accordingly. No wonder their scores go down.

Then there’s the fact that once girls become teenagers, they “blossom” as the saying goes, and all of a sudden they’ve got to deal with the “opposite sex” coming onto them (or not). Not to mention ridiculous dress codes that make it abundantly clear that their education is much less important than a boy’s and instead they should focus on not distracting the male students from their studies.

Of course boys have a similar and equal kind of stress when they hit puberty, as there’s a blinding rush to turn them into adults and no innocence seems left to any kids anywhere!

Bad parents also cause their kids a lot of stress and anxiety. Some parents emotionally abuse kids, even if they don’t physically abuse them, threatening to withdraw their love if the kid fails a test, for example…or irrationally and insistently pushing the kid into sports when he or she would rather be on the stage let’s say, just so they can relive their old high school quarterback days.

Something else to think about: When parents have a bad day, who are the first ones they take it out on?  Their spouse, sure, but who’s next? The kids. Right. (I’m not talking abuse here – that’s a whole other issue – I’m talking about being in a bad mood, snapping at the family, being curt or short in your tone, and having no patience for anyone.) When kids have a bad day?  Who can they take it out on?  No-one. Why? Because they get punished. For belligerence. For having a bad attitude. If they go to their room and try to stay to themselves because they’ve had a bad day? They get punished. Why? For being sullen.  For being anti-social with the family. For ignoring their parents. For bringing the mood of the family down. Kids are expected to be on perfect behavior at all times or face the consequences.  Who can live sanely under those kinds of expectations!? Yet many adults expect them to do it.

My point in all this rambling?  Simple. Let’s cut our kids some slack, shall we? Kids have feelings and personalities all their own just as adults do. They shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re kids.

 

having a good kid meme

Right to Remain Silent

I’ve recently come to the realization that network television will probably never make a reality show centered round me.  Not because my life isn’t interesting enough and not because the people in my life aren’t colorful enough. No, no, there’s probably plenty of material for them to work with. The problem has to do with the simple, unavoidable fact that I have a bit of a potty mouth.  Some of you may have noticed. I’ve known this about myself for some time, but my Lord, the things that I’ve been seeing in the news lately has had me making a run for the crown in The Most F Bombs per Minute contest (the title is currently held by Christian Bale in case you were wondering).

Can any of you relate? You turn on the news to see what’s going on in the world and are bombarded by so much horrible, detestable, gut-wrenching shit that your brain basically malfunctions. When my brain malfunctions, I am only really able to do one of two things:

  • Become speechless OR
  • Curse up a storm! This is where the producers of my reality show would decide to pull the plug. If one of my rants were ever broadcast on NBC, every other word would be a BEEP Now that might be okay in normal situations. But here lately, there’d be so many that you wouldn’t even know who I was mad at or why.  I’d be speaking Morse Code rather than English.

I know you’re wondering about that first point I made. Me? Speechless? Well, you got me.  I’m not really “speechless” in the technical sense.  I just can’t get past the various forms of the word f**k (in all its glory) in order to make my point completely clearly here in print.  My mother reads this blog after all. And if I were to censor myself, it’d be like reading one of those classified government documents with 90% of the text highlighted black.

Anyway.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m avoiding the mainstream news like the plague, so I’ve only been subjected to what’s been showing up on my mobile alerts and newsfeed. Stupidly, I thought this would “help” my mood.  Yeah, right.  My mobile alerts and newsfeed are filled with animal advocacy issues. Not exactly a subject that helps rein in my tongue.

I swear (ha!), it’s a wonder I haven’t had a stroke yet over the stories I’ve come across. Throw in some personal issues that have had me seeing red lately and it’s been a downright free-for-all at my house.  I won’t even bore you with the personal issues right now. Long story short, I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage “so and so rears its ugly head.”  Yeah, well…them ugly heads, they’ve been a-rearing…’Nuff said.

So what gets me sounding like Joe Pesci in a Martin Scorsese movie? In a word – Bears.

Or rather, bears accidentally mixing with dumb, ignorant, attention-hungry humans. There was a story about some woman who ran into two young bears over the summer when she was on a walk in a State Park – where (gasp!) bears live, in case you didn’t know – and rather than back away like a normal person or follow any of the safety protocols that are posted in parks, she simply could not contain herself and just had to have her 15 minutes in the spotlight. So she whips out her cell phone and starts videotaping them. Well, lo and behold, just seeing the bears in nature wasn’t enough.  She then apparently started trying to get them closer to the camera by beckoning to them in baby talk. When one of the bears opened its mouth in an obvious attempt to take in her scent (as we’ve all seen animals do, hell my cat even does it), she decided to claim that it “almost bit her.” Almost bit her.  How does something almost bite you, I’d like to know!  It’s not like she fought it off and kept it from biting her.  In the video, this “almost bite” was the bear, smelling her leg with its mouth open.  Do you see the beginnings of my frustration?

Rather than keep the information of this encounter to herself, she showed the video – no, not to park rangers, but rather, to the media (therein lies the 15 minutes of fame), with the story that she was “afraid” and was just glad she got out alive. There were several times that the bears took refuge near a tree or into the woods to avoid the woman because they were clearly nervous and uncertain…did she take the opportunity to leave the area or yell to scare them farther away (since she was sooo afraid)?  No. She stuck around, even going so far as to put her water bottle down so she could videotape better.

What happens next? Two dead bears, that’s what. Because the park rangers, in their complete and utter brilliance, thought that was the right thing to do (despite a public outcry and petitions coming out the ears).  It should be noted that just one of the bears even approached her and most likely wouldn’t have if the woman had just had some common sense.  Did I mention they were very young animals? Just a year and a half old. Still babies really. Was the woman fined for interacting with or harassing wildlife (like you’re supposed to be) for acting as she did?  No. Of course not.

Okay…hang on…Breathe, Wendy. Breathe. I usually cannot get through this story without cursing profusely and typing is no exception.  I must say the poor bears were surrounded by idiots that day and they paid the a dear price for human stupidity.