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PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

This bill, which is on the fast track to passing in Congress, is so bad for free speech, the freedom of the internet, and the people who use it, that I’m baffled that Congress would even consider passage. But then I remember that Congress thinks pulling Americans off the streets and imprisoning then indefinitely, without knowing what they are accused of or by who was a wonderful enough idea to pass. Does this sound like America to you — well we’re swiftly becoming one of those countries who violate human rights and repress their people.

I’ve already signed petitions and written to my representatives begging them not to pass this legislation. Please join the fight for freedom in America and ask your representatives to vote NO on these two pieces of legislation.

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Result is: I will never, ever rent a car from Avis again.

First, you need to know that Avis has been our preferred car rental place for years. They have nice clean cars, good service, and they’re efficient and fast at the counter. We’ve been using them whenever we needed to have a car when traveling or when needing something a bit more reliable when heading to a convention within driving distance as our car got older (14+ years at the present time). I’ve always been the second driver if my husband initiates the rental and he’s the second driver when I initiate the rental, and they’ve never blinked at having the spouse as a second driver at no extra charge — usually just show that your license is valid.

Monday, November 21st, 2011, we made an online reservation to pick up a compact car on Tuesday late in the afternoon. As usual no problem with this step.

We arrived at the rental office in Waldorf, MD and waited for our turn. Hubby had turned in the reservation so he was doing the paperwork. There was a pause while they checked on the car and hubby got an emergency call from work so he was handling that when the Avis person came back to the counter. So, I stepped up and answered the questions she still had. Then I said that I would be the second driver and asked if she needed my license. She said sure and I handed it over as she said, “There’s no charge for a spouse if you live at the same address and have the same last name.”

I replied that I lived at the same address but, when I got married, I kept my last name — so it was different from my husband’s.

She then said that would be an additional $13.00 per day for the rental. I asked why and was told because my last name was different. I was flabbergasted. I said that there is no law that requires a woman to change her name when getting married so why were spouses with different last names being singled out for an extra charge. They fell back on the “it’s corporate policy” response.

I asked when that policy went into effect and was told that it had always been that way. I responded that we’d never run into this policy in the 5 to 6 times we’d rented from them in just the last two years. They replied that it should have come up because they’ve always had this policy.

We cancelled the car. Stopped at another rental place up the street and rented a car there. We had to wait a bit because we hadn’t put in a reservation, but we got the car, added me as a second driver — spouse — with no extra charge even with a different last name.

Avis has lost us as customers. We’ll never again do business with a company that discriminates against women who choose not to change their name when they marry. I don’t know if this has really been their policy all along and no one ever enforced it (because they knew it was wrong) or whether it’s new.

If you’ve run into this problem yourself, I’d really like to hear about it. Tell me your story — what happened? Did they lose you as a customer? Or, did you just pay the extra fee?

I’ve waited nearly a week before writing this post, but I’m still ticked off by this blatant discrimination against women. I didn’t change my name when I got married because my husband is secure enough to deal with it (he sort of likes being Mr. wife’s-last-name half the time) and because I had education, professional training, and job experience that would all have to be contacted and asked to note the new name in case a new employer wanted to check me out. There’s enough crap to do in life without dealing with that issue. Most of our married friends have different last names, probably 50 / 50 same and different, so this must be netting Avis a lot of additional money if it’s being enforce that’s why I’m curious if others have had the same problem.

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Please watch, listen, and most of all, think about what Mr. Olbermann is saying. I believe we could all do with a bit more thinking before we talk, especially when in a heated argument over policies, beliefs, or whatever…

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Today, I happened upon a post that had a link to Alexis Madrigal’s story in The Atlantic about The Unknown Blogger Who Changed WikiLeaks Coverage. The article was very interesting and the blogger in question had posted an analysis of some essays of Julian Assange (essays located here in a PDF document). The blogger’s analysis is located in a November 29, 2010 post entitled Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”.

The blog post was, in my mind, well thought out and expressed very well many of the thoughts that I’d had since this whole thing came to a head and the US government began to act like a petulant child of 2 who was forced to admit he’d eaten all the cookies in the cookie jar. From reading these articles, I can see why the petulant child analogy, while apt, didn’t go far enough. The blogger ends his article with a quote Assage used in his essay. The quote is from Theodore Roosevelt and seems very apt in describing how Congress and our government seems to be REacting to events worldwide.

In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress you may recall the description of the Man with the Muck-rake, the man who could look no way but downward, with the muckrake in his hand; who was offered a celestial crown for his muck-rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor…the Man with the Muck-rake is set forth as the example of him whose vision is fixed on carnal instead of on spiritual things. Yet he also typifies the man who in this life consistently refuses to see aught that is lofty, and fixes his eyes with solemn intentness only on that which is vile and debasing. Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor, and it must be scraped up with the muck-rake; and there are times and places where this service is the most needed of all the services that can be performed. But the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks or writes save of his feats with the muck-rake, speedily becomes, not a help to society, not an incitement to good, but one of the most potent forces for evil. There are, in the body politic, economic, and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man, whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful… Quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s words from his 1912 Progressive party presidential platform

Occasionally my liberal politics causes me to get very impatient with my government. I used to be so proud of being American, back when the entire country stood erect with joy and pride in our Constitution, or Bill of Rights, and our position of defending the rights of those who had no voice throughout the world. When I was growing up America stood for something. That shining beacon analogy actually had some substance to it.

Over the years, this country — my country — has been slowly becoming greedy, mean, and callous. If it was a person rather than a government, many of us would say its personality has changed and maybe we should test for physical causes. Well it’s not a person but some of the causes are that we’re afraid. We no longer stand tall, we cower in fear that someone might hurt us. We no longer stand up for the rights of others, we don’t even stand up for those who live within our borders. Throughout the land people say, “if they’re not US Citizen’s they don’t deserve the protection of our laws”. In fact, maybe we shouldn’t even let them become citizens if they’re not already because they’re not like us.

People don’t vote as they should. I’m not talking about not voting the way I’d like them to, but not voting at all. Many people pride themselves on not paying any attention to politics because, and this is hard to believe, “their Senators, Representatives, or TV/Radio talk show hosts will tell them what’s important”. Our government is corrupt, if not legally, then morally, when one party holds the welfare of the unemployed hostage while they negotiate getting the richest 2% of Americans a tax break; while contemplating a tax increase on the lower incomes (excuse me it isn’t a tax increase, because it’s only an increase on the tax on gas — the gas everyone must use to get to work and back), raising the retirement age, and cutting medicare spending — we’ve lost our moral center.

Maybe instead of wasting so much time on persecuting Julian Assange and Wikileaks, we should be spending more time worrying about why our country has become so secretive. I’ve seen the reports and looked at some of the documents that were leaked as they were posted. For heaven sakes, the barn door is open, the horses are out, and you’re complaining and playing the National Security card because documents that weren’t exactly flattering to the sender or the subject got published; lists that, if looked at with brain engaged, make the reader wonder what black ops we’re getting into to make that particular site of such importance, got into the ‘wild’.

Every American owes it to their country to read the three articles mentioned at the top of this post, think about them, and then take a good hard look at what’s happening in this country. Then think back over what this country was like in its dealings with its citizens, its neighbors, and the world at large just 10 years ago, 20, 30 or however far back your own memory takes you and then look again at what’s happening now.

At this time of year, it’s important to think about how you live your life and what legacy you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren, or just those who will go on living here beyond your lifetime. Part of that legacy is how you participate in your government and what it does in your name.

What can we do as citizens to make our country one we can be proud to live in?

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I found this quote on reference desk:

“But this Veterans Day, I believe we should do more than sing the praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans have embodied in the past. We should take this opportunity to re-evaluate how we are treating our veterans in the present. ” – Nick Lampson

It got me to thinking how much we ask of our people in uniform and how little they get in return. Years ago, when I was in college, veterans got practically all of their expenses covered as they worked on their degree — the only requirement was that they attend their classes and get the grades to continue. Now full veterans benefits barely cover anything leaving much of the cost of a college education to be covered by other means.

Even the veterans medical benefits are not as inclusive as they once were. My uncle had quite a bit of difficulty getting coverage for his cancer and related treatments before he died. The Veterans Administration was very helpful in helping navigate the twisted ways of the paperwork to patch together some help for his medical care.

We ask these men and women to step forward and possibly give their lives for us — the ultimate sacrifice that they may be required to give. Yet, consistently our Congress has been reducing the benefits that these people can expect from “a thankful government and people”. I know our candidates talk a good game, but talk is cheap — it’s actual actions that speak to the real priorities.

So, today and throughout the year, remember our veterans and those serving in our undeclared wars — honor them by bringing them home. Their lives shouldn’t be put on the line for less than the safety of the nation — not the safety and convenience of the corporations that sponsor Congress.

NOTE: These are my personal opinions and as such are valid for me. Your own mileage may vary.

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Today is blog action day and the topic is water. About two thirds (2/3) of our planet is covered with water and yet many people do not have access to clean water. Of all the water on the planet only about one percent is fresh water than we can drink and we are continually polluting that water. [Note: These numbers and figures differ slightly depending on which authority you get the numbers from -- I picked conservative numbers.]

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Many of today’s blogs will probably deal with the facts and figures of water, water contamination, pollution, and the need for clean water. I’m going to talk about me — after all this is my blog.

Before we moved to our present house, my husband and I lived in cities and water was no problem — it was just there unless the water main broke. Water to drink. Water to cook with. Water to wash with. Water to flush toilets. Water for house plants. It was just there. In some places it didn’t taste quite right so we got a Britta filter — problem solved.

Then fast forward to our present house and we have a well. Our house sits on 5 acres with its own well and septic system. Now we had to think about water and sewage. We have to be careful what we flush down the toilet because it’s going to go through the septic system and back out into the groundwater — hopefully clean again. If you put the wrong stuff in, the system may not work and that’s an expensive proposition of pumping it out, and so on.

But drinking water hasn’t been a problem. The well is deep and the water has been tested and is safe to drink. There’s an electric pump that brings the water up from that deep well and into the house. No electricity means no water.

A few years back, a hurricane knocked out the power and we were without water for over a week. No pump, no water. Earlier that year we’d bought a rain barrel which sat under a drain pipe from the roof. We’d been using that water to water the garden so we wouldn’t be stressing the well. With no electricity, we could use that water to flush the toilet but it wasn’t drinkable. We had to travel and buy water at stores; an expensive proposition when you needed water for everything — drinking, cooking, washing dishes, washing us.

That experience really made us appreciate just how reliant we were on technology. I remembered staying at a camp when I was a kid that had a hand-pump to bring water into the kitchen sink. But, electric pumps have replaced that in our lives and now without electricity we’re without many of the basics we take for granted — one of which is water.

Now, think about the many people living on this planet who can’t buy clean water. People who need to collect water from rivers, streams, rain barrels and then take their chances drinking it that it won’t make them sick — or kill them. We’re not talking fancy smart waters or flavored waters — just plain clean, disease and parasite free, water. 42000 people die each week from drinking unclean water. Think about that — that’s twenty times the population of the little town I grew up in in Maine. That’s every week just because they lack clean drinkable water.

Humans need water to survive. I’ve heard, but haven’t verified, that you can survive longer without food than you can without water. Yet, we treat our planet as if all its resources are infinite. They are not. While water is in many ways renewable because it can be treated, filtered by the ground, evaporated and returned via rain, it’s not a perfect system in the face of humanities every increasing abuse of our planet and its resources.

In my family we do what we can to help. We use rain barrels and recaptured water for gardening. We try not to buy bottled water and instead use our own water in reusable water bottles whenever possible. When we do buy, we try to buy where some of the money goes toward clean water programs. We try to put our efforts and money into programs and actions that will help everyone sharing the planet with us.

We’re all on this planet together and it’s about time we all spent a bit of time thinking about how we use it and how we can help others to have the basic necessities of life and the most basic of these is clean drinking water.

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NOTE of Warning: This post is a political rant because sometimes I just have to speak up. If you don’t care for political rants…fine…move along and come back another day when I may have more on my garden, my knitting, book reviews, or other lighter less-ranty posts.

Every now and then  it seems that comedy becomes actuality.  Years ago Cheech and Chong had a song called Born in East LA which chronicles the problems that a man born in East L.A. had to proving his citizenship when scooped up in an illegal immigrant sweep.  At the time, even though it highlighted a problem that existed among the Hispanic population, it also highlighted the extremely  unAmerican  concept of having to show papers whenever you were asked by an authority figure.  This was something that only was supposed to happen in Communist countries.

Now the state of Arizona has passed SB 1070 into law.  It’s been signed by Gov. Jan Brewer.  In its bare essence the state of Arizona has made it legal to do racial profiling within the state.  The bill requires local law enforcement to question anyone they reasonably  suspect  of being undocumented.  (Translation: you could be pulled over for no other reason than that you are brown-skinned or speak Spanish.) The bill makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper paperwork in Arizona.   And just how does an American citizen prove that they’re not an illegal alien?   If you’re an American, you won’t have a green card, or visa, or anything else.  And since you can’t prove that you’re in the country legally, you must be an illegal alien. Q.E.D.  Hopefully somebody other than me sees the logical fallacy in having to prove a negative.

What the this means is that everyone who might be possibly be “reasonably suspected” of being an illegal alien must show papers to any  authority that asks.  So, if you have dark hair and dark eyes and a non-milky complexion, you’d better make sure that you have all the necessary paperwork to prove you’re a citizen on you at all time.  Don’t forget that includes children — after all, illegal aliens come in all ages.

So somehow, while we weren’t paying attention, the state of Arizona managed to become the first state in the nation that requires all citizens to show papers when requested by an authority figure, or face the consequences.  Of course that’s only for some people — not the lily white ones.

In case you’re wondering, I’m a mix of French, Scottish, and who knows what — but I do have dark hair (except for the grey), and dark brown eyes, and have often been mistaken for Hispanic even though I only know enough Spanish to count to ten on a good day with a few phrases learned from years of Sesame Street long, long ago when my son was younger.

I’m outraged by this.  I used to live in America.  The home of the brave.  The land of the free.  Where Democracy reigned and it was not only our right, but our obligation, to question authority and to stand up for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve watched America slowly become a bully nation that picks on those who can’t defend themselves.  A nation that punishes those who come here believing that the motto on that statue in New York Harbor is real  and for those who have forgotten it:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of you teamming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Poem on plaque at the foot of the Statue of Liberty written by Emma Lazarus.

I guess those words should now be changed to only come here if you’ve got lots of money to spend, paperwork to prove you’re worth letting into our country, and will only say good things about us while you’re here.

I’ve seldom been so ashamed of my country as I am after hearing about this travesty. I hope when the legal battles come, and I’m sure they will, that the courts will rule this law unconstitutional because there isn’t a doubt in my mind (having read this document) that it is just that — not to mention Arizona’s SB 1070 is frankly unAmerican and shameful.

There are, I am sure better ways to deal with illegal aliens that to force your citizens to carry papers — unless of course you think the comparison with the old-time Communist countries is appropriate. In fact, I don’t think they even require papers at every stop within their borders anymore.

[Hyperion here:]  The problems surrounding illegal immigration are real and severe.  There are no doubts that something needs to be done to counteract the unfortunate evils that accompany it.  That said, the number of illegal immigrants that cause problems are a tiny percentage of the those that are here.  Like the general population of the U.S., the vast majority are hard working people trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.  They work the crap jobs that no American wants, for pay no American would accept.  If we magically found and deported every illegal alien in America today, large portions of our economy would collapse into ruin within a week.  So while I agree that we have to do something about the troublemakers, I have to wonder why so many Americans are willing to throw the founding principles of this country out the window just to make things seem simple.  Have we really learned nothing from the Japanese Interment Camps or the House UnAmerican Activities witch hunts?  Every time we’ve pulled this kind of crap, the future has lo0ked back on those that participated in them with horror and disgust.  And they sit around and wonder just how could people have been so clueless and horrible.   So two quotes to close by, the first generally accredited to Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  And the second to George Santayana: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

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Well, not really cabbages and kings, but close enough.  First a whine: today is day 2 of a migraine — I’m done now, but my head seems not to care.  Anyway, it has been awhile since I posted and I thought I should catch up a bit.  First, we’ve been pushing back on the leaf raking or rather…gaining ground.  Here’s a photo of the garden area now that the leaves have been off for a week or so.

The garden area on the side of the house

You can see there’s more green on the ground. The Hostas are pushing up on the upper level nearer the house. The herbs are greening up in the circle. We’ve still got to pull up the old square foot gardens and replace with the new ones that are of plastic wood-look boards that won’t rot after a couple of years like the current one. We getting ready to put in the potatoes and strawberry plants. I’ve still got to start seeds or if not soon, we’ll need to buy vegetable plants.

I’ve complained about how far the house is from the mailboxes (about 1/4 mile) so here’s a photo of the house (you can see it through the trees. This is from about slightly less than 1/4 of the way back to the house.

Our house through the trees from the driveway.

Spring is definitely here in spite of the temperatures being between the low 40s and the high 80s at a day’s notice. Here’s two photos of our Peony Trees — one has pink flowers and the other white. Yesterday morning they had buds just starting to look like they were thinking about opening. Last evening they were partially open. Today this is what I saw.

Our Peony Tree with its pink blossoms

Our Peony Tree with white blossoms

Meanwhile, we have four azalea bushes. One has bloomed and is nearly all gone. One is in bud and about ready to open up. The other two are way behind and I hope will bloom later.

Azalea buds

One of the joys of getting all the leaves raked up is the wild flowers that show up. This is a closeup of a violet looking flower that is now covering a lot of the lawn area of the yard. Makes for some smiles when you look down at the ground.

Violet looking flower in the yard

We’ve recently been adopted by a cat. I’m highly allergic to cats so Emmy is going to be an outdoor cat though it is obvious that Emmy feels that indoors would be much better. We’ve build a “feral cat house” for her/him (we don’t know what gender Emmy is yet — but from now on I’ll default to her). She’s actually sleeping in the house so it is being used.

Emmy, the cat -- a black and white Tuxedo short-hair

Emmy showed up during the last snow storm in Maryland back in March. She was one of several cats that got dumped out on the main road. At first there were two cats that came to beg food at our house — Emmy and another cat with similar marking but smaller. Emmy stuck around but the other one seems to have made other arrangements. Emmy is affectionate, quiet (she occasionally squeaks, not meows, but she can purr). We can’t help but give her the appropriate scritches and pats when she strops herself about our legs. She’s comes trotting out when I go out to rake and watches from under a bush or by laying nearby. Of course after I get a big pile she needs to attack it to see that it is animal free.

Last week she brought me a dead something — mouse or vole. I gave praises and such but she hasn’t brought another one to me yet. We’re hoping she’ll help with the mole/vole problem we have in our yard. The ground is all spongy from their burrows.

Anyway, she’s a lovely cat. Calm. Loving. Sweet tempered. How anyone could dump such a lovely thing is beyond me. I’d heard stories of people dumping their animals out in rural area but this is my first run in with that. It’s as if they think the animals they have as pets are just disposable items not worth thinking about. Get tired of them and dump them off to fend or themselves or die. If the animal is really lucky they might get taken in by someone but there are only so many animals that rural areas can take in. Dumping animals is wrong no matter how you look at it — but then I wouldn’t wish Emmy to have to live with the sort of people who would dump an animal out on a country road.

Of course, our next problem is that Emmy, for all her good characteristics, is very leary of getting too close to us and skitters away if we move too fast or startle her. At some point we need to trap and neuter — guess that’s when we’ll learn the actual gender of this lovely cat. Meanwhile, we try to socialize her to having people around.

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