The Paper Princess

April 30, 2011

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“How did it go?”

“Better than I expected. I don’t think we’ll ever be best friends, but we might send each other Christmas cards.”

“That’s a step in the right direction,” replied the prince as he unbuttoned his shirt. “I’m glad to see you rebuilding your relationship with your sister. It must have been difficult for her to reach out to you.”

“Enough about me. How was your day?”

“Oh, more of the same old drudgery. Opening parliament, three ribbon cuttings, and tea with the prime minister. Thank God it’s Friday. Time to take a break from work.”

The princess laughed at how he downplayed his important role in society as the much beloved heir to the throne.

“I believe there are still some affairs of the state that you need to tend to.”

“Yes?” he asked, a confused look upon his face.

“We have not yet produced an heir.”

The prince smiled and turned off the bedside lamp.

Their lovemaking that night was very different than it had been in the past. His wife was much less inhibited, as if the reunion with her sister had relieved much of her internal stress.

Soon, they received news that the sister of the princess was moving to America to begin a new life. Although the sisters rarely saw each other in person, they shared frequent letters and phone conversations. The improvement in their relationship had a profound influence on the princess. She appeared happy and stress free. In the bedroom, she became more adventurous with each passing night.

Later that year, the country rejoiced as the princess gave birth to a son. The House of Stewart, reduced to just a single branch, would exist for at least another generation. By the time the prince ascended to the throne, there were six children . The House of Stewart had been saved from the brink of extinction, and the monarchy would continue to exist for an untold number of years. The country breathed a collective sigh of relief.

In a dungeon three hundred miles away, the true princess cried herself to sleep each night. Her husband had been stolen from her by those who plotted to overthrow the monarchy. They chose not a bullet nor a sword as their weapon; but rather, a woman. Her own sister. Her twin. A weapon that could easily breach the security around the royal family. A weapon that would cause the monarchy to die a slow and painful death.

When the princess was past her child bearing years, the plot would be revealed. Her sister – now being recognized as the queen – would reveal that she was a fraud. She would reveal that she had tricked her husband and her country – and that the true queen was her sister.

The six children that the king had fathered were, of course, illegitimate and could not ascend to the throne.

The monarchy seemed destined to die a natural death. The king would not be able to produce a legitimate heir with the true queen, since she was no longer able to bear children.

There were, of course, two options that remained . A divorce or the death of the queen would allow the king to remarry and produce a legitimate heir to the throne. But his love for his queen would not allow him to divorce her or expedite her death … or would it?

The Fall of the Birthers

April 29, 2011

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A funny thing happened on my way to getting to my column here this month, President Obama released his full form birth certificate. I was all ready to go with discussing the response to the Ryan budget when House members went back to their districts, and then this happened. Mind you I will get to that as well this week, but I thought my thoughts on this “revelation” deserved the top billing this time around.

Now the release of the long form version won’t change the minds of those almost half of Republicans that don’t believe that Obama was born in this country or likely the attitudes of the other almost quarter that pander to their cause with the I don’t know or we’ll take him at his word game. Mainly because the birth certificate that was already available was a legal document and they didn’t believe that one either.

No, they are likely to continue to believe that there was some conspiracy back then between the newly entered state of Hawaii, the hospital and the newspapers with this baby born in the early 60’s, to a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya. You knew obviously he was going to be President one day.

Or on the other hand the panderers like Speaker John of Orange will likely take similar suits to the ones they are already doing now. That is that the whole this is and always was the fault of President Obama. It is the usual mantra for the Republicans afterall. Really Crying Man? It’s the President’s fault that half your party are insane idiots. Yeah let’s see you continue to roll with that one.

Then there is what I feel the most disgusting response that the birther crowd has had with moving on to their next delegitimizing of the President conspiracy theory. How could a black man possibly be smart enough to go to Columbia and Harvard? How can he have written those books without help? Show us the transcripts? Prove you didn’t have a ghost writer for your novels Mr. Obama it that really is who you are? At least with this new conspiracy theory the birthers true reason existence is clearly defined, they just can’t stand that a black man was elected President and are moronic racists with nothing more than agenda of trying to find a way to delegitimize his election in their minds. However I would love for more than nothing for the Republicans in office to start panderering to the crowd on this issue as well as it is going to hurt them so much more.

It is pretty funny though that the ring leader or carnival barker have you of the birther nation, The Donald would question these things about the President. Afterall he did not write the books he has “written” in the past himself, and has also paid money to allow or people to be admitted to Ivy League schools that did not deserve to be there.

Though I’d love to see them continue on this course for my own entertainment and their demise, I find it sad and hurtful for our society. I am not taking a stance here for or against affirmative action, but that is not the exact point of the birther’s new “argument” here. It is that a non-white person could not ever have the qualification or intelligence to attend these schools over a white person so something must be fishy here. So now the President must prove with his transcripts from high school on to prove otherwise. Have we really gone so far back as a society that we need some sort of preface to prove the literacy and intelligence of a black man to a white audience to believe his worth? Then again they won’t believe anything you say Mr. President, so I wouldn’t grace this issue with any dignity and let the dig their own grave.

Bad Nuts of the Month:


It has been quite amusing to see the House Republicans at their town halls after passing the Ryan, Path to Poverty budget try to defend it and their vote to their constituents. There has been some heated arguing, screaming and sometimes swearing, but I have not heard of threats of bodily harm or asking who is going to kill the President because of this at these town hall reactions. Nor is the outrage been entirely from the left or being bussed into the meetings with prewritten scripts to follow. Although I think the Republicans as whole will likely take Florida Rep. Allen West’s lead and only answer prescreened questions asked by a staffer and not a constituent and any dissent to his thoughts will be met with arrest. He obviously takes New York Rep. Mike Grimm’s view of representative democracy that your constituents you serve are only those who voted for you, well that and those like the Koch Brothers who line your pockets and campaign coffers. I am happy though that Harry Reid has decided to bring a vote on this budget to the Senate to allow for the Senate Republicans to join their House party members in defending this budget or pave their way to be teabagged in the primaries next time around.


Prior to announcing their 69% profit increase on Thursday, Exxon tied to play themselves as the victim in all of this. It’s not their fault they made a huge earnings increase for the fifth quarter in a row; it is the local station owners fault. Now I have worked plenty in gas stations while I was in college and it is not ever going to be their fault. As there are laws restraining just that and I know that gas stations make mere pennies of profit on each gallon and their profit comes from mark up on items in the store.


For some reason the overwhelmingly Democratic House in Massachusetts has decided that Scott Walker is a role model and passed their own bill stripping collective bargaining rights on healthcare for state workers. Granted they have Romneycare there and the Senate isn’t likely to take action on it there and the Governor has already said he will never sign such a bill if it did. So moot point aside it still deserves note for the stupidity of Massachusetts state Democrats to think it was a worthwhile issue.

Royal Wedding Pregame Coverage

April 28, 2011

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Tomorrow is the big day – the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  If you’re wondering what to buy the couple, candlesticks make a nice gift.  (Thanks, Larry.)

I’m a bit neutral on the topic of the wedding.  I certainly will not be getting up at 4 AM to watch, but I’m sure I’ll read a couple of news stories about the event.

I’m really not sure why Americans are so fascinated with the British royal family.  It’s not as if they have real power – and there are actually monarchs who DO have ruling power in other countries.  Is it because we were once under the control of the British?  But wouldn’t this be a reason to dislike them?  For many of us, it’s not even that we trace out heritage back to England.  Personally, I am 100% German (no, I don’t follow German news very closely).

I guess it’s because we speak the same language – although American English and British English aren’t exactly the same language – as anyone who ever needed to take the lift to visit the loo would know.

Some random tidbits about the couple:

William actually has royal blood on both sides.  Princess Diana was descended from two illegitimate sons of Henry II.  How is that possible, you ask?  A male descendant of the one son married a female descendant of the other.  It should be noted that this bloodline is not recognized in the line of succession, so his only claim to the throne is through Charles.  Still, interesting.

Kate’s parents worked in the airline industries (she as a flight attendant, he as a dispatcher) before starting a party favor company that eventually made them millions.  How’s that for the epitome of the American dream?  British dream.  Whatever.

When Kate and William broke up several years ago, one of the contributing factors was reportedly Kate thinking that William wasn’t paying enough attention to her.  Yes, she nearly cost herself the chance to become queen – putting her feelings ahead of her desire for power.  Well, bully for her, as the Brits would say.

I can’t help feeling a bit sad that William’s mother won’t be alive to see him married.  I can still remember watching the sad news of her death.  Tragic not only because of the avoidable nature of the accident, but also because someone with such a charitable heart had her life cut short.

I wonder if we are looking at the last king and queen of England.  There is an increasing sentiment to get rid of the monarchy.  After all, the monarch has very little actual power any more.  Sure, the Brits love pomp and ceremony … but how will they feel by the end of William’s reign (assuming that he does ascend to the throne)?  Assuming that he lives to 80, that could be a half century away – plenty of time for dramatic changes.  And I think that Will and Kate may be more open to these changes than some monarchs from the past.

Nintendo Announces New Wii – Will The Craze Be As High?

April 27, 2011

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Nintendo Announces New Wii – Will The Craze Be As High?

Let me start by saying I’ve never been a big Nintendo guy. In fact, I’ve never owned a Nintendo anything….I’ve always been a Sega/Playstation guy. When the Wii came out in 2006, I didn’t want one. Actually, I refused to get one….and then my wife brought one home. I know where you THINK I’m going. I played it and fell in love. WRONG! I’ve played it a hand-full of times and I’ve never been a fan. The graphics are not of the same quality that the Playstation 3 (my preferred gaming system) is. It’s hard to beat the PS3’s blu-ray player and overall game play quality.

This week, Nintendo announced that a Wii successor will be introduced in 2012. No specific details have been announced regarding what the new version of the Wii will be capable of, but the one rumor I’ve seen is it will be high definition capable. Given how advanced gaming systems and televisions have become in the last few years, HD is almost a requirement.

But what else will the new Will be capable of? Will it be capable of playing dvds, like the PS3? Will it have an internet browser like the PS3 (I’m not 100% sure it doesn’t now, but I’m 90% sure it doesn’t)? The current Wii has around 80MB of memory….will the new Wii have more or less, or will the produce different models with different memory options? Most importantly (to me), will the Wii be more friendly for sports games enthusiasts (Madden, MLB: The Show, NBA 2k)?

That’s a lot of questions, I know, which is really all the announcement left us with – questions. Nintendo says that there will be a playable version of the new Wii at the E3 Expo in June 2011. I can remember back 5 years ago when the original Wii became available for sale. It was nearly impossible to get one anywhere! The Wii was the first gaming system of its kind, with the motion controllers. Will the second version of the Wii have such a high demand? Only time will tell….but one thing is for sure. My wife is sure to get one, without asking me of course!


How Will the NCAA Punish Ohio State?

April 26, 2011

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Big problems continue for the beloved Ohio State Program. Not that it is any big shocker, but the NCAA the fastest yacht in the boat race, finally made a public statement yesterday that they are looking into “alleged” infractions. The violations in the Ohio State case happened a basically 12 months ago. The news splash came out in late December right before the bowl game, and then further escalated about 2 months ago with Tressel’s admission he knew about the problems with the five players trading equipment and awards for tattoos. Heck he even had the email train to show for it.

Now the Buckeyes have until July 5 to answer questions for the NCAA. A hearing before the infractions committee is scheduled Aug. 12 in Indianapolis.(coincidentally one day before Johnny Goodman’s Birthday) After that, god only knows how long this will drag on. Heck it took the NCAA 5 years to nail USC for Reggie Bush and other violations of basketball players taking place during the same time span.

The lingering question is will the NCAA think that the penalties imposed by the school are strong enough, or will they wield a heavier hammer? Hard to tell. The scuttlebutt in the coaching fraternity is that “The Vest” is in deep doo doo. Heck even Nebraska increased head coach Bo Pelini’s salary just yesterday making him the third highest paid football coach in the Big Ten. Why? They lost way more games than they should have last year and folded like a cheap card table in their bowl game re-match with lowly Washington. Maybe Athletic Director Tom Osborne wanted to make a possible move to Pelini’s alma mater, Ohio State, look less appealing from a financial perspective.

Lucky #7

The NFL Lockout drama saga continues this week we are quickly approaching the 2011 Draft. AP writer Jaime Aron had an excellent article on April 23rd that listed the top players taken at each position in the draft since the modern day draft has taken place. As you can imagine this could be a hotly debated topic. I mean which #1 overall is the best? Bradshaw? Manning? Aikman, Campbell? You could make your argument for any of these guys at #1. But what I found interesting was that the #7 pick in the first round has been a veritable point of weakness overall.

Tops on Aron’s listing was Adrian Peterson in the #7 spot, who many felt “slid” to the Vikings as he was coming off an injury plagued college career at Oklahoma. Phil Simms, Sterling Sharpe, Bryant Young and Champ Bailey are others of mention at the number 7 spot but no one really stands out like is the case at the other positions in the top 10 overall in any given year

Maybe this means the #7 spot is due to have a great player taken. Of course anyone in the Top 10 each year is considered great or they would not be considered to be drafted that high. The consensus at #7 this year is Patrick Peterson, the dynamic secondary player from LSU. Only time will tell if a Peterson will dominate from the #7 spot overall in the draft.

Until Next time…stay classy Mel Kiper Jr.

Writing in Period

April 25, 2011

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As an author, it is important to read; a lot. Reading other works broadens your vision and provides examples of both good and bad expression. Reading a wide range of works will also help develop the appropriate attitudes of your characters.

If you place your story in the early seventeen century, you need to have an understanding of what “real” people believed and sought during that time. If you create a crowd of characters to whom “free love” and “equality” were social norms, you fall into the trap of inserting your values or the values of the society in which you live into an inappropriate scheme. Just as setting a story in the late twentieth century with public figures extolling the virtues of slavery would be just plain wrong. That is not to say that such inconsistencies would not create a story in themselves, just that period writing should be consistent.

There are plenty of efforts to suggest that Shakespeare was a women’s rights advocate. There is no real evidence to support that he actually was, but his writings transposed to the 1970’s could be used to support the efforts of modern women. We all insert our biases into our writing, the true victory is to appreciate the reality of the times we wish to write about.

One of the easiest themes to use is the future. With the future as your background, you can expound on any philosophy or social norm that you desire. The future can be any ideal that you want. The pitfall in this area is to eliminate any consequences; creating utopias. Life shows that there is no universal utopia. This is not so say that such conditions cannot be met, just that with any group of people, there is a struggle for superiority, no matter how petty.

The surest method of keeping within period is to write about your own times. Your story will still be colored by your personal beliefs and the problems of the day, but it will be honest and provide source material for future writers.

Each of us contributes to the whole of literature, regardless of talent or purpose. From the first invention of writing, we started to capture stories and keep them in their original forms. Oral tradition is a fantastic way of keeping a culture together, but when that culture is reduced by catastrophe, natural or man made, much of that tradition can be lost. Writing things down does not insure that it will endure, just as much was lost with the burning of the library at Alexandria, or the loss of any work for that matter. Not all works are protected, but all impact the works that follow. All of us who have the opportunity to compose have continued to contribute to the whole. Because of this influence we have the responsibility to be as diligent as possible in all of our efforts.

Is Dilbert Based on Real Life?

April 23, 2011

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I was mildly amused at Dilbert when it came out and started to get popular back in the early 90’s. I was just finishing high school and starting college, and I couldn’t really fathom how such scenarios could possibly exist in a professional IT environment. Despite my having a degree in music, the vast bulk of my adult life has been spent with me having a job in IT, the result of me and student teaching not really getting along. Many, many times over has Dilbert proven that yes, such ridiculous scenarios and characters do have a basis in real life.

You say Dilbert’s iconic “pointy-haired” boss couldn’t possibly exist in real life, right? Well, I’ve had just about every kind of boss – amazing ones, highly technical ones, ones with no technical skill, and horrible ones. Yes, I’ve even had a boss with minimal technical skill and almost no concept of managing people in a professional environment. As I’ve been told (but was always too apprehensive to ask him directly) he was a clerk in the US Army and then got a degree in library science. You’d think this would lead him to have good organizational skills, something like Radar from M.A.S.H. Not even close.

On my first day of work with this boss, I was busy customizing my PC – you know, adding useful utilities and widgets that systems admin types like me find handy. New boss – we’ll call him “Boss G” – comes over and sets 2 pieces of printed paper on my desk, stapled neatly in the upper left hand corner. Thinking that it’s more paperwork for me to sign or work policy that I need to review I looked up at him and asked, “what’s this?”

“That’s a Magic ticket,” he replied, referring to Support Magic, our helpdesk incident management tracking system. I had used that exact system at my previous job for over 4 years and had not once seen a printout of it – it runs off an SQL database that meticulously tracks all aspects of incidents/tickets and has a nice web interface so that any level of support staff could enter in work details, asset tracking, work flow, etc.

He must have seen the bewildered look on my face as I glanced over the two stapled pieces of paper, because he then gave me rudimentary instructions on what to do: “Finish the work, then write your solution down on the back page and bring it back to me.”

I was completely dumbfounded. The whole purpose of a $50,000 plus software package like Support Magic or Remedy was to allow all level of tech staff to access and share information as they perform work. Printing the tickets and then giving them to your tech staff so they can hand write the steps they took in troubleshooting/solving an issue is like buying a really nice new car so you and your friends can push it around the block. I said to him, “I’ve used Support Magic extensively, I helped test and implement it at my last job. I’m used to accessing the system directly and managing any tickets assigned to me.” I didn’t even add this was at my job at a Wall Street firm where I worked for 5 years, where every last thing needs to be completed 10 minutes ago and seconds can literally translate into thousands of dollars lost.

Boss G’s normally stoic expression was marred by just a slight twitch of his mouth, and following a pause of 4 or 5 seconds he replied sternly, “I’m the only one in the group who accesses it here and that’s how we do things.” Immediately after the last word left his mouth he had turned and walked away from me.

I could hear snickering in the cubical behind me, and a co-worker stepped out and said, “Dude, you just got your first dose of Boss G.” I wanted to say something, but was so befuddled at this complete new level of inefficiency that my mouth just hung there, slightly open. My co-worker continued, “The real kicker is after you write everything out on that paper and bring it back to him, he reads it and tosses it in recycling. He doesn’t even enter anything you wrote in the Support Magic database.”

If confused exasperation were explosive force, my head would have burst at a megaton level. Over the next 8 and 1/2 years I would learn that barely scratched the surface of the dysfunctionality of where I worked. My torment is your gain, dear readers, I hope writing about it is as cathartic for me as it is amusing for you.

Heidi and the Shark

April 22, 2011

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Today I’m re-running one of my favorite vintage stories.  This story of triumph over adversity originally ran on July 17, 2009.  You can find this, and dozens of other older stories, in the Kindle version of Mountains, Meadows, and Chasms.  Now, on with the story …


Heidi rolled onto her stomach.  The weekend was off to a great start.  It was great to get away for a weekend with the girls – no guys allowed.  Lindsey’s uncle loaned them the use of the sprawling old beach house for the weekend.  Heidi, Lindsey, and Katie were working diligently on their tans.  After a rough few months, it was precisely what the doctor ordered for Heidi.

After Heidi’s buns were lightly toasted, she felt the ocean call to her.  She felt to urge to go for a swim.

“Hey,” she called out to the girls.  “Is anyone up for a swim?”

“Not me,” replied Katie.

“Mmrumph zstek,” said Lindsey, before resuming her snoring.

“OK, you’re missing out,” proclaimed Heidi.

It took Heidi a few minutes to locate her swim suit.  She slipped into the suit and raced toward the water.  Heidi waded through the water until it was a bit above her waist, and then she started to swim out toward the distant shore of the wide blue ocean.  Her lithe body sliced through the waves.  The swim in the salt water was refreshing.  Heidi enjoyed being in the midst of the ocean’s biosphere, with a myriad of fish species swimming around her.

When Heidi finally decided to turn back toward shore, she realized that she had swum quite far out into the ocean.  It was going to take a lot of time to get back to the shore, and she was more tired than she had realized.

Fifteen minutes after she began to swim back, Heidi felt herself go completely numb.  Ahead of her, she saw the dorsal fin of a small hammerhead shark.  She began to swim north to circle around the shark, but the shark seemed to sense her and it moved in the same direction.  She was blocked from the shore by the killer.

Heidi was unsure what to do.  She tried to move to the south, but once again the shark followed.  The shark was clearly stalking her.  Heidi had become the prey.  The shark would be more than happy to trail her back and forth and she tried to evade it.  It knew that eventually, Heidi would become tired.  At this point, she would become shark food.

Heidi was a fighter, and she was not about to give in without a fight.  She decided to become the aggressor.  She swam toward the shark.  When she was next to the shark, she attacked it with a barrage of punches and kicks, and then swam quickly away from the shark and toward the shoreline.  The shark was momentarily stunned, but quickly regained its strength and began to pursue Heidi once again.

Heidi and the shark continued this deadly game of cat and mouse.  Each time, Heidi was able to stun the shark for a short while and swim a short distance closer to shore.  The impact of her blows was lessening, however.  The shoreline was still very distant, and her energy was waning.  She simply didn’t have the strength to hold her killer at bay.

Then, in the distance, she saw it.  Something that she had encountered earlier.  If she could make it that far, she might be able to break free from the shark.

When the shark closed in on her, Heidi used nearly every ounce of strength within her to unleash a tremendous attack upon the animal.  She quickly raced away, swimming toward her target as fast as her damaged body would carry her.  As she closed in on the school of fish, she could sense the hammerhead closing in on her, mere feet away.  She felt the welcome disturbances in the water, as the small fish swam around her.

The hammerhead had a choice to make.  He could continue to track Heidi, or he could stop here and have a feeding frenzy within the large school of fish.  Heidi knew that this was not a forgone conclusion.  The fish were an easier target, because they would not fight back as violently as she did.  On the other hand, she knew the shark could sense the lessening of her strength, and her sheer human size made her a much larger meal.

As the shark took a second to ponder the situation, Heidi poured every last bit of strength into her swimming and put a bit more distance between her and the shark.  When her energy left her, she took a break from swimming and focused on simply staying afloat.  She looked over her shoulder and saw that the shark was still violently attacking the defenseless fish within the school.  Heidi felt guilty for leading the shark into the school and causing the slaughter of the fish.  However, she realized that the death of those fish meant that she would live to see another day.

The sun was dying in the west when Heidi finally struggled to shore.  She allowed her body to be dumped upon the beach by the tide.  She lay on the beach for several minutes before willing herself to her feet and struggling up toward the beach house.

The Rent Is Too D@mn High

April 21, 2011

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Personal Responsibility

My husband and I just found out our rent is going up…again. A two bedroom apartment is now going to cost us over $1,000 a month. Yes, to rent. I look at myself and where I am in my life (30 years old, three kids) and think, “Why don’t I have a house yet?” and then I’m reminded I got a bit of a late start in my married life.

You see, one month after my husband and I got married, he got his deployment orders to Iraq. We already had a toddler (we did things a bit “out of order”) and were in our mid twenties. With his service in the Army, we didn’t really want to buy at that time because he had been talking about going active duty (he was in the reserves). So the year he was in Iraq, that accounts for one more year of my mid-late twenties.

EVERYONE was buying houses then. Even those who didn’t qualify. I had been saving money for a decent down payment, even though I knew we would qualify for a VA loan. And yes, I could have bought a house while he was overseas, but I didn’t think that would be fair to him.

Plus, I had a bit of mortgage experience under my belt. The balloon and adjustable rate mortgages everyone was getting was something I knew I couldn’t do. Sure, we could afford $800 a month now, but in a few years when the payments go up to $2000? No.

Some of my friends got in to some really, really nice houses. REALLY nice. Meanwhile, we continued to rent. Some of my friends are still in some really, really nice houses. And some of my friends aren’t paying their mortgage…because they can’t afford it. All too often I hear, “it takes a year for them to foreclose on us, so what’s the point.” So they’re living in their really really nice house, driving a car that the house payments could go in to (again, really, really nice) and not having to clip coupons.

My husband and I, on the other hand, are having to rent. Our rent is going up and the crazy thing about it all, if we don’t pay our rent for one month, we’re homeless. Is that fair?

We decided to focus on the mistakes we made in our early 20’s (read: credit cards) and are two months from having them ALL paid off. We no longer have a car loan as we finished paying it off last year. Yes, our little Corolla is a little cramped in the back with three car seats across and my mini-van was built before I even had a permit (1993) but we own them. They’re bought and paid for. No car debt.

On my way to a school board meeting (to discuss the barn), I drove past a house that was for sale and fell in love. We walked through it yesterday and were amazed. It. Was. PERFECT. 4 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a big backyard and the tree in the back even had a tree house!!

So we’ve started the pre-approval process and we’re learning quick that our “smart” decision to close our credit card accounts and pay them off, wasn’t so smart. We don’t have any debt (except for student loans) and that’s an issue? No debt, in my mind, is a good thing.

I feel like I’ve been punished for making decisions that I thought were right. Obviously if we can and do make a rent payment over 900 (and going up) a month, we can afford a house payment of the same. It is frustrating learning that my decision to know what I could and couldn’t afford, and being responsible is now coming back to bite me in the—well, you know.

The system is skewed. People should be rewarded for personal responsibility, not punished. I’m not saying this whole effort has made me lose that lesson, either. Come hell or high water, I’m still going to hold myself personally responsible for my decisions. Which is another reason why we had a toddler at our wedding. We chose to have pre-marital sex, conceived a child and had him. It wasn’t his fault. It was our choice. And he’s going to kindergarten next year.

I just hope that he can attend the kindergarten that is in our backyard (yes, the dream house back yard faces the playground to an elementary school).

And I’m teaching my children the same lessons. You MUST be responsible for your actions, your choices and yourself. In my mind, that’s good parenting. No matter what the mortgage system says.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

April 20, 2011

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I consider SVB over at The Digerati Life to be a friend. I’ve never actually met her in person, but we have a lot of interests in common (perhaps most notably a fascination with crime and forensics). We chat back and forth over email, and when she recommended a particular book, I gave it serious consideration, despite having a large backlog of unread books in my library.

The book was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I was aware of the book. It was an international best-seller, and the author, Stieg Larsson, died before the book (and the subsequent sequels) were printed. The circumstances surrounding Larsson’s estate (more about that in a guest article I wrote for SVB) added some intrigue for me. I nabbed a copy at Target for $5.99. Hey, I’ll give it a shot.

Now that I’m finished, I’m happy to report that it was one of the better books I have read in a while. The book has something for everyone – mystery, romance, murder, fraud, family squabbles – and much more. Even better, everyone seemed to use a Mac!

What I liked:

Culture – The book was written by a Swedish author, so I learned some things about Sweden by reading the book. I was barely into the book before I hopped onto the internet to check the value of the Swedish krona in US dollars. I pegged the value at about 16 cents and used this for currency translations. Then I got to the end of the book, where the topic comes upm in the text – the exchange rate being used is just under 10 kronor to the dollar.  Hmm.  I also learned that there is a statute of limitations for murder in Sweden. Avoid getting caught for long enough, and you’re home free. (What??!?!?)

Characters – The girl mentioned in the title is Lisbeth Salander, a young woman who works as a private investigator – putting her hacking skills to good use, She works an irregular schedule and lives an irregular life. She is a victim – or is she?

I’d argue that Lisbeth isn’t even the lead character in the book. Much of the book centers around Mikael Blomkvist, a financial reporter finds himself convicted of libel at the beginning of the book. The magazine that he co-owns is on the brink of ruin – can Blomkvist and his partners avoid financial doom?

That’s the tip of the iceberg. The book contains a rich cast of characters – hackers, lawyers, murders amongst them.

The story – In general, I need to be told an interesting story in order to enjoy a book. This book has a great story. Actually, a few great stories. There’s the story of Lisbeth’s own life, the story of Mikael’s personal and professional life, and thirty five years in the lives of the Vanger family, who are central figures in the plot. Although the threads do cross at times, they are actually separate and distinct stories that could hold up as their own individual novellas.

Verdict – Big thumbs up! I’m going to begin reading the second book in the series (The Girl Who Played With Fire) immediately.


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