A is for April

Or is it?

So there is this challenge going around WordPress. It’s called something like the Blogging from A to Z in April challenge. I think from now on I’ll call it the BATZAP challenge because that sounds sort of badass, doesn’t it?

The idea is to post every day in April (or Mondays through Saturdays, anyway) staring on April 1st with the letter A and, by the end of the month, finishing with the letter Z.

I have decided to participate in this challenge, but not formally or officially, which means I will be doing this informally and unofficially.

I will attempt, at great personal risk, to craft 26 posts this month, each one starting with the appropriate letter of the alphabet to match the date of the month (or close to it, since April has 30 days and there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, which is why we have Sundays off).

As I am not signed up anywhere to participate in this challenge, but will be doing it anyway, I am going to be participating on an ad hoc basis.

So what, exactly, does “ad hoc” mean? According to the Merriam Webster site:

“Ad hoc is a word that originally comes from Latin and means ‘for this’ or ‘for this situation.’ In current American English, it is used to describe something that has been formed or used for a special and immediate purpose, without previous planning.”

And so, because I am participating in this A to Z challenge on a whim, on the spur of the moment, and without official sponsorship or even a master blog to link back to, like there was for NaBloPoMo in November, I am participating in this challenge independently and on an ad hoc basis.

Hence, while A is for April, I am actually using the phrase “ad hoc” for my A-post.

A is for ad hoc.Ad hoc

I’ll be back tomorrow for my B-post. Hmm. I wonder what that post might be about.

Happy birthday Obamacare

obamacare-logo_fullWould you believe that Obamacare is five years old? I know a lot of people — primarily Republicans and conservatives — think Obamacare is terrible and should be repealed and replaced by…um…by…uh…. Well, it should be repealed.

I just read an article in the latest issue of The Week magazine about Obamacare’s five year anniversary. The reality is that the Affordable Care Act is working. Here’s what the article said:

“When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010, an open microphone famously caught Vice President Joe Biden calling it a “big fucking deal.” Five years later, there’s little doubt that Biden was entirely correct.

“Despite Republican predictions that the ACA would be a catastrophic failure, the law, now universally known as Obamacare, has extended insurance coverage to 16.4 million previously uninsured Americans and its cost-saving measures actually helped to rein in overall U.S. health care spending. Health care costs rose only 3.6 percent in 2013, the lowest increase since 1960. This week the Congressional Budget Office revised the projected 10-year cost of the law down to $1.2 trillion, 11 percent less than last year’s estimate.

“As for the ACA’s supposed job-killing impact, 2014 was the best year for job creation since the 1990s.”

The article noted that, even though the “doomsayers have been wrong pretty much across the board,’’ polls indicate that the law remains unpopular. Only 40% of Americans support it, while 45% oppose it.

“Thanks to a relentless campaign of misinformation by conservative critics, the public remains shockingly ignorant of the law’s effects. In a recent Vox.com poll, for instance, only 60 percent were aware that Obamacare has increased the number of Americans with health insurance, and just 5 percent knew that projections of Obamacare’s 10-year cost have consistently fallen.

“More than three in four Americans either think the program is providing insurance to undocumented immigrants or aren’t sure if it does, even though the ACA expressly bars coverage to such immigrants.”

And oh yeah, a lot of Americans still believe that Obamacare mandates “death panels.”

Overall, Obamacare has largely succeeded in its goals. But the law has become a proxy in the bitter, highly partisan debate over the role of government in this country. No amount of factual information, it seems, will change the minds of Republicans. If anything, five years in, their perceptions of Obamacare have gotten even worse.

So what do you all think? Thumbs up or thumbs down on Obamacare? And more important, why do you feel the way you feel about it?

Church and state



church and state

During an Arizona state senate committee debate on allowing concealed guns in public buildings, Republican state senator Sylvia Allen suggested that making church attendance mandatory would stem the moral decline in our country.

“I believe what’s happening to our country is that there’s a moral erosion of the soul of America,” she said. She advocated debating a bill that would require every American to attend the church of their choice every Sunday in order to lead this country to a moral rebirth.

So, mandatory church on Sunday, like, you know, all good Christians. Apparently no other religions in this great Christian nation of ours seem to matter, right?

Despite criticism of her comments, the senator did not apologize. “People prayed, people went to church,” Allen said in the Arizona Capitol Times. “I remember on Sundays the stores were closed.” Then she complained about how religion has been kicked out of public places and schools, as if that’s where religion should be practiced.

She harkened back to the 1950s, which she said were more peaceful and moral times for our country.

Ah, the good old days. Isn’t returning our nation to what it was in the 1950s and freezing it in time what most Republicans really want?

No shoes, no shirt, no heterosexuality, no service

Did Indiana Governor Mike Pence sign into law a bill that would allow businesses in the state to cite religious objections in order to refuse to serve gay people?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was approved by the Republican-dominated Indiana legislature and signed by the governor this past Thursday. It immediately set off a wild online campaign against the law, as well as a protest over the weekend in front of the Indiana Statehouse.

The law states that the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” Individuals who feel that their religious beliefs have been or could be “substantially burdened” can turn to this law to fend off lawsuits.

But what actually constitutes “substantially burdened” is not clear.

Some have dubbed this the “No shoes, no shirt, no heterosexuality, no service” act.

The real question is whether or not the law could be used by businesses to deny service to people based on their sexual orientation and then justify that discrimination based on their own religious beliefs.

Indiana is not the first state to implement this kind of law, by the way. It’s the 20th state to adopt a “religious freedom restoration” law. Most of these laws are modeled after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which President Clinton signed into law in 1993.

At the same time, though, 21 states currently have laws on the books prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And another nine have similar protections, but just for public employees.

Many of these recently proposed or enacted state laws were proposed after an outcry from social conservatives over incidents where some small businesses, such as florists, bakeries, or photography studios, found themselves being sued after refusing services to gay couples planning to get married.

So what do you think? Should going to church on Sunday be mandatory? Do these “religious freedom restoration” acts discriminate against gays? Is the notion of separation of church and state in the United States going the way of cassette tapes and landlines?

I first read about the Arizona state senator’s suggestion that church attendance should be mandatory in this post on Charles’ blog, Skeptic’s Journey. I’m not sure if I should thank him for it or be pissed that his post increased my blood pressure substantially after I read it.

Technology and grammar

I have two questions for you. One is about technology and one about grammar.

First, the technology question. This question is addressed to anyone who knows about iPhones and iTunes. I finally got all of my old iTunes songs decrypted and successfully added them my iTunes library on my new laptop. But when I go to sync them onto my iPhone 6, I get this message:

iTunes Message

Here’s my question. Does the message “Do you want to erase this iPhone and sync with this iTunes library?” mean that if I click ‘Erase and Sync,” my entire iPhone (all the apps, all the photos, and everything that’s on it) will be erased? Or does it mean it will erase only my iTunes library that is on my iPhone 6?

If it’s the latter, I’m perfectly okay with that. If it’s the former, no way I want to wipe my iPhone clean.

So to all of you iPhone and iTunes aficionados out there. Who is going to answer this question for me?

Second, the grammar question. I have this app on my iPhone called “The Score.” It’s where I go to get all of the latest scores updated right to my iPhone in near real-time. This morning, I wanted to check on times for the two March Madness games scheduled for today. And when I called it up on my iPhone, this is what I saw:


Here’s my question. Should that sentence read:

“Louisville are seeking their third Round of 4 berth in four years”?


“Louisville is seeking its third Round of 4 berth in four years”?

Now I know that those of you who are British or Canadian will have a different answer from those of us who are American. But since we’re talking about the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, let’s go with the proper American English version, shall we?

I say it should be “is” and “its” rather than “are” and “their.” That’s because the object of that sentence is (not areLouisville. It’s a basketball team. Or it could be referring to the university.

You wouldn’t say “Louisville are a nice city,” or “The University of Louisville are a good college,” or “The Louisville basketball team are very talented.” (Although you might say “The players on the Louisville basketball team are very talented.”)

So to all of you grammar Nazis and pedantic bloggers out there. Is the sentence in the app grammatically correct, or is it incorrect? Is it acceptable or inexcusable? Or doesn’t it matter to you one iota?

By the way, in case you’re interested, Michigan State beat Louisville 76–70 in overtime.

It was a hot and steamy night


In a post yesterday, WriterInSoul, asked this question:

“Do you ever think about your conception? That moment your parents got it on to ultimately produce you?”

I admit that, before reading her post, I had never thought about the night I was conceived. For all I know, mine could have been an immaculate conception. That seems almost as likely to me as the image of my parents engaging in sex.

But I decided to let my mind wander as I tried to imagine what might have happened that fateful night. It had to have been in July, since I was born in April, and I have this vision — which I must warn you, is R-rated — of a scene straight out of a Tennessee Williams play.

That summer night was particularly hot and humid. Their tenement does not have air conditioning and the several window fans are simply circulating the hot, thick, damp air.

It was close to midnight when my father, who could have been a Marlon Brando body double, arrives home from his job as a longshoreman. It’s stifling hot in their apartment, and he dabs the perspiration on his brow with a handkerchief he pulls from the back pocket of his jeans.

His two young daughters are sleeping in their bedroom at the other end of the apartment. He turns out the few remaining lights in the flat as he quietly makes his way to the bedroom he shares with his wife.

My mother is lying on the bed, wearing only a thin nightgown that clings to her damp skin, covers thrown aside due to the heat. She’s been unable to sleep because it’s just too damn hot.

As my father walks into the bedroom, he starts to shut the door. “Leave it open,” she commands. “Closing the door will make it even hotter in here.”

He leaves the door ajar and walks over to the bed. “Did I wake you, babe?” he asks.

“No,” she answers softly. “Who can sleep when it’s this hot?” He sits down on his side of the bed, removes his shoes, socks, and undershirt, and takes off his pants, which he drapes over the bed’s footboard.

He lies down next to his wife, wearing only his boxers. Not wanting his body heat to make her even more uncomfortable, he avoids touching her.

It’s so hot and steamy in the apartment, that, despite both being exhausted, neither of them seems able to sleep.

“You stayed late tonight,” she said, breaking the silence.

“There’s a ship leaving at the crack of dawn and we had to get her all loaded up and locked down tight.”

“Yeah,” she quips. “I bet you got her all loaded up and locked down tight, all right.”

“Babe, you know you’re the only dame I want to load up and lock down,” he responds, leaning in toward her as he plants a tender kiss on her soft, receptive lips.

She moves a hand to his belly and slips it under the waistband of his boxers. “Take off those shorts, you sexy stevedore,” she teases. “It’s too goddam hot to sleep and it’s even too hot for these night clothes.”

She sits up on the bed and pulls her thin nightie over her head. He can see the glistening perspiration covering her sinewy body reflected in the glow from the street lights coming in through the open window.

“So why don’t you slide on over here and load up your cargo into my hold,” she suggests in a deep, throaty voice.

I can’t say that anything even remotely like what I described above actually happened. But I do know that the dialogue, as told in this tale, is pure fiction. My father wasn’t a stevedore and in no way did he resemble Marlon Brando.

But suffice it to say that whatever did happen that night, nine months later I was born.

Not for naught

not knot naught

If you read my blog with any regularity, then you know it’s been a particularly trying week for me from a technology perspective.

I recently bought a new laptop so I could start using it for my non-work related computing, including for my blog, since I’m supposed to use my company-issued laptop exclusively for work.

My new laptop arrived a week ago Friday and I started the setup process the next morning. It’s been a week and the issues I’ve been having to deal with have my stomach tied up in a big ol’ knot.

Almost right out of the box, my new laptop somehow got infected with malware. I had to spend all day Monday in fruitless online chat sessions with the manufacturer (HP). I finally had to drive over to the retailer (Best Buy) Monday evening to get the malware removed from the machine.

I was kind of shocked to find out that my personal stuff amounted to 21 gigabytes of data in around 11,500 files. Do you know how long it takes to copy 21 gigabytes of data onto a flash drive?

But when I loaded the files from the flash drive to my new laptop’s hard drive, I discovered that every single one of those 11,500 files on my work laptop was encrypted. Thus, once copied onto the new laptop, they were unreadable.

So I contacted my company’s IT help desk and learned that I needed to get an encryption key in order to decrypt the files on my company-issued laptop so I could copy them, unencrypted, over to my personal laptop.

After a lot of apologizing for having used my company laptop for personal reasons, coupled with a little cajoling, begging, and pleading, I managed to persuade the IT guy to give me the encryption key.

And then the fun began

It took almost a whole day for the special encryption program to apply the key to each file on my company-issued laptop, which had to be done before I could copy the unencryptable files to my flash drive.

Once that was done, though, I figured the hard part was over. But it was not.

When I stuck the flash drive into a USB port on my new laptop, I couldn’t simply decrypt all the data files in one fell swoop. I couldn’t just set the process in motion and then walk away for 12 hours, come back, and voila, it would be done.

Oh no. Each and every file — each and every one of my 11,500+ documents, spreadsheets, pictures, and music files — has to be individually unencrypted. I have to sit in front of the new laptop and go through the files one at a time.

I am hoping that, by the end of this weekend, all of this nonsense will not have been for naught. I need to move on to more important tasks, like my 2014 tax filings.

And I promise you that this will be my last post about my trials and tribulations with respect to my new, week-old laptop.

This post was written in response to this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. Linda G Hill instructed us to write a post using one or all of the words “naught”, “not,” and/or “knot.” I chose to use all three in this post.

On a side note, I wasn’t sure if Linda’s intent was for us to use three words that all sound the same when spoken. In other words, three words that rhyme.

But only two of the three words she prompted us to use actually do rhyme. At least the way I say them.

“Not” rhymes with “dot.”
“Knot” rhymes with “not.”
“Naught rhymes with “ought,” not with “not” or “knot” (or “dot”).

I’m just sayin’.