Archive for the 'technology' Category

Was That It?

Like the three that came before, we didn’t plan these children.  And, like the others, we wanted them very much once we found out they would become part of our family.  The waiting was a little longer this time though; I could have had three more babies from the time our girls first came to live with us until the day their adoption became final.

While I gained the inevitable weight that comes with pregnancy, the journey this time through the famously flawed foster care system helped me to lose weight.  Of course I’m older now than I was when my boys were little, but I’ve learned that most kids in “the system” require a little more effort than the ones the stork brings.  You may have to “undo” some bad habits, teach things they should have learned long before, reassure them and comfort them above and beyond what your own newborn ever required.  In addition, you have many different appointments and visitations to cram into your schedule.  Neglected teeth may require extensive dental work; poor nutrition or general lack of health care may have you spending hours in doctors’ waiting rooms.  And unless they’re placed while very young, they almost always are referred for counseling.  These poor babies don’t understand why they’re separated from their families (even dysfunctional families are sorely missed by their children) and often they are moved several times from stranger to stranger, requiring them to adapt to new schools and different family rules.  Is it any wonder they act out in frustration and anger?  The kids can keep you jumping!  But they are the easy part in the equation.

Don’t consider fostering if you relish your privacy.  Just to be considered, every facet of your life will be pried into and investigated.  You will be asked where you resided and with whom you lived with for the past 30 years.  They will do a background check and fingerprint every person living in your home.  Each year they want copies of your pay stubs, W-2’s, car registrations, and home and auto insurance policies.  It’s amazing that an inappropriate foster parent slips through these rigorous background checks!

Once a child is placed, you can expect weekly home visits and phone calls from at least one caseworker.  We didn’t work directly with the county so we had our agency caseworker and a county caseworker.  They are supposed to be there not only to ensure the safety of the child, but to guide and help the foster parents.  Sadly, this is just a dream.  In our experience, most of the caseworkers knew less than we did.  At least we knew how to raise kids!  They often couldn’t even help us with the things we needed to know about the foster care rules–which was supposed to be their area of expertise.  Even the few who actually cared often gave us wrong information or didn’t know enough to guide us to resources that I somehow managed to find on my own through dumb luck or sheer desperation!  Yet we were expected to complete all of our paperwork and monthly trainings on time–while taking good care of our kids, getting them to bi-weekly family visitations an hour away, and breaking in brand-spanking new caseworkers every few months.

The adoption process was even more intense.  Even though our kids had lived with us pretty much for the past two-and-a-half years and we were currently approved foster parents, we had to get more references, more background checks and fingerprinted again.  We had home inspections requiring the craziest things (like all meds–even refrigerated Amoxicillin that the kids may be taking–had to be in a separate LOCKED container) and weekly visits with an adoption caseworker (thank goodness my agency found this wonderful knowledgeable woman they hired as an independent contractor who led us through this whole process because our agency didn’t know squat and we never saw or heard from our county worker). We waited…and waited…to get our adoption date after completing all the requirements.  We signed the papers at the attorneys office.  We waited some more–pretty much giving up on the hope that it would take place before the end of the year has it had been semi-promised.

We finally got the call in mid-December.  One week before Christmas (and five days after hubby’s knee replacement surgery) we took the hour drive with a borrowed Handicapped placard so I could park across the street from the courthouse and help Big Daddy hobble to the door with our girls in their pretty dresses and tights.  We signed some papers.  We each sat at the witness stand and answered some questions.  Bonus Child hugged and clung to me while we sat and listened to Big Daddy answer his questions.  A caseworker led Bonus Baby to a back room to color when she got too antsy to sit still.  We got some pictures with the judge.  And it was over.  Months of prep.  A half-hour in court.  The girls are legally ours!

Bonus Baby flashed the biggest smile when I told her she’d never have to see another caseworker.  And last week, when I called her my little friend, she looked at me like I was nuts and said, “I’m not your friend, I’m your daugh-ter”, dragging out the last word slowly and deliberately just in case her poor mommy was too dumb to understand.

Comcast + NBC = Real Idiot Box

Yikes!  Thanks to cable (good old competition for the network giants) TV has a few bright spots.  Just about everyone can find at least a few shows to interest and entertain them.  To get those cable channels, though, we must deal with the all-powerful and often abusive cable companies.  They can treat us customers like crap because there are not many alternatives.

For my family right now there is no alternative.  When our one-year Comcast triple-play special ran out earlier this year, I shopped around looking for other deals.  We looked into the Dish network, which is about the only other thing available to us here.  Unfortunately, Comcast owns Versus, the channel that airs the Tour de France and many Penguin hockey games.  If you can even still get Versus through the Dish network, it is very expensive.  And we heard it soon might not even be available through Dish at all.  With this being the case, Dish could charge a dollar a month and I wouldn’t be able to choose them being that Big Daddy plans his vacation around the Tour de France and this entire family bleeds Black and Gold (Go Pens!).

Today I read where our good friend Comcast is looking to buy a hefty chunk of NBC Universal.  One scenario under discussion calls for NBC to be spun off into a separate company with Comcast owning 51% and GE the rest!  How horrible is that!?

Will GE and Comcast soon own the world?  Will Comcast suddenly lose its signal (like it did during the Steelers big playoff game) right when Glen Beck reveals a big political scandal?  Will we be forced to watch Brian William’s smug tunnel-vision version of the news every night?  When another network scores a big coup like exclusive rights to a big game, will Comcast suddenly have technical difficulties?  Does this mean we will have to put up with even more of dim-witted Alec Baldwin’s snarky face?

It just doesn’t seem right that the country’s largest cable TV provider should be able to own any of the stations, and worse yet, one of the biggest.  They will be able to edge out ALL of their competitors once they own the big networks.  If they decided to buy Fox network, does that mean that only Comcast subscribers may someday be the only ones able to watch American Idol?  What happens to all the smaller cable companies, Verizon Fios, Dish subscribers, etc.?  Will they all be at the mercy of Comcast?  We Comcast subscribers know that Comcast has no mercy.

We have antitrust laws in this country to protect consumers from greedy monopolies.  Why doesn’t someone step in to try to prevent this huge attempt to control the media in this country?  Isn’t Comcast already big and powerful enough?

Facebook Pages and Blogging Friends

A few weeks ago, I was checking out my Facebook home page and noticed a couple of my blogging friends were adding new cool stuff to their Facebook accounts.  These are the same two women who persuaded me to sign up for a Facebook account in the first place.  We use the blog application there to make it easier for Facebook addicts to get updates on their favorite blogs and find them all in one place.  One of the things they were doing that night was adding a new Facebook fan page for their blog.  I had no idea how to do this or why I even should, but I wasn’t about to be left out.  If these smart awesome bloggers were doing it, then it must be worth doing!

First I left a message for Paula asking how the heck did she set up her page.  Then I noticed Cyndi was online and I asked her for some assistance.  Although they were both busy setting up their own pages, they took the time to assist this technologically challenged blogger.  I took their advice, played around a little, and came up with a cute little fan page of my own.  I still wasn’t sure what all I could do with it, but it now exists in all its glory.

Middle Son J has sent us some pictures of his months spent in Europe.  I decided to post them on my Facebook fan page.  It’s so much easier to post pictures here than on my blog.  Oldest Son has some awesome pics from his months in Iraq that I would like to post at some point.  The possibilities are endless.  I could even post naked pics.  Good God!  Not of me!  I wouldn’t do that to you.  You’d vomit!  Maybe of my dog–without her collar on.  She’s so cute!

If you want to see J’s pics, visit my MamaNeeds2Rant Facebook page.  While you’re there, do what the cool kids are doing and become a fan.  You’ll get updates on new posts, pictures, and anything else I can think up.  Visit Cyndi’s and Paula’s FB pages too.  They have links to them from their blogs.

On Comcast: How Do I Hate Thee…

Hmm, let me count the ways.

Right now, I’m kind of feeling like Mona “The Hammer” Shaw, the senior citizen who was driven to the brink of violence a year and a half ago by the monopolistic arrogance of cable TV, Internet, and now phone service provider Comcast.  Instead of taking a hammer to one of their office keyboards, however, I am simply going to vent.  We have no other choice around here.

There is no other cable TV service available to us in this area.  So, of course, they keep raising their rates.  In addition to raising their rates, they have been systematically eliminating the most favored channels from their more basic packages, forcing people to upgrade to more expensive cable packages or to do without channels and programs people have grown to love.  My mom told me just this week that she was switching over to the Dish.  On her fixed income, she couldn’t really afford the next rate increase, and they have already taken away several of her favorite stations.

We are locked into Comcast until about August of this year because of the Triple Play promotion I signed up for last year.  The Triple Play promotions are actually not a bad deal.  They give you a break on the usual rates if you newly sign up to have all three (cable, internet, and phone) services through Comcast.  They even throw in a few freebies, like premium channels, free HD, and DVR.  They don’t do this to be nice.  They’re just trying to knock out the little competition they have (eg. Verizon phone) and at the same time get you hooked on their services so that when the contract is up, you’ll keep these services at their very expensive regular rates.

A few things always ticked me off about le Comcast.  First of all, they charge you for the month ahead, but if you happen to pay late, they charge you a “late” fee.  I could never figure out how you could be late paying for services you have not yet received.

This month, during the AFC Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers (our team in these parts) and the Ravens, Comcast’s digital TV service went out during one of the most exciting quarters of the game.  Many people were not happy about this, especially the ones in local sports bars.  Good move, Comcast.

This Thursday, I lost a good half-hour of my life with Comcast tech support to try to figure out why I could not access any of my e-mail accounts.  I had no problem with the technician.  He was very patient and helpful.  But I have a BIG problem with the new Comcast “Smartzone” mail service they now have.  It is not smart at all.  It is more like Dumbzone.  Or Suckzone.  They think by calling it smart and telling us how great it is and how much capacity it has, that they can trick us into liking it.  Wrong, Comcast.

I even asked the technician, “Why did they change it?  I hate it.  It’s all squished together and you have to double click everything now in order to read it.”  And…the reason I was having problems was that he had to reset something.  And I use the Mozilla Firefox browser instead of Internet Explorer.  I was informed that if I now wanted to be able to read my Comcast e-mail, I had to open it with Internet Explorer, which I hate and which is infinitely inferior to Firefox.  They’re supposedly working on the incompabilty.  Yeah, I believe ya, Comcast.

I know the reason why they changed their e-mail, and why it looks all squished.  It was not to make things better.  It was to rake in even more money.  If you have Comcast mail, you will see all the ads now that were not there before.  So they’ve actually downsized the reading area of our mail so they can collect more ad revenue.  But don’t think they’re going to downsize your bill.  Like all good monopolies, their rates will go up while their service declines.

The Laptop Saga (The End I Hope)

Yes! My genius soldier son has, in fact, succeeded in fixing his laptop (See comment under post “The Laptop Saga Continues”). After a rogue ninja bottle (his words) of shower gel spilled its contents onto and within his month-old $1400 laptop that he bought especially to keep in contact with us while deployed to Iraq, we weren’t always sure whether the thing would pull through. But like I said, if anyone could fix it, he would be the one. After disassembling the entire computer with access to very few tools, carefully washing off each component, and then somehow putting it all back together again, while battling the Iraqi dust and having very little free time, all he’s having trouble with is the backlighting. Yay! He can read my blog again. Double yay! I can see and talk to him on Skype again. It’s a good day here and halfway around the world for this family.

Good Times…Bad times…More Random Events

It’s still freezing around here. Me and the dog hang out in front of the fireplace a lot when it’s super cold. I just can’t get the chill out of my hands and feet. I often wonder how people way up north can function living in the cold for long periods of time. They must hate life. I know I would.

Last night was totally awesome. Before my oldest son left for Iraq, he set up our computer for Skype, which would enable us to talk to him (and anyone else that has it) over the computer for free. And we would be able to actually see him in real time via his webcam. He bought us the microphone but we haven’t purchased a webcam of our own yet, so we could see him and talk to him, but he couldn’t see us. But then today I got an e-mail from him. I guess something spilled onto his new laptop and he said it probably is nothing more than a $1400 paperweight now. Sucks.

On a brighter note, I just completed and e-filed my first tax return for the season! It was for middle son J and I believe he is a happy camper. I thought I got our personal returns done early last year (Feb 11th) so I’m really smokin’ this year. I HAVE to get our stuff done early because as a tax accountant, I will soon be too busy with everyone else’s returns. And I have two FAFSA forms to fill out for college aid and they need that ASAP. So while it’s good to be getting back into the swing of things, and having another paycheck to look forward to soon, I know the 6-day work weeks are just around the corner and that can be a drag. (whine, whine)

So here’s to dreams of hot summer days by the pool, kids all home and far from harm, and tax refunds all received and put to good use. It can’t be too far off, can it?

We’re Cloned!

A day after I read that we can expect to eat meat and food products from cloned animals, NBC news reports that a scientist has cloned himself in the name of medical research. I believe that science and research is the salvation of the civilized world, and I would want my kids to be cured with stem cells if need be. But I believe they have been successful using cells that were not taken from an embryo. The scientist destroyed his cloned cells after only a few cell divisions, but even he admitted that it was like looking at himself a long long time ago. Creepy, huh? I feel like a criminal every year just buying and using a poor Christmas tree, only to decorate and discard it after a couple of weeks. (My husband insists on a real tree–you have to pick your battles). Imagine creating a viable or even potentially viable human being just to pick some cells off of it, use some of its skin for grafting, etc. Parts factory of the macabre? Now, maybe if they wanted to clone ME, and then let ME raise myself knowing everything that I know today, THAT would be an awesome experiment! The perfect child, being raised by the perfect parent, now that has some real potential. (Don’t roll your eyes, kids–I’m a great mamacita). And about that cloned food, it would be nice if they would let us know which is the original stuff and which is not. But they won’t. Which may solve the problem of needing to clone ourselves for spare parts, when we’re walking around with 3 eyes and 5 ears.

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