Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Well, it's one louder, isn't it?

The weeks ahead are going to be busy ones, indeed.  I have my youngest daughter's birthday coming up, college move-out day for my middle daughter, and graduation festivities for my eldest daughter, along with all of the usual work and family obligations at this time of year.

When things get really busy, and I need to kick things up a notch, this is the scene that immediately plays in my mind. It's from one of my favorite movies, This is Spinal Tap. If you haven't seen it yet, good lord...just leave now and get thee to Netflix!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cover your webcam!

There's an article in today's Daily Mail about how hackers have been able to access baby monitors and built-in cameras to spy on children and their parents. You can read the article HERE.

Several years ago, I took a tour of an FBI Cyber-security lab, and was warned during that briefing that I should always keep the built-in camera on my computer covered and disabled at all times. Hackers from all over the world have set up websites where they post screen captures and videos of their unsuspecting victims.  And you can't rely on seeing that little red light that tells you your webcam is activated--the first thing these hackers do is disable it, so that you have no idea you're being watched.

This is what my laptop looks like--a simple trimmed post-it or piece of tape is all it takes.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Confirmed! Shonda Rimes is the laziest, least imaginative writer in Hollywood

Well, it's official: the "must see" episode of Grey's Anatomy just aired, and the rumors were true. Series creator Shonda Rhimes killed off the beloved Derek Shepard character.  So long, McDreamy! Hello, Ellen Pompeo Emmy-reel!

No surprise, really.  I had hoped that Rhimes would finally find some creativity, some spark of originality for Patrick Dempsey's exit from the show, but no....she went to her old standby. Kill him off in a violent-yet-implausible way.

The body count is ridiculously high on this show. Rhimes has killed off plenty of others--this is a medical drama, after all--like the cute bomb squad guy getting blown up into a shower of pink mist, the annoying Mercy-West Hospital intern characters who never quite gelled with viewers and ended up dying in a totally-believable-could-happen-anywhere hospital shooting spree, and who could forget dear Dr. Heather Brooks, from the new, replacement group of hapless interns who was electrocuted in a puddle of water down in the hospital boiler room.

But when an original character wants to leave, Rhimes seems to have only two game plans: send them off to a spectacular offer-they-can't-refuse job out of town (Christina Yang and Dr. Burke, I'm looking at you) or kill them off in a sudden, tragic fashion...but not before she comes up with some heart-wrenching, selfless act they can perform first to milk every last teardrop from her loyal viewers.

Let's see....first there was Izzy, who died off-screen of cancer that was discovered after ghost sex with dead fiance' Denny--but not before she bequeathed Denny's money to save the hospital and keep the clinic going.  Then there was George, who left intending to join the military--but was hit by a bus and killed while pushing others out of the way to safety.

Then there was Lexie and Mark, who died in a what-this-happens-every-day plane crash while en route to help others.  Meredith's sweet half-sister died a painful, agonizing death in the woods (and, as we learned from a PTSD-wracked Christina Yang afterwards, had her still-warm corpse eaten by animals!) while Mark "McSteamy" Sloan got to die a slow, lingering death from sepsis.

And now, we have Derek Shepherd, who left several weeks ago for a spectacular offer-he-couldn't-refuse-job out of town--but then suddenly returned. Oh, praise, a happy ending?

Don't be ridiculous.

His return lasted a few short weeks, and then he disappeared again. Last week, we had an entire episode that was labeled #wheresderek, yet 60 minutes later, never actually answered the question.

So, surely, with all of this build up, Derek's departure must have really been something worth waiting for, right?  After all, this was touted as an "epic episode" of Grey's, penned by Rhimes herself.

But no. It was business as usual: Derek witnesses a car accident, saves all of the people involved, and then just when you think all is well, suddenly gets into a fatal car accident himself in the very same spot. Sure, he lingers for awhile in a brain dead state, forcing Meredith to pull the plug, and there's a fooled-you-didn't-I-no-Shonda-not-even-a-little-bit dream sequence where Meredith sees Derek in the hospital, all safe and whole and dreamy--until the cops with grim faces at her door bring her back to reality. No, not trite or cruel in the slightest.

After all of these years, the fans deserved better.  I'm not sure what kind of disagreement Shonda Rhimes and Patrick Dempsey had, but it must have been a real doozy for her to kill him off--turning the famed neurosurgeon into a vegetable no less--with no hope of ever bringing him back.

And now, they're promoting the heck out of next week's "grief" episode, a VERY SPECIAL TWO HOUR GREY'S THAT YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS.

Meh.  No thanks, Grey's.  Been there, done that.  Time to pull the plug on "must-see Thursday".

Tonight, Shonda Rhimes didn't jump the shark.  She bored it to death.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This Is Our Moment

Yes, the rumors are true: Hillary Clinton has asked me to be her running mate in 2016.  Although this request came as a bit of a surprise (in today's mail, no less) I pledge to give this opportunity careful consideration before making a decision.

A sad day for longtime mac & cheese fans

Kraft foods has bowed to the whims of "focus groups" and a ridiculous online petition, and announced that they will be removing the artificial coloring from their famed instant macaroni and cheese by 2016. No more neon orange pasta laden with powdered-cheesy goodness.

The company claims that there will be "no difference" in the taste, even though they plan to substitute annatto, turmeric and paprika to enhance the color of the cheese sauce.  Yeah, right.

Ugh. Such a travesty.

Dinosaur Eggs? I hope not!

There's a story out of China today that says a cache of fossilized dinosaur eggs have been found.  You can read the article HERE.

Yes, dinosaurs are cool, but wouldn't it be so much cooler if they turned out to be dragons instead? My inner geek has her fingers crossed on this one.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Powerful words from Ursula Wards

While most people will be talking about the Aaron Hernandez verdict itself, the truly newsworthy and remarkable moment that deserves our attention was when victim Odin Lloyd's mother, Ursula Wards, said that she not only forgave the people who had a hand in murdering her son, but that she hoped and prayed that everyone else could forgive them also.  Even in the face of so much suffering, this amazing woman refuses to let this evil act consume her.

You can watch her statement HERE

Monday, April 13, 2015

Random thought for the day

Whenever I read an article about how "Big Brother" has the power to eavesdrop on people through the TV set or computer, all I can think about is that somewhere out there, someone could actually be documenting just how often I carry on conversations with my dog.  Someday, I expect a postcard to arrive that says, "Good lord, the answer is SCOOTER, Scooter is a good boy.  Now STOP asking!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

BEST Grout Cleaner EVER -- Goo Gone Whole House Grout Cleaner

I love trying and reviewing new products--and no, it's not just limited to new flavors of potato chips or Oreos.  I don't get paid for these reviews, it's just something I enjoy doing, ESPECIALLY when I find something that actually works the way it promises to. [UPDATE: Due to overwhelming demand, I have provided links, wherever possible, to a page on Amazon.com where you can purchase these products, if you wish.]

I've tried so many grout cleaners, and I thought I found the best one a few weeks ago when I purchased Insta-Gone.  That spray definitely works well on mildew in the shower--just spray and walk away, and come back a few minutes later to sparkling white grout lines. One major drawback though: the fumes from Insta-Gone are HORRENDOUS.  It smells like a bleach factory exploded whenever I try to use it.  I opened all the windows, made sure the room was well-ventilated, used it sparingly, and still the entire house reeked from the chemicals. 

So that's why I am so happy to have found Goo Gone Whole House Grout Cleaner.  I've used the Goo Gone oil before, to remove stickers from glassware and on the front of picture frames, simple jobs like that, but I guess they've expanded their line of products.  I bought it on a whim because it claims to be "safe for natural stone, procelain, ceramic tile and fiberglass, yet promises "no harsh chemicals or fumes."   Okay, then--challenge accepted. 

I confess, I was also drawn to the product because the tiles shown on the front of the bottle look a lot like my kitchen tiles. They were beautiful when first installed, but over the years, the pale almond colored grout has turned a nasty black in high traffic areas, and no amount of scrubbing has gotten them clean. I've tried lots of other cleaners, both harsh chemicals and natural remedies like straight white vinegar, but nothing worked. 

That is, until I tried the Goo Gone Grout Cleaner.   There was no chemical smell, and the foam sprays right onto the grout lines without overspreading to the rest of the tile.  The instructions say wait two minutes before wiping away and rinsing, and for stubborn areas, use a soft bristled brush if necessary. 

I followed the instructions, doing small sections at a time, and after two minutes, I passed a soft bristled scrub brush lightly over the grout line to loosen everything, and then wiped it up with a paper towel.  The results were astounding. 

Here are the before and after photos, unretouched.  The tiles in my kitchen are like brand new! 

The only downside: my kitchen is large, and I only bought a 14 oz bottle, which wasn't quite enough to finish the entire floor. I'll have to buy more!  

The photos really do speak for themselves.  I highly recommend this product!!


Shaming Our Kids On Social Media is No Laughing Matter

A friend recently shared an article about a popular Instagram account, filled with photos of toddlers having tantrums over the most ridiculous, silly things.  There's a photo of a sobbing toddler who is upset that her sneakers don't light up, and another of a pouting little boy who asked for an ice cream cone, got it, and then 1/3 of the way through eating it, realized he'd rather have a milkshake instead.  The parents posting the photos include a self-deprecating hashtag, #assholeparent, attempting to find the humor in the situation rather than get angry.

Taken strictly on face value, these photos are pretty funny, and as a mother of 3, I do understand the value in being able to vent and commiserate with other parents. But there's an aspect of this "shaming" trend on social media that I find unsettling. There's something so unfair about posting pictures of these crying toddlers in mid-meltdown, their bright red, tear-streaked faces contorted with pain and sadness and rage. Yes, the thing that triggered the tantrum may be trivial, but their feelings aren't.  I look at those frustrated little faces and my heart goes out to them.The fact that the child is too young to see themselves on Instagram doesn't make it okay.

The pediatrician that I take my own children to (Dr. Irwin H. Berkowitz) recently wrote a great book for parents: Instructions Not Included: A Pediatrician's Prescription for Raising the Best Kids on the Block.  According to Dr. Berkowitz, part of why toddlers have tantrums is because they're at a crucial stage of their development, learning how to make decisions and live with those choices, how to proess their emitons without being able to fully verbalize them--like miniature teenagers.  (I highly recommend his book, by the way--lots of great insights on children at every stage from Newborn to Young Adult. And no, I don't make a penny off of this, even if you click the link above and purchase it--that's not how I roll!)

It just seems wrong to have a parent whip out the camera and document such vulnerable moments for public consumption and entertainment value, in order to receive validation from other parents who are going through the same thing.

Everyone knows raising kids is hard. Do we really need to hold up a spotlight to their behavior every time they lose it?  And how would you feel if someone did the same to you?