Friday, August 13, 2010

British Petroleum & The Maconda Well

Who HASN'T heard of this disaster? The news of it went global in less than 24 hours. Whatever you might have heard or read, it's a man-made disaster on a scale with Mother Nature's own disasters. It was so bad, our Congress actually moved quickly to investigate it! You know it's bad, when the lead-bottomed politicians get the lead out :)
As I was going over different articles about the BP spill(double checking my facts) in the Gulf of Mexico, one stood out like a sore thumb- the spill was being compared to Hurricane Katrina!!! Oh, for fuck's sake! Some idiot tried to equate BP's astounding lack of expertise and judgment to the nearly total annihilation of New Orleans and surrounding communities on shore and off shore!! Not to mention the deaths- images of floating corpses still haunt me at night. As green as I am, not even I would dare to compare a renewable underwater ecosystem damaged by the oil spill to what amounted to the destruction of an entire city and its inhabitants in under 10 hours.
I HAD to get that off my chest. I didn't even read that stupid piece o' crap.

Well, it turns out that at the beginning, the very first day in fact when this news broke, that all the finger-pointing that day REALLY WAS BRITISH PETROLEUM'S FAULT!, NOT Deepwater Horizon or Halliburton's. Sheesh!
Who bought the lease to drill the Maconda Well? BP. Who sought out the equipment manufacturer's engineering specs? BP. Whose employees manned the rig? BP's! Who ignored all the engineers' recommendations for drilling the deepest well in the Gulf of Mexico so far? BP- they're still trying to find out who really is responsible, though Tony Hayward is being let go Oct. 1st. It was this denial of responsibility that enraged us Americans.

2 months later, BP's public relations team finally posted a letter in my city's newspaper, gushing their sorrow and remorse. A bit late, but better late than never, I say. And then Tony Hayward reopened the wound with his callous statement, "I just want my life back." Shortly after that, Bob Dudley arrived here in Houston. Hayward, the man at THE TOP of BP, just never seemed to get a grip of how to handle this. Here in Houston many engineers of oil companies in the city, offered their aid, expertise; many professors of engineering in our world class colleges- from Rice University, Baylor, University of Houston...and from the rest of the state. Hell, TEXAS is THE defining state for oil exploration! And BP blew them all off.

After Dudley arrived, Hayward went to Washington, D.C. to attend his hearing before Congress. I watched the whole proceeding. Apparently the solicitors told him not to answer direct questions, which pissed off nearly all our members of the House of Representatives! Tony only had one defender, a Republican, and the rest of the Republicans were so enraged by that defender that they threatened to remove him from office! We, our country, needed to hear that the HEAD OF BRITISH PETROLEUM HELD THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS COMPANY'S numerous errors in judgment.
Alas, it was not forthcoming.

I've always admired British fortitude, forthrightness, and getting the job done. Unfortunately, British Petroleum exhibits none of those sterling qualities. How far the mighty have fallen! This makes at least 3 countries who've contracted with BP for oil & natural gas drilling- India, Russia, & the USA, where BP did everything on the cheap and created their own disasters, leading the govt. to convene an inquest as to how they happened.

I submit that BP be dissolved and become just a little ol' chain of gas stations using some other country's oil!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Facebook- the ever evolving behemoth, where just about everything can occur online all over the world. I've become addicted to it ever since I put up a petition for my daughter when she was diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago. It has everything, I'm not exaggerating! It has drama, fun, danger, affairs of the heart, other kinds of affairs, business, news, entertainment. It's life in the Matrix!

And that's the true draw- virtual reality as you would have it be. Temptations galore, life in the ether, and you still feel part of something, even though you're alone at the desk with a computer.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Veterans' Day

In honoring our Veterans this November 11, 2009, let us not forget the tragedy that happened at Fort Hood, Texas. It was a multiple tragedy, given that this is the largest, and supposedly best US Army base in the world. It's base hospital is comparable to the best right here in Houston. It is the size of a small city. Some of the best military doctors work there.

So why does a Major who has been a good psychiatrist to many soldiers in Iraq & Afghanistan and at Ft. Hood, go on a killing spree at the best Army base the US has? From what my local newspaper reported, his immediate superior, a Col. Lee, told a reporter that he knows the shooter had wanted to be discharged, had made statements he was against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, many times. MANY TIMES. The only natural conclusion is that Col. Lee thought that redeployment would "toughen the major up," even though the Major himself was obviously waving red flags about his mental state.

This Col. Lee indirectly set up what the Major ultimately wound up doing: killing, wounding others, in order to remove himself from military participation. What really astounds me is that during the 6 mos. prior to this tragedy, this Col. Lee heard the major's requests, and NEVER ONCE considered a psychological evaluation for him, and I doubt he ever went to his OWN immediate supervisor on how to handle the major. In my opinion, this Col. Lee ought to be horse-whipped and thrown out of the military for gross negligence and exceptionally poor judgment in handling what should have been a straightforward process- get psyche eval, then decide what to do.

Ever since Pres. Obama was made aware of suicide rates among Army recruiters (!), he ordered to find out how widespread suicide is among all the military branches. It's alarming: military suicide rates are now above civilian rates- 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers in the military as of Feb. 4, 2009; 19.5 per 100,000 civilians. A very important point- some analysts believe the rate to be much higher for the soldiers, because some deaths were drug-related, and may have been classified erroneously.

The US military is notoriously late in adapting to issues important to the public- such as recruiting black Americans, gays, women. But through it all, mental health was kept under the rug. Getting help for depression is a career buster, even just talking about it to a friend could mean ouster from the military. There are also a plethora of men in positions of authority who think like the above Col. Lee- if you can't take it, you're a pansy, so suck it up and be a man. I'm former Army, and I've seen what I'm talking about. This train of thought runs rampant, and is why so many of the Reservists and Guards are committing suicides. If superiors won't believe in mental health, then nothing will ever change, no matter what Pres. Obama tries to do.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Adventure In Sending A Wire by Daring Texan

It all started with a plea for help from a dear friend of mine who was in dire straits. She sent me an email describing her predicament, and I replied I would help, no matter what it took to do it. I started immediately, right after I read that in fact, making a phone call to my financial advisor. I explained what I wanted to do, stressing that time was a crucial factor- any delay could undermine what my friend needed. He set up an appointment for the next day, and in the meantime I emailed my friend who lives in the UK, and requested her bank info so I could send her what she needed.
Armed with what she provided and my good intentions, I gave all the info to the receptionist/secretary, filled out the form for the wire, and signed a letter of authorization for this transaction. This put everything into motion. I was happy to inform my friend that it would take 3 business days to complete and have the funds in her account. I left the office feeling like Superwoman in my euphoric rush for do-gooding. We were ecstatic in our joy.

It took only 2 days to sell off enough stock to get the funds required for my friend, and again, I felt things were falling into place. WRONG! The girl at the desk phoned me to ask if I was sending the amount minus the $100 fee. I said I needed that whole amount, so can I come back to the office and write a check for the fee? Yes, she replied, and so I went back. My do-gooding high then fell flat when I realized no one ever mentioned a fee for doing this transaction. I learned she was hired only recently. I overlooked this, because being miffed wouldn't get me anywhere and wrote the check.

The following day I received a message on my answering machine- the transaction didn't go through, because they needed a street address for the bank in the UK. I phoned my friend, trying to constrain the time, because we both have the gift of gab, telling her what I needed. That's when I learned her bank was in the process of merging. She went to her bank the next day and emailed me the info. I then took her info and gave it to the girl at the desk. She then phoned the Home Office of my investment firm to have someone walk her through the transaction. I signed ANOTHER letter of authorization because the bank info had changed. This was a Wednesday, and it was the next Monday that I began to become frustrated and sarcastic.

On Monday, around 4:30 pm CST in the US, 10:30 pm in the UK, I received another phone call that the wire didn't go through. I was pissed now, because they could've called me Thursday or Friday. And calling me at such a late date, it was impossible for me to reach my friend, she'd be in bed already. I wanted to pull my hair out! On Tuesday, yesterday in fact, I woke up early so I'd have the new info from her BANK OFFICER IN THE UK. She had to do it on her lunch break, so I killed time on my computer, got bored, and left a nasty-gram on my advisor's answering machine, told them I'd be there @ 10 am sharp, and I want answers as to why this was turning into a clusterfuck. I also told them I felt I was being treated this way because my account is rather modest. But if this is the service I get, when I DO come into significant funds from the death of my aunt(which could be any time between now and the Rapture-longevity runs in that side of the family) I'll be withdrawing what I have with them and invest my money elsewhere.

At 10 am, I asked why this was taking so long. Why has each new message/phone call revealed yet another delay? The girl at the desk replied, "We have to be careful of terrorists when a large amount is wired internationally." OMG! WTF??? It took every ounce of my self-control not to burst out in anger or laughter! I was FLABBERGASTED! My friend and I are suspected of being TERRORISTS? Dubya's campaign of fear still lingers.

"WE'RE HOUSEWIVES, for crying out loud!", I responded. "I SERIOUSLY doubt our names are on Interpol's, the FBI's, or Scotland Yard's suspected terrorist list. The money is for a mortgage payment so she won't lose her house. I can vouch for her that she has ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION of using that money for the purchase of large quantities of fertilizer. And even if we WERE terrorists, what can $1500 purchase- MAYBE 2 broken AK47's without ammo!"

That was the best excuse, ever. The other one my advisor told me was that Wells Fargo(ever my arch nemesis since Dad died) is the middle-man for Edward Jones Financial to send international wires of funds. The second delay was "European" wire transfer, and they wouldn't accept it. The wire could've been sent on time- every other damnable bank in the US do it often. Not them. The UK apparently isn't "EUROPEAN" in their minds. No, it's "INTERNATIONAL", and requires a different code! This is why I hate Wells Fargo Bank, and why I support REGULATION Of BANKS.

I hope everyone at Wells Fargo gets sent to the streets to eke out a living with the homeless. Amen.

*footnote: my friend's wire should be in her account no later than this Friday, Nov. 6 or my wrath shall fall like Old Testament plagues. :(

**ARRRGH! MY friend informed me the wire wasn't in her account on Monday, Nov. 9. That means when the wire was sent on Nov. 3, 2 days later it was kicked back and 4 more days of me thinking it had gone through. Errands to run on Tuesday. Wednesday, Nov. 11, my Old Testament wrath smote the advisor @ Edward Jones Financial. I called to ask why wasn't I informed the wire was kicked back nearly a week ago; why did I hear this from my friend? "People make mistakes," my advisor said. "Yeah, I understand human error; but this one is far worse, NO ONE knew it was kicked back, NO ONE double-checks their work, NO ONE called to see if it sent ok, NO ONE but MY FRIEND informed me what happened, and on top of all the other gaffes, you have the balls to ask how do I know??? When you don't know a damn thing for certain in this god-forsaken office??? The British Bank officer TOLD my friend what happened! Are you questioning a Bank OFFICER??? Where is the damn thing now?" I asked. "I don't know what account it's in," he said, adding that the wire was sent. "Are you telling me I can't get a refund? Better think again, it NEVER got to the intended destination- my friend's account. Are you running some kind of con game here?" I asked coldly. "You'd better find which account MY MONEY is in, hadn't you, or you'll be in hotter water than you are now. Today's Wednesday; on Friday a refund check for the wire better be sent to my house. I'm sending the damned check myself, UPS to the UK. After that, when I've had time to calm down, I'm liquidating my investments." This past Saturday it was sent by me. Tomorrow, the 16th, I'm liquidating my account. It's over.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Alzheimer's And Me

Caring for a parent with dementia is the most rewarding and difficult thing in the world. It's not so bad in the early stages, where conversation is still pleasant, and your parent can still function fairly normally. The middle stage isn't bad either; they can still understand what you talk about, if you keep the words simple and direct.
It's rewarding in the early stage, because you can tap into their long term memory, and keep conversations light about the fun times they remember when they were young, learn about them more. It was good for me, because my mother never devoted as much attention to me as she did my other 3 siblings. It helped me form a better bond with her.
Her diagnosis of dementia was already nearing the end of the first stage, in the second year I began caring for her and my father. That's when we refurbished their house. I included her on everything we undertook because she liked interior decorating, had a good eye for colors and loved the whole process from start to finish. We discovered that every time we asked her to help choose, she went for dark colors every time. Finally we brought only samples of lighter colors in the same color family, so the house wouldn't look like a cavern.
Now, after 8 long years, my mother is in the final stage- she has no short term memory whatsoever, her long term memory is just about gone. She's 81, but in her head, she's 19, at college, and is waiting for her parents to come get her for the summer break. She packs her clothes, some of her personal items(which never include normal things like toothbrush, comb, brush or underwear). She doesn't recognize any of her own children, or her grandchildren, and is completely flabbergasted when we tell her she's a great-grandmother as well.
Her books collect dust now; she says she reads the front page of the newspaper, but when we ask what she's read, she can't tell us. She doesn't recognize her own reflection, because she's 19 inside, and continually tries to rub off her liver spots on her hands and arms.
She hoards things now, like napkins, paper cups; the occasional flatware, cup or glass.
Today, she had a moment of lucidity, but I wasn't aware at first. She finished dinner, I was in another room. She brought her plate, and glass to the kitchen, but left the fork at the table; the knife was in the sink with the cup. But the bowl was nowhere to be found! I looked in her room, the usual place she hoards stuff. No luck! Finally my husband looked in the dishwasher, and there it was- she's wiped it clean, and put it in the rack with the others. Some days ARE diamonds. :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Drama Queens

Drama queens- we all know one or two. I'm not talking about young children. I'm talking about adults, who should know better than to start rumors, arguments, or tell flat-out lies about others. It's wrong, and at some level they know it's wrong. But they tell themselves what they're doing is right, that they are exposing "sins"(character flaws) in those they target. They will, if necessary, exaggerate and even set up, situations to prove they're right. One drama queen I know uses invisible third parties to back her up on these exaggerations and situations. And with each passing day, the number has increased to an entire block, not just neighbors, as before.

I personally believe drama queens thrive on discord, play on new people's sympathies for the way they've been mistreated by others who told them off! When someone has had enough of their constant state of being permanently pissed, & uses truth to tell them off, what really gets me~ it rolls right off them, like oil on water. The truth of things has no place in the heart and mind of a drama queen, unless they're telling you their own version of truth. Which has a lot of truth, some of which has been omitted or white-washed.

One woman here at Facebook, a friend of someone I know and love like a son, is a drama queen. She creates discord where none exists. She commits criminal acts, and passes them off as the result of 'pms'. Yes! I kid you not. She wants to be perceived as a loyal friend, and took my friend in when he had no where else to go. Then set up a situation, causing his car to be stolen in order to comply with her apartment complex's rules. Claiming she was intimidated. I don't know how she felt intimidated, when she felt at ease breaking & entering, then vandalizing, ANOTHER good friend's apartment.

Yes, this is one drama queen in need of psychiatric supervision, and possibly in dire need of medication. She needs to be in control, negatively, at all times, of all her friends, and driving away all their friends. She is totally unaware she's driving everyone away. She truly believes she's clever; so sad that she doesn't know she's a fool.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Reason Behind Separation Between Church And State

This is a continuation of the premise only slightly touched upon in my Amercian Churches blog. The main reason that separation between Church and State is imperative is that government should never intrude into people's beliefs, as long as those beliefs don't break a law.
Thus, it's acceptable for organized religions to hold beliefs about creationism; prophets; miracles; supreme beings or just one supreme being. They can also believe that there is a better place and a worse place for us all to go, when we die. But it's only perception, not actual fact. Mythology gets thrown into that mix, which doesn't make it any more factual. It appears to me that dodges were perpetrated at that Nicene Council way back when!

I'm apalled some people's faith is so deeply reverent that they wish their beliefs were made into law, or an edict, to compel government funded institutions to teach a certain set of beliefs over any others, to validate their own religious views. At the same time, I'm glad some people's faith is so deeply reverent that they don't need that kind of validation. This last group is in the minority, I fear.

Well, I'm the "doubting Thomas," and I trust science & Darwinism over Biblical creationism, as there have been great scientific discoveries through the ages that seemed not to come from God, but appear to have been methodically discovered, through trial and error, a very human trait. I think mankind deserves much more praise than it collectively gets from believers of organized religions, dare I say it, even God, if God even exists, who though they seem disgusted by it, are equally human, and part of mankind, with all its flaws, virtues, and habits.

This is my America. May it regain its footholds on common sense, integrity, truth, and justice FOR ALL. Amen.