Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The End Justifies the Means?



This Washington Post article by gave me pause....



For too long, the Warwick, R.I., Motel 6 had been getting the wrong kind of visitors: Police officers blaring into the parking lot in response to reports of crime.

There have been standoffs with police, kidnappings, domestic violence, shootings and drug busts. In a single week in March, three guests were charged with manufacturing crystal meth, and another was arrested for sex trafficking. Seventy-five people have been arrested there in the past 14 months.

So the motel, a modest spot off of Interstate 95, came to a controversial decision this month: It would start sending its daily guest list to the local police department, according to the Providence Journal.

The policy is one of five new measures intended to reduce crime at the beleaguered budget motel. Motel 6 executives also agreed to expand security coverage, give staff updated safety training, raise the minimum check-in age from 18 to 21 and stop renting rooms to people previously arrested for serious crimes.

Guests won’t be informed that their names are going on a list to be handed to police each night, according to Victor Glover, vice president of safety and security for Motel 6’s parent company, G6 Hospitality.

But police will know exactly who has checked into the motel that day.

“We know everyone who is staying in the hotel tonight,” Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian told the Journal after the announcement.

The new policy raised alarms among civil rights groups, who say it’s an invasion of patrons’ privacy.

“In the absence of some suspicion of wrongdoing, a person on vacation should not expect their private information to be shared with the government in this way,” Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU, said in a news release. “… When Motel 6 says in its ads that they’ll ‘leave the light on for you,’ most people probably don’t realize they’re talking about the light of a police siren.”

So far, it doesn’t seem like the policy will be enacted at other hotels. Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen M. McCartney told WPRI that this particular Motel 6 was a special circumstance: Its low prices drew “undesirable people,” and its proximity to the interstate made for an easy getaway, he said.

Speaking to the Providence Journal, Glover would not specify whether any other Motel 6 locations have the same guest policy, though he said that the hotels usually make their guest lists available to local police when asked for it.

Though it’s not clear how many — if any — other Motel 6 locations are reporting their guests to the police, the chain does seem to feature prominently in news stories about grisly crimes. Last fall, a suspected serial killer was arrested after confessing to strangling a woman in the bathtub of a Gary, Ind., Motel 6. A few months earlier Stockton, Calif., police uncovered an underage prostitution ring at one of the chain’s locations there. Jared Lee Loughner stayed at one the night before his shooting spree in Tuscon, in which he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz).

Statistically speaking, these kinds of visitors probably make up an infinitesimal percentage of guests in the chain’s 105,000 rooms. But they’re the kind that make headlines — and draw attention from police.

In this case, however, the decision to report the names of guests came from the hotel itself. McCartney told the Journal that the new policy wasn’t his department’s idea.

“It was pretty clear that [Motel 6] corporate and the general manager had done an in-depth analysis of their business model and said: ‘What are things we can do to attract the right kind of people here and make sure the undesirable, criminal element doesn’t come?’” he said.

Brown said he’s not sure what legal steps his organization can take to prevent the motel from pursuing the policy.

“Unfortunately once you give the information to the hotel, it’s sort of the hotel’s information and they can do what they want with it,” he told radio station WPRO.



Your thoughts on this? Would you stay at a Motel 6 if you thought your private information would be shared with the police/government?  Does this policy make you feel safer or more compromised?

I am not a criminal and I don't have anything to hide, but I don't ever relish the notion of police scrutiny, particularly if I haven't done anything wrong.  I suppose one could make the case that the end justifies the means, in that if this policy leads to the prevention and/or reduction of crime it is a good thing. Maybe? Maybe not.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Bugging

Kira


My niece Kira broke her arm about four weeks ago. She either fell out of a swing, or was trying to do a backflip out of a swing, depending on whose story you believe.

She went to the doctor yesterday to have her cast taken off.  When they removed it, a dead roly poly fell out. HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA!!!!  THE HORROR! 

A while back Kira said a roly poly had crawled into her cast, and nobody believed her. I guess she has the last word on this!


roly-poly woodlouse #3
Not the actual dead roly poly from Kira's cast -- my sister declined to take a photo of it, 
so this image will have to suffice.


I'm guessing most of us have experienced unpleasant insect incidents?  

I was about Kira's age (seven years old) when my family took a trip to see our grandparents in Arkansas. Someone had the idea that the whole freaking extended family should drive out to an old cemetery to visit my great-grandparents' gravesites. Everyone jumped into various cars and trucks that were available, and I ended up in the back of an old Ford pickup with some of my cousins. Or maybe it was a Chevy. Probably. Whatever.

We were driving on a bumpy dirt road for miles, and I was wearing red polyester pants with an elastic waistband (don't ask me why I remember this particular detail, but I do). I felt something in my pants -- something scratchy that was bothering me. The problem was around the waistband of the pants, and I just kept pinching the area trying to make the weird scratchy sensation stop. We drove on for a while, and finally pulled up to the cemetery. Everyone got out of the various vehicles to trudge up a hill to the cemetery.  Wanting a little privacy to inspect the situation in my pants, I hung back a bit before I jumped out of the back of the truck. As the others walked ahead, I stood still and carefully stretched out the elastic waistband of my pants when up popped a giant grasshopper right into my face. I screamed and flailed about worrying that more vermin might be in my stupid pants, and was yelled at for behaving inappropriately at a cemetery.

Worse than that was when my sister and I lived in a dumpy apartment in Canoga Park. Our neighbors had cockroaches that fairly quickly migrated over to our apartment. UGHHHHHHHH.

One hot summer day (we did NOT have air conditioning) I was laying on my bed reading a book. It was so hot that I pulled up my shirt in an effort to keep cooler. I kept feeling something on my stomach as I read. A very light sensation -- a soft, tiny tickle on my belly.  I eventually looked down to see that a freaking cockroach was crawling across on my bare stomach. SCREAM.



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sedona & The Grand Canyon on a Budget, Plus An Ethical Dilemma


Well it's totally fucking gorgeous here. Much better in person. 😍 #Sedona
Sedona, Arizona

The boyfriend and I took a road trip to Sedona last week.  We had so much fun.  It was gorgeous and so nice to see things I had never seen before -- I ended up taking over a thousand pictures in 4 days.  Thankfully most pics didn't turn out that great. ;)

The scenery in Sedona is just glorious, and pretty spectacular to see in person if you ever get a chance.  This pic above is the best shot I took there -- most pics didn't properly capture the amazing colors and details that you see in person.  

Sedona is pretty much a tourist town -- with plenty of site-seeing, eating and shopping opportunities.  We stayed in a studio suite at the Sedona Summit Resort (reservations made via hotels.com), and it was pretty nice.  If you want to stay there, just be warned that there are sales people lurking around trying to lure you into time share opportunities.  Be sure to avoid engaging with anyone that offers free gifts, raffle opportunities, etc.  Meh.  Anyway, the total bill for 3 nights at the resort (I don't really think of it as a resort -- they looked like condos to me) was $418.20, plus an additional $40.62 in resort fees.  Not exactly cheap, but not that bad.  You can find both cheaper and more expensive places to stay in the area, for sure. 

The Sedona shops where we found the best deals and most interesting items were:  Art Mart of Sedona, Earthbound Trading Co, Eisenart Innovations, and Joe Wilcox Indian Den.  There are TONS of shops and galleries in the area, and we didn't visit them all.  Honestly, we avoided most of the galleries -- southwest art really isn't my thing. 

Favorite (and pleasantly affordable!) spots to eat in Sedona were: Famous Pizza - pretty much the best pizza I have ever had.  We ordered the BBQ chicken pizza.  NOM.  Ridic.  Nice beer selection, too. Sedona Sweet Arts - the bread pudding?!  I was reluctant to even try it (WET BREAD? hurl), but it was to-die-for (made with croissants!). I can't stop thinking about it and asked the bf to see if they would ship some to me for my birthday. Their stuffed breakfast croissants are also tasty and very affordable.  They have plenty of gluten free items, too.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was visiting a little town called Jerome.  It's about a 40 minute drive southwest of Sedona.  I'd say it's a must-see.  Just a cute, quaint, unique little town. Fair warning: it is pretty high up (5,000+ feet above sea level) and accessible via a steep, narrow, winding road.  The drive is doable.  If you are a wuss like me, you might squeal during parts of the drive, but it's doable.

Jerome pics below.  Just the most adorable little town!!! Probably more fun for chicks than dudes, but that's ok. 

JEROME, Jerome, Arizona

Mile High. Jerome, AZ is really, really cute. #Jerome

RV, Tour Bus & More Parking, Jerome, Arizona

Sometimes I can't decide on a caption -- Titillating or Tits McGee. #Jerome

Vintage Cop Car in Jerome, Arizona

Yes, Please, Jerome, Arizona
Copper Country Fudge.  
Gotta say the server (owner?) WAS A WEIRDO, but maybe that's a "pot calling the kettle" statement.
I went with rainbow sherbet.  Wishing I had taken a bit of fudge to go. Regrets!

There are flying cars in Jerome, AZ #Jerome #arizona

green and green

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Favorite store in Jerome?  Lola.  
Fun and fabulous presentation, and so many cute, affordable and unique items.  
Loved the owner. I can't say enough good things about this store -- I wish I had one like it.  
I found a $28 necklace that I am CRAZY for.  I wish I had bought more at this store!

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Lola

Right next door to Lola is an oddball looking shop called House of Joy.  I was totally bummed that it was closed the day we were there.  BUMMER.  I have a feeling it is spectacular inside.  


Our big excursion was a day trip to the GRAND CANYON.

What can I say about it that hasn't been said?  It was one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen in person.  If you haven't been there, try and see it someday.  It's pretty much mind-blowing.

The Grand Canyon. So gorgeous -- a trillion times more amazing in person than any photo can capture.

Words fail me!  It's amazing. And it is a LOT more impressive in person!

πŸš‚πŸŒ…πŸš‚heading to the Grand CanyonπŸš‚πŸŒ…πŸš‚

We took the Train to the Grand Canyon.  
More on (moron!) this at the end of the post.

Watching/being watched. The cowboy show was lame, but I was lucky enough to pet two horses and a German shepherd pup in one day.  Yay! And this horse nudged me. πŸ‘πŸ΄πŸΆπŸ΄πŸ‘

There is a cowboy show that you can watch before you get on the train.  
I thought it was was stupid, but probably necessary as they are tasked with trying to please humans aged 0-100.
I ignored the show and wandered around the back of the set.  
I got close to the horses and even managed to pet one for a while.  WIN.  
The horse nudged/nuzzled me a little.  SILENT, HEARTFELT INTERNAL SCREAM OF JOY.

Lording over it all

You won't be alone when you are at the Grand Canyon.  

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EVERYONE takes shots like this.  
Some get awfully close to the edge. 
DUMB. 
Fun (?) fact: 
Park statistics show that about 4.5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year 
and an average of 12 people die there annually. 
An average two to three deaths per year are from falls over the rim.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION.  
OR NOT.  
If you get too close to the edge and fall in, you deserve to die.

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Rick Astley, Jr. wasn't feeling it. 
I saw more than a few grumps that looked bored with the view.  
This made me want to push those folks right over the rim.

Mr. Selfie

Mr. Selfie pretty much selfied his way around the entire freaking rim, managing to be so in the moment, 
but not in the moment at all.


One option if you are planning to see the Grand Canyon is to take the Train out of Williams, Arizona.

We left Sedona at 6am (GULP) in order to get to Williams by 7:30am so that we could catch the Train to the Grand Canyon.

There are various train options, and you need to make your reservations at least 24 hours in advance.  You can take the expensive route ($215 round trip, per person, plus service charges -- OMFG WTF GIMME A BREAK), the cheap route ($65 round trip, per person, plus service charges), or somewhere in between.  We considered going first-class, but it turned out that would cost $298 for the two of us, PLUS service charges.  That seemed like a rip-off, so we went with Coach tickets which were $181.60 total with service charges for both of us to go both ways. Not cheap, but a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we went for it.  Note: we could have driven ourselves all the way to the rim and back for a helluva lot cheaper, but we had already driven so much and we thought it would be fun to chill and ride a train to our destination.  To be honest, the train is a little pokey -- I'm thinking it goes about 35 mph -- and the scenery on the way to the Grand Canyon isn't all that thrilling, so keep your expectations realistic in those areas. 

The coach seats were fine -- comfortable bench seats with a view, and plenty of storage room on board.  You can bring a backpack, drinks, snacks, whatever -- it's a long ride -- about 2.5 hours each way.  There is a tiny bathroom in each car, so that's a relief -- pardon the expression.  Snacks are available for purchase, but you'd be smarter to bring your own food and drinks IMO. 

So I have blabbed on and on and on about this vacation, and subjected you to many images that have already been posted on Instagram and Facebook.  Sorry for the duplicate info!  And for the ridiculously long post.

WHOOPS!  One more thing...the ethical dilemma.

The boyfriend and I did a fair amount of shopping -- buying gifts for ourselves and for family members.  Towards the end of our trip we sat down and emptied out all of our shopping bags to review our loot.  The boyfriend opened up one bag and found the items he had purchased, plus two items he had not purchased that had mistakenly been put in his bag. (NO, he is not a klepto).  He looked at the two items he didn't buy -- a pair of earrings and a bracelet.  UM, the price tag on the earrings was $30; the price tag on the bracelet was $450.  GASP!

As he was inspecting both items and telling me about it, he told me the prices.  I asked to see them, and I asked him what he was going to do.  I told him I could mail them back to the shop if he'd like -- it was way too far to drive to return them.  He laughed and said no.  Then I frowned and said, "Hey, let me see that bracelet again." LOL!  But it really wasn't my style, and we both felt bad for the buyer that shelled out for nice/expensive gifts and ended up without them.  Huge bummer!

What would you do?  Keep them?  Return them?  I think the biggest asshole on Earth would try and return them to the store, say they were gifts that they didn't like, and try to get "refunded" cash for them.  Yes, my mind works that way but I try not to act on such shifty impulses.

The boyfriend ended up keeping the earrings and bracelet, and showed them to his mom. The bracelet didn't fit her, but she kept the earrings.  The boyfriend gave the bracelet to his daughter.

Apparently the boyfriend doesn't believe in karma!





Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter / Flashback to Drawings from my Childhood / Thoughts on Creativity

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I think I painted this when I was 5 years old


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Drawn when I was 6 years old.  Nice hair.  Yes, it is a self-portrait. 


My mom saved many of the things I produced during my childhood, and she recently gave me a portfolio of my drawings, paintings, essays and report cards from long ago.  I think she saved the best of the best, and thoughtfully tossed my crappiest work in the trash.  For some reason I looked through a lot of this stuff today, and it put a smile on my face.  

I loved to paint and draw as a child, as a teenager, and even into early adulthood.  I think some of my best works were probably produced at age 5 and 6 -- the cute and sweet years.  The drawings from my teenage years are awfully embarrassing -- mostly pictures of of flat-faced and unsmiling malcontents, as well as long haired rocker dudes from bands I loved. 

I was an art major in college, with a focus on painting and drawing.  I loved it -- just loved creating things.  But sooner or later I realized I didn't really have quite enough talent, creativity, drive or fortitude to make a career as an artist, and I pretty much stopped painting and drawing altogether, and just focused on making a living and avoiding creative enterprises.   

Photography has always been a bit of a hobby for me -- just a fun, easy, quick and painless creative outlet.  But some would say photography is a "lower" art form.  This may or may not be a fair assessment -- but I think it is more difficult (or more admirable?) to create something from scratch rather than just capturing something that already exists.  Meh.  Who cares.  Side note: I recently read (well, listened to a book on CD) James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and became enraged when he/his character proclaimed that literature is the highest form of art, full stop.  Further reflection makes me think he is probably right, but then again it is probably not worth arguing about, as any creativity is good and it should just be left at that.

My parents have been nudging me/nagging me to start making more art.  They have done this for years and years, cautiously asking me each time they see me if I have painted anything recently.  It is aggravating, and it pisses me off.  I always have an excuse for not painting or drawing: I don't have a studio space, I don't have time, I have tv to watch and books to read and sleep to catch up on, blah, blah, blah.  All of the excuses are true, and I know myself well enough to know that fear is also part of the problem.  I haven't drawn or painted anything in decades (literally), and I know how hard it would be to get any sort of skill back that has atrophied after so much time.  

My dad is fond of making sweeping proclamations -- truisms he has discovered for himself that he insists apply to all of humanity.  It is annoying.  One of his thoughts is that creative activities are the key to happiness -- creating things / MAKING things -- is what brings joy and a sense of accomplishment.  I don't think this is necessarily true for all inhabitants of planet Earth, and I would add that creativity also brings FRUSTRATION, as many attempts at creativity end up being failures, but I guess that is part of the process.

So, anyway, I am blabbing on and on about this in an effort to explain that recently I have tried MAKING stuff again.  It has been fun, and frustrating.  I took a mosaic class at Pierce College a couple of months ago, and it was absolutely fabulous.  I can't even explain it fully -- I was so nervous and so giddy with excitement and so eager for my instructor to hurry up and explain everything fast so I could get started already.  And I'll even add my shameful admission that upon walking into the first class and looking at my competitors classmates, my asshole/animal instinct was thinking I am going to make the best mosaic in this class -- I got this.  Such an obnoxious notion, and I can assure you that I did not succeed in making the best mosaic in the class, but I liked what I turned out.  And it was so exciting to learn a new concept/technique/process, and to start making things.  

I have been making a mosaic or two a week for the last couple of months, and it has been fun.  But with each project I pretty much fail in one way or another, but I learn something in the process and I am enjoying it.  Some things turn out ok, some turn out pretty well, and some pretty much suck ass.  I figure I can only improve, so I am going to keep it up.  And SOMEDAY I might even get up the nerve to try drawing and painting again.  Maybe.  

Just wondering if you have ever denied yourself something you loved to do?  If so, why?  And did you ever let yourself do it again, or does it remain abandoned?  Just curious.  We do funny things to ourselves, but I think there are always reasons. 


P.S. I am still a novice at the mosaic thing.  Someday, if things improve, I will post pics of my better works here.  Someday!


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I most likely painted this when I was 5 or 6 years old.  I think.