The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sometimes Ya Gotta Let Go....

Sometimes it becomes blatantly clear that a relationship you are hoping will continue is a dead horse somewhere on the road behind you. When that does -- well, maybe this explains it:

This Is To Tell You

You have been removed from my list
and set free from bombardment
of stories and factoids,
jokes, URLs and websites
and other connections to me.

The line was tenuous at best,
an overture met with indifference -
and I despise indifference
nearly as much as hatefulness,
and I refuse to feed yours.

It doesn’t mean anything
that I have included you out,
only that I have felt stupid
including you in
where you didn’t ask to be.

While there has been nothing of value
in those awkward overtures --only in the
thoughts that sent them, only in the reasons,
the laughter, the smile, the wanting to share --
they were well meant

and it t doesn’t mean anything
that I let you know this, except everyone
should know the reason
of an action he didn’t expect

and you didn’t expect it,
did you? Not from me.
But now is the time of my self-survival, an honoring
of the incredible fragility inside,
spun opals under glass,

a respect for her capacity for breakage,
and the fact that, unbeknownst
to you, the stones
you hold in your fist
frighten me.

© 2005 Smokey Combs
all rights reserved

Gone again....

I'm off line again. I did learn a few things, though – and thought I would share them here.

The last person to work on my computer (besides me) removed my registered Windows Millenium and installed instead that infernal Windows XP.

So here I am, with an infernal XP installation on my machine which no longer works because some settings are off, some settings are missing, all this after I ran regular maintenance – a disk clean-up. The problem results in my not being able to get on line. My modem works – although the person who installed the infernal XP replaced the ethernet cable twice (it wasn't the cable, it is in the connection settings) and somehow messed up my connection to MSN (MSN Premium comes with Verizon DSL – which I have, and when my computer works, I love) so that, even when I fiddled around and managed to get on line, I could not access my custom home page or (more importantly) my calendar.

So I spent an afternoon on the telephone with Verizon techies, who checked everything they could check without being in my home office area. My modem is fine. My cables are fine. The connection isn't. They told me to report the error to Microsoft.My ME -- which only disadvantage I found was that it does not play my SIMS as well as XP (and, in fact, is not even recommended on the SIMS CD case, as is XP) –is gone forever, with my registration and all the settings that used to work. Whatever patch or repair I had with ME through Microsoft is not working with this infernal XP. I wonder what Techie kid would say to this situation. Sigh. Probably just shake his head and go get a cup of coffee. He shakes his head a lot when he has to think about me and technology in the same paragraph.

All that was really wrong with my computer running ME is that there was no good spyware running on it, and its virus protection was (just barely) out-of-date. And, of course, the SIMS thing – the program ran, but not so well as it does on XP. It wasn't broke – but the last person to work on my computer fixed it anyway. The only thing I can think of is to save up over a number of months to buy a new OS, wipe the hard drive clean and start from scratch. That means I will be writing these entries at home, then transporting these, as well as anything else I want to send via e-mail, via floppy to the downstairs computer lab where I tutor ten hours a week, where, if time permits, I can post entries here and send e-mail. I won't be able to access the internet over the weekend.

So meanwhile, being off-line, I have had the opportunity to edit and write and re-write a lot of my work from years and years ago – as well as build a whole new SIMS neighborhood. I manage to keep busy anyway, and still have time to be incensed at some of the goings on in my neighborhood, my state, the country, and the world. Expect some to come plopping in as I transport them on my floppies...


This was written 6PM 05-21-05; not posted until 10:30 or so 05-31-05 because the word processing program installed on my computer by the last person to work on it – besides me – does not automatically save to the universal Microsoft Word, and I had to teach myself all about the new program before it could be productive. (I am becoming less and less open to change – does anyone out there blame me?)

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Bit of (Overdue) Ranting

Several events have happened around here whilst I was unable to post stuff here, and I cannot let them pass with no comment from me. They may not seem related on the surface, but related they are – all by one common denominator.

The first two made national news. Though unrelated events, they happened at the same school in St. Petersburg. One parent is trying to link them – but that doesn't fly with me. The first event was the publicizing of an unruly five year old girl, a kindergarten student, handcuffed by police and taken away. Apparently the teacher cleared the classroom (thus, this child's behavior interrupted the class and the learning experience of her classmates) and tried “reasoning” with the child – apparently the latest method in the science of dealing with children – but to no avail. Bear in mind this teacher's hands were – pardon the pun – tied by all the rules and regulations put in place by parents and the school board. She was not allowed to touch the child. She did manage to get the kid to the principal's office, where the child went into the destruct mode, tearing up the office and attacking the principal. The child's parent was called but unable to collect her little darling. The police were called. Off the video, but directing the situation, was a police officer who had dealt with this child in another incident. It was he who ordered she be cuffed, and they managed to remove her from the school. All of this was recorded on video – her classroom was one of those equipped with a running camera, and one was running in the principal's office.

All over the country folks were enraged. I am at a loss as to why they are enraged. Has no parent lately taught his/her child that there are consequences to his/her behavior? That behavior such as that exhibited in the videos requires the child be restrained to avoid hurting herself and/or others? That all other tools were removed from those adults into whose care this little darling was entrusted? I have been hearing folks say the poor child has 'issues,” and that those should be considered. I have heard this referred to as a racial issue, as the child was African American, and the officers on the video were Caucasian. It is not a racial issue – it is a discipline issue, and for the record, the police officer directing the situation, who had dealt with this child previously, was African American. I say, if this is how you raise your kid, this is what you can expect to happen to him/her. If she has “issues” the parents should be dealing with those issues, but still demanding the child, for her own well being and that of those around her, be accountable for his/her own behavior.

In the second instance at the same school, a little boy arrived late for breakfast, and hurried down the camera equipped corridor to get to his classroom. He turned a corner to go to class, then, seconds later, was seen to turn back onto the main corridor and out the door. He left school grounds and subsequently was hit by a car as he attempted to cross a busy street. Parents are up in arms. Why was he not escorted to his class? Why was he able to get out the door and off school grounds? And they blame the school, saying someone should have taken the time out from his/her already busy schedule, that he/she should have been away from his/her appointed classroom, (taking care of, teaching, the rest of the students in the class) to escort a child who knew where he was supposed to be anyway to a classroom which was in the same place it has been all school year. Was this child not taught that he belonged in school during the day? That it wasn't a choice, it was an established fact that he was required to be in a classroom being taught during school hours? This was not a kindergarten child, and though I do not recall his exact grade, I believe it was second or third – either of which gives the child enough school experience to know what is required of him as a student. If he decided, for some reason, to leave the school, he is leaving the safety of a learning center and off on his own. It was his behavior that led to his accident. Period.

We don't know why he left. Unfortunately, the little boy is still in a coma, and I am very sad for his family about that. That he was hit by a car is regrettable, but the school, certainly not his teachers, cannot be held to blame. After the first story, about the little girl in handcuffs, made national news (it had actually happened last fall) the mother, grasping at straws, said perhaps her child was afraid he would be handcuffed, too -- and fled. The school says it had kept the first incident quiet, that the student body did not know about it until the national televised news reports this spring, and the national television airing took place after the boy was hit by the car.

The third incident was a drug bust – a sting, actually. Local police were familiar with the location, having been there before. They knew the folks in the abode were drug people, that, in a prior sting, there had been guns on the premises, and they arrived prepared to deal with the situation. One sleepy inhabitant of that abode was repeatedly told to put his hands in a surrender position, yet he persisted in reaching down, under the sofa upon which he had been sleeping. When he would not comply with the repeated request, he was shot. Dead. Investigation of the premises revealed that, while there was no gun where the young man was reaching, there was a gun stashed under another sofa in the room. The family was, of course, upset. They had lost a family member, and upset is expected. But they claimed that there was unnecessary force in the firing of the gun, and that the force need not have been lethal. OK. Envision this – a grown man on a sofa reaching down for something under the sofa. What parts of the man are exposed? Yep – his vital parts. You can't shoot for a non-vital place because they are bent into the body. The neighborhood was up in arms, and of course, someone said that it was a race thing (the young man was African American) and an investigation, which declared it was a 'good shoot' – that it was necessary under the circumstances – was questioned as racially biased.

Bullfeathers. Listen – if this is the choice a person makes as to how he/she is going to live his/her life, then this is consequence that is always possible. Family members would do better to blame this life choice for the death of their loved one, because the lifestyle the man chose was a dangerous, life threatening one. The cops – in trying to keep the neighborhood safe for those children and adults who reside there, are not to blame for the result of someone who chooses a drug infested life and who threatens in action or in word those who would enforce the law. I would ask those agitators whose purpose is to stir up the neighbors what their reaction would have been if the young man had been able to access the weapon he knew was under one sofa or another, had fired that weapon, killed a cop, and subsequently been killed, or wounded and on trial for murder. Would their sympathies still be with the young man? The officer just removed step one of that scenario. The rest of the facts are still the same.

I guess responsibility is what I am getting at. If we don't teach our kids to behave when they are in the care of others, if we don't teach them that when they are sent to school in the morning, that is where they are to stay until dismissed, if we defend their actions when they are involved in illegal activities, we can expect bad things to happen to them. They need the guidance that can protect them from circumstances that embarrass and humiliate them and their families. We cannot make others the scapegoat when the bad behavior of our children leads to dire consequence. It is we – or if they are adult or, of an age where they understand the responsibilities they hold in their own lives, it is they – who are responsible for their own actions. No one else is accountable.

We pay teachers (too little) to teach our children, not escort them through halls or be abused by unruly children. We pay our police departments (also under-funded) to uphold the law, to aid us when we need aid, and to keep our neighborhoods as clear of drugs and crime as possible. They are doing their parts. We must do our part – and hold our young adults responsible for their own actions.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Who in the World Wants to be ME?

You may have gathered from reading this that I don't have much to my name that most would consider of value. Yet someone stole my identity, and I still can't figure out how. I get my bank statements mid-month, and in March I noted that I was in the red nearly $550. Someone had charged nearly $200 to my account - and subsequent charges for being overdrawn amounted to nearly $350.

Now, I haven't been well in a long time, and I tend to prioritize things according to the attention they demand. I admit I am not a monthly balance-the-checkbook person. In my reasoning, I don't have to be. I have one income, my Social Security Disability check, and I keep track of what I spend. I know, roughly, what is in my account, and while the balance will never make the neighbors envious, I thought I was building up a bumper fund in there, so when such things as car insurance come due I don't have to sacrifice anything to pay it. In March I decided to take a peek and see how my little bumper was doing, because I had hoped to make a trip to Wisconsin this year, as I have the past two years. Imagine my surprise and shock.

It seems someone had, on February 22, charged my account for SBC-DSL. Twice. On March 9, someone again charged my account for SBC-DSL - four times. Each of these was a new account, apparently, and by the time I got to the bank with my statement on March 17, the first two accounts had started to cycle to their second payments, and while I was conversing with my banker, four more charges were added as the others began to cycle. Now I don't know anything about SBC-DSL -- I have been a Verizon Broadband customer for over a year -- but there was a number to call, and with my banker, I called it and connected to SBC's Customer Service -- which is located in the Phillipines. (Verizon's Customer Service - at least for residential phone service - is in India) Between the banker and a very assertive I, Customer Service stopped asking me stupid questions ("What is the name of this account? What is the e-mail on this account?" "There IS no account," I bellered. "I - the owner of the account you folks have charged all these accounts TO - did not OPEN an account with SBC.") I managed to get the ear of a supervisor, who spoke to my banker to get transaction numbers and then gave me a confirmation number that these charges would be reimbursed to my checking account. Once that was done, my banker assured me, the bank charges against my account would be removed. I don't know that my Visa check card was used, but I had it shut down at once.

Meanwhile, I had the month of March to get through. By the end of March, SBC still had not made good on their promise to reimburse my account. I had the service address in Texas, sent them a registered priority mail letter reminding them of the confirmation number and telling them that I would be filing a fraud affidavit the following Friday if the funds were not in my account by then. They were not there. I did file the affidavit, with the help of my banker, and slowly funds started to come back - first the SBC funds, then from the bank. Sigh.

I now go into the bank and cash checks to get shopping money - which I hate - rather than use a check card. I now check my bank statements for anything out of the ordinary, even if I don't balance my account every month. And I did lose a large amount (well, large to me -- ) of cash I kept at home (thank goodness) for emergencies. It got me through with sufficient cat food to keep Liberty happy, and litter (ditto) rent, medications, and gas for my car. I did have a goodly supply of food on hand-- I always keep full cupboards -- so that wasn't a problem. All I had to get from the store was the fresh stuff - milk and bread and butter and eggs, coffee creamer, some MacIntosh apples and something green and leafy to keep my tummy happy. Things were close around here for a while, and still are, though not quite so bad as they were.

But the damage was done. Things are nearly back to normal, but what I would have saved in the bumper fund April is gone, and this month is the big renewal premium for my car insurance. Because I lost all that I did, I will not be making my Wisconsin trip this year. See, when my April SSD check hit the bank, it went to pay those bank charges. I don't have this month's statement yet, but from the interim balances I have gotten, things are still not right.It's taken its toll on my anxiety prone tummy and my state of mind - which had been trying its best to normalize the past few years. I keep telling myself it's only money, after all - but geez - one's entire existence is all tied up in it.

Who in the world would want to be me? And why open so many accounts with the same DSL provider? I still don't know who was behind the whole mess - and I doubt I ever will. The bank is looking into it for me, and promised to get to the bottom of it - but I am not sure of that at all.


One more adventure in the life of ...

From the Original Soapbox Papers.....

When I am invited to conduct a workshop, I often choose to talk about profanity in poetry. I believe profanity is trite, uncreative, and has no place in a poem. That is my rule. But as with all rules, there is an exception. My exception to this rule is a poem called Dogshit - a piece which has gotten me in a bit of trouble at Beaux Arts Coffehouse and Gallery (more about which at another time) where the hoary haired old owner brings me to task over my choice of title and topic. But the more I go over the piece, the more certain I am that the word dogshit is precisely the right word. The poem doesn't work substituting poop, caca, doo-doo or feces -- and, in fact, the poem DOES work. In the years since I have written it, I have had several acquaintances ask me if the poem wasn't about him/ which I smile my Mona Lisa smile...

Here, then, is a poem simply titled, Dogshit.


Consider dogshit:
its scent, its texture.
You know where it came from,
you know what it is made of
so you handle it
even dispose of it
with the respect its qualities demand

yet you know me:
my scent, my texture.
You know where I came from,
you know what I'm made of
yet you handle me
even dispose of me
with less respect
than you give to dog droppings

but I
shall embed myself
into the soles of your runaway shoes
and one night you will
awaken from a soft dark sleep
and my scent
will be in the air.

from The Soapbox Papers, (c)1996 Smokey Combs
all rights reserved

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Well, that was sure a lot to overcome! I haven't been well, folks, and I have had a lot of trouble with my home computer, so I haven't said a word here in over a month. But I am back now, ready to soapbox opinions, tell stories, and even print a poem or two.

Partially in explanation, let me just say that when part of your computer runs with one OS and part of it defaults to another, settings reconstruct themselves, and I am proud to say that, piece by piece, I have managed to find the right settings for my own computer, though I had to sacrifice a program or two to do it. I don't care how modern I am if the blessed computer doesn't work for me. I still have to reset my printer and camera dock (Techie Kid asked me what I needed a printer for -- I should have known right then and there he has no idea what I do as a wordsmith, how, when you compose a business letter for a client or a newsletter master, one has to be able to print it out from one's own computer, because to send it to another place to print (how stupid when you have your own printer!) could cause misalignment due to other versions of the program needed to compose the thing in the first place!) and get all the old files where I can access them more easily. I can comfortably say that I am back now, and buckle up, folks -- I have a lot to say bottled under the skin of these fingers...