Archive for April 2015

04-30-2015 Journal – Microsoft Slipping Away!   Leave a comment

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Are you as sick as I am about all of these computer companies who insist on convincing or coercing every person in this country to use "The Cloud"? You can’t seem to buy software of any kind without that gentle shove by the company to convince you to place all of your personal writings, business writings, financials or anything else you can a think of on their version of "The Cloud".

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Is anyone on this earth unaware of the risks we take just by being on the Internet. Viruses appear without notice almost every day or so we’re told by McAfee.  Hackers are constantly breaking into those so-called secure sites and making the lives of us poor morons miserable. They’re costing us a lot of money each year to try and protect ourselves and it seems no matter what big companies do, they can’t protect themselves and our most private information.

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Three times in the last few years I’ve been forced to change my credit and debit cards because someone was buying music or other things with my card numbers in Paris, France, Cleveland, Ohio and Montreal, Canada.  I have those expert security specialists at Home Depot, Hannaford Foods, and Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield for making my information available to every hacker and thief who has a computer. I’m easily paying more than $200.00 a year for virus protection of my home computers and even a monthly charge for my freaking telephone.    Do you see where I’m going with this?

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Yesterday I was taken by surprise when Microsoft notified me via Facebook that they were making the MS Word program available for free to users of the IPad. I was thrilled because I’ve been loyal to Microsoft for decades.  It’s only within the last year or so that I’m becoming more and more disappointed with them.  After the X-Box One fiasco that make the device incompatible with a couple of decades of game software I’d already purchased, that was Strike One.  Strike Two was my purchase of a MS Surface tablet.  It crashed within a week of the purchase and with no help from their Tech Support took me a month to figure out how to reset it.  Of course I lost all of my information on it as well.

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Strike Three is this App which might be free but has a lot of strings attached. If you create any documents of any kind you’re forced to save them on the MS “Cloud” called “OneDrive”. There is no option that will allow you to save them just to your tablet.   In my opinion it’s those kind of strong-arm tactics that could get me to walk away from MS entirely.  Oh and by the way, you can take your Office 365 program and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

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Everyone knows and worries about Google becoming too intrusive  when they save every piece of information about us they can get.  I understand now they have access to and save information on virtually every website we visit on the web. People are concerned about Muslim terrorists but compared with Google they’re inconsequential.

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I took steps this year to install my own “Cloud” in my home with no available access from the net.  All of my information and backups are now stored safely out of reach of the online thieves and hackers and controlled only by me. 

So here’s my final thought  for Microsoft.  It’s time to get your collective heads out of your collective asses and get back to being the company we’ve all come to know and trust over the years. Bring Bill Gates back if you must and maybe he can stop you from following down that road right behind Google. 

Since you’ve used up your three strikes, I just deleted your free Word App from my IPad.  I never thought I’d see the day when Microsoft wasn’t leading the technology revolution by taking it in new and exciting directions instead of following along behind others like a lap dog.

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04-28-2015 Journal – Good v. Bad Government!   Leave a comment

As much as I’ve tried I’m still unsuccessful in eliminating politics from my long list of topics of conversation on this blog.  To say I’m disgusted would be a huge understatement.  I’m seeing things happening these days in this country that are impossible to believe. On top of that we’re being lead by a President who is an absolute disgrace to both the political system and to the country itself.  The only disappointment greater than his presidency are the millions of people in this country who listened to his BS, bought it hook line and sinker, and voted for him twice.

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‘U . . S . .  A!,    U . . S . . A! ,    U . . S . . A!’

The downfall of any successful enterprise is having an uncaring or uneducated group of people in places of responsibility.  With that thought in mind maybe we should once again listen to the men who helped create this nation instead of ones who are trying to damage it as much as possible. It could take a new generation of intelligent and caring people to undo the damage caused by this man and his administration in a short eight years. The real problem in my mind is an electorate that seems willing to give total control of their lives to a group of elitist fools concerned only with their own wants and desires instead of those of the country. 

I again sincerely apologize for talking about politics on this blog.  Maybe these gentlemen can explain it better than I.

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‘George Washington’

“Precedents are dangerous things; let the rein of government then be braced and held with a steady hand.”

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‘John Adams’

“The most sensible and jealous people are so little attentive to government that there are no instances of resistance until repeated, multiplied oppressions have placed it beyond a doubt that their rulers had formed settled plans to deprive them of it.”

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‘Thomas Jefferson’

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

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‘Abraham Lincoln’

“Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but, leave him when he is wrong.”

Pick the group you want responsible for you and your families future.

04-26-2015 Journal – Gray, Cloudy, and Rainy   Leave a comment

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It’s 6 am and I’m barely awake and I don’t want to get up.  I’m lying here looking out the bedroom window waiting to see if anything in the world is moving yet.  It’s dead quiet with little or no observable breeze. There are no birds, no squirrels, and no fat ugly turkey running around the yard making a racket.  It’s just too quiet for my liking.  My better-half is still sleeping and that light snoring of hers (sarcasm) can’t be considered noise or so she constantly tells me.

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I love the beginnings of Spring and the late days of Fall the most but these interim periods between seasons are the worst.  The Spring transition is always slow in coming when we have nothing but gray skies, cold rain, intermittent sunshine, and a need to stay out of the shade. I can bask in those brief moments of warm sunshine on the deck but if I step into any shaded areas it’s like someone walking across my grave.  A deep cold chill that hits you hard and stays with you way too long. 

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The Fall changeover is similar when you’re sitting on the deck enjoying a warm and sunny Indian Summer day where it’s nice and warm but you can just feel that little bit of Winter in the air. It comes slowly with those giant folds of gray clouds edged in black that slowly roll over the horizon. All of a sudden one morning you’re on the deck and you walk into a patch of shade and that same coldness you felt in the Spring grabs you just for a second. Then everyday you can see the plants slowly browning, the cold dew on everything in the mornings, with the full knowledge that snow is coming soon.  After that you have nothing to look forward to but seven months of a cold and depressing Winter, snow shoveling, black ice, and the occasional slip and fall to bruise your butt and your ego.

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Maybe in another few weeks I’ll be able to pull myself out of this winter/spring funk I’ve gotten into.  I go through this every year and there’s really nothing I can do but deal with it.  I’ll wait patiently for that first really sunny day when I can visit the beach and not feel the need to take my windbreaker "just in case". That may finally convince me that Winter is truly gone.

All that being said, the next few weeks will be hell.  I have absolutely no patience for this never-ending  waiting around for Mother Nature to stop screwing with us.

APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS, I hope!

04-24-2015 Journal – Rain, Fire, and a Turkey   Leave a comment

My readjustment to this warmer weather continues.  Last week was interesting and started with the flooding of my backyard.  This isn’t unusual and happens quite often in the Spring but luckily the drainage for the property is excellent. There have been times when the water would be four feet deep but once the rain stops it drains away within 15 minutes.

Part of that flooding included my burn pit which I’ve been planning to use to rid myself of the Winters accumulation of scrap wood and saw dust. I also had a pile of lumber that was pulled from the garden frames last week and replaced. I had it drying out for a few days so it would burn properly once I threw it into the fire.

I decided to start the fire in the wet pit anyway figuring the heat would dry it out within minutes.  A little newspaper and a quart of gasoline can get damn near anything burning as you can plainly see.

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It’s always a good idea to burn when things are wet after a rain.  It eliminates the possibility of starting a fire that could get into the forest next to the property. It also keeps the town from giving me grief about burning permits which I tend to ignore whenever possible.

My frustration with my lawn tractor continues.  I’ve read everything I can find online about the mower, watched every YouTube video, and if anything I’m more confused than before.  I’ll be visiting Lowe’s today for some expert help from their Lawn and Garden professional.  He’s going to walk me through the steps that will hopefully help me get this damn thing running again.  We shall see.

I’m still in bed as I write this post but was awakened in an interesting fashion earlier this morning. I was lying in bed in that La-La Land of half sleep deciding whether to get up  or not.  It was then I heard a very loud "Gobble . . . Gobble . . . Gobble" just outside my window. I stumbled over and there he was, a big fat tom-turkey doing his very best to wake up the entire house. Here in Maine that’s the next best thing to an alarm clock.

I rushed from the bedroom to find my camera but unfortunately he was gone into the nearby woods before I could get a picture.  I’m sure he’ll return soon and I’ll snap a few at that time. Here’s a photo I took previously in the yard and I suppose there’s a chance it’s the same bird. It’s hard to tell, they all look alike to me.  He’d better not show up around Thanksgiving because he’d be in big trouble.

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Well, I’m off to Lowe’s.  That should get my frustration level up there where it belongs.  I sure hope this guy can help.

04-22-2015 Journal – Rain, Mud & Gardening   Leave a comment

Mud and rain! Is mud and rain actually any better than snow and ice? I’m beginning to believe there’s no damn difference. They’re both annoying and require special clothing; parka and gloves v. raincoat and galoshes.

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It’s nice to see that the ice and snow are completely gone but the reason is this steady rain we’re dealing with now and for the next two weeks. That’s assuming the weather forecasters are correct and of course they never get it wrong.  

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I had a lot of plans for garden preparation this week and I refuse to be confounded by this weather.  Although my luck hasn’t been all that good so far this Spring.  My lawn tractor remains idle because I can’t find someone to repair it without forcing me to take out a mortgage.  This little bit of minor repair work will cost me almost half of what I originally paid for the damn thing. It’s getting bad when a lawn tractor becomes a disposable item.

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Last week I ordered a pallet of dirt from Lowe’s and of course it was delivered today during the rain storm. Fortunately it was 75 bags of palletized dirt which was at least somewhat waterproof.  My garden frames needed some replenishment since I updated portions of them and made them a few inches deeper. 

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After checking the forecast for the next few weeks I was forced into getting busy immediately to add that new dirt to the garden.  I removed the bags from the pallet and threw the required number into those frames that needed filling.  It was an absolute mess.  It rained off and on the entire time and turned the yard into a bog. 

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I slogged my way through the wet and mud for a couple of hours and managed to get the dirt where it needed to be.  At the end of the day I was exhausted, muddy, chilled, and really wet. After some cleanup and a lot of raking the job was completed and I immediately hit the showers. 

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Stage-1 of the garden prep was rebuilding the frames and Step-2 was refilling those frames.  Next comes Step-3 where I rototill the soil to loosen it up and then place garden fabric over the dirt to eliminate those god awful weeds that make gardening suck. Step-4 is the installation of the sprinkler system which is really a necessity. Step-5 is the purchase, planting, and fertilizing of the plants.  After that it’s time to sit back and watch things grow until late summer when Step-6 begins. Step-6 is harvesting the crop, Step-7 is canning, and Step-8 is cleaning out the frames once again and composting the soil in preparation for next year. 

Who said gardening wasn’t fun.

04-20-2015 Journal–Spring in the Woods!   Leave a comment

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While we’re having a string of bright sunny days the nights continue to be a little too cold for my liking.  It seems to be taking so damn long for the temperatures to heat up so I’ll do the best I can not to whine continuously about it.

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‘You gotta love those pesky woodpeckers.’

This week’s  weather milestone permitted me to don my first pair of shorts for 2015 and to sun myself on the deck.  I even managed to get a light sunburn on my face and arms which tingled nicely as I showered last night.  A truly delicious pain, right up there with hot peppers.

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With the better-half having a weekend off we decided to get away from the yard work for a while and to take a walk in the woods.  With cameras in hand we made our way to our favorite sanctuary located along the Scarborough River and marsh. 

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I love visiting this area early each Spring but to most people it just looks drab and dismal.  The greenness of the plants is a week or two away, the ground is a little muddy, and the winter damage to the trees is highly visible.  We got a little wet and muddy but the sun was shining and bright and we really enjoyed the fresh air. We walked though the sanctuary and ended up along the river bank overlooking the river and the marsh beyond.  I’ve already used one of those photos for my IPad screensaver and I hope to collect many others as the summer progresses.

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As we walked along we ran into another couple and their big old barking dog. The people were friendly enough but the dog left a lot to be desired. We continued walking back through the woods to check out the two small ponds looking for signs of any wildlife.  We saw a few birds and some noisy crows but not much else.

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It appears that it’s still too early for the frog population to make their appearance.  The ponds were full of tadpoles swimming everywhere and there should be no lack of frogs later this summer.  I’m not sure why I have such a fascination for swamps but I really do.  Frogs are cool and my favorites, the dragonflies, are just weeks away from making their first appearances.

I can look forward to a summer of regular visits here and lots of terrific pictures, I hope.

04-18-2015 Journal – Lawn Tractors & Cuss Words!   Leave a comment

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I decided to do that one big job I had scheduled for today before I blogged anything.  That may have been a huge mistake.  I’ve been putting off doing some repair work to my lawn tractor that  still refuses to start.  I knew it would be a frustration for me because I hate doing things mechanical.  The only mechanical person in my entire  family was my late father who maintained a large float-glass factory for PPG for more than forty years.  He knew everything about machines and he taught me only enough to get me into trouble.  He also over the years taught me how to really and truly cuss.  I was never aware of how many cuss words could be strung together until I worked with him on a few of his projects.

Pop was a professional  cusser and damn proud of it.  I ‘m more like him than I care to admit and if  today was any example I may be better now than he was then.  This effing tractor is driving me insane.  I  was tempted today to just drive it out into the middle of the back yard, douse it with gasoline, and a have a freaking bonfire.

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After I thought about it a while I decided that doing that would then turn into something else entirely. With my luck some A-Hole from the town might ride by, check to see if I had a burn permit, and then call the cops when they found out I didn’t.  Then the cops would have appeared and issued me a citation which would have sent me right over the edge. That combined with my pissed off attitude over this tractor would have assured me of a ride to the county jail for some sort of disorderly conduct charge.  I know for a fact I’d have used a lot of those good old cuss words my father taught me and then the cop would have cuffed me and dragged me away.

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If all that had actually occurred it would have cost me a few hundred dollars in fines, a few hours in the jail, and a somewhat questionable relationship with the local police.  Then I would have come home and the real punishment would have started.  I’d have heard each and every one of my father’s favorite cuss words all over again from my petit but really loud better-half. Nothing on earth is worth sitting through that tirade.

With my common sense keeping me from a trip to the jail I ended up saving a few hundred dollars today.  Now if I take that money and hire a real mechanic to fix this damn tractor I just might break even. 

It’s funny how things just keep snowballing along whether we like it or not.

04-16-2015 Journal–Tourist Prep Continues!   Leave a comment

I can finally accept the fact that Spring is here.  I don’t take anyone’s word for it anymore but I do listen to Mother Nature when she speaks.  The easiest way to make that determination is to sit on my deck and await the arrival of the hummingbirds. They arrived this morning and spent the entire day trying to empty our recently filled feeder. They must have been very hungry after their long trip and were sucking down that sugar water as fast as they could.  Mother Nature’s sure-fire way of letting us know.

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These last three days of beautiful sunshine permitted me to begin my yard cleanup and to complete a long list of repairs to the garden frames. Something else I picked up along the way was the beginnings of a bright red sunburn. My pasty white body will take some time making the adjustment to sunlight and I’ll enjoy every minute of it except for that first blast of hot water in the shower later tonight.

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My better-half and I decided to take a few hours off and cruise up towards Sebago Lake which is an hour or so north of here.  The town of Naples has always been one of our favorite spots for sitting on a deck overlooking the lake and enjoying a fun lunch.  As you can see by the photos the sun is shining but the lake is only just beginning to thaw.

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We drove the perimeter of the lake for an hour snapping a few more scenic pictures where the ice still is holding its own against the warmer temperatures. Most of the businesses have yet to open their doors and are spending most of their time cleaning things up in anticipation of the upcoming flood of tourists.

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I can’t wait to return here when it’s a little warmer, with the restaurants open, and the place crowded with lots of interesting tourists.  It’s a great place to relax, rent a canoe or jet-ski, and even take a plane ride over the lake up towards the White Mountains.

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To misquote one of my favorite Generals – “We  shall return.”

04-13-15 Journal – So It Begins for 2015!   Leave a comment

My bout with Spring Fever continues  at a clip.  It happens like this every year and every year I tell myself I’ll keep things under control. I’m afraid this will be the year that convinces me I don’t have a prayer of keeping things under control.  I will probably continue to overwork and overspend like I do every Spring. 

Yesterday the sun came out, the air was warm, and I was fired up after a few cups of ever-so-strong coffee. It was time to get out the old jeans and boots and get down and dirty in the garden.  As I do every Spring I begin my chores in my herb garden.  Pulling out those dead plants that didn’t survive the Winter, cleaning up debris, and preparing the soil for replanting.  It appears that my normal winter losses were much less this year than in the past. Having that three feet of snow cover for most of the winter offered the plants a great deal of protection.

It felt good to be outside working and after a couple of hours I had a huge amount of dead plants and debris to dispose of.  I had lunch and then decided to just keep on going.  I use cold frames in the Spring to start a lot of plants to help increase the length of the short growing season. I’ve discovered over the last few years that certain plants like jalapeños will produce almost twice as much due in a large part to those three extra weeks spent in the cold frames.

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‘This one lasted five years but is now on it’s way to the bonfire.’

One of my older cold frames was badly damaged by the heavy snow this year.  It was crushed under the weight of the snow which completely shattered the glass cover. I was forced to remove it from the garden and discard it.  Then it was off to Lowe’s to purchase some pressure treated lumber and hardware so I could begin construction of a new cold frame.

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‘The required hole was dug and I was ready for installation.’

An hour later I had the cold frame completed and installed and with just a little landscaping and digging to finish the job. I was pleased with the results and I look forward to at least a minimum of five years of use.

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“Ready for the plants.’

Another hour of cleaning the other parts of the garden and I was getting tired.  It was time to take a hot shower, pour myself a brandy, and relax on the deck.  The cat and I got seriously lazy awaiting  the arrival of my better-half from work. 

It was a great start for 2015 but a lot of work remains to be done.  I’m really looking forward to getting the garden  preparation completed and to begin planting.  If today was was any indication I know one thing for certain, I’m going to be more than a little sore in the morning.

I may need to restock my Tylenol supply very soon.

04-12-2015 Journal–Carrot and Stick!   Leave a comment

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Today should be added the list of things we should be celebrating on a annual basis. I can’t think of a proper name for this observance so I’ll keep it simple since everyone has always told me to K.I.S.S. Today and on this day forever in this house it will be known as Better-Half Actually Cooking Breakfast Day.  For some unknown reason she’s decided to honor me today with my favorite breakfast.  Crispy bacon, sunny-side up eggs, rye toast, home made  jam, and a cup of hot steaming hazelnut coffee.  I’m not exactly sure what I did to deserve this but it’s such an unusual occurrence that it makes me a little nervous.

Relationships are difficult on the good days but after being together for an extended period of time it becomes possible to understand and anticipate your partner’s way of thinking.  Being the cynical and pragmatic person that I am I’m forced to think that something is up.  I know in my heart that a huge Quid Quo Pro is looming in my future.  What could it be? 

It can only mean something that I’ll  probably find distasteful or annoying. Something she knows I’ll not want to do unless she applies her own personal brand of leverage.  She cooks me a favorite meal and then I’ll get to wash and detail her car. That’s always been a good one but has she finally decided to expand her repertoire with something a little more original.  Maybe having me cook food for the people at the Lowe’s store to help in some kind of lame promotion or possibly something related to the grand children.  Many things involving them can be more than a little nasty and disgusting and I always try to avoid them at all costs.  The more I think about this the crazier the possibilities become.  I’ll eat this meal then sit down and wait for the other shoe to drop.

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Breakfast has come and gone and I found it uneventful.  I do have to say that the eggs were overcooked and not runny as I’d like them to be. She made a point of telling me before we sat down to take a specific plate because the eggs were more gooey on that one. The eggs on that plate were seriously overcooked and weren’t the least bit runny which translates to no dunking of toast into the yolk. I think her little bit of misinformation was intentional and telling. My best guess is that by cooking the eggs too long she was attempting in an obvious way to insure all future breakfasts will be cooked by me. I suppose you could call that a weird passive-aggressive ploy which unfortunately will probably work.  I wouldn’t want to get stuck eating over- cooked eggs and under-cooked bacon for the rest of my life so I’ll be forced to cook them myself.  She wins again.

I need to spend a little time thinking about this whole situation and to develop my own plan of attack to assist me in getting my own way once in a while.  It’s always been an uphill battle for us men in dealing with our women and I don’t see it getting any easier anytime soon.

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There’s no way for us men to ever completely win because while we have the stick the women have the carrot.  Life can be so unfair.