Sunday, July 31, 2005

Comedy Club Surprise

This is a large, metropolitan area with millions of people. What would be the odds that I would run into someone I know at a comedy club? Pretty slim, I would imagine (though I know a lot of people). But last night one of my friends and I went to Coconuts Comedy Club. She thought I should go there to get a weight off my mind, and she was right. I had a great time.

But, who do you think I saw?

Remember my story about the young woman who'd died suddenly? My original post is here. If you recall, she left behind a husband and a boyfriend. So last night, I looked up to see the boyfriend there, surrounded by an entourage of young, beautiful women and men. He moved freely and happily about the club, chatting with a waiter, throwing an arm around one of the girls...

I'm not a prude, and I don't insist on a year of mourning while wearing black, but this is ridiculous. I was really shocked to see him yucking it up less than two months after her death, when they'd been supposedly discussing marriage and he'd been in near hysterics at the funeral. Is all youth this calloused? Or is it just the useless ones?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Pranking The Parents

I was recently reading about pranks in Fred's World. My family has always loved a good joke, especially pranks. In fact, we have a long history of pranks. My grandfather was very famous in New York for some of the pranks he pulled off (believe it or not!) I'll tell you about those another time.

Today, in the spirit of Saturday Morning, let's talk about some good, clean fun. I'll start out:

Years ago, I began to prank my parents every Christmas. I can't do it regularly now, because kids and other things often get in the way. Now to set this up, I need to tell you a tiny bit about my parents (I'm not talking out of school, here. They read my blog occasionally).

From the outside, Mom and Dad look like The Perfect People. They have a Perfect House with a Perfectly Groomed Lawn and Perfect Furniture. Mom is the Martha Stewart of the Tampa Bay Area, and she is a Perfect Hostess who cooks Perfect Meals and throws Perfect Dinner Parties (I do not take after my mother). She is also Perfectly Diplomatic in social circles and should be the Ambassador to the U.N. Dad is the Perfect, Genial Host and Scholar. Both are actually quite well-known and scrutinized. But my parents also have a wicked sense of humor that they don't take out and display for just anyone.

The first Christmas I decided to prank my parents is when they told me they were going away on a Perfect Getaway Trip for the holidays. They were leaving the dogs behind, and needed my ex-husband and I to take care of the house while they were gone. They had all their obligations out of the way, and had already thrown The Perfect Christmas Party.

Now, Mom and Dad despise tacky Christmas celebrations and displays. They believe in always being restrained in your public behavior. Their phone message is always a very somber and basic one. What better way to celebrate the holidays than spice it up with a fun, holiday style message? I decided to help them out.

My ex-husband has little-to-no sense of humor, so I was surprised that he agreed to do it with me. We re-recorded their phone message, as if we were their dogs. "Hi! I'm Fifi!" I said brightly into the recorder. "And I'm Rex," he said in a deep baritone. Then we said in chorus "Merry Christmas!" and proceeded to bark out the tune Jingle Bells, complete with howls at the end.

Mom and Dad came back, and called to tell us what a great time they had. They thanked us for taking care of the house. Then a couple days passed by, and we heard nothing. We were on pins and needles. Were they never going to acknowlege their new message???

Then, about 5 days later, Dad called. "We just realized you changed the message," he said. I could hear the amusement in his voice (thankfully). He continued, "We kept wondering why people were just laughing and hanging up on the recorder. But we finally figured it out when an old colleague of mine called from California and left the message: "Well, John, I see you've loosened up a bit over the years. Interesting recording." That's when we played the message back."

Friday, July 29, 2005

Pics of Pie

Presenting Pie the Possum...

She is thinking of starting her own blog.

She finds my blog fascinating. She's reading my latest entry here.

Attention Dell: I'm willing to sell this picture to you for a modest sum. It will obviously greatly improve your current advertising.

Here she is gazing at me in rapt adoration. Actually, I assume she's wondering if we're going to eat her. But she's adjusting quite nicely, overall. Right now, it's hard to believe that she will grow to the size of a small housecat.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Update on Elvira & Pie

Many of you joined this blog after I posted this story. It's a story of a Kid Out of Control (KOOC). 'Elvira' happens to be the daughter of a close friend of mine, 'Julie'. I have stories about Elvira that would curl your hair. By the end of it, your hands would be twitching to connect with her me. This kid could give The Pope high blood pressure. Whose fault is it? I'll be honest with you; it's Julie's fault. But no more.

During the summer, Elvira has spent a great deal of time over at her dad's. It's been a marvellous boon to Julie, who could finally breathe again after 10 years (this kid starting causing havoc the moment she was born). Julie began to realize just how much she had let Elvira get out of control, and how much of a toll it was taking on her health. As the summer progressed, Julie began to get back some energy, and felt less depressed. (At the same time, Elvira's father grew noticeably crankier).

Julie began to get the desire to 'do things' again, and one day she decided to tackle Elvira's bedroom. While she was sifting through Elvira's things, she came across a notebook, titled "Punishments". Julie had never seen this before, and sat down to read it. The book is filled with a very scientific summary of everything wrong that Elvira did, along with the punishment that came as a result of it. She also rates the punishments and makes comments like "Mom can't do any better than this?" "Mom is a wimp!" "This punishment is nothing." "Good thing Mom can never stick to her punishments."

Julie read this notebook with amazement and growing consternation. By the end of it, she was a new woman. She tore through Elvira's bedroom, cleaning out anything that wasn't necessary. She got rid of all the sexy little outfits that this 10 year old loves wearing (yes, she allowed her to wear micro mini skirts, heels, and makeup). Elvira will now be forced to wear (gasp!) kids clothes from now on.

Julie has also decided that Elvira was right about one thing. She was a wimp. But she has vowed to crack down on Elvira from now on, and stick to her punishments. The moment that Elvira walks back in that door, she will be subject to new chores and punishments. Perhaps there is still hope for both of them.

Update on Pie: Although she loves Leroy Selmon's Chopped Salad, she has decided that Wendy's taco salad is pretty good, too. When we got her, she was very thin. She now looks positively pregnant (she isn't). She's grown in just three days (I'll post more pictures tomorrow). She continues to become tamer. Yesterday night she actually felt comfortable enough to crawl about a little bit.

My Other Half (OH) was laying on the sofa, watching TV, and he asked to hold her. So, I put Pie on his bare chest. I turned my back for a minute and he suddenly yelped "OMG! She just went up my shorts!"

Sure enough, she had whipped into his shorts faster than you can say 'possum', and the entire family was in hysterics as we tried to get her back out again. The OH was torn between being absolutely still and jumping about like a mad man, so he did both. Pie, meanwhile, clung onto his underwear for dear life. I finally extricated her, after she had roamed about in his shorts for a little over a minute. He was greatly relieved, as he put it later, that she hadn't decided to 'try the sausage'. Good thing she's well fed...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Nursing Home

I was recently in a nursing home, visiting someone who worked there. The moment you walk in the doors, the smell hits you. It’s a combination of canned green beans, chemicals, and death. No matter what air purifiers they use, the smell permeates everything. As you walk along the corridors, you realize that no matter how much they try to use ‘peaceful’ colors, the only colors you see are greys. Everything has an aura of hopelessness. This is truly God’s Waiting Room.

As I sat there, talking to this employee, I heard continuous, spasmodic barking screams. I finally couldn’t stand it anymore, and had to ask. “What is happening? Who’s screaming?” The woman shook her head. “It’s a patient who’s been dying for two days,” she said. “I don’t know how or why she’s still hanging on. She’s in terrible pain, and the morphine just isn’t helping. I was hoping you wouldn't have to hear her."

“What’s she dying from?” I asked. “Just simple old age,” she replied, "she's almost 100 years old." Seeing the horror in my eyes, she nodded. “I know,” she said. “I can’t go like that. That’s why I swore I would never let my parents go to a nursing home, and I’ve made my son promise that I will never go, either. Until people enter these homes, they never have any idea just how awful it is. And then it’s too late, because they’ve already sold everything they own to be able to move in here. Most of them have no one. All their friends and relatives have died long ago, or they’re just not around and don’t care… and they’re dying alone.”

For once, I had absolutely nothing I could say. We just stared at each other in mutual understanding.

PIE UPDATE: Pie is adjusting very well to us. She enjoys cuddling, and will sit for hours on my shoulder as I type on the computer. One vet who's a friend of ours also told us what great pets possums make, if they're found early enough (before they realize that everything is out to try to kill them). I will be very glad to see her get fully adjusted to us, because she has a nervous stomach and whenever she gets frightened, she has a gas attack. It's very faint, but rather pungent when she's sitting on your shoulder... Bleah. Happily, these are few and far between.

Teachers Using Illegal Drugs

As many of you know, I have 4 blogs. This is the one that I post daily in. The Sweet N' Saur one is for all the parents in the Pinellas area who wish to discuss school-related issues. In Sweet N' Saur, a couple people recently mentioned their concern about teachers using illegal drugs.

They cited a blog where a teacher claims that the majority of teachers smoke pot. I don't know which blog it is, so I can't read it for myself. However, I'm not surprised. America has become very passive when it comes to illegal drugs. I've been told by many people that I would be shocked to find out how many people smoke pot now (obviously I don't).

In general, the American public is vastly uneducated. They will never go to the trouble to do their own research. Instead, they blindly choose to go with whatever feels right. This includes educated people as well. Don't fool yourself; there are plenty of educated people that are lazy thinkers. That is why pot usage is becoming widespread.

Anyone that I've ever known who's used pot has suffered from it. But they are too close to the source, and are usually using the drug to make up for a deficiency or unhappiness in their own life. Sadly, pot is a depressant so it will only make these users feel worse.

When teachers use pot, they take along the attitude and beliefs that it is OK to use it. In the classroom, they can speak against drug use, but it will be half-heartedly and the students will know it. Pot will also affect their attitude and hamper their abilities.

I had a friend who was a draftsman. He was very bright, and quite talented. One day he told me privately that he had smoked too much pot while in college, and ended up with short term memory damage (this means he can remember things that happened a long time ago, but often couldn't remember something that recently happened). He said he'd always wanted to be an architect, but now he would never have the chance.

I knew someone else that was always lazy and depressed while he smoked pot. When he cleaned up, I was amazed at how balanced and energetic he became. He, too, ended up with memory damage as a result of the drugs he was taking for years.

I've heard people claim that what they do on their own time is their own business. Yet, if it affects performance, it is everyone's business. They need to begin random drug testing in the schools.

For more information about the dangers of pot, go here or just go to Google and type in "dangers smoking pot".

Monday, July 25, 2005

Denver's Pit Bull Ban

Denver, Colorado, has issued a ban against all pit bulls. Any pit bulls within city limits are being (or have been) immediately confiscated and put to sleep. Pit bull owners are unhappy about that, of course. They are arranging to send their dogs to friends or family outside of Denver, if they can.

The state Supreme Court has upheld Denver's decision and so the roundup continues. Personally, I don't understand why pit bulls are even allowed to be legal pets. We ban people from keeping tigers and other dangerous animals as pets. I don't want to hear "Because it's always been done that way." That argument doesn't work. Denver is right, and I believe that all other governments should follow their lead.

P.S. Thanks, everyone, for the name suggestions. For some reason, 'Pie' stuck. She is going to the vets first thing this morning but seems to be doing well. She shows a great fondness for Leroy Selmon's Chopped Salad (Leroy Selmon's is a great restaurant in the Tampa Bay area).

She seems to like us, and enjoys cuddling. But she's easily spooked, and then she reacts by opening up her mouth. It's the only thing she does. We even tried putting our fingers in front of her mouth and she won't snap. She's very gentle. After doing some research, I estimate she's about 2 months old.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Look What We Found!

I own an old house that was built in the 1960s. It's a big, rambling home. Lately, we've been hearing noises in the attic that sounded too big to be a rat.

Yesterday, the noise in the kitchen started. You could hear this scrabbling in the walls, clawing away desperately. Then when we snuck in, it would get quiet. I isolated it to the wall next to my refrigerator.

Tonight, while we were watching a movie, I heard it again. My Other Half got up to investigate, and ended up moving our large side-by-side refrigerator to get back behind it and see what the heck was making all that racket. He found out that it was indeed in the wall. Whatever it was had fallen down the wall from the attic and got trapped.

Imagine his surprise when he shone the light into a little crack and saw this face staring back at him:

He called me over to ask what it was (it's a baby possum).

I hear they make great pets and we're now thinking of a good name while we try to decide what to do with her. I believe it's a she, but don't want to bother her too much (so I'm still guessing). Isn't she adorable? The poor thing is covered in fleas right now, so she's living in our 1960s style green tub with a towel, water, and some dog food (at what point did the original owners agree to have the entire bathroom done in this color??? I can't wait to remodel this bathroom next). What should we name her?

Mixing Lunch

My friend, Esme, and her husband (John) have two kids. As any parent knows, kids tend to be nature's form of birth control. Once you have kids, your sex life can get to be severely impaired. If you're lucky, you have friends and relatives that will take the kids occasionally, but you still have to take advantage of any private time that you can get.

Esme and John still love to flirt outrageously with each other. They developed code words, such as "ML" for Make Love. When their two kids were younger, John might wink at Esme across the table at a restaurant and ask seductively, "Are you ever going to ML to me?"

When the kids got older, their son asked suspiciously one day, "Mom, what does ML mean?" Thinking desperately, Esme blurted "Um, it means...Mix Lunch!" That was so obviously false that the kids got tipped off. "Uh, sure, mom," said their son skeptically.

John and Esme still love to flirt with each other, but they are now a little more careful about what they can say. Recently while driving in the car, John leaned over and whispered to her that he wanted to buy a blender. Startled, she glanced at him and asked "Why?" "To mix lunch," he said, giving her a lopsided grin. Their kids overheard this and could be heard loudly retching in the back seat.

Crystal Growing Kits

We just went to MOSI yesterday (the Museum of Science and Industry). My friend Michelle will be delighted to hear that MOSI just announced they just landed "BODIES: The Exhibition". Anyway, while we were there, we wandered into the Museum Store. All museums have these stores. Parents, who are hoping to instill in their children a love of something grander than Pokemon, are always tempted to buy Science Kits, or glow-in-the-dark stars, or at least a t-shirt.

But the moment that I saw the Space Age Crystal Growing Kit, it was True Love. Have you ever heard of Magic Rocks? I loved those. When I was a kid, we could earn prizes at school for selling chocolate bars as a fundraiser. I would always earn at least enough to buy those Magic Rocks.

These are the more sophisticated version, and I bought them (ostensibly) for the kids. Of course, let's be honest here: the kids may think it's cool, and they may even be slightly inspired in their science studies, but these are just pretty crystals that you can grow and display.

I bought 3 boxes. I think we also need a tadpole farm.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Cingular Phone Scam

a.k.a. Phone Scam Part Deux

Yesterday my friend ("Esme" pronounced "ES-may") and her family were out boating. Because she's in sales, she has to have her phone on her 24/7. Although they were island hopping, she brought it along (she had the phone bagged in plastic.)

She hadn't intended to take it with her into the water, but forgetting that it was in her bag along with her picnic things, she dragged it through the salt water. That's when she realized something was wrong. The phone started vibrating spasmodically and when she opened it up, the screen was black.

When they got back onshore, Esme set out to replace it. Because it was an AT&T phone, she took it back to the place she bought it from originally. It is now a Cingular store (they bought out AT&T cellular, I guess). She went running in, and breathlessly asked the sales guy if they had another phone like hers. He said no; since they became Cingular they got rid of all the AT&T phones and there are no compatible phones (her phone was about a year old at the most). He also told her that if she got a Cingular phone, her boss would have to sign a new contract with Cingular (the company has over 30 phones through AT&T).

Esme stared at him desperately. "What am I supposed to DO?" she wailed. "My boss won't want to sign another contract. He'll KILL me!" Strike One Against Cingular. She wasn't happy.

Taking sympathy on her, he whispered that although he wasn't supposed to tell her (Strike Two Against Cingular) she could try at the kiosks in the mall where they sold cellular phones. "They MIGHT have the phone there," he said, "though you'll pay a premium for it. By the way, you'd better remove the battery from your phone. After being dropped in saltwater, if it's attached to your phone, it could short circuit and EXPLODE." Esme looked at him horrified, and scurried out the door with the phone in one hand and the battery in the other.

She drove frantically to the mall, and ran inside. She found a kiosk that sold all types of phones, and asked the salesman if he had her model. He looked at her in amazement and said "Well, WE don't, but *I* do. It's used, but I'd be happy to sell it to you." "DONE," she gasped. "How much?" "Oh... say, $50?" he suggested. She couldn't believe he went that low but happily agreed. The new phone was in even better shape than her old one. But, Esme was VERY lucky. She won't get that opportunity again. The salesmen all told her that these phones are now extremely hard to get.

As he gave her back her old phone, she said "Oh, can you remove that battery please?" He stared at her. "Why?" he asked, puzzled. "The guy at the Cingular store told me that if I leave the battery in it can explode..." Esme said hesitantly. He looked at her for a moment as if she had just told him that she believed her phone had sprouted legs. Then he shook his head and told her it would be fine. Strike Three Against Cingular.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Toll Free!?

I was having breakfast with my parents this morning (my mom makes this incredible baked french toast). As we were chatting, Mom said "You know, I have an idea for your blog. Why don't you discuss ..."

"Toll-free" phone charges. This one is new to me.

My parents were having compatibility problems with the interface between my mom's printer and new computer. To solve it, they called both E-Systems and Xerox and spent quite a bit of time on the phone. When they got their phone bill recently, they were surprised to find an additional $40-$60 worth of charges to numbers they didn't recognize. They immediately called the phone company to tell them there was a mistake.

No, the phone company told them. It was no mistake. Even though Mom and Dad had called E-Systems and Xerox on toll-free numbers, they were transferred to non toll-free numbers and the clock started ticking. Although my parents thought it was surely illegal, they were assured by the phone company that what those companies did was perfectly legal. They were stuck with a higher bill than they had expected, and there was nothing they could do about it.

Mom and Dad can handle it, though they're not happy about it. But what about the people who are counting every penny? Shouldn't these companies inform their customers that they're transferring them to another line that the customer will have to pay charges for? The phone company tells my parents that these companies do not have to inform the customer of this.

I've never heard of this before. It makes you wonder how they define "toll-free" any more.

Rotten Bosses

There is no perfect boss, just as there is no perfect employee. I've been both, I know (and you know it too). That being said, why is it that out of all the bosses that I've had, only 3 were any good? I've been working since I was able to work (at age 15) and I've been working ever since. I've held down many jobs in many different sectors. I went to college and even taught Management. And yet, I keep my mouth shut and watch my bosses in wonder as they (who also went to college or took Management courses) continuously show us all these textbook examples of Bad Management:

1. The Disconected Boss. I've had a couple of these. For me, these are by far the best. They let you do your own thing and as long as you're producing what you're supposed to produce, you're fine. However, they never get anything finished, they drop the ball on a lot of things, and they're unorganized. Still, they're pleasant and non-threatening (unlike the majority).

2. The Chauvenist Pig Boss. I've had a couple of these. They have to hide it better now, due to the EEOC. Back in the early 90s when it was fashionable to wear suits with shorter skirts, I had a boss who would tell me to turn around so he could see my outfit from all angles. He also told wretched sexual jokes that left everyone nauseated. He openly leered at women, and I'd never seen an illustration of the word 'leer' until I met him. He finally started reforming after the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas incident but I already had my foot out the door.

Then there was the guy who was always dumping his work on me (I was supposed to be hired as an equal but ended up as his assistant) while he would go off golfing or riding around picking up women in his red sports car. He is the type that would show up at your office door, lean on the the side of it with a big dumbass grin, chewing gum loudly as he grinned at you. He would memorize a couple accounts I was working on, and would throw questions about them at me throughout the week just to see if he could trip me up somehow. He was half chauvenist/half bully. I bailed as fast as I could.

3. The Bully Boss. Unfortunately I've had a couple of these. These are the ones that openly tell you that they're considering taking away part of your paycheck because you're overpaid (even though you've worked hard to get to that point). Or they'll throw out questions to you to see if they can trip you up. They might ask you casually if you're doing something illegal, even though they don't honestly suspect it. They are usually friendly to your face while working on stabbing you in the back and their arms have a long reach. They are often insecure, and you pay for their insecurities.

4. The Lazy Boss. This guy will dump all his work on you, and then take credit for it. I've only had one of those (because they don't usually last for long?) They put everything off till the last minute, such as schedules or reports, and then fly about in a panic getting it done.

Who have I forgotten? Anyone?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Reality Shows

One of my friends, Back To Basics (B2B) and I were talking on the phone this evening. "Oh, I can't forget to catch that new INXS rock star show tonight," she exclaimed. We had discussed America's obsession with reality TV shows before, and she had suggested that I blog about it.

I have to admit that I originally distainfully announced that this INXS show was just about as low as TV could get. And then I turned around and watched the second episode (I missed the first one). "I'll just watch a little," I promised myself, "just so I know what I'm talking about." And I ended up enthralled. It's bad enough that I like Hell's Kitchen, now I'm watching this show. What's next? Survivor? The Real Gilligan's Island? I have never sunk that low. Yet...

It can't be healthy. I find myself talking to the TV. "You have got to be kidding," I'll say. "He isn't wearing a shirt? How lame is that? Who is he fooling?" or "Ow, her voice is awful. How did she ever qualify? C'mon you idiots, tell her to forget it..." So far I have been able to restrain from calling in my vote. I refuse to buy into it that much. But I'm tempted, sorely tempted.

Business Vs. Employees

I was reading the paper this morning and saw one celebrity scandal after another. I thought to myself, "Wow...and *I* think that my work is stressful..." And then I caught myself.

We have an attraction for celebrity disasters and soap operas. Psychologists say it's because it creates an artificial comparison for us. "Wow," we say. "My life can't be that bad. At least I'm not going through this."

But this is an artificial comparison. It creates a numbing of our system when, perhaps, we shouldn't be so numb. There are many times that we are so busy telling ourselves that it could be worse, that we lose the ability to make it better.

Perhaps if (as a nation) we refocused, we would be able to accomplish so much more. And perhaps it's in the best interest of Big Business and Government to keep us in this state of numbness. No, I'm not advocating that this is some huge conspiracy plot to keep us pliable. But I am saying that this "Oh well" attitude needs to be carefully evaluated in each and every one of us. It's the same attitude that keeps most of us from effectively unionizing in Florida: the State of No Workers' Rights, a.k.a. The Right To Work State.

Florida continues to grow, and more companies are being courted by our state and local governments constantly. I've been involved in the process myself, so let me tell you what these business leaders are told. They are told that Florida is a great state to do business because they can take so many tax breaks here. The majority of big businesses in Florida don't pay taxes; that's right...they don't pay taxes. But small businesses do. And you do. Ah, but you're just a worker bee.

The business leaders are also told that the government is doing it's best to turn a blind eye to the illegal immigrant problem so that they continue to hire these workers and not pay taxes on them. And since we have such a high number of illegal immigrants here, I think I can show you proof of that.

The business leaders also find out that Florida is a "Right to Work" state, which means that they can fire an employee for virtually any reason under the sun. All they have to do is tell an employee "I'm sorry, this just isn't working out" and the employee is gone. These employers are cautioned to give no explanations, so that they don't walk into any pitfalls. Also, if you give a worker a reason, then the next worker deserves a reason. What if you don't want all your reasons known? Better just to keep your mouth shut. The employees can't do anything about it.

So while employees continue to be squeezed by taxes of all kinds, they are also being squeezed and drained dry by their employers until they're all used up and discarded. Then Big Business easily swoops back into the labor pool and plucks another ripe one. We are our own worst enemies.

We all need labor unions and a better governor if we are to survive.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Taser Kills Man

A third person has just died from being tasered since Florida started encouraging police to use tasers, instead of guns. I have counted 3, but this is not a scientific number. It could be more.

I have always thought that tasers were dicey. I would also have to see statistics (taser deaths vs. gun deaths) but it seems to me that you stand a better chance of surviving a bullet in the leg. A taser scrambles your entire body's nervous system, a bullet may do so to some extent (blood loss, shock, etc.) but this electrical disruption of the body seems to be extreme. reported in March that "At least 24 Central Florida students have been zapped by Tasers in the past 18 months as police officers working at public schools turned the controversial stun guns on children as young as 12.

One child in handcuffs, a teen trying to leave school to visit his sister's grave, and even bystanders who got in an officer's way..."

My guess is that it's much easier for a cop to decide to use a taser than if he had to pull his gun. Tasers are seen as an easy way to subdue without leaving a mark. And perhaps they are! They may be a superior weapon to guns. But, Amnesty International issued a lengthy report about them in November, calling for a moratorium. As of late May, they have cited 100 deaths in North America due to the tasers. Would there be the same amount or more if guns were used? I don't know, I'm not in law enforcement and I can't find any reliable statistics.

Amnesty International is not alone. Other groups are opposed as well, such as The Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Dept. of Justice is beginning a study of their own.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Illegal Immigrants & Child Sex Abuse

Today I read a very sympathetic op-ed piece in the St. Pete Times. Now, the St. Pete Times is our most liberal newspaper in the area and their editorial staff is also very liberal. I usually like the St. Pete Times, even though I'm a moderate. Their competition (The Tampa Trib) just doesn't have the same depth and range of coverage. But this editorial in the Times was so stunningly wrong, that I have to write about it.

The Times gave a very sweet and sympathetic little story about how the mean old American government has all these 'unnecessary' laws that really restrict the illegal immigrants that come here...illegally.

The Times told of this sad little Romeo and Juliet tale of a young 15 year old girl and the 24 year old man who got her pregnant. But when she gave birth, she and the baby were taken into custody because in our country we are so backwards that we still consider her a child (fancy that). Why, we are getting in the way of family! Even their parents approve! In fact, their lawyers approve! Everyone approves! What a shame we can't honor their cultural customs, where girls between 13 and 15 are routinely chosen as brides to much older men.

Make me vomit.

What fools have taken over the editorial staff at the Times? Has no one questioned why all these illegal families involved weren't deported immediately? Has no one considered that other cultures customs aren't customs in America because we think they're wrong? What's next? An editorial suggesting that we should allow those who practice female 'circumcison' (destruction of the female genitalia) to practice it here because they practice it there?

Exploitation of children is still exploitation, pure and simple. If this 15 year old's parents approve, then (as my mother would say) "more fools they". Let's not make the moronic mistake of excusing bad judgement simply due to culture.

(For more information on child sexual abuse, particularly on older men preying on young teens, go to Darkness2Light)

  • P.S. In a fascinating twist, they yanked the article shortly after I posted this, and replaced it with another 'softer' article about a 17 year old girl and a 21 year old man. It is as if the original article never existed. However, you can still read that article here.
  • Saturday, July 16, 2005

    Saturday Morning Sailing

    Saturday mornings have so much promise, don't they? To me it is the beginning of a two day adventure. I spend it in a variety of ways, but my favorite thing to do is get up at the crack of dawn and go sailing.

    I love sailboats, especially catamarans. There's something raw and free about them that you don't get with any other boat. My favorite is the 20' cat, which can hold 4 people easily. It's wonderful to start out with the sun just rising over the ocean, the morning is still damp and cool, and the only other people out are the ones that are die-hard fishermen or fellow sailing addicts.

    It's hard work to get that sailboat off the trailer you brought it on. That's why most sailors need a partner (somone who doesn't chatter incessently and is willing to do some work).

    But you get the cat on the beach, just above where the water is lapping at the shore. The only sound you hear are the shrill shrieks of gulls way above you, and the occasional car whizzing by. The next thing you have to do is raise the mast. It's hard work, but using some creative means and lots of elbow grease, you get it up there. You raise the sails, make sure all your lines (the ropes) are in order, and away you go.

    The marvellous thing about sailing is that there is no pollution of any kind. You hear no motor, you smell no diesel fuel. All you experience is moving silently and swifly through the waves. You smell the pure, clean smell of saltwater and feel the cool wind whip by. Dolphins love the noise sailboats make under water, and they'll find you and start chasing you. As you slice through the water, they whiz along behind, sometimes to the side of you, sometimes frolicking about behind you.

    Another friend of mine ('John') who loves catamarans got a great deal on one a couple of years ago. He knew there were potentially problems with it, because the price was so low. But sometimes you have to take these babies out on a test run before you know if anything is wrong. He loves silence on the water as I do, but was desperate enough to ask his friend to go with him one morning because he got the itch. His friend (' Sammy') is one of those annoying guys that can't stop talking and is never comfortable with silence, but Sammy was the only one available to go.

    So John and Sammy went sailing. The wind was blowing hard and fast and they were going at a terrific speed. John wanted to see how fast he could get it (to make really sure he had put the boat through all it's paces). Sammy, meanwhile, couldn't shut up. He was talking about everything under the sun. John tired of it quickly, and repeatedly asked Sammy to shut up, but Sammy had diarhhea of the mouth.

    Some dolphins picked up their trail and started darting about them. Sammy now had a new subject. "Look John," Sammy said excitedly, "Look! Dolphins!" He leaned out onto one of the catamaran's wings and laid on it, trailing his hands in the water. "Just look at the way they're following us, look at..." and suddenly he stopped talking. Startled, John turned around to see Sammy far behind, clinging to the broken wing. As John said, it served two purposes. He now knew what he was going to have to repair when the boat was in dry dock, and Sammy had finally shut up. He turned about and sailed leisurely back to retrieve Sammy. Sammy was much more subdued for the remainder of the day.

    I love sailing.

    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Class Size: Jeb Bush Makes it Tougher to Conform

    Jeb Bush (Governor of Florida) has always been an opponent of the class size amendment here in Florida. It will cost the state and each area a great deal of money to adhere to this amendment which was voted for by Floridian citizens. He has tried to get the Legislature to water it down, and was unable to. Now, I was (and am) an opponent of the class size amendment as well. Although it sounds great, it will be very costly. (For a great argument against smaller classes, go here.) Floridians have not always used their brains when voting (the High Speed Railway amendment comes to mind) so it's no great surprise to know that they vote for what sounds good, and not always for what is practical.

    (Incidentally, I know that many of my teacher friends will disagree with me, because under this amendment more teachers would be hired. I understand your point of view, but studies don't indicate that children actually do any better in a smaller classroom than in a larger one. Please see the link above for a more detailed explanation.)

    However, the government has recently chosen to interpret the amendment as harshly as possible. Critics believe that Jeb has influenced this decision. He is trying to create a situation where the voters will have to choose to strike the amendment because we will no longer be able to afford it. I don't know about you, but where I come from that's called dirty pool. He has no right to interfere with what the citizens voted for, even if he doesn't agree.

    The new interpretation is that class size will not be determined by each and every teacher. For instance, that means that in special needs classes, where there are often two teachers, the extra teacher will not be taken into consideration when calculating.

    This means that there will even be more expenditures if the State of Florida is going to be able to uphold this amendment. More buildings and classrooms will have to be built, and it could potentially cost billions statewide. That's right, billions.

    At this point, Jeb is holding our feet to the fire. If we don't revoke or amend this amendment, we will be taxed so harshly that we will be paying for this for many years. The citizens are being punished for their choice to vote against what Jeb believed.

    Thursday, July 14, 2005

    Home-Grown Terrorists & Lobotomies

    NOTE: These are two entirely separate issues (except for the fact that terrorists should be given lobotomies).


    I told you that I was going to hold off commenting until additional information trickled in. Here are my first thoughts.

    Home-grown terrorists (a.k.a. sleepers) are responsible for the bombings in the U.K. That means that they were British citizens (of Pakistani origin). The issue of sleepers has been discussed by pundits and writers, but we've never actually seen it in action until now. (Tom Bell, author of Assassin, is the one responsible for coining the term 'sleepers', I believe)

    Because sleepers are even harder to identify and protect against, we will have a very difficult time securing our nations until we take a closer look at mosques and muslim charities. Even the CIA has been fooled in the past. I recently heard a terrorism expert being interviewed on the radio. He said that the CIA has a muslim outreach in hope to solicit the peaceful muslims to speak out against terrorism / jihad. The CIA had even gone as far as giving money to this one particular muslim charity, only to find out that the monies were being funnelled overseas to actual terrorist groups. There are many experts saying that if these charities and mosques are not scrutinized carefully, they will continue to be a great source of American money and support for the very terrorists who wish to destroy us. Because this can encroach on the freedom of religion, the government will have to tred very carefully.

    Incidentally, I have never been a fan of the Patriot Act, but (happily) most parts of it which encroached too much on personal freedoms have been challenged and modified in the courts. It still isn't perfect, and I still am concerned about exchanging freedoms for safety. The Founding Fathers may not have approved, either. Yet, many experts believe that it may be the Patriot Act that stood between London being bombed, and we being bombed instead.


    The AP reported today that

    Thirty years after doctors stopped performing lobotomies to treat mental illness, epilepsy and even chronic headaches, relatives of patients who suffered after undergoing the procedure want the Nobel Prize given to its inventor revoked.

    The issue has resurfaced following the release of a new book that contends the crude brain surgery only helped about 10 percent of the estimated 50,000 Americans who received lobotomies from the mid-1930s to the 1970s.

    First, I would like to point out that I would love to see the study that claims only 10% were helped. I also think additional research is needed to be done by someone without an axe to grind. Past research has indicated that lobotomies truly were a boon when there were subjects that could not be controlled in any way, except for medication.

    For instance, imagine a patient who is raving and completely out of control, at all times. He is a danger to himself and to others unless he is restrained continuosly. That means it is almost impossible to get food into him. He cannot be allowed to use the toilet which means he has to have his diapers changed regularly. When his diapers are changed it will take several people to hold him down and do it. He can have no interaction with others. But a lobotomy can remove the feelings of rage, he is capable of being in contact with others, and can feed and toilet himself (although this can't be guaranteed).

    We quickly forget that there were little options at one time, and what an incredible discovery this was. Of course there was always a possibility of abuse, but that is true with everything.

    However: Anyone who has seen the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" knows the horrors of lobotomies, as well. We have a close family friend who was a nurse back when they were still doing lobotomies. She told us the story of the time that she witnessed a lobotomy in the 1960s.

    She said it was very crude, and horrible to watch. The doctor used an icepick, which he jammed deeply into the brain by way of the inside corner of the patient's eye (it didn't cause blindness). The goal was to destroy the frontal lobe. She said that the violence of the operation, the blood, and the squirming patient caused her to be violently opposed to all lobotomies. However, I must point out that there is no longer a need for them since new medications have been discovered and it is a luxury to be against something which is now outdated.

    I did some internet research on lobotomies and although I found websites that were opposed to the practice, they were ranting about the inhumanity of it without acknowledging the good. Additionally, I saw no research backing their positions. I did find sites that were also positive about the practice, which I found interesting.

    My conclusion: I think it is way too early to be calling for the revocation of Antonio Egaz Moniz's Nobel Prize.

    P.S. The Radical Adventure has begun. Check out Dan's progress by clicking on the link which I have listed.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    When Does a Word Lose it's Original Meaning?

    I wasn't going to post anything today, because I think the last 2 posts still haven't run their course. But, something was brought up by Alyssa, a newcomer to this blog (check our her kewl mannequin in her blog). So, I couldn't resist discussing it:

    When a word is appropriated to mean something other than it originally meant, are we obligated to stop using it? For instance here, in Florida (which used to be Land of Mobile Home Parks a.k.a. God's Waiting Room) we had a mobile home park named Gay Ranch. Well, once the word 'gay' began to mean something else in the 70s, we drove by it one day to see it was renamed Bay Ranch. We kids got a real chuckle out of that, thinking about how the grannies probably couldn't move fast enough to get that word off the sign.

    Perhaps there's no way around it, and we must bow to common usage. I don't know. But I remember being taught in one of my classes in college that Chaucer used plenty of words that we consider foul now, but were commonly used by everyone back then.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Racism In America

    I have always been blind to racism (see an earlier post of mine about this here. In fact, I will openly admit that I have sometimes been so blind that I have often dismissed it as a thing of the past.

    I think that racism has diminished greatly over the years, but I will share a story with you.

    Almost 10 years ago, I spent some time briefly in Alabama. I had no idea what a 'jig' was, but I heard white boys calling each other 'jigmasters'. The only 'jig' I knew of was in fishing (I grew up here in Florida) so I figured they were great at fishing. Later on, I realized what they were talking about and figured out what *ssholes they were. I had nothing more to do with them.

    I was also startled to find out that in that town they had a black/white divide at the railroad tracks. I couldn't care less. So I would shop at the black grocery store if it was on my way somewhere. Black people would stop and stare as I went by. I guess no whites ever went there.

    I didn't stay there for long (I was only visiting friends, who didn't stay friends after I realized what 'jigmaster' meant). What a wretched town.

    Strangely enough, a couple months ago I got a call from a business contact in a major city in Alabama. We got to know each other after a while. He was black, and had travelled a great deal in his state. I brought up this small town I had visited, and what do you know, he knew it! I told him what *I* thought of the town, and here is his story.

    He is a preacher, and went from town to town at that time, doing revivalist meetings. He had spent a night there, preaching, and left that same night to head home. As he left town, he noticed a couple cars behind him, but thought nothing of it. He continued on, driving into winding mountainous areas. The cars were still behind him. Suddenly, one revved up and passed him, trying to cut him off. The others remained behind, not allowing him to slow down. It was clear that their goal was to run him off the road. "By the grace of God," he told me later, "I was able to get around them, speed up, and leave them behind." He told me the town was well-known for their racist tendencies, and any black people that were considered 'uppity' were discouraged from staying there.

    This was a town that was steeped in evil, despite the fact that there was a church on every corner on their main street. What a cursed town to live in. I can only hope that it has improved, but I know the leaders in that town, and they were the ones who called themselves 'jigmasters.'


    Today I'm going to jump around a bit. Pick whatever topic(s) you like, and have at it!

    1. We are now getting pictures(click here) of the latest hurricane's devastation. Emily is next: She's brewing off South America right now, and looks as if she may be contemplating Cuba again.

    2. For anyone incensed with Ekbensah's posting in the African blog, he has very kindly issued an apology. We may all agree to disagree, but it's nice to know that we can continue to do so fairly. Welcome, Ekbensah, and thank you for your contributions.

    3. I have noticed that some of my posts generate a great deal more discussion than others. What are the topics that you are most likely to respond to, and why? This is part curiousity, but I also realize that this blog is tailored for everyone (not simply me) and I would like to know what is of interest to you.

    4. I wish it was not so terribly hot and muggy right now. I enjoy the outdoors and love a great many different activities outdoors. I adore sailing (but keeping a boat through a hurricane is another story). Godless Mom loves baseball games. Aral loves the beach. What do you like to do?

    5. I have a blog with kids' topics that you might be interested in (if you haven't discovered it already). I don't post daily there (as I do here) but it's still worth checking out (IMHO).

    Monday, July 11, 2005

    Text Messages Cause Civil Unrest

    The Philippines are already rife with civil unrest. There are repeated kidnappings, bombings, beheadings, and other atrocities created by the Islamic extremists. It's yet another one-time charming and peaceful vacation spot that has been spoiled. Sadly, a U.S. official has described it as "The new Mecca for terrorism". And parts of the island are so lawless, said Charge d'Affaires Joseph Mussomeli, that it runs the risk of becoming another Afghanistan.

    Many Filipinos use text messaging to communicate with their loved ones overseas. A text message may cost only 2 cents to send to America, where a standard phone call might cost a great deal more. But text messaging is almost impossible to trace. Messages can be easily forwarded quickly, and can spread like wildfire. If used the wrong way, it can be a curse. If used the right way, it can be a blessing. It's very popular in China, where dissidence is suppressed yet the government cannot easily stop the text messaging.

    Recently in the Philippines, text messages designed to incite civil unrest shot rapidly about the island. "President about to flee the country. Hoard groceries before banks collapse. Troops rumbling into Manila." Although none of the messages were true, many terrified Filipinos flooded the banks, preparing for the worst.

    Text messaging has increased the unrest among an already nervous population. In 2001, text messaging helped rally the people to oust their current president. Because texting is unsourced, there is no personal responsibility for anything that is said. It is very possible that the terrorists are using it to their advantage since the people are easily alarmed (which is understandable).

    Although we enjoy a great freedom with the ability to text message (and even though it is useful in places of suppression such as China) I wonder if anonymity should be revisited. Perhaps the initial author of the message should be attached to the message, so that where ever it is forwarded the source will be known. It might introduce some personal responsibility into the message. After all, isn't it wrong to cry out 'fire!' in the middle of a crowded theatre?

    Sunday, July 10, 2005


    I woke up this morning to the usual grey skies. When a hurricane is on top of you, the skies turn a rich forest green. Otherwise, you're left with grey. We're still dealing with the outer bands, so the winds are warm and whip everything about, and there are spurts of rain that come and go. I have lived through many hurricanes during my life. Although I know there is always danger, I love this.

    I love sitting in a cool, dark house with the candles lit, watching the storm outside. I love the mystique, and the power, and the unknowing. I love watching the winds racing through the trees, laying the fronds back like a blowdrier lays back hair. I love the cadence of the rain on the pavement outside.

    At night, it becomes more haunting. You hear the gusts of wind and rain but see little outside of your porch lights. Last night in the middle of the night we were woken to a 'whistler'. It's a sudden, fast spurt of wind that causes a whistling sound similar to a whistle that a human would make. It was loud and shrieking, and then just died away.

    A month ago, during another fierce storm, we heard an earthshaking thump which often means the neighborhood generator just blew. We woke up, saw the alarm clock was still on, and figured it was something else. We went back to sleep. In the morning, we saw that one of the trees in back (which is over 2 stories tall) had split in half and had miraculously missed everything of importance in the backyard, including the expensive Weber outdoor grill...*whew*.

    When I was a child, I remember many of these storms. We always had candles on hand. The electricity was rarely out more than a day or two. Now that our area has grown, we have to wait days or weeks to get our power back. We also had a house which was halfway up a slight hill. One year I was shaken awake by my parents in the middle of the night. There was flooding, and the water was coming in through the backdoor and finding it's way downhill and through our front door. We spent all night bailing out the living room by candlelight. But it was an adventure, and as a child I found it exciting.

    Hurricanes and some of these strong, unnamed storms, are like a box of Cracker Jacks. You never know what's inside.

    c. 2005

    Saturday, July 09, 2005

    How Dumb WAS She?

    OK, it's Saturday morning and time for us to relax. Today's topic is my old friend, Bambi (the name has been changed to protect the naive). Bambi was an amazing creature. She was a tall, attractive brunette who received As all through high school and college, but was somehow the Idiot Savant of the the campus. My personal theory is that she was just plain lazy when it came to thinking about any subject that wasn't required. So, how dumb was she?

    When we were teenagers, I used to hang out at her family's house a lot. They lived on the beach, and we would spend the weekends laying around on the beach working on our tans and flirting with the boys. One Saturday morning, a couple of really cute college boys walked over to us and started hitting on us. They had a cooler with them, and they spread their towels out next to us. As we were talking, the one closest to me offered me a beer. I took it and started swigging it, as Bambi continued to talk to the other guy.

    Now, Bambi was a goody-two-shoes and would never have dreamed of doing anything she was told not to do. I was very daring and would often do something just to see how it played out. So as I brazenly chugged the beer, Bambi turned around and, in mid-sentence, she stopped and gasped "Saur, you're drinking a beer!"

    "It's not beer, Bambi, it's coke in a beer can," I replied breezily. "Oh," she said, "Thank goodness."

    This lack of intellect continued into adulthood. As a roommate, she was both loveable and completely annoying. She never thought ahead. She would blithely leave wet towels on antique furniture, figuring that everything would dry out eventually. She would also get on kicks and ride them out until she had exhausted everyone around her with her fervor. For a while, it was a nauseating diet powder that you had to mix into juice and drink rapidly. That spun off into an intense vitamin regimen which must have cost her a fortune. Then it was facials, or a boob job, or cooking.

    One day while I was at work, Bambi called. "Saur, what's the difference between a tibble and a tisp?" she asked. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Bambi. Can this wait till later?" I pleaded. "No, I want to have dinner ready when you come home," she said. "If you can just tell me the difference, I can get started."

    "Ohhh," I said. "A tibble is a tablespoon, a tisp is a teaspoon." "OK, I'm looking in the silverware drawer right now. Which is the tablespoon, and which is the teaspoon?" she asked... "And what's a 'C'?"

    I am not lying.

    Our friendship finally ended when she had an affair with a married man. She came home from work one day, euphoric that she had met this really great guy. After that, she would never stop talking about him. I had to hear about Rich's smile, his food preferences, his favorite colors, what he said to her that day, why he wore his watch on his right arm instead of his left one, etc. She would follow me around, talking incessently about Rich. My only hope of peace was to develop a violent bout of imaginary stomach flu or pretend to fall asleep.

    Finally, one day I had to ask. "So, when am I going to meet this hunk?" I questioned. "Oh, someday," she said, waving her arm about vaguely. "He's really busy and has a complicated relationship with his ex wife."

    That set off warning bells. I asked her what she meant by that. It turned out he had told her he was still living with his wife but they were divorced with kids. He didn't want to get the 'ex' jealous, so he couldn't openly date anyone else. Knowing how gullible Bambi was, I tried to make her see that this was a complete con. But Bambi was in love, and couldn't understand why I was so intent on destroying her happiness.

    "Look, Bambi," I tried (on several occasions). "He won't give you his home number, you only have his cell and you can't call him on weekends. You've been dating a couple months now, and you've never met any of his friends or children. Doesn't this say to you that he's married and having an affair?" Nope. She remained stubbornly, blissfully ignorant. Until, one day when he admitted the truth. She was floored.

    I came home to a new Bambi. She was packing her things. "What are you doing?" I asked, in horror. I saw half the rent going right out the window. She told me what happened. "I've decided to start a new life," she said airily. "I'm going somewhere where I can forget it all."

    "But what about the rent?" I said, floored. "I can't make it on my own right now." "Oh, you'll find some way around it," she said confidently. "You always do. You are so lucky - everything works out for you." "Yeah, because I work at it!" I said. "Please, Bambi, don't do this right now. At least give me time to find another roomie." But my pleas fell on deaf ears. Bambi had discovered a new fad: Finding Herself.

    That was the last I heard of Bambi. I don't know if she ever Found Herself. I heard she moved to one of the nearby cities, so I guess she Found Herself nearby. I'm still wondering to this day: Exactly what did she find?

    c. 2005

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    Increased Funding for Africa

    Tony Blair (British P.M.) just went on TV to announce that one of the results which has come from the G8 conference is a doubling of aid to Africa. How that translates to American dollars, I am not sure yet. It could be that our aid will double, or perhaps it will increase slightly while other countries also begin to pony up more. However, many feel that trade is really the issue which will truly help Africa.

    Meanwhile, our poverty level in this nation continues to increase. The conservatives argue that this isn't really poverty, since these impoverished families live as well as some of the best families lived many generations ago. What? You honestly wish to tell us that the living conditions of the late 1800s or early 1900s are perfectly acceptable? We are not a third world country!

    Now, I grant you that our poor may be better off than the poor of other nations. However, aren't we obligated to look after our own citizens first? They are our employees, our friends, our relatives, our neighbors. Other countries make no to very little contribution to our economy or the quality of our lives, and most despise us or take our aid for granted.

    If taxpayers were allowed to earmark where all their yearly taxes are spent, the government would find itself suddenly re-prioritized. More money would be spent on our infrastructure, our environment, our own programs, our own poor and homeless, and very few funds would be sent to other nations.

    I am now listening to an African reporter who is telling Tony Blair that this African aid is really too little, too late. This is typical of the arrogant cheek which we face from these beggar countries. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth! I am sickened by what we are doing. We are the English sheepdog, rolling over and fawning for a flea-bitten, mangy stray cur.

    Government to Put Additional Conditions on AIDS Grants

    The U.S. government has declared that any groups which are fighting AIDS overseas must do two things to be entitled to continued government funding: Create a statement that declares it is opposed to prostitution and sex trafficking, and sign a government form stating this.

    These restrictions were already in place for foreign organizations that receive our funding, but the Justice Department wished to carefully review them to make sure that it wouldn't be considered a stifling of freedom of speech of U.S. citizens.

    Although this seems to be common sense (and most groups have no problems with this) there are a couple groups that are balking (perhaps because they dislike the current administration so greatly that they would complain about anything).

    In a time where any country in the civilized world has come to the conclusion that women and children aren't mere objects that can be exploited, I am amazed to find that any organization would object to this.

    Terri Bartlett, vice president for public policy at Population Action International (a health advocacy group for women's issues) has said that she disagrees with this policy. She has stated that she fears it may drive away some prostitutes who need the help.

    Let's get real here. I doubt any prostitute asks to read their organizational statements before she asks for help. And everyone knows that there are many prostitutes which are forced into the life. But we also need to honestly acknowledge that there are many prostitutes which take up prostitution because it's the easy thing to do.

    And, let's also address this honestly from both sides. This new statement is mere smoke and mirrors. Simply because an organization states that they're officially opposed to prostitution and sex trafficking doesn't mean that they will say or do anything about it (look at Thailand's government, for instance).

    The AP reports:

    "Michael Wiest, vice president of Catholic Relief Services, a recipient of USAID funds, said it would take a lot of time and money to make sure his organization wasn't working with any foreign partner groups that violated the pledge."

    Michael, we all know it won't take much time (and virtually no money) to type up a simple statement and sign a form. And if you don't know the policies of the partners which you've been working with, then you haven't been doing your due diligence to begin with. Wouldn't the Catholic Church want to know if they were working with groups that countered their beliefs? Of course it would!

    This policy is better than no policy. Hopefully it will send a message, no matter how small, that exploiting women and children is wrong (are you listening, Thailand?)

    P.S. I continue to hold off discussing the bombings in London until we have further information. The good news so far is that the death count is vastly lower than initially thought. Some think that this points to either a greatly weakened Al Qaida or another group altogether.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    Must a Journalist Reveal Her Sources?

    How quickly we forget, and how easy it is to sweep untidy matters under the rug.

    On the eve of the War in Iraq, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson was sent to investigate claims that Iraq was procuring nuclear materials. He found no evidence for these claims, and officially reported this. When George Bush went forward with this claim in his State of the Union speech, Wilson was incensed and went public with his information. That was an embarrassing moment for the Bush administration.

    Shortly after Wilson's public dissent, Robert Novak (a conservative pundit with strong ties to the White House) reported that Wilson had been asked to investigate the allegations by his own wife, who happened to be a CIA operative.

    (Novak had confirmed this with the CIA, which asked him to not reveal the information. They told Novak that this could endanger not only Mrs. Wilson but many others as well. He still chose to go public. Novak has since denied that the Bush administration asked him to do this.)

    Wilson immediately went public again, alleging that the Bush administration had leaked this information in an attempt to intimidate him and endanger his wife and the others.

    At this point something happened that no one had really foreseen: People got angry. So, Bush was forced to demand an investigation into the leak. Perhaps Bush truly did not know of the leak until it was too late. Perhaps he did not want anyone leaking anything to the press without his OK first. Perhaps it had his OK and he was trying to anoint a scapegoat. It is even possible that this has been carefully orchestrated to allow the government an attempt at controlling the press.

    But whatever the reasons were, an investigation was launched and pressure was applied to the reporters who initially broke the story. They were threatened that if they didn't reveal their source, they would face jail time.

    What is truly amazing is that Bob Novak was not the person who has been dragged through court over this, even though he is the one who broke the story. Instead, he pointed to two colleagues who had passed the story on to him, and they have been in court ever since. Novak has sat back in comfort, saying he will 'reveal all' if the two reporters talk. One wonders what these two journalists think of his generosity.

    Here we are, exactly 2 years later, and the battle continues. At this point, the source has been identified and is willing to go public, but the journalists responsible for the information remain stubborn. They stick to the principle that a journalist does not reveal his sources. And both are about to face jail time as a result of this principle. The fact that the source is now known, and the government still presses on, indicates a greater agenda than this one.

    "Journalists are not entitled to promise complete confidentiality - no one in America is," Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald told a judge.

    U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan held the reporters in civil contempt of court in October, rejecting their argument that the First Amendment shielded them from revealing their sources. Hogan was conducting a hearing on the matter Wednesday, at which time he could order the reporters jailed.

    Although I feel these journalists should never have revealed such information, and although Bob Novak has been unjustly given a hall pass in this mess, I am very concerned to see that these two journalist are about to face jail time defending a principle which we all hold dear.

    If they cave, this is an issue that will be far reaching. There will be no more stories like the Watergate revelation. There will be no more 'unnamed sources'. There will be less information available to us, and any information we read will be controlled by the government. We will lose our chance of honest reporting if Big Brother is watching over everything that is said.

    Monday, July 04, 2005

    Tag Along on a Radical Adventure

    I have many 'friends' in blogland. However, I've never promoted another blogger in my own blog (despite the links that I recommend in my sidebar). But this one has really captured my imagination. I suppose it's because Dan is about to do what most of us have always dreamed of doing.

    One day (while idly surfing) I happened across Dan, who is a restless Environmental Attorney. Dan's decided to pack up or sell everything he owns and hit the road for a long motorcycle tour of parts of America and Canada. You can go with him (vicariously) and read of his adventures at .

    After months of planning, he leaves on July 18. (Note: The original start date was the 4th, please see Dan's notes in the comments section).

    He'll be blogging regularly from the road, where ever and when ever he can get the hookup. He gets the occasional comment, but for the most part his blog has remained unknown until now. I recommend you stop in and wish him well! And perhaps, if he's in your neighborhood, you might consider inviting him over for dinner.

    How Are Fireworks Made?

    Today's the 4th of July, when we celebrate Independence Day in the United States of America. I'm not going to discuss all the standard topics which will be done to death in every other blog. Instead, I am going to talk about fireworks.

    Years ago we met Troy. Troy works for a major travelling fireworks company. Typically they set up a month before the 4th of July in major cities that will allow it. They offer an amazing variety of fireworks that they design and manufacture themselves. It turned out that Troy was an excellent designer (called a pyrotechnician) who was excited to be heading for the Olympics (Yes! They have a pyrotechnic category in the Olympics!)

    I had always wondered how fireworks were made. I'm sure many of you have, too. When you're a child, it's an awe-inspiring discovery to see a squiggle of flame spurt up from the ground and suddenly burst into something that defies your imagination. (One 4th of July when I was very young, I became so excited with anticipation that I got myself sick over it and couldn't go at all.)

    Well, Troy took the time to explain fireworks. He talked animatedly, drawing on a paper napkin with a felt tip pen at a local Denny's one night. Basically, a cardboard tube is made to house the firework and it's plugged at one end with clay (to prevent the fireworks from shooting off in more than one direction). A little black powder charge is poured in and then small shells are placed inside. Those small shells together comprise the patterns that we see when the tube explodes. These patterns are put together very carefully. If you don't pour a pattern correctly, then it might not shimmer with the right colors, or spread into the proper visual (such as a dragon, or a chrysanthemum, or a palm tree).

    It's really very mathematical. You need to know how to plan to scatter the shells in an equal distance from each other, and you need to be able to calculate their rate of fall and the timing of each explosion. It also can be quite dangerous when you're working around gunpowder. But despite all this, Troy adores fireworks and the magic that they bring to the crowds. I can't imagine him ever doing anything else.

    So when you go to the displays tonight, remember the pyrotechnicians and the vast amount of planning that goes into each and every show that you see. And have a Happy and Safe 4th of July!

    Sunday, July 03, 2005

    Abortions Will Continue; No Matter What

    I wasn't going to address this, but there is a rising hysteria out there and I feel I'd better talk about it now:

    Abortions will continue.

    There are lots of people running around tearing their hair out over this, but it's more of a publicity stunt for their particular cause, than a reality.

    The sad thing is, they're making a lot of other people scared or euphoric over something that isn't possible.

    As I said in my earlier post, there are only two types of judges. You can either have someone who:

    1. Interprets the Constitution as an historical document (they make rulings based on what the Constitution actually says) or

    2. Interprets the Constitution as a nicely written document written in another time, for another set of people, which can be ignored if it doesn't fit in with the times.

    Most conservatives like #1, most liberals like #2. The difficulty with #2 is that it results in wild fluctuations in the law, and no stability.

    The problem is that Roe V. Wade was decided using #2. So, if you ended up with a conservative court that follows #1, you might end up with Roe V. Wade being overturned. However, that's not as scary as it sounds to liberals. Here's why:

    If Roe v. Wade was ever overturned, it would be simply because it is an issue that needs to be decided by the states. Some states would then OK abortion and some wouldn't. So if a girl in Georgia wouldn't be allowed an abortion according to Georgia law, she'd just cross the border into Florida and have one there.

    Let's face it: for good or bad, abortions have become a part of our society these last 30 years. Many people see it as a right. Abortions will continue; no matter what.


    My goal has always been to have a unique blog. I don't cover some of the major news here, because this is an Op Ed piece and most of those issues have been examined, dissected, and diagnosed by millions. Who wants to see it repeated again? So, I've stayed away from the entire Sandra Day O'Connor discussion this week.

    But that was before the National Organization for Women (NOW) chose to get involved. They organized a march of 'hundreds' of women to protest any candidates that would be anti-abortion. This actually took me by surprise, and I bet you were surprised too! My first thoughts were:

    1. They actually have more than 5 members that are still alive?
    2. Just who are they representing?
    3. I wonder if any of them shave?

    Now, before you dismiss my comments, you need to know that I am a highly successful professional female that believes that we have (mainly) achieved equality for women in the U.S. I am thankful for the rights that I have. I don't fit into any category. I'm a member of the Lucy Stone League, but my first vote was for Ronald Reagan. I believe the neocons are poison to this country, but I still prefer them over the Clintons. And if it wasn't for suffragists, I may never have been able to pick and choose my own beliefs.

    But NOW was never taken that seriously. It was never an organization of anything more than shrill, shrewish women demanding rights that exceeded those of men. They claimed women needed more rights than men because they had had less rights than men. This concept is drastically flawed and it's reverse discrimination; plain and simple. It's not right for women vs. men or black vs. white.

    Most of America viewed NOW as some odd fringe movement. They always could be seen here and there, screaming rabidly about some newly perceived slight against women. After a while, they seemed to dry up and disappear.

    Yet here they are, demanding something that no president can deliver: a moderate judge. Why is that? Because their is no middle ground where the Constitution is concerned. You can either have someone who

    1. Interprets the Constitution as an historical document (they make rulings based on what the Constitution actually says) or
    2. Interprets the Constitution as a nicely written document written in another time, for another set of people, which can be ignored if it doesn't fit in with the times.

    While NOW is busy trying to obscure the issue, and get (apparently) much-needed press, I sit back in amusement and wonder... do they have hairy armpits?

    Saturday, July 02, 2005

    Ad Jingles

    OK, it's Saturday again, and on Saturday mornings we serve light fare at Saurkraut's Cafe.

    Ad Jingles are part of Americana. I've loved marketing since I first read Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders when I was about 12 years old (I was very precocious, and my parents had run out of anything else to give me to read).

    Some of these jingles just stick with you forever, like:
    "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener. That is what I'd really like to be. And if I were an Oscar Meyer wiener, everyone would be in love with me."

    "My dog's better than your dog, my dog's better than yours. My dog's better, cuz he eats Kennel Ration, my dog's better than yours."

    "It only takes one bite to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop."

    ...or how about the Heinz Ketchup ad with Carly Simon's song Anticipation playing in the background? I always loved that song. Heinz was being very clever. Their marketing surveys were showing that people were turning to their competition because it was so tough to get Heinz out of the bottle. So Heinz said, well, we can't reformulate the stuff. How about we try to beat them at their own game? And they created a commercial that told America that their product was thick and rich, and worth the wait. And it worked.

    What are your favorite commercials?

    Friday, July 01, 2005

    Now: War of OUR World
    (Imported Terrorists in Iraq)

    In breaking news today, sources confirmed that the insurgency we are experiencing in Iraq is not due to Iraqis, but is due to terrorists that are being imported from other nations.

    It has long been believed that terrorists are being imported into Iraq, but this is the first confimation.

    The AP published today:

    Iraqis have carried out less than 10 percent of more than 500 suicide attacks since 2003, according to one defense official. At least 213 attacks have occurred this year - 172 by vehicle and 41 by bombers on foot - according to a count by The Associated Press.

    While most suicide attackers in Iraq are thought to be Gulf Arabs, North Africans are also streaming in to carry out deadly missions, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

    The bombers are recruited from Sunni communities, smuggled into Iraq from Syria after receiving religious indoctrination...

    I have no doubt that this is true. My question is, what are we going to do about it? We have three choices:

    1. Go after the source (take the war to the countries that are harboring the terrorists)
    2. Go home (they continue to come into Iraq in a steady stream)
    3. Seal the Iraqi borders

    If we choose to go after the source, we will be invading many more countries and we don't have the military sources to do that, nor does Bush necesarily have the willpower (he counts the royal family of Saud among his family friends but would love to go after Syria). Yet if we go home, the terrorists elsewhere in the world will be encouraged to continue their ludicrous jihad. We could seal the borders, but this will take a great deal of time and effort. Apparently the U.S. government is thinking their best choice is #3:

    The governments of America and Iraq both demanded yesterday that Syria stop letting insurgents cross its border with Iraq.

    At a conference designed to show international solidarity for the elected Iraqi leadership, the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, also warned Damascus of unspecified reprisals.

    (source: news.telegraph)

    When Syria continues to ignore our demands, we will have no choice except choice #1. We are now nearing not the end of the Iraqi war, but the beginning of world war.