Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year!

I'm taking the weekend off to spend with family and friends, so Happy New Year!


Move along, move along. Nothing to see here. ;o)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

IRS Audit

I'm out today, due to an ongoing IRS audit that keeps me awash in paperwork. Fun fun! Have a wonderful day, and I'll be back with you tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford: Dead at 93

I recently saw a TV special about Gerald Ford, and I remember thinking that it was almost unbelievable that he made it to 93. I wondered how much longer he had.

Many elderly wait until after the holidays to die. It's uncanny how that can happen, and it's been surmised that they simply want to spare their families the pain of a death on a major holiday, so they fight off The Grim Reaper until the holiday is past.

I remember so little of Gerry Ford . I was very young when he was President and he only served for 2 years. I recall that he was reputed to be a klutz, and the press was always catching him tripping somewhere. The truth was that he had been a college football player and served in the Navy. Perhaps it's possible to be a klutz and athletic at the same time, but I never saw the athlete in Gerry Ford. No one did.

I always considered Gerry Ford to be an insignificant blip set between two notorious Presidents. I think many others would agree with me. He was the the eye in the storm. Even the "significant" things that happened to him as President make you yearn for simpler times, along with Mom's meatloaf and apple cobbler.

Perhaps having a bland personality and banal existence allowed him to live longer, but time finally caught up with the President that tripped in and out of the White House for a couple of years.

Gerry Ford's biggest distinctions:

Ford is the only President to not have been elected either President or Vice President. He was appointed by Richard Nixon to be the Vice President after Nixon's first VP was convicted on income tax evasion. When Nixon got caught in the Watergate Scandal and resigned, Gerry Ford became President and promptly pardoned Nixon, which is why Ford never had a chance at re-election and Nixon roamed free until the day he died.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bush's Grand Aid to Africa Scheme is Disaster

As you may recall, I spoke out against Bush's Aid to Africa scheme over a year-and-a-half ago. Just now, it is being reported by the AP that the records have been so sloppy, we have absolutely no idea how the money is being spent or if it's effective.

Go figure.

As I previously wrote, "trade is really the issue which will truly help Africa." People appreciate what they work for, and it's easy to take a handout for granted.

This lack of record keeping and responsibility is something that we could have predicted back then. It's not simply due to the Bush regime's sloppy administration of the funds. It's also due to a lack of gratitude on the part of the people we're supposedly helping.

Back when the increased aid to Africa was announced, I felt that it was Bush trying to throw a sop to the world community as a way to ameliorate the Iraq war. The sop hasn't worked, and we're obviously throwing away the money when it could be better spent at home.

The aid to Africa needs to stop now. "Charity begins at home," my mother used to say. It's time to help our own, before we attempt to help others.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I would've loved to have the standard type of Christmas picture, with the three dogs gazing sweetly into the camera. However, the dogs had a completely different idea about it and I was lucky to even get this one.

As you can see, BoBo was helping himself to the whipped cream on our coffee while we got BugEyes' picture. He was still licking the last bit off his nose when I snapped his picture!

Note the joyous Christmas pose that Oscar took ("Please don't beat me, Santa!"). However, as you can see, he's put on two pounds in only two weeks, I got him trimmed at the dog groomers, and much of his hair is coming back. He's learning that not all people are bad, and he's very sweet and affectionate.

Merry Christmas, from all of us to all of you!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Frankincense & Myrrh and Biblical Lore Surrounding the Birth of Jesus

Today I'm going to republish this story, which I wrote last year (you can still access this story and others through "The Best of Saur"). Stop by to check out the Christmas Card picture tomorrow!

In the Christian tradition of Christmas, we often see nativities that display Mary, Joseph (if you're lucky), some shepherds, baby Jesus in a manger (of course), angels, assorted barn animals and... wise men and the camels they rode in on. What's wrong with this picture?

The wise men didn't show up until Jesus was living in a house (see Matthew 2:11). Of course, Mary and Joseph were only staying in the stable temporarily. It's to be assumed they'd want to move out and get back home as soon as possible. (IMHO there's something else wrong with this picture, but I'll discuss it at another time).

Why were they in the stable?

Because there was a census taking place (see Luke 2) and all citizens were required to return to their birthplace during that census. Bethlehem was where Joseph was from and so naturally he took his pregnant fiance with him for the census because once you were engaged, you were seen to be as good as married. Since all the houses and inns were full, they ended up staying in the stables.

This was probably very common (though not much fun) for many of the travellers at that time. And because homes and inns were often structured around the animals, there wasn't much privacy. The animals were kept below, and some households lived in a level up from the animals, but exposed to the animals at all times.

Excavations have shown an arrangement where the house was made entirely out of mud and stone with a large pit in the middle of the house where the animals were kept. Then another level (up and out from the animal level) was where the family slept and cooked their meals. Picture it as shaped almost like a bowler hat, upside-down. It was often a convenient way to live because animals are warm in the winter and warm air rises. Often families slept on the rooftops in the summer.

So, Mary and Joseph were probably sleeping downstairs, but within sight of others who were staying upstairs. Not a lot of seclusion for an expecting mother.

There are four gospels in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and each was written for a slightly different audience and by different authors, so each touches upon only what he thinks is important. Mark and John don't even feel that Jesus' childhood is significant, so there is no discussion of his birth.

The only mention of the wise men is in Matthew 2. Why is that?

The Book of Matthew was specifically targeted toward the Jews. The aim of the author was to tell the Jews that it was OK to believe that Christ was the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament. Since the Old Testament prophesies pointed to Jesus as being King of the Jews, it was very important to establish his lineage. How do you do that, if you're Matthew?

You discuss Joseph's ancestors, since the right to kingship is passed through the father's side. Mary also seemingly had a royal lineage, and it's possibly detailed in Luke (although there's debate about that).

You also discuss how important his birth was to everyone, and how it was heralded and even indicated by signs: "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him." (Matt. 2:1-2)

So who were these magi, where did they come from, and why did they bring " of gold and frankincense and myrrh"? Matthew doesn't give us a lot of details.

We know they came from the east but we don't know how long they travelled to get to Jerusalem. So, they probably would have been of middle eastern or asian descent.

Frankincense and myrrh are both resins (dried tree sap) that come from trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrhh), which are common to Somalia. But that doesn't necessarily indicate that any of them were from Africa (which was west of Jerusalem) since traders went everywhere. It also doesn't exclude any nationality, since people were known to travel far away from their birthplaces.

They all were considered to be very wise and possibly practiced some form of magic (the word magi is the root for the word magician). There's no indication that they were kings, and so I would definately question the hymn "We Three Kings" (although I still love it).

They probably would have studied together, and they must have taken their beliefs very seriously if they travelled so far to worship Jesus so it might even indicate a buddhist monastery. We simply don't know.

We know that some of their beliefs probably included astrology, since they took the star seriously. However, perhaps the star would have been taken seriously by anyone at the time but most people didn't guess what it indicated. We have no knowlege about it's appearance, so we can only surmise.

Additionally, we have no idea how many magi there were. They probably represented a community, and there may have been as little as 2 or they could have numbered in the hundreds. They certainly impressed Herod when they approached him, and it wasn't always easy to get an audience with him! In fact, Herod was impressed enough to kill every male (age 2 and under) in Bethlehem in order to eliminate the competition (Mary and Joseph had already whisked Jesus away to Egypt for a while).

Why the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh? I have been burning frankincense and myrrh daily, and it smells wonderful. But not only were they burned for fragrance, they were used in toiletries and oils. They were products that were very expensive, and they would have been considered a frivolity for anyone less than royalty. These were gifts that were fit for a King. And thus Matthew's case was made.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"No Santa? Shocking!" -and-
"Oh Come All Ye Faithful" by Twisted Sister

Today I'm going to republish this story, which I wrote last year (you can still access this story and others through "The Best of Saur").

My family never had Santa as being part of the family Christmas tradition. We still loved Christmas, we still loved knowing that mom & dad were putting out the presents after we went to sleep, and we still loved the excitement of Christmas morning. We loved the carols and the hymns, we loved the lights on the trees and the houses, and couldn't wait to see the surprises. We also loved getting each other presents, and I adored watching people's faces when they opened the presents that *I* had got them. So, we never missed Santa. Santa? Santa Who?

When my son (SaurKid) was little, my ex and I were in agreement that we'd raise him the same way. When he got a little older, he couldn't help but hear about Santa, so we told him the truth: There is no such thing as Santa.

The concept of Santa was really a marketing conceit of the 1800s and I just don't like lying. Plus, I like getting the credit for being the one who got him the toys. Why give the credit to a fictional character? I'll only do it when he lets me use his credit card!

Anyway, one day when my son was about 3 1/2, I had taken him shopping in a major department store. It was getting close to Christmas and people were everywhere. I should add that my son was a strikingly beautiful baby and toddler, and people would find any excuse to touch or talk to him (we kept wetwipes handy).

We were standing in line behind an elderly man and his wife. The well-meaning man turned to SaurKid and said jovially "Have you been a good boy so that Santa will bring you presents this year? What have you asked him for?"

SaurKid looked up at him solemnly and with some pity, and politely replied "There is no such thing as Santa." (You'd think an old guy like that would know this already!)

The man appeared as if he was about to have a heart attack! I got a look from him that spoke volumes. I could almost see the banner flying above my head: Worst Mom of the Year. "Um, we've never lied to him about Santa," I said apologetically. He never said another word.

Funny, isn't it, how seriously some people take this deceit? And if you choose to not play along with this piece of fiction, you're branded a traitor? I had never set out to send a message to the world about it. I wasn't some sort of militant Anti-Santa Crusader! I simply chose to practice Christmas differently in my little corner of the world.

And SaurKid, bless his heart, remains forthright and honest to this day. Sometimes a little too honest. I wonder where he gets it?

No, I'm not saying that it's evil to promote Santa. Many of my friends do, and SaurKid was taught a long time ago that 'discretion is the better part of valour'. But I'm suggesting that parents think twice about it. That is, unless you've got Santa's credit card in your back pocket.

How My Ex-Boyfriend's Daughter Found Out

She came into my life when she was 5. She was backwards and poorly developed mentally, having been neglected by her mother all her life. However, she was always loving and sweet. Over the years (and with work from myself, my family and friends) she blossomed into an intelligent, gifted and thoughtful young lady who is amazingly mature. We continue to share her with her mother.

Her mother always perpetuated the Santa Claus Myth. It was difficult to respect her mother's unspoken wishes and yet celebrate Christmas as we did. SaurKid and I learned to excuse ourselves from discussing anything about Santa. When she asked why Santa only brought presents to her mother's home, we would hem and haw and say "What an interesting question!"

One day as I was driving her to school, she asked "Saur, is Santa real?"

Being in Full Counselor mode and keeping my eyes steady on the road, I asked her "What do you think?"

"I don't think he is," she said carefully, studying my face.

"And how does that make you feel?" I asked. Thank goodness for a college education. ;o)

"I'm OK with it, I guess," she said. "But I feel a little silly since I'm the last kid in third grade that said they believed in him!"

I nodded. "Now you know," I said. "We wanted to tell you for a very long time, but it wasn't our place to do so. But look at it this way: all these years that you've been receiving gifts from Santa, you really have your mom to thank. And it's pretty important that you should know that."

She thought a little more, turning it all over in her head. "I don't think we should tell Mom that I know yet," she said wisely. "It means so much to her."

So, we kept it secret a year. Sometimes we have to protect the parents.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful by Twisted Sister

OK, so this version of the hymn is a little unusual and the video's cheesy, but the music rocks!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The "Free Puppy" Scam

Lately there have been ads popping up here and there on the internet, advertising "free puppies" in various purebred breeds. The ones I've seen so far include malteses, yorkies, and bichon frises.

The scammers use free email addresses that aren't easily traced, such as yahoo or hotmail. But they all say the same thing when you write to them inquiring about their offer:

Hello ,
thanks for contacting us for our lovely yorkie puppies for Christmas. i have 3 females and 3 males. They are completely housebroken and very obedient and are willing to do just what you ask them to do.

"OK, Rover, go make me an omelette." Wow, these puppies are unusual! Does this mean they're already trained to lie down, roll over, play dead? Well, let's read on...

They are Potty and Paper trained already. they are updated with their shots. and have been dewormed. they are just 12 weeks old and are presently weighing 1.3 pounds and are expected to weigh 4.9pounds at full growth. they are 1.4inches grown now and will grow to a maximum of .5inches. thier parents weighed 5.1 pounds.

So far, so good. Incidentally, English was obviously not this person's first language, but that can also be said for many kids in our highschools today. And what the heck, we want a puppy, right? So who cares?

we personally raised my puppies and trained them. we raised them alongside little children and other household pets like monkeys and cats. so they are very playful and friendly with kids and other household pets. they do not bark a lot. they are very calm and give good company .

Well, then this is what I've been looking for! It's really damned hard to find puppies that have been raised with monkeys, so I'd have to say this just put him at the top of my list.

They will obviously be a great addition to your family for Christmas i am located in CAMEROON. so we will be shipping from CAMEROON coz we have been doing so successfully. I ship using a direct flight from Cameroon to the u.s which takes just 5hrs maximum.

Ah, there's the kicker. These unusual, well-behaved, pre-trained, monkey-raised puppies are from Cameroon. I should've known there was a catch. Obviously we couldn't raise such quality animals in the U.S.A. Now, here's where it gets really interesting:

I use a plane to fly the puppies and perfect PET-CARE services are given to pets during flight. your puppies will come along with all health records,registered papers,playing toys, and a booklet written by the CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY which teaches you how to bring up your puppies.

Oh thank goodness! We wouldn't want godless puppies, and I've always worried about that. I've often said "What if I buy a new puppy and it turns out that it's Muslim? How will we fit the Muslim faith into our household? I already am swamped with the standard Christian holidays and traditions!" But now I can rest easy, knowing that it's a Christian puppy and I'll even get Christian instructions that come with him!

it also includes their food menu.

Now this has me really intrigued. I can imagine all sorts of things that this Uber Puppy requires: Lobster? Caviar? Dinner at eight?

we are willing to grant to any one who gets our puppy a lifetime guarantee.this will ensure your puppy"s health for atleast 10yrs. all these will be in the crate in which your puppy will be shipped in. this is a special ex-mas offer for thoe who are chritians and can take good care of our puppies.

Note that it's an ex-mas offer. Is that like "anti-Christmas"? And only "chritians" can qualify for these puppies (just in case you hadn't figured out that they're trying for a strong Christian slant in the last couple of paragraphs.) They're really pile-driving their point home. Apparently they're under the mistaken impression that we're truly a Christian nation, when we're an amalgam of many different faiths (or lack thereof).

your puppies will arrive you safely and in good shape. i will like to know also the sex you are interested in. what you will need to get one of our lovely yorkie babies, is to promise me that you will take good care of them as well as love them coz I will never like them to suffer. Then you will have to provide for the shipping fee for your puppy. i will also like to get your detailed contact address as well as closest airport to your location. The shipping and carrier fee costs $175 if you comply with the above then get back to me.


Here we have finally arrived at the heart of the matter. The "free" puppies are really $175, because they're being mailed from Cameroon. And obviously nothing will arrive. If you're lucky, they'll send a stuffed toy.

What worries me is that there are always new scams cropping up. In other countries, there are entire offices devoted to sending out scam emails and figuring out new ways to fleece the American public. They often see it as a patriotic duty: "We're conning the stupid Americans!" It's not only despicable, it's also lucrative because there are always enough people that bite.

This particular scam is new enough that it may initially generate a lot of funds for these scammers before word gets out. I wonder what is next? I'd like to see a scam that advertises a hit-man service for mother-in-laws. It would be very entertaining, and might enrich some fantasy lives.

P.S. If you want to read about a similar scam (most of them seem to come out of Nigeria) then read this funny and interesting story about the Scammer Who Got Scammed.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Christmas Fart

My brother "Adam" was The Fart King. He passed gas more than your Great Grandma and Great Grandpa combined. He could even fart at will, which many other boys thought was an art. "Pull my finger," he'd suggest. Any victim stupid enough to do so would always regret it.

Adam could never eat beans. The results were notorious. Whenever mom made chili, we stayed far away from Adam and pitied our younger brother "Sam" (who shared his room). I was the oldest, therefore I tried to be the most dignified. I would say little, and stay above the fracas, unless it directly affected me. Then I would lay into him and badger him into a rather sheepish apology. "One day you'll regret this, Adam!" I would roar. "You have to get control of it!"
When Adam was in his early teens, he and Sam were asked to play as shepherds in our church's nativity play. Although they didn't need to learn any lines, they were supposed to stand in the background, holding their shepherd crooks, gazing adoringly at the plastic baby in the manger.
On the night of the nativity play, Mom made chili. Now, Mom's chili is delicious. Most people don't make it as well as she does, and as I recall, Adam even had a second helping. For some reason, no one considered the dire consequences that could result from it.
That evening, the play started out very well. The church was full, and everyone was expectant. Kids of all ages filed onto the stage as their turn came, and eventually there were several angels, shepherds, three wisemen, Mary, Joseph, and plastic Baby Jesus.
True to their roles, Adam and Sam were among the shepherds, gazing adoringly into the manger. The room grew hushed as the announcer began to speak of that silent night long ago, when...
A massive fart split the air.
Magnified by a nearby microphone, it rattled throughout the church. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then a mass exodus from the stage. Mary and Joseph scrambled over helpless victims to get away from the toxic explosion, leaving Baby Jesus to fend for himself. Adam was left on stage, turning bright red, as Sam cowered away from him.
The church watched in hushed awe. Then, someone began to chuckle. That chuckle spread like wildfire and soon everyone was laughing. Adam shrugged awkwardly, which only added to the merriment.
Once the air had cleared, everyone resumed their places and the play continued. But, Adam was never asked to be a shepherd again. The Christmas Fart became the stuff of legend, and was re-told throughout the church and our own family as a cautionary tale for many years after.
And now you know the story of The Christmas Fart. And why you should avoid eating chili if you're about to go on stage. And (most importantly) if you ever have Adam over to dinner, I recommend that you serve something easily digested. His wife will thank you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Peacock at Breakfast

A friend and I went to breakfast at a local diner this morning. When we left the restaurant, we saw this wild peacock sauntering by.

Wild peacocks are somewhat common here, because there were peacock farms at one time, and many got away. They are about the size of wild turkeys.

This one ran away from us and roosted on a nearby car. Peacocks can be aggressive, but this one was actually reasonably tame and let us get quite near. We saw no peahens nearby, so I'm assuming he's very lonely.

I checked with animal services, but peacocks/peahens are able to fly away, so no one will catch or try to relocate them.

We asked around, and found out that he'd always lived in a nearby mobile home park, but now the mobile home park is being demolished to make way for a new shopping mall.

Such is the price of "progress".

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Cost of Saving Idiots

Recently there has been a pile of money and effort spent on trying to save three mountain climbers. Three mountain climbers who deliberately put themselves in danger's way for the thrill of it. And now others pay the cost.

I can already hear boneheads saying "how cruel to try to put a cost on a life!" and "If it were my family member, I'd not spare any expense!"

Great. Then you finance it. Because it's easily $5,000 a person and up.

Have we lost all sense of reason? People willingly put themselves in harm's way, and then expect a rescue mission due to their lack of judgement. These rescues cost money, and although we've become an entitlement-minded society, we can't just keep throwing money after problems. Additionally, this idiocy puts the lives of rescuers in jeopardy, too.

If someone accidentally gets lost in a snowstorm through no fault of their own, that's a different story. Send out the troops!

But if I choose to start the new fad of "18-Wheeler Dodge" and begin standing in the middle of a 6-lane highway at rush hour for "the sport of it", I can't honestly expect the taxpayer to finance my rescues, medical bills, and funeral expenses.

Even the Coast Guard doesn't do free missions anymore, if it is shown that the sailor/boater created the mistake that resulted in the rescue.

Mountain climbers must be forced to post a surety bond to cover rescue costs. If they don't, it will be billed to either them or their survivors afterwards. You play, you pay.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Diamond Merchants Lie

I just saw the movie Blood Diamond yesterday. I wish it was mandatory viewing. If *I* were Queen of the World, everyone would be forced to sit down and watch it. Additional to it's truthful social message is an interesting, action-packed movie that is actually enjoyable to watch!

I had thought the movie would play fast-and-loose with the facts, but it was very accurate. It cited the fact that (at that time) 15% of all diamonds on the market were Blood Diamonds. From my research, I know this is true.

In 2003, something called The Kimberly Process was initiated to reduce the amount of Blood Diamonds (a.k.a "Conflict Diamonds"). Incidentally, this new "standard" was created when the diamond merchants discovered that the movie was being made.

According to (a multimillion dollar site owned by The World Diamond Council and created to rebuff the movie) the amount of Blood Diamonds on the market were initially only 4% of the market, and are now only a miraculous 1%, thanks to The Kimberly Process.

Great! I would like to answer them:

"So... cite your facts, then. How do you come up with these figures? Strangely, there is no reference to any impartial or independant sources. Although the first number (4%) was way off, 1% is simply unbelievable."

Sadly, I hear this unsubstantiated figure often quoted as a solid statistic by news programs as if they trust the source! To those journalists, I would say:

"Good job, intrepid reporters! I guess we didn't take the same journalism courses. You actually trust this source even though there's no evidence that what they claim is true?"

Everyone, I hold this up as an example of what Pop Journalism has become! Never, never, never trust a source that cites figures which gratify it's own self-interest.

Only 1% of all diamonds on the market are Blood Diamonds? Right! And I'm 100% natural blond.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Cards From Meow (Australia)

Here's the postcard I just received from Meow. At the same time I got this Christmas card, too. Never let it be said again that Florida is a weird place on Christmas day!

If you want to get involved in a postcard exchange, pop on over to her blog and let her know. And while you're there, check out her mouth-watering cookies!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Your Kids Are Your Priority

I'm going to tell you two stories of molested girls. This is not a pretty subject, but I'll spare you the details as much as I can.

The first girl is 20 years old now. We'll call her Ava. She was molested by her mom's boyfriend (who later became her mom's fiancee) from the age of 10 until the time her mom broke up with him. Ava was around 13 by then.

At one point Ava tried to tell her mom. Her mom told her flatly that she was lying, because it was easier to do that than face the horrid truth and the loss of a meal-ticket. When Ava then turned to her grandmother for help, her grandmother told her that all women go through this sort of thing and wouldn't discuss it with her any further.

I learned of this from Ava only a year ago. I advised her to seek help and get on medication. I don't have the time and energy to counsel anyone anymore and she needs intensive therapy. She saw that as a weakness, and felt that she should just "suck it up" now. She ended up joining the military, and couldn't hack it. When they sent her to a psychologist, the psychologist said that she was surprised that Ava hadn't been institutionalized yet (I agree).

Ava is being discharged. She wrote a very sweet note to me in which she said, "I really thank you so much for being there when I needed someone to talk to..." Sadly, her mother was never there for her and continues to deny what happened, which will make her recovery harder but not impossible.

The other child is "Cameron". She looks just like Cameron Diaz, and is a very sweet girl. Her stepfather started molesting her at age 10 too, right after her grandmother died. "He waited till after she died because she was the only one that would have protected me," she explained to me.

Cameron's stepfather molested her for three years as well, until her mother separated from him. Emboldened, Cameron approached her mother and told her the awful truth. Her mother was scandalized, reported it to the police, and investigation ensued, they asked Cameron if she could be brave enough to testify and she said yes, and...

Cameron's mother turned into a raging whore. She started leaving the kids with a friend and hanging out at the bars almost every night. In only two months of time, she had numerous one-night stands, and got her tubes tied so she wouldn't get pregnant (but wasn't concerned about sexually-transmitted diseases!) The kids saw their mother rarely.

One day Cameron's mom decided that her husband wasn't so bad after all. She missed him, they had a 2 year old child that they shared, and what the hey...! He said he's going to change and made some terrible mistakes. OK, then!

So, Cameron's mom skillfully manipulated her into believing that it's important to "forgive" the Stepdad and get on with life. And then Cameron's mom went with the Stepdad to the judge, pleading for a reduced sentence. Cameron's now asking for a lesser sentence even though she admits it all happened, because she "just wants her family back."

Now the Stepdad is talking about taking them out of the state when they can leave. This is a classic tactic of an abuser: Isolate your victims from any support group that they have.

Poor Cameron. Poor Ava. Two shattered lives that will take a long time (if ever) to be rebuilt, all because their mothers were more interested in their own sex lives than their children.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lethal Injection: Let's Try Something Different

Well, here's a story in our local paper about a murderer who killed at least a couple people (he was sentenced for one murder in Mexico, escaped, and killed again in Florida). He finally got a death sentence carried out 17 years later (way too long after the murders) and took 34 minutes to die by lethal injection.

Apparently he didn't die comfortably. "The scene of a grimacing Angel Diaz once again called into question the way the state kills condemned prisoners," editorialize the two writers of this story.

Gee, my heart bleeds for Diaz. (I assume that we were that worried about the agony that his victims and their families went through, also). So, I'm ready to propose that we guillotine them instead. It's a much quicker way than lethal injection, wouldn't you agree? It also would cost us a lot less (no more chemicals, needles, or doctors needed). All we would need to do is make sure that the blade was nice and sharp each time. Heck, I'm even willing to recommend that we hire a Blade Sharpening Specialist just to make sure that there's minimum discomfort and it's at it's peak of serviceability!

We'd never have to wait 34 minutes again.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dogs, Cars, & Easy Plastic Women

Oscar it is!

Since there were more votes for "Oscar" than any other name, the new puppy is now dubbed "Oscar"! Thanks for the suggestions. I had fun reading some of them (a few of you probably need to be institutionalized).

Carrera Slot Cars

This is probably more a guy-thing than a girl-thing. But we have a sprawling Carrera Slot Car layout in our living room and BoBo just adores it. When we're racing, he does his best to grab whatever car is speeding by. It fills him with this strange excitement, and you can see him quiver as they go by.

The first time that BoBo caught a car, he ran out of the room as fast as he could go, to "bury" it on SaurKid's bed under the pillows. We had to go rushing off to hunt it down, and now BoBo is under strict watch at all times when the cars are out.

Anyway, we were looking through the Carrera catalog, which is full of all sorts of accessories, including "Grid Girls". I'm still looking for The Groupie Set, which should match the Grid Girls very nicely.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

America's Lack of Deductive Reasoning

Most Americans are no longer able to think as well as our grandparents could. Many of us are a gullible lot, easily led by news tidbits that can be couched in such a way that they seem to make sense to the uneducated.

As I was driving yesterday, I tuned in to Rush Limbaugh's radio show. He was speaking scornfully of environmentalists who warned us 10 years ago that our seas were in danger. He pointed to a new discovery of very old sealife which scientists had thought was extinct, and told us that this discovery was proof that the "environmentalist wackos" were wrong.

Huh? All that shows is that we've developed better technology so that we are able to find things that we wouldn't have discovered years ago. For all we know, there could be even more of this ancient sealife if we weren't dumping garbage, spilling oil and toxic waste, and over-fishing. Obviously if it's ancient, it's been hardy enough to last through many thousands (if not millions) of years.

But think of what the uneducated, simplistic blue-collar worker just got from that statement: "Environmentalists said the oceans were getting sicker, but we've discovered new sealife, so the environmentalists lied and pollution isn't harming the oceans at all."

Sad, isn't it?

This is the mentality that is malleable. This is the mentality that is easily lulled into a false sense of security. This is the mentality that believes the Patriot Act would only be used for terrorists, and it wouldn't hurt us to lose some or all of our Constitutionally guaranteed privacy rights. This is a mentality that existed among the middle- and lower-class Germans in the 1930s.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Name That Puppy!

The Nightmare

I started out telling you about a nasty nightmare I had last night. Not a jolly dream to start a Monday! But, why dwell on something like that when we can think about...

Name That Puppy!

The happy news is that the puppy is progressing nicely. He adores us all and howls like a banshee when we disappear. Then he continues to whimper after he sees us, as if he's reproaching us in some way.

He is terribly skinny (no worms), which contributes to his werewolf image, but in a case of "Monkey See, Monkey Do" he follows the dogs around and does exactly what they do. So, it looks as if I won't have to potty train him at all, since BoBo's doing an admirable job of it.

Someone suggested that it would be cool for everyone to take a shot at naming him, but we had to name him a name that was in line with the other two dogs. However...

BoBo and BugEyes are their given nicknames in this blog, where almost everyone I refer to has a fictitious name. I need a fictitious name for the puppy! Help me come up with one!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The New Puppy: Day 2

If you missed the original post about the puppy, you can find it below this one.

The puppy is sleeping in a large plastic crate with towels and some of my clothes so he has my scent to comfort him. I have some of those instant heat packs (the ones that you can boil and keep re-using) and I keep one with him at all times.

He howled on-and-off all night, which must mean he's decided we're good people and won't hurt him. The bad news is... he howled on-and-off all night. *YAWN* I'm beat.

Since I can't bathe him until Friday (I'm making an appointment with the groomer STAT) I can't cuddle him a lot or allow the other dogs around him. Because he was crying so hard this morning, I didn't get to sleep in. So, here I am, sitting in my office chair in my office, with him in his crate in my other office chair, next to me. NOW he's happy.

Yesterday afternoon SaurKid and I took him outside for the first time to coax him to go to the bathroom since he hadn't gone in 24 hours, which alarmed us. He couldn't, or wouldn't, walk. We tried to move him at one point and he was in so much pain that he turned to each of us and bared his fangs, but didn't bite. Alarmed, we looked for the source and saw that his penis was slightly bloody.

We immediately flew to the animal emergency room, where they told us that his penis was very bruised from the surgery and that he was probably not going to the bathroom due to the pain of it all. They gave him a morphine and anti-inflammatory injection. He slept a long time, just getting up once to pee, and another time to poop. Normally I'm not a big Poop Fan, but this is a good thing!

So, we seem to be on the upside.

He is suddenly very verbal and wants to tell us how miserable he is. That's a good sign, although it's driving us a little batty right now. ;o) Time to give him another half of a baby aspirin!

P.S. We think he's a schnoodle (schnauzer/poodle mix).

3 PM update

We finally gave up and bathed him. Now he's happier because he can play with the family, taking short breaks to rest or snack or teethe a little. He seems to feel better, too, since he's clean. He's happily running about with the others.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The New Puppy

Yes, I know he doesn't look like much right now. In fact, he looks like the lead in "Werewolves of London." But he has a sweet heart and a sweet spirit. I got him in an animal shelter in a nearby town because it's very hard to find poodle mixes.

He's only 4 months old, and already he has learned much about the cruelty of humans. He cowers when you raise your hand and he shakes uncontrollably (despite the fact that he has a clean bill of health and little reason to react that way). He's emaciated and gratefully ate little bits of puppy chow and ice chips out of my hands last night.

Despite his fear, malnourishment and abuse, the shelter also altered him (they have to, it's their policy). So in addition to all the baggage he's carrying, he's carrying a little ... er ... less, so to speak. And he's in pain from that, too.

Remember the dog that didn't bark in one of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries? This dog also doesn't bark or cry, even though I left him alone all night. My other two dogs would have cried all night long. This is yet another indication of abuse.

My two healthy, hearty, happy dogs are frolicking about, trying to get a glimpse of the new stranger that is living in one of the bathrooms. But this little guy has to stay in isolation for a week, while he calms down and has a chance to heal and start packing on a little weight. He also desperately needs a bath, which I can't give him for a week (until his surgery heals). He had been lying in his own urine on a cold concrete floor at the shelter for days.

So why did his original owners give him up? Yesterday I found out that they had actually given up two puppies! Their reason: They were moving and didn't want to bother taking them along. Despite all the trauma, these puppies were lucky. Some people shouldn't be allowed to be pet owners.

The other puppy left the day before and I rescued mine yesterday. Now these little guys will get all the food, love, and attention that they so desperately need.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Big Grouper Scandal

Our local paper (the St. Pete Times) is making a big deal out of a little issue. For months it's been reporting that most restaurants that advertise grouper were really serving another type of fish instead.

Big fat hairy deal. Now, go get a real story. I have some for you, if you're interested. Oh, but you'll have to do some tough investigation work and take risks. I'm talking about real reporting. After all, it's easy enough if you only have to take samples of food to a lab to have it analyzed.

Restaurant owners are cowering in fear, of course, which makes the paper feel like it's really got some attention from all of this.

One of my favorite restaurants (The Bonefish Grille) has changed their Grouper Piccata to Tilefish Piccata. I ordered the tilefish and found out that I'd been having tilefish all along. (I always wondered why it tasted better than most grouper!) I was informed that if I wanted to update it to it's less tasty, drier cousin I would have had to pay more for the privilege.

Grouper used to be a junk fish that fishermen always threw back because it was so inferior to almost every other type. Now it's in fad, so it's being advertised in fancy restaurants where it never would have even made it as an appetizer.

Apparently many restaurants were accepting frozen fish labelled as grouper, but the manufacturer had actually substituted another fish. So, it's really not the fault of the restaurants, but they're paying the price in bad publicity.

Instead of running in fear, restaurants should see this as an opportunity to begin to educate the public on the many delicious choices there are. Most patrons would appreciate a little something extra to read at the table, so why not publish a little pamphlet on the types of meats that are offered, why they're a particularly good choice, and why the chef recommends them?

Let's get away from all this silliness.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Become a Doggie Foster Parent

Until recently, I didn't realize how much need there is out there for doggie foster parents. Many shelters are now opting to become "no-kill" shelters, which means that a dog that is dropped off may be there for a long time before it's ever adopted.

One of our local shelters here is now refusing any sick or stray animals, which is burdening other shelters in the area. We're dealing with an over-abundance of strays and unwanted dogs, in general. Additionally, there are dog rescue groups that specialize in finding and saving a particular breed.

I never cared for poodles until I bought my own two (out of necessity, due to allergies). Now I'm wild about poodles. Contrary to what I'd believed, they are intelligent, calm, loyal, loving, and snuggly. Well, at least miniatures and standards are. The small ones are spazzy. (My maltipoo (BuyEyes) can be trying at times and suddenly turn into a furry whirling dervish).

Recently I've been trying to help someone (who's an allergy sufferer) find a poodle or a poodle mix at a relatively inexpensive price. We didn't want a puppy (too much work) and sadly there are always abandoned dogs, so I started doing some research.

There are many groups that do poodle rescue, but my local favorite is Florida Poodle Rescue. (Click on the link to see some great before & after shots). If you qualify, you can adopt a poodle for a fee that is high enough to prohibit someone from adopting the animal simply to exploit it.

But homes are needed; not just for poodles, but other dogs and animals as well. The shelters and rescue services are overwhelmed, and many of them are farming out their dogs and cats to homes that are willing to care for them until they're placed.

So if you feel that you're able to do so, consider becoming a foster parent for a needy animal. You may not even want to have an animal full-time (perhaps it's too much commitment) but if you are able to take animals on an "as-needed" basis, you could be helping yourself, as well as helping others.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cool Gifts for Kids of ALL Ages

I went shopping last night for Christmas gifts. I'd already made the mistake of getting something for SaurKid but couldn't resist giving it to him early (does anyone else have this lack of self control???)

This is AntWorks Illuminated. SaurKid's getting this for Christmas. Shhh! Look at how awesome this is! It's a completely self-sustained environment for the ants, and they can chew their way through the gel which provides nourishment and water. They can be seen from all angles, and at night you can light it up and use it as a nightlite!

And check this out! Discovery Channel is carrying the only version of RoboReptile with this paint scheme. Ever seen one in action? Go here to their site to view a video of it (it's on the left of the screen).

Finally, check out the Micro Mosquito Helicopter:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don't Give Liberally, Give Wisely

At this time of year, many people feel the need to give handouts. It makes them feel better. But the problem is that people often give to feel better, without thinking of the consequences of their giving.

In church this Sunday, the speaker mentioned how he'd passed a homeless man and gave him 50 cents even though he had $5 in his pocket. He really battled with himself over those $5 and almost gave them to the homeless guy, but he didn't. He mentioned how much he regretted that now.

I wish this church had been more interractive. I would've spoken up and said "Why? Why do you think you should've given the man even more money when you don't know him or his circumstances?"

Coming from a more experienced viewpoint now, and having interviewed local homeless and the charities that try to help them, I can tell you that when you give money to a homeless person you are very likely to harm them. This is money which can be used for drugs, alcohol, or useless things that don't help in any way.

Some groups say that they wish to provide meals and housing. Until recently, I thought that was the right thing to do. But you know what? When you provide the basic necessities to someone, it frees up whatever monies they have that can be spent on the drugs or alcohol that they crave.

Of course there are some people that are homeless by no fault of their own, but I've discovered that they're exceedingly few and they don't remain homeless for long because they want to work, do the right thing, and achieve independance.

The Bible says that if anyone does not work, neither should he eat.* I used to think that was pretty harsh, but now I see the reasoning behind it. We would all do well to remember that advice.

So if you're going to give to charity this month, please think it through. Is the money you're giving going to produce the results that you agree with? Do you know what will be done with it?

Perhaps it would be better to find a family that is struggling but trying, and lend them a helping hand.

In the past, I've given away a car to people that were barely making it. The car made the difference between failure and success. I've given other things away that helped improve someone's quality of life. But I do it carefully. I urge you to do the same.

*Thessalonians 3:10

Monday, December 04, 2006


A couple of years ago I had a client named Jorge. I'm usually excellent with names and words from all different cultures, but for some reason I'd never encountered a Jorge. So, when I called him, I asked to speak with "George".

After a moment of pained silence, I was informed that his name was pronounced "Hore-gay." I truly almost said "You're kidding!" but restrained myself just in time. It took me a little while to refer to him as "Hore-gay" without snickering just a little. Call me culturally insensitive if you will, but there are some things that don't translate well (and this goes both ways, too!)

A year or so later I met a Jorge that pronounced his name as "Hore-hay." I added it to my arsenal.

Then recently I got another client with the name Jorge. Ha! I knew how to pronounce this one! I would wow the client with my knowlege! So, I called the number and asked to speak to "Hore-gay."

After a moment of pained silence, I was informed that his name was George.

Go figure.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Leech Pendant

By now you know why I hate diamonds. But check out Kay Jeweler's latest diamond pendant. This takes 1st Place in The Ugly Jewelry of the Year Awards. Please, give me horse poop before you buy me The Leech Pendant.

P.S. I'm still sick today. I'm really struggling with a bad cold that gone into my lungs and I need the rest more than anything. I'll take the weekend off and be back on Monday. Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Out Sick

I'm sick today, people. I'm sorry that there's nothing in me today, but I'm really struggling with a bad cold that gone into my lungs and I need the rest more than anything. I'll take the weekend off and be back on Monday. Have a wonderful weekend!