Friday, March 31, 2006

Join Me at FTS's New Home Today

Come over to FTS's new home in Colorado, where I'm Guest Blogger today, and join me for a cup of hot cocoa and a new story.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Grand Prix

The Grand Prix is coming to St. Petersburg this weekend (beginning Friday) and I will be there as a member of the press (my company is not only in sales, but also marketing and PR). A press pass is valued at $3000 a piece, and we have 4. We didn't know we'd be accepted until the last minute.

This is a rare privilege. I just spoke to a famous owner and editor of a major magazine in the area, and he told me that he was not offered press passes this year even though they did a glowing write-up on the Grand Prix last year. He is understandably offended, although the slight may have been unintentional. "I guess I'll just join the ranks of the people who complain that the Grand Prix contributes nothing but noise and chaos to the area," he told me.

My best friend Ozma is one of the people going with me. I called her yesterday when I found out that we had them for sure (I wasn't going to tell her we were trying for them, because it was a long shot). "I don't care what you're doing on Saturday," I said, "but whatever it is, cancel it. We're going to the Grand Prix." She didn't get it at first and still made plans to work on Saturday, assuming we'd only be going for some function or other that night. When it finally sunk in, she cancelled everything.

I'll be making the most of the weekend by being there, getting interviews and looking for stories of interest. My cameraman
is determined to wangle as many autographs as he can and has taken a bet that he will be on TV on Sunday. He's a showboat, so it's very likely.

But there's a problem, and I blush to admit it. I know nothing about cars, or the Grand Prix. I have a lot of research to do between now and Saturday. So forgive me for not popping into your blogs for the next four days. But I will honestly be thinking of you and will probably have some great stories for you, starting Monday.

P.S. I will be writing in FTS's blog tomorrow (Friday), so please look for me there.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Letter to the Woman in the Black Hummer

Dearest Madam;

You are far greater than we are, and we humbly acknowlege it. We are amazed that you can daily spend more in gasoline than some third world countries spend yearly in national defense. You prove your superiority as you sashay through the highways in a vehicle bigger than most UPS trucks, with a paint job that would shame Ferrari. It glows in an almost surreal way, as ethereal and as costly as the Space Shuttle.

We do wonder (when we dare rise above ourselves to do so) why you chose a vehicle named after a sex act. Of course, what can we say about it? Some of us drive Volvos and Probes. Still, those who do paid significantly less for that humiliation.

“Let them eat cake!” said Marie Antoinette scornfully about the peasants that were beneath her. Perhaps you might say “Let them eat rubber!”, instead. We are mere roadbumps in your path. We drive sedans because we truly need the room occasionally. Yet you could house an entire football team, but there is never anyone else in your Hummer besides your glorious self. This display of excess shows us the massive amount of disposable income you have at hand. You probably dine on Beluga caviar every night, and bathe in Dom Perignon.

Of course you drive up the price of gasoline with your unnecessary consumption of fuel. But who are we (mere peasants that we are) to question you about it? After all, you have the blessing of the Bush Administration and we; we have nothing but increased prices to pay at the pump. We consider it a worthwhile expense; a subsidy for our modern-day royalty. The working class needs rulers to worship.

But I am concerned for you. Some day you may cut the wrong person off in traffic, and begin the Glorious Revolution. Peasants have an alarming tendency to revolt. It can get quite costly when your paint job is repeatedly scarred and slashed by those who unfairly resent your exuberant display of wealth. Happily, if you catch them in time, you could easily run over both the insurgents and their vehicles. Nothing and no one can stand in your way. Vive le roi!

Between you and I, I agree that we are in danger every day of turning into a third world country with gun-toting gangs roaming the city, floods, meteors, and other acts of God. So, I understand that you are merely trying to be well-prepared. I hope your underground bunker is sturdily built and you haven’t forgotten to bulk up in supplies (in case of a nuclear holocaust).

If an EMP is dropped into our midst, it would render your Hummer instantly obsolete. However, if you’ve forgotten to build that bunker, you and your entire neighborhood will be able to live comfortably in your vehicle, instead. We’re glad to know you’re looking out for us.

With Much Love and Adoration,


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Muslim's Conversion to Christianity

In today's somewhat liberal St. Pete Times is an editorial questioning the tolerance of Islam. The author writes "The case (Abdul Rahman vs. Afghanistan) has outraged Christians worldwide. It has also dramatized how far Afghanistan remains from the tolerant, democratic nation President Bush envisioned when he committed thousands of troops and billions of dollars to ousting the extremist Taliban in 2001."

You know, I am amazed to see that most politicians and writers have done nothing to educate themselves on Islam, post 9/11. You would think it would be a pressing need to discuss any world events knowlegably, and when Islam is so central to a great deal of unrest, only a fool would ignore it or take someone else's word for what it is all about. The fact that Bush allowed Afghanistan to adopt sharia law (Islamic law) means that he is not at all educated about it, and neither are his advisors.

A couple fellow bloggers have touched upon the story of Abdul Rahman, but not many people are asking why the story has happened. And quickly the Islamic apologeticists are saying that the Koran does not sanction persecution of someone who converts from Islam to another religion. Apparently these apologists disagree with the majority of the Muslim leaders in the world. And there is a good reason for this: The Koran does sanction it.

You see, the Koran is a tricky document. It is nothing like the Bible, and the rules are different. The most important rule that any westerner needs to remember is that the Koran doesn't always agree with itself. And when it doesn't agree, the more recent proclamations trump the old ones. Because most of the more peaceful decrees and precedents were in the earlier writings, they are ignored by any Islamic scholars. Don't worry: there weren't many to begin with, anyway. (NOTE: It's important to know that the Koran isn't the sole document for Islamic law. They consider other writings to be of equal or near-equal importance. Many of these writings solidify the Islamic belief in violence and subjugation. Some are written by friends and followers of Mohammed and were eyewitnesses to the atrocities he committed).

But what about the peaceful Muslims? Surveys show that most Muslims don't read or know their Koran (many of them are illiterate). This includes even educated Muslims in America. They don't know what their faith teaches! Sadly, the clerics (such as Osama Bin Laden) have it right: Islam is a religion of war and oppression, as Mohammed taught clearly. Anyone claiming otherwise is either ignorant or deliberately trying to deceive by using verses from the Koran that were invalidated before they were born!

Here are some recent atrocities:

1) Egyptians arrested 22 people, many of them former Muslims who had secretly converted to Christianity, in October 2003. They were questioned and tortured.

2) In November 2003, Pakistani police arrested Anwar Masih, a Christian, on a charge of blasphemy simply due to a claim made by a hostile Muslim neighbor. Other Muslims attacked Masih's home, yet it was Masih who was arrested. The next month a Muslim mob entered a Christian church there and started attacking and beating the Christians. They desecrated the Bible and destroyed almost everything in the church, yet the police refused to make any arrests. In addition, the injured Christians were ignored at the hospital due to an influential local Muslim who forbid doctors from attending the wounded.

3) In November 2003, Boulos Farid Rezek-Allah Awad, a Coptic Christian married to a Christian convert from Islam, was arrested while attempting to leave the country and held for 12 hours. When an Egyptian security police officer asked him about his wife, Rezek-Allah told him that she had already left Egypt. Perhaps mindful of the death penalty for apostates, the officer responded, "I'll bring her back and cut her into pieces in front of you." Several months later, however, Rezek-Allah was allowed to leave Egypt and settle in Canada.

4) In May 2004 in Pakistan, another Christian was charged with blasphemy (Samuel Masih) and was beaten to death with a hammer by a Muslim policeman as he lay in a hospital bed suffering from tuberculosis.

And, of course, there are many more atrocities such as these that take place in countries where the law is based on Islamic teachings (you can read about some of them in the editorial I mentioned above). As anyone who has read the Koran, studied Islam, or even followed the news overseas would know. And any leader who doesn't bother to know such things needs to take a refresher course on how to be a leader.

P.S. Here is an excellent summary of Mohammed's personal path of violence. If it was good enough for Mohammed, it is certainly good enough for his followers.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday's Mandatory Meeting (3M)

I called a staff meeting this morning. I have 7-8 employees at all times (right now I have 7). Everyone knew for at least a week that there was a mandatory meeting at 8 AM today. But the only people that showed were the two managers and an employee.

One employee couldn't make it because she has a daughter who's mentally ill and was being transferred from one hospital to another. OK, I can understand that. She gets a pass because she apparently talked with a manager about that prior to the meeting, and also left me a note.

One employee called because he'd just remembered he had a dentist appointment which he was on the way to. Oh well! He'll be written up tomorrow, personally, by me.

The other two employees just didn't show up. Definate write-ups. Again, the pleasure is all mine.

The people who did show up today got paid for it, as well as receiving an extra bonus for being there and the meeting was rescheduled for Wednesday night. Let's see if anyone wants to disregard my mandatory meetings again.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cell Phone Companies Suck

Cell phone companies suck. They all do, no exceptions.

The newest d&*EYd cell phone, which was supposed to be a bargain (at first) has now cost me $500 so far. I had to return the initial one which I purchased through the internet, believing that would save me both time and money. HAH! So far Metro PCS is sucking as bad as ATT/Cingular Wireless. Can ya hear me NOW?

Annoying Phone Rep: We're sorry, Dr. Saur. We can't help you figure out why the screen's not working. You could try Nokia customer service. Or, you could just return the phone for a refund which will be deposited in your acct. once we receive the phone. In the meantime if you still need a cellphone...

ME: Of course I need a cellphone. It's for business! I even sleep with it!

Annoying Person: Yes, then, you might wish to buy one from a nearby store.

ME: I would have but you guys assured me that your customer service was superior, as well as your prices being better? I was even transferred to customer service to demonstrate that! What happened?

Annoying Person: I'm sorry, Dr. Saur (in a bored, clinical tone of voice)


So... my assistant was kind enough to box it up for me and mail it off, and I trotted off to the phone store to plunk down another $250. Not that I'm complaining or anything. The Cell Phone Gods might hear (I think they're related to the Nordic gods below. Shhh!)

Ancient Norse Religion

Since my name is evolved from one of the names of the ancient Norse gods, and since FTS is waxing euphoric over cold temperatures and snow (which remind me of the Nordic version of Hell), I thought it might be fun to talk about these ancient, mythological deities.

If you'd like to read about the religion further, go here for a more in-depth (but dull) treatise. This makes you realize there are reasons some religions fizzle out.

If you lived in the Scandanavian countries during the time of this religion, you might have been very familiar (or even worshipped) one of these gods. JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both were very familiar with Norse mythology and incorporated some of those legends into their writing.

Odin (or, depending upon the dialect Woden or Wotan) was the Father of all the Gods and men. Odhinn is pictured either wearing a winged helm or a floppy hat, and a blue-grey cloak. He can travel to any realm within the 9 Nordic worlds. His two ravens, Huginn and Munin (Thought and Memory) fly over the world daily and return to tell him everything that has happened in Midgard. He is a God of magick, wisdom, wit, and learning. He too is a psychopomp; a chooser of those slain in battle. In later times, he was associated with war and bloodshed from the Viking perspective, although in earlier times, no such association was present. If anything, the wars fought by Odhinn exist strictly upon the Mental plane of awareness; appropriate for that of such a mentally polarized God. He is both the shaper of Wyrd and the bender of Orlog; again, a task only possible through the power of Mental thought and impress. It is he who sacrifices an eye at the well of Mimir to gain inner wisdom, and later hangs himself upon the World Tree Yggdrasil to gain the knowledge and power of the Runes. All of his actions are related to knowledge, wisdom, and the dissemination of ideas and concepts to help Mankind. Because there is duality in all logic and wisdom, he is seen as being duplicitous; this is illusory and it is through his actions that the best outcomes are conceived and derived. Just as a point of curiosity: in no other pantheon is the head Deity also the God of Thought and Logic. It's interesting to note that the Norse/Teutonic peoples also set such a great importance upon brainwork and logic. The day Wednesday (Wodensdaeg) is named for him.

Thor, or Donnar, also known as the Thunderer, was considered to be a son of Odin by some, but among many tribes Thor actually supplanted Odin as the favorite god. He is considered to be the protector of all Midgard, and he wields the mighty hammer Mjollnir. Thor is strength personified. His battle chariot is drawn by two goats, and his hammer Mjollnir causes the lightning that flashes across the sky. Of all the deities, Thor is the most "barbarian" of the lot; rugged, powerful, and lives by his own rules, although he is faithful to the rest of the Aesir. The day Thursday (Thorsdaeg) is sacred to him.

Freya is considered to be the goddess of Love and Beauty, but is also a warrior goddess and one of great wisdom and magick. She and her twin brother Freyr are of a different "race" of gods known as the Vanir. Many of the tribes venerated her higher than the Aesir, calling her "the Frowe" or "The Lady." She is known as Queen of the Valkyries, choosers of those slain in battle to bear them to Valhalla (the Norse heaven). She, therefore, is a psychopomp like Odhinn and it is said that she gets the "first pick" of the battle slain. She wears the sacred necklace Brisingamen, which she paid for by spending the night with the dwarves who wrought it from the bowels of the earth. The cat is her sacred symbol. There seems to be some confusion between herself and Fricka, Odin's wife, as they share similar functions; but Fricka seems to be strictly of the Aesir, while Freya is of the Vanic race. The day Friday (Frejyasdaeg) was named for her (some claim it was for Fricka).

Freyr (Fro Ingwe) is Freya's twin brother. He is the horned God of fertility, and has some similarities to the Celtic Cernunnos or Herne, although he is NOT the same being. He is known as King of the Alfs (elves). Both the Swedish and the English are said to be descendents of his. The Boar is his sacred symbol, which is both associated with war and with fertility. His golden boar, "Gullenbursti", is supposed to represent the daybreak. He is also considered to be the God of Success, and is wedded to Gerda, the Jotun, for whom he had to yield up his mighty sword. At Ragnarok, he is said to fight with the horn of an elk (much more suited to his nature rather than a sword.)

Tyr (or Tiw, Ziw) is the ancient god of War and the Lawgiver of the gods. He sacrifices his hand so that the evil Fenris wolf may be bound. At one time he was the leader of the Norse Pantheon, but was supplanted by Odin much later. There is nothing to indicate how this occurred; one assumes that he simply "stepped back" and let Odin assume the position of leadership. Tyr is excellent in all manners of Justice, fair play, and Right Action.

Loki, the Trickster, challenges the structure and order of the Gods, but is necessary in bringing about needed change. He is also known as the god of Fire. Neither an Aesir or a Vanir, he is of the race of Ettins (Elementals) and thus possesses some daemonic qualities. He is both a helper and a foe of the Aesir; he gets them out of predicaments, but spawns the worst monsters ever seen on the face of the Earth: the Fenris Wolf and Jormurgandr, the Midgard Wyrm. His other children include the goddess Hel (Hella, Holle), and Sleipnir, Odin's 8-legged horse; these beings are at least benign, if not somewhat terrifying to behold.

Heimdall is the handsome gold-toothed guardian of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge leading to Asgard, the home of the Gods. The rainbow bridge seems to be a common symbol in many religious traditions other than Norse Heathenism. In the Vedic tradition, it represents the Antakaranha of humanity (connection between the body and the soul). Other traditions see it as a message from the Gods, or a Bridge between the Gods and Mankind. This would tend to indicate that the Norse/Germanic people were aware of the presence of an overshadowing Soul for each individual, as well as a group or tribal intelligence. It is Heimdall who is to sound the signal horn to the Aesir that Ragnarok, the great destruction (or transformation?) is beginning.

Skadi is the Goddess of Winter and of the Hunt. She is married to Njord, the gloomy Sea God, noted for his beautiful bare feet (which is how Skadi came to choose him for her mate.) Supposedly the bare foot is an ancient Norse symbol of fertility. The marriage wasn't too happy, though, because she really wanted Baldur for her husband. She is the goddess of Justice, Vengeance, and Righteous Anger, and is the deity who delivers the sentence upon Loki to be bound underground with a serpent dripping poison upon his face in payment for his crimes. Skadi's character is represented in two of Hans Christian Anderson's tales: "The Snow Queen" and "The Ice Princess."

Frigga (Frigg, Fricka), Odin's wife, was considered to be the Mother of all; and protectoress of children. She spins the sacred Distaff of life, and is said to know the future, although she will not speak of it. Some believe that Friday was named for her instead of Freya (see above), and there is considerable confusion as to "who does what" among the two.

The Norns (Urd, Verdande, and Skuld), are the Norse equivalent of the greek Fates. It is they who determine the orlogs (destinies) of the Gods and of Man, and who maintain the World Tree, Yggdrasil.

The goddess of the dead and the afterlife was Hel (Holle, Hulda), and was portrayed by the Vikings as being half-dead, half alive herself. The Vikings viewed her with considerable trepidation. The Dutch, Gallic, and German barbarians viewed her with some beneficence, more of a gentler form of death and transformation. She is seen by them as Mother Holle; a being of pure Nature, being helpful in times of need, but vengeful upon those who cross her or transgress natural law.

Odin's son, Baldur, the god of Love and Light, is sacrificed at Midsummer by the dart of the mistletoe, and is reborn at Jul (Yule). Supposedly his return will not occur until after the onslaught of the Ragnarok, which I see as a cleansing and enlightenment more than wanton, purposeless destruction. Baldur's blind brother Hodur was his slayer, whose hand was guided by the crafty Loki. He is married to the goddess of Joy, Nanna.

Other Gods and Goddesses include Sif (Sifa), the Harvest Goddess; Forseti, the god of Law and Justice; Bragi, the bard of the Gods and muse of Poetry; Weiland (Weyland), the Smith of the Gods, Idunna, the goddess of Youth and Beauty; Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin who will survive Ragnarok; Magni and Modi, the sons of Thor; Eostre, the goddess of Spring and of fertility, Hoenir, the messenger of the Aesir; Sunna and Mani, the Sun and Moon; Ullr, the God of the Hunt; and Nerthus, Goddess of the Sea and of Rivers.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Saur Gets Electrocuted

Many of you probably remember that I had major surgery last November for two crushed disks in my neck. It helped tremendously, but I am still frequently sore (though not the degree that I had been). I discussed this with my regular GP, who contacted my former surgeon. Between the two of them, they recommended physical therapy.

Yesterday was only my second appointment at the new physical therapy office (the first appointment was a simple evaluation). I was called by an assistant that morning, who needed to reschedule me. I agreed to move my appointment up by two hours so that the owner could get to his son's school in time. I arrived at the new time, and was put to work bending and moving, focusing on the muscle groups that needed work.

The last 10-15 minutes were devoted to relaxing the muscles, using both light massage and e-stim. This is what everyone works toward: the carrot on the stick.

To the right is an example of an e-stim machine. "E" stands for Electrical. You get little gelled pads stuck on the muscles that hurt, and you are given a machine to turn up to the level that helps the most. It causes the muscles to contract very slightly, and they vibrate. Although it sounds creepy, it's often helpful.

At the end of the 10 minutes with the e-stim machine, the physical therapist asked his assistant to disconnect me. She came over, took the electrical box, and (thinking she was turning it down) cranked it up to maximum capacity! All I could do was scream in agony! It's rather hard to communicate clearly when you're being electrocuted.

Because she was not very bright, the assistant took a few precious moments to figure out exactly why I was screaming for help. Once she realized she had turned it the wrong way, her boss was there, turning it off.

Both said that they were very, keenly sorry. The idiotic assistant kept apologizing, explaining that she simply wasn't all that familiar with the equipment. "Then how about you don't touch it until you are?" I wanted to ask, but my need to get out of there was even stronger (I was nearly in tears). I forked over the $40 (isn't it funny what you do when you're in shock? I should've just walked out) and left as quickly as I could.

I am very sore and exhausted today, since I couldn't sleep well last night (due to the pain that resulted from it). Needless to say, I won't be back. I hear the local health clubs only charge $40-$60 per month. Not only will they be cheaper, I'll bet they won't electrocute me, either.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Strip Clubs: The New Business Meeting Place

Well, as Binkley from Bloom County might say, "I am completely, flippin', big-time, gonzo confused."

This morning as I was driving, I heard on the radio that in New York there are male businessmen that take their customers (presumably male also) to strip clubs for business meetings and write it off as a business expense. New York apparently has realized this might be sexism (Gee! Ya think?) at it's worst and is considering passing a law that would restrict where you can take your clients.

Come again? This is happening in the year 2006? In New York? I guess I was wrong about women achieving equality in the workplace. I had thought that overall we had.

Where is the EEOC in all of this? Why has nothing been done before? Women are only now complaining that this is costing them clients because they do not feel comfortable entertaining them in such an establishment.

And what of the few women that do feel comfortable there? Why do they need to be subjected to such an obviously sexist and sexual environment? And do they get hit on more by both colleagues and clients? How awkward would that be?

And how do these women respond to the strippers? Do they go up and stick dollar bills in their g-strings? Do they wolf whistle, or turn conspiratorially to a male colleague and say "Hey, Bob, how 'bout the tits on that one?" After all, it's rather difficult to bond with a client and make him feel relaxed if you sit in the middle of a strip club looking as if you'd just eaten a grubworm.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Debra LaFave: The Molestor's Role Model

Yesterday it was announced that pretty Debra LaFave had won her recent court battle, and all charges (in Marion County) had been dropped. As many of you know, I discussed her case in an earlier post, so I won't go over the details now.

This is wonderful news for good ole Deb. Just look at that happy, relieved smile on her face! You might think she had just won an Olympic Gold Medal, if you didn't know any better. Oh! she added in afterthought, she did regret her previous actions. Just as if she was a Gold Medalist who'd been in the paper for partying too much. Looks bad, you know: Throw a sop to the puritans and admit it.

But Deb had a willing ally in her fight against justice which helped greatly: the victim's mother. Mom didn't want the publicity and so she fought against the court system, tooth and nail. Thanks to Mom, Deb won. Of course there were a couple other factors, as well. Deb is undeniably pretty, which made it hard for the public to take her role as a molestor seriously. Even the victim's mother expressed her surprise as to how pretty she was, and admits that she then immediately felt sorry for her.

Isn't it interesting how beauty can overcome so much resistance? As some of you know, I occasionally still model (my last gig was for a clothing company a year ago). I will admit that beauty sometimes unfairly opens doors. But my internal beliefs always demand that I still treat people honestly and ethically, no matter what.

Interestingly, studies show that beautiful people are usually viewed as more honest, reliable, and trustworthy. Of course most beautiful people take advantage of that, and use that mistaken belief to exploit situations (as Deb did, here). In my own personal experience, there are very, very few beautiful people who are of any value whatsoever. Most of them never had to develop any ethics, intelligence, or noteworthy skills, and so they didn't. Deb is no exception.

Happily, Deb still has to serve out her 3 years of house arrest (her charge was "Lewd and Lascivious Battery"), she remains a registered sex offender, and she can't profit from her crime for 7 years. But heck! It sure beats 20 years in the slammer, doesn't it?

So what can Deb teach the Modern Molestor?

1. Make sure you're pretty. If necessary, get plastic surgery. Try to get some sexy photos of yourself on a motorcycle.

2. Pick victims with parents who will dread the publicity. With any luck, you can get them on your side if you're ever caught.

3. It helps to be female, molesting a male child. So if you're a female molestor, you should be encouraged. That's when radio and TV talk show hosts start drooling all over themselves and talking about their adolescent fantasies (which they haven't outgrown yet). This will help sway public opinion immediately. Of course, see #1.

4. Pick a teenager so that it looks more like it might have been a blooming relationship instead of statutory rape. And make sure you've covered #2.

5. Talk about any mental illness you have, even if it isn't at all related to what you did. It helps if you can generate sympathy. Deb is bi-polar! So what if most bi-polar victims aren't child molesters? That doesn't matter! Just milk it for what it's worth and hope no one asks any real questions about your claim.

6. Be young, so that everyone (including the victim's parents) talks about youth, inexperience, and mistakes. If you're an old geezer, this won't make a good defense. But if you've covered the first 5 tips, you still may have a fighting chance.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Parents Punished for Kids Playing Hooky

We are finally getting people placed in the judiciary that are putting some bite back in the law. Over the years, I have heard many people say that they feel it is an injustice to hold parents accountable for their kids' behavior. Then there are those with common sense, who admit that if you have a child, you are responsible for that child. If you choose to take no responsibility, give the child to someone who will take that responsibility.

How people love to deny responsibility, while crying for their leaders to assume some.

Being an adult connotes responsibility unless you're in an asylum or living under a bridge. But we live in a time where I see people working just as hard at not working, or excusing juvenile behaviors. If they did a personal analysis of the time, energy, and stress they committed to such justifications and avoidances, they would realize that they'd do better to simply do the right thing the first time and look better for doing it!

And yet, these are not people governed by logic. They're not governed by will. They're not governed by much at all. How sad to be the illustration of a man with little or no self-control: The person that is the example of "what not to be" in the neighbors' discussions over dinner. Of course no one will tell them this to their faces, so they go on blissfully, believing they have cheated the world effectively when they have only cheated themselves.

I have a friend who is constantly taking his daughter out of school early to play, or sleeping in in the morning and dropping her off late. The excuse is always the same: She has a doctor's appointment. At this point, one wonders how alarmed the teacher might be. This child could be the next Typhoid Mary!

This is a gifted child, who should be encouraged to make school a priority if she ever wants the chance to be anything more than a counterperson at MacDonald's. But she's being encouraged to play hooky and lie about it, because it feeds her father's neediness. This is not the underpinnings of a future CEO.

But thankfully, the government is beginning to step into such cases. In today's paper, there is an article about parents who are now being fined, jailed, put on probation, or have their driver's license taken away because they've allowed or encouraged their kids to skip school. And it's effective. Other parents are calling in, nervously asking if they might be next. Ahhh, at last, some parental concern.

"But what about me?" wails a reader. "My child just won't listen! Am I going to go to jail because of her? I can't control her!" Then may I suggest that you take it seriously enough to get some professional advice and change tactics, or give her to someone who will take control. Because, you see, it's not all about you. It's about them, and our future as a nation.

Monday, March 20, 2006

V is for Vacuous

I saw V is for Vendetta yesterday. I would give it a C at best. Strange, isn't it, how movie previews sometimes do not reflect the actual movie? The previews were exciting and the movie was populated by people who helped make the Matrix trilogy. How could it go so wrong?

The movie itself dragged on for an interminably long 2 hours and 15 minutes. Most movies come with a message (hidden or not so hidden) and this one did, too. The message: Don't trust the government. The government manipulates it's citizens using fright tactics, forcing citizens to turn to the government in their supposed hour of need. How true this may be isn't the point. The point is that the medicine wasn't delivered well, and the bitter aftertaste remained.

Additionally, I'm all for the stereotypical Tormented Hero. But this particular hero does his own share of tormenting the innocent when (warning: spoiler here) he tortures the heroine for a very long period of time (Days? Weeks? Months? We're not sure) just to make the point that she needs to live without fear. This remedy to fear seems to be a little extreme, at best. And yet the heroine, in typical Stockholm Syndrome fashion, proceeds to forgive and fall in love with the guy, giving him a glowing eulogy at the end with no attempt at apologies of any sort from the director.

One can almost imagine the director sitting by the fire with a good cigar and a glass of port afterwards, discussing the theoretical benefits of a case of torture with some of the intelligentsia. "Ah, tortured, was he?" he verifies with a colleague sitting nearby. "Good, good. Bet he found it very beneficial, didn't he? Beats a week at the spa any time!"

What is perhaps most amazing of all is that the movie (which is as dysfunctional as the Clinton household) still remains vacuously dull throughout most of it, with the director lovingly focusing on the torture (with sadistic glee) for too large a portion of it.

Although some of the martial arts scenes are good, and there are some scenes in there which are memorable; save your money for a martial arts movie, instead.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Snow White

Today we'll try something we haven't done in a while: the Group Story (this is a great favorite for some of you). We'll let this run through the entire weekend to give everyone a chance to participate as much as they'd like.

The rules are simple: Pick up the story where the last person left off. If, by some chance, two people publish at the same time, then the first one posted is the one which continues the story.

Snow White grimly reflected that there were reasons no one ever wrote a fairytale sequel, as she plunged her hands into the dishwater and began to scrub another dish.

She knew that Princesses shouldn't scrub dishes, but having been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, she also knew why she had to make sure things were always clean and sparkling. She just hoped the Queen didn't catch her in here again.

She had really tried to resist the lure of the dishes this time, but the scullery maid had snuck out behind the castle with the gooseboy, and those dishes sat there, tempting her with no chaperone.

Of course the more upset she got, the more she itched to clean something. And settling into life in the castle was difficult when you'd had the run of the woods and a rather exciting childhood.

Her initial reaction to Prince (Gerald) Charming had been purely hormonal, she realized that now. He was still as handsome as ever, but less-than-acceptable traits had emerged soon afterwards.

And the Queen was quite tyrannical. The dwarves were all banned from the castle since the Queen was prejudiced against "midgets" because they were "abnormal." The Queen also insisted that the name "Snow White" was as common as "Bobbie Sue" and would only address her now as "Neve", which was the Italian word for snow.

Recently they had a famous visiting dignitary over for dinner, and Snow White had sat there stupidly, looking as if she was daydreaming (when she wasn't) because she hadn't recognized the Queen was speaking to her when she asked "Neve" a question. Gerald had merely rolled his eyes. Snow White had been so very tempted to throw a hard dinner roll at him, but had restrained herself with supreme effort.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Congress Approves Increased Debt

Well thank goodness! Congress raised the limit on the government's credit card to nearly $9 trillion Thursday. I say, it's about time! Why worry about burdening our children with paying off this future debt, when we can spend (from 2005 expenditures):

$3,973,000 for shrimp aquaculture research even though the USDA has said that the program met it's goals in 1987. A total of $61 million has been spent on this since 1985. What? Are they trying to develop a better breed of Sea Monkeys? But, I'm sure they're spending the money wisely.

$3 million for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, because without it, children would never be able to play baseball. We are so lucky that they're there to raise our awareness of that sport! Strangely, I don't see any mention of the largesse received on their website.

$5,791,000 for the East-West Center in Hawaii, which "is an education and research organization established by the U.S. Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations and understanding among the peoples and nations of Asia, the Pacific, and the United States." By golly, I'm glad we've spent a total of $66 million dollars on them since 1991. For that kind of money, I'm betting they're solely responsible for our peaceful relations with the countries in Asia and the Pacific.

$2 million to buy back Jimmy Carter's Presidential Yacht, the USS Sequoia, which was sold by President Carter in 1977 to demonstrate frugality. We will never forget President Carter, whose message will not go to waste.

A mere $900,000 to the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C., although their revenue was $20.8 million in 2003 with only $11.4 million in expenses and assets worth $39.5 million. But much can change in 2 years! We know how mercurial the viewing public can be. And I think $900,000 is a bargain if it keeps our congresspersons off the street at night.

$200,000,000 (yes, that's two hundred million dollars) for the Commodity Import Program for Egypt. We're so nice that we even spread the wealth abroad, and subsidize the Egyptians who choose to import products into our country and compete with Americans. This is a fantastic program, which encourages us Americans to get more competitive with our pricing. The problem is trying to convince the American worker to allow us to match the wages, when a cook in Egypt gets paid $230/month and a receptionist gets $45/month. Silly Congress must've forgotten the difference in wages when they passed the minimum wage hike here.

$10 million for the International Fund for Ireland, which has received $439 million total since 1986. This is something to celebrate today, on St. Patty's Day!

And, of course, we have now spent a total of $400 billion on the war, although before the Iraq invasion in 2003, Bush administration officials predicted costs related to the Iraq war would total less than $100 billion. But hey, what price war, huh? I know that *I* couldn't sleep at night without knowing we're over there, instead of over here patrolling our borders and coastlines. Too bad the Coast Guard can only inspect 2% of all imports (including those subsidized Egyptian imports) due to budgetary restrictions. But the government knows best where to spend our tax dollars, and I would be very ashamed if any of you dared to question the war.

It's unpatriotic to question the government. I hope you remember that.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Malleability of the American Public

Yesterday Katherine Harris announced that she was going to continue to run for the senate seat.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Katherine, here's a brief summary: Katherine is the former Secretary of State who was in charge of elections in Florida during the close Bush/Gore race, and oversaw the counting of the ballots which led to Bush's win. She is viewed with suspicion by many.

I'm not here to weigh on in whether or not she was unethical during the election. What concerns me is this recent announcement, because she has decided to spend about $10 million (out of her own pocket) to win this.

$10 million???

The "good" news (the paper reports) is that her opponent may be qualified for a special waiver that will allow him the chance to collect more monies to fight her. Now let's see if he's able to do it.

It sickens me that if you're rich, you stand a significantly better chance of getting your message out to the public in such an appealing way that you will probably win, no matter what your credentials are. Because the American public is malleable.

The majority of Americans only have a 7th to 8th grade reading level. America is borderline illiterate. Is it any wonder that our citizens can be easily influenced?

America used to be a democracy, but when a candidate is allowed to spend their own money, the system is twisted into something else: an oligarchy.

Oh America. How much we miss you.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Celebrating a Divorce

My phone rang at 11:45 yesterday morning. It was my friend, Giselle. "What are you doing for lunch?" she asked.

"Right now?" I answered, peering at my computer screen bleerily.

"Yeah, right now!" she answered. "Can you meet me for lunch? I have some wonderful news to tell you!"

"OK," I said, standing up and stretching. "Where are we going? Cafe Francois?" Cafe Francois is her usual favorite.

"Yes! Or anywhere else you want," she said blithely.

"Cafe Francois, in 20 minutes," I said.

I hung up, changed quickly out of my workout pants and mini-tee into jeans and a designer shirt, slipped on some fancy sandals, and was in Cafe Francois within 20 minutes. Coming in from the bright Florida outdoors, it took a moment to adjust to the darkened atmosphere of the restaurant but I saw Giselle waving to me like a mad woman. I walked over and slid into the booth opposite her.

She was on the phone, rapid-fire chatting. Typical Giselle. She held her hand over the phone briefly and whispered "I'm having a drink to celebrate!"

I took that as a suggestion to have one myself and when the waiter came over, I asked him what she was having. "A margherita," he answered. "Good. Get me one too," I said decisively.

By the time the waiter returned with the margheritas, Giselle had just hung up the phone. "Sorry," she said. I waived it away. I knew it was business. "You are such a great friend," she said. "I call you last minute, and here you are." I smiled.

"What are we celebrating?" I asked as we raised our glasses to each other.

"The divorce is final, and I got everything I wanted," she said, triumphantly.

I almost dropped the margherita. "You're kidding!" I said, incredulously.

"Nope," she answered. "And it's all due to something he lied to, under oath, in discovery. Once he realized he'd been caught, he didn't have a lotta choice."

This was wonderful news. Her (now) ex-husband had been verbally abusive to both her and her son, as well as physically abusive to her son. When he had hit her child, that had been the final straw which began her very stressful divorce.

Giselle finally looked relaxed, although many months of tension had given her an edgy look. We discussed the settlement in detail, discussed our families, and two hours flew by quickly. As we were leaving, she suddenly grew very serious. "There's only one thing I'm afraid of," she said. "Not terribly afraid, but I think about it quite a bit."

"What is it?" I asked.

"What if he comes after me, now?" said Giselle, quietly. "You know he's capable of it. What will happen to my kids?" I'm not someone who pooh-poohs such things. I know they happen, and I know he's capable of it. I just looked at her.

"Promise me that if I come up missing or dead, you'll pursue that son-of-a-bitch to the grave," she said. "Please, promise me."

"I will," I said. "You know I will."

She nodded, and we went back to chatting about other things, and made plans to get together over the weekend with the kids.

"See you!" she hugged me, then walked away waving.

"Bye, hon! See you this weekend," I said, waving too as I walked away in the opposite direction.

It's not every day you get to celebrate a divorce.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Idiot Labels

Follow me here… picture this:

You are in the bathroom, a little woozy from taking a dose of NyQuil, and your eyes are very dry (they get that way sometimes). You reach for the handy aerosol saline solution, sleepily apply it to your left eye, and scream because it is not your handy aerosol saline solution but a product labeled AIRDO which sounds really cutesy when it’s in the can but sounds like something else when it’s in your eye.

So you hop around squealing like a mad woman, disrupting all the people and animals in your household, while simultaneously screaming for poison control and washing your eye repeatedly with tap water. Meanwhile the people and animals stay out of harm’s reach, staring at you with open mouths.

Doesn’t that happen to us all, you ask? Of course it does... hah hah! …ahem… Which is why I think we all need Idiot Labels.

Idiot Labels will be a great seller. They can be sold in all the major outlets, like CVS, Target, and Joe’s Crab Shack. At first the individual consumer will be responsible for labeling his own things, but eventually we’ll have Congress pass a bill. Oh why not? They pass bills for lots of frivolous things, like:

· Therapeutic Horseback Riding in Apple Valley, California ($150,000)
· The recovery of Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse ($500,000)
· $100,000 for the Alabama Quail Trail
· A tattoo removal program in San Luis Obispo County, California ($50,000)

And we ALL know how much we need Therapeutic Horseback Riding!

At first, the labels would be for the basics. They’d come in different sizes, of course, and they’d be in a violent red so they really stood out. They’d say things like “LOOK OUT, YOU IDIOT!” (this would’ve been perfect if I’d had it on my AIRDO can), and more simple things like “DO NOT EAT” (handy for toxins and leftovers), “STOP, LOOK TWICE” (something all singles would be required to wear in nightclubs), etc.

But eventually, after Congress passes its law, the labels could be applied to living things (no, singles in nightclubs do not qualify as living things). In some cases perhaps it should be tattooed onto the subject, in other cases a simple label would do. Here are a couple of the things that I think need to be labeled:

· Puppies (I’ll let congress figure out whether to tattoo or merely slap a label on them once they’re born). I know if I’d seen a label that warned me about how much poop and vomit BugEyes generated, I would’ve run like I was pursued by Satan himself.
· Wild Animals. Remember that idiot who got eaten (along with his girlfriend)? Timothy Treadwell had put out a book about how easy-going bears really were (“harmless party animals” he called them), and spent lots of time rambling about with them. Well, here’s the solution. Dangerous animals (like bears) should be tagged with large red plastic labels that can be read from 100 feet away. Those labels should read “WARNING: THIS ANIMAL REGARDS YOU AS SNACKFOOD.” If nothing else, all pictures that Timothy had taken of himself with various bears would have taken on a rather comic aspect in future cautionary tales.
· Career Politicians. Enough said.

And finally, I think we should put warning labels on all fast food drive-thrus. The labels would read “CAUTION: THE PERSON TAKING YOUR ORDER CANNOT POSSIBLY HEAR YOU PROPERLY. ALL ORDERS WILL BE INCORRECT AT VARYING TIMES”. Of course that wouldn’t solve the problem. But I have a solution that would. Instead of having a little speaker next to the light-up menu, why not have a keyboard where you could input your own order and thus make sure you got it right?

And, of course, if you pulled up to the window and found that your order still wasn’t right, you could spray them with AIRDO.

c. 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mutt Strut at Honeymoon Island

Saturday I laced up my tennies, threw BoBo and BugEyes in the car, and drove to Honeymoon Island for the 14th Annual Mutt Strut. For $25, you got access to all the vendors and the other dogs, as well as a fun goodie bag which contained t-r-e-a-t-s (shh, you've gotta spell that word around dogs) as well as other nice things.

Saturday was a perfect day. The wind was nice and cool, the weather warm, and everything looked lovely (even the palmettos!)

My dogs, normally confident and easy-going, were transformed into cowering little white mice when confronted with most of the dogs there (which were at least twice their size).

Just as they were adjusting to an area full of dogs, and all the exciting and interesting dog smells, I had them at the check-in to get them chipped. This is a little implant that, when an animal is scanned, has all the info needed to get them back home. They inject it with a syringe and it only takes seconds.

BoBo took it in pace, with no worries (although for some reason he bled quite a bit at the injection site). But BugEyes, true to her prima donna persona, yelped as if her foot was being sawn off. The people handling her looked panicked at me, and started apologizing profusely. I waived it away. "Don't worry about it," I said. "She's just showing off." BugEyes looked a little crestfallen then, but perked up once we started exploring.

Advertising, doggy-style:

Show Off! (And he's not afraid to "let it all hang out")

BoBo & BugEyes Make Friends (notice the spiffy jackets)

The Prima Donna

No camera can capture how BLUE this is...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Haiku Saturday

I used to do literary stuff on weekends: poetry, limericks, haiku, stories. They were very popular for a while, but I got out of the habit of doing it. Let's try it again!

Haiku is very easy to do. Your haiku MUST consist of three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. For example:

Morning light appears (five syllables)
The new day has awoken (seven syllables)
Nature stirs and sighs (five syllables)

Today your haiku must be about the first thing you see when you look up.

Here's mine:

Small, annoying dog
With large, goggly guppy eyes:
Why did I buy you?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Car Show

I'm looking forward to the weekend, and hope to take pics for you wherever I end up. The weather is beautiful, craft and home shows are everywhere, and Spring Breakers are beginning to trickle down here for their regular debauchery so there'll be plenty to see and
laugh at do.

I went to the beach last night with SaurKid and we roamed about. It was very cold. The wind had whipped the sea remorselessly and foam was all over the shore like frothy, salty whipped cream. SaurKid couldn't resist scooping it up with seashells, and sprinkling sand all over it and watching it deflate. But I can't see how anyone on Spring Break would enjoy the cold air last night, unless they were from Canada (which some of them are).

These pics are from a recent car show held at Vinoy Park:

Thursday, March 09, 2006


LOOK: I know this post isn't as sexy as Charlize Theron, but bear with me. It has a lot more meat than she does. ;o) In more ways than one...

The Food and Drug Administration is typical of a governmental organization: politically driven, slow, and staffed poorly. You get what you pay for? In this case, perhaps we're getting even less than that.

The FDA is too diverse, in an area where specialization is the only way to handle the increasing influx of work that they have. Their jurisdictions include food, drugs, medical devices, biologics, animal feed and drugs, cosmetics, radiation-emitting products, and anything that is a combination of the above.

They are responsible for inspecting fresh meat. However, they are only able to inspect 2% of all imported fresh seafood.* They are not even able to enforce restrictions on the cattle feed supply, which can cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) in cattle which is easily passed on to humans (that's right; our beef is still not safe). Their attempt at preventative inspections for cattle with BSE is criminally negligent.* And Consumer Reports Agency researchers ruffled feathers in January 2004 when they reported in Environmental Health Perspectives that young chickens contain three to four times more arsenic than other poultry and meat.

But the FDA is also supposed to regulate the drugs on the market. They are expected to keep questionable drugs out of the country, and make sure that what is available is relatively safe for the consumer. But because they move at the pace of a severely constipated, crippled horse, the United States is way behind other countries in modern medicine.

For instance, when my son was born in 1993, the Chicken Pox Vaccine was already widely used and accepted in Europe, where it had a marvellous success rate for over 10 years. However, the FDA had continued to drag it's feet in approving it. The only thing that kept me from flying my baby out to another country to receive the vaccine was my doctor's reassurance that it would finally be available in the U.S. within a year (and it was).

Consider those 10 years that children suffered because the FDA couldn't move faster to approve that vaccine. And don't forget the rare deaths that were a result of Chicken Pox. Too bad the FDA can't be held responsible for withholding treatment.

Three days ago it was reported here that "Nearly two-thirds of more than 1,200 post-approval drug studies promised by the manufacturers have yet to start"; which should have caused a much greater outcry than it did. But this sort of story lacks the glamor of celebrity break-ups or serial killers and it's hard to communicate to a viewing public with the attention span of an average 2 year old.

What does this mean? It means that drugs which you are using may not have been proven to be safe or effective. However, complaining about it may be the wrong tactic to take (IMHO), when the FDA is so atrociously hesitant to even approve drugs which have been proven to be effective in other countries.

Additionally, the FDA is rather busy lately in it's attempt to shut down the import of safe, legal drugs from Canada. The reason is political, of course: Bush wants to force senior citizens to get on-board the new Medicare Part D bandwagon.

I don't have the time or ability to discuss Part D today, but it baffles many senior citizens (and we're not talking the senior citizens of yesteryear - these people are intelligent, active members of society).

The main reason that Bush is so gung-ho for it is that it's a way to privatize Medicare. Private companies are making great money this way, and I've been to conferences where it's touted as a sure-fire way for insurance agents to make big bucks, fast. Being as Bush is in the pocket of Big Business and special interest groups, this has his attention. And when cheaper drugs are available from Canada, and that impacts the pocketbook of Big Business, Bush's interest is increased. Sales of Canadian drugs to US citizens alone have skyrocketed over the billion dollar mark in the past few years. Who doesn't want a piece of that action?

So, the FDA is doing what it can to seize the shipments and muscle out the competition. While the vast majority of our food supply remains uninspected. While no one follows up on the drug studies. While we remain behind the rest of the world in advanced medicines. And Nero fiddles while Rome burns.

*Consumer Reports, Jan. 2005

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Get a Will

I tried very hard to post something else, but I just keep returning to this. My heart goes out to Will, the little 13 year old boy who is the orphan of Chris and Dana Reeves today. It's been reported that Dana made arrangements for his care. How fortunate that she knew she was battling lung cancer and had time to make preparations. Not every one is so lucky. You hope for the best, but none of us knows when we'll be taking our last breath.

One of my grandmothers was so phobic about discussing death that she wouldn't even put a simple will together. In some ways, I understand. Staring death regularly in the face is an unpleasant experience, and I've never woken up and said "Wow, what a beautiful morning! I think I'll update my will today!"

However, if we don't take that small responsibility now, our families will pay for it later. So, do as Dana did, and make some preparations. In most states, you can purchase a simple fill-in-the-blanks form if you're too queasy about seeing a lawyer. But, if you make those decisions now and you're in a car accident later today, you will be able to rest easier knowing that if the worst happens, your loved ones will be taken care of.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


My family has had its share of ups and downs, in oh so many ways. Just when we thought we were emerging out of the darkness into the pure, clear light of the sun, the Other Half's daughter came down with mono.

She's only 11, so spare me the remarks about it being a kissing disease, please. The real question is: How did she get it and do we have it?

It's not as if her symptoms were severe, and apparently they aren't always. She had a slightly sore throat and was somewhat lethargic. But since I had just been sick with The Mung, I felt it was best to take her to the doctors. Imagine our suprise, especially on the tail-end of a weekend where my son had accidentally grabbed the wrong soda (hers) and had proceeded to take a big swig out of it before anyone could stop him.

I'm beginning to feel like a leper. Disaster and contagion seem to be following my family about as a cat follows a wounded mouse. I feel like I'm in the middle of a bad Monty Python movie.

I keep saying it could get worse (and it certainly could) but I find myself saying that now while furtively glancing over my shoulder and knocking on wood.

The good news is that fully 90% of the population over the age of 35 has been infected with it, and many people never know they even had it. Let that apply to the rest of us, is all I ask.

In the meantime, if you're planning on coming by and sharing a soda with me, I'd recommend you rethink it. That is, unless you bring your own straw.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Owning my own businesses can be a blessing but there are times I feel too isolated. That's why I'm delighted to be part of a blogging community, and able to interract there.

Overall, I consider myself blessed. I don't have to hang out at cubicles, listening to Felicia's latest medical problems, or Sandra's latest boy problems, or how Cindi hates Pam. But there are times when a little kindly inane chatter would be welcome.

It's not that I'm not busy! But sitting at a computer all day can be very lonely after a while.

I'm considering several different options: join a gym, get involved in community outreach or political groups, join the choir at church. Most of the sports I do aren't sports that involved groups of people (such as volleyball or basketball).

Let me ask you: what groups do you belong to? What do you do to get away from it all, even if it's only for an hour or two?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Should Churches & Charities Be Taxed?

This post will be up through the entire weekend, to give everyone a chance to dig in. I normally don't like to "steal" a topic from another blog, but United We Lay's most recent post stirred quite a lot of controversy and intrigued me greatly. (Feel free to read all the comments there to get a complete view, if you wish). Because we have a very different readership, I've decided to post the same question to you. Let me give you my substandard point of view (excerpted from UWL's recent comments). Please weigh in!

*I* am in favor of taxing church buildings and properties. The church itself is the congregation. It is up to the congregation to finally get involved and decide if their money is being wisely spent.

However, we see churches that, instead of giving money to the poor and helping the needy, pour the money into prettier and bigger buildings, with high-tech equipment, programs that would make the YMCA blush, and its all located on prime property.

The "church" has grown away from it's focus.

There should be taxation on property, with liberal reprievals when the church is actually spending generously to help others, instead of itself. It would also be scaled, dependant on the size of the building and property, of course.

This should apply to all charities, may I add.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

But there are so many churches that completely disregard this command!

For years I have seethed over the massive treasures the Catholic Church has piled up. The Vatican sits on more acquired wealth than most rulers and museums! Yet, one of my friends has repeatedly contacted Catholic Charities to find out about his birth parents (he was adopted) and has been told for years that their funds are too limited and their personnel are too few to do an intensive search for him.

What a pity the Pope can't simply sell one of his diamond-encrusted, gilded mirrors (yes, I know of one that really exists). It would relieve the pressure on his charities. But, he wouldn't get to stare at that mirror every morning!

However, let me be clear that this doesn't apply to the Catholic Church only. It applies to any church that accumulates wealth and posessions.

Please remember, the earliest "churches" were simple gatherings of Christians. Jesus didn't come to raise the temple, and he never started a building fund. Jesus didn't hire artists, and he didn't hang out with poets. In fact, he preached complete simplicity.

I see very little that the chuches do in modern times. Some churches are better at it than others. Some have homeless outreach and soup kitchens, some help unwed mothers or widows. But most pour so much money into non-necessities that could be much better used to help the needy.

I recommend that every church scales back and becomes a truly Biblical church once more: a simplistic gathering of believers in humble circumstances, without all the fancy and expensive acoutrements, so that they can funnel their funds to where it can truly help others.

If the church really wants converts, the best way to get them is to show that they care. The church needs to put food in bellies instead of art on walls. Taxing churches would help them re-prioritize.

P.S. I already know one argument coming: "We have to look modern and enticing if we're going to have an effective outreach program". I ask you this contentious question: Is your message so poor that you must look like the rest of the world to transmit it?

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Strawberry Festival

First, a couple updates for those of you who've been asking: My dad is OK, and went home from the hospital on Monday. He seems to be recovering fully. My son is OK, but the relative who was in the car crash is still in serious condition with multiple crushed ribs, and he's elderly. However, he's in rehab and out of the hospital which is something to be thankful for. To me, hospitals will always be death traps.

While I was visiting one of the three in the hospital, I contracted a very nasty bug that gave me fevers of 100 - 102 (even with Tylenol) but a good antibiotic started clearing that up right away. Of course, the moral of the story is: stay away from hospitals or wear a mask! If the bird flu ever hits, we'll all be wearing face masks everywhere. I wish I'd been wearing one!

The Strawberry Festival

This weekend, the Strawberry Festival begins. For those of you who live anywhere close to Plant City, FL, this is the festival you really need to come to. It's just like the State Fair; but better, cleaner, nicer, and with strawberry shortcake booths as far as the eye can see.

If you want to see a great slide show, go here. You'll get to see the whole gamut; including the rides, the livestock, a plastic cow you can "milk", and the ever-famous Robinson Racing Pigs.

If you like country music (I'd rather die, first) then you'll enjoy the big-name acts that appear every night. Most of the women have poofy blond hair, big boobs, and two names (I include a picture here to prove it). Most of the men have a "y" or "ie" on the end of their names: Jimmy, Billy, Willie... you get the picture.

The performers this year include Willie Nelson; Jo Dee Messina and Trace "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" Adkins (???); Steven Curtis Chapman; Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers; Mel Tillis (Yeah, I know! I thought he was dead, too!); Debbie Reynolds; and .... etc., etc., etc.

But the best part...the absolute best strawberries! You've never seen such beautiful, ripe, sweet, succulent, bursting-with-juice berries in all your life. You have no idea what real strawberries can taste like unless you buy them straight off the farm. You can buy them prepared in shortcake, or buy them and take them home to make your own shortcake, jams, syrups, desserts, breads, and any other delectable treat you can think of.

But you need to experience the Strawberry Festival first-hand. So, go ahead! Call in sick, pack up the kids in the van, and start heading for Florida.

P.S. (added at 1:45 PM) Here's the newly-elected Queen of the Strawberry Festival (click on her pic to enlarge it). The rest of her court is very pretty and seemingly approachable. But just look at her! Her mouth is twisted into a forced smile, but the eyes are oh-so-calculating and cold. This girl is f-a-k-e!

How many of you see this? I'll bet fewer men than women will see it, and I base this statement on an interesting new test mentioned in Lee Ann's blog today. Apparently women read facial expressions better than men do.

Just for reference, the rest of her court is shown below:

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What Are You Afraid Of?

Remember, click on the picture to enlarge it.

In a recent poll by Disneyland, they discovered (much to their surprise) that 86 percent of adults and 91 percent of youngsters admitted to being very scared of something.

Top Scares for Adults
38% Snakes
36% Fear of heights
22% Scary movies
8% Fear of the dark

Top Scares for Youngsters
42% Scary noises
40% Bugs
39% Scary movies
29% Afraid of the dark
22% Fear of being home alone

Disneyland also asked several celebrities “What Scares You?:
Jennifer Love Hewitt
and Serena Williams are still afraid of monsters under their bed
Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame fears clowns and scary noises
Rock star Sheryl Crow fears heights and scary noises
"Lost" actor Malcolm David Kelley is really scared of animals, especially large dogs and sharks

I think we all have our bogeymen.

When I was growing up, I was convinced that wolves lived under my bed and in my toychest, and a bear lived in my closet. If I ever had to get up in the middle of the night, I would wait a minute (to make sure I had the monsters fooled into thinking I might not touch the ground) and then I would take off running.

Sometimes I would sit in bed and mutter to "myself" about the weapons I had within reach, just in case any monsters were listening. It seemed to keep them at bay.

Even now, when I get up in the middle of the night, I sometimes tred about the house with my nerves on edge. But now the bogeyman is a serial killer like Charles Manson. I won't give in to that fear, because I won't let it conquer me. But, it's still there sometimes in the wee, small hours of the morning.

What are your fears?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Catholic Hideaway

OK, just when you thought Florida couldn't get any weirder.

Today it was announced in our local mullet wrapper that the owner of Dominoes has decided to build not only the first Catholic University built in 40 years, but also a strict Catholic town to surround it near Naples, FL.

In this town there will be no x-rated cable, no pornography, and no condoms or birth control pills. (Probably without the first two, the need for the last two will be reduced). I'm kidding here, people.

What's next? Allahville?

Already civil libertarians are gearing up for challenges to such restrictions. Some proponents might say: if America is truly a free country, and everyone is free to choose where they live, how is this a restriction in anyone's civil liberties? They're free to live somewhere else!

Ah, but aren't certain liberties guaranteed to all citizens, even if they don't choose to partake of them? And what about the mixed family? Say Papa Joe is Catholic, Momma Jane is Presbyterian, and their kids are Unitarian Universalists. Papa Joe gets a great job offer with Catholics R Us in town, they move, and suddenly Momma Jane and the kids are being denied certain liberties that they'd be guaranteed elsewhere.

I also worry about the mental disease which often foments when there is a community that has entirely separated itself from the rest of the world. Can we say "Salem Witch Trials", "Jim Jones", and "Branch Davidians"? How about an easier word: cult.

"Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you"* is not interpreted by modern churches to mean that you physically distance yourself. If this verse were to be interpreted literally, then Christians would also have returned to a strictly kosher diet.

There seems to be a trend for certain religious zealots to segregate themselves from everyone who does not share the same faith. Special thanks goes out to Joe and Josefina for finding this little gem: Christian Exodus. This particular group consists of protestant Christian Fundamentalists who are attempting to move to South Carolina en masse in hopes of controlling the state and causing it to be governed completely under their own rules. Ultimately, they may try to secede from the United States. Good idea. We know how well that worked during the Civil War.

I understand the worries of today's religious groups. There is a sense of unrest and perhaps a feeling that they are unheard. However, it is very easy to remain unheard if you never speak up. I used to be very involved in politics, and I was always amazed to see how few people were! It wasn't uncommon for major decisions to be made by a minority of people, because there was no one else around to participate!

If people want to truly make a difference, they need to only speak up louder. Seceding from the world, and from sanity, is no way to do that.

*2 Cor. 6:17