Friday, June 29, 2007

Movies To See

I am in a lot of pain today - sometimes my neck just makes me so uncomfortable that it's hard to concentrate. So, I'm taking the day off writing, except to briefly mention a couple of movies I recommend you see this weekend:


Whether you love or hate the producer, this film is tackling one of the biggest issues we have in America.

To my amazement, a recent film reviewer sounded surprised when he said that he has now discovered that all the socialized medicine bashing that we've been hearing for years may simply be propaganda. Gee... ya think?!

Although I'm a Republican, I can assure you that most of what you hear truly IS propaganda. You see, there are some things that money, and competitiveness, and Big Business should not be allowed to tinker with - and our health is one of those things. It's not in their best interest to get us the best care, because it doesn't weigh out financially. Now, how hard is that to understand?!

I wish it were otherwise. I wish we could believe that people are inherently good. But wisdom and experience tells us otherwise. The truth is that if your god is money, then it reigns over all decisions. In such a system, the individual means nothing and is easily caught and ground up in the gears of the machine.

Sadly, there are some things that the government needs to be involved in. Roads, parks, and other projects that won't be profitable to your average business organization are all examples of things that must be handled by the government. We need to add healthcare to the list.

Whether you agree or not, watch the movie first (as I intend to this weekend).

Live Free or Die Hard

I saw this movie on Wednesday. If you get a chance, go see it! It's classic "Die Hard" style, and Bruce Willis is still just as amazing as he once was. Although the latest Rocky sequel sucked, this movie proves that some sequels, if done properly, are every bit as good as the originals.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Defending Wrong for the Right

Although I dislike Sen. John Edwards and his wife for their politics, I must say that Elizabeth Edwards impressed me recently when she went after Ann Coulter.

Overall, there is much that I like about Ann Coulter. However, when a conservative goes astray, fellow conservatives are very wrong to not call them out. Examples abound! Look at Pres. Bush and the damage that befell the Republicans all because they couldn't do the courageous and correct thing and challenge him on some of his mistakes. If we on the right are so unprincipled that we cannot take a stand against wrong (no matter what side has committed that wrong) then we are saying that it's right.

Where did Coulter go wrong?

Coulter has much going for her, and she knows it. She's a relatively pretty woman who attempts to make the most of what she has and shamelessly uses her looks to market herself.

Looks give license: In other words, pretty people get away with more than most people do. So, as time has gone by, she has lost her message as she increasingly attempts to be "tough". In attempting to appear to be strong, she is increasingly weakening her message and appearing to be slightly mad. She has not been reigned in.

Recently Coulter offended many people (conservative and liberal alike) when speaking of John Edwards at different times. These remarks were extremist and beyond distasteful. As the Des Moines Register reported, "Among other things, Coulter has referred to John Edwards as a "faggot" and recently said she wished he had died in a terrorist attack." Even worse, she alluded to the recent death of Edward's teenage son, saying that John Edwards probably had a bumper sticker on his car saying, "Ask me about my dead son," with the obvious implication that he is milking his son's death for political gain.

So on Wednesday evening, Elizabeth Edwards herself called in to "Hardball", when Coulter was making an appearance on the show. Elizabeth confronted Coulter and (not surprisingly) was sneered at once more. And yet, Elizabeth apparently held her own.

As Elizabeth later said, someone must stand up to such bullying. Sadly, the conservatives are not stopping it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday's Observations

Crazy Pat Robertson is endorsing Rudy Giuliani. Anyone with any modicum of common sense will rethink a vote for Giuliani if Pat is saying that he's a stand-up guy. Pat's endorsement is as helpful as an endorsement by Paris Hilton. Speaking of which...

Paris Hilton is out of jail after three grueling weeks, and despite her neighbors' desperate pleas for her to leave, she is settling in just fine. She's a changed woman now: Changing her Pradas for Ferragamos, her Guess for Versaces...

The Senate is at it again, once more entertaining the highly unpopular illegal immigrant amnesty bill. Unpopular, that is, with everyone BUT the senators. But, since when to our representatives actually represent us? THAT quaint old notion went out of fashion many years ago. The debutantes on the hill keep throwing their elaborate parties, but the American public is never invited: After all, we're only the hired help and we're just here to do the clean-up afterwards.

In an attempt to regulate free speech, Congress is threatening to slap fees on various internet radio stations. Although I rarely listen to these stations, I hate to see the government find one more way to suppress expression on the internet. Please go to Save Internet Radio and find out what you can do to help.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Christine Whitman's Fall From Grace

Christine Todd Whitman has always interested me. She was, at one time, the darling of the Republican party. When she was young, beautiful, and blond she became the Governor of New Jersey. She seemed to be the perfect package: Looks and brains. She engendered a lot of attention and many people were hopeful that she might be the one female to break the barrier and become the next President.

However, Christine increasingly began to show herself to be a neocon: A person as unrelated to the Reagan Revolution as Ted Kennedy is. While in office she attempted to keep partial birth abortions legal and went on a lark with a police officer to get her photograph in the paper (frisking a 16 year old black man who wasn't even arrested). This caused a firestorm of controversy and her successes in the environmental arena paled in comparison to these faux pas, in my opinion.

After serving as Governor, Whitman (who is distantly related to the Bush family by marriage) was appointed as the head of the EPA to serve under the Bush administration.

In early 2005, Whitman came out with a book titled "It's My Party, Too", in which she alleged that the Christian Fundamentalists were attempting to hijack the Republican Party (I agreed with her at the time). This book caused a firestorm and angered many fellow Republicans. Since then, I've come to believe that the only people that have hijacked the Republican party are the neocons who are the puppets of Big Business.

Now it has come out that Whitman made some very mistaken statements to the people as the head of the EPA during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In an attempt to manage the public terror afterwards, she lied in published statements, attesting that the air and water were safe (when there was no proof whatsoever). This was not solely Whitman's call: These statements were made under the direction of the Bush administration. She had also collaborated with "James L. Connaughton, a former lobbyist for the asbestos and electric power industries, to soften EPA statements about air and water quality, the EPA inspector general found."*

All I can think about is someone who is very close to me who almost went to "Ground Zero" to help out the search crews. Last minute he decided it wasn't feasible to go. However, the only reason he didn't go was the amount of travel time from Florida to New York City. After all, we had all been assured that the air and water were fine. I wonder, what if he had gone on misinformation contrived by the neocons? And legally: How responsible are they for the health problems that were gained because of needless exposure that was due to their lies? If not legally, they are certainly ethically responsible.

Christine Todd Whitman: How far you've fallen.

Monday, June 25, 2007

As the World Churns

North Korea says it will begin to disassemble it's nuclear war program now that America has kindly unfrozen the assets that it froze in the beginning due North Korea's nuclear war program. There has to be an irony in there somewhere. Wait! I've got it!...

Staff infections are rampant in hospitals and "As many as 1.2 million hospital patients are infected with dangerous, drug-resistant staph infections each year, almost 10 times more than previous estimates, based on findings from a major new study." We've all known about these infections and we all have heard stories. Now they're confirmed. Isn't it sad that we have to have studies to prove what we already know? And what will be done to change this? Nothing, I guarantee you. Now if we can do something about the crappy service and nasty attitudes that most of the hospital staff have...

It's now reported that there is such a thing as video game addiction. Aren't we taking this to extremes? This is a simple addictive personality issue and of course they may get addicted to video games, but they also might get addicted to reading, television, tree climbing, and chocolate cake. Enough with the labels: Treat the root of the problems!

I've discovered Z-Coil Shoes. Where have they been all my life? There is really no comparison to Nikes' spring-soled shoes. When I tried on the Nikes, there was no discernible difference between them and standard Nikes, and they only absorb about 15% of impact. However, Z-Coil shoes absorb 50% of impact and make it both easier to walk and exercise in them comfortably. Be prepared for a hefty price tag, however. They range from $190 - $240.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Federal Voting Law

An elderly woman in Seattle, intent on proving that the voting system is seriously flawed, put her phone bill in her dog's name, and then used the phone bill to register him to vote. Years later, authorities found out and now she's being charged with a crime.

Instead of charging Grandma, Gov. Christine Gregoire should pardon and thank her. However, that's not likely: Gov. Gregoire is known to be chummy with illegal aliens and their supporters. They got her voted into office the first time, by a narrow margin, and she may need to count on their vote once more. So, cleaning up voter fraud in Washington will always come in last as long as the current (Democratic) governor remains in power.

What we really need in place is a strict federal voting law that will make it impossible to cheat when it comes to voting. Entire elections can and have been swayed, but there's no way of knowing to what extent this problem has grown.

Some people advocate a National ID card, but that smacks too much of Big Brother. Americans still (thankfully) don't want to be controlled to that extent. However, a solution is needed before the Presidential elections which are quickly approaching.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Kids' Right to Skateboard?

First, let me say that I'm sorry I wasn't able to write anything yesterday. My day started off with a bang and it was nonstop. However, all is well and I am able to begin a new discussion today. Thanks for stopping by, as you always do. I'm glad that you are interested in my views, as I am interested in YOURS.


There isn't much talk about kids' rights. Why? Well, kids are still legally... kids. And they don't have any purchasing power. Sure, they will someday - but by then, most of them forget what it's like to be a kid! And, this is NOW.

Parents can intervene on their kids' behalf, but parents are usually busy and drained, and if a kid's rights are only slightly impacted Mom usually tells him to suck it up (when she'd be wailing if it had happened to her).

There aren't many champions for kids' rights, except for those basic rights to which we are all guaranteed. At one time children were often regarded more as "property" of the parents: After all, the parents ultimately bear the responsibility, call the shots, and rule the roost. Women were treated much the same way until the mid 1900s. However, as we began to realize that society needed to step in in certain situations (such as abuse), the concept of kids' rights developed.

And it gets sticky: Kids' rights can't usually trump parental rights, or there will be complete chaos. After all, kids don't always have the best judgement, and studies show the brain isn't fully developed until age 25.*

So unless someone is quirky or immature, they usually stay away from kids' rights issues.

Call me quirky.

There is a law in Tampa which says that no kid can skateboard in the downtown business district. If a kid is caught skateboarding he can be arrested, fined, and his skateboard will be taken away.

Arrested for merely riding a source of transportation in the wrong location with your property confiscated?! Imagine if this were a rule for adults who rode bicycles: How many adults would allow such a law to stand? Such draconian measures are strong, indeed!

This law is, in actuality, unconstitutional - but no one has challenged it. The City of Tampa has NO right to restict someone's choice of transportation.

I understand where the adults are coming from. They don't want kids to ollie down the steps of the courthouse, or ride the rails in the park: Such activities damage public property and/or add confusion and distractions that we can't afford to have. But if the goal is to protect public property and keep the peace, then they need to pass a law specifically banning those actions - not pass a law banning skateboards all together!

Look at it this way: City Council gets together and decides there are too many car accidents. Why, cars can careen off bridges, smash up buildings, and can even run into lightpoles and short out an entire neighborhood! WELL, we can't have THAT, can we? OK then, they decide: Let's ban all cars!

Yesterday kids in Tampa celebrated National Skateboarding Day. It was a peaceful protest as scores of them filed down the streets of downtown Tampa, carrying their skateboards. Some were (wrongly) defiant, and two were arrested for that. But overall they showed themselves to be well-behaved.

Will this be enough to make Tampa's City Council stand up and take notice? Let's hope so. They need to rethink this mistaken law.

*By age 25, the human brain has finally developed the portion that is responsible for decision-making.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In the News (or it SHOULD be)

There are some stories in the news (or that should be in the news) that I'm somewhat involved in, even if it's peripherally, so I am short of material today because I don't want to discuss them.

So, I've decided to talk a little about some things of interest:

The Dog

My parents got a two-year old stray dropped off at their house by a well-meaning neighbor. They are now dog owners once more.

The Duke Lacrosse Team

Justice has finally been done. I haven't said much about this, because it's being said everywhere else. Obviously this is a typical case of reverse discrimination. What is sad is how many people raced to condemn these guys before the facts were all in. In a move to curry favor and be politically correct, Duke University had suspended the men accused without any proof of guilt. They have now settled with them for a substantial sum of money. It will be interesting to see if anyone else who jumped onto the bandwagon early may be sued for defamation of character, etc.

HOWEVER, these guys weren't exactly role models. Many of them have created their own defamation of character, in my humble opinion. After all, these were guys that not only hired strippers to come to them but also made some comments that makes me want to wash their mouths out with lye. Perhaps this is a lesson learned and they'll start behaving less like trash and more like responsible adults.

"Sir" Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is to be knighted, which is inflaming a number of militant fundamentalist muslims. What can be said here? Let's just hope that the Queen government* doesn't cave. If she does, she sets the precedent for caving to terrorists everywhere.

In an article today, we are told "Hard-liners in Tehran say the death sentence still applies, and one group, the Committee to Commemorate Martyrs of the Muslim World, put a $150,000 bounty on the author's head in response to the knighthood." How disappointing for Rushdie. I would think a million dollar bounty would be more flattering.

*I was informed that the Queen doesn't do the knighting. So if the Queen doesn't even do that, what does she do? The concept of royalty seems so ... antiquated and useless to this pragmatic American.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Car Shopping for Zen Buddhist

"This, my friends," announced the used car salesman, "is a real creampuff. I am telling you, it's an EXCELLENT car for your money."

Creampuff? Did he actually use the world CREAMPUFF? I couldn't believe my ears.

"You would be CRAZY if you didn't get THIS little dreamboat," he continued. "I can sell THIS car all day long!"

Zen Buddhist was obviously starry-eyed. Being both impressionable and naive, she was already leaning toward a car that would put her over her budget. My friend Rick, his daughter, and I were there with her, knowing that if we weren't there to intervene, she'd be signing a contract which would obligate her to payments that would result in her car being repo'd within a month.

Zen hadn't needed a car until her old beater had blown up on the highway one day when she was on her way to work. The last time she'd been in the market for a car was many years ago, and she simply had no real idea what it was going to take.

"I really like that car," she said dreamily, pointing to another one. I winced. You don't let on about the car you prefer until you're down to the last moment.

"Now THAT," he began enthusiastically, "THAT..."

I tuned him out, hoping that we'd be able to convince Zen that she had to think sensibly. She was on a tight budget with no trade-in, and could never afford $300 - $400 a month plus the insurance she'd need to cover such "creampuffs" which might explode in creamy glory on the highway anyway, leaving her both with payments and no car.

We'd already gone to a couple car lots. She was terribly disappointed to see what we thought were sensible cars when she'd set her heart on something much more glamorous and expensive. We repeatedly discussed her budget with her, but Zen's mind was set: She wanted a nicer car and would somehow save money to afford it. We had to change her mind. Fast.

Zen's car had blown up several towns away, despite her putting a vast amount of money into it's repairs. It was an American-made car (thus a low-quality one) and couldn't be expected to last even half the time a Japanese-import could. So, Zen was now determined to buy Japanese and wouldn't consider another American-made car under any circumstances.

Though we understood her reasoning (and even agreed with it) we tried to convince her that an older Toyota or Honda was the way to go. By older, we meant something manufactured in the 80s or 90s, purchased from an individual instead of a dealer, and something that could be paid for outright so that she wouldn't be locked into car payments.

For two days, Zen would not be deterred. She had the extra incentive of believing that she was going to be given $1000 from her employer toward the car, which would leave her with only the regular payments. Although I had encouraged her to ask for money from them, I was still surprised when she enthusiastically told me that they had agreed to actually GIVE her the money.

Yesterday, we met her stepfather out at the first car. He examined it briefly and then told us that it was a definate NO, so we moved on. She indulged me and agreed to look at an old Toyota for $1500, which everyone was hoping would work for her, but that car was a lemon. We also looked at the "creampuffs". At this point, Zen's stepfather turned to her and simply said "It's a good car, honey, but you can't afford it." Zen was crestfallen. Having to hear this from so many people was discouraging. This is when she became more practical.

"Zen, you really went through the paper and couldn't find any good cars?!" I asked again, for the fourteenth time.

"Well..." Zen said reluctantly, "I didn't really see anything that looked good."

"Will you humor me and go through it again and see if you can find something that falls within the parameters of what you can afford?" I asked.

She agreed to.

We had to take care of a couple of things, and when we got back, she got in the car and pointed reluctantly to a couple of good cars in the right categories for the right pricing. We set off once more, to see an old JI (Japanese Import) from the 80s.

We pulled up at a tiny little house in nearby city. Although it was a small house, it was clean and well-kept. So was the JI car in front of it.

The retiree living there came out from his house, keys in hand. We cranked up the car, looked at it inside and out (it was in pristine condition) and took it for a test drive. By now it was almost 5 o'clock and the banks were closed.

We negotiated the owner to a reasonable price and sealed the deal with a handshake, telling him we'd be by with the cash the following day. "Wait a minute!" he said, startled. "You mean I just got bargained down and you're not even giving me cash right now?" We agreed that that was exactly what had just happened. We waved goodbye to each other: We had agreed to pay him the following morning once the banks opened.

Zen got on the phone with her company to make sure she was still getting that $1000 that had been promised to her. As she talked on the phone with her boss, she grew pale. I was concerned: "What?!" I hissed. She shook her head, said goodbye, and then closed her cell phone and announced that her company had decided to only LOAN her the money.

"Whew! Good thing we settled on this car and not a more expensive one, then!" I said, sympathetically.

This morning we were occupied with getting the $1000 into her bank account and obtaining insurance, tax, tag, and title. When it was all over, Zen went back home to collapse.

Zen now has a good and practical car, and we are done car shopping. For now. That is, until THIS one blows up on the highway. I'm merely hoping that that will be at least 5 years from now.

Monday, June 18, 2007


As my son and his friends "say" to each other, I'm AFK (Away From Keyboard) right now. My friend Zen Buddhist needs a car, so we're off car shopping this morning. I'll write more this afternoon. Have a great morning!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Goldmans Get the Rights to O.J.'s Book

Today it was reported that the family of victim Ron Goldman was awarded the rights to O.J. Simpson's cancelled book "If I Did It," which is possibly a true confessional of how O.J. got away with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman.

Interestingly, the company that owned rights to the book is Lorraine Brooke Associates which is run by Simpson's oldest daughter, Arnelle. Obviously Arnelle is quite angry about losing this little gem. But what makes it very interesting is that Arnelle was involved in the murders, too. One has to wonder: Was this O.J.'s confessional alone or did Arnelle play a large part in this? Does that explain her eager and continued involvement in O.J.'s book?

Daveawayfromhome pointed me to an equally interesting article here which alleges that O.J.'s older son, Jason, did it. Surely that would give his father plenty of material to write about (or perhaps Jason wrote it himself) and give both O.J. and Arnelle reason to lie and cover up the truth.

I believe that the truth may still be uncovered in our time. Publishing this book may help. It can fuel the discussion and investigation once more. Personally, I believe that O.J. did, in fact, commit the murders. However, I don't discount the possibility of an accomplice.

The Goldmans have been accused of being money-hungry. Well why not? They lost a beloved son to a monster. Now they simply want their dues which were promised to them many years ago in a court of law.

O.J. has been extremely tricky and so far he's been able to keep the Goldman's from collecting what is rightfully theirs. This is the first real blow that has been delivered to him. I hope those blows keep coming.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Reversing Faux Integration

Dr. Clayton Wilcox is directly responsible for this blog.

A couple of years ago, he started a blog in an attempt to encourage more parental and community participation. Many of us, including Michelle, UWL, and Senore Caiman/Herr Krok, and Always Questioning were participants in the forum. We grew frustrated because "Clayt", as he is known to those that are close to him, never maintained or monitored the blog and it was continual chaos. Eventually he closed down that blog, later opening another one.

It was, perhaps, an unfortunate introduction to Clayt, because the community instantly perceived him as a bumbling idiot, lacking the ability to control himself or others. Teachers grew to hate him quickly, rebelling against his idea to link pay increases to how well the children did in their FCAT scores.

Clayt is in the news again.

This time he's reversing faux integration. For once, I agree with him. As the St. Pete Times wrote, "Pinellas school superintendent Clayton Wilcox said busing has resulted in "faux integration," where black and white kids attend the same schools but generally separate at lunch tables and in classrooms."

This faux integration has been practiced since WE were young, and just as it was ineffective then, it remains ineffective now. Of course this is all predicated on the assumption that the Supreme Court "will no longer allow school districts to assign children to schools based on their race. A ruling on that is expected before the court recesses this month."

Interestingly, local studies have shown that people consistently want to locate their children in schools relatively close to their homes. Black people have said repeatedly that they'd rather not have their kids shipped off to a white school across the county, and white people also agree that location is a much higher priority to them than racial integration. Why force integration upon people who don't wish for it?

This goes against years of political correctness. We have been taught that forced integration will or may change the way the different races view each other. Time has shown us otherwise. We have been taught that it doesn't matter what people WANT, it's what they NEED. We have become officious busybodies, blithely prescribing bitter medicine to cure an illness that cannot be cured with that medicine.

Forced faux integration ignores the truths that we don't always want to hear or see. People are resistant to such integration because they don't like being forced to mix with others that they have little to nothing in common with.

However, this becomes a problem for people who want to arise above and beyond the restrictions that their own cultures impose upon them. As Thomas Sowell pointed out in "Black Rednecks, White Liberals", the black culture has repeatedly reinforced the idea that education and good behavior are "white" traits. How much more inbred will our black youths become if they're allowed to retreat to an all-black school?

These are questions not easily answered.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Our Trip to Egmont Key

(Note on Thursday Morning: I'm going to leave this up for another day since I wasn't able to post this until late in the day on Wednesday.)

This weekend we took the catamaran and headed for Egmont Key. Egmont Key is actually a misnomer, because it's an island (affectionaly known by us locals as Turtle Island). You can only get there by boat - so few people come, and even fewer have the time and ability to explore this island ghost town.

If you click on the link above you can read a little about this island's interesting history. Over time, it's been a modified prison for Seminole Indians en route to The Trail of Tears, a Civil War checkpoint and burial ground for the soldiers that died of Yellow Fever, an army installation in the late 1800s, and a town of 300+ people.

Now it's been abandoned for 100 years, with most of the buildings left to crumble to dust. The only inhabitants are tortoises and some surly tugboat operators that lease a portion of the island to live on and are (according to park rangers) highly territorial people who will and can legally run anyone off their portion of land. Since THEIR area is relatively uninteresting, it means nothing to anyone else. There's plenty of island left to explore.

At one tip of the island is a very old, operational lighthouse with a park ranger that lives below it. The rest of the island consists of paved and brick roads and abandoned buildings. The land tortoises are very friendly and are extremely fond of fresh apples, so we always try to remember a sack of apples to hand out to the natives.

Following are pictures (and a little narration when needed). These were taken with my cell phone, so they're not of the BEST quality, but it was a heckuva lot easier than taking my super expensive camera through the trauma of splashing sea water, sand, and (later) rain.

Below is part of the military installation, build around 1907:

This is inside one of the rooms. It's finished with stucco and has a fireplace. It was the officer's mess hall, basically:

Parts of the military installation have collapsed and rooms are partially buried:

Most of the island is now overgrown with palms and scrub brush and other weedy, hearty plants but it's still beautiful:

These stairs are very steep and creepy to climb since there are no railings. People climb up and down them, but it's risky to get near the edge. We saw some kids playing hide and seek here, until their father wisely called them back and scolded them. There are many dark, dank rooms that wind back inside which haven't seen the light of day in a century. It's no place for children to play in:

Here's one of the natives, eating an apple:

Here's what I believe to be a wild blueberry bush:

This is the only remaining part of a massive building built high on stilts. It was used as a military plotting tower. Strangely enough, I believe that neither Egmont Key OR Fort DeSoto (which is the mainland part of Egmont Key) were used in any battles. They were built in order to fight off any attacks, however. Perhaps we could say they were successful. ;o)

These are "sea grapes", bushes with edible fruit that grow freely in brackish areas in Florida:

I believe that this was a culvert. There was actually a relatively advanced plumbing system throughout the occupied island at one time:

There is only one building that had been kept renovated. It was really Central Command at one time, apparently. It has fresh clay tiles on the roof, the rooms are up to date and wired for electricity, but no one uses it:

At one time this island had a little railroad of it's own. The tracks still remain. Now, this island is not at all huge, so it's rather amazing that they'd go to the trouble of having a railroad, but when it came to lugging about heavy things, I'm sure it was more preferable than a simple horse-and-buggy arrangement:

Here's the lighthouse, which was built due to numerous shipwrecks off our coast. It is still operational:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Panhandling is a First Amendment Right?

Repeatedly it has been decided by the court system that begging is a First Amendment right (the right to free speech). Obviously this seems a bit ludicrous, but in order to make it more palatable, cities have fought back with anti-aggression laws: Beggars can't be physically aggressive or hound someone repeatedly for a hand-out. Some cities have also restricted begging to certain areas of the city and the courts have upheld this restriction.

Here in St. Petersburg (part of our Tampa Bay Area) we have panhandling out of control. They stand on street corners, asking for money that will promptly go to drugs or booze. Their hand-lettered cardboard signs are created to generate sympathy. They are almost NEVER true. The "WILL WORK FOR FOOD" signs have fallen out of favor because people have actually asked them to... er... work, which wasn't part of the plan. Sometimes they claim they're a veteran but they usually aren't.

I don't know how experiences are outside of the Bay Area, but over the years we've had some very nasty cases involving panhandlers. One asked a woman for money, and when she rolled down her car window to hand him a dollar, he stabbed her through the hand with a used needle. They never found the panhandler and the story was lost after the initial report, so I don't know if she contracted anything like AIDS or Hep C from it.

Another panhandler would stand on the street corner and was known as a regular beggar. At night, he would go to the local YMCA, shower and change into a business suit, and go home to his wife and his mansion which had been purchased from his begging proceeds (which were tax-free). His wife knew nothing of the scam until the police came knocking. I understand that this is not uncommon.

Of course there are those that are genuinely needy, but they are the ones that seek help from organizations that can give them meals and shelter. I understand that shelters are strapped for space and can't accomodate every beggar out there, but (as a city councilman in Clearwater privately told me) the cities don't necessarily want to expand their shelters for "if you build it, they will come".

In fact, studies repeatedly show that the kindest love is tough love. If you make it difficult for a beggar to exist in a city they sometimes move on to the next city of suckers, but sometimes they will give up and do the right thing; buckle down, give up the addictions, and become a working member of society once more.

Currently St. Petersburg is considering passing tougher panhandling laws. I say, it's about time!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Florida's Decline

According to an article today in the St. Pete Times, people are emigrating away from Florida. Quickly. Much of this is due to the increase in the cost of living here. As I wrote last month, our property taxes in the Tampa Bay Area are up to 100 times what they are elsewhere. Our parasitical governments feed on us as ticks feed on dogs.

Recently, when newly-elected Governor Crist announced that he wants to cause a major decrease in property taxes, local city governments went into hysterics, dramatically proclaiming that programs will have to be cut! Drastically!

Yup, that means we would no longer have the luxury of such marvellous programs as the face-recognition technology used by Tampa police during the 2001 Super Bowl and in the nearby entertainment district of Ybor City. That system is designed to recognize the facial characteristics of potential terrorists and criminals by matching people on the street with a database of 30,000 mug shots. But Tampa police scrapped the Ybor City program in 2004, citing its failure over two years to recognize anyone wanted by authorities.

It is common knowlege that if you don't spend it THIS year, it won't be in the budget NEXT year. In other words, if you're allocated $1 million to build new sidewalks, you'd better put in those sidewalks or you won't have that $1 million to play with again the next year so you'd better build sidewalks EVERYwhere. So, many of these governments spend wastefully because they always want the promise of that extra money in case of an emergency down the road. The city of Clearwater is notorious for having sidewalks built everywhere, even where they're not needed, for this very reason. Clearwater has sidewalks like the Winchester Mystery House has rooms.

We are so busy concentrating on Big Government that little governments go unnoticed and unchecked. Realtors are despairing because so many properties remain on the market, unsold. Residents are packing up and moving out in droves, school attendence is down, and yet construction continues unabated. Until these little governments are controlled by the people, this decline will continue until these governments either choose to reign in their spending or are forced to do so.

And Florida should be an example to all: If you allow growth to be encouraged, unchecked, with no regard to current residents or the environmental needs (we are now constantly in water shortages), the infrastructure WILL crumble. It's only a matter of when.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Paris Hilton: What Most People Aren't Asking Yet

Paris is back in jail, despite the best efforts of the Sheriff, her attorney, and her parents. By now we all now the scene, so I'll cut to the chase:

1. Why did Sheriff Baca release her? He claims it was due to overcrowding and a medical condition. Since she has a private cell to herself (that was unused) we know it's not that. Since inmates with medical conditions are checked into hospitals all the time (mental and physical) we know it's not THAT. Was he bribed, or was he merely hoping to curry favor with a wealthy heiress or Hollywood's elite? We DO know he accepted a $1000 campaign contribution from Paris' grandfather.

Also, Baca didn't communicate with Judge Sauer before this decision became public: Was this due to the hope that Sauer would simply let this go once a decision had been executed? Sheriff Baca is already being looked at concerning potential corruption: How dumb can he be?

2. Sheriff Baca defiantly claimed Paris' sentence was harsher than standard: And yet, Baca is not a judge. Obviously Judge Sauer sentenced her within state guidelines. It is up to a judge's discretion, entirely. Since Paris violated her probation TWICE by driving on a suspended license, it doesn't seem harsh enough! Baca is now being defensive and in doing so, is saying much more than he should say in order to justify his behavior. When is he going to be summoned up on contempt of court charges?

3. Paris apparently has mental problems: But how LONG has she had these supposed problems or is she simply a silly twit who was conveniently diagnosed recently, in the hopes that it might be in her favor and engender sympathy? In my humble opinion, she's a spoiled brat who is now shocked beyond belief that money can't buy everything.

4. What are the longstanding legal ramifications? Legal experts said Friday that the clash could have wide legal consequences."For decades, where [inmates] were housed and how they were housed was up to the Sheriff's Department," said Stan Goldman, a professor of criminal law and procedure at Loyola Law School. "Now that all may change, thanks to, of all people, Paris Hilton."

The judge had no other option than to do what he did, even if he was in sympathy with Paris. To do otherwise would be to set a dangerous precedent.

Judge Sauer showed good, practical, common sense in a world where there is little. Now that true justice has been served, Paris has the opportunity to spare us all from ever having to hear from her again. I only hope she doesn't commit suicide or we'll all be subjected to hearing even MORE about her.

I hate to add to the Paris publicity, and I am hardly a fan. I simply want to see justice done and, as we've seen repeatedly, it often is NOT done when it concerns someone with wealth, power, or influence (think of O.J. Simpson). Now that this is over, I am very hopeful that I'll never have to blog about Paris again. I am also increasingly hopeful that our legal system will no longer be influenced by those who have more than those who don't.

Friday, June 08, 2007

This N' That


This has been done-to-death in all the talk shows and I simply want to say that of COURSE it's a question of disproportionate justice. More news has come to light today to indicate that she was allowed to walk due to celebrity status only (and perhaps a pay-off). Apparently, she cried a lot, wouldn't eat, and developed a rash... so they sent her home. This is easier than getting out of jail in Monopoly!


Gimme that ole time religion, people! Every Democratic candidate has suddenly seen the light and they are desperately reaching for their Bibles in order to quote something. I would recommend they try Proverbs 16:19 which says "Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud." Then I'd recommend the Republicans memorize that verse, too.


"Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the powerful former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. who has been one of the Bush administration's strongest allies in the Middle East, was publicly linked to a widening British corruption scandal Thursday with reports that a British aerospace company secretly transferred up to $2 billion into bank accounts at the Saudi Embassy in Washington," it is reported.

What?! NO!! Hold on, I'm finding this so hard to comprehend. Everyone KNOWS how honorable and upstanding the Sauds are, right? Right? Oh wait a minute, I was thinking of Paris Hilton.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Steve Stanton's Name Change

I wrote before about Steve Stanton. Until recently, he was the City Manager for the City of Largo in the Tampa Bay Area. Now, Largo is one of those "bedroom communities" - people live there, but little else goes on. It's basically a suburb of some of the larger cities it's sandwiched between. So Largo received it's rare shot at the spotlight when Steve announced he wanted to become Susan. He was promptly fired.

Since then, Steve made the choice to start walking about in drag, is taking female hormones, and has interviewed for the position of City Manager in Sarasota (no one is taking his chances seriously). To see Steve in drag, you can go here.

Today, Steve is going to apply for a legal name change to Susan. It is assumed that he will get it easily and quickly. And even though he has not changed his sex legally (he has not had his genitalia mutilated and reshaped into a semblance of female genitalia) and although he will never own a uterus (unless it's in a jar submersed in formaldehyde), he is now requesting that people address him in the feminine gender. Our local newspaper, the St. Pete Times, is complying.

How ridiculous! I realize that there ARE instances of people who have undergone sex change operations and re-apply for a legal acknowlegement of their new "sex". They are almost always granted it, I believe. However, in Steve's case, he doesn't even have the carpet to match the drapes! Until he truly changes his genitalia, why should anyone even THINK of calling him a "her"? *

Let's put this in perspective, shall we? I have a crystal ball and I can see 10 years into the future:

Richard Baier thinks he's a St. Bernard trapped in a man's body. His favorite movie is The Shaggy Dog. He has always resented his lot in life and secretly dressed in a dog costume at night, despite his wife's tearful protests and, finally, resigned acceptance.

As time went on, Richard grew to feel that he should make his real nature known to his colleagues. He started packing dogfood for lunch, thus shocking some of the less "educated" members of his team. He prepared literature to introduce them to the concept of DogMen (a.k.a Were Dogs) in order to gain further acceptance. At first, Richard started wearing shirts with the Virginia state logo significantly altered. Finally, he began wearing a coat, even in the warmth of the summers. He would talk with forced gaiety about dog day afternoons.

When news of his behavior leaked out, his superiors fired him, feeling that such behavior was not acceptable in a supervisor. He immediately fought back in righteous indignation, going to the press in full costume, giving interviews interspersed with an occasional bark or yap. He no longer was content with being addressed as Richard, Mr. Baier, or even Dick. He now insisted that everyone refer to him simply as "Rover". So, fawning members of the press referred to him as Rover, and reported ecstatically on his every move, including his interview for Vice President of Kibbles N' Bits.

In turn, Kibbles N' Bits (not wishing to appear discriminatory) allowed the entire dog-and-pony show, promising that Rover was a candidate in good standing who was being considered for the job (among many other fine applicants who were, coincidentally, sane).

Is this what we're coming to, next? It surely is, unless we get a good old-fashioned dose of common sense. Where will it all stop? It won't - unless we apply the brakes.

*(And personally, I would argue that no matter what sort of mutilation you subject your genitalia to, you can't change the fact that if you were male you were born without the same plumbing and you will die without it, too. In my humble opinion, Steve should always be referred to as a "he" even if he goes through with the sex change operation.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

That F*&#ing Fox!

In a brilliantly written article by Mark Sullivan, we are informed that Fox Broadcasting won (what was for them) a true victory. "A New York appeals court said Monday that the FCC's standing rule against "fleeting expletives" on TV doesn't make legal sense and might be unconstitutional."

As Sullivan points out, this is a major coup for Fox, who has been attempted to push the envelope as much as it possibly can. While those of us with standards are saddened to find that television can now bring salty language into the home, the white trash of Hollywood rejoice. People such as Cher and Nicole Ritchie (who is heavily influenced by Paris Hilton) are only too happy to take advantage of such permission. And of course Paris Hilton, who was recently seen in a newly released video spouting such words as "faggot" and "nigger", will be sure to have her shot at scandalizing a wider swath of the viewing public than ever before.

Interestingly, some of the comments on Sullivan's blog are quite pitiful and it frightens me to think that they represent The Average Joe:

Idiot A: I think this is pretty great. True freedom of speech. TV is ridiculous because by censoring language, it's not realistic. Just like people who don't care to hear cursing or to expose their children to crude language in the real world can choose to avoid certain situations, they can choose to avoid certain TV shows. It just makes sense. *I* want to decide for *myself* what offends me. I don't want some government office deciding that for me.

My Answer to Idiot A: We have perverted the meaning of free speech, as it is defined in the Constitution. Just as we aren't allowed to yell "fire!" in a crowded theatre, we also need to be circumspect in the language which we use. Are we really prepared to descend into complete barbarity? While such language may be "realistic" for YOU, it may not be realistic for others. And although you might recommend that certain families avoid certain TV shows, what happens when the parents aren't home? What happens when someone is merely channel surfing? And how do you know which show might erupt in profanity next?

Idiot B: Finally we did something right. And as you can see there are idiots who still think that censoring TV is bad... KIDS HEAR THIS LANGUAGE IN SCHOOL ALL DAY.

My Answer to Idiot B: Simply because kids hear such language in school from trashy children doesn't mean that we need to put a stamp of approval on it.

Idiot C: It is refreshing to see the courts reach an intelligent decision in this matter. I have always wondered what makes broadcast media so "special" as to need the oversight of the FCC. Anyone picked up a Stephen King novel lately? One of the most famous American authors in history and every book is filled from cover to cover with expletives. And yet, I've never seen a Barnes and Noble clerk tackle a 12 year old in the aisle...

My Answer to Idiot C: Is this what you call "intelligent"? Attention Educators: Look no further for proof of the dumbing down of America! What makes the broadcast media special is that they are heavily influential. And while I am no fan of Stephen King and his continual obsession with women's menstruation and use of profanity, I need to point out that words in print are more easily controlled by parents than something that is seen on TV.

Idiot D: Oh, no! People are saying naughty words! The fabric of the universe will unravel! Fuck you, prudish American pricks! You think it is decent to drop bombs on people in dirt huts, but you become offended because somebody says, "shit."

My Answer to Idiot D: Of all the countries in the world, America is the one that is often considered to be the MOST libertine. If we were as prudish as all that, the Islamic fundies wouldn't be so eager to kill us off. If you want to deal with prudes, parachute into a strict Muslim country where women must be covered from head to toe and undergo genital mutilation so that they're not tempted to enjoy sex. And if you're referring to the Iraq war, you might consider that there are some of us that don't approve of the war and we may be the ones that don't like the profanity, either.

These idiotic statements are merely representative of the other moronic comments in like ilk that can be found at this blog. It goes to show that common sense, as my mother has always said, is not so common any more.

Profanity has always been seen as words that society (in general) doesn't approve of. For instance, if everyone else uses the word "snidge" to describe genitalia, but people in prison prefer the word "snafflewat", we are safe to assume that the word "snidge" is the proper one, and "snafflewat" was designed to offend. You see, profanity is the attempt to deliberately shock and offend others. Is that something we wish to encourage? Once we say it's OK to be offensive in language, we open the door to other anti-societal and offensive behaviors. We say to society: F*&# You!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tonic Water is TRULY a Tonic!

I could blog angrily about the many atrocities going on today, and I was tempted, but I'm short on time to provide a properly researched rave. And I can't really expound upon the satisfaction of grocery shopping and meal planning, which I've decided to start doing again. It's very easy for me to take us and our friends out to meals daily, but it's not as healthy or as fufilling as doing it at home.

And, don't get me wrong: Eating out is grand. But eating out TOO much simply COSTS grands. However, let's stop talking about this subject. Grocery shopping and meal planning is too mundane for THIS blog.

So, let me tell you about a little interesting factoid I learned on my trip to North Carolina last week. Staying with my parents for a week was remarkably like staying with them when I was only a child. It seemed as if nothing had changed much, although we all are older. I suffer from regular neck pain due to my neck surgery and the continued bone deterioration, and my parents suffer from their individual aches and pains, too.

But during the first day there, Mom and I took SaurKid off the mountain and into the valley to do some grocery shopping. Dad stayed behind, working (both of my parents are writers - it runs in the family, you see).

As we walked up and down the aisles, looking for what-nots, Mom remembered that Dad needed his tonic water. Now, my family is a bunch of teetotallers, so I had to ask why Dad had developed this unusual taste, as tonic water isn't exactly a popular soft drink.

It turns out that Dad's doctor had prescribed tonic water for his leg cramps. The quinine in tonic water has been proven to stop cramps very effectively. In fact, it is the ONLY known treatment for leg cramps and it gets to the source of the problem rather than masking it with other drugs. However, you have to drink some daily so that it can build up in order to effectively treat the cramping.

I thought it couldn't hurt to try this folksy remedy myself, and started having at least a glass a day (we tried the diet tonic and didn't notice a difference between that and the regular version). Although I had arrived with my standard ice packs for my neck, by the end of the vacation I wasn't using any of them.

Yesterday we went sailing, which has always meant a great deal of suffering afterwards, but the cramping was minimized!

Now, why haven't any of MY doctors told me about this tonic?!

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Messages Our Kids Receive

Paris Hilton checks into jail today, and deservedly so. I only wish that she would stay there, because she is, apparently, a role model for our daughters. Ah, what a role model: A walking petri dish in designer fashions.

I am not perfect, and never claimed to be. I am not always a good role model for my child. However, I am also brutally honest with him about it, and do my best to admit to my shortcomings. I hate the parents who pass on the message "Do as I say, not as I do," and yet I am occasionally guilty of it myself. Still, I try to live a life that is an example. But these PopTarts do not care about you OR your children, and do not feel the need to behave themselves in order to be a positive influence on the next generation.

It is sad to say that our childrens' true role models are vacuous, self-indulgent creatures like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. This fact was recently disclosed in a study, which also informed us that girls as young as first graders are carrying about purses with stuffed dogs in emulation of Paris.

THIS is why we need to be concerned about the Hollywood elitists.

It is very easy to lean back and speak disdainfully of such showy airheads. "Oh Britney and Paris! I won't give them the time of day," you might sneer. But... your kids certainly DO. The older ones snap up magazines with articles about them, and the younger ones roleplay.

What can be done about it?

Well, firstly it is obvious that only a poor excuse for a parent would allow their first grader to prance about, sporting Paris-like gear. When a parent is this egregiously stupid, it's rather difficult to reason with them. But a caring friend might point out to such a parent that surely THEIR children cannot possibly hope to grow up to acquire Paris' wealth and money, or Britney's talented stageparents who rocketed her to fame. This means that little Megan will develop her idol's lack of morals and laissez-faire attitude without the funds or means to back up or excuse her woeful behavior. From society's viewpoint, you can get away with much as long as you have beauty and money. It is very unlikely that Megan will inherit both or perhaps either, and thus she will find herself in a losing situation.

What Megan will inherit, instead, is a lack of morality that will contribute to her continued failure in life. She will not be a good team player, she will be focused solely on herself. When her aging parents, friends or family members need help, Megan will be too busy pursuing her next self-indulgent obsession.

Since Megan's examples choose themselves over others (even their own children) she will be a lonely young woman, putting herself both first AND second with everyone else a distant third. She has no reason NOT to do so, because she has never been taught that such characters are despicable. Because of this, she will also be a failure in the workplace.

Megan may get pregnant at an early age with such sexualized examples. She may choose to have an abortion or she may not: Either choice is a dangerous one for a young girl to make, and can be a psychologically scarring experience. Megan may also become a walking petri dish, herself, full of sexually transmitted disease or the possibility of them.

What can a caring parent do? For one thing, turn off the TV. Give up such paparazzi shows as Entertainment Tonight. When YOU re-prioritize, so will your children.

Parents also need to communicate. When you see such creatures as Paris or Britney, tell your kids what is wrong with their lifestyle, although you should do it carefully. While it might be tempting to completely damn them, you don't wish to alienate your children if they have already mistakenly chosen such women to be their role models

Instead, say things that invite participation and make your kids think, such as "Yes, Britney is very pretty, isn't she? What if someone isn't as pretty as Britney? Could she behave the same way? Is it bad to be only average or even ugly? How should Britney behave? Is it right to get into cars, deliberately flashing your privates in order to get attention? Is it right to neglect your children so that you can go out and get drunk and party? How do you think her children feel? What could her parents be thinking: Are they sad? Happy?"

Reasoning and communication are our only weapons in the battle for our childrens' lives. That, and the OFF button on our TVs.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Neighbor's Garden

While we were in North Carolina, my parents had made friends with some neighbors up the mountain. They invited us to an elaborate breakfast one morning, including coffee cake made from scratch, homemade bread, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, fresh fruit compote sweetened with 100% genuine maple syrup, and Potatoes O'Brian. After breakfast, we went out to their flower garden. Now perhaps these flowers are familiar to YOU, but they're completely exotic to Floridian eyes.

After breakfast, we went on a hike to the old logging trail far up the mountain, and walked down the same narrow trail that trucks crossed over, carrying logs harvested from the trees on the mountain many years ago. This is some of what we saw on that trail. By the way, if you can identify any of these plants, we'd love to hear about them:

Friday, June 01, 2007


I bought a GPS a couple of months ago. This particular Global Positioning System is supposed to be the best on the market. It's certainly one of the most expensive! It's hard to think of my GPS as an "it". She has a wonderfully sultry voice and is ever the cheerful companion and navigator. I have used her around town and within Florida, with success. It got to the point where I felt that GiPSy was more accurate than Map Quest! So of course I brought her with me when I left on vacation for North Carolina last week. My friend "Rick" very kindly programmed her for me, putting in both my destination and home address.

At first GiPSy was fantastic! We had driven into Georgia (and were in the thick smoke from the forest fires) when suddenly she silkily announced "At next exit, take immediate right!"

My son (SaurKid) and I glanced at each other in surprise, but I obediently took the exit which was right there. We pulled over to consult a map: This didn't seem right.

Suddenly GiPSy stated "When possible, make a U-turn!" A U-turn would take us back onto the interstate! We were confused.

"Perhaps she's developed a glitch due to all the smoke," I suggested, "because I think we still need to be heading north on the interstate." SaurKid disagreed: He thought any GPS would see through smoke. Still, we had little choice but to take a chance and follow her corrected directions.

I returned to the interstate.

Sure enough, we re-entered the interstate and all was as well as before. GiPSy acted as if nothing had happened. She calmly guided us out of Georgia and throughout the exits and roads that took us up into North Carolina.

As the roads began to get a little steeper, and the drop offs on the sides grew deeper, I grew more nervous. Being a Floridian and living in a flat world, I have always fought a neurotic fear of heights, and I don't enjoy looking to the side where a simple turn of a steering wheel could plummet us to our deaths. Never the less, I was determined to make it to our destination near Maggie Valley.

As the incline increased, my little Floridian rental car groaned a bit louder. There was no where to easily turn off, and I was afraid to change gears while driving an automatic (I am much more familiar with my stick-shift). Although I was tempted to change it to "3", which seemed to be a good idea for more mountainous areas, I held off until I reached the small town my parents' vacation home is in.

We entered the town, with GiPSy continuing her helpful directions: "Turn left!" "Turn right in 500 feet!"

The town itself was relatively level (being located in a valley) but as we progressed, it was apparent that GiPSy was directing us toward a nearby mountain. At this point, I was supposed to pull over and call my parents. However, when I picked up my cell phone, I discovered that it was dead.

"Ah well," I said to SaurKid, determined to appear fearless, "It looks as if we should just go on up to Grandma and Grandpa's place. There's no sense trying to find their number: Why don't we surprise them?"

"How bad can it be?" I privately thought. Studies show that if you show a child your fear, it's quite possible that he can also develop that same fear. I was hesitant to display this, even though SaurKid is almost 14. SaurKid was OK with whatever I chose to do, so we continued our journey to the foot of the mountain.

When we reached the mountain, I decided to switch to "3", and was glad I did. The car complained less as we progressed on the narrow mountain road, with the incline getting ever steeper and the drop-off to the side getting ever deeper. I kept my eye steadily on the road. The only way you could've told that I was nervous was if you'd glanced at my hands, which gripped the steering wheel, white-knuckled.

The incline had grown to a 30 degree angle, with some turns that were 45 degrees, when GiPSy chirped sweetly "Turn left!" At this point I was facing a paved road on the right, and a dirt road with gravel to the left. I told SaurKid a little nervously that it was certainly getting farther and farther away from civilization, but I swallowed, steeled myself, and continued.

We soon left the paved road far behind, as the road continued to angle upwards. It also grew increasingly narrowed, and we soon found ourselves proceeding on a dusty, slippery dirt road at mostly a 45 degree angle, with barely any road on either side of the path, before a half-a-mile plunge straight downward on the left. I drove slower and slower, terrified of making any wrong moves, as we wound our way onward, following GiPSy's commands.

Suddenly GiPSy warbled demonically, "Turn left!"

"Turn LEFT?!" I said incredulously, looking to the left and straight down the mountain. I had reached a slightly wider area of the road and stopped, smack-dab in the middle of it. I pulled up my emergency brake. SaurKid's eyes were as wide as saucers. "There's something wrong with the GPS!" he said breathlessly.

"Oh NO," I howled. "I can't do this! I can't go on!"

Just then a white car approached us, coming down from above. It slowly proceeded around us. "Stop them!" I screeched to SaurKid. "Stop them NOW!"

SaurKid jumped out of the car and frantically waved them down. The car stopped it's downward progress and SaurKid hollered to him that we were lost. The man cheerfully replied that he'd been lost too, and was going down the mountain.

"NO!" I said. "Don't let him go! Tell him I'm having a panic attack!" For, indeed, I was. At this point SaurKid gesticulated frantically, and the driver parked his car and struggled back up to us. It was an older gentleman, who peered into the driver's side window at me.

"Sir," I said, "PLEASE help me. I can't go an inch up or an inch down, any more. I'm freaking out!" It was probably most apparent: I was very pale and in a cold sweat.

The gentleman said "Would you like me to drive your car for you?"

"Oh YES!" I replied. "Yes! Thank you VERY much. But who will drive YOUR car?"

"My son's with me," he replied easily. "He'll be able to handle it down the mountain. I admit, it's a very scary road! I've never been up here, though I live at the base of the mountain. We got lost, or you never would have met us. Why don't you get out of the car, and sit in the passenger's seat?" I quickly complied.

We all got in, he turned on the car, and proceeded forward, up the mountain! "Why are you still going UP?" I asked, nervously.

"Well, we obviously can't turn around HERE, and I don't relish going down backwards," he stated. At this point, GiPSy said slyly "When possible, make a U-turn."

When we reached a point higher-up, where it was possible to barely turn around, he did (as I stared straight down into the bowels of the mountain through my passenger-side window). We proceeded down the mountain behind his son, carefully, as GiPSy warbled homicidal sentiments at us: "Turn right, NOW!" and "When possible, make a U-turn!"

"Can you turn that thing off?" asked the man, who (although very kindly) was obviously growing slightly intolerant of our version of H.A.L. I fumbled with the thing, then handed it off to SaurKid to shut down.

We returned to the paved road, this time taking the right instead of the left. Within a short time, we had found my parents' house which, although located on a steep road, was at least perched above a PAVED one.

We left GiPSy off until the return trip, when we were well off the mountain.

Tomorrow: Pictures from our trip