Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How to Handle the Problem of Female Suicide Bombers

In this article on female suicide bombers by the Strategic Studies Institute, Debra Zedalis writes "Suicide bombers are today's weapon of choice. An action that was once so surprising...has now become the daily fare of the nightly news."

For some, the choice to use women as walking homicidal grenades is startling. After all, in January 2002, Hamas (a prominent terrorist organization) declared that it renounced using women in that fashion. However, over the years, Hamas has changed their position. In addition, Saudi Arabia has now sanctioned it as well through a fatwa issued in August 2001.

Ironically, these human grenades are portrayed as 'martyrs' by their leadership. Such romanticizing of murderers is hardly surprising, when you think of the groupies that are also attracted to such serial killers as Ted Bundy and others. This means that we are facing a swelling number of devoted murderers who are happy to strap a bomb under their skirt.

Let's face it - using women makes sense in so many ways: They have voluminous robes to conceal weaponry and they are seen as relatively harmless, as most people have a somewhat idealized picture of the female of the species.

However, historians have long understood that Muslim women were a force to be reckoned with. In the 1800s during the Mahdist War, a British soldier once wrote of his military's encounter with Muslim women, saying that the Muslim men turned the prisoners over to the women, who were expert torturers. He added that it was better to be left in the hands of the men rather than be given to the women.

So now that Muslim women are once again becoming equal to their men, how should the military regard them? One soldier said that it was impossible to screen Muslim women in Iraq (thus implying that the military is doomed if female suicide bombers become de rigeur).

First, let me say that I don't approve of the war overseas. However, I also don't approve of murderers and these Muslim terrorists certainly are murderous.

If the military refuses to get out right now, then their other alternative is to realize that what was working before isn't working now. They only have a couple of options, really: One is to treat all men and women with equal suspicion. However, a female bomber could get much closer than a male bomber before it would be apparent that she was carrying.

The only other option would be for the military to demand that women begin to don the same garb as their male counterparts. After all, if the Muslims are beginning to finally see women as equal, perhaps this should be reflected in their dress as well. Muslim women could opt out of this by avoiding the peacekeeping forces altogether.

It's rather ironic that there is such an increase in these bombers, as Muhammed specifically decreed in the Koran "And do not kill yourself, for God is indeed merciful to you." He also proclaimed "He who drinks poison and kills himself will carry his poison in his hand and drink it in Hell for ever and ever."

These bombers may not know this, as many of them are illiterate. They are, perhaps, kept so deliberately in order to make them more malleable.

In my opinion, though, the governments in the civilized world have also come to value a lack of education among their masses. And, as we know, those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. This allows the governments to manipulate us as they will, and only profits the governments while bestowing upon the average citizen no good whatsoever.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Happening

Let me tell you about The Happening. The Happening is a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Personally, I've never seen a movie of his that I didn't like. For instance, even though many critics panned The Lady in the Water, I found it to be a refreshing and charming modern fairytale.

I went to this movie reluctantly, as it is his first R-rated feature and it was portrayed as being unnecessarily gory. However, I found out that it really wasn't so. In fact, we were spared many scenes that had a potential for greater gore.

I also thought the actors played their parts deftly, giving their roles both humanity and a dose of reality.

The plot, though far-fetched, made at least a modicum of sense and was very nicely explained while the ending was a bit of bitter medicine washed down with a spoonful of sugar.

I highly recommend the movie, though I do advise you to leave your children at home due to the graphic nature of some of the scenes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Real Name Is...

So I was shopping at the grocery store the other day when a little old Italian man came up to me and asked "Excusa me, miss, ah, but woulda you happen, ah, to know where I canna get some, ah, facial crema?"

"Sure!" I said. "Just let me grab this deoderant real quick, and we'll go look for your face cream."

"Ah, thanka you, thanka you," said the man. "You know what?"

"What?" I said.

"You were given, ah, the wronga name," he said, gesturing in a way that only old Italian men do.

"When you were, ah, born, ah, you were born with, ah, clear eyes. Eyes with no color. Did you know that?" he asked.

I shook my head, bemused.

"And, ah, the good Lord, he ah said, ahhhh! I will take the blue from the sky and I will put it in her eyes," he said.

"And so you had, ah, blue eyes! And when they went, ah, to name you, they didn't know your name was Perfecto! And so they gave you the name you go by now. But you should, ah, go to the courts. Yes! Go to the courts and demand that your name be changed back! Because it is not, ah, right for you to go by that other name," he declared.

"Er, thank you," I said, blushing. "Thank you very much." Feeling rather common after that speech, I added "Uh, here's that face cream," as I handed it down to him.

The man blessed me, dramatically told me to follow my dreams, and we parted ways.

At the cash register, as I was being rung up, I saw him in the next lane over. He was speaking to the cashier, a pretty black girl with long braids.

Faintly, from a distance, I heard him begin.

"Do you know what?" he asked her. "You were given, ah, the wronga name..."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Victory Gardens

Feeling like Helpful Heloise of the Apocolypse, I'm going to talk about Victory Gardens today.

I was fortunate enough to be raised by my parents and grandparents on both sides. That meant I was exposed to many stories that most people haven't heard first-hand. The most prolific storyteller was my father's mother, who still vividly remembered The Depression and World War 2, and told me many stories about that time.

She remembered being the only child (of a family of eight kids and 2 adults) in New York state that could find work. Every evening she would wash out the only pair of panties and the only bra that she owned. Although they were often damp in the morning, hygiene was more important to her than comfort. She represented the entire family, her father was the Town Drunk, and she was their only way to stay alive. She worked as a telephone operator.

Then she met my grandfather.

The United States was just coming out of the depression, all was looking up, and suddenly WWII was declared.

Grandpa couldn't make it into the military due to a physical problem of some sort (I believe it was flat feet), so he became one of the town's marshals in charge of enforcing citizen compliance. That meant he had to make sure that everyone blacked out their windows during practice air raids, as well as making sure no one was hoarding anything during a time that the soldiers needed it more.

Almost everything was rationed. Meat, salt, sugar, vegetables, butter, pantyhose, extra metal, and other things were hard to find because they were going overseas to our troops. It was during this time that margarine was invented as a butter substitute. People learned creative ways to make baked goods with very little standard ingredients (I still have some of those recipes).

And people planted Victory Gardens.

It now looks as if we'll need to plant them once again. Experts are recommending that we begin them now. Why? Well, we're in a recession. Granted that's not a depression and we hope it won't grow into one, but there's no getting around the fact that our economy is struggling.

In addition to that, we have flooding taking place in the Midwest, which is already boosting food prices.

The time to plant is NOW.

Just as they did in WWII, we can plant our Victory Garden in a variety of places. If you live in an apartment or a condo, you will probably have no access to tillable land. You could locate your garden on the rooftop if you can't find space below (make sure your rooftop is designed to take on the load of foot traffic). Or, you could set aside a porch or possibly a well-lit room (in a pinch) to house your garden. In those cases, your answer is Container Gardening.

If you choose to use a room with carpeting, you can buy plastic sheeting at your local hardware store. Do make sure you put that down under your Container Garden, as you don't want the unexpected surprise of mildew.

Where do you find your plants?

You can certainly go to your local hardware store or nursery to buy seeds or plants. However, most of those plants are not suitable for smaller environments. To do this properly, you need something known as "compact plants".

In my opinion, the best source of compact fruit and vegetable plants/seeds is the Burpee company. Just put in the word "compact" into their search engine, and you'll find a great starter variety. Hurry, though, as stock is always limited.

Another good source can be the Park Seed Company or Ebay, although their Plants, Seeds & Bulbs section varies wildly.

If you have the luxury of owning a home, you can simply stake out a corner of your yard and begin a garden.

That's not as easy as it sounds, since you have to rip out the grass, do the planting, and then fend off any creatures that want to enjoy your garden too. If you have a rabbit or squirrel problem (as I do) and don't wish to kill them off and bring the ASPCA down on your head, I recommend that you build a hardware cloth or chicken wire cage around the garden. Yes, it's work and yes, you'll have to figure out how to install a door, but ultimately it will save you a lot of headaches.

No matter whether you plant your garden in the ground or in containers, make sure it's mulched (to help the plant retain water and discourage weeds) and keep it regularly maintained.

Choose a safe pesticide spray such as Safer's Insecticidal Soap. Remember that some pesticides aren't suitable for edible plants and if you use them, you'll end up poisoning yourself.

Choose plants that won't take up a lot of space, even if they aren't compact. Your goal is to utilize as much space as possible: If you end up with extras, there will always be friends, relatives and neighbors who will happily take them off your hands.

Begin your Victory Garden this weekend. For a small investment now, you will have a large payoff in the fall. While others are settling for canned vegetables, you will be enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Taxing Time

My 2006 taxes aren't done, due to the fact that my ex-accountant is a crook and lazy as hell.

I wasn't in a rush, as he assured me that I would break even or the government might even owe me a little money.

Over the last year, I would periodically check and would be told that I had never given him [insert latest item he'd lost]. Over that year, I replaced tax and bank statements, a mortgage statement, and more.

At one point, his secretary even tried to tell me that I'd never given him the file at all. In a long-suffering tone, I told her exactly where it was in his storage room and what it looked like. She called me back later that day to admit that that was exactly where it was.

When others were getting their 2007 taxes done, he told me that those were the priority and mine would be done afterwards. When I dared to question this, he told me that if he could't take his time, I would probably end up with all sorts of taxes to pay after all.

What is this? Does this guy belong to the Accountant Mafia?

Although he is a business accountant, his lack of professionalism stymies the imagination.

I got fed up in April after months of his excuses, and went to collect the papers myself.

Since then, I've been trying to make sense out of the jumble he'd created. It's not been easy, but I hesitate to trust them to another accountant. They're late already: Why trust them to someone else who is likely to have absolutely no idea where The Mobster left off? And certainly they'll have no idea what most of the expenses are. So, I've been slogging through it as I have time.

On Friday, I got a friendly note from the IRS telling me that I need to cough up my tax return and I should call them immediately. There was also a note informing me that they might interview my employer, employees, bank, friends and neighbors.

Not to thumb my nose at the IRS or anything, but don't they realize that this is as threatening as a day at the beach? I've already been through The Audit From Hell. I know I'm in the right here, and they're welcome to contact my employer (me), my employees (me), my friends (who know about me), my bank (who doesn't care about me), and my neighbors (who undoubtedly need new material on me).

Still, the letter asked me to call them ASAP, so I dutifully called today to explain that I needed more time. Mr. Asswipe answered the phone and bluntly told me that they didn't want any explanations. Instead, he took the opportunity to threaten me by telling me that if my taxes weren't in by the end of the year, they'd assign a "fictitious amount" (his words, not mine) to me and demand payment.

I told him I really didn't need to be threatened and I understood they were the bad guys and I wasn't going to let grass grow under my feet. Mr. A was very offended by my allegation and told me so. He also added that they didn't need an explanation, so I said that was fine by me, and hung up.

Fancy that: I'm thinking that the IRS doesn't have my best interests at heart. Shocking! What's next? Is it possible that the FDA isn't really a competant organization? Perhaps George Bush isn't a paragon of virtue!

The mind reels.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Taking This Week Off

Sorry guys, but due to a hectic schedule I have to take this week off. Regular programming will resume on Monday, 6/16/08.

In the meantime, let me share with you our resident Cuban Tree Frog, FlyGirl. She is extremely tame and comes out to the same spot on our porch every night.

Cuban Tree Frogs are dangerous to our indigenous species and are killing off our native tree frogs. They also eat fish and other tadpoles as well as full grown frogs. Some experts recommend that they be killed humanely by capturing and freezing them or, if you can't bring yourself to do it, you can always make a pet of them.

So far, FlyGirl is allowed to roam free. We just can't bring ourselves to force her into captivity and certainly killing her is out of the question. She has a very sweet nature.

And remember Oscar? Here's a photo of him today (snapped with a cellphone camera). We found him cuddled up with my honorary daughter's stuffed toy bunny:

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Economy & Job Hunting

It was time to break out the old resume and dust it off.

I've recently reviewed and revised my resume, and am on the prowl again. This economy is very bad, and it's affecting my clients and thus it's affecting me.

In addition, the primary company that I work with is VERY unethical, and it continues to steal clients from me because it's cost-effective to cut me out of the deal. They have a terrible reputation of great disloyalty to many, so I am certainly in no way an exception.

Could I take them to court? Sure I could! And we'd waste lots of time and money battling it out, as my paycheck steadily declines.

The problem is that I am somewhat overqualified and that means that both sides are now fussier than we would have been 10 years ago. I also feel that my business knowlege is a little rusty after 7-8 years in an exclusive field. So, I'm also reading up on the latest business trends once again.

The only thing constant is change. Ted Peters wrote an excellent book about continual change in the business world, and I'm so glad that I steeped myself in that at an early age. Of course most of us don't welcome change, but we might as well - since it's inevitable. To grumble over change is equivalent to railing against gravity. It is, it's there, so deal with it.

And I'm dealing with it.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Massive Confederate Flag to be Flown in Tampa

Frankly, I'm embarrassed.

I live in a large metropolitan area, where the majority of us are Yankee transplants. The "Deep South" doesn't exist in the Tampa Bay area. If you want to find rednecks, crackers, KKK members, and general ignoramuses, you have to either search for them in the center of the state or in the panhandle.

Or so we civilized people thought.

Now, don't get me wrong. Not everyone who lives in central Florida or the panhandle is a neanderthal. But you can find them there. It's very rare that you'll find someone around here that represents the Bubba stereotype.

This is an area where business, commerce, and tourism thrive. Well, it was. We are now facing the possibility of losing both since gas is getting so expensive.

And, as if gas prices weren't impacting us enough, we now have a group that is fresh out of the movie Deliverance which has arranged to fly a massive Confederate flag across our major interstate in Tampa!

Talk about the minority dominating the majority!

I've written an article on The Confederate Flag before. I don't understand why this is being allowed, as it might be dangerous for the public welfare and could serve as a great distraction on the highway. This is not decorative art, after all.

We first heard about this atrocity two nights ago while we were watching the local news (to read about it in detail, go here.)

The Chief Redneck that has arranged to fly it was making all sorts of excuses. They ranged from "It's our heritage" to "The Civil War wasn't really about slavery at all! It was about economics!"

Yeah, my son pointed out dryly. It was about economics - the economics of slavery, amongst other things.

To prevaricate about what the Confederate Flag means is rather silly at this stage of the game. The Nazi symbol once meant "peace", but try and wear that peace sign on your lapel at work.

The Confederate flag stands for racism, hatred, and divisiveness, no matter what it may have once represented long ago. And these rednecks know that.

The Chief Redneck says that this is all about pride.

Pride?! Pride for what? This is equivalent to erecting a billboard with Ted Bundy's photo across from the Chi Omega Sorority House where he went on his killing spree.

If city officials don't put a stop to this, everyone coming in to and out of the city of Tampa will be driving by a massive Confederate Flag.

It's as good as erecting a statue of Hitler.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hair Rapist

One of my friends is a world-renowned hair dresser. His nickname is Pov, due to a misprint of one of his salon tri-folds which *I* found hysterical at the time. (He didn't see the humor in it as much as I did).

Pov is semi-retired and doesn't do much hair right now, but he deigns to do the hair of both myself and a couple of my friends. So, we periodically have hair parties at my house, where we all sit around and catch up while getting our hair perfected.

Saturday morning, Pov came over and as we were getting ready for everyone else to arrive, we realized that we were out of a certain type of hair color. So we got in the car and ran up to Sally's Beauty Supply to stock up.

We got there at 5 minutes to 9. We waited in the parking lot until we saw someone approaching the door from inside the shop. He was a bulky, disinterested gay guy with greasy blond hair and various facial piercings. I mention that he was gay simply because he was anxious to make sure that everyone knew it.

The guy had an attitude, I'm telling you. He even flipped the lock in a pissed-off "take-this-you-lock" kind of way.

We walked in and I chirped "Good morning!" as we passed him. He growled. I kid you not.

I kept looking over my shoulder as Pov gathered up whatever he needed, and we headed up to the counter.

"You ready?" said Blondie in an insulting tone of voice. I do not know how he made it so insulting, but he managed somehow.

We nodded, both of us staring at him, and then each other. Blondie rang up the items in a vicious manner, jabbing each register key as if it had personally offended him.

Pov was staring fixedly at Blondie, and then would look at me, gesturing with his chin to check something out on Blondie. I kept examining him, but I couldn't figure out what Pov was referring to!

Granted, Blondie was a wreck of a human being: He had tattoos adorning sweaty skin, greasy and badly bleached shaggy hair, too many rings and piercings, and a glowering countenance. But obviously Pov had seen something more remarkable than that.

As we left the store, I said in a forced cheeriness "Have a good morning!"

"You too," Blondie said reluctantly.

As soon as we were clear of the store, I turned to Pov and asked "What the heck were you trying to point out in there?"

"Didn't you see the tag?" asked Pov.

I shook my head.

"He had a tag on his smock that said Hair Rapist! I SWEAR!" said Pov.

"Well," I said, "I certainly wouldn't put anything past the guy, but that seems pretty extreme." Knowing that Pov has a learning disability, I suspected he'd misread something, so I asked "Let's make really sure we're right about this one. Exactly what did the tag say?"

"I'm telling you, it said Hair Rapist!" declared Pov.

"Okay, spell it out for me," I said. "Were there two Rs or only one?"

"H-A-I-R-A-P-I-S-T," said Pov.

"Ahhh, he was merely trying to make a play on words," I said. "You're supposed to say it the same as you would say the word therapist," I explained. "I admit that's a very stupid play on words, though. I wonder what genius thought that one up."

"I don't know, but I know you wouldn't catch me wearing that tag," grumbled Pov. "When I was a rookie, I did some terrible things to hair, and I admit it. I've teased it, I've burned it, and I've damaged it...

But, I have never been that bad!"