Wednesday, January 31, 2007


At work, when someone new starts, he or she gets taken out to lunch by the manager, with maybe another member of the group invited along. Not long ago, it was my turn to be the other group member, when both managers took the two newest employees to lunch.

We went to a nice restaurant nearby, close enough to walk to, and after some general conversation, I noticed something that surprised me. Out of the five of us, I was the only one born in the US. The other four are naturalized citizens.

They're from Russia, India, Vietnam, and El Salvador.

One of the things I enjoy about working in this area is the vast number of people from all sorts of places. At work, foreign and regional accents are more the norm than not. Religions vary. Economic backgrounds vary. Ages vary. But in the end we're all people who love our families and who are working every day to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

We talk in the breakroom about the latest reorganization and how it might affect the way we do our jobs. We talk about vacations planned or returned from. We talk about raising kids, or the inconsiderate people who don't clean up their coffee messes, or the weather. And it doesn't matter where we're from--except when the new woman in another group turns out to have attended the same New Jersey Catholic high school my ex-husband did (small world!).

I love getting to know people who aren't like me but, in some important way, they are. I carpool sometimes with a woman from India who's here on an H1b visa, and we talk about our respective countries' history.

Another woman at work, from the Philippines, said that she didn't want to live past the age of 50, when bodies and minds start to fall apart. I had to laugh. I told her that I'm this close to 50, and I'm not falling apart yet, so she might want to reconsider her maximum age. Perhaps in the hardscrabble part of the Philippines where she grew up, people really did age quickly, but that's not how it usually works here.

The Diversity police out there on college campuses like to micromanage the ethnic balance of their student base, and that puts the focus on superficial qualities, like skin color. And that conveys a message such as, "We have enough (or need more) people who look like you." That message doesn't have anything to do with capabilities or determination.

But outside the universities, in the real world of work and family and community, diversity happens more naturally. People come and go, bringing their backgrounds and baggage with them. Cranky people are avoided. Pleasant people are chatted with. And everyone learns to work smoothly enough with each other to get the job done.

I like it this way.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Eagle with Deer Head Cuts Power

The Juneau Empire reported Monday about an ambitious eagle whose plans went south.

About 10,000 Juneau residents lost power Sunday after a bald eagle lugging a deer head crashed into an Alaska Electric Light & Power transmission system in Lemon Creek.

Now, that's something you don't hear about every day.

"You have to live in Alaska to have this kind of outage scenario," said Gayle Wood, an AEL&P spokeswoman. "This is the story of the overly ambitious eagle who evidently found a deer head in the landfill."

The meal was apparently too heavy. The eagle failed to clear transmission lines as it flew from the landfill toward the Lemon Creek Operation Center, she said. When a repair crew arrived, they found the eagle carcass with the deer head nearby.

It's so sad when such a bold bald eagle meets its end because of its audacity. That sort of daring should be rewarded.

But at least he went in a burst of glory.

New Blogger

Blogger has tracked me down and forced me to cry, "Uncle!"

I tried to do a quick post this morning, and it forced me to switch right that minute to New Blogger, but because I have over 800 posts, it tied up my blog almost the whole day.

And now on my comments, it appears Malott has been changed to "Anonymous" and Janice has lost her link. I don't know yet what other collateral damage has been done.

Am I whining? You bet I am.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I'm In!

I mentioned a while ago that I'm working on a career change, and part of that is taking the prerequisite classes to whichever medical program I get in. Anatomy & Physiology is the main prerequisite, but it was already full when it was my turn to enroll.

Class starts this week, so Thursday night I went online to check the class schedule so I'd know what time to show up to try to get in, and it said the class had one opening. But their phone registration was down until morning for their normal nightly updates.

Friday morning, when I refreshed the screen in case someone beat me to the opening, it said I'd need the secret code from the instructor. There was a link to a page that explained this policy, which said that starting the Saturday before the first week of class, you need the instructor's permission to add the class. This was Friday, so I dialed in anyway, and it let me add the class. With lab.

Unfortunately, the lecture is Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the only opening for a lab was Monday nights, so I'm stuck for this week. I'll go tonight, and then tomorrow night at the lecture, I'll see if I can get the instructor's permission to join his Thursday night lab. That way, I'd only have to drive to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I can study on the train on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

That's the plan. Lots of studying and trying to get my day job's work done all at the same time. I'm ready.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Woman Saves Husband From Mountain Lion

ABC News reported Thursday about a couple in Northern California.

Wildlife officials on Thursday credited a woman with saving her husband's life by clubbing a mountain lion that attacked him while the couple were hiking in a California state park.

Jim and Nell Hamm, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next month, were hiking in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park when the lion pounced.

"He didn't scream. It was a different, horrible plea for help, and I turned around, and by then the cat had wrestled Jim to the ground," Nell Hamm said in an interview from the hospital where her husband was recovering from a torn scalp, puncture wounds and other injuries.

And how did the intrepid Mrs. Hamm save her husband?

Nell Hamm said she grabbed a four-inch-wide log and beat the animal with it, but it would not release its hold on her husband's head.

"Jim was talking to me all through this, and he said, 'I've got a pen in my pocket and get the pen and jab him in the eye,'" she said. "So I got the pen and tried to put it in his eye, but it didn't want to go in as easy as I thought it would."

When the pen bent and became useless, Nell Hamm went back to using the log. The lion eventually let go and, with blood on its snout, stood staring at the woman. She screamed and waved the log until the animal walked away.

She couldn't leave her husband behind while she went for help, so she helped him walk out to safety.

Nell Hamm warned people never to hike in the backcountry alone. Park rangers told the couple if Jim Hamm had been alone, he probably would not have survived.

"We fought harder than we ever have to save his life, and we fought together," she said.

I love this story of a couple in their seventies fighting off a huge predator. Together. It warms the heart and leaves two lessons:

1. As Nell Hamm said, never hike in the wilderness alone.

2. You're never too old to beat the crap out of a mountain lion.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Talibani Who Destroyed Buddhist Shrines Killed

The Daily Mail (UK) reported today about a killing in Kabul.

An Afghan official who ordered the destruction of two massive 1,500-year-old Buddha statues during the Taliban reign has been shot dead.

Maulavi Mohammed Islam Mohammadi was the Taliban's governor of Bamiyan province when the fifth-century statues were blown up with dynamite and artillery in March 2001.

According to police, he was killed on his way to prayers in Kabul.

Good. What the Taliban did to the Buddhist history of Afghanistan was obscene.

SkyePuppy in Trouble With the Feds

Our mailbox is one of dozens all grouped together for the ease of the postal carrier and not for the residents, and we're about as far away as you can get and still have your mailbox there. So it's really not very convenient to pick up the mail.

My daughter had the mailbox key, and she'd swing by most evenings on her way home and grab the mail. But then she went out of town, left the key for me somewhere, and we lost track of it. I finally found it today.

When I went to the mailbox, I was 99% sure it would be empty. Those boxes are awfully small, and the mail is loaded with grocery store flyers and insurance pitches and closet-organizer come-ons, so in about a week, the box fills up to the point that the postal carrier can't shove in one more postcard. When that happens, he pulls out all the mail and leaves us one of those little orange papers that tells us to come get our mail at the post office.

Sure enough, when I opened the door, there was one lonely piece of orange paper. But instead of simply telling us to head for the post office, it said in all caps: "BOX FULL REPEATERS."

I took the orange paper, with its damning accusation, to the post office (I had a day off today), and before I handed it to the woman behind the counter, I told her that I was an enemy of the state and a repeat offender at that. It sure felt that way.

She took the paper and read the note out loud and then laughed. Then she went back and got my two bags of mostly junk mail.

Now that I'm officially on my postal carrier's bad side, I'm going to have to be more careful. I don't know what the guy will do if I forget the mail again and he feels as though he has to escalate.

Good thing I'll be moving by summer.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Michelle Malkin on the Coming Amnesty Disaster

Michelle Malkin's column in yesterday's WorldNetDaily hits President Bush's "comprehensive immigration policy" where it hurts. With the truth.

Last month, President Bush signed off on a few dog-and-pony illegal immigrant employment raids. Whoop-de-doo. Politically expedient holiday gestures over, the White House is now back to work pushing its long-planned, massive alien amnesty. The state of the borders, green card process and entrance system for visitors and tourists? Porous. Chaotic. Understaffed. And overwhelmed.

But no matter. Mouthing his same old, bogus platitudes about the need to allow "undocumented workers" to do the job Americans won't do (never mind all those Americans who immediately lined up to apply for those meatpacking jobs after the December raids), Bush wants to pile millions of new "guest worker" illegal alien applicants onto the teetering homeland security bureaucracy.

The results will be disastrous. What President Bush didn't mention in the State of the Union address is that every part of the current legal immigrant applicant machinery that would be tasked with implementing the "guest worker" illegal alien amnesty is backlogged and broken.

An example of the brokenness is:

The FBI's background check backlog for legal immigrant applicants stands at a reported 100,000 files, which have been waiting for action for a year or longer. At least they didn't shred them all (uh, as far as we know) – which is what federal contractors did at the immigration center in Laguna Niguel, Calif., over the last several years. To rid itself of a 90,000-document backlog, supervisors ordered workers to destroy passports, birth certificates, approval notices, change of address forms, diplomas and money orders. Then they reported that they had reduced the backlog to zero. Poof!

President Bush is right on the War Against the Killer Muslim Extremists, but his border security and immigration policies are as wrong as wrong can be.

His comprehensive immigration policy isn't worth the paper it's printed on, because he's not asking the key questions on the issue:

1. Will it accomplish what it's intended to do?
2. Will the unintended consequences be worse that the status quo?
3. Will the bureaucracy be able to implement it properly?

The answers (if he bothered to ask) are: 1. No, 2. Yes, 3. Heck no!

Build the fence. Enforce the laws we already have. Simplify legal immigration. Then, if we need to, we'll talk about immigration "reform."

Taking Away the Minivan

This is all it takes to total a minivan. Buckled hood (still latched). Bumper pushed down a little. Grill pushed up a little. Side light covers knocked from their moorings. And the license plate and its frame banged up. That's it. The repairs would exceed the value of the minivan.

I'm not really broken up about this. Our old minivan, the dark red one, gave us 248,000 miles of faithful service before she blew a gasket. Her name was Van-essa. She took us places, like the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. She carpooled high school kids and ladies' outings at church.

The green van just couldn't compete. For starters, it's a '94, which means it has those horrible automatic seatbelts that try to choke you when you open the door and then start to get out. Van-essa was a graceful '96 model with normal seatbelts. The green van doesn't even have a name.

My daughter says she's keeping more space in front of her now, when she drives. We wouldn't want the beautiful new Honda to go the way of the minivan.

Fauxtography warning: This picture has been Photoshopped to remove an annoying object in the lower left corner and to obscure the license plate.

Stupid Illegal Worker Tricks

I heard this first on Laura Ingraham's radio show yesterday. The AP reported yesterday about 24 illegal aliens who were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

BALTIMORE — Twenty-four day laborers in the country illegally were arrested Tuesday when they asked for work from federal immigration agents who had gathered in a parking lot after an unsuccessful undercover operation, authorities said.

The agents had regrouped at a 7-Eleven parking lot after an a search for illegal immigrants who had been ordered to leave the country, said Marc Raimondi, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency spokesman.

The day laborers admitted they were in the country illegally after they asked the ICE agents whether they needed workers and the agents responded by asking them, in Spanish, where they were from, Raimondi said.

To be fair to the illegal aliens, the ICE agents were in unmarked cars.

Among those arrested were six who had criminal records in the United States; eight who had been deported or ushered to the border to leave the country voluntarily, only to return; and one who had been caught six times trying to enter the country from Mexico, according to ICE.

The story is beautiful with just this much, but it doesn't end there.

Hispanic advocates condemned the arrests, accusing ICE of targeting only day laborers who appeared to be of Latino descent. CASA of Maryland said it interviewed non-Hispanic day laborers who told the organization the ICE agents ignored them.

"They focused on people who look like me," said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA. "We believe that is unacceptable. It is discrimination."

Unless the AP unfairly favored the ICE in its reporting--doubtful, considering the AP's usual slant to the left--Torres is mischaracterizing the events. The illegals apparently approached the ICE agents. There's no indication that the agents approached these 24 illegals, so for Torres to state that non-Hispanic workers were ignored is beside the point.

For advocates like Torres, race is more important than removing criminals from among the law-abiding populace.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Times, They Are A-Changing

When I got to my car after work today, I spotted something small and shiny in the empty parking space next to mine, and I picked it up. It was a metallic red bead, about 3/8 inch in diameter, with a tiny gold loop coming out from it. It probably fell off someone's bangly bracelet.

Since it wasn't worth keeping I tossed it away, but as it was leaving my hand, I thought, "What if it explodes?" I didn't take the question seriously, but still... For the moment the bead sailed through the air, I held my breath. And then it landed harmlessly. I got in my car and drove home.

It's a different world now than it used to be. A world with questions like this one that come from nowhere and from we-know-where at the same time. A world where people, like me, who are open and like to talk to strangers that don't look scary, are finding more people to be cautious about.

Maybe I'm slow in catching up to the real world, but this is America. We like foreign people. We like listening to their accents and hearing about where they came from and how much they like it here. I like these things.

What I don't like is suddenly wondering about the danger from extremists. I only mention it now, because this is the first time in a few years that I've considered the chance of being blown up. The last time was the first or second Thanksgiving after 9/11, when they warned about plots to bomb malls on the Friday after Thanksgiving. But I didn't worry, because I make it a practice not to shop on days when I'd need full body armor to protect me from the other shoppers.

I'm not looking for answers or explanations or words of comfort. All I'm saying is that I found a bead on the ground today and I wondered if it would explode, and I hate what that says about where events are taking us and what that could mean to our lives.

I've Got A Bad Feeling About This

Photo credit: Reuters/Stringer

I found this photo in the Reuters slideshow of the past 24 hours. The caption reads:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) greets Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Tehran January 23, 2007.

Here's a very brief article about the meeting in yesterday's Ynet News (Israel). Syria's Foreign Minister delivered a letter from Syria's President Bashir Assad.

Whatever it said, when Iran and Syria are happy together, that doesn't bode well for the rest of us.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Castro's Medical System

Joseph Farah's column in today's WorldNetDaily oozes schadenfreude, but that's OK with me, because I feel the same way.

What is the definition of irony?

It may come any day now when Fidel Castro dies – the victim of his highly touted system of socialized medicine in the worker's paradise of Cuba.

Even though Castro imported a doctor from Spain to treat his diverticulitis – an infection in the large intestine that rarely proves fatal in capitalist countries – the Communist dictator is said to be in grave condition following three failed surgeries.

It's not only irony, it's poetic justice.

Socialists in this country have been holding up Cuba as a model for medical care. How many times have you heard this lie? Yet, the real proof is that the best of Cuba's medical establishment couldn't successfully treat Castro for a routine ailment after six months.

Keep in mind, this is happening to the Comandante – not some sugar-cane harvesting peasant. It shows you just how bad socialized medicine gets. It atrophies to the point where it is incapable of healing, even when doctors' lives may depend upon it.

People on the far left, like the Castro-hugging Hollywood crowd, love to push for socialized health care in the US. It's fair, they say. It equalizes the playing field, so the poor have a chance for good medical care, just as the rich do.

But "fair and equal" has a way of becoming mediocre, and then lousy. Socialism rewards laziness.

The only people who believe Cuban medical care is equal to or superior to what we have in the United States are those who teach at universities, attend them or pay to see Michael Moore movies.

Don't let CastroCare (or HillaryCare) come to our country. It'll send us all to an early grave.

Troop Surge Results

Dennis Prager, on his radio show, mentioned Jack Kelley's column today in Real Clear Politics, "Is the Surge Already Producing Results?" Kelley's answer is, yes.

Three interesting things have happened since President Bush announced plans to "surge" U.S. troops.

First, al Qaida appears to be retreating from Baghdad.

He explains the documentation showing this is the case, then continues:

Mr. al Masri's [head of al Qaida in Iraq] evacuation order said that remaining in Baghdad is a no-win situation for al Qaida, because the Fallujah campaign demonstrating the Americans have learned how to prevail in house to house fighting, Mr. Miniter said.

"In more than 10 years of reading al Qaida intercepts, I've never seen (pessimistic) language like this," he quoted his intelligence officer source as saying.

Much conservative commentary has made a point of the similarity of language between the American Left and our enemies in Iraq. This looks like one more case. The Democrats, in response to the President's announcement of a troop surge in Iraq started Chicken Little-ing with, "We can't win over there!" And now al Qaeda is saying the same thing.

Second, the radical cleric Moqtada al Sadr, whose Iranian-subsidized militia, the Mahdi army, is responsible for most of the assaults on Sunni civilians in Iraq, is cooling his rhetoric and lowering his profile.

"Mahdi army militia members have stopped wearing their black uniforms, hidden their weapons and abandoned their checkpoints in an apparent effort to lower their profile in Baghdad in advance of the arrival of U.S. reinforcements," wrote Leila Fadel and Zaineb Obeid of the McClatchy Newspapers Jan. 13.

Third, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is putting more distance between himself and al Sadr, upon whose bloc of votes in parliament he had relied for political support.

All of these are excellent news.

For those on the Left, who have foreseen only calamity as a result of the announced troop surge, take heart. We haven't even surged yet, and we're reaping the positive results.

Send the troops. Take the gloves off. And let them do their jobs.

Harbin Ice Festival

Global Warming hasn't hit Harbin, in northern China, just yet. This year they are continuing their annual tradition of the Harbin Ice Festival.

I got an email from a friend, with a dozen or more photos attached, showing some of the ice and snow sculptures from the festival, though the email didn't say what year those sculptures were on display. Here are just a few:

Photo credits unknown

The dragon picture gives the best look at the way the ice sculptures are done. Ice blocks are made and attached and then carved. It's incredible what they do with solid water.

The park in Harbin where the Festival is held becomes a city of ice, with buildings to walk through and statues to look at, and it's all lit up at night. Each year gets more elaborate than the past. More photos can be found through these links:

R. Todd King's photos of the 2003 show

R. Todd King's photos of the 2005 show

China Daily's slideshow of the 2007 show, including some construction scenes

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Time to Mourn

This is an unborn baby at 24 weeks gestation. In today's America, his life would be at risk if his mother decided a baby was inconvenient for her.

Legally, he's not a "person." I'm not sure what the courts think is sucking his thumb--a puppy, a kitten, a turtle? Certainly not a person.

Well over 40 million babies like this one, and younger, have died since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down on this date in 1973. Four times as many as Hitler killed in the Holocaust. It is beyond a tragedy what our country has done.

This is a day for mourning. And prayer.

Desmond Tutu Doesn't Mind Gay Clergy

IOL (South Africa) reported Friday on recent remarks by retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday urged the African Anglican church to concentrate on the the continent's grim problems rather than on the row over gay clergy, and said persecuting gays was akin to racism.

The debate over the role of homosexuals in the church threatens to split the world's 77-million Anglicans, pitting traditionalists in developing countries against liberals in the west.

African Anglican bishops have threatened to refuse to sit at the same table as Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who heads the US Episcopal Church and supports gay clergy, at a global meeting in Tanzania in February.

Homosexuality is taboo in most African societies, and most of the African church says ordaining gay clergy goes against the Bible.

I'll start by saying I'm not a member of the Anglican/Episcopal church, but my interest in this stems from being a member of the Christian church at large--the body of all believers. Here is what Tutu had to say:

"I am deeply disturbed that in the face of some of the most horrendous problems facing Africa, we concentrate on 'what do I do in bed with whom'," the South African Nobel Laureate Tutu told a news conference in Nairobi.

"For one to penalise someone for their sexual orientation is the same as penalising someone for something they can do nothing about, like ethnicity or race. I cannot imagine persecuting a minority group which is already being persecuted."

"The God I worship would not consider that (gay clergy) to be a priority concern," Tutu said, adding that churches should instead be thinking about poverty, HIV and Aids and conflict resolution.

I don't know what God Tutu worships, but the God of the Bible gives "priority concern" to the leadership of the church. He says (through the Apostle Paul) that church leaders will be held to a higher standard than regular church members. Leaders who are involved in unrepentant sin are to be removed from their leadership positions.

The question is not about orientation, but what the person does with it. If a heterosexual leader has an orientation toward philandering but is able to keep from acting out on that tendency, he is allowed to remain in leadership. But if he gives in to his tendencies, violating God's laws about sexual morality, then he is to be removed from his position.

Obedience is more important to God than all the rest.

For Archbishop Tutu not to understand this and to place more emphasis on fighting poverty is wrong. God will not bless work done in His name when the workers condone sin. Especially when a church places unrepentant sinners in positions of authority.

The other African churches who oppose the ordination and promotion of gay clergy should stand firm to their principles. Then God will bless their work as they fight poverty, HIV/AIDS, and work toward confilct resolution.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Modern Pagans Honor Zeus

The AP reported today about a pagan ceremony in Greece.

A clutch of modern pagans honored Zeus at a 1,800-year-old temple in the heart of Athens on Sunday.

Now, our new puppy, Zeus (replacement for the terror-dog, Hollywood), sure is cute, but I didn't imagine his fame would reach all the way to Athens. He isn't even housebroken yet.

Dressed in ancient costumes, worshippers standing near the temple's imposing Corinthian columns recited hymns calling on the Olympian Zeus, "King of the gods and the mover of things," to bring peace to the world.

We'll see if we can get Zeus to pee on his Wee-Wee Pads first, before we try to get him to bring us world peace.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Quote of the Week

"This is the joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

- George Bernard Shaw

Woman Found After 18 Years in Jungle

Reuters reported yesterday that a Vietnamese woman has been found.

A woman has been returned to her home in Vietnam's Central Highlands 18 years after she went missing as an eight-year old girl tending cows near the Cambodian border, her father told a newspaper on Thursday.

I love the British term, "went missing," as though the eight-year old girl decided to disappear. Canadians say that too. But the little girl didn't go missing. She probably just got lost. By accident and not on purpose.

Policeman Ksor Lu long believed that his daughter had been eaten by a wild animal until last Saturday when he was told that loggers had found "a forestman" at a village in Cambodia's province of Ratanakiri.

Lu arrived and "recognized his daughter from the first sighting" even though her body was blackened and she had long hair down to her legs and could not speak, according to the account in the Vietnam Rural Today newspaper.

It's amazing to think of an eight-year old girl being able to survive alone in a jungle full of wild animals. Where did she stay, and how did she find enough food to keep herself alive that long?

But maybe the time she had spent caring for her family's cattle taught her what plants to eat and how to avoid the dangers of the jungle.

Lu said that at first it was difficult bringing her back to normal life because she resisted showering, wearing clothes or using chopsticks, fending him off and shouting and crying.
Four days later she started cooperating, Lu said.

"It is not easy indeed but life is waiting ahead for her."

This little girl, now 26, has a family to love her and teach her again how to make her way among people. However difficult, life is still good.

Snakes on a Plain

...and in town.

The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) reported yesterday that snakes are making their way into town.

Australia's long drought is forcing snakes out of hiding and into urban areas this summer, with experts warning snakebites are more likely.

The drought has forced snakes to move to urban areas looking for moisture, prompting a caution to people to be careful around creeks, waterways and long grass.

Three Australians have been bitten by a snake in the last week - one fatally.

That's one busy snake.

In America, most of the snakes are not venomous. In Australia, most of them are, so this article is more alarming there than it would be if it were about US snakes.

If you travel to Australia, watch out for the snakes.

"If you see a snake, don't go near it, and if you do unfortunately happen to be bitten by a snake, make sure you get urgent medical attention as soon as possible," [Victorian Health Minister Bronwyn] Pike said.

"In the intervening time, stay calm, apply a pressure bandage and then, hopefully, we won't have any of the tragic consequences we've seen most recently."

Chavez Becoming Dictator

The BBC reported today that Venezuela's National Assembly is approving sweeping changes for President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants "revolutionary laws" to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.

The bill allowing him to enact laws by decree is expected to win final approval easily in the assembly on its second reading on Tuesday.

Venezuela's political opposition has no representation in the National Assembly since it boycotted elections in 2005.

Several points come to mind from this. The first is that Bush-hating, Chavez-supporting leftists like Cindy Sheehan and her handlers probably see this as a good thing. A year ago, Sheehan visited and hugged Chavez, and later she said she'd rather live under his rule than Bush's. Now's her chance! Maybe she'll move there.

There's a real problem with people who aren't bothered by strongmen setting themselves up as Dictator For Life. And there's an even bigger problem with people who welcome the establishment of DFLs. There must be some sort of medication for this.

Chavez's nationalizing of "key sectors of the economy" must warm the cockles of Socialist hearts throughout America, many of whom have taken up residence in the Democratic Party. HillaryCare would have more hope in Venezuela than here. For the moment anyway.

But the biggest point that jumped out was the last one excerpted here. The opposition to a Socialist dictator boycotted the election. They stayed home. They didn't vote. And now there is not one voice in the National Assembly that can be raised in opposition to Chavez's policies.

Conservative purists take note. Too many of you stayed home in November, because Bush and the Republicans just weren't conservative enough. And now we're looking at Congress trying to: bring back the Fairness Doctrine, thwart the troop surge in Iraq, bring the troops home without victory, stop the building of the border fence, raise your taxes, and cause no end of Democrat--nay, Socialist--mischief.

Do not stay home next election! Choose whichever of the candidates on the ballot will move us closer to the ideals you hold or will move us least far away from those ideals. Protesting imperfection or waiting for perfection will see you on the sidelines forever, and it will reward the very people who are most repugnant to you.

Let Venezuela be a lesson learned.

Morning Train

I'm on the train this morning, my first time since I got my new cellular internet thingy working (too many late, late nights working that got me to bed way too late to be able to get up at 4:15am to catch the train). And as I look out over the ocean, there are some big, gray, ugly clouds hanging over the coast.

Did I bring an umbrella? No. Uh-oh.

But under the clouds, I can see Catalina ("Santa Catalina" to oldies radio buffs) and even the faint outline of San Clemente Island--35 miles off the coast--sitting on the edge of the horizon. It's going to be a lovely day, whether I get wet or not.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Surging Troops

The AP reported today that Secretary of Defense Gates is in the Middle East preparing for the troop buildup.

Gates said that commanders in Afghanistan had recommended a troop increase, and he suggested he was inclined to urge Bush to go ahead with it. He mentioned no numbers during the talk with reporters on Wednesday, but a senior official traveling with Gates said it would not be anything close to the 21,500 extra troops Bush is sending to Iraq.

That 21,500 figure was just a number to me until this past Sunday, when one of the Marines in my Bible Study class at church spoke up at prayer-request time. He said his battalion at Camp Pendleton has been tapped for al-Anbar province as part of the President's troop surge. This province is the most violent, terrorist-ridden section of Iraq outside of Baghdad, and our Marines will be heading there at some point in the near future.

It's sobering, and yet I know that nobody is better trained for this work than these men. May God go with them, and may they have the support--real support, not just lip-service, disclaimer support--of the American people when they're there.

But that support isn't likely from the left. For them, everything is about politics. The only time the left uses the words, "winning" and "victory" is when they're talking about elections. The War to Save Civilization from Extremist Muslim Savages? No, no. That can't be won. The best we can hope for is to pull ourselves out of the mess the Bush Administration created. Diplomacy! Negotiations! Bring our troops home!

Jim McCaslin's column in today's Washington Times pointed out a classic case of Flip-Flopping As Politics.

On Dec. 5, Newsweek magazine touted an interview with then-incoming House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes as an "exclusive." And for good reason.

"In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq," the story began, Mr. Reyes "said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a 'stepped up effort to dismantle the militias.' "

"We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq," the Texas Democrat said to the surprise of many, "I would say 20,000 to 30,000."

Then came President Bush's expected announcement last week, virtually matching Mr. Reyes' recommendation and argument word-for-word -- albeit the president proposed only 21,500 troops.

Wouldn't you know, hours after Mr. Bush announced his proposal, Mr. Reyes told the El Paso Times that such a troop buildup was unthinkable.

"We don't have the capability to escalate even to this minimum level," he said.

This kind of chutzpah is headshake-worthy. But not surprising. And not even new. The Democrats in Congress will say whatever they think will bring President Bush down, even if it helps the terrorists bring their violence back to our shores. Even if it causes more harm to the men and women who are out there fighting to keep those hypocritical, flip-flopping blowhards safe.

The New Car is Here

The sellers are the nicest people you'd ever want to buy a car from. They're moving to the Bay Area, though, so you'll have to go there to find them.

I met them at my bank, so I could write them a check for the balance of the sale price, and then they could get their cash with me available to tell the bank that it was fine with me.

The husband arrived first and had all the paperwork ready. In the last couple days, he got the car smogged (the seller's duty in California) and, because it was due in 300 miles, he also got the oil changed. He said it wouldn't be right to sell it to someone and tell them they need an oil change right off the bat.

His wife arrived with the vehicle a few minutes later. She had filled up the tank with gas.

They showed me as many of the unique features as they could think of: how to open the rear door (it's like a secret handshake), how to fold the back seats down for cargo. And then we all parted ways, with me leaving the car behind.

I brought my daughter back after she got home from work, so we could bring the new car home. On the way there, I told her I'd be driving the new one home and she'd drive the Toyota, but she was so excited about the new one, that she took it for a spin around the parking lot first, and then we came home.

All car purchases should be this great!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Global Warming in the News

Photo credit: Webshots

Global Warming has been in the news lately. It almost never stops being in the news. If weather is happening, you can count on seeing either the words, "global warming," or, "climate change," somewhere in the article.

The Scotsman (UK) reported January 7, 2007, on events in ancient Egypt.

GLOBAL warming is one of the greatest threats to present day civilisation but work by a team of Scots scientists suggests the ancient Egyptians may have been earlier victims of climate change.

The pharaohs ruled their empire for hundreds of years, spreading culture, architecture and the arts before it collapsed into economic ruin. Why that happened is one of the great mysteries of history.

Samples taken over the past two years from sediments beneath [Lake] Tana, which supplies the water which makes the lower Nile valley so fertile, reveal the lake may have almost dried up during the critical period around 4,200 years ago due to climate change.

I'm sure it was George Bush's fault for not signing the Kyoto treaty.

A little closer to now, Aftenposten (Norway) reported January 9, 2007, that climate change contributed to the collapse of a building.

Wetter weather and frequent temperature swings put more wear and tear on the bricks and mortar in old buildings, experts say. They suggest that climate change may have contributed to Sunday's collapse of an Oslo apartment house built in the late 1880s.

Have they considered that 120 years of winters and summers, freezing and thawing the bricks, might have taken its toll?

Just look at what happens to pavement over the course of a winter. It's the reason that pothole-filling is the favorite municipality sport in the spring. Add another 120 winters, and what have you got? Not "climate change." You've got structural problems.

It shouldn't, but it gets me the way people take what's local and see it as global and the way they cherry-pick examples to "prove" global warming while ignoring the ones that might disprove it.

This winter was the mildest on the East Coast in decades, causing many to cry, "It's global warming!" As if there's something wrong with lower than normal heating bills. But that was before the ice storms hit Oklahoma and moved east, killing 41 people so far. The CNN report on the ice storms today managed to keep its mouth shut tight and covered with both hands on the subject of global warming and climate change. Blasts of arctic air don't help the propaganda very well.

Likewise, yesterday's AP report on the destruction of most of California's citrus crop doesn't make a peep about global warming.

Three nights of freezing temperatures have destroyed up to three-quarters of California's $1 billion citrus crop, according to an estimate issued Monday as forecasters warned the weather could continue.

Other crops, including avocados and strawberries, also have suffered damage in the cold snap, agricultural officials said.

I sure could have used some genuine global warming, because what's happened to the avocados and strawberries is really going to hit me where it hurts. The end of January is when the strawberry stands open up around here. If they even open, I'm going to have to pay some big bucks.

Alan Caruba's column in Sunday's Intellectual Conservative has this to say about the media's obsession with climate change:

It’s official. America is now totally insane over the weather.

Even the Weather Channel that used to simply provide reasonably accurate, short-term information about the weather is now telling everyone we’re doomed because global warming is going to destroy the Earth. Why not just rename it the AlGore Channel?

To make matters worse, people are being told and actually believing that what they do or not can affect the weather in ways to keep the seas and temperatures from rising. It is no longer the domain of the sun, the oceans, volcanoes and clouds. These puny things are nothing compared to what kind of car you drive or what you use to heat your home.

Are we supposed to return to the days when virgins were thrown into volcanoes or hearts were cut from living bodies in order to appease the gods that “control” the weather? Or are we all going to fall victim to those in Congress and elsewhere who insist we ruin our lives in order to achieve “control” over the weather?

It’s the weather! Get over it!

Read the whole thing. Caruba's is a voice of reason in a sea of insanity.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Five-ish Things

Bonnie over at Intellectuelle tagged Jan at The View From Her, who tagged me. And I'm a sucker for this stuff: "Five-ish Things I'd Like to Know About You."

1) What's the most fun work you've ever done, and why? (two sentences max)

I was a computer programmer for an airline. I loved learning from the inside about the way the airline industry works, and I got to go places for cheap.

2) A. Name one thing you did in the past that you no longer do but wish you did. (one sentence max)

Play in the mud.

B. Name one thing you've always wanted to do but keep putting off. (one sentence max)

The one thing left to do, out of the three things I said I always wanted to do, is rent a canal barge and go all around France or England or Scotland in it, but I'm not sure that's it anymore.

3) A. What two things would you most like to learn or be better at, and why? (two sentences max)

I'd like to learn Polish better, in case I go back to Poland again, so I can show everyone, especially Czarek, that I've improved since last time.

I'd like to be better at taking the kind of risk that opens me up for rejection but that has the kind of reward I long for--like writing for publication.

B. If you could take a class/workshop/apprentice from anyone in the world living or dead, who would it be and what would you hope to learn? (two more sentences, max)

Right at this time, I could use the Clean Sweep team to come and help me learn to part with unnecessary stuff and then stay on top of things. I've got a house sale and an RV trip to get ready for.

4) A. What three words might your best friends or family use to describe you?

Smart, fun, "the Bible goddess" (That last one is from one particular friend. Yes, I know it's heretical (and three words, besides), but I can't make her change it.)

B. List two words you wish described you:

Unemployed (from the job I have now--soon...)

Soprano (not the TV show, but the singer who can hit the high notes and sound good doing it)

5) What are your top three passions? (can be current or past, work, hobbies, or causes-- three sentences max)

Blogging/writing--I can't not do it.

Photography, because it's perfect for someone with an artist's eye but not an artist's hands.

Talking to people, especially people with an accent, because there's nothing like getting to know someone who's different from me and then being able to laugh with them over the things in life that are common to all of us.

Five people to tag: I'd tag Charlie, but Bonnie got to him first. Christina, Malott, Janice, All_I_Can_Stands, WordSmith from Nantucket.

Changing Transportation

I bought a car on my way to work today. Private party. I don't have the car yet, but I've got the seller's signature, and he has my down payment.

Back in November, my daughter was driving to her Bible study group, when a box truck changed lanes, cutting off the car in front of my daughter. That car slammed the brakes, my daughter slammed her brakes, but she didnt' have enough room to stop in time. She thunked the car in front of her, causing no damage to the other car, but buckling the hood of our minivan and pushing parts of the front around just enough to look wrong.

The insurance company totalled the minivan and, with the lethargy of bureaucracy, finally got me an estimate of what they'll pay me for it last week. It's about time, because the hood is latched shut, and I'm not about to unlatch it for an oil change, or I might never get it to stay shut again. So the minivan's been a burned-up engine in the making.

With an estimate of what the insurance company will pay (low, but Craig's List shows that they're within a few hundred dollars of what it would cost to replace it--bummer), I started looking for another car. Craig's List turned up a Honda Passport that looked like it was in good condition and that was at least $1000 under Blue Book, because they need to sell it fast. So I called last night and made an appointment to see the car this morning at 8:00. Then I ran a CarFax report on it, and it came up clean.

CarFax told me that, I'm sure out of the goodness of their hearts, they could send someone to inspect the car for me for a mere penny under $100. I looked at what their inspection consisted of: mostly looking at the engine and checking for leaks, and then driving and listening to the brakes and stuff. Heck, I've heard enough bad noises on cars (exhaust leaks, brakes that shriek or groan or scrape or shudder, whining belts) and seen and smelled enough leaks--especially that cooked-celery-gone-bad smell of coolant leaks--that I figured I could listen and smell and look for drippy spots for free. So that's what I did.

We met at a Lowe's parking lot that had a substantial hill behind it, so I drove it up the hill, and it didn't complain. Then I drove back down the hill and listened and felt the brakes. It drives beautifully. No shrieks. No drips. No bad smells. It's going to be mine, and I'll let my daughter drive it.

The seller will get it smogged and take care of his end of the paperwork, and later this week, I'll bring my daughter and my checkbook, and we'll get the car. And at some point, the insurance company will come and take away the minivan.

I don't usually accomplish things of this magnitude before 9:00am. It feels good.

Friday, January 12, 2007

After Work Coyote

Photo credit: Bob Gress

Wednesday night, I left work at 9:30. As I was driving through the parking lot toward the street, a coyote crossed from the grass by the building, across the road in front of me, to the grass by the parking lot. This picture isn't the same coyote, but he looked a lot like it, only in the dark. And on a lawn. I didn't have my camera.

I know why he was there. Because the bunnies come out at night. The bunnies act as though they feel safe out there, surrounded by work buildings and people walking by only once in a while. But they aren't safe, because this coyote knows they're there.

He was brazen, not seeming to care that my headlights were shining on him. After he finished crossing the road, he stopped and looked at me, as if to say, "What are you looking at?" I didn't answer him. We just looked at each other for a bit, and then he turned and loped off into the darkness.

I saw plenty of coyotes at the house we lived in before the divorce, because there were empty fields and a small canyon near us, so we didn't let the kids go outside by themselves in the morning. But this was the first coyote I've seen at work.

One other time, I saw a red-tailed hawk by the parking garage.

There's something about seeing predators in the flesh, close-up. An air of menace travels with them. They may be animals, but they aren't cute. Prey animals are cute. Predators are impressive.

And I was impressed.

Pelosi's "Culture of Corruption"

Hypocrisy is a beautiful thing when your opponents sling the term around like mud and then jump into the mudpit themselves.

WorldNetDaily reported today that Nancy Pelosi has pulled the "do as I say, not as I do" trick just a week after she took the gavel as Speaker of the House.

A special exemption in the nation's proposed new minimum wage law could benefit a company headquartered in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district, and several Republican members of the U.S. House are objecting.

The minimum wage bill has been promised as one of the top priorities by Democrats, who are in the majority in both the U.S. House and Senate for the first time in years. They acted quickly on it, with an approving vote this week.

But while the proposed change in law adds American territories to the minimum wage requirements for the first time, American Samoa remains exempt. That's where Del Monte's brand name StarKist tuna has a huge plant, employing thousands of workers who would have been affected by inclusion in the minimum wage plan.

[Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)] noted Pelosi's campaign promises of honest government.

"Now we find out that she is exempting hometown companies from minimum wage. This is exactly the hypocrisy and double talk that we have come to expect from the Democrats."

The Washington Times had this to say about the exception:

Although the legislation specifically extends for the first time the federal minimum wage to the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, it exempts American Samoa, another Pacific island territory that would become the only U.S. territory not subject to federal minimum-wage laws.

That's right. Only American Samoa, where 75% of the people are employed by Star Kist, is exempt from minimum wages laws.

Pelosi's got some 'splaining to do. And she's got a fat piece of legislation with a self-serving loophole to plug.

Reshaping the Baptists

The Christian Post reported Tuesday (HT: WorldNetDaily) that former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are teaming up to help reshape the Baptist Church.

An annual North American Baptist Fellowship meeting in Atlanta, Ga., was scheduled to conclude Tuesday morning at the Carter Center with the announcement of a historic 2008 convocation.

The Carter Center is Carter's think tank, where 14 members of the Board of Councilors just resigned in protest over Carter's latest pro-Palestinian propaganda book.

The convocation, part of Carter's new Baptist voice initiative, is expected to draw more than 20,000 Baptist participants from throughout the United States and Canada in an effort to counter the negative and judgmental image of Baptists, according to the Associated Baptist Press.

Any "negative and judgmental image of Baptists" comes from the liberal media spokespeople for the liberal politicians, who don't like conservatives or religious people. The "image" is just that: an image, not the reality.

Carter, member of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., and Clinton, member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., are slated to speak at the convocation. Both identify with more progressive Baptist groups (emphasis added).

No kidding!

My sister and her family are Baptists. I can't imagine her congregation joining any bandwagon that has the anti-semitic, America-bashing Carter and the unrepentant, adulterous Clinton as its spokesmen. But then, maybe I'm just being negative and judgmental...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Michelle Malkin is in Iraq

Photo credit: Michelle Malkin

And she's got pictures.

She's embedded with our troops and has photos of their trip into the poor sections of Baghdad. Keep checking back. She has guest bloggers for the regular news, and she's promised to have video, photos, and stories when she returns home next week.

Updates in the War on Jihadists

President Bush gave a speech last night. I didn't watch it, because I was still working. The text of his speech is here. I didn't read it, because I was still working.

On the radio this morning, they said the President called for 20,000 more troops to go to Iraq to secure Baghdad, but he acknowledged that troops alone won't get that job done. It's going to take Iraq's government to pull its weight. The message to the Shiite militias is to lay down their weapons and join the country as it is and not as they want it to be. If they won't disband, then the Americans and the Iraqis are going to wipe up the ground with dead militiamen.

Except I don't think the President said it quite that way.

I like this plan. The Democrats don't like it, because it's President Bush's idea, so they'll try to thwart it. Because they're patriots who love America.

Reaction to this plan in other parts of the world is mixed. The AP reported today that Britain won't be contributing to a troop surge. Russia says the new plan won't do any good. France (ever the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys"), says we should stick to the political arena to bring stability to Iraq. Sweden and Denmark's reactions are worthy of quoting from the article.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Bush's speech lacked any new political ideas, and in Denmark, a key opposition politician put blame for the Iraq quagmire squarely at the feet of the American president.

"George W. Bush lives in his own world," said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, leader of Denmark's Social Democrats. "We are dealing with a stubborn president who continues with an uncertain strategy for Iraq's future."

Don't you love it? They sit there, smug in their neutrality, and take potshots at just about the only country that's doing anything to keep them safe from the outside threat. We'll leave them to deal with their inside threat the way they want to.

But Asia and the South Pacific reacted in a completely different way.

In Asia, however, key U.S. allies such as South Korea, Australia and Japan all pledged continued support for the U.S. war effort.

"If America retreats in Iraq, then that has enormous consequences for the stability of the Middle East and it will also be an enormous boost to terrorism in our part of the world," Australian Prime Minister John Howard said. Howard, whose country has 1,300 troops in and around Iraq, called Bush's plan "very clear, calm and above all, realistic."

And Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tokyo would continue its humanitarian air support and loans to Baghdad for reconstruction.

"I strongly hope that the U.S. efforts toward the stability in Iraq and reconstruction will proceed effectively and bring good results," Aso said in a statement. "Japan will continue to closely communicate and cooperate with the U.S."

At least there are still some countries who recognize the danger the world faces at the hands of the jihadists. Australia's Prime Minister Howard has been a stand-up guy from the get-go, and he's continuing to be steadfast, even better than President Bush is.

Meanwhile, in Somalia (which none of my readers seem to care about, but I care about it, so I'll keep writing about it anyway), the AP reported today that the Embassy bombers didn't get killed after all. Here's the whole story:

None of the top three suspected terrorists in Somalia were killed in a U.S. airstrike this week, but Somalis with close ties to al-Qaida were slain, a senior U.S. official in the region said Thursday.

A day earlier, a Somali official had said a U.S. intelligence report had referred to the death of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed _ one of the three senior al-Qaida members believed responsible for bombing U.S. embassies in East Africa.

But U.S. and Ethiopian troops in southern Somalia were still pursuing the three, the U.S. official said Thursday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record to the media.

More leaks to the press by anonymous "U.S. officials." Ugh! But still, it's good to know we're on the bad guys' tail. The terrorists are either in hiding or they're on the run. They don't deserve any better than that. In fact, they deserve worse, and when our special forces catch up to them, they'll get what they deserve.

I'm optimistic about it all right now. But I can't say more. Lunch is over, and I'm still working.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

US Attacks in Somalia Continue

They started Monday (Tuesday, Somali Time), and it looks like they'll continue for a while longer. I'm encouraged. We may be getting wussified in Iraq, but in Somalia we've still got some.

The AP reported today that we got the main al Qaeda terrorist we were after.

A senior al-Qaida suspect wanted for bombing American embassies in East Africa was killed in a U.S. airstrike, a Somali official said Wednesday, a report that if confirmed would mean the end of an eight-year hunt for a top target of Washington's war on terrorism.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who allegedly planned the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, was killed in a U.S. airstrike Monday, according to an American intelligence report passed on to the Somali authorities.

This is great news, because our non-response under Clinton to the embassy bombings was part of what encouraged al Qaeda to go after the World Trade Center on 9/11.

But it seems we may not have finished in Somalia yet.

Also Wednesday, Somalia's deputy prime minister said American troops were needed on the ground to root extremists from his troubled country, and he expected the troops soon. It was the first indication that the U.S. military may expand its campaign.

The campaign is aimed at capturing al-Qaida members thought to be fleeing Somalia since the Islamic militia that sheltered them began losing ground to Somali government soldiers backed by Ethiopian troops last month.

The Somali troops and their Ethiopian allies have driven the Islamic movement that had dominated the country for six months out of the capital and toward the Kenyan border.

Somalia's Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Aideed said U.S. special forces are needed on the ground as government forces backed by Ethiopia are unable to capture the last remaining hideouts of suspected extremists.

I certainly hope the mainstream media is paying attention to this invitation for the US special forces to come into Somalia.

But here's the part I really like (emphasis added):

Leaders of Somalia's Islamic movement have vowed from their hideouts to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war, and bin Laden's deputy has called on militants to carry out suicide attacks on Ethiopian troops.

All the vows in the world are useless (or nearly so) when you're cowering in your hideout. Just ask Osama bin Laden, who hasn't had much of a presence in the jihadist world since we sent him scurrying into hiding.

Each time we kick jihadist butt, we discourage more terrorists who might have joined the battle if they had encouraging news instead. Our battlefield is in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Bali, Indonesia, Iran, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands and any other place that the terrorists try to take for themselves.

If we have to do it alone, we must continue until they're dead. If we don't, we'll be the ones who are dead.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


In my post yesterday about getting the cellular internet thingy working, Malott left the following comment:

"You are one gutsy broad to throw caution to the wind, pull up stakes, quit your job, take off on the road.... Wanderlust. Can't relate."

I would have responded in the comment section, but then my reply started getting too long (what a surprise), and I figured it would be better standing on its own.

I have wanderlust, defined at as, "a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about." It runs in the family. But it's not the kind that normally displays itself by completely pulling up stakes. In our family, it's the knowing we have roots that gives us the freedom to wander. We can go, because we know we'll be coming home.

This will be only the second time I've pulled up stakes to travel--the first time was when my then-husband and I did our big four-month bicycle trip in Western Europe. We were renting an apartment at the time, so we moved out, loaded our meager belongings into a storage unit, gave my father-in-law bill-paying privileges (the storage unit and one credit card), and hit the road.

Upon our return, we put down stakes: We bought a house and a reliable car, and then we had kids. I've had stakes ever since.

My wanderlust has changed over time. It's moved down on my list of what motivates me. For the bicycle trip, the wanderlust was on the top. I wanted to go places and see things--especially France--and that's what we did.

But now, the going and seeing aren't what's important.

When my mom first mentioned that she wanted to do something like this, I said no. It felt irresponsible to just quit keeping a roof over my head and go play for a year. But Skye was the one who pointed out that this kind of opportunity doesn't come along very often. Since she was absolutely right, I changed my mind and said yes.

My mom is the number one reason I'll be wandering. I'm taking the opportunity to spend a year with her, and as much time with my sister as we can manage with all our wandering. In second place, it's a tie between (1) having a reason to leave a job that's been wearing me down for the past couple years, and (2) having a reason to visit family and friends who are scattered around the country.

My mom and I have relatives in San Diego, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and--if you count ex-in-laws (who didn't divorce me, only my ex did)--in Vegas, Idaho, upstate New York, and New Jersey (though I don't think that particular sister-in-law is inordinately fond of me, so I'm not sure about NJ).

My mom and I have friends and former co-workers in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Texas. I have blogger buddies in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, and probably some other places that I'm not aware of right now.

And my friend, the cardiac nurse, said her daughter (who was with us a couple years ago on our vacation in Washington DC, when my friend's husband passed away) invited my mom and me to visit her in Florida, and she's even planning on hunting down an inexpensive Caribbean cruise for all of us to go on when we're there next winter. And my friend plans on flying out and joining us for the cruise.

When I think about our trip and the regions of the country we plan to visit in each season, my first thought is, "Who do we know that we want to visit while we're there?"

Wanderlust has fallen to a lonely fourth place.

It may be that, as we get older, the going and seeing become less important because we've gone and seen so much already. Or, it may be that it's less important, because now we know so many more people than we did when we were young. I'm not sure about the why, just that it's not so important anymore.

But since we're going to be there, then of course we'll want to see what there is to see and talk to the people who live and work there. For me now, what's getting me excited about the places we'll be going is the people we're going to meet. What stories will we hear? What characters will cross our path? Those questions are the ones that are the most intriguing to me.

I have the documentary, America's Heart and Soul, on DVD. It shows different people with different passions, and each one of those unique, fascinating people exemplifies the best of what America is. I don't expect to meet any of them (except maybe the welder/sculptor in Elbe, Washington). But I hope to meet other people who, in their own way, show us the best of America.

I don't feel admirable or gutsy. I'm nervous about making such a drastic change as quitting my job and selling my house and being away from my kids for so long, and I'm worried I won't get everything finished in time. Which is why I was so thrilled to get my mobile internet working: Something is ready!

As I look down the road ahead (no pun intended), I see this trip as the year that will mark the change my life will be taking. In the Before Time will be a marriage and divorce, child-raising, and a career in computers. In the After Time will be a likely medical career and whichever of the opportunities I choose from an unknown future full of promise (from the perspective of here and now, anyway). And during The Trip, I'll have a chance to renew a friendship with my mom (and my sister, but not quite as much) that has, of necessity, been by phone most of the last thirty years.

I won't be changing my mind.

Monday, January 08, 2007

US Attacks al Qaeda in Somalia

The targets included the senior al Qaeda leader in East Africa and an al Qaeda operative wanted for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa.

It's about time.

Designer Babies for Sale

WorldNetDaily reported today about a Texas fertility clinic's announcement "that it would match sperm and egg donors to meet criteria for babies demanded by customers."

The proposal has been made by the Abraham Center of Life in Texas, an in-vitro fertilization clinic that said the donors would be screened and confirmed so that the features parents desire are present in a baby.

The specific plan offered by the clinic advertises that the women donors all will have post-high school degrees, and the men who donate must have advanced degrees. But the nature of such medical procedures also requires that multiple eggs be fertilized – to make sure one has the "right" features – and the rest then are destroyed.

"I hope we have the gumption to have laws passed that will prohibit this," Dr. Gene Rudd, the associate executive director for the Christian Medical Association, told WND. "But one we've gone so far, how can you justify not going just a little bit further … down that ethical abyss."

Rudd said the concept of "improving" a population by "controlled breeding" has been exhibited before in history, and Americans perhaps should review the outcomes there before moving forward with the plan again.

Rudd noted that a famous doctor who attended the Nuremberg trials after World War II noted that "all the atrocities in Germany had their roots in a change of attitude within the medical community – that there were lives not worthy to be lived."

There are times when the news gets distressing, even for me. There are times when the attitudes of our society and the direction those attitudes are headed make the future here on earth look bleak. With the devaluing of human life that permeates our world, this is one of those times, and this story is just one small piece of the picture.

To demand the perfection of our children is to tell the imperfect ones that they are worth less. We defeated Hitler and his eugenics during the 1940s, but each generation develops new technologies that give it the capacity to resurrect eugenics with a new spin. Now it's as a means of offering a "service" to couples who are willing to pay. But the meaning is clear: Some people are more equal than others.

To keep my sanity, maybe I'll see if that old episode of Saturday Night Live is out on the internet somewhere. The one with the designer-baby clinic, where the parents were pressured into ordering their baby with wheels instead of feet.

Then again, maybe it's not so funny anymore.

Starting to Get Ready

I was at the mall over the weekend (I don't get out much, so the mall was a big deal), and I spotted a Cingular store. I had seen the commercials for Sprint, where the insurance guy has his Sprint Wireless gizmo that slides into the slot on the side of his laptop, and voilá, he has speedy access to the internet. It looked like exactly what my mom and I could use on our RV trip around the country. So I had asked about it at the Sprint booth in Costco, but they required a 2-year cell phone contract with Sprint in addition to the internet contract, and I've got Cingular cell phones.

No deal. I won't go back to Sprint, because their coverage map was a big fat lie when I had their cell phone a few years ago. They said they had coverage along the I-5 through Camp Pendleton, but when I got a flat, I had to limp into the Rest Area and use a pay phone, because I could never get coverage for the 20 miles of Camp Pendleton which was part of my commute. But my then-work's oncall cell phone with AT&T Wireless always had coverage there, so I switched from Sprint to AT&T (since bought out by Cingular). The Sprint guy at Costco assured me their coverage area is much improved, but how can I trust him?

At the Cingular store in the mall, they had a similar internet-laptop program, and just like Sprint, they require a 2-year contract. We're really only going to need it for the year we're on the road, but I can use it on the train between now and this summer, when we leave. So I signed up.

When I tried using it at home, after I loaded the software and followed all the instructions, it gave me an error. But since my house is in an almost-dead zone for the cell phone (I can get some bars when I'm in the master bedroom almost against the back wall of the house), I figured my problem could be related to the low signal.

I brought my laptop and gizmo on the train with me this morning and got the same error. So I called Cingular's 611, and they sent me to someone else, who sent me to another number, where someone started to help me, until the train went behind a cliff and the call was dropped. Post-cliff, I tried the last number again, and it turned out that the guy who sold me the internet gizmo never activated the service. So the lady activated it, and Google came up, and it was a beautiful thing! And a big part of the beautiful thing was that I spent about forty minutes on the phone with customer service, and I didn't use up any of my workday or my time at home.

I'm telling you, life is good. I'm starting to get that warm, fuzzy feeling about our trip. If I sign up for some online classes, like Medical Terminology, I should be able to log on and do the work. I'll be able to blog. I'll be able to read the news. I'll be able to email my kids.

There's still a whole lot more to do, though, before we're ready to go.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Catching Up

There's been so much going on lately that I haven't had a chance to get to everything that's called my name. So this will be a roundup of some of the things that have been on my mind, if not on my fingertips over the last while.

Global Warming:

This Is London reported December 7, 2006 on a tornado that hit London.

Dave Bonner, of London Fire Brigade, said about 100 homes had been damaged in "freak weather", injuring six people in Kensal Rise.

So far, so good. But...

Dawn Butler, the Labour MP for Brent South, said she believed the tornado was a sign that climate change was having an effect.

She said: "This is a sign that we have to take it seriously and we have to look at how we live our lives. It is quite devastating."

Sorry, but one freak tornado does not mean there's climate change. When I lived in Spokane, there was a tornado that came near town, picked up six cows, and put them down in someone else's field (see chart here of all the Washington State tornados 1880 - 2000). In Los Angeles, I think in the 1970s, a tornado ripped the roof off the L.A. Exposition Center. It doesn't mean anything, except that it gives the environmental fanatics one more opportunity to pontificate.

Meanwhile, The Independent (UK) reported December 21, 2006, that some bears in Spain have stopped hibernating.

In a December in which bumblebees, butterflies and even swallows have been on the wing in Britain, European brown bears have been lumbering through the forests of Spain's Cantabrian mountains, when normally they would already be in their long, annual sleep.

"If the winter is mild, the female bears find it is energetically worthwhile to make the effort to stay awake and hunt for food," said Guillermo Palomero, the [Brown Bear Foundation (La Fundación Oso Pardo - FOP)] president and the co-ordinator of a national plan for bear conservation. This changed behaviour, he said, was probably a result of milder winters. "The high Cantabrian peaks freeze all winter, but our teams of observers have been able to follow the perfect outlines of tracks from a group of bears," he said.

So we've had mild winters in the Cantabrian mountains in Spain. Are bears anywhere else staying awake for the winter? If they are, it could be "global."

The behaviour change suggests that global warming is responsible for this revolution in ursine behaviour, says Juan Carlos García Cordón, a professor of geography at Santander's Cantabria University, and a climatology specialist.

"We cannot prove that non-hibernation is caused by global warming, but everything points in that direction."

Of course it points in that direction--when that's the only direction you look.

Jeff Jacoby's column in the December 26, 2006, Jewish World Review looks at the Global Warming/Global Cooling debate over the years.

Over the years, the alarmists have veered from an obsession with lethal global cooling around the turn of the 20th century to lethal global warming a generation later, back to cooling in the 1970s and now to warming once again. You don't have to be a scientist to realize that all these competing narratives of doom can't be true. Or to wonder whether any of them are.

"The whole aim of practical politics," wrote H.L. Mencken, "is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Mencken was writing in 1920, but some things never change.

He gives some good examples of the different temperatures involved in the alarmist rhetoric.


This Is London reported December 21, 2006, that women's binge-drinking has doubled in the last decade.

In 1993 only nine per cent of women aged 16 to 24 years drank more than 21 units of alcohol a week, says the Health Survey for England trend tables released by the NHS Information Centre.

By 2002 this had jumped to 21 per cent, while other figures show the problem is worsening.

Safe drinking guidelines from the Department of Health recommend women have no more than 14 to 21 units of alcohol a week.

Girlfriend, this is a bad idea. I'd be willing to wager that date rape and surprise pregnancy have doubled at the same time. Plus, there's that nasty cirrhosis of the liver down the road...

USA Today reported December 22, 2006, that obesity and thinness may be related to certain microbes in the digestive system.

Two new studies show that there are different colonies of bacteria in the intestines of the obese than there are in the innards of the slim. The research, published in today's edition of the journal Nature, finds that the microbes in an overweight body are more efficient at extracting calories from food.

The bacteria inside us are a huge and mysterious part of life. "There are trillions of them, they outnumber the human cells in our bodies," Klein says. Meaning, Gordon quips, "you never eat alone."

Indeed. (Australia) reported December 26, 2006, that the parasite in cat doodee--the parasite that makes health professionals tell pregnant women not to clean the litter box--can have behavioral effects on humans.

Until recently [Toxoplasma gondii,] was thought to be an insignificant disease in healthy people, Sydney University of Technology infectious disease researcher Nicky Boulter said, but new research has revealed its mind-altering properties.

"Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women.

"On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls.

"In short, it can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens''.

Men and women both, take heed...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Making New Plans

I've hesitated to write about this, because once I give it some context, I run the risk of sounding a bit like a flake, which I don't think I am, but since self-delusion is a common human condition, I won't make any empirical statements about my flakiness or lack thereof.

When my kids were in high school, and I was seeing the light at the end of the hands-on, intense child-raising tunnel, I started in earnest trying to figure out what I wanted to be when the kids grew up.

I looked into buying a self-supporting Bed & Breakfast--it would probably have to be officially an inn--but decided I didn't have enough of the hospitality gene to be really good at it. And I like to be really good at what I do.

Next I tried tour directing. I got the training and started working some gigs locally on a very part-time basis, but I wasn't getting the kind of experience that would let me jump into the over-the-road tour directing, which was what I hoped to do. And I might have been able to get the right kind of experience if I quit my day job, but that's a big maybe and an enormous pay cut, and meanwhile other things were happening.

I found out that one of the regional airlines was hiring flight attendants. Now, I love going places, but I've never really enjoyed flying itself--I try to relax and breathe deeply and slowly during takeoffs and landings--but the thought of working for an airline again (I was a computer programmer for a now-defunct airline when my daughter was born, and it was the perfect job for me) was irresistible, even if it meant I had to take off and land for a living. I've been stuck in this unfulfilling job for four years now, and I loved the idea of doing something entirely different, especially if it revolved around travel.

But I didn't get the job. That was in April, and they said I could try again this past October.

Over Memorial Day, I visited my mom and my sister in Texas, and my mom suggested that she and I could travel around the country in an RV (my sister is married, and her husband would probably want her to be home sometimes, or she would have been invited too). It took some time, but eventually I came around to the idea. Which meant the flight attendant job would be out of the question, so I didn't reapply.

So now I'm looking at taking a sabbatical from gainful employment for a year while my mom and I see the country (and my sister comes with us for short excursions).

But it still leaves the question of what I would do when we've seen the good ole USA.

My friend the cardiac nurse (and frequent movie companion) has encouraged me several times to get into nursing. She does this every time my commute comes up (over an hour each way--two hours if I take the train), because nurses work at hospitals or clinics, and they have those CLOSE TO HOME!

I like the close to home part of it, but I don't want a job where the expectation is that people will be bleeding or puking or other unappetizing things around me all day. No, nursing is not for me.

But one Sunday, this same friend and I were having lunch at a restaurant near the movie theater, when someone from the crisis pregnancy center where I used to volunteer stopped at our table. It seems she's going through a college program to become an ultrasound technician. I liked that idea for myself, because it can be CLOSE TO HOME, and the patients are usually NOT bleeding. And it pays pretty well. And there's good demand for it. Seeing her there seemed like such a God thing (atheists, please read "wonderful coincidence"), because it hadn't been on my mind, but it's the answer to a lot of the open questions or concerns I had about the future.

So I looked into it online and found the training program accreditation group and found the schools they approve of, and one of them is near here. They offer several medical programs: Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ultrasound), Cardiac Technology (that's what my cardiac nurse friend wants me to do--echocardiologists make good money), and several others that don't ring my chimes quite as much. And my friend said she'd let me stay in her spare room while I'm going to school. But that would make it almost another two years after I've finished touring the country before I'd be able to settle down somewhere.

I'm getting used to the idea, though--both ideas really. I'm getting used to thinking of myself in a medical career, and I'm (more slowly) getting used to the idea of having to wait for three and a half more years before I can decide where I want to live and work.

But the beauty of the medical work is that it's everywhere. What I do now (mainframe computers) has to be done at corporate headquarters, and they're in major metropolitan areas, and I'm not too crazy about major metropolitan areas. My choices in the IT world are between places like Greater Los Angeles, or Dallas, or New York, or Detroit. Ugh! In the medical world, I could live somewhere appealing. And that thought is appealing.

So that's the plan. I'm starting with a four-week class in February, which is an overview of allied (non-doctor or nurse) medical occupations. Hopefully, I'll be able to decide in that class which of the programs to pursue. And I'm going to try to crash the Anatomy & Physiology class (it's full) and get that out of the way, because it's a prerequisite for all the medical programs, and it's not offered online. Then, when my mom and I are on the road, I can take Medical Terminology (another prerequisite) online and be ready to hit the ground running when we get back. If I can't get into A&P this semester, I'll have to be sure to get back in time for next year's summer semester and take it then.

I hope I can be really good at what I decide to do.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

UN Rapes Sudan

Photo credit: Reuters

The Telegraph (UK) reported today on news that isn't new at all.

The UN said today that it would launch an investigation after the Daily Telegraph reported allegations that UN personnel have abused children in southern Sudan.

The abuse allegedly began two years ago when the UN mission in southern Sudan (UNMIS) moved in to help rebuild the region after a 23-year civil war. The UN has up to 10,000 military personnel in the region, of all nationalities and the allegations involve peacekeepers, military police and civilian staff.

The first indications of possible sexual exploitation emerged within months of the UN force’s arrival and The Daily Telegraph has seen a draft of an internal report compiled by the UN children’s agency Unicef in July 2005 referring to the problem.

The UN is just now launching an investigation, when they've known about it for a year and a half? When there have been reports for years of UN "peacekeepers" raping women under their care?

The British regional co-ordinator for UNMIS, James Ellery, has refuted the claims, arguing that there is no substantiating evidence.

"I will refute all claims made on this issue," he said in an interview last May. "We investigated all allegations made and no evidence was forthcoming. None of these claims can be substantiated. This is the most backward country in Africa and there are lots of misunderstandings as to the UN's role. Over 90 per cent of people here are illiterate and rumours therefore spread very quickly."

"No substantiating evidence," according to the article, means that doctors haven't corroborated the allegations. But there are adult witnesses to the UN vehicles picking up and dropping off children and to the UN vehicles being parked in other suspicious locations all night. Perhaps Ellery didn't want to talk to the witnesses.

Mr Ellery insisted that his organisation was following correct codes of conduct.

"We provide regular briefings on the UN code of conduct. Nobody employed by the UN is meant to have sexual contact at all with any local person," he said. He did, however, appear to acknowledge that the organisation might not be able to ensure that all its staff behave according to standards.

"We are applying a standard of morality that is very, very high but we cannot expect that soldiers when they go abroad are going to behave themselves as we think they should.

"There are a wide range of countries being represented in the UN forces and among these there is always going to be a bad apple."

This is beyond one bad apple.

Once again, the UN reveals that it's not just incapable of solving problems around the world, it contributes to the problems. Dismantle the UN. Send its ambassadors packing, and use the money we currently spend funding that den of iniquity on actually helping the people of the world.