Yak Attack

A place to unwind and spend some time yakking.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Reaching for the cat's belly

Gray Kitty, our resident feline, reluctantly shares her home with us. Lew and I were lounging on our bed, petting Gray Kitty and chatting about nothing much. He petted the cat, and she purred. I would pet the cat, and she eyeballed me. Then she slightly turned her head toward the juiciest, pinkest part of my hand. So, I switched up the section I was petting, hoping to bring some tactile happiness to our picky cat.

“Just don’t pet her belly,” Lew warned. Yeah, right. I reached out tentatively and stroked her gray, furry abdomen.

SCRATCH—she reached out decisively and scratched the shit out of my hand.

How often do we do this? We poke and prod someone, knowing we’ll get a rise out of her. I’m not talking about monkey wrenching here; I’m referring to taking a psychological poke at those closest to us because of personal levels of frustration. When stress reaches epidemic proportions in our lives, the urge to take a poke at those closest to us seduces like the sirens’ song. Who can resist? Yet, when we start reaching for the cat’s stomach is the exact moment we need our allies at our side, purring, not with claws extended.

Lew and I are connected by the belly button. Sometimes, though, a kink develops in the spousal umbilical cord and it throws our neat, little arrangement into a flux. That’s when we resort to stroking the cat’s belly. We know, intellectually, our strategy doesn’t succeed in doing anything but pissing the other person off, and that the resulting cycle of stroke, scratch and fend is difficult to reverse.

Why do we do this? Why do we pick fights, hold grudges and generally make life miserable for those we love, and need, the most? Why is it when we’re angry, tired, scared or frustrated we start petting the cat’s tummy, even though our beef isn’t with the cat? I’m not quite sure; it probably has something to do with comfort level and ease.

In this current, ugly setting of major uncertainly, it’s pretty tempting to reach for the cat’s belly. Economic instability, genocide, soldiers taking entertainment photos of war dead, liberty slipping away like eroding sand, fear of tomorrow—it all makes petting some feline stomach look all the more attractive, because it’s up close and personal in an unfeeling, hostile, sterile world.

It’s kind of difficult to rage against the machine alone, however. There’s no one to hold you up when you’re too whupped to carry on. So abstain from belly stroking before being alone is the only option anyone affords you. I, personally, have to strain against the ensconced temptation to take a poke at Lew; it’s an enticement that grows exponentially with chaos. We don’t function well without each other. That cord needs to remain open; with a smooth line of connection, we can then deal with all the outer world crappola with some sort of diligence and effectiveness.

My hand is healing up, but there may be a scar. I hope there is this time; a visible reminder that scratching the cat’s belly only perpetuates hurt and misery. I need something tangible, up close and personal, to plug my ears from the treachery of the sirens. The emotional rush is a lie, a song leading our ship to splinter on the rocks of deception.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Serenity Junkies, relief is near

This Friday, September 30th, is a day many people have waited (patiently?) to come to fruition. Fireflies plan to head to theatres on this day to catch Serenity, the first (of many, we hope) Firefly feature length movie.

Here's a peek at what all the fireflies are groovin' for:

Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.

The Serenity website features cool Firely artwork, cast bios, movie photos, among other goodies. Head on over there and check it out.

Friday, September 23, 2005

1 shot, 2 shots, 3 shots, 4

My shot glasses have been getting a work out. No, I haven’t been honing my Quarters skills. I’ve been making Americanos. For those not hooked up with Latte Land Lingo, an Americano is espresso and hot water; think of it as one hell of a cup of coffee.

Our coffee maker went on to more pleasant, heavenly digs; the heating element is toast. We can use it, if we boil water first, and then pour the boiling water into the coffee maker. What a bitch. Instead of doing that, I’ve been using my stovetop espresso pot. Lew and I picked it up a couple of years ago, and it brews a mean espresso. To make a cup of joe, I pour two shots of already brewed espresso into my mug, fill to the top with water and then nuke it for a minute. Voila’, I have yummy, rich coffee.

I know-- “Just get off your lazy hiney and go buy a coffee maker.” The thought has occurred to me. Lew and I have looked at some, too, but a) we are notorious for not making up our minds and b) dang, but they’re expensive. I have better things to do than plunk $50 on any appliance that only does one thing. Okay, it does brew the nectar of the Seattleites, but still. The other factor that’s made me inclined to stick with my little espresso maker is I view it kind of like practice. Can I live on a daily basis without my coffee maker? As a matter of fact, yes I can.

It is kind of a sissy test, I admit. I am using my electric (although on it’s last blade) grinder, electric range and microwave to make the coffee. The thing is, I could use a hand grinder along with a propane stove, bbq or open fire to do the same thing. By letting go of every day “necessities” like coffee makers, electric can openers and juicers, it’s preparation for emergency living or taking the step to live off the grid.

I’m in the market for a hand grinder. At the TCF Self Sufficiency/Gulching forum, I posted my coffee troubles. Thunder turned me on to Zassenhaus hand grinders. Yeah, they are expensive, but they’re a steady workhorse and are not prone to breakage. I’ve been watching Ebay, too, but haven’t won one yet.

As you work on your own emergency preparedness skills, consider paring down your electric appliances. Or at least see what you can live without, like the electric can opener. They’re nasty anyway, because you can’t clean them well. I hand wash my manual can opener all the time. You’ll need a manual open in a SHTF scenario anyway; this is a good electric appliance to ashcan.

Even sissy tests like my coffee social experiment are baby steps toward emergency preparedness. Take one small step toward being ready for self-sufficiency and try a sissy test of your own.

Stay free--Stay out of the Superdome

Over at Enjoy Every Sandwich Kirsten is posting emergency preparedness entries. In her latest entry, Risk and Emergency Preparedness Part 2, Kirsten shares her own personal risk assessment, and some wonderful links, to help you along in starting your own assessment. Taking some time to now to evaluate what your greatest emergency risks are will help you concentrate your time and money on what is most essential for your survival in an emergency situation. If you’ve already begun emergency preparations for you and your family, risk evaluation will help you focus and propel you forward in your plans, so you can be as prepared as possible.

In my opinion, one of the essential parts of risk assessment is to come to terms with the fact that as mortal people, we can’t be prepared for every possible emergency. We aren’t omniscient beings, and as such we can’t see into the future. So, with that being said, each of us who want to be free has a responsibility to prepare ourselves to be self-sufficient in an emergency. You have to start somewhere; it won’t be perfect—accept that and let go of procrastination. You’ll never have enough time, money, space or ability to do it all. Get over it and get moving; it’s okay to not be perfect.

Where I live in Western Washington, the greatest emergency scenarios we will likely face are large earthquakes. In the September 18th edition of the Sunday Seattle Times/PI, they continued their coverage of local disaster preparedness. The latest installment lays out why we can’t rely on any government to secure our safety. In the article, Is Seattle Really Ready?, it is revealed that even though earthquakes represent the largest hazard our region faces, the Department of Homeland Security has gifted Seattle, in the past five years, with seven times more of our money for terrorism preparations than it has for seismic retrofitting since 1990. According to the handy-dandy chart accompanying the real-time article, the hard numbers are $5,716,456 for seismic retrofitting over 15 years, versus $40,949,684 for terrorism preparations over five years.

Because of the so-called generosity of the feds, Seattle boasts a waterfront warning siren that detects radiological dust, but the preparedness strategy of placing four trailers full of cots, radios and water for thousands of residents in locations around the city hasn’t been executed. And even when the trailers are placed at the slotted city maintenance yards and depots, the six community centers designated as gathering spots in an emergency are not in the immediate area where the supply trailers will be housed. In addition, these six centers are supposed to be equipped with diesel generators, but according to the article, only two have them at this time. The others are supposed to receive generators “in coming weeks.” What does that mean? Well, to me that means they’ll get them, maybe.

Since earthquakes are assessed as the greatest threat Seattle faces, this arrangement of supplies does not make sense at all. After a disastrous earthquake, streets will be snarled at best, impassable at worst. Those who make it to the community centers will be shit out of luck, because the likelihood the trailers, if they ever get filled and settled in the first place, will not be able to be transported to the centers when they’re needed. In addition, since space is the issue used to excuse this ding-dong plan in the first place, where in the hell will these trailers go in an emergency, when the centers are flooded with hundreds, if not thousands, of people?

To stay within the parameters of the fedgov grant monies and yet have tools in place that are versatile, cities like Seattle have to get creative with their expenditures. Seattle’s Public Utilities used Homeland Security money to develop a system to deliver 612,000 gallons of drinking water daily to citizens in the event that water is contaminated or disrupted. That plan is indeed versatile. It’s a step toward being self-sufficient, as a city, but considering that it’s standard to plan for a gallon a day per person, in an emergency, 612,000 gallons isn’t going to go far. According to MSN Encarta, Seattle’s estimated population was 569,101 in 2003. If the Public Utilties’ plan includes any of the Seattle Metropolitan area, the estimated population swells to 3,142,000. In other words, don’t plan on water coming out of your tap in a catastrophic emergency. Start putting away water, planning for a gallon, per person per day.

As we’ve witnessed in the response to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA has issues. Paternal figure, the Department of Homeland Security, appears to be bitch-slapping FEMA out of service by limiting its role to response and recovery. Preparedness issues will handled by a newly created department, according to a statement made by Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, back in July. Also, if you take a look at the current protocol cities are supposed to follow in the wake of an emergency (chart presented, for your reading pleasure, in the Seattle Times article), it’s a game of Pass the Hot Potato. I counted ten steps from the disaster stage to emergency-response teams actually entering the picture in a major, bad situation. For our sakes, we need to pull ourselves out of this equation, because personal survival plans will need to be implemented immediately after a disaster. We have seen, in recent weeks, how sitting back and waiting for evacuation help is hazardous to your health and well-being.

Take time now to assess your own emergency risks. Read up on emergency prep planning. Besides the Seattle Time special report (which is an excellent starting tool), Kirsten’s outstanding links can help propel you forward in taking charge of your own personal freedom. The goal is to keep out of the fedgov Superdome. Do something today to ensure the realization of this goal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

In the Marmalade Forest, in between the makebelieve trees...

Deadhead Girl and I both enjoy listening to KMTT 103.7 aka The Mountain. DJ Marty Riemer's feature, 5:20 Funny, is an act we try to catch on a daily basis. So, when she telephoned and said “Flight of the Conchords is on demand,” not only did I understand what she was talking about, but I made a point to get my ass over to her place and watch this show.

What, pray tell, is a Flight of the Conchords? The blurb on the home page of fan website, What the Folk!, explains the answer best. Flight of the Conchords (FotC) is, “A musical comedy act who, in their own words, are New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based, digi-bongo, acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.” Hmmm, does that peak your interest in any way?

For almost a year, Riemer has regularly featured FotC’s song Business Time during his show. It started out as an occasional repeat performance on the 5:20 Funny, because listeners loved the song. The response was stellar enough, however, that Riemer now plays Business Time every Wednesday, directly following the 5:20 Funny. When you listen to the song, you’ll get the Wednesday connection immediately. I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.

Let me tell you, the on demand show is worth catching, if you have access to the appropriate technology. It was very cool to connect a visual with the singers. FotC members, Jemaine Clement (a sexier, hunkier, taller Rick Moranis-type fella) and Bret McKenzie (visualize Billy Boyd as Pippin, but with dark hair), sit on a sparse stage, exchange dry, deadpan conversation and sing. There’s no gimmickry, just them, the tall chairs and acoustic guitars.

The show's play list includes Business Time, along with Jenny, Think about it, Think Think about it, Albi the Racist Dragon, Hiphopapotomus-vs-Rhymenocerous and She’s So Hot…Boom. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole show, and Deadhead Girl was quite close to gushing Mike’s Hard Lemonade (Berry Flavored) from her nose in an untimely laugh/snort approximately half way through the program.

Riemer has his own page on The Mountain’s website. Every evening, he places the featured 5:20 Funny comedian on his page for 24 hours. If you act quickly, you can listen to a FotC song. They were featured last night.

Monday, September 19, 2005

So,tell me--what rocks your world?

… at times we all tend to forget that there are things in this world that we still can enjoy.

On September 14th, Shevek took the time to post at TCF his observations from a day of work in the woods. It is the loveliest essay, titled The Smell of Autumn. In his usual, eloquent fashion, Shevek described the sights, sounds and smells of his local forest, as he took care of putting away firewood for the winter.

Like Shevek stated, I tend to forget to look for the upbeat side of daily living. Compressed between the vice grips of national degradation and personal frustration, my mindset automatically drifts toward woe. The few moments I spent walking among Shevek’s trees, watching Mr. Chipmunk chatter at him, feeling the crispness of the afternoon breeze against my cheek and smelling the loamy odor of the forest soil reminded me that I do not have to go through life on autopilot; I can readjust my attitude and take the time to remember the things in life that make it worth living.

The rest of the week, I spent time every day trying to fine-tune my countenance. I discovered something pretty amazing. My family, often the source of my largest personal frustrations, also gives me the greatest joy. These individuals help my world to be a place that is enjoyable.

My daughter, Rosie, got a coupon for a free ice cream cone at the Marnier’s game she attended on September 9th. For a week she’d intone, “Mom, can we go to Dairy Queen to get my ice cream?” Our trips around town were totally rush-mode, so I’d tell her no, or even worse “we’ll see” (which we all know means “no”). On Friday, I thought about her coupon and how patient she’d been, waiting for me to make time to take her for a cone. We went to DQ that afternoon. She had change in her pocket and wanted to buy me an ice cream. I told her to save her money, that I was fine, but Rosie persisted. “I want to do this for you, Mom,” she said. That was probably the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten.

I had the opportunity to speak with one of Tee’s football coaches last week. Mr. E. took the time to tell me what a good boy Tee is, stressing his friendly, polite personality and hard work on the field. I divulged to Mr. E. how much fun Tee has playing football; he said it showed. “He hits hard, and he likes it,” Mr. E. said. I also noticed that Tee told me thank you for picking his buddies and him up at the football field every day. How cool is that?

In a few weeks, my stepson, Zander, will be attending his first homecoming dance. He’s pretty jazzed about it. Since he’s been so conscientious about holding down a job and managing his finances, we’re going to kick in some money to help offset the dance expenses. The day after my husband, Lew, told him that we’d help him out, Zander came home from work excited that he’d been able to pick up some extra hours. He wants to insure he can take care of his part of the date expenditures and his bills. My heart swelled with pride—he’s getting it!

My better half, Lew, took me to a party Saturday night. He is much prettier than I am, so I decided to change it up a bit and wear a dress to the party. This way, I might be almost as pretty as he is. When I walked into the kitchen, on our way out, Rosie, Tee and Zander started laughing. Tee and Zander thought my dress looked funny; Rosie said she thought the dress was okay, even though she’d NEVER wear something like that. Her vote was to ditch the pale, blue cardigan I paired up with my brown and blue paisley dress. Lew looked so handsome in his charcoal dress shirt and black jeans; after the kids’ reactions, I wanted to change immediately. I was convinced I’d never measure up. He reminded me that kids can be little buttheads sometimes, and really, it didn’t matter what they thought. His assurance left me feeling extraordinarily sexy…

None of these little vignettes are earth shattering, but they generated lots of tremendous happiness. If I hadn’t been consciously looking for them, the moments could have dissolved into my usual funk, induced by the negative impulses that assault us all. I offer my thanks to Shevek, because if he hadn’t taken the time to share The Smells of Autumn, those precious memories probably would have slipped by, unnoticed. My modest chunk of the planet is better off because I noticed some positive, cool stuff.

What things shake up your piece of the globe ? Is it the smell of peppermint tea? Maybe it is the feeling of puppy fur under your fingertips. How about the meadow behind your house, lit up with the colors of the rainbow when the flowers pop up in the spring? Does that make you grin? Would you please take a moment to think about my question, and if you feel like sharing, take time to post your cool phenomenon in the comments section?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Planning for the future now

Since the nation gawked awkwardly at the fustercluck down in the Gulf states, disaster preparedness has moved from understudy to a supporting role. People who are already tuned into the importance of being prepared (that isn’t just the Boy Scouts’ motto) are fine-tuning their emergency plans and retooling their Bug-Out Bags. Folks who don’t even own a flashlight are starting to question their ways.

The forums at The Claire Files (TCF) have been hopping with preparedness talk. Albeit, that’s normal operations there; let’s just say the chatter has raised a decibel. Erin brought up a poignant line of reasoning in the Hard Hearted thread. With the TPTB worrying more about sensitivity training and how many life preservers are on rescue boats, than the actual rescue process, will they be any better at handling the cash they’re soliciting? With the amount of confusion and turnover running rampant in Gulf-related rescue operations, my opinion coincides with Erin’s—that’s a negative, Chief.

Erin’s view on the whole giving situation is to take the money you’d normally donate to a charity to benefit victims of Katrina and use it to buy personal emergency preparedness supplies. Keep yourself out of the refugee shelter, should disaster strike in your turf. This way, the money is put to good use, rather than being flushed into “administrative costs” or in some ridiculous, gov-fest holding pattern while responders receive anger management.

The 9-11-05 Sunday edition of the Seattle Times/PI sported a front-page special report about disaster plans. The accompanying article, Could you survive a disaster here? thoughtfully examines personal responsibility pertaining to emergency preparedness. Coincidentally, the Washington Insurance Council is quoted as advocating a donation strategy similar to Erin’s. They promote making a matching donation to your own personal emergency supply cache when you donate to hurricane relief.

Mike Eagan, spokesman for the King and Kitsap County American Red Cross (thankfully!) spoke candidly about how people need to take responsibility for ensuring their own safety in an emergency. He stated, “ ‘(People) can’t rely on the government to extricate them from their homes,’ unless it’s a life-threatening situation.” Whoa Nelly! Someone advocating self-reliance and preparations was quoted in a mainstream media news story. The article gets even better, because more than one person stressed the importance of getting your shit together before disaster strikes. Eric Holdeman, director of the King County Office of Emergency Management, and Barb Graff, director of emergency management for the city of Seattle, put their two cents in as well.

It was refreshing to read an article that rejects the notion that the fedgov is going to cradle you in its arms and sing you to sleep. The article does contain some of the requisite administrative stroking, but it really was kept to a minimum. The message, “Pull your head out and get crackin’” has a strong delivery.

In addition to the article, the special report includes two informative sidebars (The 6 must-do’s and local preparation workshops), a reproducible Get Prepared tip sheet and an emergency/family communications plan wallet card. The Get Prepared tip sheet includes before, during and after the emergency sections and a supply list. Being technologically challenged, the directions and illustrations explaining how to turn the gas, water and electricity sources off thrilled me. With the amount of time I spend holed up at home, solo, chances are when some caca crashes into the rotary blades, I’ll be alone and have to deal with these details myself. I’m going to print and laminate the directions and post them at shut off locations around my house.

Whether you are prepared for a forty day flood or are stuck trying to remember if you own any matches, please take a moment to read the Seattle Times special report. There’s cool stuff in it for everyone.

Prep freaks tend to be curmudgeony folk; take heed of the advice to get to know some of your neighbors (The 6 must-do’s), even if it’s only to form an opinion of whom to avoid in an emergency.

La-La land residents—climb off that cloud and READ this report in its entirety. The gov beast isn’t going to save you when your city succumbs to bad juju; more than likely the beast will try and eat you. Prepare for that day. You fixate on the wrong question; it isn’t “if,” but “when.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sing about drinking, cheating, killing and going to hell?

You Might be a Redneck

Last night my best friend, Deadhead Girl, brought my son a gift. She gave him a CD—A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC by Hayseed Dixie.

Let me explain why she would bring him such a thing. My son, Tee, is a die-hard AC/DC fan. When he was a small boy, Tee would sit in the backseat of my car in his little car seat and sing T.N.T. Nothing is cuter than a four-year-old singing at the top of his lung capacity, “’Cause I’m T.N.T. I’m dynamite…. T.N.T watch me exploddddddddddddde…” As he grew up into the fine, young teen that he is today, Tee expanded his AC/DC repertoire to include Back in Black, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Highway to Hell.

Listening to this CD puts a big, yummy smile on my face, complimenting the fact that Tee got a huge kick out of it. It includes all of your favorite AC/DC hits, performed bluegrass style. I give it a big thumb’s up, but then I do love a good bit of fiddle and banjo playing.

How did the guys who comprise Hayseed Dixie decide upon paying tribute to those bad boy Aussie rockers? According to their bio page,Genesis, it all began in Deer Lick Holler (located in Appalachia), when an unfortunate soul smacked his vehicle into a healthy sized oak tree located on the Devil’s Elbow Curve. The man didn’t make it, and as an accolade to him, the good ole’ boys of Hayseed Dixie learned to play the music on the vinyl found under the back seat of the wrecked car. You guessed it—the records were all by AC/DC.

So, why did they go on and record their own album? Lead singer and fiddle player, Barley Scotch, sums it up nicely, “I mean, verily, verily I say to ya'll, there's 4 key elements in any good mountain song - drinking, cheating, killing and going to hell. That's what we've been singing about our whole lives. And that's just what them AC/DC songs was about too.”

Scotch and the rest of the band are busy individuals. They’ve gone on to record 4 more albums, the latest slated to be released in the US in 2006. Current tour dates are scheduled in both the UK and Europe; in October the guys will be shaking some ‘grass in New Zealand and Australia. I should also mention that Mr. Scotch’s family business might be of interest to gulchers. “Me and my whole family, we're in the alternate fuel and beverage business, you know.”

Taking Charge of Your Career

Creativity can be both a joy and a curse. As a writer, when I’m in my groove, my feet lightly knick blades of grass and the tops of flowers as I float along. When I’m derailed, sheet marks, deeply pressed into my face, are my only fashion statement. From the chitchat I’ve engaged in with other writer types, I fit pretty snuggly into the norm.

What’s one of the largest banes that drop creative types to their knees? Come on; say it with feeling—the almighty dollar, i.e. how to spawn some bills in your wallet. It is possible to make a living doing the creative gig that rolls your turtleneck, but damn it is hard.

A recommendation was passed on to me. “Read Michelle Goodman’s article in BUST.” Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it. Well, this week I did get to it, and the recommendation was a worthy one. In the April/May 2005 issue of BUST, Goodman's Wageslave a day-job survival guide for arty girls gives constructive advice on how to place some coinage into your piggybank without sucking the juice out of your soul. The main thrust of the article is to restructure your life, and your attitude, so that the arty girl you are can take advantage of the day job that puts some hummus on the table by using it to forward your creative pulse.

Some of the advice is simple and “duh,” like snagging a job that doesn’t require brain-drain in your off time and breaking goals into manageable, bite-sized pieces. The counsel I found most constructive gave multiple scenarios to accommodate diverse pocketbooks and involved doable action, like networking with other creative types in your area, setting up an office or studio and turning the friggin’ TV off. For those in the marketplace, the sidebar midday creativity snack outlines ways to insert artistic pursuits into the doldrums of your day engagement.

For those folks, creative or otherwise, who are looking for a way off the wageslave merry-go-round, author Claire Wolfe’s latest book jumped into the marketplace this week. It is titled How To Kill The Job Culture Before It Kills You Living a Life of Autonomy in a Wage-Slave Society. Wolfe addresses both escape routes and what needs to happen to prod wholesome change in the corporate realm. Knowing the stellar quality of Wolfe’s work, I’m planning on laying some greenbacks down for this book.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Road Trip

With looters evacuated, floodwaters receding, Mike Brown shipped back to Washington (note: as I started to pen this blog entry, Brown resigned from FEMA) and fewer dead bodies than expected, Bush returned today to NO and actually toured the city. It seemed more like a trip through Universal Studios than an assessment of a damaged city, with the neat, camouflaged vehicle with an open deck on the top and multiple tour guides, but at least he toodled around the city.

Bush arrived in the LA area yesterday, taking time to meet with New York firefighters who were first responders. Is it just me, or were those first responders posing for Bush photo-ops too squeaky clean? I imagine that the first responder base camp has a bit more of the amenities that make life more enjoyable, like ways to wash up, but still. They looked so damn clean. So did the few evacuees that Bush posed with today.

He even stayed in the city, parking right next to the Riverfront Convention Center. Alright, he was bunked aboard the Iwo Jima, which is an amphibious assault ship, but it’s the thought that counts.

My favorite Bushism from the tour today:
"I can assure people ... that this recovery is going to be comprehensive. The rescue efforts were comprehensive, and the recovery will be comprehensive."

Mr. Bush, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. (Thanks Inigo Montoya for the inspiration.)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Hound Dog Update

It’s cumbersome to keep referring to “my dog.” She has a name—Virginia—that our family picked out before we knew of her hound dog heritage.

Okay, now that’s established—Virginia is fairing quite well. In fact, she’s rubbing her oily fur on my carpet as I type. She cooperated with the whole first aid deal, waiting until dark to rip off and/or eat the bandage. I hope the antibiotic cream had absorbed into her skin before said ripping/eating occurred.

I checked out her leg, and it looked like she had a scab that she recently removed, so I prepared another bandage and slapped it on. No redness around the scab area, though.

Due Process Dealt a Mortal Blow

Today is a black-ribbon day on the freedom timeline. Three blind mice, which formed a panel of 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reversed an earlier ruling, ensuring that Jose Padilla could be held indefinitely without any charges leveled against him. Three years have passed since Padilla first was incarcerated.

Judge J. Michael Luttig, one of the panelists, penned the following statement:

"The exceedingly important question before us is whether the President of the United States possesses the authority to detain militarily a citizen of this country who is closely associated with al-Qaida, an entity with which the United States is at war." Huh? If Padilla were truly associated with this “entity” our country is “at war” with, wouldn’t there be some solid charges to file? This statement reads like a Minitrue memo.

PSST…. Supposedly, Luttig’s name is being bantered around the halls of DC as a possible Supreme Court nominee.

Now for something less odious…

My gray roots stood up and waved to me this morning as I dried my hair. Not just a few, mind you, but the whole rank and file saluted as I brushed and preened. WTF—I colored less than six weeks ago.

While I’m not a fan of the dying process, I love having colored hair. It beats the alternative—you know, Boy Scouts offering to escort me across the street; being automatically gifted the senior discount at the movie theatre, that sort of thing.

I’m a sucker for hair color with pretty packaging and a luscious name. Clairol’s Hydrience ™ garnered my loyalty for several years. The water inspired names and the well-hydrated models on the box hooked me. It’s way more fun to slop “Sable Cove” or “Russet Glow” on your tresses that plain, old “Ash Brown #382.” Wouldn’t you agree?

My loyalty began to wane. I’d glance at other boxes in the hair care section, before reaching for my stand-by. My fingers were getting a bit pruney. When Garnier Nutrisse ™ offered a sale price AND an instant dollar off coupon, I threw loyalty out the window.

Ohhh, their offerings were decadent. I directed my attention toward a box of “Chocolate Caramel”. Besides a model with frisky, youthful hair, the name surrounds a trufflely oval. Mmmmm, truffles. How could I resist?

Well, two of the traits promoted on the box held true. The color does provide 100% gray coverage, even those wild, wiry hairs that spring up from the crown of my head. Also, the avocado conditioner did nourish my hair, leaving it both shiny and voluminous. While “Chocolate Caramel” provided rich color, even making my grays look highlighted, I have issues with the long-lastingness of the dye. I guess a girl can’t expect miracles, can she?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Taking care of business (or the art of almost puking)

Today, I saw a raised black spot on my hound doggie’s inner leg. It was shaped like a watermelon seed and blackish. The raised, lumpy look of the dot caught my eye in the first place and upon initial inspection, it felt kind of hard and appeared firmly attached to her leg. My first thought: my pooch picked up a tick. Major EEWWW. I’ve never had the luxury of seeing a tick attached to anything, so after a vigorous hand-washing, I hopped online to get some information.

Not finding any photos of actual ticks attached to any being, I did find an abundance of information about what to look for when you suspect that watermelon seed attached to your dog might actually be a blood-sucking arachnid. 1) Resembles a watermelon seed—check. 2) Engorged—check. 3. Attached close to the skin—check. 4) Brownish or black in color—check. By this point, my skin was crawling. I hauled my oversized flashlight out from under the kitchen sink, donned some latex gloves and began examining the site further. I saw something right under the skin, attaching the seed to my dog. This fit with the information I read.

The concurring online opinions outlined taking a pair of tweezers and gently pulling the tick free. What if I was wrong? My dog is prone to skin tags, so concern about being wrong and pulling at a damaged skin tag flip-flopped in my belly, churning up sea foam. If I didn’t do anything, I might endanger her health further. This foreign object was fresh on the canine-parent radar screen; really, the quicker I dealt with it, the less likely my baby dog would contract any illnesses.

After a failed attempt at reaching my husband by phone ( he’s seen attached ticks before—closest thing to a resident expert I had at hand), I decided to act. I swabbed around the seedling with some rubbing alcohol, as the multiple online experts advised, being careful to not cover the black thingie. After swabbing, I let my hound doggie rest on the back porch while I gathered my supplies. Since she’s a wussie disguised as a 115-pound canine, it’s best to do any first aid in stages, or you’ll find yourself on the losing end of a greased hog wrestling match.

Tweezers, rubbing alcohol in a glass jar, latex gloves and flashlight in tow, I approached my de-ticking subject. To my horror, her leg was now covered with blood and missing the watermelon seed. I’ve dealt with wounds before—four kids insure that a mother will get the chance encounter with road rash, cuts and scraped knees. Never have I felt so alone and helpless as I did facing my dog’s leg covered in blood. I vacillated between wanting to puke and faint. Think—what do I do to make it better?

Stop the bleeding—I needed to stop the bleeding. I grabbed an old kitchen towel and tied a tourniquet around her leg. Okay, it was more like a loose bandage wrapped around an earthworm, because she wouldn’t stop wiggling, but it did the job.

Woozy, I phoned my husband again. I told him what I did, and he said to take it off and gently shave the area around the wound, so I could clean it up and apply a bandage with Neosporin on it. Duh—I know that, but couldn’t think clearly.

As I look at my slightly hairier pants, after trying to wrestle with my dog, disposable razor in hand, I’m feeling quite blue that I balked in this small emergency situation. Yeah, she’s fine now, all cleaned up and lounging on the back porch like all happy hound dogs like to do. The miniature crisis is over. I dealt with it, but I receive a failing grade for being unable to deal with it alone.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

7 kids found together on Causeway Blvd-leader is 6 yrs. old

After reading the news story about the seven children evacuated together from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, I have more hope for the future generation.

Young Deamonte, found on Causeway Boulevard in the Jefferson Parrish portion of New Orleans, leading a small band of young children, had more sense that the adults around him. He kept his little band gathered together and moving, presumably away from the chaos and in search of their parents.

These children were discovered holding hands to keep the youngest toddlers with them and Deamonte carried his five month old brother. It is amazing that he didn’t melt under the pressure of caring for six other individuals, or from his own fear. He had work to do, and even at the tender age of six, he met his challenge head on.

I don’t know what the helicopter crew who evacuated these children thought when they evacuated the kids without an adult. Obviously, the crew abdicated the children’s care after dropping them somewhere on the ground; to whom, it isn’t reported. Whoever it was didn’t have the common sense and bravery that Deamonte possesses.

I can understand both Deamonte’s mother’s apprehensions in sending the children alone and her desire to see them safe. I personally cannot imagine sending those babies alone on a helicopter with only a stranger’s promise of returning for me in twenty-five minutes. However, I’ve never been trapped in a building surrounded by rising water while having gone through all my supplies before. I can’t second-guess this mother’s decision.

Thankfully, she’s raising a boy with a sound head on his shoulders. Deamonte and this diminutive group of evacuees are back together with their families. May he keep his common sense as he grows, developing into a sensible, fine young man.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A few weeks back, my daughter and I were heading to her volunteer gig at the zoo when we embarked on a serious discussion. We chatted about taxation without representation. My baby girl brought up the conversation—how it morphed from the proceeding car chatter, I do not recall.

“That’s why we went to war with Britain,” she mused. “Imagine if Britain gave the colonies representation, like they asked for. We’d probably be part of Canada.” Giggles bounced around inside the mini-van, as we pondered the routes our fate could have veered.

Taxation without representation. Approximately 230 years ago, the colonists considered it a cause worth going to war over. Later that day, as I sat on a park bench, drenched in sweat from my three-mile walk, I ruminated over the conversation my daughter initiated. Our country has turned its back on the lofty ideals of yesteryear. How long has it been since our senators and representatives in Washington DC have been concerned with their constituents’ viewpoints? I’m thirty-seven years old, and I cannot remember a time when constituents around the country have possessed undying confidence that the elected officials sent to Washington truly represent them.

Taxation—the colonists wanted to remove themselves from unfair financial burdens thrust upon them by the British. The idea of working so hard, taking all the risks, only to dump a substantial portion of the money earned into another’s coffers was abhorrent. Yet today, how many days does the average American have to toil to pay his tax obligation? One hundred and seven days of labor is the magic number for 2005, according to the Tax Foundation. Using Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and Net National Product data, the Tax Foundation calculated that 29.1 % of our income is shelled out to cover taxation for 2005. That’s almost one-third of our annual income being slushed into the government’s piggy bank. I find that abhorrent. Is that rustling sound some patriots rolling around in their graves?

As I lounged on the park bench, watching people walk, stroll, jog and roll by, my thoughts drifted back to my daughter and how we discussed typical American behavior. We discussed the current political climate in America. We both noted how the citizens have forgotten their role in our political system. The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution begins with these words, “We the People of the United States…” Let that roll around on the tongue for a moment. We the People. WE THE PEOPLE. That phrase does not equate, “We, the government of the Unites States…” now does it?

Yet, in today’s political climate, the people of America forget their place in our government. The citizens’ place isn’t supposed to be to serve the government machine in return for the promise of speculative security. The people are to be a key component of the process, managing the government set up by the Constitution to keep our country from spiraling into chaos. Yet, today too many of us surrender our money, our integrity and our minds to the unfeeling, never satisfied beast, the fedgov.

Looking at the debacle in the Gulf states, after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee damage that flooded New Orleans, it is only too clear that people have forgotten now to manage themselves and the government. The government machine stepped in to save the day and yet they only succeeded in keeping people from helping themselves, in the name of security. Most heinous, the powers that be, in the name of red tape, have kept fellow states from helping the Gulf states, letting their supplies and skilled citizens wallow, hindered by useless rules and regulations. Citizens all over the spectrum, from Mayors and Governors, to Johnny Q. Public, have forgotten how to direct themselves and give the finger to the rules when common sense dictates.

Mayor Ben Morris, of Slidell, LA, a notable exception in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, stated that he was tired of feds keeping things away from citizens to appease bureaucracy. He correctly called it—the commandeering of needed items and the regulations keeping donated supplies from reaching effected towns— #$%%sh%t.” I hope his ire continues to burn after the crisis dims from the public radar.

My daughter ended our taxation without representation conversation by telling me that she views our government as a large corporation; she sees its mission to make a profit to keep the stockholders happy.

“Who are the stockholders?” I asked her. After taking a few moments to contemplate my question, she began to speak, but the words didn’t flow from her mouth. Taking a few more moments to formulate her answer, her shoulders slumped. The answer to my question eluded her.

“But it isn’t the people,” she told me.

As we’ve watched the events unfold in the southern United States, I’ve reminded my daughter that we need to learn from the unfortunate circumstances endured by the citizenry in the deep South. I reminded her that we have to remember we aren’t the stockholders the feds want to keep happy; we must persevere to take care of ourselves, refusing to wait for the government to save us in times of trouble. We live in a time where we, once again, have taxation without representation, which means that profit reigns instead of common sense. Under such a volatile climate, we, the people, must be vigilant rather than expecting crumbs of bread to be tossed our way by those elected to serve us. This isn’t a lesson I wanted my baby girl to learn at fifteen.