It is astounding to me that this is Chapter 6. I felt sure that I would have run out of ideas by now, but I do love to please my fans, so I keep trying.
Here is my latest entry to Silk's Fictional Friday exercise. As you will undoubtedly recall, this is the writing exercise that has bloggers crafting a 1,000 word story from a picture or two or three from the trio that Silk provides. You can use one or more. I find it more challenging to work all three pictures into my story, but that is just a personal foible.
As usual, I will update this post with links to the other participants when they are up. Also, if you are new to the SpySistah Chronicles, you may wish to go back and read from the beginning. Links to each of the chapters are in the sidebar under Greatest Hits. I only ask that you leave a comment and let me know how you liked this chapter. Too blah? Am I losing my edge? Let me know.
Here we go...
Samantha was blown violently to the ground in the wake of the explosion. She shook her head to clear the shock, feeling the heat burning her cheeks. The grass was green beneath her, but all she could smell was burning wood. There was no retrieving the data now. It was gone.
“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” She thought to herself.
That’s when the bullets rang out. These assassins were apparently not content with assuming she was dead. They had decided to strafe the area and do a body count too. Lovely.
She belly-hugged the ground, creeping to cover. She’d have to wait them out. They hadn’t been firing at anything in particular, she knew, so if she didn’t make herself known, they might assume she’d gone the way of the marshmallow. Terrorists were big on martyrdom, but short on brains sometimes.
“China?” Samantha asked. “What’s in China?”
Davidson was getting weary of dealing with agents. “We have a courier going and I need to provide her with increased protection based on intel from an asset.”
“A babysitting job?” Samantha asked.
“Look, you are going in as the granddaughter of the courier. You’ll meet up with her at O’hare. Here’s the op specs.”
Samantha opened the folder and read the brief, committing it to memory. “When?”
“Grammy!” squealed the young woman, tearing through the waiting crowd to reach the side of the elderly white-haired lady dripping in beads. The elderly woman looked up from the clacking knitting needles she held in her lap and smiled at the young woman.
“Oh, Child. Do slow down before you knock someone over. You make me tired.”
Chastened, the young woman dropped her head and kissed the old woman’s soft wrinkled cheek. “Sorry, Grammy.”
Samantha and Cyrilla Halifax casually scanned the crowd of tourists at the Beacon Tower. The crowd was buzzing with excitement as the Great Wall Marathon was in full swing, with runners, organizers, tourists, and performers as far as the eye could see.
“I wish I had known there was a marathon,” Samantha said casually, “I would have brought my running shoes.”
Grunt. “It makes me tired just thinking about it.”
“Do you need to rest, Grammy?”
“No, no. Let’s go listen to that.” She nodded toward a large group assembled on the wall.
They listened to the performer weave them into the sad but enchanting story of Meng Jiangnu and her husband. When the crowd was suitably awed, he segued into the Legend of the Beacon Tower and King You’s attempt to make his Queen smile.
Cyrilla nudged Samantha in the ribs, as old women are wont to do to their boisterous and younger companions, indicating that she was interested in walking a bit. The two wily women strolled along the wall, finally settling in to watch a performance. A group of young woman, dressed as warriors and dancing with swords arrested their attention.
The symmetry of movement, the grace of the dancers, the swinging of the long black hair gave the impression of music playing, though none did. The crowd was speechless in awe, recognizing real artistry. Samantha’s attention was captured by the exquisite artisanship of the sword, thinking it would make a nice gift for Mark’s birthday, if he ever got home. Even a replica would be pricey, but well worth it.
Cyrilla feigned fatigue as the performance ended. The dancers milled idly around, posing for photographs for the tourists. Cyrilla, as arranged, slumped to her side in a near faint, prompting the attention of one of the young dancing girls.
“Ma’am? Are you all right?” the young woman asked in accented English.
“Could you help me get her into the shade?” Samantha asked.
“Yes, of course. I have some bottled water too.”
“Now, don’t fuss…” Cyrilla began before giving up to the two women’s careful movement of her to a quiet corner that fell in the shade of the tower.
All of the players continued their ruse, but in the relative safety of the shade, their conversation changed.
“I’m in trouble.” The black-haired young woman whispered urgently without accent. “I need extraction.”
“So much for a simple courier’s job.” Samantha thought.
“Yes, yes.” Cyrilla said. “But do you have it?”
“Not here, but it is safe.”
“Can you meet us in Beijing tomorrow?”
“Here’s what you do….” Samantha leaned in further and whispered the plan before gently taking Cyrilla’s arm and leading her out of the shadow.
Samantha accepted the hand-off of documents in the hotel lobby on their way out as Cyrilla paid for their stay at the front desk of the Grand Hyatt. The rest of their day was spent shopping in the bustling streets of Beijing. At noon, they went to the restaurant as arranged and requested a table for three.
Before long, a young Chinese man sat down opposite them at the table. He was dressed in typical American teenage boy fashion, wearing Levis and a rugby shirt.
“Jonathon,” the old woman admonished, “we are traveling in a foreign country and you look like a slob. Don’t you know that you represent your country when you are abroad? What must the Chinese think of you?”
The threesome finished their meal and loaded into a taxi they hailed at the curb, departing for the airport.
They were stopped at security and at customs, but nobody questioned the identity of Jonathon Halifax, adopted grandson to the formidable Cyrilla.
And nobody questioned what was contained on the memory card that resided in Jonathon’s camera.
As they touched back down in Chicago, Samantha’s tension eased. All was well. Maybe she’d have time to see her mother before flying back out. It wouldn’t hurt to do some shopping either. She could use a new bra. She’d worn out her best one in that explosion and grass-dive in Ukraine. It was hell trying to find a good bra. They just don’t make them strong enough. And forget about finding one with a hidden cleavage holster that actually fit.
Silk's story is entitled Sword of Honor. It is an incredible read, but not for the squeamish.
Ladies and Gentlemen: This is our inaugural post as one of the Amazing Divas. I shall endeavor to do it up right, but please remember I'm still learning how to walk in these 6-inch stilettos, 'kay? The other daring divas, namely Silk, Kathy, and Sadie, as well as the manly members of the Men's Club including The Foreign Minister, Phin, The Wizard, and Stigmata will be all over this topic today. Check them all out.
My first reaction, not surprisingly, was: That all depends.
Understand that I am a normal, red-blooded, somewhat hot-blooded, heterosexual female. I like men. But I don't like prissy metrosexual men who go to the spa more often than I do. There is a reason why women are divas and not men -- it isn't attractive on them.
So, understanding that this is my opinion, I hope you will realize that the vast majority of my experience is with non-metrosexual men and this has colored my comments.
A man can be a bit emotional. If a man has been gut-shot, he can be weepy and emotional. If a man's wife dies in a horrific accident that he witnesses, he can be emotional. He can get weepy even if it is his favorite hunting hound that dies. When a man holds his newborn son or daughter in his arms for the first time, he can afford to muster a tear or two. These life-changing moments can be understood to carry some impact for even the most stoic of men.
Wrecking your Mustang - no tears allowed, unless you are injured. Some sleazy woman breaks your heart - no tears allowed, do your crying on the inside, then drink or visit a gentlemen's club. Your favorite wrench goes missing - call the cops if you must, but choke back your tears.
At least, if you expect this woman's interest and respect. I don't expect you to be Superman, per se, but I'd still like to think you won't faint in the face of danger. If you get weepy over a hangnail...dude! Don't be such a girl!
I know that I am a member of the so-called weaker sex. While I take issue with just what all that entails, I do recognize that I need for the man to be the one with the wet shoulder (from embracing me and quelling my tears) not the wet chin. I want him to be able to confide in me his fears, hopes, and dreams. I just don't want to be reminded of my sister or my mother when he does it. It is a fine line, I know, but ask yourself this question as a guide line for your behavior: Would Dirty Harry cry in this situation, or would Pee Wee Herman cry in this situation? Let that be your guide.
So, rather than let the horse rest in peace, I've decided to kick it a bit more.
First off, I'd like to qualify my remarks by saying that I tried very carefully not to offend anyone with my post. I tried very hard to make sure that my commentary came down preferring neither side of the debate. Rather, I tried to point out that since neither theory has been proven yet, that neither has any more authority than the other and that ideas should not be stifled in schools.
Kathy wants to make sure that I am aware of the Establishment Clause in the Constitution and not just the Second Amendment. Let me assure you all that I am equally aware of all amendments. As a matter of fact, my father is adamantly anti-any organized religion. Don't think he missed that one.
I, however, have trouble reconciling the inconsistencies. I mean, apparently discussing an alternate theory in Biology is bad, but discussing what makes a good Muslim is okay in a History class. I don't think you can have it both ways. I don't think you can discuss the 5 tenets of Islam in any class if you can't discuss Christianity in the same manner. In History, one could simply say that "one of the major world religions is Islam, and we will be discussing that part of the world today." One need not expound at length on the beliefs of the faithful and their religious text. Let's be honest, Buddhism and Judaism - none of the other isms in fact - received such spotlights in the same course. So, we have an imbalance. My analogy isn't faulty. There was no need to go into the five pillars as they offer nothing to any historical discussion.
What? Somehow prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, and the recitation of the creed add something to history? What, pray tell? One doesn't discuss the religious beliefs of George Washington when one discusses the Revolutionary War. One doesn't need a lengthy explanation of the Puritan's religious beliefs to understand that persecution because of those beliefs led to their desire to seek their fortunes elsewhere. One simply doesn't need knowledge of the Five Pillars to understand the Ottoman Empire. All it does is give you a 5-point quiz question. If “God created the Heavens and Earth” is religion, then so are the 5 Pillars of Islam.
One also doesn't need to pry out of every literary work every written every possible reference to the Bible or Christianity.
But somehow, these are accepted. And the inconsistency bothers me.
I'm not a religious sort. Far from it. So I find it curious and highly ironic to be defending what many view as the Religious Right's argument. I don't think religion should be taught in public schools. I don't. But I also don't think we need to worry about giving offense by mentioning the existence of a God in the Pledge of Allegiance, on currency, or in this nation's courts. I merely am trying to suggest that children be exposed to more possibilities and be allowed to debate and form opinions like the rest of us. I am opposed to the notion that there is some final arbiter of truth out there and that he is teaching 7th grade science.
Children should not be stifled. Discovery is all about asking questions, posing hypotheses, and testing those hypotheses. I don't think anyone is served by cutting off debate. If a group of well-informed adults can debate and discuss it for days and send the matter to court, isn't it dishonest to keep the next generation unaware of the controversy?
I'm an Agronomist. The very notion that I would endorse Creationism over Evolution is preposterous. But I find myself in the ironic position of seeming to do so. In fact though, that is not my intention. What I endorse is allowing people to decide for themselves. That's all. You don't have to include all of the biblical gobbledygook to make room for the possibility of alternate theories. You don't have to explain the Islamic Faith to explain the Ottoman Empire. Should we really leave our children questioning what is true? Because I have to tell you that learning that God created life before I started school, and then that he didn't later was very confusing.
The very reason I usually avoid these discussions is because, in my opinion, religion makes people nutty. I don't deny anyone their beliefs. EVER. In College, generally a pretty liberal environment, I was labeled "the Anti-Christ" by my friends. Why? I didn't think 8 Bible Studies per week was what my father would have considered a good use of my time or his money. So my friends labeled me "the Anti-Christ," which I felt was extremely unfair and served no purpose other than to make damn sure I never went to another religious function with them, and pushed me away from any sort of organized religion.
Simply put, they got nasty for no reason other than my making use of my time in my own way. I wasn't doing drugs and whoring around. I was studying. Just studying. And for that I earned my label.
None of that is actually pertinent to the discussion at hand, but I'm hoping it will provide some insight. I don't deny the possibilities. I think the debate is a good thing. But don't ask me to defend anything other than the notion that children should be provided with all the possibilities in the face of the unknown so that they can figure things out for themselves. At least until one theory of the many is proven to be fact.
You know, I just don't understand what all of the fuss is about regarding the mentioning of so-called Intelligent Design theories when discussions about Evolution arise in our nation's schools.
Yeah, yeah. I know that Evolution is the one with all the cool fossils to see and that there is no proof when it comes to Intelligent Design. I also know that some scientists feel that without proof and without any means of testing a theory, a theory is considered bunk. However, not so long ago, the best minds in the world were convinced that the earth was flat, so I'm thinking we should be a little more inclusive in our discussions.
I wasn't raised by wolves, you know. I went to count 'em - nine public schools by the time I hit high school. During that time, I had a great number of teachers - some good, some not so good.
But there is a common theme to the vast majority of these so-called educators. They were there, not so much to "educate" but to indoctrinate. Yeah! That's right, I said it. So shoot me!
I was an exceptional student - practically a sponge - I loved to learn so much. It wasn't too long, however, before I started to notice that my father wasn't particularly pleased by some of the things I was being taught. And so, he set out to fill in where the teachers had left glaring holes in my education.
To his credit, though, he did not seek to indocrinate me to a particular way of thinking so much as he attempted to tell me the things, "the real truth," that had been omitted from my curriculum.
I will admit that early on this caused me some trouble. In the earliest years of education, they teach you that Lincoln freed the slaves and won the Civil War. It was my father who first informed me that freeing the slaves was not Lincoln's primary aim anymore than slavery was the cause of the conflict. We discussed economics, the vast differences between an Industrialized North and an Agrarian South, and the feeling of Lincoln that the preservation of the Union must be achieved at all costs.
We also discussed, at length, the Constitution, the founding fathers, the Federalist Papers, and the intent and motivations behind the words immortalized in the Constitution. He asked me what I thought and we discussed it. On the other hand, my teachers in school told me what they meant - with very little discussion. Now, I'm no brain surgeon, but I can think for myself. I can figure out what written words mean all by my little lonesome.
So naturally I butted heads more than once with the powers that be. They (okay not all of them) found my additions to the discussion to be disruptive and my views to "unnecessarily muddy the material." Soon enough, I learned to stay quiet about my views in the classroom. However, it wasn't always possible. I didn't want to be dishonest. So, if given an assignment to give a speech, pro or con, on some matter I often found myself on the opposite side of my teacher's views. I'd like to tell you that they only weighed the work and not the views, but I'd be lying.
You try giving a pro-gun rights speech to a liberal teacher who thinks you just grew horns and threatened to vivisect her with an AK-47. It can be tough to scrape by with a B, no matter what you do. They can't see past the viewpoint that they find offensive. Of course, that isn't the way education is supposed to be. It isn't supposed to stifle ideas or viewpoints, but serve as a cradle where such ideas are allowed to flourish and grow. But heaven help the fool who rails against the teacher's belief system.
You scoff, perchance?
Scoff not, ye young lads and lassies! I have proof. I am aware that in my Junior year of High School a good atheist friend of mine whored himself to our bible-thumping English teacher by discussing ad nauseum the biblical references in The Red Badge of Courage. And then? Then he asked about joining her early morning bible study. He wasn't a believer or a recent convert. Quite the contrary. He was quite vocal about how he was working her for an A and a good reference for a scholarship. I think this is tantamount to intellectual dishonesty and speaks to a level of hypocrisy and manipulation that I'm not comfortable with.
You think this is an isolated incident? POSH!
The same guy did it again the next year to another teacher, only in a different way.
In college, things only got worse. Really not a good idea to support the Second Amendment at the University of Illinois, not even if you bring into the argument your own near-rape. Do not, under any circumstances, defend the existence of Chief Illiniwek as the school mascot, lest you be branded a racist. Do not suggest that Ronald Reagan was a good guy, or that Nixon wasn't a bad guy. This is not the party line. You will suffer for it.
So, I say, let our children decide for themselves. Perhaps Intelligent Design can't be proven or disproven now. Perhaps Evolution is the real deal. But what does it hurt to expose our children to the entire debate? Can we not trust them to come to their own conclusions? If I had to sit through 4 weeks in a world history class listening to extended discourse on Islam in the 8th grade, including the 5 tenets of Islam, why can't today's students hear about the beliefs of some Christians as it relates to this issue? Learning about Islam didn't turn me into a Muslim. Being exposed to the idea of Intelligent Design isn't going to throw your child to the lions.
What's the big deal? Can't we trust our kids to decide for themselves?
She gets pissy pants because Hurrican Rita was getting all the press and casting a shadow on her "movement", then decides the only way to regain any media traction is to give the MSM a blow: (or the equivalent) and get herself arrested in front of the White House.
The woman has no "moral authority" - hell, as far as I'm concerned, she's let slip her grasp on morality in general. She's out there pimping her son's corpse over a cause he would not believe in. If anyone is being disrespectful, it is she, the Media Whore.
Here's something else. I've been to the White House recently, in March to be exact. We couldn't actually go inside as that takes 6 months notice and an FBI background check, but still my experience is worth noting.
You can only really get close to the White House from one side. More importantly this one side is cut off from traffic - there's no driving by the White House. Both sides are vehemently guarded by Capitol Police who frown on lingering excessively. They take a "step up, get a glance, snap a pic, and move on" sort of stance. My sister and I snapped several pictures from a park on the back side of the White House. This park had no fewer than 5 police officers making sure none of the folk got too close. And let's be clear - we couldn't even go to the edge of the park. We had to stand 200 feet from the edge of the park. Between us and the grass of the White House back lawn was the 200 feet, a parking lot, a street, and that black fence. If one managed to get past all of that, one still had to make it across that vast lawn that is protected by snipers who sit on the roof of the White House. Oh-they are there. I have proof in pictures.
The other side of the building is equally guarded. In one sense, you can get closer, but the view is muddled by all of those outdoor "White House Correspondent" setups - you know, when you see Campbell Brown spouting on the White House lawn - yeah. Several dozen of these mini-studios dot the lawn and the view.
All in all, you can only take a good picture of the front from about one spot along the fence, and that must be done through the fence bars. They don't let you play croquet on the front lawn. They definitely do not like people lingering idly at the gate either.
So, my final take on this is: Screw Cindy Sheehan. She's no better than I am, and I had to beat feet out of there. If she isn't going to obey the law, throw the book at her.
Here we are in Week 25. And all I can say is, aren't we done yet?
Being pregnant is not fun, I don't care what you say. Feeling the baby move is exciting, sure. But it kind of makes me think of overlarge tapeworms and aliens and parasites. What can I say? Too much Entomology in College, I guess. The experts say that week 25 is characterized by:
The structures of the spine - 33 rings, 150 joints and 1000 ligaments - begin to form. The blood vessels of the lungs are developing and the nostrils begin to open. Busy week!
All that, in just one week! Seems like quite a to-do list. Nevertheless, little London shall endeavor to do all that she can along these lines while I do whatever I can to assist.
Pregnancy is chock full of oddities. I only have two pair of shoes that fit. All I can wear in terms of clothes are maternity wear or yoga pants and large t-shirts. I feel like a lumbering giant, ungainly and dangerous to stand too close to. I feel like an overfilled grain truck that shouldn't take corners too quickly in fear of tipping over! I am beginning to have trouble getting out of bed and off the couch. And now, even I think I look pregnant.
As you all know, I try to participate in Silk's weekly Fictional Friday exercise. This is where several bloggers are given three pictures from which to draw inspiration and tell a tale in 1,000 words. Again I have chosen to use all three pictures and extend the story of SpySistah. If you missed a chapter, you can find links to chapters 1-3 in the sidebar under Greatest Hits. Last week's entry, Chapter 4, can be found here.
And now, onto Chapter 5. Please do let me know what you thought in the comments. I'll update this post with links to the other stories later.
Samantha lay back in the tub, soaking away the stress and fatigue of a two-week deployment and this morning’s seven-mile run. The bubbles, her one nod to her rarely displayed girlishness, clinged to her form like the hands of an ardent lover. The quiet was almost unbearable in the townhouse she shared with Mark. He was still deep undercover and she hadn’t gotten any in far too long.
She was worried about Mark. She knew he was a professional, that he was serving his country admirably, but she sometimes found it difficult to separate her heart from the mission, particularly when she wasn’t along to watch his back. Nobody should ever have to be in the field without backup.
RRRRRing. The island phones had an odd ring to them, but Samantha had grown use to the grating clatter. She picked the phone up casually after rising in a mass of slippery bubbles and throwing a towel around herself. She expected it to be her sailing coach, but it wasn’t.
“Hey sis!” Mark’s voice was very upbeat, but she knew instantly that this was an important call. “Wow! Where are you? Like, what is this call costing?” She tried to sound young and teenage in case his line was being monitored.
“Uh, yeah. Would you tell Mom and Dad that I’m going to stay here in Germany at least another month?”
“Why can’t you?” She asked petulantly.
“Give me a break, huh? I’m on my way out and I need to make sure that they’ll still be able to watch the dog.”
“Oh, alright. Anything else, Master?”
“Don’t get into too much trouble.”
He hung up. She hurriedly hung up and ran to the closet. It appeared to house linen, but in reality it was a secret room that stored weapons, money, computers, and what she needed now: a secure phone. She dialed her supervisor’s direct line and it was answered by a professional feminine voice.
“Ursa Minor for The North Star. Go Secure. Sailboat 67985.”
Samantha heard clicks and then Scott Davidson’s gruff voice. “Go.”
“Sir, Mark just called. He is requesting a dead drop in two days.”
“Fine. I’ll have the plane fueled and ready to fly.”
48 hours later she was checking her reflection in the mirror of the ladies room off the Lobby of the L’Oriental Hotel in Munich. The entire hotel was decorated in an oriental theme, and these room was no exception. The wallpaper was a lush yellow floral featuring a half-dressed geisha in purple robes. As the last woman left the bathroom, Samantha strolled over to the appropriate hand towel dispenser and opened it with her key, grabbing the message from Mark and sliding it into the décolletage of her sequined cocktail dress, then returned to the hotel bar.
48 hours after that, Roger Hardbreak, an American Four Star General and his wife, were lounging on a yacht off of Cyprus. General Hardbreak’s wife was seven months pregnant and seemed to be enjoying her holiday. Her long blond hair was swishing in the Mediterranean breeze.
Monica Hardbreak chattered nonsensically, sending the crew hither and yon after drinks, hats, sunglasses, and lotion. Her husband grew tired of hearing about baby gadgets and feigned sleep there on the deck in his chair.
“Allahu Akbar!” shouted a dark man as he swung over the side railing from a boat that had pulled alongside. The general came out of his cognac-addled stupor suddenly, reaching for the sidearm that wasn’t there. “Stop!” directed the man pointing his weapon at them, “Call to the crew and captain and nobody will get hurt.”
Monica ordered the crew to the deck and the man instructed them to line up against the railing. Then he ordered the two burliest crewmen to tie up the general and his wife with some nylon cording he’d brought aboard. When the Hardbreaks were tethered, the man opened fire on the crew with his AK-47, sending a few overboard in their sprawling shock, while others slunk onto the deck in a pool of blood and seaspray.
Assured that there were no survivors, Mark pulled the wedding rings from the hands of the general and his wife, eliciting a whimper from the Mrs. He broke off her whine with a sharp backhand to her face. The general grew quite upset and strained at his bonds at this, only to watch his wife pass out.
Mark drew his knife and plunged it repeatedly into the general’s chest, spraying blood all over himself and screaming “Allahu Akbar” with every strike. Next, he moved on to the unconscious woman and plunged his knife into her belly and chest three times. Satisfied, he wiped his knife on the woman’s dress, set the charges, then jumped back over the side of the ship and motored away from the scene.
Two miles away, he pressed the trigger and the boat blew up, scattering the evidence into the sea.
“General, Mrs. Hardbreak, it is safe now. We can take you to the plane that will fly you back to D.C.” Samantha looked into the petrified eyes of the pregnant woman. “Don’t worry. They think you died. Everything is fine.”
John Cutter was busy removing his bloody vest and directing the other agents to secure the route to the airport. Samantha was still wearing the body pillow and blond wig that made her look like the General’s wife.
“I don’t understand,” the General’s wife began, “what’s going on?”
Samantha gave her the short version. “Well, your holiday has been cut short and the General’s new assignment at the Pentagon moved up. We had to fake your deaths for your safety. Don’t worry. Another agent will explain the details when you get back to the States.”
John hustled them out the back door of the safehouse and into the waiting van, sending them to safety.
Samantha sighed. She wanted another bath, the sea salt from the swim to the beach was making her itch.
All ten items are excellent suggestions, but my favorites are numbers 3 and 10:
3) Implement a true "you have it, we want it, we take it" foreign policy. Suppose we need more oil. We invade your country and take it. We pay nothing for it. We kill as many people as we need to in order to get it. Then we leave. This policy also goes for gold, silver, uranium, sheep, apes, elephants, coconuts, bananas, exotic hot chicks, whatever really. We can get really whimsical on this one... Maybe one day Congress decides we need a national "schnitzel day." The night before, we invade Germany and/or Austria and take all the schnitzel we can lay our hands on...
10) First, put a whole bunch of nasty neutron bombs on satellites. Then start a new season of "Survivor." The season will be entitled "Survivor: The 3rd World." Multinational teams from all over the 3rd world will compete against each other. Teams will seek to win contests and earn "immunity." Losing teams will have to vote off one team member. The contestant voted off will be summarily executed and his nation bombed indiscriminately. Eventually the one surviving contestant will be given $1 million (US) and his nation given Commonwealth status. (Just like Puerto Rico!)
I have petitioned the Maximum Leader for the right to be his Press Secretary when he wins the election and begins implementing these new policies. I would LOVE to be the one to cause Helen Thomas's face to become frozen in sheer frustration, confusion, and outrage. I mean, really, they'd have to develop a whole new language as they've already used up all of the derogatory and inflamatory characterizations and parallels in their attempt to beat the "Bush=Hitler" dead horse.
Imagine how much fun it would be to stand at the podium and explain to the White House Press Corps the new season of Survivor, then tell them that only members of the White House Press Corps would be eligible to embed with the competitors! Now that's good television!
You know, I am just a working, married, mother-to-be grinding through life in the far suburbs of Madison, Wisconsin.
So I have to catch my thrills from the lives of others.
Like Silk's Safari on the Dark Continent.
Or SpySistah's life on the ultra glamorous isle of Bermuda. Who else gets picked up from the airport in a sailboat? Who else hobnobs on the water with the likes of Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta-Jones?
I swear. I don't even dream that exciting of stuff.
As some of you are undoubtedly aware, in the past I have frequently posted as a 'Divaesque Lady', a follower of the Demystifying Divas and the Men's Club. Sometimes, I had been invited to chime in on a particular topic.
What you may not know is that Christina bowed out of the blogosphere a bit, leaving an opening in the starting line up. And do you know who they called up? Do ya?
Me. Little ol' me! They've made me a full-fledged Diva! I swear, I was so excited when I got the call, I was unbearable. I think they may sometime soon regret this. People with enthusiasm can be such pains in the asses, afterall. I was deeply honored, I must say. I know that I shall never be able to replace the witicisms and bon mots of Miss Christina, but I shall endeavor not to let the Ladies and Gents down. Or, of course, you the reader. (By the way, you can catch Christina at Fistful of Fortnights. She is doing some team blogging there.)
So, my giddy self will be enlightening the masses on all things mysterious and womanly very soon. We will begin posting on September 29th, so keep watching this space. Additionally, it is my understanding that posting by the Divaesque and the Red Hat Divas and others may increase. All to the good, I say.
Me? I'm going to go try on my boa and my tiara so I can really feel my inner Diva. She'll have to come out a lot more often now. Man the torpedoes, boys. Here she comes!
Oh, and I do hereby promise not to vanquish the Naked Villains (a concern for some). I'll hold off on their vanquishing until they are fully clothed and actually deserve it. Phoenix doesn't vanquish her friends, after all, only the tried and true villains like Senators Harry Reid, John "Christmas in Cambodia" Kerry, et al.
Yippee! I'm a Diva! I just hope I don't turn out to be the b!tchy one!
A while back, I posted a rebuttal of sorts to the notion of introducing Pleistocene Park to the Great Plains and Southwest. The particular animals nominated for introduction included cheetahs, lions, camels, and elephants.
In all fairness, the whole idea got me pretty riled up. You can read the original post here. Cox & Forkum posted a particularly humorous cartoon that backed up my concerns, which you can view here. A few days after my original post, I stumbled across a news item that also served as support for my argument. But now? Now I have another case in point:
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Lions disturbed by deforestation have killed 20 people and devoured 750 of their domestic animals in Ethiopia, a local news agency said on Tuesday.
The rare daylight attacks, all during August and in the remote south, have forced a thousand peasant farmers to flee their homes and sparked a hunt for the lions, local official Tadesse Gichore told Walta Information Service.
“The lions killed shepherds tending cattle and villagers after breaking into their houses,” Tadesse said of the attacks near his Soro district some 300 miles south of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Yesterday I went to see Just Like Heaven with a friend. This is the romantic comedy in theaters that stars Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo.
I have to say that I haven't seen many movies this year, or even this summer. I went to see Mr. & Mrs. Smith early in the summer and Hitch in February, but other than that, I've been generally disinterested.
I don't know, there just hasn't seemed to be much in the way of entertainment available. But, this one I wanted to see.
I don't want to gush, but it was really good. It was almost like the worth-watching romantic comedy had returned. It was clever and well-written. It was funny. It was worth my $5.50 admittance and my time, and these days, considering the crap Hollywood has been churning out, that is a real accomplishment. The story wasn't predictable or given away by the trailers I've seen. It is probably the most worth-watching performance by Ms. Witherspoon that I've seen. She is convincing as the control-freak/workaholic. Mr. Ruffalo turn in a good performance of the despondent and depressed widower who has turned into a drunken recluse who begins to question his sanity.
I'd see it again. I'll even buy the DVD. You should see it. It was very good.
The baby gains about 6 ounces this week as the body begins to fill out. This weight is in muscle, bone mass and the growing organs and tissues. The weight could top 1 1/3 pounds by the end of the week.
Yippee! This is good news. What is not good news is that this morning, none of my dress shoes would fit. So, I'm wearing professional maternity wear and...sandals. (I figured that they'd look better than the tennis shoes.)
It still gripes me that I can't wear my wedding ring, and now shoes too? That's just ridiculous.
Government subsidies of the family farm don't help small farms - they overwhelmingly go to big corporate businesses that are bad for farmers, the consumers, the animals, the low wage workers, and the environment.
I don't know if I agree with this or not.
As you all know, I'm a farm girl. I'm a stockholding member of a corporate family farm, and proudly so. My family farms ~ 10,000 acres in Kansas, the vast majority of which is in Seed Wheat Production that provides the family seed business with product for sale and our customers with high quality seed to plant.
10,000 acres is sizable by most standards. However, the uninformed may not realize that only a little over half of this total is farmed in each given year because of the need to summer fallow to preserve moisture. Even so, it is still a quite sizable operation and we are known statewide. And, unlike Monsanto, we actually have a very good reputation for our fairness and quality.
But, I can't say that we don't fit Smallholder's villainous "big corporate business" definition.
I can tell you, however, that not a single member of the family or business ever acts in a way that is not consistent with excellent stewardship of the land and natural resources. It is true that economics are a big part of every decision - afterall, farming is a business as well as a lifestyle. But never is a decision not made that it doesn't weigh fully the impact on our most valuable asset - the land.
Let's be clear on just why this stewardship is so important to my family. My grandfather homesteaded this land. My grandparents survived the Dust Bowl on this land. There isn't a single member of my family who doesn't know these things and respect what has been passed to us. We have all sweated and bled, driven tractor for hours, fought off flies, and pulled on wrenches. But, yes, we are a corporate farm.
Why did we incorporate?
Can you say Death Tax?
The only way to preserve the assets acquired by one generation was to pass ownership of the corporation (which owns the assets) to the next generation. If my grandparents had not incorporated, it would have been the end of the family business. Upon my grandparents' demise, the assets would have been split between the two sons who would have had to pay the inheritance taxes on the land, equipment, buildings, etc. The only way they could have afforded this would have been to sell the assets. You can't plan a death, or being the beneficiary of a will. Do you bankrupt yourself and not feed your children just in case your parents die? Of course not. So the family farm was incorporated and now we inherit paper - stock.
There was a nontangible benefit of incorporation though that never gets talked about. That is, the very issuance of the stock meant that even the grandchildren had a vested interest in the business and in its survival. It meant more to sacrifice all of those summer vacations to hard labor, because I was part owner. And, to this day I am part owner in my father and uncles' livlihoods. They are the stewards that my generation is entrusting with the preservation of the business.
We are all a pretty vocal group, so if one of us questions the actions - the correct stewardship - of another, rest easy that it will be brought up by at least one person. Perhaps you doubt that I could ever question my father or my uncle? Don't doubt it. At the age of 7 I was voting in meetings, and never voting until the issue had been adequately explained to my 7-year-old brain. To their credit, they explained things over and over until all of us kids were satisfied. They answered our questions as equals, listened to our ideas, and otherwise treated us as full business partners. We were kids at home, but in a company meeting, we were equals. And to this day, nobody questions my right to ask questions or get involved.
Non-farm folk need to understand that the days of the big red barn are over. No sustainable farm has a horse, 2 pigs, assorted geese and chicken, and a multitude of row crops anymore. I'm not talking about "hobby farmers" who also have a day job. These days it is all about specialization and vertical integration. Grain prices over the decades have not moved up with costs of production and costs of living. Today's farmers have to do it cheaper, smarter, faster, and in compliance with EPA, USDA, and government requirements.
That is why a family of wheat farmers became seedsmen and started growing, conditioning, packaging and selling their own products. It was what we had to do to survive into the next generations.
Now, let's address the use of farm laborers. When I was growing up, we never had more than one hired man. Why? Simple! There was plenty of farm kid labor to go around. We were all working. We drove truck, dumped trucks, watched the markets, prepared meals, did paperwork, ran combine. However, as each of us went off to college, then graduated and started our own lives, we left gaps in the staffing needs of the family business. Moreover, there aren't a lot of farm kids for rent, if you know what I mean.
If you are a farm kid, chances are your family has you working on the family farm and frowns on your working for the neighbors. And, it isn't like you can just go to the local high school and recruit town kids. Farms are surrounded by dangerous substances and mechanical equipment. These sorts of dangers aren't something you can learn to avoid in a 2-hour safety meeting. It takes a lifetime of following behind your father and getting squirted with a grease gun. I'm talking about life-ending real hazards. So, being a business faced with a staffing problem, you look for applicants.
And in the Southwest, more often than not, the unemployed citizenry tends to be of an ethnic persuasion. Should we not hire them? We are very careful to make sure that our employees have the proper documentation. We do not exploit them. As a matter of fact, they often become disconcerted when they are told to take the day off with pay to go watch their kid's ballgame. We aren't all corporate blood-sucking goons. We are simply people who are trying to do the best they can with what they have, tending to the family birthright honestly for the benefit of the next generation.
Yes, my family has participated in government programs. There is no shame in that, and as a matter of fact, it plays into my stewardship arguments. CRP stands for "Conservation Reserve Program." At its most basic, it is a program that allows farmers to be paid not to farm parcels of land. My family chooses to enroll our most highly erodible soils in this program as a way to preserve them. Certainly we could find a way to farm them and minimize soil loss, but this is a better fix for everybody. The government doesn't subsidize us when we don't get rain and don't have enough seed to sell. The government doesn't pay us more when we stay up for 20 hours a day working to get the crop in the bin. It is a business, but we aren't making widgets.
To go back to the original premise, I can't speak for everyone. However, I can tell you that my family farming corporation doesn't hugely benefit from government subsidies at the expense of smaller farmers. Those smaller farmers are our customers and we know that our livlihood depends on their success. Consumers only benefit from having cheap and plentiful food. I don't see a downside to doing things cheaper and more efficiently. We don't have any animals, so I can't really speak to that. However, I will say that the animals we've had on the farm have been well cared for and not abused. Point of clarification though, they aren't treated as the high-minded, limp-wristed folks at PETA might desire. Hired hands earn a respectable living when they work for my family. They make better than minimum wage and are provided meals and paid days off. The environment? My whole family is concerned with stewardship, watersheds, erosion, and the extremely careful management of what is seen as our first, last, and most important asset.
There are good corporations out there farming. We aren't all evil mosquitos sucking the life blood out of the taxpayers, consumers, smaller farmers, animals, non-citizen laborers, and environment.
So, if I think so much of the family business, why don't I work there? Ah, you see, it goes back to economics. My uncle, my father, and my cousin already work there. Until my uncle retires, I don't feel it would be responsible of me to burden the family with my employment. Does that sound weird? They would never say I couldn't work there. It is my right and responsibility and they know that. But, the business can't sustain too many families. Only two members of my family actively studied in school with a mind toward the family corporation. My cousin has a Masters in Agronomy and I have a B.S. He went back to the farm after graduation while I got a job in the seed business in the corn belt learning how the big boys (Dekalb, Monsanto, Garst) do it. If I am needed by the family and ever go back, I will have plenty to offer. In the meantime, the business is in good hands.
As much as I fret over what kind of mother I will make, I delight in watching Prince Charming stretch his Daddy muscles.
It really is so adorable how solicitous he's being. He talks about his little girl quite a bit, although he is still only talking to her to urge her to kick me and to discuss Badger Football.
Pondering this impending Daddyhood, I've been thinking about my own Daddy.
He was stern and strict, but silly too. But I've never doubted his love for me for a moment. It was a given. However, I know that he is an enigma to most people. They can't balance the fun-loving silly guy with the very well-read, highly-informed, thinker and the balls-to-the-walls hardass he can sometimes be. Me? I don't see any problems to the point that at one point in my life it caused some confusion.
I was running about town with some male friends in my hometowns of Johnson and Manter, KS. These friends, I should point out, are significantly younger than I. They are the sons of my father's best friend, who he has known literally since grade school. I grew up spending the summers with these two guys. My sister and I never went to school locally because of our parents' divorce, so these two guys were the sum total of our social connections (farm kids work a whole lot and play very little).
Anyway, we stop at the local Quik Mart one evening to buy sodas for the drive home after the rodeo. Some big cowboy closer to my age sees me with these two guys and notices them leaving me outside in the car by myself. He must have decided to chat me up, because he sauntered over and got sort of flirty. He asked me my name and I told him.
"So, Bob is your dad?"
"Uh, no. Ron is."
He got very very frosty and nervous all of a sudden and said "See ya around."
Apparently my uncle isn't a threat, but that big cowboy was afraid of my daddy. At least, afraid enough not to go pursuing his little girl.
Are they too stupid to realize that in addition to not having control over global weather problems (they blame him for Katrina, afterall), the President of the United States still must perform normal bodily functions? What, do they expect him to staff-out a bathroom break? Assholes.
They can't seem to scrape together anything on the AirAmerica scam or even the multiple scandals surrounding the UN, but George W. Bush needs to go to the men's room? STOP THE GODDAM PRESSES, BOYS!
Fictional...Thursday? It seems that leaking the information that chapter four of the SpySistah Chronicles was complete has caused the throng of fans to weep and wail at the proverbial gates.
I, loving my readers as I do, have absolutely no choice but to put them out of their misery. Accordingly, here is my posting for this week's Fictional Friday. As you all know, Silk and Christina have been pushing this excellent exercise for some time. As usual, I will post and update at the bottom when the other participants post their stories about this week's inspirational pictures. My 1,000 words, and chapter 4 are below (I hope you don't blush when you read it). If you need to catch up or missed a week, the first three chapters can be found at their own links in the sidebar under Greatest Hits.
Secret Message to Silk: Go for it, honey! I'd be honored.
Samantha provocatively rolled her head back and forth on her neck to the sultry music. Her hair dragged in the sweat and dust on the stage of the German strip club. She was having difficulty balancing on just her palms and the 6 inch jet black stilettos she wore. Sometimes she really hated her job. Going undercover was one thing; but being topless, uncomfortable in clingy and sweat inducing plastic pants, and performing for a bunch of slobbering drunken perverts should mean better than hazard pay. She must really love her country.
The body oil was distracting, making her body glisten, but at least it made it harder for the more aggressive perverts to get a good hold. There was no place in her ensemble to hide a weapon, so she was stuck in a very dangerous position: exposed and defenseless. Samantha had never been good at relying on someone else for her protection, so the fact that the club had several armed agents undercover was little comfort.
The music changed, building into a more primal beat so she switched gradually to undulating and gyrating next to the pole that looked like it hadn’t seen any bleach or other cleaning agent since the dawn of time. At least being on her feet again gave her a chance to take a thorough look at the patrons/perverts.
She saw him with the group of young urban professional Arabs sitting on the left side of the stage. Mark appeared to not even recognize her and paid her performance little attention, seemingly distracted from her bounteous assets by the conversation of his friends. One of them though, paid her the compliment of grinning lecherously and motioning for her to come forward and accept his token of appreciation. The spittle on his chin and his obvious intoxication did much to suggest against approaching the degenerate, but she had a part to play, and the job came first.
She approached him sexily, hoping that was what it looked like, but doubted the fool would see it any other way than how his lust-liquored eyes desired. She went into a slow crouch, knees spread for the viewing pleasure of his table, and it garnered the attention of all five of the assembled men, including Mark.
Her slobbering admirer took out a damp $50 bill and nearly toppled over in his enthusiasm to slip it into her hot pants. The others were all grabbing for their wallets, so she stood back up from her crouch and turned away from them and bent over at the waist, giving them the grade-A view of her legs and rear. She swayed back and forth, holding onto her ankles for dear life and hoping she was giving a believable performance.
Two more of the men stuck bills to her sticky cheeks and she turned again, offering Mark the best view of her breasts. He grinned in that devilish boyish way he had and caressed the side of her breast gently with his folded $100 bill, eventually sliding it behind her ear.
She caressed her own breasts then for their edification and slid his token from her ear into her waistband. She sashayed over to another table of lecherous sots and gave them an eyeful while she desperately prayed for the music to end. Finally it did and she pouted into her final pose. The club erupted into hearty catcalls and graphic suggestions of what she should do next. She bowed and left the stage, vowing to ask for a raise.
John Cutter was waiting for her in the wings. He was impersonating a bouncer tonight, which was ironic since his British accent and wiry build was more reminiscent of an effete Lordling than a bruiser. He followed her down the austere, almost clinical, hallway with the soul-sucking fluorescent lighting, providing safe escort to her dressing room, which was doubling as the OpTech Center for this mission. John opened and held the door for her, then followed her into the room. When the door was shut behind them, she began to carefully remove each of the bills that had been stuffed into her pleather pants, careful not to destroy any possible prints on the bills.
“Dude! That was so surreal!” Jackson was the local CIA tech guy in Hamburg. “I’ve never used that navel cam before, but I swear I’ll never treat strippers the same again.”
“Did you gain an appreciation of what women go through, Jackson?” Samantha asked him sarcastically. She knew that whatever “lesson” he’d learned would be quickly forgotten by this most chauvinistic member of their cadre.
“It was disgusting the way that they looked at you – like you were a hot meal and they were starving!”
“And to think, you couldn’t even smell the liquor or feel the spittle…. Did you get all that you needed?”
“Yeah. The stills will help, as will the prints. We should know more in 6 hours or so.”
“I’m going to get into something less revealing.” Samantha moved behind the screen to wipe off the oil and pull on a short black dress.
“Hey,” said Jackson, “Don’t change on my account!” The chauvinist was back.
Fully dressed, Samantha stepped out from behind the screen. The crew was in full analysis mode, so she strapped on her thigh holsters, feeling better with her 9mms on hand. She opened the door and stepped into the hallway for a breath of air. Her legs were cramped from her attempts to cavort lustily on 6 inch heels. In an instant, she heard someone coming down the hallway. She kept walking away slowly. When the footsteps seemed on top of her, she bent down toward the wall to fiddle with the strap of her shoe. Slyly, she watched the man fade toward the exit.
She followed and found the street. The man was gone, but at the opening to the exit, on the concrete of the sidewalk, was a soft pink rose.
Only Mark could have done that.
What did you think?
Silk posts a story rich in detail and description that sadly ends too soon.
Mark Steyn: the man has skills. That's why he gets the big bucks, I guess. Enjoy this (painless registration required):
What’s important to understand is that Mr Annan’s ramshackle UN of humanitarian money-launderers, peacekeeper-rapists and a human rights commission that looks like a lifetime-achievement awards ceremony for the world’s torturers is not a momentary aberration. Nor can it be corrected by bureaucratic reforms designed to ensure that the failed budget oversight committee will henceforth be policed by a budget oversight committee oversight committee. The oil-for-food fiasco is the UN, the predictable spawn of its utopian fantasies and fetid realities. If Saddam grasped this more clearly than Clare Short or Polly Toynbee, well, that’s why he is — was — an A-list dictator and they’re not.
People who feel that a gas pump is a parking place. Man, this is a gas station, where people put fuel in their automobiles. You may do your Christmas shopping her, but the rest of us have places to go and things to do. If you intend to spend any amount of time in the store other than the requisite 4 minutes it takes to pay the cashier, please move your damn car so as not to tie up one of the pumps. Thank you.
Use your damn blinkers, you savages! I am not omniscient or clairvoyant, please signal your driving intentions as you are not the only idiot on the roads.
Dear Cashier, perhaps you ought to learn to count and make change before setting your sights on such a lofty career goal. If the charge is for $9.76 and I give you $10.01, I want a freakin' quarter back, not two dimes and five pennies, you fool.
Must you pass me on the interstate only to get in front of me and step on your brakes, requiring me to slow down if I'm not in the mood to rearrange your rear end? A lesser person would go postal on you, you know? You are road rage bait!
Please respect my personal space. Imagine that there is a two foot bubble encasing me and know that your foul mouth-breathing is not welcome to enter therein.
The UN. Is there a larger waste of my taxpaying dollar on earth?
I'm Mad as Hell, and I'm NOT Going to Take it Anymore...
The following is the rough draft of a letter that I will be sending to Congress.
Dear Senator or Representative:
I am writing because I am outraged at the design for the memorial for the heroes of Flight 93, currently entitled “The Crescent of Embrace.”
Outraged or incensed? The words pale in comparison to the gut-wrenching horror I feel when I even look at the proposed design. No person could fail to identify the red crescent of maple trees as being ominously close to the Islamic symbol of the red crescent. And that, dear sir, is wherein my disgust lies. Would we memorialize the victims of the holocaust with a swastika? I don’t think so. When we remember the heroes who died on December 7, 1941, do we do so under the imperial flag of Japan? No, sir, we do not.
The use of the red crescent symbol, intentioned or not, well-meaning or not, is simply a slap in the face to the memories of those first heroes in our current struggle.
These individuals represented all that is good in this country. They were individuals of varied backgrounds and strengths who united under a common threat for a common cause. They were courageous, staring unblinking into the future, accepting their own sacrifices as necessary, and setting a spirit that should inspire all Americans. They didn’t wilt. They didn’t wallow. They stood up and attempted to take back their rights of self-determination. As Americans, who have stared down tyrants since the dawn of this country’s birth, we absolutely can not permit their sacrifice to be memorialized by a symbol that glorifies their murderers.
If we do so, we glorify the villain and not the hero. If we do so, we disrespect everything that they did, everything they gave for love of their country, in deference to those who wish to annihilate us all.
And that is just flat-out wrong!
I ask you to remember how you feel when you stand at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I was there this spring and can tell you that I was humbled. When you witness the World War II Memorial, you can’t help but be awed at all that this nation achieved. At Pearl Harbor, I have seen grown men moved to silent tears over the sacrifice made and the resolve it conceived. The grandeur of the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, too, can’t help but reach into any American’s heart and make it feel something – an undeniable truth about the people of this nation: we do not perish from the fight, but live on!
It is inappropriate to wallow in our grief and submit our memories to some sort of politically correct tripe. If one wants to be all-inclusive, a simpler design that doesn’t draw it’s inspiration from a religious symbol would be a start. Why not something that evokes pride and the strength of the nation’s character?
Are we really going to apologize for becoming victimized? That is disgusting, and not the American Way.
I urge you to take action on this matter. The design as it stands is offensive, culturally dismissive, disingenuous, and more than a little dishonest. It is a “bending over in submission” instead of a “standing up to the fight” sort of a thing that is entirely disrespectful and unfitting as a final resting place for these valiant front-line warriors.
Amelie posts things like this all of the time and she has inspired me to flash a little of myself at you, my loving readers. Here goes:
There are two television shows that I desperately love: NCIS (Mark Harmon YUM!) and Alias.
I have a thing for Fox News' Brit Hume. I think he is sexy. He calls to me. When he talks, I listen. He isn't sexy in the same way that Mark Harmon is, it is different. Brit Hume makes me trust him.
I once sold Bingo cards in a Bingo tent to the geriatric crowd. It was one of the scariest four hours of my life. Those Bingo Grandmas are rabid, and they'll cheat you if they think they can get away with it.
"Coco" by Chanel is my favorite perfume, but I wear the eau de toilette formulation because I'm not some European smelly hussy. And, of course, I bathe daily.
I almost always have my nails painted in a french manicure because I am lazy and it matches everything.
My favorite teachers in school were Mrs. Buckner (of Lexington, KY) for her lemon drops, Mrs. Mendro (my calculus teacher from Dundee, IL) for her sense of humor and genuine desire to teach instead of pushing cattle through the shoot, Mr. Huling (world history, Dundee, IL) who was simply a smart man who believed in me (not that that made him smart), and Mme. Havard (my French teacher, who taught me to parle la langue du ennemi).
The vast majority of people do not like me, I believe.
I think Disco music should make a comeback.
I think Eric Clapton is overrated.
I am not a fan of the Beatles (nearly all of their songs sound the same).
I have a serious get-weak-in-the-knees problem when it comes to cowboys. Cowboys are my weakness.
I could easily adapt to the British habit of having tea everyday. I love quietly communing with only myself and my thoughts over a fresh brewed cup of Earl Grey with a touch of honey.
I have had zero good hair days this summer as the humidity has been frizzing my curls.
My daddy (who I still refer to by that name) is my hero.
I'd really like to get a pedicure before I can no longer see my feet.
Four years have passed since that fateful day and I am changed.
I can't express clearly quite how I have changed, except to say that I am now more aware. That day will forever be burned in my memory.
I was at work that day, of course, and had been in my office since 6:30 a.m. I was getting the day ready so that the plant could run and prepping a meeting we had with clients later in the day. Mid-morning I took a phone call from my stepmother. She told me to turn on a television. We didn't have one though, so I logged on to the internet instead. And I saw the news. I still know what I was wearing that day. I still remember knowing viscerally that it was a terrorist attack the second the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I remember knowing real fear that day, fear that transcended the fear of my near rape.
It was uncertainty of what was to come, and certainty that things could never be the same that marked that day. My boss's son was on an airplane that day - on a trans-continental flight - and we were all worried about him. He was returning to the midwest from a hunting trip in Alaska. The staff was upset, understandably, and our visiting clients ended up turning around and driving back home when the news broke, even before our meeting.
I remember the crazy gas gouging that went on as well as the lines at the grocery stores. I didn't go to either place though, instead being desirous of getting home safely and turning on the news. I watched the news every chance I could get after that. I prayed that people would be found safe in the rubble.
I remember that the tears were fueled by so much anger. I was pissed as hell. The thing is, I'm still pissed. I have moved on, don't get me wrong, but I haven't forgotten. It is a part of our new reality and I can't see past that. If I could personally hold accountable the bastards who did this, God help me I would. And it wouldn't be pretty.
I watched the documentary last night on Discovery about Flight 93. It was surprisingly good. The voiceover was done by Keifer Sutherland - that was weird, it made it seem surreal for some reason. I admire personal courage, always have. The people on flight 93, they acted with real courage. They determined that they weren't going to go quietly into the night. Such spirit, such an act of love, it humbles me.
They had something that the passengers on the other flights didn't have: knowledge. The other flights came so quickly in succession that there was no time for them to gather intelligence from the ground and act on it. I don't mean to slight them. I'm sure that had they known, they too would have acted in their own defense.
I'd also like to believe that I would have done something. I am a fighter. I've fought off my would-be rapist, I'd like to think that faced with my own certain demise I'd take a few muslim extremists with me. I'd like to think that I would beat, bite, claw, and spit to save myself.
I am much more aware these days. I watch people who are unknown to me carefully. I don't like to see in a restaurant if I can't see the entrance. I watch people in airports like a hawk. I can't tell you the number of unsupervised bags I've reported to security. Am I crazy? Maybe. I don't know. All I know is that I'm not ready to die, and I'm certainly not ready to die at the hands of some religious fanatic with a penis problem. (I have a theory that these wackjobs are striking out at the world over their own inabilities to get it up. I didn't say it was a good theory. But, if I ever come face to face with one, I not only intend to ask him, but also to kick him in the 'nads for good measure.)
I would like to say that I've gained some sort of understanding from all of this, but it would be a lie. I don't understand them. I don't want to understand them. I don't think it makes me a racist either. I also don't want to understand Ted Bundy or serial rapists. As far as I'm concerned, these people are serial killers. Splashy, fanatical, serial killers who have hijacked a religion and perverted it for their own pleasures.
Here's something else: I don't believe any God will grant you paradise and 69 virgins to defile in reward for the mass murder of thousands. I don't even think hell would want you. It almost makes me wish God were not just a woman, but a mother.
Pregnancy is not glamorous. Alarmingly, it is becoming harder to get up off the couch. I'm not talking laziness, but inertia here. Oh yeah. I've decided that those weird movements I've been feeling for a while now must be the baby. Either that, or my bowels are deciding to move to better real estate. It is so weird the way it feels. It is over before you know it, so you can't get your hand down there fast enough.
Prince Charming has started talking to his daughter. Most of the conversations center on Badger Football, but I figure there is no harm in it. She doesn't understand anyway. So anyway, the experts weigh in on week 23:
Your baby weighs about a pound now! The body is becoming better proportioned each day, and the bones of the middle ear begin to harden.
If born now, your baby has a chance for survival. Let's hope, however, that the baby stays put for several more weeks!
Your baby still has room to move around so you're probably feeling kicks, jabs, flips and flops. You may even see your abdomen move. Your uterus is about 1 1/2 inches above your belly button.
If you're having some wild mood swings, don't fret. They're normal even if they don't feel normal. Try to be good to yourself when you're feeling blue.
He is a die hard University of Wisconsin Badgers fan and he lives for college football. So, the Badger's decimation of Temple - to the tune of 65-0 - was like Christmas for him. The icing on the cake was the news that Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan all lost. His giddiness could not be contained. He was like an 8-year-old with a lifetime's supply of slime.
How about that Barry Alvarez, huh? Is he the classiest coach in college football, or what? He didn't go for the scoring record, though it could have easily been achieved. Instead, he nobly benches the starters before the end of the second quarter and starts playing the second and third string. The man is all class. Instead of rubbing Temple's nose in their own defeat, he sends in the scrubs and plays guys who didn't even dress for the game. (One kid was told at half-time to get dressed.) I read in the paper that the only person Barry Alvarez didn't play was the team chaplain. Seriously - the man is all class. He's just a good guy.
And, it is important to note that he isn't just nice. He has built a team that is not just good this year, last, or next. Even our B and C-team scored against Temple and managed to hold them scoreless. That is saying something! I don't care who you are.
As regular readers are aware, this is an exercise that tests the theory behind "a picture is worth one thousand words." As you are all aware, the Supreme Silk herself provides us with three pictures and we craft a tale from any or all of the images. We are limited only by our own imaginations, and of course we can only use 1,000 words.
Now, as you can see, this week's pictures played right into my hands. Was Silk perhaps wishing I'd continue my Serial Spy Story? I like to think so. As such, I just couldn't let my fans down. Natch, here is the third "chapter" in the Chronicles of SpySistah. The first and second chapters can be found at the links in case you need to catch up.
Please do let me know what you thought of the tale by leaving a comment. I will update this post with links to the other bloggers participating this week. On to the story...
Special Agent John Cutter was a much welcomed sight to Samantha. He made quick and quiet work of her second aggressor before freeing her from the cuffs that tethered her to the liquor and sex-soaked mattress.
“We have to get you out of here,” he said leading her from the building that seemed to be quickly disintegrating into dust. The back stairs led to an alley and the van that held the communication center.
“All I got out of the guy was ‘Hamburg’ before his friends showed up. That doesn’t really tell us much…” she said sheepishly.
“It’s okay.” John began, “Mark turned on his locator briefly and we know where he is. He must be deep under cover though. In the meantime, we have a new op to prep.”
“Okay. What’s up?” They began laying out the next mission for her, involving the copying of information from a palm pilot belonging to a known terrorist financier.
Thirty-six hours later, she was in Vienna.
This has to one of the weirdest getups, yet, she thought to herself. She was dressed for the famed Vienna Opera House’s Annual Masquerade. Her gown was a floor-length black silk by Ralph Lauren. Her ‘fallen angel’ look was completed by the black wings and black and pearl mask she wore on her face.
John looked dignified and comfortable in a black Armani tuxedo and black silk mask. He offered her his arm and they strolled negligently to their box overlooking the stage, with all of Vienna society glittering around them. A dark haired couple already occupied the box, so they slid into their seats graciously, nodding hello and exchanging pleasantries with the other couple.
The man spoke with a heavy accent, but the woman appeared to be an American. She was dressed as a suggestive Cleopatra while he was costume-less. The house lights blinked and a hush fell as everyone settled in for the show. Samantha watched the stage with little enthusiasm. She had a job to do. To either his credit or his stupidity, acting skills or inability to stay on mission, John took obvious delight in the performance.
The house lights came back up at intermission and the audience rose in a tremendous cackle. Samantha knew that she was on, and hoped John’s head was back in the game. John engaged Cleopatra in idle conversation, distracting her from Samantha and her date.
“Are you enjoying the diva?” Samantha queried the dark man.
“She is,” he responded in a heavily accented yet somehow quiet and deadly voice, “quite good.” He stood up. “If you will excuse me, I have to step out for a moment.” He was holding a silver cigarette holder and gestured that he intended to light up.
“Of course. Don’t let me keep you.” Samantha rose and moved to the side, making room for him to walk past her, but as she did so, she stumbled. The darkly dangerous man had no choice but to catch her as she nearly pushed him over the balcony. Her screech of fear drew John and the young woman’s attention to them, as well as the wondering attention of those in other box seats nearby. “Good grief!” She exclaimed as she persisted in the warm enclosure of the man’s rope-like arms. “I am so sorry. The hem of my gown…” She still needed a few more seconds for her ring to capture the contents of the man’s pda from where her hand rested on his tuxedo jacket. Thinking quickly, she squeezed out a few tears and began to shake. “We couldn’t have both been killed!” Her emotional voice held a tremor that convinced their audience.
The Arab was noticeably embarrassed and disconcerted. He practically tossed her into John’s arms as he dragged the other woman from the box.
“Laid it on kinda thick, didn’t you?” John asked when they were alone.
“Are you kidding? Did you see the panic on his face? He couldn’t get away from me fast enough. That was an Oscar-worthy performance. Plus, he never suspected a thing.” She waggled her ring finger at him to indicate the successful retrieval of the information.
“Okay, Ms. Streep. Whatever you say. Now then, shall we?” He indicated the curtains that led out of the box and they casually strolled out.
When they reached the street, they noticed that their limousine was not waiting for them.
“Lock and load?” Samantha asked John, indicating his shoulder holster.
“Rock and roll.” He reached into his jacket casually and removed his weapon, letting it hang by his side and conceal itself in the camouflage of his black pants. Samantha reached down, ostensibly to adjust a garter, but removed her twin 9mm friends in a moment from their hiding places. She held the one in her right hand concealed in the folds of her skirt. She slid her left arm around and under John’s jacket, snuggling in and concealing the second weapon by his ribs.
They walked casually up the street in the direction of their hotel. The lights on the street in the block ahead were all out, pulling Samantha’s nerves taut and ready for action. They walked into the darkness casually, but both were ready, expecting an ambush. As they approached a dark side street, Samantha and John heard running footsteps.
The first shots rang out on the cobblestone streets, missing their mark. Samantha fired first through John’s suit jacket, blowing a hole in the side from where her hand had been resting. The second shot she fired from her right hand only a millisecond later. John too had been firing since the first shots and now was reloading from behind a corner of the building. Samantha sensed that their pursuers were sufficiently slowed, so she urged John to run.
They ran straight to the hotel, never stopping, but continually checking behind them. When they reached the lobby, they slowed to a slow jog, pretending to race to the elevator.
“Damn, I’m tired of getting shot at!”
Silk's take on the pictures is a stunning tale of life and Death.
In the grand (and not-so new) tradition of placing blame, I do hereby shake my shame-shame finger at the following villains for causing the attached catastrophes:
1. Al Gore is solely responsible for the lack of hygiene in today's teenage boys. Afterall, if the ex-Vice President of the United States can wear the grungy and creepy mountain man look, so can they.
2. Hillary Clinton is solely responsible for the death of feminity. No longer can we expect a woman to weild power and be reasonably decent to look at -- they all expect us to ugly bitches with bobs in sensible shoes.
3. John Kerry is solely responsible for the death of intelligence in this country. All of his TV time during the election forced people to turn the channel to watch mindless cartoons and Brady Bunch re-runs - both more stimulating than his lack-of-plan Plan.
4. The Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are responsible for the recent slew of tornadoes that ran through Wisconsin. All that hot air blowing...
5. Senator Kennedy is responsible for both the onset of pollution in the Chappaquiddick and the increasing plague of mosquitos in this country. Simply put, if his blood was less alcohol and more blood, the mosquitos would spend more time on him than me, just in terms of surface area. Ted Kennedy makes me itch! Kennedy gets lit, I get bit.
6. The United Nations is responsible for Global Warming. Never has there been a more prolific producer of hot air.
7. Howard Dean is responsible for corns and bunions on American women. He speaks, and they arise.
8. Bill Clinton is solely responsible for the lack of personal responsibility today and the world-wide bane of moral ambivalence. "Ah did not have sexual relations with that woman...Ms. Lewinsky."
9. Rep. Dennis Hastert is responsible for hang nails, slobbering, and chiggers.
10. Senator Chuck Schumer is responsible for global diarrhea. That man makes everybody sick!
There you have it. Feel free to play your own round of the blame game.
There. I've said it. I don't give a good damn who is responsible for the situation on the Gulf Coast. As far as I'm concerned, it was an act of God. It was Mother Nature's Premenstrual Syndrome. No politician is personally responsible for the wind or water, or the levee breaking.
I find discussions to the contrary wholly partisan and unhelpful and even distracting. The fact of the matter is that hurricanes are a reality on the Gulf Coast as much as tornadoes victimize the Kansas - Oklahoma - Texas panhandle region, earthquakes and landslides plague California, and flooding is a risk to people who live on the Mississippi. I realize that Florida and the Carolinas usually bear the brunt of the hurricanes, but this is no reason to get soft.
I'm all about personal responsibility. You all know that. So what I don't understand is how so many people could be caught unprepared. I feel for them all, really I do, but I have to ask...what was their Plan B? I've lived in tornado alley, where tornadoes are a fact of life. You can't see a tornado coming the way you can a hurricane. Tornadoes pop up and dissipate rapidly, leaving nothing but destruction in their wake. Hurricanes, on the other hand, are much more readily anticipated. You can see them coming with several days notice. Both pack a mighty wallop, but of the two, you must admit that it is easier to get whacked unprepared by a tornado.
So what do we do? People who live with tornadoes as a real threat have plans. You either go to the basement or a bathroom in the interior of your home. You make sure you have water and some sort of canned food in case the worst happens. Where I'm from in Kansas, it is possible to be snowed in when the big snowstorm hits. You can literally be 20 miles from town, without electricity and water for several days before services are restored. So what do people do? They have plans. They may have a wood burning stove, stockpiles of canned food, and a windmill for pumping water from the well. Count on it. If they have livestock to tend, chances are they either have horses or snowmobiles for just such situations.
To me, the whole notion that so many people got caught unprepared is the epitome of recklessness. If I were living on the Gulf Coast, you can bet your sweet patoot that I'd have a Plan B, just in case everything went to hell. You have to know the risks you face where you live. If you don't, well...let's just say Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection will kick into high gear.
Readiness is All. Prepare, or die. Don't blame others for your own inadequacies or your failure to think ahead. And if the worst does come to pass, Cowboy Up! Suck it up and move on with surviving and rebuilding. Don't bitch and moan incessantly, decrying the government who should have known better or done more sooner, etc.
You are your own first line of defense. It is up to you.
The bitchers and moaners are the ones who used to get eaten - remember that.
Week 22 is here. Does it seem to you (as it does to me) that I should have had this baby by now? I'm tired of being pregnant. Those stories of "it is the best you'll ever feel in your life" are pure crap. I've definitely felt better. Pick any day and it was probably better than any pregnant day. Anyhoo, here's what the experts have to say about this week:
The baby is probably close to a pound and very thin but very developed. The eyelids and eyebrows are now formed, and the brain begins rapid growth. If your baby is a boy, his testes have begun their descent from the pelvis to the scrotum.
Brains are good. Brains are important. We are hoping that she'll be clever and a thinker. Although, if this child turns out like my cousin Karla's first, she may be the death of me. Zach (Karla's first son) was asking questions about gravity, the Earth's rotation, why the sky is blue, and where God lives when he was two years old. And Zach? Zach wasn't appeased with the simple explanations - oh no! - he wanted the NASA version. And if he didn't think you had it right, he'd totally call you on it. So, you couldn't answer a Zach question without an extensive google.
Don't get me wrong, curiosity is a marvelous thing. And, I'd much rather have a Zach on my hands than some bump on a log, but man! that kid was a lot of work!
On the baby homefront, I can report that the baby's bedroom is now painted and looks beautiful. We did a faux finish in pale pinks, much to Prince Charming's chagrin. He seems to think that every room in the house should be decorated in University of Wisconsin Badger's Red and White. That would surely lead to a psychosis of some sort, I'm sure.