We had lovely weather here over the weekend. Saturday dawned crisp and bright and I loaded up Bunny Boop and hit the road for a very early morning trip to Home Depot. We arrived at the home improvment mecca at 7:15 a.m. Prince Charming met us about 15 minutes later. We spent 30 minutes choosing perennials for the north and south faces of the house and a few annuals for my front bed.
We were home by 8:30 and unloaded the Jeep and Car while Bunny napped. Prince Charming went to bed and Bunny and I did some dishes, went for a walk, and watched Noggin. We had grilled cheese sandwiches (cut into heart shapes because I'm that kind of mom) for lunch and then got Prince Charming out of bed.
We all went outside and got those flowers planted. Bunny wanted so desperately to help. But, in the end, she did little but manage to get really dirty. Ah well, kids will be kids, right? She had a lot of fun walking around in the yard and picking up mulch. Quite a bit of that ended up in the yard. I had all of the perennials planted in an hour and a half, but then had to take Bunny inside and put her down for her nap. Once she was asleep, I went back out and planted the front flower bed.
It looks like one of the perennials may not make it, but everything else looks really good. This week we will get the weed barrier and the new mulch down and that will all be done.
We are having a party on Saturday. Actually, it is a co-ed Tastefully Simple party. My friend has talked for years about doing a co-ed party like this, and now she has moved away and can't attend this one.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Tastefully Simple, this is a company that does in-home sales like Tupperware, but the goods are food products. And, they are billed as Easy Gourmet foods (most of the stuff you add one or two things to make the dish). Some of the products are really good, others...I could do without them. My chief complaint is that the product line is so dip-intensive, and I'm not a big chip girl. I think I've maybe eaten 10 chips in the last 10 months - and those at Tastefully Simple parties.
So, at these parties, instead of passing around pieces of Tupperware and looking at things, you actually get to taste some of the products - 20 or 22 of them anyway. Because the new Spring-Summer product line emphasizes grilling, we are doing the co-ed thing. And, because if we are going to throw a party, we are going to throw a party!, we aren't simply doing the dip-intensive tasting.
Instead, some of the products will be tasted on chicken, some on beef, and even some on shrimp. We're even going to showcase some of the product on grilled potato wedges, so that will be different. Of course, I've got a million things to do before then, but we'll see...
INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Put your music player on shuffle. 2. Press forward for each question. 3. Use the song title as the answer to the question even if it doesn’t make sense. NO CHEATING
How do you feel today? Should've Been a Cowboy - Toby Keith What’s your outlook on life? The Hustle - Van McCoy doot, doot, doot, do doo do doot do doo What does your family think of you? You Can't Give Up On Love - Alan Jackson What do your friends think of you? I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight - Toby Keith What do strangers think of you? Step That Step - Sawyer Brown What do your exes think of you? Achy Breaky Heart - Billy Ray Cyrus (I didn't realize this was on my ipod) How’s your love life? One Voice - Billy Gilman How will your love life be in the future? Third Rock from the Sun - Joe Diffie Will you get married? Get the Party Started - Pink (I am married...) Are you good at school? Anymore - Travis Tritt (I was good in school...) Will you be successful? We Shall Be Free - Garth Brooks What song should they play on your birthday? Kiss Off - Violent Femmes What song should they play at your graduation? My Kind of Woman, My Kind of Man - Patty Loveless (I graduated long ago...) The Soundtrack of your life? The Dance - Garth Brooks You and your best friends are? Love of a Lifetime - Firehouse Happy times: When I think about Cheatin' - Gretchen Wilson (that doesn't fit at all) Sad times: Chains - Patty Loveless Every day: Missundaztood - Pink For tomorrow: Refried Dreams - Tim McGraw For you: Centerfold - J. Geils Band What does next year have in store for me? County Fair - Chris Ledoux What do I say when life gets too hard? Always Never the Same - George Strait What song will I dance to at my wedding? I love Rock N' Roll - Joan Jett What do you want as your career? Twice as Hard - The Black Crowes Your favorite saying? Please Do Not Go - Violent Femmes How will I die? Heartland - George Strait
Yeah, like the title of this post didn't make you either skip right over it or zero in, depending on what kind of person you are...
So, I have some new developments on this front to report and a quasi-correction of sorts. Okay, and an apology.
First, it turns out that that doctor did not rule out a hernia, he merely couldn't confirm it. Why? He couldn't find the bulge/bump/lump that I located. He palpated the area from both prone and standing positions and couldn't find it. Fair enough. My husband assured me that the doctor was very thorough. Fine. So, I checked last night to see if I could still find it and nope! It is gone. So, I guess I shouldn't have casted aspersions on the doctor's diagnostic skills. It was likely gone when he was poking down there.
The good news is that the pain has also largely diminished since the bulge/bump/lump has disappeared. This is great comfort not just to Prince Charming but to me. I can't stand seeing him in pain like that. Makes me want to beat people up, actually.
We have purchased him a new jock, the purpose of which is to fight gravity's pull on the region when the issue reemerges as a problem. The jock is kind of like a bra, holding something up and secure instead of the usual force field of protection.
My prince has an appointment with our regular doctor tomorrow. And, don't laugh, but I have written the doctor a two-page note detailing my observations. He wasn't able to see Prince Charming when the symptoms were presenting, you see, and now both the pain and the bulge are absent. I don't want him to merely brush off the matter as resolved, but want him to investigate the cause. Simply, that is, because anything that knocks my husband on his ass like that can't be benign. The matter may have resolved itself for now, but I expect it will reoccur. And, in the event that it does, I don't want to have to wait another 2 damn days before a medical professional can witness the symptoms. Because, as we have just seen, the thing can pop back in in two days!
So, meddlesome? Maybe. But I love my husband too much to let this go another 8 or 9 months before investigating the root cause. I expect the doctor will read my note and laugh. But, let's face it: I am better positioned than Prince Charming to get a good look at the region. I am also pretty knowledgeable about what is normal down there. (Writing that sentence totally made me laugh, imagining your face as you read it.) So, I hope he doesn't throw it out the window.
You can see where he might choose to disregard my notes. Maybe I'm just some hypochondriac micro-managing wife. Maybe I'm just afraid of my husband's mortality. My husband can speak for himself and describe his own pain. But, and I emphasized this in my letter to the doctor, my husband is unlikely to admit that the pain was sufficiently horrible that he couldn't just ignore it and go on. This was no ordinary pain. And, symptoms having passed and the doctor not knowing my husband like I do, the doctor is unlikely to fully appreciate the severity of the problem.
So, I'm still standing by my diagnosis of inguinal hernia. For one thing, it presents in the right region, with the bulge in exactly the right place. For another thing, they do that there one minute, gone the next disappearing act. For further evidence to explain the right-scrotal pain, I put forth the obvious bulge-applying-pressure-to-the-spermatic-cords hypothesis. It all just seems to fit. Of course, I got my medical degree from Google, so I could easily be wrong.
But, I'm hopeful that the doctor will perform an ultrasound or something to investigate. And, I'm totally going to laugh if my diagnosis turns out to be right.
Of course, I hope it is something much less severe...
Scotland Yard has been doggedly working the case of Alexander Litvinenko's murder by Polonium-210. It now seems likely that arrest warrants will be issued for the three Russian Ex-KGB agents that met with Litvinenko that day in the Millenium Hotel. This article suggests that warrants will be soon issued for Lugovoy, Kovtun, and Sokolenko despite their on-going protestations of innocence.
However, as is there is no extradition treaty between London and Moscow, this will likely come to nothing. Moscow wants Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky's head on a pike for his persistent "Putin needs to be removed revolution-style" comments, but England has granted Berezovsky political asylum. And, it seems unlikely that London would agree to return Berezovsky to Russia for a pretty clear death sentence in exchange for three murderers of their own.
What a tangled web, eh? Anyway, just thought you'd enjoy a real spy story for once.
Well, when I was a kid I'd take a trip every summer down the Mississippi To visit my granny in her antebellum world I'd run barefooted all day long climbin' trees free as a song And one day I happened to catch myself a squirrel Well, I stuffed him down in an old shoe box, punched a couple of holes in the top And when Sunday came I snuck him into Church I was sittin' way back in the very last pew showin' him to my good buddy Hugh When that squirrel got loose and went totally berserk Well, what happened next is hard to tell Some thought it was heaven others thought it was hell But the fact that something was among us was plain to see As the choir sang "I Surrender All" the squirrel ran up Harv Newlan's coveralls Harv leaped to his feet and said, "Somethin's got a hold on me", Yeow!
The day the squirrel went berserk In the First Self-Righteous Church In the sleepy little town of Pascagoula It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival They were jumpin' pews and shoutin' Hallelujah!
Well, Harv hit the aisles dancin' and screamin' Some thought he had religion others thought he had a demon And Harv thought he had a weed eater loose in his Fruit-Of-The-Looms He fell to his knees to plead and beg and the squirrel ran out of his britches leg Unobserved to the other side of the room All the way down to the amen pew where sat Sister Bertha better-than-you Who'd been watchin' all the commotion with sadistic glee But you should've seen the look in her eyes When that squirrel jumped her garters and crossed her thighs She jumped to her feet and said "Lord have mercy on me" As the squirrel made laps inside her dress She began to cry and then to confess to sins that would make a sailor blush with shame She told of gossip and church dissension but the thing that got the most attention Was when she talked about her love life and then she started naming names
The day the squirrel went berserk In the First Self-Righteous Church In that sleepy little town of Pascagoula It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival They were jumpin' pews and shoutin' Hallelujah!
Well seven deacons and the pastor got saved, Twenty-five thousand dollars was raised and fifty volunteered For missions in the Congo on the spot Even without an invitation there were at least five hundred rededications And we all got re-baptized whether we needed it or not Now you've heard the bible story I guess How he parted the waters for Moses to pass Oh the miracles God has wrought in this old world But the one I'll remember 'til my dyin' day Is how he put that Church back on the narrow way With a half crazed Mississippi squirrel
The day the squirrel went berserk In the First Self-Righteous Church In the sleepy little town of Pascagoula It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival They was jumpin' pews and shoutin' Hallelujah!
My husband left work early on Tuesday morning complaining of pain in his abdomen. Well, that's not exactly true. His complaint was "it feels like somebody keeps kicking me in the right nut." This was said with a groan, a wince, and a softened voice.
He tells me of this over the phone as I was at work. I, quite naturally, ask him if he was lifting anything particularly heavy at the time. Nothing more than usual, he tells me.
I do a bit of investigating (my information sources being my stepmother and the web and common sense) and have concluded that he has a hernia. I'm no doctor, but this is my diagnosis. So, last night, he wants to go to work. I tell him that I think he should call in and tell them what's going on. I insist that if he is going to work, that they give him somebody to do the lifting for him.
He calls his boss and is informed he needs to come in as it is likely a work-related injury and they need to do paperwork. He stayed at work all night, on limited duty, and is going to a doctor this morning. Anybody want to bet he has a hernia? Anybody have any tips on hernias?
This ought to make our vacation extra fun...for Phoenix the Pack Mule, that is...
UPDATE: Well, it turns out that the first doctor says it is not a hernia. Of course, he was also unable to offer any other diagnosis, so I'm not particularly impressed with him. Prince Charming is going to see another doctor because the pain is not going away.
I take the time to call a business and ask for someone. Reception tells me that the person I want to speak with is "out". I ask her to leave him a message that I called, but she refuses. Instead, she sends me to voicemail.
First, this wastes my time. I now have to give the information a second time, this time waiting for the clicks and message to play. Second, she knows he is out, so presumably she'll know when he returns. Is she just that effing lazy? Or, as a compromise, she could take my message and then call his voicemail herself and leave the message that I called.
I don't think this is too much to ask, honestly. She's a freaking receptionist! One would assume that it was her job to receive visitors and callers and assist/direct them. Everytime I call (approx. 3 times per day) she gives me this run-around. For cripes' sake!
My submission for the Friday Fiction project is below. As always, the story is limited to 1,000 words and draws inspiration from the pictures provided last week. If you have participated, leave me a comment and I'll link to your story.
SpySistah Chronicles Chapter 18: Poison!
Samantha had just landed at Heathrow and was efficiently wheeling her bag behind her. Her flight attendant’s uniform was crisp with no evidence that she’d been seated for several hours. Her cell phone rang and she reached into her jacket pocket to retrieve and answer it.
“Sam. Mark here. There’s been a slight change of plans. Take a cab to the safehouse.” Click.
Samantha made her way past the bustling crowd of tourists arriving and holiday-takers leaving and soon found herself seated in the back of a black cab. The cab driver moved deftly into the traffic, easily negotiating the press of cars. As the driver made his way to Knightsbridge, the traffic dwindled and Samantha relaxed. The driver soon stopped in front of the address. He came around the side of the car to let her out and help her with her bag. She thanked him and tipped him generously before watching him drive away. When he reached the end of the block, Samantha turned and looked at the door. The red door with the lion’s head door knocker was one of the most famous of CIA safehouses. The house had real history, but that was for another time. She approached the door smartly and rapped twice with the door knocker.
The door opened and Mark stood there in the foyer. “Hey.” It wasn’t much of a greeting, but like an old married couple, they had their own way of communicating. This “hey” meant “really glad you are safe, we’ll do a proper hello when we can be private.”
Something was definitely wrong. Samantha parked her roller bag in the foyer and followed Mark, her black heels clacking on the marble floor. They walked down a hallway and were soon standing in the doorway of what looked like an office. There was a Queen Anne desk and chairs, and several nice oil paintings on the walls. None of this really absorbed Samantha’s attention, however. That was focused on the beautiful young woman who lay dead on the floor. The handset for the phone lay near her body and a chair was overturned, but beyond that, nothing seemed out of place.
“What’s going on?” Samantha asked Mark. “Is this Aimee?”
“Yes. I got in earlier this morning. We introduced ourselves and then I went upstairs to shower before you arrived for the briefing. When I came downstairs about an hour ago, I found her like this.” Mark seemed sincerely rattled, that in itself was highly unusual.
“Do you think we should call the authorities?”
“I’ve already called and left a message for Carstairs. He should be calling back very soon.”
“Then we’d better collect some information so that we have answers to his inevitable questions. I’ll go find some gloves.”
The speakerphone crackled softly.
“Sam, Mark, I hear things are not so good in London. What have you learned?”
Samantha looked at Mark and began to speak. “Carstairs, there are no obvious wounds. She’s been dead less than two hours, but already her skin has a slight blue tinge. I suspect she’s been poisoned, but I can’t know for sure. An autopsy would confirm that, but I doubt we have that kind of time.”
“Did you find anything else? Anything at all?”
“Nothing that doesn’t have an innocuous purpose. I’ll do a more thorough search of her belongings when we hang up. She wasn’t an agent, so anything strange should stick out.” Mark absently scratched the back of his hand.
“Okay. Call the local guys in, but stick to the cover stories. We don’t want to jeopardize the mission. In the meantime, I want you both to be very careful. Don’t eat anything in the house or use any of the toiletry items until we identify the COD. We’ll hobble together a plan here and call you back in an hour or two.”
The click came through the speaker indicating that Carstairs had hung up. Mark and Samantha shared a look over the desk. This should be fun.
The local authorities were called and quickly descended on the crime scene. Photographs were taken, Aimee Hall’s body was collected, and cover stories were provided. In an amazing four hours, the safehouse was safe again. Mark scanned the main rooms for listening devices while Samantha did a quick inventory. Their examination of Aimee’s belongings before the British police arrived had told them nothing new.
Carstairs rang back at 8 pm local time and they ran through the known information.
“Okay,” Carstairs began, “we know that Aimee suspected that one of her regular passengers on the London-Rome route was planning a terrorist attack. Samantha is already credentialed to join this route beginning tomorrow as a flight attendant. Mark, I’m going to have you ticketed on the flight as a passenger. Sheffield is emailing you the details. He has also made you some hotel reservations. You should check in as soon as possible, just in case anyone is watching the safehouse.
“For now, until we learn more, we are going to play it cool and observe. Sam, see if you can find out anything from the crew. We know that the name of the man Aimee suspected was Edward Kaji. Both of you make the flight to Rome.”
Mark left the safehouse dressed in the same clothes as when he arrived, looking very much the college student with a backpack his only luggage. He checked in to the Prince William Hotel and went to his room. After stowing his belongings under the bed, he took his wallet and left the hotel through the kitchen’s service entrance.
Two hours later, an Italian business man pulled up to the curb in front of the Prince William in a limousine. The driver held open the door and the man slid out of the back seat carrying his briefcase. He checked into the hotel, disappeared upstairs briefly, and returned to the lobby lounge where he proceeded to nurse several bottles of fine Italian wine until midnight.
SYDNEY, Australia - Australian rescuers were on Friday trying to solve the “Mary Celeste” style mystery of a yacht found floating off the coast with its engine running, food on its table ready to eat, but no crew.
The 36-foot catamaran was found 80 nautical miles off Townsville on the northeast coast, but there was no sign of the three crewmen who had set sail from Queensland state bound for Australia’s west coast on Sunday.
“What they found was a bit strange in that everything was normal, there was just no sign of the crew,” Jon Hall from emergency management in Queensland told local radio on Friday.
Hall said the yacht’s sails were up but one was badly shredded. He said the engine was running, there was food on the table, a laptop was turned on, and the radio and global positioning satellite (GPS) were working.
Three life jackets and survival equipment, including an emergency beacon,were found on board, but no life rafts.
Thanks to the masterful leadership of such luminaries as Nancy Pelosi and our friends on the other side of the pond, victory in the war is in sight.
That's right! By simply choosing not to use the words "Global War on Terror", our elected leadership feels that they can win.
Excuse me, but since when has changing the words we call something ever made a damn bit of difference in the outcome of some struggle? This is the linguistic epitome of sticking one's head in the sand. It is chicken shit to think that a changing of the terminology is going to change a damn thing.
Which word do they take issue with?
"Global"? It seems to me that this is an apt descriptor as the struggle is taking place world-wide, from Beslan to NYC, from Indonesia to Madrid.
"War"? What else do you call it when one group is set on exterminating another group, who is struggling not to be extinguished? It is an armed struggle we are talking about here, not some sort of high school debate.
"Terror"? What else do you call it when non-uniformed combatants take out their villainous plot on innocent civilians? The use suicide bombers, hijackings, improvised explosive devices to kill and maim grandmothers, children, and people at their jobs. Simply put, these guys get off on Terrorizing the Civilians, hence the term "Terror".
Nope, it seems to me that "The Global War on Terror" is the perfect terminology to define the struggle we are in.
Moreover, I would strongly suggest to our "leadership" (now there's a term we should consider phasing-out) stick to real solutions instead of dictating that people not call things what they are.
"Look! There's an elephant in the room!"
"No, no, no. That's a grey largest-land-mammal, dear."
Let me begin by saying that the developing news story about the incidents at Virginia Tech yesterday are what kept me from posting here.
Today I am naturally filled with grief for the families and friends of the victims and rage that this was allowed to happen. Real unadulterated rage.
College Campuses across this nation have a no-guns policy. Colleges and universities like to perpetuate the idea that college is fun and safe, but nothing could be further from the truth! You have rape and drug violence. You have muggings and theft. College campuses are like mini-cities on hormones. They are not charming idylls, but rather a boiling pot with a lid on. If you blow that lid, you are going to have one giant freaking mess on your hands.
When I was at the University of Illinois, a student killed a professor with whom he was in love. An act of passion when she rebuffed his advances, I believe. Also while there, I was personally nearly raped by one guy and stalked by another. You'll never convince me that being unarmed on campus makes you safer. After the sexual assault, my father insisted that I have a weapon. I was too far from home, however, and the University prohibited guns. As such, I carried a MagLite Flashlite (the biggest one they make) so as to beat off anyone who might come at me with nefarious purposes.
A year later, after going home, I brought my handgun to campus. I stored it under my bed, locked safely away. Nobody but my father and I knew that I had it. Fortunately, I never had to use it. I wonder, however, if our universities and colleges aren't making us sitting ducks!
Those young people yesterday at Virginia Tech were like the plastic animals at a carnival shooting gallery. They were trapped and they couldn't defend themselves. All they could do was hide. The son of a bitch even saw fit to eliminate the possibility that they could run from his bullets by chaining the doors closed. That is the action of a true psychopath. A nutjob. Just one armed citizen student might have saved lives had he pulled a gun from his bag and plugged this mad dog between the eyes.
It makes me so angry. Life is too short to set yourself up, walking around, waiting to be victimized. As I read in several places yesterday, it is far better to be judged by 12 than carried by six.
I wish we could get concealed carry here in Wisconsin. I would totally jump through any number of hoops to get my CC license. I don't want to hurt anyone, I just don't want to be hurt myself either.
The MSM and liberals will call for more gun control because of this. They will reconjure the images from Columbine and the clocktower of the University of Texas. They will tell you that we don't have sufficient control over guns. But the fact of the matter is this: no gun law will ever keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. Outlawing and criminalizing possession of drugs hasn't kept people from getting drugs and gun laws work the same way.
The fact of the matter is that only law-abiding citizens heed the laws of the land. Think about that for a minute.
There is really no logical gymnastics that will get you around the fact that criminals don't care if they are breaking the law. If they did, they wouldn't rape (against the law), murder (against the law), steal (against the law), or commit other crimes. In point of fact, gun laws do little but make the job of the criminal easier by ensuring that he has a defenseless victim to accost.
The stories from yesterday's incident are already highlighting the heroes: those who barred doors against the shooter's entry, those who pulled other people to safety. But what if a single armed citizen had cut this guy down when he started firing? How many lives might have been spared? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty? I would posit that even had only one life been spared, it would have been a wonderful thing.
For those who have been blissfully unaware, let me catch you up to speed.
NYC Shock Jock Don Imus (and his nattering nabobs) stuck their foot in the proverbial "it" the other day when Imus referred to the Rutgers' Women's B-ball team players as "nappy-haired hos."
It wasn't nice. Maybe it was racist (I'm not sure what that nappy-haired bit means). It was certainly unkind to refer to them as "hos". But, in the common vernacular, "ho" seems to mean woman these days in stead of the presumed "whore", but I digress.
Imus was instantly called on the carpet for his comment, most particularly by the irreverant (teehee - see what I did there?) Al Sharpton, the kind of man who has enough experience to recognize a racist remark from anybody else's lips, but not necessarily his own. Other "notables" like Al Roker and "The Messiah" Barak Obama called for Imus to be fired.
I don't really like Imus, but then, I've never found him to be nearly as offensive as Howard Stern. I don't listen to either of them. They have a right to be disgusting, racist, misogynist, perverted, and lecherous. But, I fail to find Imus any more revolting than Stern.
In the aftermath and despite his apologies to the team, Imus has been fired from his MSNBC simulcast and by CBS for the radio program.
Meanwhile, Howard Stern continues to treat women like walking, talking tits.
My point is, you don't have to listen to these jerks. If they offend you, turn them off. As much as MSNBC and CBS have a right to fire him for turning away advertisers, you can fire him by tuning in to something else.
Racial remarks, comments that are derogatory to anyone, are reprehensible certainly. But they aren't illegal. Too often we forget that we have a right to say what we want, within limitations. Those limitations include falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, or the kind of speech that puts people in real physical danger.
Calling someone a name, reprehensible as it might be, is still perfectly within your rights. It doesn't hurt anything except feelings. And, as I have pointed out before and will likely do many more times, you don't have a right to live free of offense.
Remember "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? It was true on the playground and is still true today.
If you don't like the speech, don't listen. But don't stone the man because he's a bigot or a fool. I don't like the Dixie Chicks. I no longer listen to their music and anytime the come on the radio, I change the channel. But, and this is the important point, I don't deny that they have a right to speak their mind.
This political correctness crap is getting out of hand. And I, for one, am sick of it.
Darwin's theory of Natural Selection suggests that in any population of animals, some will survive longer than others. Now this is sometimes due to better camouflage or some other characteristic that enables them to evade prey. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the ones that get easily picked off by prey.
Imagine a herd of gazelles running from a cheetah looking for lunch. That slow, stupid one in the back of the pack is usually the first one to feel the jaws of the cat mangling its flesh. The same general principle holds with human beings. Yesterday afternoon I encountered someone from the back of the human pack.
Now, I don't mean to suggest that I'm leading the pack. I'm not. But this girl? She was clueless and not in a cute or attractive or charming way.
She was just really really stupid.
I was shopping at a national department store yesterday, picking up a few items for my husband's summer wardrobe and our upcoming family vacation (Bermuda). I was speed-shopping, as is my habit when I do this sort of thing after work and before picking up Bunny. I was targeted. There were no other shoppers visible in the men's department, so I was unhindered in my attack of the racks. I picked up the nine items that met with my approval and headed for the checkout station.
Incredibly Stupid Checkout Girl: Hello.
Phoenix: Hello. I intend to purchase these items [handing them over]. Can I leave them here for 5 minutes while I check something in housewares?
ISCG: Yes. Let's just fill out this form.
P: Really? I'm not going to be gone five minutes. I just want to have my hands free.
ISCG: Well, we don't want someone to reshelve your stuff...
And then we filled out the form. I went to housewares (the next department over), checked the item I had been interested in, and came back. I was gone three minutes. Three. On my way back to the checkout, I pick up one more impulse item and take it to the checkout counter.
Incredibly Stupid Checkout Girl: Hello. Ready to check out?
ISCG: Great! [uses wand to read barcode] That will be $8.26. How would you like to pay for that?
Phoenix [dumbfounded]: Uh, I want to get those items as well [pointing to the pile that was dropped off, form filled out on top, that is three steps away from ISCG] [thinking to self, "She doesn't remember me from three minutes ago? it took longer to complete that form than I was gone!]
ISCG: Oh! Right! [Rings up additional items] That will be $187.49. How would you like to pay for that?
P: Check. [writes check and passes to ISCG]
ISCG: Can I see your license?
P: Of course [showing].
ISCG: [manipulating machine] This register has been broken for 8 months. It takes forever. [still attempting to manipulate machine]
P [thinking to self]: Gee, that's a real thinker! It's too bad there isn't another machine nearby. Oh wait! There's three others within four steps of this one. But that probably didn't occur to ISCG.
ISCG [entering account number and bank routing number into machine from check]: we're going to have to go through more steps. [Reaching next screen, she begins typing in my name, address, etc.]
P: Uh, wait a minute. I don't want to be in some database.
ISCG: Oh! No problem. [Pressing escape, machine begins to whir and immediately prints my receipt]
P: That's incredibly ridiculous. One almost say that it all looks like a ploy to collect personal information on your customers...
ISCG [with blank stare]: it is been broken for 8 or 9 months.
P[walking away]: Thank you.
Now, I don't think I'm being too hard on this person. She was somewhere between 18 and 25 years old. She was a homely girl with a seamstress's hump, but there was nothing retarded about her. She was just stupid (at best). She failed to recognize a customer with whom she had had a conversation three minutes after the conversation. And, she didn't seem to think that she could choose one of three other perfectly functioning machines instead of the one she knew to be malfunctioning. She failed to identify the fact that my drivers license number is on my check, right under where she had been copying my name and address in for her damn database.
She really pissed me off.
The good news is that I have been reassured that I am not at the back of the human pack.
She's a goner! In the event of a global catastrophe or a giant gorilla or lizard invading, she's gonna be the first one down the gullet of the monster.
My entry for this week's fiction is below and cross-posted with all of the SpySistah Chronicles here (scroll to the bottom, they are posted in order).
I am currently unaware of any other participants. If you have written something, please leave me a comment and I'll link it.
Without further fanfare, here it is...
SpySistah Chronicles Chapter 17: A Laser and a Wheelbarrow
Elise and Samantha didn’t want to see another boat for a good long time. Three boats, one odorous truck, and two cramped flights had led them from Hong Kong to Karachi. They were traveling extremely lightly, with most of their possessions left in the closet at the Excelsior Hotel. What little they did have smelled distinctly of fish. So, it was with considerable relief that they found Chris Ghidorzi waiting for them. Chris resembled a sexier Ben Affleck. His family was in the construction business and Chris had a physique that let one imagine he was made of steel.
Samantha and Elise approached him wearily; three days of non-stop travel had penetrated deeper than their clothing, leaving cramped muscles and eye strain to accessorize their gamey stench.
Chris wrinkled his nose at their noisome perfume. “I may ride with your luggage and put you two in the fresh air!” A smile cracked from the corner of his mouth.
They were soon seated three-across in a very old and dusty pickup. He gave them muted scarves to don while he placed a sort of tribal sack over his shirt. “Keep your heads down until we get out of town.”
As Chris drove, Samantha told him what Kai-ying had learned. She played the audio for Chris and discussed uploading the jpgs for identification when they arrived at the safe house.
The safe house’s exterior belied the tech-heavy interior. From the outside it could have been any other Pakistani farmhouse, a bit run-down, but functional. From the inside it was a high-tech marvel, all steel and glass and comforting coolness, a stark contrast to the heat and sweltering sun beyond the doors.
Samantha sent Elise to the shower and plugged her pen into Chris’s computer. Images of Chinese men and Middle Eastern men appeared on screen.
“This,” Chris said pointing to one Chinese individual, “is Li Wei, the leader of an ETIM cell and this,” pointing to another man, “is Zhuge Gang, his lieutenant. This guy,” he indicated the Middle Eastern-looking man, “is an unknown.”
“He seems the most likely on-ground trigger man,” Samantha reasoned.
“But could he be al Qaeda?” Chris paced the room. “We have long suspected a connection between ETIM and al Qaeda but have lacked proof. We know that the target is a mosque, though. That helps. Back in May 05 there was a bombing of a Shiite mosque here in town. Let’s take a look at the possibles, shall we?”
Two hours later, the trio had identified the most likely target. Samantha left Elise and Chris brainstorming while she showered.
She soon returned to the tech center to discuss the plan. “Chris, do we inform the local authorities about the threat?”
He looked up from the pencil-drawn map. “No. Unfortunately, the local leader’s affiliations and sympathies are suspect. Also, we don’t have any hard evidence. We’ll be flying this one alone.”
“Do we shoot-to-kill?” Elise asked the question with all seriousness.
“If there is no other way. I’d like to take this character into custody for interrogation, but if he is planning a suicide, that may be impossible. Let’s take an organic approach and stay in contact with each other.”
The next day, they put surveillance in place at the mosque. Elise sat sipping tea in a shop while Chris blended into a group of Pakistani men on the street. Samantha stood near the mosque in an open area where rugs and other items were on sale.
The call to prayer was heard in the evening and the three watched and waited for their man. Samantha had just about given up, thinking that they had identified the wrong target, when she saw him.
“Our friend has arrived.” Samantha said this into her watch, its leather case strapped to her wrist. “He has a rug under his arm. Anybody else suspect that’s where the explosives are? Elise, do you have a clear shot?”
Elise answered. “Lasing now.” She paused. “Thank god for those geeks at MIT! We have a positive.”
Samantha moved into action. She picked up her bag, slinging it across her chest, and walked toward the bomber. “Excuse me,” she interrupted him in a French accent. “Can you tell me how to get to…” Samantha stumbled on the cobbles and fell into the bomber. Instinctively, he reached out to catch the attractive tourist.
“Oh, thank you,” she gushed, looking at him through lashes. “You are so kind. Please, let me thank you properly.” She reached into her bag. The man started to walk away but just as he got past her she placed the muzzle of her gun in the center of his back.
“Drop.the.damn.rug.” She gritted the words out with venom. Without thinking, the man dropped the rug and it lay on the ground at his feet. Instantaneously, Chris appeared at her side by the rug. Elise arrived, her own gun trained on the bomber.
Chris gingerly looked inside the roll. He looked up in sheer panic.
“There’s no time! Clear the area!” Chris turned and ran to one of the stalls and grabbed a big steel wheelbarrow and threw it over the rug while Elise screamed “BOMB!” Samantha pushed the bomber back to safety just in time to see the explosion. The wheelbarrow contained most of the blast, but people were still running and screaming.
In the confusion, no one noticed that not a single person had been harmed. Nor did they notice four people slipping away in the confusion.
Later that evening, after Chris had transferred the bomber into the hands of the interrogation team, Samantha and Chris stood in front of the farmhouse.
“Beautiful sunset.” She said.
“You still living with Mark?”
“Too bad. I wouldn’t mind having you for a partner.” This was accompanied by a lecherous grin. “Ah, yes,” Samantha thought to herself. “A successful mission always makes the male agents a little horny.” The CIA version of carpe diem.
Over the extended weekend I made cannolis. You know, those delectable little fried dough tubes filled with creamy goodness.
I was pleased with the dough and the way it fried up, and the way the forms (cannoli tubes) worked. I was not, however, completely satisfied with the filling. The ricotta cheese seemed...gritty somehow.
This weekend I may try it again, but this time I'm going to try a heavy cream and cream cheese mixture and see if the mouthfeel of that isn't improved.
I'm something of a foodie, as you may have gathered.
If you are like me you really enjoy a good cheeseburger. A juicy, well-accessorized burger makes a really tasty meal. But, my issue has always been with the bun.
It is just bread, and not necessarily good bread, at that. It is filler. Something that was intended as a meat-delivery system (heh) ends up filling you up before you can finish your burger. At least, this has been my experience.
This weekend, my husband and I discovered a solution to this pesky problem. Instead of using the widely accepted hamburger bun for delivery, we chose English muffins. This choice was inspired! The English muffin (what do you think they call them in England?) stands up to the man-handling of the fingers and hands that is necessary for eating a good burger. Some wimpier buns get soggy or begin to fall apart, but not the English muffin. She stands stalwartly in the face of the juices and condiments that lead lesser buns astray.
And, even better, because the English muffin's charm lies in the nooks and crannies, she is lighter on the belly. Indeed. She is less filling and tastes great, to steal an oft-used phrased. I can eagerly report that in our home, no lesser buns will ever again be drafted into service. Henceforth, the only bun we send to the front will be an English muffin.
Try it. You might like it.
In the meantime, I am going to start calling this spin on the American classic The Hubby Burger.
I have been known to take considerable grief in the past over my shopping, but I find the difficulty lies in how my distinct shopping philosophy differs from the conventional wisdom.
Let me explain.
I don't shop sales just to shop. For one thing, I don't enjoy it that much. For another thing, I dislike the crowds. I know women who will buy something because it is on sale and for no other reason. They don't really need the item and only want the item because of the sale. This, in my opinion, is evidence that you are an easy retail mark. I'm not.
Now, I don't necessarily eschew the sales. That's not what I'm trying to say. I will shop sales. But, and it is a big but, only if there are items that I need. I have been known to catch the blow-out going-out-of-business Toys R'Us sale for the 75% off on toys. I've been known to check out special day-after-Thanksgiving sales as well. I've even shopped a grocery store's grand opening specials. I have found some good values at these times. However, I don't make it a habit to catch these sorts of special sales. Generally, I have a need before a sale presents itself.
I know other people, however, who stake out these sales like they are on a mission. It is almost as though they are hell-bent on dropping several hundred dollars in the store. But I emphasize again, these are items that would be considered superfluous. They are not, strictly speaking, needed or necessary. They do not replace a broken or worn item. They are additional.
And yet, these same people point to my expenditures as frivolous. The crux seems to be the fact that I seemingly spend more when I do spend. I plead guilty as charged to the indictment! I buy quality items that I expect to last a good long time. And, I pay a premium for it. But, as I have often pointed out, I absolutely use the items, with care, and were one to look at the big picture, I really spend less.
You see, I don't have to keep replacing items that fall apart. I buy quality and these items last a very long time with careful maintenance.
Purses, for example. I buy fine leather. In general, I spend between $120 and $350 on a handbag. Sounds pricey, right? True enough. But, I only buy one purse every 18 months to 3 years, so if you split the cost over the period, you are talking about ~$15 per month, or less. This is much cheaper than my counterpart who shells out $20-25 every 4-6 weeks for a new bag. Moreover, because I treat my handbags carefully, I am now to the point where I don't need a new bag. Oftentimes I go looking for a new purse and can't find one that I like, furthering my savings. I simply rotate through my old bags (which all look new) when I get bored with one and wait for the god's to change the direction of the fashion wind. Right now, for example, it has been a year since my last purse purchase. I am still content and currently nothing on the shelves appeals to me. But, because my item costs more than the habitual cheap purse purchaser's, I am pilloried.
Perfume. I only wear a handful of select fragrances, and 98% of the time I wear only Coco by Chanel. I buy a bottle every 10-15 months and it costs me about $70. Still, this is cheaper than some who buy a new bottle and grow tired of it in 2 months and have to find something new. Furthermore, most women know that perfumes are perhaps more personal than undergarments. Each woman's chemistry is different. One scent can smell like fresh air and roses on one woman and canned sardines on her sister. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all in perfume. That's why they have testers. I buy what I like.
Clothing. Yes, yes. I like clothes. What woman doesn't? But the difference here is again in the quality of the items I buy. I will buy a very expensive designer sweater, treat it well, and wear it for 5 or 6 years. Yes, ladies, YEARS. I am no slave to fashion. When I shop I buy quality garments in classic designs that work with my mix and match wardrobe. I love soft fabrics, however, and have a certain weakness for cashmere, silk, and georgette. These are not cheap fabrics. I also prefer what can only be described as classic preppie styles. Button-down shirts, nice trousers, clean lines and non-dating colors. That's just the way I am. On the average week, I don't spend anything on clothing. I know women who shop every weekend and spend at least $50. This isn't me. But, I'm the one who takes guff for spending $130 on two blouses.
I should clarify, however, that it isn't my husband who gives me grief over my shopping. In reality, he knows how little shopping I really do and how much I despise it. He knows that the reason I like to have my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving is one part avoiding the mad crowds and the last minute frenzy and one part enjoying the holidays.
I am not above finding the deals and taking advantage, however. When we were still feeding formula to Bunny I would only shop for it at one store. Why? Because Target was the only place you could find the cans with 20% more for the same price. I would buy six or eight cans per visit! It was like a buy five, get one free deal, and anyone who has priced formula recognizes the value in that.
I'm not saying I'm some sort of shopping goddess. I'm merely trying to point out that while I may spend more at the outset, my dollars go further because I buy quality.
Bunny Boop is such a treasure! She discovered the joy of the Easter Egg hunt this weekend. She didn't quite get it at first, but by the fourth egg, she was on a roll. She insisted upon carrying her own basket and really loved the chocolatey goodness. The wind-up toy bunny she is still a bit spooked by. She picked him up before he was done hopping once and he rapidly clackety-clacked in her hand, something she found very disconcerting. But, it was still a good time for all.
If only she would get over this cold she has contracted.
Hurray! A new fiction project is now officially launched! Break open a bottle of bubbly, it is finally here.
So, here is the deal:
I have accumulated a set of pictures which I have grouped together and labeled for each week. I am too embarrassed to tell you how many weeks I have pictures for, however. Each week, beginning today, I will post a group of pictures. If the pictures appeal to you or inspire you, whether a single picture, two, or more, write a story of no more than 1,000 words (including title) and post it to your blog. Then, leave me a comment so that I know that you have participated and I will get you linked. Fair enough?
If you do not have a blog of your own but still want to participate, leave me a comment and I will find you a space here.
One more thing...
My own contributions will likely be addtional chapters in the SpySistah Chronicles. Oh, and if some of the pictures look to be of the same person it is because they are. That would be the face of SpySistah.
The first week's inspirational pictures are below. We will look for the first round of submissions to be due next Friday, April 13th.
So last week we had a number of days in the upper 60s and 70s. Some nice showers and the warmer temps have combined to make the grass green up and the bulbs pop and the trees bud. It is all very Spring like.
And yet, this morning the temperature is tongue-stuck-to-ice-cube cold and snowflakes are flying. They aren't accumulating, but it is still an insult.
I could really go for some global warming right about now...
Ah yes. Another weekend gone, a new list of villains to vanquish!
This weekend, Prince Charming and I took Bunny Boop to a new waterpark/hotel. We were meeting his family there.
Please note: I actively campaigned for other, alternate locations. But my opinion doesn't mean squat. So, I made us some reservations at the chosen venue. The website seemed to indicate that only the suites had microwaves and refrigerators, so I booked us a suite. We needed the fridge and microwave for the feeding of the child, you see.
So, we arrive at the destination of the mother-in-law's choice and find that our suite is much smaller than I had anticipated based on the website. Nevermind, though, it is only one night, right?
We change our clothes and then head down to the waterpark - which wasn't so much a waterpark as it was a swimming pool, two slides, a baby pool, and a hot tub. But again, whatever. What was odd was the water temperature. Ordinarily the water in these places isn't quite so cold. In no time at all, Bunny's lips were blue and it was time for a warm-up. We stayed in the park for about an hour and a half before heading back to our rooms. The rest of them hung out a while longer. Eventually, we all met back in the mother-in-law's room.
That's when I got to listen to the bitching. She didn't have soap or shampoo in her room! You wouldn't believe how many times I had to hear that. I mean, is she incapable of picking up the damn phone, calling the front desk, and requesting some damn soap? This is why these people drive me crazy! Bitch, bitch, bitch, but don't do a damn thing to fix the problem.
Here's another example. Prince Charming and I had lobbied against this location because there are no restaurants that one could visit for, you know, eating food. Sure, they offer a continental breakfast in the lobby (ickypoo), but beyond that your choices are the BP gas station or the bar.
So, we are all sitting on the floor in mother-in-law's room, listening to the soap bitching, when someone gets the bright idea of calling the gas station to see if they make pizzas (lots of kids to feed). Of course, they pull out a yellow pages and begin to look for the phone number. And they can't find it. Four people searched the phone book for about 25 minutes, bitching about not being able to find it. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. "Why don't you call the front desk for the number?" I said.
"Now that's an idea!" one of them said, like I was a freakin' genius. I personally don't think I'm a genius for suggesting it, but it could be that by comparison, I am.
Then I got to listen to more soap bitching.
The front desk will have to call us back with the number, we learn. It is now 6 pm and Bunny Boop is both hungry and tired. So I feed her. She sits on top of her father's cooler and I sit on the floor. I clean her up when she's finished and then it is time to take her back to our room. The waterpark has exhausted her and she is ready for bed. Mother-in-law doesn't want us to leave, but I am firm that I am not going to disrupt the schedule, my own supper be damned. (They are still no closer to ordering food).
Bunny and I curl up on the bed for quiet time. Prince Charming comes to the suite and asks me if I want pizza (not particularly) or a burger (better). He has to go to the bar to order and pick them up. I am fine with this, figuring that Bunny will be asleep by the time he returns.
But I was wrong.
Ten minutes after he leaves, when Bunny's eyes are starting to droop, there is a pounding on the door. It is the sister-in-law to inform me that everyone is being evacuated for a tornado.
Lovely. I pick up Bunny, her bear, and a blanket along with my phone and key to my room. Then we make the trek to the basement of the hotel. At that point everyone was still congregating in the hotel lobby. And when I say everybody, I mean all of the hotel guests and staff. They aren't actually ordering people to the basement yet. However, I am unwilling to try to make it down the stairs with Bunny in the hurry of an emergency, so the sister-in-law and I take the kids to the basement and claim an alcove. Bunny is very tired, but the other kids are there so she isn't a complete grouch. Ten minutes later, the evacuation is called and everyone who had been congregating in the lobby is sent to the basement, as is the wedding reception that was going on. The basement is now cram-packed with bodies.
I am very uncomfortable, but then everybody is. My discomfort, however, comes from three sources. First, Bunny is now overtired and doesn't want to be held by anyone but Mommy and sometimes not even that. She doesn't understand why she can't get down or much of anything, really. The second source of my discomfort is the heat. I am wearing sweats. Bunny is wearing fleece pajamas with feet, and I am carrying her very large blanket. And then there are the 500-600 bodies that are crowded into the space. It was exceedingly warm and not in a way that smelled good if you know what I mean.
The third source of my discomfort is really the reason for this post. I can put up with my in-laws. I can put up with a substandard hotel. I can even put up with grease or grease as supper options. But irresponsibility bordering on stupidity? That is where I draw the line.
What happened is this:
The hotel management and/or staff decided to pour booze on the smouldering embers that were this potential blaze. There is barely room to turn around, but the staff are carrying cups and pitchers of beer to keep the people happy. As soon as I see them, it pisses me off. Who the hell thought this idea up? This is incredibly stupid. If you have an emergency situation of the sort that dictates the emergency evacuation of 500-600 people, including children in their pajamas, the addition of alcohol is irresponsible.
I recognize the fact that it was mostly done to keep the people happy. Unfortunately, had the worst case scenario come to pass, I would have had to deal with a bunch of sloppy drunks in an emergency. Which charmed me not at all. The last thing I want to do is try to pick my way out of the rubble with my child clutched to my chest, all the while other people are suffering from incomplete clarity. Is it just me or was the addition of alcohol irresponsible on the part of the hotel? Those who were already drunk (from the reception) were boisterous, loud, rude, and generally shouldn't have been around so many children. Or maybe the sum total of the assholes were all standing next to us. I don't know.
A tornado is not like a hurricane. I realize that folks in those environs close up shop and shutter the windows then hunker down with some liquor and party. Tornadoes are not the same. For one thing, hurricanes can batter the windows for hours - days even. With tornadoes, the devastation springs upon you suddenly with little warning. Instead of battering a building for hours, the brunt of a tornado is felt in moments. You need to have your wits about you so that you can find cover and/or dig out.
After about 25 minutes the all-clear was sounded and we returned to our room. The building is still standing. It was about 9 pm at this point. I'm starving. Bunny is distinctly unhappy. I have to give her some milk and open up the windows to get her cooled off enough. Prince Charming returns to the hotel from the bar about 5 minutes after we get back to the room, having missed all of the excitement. Bunny finally goes to sleep at 9:30 and we eat.
We go to bed in a very uncomfortable bed that leaves me with a stiff neck and back the next morning that is still lingering on as I write these words.
So, to sum up:
1. We will not be returning to that establishment. There are better choices for that sort of activity much closer to home. 2. The in-laws, in future, will be more likely to hear of my displeasure and I will be quicker to tell them to pick up the damn phone and call the front desk for the number/soap/towels. I don't like having to listen people bitch about accomodations that were their choice that I actively lobbied against. 3. The hotel may get a strongly-worded letter on the irresponsibility of pouring drinks in the huddle as we wait for the worst. 4. My neck hurts. And it is making me grumpy.