Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Real Nature

Wow! Two posts in one day! Must be something in the water I've been sipping, eh?

Dog Pack Attacks Alligator In Florida

At times nature can be cruel, but there is also a raw beauty, and even a certain raw justice manifested within that cruelty.

The alligator, one of the oldest and ultimate predators, normally considered the 'apex' predator, can still fall victim to implemented team-work strategy, made possible due to the tight-knit social structure and 'survival of the pack' mentality bred into the canines.

See the remakable photograph below, courtesy of "Nature" magazine.

Note that the Alpha dog has a muzzle-hold on the gator preventing it from breathing, while another dog has a hold on the tail to keep it from thrashing. The third dog attacks the vulnerable underbelly of the alligator.

Don't be squeemish!

Thanks for the email, Mom! Laughter is good for you, friends, so laugh it up!


Most working stiffs - what the hell does that really mean!? - have Saturday and Sunday off. Not all, but most, I would say. I don't. I have Wednesdays and Thursdays off. Right smack-dab in the middle of the week. So for me the weekend is not what most of you enjoy. And there are some 'downsides' to that.

Family get-togethers, where folks gather on a Saturday to picnic or party, are tough to get to when one is working that day. Church is iffy at best because you work that day, too. While most folks, of a Saturday or Sunday, are making plans for a Football game or a concert, or whatever, people like me are driving to work, putting in our hours, and heading home.

But there are a few 'upsides' to weekends in the middle, too.

For instance, when I get up on a Wednesday morning it's rather quiet, save for the hum and whine of traffic out on Ulmerton Road. The kids are at school, the adults are mostly at work. Nobody is outside tinkering with their car, the kids aren't rambling about shrieking and screaming in play. It's quiet! It's nice!

If I want to go to the Library it's not crowded, and traffic, depending on when I go, is light. Most of the cars are parked where their owner works. Need to visit the doctor or dentist? No missed work, or awkward arrangements and scheduling. "Yeah, I can be there at 8:30, Doctor."

I ambled down to the laundry room this morning, after doing my f2k checks, and it was empty. Just me! To top it off, this morning one of the dryers is broken. Wait for it ... it's permanently 'On'! I finally get a freebie! All the lost quarters from broken washers and dryers I've endured and now I have all the drying time I could wish for! And, NO, I'm not notifying management! They can't repair these things when they need to, so they can lose a few dollars for once. Hmmph!

I strolled down to toss my garbage and inhaled the morning air. The squirrels were chattering, the birds flitting from tree to tree. I could watch the sky and enjoy the slight over-cast. Nice.

I'll head to the store a little later to do my 'eats' shopping. And it will be easy to navigate the aisles. The shelves will be fairly well-stocked, and I won't have some idiots who can't figure out how to push a shopping cart, wobbling down the middle of the aisles, blocking the way. Yeah, I get grouchy when nimrods block aisles because they are the only ones there, don'cha know?

And finally, I can sit at my computer and write. The sounds of people are so few on my days off that it's almost like being in a secluded spot. I will put some nice music on and get in the proper mood for my writing, and enjoy the day.

I might even go blog visiting! Been awhile since I've had the time to say hello to my blogging friends. Did you know I have an ad for my novel running at Sister Toldjah? I do! Go check it out!

And have a safe, nice, day!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thoughts From Email

Thanks, Marci!
I walked into the grocery store not particularly interested in buying
groceries. I wasn't hungry. The pain of losing my husband of 7 years was still too raw. And this grocery store held so many sweet memories.

He often came with me and almost every time he'd pretend to go off and
look for something special. I knew what he was up to I'd always spot him walking down the aisle with the three yellow roses in his hands.

He knew I loved yellow roses. With a heart filled with grief, I only
wanted to buy my few items and leave, but even grocery shopping was
different since he had passed on.

Shopping for one took time, a little more thought than it had for two.

Standing by the meat, I searched for the perfect small steak and
remembered how he had loved his steak.

Suddenly a woman came beside me. She was blonde, slim and lovely in a
soft green pantsuit. I watched as she picked up a large package of
T-bones, dropped them in her basket.. Hesitated, and then put them back. She turned to go and once again reached for the pack of steaks.

She saw me watching her and she smiled. "My husband loves T-bones, but
honestly, at these prices, I don't know."

I swallowed the emotion down my throat and met her pale blue eyes.

"My husband passed away eight days ago," I told her. Glancing at the
package in her hands, I fought to control the tremble in my voice. "Buy
him the steaks. And cherish every moment you have together."

She shook her head and I saw the emotion in her eyes as she placed the
package in her basket and wheeled away.

I turned and pushed my cart across the length of the store to the
dairy products. There I stood, trying to decide which size milk I should buy. A Quart, I finally decided and moved on to the ice cream. If nothing else, I could always fix myself an ice cream cone.

I placed the ice cream in my cart and looked down the aisle toward the
front. I saw first the green suit, then recognized the pretty lady
coming towards me. In her arms she carried a package. On her face was
the brightest smile I had ever seen. I would swear a soft halo encircled her blonde hair as she kept walking toward me, her eyes holding mine.

As she came closer, I saw what she held and tears began misting in my
eyes. "These are for you," she said and placed three beautiful long
stemmed yellow roses in my arms. "When you go through the line, they
will know these are paid for." She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss
on my cheek, then smiled again. I wanted to tell her what she'd done,
what the roses meant, but still unable to speak, I watched as she walked away as tears clouded my vision.

I looked down at the beautiful roses nestled in the green tissue
wrapping and found it almost unreal. How did she know? Suddenly the
answer seemed so clear. I wasn't alone.

Oh, you haven't forgotten me, have you? I whispered, with tears in my
eyes. He was still with me, and she was his angel.

Every day be thankful for what you have and who you are.

(Please read all of this, it is really nice.)

This is a simple request. If you appreciate life, send this to your
friends, including the person that sent it to you.

Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings. Thank
you, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long as
possible. Thank you, Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising. Thank you, Lord,
that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when socks are lost,
toast is burned, tempers are short, and my children are so loud.

Thank you, Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like the picture in
magazines and the menu is at times unbalanced.

Thank you, Lord, for the food we have. There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job often is monotonous. Thank you,
Lord, for the opportunity to work. There are many who have no job.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my
circumstances were not so modest.

Thank you, Lord, for life.

Pass this on to the friends you know. It might help a bit to make this
world a better place to live, right? A friend is someone we turn to when
our spirits need a lift. A friend is someone to treasure.

For friendship is a gift. A friend is someone who fills our lives with
Beauty, Joy and Grace and makes the world we live in a better and
happier place.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jimmy Carter: America's Curmudgeon Emeritus

“I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history,” Mr. Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. “The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.”

As reported by the Globe and Mail, May 19, 2007

Jimmy Carter,

former US Grump-In-Chief

Our former President, the 39th president of the United States of America, has once again opened his spite-filled mouth to spew invective on the current President. He continues to plumb depths no other former President has ever explored. His venom knows no bounds, this supporter of the Pseudostinians. A one-term, failed president, whose incumbency was noted for sky-rocketing inflation, gas shortages, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and marauding bunny rabbits has seen fit to pass judgement, once again, on a successor who has never been less than polite to him.

What compels this Georgia peanut-farmer to act as if his thoughts come from "On High"? This man who made Human Rights a cornerstone of his administration, yet used that as a cudgel against our allies while ignoring the abuses of our enemies, sees the world as a "Me-against-Them" planet, where any who disagree with him must be 'bad', since he is, by his own self-view, 'good'. Many people, whose reminiscences I have read, have called Carter 'cold', 'selfish', 'self-righteous', mean, among many other adjectives. I have read few who have called him a warm person. His Carter Center, with many fine-sounding goals, seems, from what I have read, to be a place for him to bring in money for his travels around the world. Travels which always result in Carter mouthing-off about the evils of the USA, and the reasonableness of everybody else. Bush=bad, Castro=good; Reagan=bad; Arafat=good; Israelis=oppressors, pseudostinians=victims; Republicans=bad, Democrats=good; Bush=evil, Hussein=good ... well, you see the drift of his 'thinking' here.

When the Soviet Union (Reds=good, Republican anti-communists=evil) invaded Afghanistan, carter, rather than use the power of the USA to stifle the move with economic, trade, and even military action, instead showed his diplomatic skill by ... banning US athletes from going to the 1980 Moscow Olympics. That showed them, eh? The result? Well, you've seen it! Rather than explain to the Panamanian government that the Panama Canal was a US strategic necessity, carter signed a treaty which turned this vital waterway over to them! The Red Chinese now control at least one entrance to that Canal.

His sole claim to greatness during his presidency is not even his. The Camp David Accords, which saw the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, was brokered by the two parties, not by the US or by Carter. Sadat and Begin sought a place of importance to finalize the accord, and Carter wisely offered Camp David. For this, Carter expected a Nobel Peace Prize. Instead he was left grumbling in the dust as Sadat and Begin shared the prize.

Jimmy Carter is an angry old man, a grump, a curmudgeon. His inability to rescue the American diplomatic personnel taken hostage by the Iranians in 1979 was probably the final nail in the coffin of his presidency. After claiming that the Shah was a friend of the US Carter urged the Shah to leave Iran. The resulting chaos was predictable to most, although Carter seemed oblivious. This failure has followed him ever since, as it should. Ronald Reagan was sworn in as Carter's successor on January 20, 1981. Minutes later the hostages were released. Would Reagan have gone to war over this blatant act of war by the Iranians? We'll never know. But the Iranians apparently thought Reagan would do something that Carter would not. Reagan, after all, was the man who, when told we could never beat the Soviets, asked, "Why not?" Can anyone imagine the hysterical Carter uttering such a simple reply?

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Ronald Reagan ~ June 12, 1987

When asked how he would take on the Soviet Union, Reagan said, "We win; they lose." It was as simple as that. And with his positive outlook on the inevitability of US goodness and destiny, Reagan made the Soviets dry, "Uncle". Carter? His response to Soviet hegemony was to sign the SALT II treaty in 1979. Six months after the signing, the Soviet Union deployed troops in Afghanistan, and as such the treaty was never ratified by the United States Senate. A stark difference, wouldn't you say?

You all know that Carter writes many books. All of them extol his thoughts on Peace, the Middle-East, and how he would have done things better. He is a constant buzz of disagreement, to put it nicely, with his successors, and a constant nay-sayer. His pronouncements from foreign lands are absurd, embarrassing, and dead wrong. He is an embarrassment to his homeland, a foolish drone, a curmudgeon. His international impact was to show the USA as an impotent, wishy-washy, weak-willed, nation of pampered, lazy, children, prone to unreasoning violence. His party continues this view of the US. Jimmy Carter has been a cancer.

When will he retire his mouth and go back to the one positive achievement of his post-presidential career: Habitat for Humanity?

Postscript: The up-and-coming candidate for the next Curmudgeon-In-Chief? Al Gore. He is like a manic Carter. Self-righteous, unwilling to consider opposing views, fact-shy, arrogant. He bears watching. When Carter finally goes to his reward, I think you will see Gore take over his mantle.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sister Toldjah has posted on the remarks of the former Curmudgeon-In-Chief, too.

Larson has his own take on the blitherings of the Plains Pontificator. See the Potbelly Stove!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Readying The Writing Class

F2K (which stands for Fiction 2000, its third name, and the one that has stuck) is close to opening for our newest session. It's been awhile since our last session, and we have a new site running. So along with exploring all the nooks and crannies there, I have also been doing a little bit here and a little bit there. Adding rooms, forums, scheduling the weekly chats, and so on. The toughest part has been corralling our Mentors. Mentors are volunteers who have been through the course before and know what we’re all about. They are guides, I suppose, with a little more experience than the average student, as far as the course is concerned.

F2K Splash Page

The free writing course, which runs for six weeks, is basically peer-supported; writers helping writers. Mentors also give some individual attention to those students who wish to pay a small fee. And it is small! I used Mentor Support for my second trip through and found it well worth it. But the other two times I did not. It depends on how you approach the course, and how much time you wish to spend on it. And a student can “upgrade” any time they like.

So far I still have two rooms without a Mentor, though I have emailed two folks. Like herding cats, I guess! But the fact is, since I was asked to be the F2K Coordinator I have been eager to get this going. So I’m anxious to get my Mentors lined up and ready to go!

If any of you are interested in kick-starting your writing, or learning some of the basic elements of writing fiction, why not sign up? Right now we intend to open on May 23rd, barring any unforeseen circumstances, and it’s a fun experience for newer, as well as more seasoned, writers. I don’t believe there’s any age restriction, although we cater to the adult writer more than children. Check it out.

Meanwhile I am still writing my sequel to “Benning’s War”; the research is rough – this is not the era I am comfortable with – but edifying. Discovering new characters, learning how they interact with each other, playing with the dialogue and action, all of it is tiring but exciting. It’s funny to say, and non-writers may shake their heads in disbelief, but while you are deep in the writing – inspired, I guess – the characters seem to speak for themselves. They come to demand your attention, clamor for their voices to be heard, and seems to direct the story-telling. Ask a writer; they’ll tell you!

I’m using PriNoWriMo as a spur to action, if you will, and I am not quite half-way to our 50,000-word goal for the month. Even if I make the goal the novel will not be close to being finished. There’s a lot of story to tell and 50,000 words won’t come close. And that doesn’t even touch what will happen when I begin editing it. But that’s in the future. For now it’s the writing that is alive.

And how about you?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I Get Email

Two of my fellow Associates at the Largo Wal-Mart email each other. Marci will forward some items she gets from Lewis. This is one of them:
A first grade school teacher in Virginia had twenty-five students in her class. She presented each child in her classroom the first half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb.

It's hard to believe these were actually done by first graders. Their insight may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these are first graders, 6-year-olds, because the last one is a classic!

1. Don't change horses......... until they stop running.

2. Strike while the..................bug is close.

3 It's always darkest before.............Daylight Savings Time.

4. Never underestimate the power of ....termites.

5. You can lead a horse to water but .... how ?

6. Don't bite the hand that ................. looks dirty.

7. No news is................................. impossible.

8. A miss is as good as a .................. Mr.

9. You can't teach an old dog new ......... math.

10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll ......stink in the morning.

11. Love all, trust ............................. me.

12. The pen is mightier than the .......... pigs.

13. An idle mind is............................. the best way to relax.

14. Where there's smoke there's ........... pollution.

15. Happy the bride who....................... gets the presents.

16. A penny saved is .......................... not much.

17. Two's company, three's .............. the Musketeers.

18. Don't put off till tomorrow what ... you put on to go to bed.

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and ..... you have to blow your nose.

20. There are none so blind as ............ Stevie Wonder.

21. Children should be seen and not ....spanked or grounded.

22. If at first you don't succeed .......... get new batteries.

23. You get out of something only what you ... see in the picture on the box.

24. When the blind lead the blind ........ get out of the way.

And the WINNER and last one:

25. Better late than.................................. pregnant.

Well, they made me laugh! Have a great day!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mothers' Day Proclamation

"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: 'We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.'

"From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says 'Disarm! Disarm!' The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

"As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

"In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace."

Julia Ward Howe
- Boston 1870 -

To my Mother - Sandra - I wish the happiest of Mother's Days, and send all my love!

Thanks, Mom!

To all of you fine Mothers out there: May this be the very best Mother's Day you've ever had, and the worst you will ever have! Love to you all!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

After The Storm

Well, all my symptoms tell me I have bronchitis, something I have dealt with since I was about ten-years-old. I won't go into the grisly details. Suffice it to say that it wears you out, from top to bottom, and leaves you drained, wishing it would just end. But it doesn't, of course, but goes on and on and on. Yech!

I continue to work on the new F2K site, to get it ready to open for classes, and I continue to run our Private Novel Writing Month blog, which isn't difficult, and I'm trying to get my writing done. Have I mentioned before just how lazy I am?

This evening, as the Severe Storm Alerts came through the WeatherBug program, we did have a storm roll through, bringing with it some lovely, cool breezes. With my A/C broken, only two weeks after they "fixed" it, it's been a tad warm around the apartment. This is very nice. Lightning, bangs of thunder, some rolling sheets of rain, then it moved off. I grabbed the camera and headed out ojnto the balcony and took the following shot. No, it doesn't capture the sheer beauty of what my eyes could see. But it's going to give you an idea. This is aimed East.
After The Storm
After The Storm

Click on the image to see a larger picture.

Anyway, I'm still having trubbles with the computer, and after buying a new download of Norton, installing it, letting the scan run for twelve hours - yes, I said twelve hours! - I rebooted, per instructions and learned that it decided I hadn't updated (one hour to update the previous day!), and needed to run a complete scan. Another complete scan? Are you freakin' kidding me?

I uninstalled it and consider it a lesson learned. I DL'ed AVG's antivirus and will see if, in a month, I wish to pay for it. I do know where they hide their free version! *wink wink*

No, I ain't gonna go with a Mac - I can't afford a new computer. But I will keep on trying to get this darned machine working right, and better.

'Nuff said! Hope all of you are well. Stay safe, and I'll be back!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What's Goin' On

Our Private Novel Writing Month has begun. Former students of f2k - a free writing course supported by Writers Village University (known as WVU) - have gotten together to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Yes, it's a copy of the famous National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. That's why we chose PriNoWriMo for our own endeavor.

Last May we did a heckuva job, and most of us hit 50,000 words or came darn close! One even blasted into the stratosphere with 102,000+! If you don't think that's a big deal, try it. My own start yesterday was interfered with something awful. How, you ask? (Well, you might have!) My AntiVirus program decided that it was corrupted. All of it! Recommendation? Uninstall and reinstall the program.

Easy, right? Not! By the time I turned off the monitor and went to bed - at 3AM - the uninstall of an attempted download and install of Micro$oft's OneCare, was still going on. Total time of benning messing with this, while grumbling, whining, and of course cursing quietly yet heartily: 6 hours. When I got up this morning - 6:44AM! Sheesh! - the uninstall had finally finished. So I bent to the task of trying to reinstall my Norton AV. This had refused to work last night.

I did a System Restore (benning bows to the Lords of System Restore, once again) and stuck in the CD. Once again the program said it was unable to install, but I hit the retry button - which I did three times last night, to no avail - and washed dishes and made coffee.

It worked! Cool Beans! Now to update the bloody thing, which took awhile, accompanied by the obligatory "You must restart your computer for ..." blah, blah, blahs. Right now Norton is scanning my computer while I write this post. I'd like to know just what the hell corrupted the entire bloody program! Grrrr! There are creeps out there with nothing better to do than create viruses, Worms, and all sorts of Nasties that hurt computer users. I hope they rot in Hell, I really do.

That scan will take a long while, so I'm going to ignore it for the time being and get back to writing. Last night's output amounted to a meager 1,200 words, but it opened my mind to some visuals that I wanted to find. It's in the middle of the novel, but it's important. Very. So inspiration is always welcome. Ask any writer.

And where have I been for the past week? Still fighting this crud - more than a cold, prolly bronchitis, which seems to be a staple for me - which makes me tired and lazy. (I confess! I am lazy!)But also working to get the latest f2k going. It's been completely remodeled, placed on a new server, and the programming is all new. Which means ... I dunno. It's mostly beyond me, but the founder asked me to take over for the last Mentor-In-Chief, and I said I would. Truth be told, I think it's going to be too much for me to handle. I doubt I can do it. But, by golly, I'm gonna try. I really love the f2k course. And if this is what it takes to get it back and get some eager writing students into it, then I'll do my best. But it does take time. After all, I have a lot of noodling to do to figure out what to do. And that means phone calls to the founder - up in North Carolina - and emails. Trying to remember what had been in the original and then the later editions, if you will, and getting it all set up.

Last session, which was my first as a Mentor, we had somewhere around 500 people register. That's a lot of writing students! And why not? It's free! And the Mentors are volunteers, folks who have taken the course themselves and gone on to join WVU as members, as well. At this point I have no idea how many of the previous Mentors will join us again. All of them, I hope! We need 'em to get this done. So I will crawl through my address book and send invites to 'em. Already, as I have been told, we have folks registering for f2k. It's not yet open, or ready to go, but folks are so eager to get in that they're registering without any idea of the start date. Wow!

So that's what I've been up to for the past week, Folks. I have been lazy and busy and my computer has been corrupted, and I've also gotten some writing done. Discipline, benning! Discipline!

If I don't get around to my blogging friends I hope they'll understand and know that I will be around soonest.

Write On!