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X2, times 2

Actually, X2 times 2 times 2, really. Second time, this time around with two children.

I'd promised two of my (now former) students that I'd bring them to see the new X-Men flick, and every time we've tried for the past month of weekends, we couldn't get it together. Finally, this afternoon, everybody's schedules meshed, and Jason and Aaron and I headed off for the theater, with a stop at the store for (ugh) sour octupi. I hate those gummy-type candies, but the kids love 'em, and I was treating, so there you have it. We did have a scare when we discovered that the first theater we went to was sold out. The weather was rotten, so all the families were out seeing Finding Nemo, and when that sold out, the spillover ran into the X-Men. I simply could not take the looks of disappointment on the boys' faces, so I called Jason's dad and got an alternate theater, which we made with moments to spare but which had a long line, alas. So they missed the first scene, but hey—they saw all the rest.

You know, being a comics fan and having the X-Men come to the big screen in a couple of pretty decent movies is nice enough. But watching X2 with two ten-year-olds is a hoot. Aaron had seen the first movie (I lent him my DVD), but Jason hadn't, so I had two different sets of questions to answer. One was regarding the first movie as it relates to the characters in the second, and the other was of the "Who is that?" variety. But Jason had read some of the comics and seen many of the cartoons besides, so it evened out. And it truly was a lot of fun answering all the whys and whos and whats.

I had warned both boys that the fight scenes were going to get a bit brutal, but when the final fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike broke out, Jason said, "It's not scary. They're not real, anyway." And prior to that, I warned Aaron that he might find the scene where Magneto removes the excess iron from his sadistic guard's blood a bit much, Aaron said, "I'll close my eyes" and proceeded to cover his eyes with his hands. Then he peeked. He wound up watching the entire scene with his hands on the sides of his face, bringing back memories of my watching most of Vincent Price's "The Last Man On Earth" through my large-weave orange sweater, back when I was Aaron's age. I tried very hard not to let him see that I was laughing. Then he told me the scene really wasn't all that bad.

I had a great time. They had a great time. Got lost on the way home, but that gave us more time to discuss things like how neat it was that you could feel the raindrops on the roof of my Jeep from the inside, and how much cooler it would be if the roof was off. (They thought it would be cool, I did not. When I pointed out that we'd be getting wet, Jason said, "Aren't the seats waterproof?" Well, they are, but that's besides the point.)

Anyway, we have a tentative date for the Hulk movie, and with any luck, by that time the soft top will be on and it will be a sunny day, so we can drive with the top down.

I love kids. Gotta get me one of my own someday.

The tentacles of Ba'athism

For those of you who still think Salam Pax is some kind of heroic wunderkind who fought the Ba'athist pull, here's an article that details how much the party infiltrated Iraq life—particularly in the life of wealthy Iraqis, who, in an American phrase, had to go along to get along.

The most provocative and rebellious cases do face retribution. Keeping the Ba'ath party's approval is a prerequisite for navigating Iraq's administrative channels. And the party ultimately has the power to excommunicate people, leaving them ineligible for food rations, bank accounts or homes. Though they may not be victims of direct brutality, they soon find themselves on the street. And taking away civil rights is more radical and cruel than sending in the police, a step the regime rarely takes.

[...] The Ba'ath party's hierarchy-based tree structure serves all these goals. At the lowest level, study circles (halaqa) and cells (kheliya) hold weekly meetings with a dozen or so activists from the same neighbourhood or sector. They talk about current events, or the party version of them, in line with the inclinations of the regime. Basic instructions are issued; any irregularities observed during the week are discussed with the cell leaders and written up in obligatory reports. The party's divisions (firqa), which include all the cells within a district, office or factory, occupy the next highest level, then the sections (shu'ba) and branches (fara'), which make up urban areas or governorates (1).

Unlike the cells, the sections and branches enjoy considerable privileges. They are legally authorised to incarcerate suspects using extra-judicial procedures; they have taken over many of the traditional functions of police, especially outside Baghdad; and they run specialised bureaus for cultural, agricultural and other matters. In each governorate the organisational command (qiyadat al-tanzim) is the supreme authority, alongside the traditional civil service. The Ba'ath party duplicates, infiltrates, subverts and competes with the state apparatus.

Think about that when Salam brags of how his father negotiated several Iraqi government officials' surrender.

One of the things that bothered me no end was the idiotic fan club that grew over Baghdad Bob. Yes, he was funny, and amusing to imitate. But when I started reading some bloggers' comments that we should bring him over here and give him his own talk show, I began to wonder what the hell those bloggers use for brains, because no one—no one gets that high up in Saddam's regime without having blood on his hands. Anyone who thinks otherwise is hopelessly naive.

We don't know what Baghdad Bob did to get where he is. And we don't really know who Salam Pax is, and what ties his family has to the Ba'athists—but we do know that it's highly unlikely they were that privileged without being members of the club.



Month–old letters and nonworking dash keys

See, there's supposed to be a dash between non and working. And that en dash in the title is supposed to be a plain old dash. You have no idea, as a touch typist, an English major, a former copy editor, and a perfectionist, how much it's going to drive me crazy if I can't get the dash key to work. I also can't seem to get the number six key to work, which means I can't use the caret, but I can't think of the last time I needed to use the caret, so who cares about that? The six key, now that's different. How am I going to put a six in the date if I can't get the six key to work?

Well, anyway, I'm now reading old emails that were in the "I'll get to these a bit later" file, and a bit later turned into even later to later still to "Ohmigod, I'd better answer these emails or they'll all think I'm an awful snob!"

So thanks for the kind wishes, Jim. And here's one from Jim for Captain Steve.

Rocket Ray reminded me that it was the movie Bananas that I was thinking of for the Howard Cosell bedroom commentary. (I said I was behind in my mail.)

Wayne T. sent me this email, which makes me think that perhaps my cats aren't quite this annoying:

About your cat comment (scratching on the patio door), that sort of reminds me of ... well, cats. I was watching America's Funniest Home Videos last Friday and there was one where a cat was waiting for his owner to open a door to let him out - it was a screen door, only the screen was gone(!), so he could have just walked on out. The owner walked through the 'door' to show the cat that he could, should he wish, just go through, but the cat didn't budge. The owner nudged the cat a few times, walked through the door and back a few times ... finally, she opened the door (which was pointless, because there was NO SCREEN) and only then did the cat walk out.

Totally cat

Yes. I'm more and more convinced that cats were created to annoy us.

Patty D. wrote in response to this:

Actually, I'd bet my last dollar that George W. Bush has played bingo. Here in Texas in the 50's, all the country clubs had a bingo night. Back then there was no liquor by the drink (except at private clubs) and no gambling (except were the people gambling had more money and prestige than the sheriff- and that wasn't hard). You went to the country club (where all the members were white and Christian, although Dallas and Houston had Jewish country clubs, and almost all the help was black) and had a buffet dinner and then played bingo. Basically all the money was paid out in prizes. The buffet was charged to your monthly bill but the bingo cards were on a cash basis - no one wants to leave a paper trail! Also, the kids could play if their parents wanted to spring for the cards. The cards were those heavy cardboard ones with the sliding window thingee to cover the number called.

Okay, I'll grant that. But a bingo night in a country club and bingo in a city bingo parlor are two wholly different creatures. Bingo, possibly. Setting foot in a working class Bingo hall? I doubt it.

Oh--mi--god. ^6. Look. My missing characters returned while I was writing this post. I'll be damned. If I were a credulous type, I'd ascribe some mystical, ridiculous theory to it instead of something like, well, the keyboard had some dirt in it and I dislodged it while pounding the keys that didn't work. But then again, that's me.

Sigh. Gone again. Something tells me that there's going to be a new computer in my future, and it's going to be relatively soon. Damn. I really can't afford a new laptop. I'm going to be chained to a desk.

Bill Herbert publishes a follow-up where a journalists actually corrects his mistakes. It's a little old (sorry, this is all old email), but still pertinent. Check it out.

This is a fascinating blog. Rajan, the Dissident Malaysian. Talk about someone willing to speak his mind! Here's what he says about himself:

Hello. While I'm a Malaysian, I'm pro-Israel, pro-War-On-Terrorism, pro-America, pro-Capitalism and pro-freedom. So in other words, I'm not your average Malaysian - get used to it.

That's my kinda blogger.

Here's a site so lame it asks you to choose your resolution screen. (Don't blame me if yours isn't the same as mine.) We can only hope that this is true. Breaking OPEC would be a wonderful thing.

From reader Ben F.:

The judges missed the point, but IMO so did your commentary.

By saying that a murderous attack was launched as an election ploy, the cartoon alleges that SHARON'S SUPPORTERS are bloodthirsty.

The cartoon is not saying that Sharon is bloodthirsty, only that he is A POLITICIAN PANDERING TO THE BLOODTHIRSTY LIKUD VOTERS.

That is the blood libel, no?

And we are now officially all caught up, and my dash key is still not working, dash it all. One of my favorite lines from The Once and Future King: "After all, dash it all, it is the capital!"

Salam retreats and deletes

Update 2: I think I owe Salam an apology. I think it was a cache issue on my end. I cleared mine, and the page reappeared after having disappeared again. (Which made me suspicious. I'd refreshed the page more than once and didn't get the blog back on the main page, but I didn't clear the cache to be certain.) Whoops. Sorry.

That being said, well, I don't delete my posts, so here it is, in all its embarrassing glory. Unlike some people (hi, Sean Paul!), I face up to my mistakes.

Update: The deleted page is now back on the main site. But I know what I saw, or didn't see: It was gone this afternoon.

Interesting. The Iraqi blogger who enthralled his audience with tales of his electronic derring-do, explaining that he was outwitting various Iraqi controls with his computer expertise, apparently can't delete a post from his main page and from his archive.

But delete the post from the main page he did. The one that says this:

My father was invited to an informal dinner attended by Garner the second week he was in Baghdad; he also met some of Bodine’s aides and has met some of Bremer’s aides a couple of times too. Not to mention many of your top military people south of Baghdad.

Seriously, not joking there.

And this:

Have I told you that my father agreed to act as the mediator in the surrendering process between a number of Iraqi government officials and the American administration here? He is a man with sound moral judgment and people listen to his advice. People at the American administration and many of the new political parties had asked him for consultation.

Did you give away too much, Salam? Thought better of it? Don't want people to know how connected your family really is? After all, how many Iraqis got to meet the American administrators? What kind of Iraqis helped negotiate the surrender of government officials? Well-connected ones, who had to be part of the regime, no?

Interesting information. And yet another clue for people that Salam Pax is more than he seems, and far more than he lets on to be.

Disrespecting Salam

Saw this on LT's blog, then went over to Salam's to read more. Seems our child of privilege is upset that people are digging around and prying into his past, and accusing his father of being a Ba'athist:

Let me make a suggestion. Do not assume, not even for a second, that because you read the blog you know who I am or who my parents are. And you are definitely not entitled to be disrespectful. Not everything that goes on in this house ends up on the blog, so please go play Agatha Christy somewhere else.

Then there's more. He discusses the price of pizza, a necessity that Iraqis simply couldn't live without:

You know how much you would pay for a pizza before [attack of the media types II] started? 2500 dinars, a bit more than one dollar.

Do you know how much it costs now? 6000 dinars, a little less than 6 US dollars. Plus the exchange rate is totally fucked up and the real estate market is getting bizarre. You can follow the trail of the foreigners by how much things cost in a certain district.

And then there's his fear of the mullahs taking over.

One icon goes another comes, not even necessary to repaint the whole picture. It is scary how well the two images fit on top of each other.

I came back from the trip seriously worrying that we might become an Iran-clone. If anyone went to the streets now and decided to hold elections we will end up with something that is scarier than Khomeini’s Iran.

And Salam's reaction to that:

So the “interim Iraqi government” got screwed. Quelle surprise!!

Not too hot about any of them anyway and this way we get to blame the Americans for the screwing up of our future. They have been involved in creating the mess we are in now, they should take responsibility in helping us clear it up. Ummm, let’s put it this way so no one gets pissed off: Pretty please with sugar on top, don’t leave now and let the loony mullahs stick me on a pole and leave me in the sun to think about my “Sins”.

Here's a suggestion for you, Salam, which I'm sure you'll find disrespectful: If you want to improve your country, get off your whining, fat, spoiled ass and do something more than blame the Americans and hide from taking any personal responsibility for your nation's problems. You say your family weren't Ba'athists? Good for you. Go do something to show what an Iraqi patriot you are.

Saddam is gone. Your life isn't at risk any more. Stand up to the mullahs yourself. And bring some friends. Perhaps things would get better faster, and the price of pizza would go back to normal.

So sue me

I was checking my referrer logs, and found myself on the Blogstreet "biq 100", which is something I frankly don't understand but that seems to try to impart a ranking system on weblogs. Curious, I checked their top 100 list as well, and discovered that yes, I'm still not there. (Of course, if, say, 50-75 weblogs suddenly linked to me, I think I'd be back in the top 100 again. Not that I'm asking, really. No, I'm not.) Then my eye was taken by a graphic in the corner, and the words on the top of the screen:

Blogs in our Directory: 138302
Top Blogs are decided on the number of blogs BlogRolling them.
The Top Blogs are entitled to place the BlogStreet Top Blog image on their blogs.

And I thought, well, what are they gonna do? Sue me?

That's right. I'm gonna use the gif without permission. I ain't in the top 100. Whatcha gonna do about it, Blogstreet?

Come and get me, Blogstreet Legal Department.

(This has been brought to you by:, skewers of inflated blog egos since 2001.)

Hopeful things

Last night I attended a lecture at my synagogue given by a member of AIPAC, which I suppose now puts me firmly in the Zionist World Takeover Conspiracy (just wait until I actually join AIPAC, then I'll really be in the conspiracy). But I came out of the speech feeling more hopeful about peace in the Middle East than I ever had before. I strongly recommend that any of you living in a city with an AIPAC presence get a chance to hear one for yourself.

On the less hopeful side, Judith Weiss posted links to the anti-Semitism conference she attended, and on one of them I found this:

This [anti-Zionism] is, I think, the most dangerous anti-Semitism of them all. It is not the case, of course, that every criticism of the Jewish state is an instance of anti-Semitism; but it is certainly the case that every instance of anti-Semitism is a criticism of the Jewish state, a fundamental criticism, since it denies the legitimacy of the ideal of a normal life for Jews, who are consigned by anti-Semites of one kind or another to an endless abnormality of one kind or another. If Israel cannot be above criticism, neither can Israel’s critics be above criticism; and the anxiety that many critics of Israeli policy are at bottom critics of Israeli reality, that the opposition to Israeli actions in Jenin or Gaza is sometimes motivated by a prior historical or religious dogma, is not an outlandish anxiety. A prejudice is not a criticism. Those of us who are not reluctant to criticize Israeli policies must be particularly careful not to be fooled. . . .

Anti-Semitism should be the occasion for an international conference at a center for non-Jewish history. Let me explain. The hatred of the Jews is a matter of urgent concern to Jews because of the injury that they may suffer as a result of it. The Jewish investigation of anti-Semitism is plainly a requirement of self-interest, and also a requirement of dignity, because defending oneself against one’s enemy is an ethical duty of the most elementary sort. The search for security has a foundation in morality. Still, the solution to the problem of anti-Semitism is not to be sought in the Jewish struggle against it. It is indecent to ask the victims to make themselves responsible for an end to their victimization. After all, they are not doing this to themselves. This is being done to them. If anti-Semitism will ever vanish from the earth, it will be the consequence of a transformation not in the mentality of Jews, but in the mentality of non-Jews.

In this sense, anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem at all. I have two reasons for insisting upon such a paradoxical formulation. The first reason has to do with the nature of prejudice. The second reason has to do with the course of modern Jewish history.

Perhaps the most significant fact for the proper comprehension of prejudice is that its object is not its cause. If you wish to understand racism, study whites, not blacks. If you wish to understand misogyny, study men, not women. If you wish to understand anti-Semitism, study non-Jews, not Jews. Indeed, the view that the explanation of prejudice is to be sought in its object is itself an expression of prejudice. It justifies prejudice, insofar as it attributes to it a basis in reality.

For it is the distinguishing mark of prejudice that it leaves the actual behind, so as to arrive at a generalization about a group that cannot be affected by anything that a member of the group might say or do. There is no evidence against such a generalization, because the evidence for it seems to be everywhere; and where evidence is everywhere, evidence is nowhere. Prejudice is not a mistake; it is a fiction. Mistakes can be corrected, but prejudice can only be fought. Anti-Semitic beliefs about the Jews are not merely false; they are also, for those who believe them, unfalsifiable. For the anti-Semite, everything that a Jew thinks or does is regarded as a Jewish thought or a Jewish deed. Such a generalization is most accurately described as a fantasy. Anti-Semitism is a tradition of fantasy that non-Jews have of Jews. . . .

Though I've had my differences with Leon Wieseltier, this speech is magnificent. You know the cliché; read the whole thing.



Emily Litella on the Hosting Matters problem

Folks: I received the following email from a woman we haven't heard from since the grand old days of Saturday Night Live, Ms. Emily Litella.

I don't understand what all the fuss was about trying to get to Instapundit and all those other blobs yesterday. Why would anyone want to get to a blob, anyway? The Blob was a nasty creature that fell to earth in a meteor and tried to eat everyone in Steve McQueen's town and why don't we see Steve McQueen in movies anymore, anyway? What? He's dead? Oh. Never mind. What? Blogs? With a G? Why didn't you say so?

But to get back to that nice Instapundit man, why would the UPS want to stop him from writing his weblog, anyway? He's not a package. The UPS should be delivering packages and leaving the rest of us to do what we like. I say if the UPS has a problem with Instapundit, they should take it up with Glenn Reynolds and leave the rest of Internet alone!

And while I'm at it, why do the UPS drivers wear that ugly brown uniform? Was brown the only color the company could think of? Are we supposed to think of them as walking brown-paper-covered packages? Because I think it just makes them look silly. Maybe that's why they were attacking Glenn. Because if I had to wear that ugly brown uniform, I'd be angry, too.

In conclusion, leave that nice man alone, and get back to delivering your packages, UPS!

Thank you.

The Woodpecker Wars: Not again

When last we left the saga of Woody E. Woodpecker, the war had been won. Woody no longer pecks on the metal chimney hood at 6:30 in the morning, which means I no longer have to go outside in my jams and lob ice cubes (that really is a very strange phrase when you actually read it), and can sleep until 7:15, or later, if I so choose. (I so choose, for the most part.) But—

I was reaing an email from LT Smash, and he had mentioned Woody Effing Woodpecker, and—I swear this is true—as I was reading this letter, a woodpecker started pecking on something that soundeded like a tree. I went outside to see if I could find the pecker, and a bird flew off my kitchen roof. And then I heard a woodpecker singing from the tree in which this bird landed.

I don't know about you, but all the clues are pointing toward Woody coming back to my apartment to continue annoying me. Well, except that I can sleep through normal wood woodpecking. As long as he stays away from my chimney, I think I can handle it.

I can hear him talking even as I write this. Once you learn what woodpecker song sounds like, you never forget. Probably because it makes you want to reach for something you can throw at the little effer.

Hosting Matters cancelled the Carnival

Glenn Reynolds obviously didn't read this site or Kathy Kinsley's yesterday, or he'd know exactly what had happened to his weblog yesterday. [waving] He won't see me waving, either. Bummer. I used to know the guy. [insert stupid ascii grin here]

(Say, is a capacitor in a UPS any relation to a flux capacitor?)

Anyway, Dean Esmay is hosting the Carnival of the Vanities, and his server was hosed yesterday, so I'm linking to it again. (You other bloggers should, as well.) Poor guy tries so hard, and then the universe decides to show him the meaning of the phrase bad luck.



NAC/Hosting Matters update

Well, it's not exactly an update. More like a "neener, neener."

Hosting Matters is a NAC customer. I am a NAC customer. Hosting Matters' servers are at the Parsippany site. is hosted on a server at the Parsippany site. When the capacitor in the UPS blew, Hosting Matters' sites when down. My site went down.

My site's been back up for hours, and wasn't down for long. Hosting Matters' sites are still mostly kaput.

NAC likes me better than they like Hosting Matters, and they pay a lot more than I do.

Neener, neener, neener.

Baiting PETA

A friend of mine says that my posts on PETA amount to baiting them. Of course, she also says they deserve to be baited, because all they do is bait the rest of us with their offensive advertising campaigns, etc.

Anyway, in the interests of raising more PETA hackles, I thought I'd mention that a certain friend who will remain nameless has a miniature poodle that will not stop peeing on the floors, on various objects, and well, on so many things that Certain Friend's husband calls the dog "The Urinator." And Certain Friend is only half-joking when she says she wants to put an ad in the newspaper offering the poodle up for medical research.

So if you know anyone who needs a miniature poodle, about six years old, for medical research, send me an email. I'll pass the word along to Certain Friend.

Bellicose Broads update

In the Serendipity Dept.: Kathy Kinsley had the scoop on the Instapundit server problems. I found this out after I linked her in the post below. Some days, everybody's on the same wavelength.

Instapundit update

I'll be damned. Hosting Matters rents space from Net Access Corporation, which is my host, and Net Access had a fire this morning. That's why you can't get to Instapundit, and I'll venture anyone else on Hosting Matters.

No wonder Hosting Matters is such a good service. They're using my guys, who have been great since I first started with them as my ISP.

Anyway, I know they're working hard to fix things, and Glenn should be back up fairly shortly.

Connectivity problems

Is anyone else having trouble reading Instapundit? I can't get to it at all, and reader Leslie S. said she hasn't been able to, either. There was a brief problem reaching my site as well, but it seems to be all right now.

There have been no referrals from Instapundit for the past two hours, which is extraordinarily rare, so I'm thinking Glenn's got server problems.

Well, Charles is back. Or did I just mention that? Okay, then, Marduk is still around. And the folks at Silent Running. And Michele. And Lair. And Andrea. And the Bellicose Broads. And Lynn. And Bill Herbert. (Look, she's checking her referrers and making a list.)

It's a good thing I'm not hopelessly addicted. Addicted is bad enough.

Carnival of the Vanities

It's over at Dean Esmay's this week, and of course, I forgot to submit something again. Ah, well. There's always next week.

Oh, and Charles is back.

Kids and animals

So the Cat Crisis of Memorial Day Weekend is effectively over; Tig is home, eating the spoonful of wet food I've been doling out every so often and actually eating it with medicine mixed in. (Someone call the newspapers; in this house, it's as shocking as if gravity were suddenly nullified.)

When I woke up (far too early) this morning, Tig was scratching at the bedroom door, and when I opened it, he meowed and seemed quite fine, and the best news is that he had cleaned his fur between my bedtime and that morning. So I allowed him some dry food, let him out, and he promptly threw it up. Vet, I decided. Last time something like this happened, it turned out that Tig had an indigestible mass of fur and coarse grass, which was, well, blocking him. I told my new vet, who decided an X-ray was in order. So I dropped Tig off at the vet, went home, did a few things, called to find out when they'd be done with my cat, as I was picking up Sorena after school and heading to Heidi's house for dinner, plus I had to get the corrections done for the synagogue newsletter. It turned out that I picked up Sorena, then got the pages (my synagogue is next door to Sorena's school, which is how I found it in the first place), then we went to get Tig. Sorena came in to talk to the vet with me, of course, and got to see the X-ray of a cat's insides, which pleased her no end. The vet pointed out the kidneys, the colon, the stomach, and various gas bubbles in the stomach and intestines, as well as getting a dig in about the mass of fat. (Hey, she was no Slender Sadie herself, ya know?)

So we got Tig, brought him home, and watched in awe as he actually ate the medicine-impregnated wet food. Then we drove to Heidi's, and I was talking with Sorena about how cool it was to see what Tig looks like inside. I said she could tell all her friends at school the next day that she'd seen an X-ray of cat farts, because she saw the gas bubbles in the X-ray. Told Heidi that later, and got the evil look and a sarcastic thank-you from her. I'm not getting why she's annoyed. I mean, Sorena did see an X-ray of cat farts.

Gracie started the day off still freaked out, because the only room open upstairs was the bathroom, and she can't hide there. But while Tig was gone, I decided to give her the entire half can of tunafish left over, as Tig isn't getting anything but normal food for a while. That seemed to calm her down somewhat, but boy, can she keep a grudge. And as always, when Tig comes back from the vet's, Gracie looks at me with a "Why? Why did you have to bring him back?" expression on her face. She just hissed at him for disturbing her in the kitty condo. This is a nightly occurrence. She's trying to sleep in the cylinder, and he pretends to sharpen his claws on that very cylinder, when he's really trying to get her to come out and play. Hiss, growl, "Tig, come here!"

Anyway, it's past midnight, and I'm tired, and the cats are tired, and with any luck, I'll get a decent night's sleep without a torrential downpour waking me up, or the fighting of white-trash boyfriends of the white-trash neighbor across the way (who is getting evicted this week, thanks in part to my complaints about Friday and Saturday night's 3 a.m. boyfriend fights, and am I happy about that? You're damned right I am!).

So I'm off until tomorrow morning. Go check out Cattales if you want some gratuitous cat pictures; I'm too tired to post any new ones.



Letter from Captain Steve: Homecoming

Hard to believe I've been home for more than a week. And my time in the desert already seems a lifetime ago. Just one of the many pleasant effects of being home.

We launched from the desert for the last time on Thursday the 15th of May. Everyone cheered when we felt the landing gear rise into the wheel wells, but we still had the sneaking suspicion that it was all too good to be true. We were almost proven right.

We took off heavy in crew and equipment, so light on gas. We were scheduled to meet our first tanker shortly after launch. I wasn't in the observer's seat this time, but our comm guys connected me to the flight crew's intercom channel so I could listen in. Everything was uneventful at first - the approach, the rising to meet the boom, the connection; but just a minute after he started pumping fuel, the boom operator reported that we had a problem. Gas was venting from around the connection and streaming out of the jet. The tanker decreased the fuel pressure to no effect. Our flight engineer did what he could from our end but it didn't help. We disconnected and tried again -still leaking. They were consulting checklists and trying to determine whether the gas posed a safety problem when I switched off the intercom channel.

The flight crew wanted to get home as badly as I did. I knew they'd make the best decision. I know I've told you that we couldn't have asked for a more trustworthy pilot, copilot, flight engineer, and navigator. In this situation, as in so many others in recent weeks, it was a great relief to be able to rely on them, to know they'd make the best decision and just leave it in their hands. Meanwhile, there was nothing I could do but wait.

I don't know what they did but it worked. Soon the Red Sea was below us. We passed over the impossibly bleak mountains of Eastern Egypt and watched the land turn green along the Nile. I thought about my times in that country and wondered how this war would affect my relationships with friends there.

Our course took us across the coast at El Al Amein, where once I traveled by mountainbike, and just south of my old home on Crete. If we did have to make an early landing, Crete had my vote. Dolmathakia, moussaka, and ouzo would have been a poor substitute for being home on time, but I figured they would have been better than any other.

As it was though, we landed at our scheduled overnight spot, Lajes Field in the Azores. I'd never been there, but when they opened the jet cool, humid air rushed in carrying scents of ocean, black soil, and fresh-cut grass. It smelled closer to home than anything had in months.

The Azores are volcanic islands where steep green hills - shockingly green for someone coming from a desert - rise from the Atlantic. The hills, which are really closer to being small mountains, exchange the ocean at their feet for a veil of clouds at their higher elevations. Palms and exotic plants lend the place a tropical air, but black and white cows and steep hillsides crisscrossed by black stone walls made me think of Ireland at the same time.

We checked into our rooms in billeting, with plans to head downtown for dinner. In the mean time, I was so impressed with the landscape that I had to paint. In one tiny painting I used more greens and blues than I had used in months.

I finished just in time to meet our pilot, copilot, and one of the "Majorettes" (we have two female majors on the crew who roomed together, and who became known as the "Majorettes.") in the lobby to catch a cab. Just a mile or two from base the cab dropped us in the cobbled square at the center of a small village. We wandered up and down narrow streets sightseeing until we were starving, then located a restaurant. We dined like kings on fresh bread and seafood stew, and washed it down with local wine. After dinner we climbed uneven stone steps to the top of a promontory where a statue of Mary overlooks the harbor. The sun sank below the rim of the island while we watched.

In my room that night, wine (even in greater amounts than I'm used to) could not overcome the effect of knowing that I was half a world closer to my family. I was exhausted but could barely sleep for knowing that the next day would see me home.

And it did. I painted another Azores landscape on the jet but beyond that my ability to concentrate failed me. I was in some kind of agony watching endless miles of ocean pass below and trying to ignore my watch. Every milestone made it worse. When we finally reached the coast and turned south over Virginia nobody on the jet wanted to talk. We've a couple crewmembers for whom talking is a natural state, as necessary as breathing, but even they were silent. We sat and watched the map scroll by on our computer screens, the terrain growing more familiar as we flew farther south. We wanted silence so we could enjoy our daydreams of what was about to happen.

But daydreams could not do it justice. A yell went through the jet as our wheels touched down and then it was almost unendurable, the wait as we taxied, as the inflatable emergency slides were detached from the doors. (Once in an early sortie a crewmember forgot to detach the slide, and when the crew chief opened the door from the outside he was almost knocked off the stairs as it inflated.) Stowing our oxygen masks and completing our checklists seemed to take forever. Then we were off the jet in a wave of tan flightsuits, squinting to pick out familiar shapes in the crowd, the whole time telling ourselves, "I will not cry."

Capt. Steve & FamilyI managed not to, but only just. The sight of my wife, our daughter in her arms, our son standing by her side - it was overwhelming. I was dimly aware of signs welcoming us home, of friends and coworkers reaching for my hand, trying to engage me in conversation, but for several minutes I was unable to respond to them. I hope they don't think I was rude, but my entire world had shrunk to four people, and there was no room for anyone else.

And now it's been more than a week. For me being home is just the natural state of things, my familiar routine waiting to be resumed. But I remind myself that for my family, especially my kids for whom four months represents a large portion of their lives, my being home, while a happy event, is a tumultuous one.

My return represents the interruption of what has become the norm. My son has been the man of the house, my wife has made all the decisions, done all the work. My daughter will take some time to recognize me. I hold myself a little bit in check; work harder to suppress what has always been an overactive impulse to correct. I can't stand the thought that my return will be more stressful than my absence, so I defer to my wife's judgment (never a bad idea anyway) and let change find its own pace. I'm not good at this. I worry about doing it right.

And then Sunday afternoon my boy and I are splashing in our pool. It's a hot day, but there have been too few of them to heat the water yet. In no time we are shivering. We flop onto the sunbaked patio, our bellies to the hot cement, sunning ourselves like a couple of lizards. My eyes are closed against the reflected light. When I open them he's smiling at me. He drapes a wet little arm across my back and says, "I'm glad you're home Daddy."

So am I.


Road to Murderville update: Arafat's still in charge

Raise hands, those of you who are shocked, shocked to find out that Arafat is still running the show.

Palestinians on Tuesday postponed a second summit meeting between Israeli and Palestinian premiers, putting off high-level contacts over implementing a US-backed Mideast peace plan.

The meeting had been set for Wednesday. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was behind the delay, said a senior Palestinian official. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said Arafat wanted to send a message that he, and not Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, is in charge of negotiations with Israel.

What, no hands in the air?

Quel surprise.

Hey. Doesn't curare cause the same symptoms as a heart attack? Mossad, anyone?

Running on spleen

Is it just me, or have I been rather angry these last few days? Because it actually feels like weeks since I've written something funny. Or thoughtful.

Perhaps I'd better take a break from watching the news for a bit.

Well, after this next post, anyway.



The dummy speaks

Ariel Sharon:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered an impassioned defense of his support for the US-backed road map peace plan on Monday, calling the occupation of Palestinians in the territories "terrible" for Israel.

[...] But, Sharon said, "you may not like the word, but to maintain 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation, is terrible for Israel, the Palestinians and for the Israeli economy."

Emile Lahoud, Syrian puppet of Syrian-occupied Lebanon:

Lebanon's president on Monday said called Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's announcement that the occupation is "terrible" for Israel a ploy to deny Palestinian refugees the right to return home.

"Lebanon upholds the Palestinians' right to return to their lands, and consequently, rejects the resettlement" of Palestinians on its territory," President Emile Lahoud said in a statement Monday. "Lebanon considers Israel's position on the 'roadmap' as a clear Israeli maneuver to pre-empt (Palestinian) rights."

Meryl: Shut the fuck up, you Syrian sock-puppet. Nobody outside Syria and Syria-occupied Lebanon cares what you think. Get rid of the Syrian soldiers in Lebanon and we'll begin to think that you have a thing known as an independent country, let alone an independent thought.

Yeah, I've had a lousy day. Why do you ask?

At least the day is almost over

Well, it's near 11 p.m. and no trip to the emergency vet, so that's about three hundred bucks not spent. And Tig appears to have perked up quite a bit since I brought him a bowl of water as he lay exhausted on the bathroom floor. He's grooming himself right now. But overall, what a shitty day. Ahahah, get it? Get it? Shitty day! Ahahaha, sometimes I'm so funny I just slay myself.

Man, he stinks. Bathe him? Yeah. Because he doesn't need to be wrapped and have three people hold him merely to clip his claws. Bathing him would be a breeze. If you were wearing a suit of armor, anyway.

Guess who's not sleeping in my room tonight?

No, him, not me. But I think it's time to get back to business. (See above.)

Don't ask

We had about an hour of sun. It's overcast now, but at least it isn't raining. However, I have one sick cat who is basically leaking from his behind, and one cat whose paw got stepped on, which means that for the rest of the day, she'll be running away from me on a regular basis, and worse still, I have closed all of the upstairs rooms but the bathroom due to Tig's digestive ailment, so Gracie can't hide from the monster who obviously no longer loves her because she stepped on her foot. And of course, the vet is closed today and I am unwilling to contribute to the emergency vet's Rolls-Royce fund (how else to explain the prices they charge?).

Plus, I'm finishing up the last of my own illness and putting the final touches on the synagogue newsletter. My, what a fun day it's been. I can only imagine what the rest of the day has in store.

The lone piece of good news: I am now certain my video problem is that something was knocked loose, as the last time the screen darkened I tried, well, slamming it shut and opening again. It worked. (I didn't slam it too hard. Relax.) Now, all I have to do is take the computer apart and be able to tell what is loose and what isn't.

Yeah, like that's going to happen. "Gee, this looks okay. Hm. Does this look okay?"

Well, I'll try. Can't hurt, and this day blows giant monkey chunks already.



Baby pictures at Silflay Hraka

And it's not a baby bunny, either. Just a cute little new Bigwig, which would make him a Littlewig.

Hey, Bigwig, I found my copy of Watership Down and will be throwing quotes at you for the next week or so. Of course the line I always remember is "There's a dog loose in the woods!"

Forty days and forty nights

It has been raniing for forty days and forty nights here in Richmond. I saw a guy gathering animals up, two by two, of every kind, and putting them on this funky-looking boat.

Okay, maybe not, but it's so effing wet that mushrooms are growing from my straw welcome mat outside my door. Had I realized what they were, I wouldn't have kicked them over; I'd have photographed them, so you wouldn't think I'm making this up. But not to worry, it's currently thundering and raining as I write this, and I expect that by tomorrow morning, more mushrooms will have grown on my mat. They're strange-looking ones—tall, thin, white things about four to six inches long. That's why I didn't recognize them as mushrooms.

Heidi tells me that I have yet to find the mushrooms she finds the most amusing. They're penis-shaped. She swears she's not making that up, either. Says she's going to save one for me to show me. I'll take a picture of that one, too.

Anyway, I guess I wasn't a very good Charles Johnson substitute, as I got very busy today and couldn't post a thing. Oh, well. He's an original, anyway. Silly to try to be him.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.