The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I suppose my age is showing again. It's gotten so I am proud of it, though. Lord knows I've earned the thick streaks of platinum blonde in my hair and the "expression" lines on my face. It used to be that one was respected just for having been born lo, those many years ago. "Respect your elders!" we were taught. After all, we have years of experience on our side, and even if we don't know all the latest technology, we do know a thing or two about living.

Well, in one little town in England, that is not what the schools are teaching. In Wellingborough it's okay for school children to cuss out their teachers. Not just grumble something in a moment of frustration, but up to five times. Not only does the teacher have to put up with the humiliation of that show of disrespect, but he/she must keep track of the number of times the cuss word is used during that class period - and keep a tally on the chalkboard! (If the limits are exceeded, the class will be "spoken to") The article does not mention if the teachers are allowed to cuss back at the kids - but I would think that, even if such was allowed, few teachers would actually do it. They know the wisdom of restraint.

I am aware that many of the words that are offensive to me have fallen into such common useage that kids don't think twice about saying them no matter where they are. I remember when my boys' language suddenly started to be peppered with cuss words. I took the older one aside and told him that I understood that is how guys talk among themselves, but that such words should not be spoken around older people (mothers in particular) and ladies. My son, nearly 13 at the time, told me he knew lots of girls who used such words. I told him it was then up to him to decide who was a lady and who was not. He learned judgement that day, he learned respect, and he learned restraint. His language has never offended me since.

Things are different now. Young people seldom have to wait for anything. Never have to exercise much patience. Never have to think about offending others - no one is teaching them. And then, in Wellingsborough they get the go-ahead to disrespect their teachers (up to five times a class session) and someone actually thinks that's all right.

It isn't all right. You know it and I know it. If a kid can't learn restraint in his language, how will he learn restraint in his actions, in his angers, in the injustices that befall us all?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Getting Better

I found the this wonderful picture at and read the notes. It was taken by a young lady, Riri, who was photographically exploring Whitby Abandoned Psychiatric Facility. I understood it at once. I wrote the accompanying piece to go with it, because it is something I know.

Getting Better

This is what it is like
to be getting well:
You can see out.

The colors are bright,
the leaves lush on the trees,
the branches dark
and strong
and you know what is outside
you can see it
through jagged openings
that wait only for you to turn
around, face the fresh
air and notice

and you notice
that you are still inside,
notice that it is grey in here,
dull and dark and safe
in this shipwreck
and the bars
across the open space are gone.

Outside in the wilderness
of trees it is bright
and welcome warm.
You stand back
from the window
and look past

the raggedy hole
into the frightening


Copyright (c) 2005 Smokey Combs all rights reserved


If you want to see more of Riri's work (And I strongly recommend it! She is talented and has an eye for the real world that is tempered with an uncommon gentleness), visit here.

Maybe you will write your own poem...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

New Toys

I'vr been busy playing with my new toys. I have just discovered how easy it is to scan photos into the computer and upload them to That rectangle full of shifting images to the left on this page is a Flickr 'badge' - it offers a preview of all my pictures, which will bore the average blog reader...they're mostly family, mostly from the box under my bed which has defied sorting for more years than I care to count. Some of them are nearing extinction, and I uploaded them just in time. Some of them are priceless, at least to me. Bit by bit I am sorting them and saving them to disk. It's a project -- but one I do enjoy.

Another reason things have been pretty quiet on this front is that I have run across something that has caught my attention and I am investigating it. I had no idea there are those among us who believe what we saw, what we were told we saw, what happened and what we were told happened on September 11, 2001 is not necessarily the truth. It boggles my mind, and I am trying to find out what I can through reliable sources. If you want to do this as I do, start where I am starting, at I have tried four times to link to this site, and after each attempt I have lost everything written after the link in my blog entry. Spooky. More about this soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Whatever Happened To...

With Cindy Sheehan, a Gold Star Mother, reminding us that someone should be accountable for the losses mothers endure during a war - and with Joan Baez, always on the side of peace, singing at Camp Casey, my mind goes back to the Viet Nam Era, a time of flower children and flower power and posters, including this one, the mission statement of the organization Another Mother for Peace. I Googled the statement of the poster, hoping to find a nostalgic copy of it -- only to find that Another Mother for Peace is back, alive and well and promoting peace, and is completely behind the Cindy Sheehan originated movement!

Mothers promoting peace didn't just fade away after Viet Nam. The cause of peace is not merely a war-time issue. Promoting peace is actually a way of life, a gentleness in the way one lives -- those little things one does that put a positive spin on one's environment. This is everyone's duty in a peaceful society, but it falls most heavily on mothers, who teach their children from the time they are born how to act, react, how to tolerate and forgive, how to promote peace in their own back yards. Mothers have always taught peace.

With the rising human cost of the War on Terror, Another Mother for Peace has risen again to spread the word that war is not healthy. Now they reach higher. This year's AMP "New Summer 2005 Peace Homework" assignment is Stop High School Recruitment . AMP believes high school recruitment encroaches on the privacy of families and nudges us all a bit closer to the draft. Along with its own suggestions (write letters to the appropriate people, talk to your kids) AMP links to another site, Leave My Child Alone, which gives more detailed suggestions and even more information.

The poster itself, which I remembered and which started this morning's net wanderings, is the design of Lorraine Schneider, back in 1965. Read her fascinating story here. You can get your own copy of the poster and other merchandise, the funds, of course, benefitting the cause, at the AMP website.

Hm. More stuff to put on my list of gifts to buy. Puts a whole new spin on the phrase, "meaningful gifts!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Life and Death

Those of you who have read the original Soapbox Papers, the 1996 collection of poems I refer to from time to time, and the title of which I swiped for this blogspot, may remember the poem below -

May 12, 1996: Ask Me Today
for TR, 1986-1996

Ask me today
what I think about capital punishment,
what I think about deliberate murder, what I think
about the thousands of chances to be and become
from one or more beings
becoming the 'second chance' for the thief.

We come into this world with one life,
our entitlement, our own, and if we
take another - or another and another -
in our greed to have our way, in our
hatreds, in our angers, in our passions -
we forfeit our own.

Ask me today if I believe in rehabilitation
that cannot include restitution,
and what about an eye for an eye, and why
should judgement of his intent
be left to a God he did not believe in?

No -- let him submit to his proven beliefs
without a whimper, his god of cold steel --
or failing that, a final cigarette
before a firing squad, a gasp of air
before the gas comes, the final thoughts
before a far too benevolent
lethal injection.

from The Soapbox Papers
copyright(c) 1996 Smokey Combs

I mention this today because, in my wandering around the Net I find myself hearing about and from those who would totally abolish the death penalty, even for those like the man who confessed to murdering my grandson (and another soul) with no remorse, about whom that poem was written. I have had to examine my own beliefs, because what I hear and read that is going on in the world regarding the misuse of death as a punishment is wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong - yet I cannot be for a policy that makes no exceptions for those whose confessed crimes indicate they must - MUST - forfeit their lives.

That death as a penalty exists in nearly all cultures indicates to me that perhaps the Jewish laws in The Old Testament, referring to an eye for an eye, was common in its day. But the Jewish law also made room for accidental deaths, for circumstances that would make the one who caused a death not necessarily a capital offense. There were, in those days, Cities of Refuge, places set aside as "safe places" for those who took the lives of another unintentionally. Fleeing to one of these cities was not necessarily a certain fate for those who had taken a life. There were guidelines carefully lain down to allow one to stay there.

What this means to me is that there were exceptions made, that a judgement had to be met, before one was allowed safety. Conversely, I feel it also indicates that there should be exceptions made in the disallowing of the death sentence.

Do I believe political executions are wrong? Yep. Do I believe war and its killing is wrong? Yep. Do I believe there is a chance a person on trial for a capital puishment crime who has not confessed, or who has not been proven absolutely positively guilty and claims innocence should serve a life imprisonment term instead of death? Yep. Do I believe the 'honor killings' practice of some religious sects is wrong, that one person should arbitrarily end the life of another according to some tenet? Yep.

It is possible the Iraqi constitution, being argued over and written as I write this, may include capital punishment. The UN has requested it not, but as I have said before, the Iraqi constitution belongs to the Iraqi, and other nations, regardless how right each feels its own way is, are best staying out of it. Let Amnesty International sanction them. They are non-political and speak for a far larger group than even the UN -- they speak for people world wide who find such punishments abhorrent.

But when it comes right down to it, I want the deliberate murderer with no remorse put to death. It is his forfeit. It means the life (lives) he took had value.


Dawn broke even,
six clouds across a watercolor sky,
shades of morning easing out the night.
The last star flickers like hope,
absorbed without a sound into morning.

I drink coffee, remember
something you said, realize
the fact of the matter:
you are Monday morning,
all business, catching up, no time
for leisure dreams, your heart
stashed away in some vault,
waiting for a better time

while I take time before the day
to contemplate things beautiful:
new sky beginnings, the drift
of accidental cloud formations,
your smile, remembered --
my open heart
on Tuesday morning.

-- from The Soapbox Papers, copyright (c) Smokey Combs 1996 all rights reserved

And This is a "Man of God?"

This is one of those reasons one wants to keep Church and State as separate as possible:

Robertson calls for assassination of Chavez
Televangelist calls Venezuelan president a ‘terrific danger’ to U.S.

Does Robertson pray with that mouth?

Feel Better?

I recieved an e-petition in my inbox this morning from a well-meaning family member. There was no actual petition, however, just the name of the problem, " PETITION TO LOWER GAS and Diesel PRICES IN THE UNITED STATES" and a list of the first 1533 people who have signed it, with the message,

"PETITION FOR PRES. BUSH Presidential Petition Please do NOT let this petition
stop and lose all these names. If you do not want to sign it, please forward
it to everyone you know. To add your name, click on "forward". You will
be able to add your name at the bottom of the list and then forward it to
your friends. Or, if necessary you can copy and paste and then add your name
to the bottom of the list. THE 2,000TH PERSON PLEASE SEND IT ON TO THE

Thank you very much. "

There was no statement given to which the undersigned agreed, no statement, in fact, whatsoever but that one should not let this petition stop.

So I did what I usually do -- checked it out at (the Urban Legend people) and found that, while this petition was not specifically mentioned, there was a great article regarding on-line petitions. According to the folks at Snopes, the signing and circulating on-line petitions is not an effective way to get one's message across or of remedying important issues for a variety of reasons. No one is actually keeping track of the mushrooming
messages with lists of names, for one; often these do not have an intended recipient who is in a position to remedy the situation being petitioned. Then there is the sad (but safe) fact that no one can verify the names on such a petition is another. These lists of names, even if they reach someone with the authority to do something about the petitioned situation, are treated with no seriousness.

According to Barbara Mikkelson, of, "In a world beset by complex problems, the solutions of which will take enormous amounts of time, money, and commitment, such simplification as the e-petition provides a welcome relief. Imagine having the power to solve those problems! Moreover, imagine having it merely at the click of a mouse! " Ms. Mikkelson
goes on to explain how comforting the action of joining a petition is to those who participate: at last, something John and Jane Everyman can do! But she continues, "E-petitions are the latest manifestation of slacktivism, the search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without having had to actually gets one's hands dirty or open one's wallet."

Further, there may be money involved. Because of the interest in these on-line petitions (though not, as far as I know, regarding the above 'petition' I received this morning) web sites emerge to 'service' these petitions. Ms. Mikkelson explains, "Many of these sites display banner ads that generate revenues for the sites' operators. That means every time someone visits
to view or sign a petition, the site's owners earn revenue." Now that isn't necessarily an evil thing, but it does make one wonder if the purpose of the website isn't ultimately to make money for the owner, and if so, one wonders where those funds are directed.

So sign a petition, if it will make you feel better. I would suggest not adding your e-mail address or other identifying factor for obvious safety reasons, but then, without identifying yourself, you realize that your signature is nothing more than a way to vent your discontent.

If signing a petition doesn't do it for you, and you feel upset enough about an issue to do something, you might try doing it the tried and true way. Pick up a pen and paper and write to your Congressman, your Representative, even Presidebt Bush. Write it on the computer if you like. Use a format that includes your address. Then print it out and sign your name to it. Put it in a stamped envelope and send it to the proper address. The chances that you will be heard, that your voice from the wilderness will be noted by those who can actually do something about the situation, will increase at least one-hundredfold.

There now. Feel better?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Poem Updated

I managed to find the elusive book of poems by Sir Richard Harris mentioned here earlier this week. I knew when I read the copy I'd found on the Net that parts of the poem I posted were not exactly right. I have updated that entry entirely, keeping true to the form and features of the poem as written in the book, I, In the Membership of My Days by Sir Richard Harris.

It's a powerful piece, written in "God's voice." Hearing Sir Richard Harris recite it (as one can on certain albums - I, In the Membership of My Days (duh!) for one. It may also be on another album, the title of which escapes me at the moment.) is incredible. The work bellows, it sobs -- and it seems entirely appropriate for this time we are living in.

If you didn't 'get it' the first time around, give it a shot in its proper format.

The "Toy" You Never Quite Grow Out Of

Kids love them. Fathers love them. Mothers love them, in spite of the fact that vacuum cleaners also love them. You can find them at most department stores, toy stores and discount stores. They are seldom found at yard sales, flea markets or thrift stores, because once you have them, you keep them or pass them on within the family. They are Legos. Simple Legos. The plastic pieces of dreams, the building blocks of imagination. Yeah.

Last weekend, Brickfest 2005 convention was held at George Mason University in Arlington, VA. It is the official convention for AFoLs ( Adult Fans of Lego.) Lego fans gathered from all over the place to play and show off their creations. I first learned of this at in a story by Michael Grebb. If I had known about it sooner -- naw-- I know I wouldn't have gotten involved, but I might have had Legos more in the front of my mind at gift-giving time. They are timeless. Now that there are larger Legos made with smaller children in mind, it seems to me there is a Lego set for just about everyone a person might find on a gift list. With this in mind, I clicked over to Lego's website -- checked under products -- and found all sorts of sets, games, and -- no building sets. I clicked the shopping cart, and there they were. Lots of building pieces. Reasonable prices.

So I wandered around the net a bit and found Ben's Lego Creations -- a site of his efforts. He is especially fond of machinery and 'bots.' Then I found Eric Kingsley's creations - he is quite diversified. Seems since I was young, Lego had added many elements to its sets of bricks, and many technical creations are now possible. But the one site after my own heart is here, where, for a price, you can have a Lego replica built of your own home or a dream home or some such. This is the sort of Lego building I want to do!

I used to play with Techie Kid's Legos while he was at school. When I was a kid, somewhere my brother and I inherited an old rusty erector set, a group of grid panels with little nuts and bolts to hold them together in whatever creation we could come up with. Well -- that was swell, but I remember the metallic smell on my hands and I wasn't crazy about that. When we were even younger than that, we had some Lincoln Logs -- but there were never enough of those. We had the cannister of Tinker Toys, too -- the bare bones of creative toys -- but there weren't enough of those, either, and I think they were left behind when the family migrated East around 1955. But I have always wanted to create solid things like houses, buildings -- even cities. Maybe that's one of the reasons I enjoy my SIMS so much -- you get to design and build your own houses, over and over again.

And now that I am a grown up, and I have time to myself to play with such things as Legos -- I have no room. But maybe I can give some as gifts over the holiday season this year, and (if I can do it politely, without intruding) when I visit those I gift with Legos, they will not mind if I just -- play for a while!

Disclaimer: Lego is a registered trademark. This page is in no way affiliated with Lego. Visit the official Lego site at!

Yep -- here we are, toward the end of August. "Next August" is the time, I vow to myself every December, I will begin the holiday shopping and preparation for the next year. I hope everyone likes Legos...

The Price of Being Read

I guess it comes with the territory. When one starts participating - not just writing a blog - in Blogdom, in come the ads and spamblog comments. I saw Haloscan active on a blog or two, and read the good things people have to say about it -- so it is the newest addition to the Soapbox. Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

I am really getting into this -- looking for new places to gather opinions, facts, references. (Note the expanding Links list!) I may have to develop a separate life just to keep up with it all. I find places to add my two-cents worth (I do give change!) and I hope that, as I write about things other than the care and feeding of the Organism (um.. that would be me) I will be hearing from others with their opinions and comments.

I think blogging is far preferable to forums and message boards. I have seen so many of those revert to name calling and other nastiness. I have not seen that in (at least the circles I inhabit in) Blogdom. I find people are authentically more helpful, more prone to not post anything if not done nicely. (Now, watch me leave the safety of my own blog and run into the nastiest stuff...but you know, I don't believe that will happen. )

Evolution of internet communication, of sorts.

I like it.

Hm. Seems like I lost some of the comments on some of these posts. I wonder how that happened...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Update Complete

I finally added the pictures to the main vacation blog -- so now I can go about the rest of the day without that over my head. There has been so much going on -- and I have been reading so much stuff that I want to talk about -- I can't imagine getting it all done, yet I can't imagine not. Stay tuned !

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Faith beyond Creed

I am getting very tired of the right-righteous zealots and Presidebt Bush saying how right we are, how God is on our side (which would make Him opposed to -- whom, exactly?) and in my head I hear the late Sir Richard Harris reciting the poem below, one of his own works. Today is as good a day as any to share it.

There Are Too Many Saviors on My Cross

There are too many saviors on my cross

lending their blood
to flood out my ballot box
with needs of their own.
who put you there?

told you that was your place?

You carry me secretly naked in your heart
and clothe me publicly in armor
crying God is on our side.

I openly cry
who is on mine?

you who bury your sons and cripple your fathers
whilst you bury my Father in crippling his son

The antiquated saxon sword
rusty in its scabbard of time now rises
you gave it cause in my name

bringing shame to the thorned head
that once bled for your salvation

I hear your daily cries

in the far-off byways in your mouth
north and south
and my cavalry looms again

in rebirth
your earth is partitioned

but in contrition
it is the partition in your hearts

that you must abolish


nightly watchers of Gethsemane
who sat through my nightly trial
delivering me from evil
now deserted

I watch you share your silver
your purse rich in hate
bleeds my veins of love

shattering my bone
in the dust of the bogside and the shankhill road

There is no issue stronger

than the tissue of love
no need

as holy
as the palm outstretched
in the run of generosity

no monstrosity greater
than the acre you inflict

Who gave you the right to increase your fold?

decrease the pastors of my flock?
who gave you the right?
who gave it to you?
and in whose name do you fight?

I am not in heaven

I am here
hear me
I am in you

feel me
I am of you

be me
I am with you

see me
I am for you

need me
I am all mankind
only through kindness

will you reach me

What masked

and bannered men
can rock the ark

and navigate a course
to their anointed kingdom come
who sailed their captain

to waters
that they troubled in my font?
sinking in the ignorant seas of prejudice

There is no virgin willing
to conceive in the heat
of any bloody sunday
you crippled children
lying in cries

on derry's streets,
pushing your innocence
to the full flush face

of christian guns
(battling the blame on each other)
do not grow tongues

in your dying dumb wounds speaking my name
I am not your prize

in your death.
you have exorcised me in your game of politics

Go home to your knees
and worship me in any cloth,
as I was never tailor-made
who told you I was?
who gave you the right to think it?
take your beads

in your crippled hands
can you count my decades
take my love in your crippled hearts
can you count the loss

I am not orange

I am not green
I am a half-ripe fruit
needing both colors

to grow into ripeness
shame on you to have withered my orchard

in my poverty
without trust

shame on you
shame on you again and again

converting me into a bullet
and shooting me into men's hearts

The ageless legend of my trial grows old

in the youth of your pulse
staggering shamelessly from barricade to grave
filing in the book of history

my needless death one april.
let me

in my betrayal
lie low in my grave
and you in your bitterness

lie low in yours
for our measurements grow strangely dissimilar

Our Father, who art in heaven

sullied be thy name

-- Richard Harris

from I, In The Membershp of My Days, Random House, New York, 1973
Copyright (c) 1973 Limerick Music Ltd


I found the book and made corrections to the Web copy of this poem previously posted. The above poem is true to the book from which it was taken regarding line breaks , capitalization and punctuation. --Smokey 08/21/05

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Earth Observation

I ran across this, from the Earth Observatory on the NASA website today. It's a place where one can view astronaut photography and see the way the world looks from 'way up there.

This picture reminded me of something I wrote some years ago:


When metal scrapes against the sky
there is no sound,
but the scar it leaves
is thick,
diffuses light.

We know the answers.
They were carved in trees
that shrieked when we cut them,
noise that filters
into our centers
and comes out like ink

when we write on paper.

Disposable philosophies,
the ache for something permanent:
we go blindly into the future
without Carl Sagan.
Our common sense has been waylaid
into legislation
meant to protect the citizen
against all predators

but the predators are inventive,
and when metal scrapes against the sky
there is no sound,
but the scar it leaves
is thick and hard to breathe.

(c) 1999 Smokey Combs - all rights reserved

Monday, August 15, 2005

Going Home

It happens to all vacations -- they end. Today I will pick up my friend at the airport and give him back his keys -- my house sitting will be over. I have enjoyed myself, completed two projects for him and gotten a third - the gardening - off to a great start. I have managed to keep two cats - his and mine - from maiming one another. I have rested, watched chick flicks on the cable channels he gets that I don't , rested, played in the yard, gone to a Browns game that was rained out, and rested. But it is time to go home.

I did enjoy myself -- but truth be told, I will be pleased to be home again. I always feel 'at home' at Doug's -- but it's not the same as being home. To look up at the walls and see MY art, to look at the shelves and see pictures of MY family, to sleep in my own bed (which I love) and use MY computer (which is better, faster, and has MY files on it -- as well as the ability to upload photos from my camera) will be nice. To be available for phone calls from friends and family on MY phone, to lose MY keys, and know what my cat is up to (sort of) will be nice.

I am thinking about what makes a place home. I think the answer to that is the person(s) who live there. There are traces of that throughout the place that one does not leave around when one visits even a good friend. Taran is finding that out while he deals with his late father's home and his papers and his towel. A person's home is where that person can be totally his/herself.

I have been known to look about my home and wonder what one who came after I left the planet would think of it -- and me -- because our homes speak loudly about us. (See Housekeeping for more on that!) I know one isn't supposed to care about that -- and some intentionally don't care - but it matters to me that I leave things -- well, kind of orderly, kind of tidy, sort of the way I want others to think I live my life. But those who know me - who, in the event of my departure, would be the ones sorting out my home - know better. They know I am a woman of good intentions and a good heart -- but a few bad habits. I don't always make my bed. I don't always wash dishes after each meal. I could dust more often and clean the windows more often and probably change the litter box more often. I could sort my mail and throw stuff out once in a while. I could empty the trash more often, even when it doesn't smell.

But that's what home is. A place where one can exercise his/her own bad habits. If one cannot do that, one is not truly at home. And so I leave my friend's house as neat and tidy as I found it.

And go home.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Liberty the Cat wears a collar with her license (who thought licensing cats was a good idea? Fie on thee!) and a couple of tiny brass bells. It's a break-away collar, so if she gets stuck somewhere she will lose the collar, not dangle or choke. It's something she has worn since she became my cat, although I think she is prettier without it. And she was without it for a time -- having sprung free of it while exploring her temporary home in Doug's spare bedroom. I didn't realize it was gone - and so, didn't look for it, for a time - during which Liberty became Stealth Liberty, the terror of Grovewood Lane. The little bells are just tinklers - nothing loud or anything - but when she wears her collar, part of my head can hear the bells and knows exactly where she is, mostly, sort of, all the time, like background noise. Without it, I have no idea. Poor Dexter doesn't, either. She sneaks up on him so quietly I can hear surprise in his cries when she suddenly gets in his face. And that's not fair. This is his house, after all.

So in the name of fair play, I hunted around and found her collar and put it back on her. She shook her head to hear the tinkling, stretched out, then -- and I have never seen her do this before -- held her head still as she walked away, the bells silent. Smart cat. Stealth Liberty. Poor Dexter.

The encounters between the two cats seems to be getting less intense. I doubt they will be bathing one another before it is time to take Liberty home, but they may settle into some form of play before then.

There goes Liberty, crouched and moving fast - not making a sound. Stealth Liberty.

Maybe not.

Friday, August 12, 2005

ICE, Please

What a great idea this is! Cell phone owners have, literally in their hands, the ability to give first-on-scene rescue workers important contact information. The concept is called ICE - for In Case of Emergency -- and comes to us courtesy of a paramedic in the East of England. By adding this information under the address ICE on your cell phone, you can show next of kin, or even a note regarding medical information ("I am a diabetic") or anything pertinent to a rescuer who finds you in a state where you cannot speak for yourself. Parents can be sure this is on the cell phones of their young kids. Older folks can do the same, and, in fact, this alone may get some of the hold outs to try out these new-fangled things.


Of course, whenever a new idea comes about regarding equipment, hoaxes abound. That's why I checked with (They of "Urban Legend" fame) -- as I do anything which concerns me. Here Snopes gives, not only the history, but the common hoaxes regarding ICE that you may find in your inbox -- and declares them as false. Don't be afraid to help yourself by adding ICE to your cell phone address book.

You never know.
Be safe.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I got someone to cover my tutoring chores for a few days and told the folks there I was going on vacation. They asked me where, and I told them: Clearwater. Big deal, they told me -- so what! Clearwater is a stone's throw from St. Petersburg. What's the big deal?

The big deal is this: I am away from my apartment, my phone, my own chaos -- and I have entered into someone else's. My friend Doug will be visiting Ohio until Monday, and I am house/cat/garden/pool sitting. I brought along Liberty the Cat. My host, Doug, already has Dexter the Tabby. The cats are about the same age, but I was still apprehensive. When my last cat, Miss Daisy, was still with me, we were room mates of Doug and Dexter, Michele (Doug's Lady friend) and Courteney, Michele's daughter. Dexie was a cute kitten, but mean -- and he had claws. Miss Daisy didn't have front claws, she was quite old, and quite passive. Dexie hurt my Miss Daisy, and climbed the screened in porch to make friends with a squirrel. That's the only way I can figure the fleas got in the apartment, and the fleas always seem to go for the old and weak -- Miss Daisy. Because of her age and the other problems that go along with it, I had to put her down. It broke my heart. So you can imagine I carried, reasonable or not, a bit of a grudge toward Dexter, and I also carried a great deal of apprehension about introducing the timid, sweet loveable Liberty to this terrorist tabby. But I brought her. This is a big house, and there is a pocket door that separates the bedrooms and bath on one side from the rest of the house, and I figured that if necessary, I could keep Liberty, who is used to small spaces, apart from Dexter.

My cat is a tyrant.
Who would know to look at her? Dexter walked up to her carrier, as soon as we came into the house, he hissed at her. She hissed back. I let her out of her carrier in the bedroom in which we are staying, and Dexter, who had followed us in, was shooed out. Liberty ran under the bed. I finished getting our stuff in and settled, then settled down with Doug to talk. We heard the screaming and looked up just in time to see Dexter streak down the hall from one bedroom to another, Liberty hot in pursuit. Doug went into the battleground and broke up the fight, each contender going into his/her own corner: Liberty back under her bed, Dexter, across the house, under Doug's bed. Mostly, that's where they stayed, although Liberty wandered out now and then to explore.

Doug tells me that at 4:30 this morning Liberty explored herself into his bedroom and caught up with Dexter under Doug's bed -- and Dexter screamed and hissed and Liberty growled and fussed until Doug broke it up again. Me? I'm on vacation -- I didn't hear a thing.

Dexter hiding under Doug's bed .

I am hoping that before I go home again the cats will have learned to get along and actually play together. I am saving space on my memory card for that one.

I won't be entirely leisure-oriented here. I have a project in the side yard. "Do whatever you want with it," Doug said. Heh heh. I miss having a yard to play in, so this is really fun for me. It's a narrow strip of ground with a privacy fence as a backdrop. Along much of the fence, Doug is training his passion flower vine. His hasn't begun to bloom yet, but the flowers look like this one (left).

There is also a stand of Mexican Petunias, which like to grow in colonies. Doug's have gotten 'way too tall, and I am going to cut them back, which will thicken them. Since they make a good background plant, I am going to remove the ones closest to the yard entirely. Both the Passion Flower and Mexican Petunia attract butterflies.

Left: Doug's Mexican Petunia and Allamanda (before)

My favorite tropical plant, is Allamanda, growing up near the fence. Allmandas are supposed to be both a shrub and a vine, but after some scrutiny, I have to conclude that Doug's is mostly a shrub, and an ungainly one, at that. I will have to trim it back, and I hate the idea -- but maybe, if put into some rich soil and covered with a bunch of mulch, I can make babies from the cuttings. All parts of the plant are poisonous, so that means garden gloves (which I hate) -- but it is another of those plants butterflies like, so I will muddle through.

Doug is partial to dark red coleus, which is a plant with "insignificant" flowers, grown just for its foliage. I prefer the cream colored coleus with green, but this is what Doug wants, and it is his yard...!

He has a bunch of different colored impatiens (Busy Lizzie) in the front of his house, and I plan to move some of them (rather, cuttings of them ) to the back. Anywhere else, I would be afraid to start cuttings right in the soil, but this here is Florida, and we are in the midst of the summer humidity season, so all I will have to do is put the cuttings in some good moist potting soil in the ground and put a good layer of mulch around them. They'll root.

Lying on the ground, broken into chunks, are the remains of several pots of geraniums. I am not a big fan of these, but I can't bear to see them just lying there, so I will pot them up and put them somewhere where they can do well. They were not a good mix with the other plants of the side yard. They don't like a soil that is too rich, so they will probably do well anywhere ---else!

I have until Sunday evening to get it done, and that includes running out to get some mulch, and then there is another chore I promised to do, and the cats must be refereed -- but this is my vacation. I'm having fun.

Right: New plantings and mulch added. That huge thing on the fence is Doug's Passion Flower Vine - still has no blooms. The Mexican Petunias have been cut back, and some are in the corner far up by the fence (where you can't see them. Just behind the Mexiacn Petunias is the Allamanda- only slightly tamed. To be continued...

Doug (left) seemed to like it just fine!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Becoming Modern

When Techie kid was younger, he would hail each of my accomplishments on modern equipment as my coming to be a "Modern Mom." I'm not sure how surprised he was that I could manage to comprehend each new-fangled thing that came along, but he always was pleased that I had mastered something new. Techie Kid is knee deep in his Medical and Health Information Network project, so I am not sure he even noticed that I have mastered something new. Or maybe he just isn't surprised anymore.

I finally figured out how to get the pictures out of my camera and onto my computer. Not only that, I have figured out how to get them out to other people. I can actually take pictures and share them! I can crop them, resize them, color them, delete them -- and get the camera ready to take more. And it was easy.

I feel really foolish -- I have had the camera 18 months or so, and hardly used it. When I did use it, I was at events I wanted to save, but could't figure out how to get the pictures out. So it surprised some family members when I was able to share with them photos from a dinner when my brother (BBB - left) visited . I learned where to put the memory card from the camera and was able to get these memorable pics.

Then I found out that the internal memory of the camera could be transferred to the memory card and I could access them just as easily -- so the pictures of my granddaughter Jaime's wedding were accessible! And the pictures of my mother, too!

And, of course, the inevitable picture of Liberty the Cat can now be shared:

So now I have a new toy and will probably go overboard for the first few days -- but I think in the end, I will have an improved blog. I have discovered how easy it can be to illustrate just about anything I can write about, and that can't be all bad. It may even shorten my entries -- after all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

So now I am what Techie Kid used to call a "Modern Mom." Stick around -- it could be a fun ride!

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Those of you who keep up with Techie Kid's blog know it has been a rough week for him. He lost his Pop earlier this week. The picture at the side is one taken when his Pop - known to many as Rocky - was Taran's age.

He didn't look like this in recent years. He'd lost much of his hair and may or may not have had a beard - he could grow one on a whim whenever he wanted, as Taran can. What hair and/or beard there was was no longer dark. He'd lost most of his excess weight and his face was thinner, but the forehead and brow were the same, and the smile -- well, I don't know that it would have been the same. The picture to the side was taken at the best of times. I will always remember him this way. There was always a gentleness to his smile, and it always went without explanation. I knew him well once, and I can say with all confidence, I doubt anyone knew me as well as Mahin did. It amazes me still at how well he knew me, and how he loved me anyway. In this picture, Mahin had much to smile at. Life was good to us. We had Taran - his only child and the one person in the Universe he would always love with a fierce and all-encompassing love.

At the time that picture was taken, we were living the Great American Dream - we had our kid, the house, complete with garden in the back, the car, the pick-up truck, the dog and --we had our troubles, mostly concerning extended family members or those not in our immediate household (yet) - but we spent time together, had fun together, and, as in the Turtle's song that he called "our song," we were Happy Together.

It was good. So good, in fact, that though we have been apart longer than we were together, we were still friends. I could count on him still to understand me, and I know he was aware that I understood him, too. I will miss him deeply, just knowing he was there at the other end of an e-mail, his eyebrow raised, his humor, though a bit slower, still intact.

Mahin and Taran (below, 2000?) always understood the other's feelings, if not one another's point of view. Rather -- they often understood where the other was coming from -- just didn't agree with all the details. They are more alike than different in many respects, and fom the beginning until even recently I felt the need to try to explain one of them to the other -- trying to get them to do the impossible: understand one another.

That they already did on some level wasn't lost on me - I just wanted to know they were close for my own sake, I guess. Mothers are like that. We never quite give up.

Goodbye, Mr. Mahindranath Taran Pande Rampersad. You were appreciated and loved and you will always be remembered with the warmth and gentleness you radiate in these pictures.