Friday, October 26, 2007

Small Matters of Preteens and Computer Viruses

First off let me go ahead and state that Darth Spoilboy has not been harmed in any way. That the fault causing the unfortunate situation, a virus infected hardrive, with the main computer at the house and the aftermath as I try to restore it back to its full function rests solely with me. But I must admit that the temptation to ship Spoilboy off to Gitmo lasted for about as long as it took me to find the recovery CD, insert it into the disk drive, and begin to wipe out all the files that I remembered I had not backed up due to laziness and simple forgetfulness on my part. Now Spoilboy has not gotten off scott free by any means, while I take the blame on what happened I have promised him upon the pain of death or even worse the selling of his Nintendo Wii and the as yet to arrive "Guitar Hero" he is to never ever in all the years he has left to live in my house to download another game off the internet.

This all began on his last trip to San Francisco in which he spent two weeks with Dragonwife's sister, Lady Trump. The simplest back story on Lady Trump is that after spending a good number of years scaling the corporate ladder in such places as Washington DC, Atlanta, and finally San Francisco she jumped out of a dot com business with a nice golden parachute ever so slightly before the internet bubble busted. The internet company she last worked for sold used cars online and had established several huge staging areas across the country where incoming cars were processed to be sold. The car Dragonwife still drives was bought from her sister's company and the Atlanta processing center where we picked up the car I swear was bigger than some army bases I've been on. Even though the company Lady Trump worked for is on the trash heap of internet history and forgotten it isn't any big deal since so many others ended up the same way but I wonder every now and then what happened to the huge nearly identical processing facilities the company ran. She was truly running with some big boys and girls who could sink such startup money into such a venture.

Like they teach fighter pilots to use the materials of their parachute for survival after they are back on the ground Lady Trump used her golden one to setup a decent consultant business on the west coast. What she consults on is beyond the comprehension of this simple Lowcountry boy but I'm told its expensive and requires a minimum of a couple of days before she will even talk with a potential client. Given the cost of real estate and general living in the San Francisco area along with the money it takes to have a full time nanny for her adoptive daughter, Miss Materialgirl, its easy to guess Lady Trump ain't doing too shabby. During Spoilboy's visit he was introduced to the wonderful world of MP3 downloads by Miss Materialgirl's exotic nanny using some sort of paid subscription service called either "Rocket MP3" or "MP3 Rocket". When Spoilboy got home he used, and borrowed against, his allowance to pay the forty dollar fee to get a lifetime membership and began downloading songs as fast a our dial-up connection would allow. Yes, we still have dial-up, and its a real pain but that's a small ongoing conflict with Dragonwife I'm not ready to engage all my forces in to change. I have my own agenda, namely to get another surfboard and wetsuit, but that a mid-life crisis post for another time. I curiously found myself pushed out of the family room where the main computer is located due to Spoilboy's taste in music and that given he is in middle school now his rather strangely early and heavy load of projects requiring research. Either Dragonwife or myself review his assignments and as long as he brings back the proper grade we let him have his privacy to do his work while listening to his music. The fact that I'm relegated to the backup computer is small potatoes as long as he keeps bringing in good grades.

The currents problems began when late last week I noticed Spoilboy playing with a new computer video game that looked like something from the 80's. It consisted of two tanks on opposite sides of a mountain shooting various types of weapons over the peak to wreak havoc on each other. The graphics were very primitive and at first reminded me of what I'm sure is still the favorite game of conservatives still dreaming their own version of Star Wars ,"Missile Command". I asked Spoilboy where the new game came from and he said that his MP3 download service also offered video clips and games. A few alarms went off right then but Miss Materialgirl's nanny had assured him that every aspect of the service was safe and legitimate. The fact that it was easy to surmise my son had developed a crush on Materialgirl's nanny while on his visit and would have danced a jig in a dress at school had she asked I believed that the service was safe. Being honest here, I've seen pictures of Materialgirl's nanny and if she asked me to dance naked at the local Wal-Mart I more than likely would, she is a hot dark haired twenty-something with a stunning smile. Later on though early last weekend Spoilboy surfed over to the actually website the game came from and downloaded several expansion packs for the tank game. There on out the computer began a slow meltdown. The first issue were strange pop-up advertisements that said they could fix whatever bugs might be bothering your computer. The pop-ups were appearing on small windows of Internet Explorer over my normal browser Mozilla's Firefox. I had not had a pop-up issue since I started using Mozilla and was surprisingly bewildered to have them surface again. At first I had no idea why this was happening and actually wondered if the newly installed Microsoft Office 2007 that we bought just so Spoilboy could have Power Point might be the cause.

Hindsight being what it is I should have started saving files right then that Saturday because by Sunday morning the virus had worked its way enough that as soon as a pop-up appeared it knocked whomever was using the computer off the internet. I was watching "Meet the Press" right then and said it would wait. I think it was the show with Stephen Cobert announcing his run for president and I was not about to miss whatever he had to say. Its really sad that I would hold everything else up for a political comedian but would have went running upstairs had that segment had just about anybody else on, both Democrat or Republican. By the time I did make it upstairs the situation had deteriorated to the point that as soon as you tried to launch a program the computer would shut down and reboot itself, only to do the same thing again. The course of action after that given the lack of time I had was to run the recovery disk and slowly bring everything back to where I had it. Spoilboy was completely oblivious to what had happened and it took questioning on my part, no I didn't waterboard him, to understand why the computer went tits up so fast.

Usually I'm almost religious about backing up files to CD's but had not done so far longer than I even now want to thnk about due to work, both on the job and at home, sheer laziness, and because Spoilboy had taken up so much time doing homework. While a bunch of files were meaningless junk I did lose almost all my stuff from my last blog "Ramblings of a Lexington Parrothead". It was burned to a CD that Miss Wiggles at some point found and broke. At the time I said no worries because I had also stored it on the main computer's hardrive, boy can I be a dunderhead or what? The other set of files I lost were about 300 to 400 pictures that I was one set away from burning to a disk. Included in that lost set were all the pictures from the 2007 Disney trip and some damn good shots of a butterfly garden at EPCOT. The one surviving picture is of the shuttle I took going into orbit from Vero Beach which can be seen one of the early posts on this blog. Like I wrote earlier this is mainly my fault and if the worst thing Spoilboy ever does as a kid is screw up the computer I will consider myself very lucky. But given the expensive computer video games Spoilboy abounds in I have told him the minute I find a downloaded game again I will hang him upside down from the family room window. He came back saying, with a poop eating grin far more serious than I would expect from someone his age, that since my memory about backing files up is being affected by my advancing age he will help me to overcome my growing limitations. Sometimes the truth really hurts, and its made even worse coming from a slightly smart ass son.

Going to the upstate for a couple of days, everyone have a great weekend.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Bogeyman

Just don't look into the mirror, you may not like what you see.

Many times in the past I have attempted to get one of my brothers, whom I call the Pastor, to engage in my blog by getting him leave comments so we could more readily discuss the issues that separate us. As his code name implies he is an evangelical Christian and takes his faith very seriously and this post is in no way an attack on his beliefs. While I have my own frayed and tattered faith, uncertain in many aspects of life the Pastor rides along with great certainty and assurance in God's plan and his part in it. Our disagreements are many but we are generally able to discuss them without digressing to grade school level but since we live in separate parts of the state and our lives fling us in different directions we very rarely get into the deep discussions we once were able to engage in.

In the past my positions on issues have, and will continue, to take a crazy zig zag path as I try to figure things out as I go. I have a very short half-life when it concerns ideologues and the enforced party line. But if I'm forced to classify myself beyond the generic safe term of Independent I would have to say that I'm a Libertarian with progressive valves or a Progressive with libertarian principles. If this sounds like I'm making things up as I go along, you should award yourself a nice warm gooey chocolate chip cookie. Hell, once I figure out all the crap associated with life in these United States I plan on writing a book with all the answers and getting filthy rich then retiring to an old fashion estate on some island in the Caribbean. On the other hand, once I believe I think I've figured anything out to a great detail it will more than likely be time to call out the guys with the butterfly nets and have my ass thrown into some padded room. So when you throw the Pastor, with his rock hard faith, and me together with my eclectic and disjointed beliefs the discussions are bound to be lively but never boring. But like I wrote earlier such events are rare and the Pastor, while freely surfing the internet at home, is just not one to engage in debates in an internet environment. But that does not stop him from reading my blog then calling my house and waking me up say around 1:00am in the God forsaken morning like he did recently. The Pastor is a long haul trucker and at times his route can bring him home late at night and since he's now almost wired to such times he usually can't sleep until he unwinds and I receive a late night verbal assault over the phones which are tiring but he is my brother after all.

A couple of times recently I have used the phrase "government approved bogeyman" to describe the people and organizations we are suppose to be fighting in what is more generally called the "War on Terror". My term is used in a derogatory manner to mock the fear mongers in the media and government who have used the attacks on 9/11 for their own political purposes while branding those that oppose them as cowards at best or traitors at worst. My dear brother called me up in the middle of the night to ask me what the heck did I mean by using such as phrase and didn't I know that the nasty Osama had just released a tape wanting either kill us all or have us convert to Islam and follow his way of life. The Pastor had really worked himself into a huff over my cynical remark and as he ranted over the phone (he was paying for the call) I calmly and coolly collected my meager wits by pouring myself a glass of milk and looking for the damn Chips Ahoy cookies hoping my son, Darth Spoilboy, had not bogarted them again while waiting for my brother to chill out.

I’ve got to admit that I didn’t really listen to his rant because I had heard many times before and I was far more concerned about the missing Chips Ahoy cookies. But my dear brother typifies the worst in the armchair commandos that have mysteriously dominated the debate of the Iraq war and the general War on Terror as defined by the Mad Master Ferret. (That’s George W. Bush for those not paying attention.) First off my brother has never served in the military but after what may literally be hundreds of hours of watching the Military and History Channel he will offer his “expert” opinion on just about any subject related to soldiers or military operations. Now I’ll go ahead and state that being opinionated about military subjects while never having served does not disqualify you from being knowledgeable on the military or being able to offer relevant facts in a discussion but you should at least realize that others more experienced might know more than you do. Hell, I served twenty-one years and I’ve been proved wrong many times on a wide array of points, but I have stones to admit it. But far too many times I have been drawn into discussions by those armchair commandos expressing military tactical opinions wanting me to endorse their positions only to have a sour look come across their face as I contradict them. One of the more senior electronic technicians at my last job wanted me to endorse his “kill’em all and let God sort them out” expert opinion when the Iraq war started to go sour. I tried to inform him that there was a great deal of history, the Crusades, involved here as well as the Ferret’s new stated mission of creating a shiny beacon of democracy in Iraq for the rest of the Arab world to copy. As gently as I could to not hurt the inspiring Napoleon’s ego I told him that mounds of decaying bodies do little to endear the population to new and alien political processes imported by infidels . I know my brother and more than likely my former co-worker still hold to the idea that if the Iraqis just behaved as good little boys and girls and listened to the mighty and wise Americans, who have their best interests at heart, they would soon be up to their eyeballs in Wal-Marts and Best Buys living off the credit cards just like real Americans. And those Iraqis that don’t want to behave? Well, the Ferret has said many times that you are either for us or against us.

But the main thrust of my brother’s call had to do with my lackluster opinion of the “War on Terror.” John Edwards not too long ago said something about it being just a bumper sticker slogan and in its current form I happen to fully agree with him. The day after the 9/11 attacks the world stood with us mourning our losses and offering their support in seeking justice. But our glorious leader instead of calling the nation to war told us to go shopping and travel. Honestly, that should have alerted us right there to something very smelly and I’m sure some future historians will earn their PhD’s trying to explain that one. But as much as I love my brother his kind refuse to look beyond the creeping fascism and wolf pack patriotism of the War on Terror. They are strong on killing but very weak on the conditions breeding the extremism we face in the Middle East. Yes, we were victorious in overthrowing the Taliban and Saddam but our “reconstruction” efforts have been, and I’ll be unduly kind in my adjectives, uncoordinated and piecemeal subject to outright cronyism. As my brother wound down from his rant I tried to explain that even the conquered nations of Germany and Japan after WW2 were rebuilt and administered with intelligence, that able bureaucrats were more important than a person’s political affiliation or stance on abortion. And that our ignorance in Iraq was just the tip of the iceberg of how we have bumble around the entire region for decades throwing unqualified support, along with blank checks worth billions to Israel conveniently turning a blind eye to the suffering of millions of others. Of course that did not sit well with him; I dared to question the righteousness of our only true friend and God’s people in the Middle East.

I must admit that by this time not only was my patience wearing thin. I found only crumbs in the Chips Ahoy bag after finding it hidden among the pots and pans and the jelly sandwich I made in its place was not satisfactory. I offered my brother this parting explanation on the situation. Yes, we were attacked by cowardly bastards that wished to spread terror and kill as many people as possible but our leaders have taken Al Qaeda objectives for their own. Not a month after Saddam’s government fell in 2003 the morning propaganda team on Fox News was spreading rumors that the WMD’s we were told we went into Iraq to capture had somehow magically been moved into Syria. This despite the fact somehow the very satellite pictures that seemed to confirm some sort of WMD program in Iraq somehow missed the massive logistical effort it would have taken to move very dangerous chemical or biological weapons over bad roads and rough terrain. As the Iraq war turned into a nasty quagmire the Bush team sold us a bill of goods that we were fighting Al Qaeda over there so they wouldn’t fight us over here. They massaged and stroked the fear that the bogeyman would see a defeat in Iraq as weakness with them rushing over here to conquer the weak and timid Americans. This is ignoring the fact that with the majority of American ground forces, both active and National Guard, either serving in Iraq or recovering from Iraq duty with readiness a major issue an Al Qaeda attack on American soil would be a major victory on their part almost assuring that a huge movement would appear demanding American forces return home. But Bush would not stop there, in announcing his new fangled Surge to assure victory in Iraq a new bogeyman was needed. Iran is now being played as the reason why the Iraq war has floated down the poop creek and to stoke the fires of fear even more the same people that assured us about phantom Iraqi WMD’s now tell us with a straight face that Iran is rushing to develop nuclear weapons and demanding that we attack now to prevent the appearance of a mushroom cloud over some American city. So, I told my brother, you will have to excuse my tiny grain of cynicism concerning the latest bogeyman we are suppose to huddle in fear of hoping for our savior Bush to defeat. I tried to explain to Pastor that one time American might did not rest alone of how many laser guided bombs we could deliver on target. One time the sheer weight of our ideas brought down the Soviet dominated governments in Eastern Europe along with the Soviet Union itself. One time America was viewed as the “city on the hill” where liberty and justice, while far from perfect, was the going concern with people working to make it better. I did admit to him that now it’s hard not to think that all we are doing is just treading water with everyone just trying to protect their lifestyle and to hell with everyone else. That thirty or even twenty years ago the hair splitting question about what is or is not torture would have meet with howls of outrage by both Democrats and Republicans. Now, many of the armchair commandos actually chuckle about waterboarding and dismiss imprisonment of people without due process. The scarcest thing for me is the reaction, or lack of one, from Mr. and Mrs. John Middleclass. The Middleclass live in a splendid isolation with the Iraq war a distant echo only heard briefly on the nightly news between segments on the latest antics of washed up pop stars or spoiled politicians. Since more than likely they have no family member serving in harm’s way they only connection they have with death and destruction is on the X-box playing some war game. They are told to expect the bogeyman to attack at any moment but not to sacrifice or share the burden being carried by those fighting or their families. So I told my brother from my point of view I'm not going to be scared by the latest bogeyman we are warned might be hiding close by waiting to attack because damnit it the scarcest looking bogeyman I see many times are the banal, lazy Americans demanding that the world bow to their spoiled desires. After I finished my rant I waited for a response from my brother but found that at some point he had hung up, Oh well, this should really piss him off.

A Day in Charleston

The family had been attacked with an early assault of strep throat and everyone feels wiped out. I feel pretty crappy and hope like hell that the bogeyman post above makes some sort of sense. If its doesn't the following is an approved for families rerun of the Lexington Parrothead. I'm going to crash and will be back to my friends tomorrow. See y'all!

Way back in the spring of 2001 part of the adoption process for Miss Wiggles involved Dragonwife, Darth Spoilboy and myself traveling down to Charleston, South Carolina to visit the US immigration office to fill out some paperwork and jump through a few hoops for good old Uncle Sammy. This Lowcountry boy fell in love with “The Holy City” many years ago before the advent of gross consumerism which is ubiquitously symbolized in your local Wal-Mart. Many of my posts sing the glories of growing up in such a small town as Georgetown, South Carolina away from the even then rat race madness of the evil big city. But Georgetown in the late 60’s and 70’s fell short when it came to the purchase of major items such as appliances, cars, or even things likes formal suits for important events. On such occasions a trip, sometimes bordering on an epic journey, had to be organized to one of the many businesses located in Charleston that could handle our needs. Many times as I was growing up my family would travel to Charleston to conduct whatever important business was needed but after that we would always make time to see some of the history of that beautiful city. So when the adoption process for Miss Wiggles got to the point that we had to make a personal visit to the closest immigration office I was a small kid again looking forward to another epic journey to a city I love.

The three of us entered the immigration office about thirty minutes after it opened and saw that the waiting area was already standing room only. The gathering of humanity already there came from all corners of the earth. I talked with a couple of engineers from Germany, a doctor from India, a family from Kenya, and many others all looking to come to this country to better themselves. Spoilboy was about six at the time and while navigating the red tape was a pain seeing him exposed to the many other children also there with their parents was a good learning experience for him. The US immigration office in Charleston back in 2001 was a testament in bureaucratic red tape. The main mission of our visit was to fill out paperwork concerning the adoption of an orphan Chinese infant and to have our fingerprints filed with immigration. I thumbed through the various files as Dragonwife filled them out, she is an attorney, I found out that the mighty US government seemed to need assurance that we were not about to bring anyone dangerous into the country. Given what was unknowingly hanging over our heads a few months down the road in September I hope I won’t be considered too harsh when I write that overall in my humble opinion that orphaned Chinese baby girls should have been the least of their concerns. If the ridiculous paperwork wasn’t enough our encounter in the immigration office turned comedic when none of the staff at work that day could not figure out how to operate the high-tech device used to take a photo copy like picture of our finger prints. While Dragonwife was busy with some finally paperwork I overheard a couple of the staff about to recommend that we come back again next week when the person who definitely knew how to operate the device would be back at work. Volcanic vapors began seeping from the Dragonwife’s ears as the staff began hinting at such a course of action. Luckily a senior staff person came from the inner offices to take charge and was able to get us along with several others needing fingerprints taken processed and out the door.

It was early afternoon but after the normal lunch time when we stumbled out of Uncle Sam’s then only den of torture and began making our way up Meeting street looking for some small café that Dragonwife had read about in her Martha Stewart magazine. I’m not big on Martha but I have to give the devil her due because that little place, whose name I have long forgotten, served up a fantastic lunch that did much to settle our nerves after spending the entire morning tangling with our benevolent government. I had a She-crab soup and grouper sandwich that even now I consider one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. Throw in a bright sunny day, a light breeze, and a very comfortable temperature sitting outside on the patio of the café close enough to the harbor to have a small view of the water and I experienced something as close to heaven as I may ever see. The one and only problem was a Yankee waiter that got snotty when I asked for sweet tea as my beverage. When I asked for sweet tea that waiter’s lip drew back into something that would later be described as a Cheney-like sneer that even now gives me the creeps. He rudely remarked, in a Boston accent, that they did not serve sweet tea and that there was sweetener on my table which I could use, he then quickly turned away going off to check on other patrons. Dragonwife's stern look prevented me from getting up and re-opening the old national wounds by pounding his New England head into the fine Southern cement making up the patio. All I could do was enjoy my food and surroundings and lament the slow encroachment of Northern practices of serving unsweetened tea in what can be called the heart of the South. Honestly, I have engaged in many debates with what I will call neo-Confederates over the circumstances and the outcome of the Civil War or what they still call The War of Northern Aggression but the insidious practice of unsweetened tea so disturbed my Southern sensibilities that for once I wished the South had won the Civil War.

After our marvelous lunch we walked about The Holy City taking in the sites close to the café for a little unorganized sightseeing, for Dragonwife this was quite an accomplishment in going with the flow. Dragonwife is almost genetically incapable of just “hanging loose” everything, including vacations, have to be planned down to the minute like a major military operation, think D-Day. In normal circumstances she would have had us on one of the many tour buses that shuttle the hordes of tourists around the city at predetermined sites with strict times frames on how long you can stay. Only the uncertainty of the immigration office prevent us from being turned into tourist cattle seeing all the normal sites, many are good historical sites but just as many are old fashion tourist traps. I have always been one to explore on my own and as we walked past an ancient graveyard beside an equally ancient looking chapel I felt the old impulse “…to boldly go…”.

Walking past the small wrought iron fence surrounding the graveyard I was already fascinated by reading some of the words on the tombstones of those who were buried there. Many had testaments about how the person died and due to the years engraved on the tombstones I could tell most were from the colonial era about ten to twenty years before The Declaration of Independence. Basic math clearly shown that life was short and things we ignore due to the advancement of medical science could have easily killed you. Needless to say there were a very high number of infants buried there along with many children who never made it past the age of six. Looking at my son I said a small prayer of thanks that he was healthy and relatively well fed given that his favorite food was the chicken nuggets the burger clown passes off on the spoiled American children of tired parents. Wanting to make sure everything was okay I looked around and saw that even Dragonwife had become engrossed in the history literally carved in stone around us. Spoilboy had wandered over to an oak tree to watch a par of squirrels scampering around doing squirrelly things but upon smelling the leftover French Fries from the bag he was carrying around from the café they became extremely interested in him and began what seems was a conversation with each other on how they could get part of his goods.
Farther down inside the cemetery I had noticed several curious looking graves. A huge one piece slab of marble was resting on a rectangular platform which extended about two feet above the ground. I know next to nothing about cemeteries so I have no idea why these graves were raised up off the ground. On these types of graves all the personal information about the person was carved on the horizontal slab. As I continued to walk around I noticed one of the slabs had been cracked in the middle and as I tried to read the weathered stone I noticed enough of it was broken that I could almost see inside the cavity that I guess existed between the marble slab and the ground. I began to wonder if this was some type of “cheap” sepulcher and despite how gross it may seem my curiosity had me trying to see inside the darken space. I almost began to believe I could see something and called Dragonwife over to show her. As we read the information about the man under the broken slab, directly across from us we began hearing a rustling in the tall grass and we both looked up in time to see an rather large rat take a huge leap out of the grass hit the toe of my left sneaker leap up gain to disappear amongst the other graves. I caught a good glimpse of the airborne rodent right before it hit the toe of my sneaker and I will swear to my dying days that the damn thing was smiling at Dragonwife and myself. As it scampered off, and I know everyone will think I’m absolutely bonkers for this, but the first word that came into my head was “cool”. Dragonwife, who had been standing right next to me, was gone. I looked back down the main path toward the street, at least seventy-five yards away, and I saw that she had already made it to the street and had somehow grabbed Spoilboy in the space of a few seconds. I had never seen her move so fast in my life.

Much to my chagrin the incident with super-rodent had completely ruined the rare mellow mood of Dragonwife and all she wanted to do was after that was find the car and make our way back toward home. But I had fun yanking her chain along the way about my marvelous new idea about how to keep her motivated in her exercises. And all we had to do was make a quick stop at a pet store.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ghostly Carolina Lore: Alice, the Ghost of The Hermitage

Last year while in school Darth Spoilboy was introduced to the ghostly lore of the Lowcountry. You might be surprised at the number of specters, phantoms, and agitated spirits that hang around the Georgetown area still making a peculiar racket after several centuries of rattling chains, acting as weathermen, and looking for jewelry in the case of Miss Alice.

My son, Darth Spoilboy, was rather surprised to learn that the burial place of one of South Carolina's most famous ghosts was only a few short miles from Uncle Paul's house. I promised him that we would mosey down to All Saints Cemetery and pay our respects to Miss Alice and the others in the cemetery the next time we were down there. Now don't misunderstand me I'm not a ghoul, I usually don't enjoy visiting such places but on a few occasions where history is involved I do enjoy learning about the people who lived before me. Many of the older cemeteries, 18th and 19th century types, placed a great deal of personal history on the tombstones of those who lay underneath. Plus, just by noticing the date in which a person was born and then died can teach you that life just a century ago was far tougher than many in this day and age could ever imagine. While touring Charleston the family and I more or less stumbled into another ancient cemetery and could not help but notice how many children never made it beyond the age of five.

The kids and I had just finished our day at the beach and were going to meet Uncle Paul and Lady Einstein, my aunt, at a local restaurant for an early dinner. Spoilboy then remembered my promise to show him the grave site and being ahead of schedule we made a detour for some education and adventure. All Saints Cemetery is nicely tucked away from the newer, more irritating, sections of the Pawleys Island community. The new subdivisions that have sprouted like unwelcome mushrooms are several miles south and the area around the cemetery has kept a great deal of the timeless sleepy quality the entire community once had. In fact I was somewhat surprised to see no one else visiting the cemetery since the local tourist board pushes the local ghost stories as hard as possible to draw more money in the area.

I have little to no idea about how or why graves are done but I noticed these types of tombs at the cemetery in Charleston a couple of years back. One of the tombs there, circa the 1750's, was cracked in the middle running all the way across the huge slab sitting on top with enough space between the cracks to almost see what might be inside. My best guess for these types of tombs is that in the Lowcountry the water table is so high that when it flooded in the real old days coffins had a nasty habit literally popping out of the ground. Such events are somewhat rarer but one officer I knew in the National Guard had the seriously messed up duty of locating and then retrieving coffins after a flood in North Carolina where he was living at that time. Making things very much worse was the fact that the cemetery where many of the coffins he was having to locate and retrieve came was new and still very much in business. So, trying not to be gross, many of the occupants in the misplaced coffins were "fresh", in a manner of speaking.

The picture below is of the grave site of Miss Alice. Several legends about her that I have heard say that if a engaged or newly married couple walk in a circle around her grave she will pull the engagement or wedding ring off the ladies finger. The path worn into the ground around her grave seem to confirm that at least some test the old legends. If you look closely at the picture you may see the pile of coins on top of her grave. Why people are doing this I have do idea but before we started to head back out to the car and make our way to the restaurant I did drop a couple coins myself. I was especially glad after the fact that once we were out of the cemetery Miss Wiggles, who I was carrying, yelled out: "Bye everybody!" For the full story of Miss Alice I invite y'all to visit and read the most authentic version of her story.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Operation Lawn Freedom

A very loose, beer inspired lawn care parable.

Last Saturday I marched outside to do my usual weekend battle with the forces of crabgrass, dandelions , and this late in the active lawn care season fascist juniper looking for lebensraum outside its traditional homeland inside the decorative landscaping island on the far side of the front yard. Persistent issues with the juniper over the last few years forced me to adopt the policy of unconditional surrender for the glorified weed and with limb shears in hand I took on the attitude of Patton cutting into the heart of Deutschland during the Second World War. I cleaned out the landscape island during the early hours of Saturday morning with the company of Daniel Shorr and Scott Simon discussing the events of the past week. After listening to those two guys talk about Bush and his “leadership style” for the last few years I’ve come to the conclusion that they must laugh their asses off as soon as they go off the air right after they discuss some new Bush inspired policy or the latest Bush speech. Well, to be honest they probably don’t laugh, they may cry, suffer fits of anxiety, drink heavily, or pray to God for deliverance for them and the country but I doubt they laugh about anything Bush says or does. But anyway, whatever they do off the air their consistent journalistic professionalism was valuable company as I joyfully ripped through the juniper taking out my frustrations thinking about Rush, Sean, Bill, and the blond haired, short skirt wearing Gila monster that somehow finds a way to crawl from a rock from time to time.

I finished ripping out the juniper in record time, and for some reason felt really good afterward, go figure. But my mission of defeating the forces of juniper fascism and their weed insurgent allies was far from over. Dragonwife returned from a Home Depot trip bringing fresh supplies of weed block cloth, pins to secure the cloth to the newly conquered territory, and fourteen bales of occupying pine straw forces. Before her departure she tried to rumsfeld me by saying she would buy the cheap tissue paper-like brand of weed block cloth at Lowes and questioning my need for more than ten bales of pine straw. And to think she said earlier that week she would go with whatever my recommendations were on how to accomplish the mission Saturday morning. Must be something in the water or air since others, admittedly on higher levels, do their best to ignore the more knowledgeable advice from those in the field or front yard. But I did not bow to Dragonwife’s pressure to underestimate what it would take defeat the forces of flora fascism. Hell no, I would not betray-us the mission by allowing insurgent weeds to hide out underneath the cheap weed block only to poke through and endanger the new regime I established in the landscaping island.

After taking command of the new supplies I surged forward and laid down the thick quality weed block cloth over the occupied landscaping territory promoting a clean, stable environment for the allied shrubs and decorative plants. Dragonwife did want be to enlist the aid of something called Blackwater weed spray to put down the hidden insurgent weeds in the ground. But I had better sense than using an extremely expensive product that no matter what poisoned the surrounding areas causing more problems than it was worth by harming the good shrubs and plants. With the weed block cloth laid out, firmly pined down into the ground, and every bale of pine straw deployed to blanket and secure the landscaping territory- always better to do this early in a mission- it was time to withdraw the remaining supplies and recover to the house to enjoy an afternoon lunch and more than a few beers. I’ve seen some neighbors embark on similar landscaping missions which were totally unneeded since whatever troublesome weed they had were completely contained in a small place and with minor operations were kept in check. But some people just can’t control their stupid urges and want to show off to prove how big a man they are by embarking on poorly planed and cheaply executed operations. Its easy to figure such people out, they come up to neighbors looking for help to pull their ignorant asses out of the fire. Some even mark time throwing more resources and money into an operation until they can turn it over to someone else and then slink off and criticize the person trying to solve the issues they created. It’s a damn good thing no such person could ever achieve a high level office or job, man they could really screw a lot of people and waste a lot of money.

Later after I cleaned up, had my lunch, and was enjoying the latest in a series of very cold Coronas with my feet propped up on the couch wanting to enjoy the quiet afternoon. Dragonwife stormed into the living room sometime later and started carrying on about how the larger decorative landscaping island in the backyard was a breeding ground of weeds which would soon be finding their way to the newly established landscaping regime I had created in the front yard. She said that the time was now to do something about the threat to all the stable attractive work we had done today. I ran outside to recon and access the threat to all the work and money put into today’s operation and decided that to tackle a new area much larger than what I worked on that day with the strained and stretched resources available right then would have been a very bad idea. As much as Dragonwife carried on saying that many of the lawn care experts reported that the time was right to defeat the evil axis of weeds I simply smiled at her as I sipped my beer and told her to get all the armchair lawn care experts crying about the evil weeds into the field to do their share of work. Dragonwife said I then walked off muttering something about drafting all the damn Chickenhawks to fight the dreaded weeds but figured after all the beers I had drank was confusing the situation and let it go.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Warning, danger ahead you are about to enter the Parrothead Zone

All ye that enter here abandon all hope, logic, reason, and any relationship with normal reality.

Mike over at Tongue in Check has saw fit to tag me and once again the dark inner sanctum of a tequila soaked mind is about to be exposed. I am legally required by my lawyer and wife, Dragonwife, to warn y'all that if your expecting logic and good sense, well your in the wrong place. So with that behind us I'll get started.

  1. I spent a total of 21 years serving in the active army and then the South Carolina National Guard. I retired from the Guard early in 2005 and its a safe bet that the second happiest day in my was when I returned home and tossed my uniform into the dirty clothes basket. After all those years it was really dirty and smelly.
  2. I am 1/16 Cherokee Indian on my mom's side. When I informed a full-blooded Cherokee I was friends with while in the army of this fact he asked me not to pass that information around due to the fact that Native Americans had suffered far to much already.
  3. I work at a hospital repairing steam sterilizers, surgical tables, surgical lights, and when the normal X-ray repair technicians are taking a long lunch...I mean really really busy some place else I pitch hit for them.
  4. My parent's marriage imploded when I was around eleven with the force of a star collapsing into a black hole taking my brothers, sister and me on one of the nastiest divorces rides in the history of Western Civilization. My mother was caught playing doctor with the vet that should have been taking care of my dog. And my dad took a liking to another married lady across town. At some point while my brothers, sister, and myself were spending the night at my grandparents house my mom, the vet, dad, his special lady friend, and her husband all stumbled upon each other at some little not so out of the way place in North Myrtle Beach. Given the reports that have filtered down to me over the years a young Jerry Springer happen to be on vacation at the same time and was very impressed with the fireworks that developed between the two couples. The rest, as they say, is history.
  5. On a more serious note, the current state of our country scares the living hell out of me. Living in the White House is a "man" whose entire life has been engineered by the clever friends of his father. Had W. not been born into the Bush family he would have been lucky to make it as a second rate used car salesman. Using lies, half truths, and deceptions he has tangled the country into a war with no exit plan. We, and the rest of Western Civilization, are dependent on this same region for the very life blood of our economies but yet even after he has done his best to ruin every aspect of our nation's reputation in the region he and his dark sneering pal Cheney have not even begun to work on a national plan to end our dependence on oil from that region. Among his other derelictions of duties: Trampling the civil liberties of this nation all under the guise of "protecting the American people". Hiring unqualified cronies to major posts in the government that affect the lives of millions of people when they fail to provide the services that just a few years before were models of efficient management. Even after it became clear to just about everyone down to a first grader he refused to increase the number of troops in Iraq to stem the tide of chaos when it could have made a difference. Sorry folk, the 30,000 troop surge with forward deployments into the countryside has indeed helped some but the minute troops levels go down to pre-surge levels the absence of any Iraqi reconciliation will condemn that tortured country to full scale civil war. Why the people in this country are not screaming for his impeachment and then removal from office after all his disasters also scares the hell out of me.
  6. Even with my parent's implosion and resulting chaos they put my siblings and I through we were pretty poor candidates for being able to make it to a four year college. While we were not dirt poor, our social and economic position had us securely placed in the blue collar category. But through the GI Bill I was able to get my glorious two year associate degree in Electronics and later, before my son was born, I continued with college courses until I'm just a few semesters short of a four year degree in Information Technology. One day for shits and giggles I'm going to finish the damn thing.
  7. My wife is an attorney and I must to admit that for the first few years of our marriage I was a little intimidated and in awe of the high power types, both male and female, she worked around. That was until I got to know them in greater detail and now to be completely honest I have discovered far too many of them are the stupidest, ignorant of anything outside their interests, close minded, egotistical, lacking any God given common sense to the point that they make the greasiest trailer trash redneck look good. The trouble is many of them are involved in government of a local and state level. As I discovered this fact I started making plans to expatriate to Mexico.
Well thats about it, I hope you have enjoyed your ride through the Parrothead Zone. Please raise your seat and tables to the upright position but only unbuckle your seat belt once you have come to a complete stop and navigated away from this site. The seven lucky people I need to tag are the following:
Mad Mike

I will return to normal comments to my allied bloggers tomorrow night, or as much as the IT Nazis will let me at work.

Monday, October 1, 2007

An American Girl

Brains and beauty in one little bundle, as the years go by I pity anyone who stands in her way.
Dragonwife returned from China bringing home my daughter on a hot late May afternoon in 2003. My son, Darth Spoilboy, and I were waiting at the airport on the other side of the security line watching the arrivals of others and seeing them reunite with their families and friends. Spoilboy was a ball of energy eager to meet his new baby sister still exclaiming how he would help feed and read stories to her. His one condition on his unprecedented offer to be helpful was that in no way would he ever change a diaper. The diaper issue not withstanding his good attitude about the new baby was quite a change for him since it had not very long before that when asked by Dragonwife and me about whether he wanted a baby brother or sister he had quickly shot back telling us that if it was up to him he would pick a hamster instead. His eagerness to see his new sister was a welcome sight though since he had been a only child his entire seven years of his life up to then and there had been some concern about how he would adjust. I, on the other hand was excited but nervous about this bundle I was about to see for the first time. While the overall adoption process had been without real issues outside events such as the attacks on 9/11, strained international relations and further fears of terrorism, and worst of all the SAR's outbreak in Asia had almost literally derailed everything. The diaper thing was also playing on me since no amount of money could get Spoilboy to help out with that and Dragonwife was just about as bad turning green most of the time when she had to change Spoilboy's when he was a baby.

Finally, it was announced over the airport intercom that the non-stop flight from San Francisco Dragonwife and my new daughter were on had landed and Spoilboy and I squeezed as close to the TSA passenger screening area we could without having Homeland Security raising the threat level trying to see them coming down the walkway. We did not have to wait long, both Dragonwife and the new Miss Wiggles were soon spotted coming down the concourse. After making it across the security line I bent down to meet my new daughter and I saw this tiny little thing dressed in a yellow dress sitting in a travel stroller. She looked at me with huge eyes not quite sure what she was seeing and looked back at Dragonwife every now and them to make sure everything was OK. I picked her up from the stroller and she started to examine me in greater detail still looking back at Dragonwife every now and then with the look that said: "You married this clown, I had hoped for a better looking daddy." All this time at my first meeting with her she did not utter a sound. Some of it was the fact that she had just traveled thousands of miles leaving the people that had cared for her since she had been abandoned at the orphanage when she was about a month old. The other part was her realizing that her new daddy was an American, and even worse from the south. I bet she expected I would take her to NASCAR races and and make her watch bass fishing shows on television. None of that happened and to the surprise of Dragonwife and Spoilboy we discovered she really likes Buffett, so much now that she sings along on many of his songs as we drive down the road and eat in restaurants. After a few minutes she turned to Dragonwife and threw up her arms wanting to go back to Dragonwife. We all walked out of the airport with Wiggles looking at me and Spoilboy, then Dragonwife, then back down the concourse the way she came. Whether her glances back down the concourse was a desire to get back to China away from the big crazy looking American I have no idea but she was fascinated by the now used plane ticket Dragonwife had given her to play with in which she seemed to be reading the fine print.

Fast forward to last week when I drove into the parking lot of Wiggles daycare. Right next the fence I saw Wiggles talking with a group of girls her age. One lone boy was beside Wiggles but one of the other girls was pulling on the shirt sleeve of the boy who despite all the animated talking going around him from the girls was busy picking his nose. You might be surprised but my first thought upon seeing the gaggle of little girls carrying on beside one little boy who was paying no attention to them was that some things never change. I try to ignore Dragonwife and her friends conversations if I can't escape from the area. Although I have yet to pick my nose around them, I am guilty of scratching a few sensitive areas on me that I just could not ignore as they carried on about American Idol, dress sizes, or Martha Stewart.

I went inside and collected Miss Wiggles papers for the day from her classroom and inquired about her behavior from the young lady that took over the class after 4:00pm. This young lady along with several other were all seeking a degree in education and worked at the daycare in the afternoon to get some hands on experience with children. I soon learned that my quite shy little girl from China had that day led a class revolt upon learning that vanilla pudding was being served after lunch instead of the normal chocolate. It was reported to me that Wiggles had said vanilla was "yucky" and that she would only nap if chocolate was served instead. Somehow in all this several other kids joined in the protest which resulted in a brutal smack down of the revolt by the use of a group time out and no pudding at all. I heard this news and pictured in my mind the usual suspects, all members of the pre-school Ya-Ya sisterhood posse in which Wiggles plays a leading part. I assured the young lady that Wiggles would be talked to about her revolutionary agitation hoping this young education major would not sour on her career choice before getting her degree.

Stepping outside the building I saw Wiggles, one other little girl named Melrose, and the nose picking little boy named Clooney waking through a pile of leaves. The girls were picking leaves off the ground, examining them, and then handing them to Clooney who was being very careful not to drop it along with the others the girls had apparently given him earlier. Another one of the education major substitute teachers was monitoring the kids outside and called out to Wiggles to get her attention. Wiggles saw me and came running but not before saying something to Melrose and grabbing Clooney by the hand pulling him along. Clooney dropped a few leaves along the way and stopped to pick them up only to have both Wiggles and Melrose fuss at him for it. I silently laughed at that knowing that he would learn at some point that sometimes no matter what you did as far as woman were concerned you were always wrong. All three came up to the door and Wiggles informed me that Melrose and her had decided that they would share Clooney and asked if they could come over this Saturday. I, in turned, asked what did she mean about sharing Clooney? Melrose chimed in that she and Wiggles had been told that they had to share something if they both wanted it and they both wanted to marry Clooney. How was I suppose to respond to that statement? I figured some battles can wait and said that was great and that Melrose's mom needed to call Wiggles and Clooney's mom and arrange a play date or wedding reception, as long as there was cake. All three agreed and as I took Wiggles away Melrose broke off to play with a different Ya-Ya sister and I left Clooney standing in front of the door once again picking his nose. Raising this American girl is going to be a really interesting endeavor as the years go by.

Author and editor's note: This is a reprint from my previous and down defunct blog. I have several things in the works but nothing right now is anywhere near completion. I hope y'all enjoy.