Human Shields

There is a lot on the net today about getting the Pope to be a human shield. People seem to think that he should be willing to die to save whatever sites the Iraqi government, who hates and despises Christians, wants.

I don't know why he should be called on to go. Many of the human shields who went have already come home.

One Buffalo human shield went home. He says he was disillusioned. He wanted to be there to protect hospitals or schools. (which are not intentional targets anyway) Instead he and other human shields were assigned to be in water treatment plants, electrical plants, food storages, and oil refineries. This particular human shield also decided he wasn't willing to die for Iraq. So he came home.

“Consider this guy Nathan Chapman. He sold everything he owned to make the trip to Iraq, but “the delicate, 20-year-old Englishman” discovered that Saddam wouldn't let him protect purely humanitarian sites. Did these idiots not realize what was going on in Iraq before they shipped out?

Nathan is all upset that he can't go to a school or a hospital and dare his countrymen to blow him up. Saddam had – shocker – positioned him at military installations and this sort of thing. Well, hey, if you feel so strongly about this, defy Saddam and go wherever you want to save lives!” human shield

Even Mother Jones , a liberal publication, says the human shields are in trouble. There has been in-fighting, snow problems (going over the Alps), and some of the protestors insist they have to see Hussein himself. They weren't even in Iraq yet!

“And the difficulties may only grow if and when the human shield convoy reaches Iraq. The Baghdad regime had already become a source of friction within the group, with O'Keefe attracting the outrage of some activists by demanding that he intends to meet with Saddam Hussein. And, while the shields say they will not voluntarily protect military targets, one senior Iraqi official has reportedly said that the activists will be placed at “vital and strategic installations.” In Ankara, the Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, Talib Abid Salih, made a show of handing out flowers to the peace activists before issuing 65 visas for entry into Iraq. It was a made-for-TV moment which the ambassador milked as best he could. ”

I personally have never understood the concept of human shields. The US and UK, and anyone else who ends up over there, has no plans to strike hospitals or schools. If they do it will be a mistake, which a human shield certainly can't stop. Or it will be a stage. Remember the Gulf War, when Hussein added a bunch of small groups of children and hospital corps to military installations? Then when they got hit, he protested the abuse.

(Please remember that the Gulf War happened because IRAQ invaded Kuwait. We weren't going there to be mean. We were going to help our allies get their home back.)

Speech is a little ridiculous.

Californians once again amaze me. Did you know it is political speech and not okay to hang a flag? From a government owned and run thing? Only in California.

I was talking to my husband last night about the difference that I see between speech and action. I do not think that action is speech. I know, the judicial system said it was. Writing graffiti, I'd agree that's speech. But hanging a flag, burning a flag, tearing down someone else's flag, how is that free speech?

I think it is sad that in a state in the United States it is considered political speech to fly a flag on the roads. That's a little crazy. Are they going to be seceeding soon? I don't recommend it. Folks might let them go.

Computer paranoia

Okay, I confess. I don't want folks to know what I do on my computer. Even if I might tell them if they asked. But I don't want them to know what I am doing just because I have installed their system on my computer.

HOW CAN MICROSOFT GET AWAY WITH THIS? They've made a program that watches you, that you agree can change stuff on your computer, that has access to all your stuff. My finances are on my computer. Why would anyone want to give Microsoft access to their info?

This site talks about the backdoors that clickable license agreements are giving to the companies who make software that people like me use. Read it, if you didn't know that Big Brother is not the government.

You know, I am glad I use a Mac. I wish there were an alternative to Microsoft out there.

What use Blogs?

Found a great story on BoingBoing about how authors use their blogs.

For those of you who don't know, commonplace books are/used to be journals where you listed interesting info, new words, well-worded quotes, etc. I have one on my computer and a few from pre-computer days.

About Me

Inside the Actor's Studio asks their famous guests some interesting questions. Thought I would answer them about myself.

What's your favorite curse word? As a curse word, probably “bad word.” That's the one I try to use.

What's your least favorite curse word? As a curse word, fuck.

What's your favorite sound? My husband talking during sex.

What's your last favorite sound? Children whining.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Bookstore buyer.

What profession would you not like to attempt? politician

Assuming there really is a heaven, what would you like God to say when you get to the Pearly Gates? “Welcome home.”

I think there are some more questions, but I didn't write them down. So I'll refresh this after I steal them from my husband's written list. I'll also add who James Lipton got the questions from.


Wow! I have seen the topic that generates the most responses. Ucky bugs. has been talking about dreading the warmer weather because of ROACHES.

So, I've been going there, reading her comments. Other comments. Amazing. Finding people who have got these things in their dishwashers. (Doesn't that make you want to buy paper plates?)

Some people even brought up the ants in Austin. Truly a hazard, believe it or not. It doesn't matter how clean you are, they come in. If you don't leave out food they will chew up your walls and your Christmas decorations.

Someone, can't remember who, asked if they have big bugs up north. You know, I lived in NY and Indiana. I don't remember bugs in either of those two places, but I will never forget water bugs in Houston. UGGH.

Speaking of bugs, why is it that the mosquito eaters hatch about a week before the mosquitos? The last of them are dying out when their dinner shows up. I'd really rather they were around when the bugs come out.

Tithing Church, Testing God

We've been living here 2 and a half years. We've been to three churches regularly in that time. We just started our fourth. Most of us are pretty happy with it. My youngest doesn't like change and wishes we had stayed at the first.

However, at the third one, though the pastor kept saying he didn't believe in health and wealth and that giving doesn't mean getting, every Sunday that's what the ten minute sermon was on. The guy who gave it is the CFO for some company. He's also kind of that for the church. And this church is hurting for money. Put out big bucks with a small congregation to get a place they can grow into, for years. They got enough land they won't have to move if the congregation gets over 200.

Anyway, every Sunday he reads out of Malachi, talking about how if you just test God, he'll give you money. He says that if we tithe the first part (pre-tax, which we never see and which the Israelites didn't have), then God will give us so much money we won't even see straight.

My husband got sick of hearing about it and decided we'd try it. He said for six paychecks we'll give 10%. Off the top. We quit going to that church, but that is where our tithe is going. (so I guess the cfo guy is happy.)

We've paid four. And all our buffer is gone. So is the money we hadn't yet put in an educational IRA for the boys. At least, if God doesn't do something major. I mean, those checks got sent off today, so they aren't really out of our account. But they will be soon. We're pretty much over exactly what we've tithed, plus my birthday money. I spent that, but I put it on a credit card. Cause I thought I could just pay it when I got the bday check. But I can't because it is gone.

It's weird. Malachi offers the only time in the whole Bible that God says to test him. We're testing him. He's failing. I know you can always try to pull a grade out in the end, but I do not see how he's going to do this one.

Maybe part of the problem is we haven't tithed my part-time income. A tithe on it pre-tax, for the whole year so far, is $80. But if I write that check, our other checks will go like bouncing little red balls. There's a limit to how much testing I am willing to do, I guess.

My hubby says we are going to stick with it. He gave God a promise and he's going to keep it. Even if we go into debt to do it.

Guess I really need to write the check and start paying for everything with the credit card then.

That sucks. I hate debt.

How is God going to give us back that money? We don't buy lottery tickets. Dying relatives would be a BAD plan; takes too long to probate a will in court. Plus, who'd ever trust a response like that? Give me your money and I'll kill your nearest and dearest. Husband hasn't had a raise in over 18 months. In fact, about that long ago he took a 12% paycut. I guess it will really have to be a God-thing.

Have You Forgotten?

It was 18 months ago today that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center fell. That a third suicide plane crashed into the Pentagon. That a fourth killed only its passengers and crew because they died in order to save others.

I spent the day doing normal things, in between hiding from the TV and the phone. I couldn't bear it. I couldn't stand the stress. I just hid from it and did everyday things as best I could. It was a day or two later that I fell apart. But I had that luxury. It wasn't my family that died. It wasn't my workplace that disappeared. If I knew anyone in the WTC, I knew them over 20 years ago as a high school student and haven't spoken with them since.

You know, we still have soldiers in Afghanistan. Trying to turn a destroyed nation into a home for democracy.

Have You Forgotten?' lyrics

I hear people saying we don't need this war
I say there's some things worth fighting for
What about our freedom and this piece of ground
We didn't get to keep 'em by backing down
They say we don't realize the mess we're getting in
Before you start your preaching let me ask you this my friend

Have you forgotten how it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell
And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

They took all the footage off my T.V.
Said it's too disturbing for you and me
It'll just breed anger that's what the experts say
If it was up to me I'd show it everyday
Some say this country's just out looking for a fight
After 9/11 man I'd have to say that's right

Repeat chorus

I've been there with the soldiers
Who've gone away to war
And you can bet that they remember
Just what they're fighting for

Chorus 3
Have you forgotten all the people killed?
Some went down like heros in that Pennsylvania field
Have you forgotten about our Pentagon?
All the loved ones that we lost and those left to carry on
Don't you tell me not to worry about bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten?
Have you forgotten?

Darryl Worley/Wynn Varble, 2003 EMI Blackwood Music Inc./Hatley Creek Music/Warner-Tamerlane, Publishing Corp. (BMI

Darryl Worley and the members of his band spent 8 days over the Christmas holidays in Afghanistan on a USO type tour with the troops.

Many of the people who are there now have been there a while. They aren't just “waiting” for the war on Iraq. They are trying to take care of other problems people have made and given them the repair of.

Pray for those who lost family and friends. Pray for the members of the armed services and their families who are overseas. Wherever they are.

Teacher Education

Found the following info on a teacher at a California college.

Kuro5hin says, “A speech class professor, Rosalyn Kahn, told students they could get extra credit for writing an anti-war letter to President Bush. To receive credit, the letter had to protest the war, and the letter had to be mailed to President Bush. (I would find this just as worthy of mention if she had required students to write a pro-war letter.) Then, according to a press release, “One week later, Kahn again required students to write letters with a specific political viewpoint, this time to California State Senator Jack Scott. Professor Kahn collected the letters from the class and personally delivered them to Scott.”

When the administration found out, they took care of the problem. This letter was from the president of the college to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

I found this interesting for a number of reasons.

One is that I am a college teacher.

As a college teacher, I have given extra credit for writing letters. Those were to members of the armed forces during the Gulf War and to missionaries (when I taught at a Christian college). I did not ask to see the letters. I did ask for them to be turned in inside an envelope that was addressed and stamped. However, I was an ENGLISH teacher. The students were getting extra credit for doing a writing assignment. Writing assignments are normally the pervue of an English teacher.

I was a bit dismayed by the fact that this teacher picked which side the letters were to agree with. (Although I hope none of the students wrote the servicemen and women and told them they were baby killers!) But I have had assignments which weren't made with the best judgement. Unfortunately, teachers are human too and make mistakes.

I thought the administration did a good job of taking care of the problem. I was amazed. I have worked under an administration in which the whistleblower gets in trouble, not the person doing the wrong thing.

100 things I want to do before I die

My husband found somewhere the suggestion that you make a list of 100 things you want to do before you die. Then do them.

I started the list. I am not finished. But I thought I would put some on here.

Re-learn, remember, and use my Spanish.
Relearn and use my French.

Go to Switzerland with my family.
Go on a walking tour of the British Isles.
Visit Australia and New Zealand.

Get my novel finished.
Get my novel published.
Get some of my West Texas poetry published.

Hike the Appalachian trail.
Hike the national forest near my home.

Go to Yellowstone and the Redwood forest with my family.
Go back to the Grand Canyon.
Visit the Petrified Forest with my kids.

Go hot air ballooning.
Be in Santa Fe for the hot air balloon stuff.

Teach college full-time again.

See my boys grow up, happy and healthy.

Lose 20 pounds of fat.
Find a hair cut that looks good on me.
quit having zits.

Get out of debt.
Pay off my house.

Go camping in the springtime.

Be in the northeast in the fall, so I can see the leaves turning.

Visit Biltmore House in Asheville.

Learn to dance the salsa and the tango.

There, that's 28 of 100.

What do you want to do before you die?

Marines, urban myth

According to this site, the Marine letter from an earlier blog is not accurate. I think they are probably right. Most of their explanations seem legit.

However, I would take issue with one point. They said that names tend to drop off, not get added to when it is a real situation. I have a friend, a personal friend whom I have known for about fourteen years, who is a missionary overseas. He sent me an email about a coworker then serving with him overseas who was desperately ill. The actual email he sent me was a copy of an email the sick coworker had sent him and his request for me to pray and pass it on.

I sent the email out to maybe forty or fifty people I know personally. Within a month the sick coworker had received over 18.000 emails. He and his family had also received calls from CDC and doctors around the country who specialized in tropical illnesses.

In less than two months, this man, who no one knew what was wrong with and who was dying with a brand new baby daughter, was totally well and out of the hospital. I sent the notice to the forty or fifty people I had sent it to originally.

About six months after that, I got an email from a pastor friend in NC who had received an email from another pastor friend in FL, asking about the situation. I answered the FL email and hope that it got in that denomination's newsletter. (The prayer request had.)

Two years later I was in Indiana finishing up my dissertation. A pastor friend there asked me if I had heard what had happened to the missionary. I passed on the news that he was well and had a second daughter.

The next summer I got an internet email, from someone I don't know, with the missionary's letter and my friends original addendum. But the email said that the missionary's name was David Ezekial something. I answered that mail with the updated information and asked them to pass it back.

The missionary's name was not what was on the letter.

Anyway, if you are still praying for a missionary from Thailand who is home on furlough and expected to die and the CDC won't even look at his case, know that many individuals from CDC offered to help and he is totally healthy and has been for about five years.

A Marine on the French

I have no idea if it is a real letter, but I love it. See what you think.

Subject: Fwd: Marine letter

Dear Dad,

A funny thing happened to me yesterday at Camp Bondsteel (Bosnia): A
French army officer walked up to me in the PX, and told me he thought we
(Americans) were a bunch of cowboys and were going to provoke a war in
Iraq. He said if such a thing happens, we wouldn't be able to count on
the support of France. I told him that it didn't surprise me. Since we
had come to France's rescue in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and
the Cold War, their ingratitude and jealousy was due to surface at some
point in the near future anyway.

I also told him that is why France is a third-rate military power with a
socialist economy and a bunch of faggots for soldiers. I additionally
told him that America, being a nation of deeds and action, not words, would
do whatever it had to do, and France's support was only for show anyway.
Just like in ALL NATO exercises, the US would shoulder 85% of the burden,
as evidenced by the fact that this French officer was shopping in the
American PX, and not the other way around.

He began to get belligerent at that point, and I told him if he would
like to, I would meet him outside in front of the Burger King and whip
his ass in front of the entire Multi-National Brigade East, thus
demonstrating that
even the smallest American had more fight in him than the average Frenchman.

He called me a barbarian cowboy and walked away in a huff. With friends
like these, who needs enemies?

Tell Mom I love her,
Your loving daughter,

Mary Beth Johnson LtCol, USMC


I love the contemporary worship music that is the main staple at the church we go to. One of my favorites is “These are the days of Elijah.” I cry everytime we sing it, though for different reasons. Today it was because “time of famine and darkness and sword” and I thought of the impending war in Iraq.

But I grew up on the old hymns. I sang them all my growing up years. My family sang on long trips in the car. (Too poor for a radio mostly.) We would sing one hymn after the other, doing free word associations with them to keep the music flowing.

I actually like the old hymns. I like them for their meanings, for their history, for my history with them. “I'll fly away” was my grama's favorite. “Up from the grave” was my brother's, before he became an atheist. “The Old Rugged Cross” was the first hymn I ever heard with instrumental music. (I grew up in the church of Christ which does not have instruments in worship music.)

My two sons are in double digit ages and they have never, to my knowledge, heard any of those songs, unless it was me singing them around the house. They just don't know them. They have never sung them in church. My husband doesn't like to sing on trips, so they didn't hear them there.

It's a little strange, perhaps. But I am sad. “The Old Rugged Cross,” unless I remember incorrectly, was one of the first hymns in the English language. My kids are missing a centuries old tradition. I don't think hymns will completely go away, although they might. But my children's generation will be the first one I know of who hasn't learned the old songs.

Fast romance: long-term love

Went to kimmy alberts' blog. She wondered if she was going into a relationship too fast.

I know some relationships work, even with a racehorse start. My parents have been married 42 years on Monday and they met in November and married in March. I met my husband in July and married in October. It's been 14 years for us. My in-laws met in May and married in September. They've got 41 years down.

You might say it's genetic, but I don't think so. My husband is adopted.

It might be that it is watching two people slag it out through all the good and bad.

It might be that we all got blessed with our perfect mates. (Don't count on that one.) I got matched with my perfect mate, but I don't think my folks or my in-laws would say they matched well all the time. Of course, neither did my husband and I. Maybe part of being happily married is learning where you need to match and figuring out how to do it.

On-line paper dolls; serious fun

Okay. The owner calls it dollies; bratmaker but I love it. You can choose your skin color. I picked green. With long curly red hair. (I wish.) And blue eyes. (Those match.) I couldn't find a black miniskirt and high heel boots, so I couldn’t finish the look of what I wore out on my date last night, but I found the shirt.

It's fun.

Grandmother starved

I mentioned this in passing on another blog, concerning why people are short (random thoughts). Someone asked about the family history involved therein.

Grama's folks were a doctor and nurse. Her dad died in a typhoid epidemic. A year or so later, her mom remarried. A year or so later, her mom died in another epidemic. Don't know if it was typhoid or not. The stepfather kept the house and land (of course, this being Texas and no will) and pushed my three year old grama out the door.

You could get away with stuff like that. He wasn't her dad, you know. So of course he wasn't responsible, kind of thinking. Her uncle, or some more distant relative, took her in. Apparently only because they felt they had to. They were farmers. She went out to pick cotton with the rest of the bunch. Well, they didn't feed her well and she worked hard, so she didn't get very big.

It was rare that a truant officer came out, but they did come to the farms, to make sure farm kids were going to school. They told him she was five, when she was about 8. Finally, the truant officer figured out she couldn't possibly still be that young and made them put her in school. Unfortunately, she hit the maximum age in three years. So she only got a third grade education.

Not being a stupid woman, she left home and found a job where she might actually be appreciated. She was a maid but felt more a daughter of that house than of the relative she had worked for.

She met a tall cowboy in a leather jacket and a fast car and the two of them rode off into the sunset together. They had 6 living children, 17 grandchildren, and a smattering of great-grandchildren and had been together over 50 years when the cowboy/farmer died.

She lived on for a few years, aggravating everyone on purpose, I think, because she was aggravated that Grampa was gone. She died when I, the eldest of her fifth child, was teaching college. So, I was 24 maybe?

She could make the best chocolate chip cookies on the planet. They were good fresh out of the oven or two weeks old mailed in a package. They were only okay otherwise.

She catered to her grandkids' tastes, peeling five and ten pounds of potatoes for breakfast every morning when my family would come to visit so that my brother and I could have mashed potatoes for breakfast.

And she told the best scary stories. My favorite was the boogie man's toe. But another, equally scary, was about a rocker in an abandoned house that rocked on its own.

She had an interesting finger naming game. Tom Thumbkin, Billy Willkin, Long Jerkin, Betsy Bobkin, and Little Dick. Don't know where it came from or how old it is. But I think only two of the grandkids knew it. I am not sure any of the greats do. Not even my boys.
Note: I looked up the finger game. I found a book from 1849 that identified the finger-naming game as varying by county in England. Page 105 sats that “in some parts of Yorkshire,
Tom Thumbkins,
Bill Wilkins,
Long Daniel,
Bessy Bobtail,
and little Dick.”
from Popular rhymes and nursery tales: a sequel to the Nursery rhymes of England by J. R. Smith

Have you read them?

I'm a big sci-fi fantasy fan. Found this link on Science fiction Book Club which gives a list of their top 50 books of the last 50 years. I've read 10.

I know some of the others, from my husband having read them.

But where are MY favorites? Miller and Lee's Liaden series? Gordon Dickson's Dorsai or Dragon series? Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksennarion? Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar? Patricia Wrede's dragon series? Anne McCaffrey's psychic series? Rick Cook's Wizardry series?

What are YOUR favorite sci-fi/fantasy books?

Random notes from the one awake

I am rarely up late anymore. Most of the time I hit ten and am so yawnsome I must hit the hay. However, that chocolate and Dr. Pepper I had at eight or so must have thrown my caffeine overload switch, because it is 1 am of the next day and I am up and going strong. I did try to go to bed, but after a few minutes I knew I would just toss and turn so I got up.

Today I am going to a garage sale. If I can find it. The Civic Club is having a major one. I should have called to find out where it is being held, but I figure I'll get up and go on a Burger King raid (I've thrown the whole eat right thing out the window this weekend.) and drive around obvious places. Except maybe the country club, because I don't know where that is.

Then my sister is coming down to help me get my bday present to myself home. I have been wanting more bookshelves for ages. We have 12, eight of which are full size (6ft or higher). However, I still have boxes in piles and boxes and stacked on tables. So do my boys. I'll take the bigger ones and hand-them-down the smaller ones. The bookshelves I have wanted are on sale through tomorrow. But since they are 73 inches high and my car is only 53 inches across, I couldn't figure out a way to get them in. So I called my baby sister. She has an Expedition which, while not quite as useful as a pickup, will do in a pinch.

In a related note, has anyone seen the bumper sticker for pickups that says “No, I won't help you move.” I love it. I don't have a pickup. And I need one about twice a year. Up till last fall that was fine because my dad had one. But he gave his to my brother, who lives half a continent away. So now I have to cast about for acquaintances with minivans. (I live in minivan haven. Though I confess to shopping in the pickup part of town regularly.)

When I was buying a new car my husband wanted me to get a minivan. I've owned one before and found it to be huge and too hard to park. Plus, you know, I just didn't want to go for the soccer mom look. (Although most of those around here are pretty good looking. Maybe I should have gone that route.)

Instead I bought a car with enough room for my kids to turn teenagers in. That turned out to be a good thing because my 10 year old is up to the top of my shoulder and my 11 year old is over the bottom of my chin. AAAGGHH! I thought they would be 15 before they hit that growth spurt. My 11 year old is wearing a size 7 and a half in shoes!

I was 5'6 by the time I was 11. But I'm a girl. I drank lots of milk, probably filled with growth hormones. I wasn't expecting this of my boys. Mostly because my brother, who is 6'4, didn't hit the top of my shoulder till he was 15. I have pictures to prove that I once was, in fact, the tallest child in my immediate family instead of the shortest adult in my extended family. (My grama was smaller than I am, but she was starved as a child, so I am not sure that should count.)

My conscience reminds me that I probably have one cousin who is shorter than I am, although I am not sure of that since I have not seen her since she was six. (She was much smaller than I was then.) She was put on a very strict diet when she was a baby by my aunt because at her six month check up her weight was in the 80% percentile. She barely had anything with any fat in her diet at all.

I have come to the conclusion, totally from observation, that low caloric intake and low fat intake relate to low heights in humans. I've seen many Japanese parents who are tiny with American-born kids who tower over me. And both my grama and my cousin (from descriptions of her as an adult) qualify in the other direction.

At my grama's funeral, my husband remarked that at 6'1 he was the shortest of the grandsons. It was true. And my maternal side grows 'em just as big.

I hope my boys don't top 6'4 though because things start getting awkward then. My husband sometimes has trouble with the roof of a car being too low. I remember my uncle ducking in doorways. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

The Celts

I am doing some research for a novel. One of the people in the book is a Celt. Based on my research, though, most of the people in Europe have some Celtic background.

Marseilles was a Celtic town. So was London and Lyon. They lived in Portugal, Spain, Austria, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Belgium, Switzerland. Of course they also lived in the British Isles. But in 300 BC, Celts were living in most of Western Europe. That amazes me.

The letter to the Galatians in the Bible? That was written to Celts or people whose ancestors, less than 200 years before, were Celts.
Is that right? No. Galatia is different than Gaul. Gaul is in France.

I find that amazing. Why didn't I know that? I mean, I know the Vandals sacked Rome. Why didn't I know that more than half of Europe was Celtic? And where did all the blond hair go?