Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Laptop Cable Lock


Boy, do I feel dumb.

Have you ever not seen something right in front of you simply because you weren't paying attention?

That's what happened to me.

I bought my current laptop online from Dell early in 2008 and kicked myself for not ensuring that it had a security port after not being able to find one on the back or right side like it was on two previous laptops. Most laptops have it and, since my last laptop was made by Dell and had a security port, I expected the feature to be standard on the series. Sure, I could have returned the laptop and gotten another, but I liked the other features too much which is why I selected it in the first place.

So, for close to two years, I haven't taken my laptop to the public library because I couldn't figure out how to secure it and didn't want to have to carry it with me every second.

However, on Christmas Day, probably due to the atypical blizzard that shut down mid-Oklahoma through the top half of Texas, I found myself contemplating the ports on my laptop where I discovered one on the LEFT side that I didn't remember having seen before.

"Wait a minute. That looks like..."

I got my cable lock, fit it into the hole, and it locked down tight. Sure enough, the left side is where Dell put the security port for this laptop. Boy, do I feel dumb for not noticing it before!

If you didn't know there's a way to secure your laptop, examine the back and BOTH sides for a little rectangular hole that doesn't seem to have a purpose (photo below). Then, visit a store that sells computer accessories or search online for "laptop cable lock" for the type of lock you prefer. There are combination locks, keyed locks, locks with short cables, locks with long cables, locks with expandable or retractable cables, locks with motion detectors, and locks that will link more than one device together provided each device has a security port.

Because my last laptop was stolen from the locked trunk of my car in broad daylight, I recommend getting a cable lock and figuring out how to secure your laptop to a part of your car as an additional theft deterrent. While your home owner's or renter's insurance policy may cover the theft of your laptop, the loss of the data you have on it will be what devastates you unless you're really good about keeping a current backup. Even then, losing personal data puts you at risk of identity theft.

Better safe than sorry.



Friday, December 25, 2009

White Christmas


Those who prayed for a white Christmas overdid it this year. Oklahoma and Texas are not supposed to get blizzards!

It was nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit when I went to Walmart on Monday afternoon. I was ready to go on Saturday then realized the fallacy of going there during the weekend before Christmas when I didn't absolutely have to. On Monday morning, my thoughts were confirmed by a lady who said she went on Saturday and couldn't find any place to park so returned at 1 a.m. to avoid the crowd.

It was crowded when I got there on Monday shortly after 2 p.m. even though it was a week day. I was fortunate in finding a parking space right away although it was nearly the farthest from the store. I didn't mind, figuring I can use the exercise.

Walking to the store, I was perturbed to see a shopping cart standing at the rear of an SUV with a woman's purse in the child seat begging to be stolen. I stood watching for a minute, unnoticed by the woman in the driver's seat of the SUV bent over like she was looking for something. What was she thinking, leaving her purse like that?

I walked up to her door. "Excuse me, please don't leave your purse out like that."

She got out. "I only wanted to get something," she protested.

Why didn't she take her purse with her where it would be safer?

"I could have grabbed it and ran off, if I was that type of person." And she would have never known until it was too late.

She looked annoyed. "Thank you," she said, retrieving her handbag.

"Merry Christmas," I replied as I left.

Once inside, I navigated the crowd until I was in the back corner with the flashlights. The pegs for the pocket-sized mini flashlights were empty leading me to think they are the popular stocking stuffers for this year. It's a good idea.

I searched the LED key ring flashlights for a red one for a lady I know but found only one that is too big and too heavy for a key ring for my taste. There weren't many key ring flashlights to search through because those pegs were mostly empty. Another popular stocking stuffer?

After reading a label for a grandmother looking for the right size for her baby grandson and lifting a case of soda for an elderly woman in one of the motorized shopping carts Walmart provides for the less able, I checked out and left; my good deeds done for the day.

Set for the holiday, I awoke on the morning of Christmas Eve to blowing sleet and snow. By 9 a.m., my car was sealed shut. The sleet soon abdicated in favor of the fiercely driven snow. I had planned on going back to Walmart for some chocolate candy and quickly cancelled the thought.

One doesn't usually think of needing a vehicle preparedness kit in case of being stranded in the snow in Oklahoma and Texas, but that's what's been happening according to the evening news.

So, I'm socked in, safe and warm, watching the 24-hour "A Christmas Story" marathon on TBS, waiting for daylight to check out my gifts.

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Revisiting John 8:2-11


In my last post, I quoted John 8:2-11 of the Bible, a passage about an adulteress, and want to revisit it.

Have you ever wondered why the woman caught in adultery, "in the very act" (John 8:4), was the only person the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus?

Since Leviticus 20:10 says that both the man and the woman are to be put to death for breaking the Seventh Commandment ("Thou shalt not commit adultery" Exodus 20:14), what happened to the man who was with the adulteress? Since he isn't mentioned, the only logical conclusion is that they let him go.

Since John 8:6 says they brought the woman to Jesus in hope of getting something against Him, I'm thinking that if He said that they should not stone her, they could accuse Him of being against the Law.

If, however, He agreed that she should be stoned to death, they could accuse Him of ignoring the part of the Law that says the man is to be stoned as well.

Either answer would have given the Pharisees something against Jesus as they wanted but He saw their double standard, the injustice of their wanting to stone the woman but not the man who had been with her, and had the wisdom to avoid their trap.


Friday, December 11, 2009

A Matter of Balance


The Tiger Woods situation has some people arguing that adultery is a private issue between a husband and his wife. This post takes a look at two scriptures that have been used by those who think the media and everyone else should be quiet about Tiger's infidelities.

One scripture, "...He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone..." seems appropriate because Jesus said it in a passage about a woman caught in adultery:

John 8:
2. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4. They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6. This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11. She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

The problem with trying to use it to convince others to leave Tiger alone is that doing so misapplies the verse; no one has condemned Tiger to death. No where does Jesus say that the adulteress shouldn't have been exposed as such, only that he without sin should be the one to begin her execution which has never been an issue in Tiger's situation.

Moreover, the passage shows that public exposure was the path to God's mercy and the woman's repentance just as public exposure was the path to Tiger Woods' reluctant but eventual statement of guilt and intended repentance.

The other scripture is, "Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:4).

Frankly, I'm appalled that anyone would trivialize breaking the Seventh Commandment (Exodus 20:14) by equating adultery to a mote (speck). What then, considering that the Commandments aren't ranked by magnitude, might be equated to a beam?

In defense, a more appropriate verse is likely, "Judge not, that ye be not judged," from the same passage in Matthew 7:

1. Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

The problem with using this passage is that because God doesn't see any sin as being worse than another as we might see murder as being worse than stealing, and there's a distinct comparison of magnitudes in this passage, this scripture isn't about sins but is about the non-sinful things some may criticize or think they need to help other people fix about themselves.

Also countering the erroneous belief that "Judge not, that ye be not judged," is about sins is that Jesus instructed us to "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

Even so, we weren't given much of an opportunity to judge Tiger because his lovers began confirming his infidelities within a few days and God has already judged adulterers:

1 Corinthians 6:
9. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10. Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

The fact is that Tiger's philandering has been the worst kept secret and the media has known about it for a long time without printing a word.

What changed?

When Tiger crashed his vehicle, the accident became a matter of public record. The public wants to know how and why accidents happen as well as if people were injured or property damaged and to what extent. It's the media's job to keep the public informed. Reporting accidents also helps keep the public safe because it's the easiest way for us to learn what to do or not do.

After that, it's simple back-tracking from the accident to its underlying cause: Accident -> reckless driving -> upset over argument with Elin -> his texting Rachel Uchitel -> adultery. Thus, Pandora's box was opened.

Another reason adultery shouldn't be a private matter is because such a violation of the Ten Commandments erodes the fabric of society which is everyone's concern. Too often, silence is interpreted as consent and in no way should we ever allow anyone who breaks the interpersonal Commandments the illusion that s/he's behavior has gone unnoticed or will be without consequence. While a person not in the public eye deserves the attention of family, friends, associates, and church; a public figure who travels the world needs the watchful eye of the public to hold him or her accountable especially after years of concealing the behavior from the public has failed to effect a change.

Although we've all heard or read about how intrusive the media can be in regard to the personal lives of celebrities, especially the tabloids - and I do not condone the excess or the fabrications - however uncomfortable it may be, the situation is one that Tiger Woods brought upon himself.

By committing adultery, he proved himself to be immoral.

By texting Rachel where Elin could catch him at it, he displayed poor judgment.

By blaming Elin for ruining their Thanksgiving, he exposed himself as a blame-shifter.

By driving recklessly, he unleashed the media.

While I'm sure those who use the two scriptures examined here think they have the best intentions, taking scripture out of context and picking scriptures to the exclusion of others in the Bible leaves them on the slippery slope of using the Bible to say whatever they want it to say instead of having a balanced outlook of the scripture.

Everyone else needs to be aware that since there is what people say the Bible says versus what the Bible actually says, they need to study the Bible for themselves.

Tiger Woods is a great golfer, but not a good man and it's better for us to see him as he really is than it is to hold an unbalanced view of him as being like the other celebrities who manage their lives without engaging in the scandalous behavior that Tiger has.

If Tiger's lucky, having his adultery exposed publicly, like the adulteress in the Bible, resulted in true repentance rather than mere lip service and the painful memory of his exposure will keep him from behaving badly in the future.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crane Offers Free Shipping


Crane & Co. is now offering free ground shipping on orders $25 or more. This is a great offer because last year, the minimum order was $75.

If you like fine stationery or have someone on your gift list who does, Crane's 100% cotton papers have a divinely luxurious feel that is well worth the price especially if the item is in the Sale section. Both thermographic printing and engraving is available on select products.

Shipping is prompt - my orders are usually delivered in about a week.

Highly recommended.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Joy by the Water


I decided to change my blog's title from "Sound Off!" that I started using in 1999 when I emailed my first rant to various people about how the millennium wasn't starting in 2000 but in 2001, despite the worldwide celebration by those who evidently didn't know how to count from one to a thousand.

I'm going with my name since it is a good name and has served me well over the years. I also like the symbolism, both spiritually and geographically.

"Gail" means "joy" in Aramaic.

"Rhea" in the original spelling means "by the water" in Irish.

Thus, my name means "Joy by the Water" and it is true.

"The Lord is my shepherd..." (Psalm 23:1)

Baa-aa-aa!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Making a Change


I've been thinking of changing the title of this blog because "Sound Off!" doesn't suit what it's become as well as I thought it would.

One option is "The Pachinko Machine" because one never knows where the ball is going to bounce.

Another option is "Falcon Works" since I write with a fountain pen and my favorite is the Namiki Falcon because of its flexible nib.

The third option is to simply use my name. Boring, huh?

Let's see, what other options are there?

Decisions, decisions...

As it turns out, it was easier to select one of my photographs and change the banner.

[The photo was taken at the 16th Annual White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational that is held every September at the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.]


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Saturday


Before Thanksgiving, I had a couple of topics I thought I'd write about. However, with the surfeit of feasting and napping, I've forgotten them completely and have only a few stray thoughts to share:

1. As we were getting ready to leave the office on the day before Thanksgiving 1999, my office mate asked me what I was planning to do on Thanksgiving.

"Write my letter of resignation," I replied.

It's hard to believe that was ten years ago. For a moment, I was despondent that I still don't have a book ready to submit for publication, but considering that I've been away from home for nearly six out of the ten years and learned a lot about the craft of writing during the rest of the time, it doesn't seem so bad.

2. I laugh at the TV commercials that say, "Black Friday starts on Saturday..."

3. If I didn't already have a good vacuum cleaner, I'd be tempted to buy the Shark Multi-Vac that's advertised during the infomercials played during the wee morning hours.

4. I don't think I'll miss the TV series, "Monk," but I will miss seeing Natalie Teeger, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, and Lt. Randy Disher. I keep thinking of Hector Elizondo, the actor who portrays Dr. Neven Bell, Monk's psychiatrist, in the role he played in the movie, "Pretty Woman," so haven't gotten used to him in this role. I never did like Sharona.

5. Although I still have a couple of stores to check, it looks like I'll have to order my toothpaste online because three local stores no longer carry it. My guess is that because so many people want whitening toothpastes, a gentle toothpaste such as Arm & Hammer Dental Care doesn't sell as well. Why people would brush their teeth with silica, i.e. sand, a high abrasive that contributes to the wearing down of enamel much more than baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), the mildest abrasive that also happens to be an excellent cleaner, is beyond me. It must be because they don't read the ingredients and don't know that sand is silica.

While I'm at it, I may as well mention that it's so much simpler and less expensive to swish with water after eating to rinse out sugars and acids than to use a so-called "restorative" toothpaste that may also, oxymoronically, have silica or hydrated silica as an ingredient.

I've thought about brushing with plain baking soda, like people used to do back in the old days, and using a fluoride rinse to prevent cavities until I read the label on a rinse that said "sodium fluoride" which is a toxic industrial waste by-product.

Unfortunately, sodium fluoride is also the active ingredient in my toothpaste and others which is the reason for the warning to immediately contact the Poison Control Center if more than the amount used for brushing is swallowed. (All you need is the size of a pea, not the long, toothbrush-covering strip shown in TV ads to persuade you to use, and subsequently buy, more of the product.)

Of course, we're not supposed to swallow toothpaste. However, I can't help remembering that the inside of our mouths are so much more effective at absorbing that sublingual tablets for everything from vitamin B-12 for energy to nitroglycerin for angina are used instead of pills that need to be swallowed.

And, haven't we all seen a movie scene in which a drug addict rubs cocaine on his or her gums?

No, please don't try to tell me we're not getting any sodium fluoride in our bodies because we don't swallow toothpaste.

I remember when stannous fluoride, the safer, quality fluoride, was used in toothpaste. When did the toothpaste companies switch to the toxic waste by-product? Was it when the type of fluoride for fluoridating public water supplies was switched from sodium fluoride to hexafluorosilicic acid that's considered to be even worse than sodium fluoride?

Maybe I should look for a toothpaste with stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. The problem is that I haven't found any without silica or hydrated silica. What are the chances of my finding a toothpaste with one of the good fluorides that also doesn't contain silica?

So, either I put poison into my mouth or wear down my enamel with an ADA-approved product that's supposed to be good for my teeth that really isn't or let my teeth rot by not using a product with fluoride. Some choice.

Maybe it's a good thing that I drink tea that has fluoride naturally.


That's all I have. I hope your Thanksgiving was full of thankfulness for the blessings you have and that your holiday shopping is hassle-free.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Becky


Having an urge for ribs all week, I hopped down to the nearest supermarket yesterday to take advantage of the deli's Friday special on ribs.

Placing the ribs in my cart, I rolled it to the back of the store to see what was available on the other hot table before proceeding to pick up toothpaste, margarine, and raisin bread.

Not seeing my favorite cashier, I looked for the shortest check-out line, unloaded my groceries on the conveyor belt, and swiped my card while Becky, the cashier, scanned my purchases.

Bagging my bread and toothpaste in one bag, she put the ribs into a second bag and the hot vegetables into a third.

"That bag is ripped," I said indicating the bag holding the ribs.

Becky turned the bag to see the split and put the margarine into the bag with the container of hot vegetables.

"Please don't do that!"

Her hand froze and she looked at me.

"You're putting cold food next to hot," I explained. Unreal. Doesn't she know any better than that? The vegetables will have the margarine melted before I get home.

She moved the margarine to the bag with the bread and toothpaste. Then, she put the ribs into a new bag.

"$23.22," she said after totaling my bill.

I waited.

She waited.

"$23.22," she repeated.

"My screen says it's waiting on you," I replied, not used to having a cashier who doesn't pay attention to her screen.

"Did you swipe your card?" Becky asked.

"Yes."

She looked at her screen and pressed a button. "Debit or credit?"

"I pressed the credit button," I said, thinking she obviously wasn't paying attention to her screen again as I began picking up my bags.

As Becky handed me my receipt, the previous customer returned saying that she didn't get her change.

"I remember you handing me the receipt, but not the money and I can't find it anywhere," she said.

I did that a few months ago at Wal-Mart and had to wait until the next day for the cashier to finish her shift, close out her drawer and do her count before I was able to receive my money. I worried that it might be only my word against hers if the cashier decided to pocket my money for herself, but the Customer Service representative said they could also check the video tape to see if I was handed my cash back or not. I don't know if this supermarket has cameras everywhere like Wal-Mart does, so it might be more of a mess to fix.

I was glad it wasn't me.

I left the store, still incredulous that Becky put my margarine in with the hot vegetables. What was she thinking?

Was she thinking?

Upon reflection, remembering how she wasn't paying attention to her screen and that she may not have given the previous customer her change, I decided that Becky was distracted by something else going on in her life and is more in need of my prayers than my criticism.

I invite you to pray for her, too.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Child of the Light or Member of the World?


Thelma, my aunt-through-marriage, owes me money.

Following the steps of Matthew 18:15-17,

(Matthew 18:
15. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.)

in 2006, I took the issue to her pastor, Paul Anderson, of the Zion Lutheran Church in Fairfield, WA who agreed that I was doing the right thing. He asked what kind of reaction he might expect from her when he talks to her and if he may show her the letter I had written documenting her behavior in avoiding to pay me. I gave my permission since she already knows what she's done.

But, he never spoke to her nor did he gather a group of church members to talk to her. Granted, she winters in Mesa, AZ but still, he's had time enough and then some.

As a result, last month I wrote a letter of complaint to his bishop, Martin D. Wells, of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod located in Spokane, WA.

If I'm generous, I'll say that Wells is apparently ignorant of 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 that says we are not to go to court against one another but to resolve issues within the church.

(1 Corinthians 6:
1. Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?...
7. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another...)

However, ignoring Matthew 18:17 that I quoted in my letter to him, Bishop Wells replied:

"...You are attempting to use his sacred influence with a parishioner to get something you want from that parishioner...

Your recourse is through the courts. Please leave Pastor Anderson out of this matter... Please fight your own fight and leave this pastor out of your triangulation."

Yes, I wrote back, challenging the bishop with a dozen questions and scripture verses that I pray will prick his conscience and lead him to repent. Since the letter went out with yesterday's mail, his reaction remains to be seen.

However, for a person to be in church, a church leader for as long as Wells has been, and a bishop at that, to instruct anyone to do precisely what the Bible says not to do, is the antithesis of Christianity. Telling me to disobey God is an action of Satan's servant, not a servant of Christ.

Harsh words? Or am I calling it as it is?

Now, here's the point to this post:

If church leadership ignores the Bible in favor of the ways of the world, is it any wonder that Christians can't be distinguished as being Christians or as being any different from members of the world?

Since we can read the Bible for ourselves and have the Holy Spirit to guide us if we're willing to be led by Him, our worldly behavior isn't excused because church leadership erroneously says it's okay or ignores it since we are responsible for our own relationship with the Lord.

So, if you call yourself a Christian, what practices do you engage in that make you look like a member of the world?

Why don't you stop?

I hope it isn't because you love the world and its ways more than you appreciate the Lord who was crucified for us.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rude Spouses


The mind works in interesting ways. Between the receptionist I mentioned in my last post and the Ft. Hood shootings this week, memories came up of two incredibly rude spouses I've met.

The first was when I was living in Killeen, just outside Ft. Hood, and working in Temple, Texas. My supervisor had invited me to a dinner party that he and his wife were having at their home in Temple.

When I arrived, I discovered that I was the only guest from his work. The others were her college friends. Nevertheless, I had a good time.

When it came time for me to leave, I went to say good-bye to the wife.

"Thank you for inviting me," I said.

She looked at me coldly and replied, "I didn't invite you," then walked away.

Wow.

Technically, though, she was right. She hadn't invited me.

The second rude spouse was encountered last year. A former co-worker had invited me to join her and her husband for a pleasant afternoon flying kites on their acreage. Since he is the kite aficionado, I was telling him something I learned from enthusiasts I met who belong to the San Diego Kite Club. His wife was behind me, about six feet away.

And he walked away, entering their house.

Yes, just like that. While I was speaking, right in front of him, without any sort of, "Excuse me," or gesture to warn me.

Amazing. I bet he didn't do that to people when he was trying to get elected to public office.

What's even more appalling is that these spouses call themselves, "Christians."

So much for their practicing the Golden Rule.

I'm glad rude spouses are few and far between.



Luke 6:31. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bell's Palsy or Stroke?


The pizza arrived at 7:30 P.M. on the Wednesday before last. I relaxed, watching TV and sipping water until I had an urge for a box of vanilla milk shortly after midnight.

But the left side of my mouth couldn't close around the straw.

I started to freak. Had I had a stroke?

I checked myself to see what else was different and prayed, "Lord, did I have a stroke? What do I do? What is it?"

The answer came back, "Bell's Palsy," in that still, small voice within my spirit.

Wanting to make sure it wasn't a stroke, I got on the Internet. Everything I read at the Mayo Clinic, MedlinePlus, the Merck Manual, WebMD, and other sites Google gave me said to go to an emergency room immediately. Feeling a check in my spirit for that course of action, I continued to study the pages and was gradually reassured.

Men are the usual victims. I have no family history of stroke or heart disease. I'm younger than the typical age range of those women who did have a stroke. I've never been diagnosed with hypertension. Most of all, stroke affects the lower left part of the face and is usually accompanied by the left arm and/or left leg being affected as well, while Bell's Palsy affects an entire side of the face, only, from forehead down, and from nose to ear.

Wondering what might have caused it, I checked the web sites for Bell's Palsy before calling my chiropractor for an adjustment. Everything fit.

However, my D.C., said there wasn't anything he could adjust to fix Bell's Palsy and he wasn't about to adjust my neck, anyway, because he didn't know that it wasn't a stroke and didn't want to make it worse, if it was.

Fair enough.

On Monday, I called my regular M.D. for an appointment to get an official diagnosis for Bell's Palsy. However, because of him taking time off, his appointment book is full until Nov. 10. The nurse asked a series of questions and relayed them to the doctor. When his answer came back, it was that he'll see me on Nov. 10th and if I wanted to get checked out sooner, I may go to the walk-in clinic he named.

Off like a shot, I arrived at the walk-in clinic and was given a five-page intake form to complete that inconsiderate, partial idiots must have designed. For example, instead of allergies to medicines being filled in on page 1 where doctors like it for quick reference so they don't prescribe something that'll kill their patients, allergies were to be listed on page 2...and page 4.

What the...?!

Yes, allergies were to be listed on page 2 and listed again on page 4 with the reactions. If I had been smart, I would have reviewed all five pages before starting to complete the form so I could list them on page 4 that wanted more information about the allergies and enter "See page 4" on page 2. But I didn't have that foresight.

Returning the clipboard to the receptionist, she reviewed my pages. "You didn't do this section," she said about the two-inch square box I had left blank.

I didn't appreciate her tone of voice. Was she copping an attitude with me?

"I didn't understand it," I replied.

"It's your Family History." She read, "Father/Mother/Grandparents/ Brother/Sister..."

Yup, she had an attitude.

"I know that," I sniped back. "It's all those initials that I didn't understand."

"Oh!" She went on to interpret:

Heart disease.

(No.)

Stroke.

(No.)

Cancer.

(That must be the "CA" that I saw; the others still didn't make any sense to me.)

"You didn't sign this," she said in a better tone of voice, pointing to a signature block on the last page.

"Sorry, I don't sign for things I haven't received," I said.

She handed me a privacy policy statement and I signed, acknowledging receipt.

Sitting back down to wait, I couldn't get into "Judge Alex" on the TV although the case sounded really funny. What would Jesus do about this twit of a receptionist and the stupidly designed intake form? There are people who definitely should not be interfacing with the public and I don't subscribe to the "Turn the other cheek" philosophy because it's for a conquered people of which I am definitely not a member. Him raging in righteous anger seems more like it except flinging the receptionist's papers about and driving her out with a whip of cords (John 2:15) would be drastic overkill as well as get me arrested for assault.

One of my college professors who taught computer programming also functioned as a group therapist after hours. We had gotten close enough for her to invite me to Christmas dinner and one year she advised, "I can be angry and you can be angry, but it's a lot better for me if you're the one who's angry," as a way to deal with aggravating people.

Thinking about her advice, maybe I should have put the monkey on their backs by filling the Family History block with "NTIKOBIDUTFLAADKFWYL" ("None That I Know Of Because I Don't Understand The Freaky Little Abbreviations And Don't Know For What You're Looking") and let them sort it out.

Before I could calm down, the nurse called me in and took my blood pressure: 208/103.

The doctor saw me immediately.

After I explained what happened the week before and finished with what my doctor said that morning, the young East Indian doctor said, "You can't diagnose Bell's Palsy over the phone and with your high blood pressure, I'm concerned you may have had a stroke. I'm going to send you over to the county hospital emergency room and they'll do CT scans and an MRI..."

"To diagnose a stroke," I interjected having learned that from my research. You can't treat a stroke by yourself because it may be caused by either bleeding or a clot and incorrectly treating one will accelerate the other that actually caused the stroke and make things worse.

"No, to diagnose Bell's Palsy," she lied, not knowing that I already knew how Bell's Palsy is diagnosed.

I kept silent. I don't know what her background is, but she was sounding a lot like a couple of doctors who left the Canadian health care system to practice here in the U.S. who did nothing but prolong my pain some years ago. The first was a French Canadian orthopedic surgeon who ordered chest(!) X-rays when my hands suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, a worker's comp case. I switched to another doctor, an American Chinese, as soon as I could.

The second was a few years after that, an English Canadian HMO (spit!) family practitioner who ordered three MRIs with a prescription for a narcotic when all I needed was a $35 chiropractic adjustment that I finally went and got for myself out of the network. After that, I immediately submitted paperwork to change to an American Hispanic doctor whom I'm still with although I'm no longer in an HMO.

The walk-in clinic doctor continued, "I'll call over so they'll expect you and we'll get an ambulance to take you there."

An ambulance to go two blocks? I don't think so! The one time I needed an ambulance, it cost me $400 and my PPO insurance didn't pay any of it.

"The problem with an ambulance is that I'll be over there and my car will be over here," I hedged.

"Do you have a friend that can get it for you?"

"No," I lied back at her. Bad form, I know, but expedient since I wasn't going to discuss my finances with her nor let her argue with me.

She had me sign a waiver for the ambulance and sent me on my way after making me promise to go straight to the emergency room. On my charge sheet, she had written "N/C" for no charge and "Bell's Palsy" for the diagnosis.

So, diagnosing Bell's Palsy needs CT scans and an MRI?

No, she had manipulated me because, my guess is, she didn't want me stroking out in her little clinic. At least, I didn't have to pay anything. I never did mention the receptionist nor the form.

At the hospital's triage station, I was relieved to see that their form was done right. Allergies to medicines right in front, up top. For complaint, I entered, "Referred by [name of walk-in clinic]: Bell's Palsy or stroke? High blood pressure."

I was seen right away. Blood pressure: 156/106.

After the doctor had me wrinkle my forehead and nose, smile and frown, check my eyes and ears, etc., he diagnosed Bell's Palsy, gave me a prescription, and instructed me to keep my appointment with my regular doctor on Nov. 10 for follow-up. No CT scans. No MRI.

Hah! Evidently, Bell's Palsy CAN be diagnosed over the phone if the right questions are asked.

About my blood pressure going over 200? "The 156 isn't alarming and blood pressure fluctuates, but you should discuss it with your doctor if you're worried about it," he said.

While waiting to get my prescription filled at Wal-Mart, I used the blood pressure check station that's next to the pharmacy: 149/85.

After I was done shopping, I checked again: 117/96.

Good.

As far as the Bell's Palsy goes, the cause is unknown. The facial nerve (Cranial nerve VII) passes through a tiny channel (facial canal) through the facial bone. The nerve gets inflamed which pinches it and causes paralysis on the side of the face where it is located. Most people recover spontaneously within a few days to six months. Some recover in a year. A few never recover. Corticosteroids such as Prednisone are believed to speed recovery.

The major concern is that without a full blink and not being able to close my eye (other people may not be able to open the affected eye), it may dehydrate and sustain permanent damage. My Rx included over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops for the day and an OTC ointment for while I sleep to ensure protection and hydration.

Living with it is inconvenient and awkward, but bearable as long as I don't have to talk too much since I can't enunciate as clearly as before.

The doctor also prescribed an eye patch to keep my eye closed while I sleep. The nurse recommended using paper tape instead. The nurse was right. The eye patch doesn't keep my eye closed although it does protect my eye from dust and other flying objects since I can't blink or close my eye to protect it while I'm out and about.

The moral of this story? At this point, I'm not really sure. All I can say is that I'm getting more prejudiced against non-American doctors who are practicing in the U.S. and know only that God doesn't lie.

Of that, I'm utterly convinced.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Too Good Not to Share #2


Here are links to more things I've enjoyed on the World Wide Web.

The BBC Wildlife Magazine and London's Natural History Museum own the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition:

The winning photographs for 2009.


Caution! This may make you die from laughing:

Cat Betrayed Girlfriend.


You don't need blue skies to make good pictures:

Fifty Beautiful Photographs of a Cloudy Day.


Nice, strange, beautiful, fun, bizarre:

Oddee.com is a blog on the oddities of this world.


Do you think you've got a hard life? You can't make this stuff up (although a few do sound like it):

FML.com - Your everyday life stories.


Finally, some beautiful music (I love the rain drops and thunder sound effects they make.):

Perpetuum Jazzile performs Toto's "Africa".


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Adding to the Gov't. Coffers?


Yesterday, the FTC released its revised Guides, effective December 1, 2009, regarding reviews stating that when products or money are given to bloggers by merchants, the bloggers must reveal the "material connection" or face a fine up to $11,000 for each post in violation because such reviews are no longer consumer reviews, but endorsements.

Conceivably, the main groups that will be affected by this change will be those like the gamers, who review gaming software and hardware, mommy bloggers, who review goods and services for parents and children, and celebrities who tweet about what they use. The FTC holds that people like them are acting as advertisers who aren't truly independent from the merchants and that consumers need to be apprised of any material connections since bias may exist.

Now, truth-in-advertising and all that is fine, and I'm thinking that honest bloggers won't take issue with the change, which is the first in 29 years, since I read blogs that already have been thanking merchants for providing them the goods they've been reviewing.

What I anticipate may be surprising to some of them is that the IRS considers it as income and expects taxes to be paid just like for bartering, sweepstakes, gambling winnings, and the cars that Oprah gave away. The revised FTC Guides will make it easier for the IRS to go after any unreported income which, for some bloggers, may add up to tens of thousands of dollars' worth of goods and services received.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Platinum Preppy


Specs:

Length capped: 5-3/8 in.
Length uncapped: 4-13/16 in.
Length posted: 6-1/8 in.
Diameter: 0.5 in., grip is 3/8 in.
Weight with cartridge: 0.42 oz.
Weight as ED filled pen: 0.48 oz.
Capacity as ED pen: 3.75 ml
One proprietary Platinum cartridge included, capacity: 1 ml
Proprietary Platinum converter, optional
Adapter for standard international cartridges, optional
O-ring size for optional DIY ED modification: 5/16" inside diameter x 7/16" outside diameter x 1/16" width or 1/4" inside diameter x 3/8" outside diameter x 1/16" width.

The Platinum Preppy is an inexpensive, full-sized, ultralight, clear plastic demonstrator fountain pen with a clip and painted nib that are color-coded to the included cartridge of ink. It's available with a 0.3 mm Fine or 0.5 mm Medium tipped, stainless steel nib with seven matching ink colors: Black, Blue-black, Green, Pink, Red, Purple, and Yellow.

Platinum also makes an adapter so that the relatively easy-to-find standard international cartridges may be used instead of the scarcer proprietary Platinum cartridges, although the adapter itself isn't easy to find.

The Preppy is very comfortable to hold for long writing sessions with the snap-on cap unposted, as I prefer, and the Fine nibs that I got write nearly as smoothly as expensive pens and more smoothly than any school pen ($5 - $30) that I've tried. As such, the Preppy is an impressively good introduction to fountain pens for as low as $3 - $4 from such online pen stores as JetPens and Swisher Pens which also sells the modified eyedropper (ED) pen for $6.

Unfortunately, I had a Preppy blow out on Friday afternoon. While I was writing, a large blob of ink formed on top of the nib where it comes out at the end of the section. I quickly capped the pen to prevent the blob from dropping onto my paper. It was strange behavior for a cartridge pen because that's how a too-empty ED pen behaves.

Upon examination, I saw that the feed was flooded with ink and, pulling out the nearly empty cartridge over the sink, I discovered a crack on the rim of the cartridge.

Was the crack made when I inserted the cartridge and broke the seal? I don't remember if it was difficult or if I might have inserted the cartridge in such a manner as to cause the crack.

I speculated that the flooding might have been caused by the cracked cartridge not fitting tightly enough onto the nipple to create a seal to contain the very low volume of ink. Did the warmth of my hand expand the air within the barrel forcing the ink to flood the feed as is typical with an ED pen that's too low on ink?

Putting a new cartridge in my failed pen after flushing it out flooded the feed, again. Oh, well. Transferring the new cartridge to a new Preppy got me back to working in short order.

That's why I like demonstrator pens: They let you see what's going on inside.

I advise against shaking a fountain pen or any other active method to get ink flowing within a fountain pen because it isn't necessary and because the pen might slip and crack from the sudden fall and subsequent impact. These Preppy pens, in particular, are better known for fragility than they are for durability compared to other plastic pens such as the Pilot Petit1. Just stand any fountain pen in a cup, nib down, to get it going. If it doesn't start writing in a minute or two, go do something else for 10 - 15 minutes. Patience is a virtue!

I've been using a Preppy since April '08 and got my first Preppy ED pen with a bottle of Noodler's Bay State Blue ink from Swisher Pens that included a free Preppy modified into an ED pen by Nathan Tardif.

Now this one blobbed as if it was an ED pen too low on ink and a new cartridge didn't fix the problem like refilling an ED pen does.

It's disappointing because the Preppy is a great pen. Beside being comfortable and smooth, I've let mine lay horizontally for weeks at a time and they always start right up. Since it's so inexpensive, did I get what I paid for? On Friday, I was thinking that we'll see what the final score is after I go through the rest of the colors I bought.

After a flash of inspiration yesterday, I converted the failed Preppy to an ED pen by adding an O-ring and some silicone grease to the section threads and filled it.

Voila! No more blobs.

If you want to try an inexpensive fountain pen, if you want to sample Platinum's exceptionally smooth nibs, if you want to experiment with grinding your own nibs, I highly recommend the Preppy.

If you want to modify a Preppy into a high-capacity eyedropper pen as a DIY project, you may go to a hardware store or a home building supply store to buy the O-ring. While you're there, buy a tube of 100% silicone grease to dab onto the threads to keep the O-ring from drying out and to ensure the seal won't leak ink through the section and barrel threads. Or, you may order the large O-ring, code ORING-LG, from Pendemonium as well as a small container of pure silicone grease.

[Warning! Do not use anything other than 100% silicone grease with fountain pens. Petroleum jelly (i.e. Vaseline), especially, will do nasty things to certain materials often used in fountain pens. Pure silicone grease is safe for fountain pens and it's better to be safe than sorry.]

You'll have to stretch the O-ring a bit to get it over the end of the section. Then, screw it down or roll it over the threads until it's flush with the stop just past the threads. Screwing the barrel on gently will ensure the O-ring is as far down as it will go. Be careful not to use too much force with the barrel or you may risk cracking it.

Remove the barrel and dab silicone grease onto the O-ring and section threads.

Next, you're ready to fill the barrel with your chosen fountain pen ink. Go ahead. Use a clean eyedropper and fill the barrel all the way up to the bottom of the threads. Then, screw on the section and you're good to go.

Just keep in mind that when the ink level gets 2/3 - 3/4 empty in an ED pen, the air in the barrel may expand from the heat of your hand and cause more ink to come out than you'd like, such as the blob I had. To prevent this from happening, simply grab your eyedropper when the level of ink is down to 1/3 - 1/4 full, refill the barrel, and dab on a bit more silicone grease to refresh the lubricant on the O-ring and threads.

Other than that, the only other difference between a Preppy and an ED Preppy is that the Preppy ED pens I have write slightly broader than the Preppy pens I use with cartridges that I refill using a 25¢ syringe I got from a local pharmacy. The difference is a .4 mm line from a cartridge-filled Preppy versus a .5 mm line from an ED Preppy and, like other pens using fountain pen ink, the line width may depend on the ink used as well as the paper.

Oh, yes. There's also the fun factor of watching the ink slosh back and forth in an ED barrel. Back and forth. Back and forth. When the barrel is to capacity, it's like a giant bubble in a level. Back and forth. Back and forth. When the ink level gets lower, it's more like a miniature wave machine. Back and forth. Back and forth. It's great for boring meetings or general daydreaming (ahem!).

Even though a Preppy failed on me, I still think the pen is well-worth buying because it's a comfortable, smooth writer that's priced in the same range as the Pilot VPen and Varsity disposable fountain pens or a disposable gel pen such as the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. The way I look at it, if a Preppy fails irreparably, it was a disposable fountain pen and I get to keep the good parts as spares. If it keeps working, it's a great, low-cost, user fountain pen that's more versatile for being easily modified into an eyedropper pen with a huge ink capacity.

Either way, it's a winning situation with the Platinum Preppy fountain pen.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Strike One!


After the luncheon and fashion show last Saturday, my friend and I went to a park to sit and relax and visit while watching a couple of my kites fly.

At the end of our visit, when we were discussing eliminating unsuitable prospective mates, I said, "Three strikes, he's out."

She said she's proud of me because other women she's known say, "One strike, he's out."

We agreed that isn't fair because nobody's perfect and a good man might be cut because of a single mistake. In the days since, however, I've decided that "One strike, he's out," is a valid and necessary rule:

1. If he hits, kicks, chokes, or compels her to have sex against her will. This would be a no-brainer except for the fact that there are women who make excuses for or accept excuses from men who physically or sexually abuse them.

2. If he does drugs or engages in other illegal activities or tries to persuade her to do the same. This is another supposed no-brainer that some women somehow manage to miss.

3. If he doesn't respect her personal boundaries. The lack of respect shows how little he cares for her and may indicate a controlling and abusive personality.

4. If he steals or borrows money or items and doesn't repay or return as promised or in the same or better condition than they were loaned. Not only is he a thief or a mooch, he is unlikely to stand by bigger promises. Appropriating or damaging her material possessions without reparation may be a sign he's a financial abuser especially if he denies her access to her own property or refuses to return the favor of the loan.

5. If he exhibits cruelty to animals. Not only is it harmful for the poor animal, it is an indication that he's likely to treat her and her children badly when she doesn't do as he wants.

6. If he doesn't like her friends and refuses to spend as much time with them as he expects her to spend with his friends. Such isolation is an aspect of control and abuse.

7. If he uses emotional blackmail or other methods of coercion or intimidation to induce fear, or attempts to "pull rank" in order to get his way. That is, as a self-proclaimed superior male, he presumes to know what's best for a female. These are some of the controlling tactics of an abuser.

8. If he acts badly and denies it or blames her for it. Was she holding a gun to his head or a knife to his throat? No, this type of lack of respect is verbal, psychological, or physical abuse. If he demeans her to others or humiliates her, it is a symptom of his own low self-esteem. Since verbal abuse is often a precursor to physical abuse and since abusers are notoriously low on self-esteem, "One strike, he's out," helps women avoid wasting any more time on abusive men.

9. If he's unduly competitive with her. When a man loves a woman, he helps her be the best she can. Striving to beat her instead of helping her to improve is a sign of his low self-esteem and is only a precursor of the many future power struggles between them. Watch this one, too, because there are critics who claim they're only trying to help when, in fact, they're bruising souls and crushing spirits. Adept criticism will mention positive qualities as much or more than any negative points and will convey how to make something better without putting her or her effort down.

10. For a Christian, if he won't go to church with her and discourages her from attending. This marks a self-centered man who wants a woman in his life but doesn't want to be in hers. If he belittles her belief in God, she may be looking at a power and control freak and an abuser. In any case, a man who isn't yielded to the Lord makes married life harder on the Christian woman, and vice versa, which is one of the reasons why the Bible exhorts us to marry only another believer.

11. When the still, small "voice" of the Holy Spirit of God disturbs her spirit and soul. Since God knows everything, He may warn her away from a bad relationship so she doesn't have to experience any of the above.

So, for behavior like the examples above, it's "Strike one! He's out...Next!" because abuse is never an accident nor is it a one-time occurrence. It is a set of reprehensible methods chosen by abusers to get what they want.

And, yes, there are women who abuse men.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fashion?!


Yesterday, a friend and I attended a light luncheon and fashion show put on by a local business women's club in the cafeteria of a local hospital. The clothing was provided by Dillard's, modeled by members of the club and their daughters as well as the club's scholarship recipients. The $25 tickets were a gift to my friend from her employer.

Since I've eaten there before, I was confident that the food would be good and the setting pleasant. Sure enough, the round tables with white tablecloths customarily used for banquets awaited us loaded with plates of salad, dessert, and sparkling goblets of iced tea and water at each place.

As expected, the food was delicious, so much better than I've had at other cafeterias, good enough for a decent restaurant. Two grilled steak strips topped the bed of freshly crisp rabbit food punctuated by rather large soft croutons with a bread stick along side. The dessert was a layered, flaky cream pastry topped by strawberries.

The accompanist was a man I had met in a local music store who had left a long time ago. The last I heard, he was the music minister for a local church. David joked with us as we were deciding where to sit saying that we'd have to pay him $2 for the privilege of sitting at the table closest to him.

The fashion show opened with a mother-daughter pair of unmatched black and white coats. The busy print on the mother's coat was large enough to tell it was houndstooth and small enough to be an instant headache. The black and white houndstooth on the girl's coat was larger and a relief to see but still too small to look good.

With that start, I was not eager to see the rest of the show.

As it turned out, the fashion show was a mixed bag leading me to hope that whoever put the show together isn't making fashion her career.

Some of the outfits were fine but the descriptions inappropriate. For example, a lovely pine green dress was described as emerald. Another dress, totally unsuitable for the office, modeled with stiletto-heeled, thigh-high leather boots was described as an outfit for the professional.

I leaned to my friend, "Professional what?"

What got to me were the separates that came across as totally uncoordinated and downright ugly. For example, while gray is a neutral, supposedly going with anything, gray slacks that were definitely cool in color temperature were topped with a print blouse and short jacket in light olive green, soft gold, rust, and other colors on the warm side of the color wheel resulting in the model looking like she was chopped in half at the waist. All I could think was, "Ugh." Why weren't warm neutrals such as khaki, tan, or brown used for the pants instead? Best, in my opinion, would have been pants in a darker olive.

Pleasantly surprising were the shoes that ranged from fun black and white lace-up tennies to slip-ons to boots to platforms with those really high "hooker" heels you just know that no woman will be able to stand or walk in comfortably for very long.

Between the categories of casual, business, party, and evening wear were dance performances by a group of teen girls. Seeing movements that were rather listless and sloppy except for their high kicks, I told myself not to be hard on their performance since they were only teens. Then, I remembered that high school cheerleaders look alive and put snap into their routines. Why can't these girls? Of course, they can. It must be their choreographer or whoever was coaching their practices who let them look like slouches.

The best part was the door prizes. I almost always pray to win something I can use and when I heard, "Now, we have a $50 gift certificate to [a local flower shop]..."

I thought, "No, Lord. I don't want that."

The name was pulled and the announcer finished, "...goes to Gail Rhea."

Puzzled, I accepted it with thanks and pondered how I might use it before its expiration date as the rest of the door prizes were awarded.

Near the end, the lady seated next to my other side won a small green cutting board and paring knife set by Pampered Chef that I instantly coveted. As we stood to leave, I ventured to ask, "By any chance, would you be willing to exchange door prizes with me? That shade of green is my cousin's wife's favorite color and I'd love to be able to give it to her."

I know that my gift certificate was worth much more than her prize, but it isn't always about monetary value, is it?

The real question is whether the set will make it into my cousin's Christmas box or if I'll end up keeping it for myself.

It's the perfect size for traveling.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tips From "The Happening"


M. Night Shyamalan's film, "The Happening" starring Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel, has been showing on HBO. With preparedness on my mind this month, I gleaned the following tips from the movie:

- Firearms will harm you and others. Avoid people who have them and don't carry one yourself.

Although, having one or more weapons for self-protection is debatable.

- Keep an emergency bag near you at home, in your car, and at work especially if you walk or use public transportation.

A few items should be readily accessible at all times. Build your own Everyday Carry (EDC) kit to keep in your purse, briefcase, or backpack. A 32 oz/1 L wide-mouth water bottle will hold several of the larger items and a key chain will hold the small stuff.

- Keeping your mind occupied will avert panic attacks.

Solve puzzles, play games, swap stories with others, sing.

- Backpacks and duffel bags are easier for going over rougher terrain than are rolling suitcases.

- Don't yammer at the person you're looking to for guidance. Be quiet and let him/her think!

- There's safety in numbers...except when it's safer to be away from the crowd.

Every situation is different from the next; maybe a little bit, maybe a lot. If what you should do isn't clear, unlike being on something that's in the process of collapsing under the combined weight of a crowd, pray for God's guidance - He knows what's best. Pray, anyway. It never hurts.

- Have maps for where you are and for where you're going. What if there wasn't a vehicle or it didn't have the map they needed?

- Respect other people's property.

If you don't leave when told, you are trespassing and some (all?) states permit the use of deadly force against trespassers to protect the occupant(s) and property.

- Keep a positive attitude.

A final tip that wasn't given:

An exposure kit (N95 mask or at least a bandanna, goggles, gloves, and protective clothing such as a cheap plastic rain suit) might have protected them from the toxins.

That had to be ignored, of course, or the movie would have been different than it was.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Preparedness Progress Report


This September is the sixth annual National Preparedness Month. Since I asked the question, "Are You Prepared?" last year, it's time for a progress report.

How have you been doing with your own preparedness kits? Do you have a bug-out bag and a plan in case you have to evacuate? The Red Cross says that the disaster most Americans face is a home fire. It'll be good to have a grab & go bag ready for your escape because a fire is sure to destroy at least some of your belongings and put you out of your home for awhile.

Through Sept. 30, 2009, you may save 10% on a Red Cross radio by Eton at Radio Shack by presenting this coupon.

For my part, although I got bogged down and didn't finish writing my Essential Systems series by now as planned (please stay tuned), I did continue with my personal preparedness by getting:

- A new city street map for my home town and the closest large city.

- A pack of N95 masks in case my bandanna isn't enough.

- A new, packable, top SPF-rated, sun hat.

- A pair of Yaktrax Walker traction cleats.

- Katadyn Micropur water purification tablets.

- A new emergency blanket. I already had a Space Blanket and decided to augment it with another that's sturdier and has grommets.

- Fox 40 Mini and Micro whistles for my key rings and to replace the one that was on the lanyard of my compass in my hydration pack that was stolen when my car was broken into in 2007.

- An Eton Microlink FR150 solar/crank-powered AM/FM/NOAA weather radio and light that can recharge a cell phone if the card for the free plug is returned to Eton.

- Two boxes of can't-blow-out birthday candles and 3x jumbo cotton balls and petroleum jelly for fire starters and tinder.

- New LED flashlights and upgrading my incandescent Mini Maglites to LEDs.

- Solar charge flashlights to ensure having a light that's safe for magnetic media if my flashlights with batteries happen to die.

- A UCO Mini candle lantern to safely hold tea light candles and an oil insert for the original UCO candle lantern I've had for a few years because I've always wanted an oil lantern and in case I run out of the UCO candles.

- A Trangia alcohol burner and a Sterno collapsible stove to accommodate the Trangia burner, cans of Sterno, and Nuwick candles.

- A Freshette feminine urine director.

- 100 feet of 550 lb. Type III paracord with a seven-strand core.

- A crow bar to keep in my car trunk and 8-1/2" pry bar for my pack.

- ResQMe and LifeHammer car escape tools.

Last week, I went through my emergency food supply and pulled out everything that expires within the next six months. Moving them to be used for daily meals, except for my tea that I buy elsewhere so still need to do, I replaced them with fresh stock for my emergency stash along with new gallon jugs of water.

Two days ago, using wide adhesive Velcro strips because I didn't want holes drilled, I mounted a LifeHammer sans bracket onto the front slope of the center console of my car leading down to the hand brake so it's accessible by a passenger, too. The soft, loop side of the Velcro strips went on the LifeHammer for comfort and the harsher, hook side went on the car.

Unfortunately, I somehow managed to misplace my Freshette during the past few months which demonstrates the disadvantage of robbing Peter to pay Paulette since Paulette doesn't seem to have it any more. Oh, well. It will either turn up somewhere or I'll have to buy another because it's a great convenience that I don't want to have to do without now that I've used one.

Along with other miscellaneous items, I still need to build up a cash reserve because if the electricity goes out, credit and debit cards won't work.

Documentation is an entirely incomplete category for me. I can't scan my important papers because my scanner is broken and I can't photocopy (or scan) them because I put the key for my fireproof lock box in a place that's so safe, even I can't find it.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Understanding Rape


Everyone knows that rape is wrong. Not everyone understands that rape occurs every time a person's "no" isn't respected and one's personal boundary is violated.

For example, a male friend once asked for my advice because his girlfriend was suddenly distant and wouldn't talk to him about what was going on with her.

When he told me the details of the last time they were fine together, I was horrified.

"I didn't rape her!" the pig protested in response to my facial expression. "She wanted it. I know she did. I could tell!"

"She said, 'no,' yet you continued to undress her and had your way with her," I pointed out to the idiot.

He became despondent. "What do I do, now?"

"Hang it up because it's over and there's no way you can fix it. My guess is that she hasn't told you yet because you've been together for awhile and you saved her from her ex-husband. But, really, if a woman can't trust a man with her body, she can't trust him. Period."

A week later, he reported that she had broken up with him and a few months after that, he left the state.

What some people don't understand is that rape isn't limited to violent sexual assault. Any time a person's "no" isn't respected and the person is coerced into something only because someone else wants it, it is rape:

Rape of the soul and spirit.

I'm not talking about discussions and arguments that persuade you to do things that you eventually may or may not come to agree were good to do.

I mean verbal battering that forces you into doing or giving up what another person wants, the way that s/he wants, without consideration or compromise. The issue isn't what's best for you. The issue is the rapist having control and power over you.

The psychological rapist uses verbal assaults that may include such tactics as belittlement, emotional blackmail such as "you'd do it if you love me" or threats of ending the relationship, persistent phone calls, ignoring your need for sleep, and disrupting other typical activities in order to coerce submission that may include submitting to sex.

The rapist doesn't allow the option of not doing what the rapist insists upon.

The victim feels beat-up mentally and emotionally and, as with sexual rape, can never come to agree that it was good.

For a personal example, my fourth grade teacher once took it upon herself to make me eat salad. She never made any other child eat whatever portion of their lunch they left behind, but for some reason, I and the salad left untouched on my lunch tray whenever it was served stuck in her craw.

She seated herself on the other side of my desk and insisted that I eat my salad.

"Salad makes me sick," I objected.

"It's good for you," she said.

"My parents don't make me eat salad. It makes me sick," I tried again.

"I'll feed it to you like a baby if you won't eat it yourself."

I didn't and she did, forkful by forkful, humiliating me in front of my classmates until the salad was gone and my stomach was churning.

"There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" she gloated in triumph.

As if on cue, I vomited onto the lunch tray and the teacher left me in disgust. Cleaning up alone and shaking, I reassured myself that it wasn't my fault because I had warned her. Why didn't she believe me?

It doesn't matter. What matters is that she violated my personal boundary, humiliated me, caused me to be physically ill, destroyed my sense of well-being in the classroom, and shattered my trust in teachers as safe people by abusing her position of authority in the classroom.

If you're trying to make excuses for a psychological rapist, if you're wanting to salvage the relationship and thinking that s/he is basically a decent human being who simply doesn't understand what rape is and how it affects someone, explain it. If you're right, s/he will apologize for causing you anguish and will take care to never do it again.

If no apology is forthcoming, or if you get an apology but it happens again, walk away and stay away.

Nobody deserves to be treated as badly as that.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Yum! (Part 2)


Returning to the Red Lobster for more "Endless Shrimp" last night, I was puzzled by the menu:

Teriyaki Grilled Shrimp
Cajun Shrimp
Garlic Shrimp Scampi
Hand-breaded Shrimp
Coconut Shrimp Bites.

Where were the shrimp Alfredo and popcorn shrimp? Surely, the menu wasn't reprinted since Tuesday.

I asked Ashley, the same server as before. "I told you about them," she said.

"Oh, okay." I guess I hadn't looked at the menu very well.

After enjoying the teriyaki and the shrimp scampi, I asked what is the difference between the hand-breaded shrimp and the popcorn shrimp.

"The popcorn shrimp have the tails cut off. Other than that, they're pretty much the same. They both come with marinara sauce," Ashley explained.

Not a fan of marinara, I asked if I may have the Alfredo again and was soon indulging in its delectable richness followed by the coconut shrimp.

Ahh....


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Your Life Story


About ten years ago, I encouraged a former co-worker to encourage her parents to write down their life stories as a heritage for her and her daughter because they lived through times and experienced events that we never will such as World War II.

Now, it's time for us to start doing the same because even ordinary life has details that future generations won't comprehend unless we leave a record of what it's like for us.

For example, what was air travel like before the TSA and 3-1-1 bags?

Do you remember where you were and what you felt when you learned about the assassination of JFK, the Oklahoma City bombing, or the events of 9-11?

How did you connect with your friends before email, cell phones, and text messaging?

What was it like listening to music before you got your first iPod or MP3 player?

How did you spend your time before Facebook, Twitter, "NCIS" reruns, and LOLcats?

Do you attend noodle rolling gatherings at church? What is noodle rolling?!

What were your favorite pet(s) and other memorable animals?

Did you meet and fall in love online or in real life?

What were the joys and pain, hopes and fears you experienced on the birth of each of your children?

And, how did you spend your summer vacations?!

For Christians, our life stories are testimonies of God's faithfulness.

This was confirmed last night when my friend brought it up during our dinner together. "That's interesting," I commented. "Just last week, I was thinking that I should encourage my blog readers to write their life stories."

"But, Gail, I'm not a writer," she said. "Will you help me?"

"Sure, in a limited way," I replied. While I won't do any of her writing for her, there are tips I didn't hesitate to share:

1. Don't worry about grammar. Write conversationally as though you are talking to your best friend or a close relative.

2. Read aloud what you wrote because hearing your story is the best way to catch awkward-sounding passages so you may improve them.

3. Don't worry about sequence. If you make each vignette a separate file using the format of Topic-MonthYear.doc for the filename, it'll be easy to organize them into chronological order or by topic after you're finished writing them and when you're ready to collate them to make the first draft of your book.

4. Back up, back up, BACK UP! because recreating something from scratch is agony. Trust me on this!!! If you don't already have an external hard drive, get a USB drive, burn your files to a rewriteable CD or DVD, upload them to a cloud storage site and/or email a copy to yourself, and print out a hardcopy of each file and store them in a 3-ring binder where it, not only will serve as a primitive backup, but will also be easier to review and redline when you want to change something.

5. Double-space when you type so that there's room to redline when you proofread and edit. Generous margins will also help. I recommend that you set the top and bottom margins at 1" and set the side margins at 1.5" which will also provide room for the holes needed by the binder rings.

6. Thoughts about what you should write about will flit in and out of your mind while you go about your daily business. Keep index cards or a steno notebook or anything similar at hand to jot down a reminder of these thoughts. Perhaps, a small hand-held tape recorder will be easier. Debbie Roome's article, "How to Write Your Life Story" has a list of topics you may want to address.

7. After everything's written and organized by chronology or topic, reread it with an eye for a recurring theme or something you may use to compose the opening and conclusion that may be either a summary or a look toward the future.

8. Set the first draft aside for 6-12 months so you may return to it with fresh eyes to polish it.

9. Rinse and repeat. That is, after your second draft, take a shorter, 3-6 months, break from it before returning to polish it into your third draft.

10. Finally, keep a journal because your life story is a continuing saga that won't end until the day you die. Add to your autobiography as your life unfolds using your journal as your rough draft for the new material until you feel you've conveyed all the lessons you've learned and described all the places to which you've traveled and the interesting people you've known.

Please share your dreams and goals, joys and disappointments, and let your descendants get to know you and the life you have instead of letting the evidence of your existence and the lessons you've learned disappear through time leaving only your genes and your name behind.

Write on!


Yum!


A friend and I went to the Red Lobster for dinner last night. Unknown to us, it was the first night of the "Endless Shrimp" special which was a great surprise and blessing because shrimp is my friend's favorite seafood.

On the advice of the manager who verified that the gift certificates I received as a farewell gift when I left a company in January 2000 were still valid (I haven't been to a Red Lobster in nearly 10 years - how time flies!), we first ordered the Grilled Shrimp Teriyaki and the Cajun shrimp because they take the longest time to cook and enjoyed our salad and cheese rolls while waiting for our platters to arrive.

Delicious! The Cajun shrimp was spicy, but not overwhelmingly. The shrimp teriyaki was perfection itself.

Realizing that we wouldn't be able to complete all of the five different shrimp dishes available in the special, we next ordered the shrimp Alfredo as a single order with an extra clean plate so we could share. That was permitted because we were both having the same dinner. Smooth and creamy, it rivaled the teriyaki for perfection.

Feeling full, we bypassed the popcorn shrimp and split a single serving of the coconut shrimp that was served with a piƱa colada dipping sauce for the finish. Ahh... No room for dessert was necessary after that treat.

Yum! I want to go back and have more.

(Which I did in Part 2.)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Road Trip Recipe: Using Knorr Sides


Ingredients:

1 package of Knorr Rice Sides, Asian Sides, Cajun Sides, Sides Plus Veggies, or Pasta Sides; any flavor that appeals to you except the Pasta Sides that require milk.

1 can of meat, approximately 5 oz. for 1-2 people. I usually use chicken, Vienna sausages (sliced), kippered herrings, ham, or Spam (cubed). Not needed with the Cajun Sides Red Beans & Rice.

1 can of vegetables, approximately 8 oz. I usually use mixed veggies, peas, corn, string beans, or carrots. Not needed with Sides Plus Veggies.


Directions:

Empty packet of Knorr Sides into a medium container with a close-fitting lid. I use a 32 oz. (1 L) Fairshare Mug by GSI Outdoors.

If the package directions specify 2 cups of water, boil 10 oz. of water. I use the Mini Ibis electric kettle by Bodum.

If the package directions specify 1-3/4 cups of water or if the packet is Pasta Sides, boil 9 oz. of water.

Pour the boiling hot water over the packet contents, stir, and cover for approximately double the length of time specified on the packet. For example, if the directions say to simmer for 7 minutes, let it sit covered for 14-15 minutes.

While waiting, open and drain the cans of vegetables and meat or fish, cutting up meat or breaking up fish when necessary.

Stir rice, then top with vegetables and meat or fish. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes, then stir. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes more or until rice is tender, liquid is absorbed, and vegetables and meat or fish are warm. Stir and serve.

For pasta, do the same as with rice in the paragraph above, but don't let it sit longer than 15 minutes or the pasta will become too soft. There will be a slight amount of sauce. See how you like it the first time, then use 1 oz. more water next time if you want more sauce. Please feel free to experiment with the sit time until the pasta is how you like it best.

Yields enough for one really hungry person or 2 moderately hungry people with the addition of bread, salad, and dessert.

If traveling solo, plan on being really hungry to avoid having leftovers because these leftovers don't taste good when cold (Your Mileage May Vary).


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Obamination


Standing in the grocery store's check out line on Friday, I was surprised to see the Globe's headline reporting that President Obama's birth certificate was forged.

"Good grief," I thought. "Talk about being behind the times. I read that on the Internet before the election and that the State of Hawai`i verified that his birth certificate is legit. Must be a slow news day."

Later that night, I read the ABC News article, "Fear for Obama's Safety Grows as Hate Groups Thrive on Racial Backlash" which has a line on the second page saying that the Secret Service "officials told ABC News that the President's daily threat matrix has yet to reflect a sharp increase in threats," making me wonder if ABC News was experiencing a slow news day, too.

While I didn't vote for Obama and think his stimulus and health care reform ideas are terrible, I get annoyed when he, who spent his formative years with a white mother and white grandmother and was educated at top-notch, private, predominantly white schools, two of which are Ivy League, is categorized as black only because the color of his skin is darker than the typical white person's.

Sure, he identifies himself as an African-American. However, it's only because "that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed." He also calls himself a mutt.

(Technically, Obama is one of the few true African-Americans because his father was a Kenyan and his mother an American, but let's not get into splitting hairs since the term is universally accepted as meaning an American of African descent.)

Although treating people differently solely because of their race is deplorable, thinking of Obama as black is so wrong that it gives another definition to "Obamination," a made-up word I used in an earlier post. Yes, it would be odd to call him white and awkward to call him half-white or half-black. Why does he have to be either/or? Why hasn't Obama been categorized as biracial or Afro-Caucasian, Eurafrican, or mulatto? Are the members of the media purposely fueling the flame of racial hatred to decrease the number of slow news days?

Race shouldn't even be a consideration because it's morals, ethics, ideals, and goals and how they're achieved that matters. The only time race is necessary is for a physical description, as for a fugitive hiding from the police. Since we all learned what Obama looks like before he was elected President, references to his appearance should have ceased by Inauguration Day, but for some reason, people ignorantly perpetuate the racial card when it doesn't mean a thing.

Or maybe not so ignorantly.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: Pilot Prera


Specs:

Length capped: 4.7 inches
Length uncapped: 4.25 inches
Length posted: 5.4 inches
Diameter: .5 inch, narrows at the section to 3/8 inch
Weight: 0.5 oz.
One cartridge supplied.
Optional converter.

The Pilot Prera is a very attractive pen with silver-toned trim. The clip is on the stiff side and is best for thinner fabrics such as a dress shirt rather than a thick fabric like corduroy.

Shorter than the Pilot Ecrino, the Prera is still comfortable for me to write with the cap unposted as I prefer. The Fine nib I got is typical of Japanese pens, being about a half-size narrower than a European pen with a Fine nib. There's a bit of spring to the nib which adds to the comfortable writing and the line varies only slightly as pressure changes, not enough to call it a semi-flex nib. It writes smoothly with consistent ink flow and good start-up.

The balance is great as may be expected of a Pilot pen.

Since I'm not in the habit of laying down a fountain pen uncapped, I can't say how well it starts after lying out that way for a while.

Available in Brown, Ivory, Lime Green, Royal Blue, Slate Gray, Soft Blue, Vivid Pink, White, and Yellow in Fine or Medium nibs, at $42 or less, this is an excellent pen for people who need a conservative look as well as those who want fun colors.

For those who like to match their pens to their inks, the Soft Blue I bought is leaning toward turquoise, somewhat lighter than Noodler's Britannia's Blue Waves.

I think the Prera rivals the Waterman Phileas that serves so well as a starter pen or gift or extra pen for those who like fine, low-cost, user pens.

The bottom line is that I like it. I like it! I REALLY like it!

I'm trying to figure out what other color(s) I should get :).


Friday, July 24, 2009

Let There Be Light


When I left home at age 17 to move into my own apartment, Dad set up a small toolbox for me that included a small flashlight saying, "Here, this is a good one."

How right he was!

I didn't realize it at the time, but there's a wide range in the quality of flashlights, more so now that LEDs have transformed the world of flashlights.

So, there I was, happy for years with the silver flashlight from Dad kept in the kitchen followed by a brilliant blue Mini Maglite that I bought later because I wanted a flashlight in the bedroom and someone told me that Maglites are good flashlights. Later, I added a blue Maglite Solitaire to my purse because I was tired of the electricity going off at work just before I needed to use the Ladies' room.

Eventually, with the advent of LEDs, I tried a Garrity keychain flashlight and was very pleased to be the heroine several years ago when a car hit a pole and took out the electricity for several blocks while I was at the dentist's office.

"What do we do, now?" I asked the hygienist.

"We're done with your cleaning, but the doctor still needs to check your teeth. If the lights don't come back on, you might have to come back," she replied.

Inwardly, I groaned. When the dentist came by, I asked if he could use my flashlight to check my teeth so I could leave. He examined my flashlight, was impressed with the quality of its light, checked my teeth, then asked if he could borrow it to finish another patient. As he returned, another woman asked to borrow it because she needed to use the rest room.

"That's a great light," the dentist said while the other patient went off to the rest room. "Where did you get it? I'd like to get some for us here in the office."

I told him that I got it from Wal-Mart for less than $5 and he wrote down the name of the manufacturer before leaving me.

The woman returned my little Garrity with great thanks. There's nothing like not being able to see in an unfamiliar facility well enough to relieve yourself when you really need to go.

My hygienist laughed as I picked up my purse to leave, "You didn't know you were going to be a heroine today, did you?"

Since that afternoon four years ago, I've been on the lookout for good LED flashlights. The thing is, although I want a good flashlight, "good" means different things to different people. I don't need a tactical flashlight that costs $300 or want one that uses expensive batteries or need one that puts out 200+ lumens and runs through a set of batteries in an hour or two like some other people do.

I converted my blue Mini Maglite using the Nite Ize three-diode conversion kit, but that was a disappointment. The only reason I didn't convert it back to the Krypton bulb is because the batteries last longer. Since then, Nite Ize and other companies have come out with better conversions. If I try another conversion with other Mini Maglites, I'll probably get one by Terralux because there are more options. Deciding on one gets tricky because more watts and more lumens also mean a shorter battery life. I have to decide the trade-offs I'm willing to make to get an acceptable light with a decent run time.

The next thing I tried was a couple of Forever Flashlights because I like the idea of not needing batteries. One problem is that I don't like waiting while I shake it when I need light. I thought I'd resolve that issue by leaving them in the well on the floor of my car between the driver's seat and door. Evidently, I don't drive enough or brake enough to simulate shaking because the lights are really dim until after I shake them for a minute or two.

Another problem is that they produce a rather small spot of light and one is dimmer and more yellow than the other although brighter than my Nite Ize converted Mini Maglite. The final problem is that since the shake flashlights are magnetic, care must be taken around magnetic media to avoid corruption.

After severely bashing my little toe in a motel in Oregon when a storm put out the lights, I decided to get a Garrity LED lantern/AM-FM radio combination, model KP052, that charges by electricity or the hand-crank. It has several LEDs in it and is a decent area light for preventing stubbed toes, although it isn't bright enough for reading even if it's right next to you. It looks like it's supposed to be able to charge a cell phone, but there wasn't a cord or plug in the package or a card to return to Garrity to request one.

Because the Garrity lantern is rather large for travel and hiking, I next bought the little yellow Coleman MicroPacker 2-LED lantern that was so much dimmer in my motel room than my single-LED Garrity keychain flashlight, I immediately returned it. Some people may like it; I'm not one of them.

Late last year, I tried again with the hand-sized Eton Microlink FR 150 that has a solar-charged/hand-crank AM/FM/NOAA weather radio and flashlight. It may also be charged via USB if you have a cord to do so, but it's a lot easier to keep it on a sunny window sill. The light isn't very bright, but is somewhat adequate for reading except for the strange pattern of light it makes when close up. I'm glad I bought it because it's a nice, small, compact, all-in-one unit that could charge my cell phone if I requested the free plug from Eton. That it has a flashlight is a bonus.

Attracted by the half price on Sierra Trading Post, I bought a Solar Lite by All American Light last month. It's nice that it needs only bright light to charge, but it produces a spot light that's similar to my Forever Flashlight. I'm glad I didn't pay full price for it and, like the Forever Flashlight, wouldn't recommend it unless you need something that's better than nothing and doesn't need batteries. What's nice about it is its light weight and that you don't have to shake it. It's also nice that you don't have to be careful with it around magnetic media.

At last, I am very happy to report on the next generation of the 2 AA Mini Maglite LED flashlight. Mine is gray, model #SP2209HJ, that I bought from Wal-Mart for $21.88 on Tuesday.

Where the older style of the Mini Maglite LED has a larger head than the incandescent version and no hole on the tail cap to attach a lanyard, with the next generation Mini Maglite LED, we see the return of the smaller head so the rubber rim for the face cap fits as well as the lenses of the accessories pack. The hole to attach a lanyard is back in the tail cap.

It measures 1/2" longer than the incandescent version.

The holster still doesn't have the Velcro flap that the holsters for the incandescent Mini Maglites used to have and is a tighter fit than my Velcro-flapped holster, but then, that applies to the current incandescent Mini Maglite's holster, too. I guess Mag changed the design to save on production costs.

Although the corona isn't quite as bright or quite as white as the diffused beam of the 80 lumens Duracell Daylite 2 AA LED flashlight that I bought at Wal-Mart for $26.88 at the same time, the hotspot is brighter and the overall diameter of the beam is broader than the Daylite's. I like the Mini Maglite LED much better, not only because the beam is broader, but also because it weighs less, is narrower and shorter, and doesn't have a push-button on the tail cap. Plus, the Mini Maglite may be set up in candle mode for wider illumination (directions are on the package).

I'm VERY pleased with the Mini Maglite LED because it has settings for 100% power, 25% power, blink, and SOS that is definitely good for signaling for help whether by a lost hiker or a survivor of a natural disaster or other emergency situation. Just twist as usual to turn on, then twist off & on again to sequence to the other modes.

What that does to those who prefer the tail cap push button modifications offered by different companies, I don't know. I prefer to twist the head and can do it easily by gripping it with my little, ring, and middle fingers while twisting with my forefinger and thumb of the same hand.

At the 25% power level, designed for reading or saving the batteries during prolonged emergency use, instead of lasting for hours of continuous use as on the 100% setting, the package says that fresh batteries will last for days. I haven't tried to run down a pair of batteries through it to see how long they'll last, but it makes sense because any of the brighter LED flashlights go through batteries faster than those producing fewer lumens.

[Updated on 8/31/09 - I tested the battery life with a pair of fresh alkaline batteries at 100% power and a second pair of fresh alkaline batteries at 25% power.

Continuously on at 100% power, it dimmed to an unusable level and started flickering at 116 hours (4 days, 20 hours) until it went out at 117 hours.

Continuously on at 25% power, it started flickering at 192 hours (8 days) and went out some time during the next 6.5 hours while I was asleep.]

All in all, this ends my search for a small LED flashlight. I think Mag did this version of the Mini Maglite LED right and hope they do as well when they upgrade the Solitaire to LED.


Monday, July 20, 2009

The Strength of a Woman


The flux of 007 movies on the USA network that started over the Independence Day weekend led me to think about, not my favorite James Bond actors (Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig), but my favorite Bond women (portrayed by Carole Bouquet, Judi Dench, Halle Berry, and Michelle Yeoh) and why. It's because they are determined and have their own missions in the war of good versus evil.

This led me to think about the roles of men and women in society, how some cultures recognize women's voices in councils while others relegate women solely to domestic duties to the aboriginal tribe that reversed the traditional stereotypical roles to the point that the men breast-fed the babies.

Here in the United States of America, great progress has been made toward recognizing women's abilities in fields as diverse as politics, business, and the military; capable in all fields as proven by history and supported by the Bible.

In fact, it is a shame for those who call themselves "Christians" to relegate women strictly to the traditional role of homemaker when the Bible tells us by example that women can do anything.

In Deborah, a prophetess and judge over all Israel, we see a spiritual and national leader (Judges 4:4). In Jael, we see an assassin (Judges 4:21). Huldah was a prophetess who men, even a priest, consulted for God's advice (2 Kings 22:14) and the Proverbs 31 woman is a land owner who also has a cottage industry.

Jumping into the New Testament, we find Lydia the merchant (Acts 16:14), Phebe the deaconess (Romans 16:1), Junia the apostle (Romans 16:7), and may read Paul's instructions about women preaching (1 Corinthians 11:5-6, 15).

There are more, but having enough examples to level that particular playing field, we're free to take another look at the question: What is the role of a woman?

Shedding light on this question was the discovery by a former team leader of mine who, expecting her first child and reading child development books, was dismayed upon learning that a child's personality is basically set by age five.

"I have only five years to mold this child!" she exclaimed. "I thought I'd get at least 10 years. I was hoping for more time, not less!"

Therein is the strength of a woman. As far as biological, survival-of-the-species purposes go, while a man's upper body strength makes it easier for him to provide for and protect his family by sheer physical strength, it is for the present and short-term future. For women, the division of labor is much more significant than the immediate care demanded by diapers, snotty noses, and drudgery that is too often held in low esteem by men and even by many women themselves.

If we look beyond that, we'd see that God also entrusted women with the long-term future by enabling them to teach a child from birth and breast, to instill foundational values while the child still clings to the mother's knee, values that may be passed on to future generations and effect changes for the better just as we've experienced through the history of the U.S.

My hope is that women around the world draw upon their strength and advantage to make the war of good versus evil their personal mission for the adage is true: "The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world."