Into the Heart of Darkness

Deark Heart by L Liwag

Heart of Darkness, by L. Liwag

“I read the news today, oh boy” ~ From “A Day In the Life” by Lennon and McCartney

“And though the news was rather sad”

About a week ago, I read an article in newsweek.com that really bothered me. I keep going back to how I would feel if I were in this family’s position, how I would react, how I would be able to withstand the horrible infamy that has befallen their family.

The gist of the article was that a family had lost their 18-year-old daughter Nikki Catsouris to a horrible car crash, one so bad that the parents were not allowed to view the body. A couple of state troopers took pictures of the scene—the reasons given for such a disrespectful action have included supposedly documenting the crash and wanting to use the photos as a warning to their families—and now those pictures have gone viral on the web (http://www.newsweek.com/id/195073/page/1).

The article, entitled “A Tragedy That Won’t Fade Away,” was written by Jessica Bennett and appeared in the May 4 issue of the news magazine. In it, the Catsouris family speaks about how horrifying this entire ordeal has been for them, and apparently, there is little that can be done to make the pictures go away.

“I saw the photograph.”

But the posting of the pictures wasn’t the only indignity that the family had to endure. The father received a text message after the accident, and when he opened it, there was a horrifying picture of his daughter along with the words “Woohoo Daddy! Hey daddy, I’m still alive.”

Nikki’s three sisters live in dread of happening upon the pictures by accident when they are on the Internet, so much so, that their mother and father, Lesli and Christos, have made disabled popups and have forbidden the three girls from visiting social networking sites such as MySpace.

The entire family is now in therapy, and they continue to fight whoever they can to have the pictures removed from websites. But as you can probably surmise, this is not a fight that can be won easily.

“He didn’t notice that the lights had changed”

sitting in front of computerLet’s think about this for a minute. Cyberspace has allowed people all over the world to connect in milliseconds. We can e-mail people around the world; we can post blogs that can be read by anyone unless we engage special filters; we type in any word, and a listing of possible connections becomes readily available to us.

But what are the ramifications of such actions? The Catsouris family certainly never wanted the pictures of their daughter to be seen by anyone. They have sued the Caliornia Highway Patrol (CHP), but that action will not stop the spread of these photographs. They have sent cease and desist orders to the sites on which Nikki’s pictures appear, but on the Internet, that action is akin to spitting into the wind.

When I was in my copyright class, we learned all about copyright laws on the Internet and the use of cease and desist orders. The reality is that copyright is more protected than online privacy. Libel and slander laws are hard to prosecute for web-based material. Why?

Quite simply, the laws have not caught up with the technology.

“A crowd of people stood and stared”

Imagine that you have a teen-aged daughter. She takes some suggestive pictures of herself for her boyfriend. She sends these pictures to her boyfriend with a complete expectation that the pictures won’t be shared. (Ah, the naivete of youth.) Two months later, she breaks up with her boyfriend. Within a week, the pictures of her have gone viral.

The scenario as described is not at all far-fetched. It happens everyday, all over the world. People send things via e-mail with certain expectations of privacy. But in fact, this privacy does not exist. E-mail accounts can be hacked into. Databases are being breached continually. Just last week, we learned that the pharmacy database of Virginia was being held for ransom. The hijacker claimed that he had all of the personal information of thousands and thousands of people who use prescription medication, and he was going to sell it if a ransom was not paid.

I’m on that database. All of my personal information is on that database with the exception perhaps of my social security number. Imagine what the distribution of this information could do to individuals. For example, let’s say that someone on the list is taking medication for HIV. The hijacker, whoever he or she is, can disseminate that information and ruin a career in a matter of seconds.

Almost daily, I post information on this site about my family, our living situation, my children, my house, etcetera. I am careful not to post too much information, but I know that at times I have probably been lax. Will this come back to haunt me someday? How? Will I be able to prevent it?

“They’d seen his face before”

The Catsouris family has endured one of the most painful things that a family can endure: the death of a child under horribly gruesome circumstances. Yet they have not been left alone to grieve. Just as they were beginning to deal with the inconceivable truth that their oldest daughter was dead, pictures began to pop up in e-mails. A fake MySpace was created on which people left vitriolic, hateful messages.

Attempts by the family to have the pictures taken down have not succeeded. Their suit against the CHP was dismissed. According to Bennett’s article, a superior-court judge ruled that the CHP dispatcher’s conduct hadn’t violated the law. The judge acknowledged the reprehensible conduct, but the ruling reads that “no duty exists between the surviving family and defendant”  because privacy rights don’t extend to the dead.

But what about the living?

“A crowd of people turned away”

blue moodHowever, this is just one case. Last November, a Missouri woman was convicted of three lesser charges in a cyber-bullying case. She faced felony charges on criminal conspiracy, but was only convicted of three lesser misdemeanor offenses of accessing computers without permission. Again, finding the laws to support charges against the woman was the main reason for her lesser conviction.

The woman, Lori Drew, and her daughter and a third woman engaged in cyber-bullying on a horrible scale. They created a fake MySpace account under the name Josh Evans, a supposedly 16-year-old boy. They began correspondence with 13-year-old Megan Meier in an attempt to lead her on and find out what she had been saying about Drew’s daughter. Finally, Drew sent Meier a message stating that “the world would be better off without” her. As a result, Meier, who suffered from depression, hanged herself.

The indictment originally read that Drew “used the information obtained over the MySpace computer system to torment, harass, humiliate, and embarrass the juvenile MySpace member.”  Nevertheless, Drew managed to elude prosecution for her role in Meier’s suicide. But there’s more: Megan’s death was originally investigated by Missouri authorities, but no charges were brought because no laws seemed to apply to the case.

Since Megan’s suicide, Missouri has passed a law making it illegal to harass someone online.

“But I just had to look”

accident gawkingIn both cases, the incident began as one action that quickly snowballed out of control. But what role do we—as members of cyber-space—actually play in these situations?

Unfortunately, there is plenty of blame to go around. People still search the web for Nikki’s pictures. These individuals actively seek out gruesome photographs of this young woman without any thought as to how their actions might be affecting her family. I think of it as the accident slowdown drive-by, except that it’s on the web.

There are more cases of fictitious MySpace accounts that are out there, even though every member of MySpace signs a “terms of service” agreement that includes “not promoting information they know to be false or misleading; soliciting personal information from anyone under age 18 and not using information gathered from the Web site to ‘harass, abuse or harm other people.'”

“And though the holes were rather small” 

Yet reputation-bashing is a commonplace activity in high schools throughout the country. All it takes is one text message or one instant message or one comment on a MySpace page for rumors to become viral. And this isn’t the harmless game we played as children in which we would whisper something about a person in one ear, and then that person would whisper his interpretation in the next ear, and so on, so that the original phrase of “Billy likes Tammy” becomes something mangled to “Meanie bites too hammy.”

There are real consequences to these actions: suicide, depression, alienation, an unwillingness to leave the house, fist fights, and more. But the law that stands behind these actions is the First Amendment, which allows people free speech, including opinions. And there’s the rub: saying “I think that Tammy is a slut” is not that same thing legally as saying “Tammy is a slut.” The first statement is protected as an opinion, the second could be considered defamation.

“They had to count them all”

However, in the U.S., the following are commonly-accepted legal elements for intentional torts (wrongdoing):

  • Parents can also be found negligent in failing to provide reasonable supervision of their child. Depending on the facts, the following legal actions might be possible:
  • Defamation – Someone publishes a false statement about a person that damages his or her reputation.
  • Invasion of privacy/public disclosure of a private fact – Someone publicly discloses a private fact about a person under conditions that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress – Someone’s intentional actions are outrageous and intolerable and have caused extreme distress (http://www.ebasedprevention.org/toolbox/bullying/cyberbullying-legal-issues)
  • “I read the news today, oh boy”

    cybercafeIn the end, what we are left with is a tool that is truly wonderful in many, many ways: The Internet provides access to the outside world for people who are home bound. It provides instant medical information for people who are trying to decide whether or not they should seek medical treatment. It offers news from around the world 24/7. It offers a real-time connection to those with with whom we wish to stay in contact.

    But the very dark side of this phenomenon, this service, this lifeline, exists in a world that most people do not like to acknowledge: The Internet contains sites that show people being killed, sites that include horrific scenes of torture and mayhem. And for now, it offers people with little conscience a means of extracting their pound of flesh from innocents, whether intentional or not.

    “Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”

    And that, my friends, is a street full of holes that we cannot possibly fill before more irreparable harm is done to those who do not have the power or the will not to fall or be pushed.

    Let us hope that the skies clear soon. There will be more later. Peace.

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    My Life Has Gone to the Dogs

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    “Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you

     in the car, in case the need should arise for them

    to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” 

     ~Dave Barry 

     

     

    “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our life whole” (Roger Cares)

    So I’m sitting here pondering. That’s what I do before I being to write: I ponder. And in runs Tillie to show me her latest interesting conquest from the yard. The only problem is that it has been raining, and Corey is not quite as thorough as I am in drying off the dogs when they come back into the house after being out in the rain. Let me pause here. When I’m sitting at my computer, I am usually wearing some kind of sweat pants or yoga pants and a white sweater. That’s because I have a surplus of soft, white sweaters from my buying days. I went through a white sweater phase, and now I have about six old white sweaters that are thoroughly broken in, too old to wear out of the house, but perfect for wearing around the house.

    So Tillie runs in and share her bounty with me. She’s a lab puppy with all of the inherent lab puppy enthusiasm. My white sweater now has a wonderful brown puppy paw pattern. A few years ago, this might have bothered me enough to change my sweater immediately. Now, I’ll just finish my coffee and my entry, and then I’ll change. She’s a puppy. She’s happy. It’s infectious. If I still had a white couch, I might think differently, but I don’t, and I probably never will again. I had a white couch when my OCD was in full bloom and the boys weren’t born yet. My house was pristine.

    It’s not any more. Which would I rather have: my dogs or a white couch? My dogs. No question.

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    Shakes Waiting for Christmas

    For example, I don’t know how many of you are familiar with The Golden Compass, but armored polar bears play a large part in the plotline of that story, which is book one of His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman. However, Shakes, my largest Jack Russell, has now reached the proportions of a small polar bear. I like to call him horizontally tall. I tell him that it is time for him to build his armor so that he, too, can become a majestic armored bear like Iorek Byrnison. Shakes, however, is much too lazy for such work, and prefers to spend all of his time at my feet as I work at the computer. From there, he moves to the bed with me where he takes his place beneath the covers.

    Before the Jack Russells, I never had dogs that actually liked to get beneath the covers, but both Alfie and Shakes are very particular about it. They burrow beneath the bedding on either side of me. That is, unless Alfie is sleeping on Corey’s head. Alfie, you see, is psychotic.

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    Alfie Would Prefer to Have the Bow Removed

    We finally determined that Alfie has “doggie rage syndrome.” I kid you not. He can be very quiet and unassuming, sleeping on Corey’s pillow when Corey is not in bed, and then, all of a sudden, he will charge across the bed at someone. It’s extremely unnerving. He takes medicine for his “condition” now, and he is much better, but sometimes he still has episodes. Of course, my dogs cannot be normal. That would be too easy. Alfie is the smallest dog in the house, so we thought for a while that maybe he was suffering from “short man syndrome.”

    The interesting thing is that even though both of the boys have been “tutored,” (got that from “Far Side”) every once in a while, Alfie still thinks that he has all of his working parts. It’s kind of sad, and I don’t tell him any differently. Who am I to spoil his delusions? It would be like taking away his birthday.

    At some point, I don’t know when, the human boys created a MySpace for Alfie, or at least, that’s the rumor I heard. I haven’t searched for it. I think that I’m afraid of what I’ll find. They threatened to put one up for Tillie, but then we thought we’d attract a lot of pedophiles. I know, it’s a warped house. But our dogs really are a part of our family. Tillie talks, is very opinionated, and has verbal hissie fits when she feels that she isn’t being paid enough attention, and she brings her bowl to us when she wants to order takeout.

    Shakes has been termed the fat, gay, mama’s boy, which I think is entirely unfair, because I don’t believe that he’s fat, just fluffy, and as to his sexual preference, I really don’t think that he has one. Alfie is everyone’s favorite at first because he’s so small and cute until he literally turns on the person giving him love. Personally, I think that Alfie is into S&M, and hasn’t found the right partner yet. Everyone is just fooled by his innocent face.

    As far as their outside lives, Alfie and Shakes are escape artists and used to get out frequently, so much so that pretty much everyone in the neighborhood knew them. Believe me, it wasn’t because we didn’t try. We had a privacy fence, but if there was a weak spot in it, they found it. It was as if it were “Prison Break” for dogs. You would have thought that we mistreated them, no cookies, no chewies, made them sleep on the floor. They would find a hole, and it would be “RUN! The humans aren’t looking. Run now!”

    We replaced the fence, which cut down on the prison breaks significantly, but every once in a while, the wind blows the gate at such an angle that it sticks open, and wouldn’t you know it, Alfie taught Tillie how to make a break for it. Shakes came back. I think that he got too tired. The other two were in the baseball field next to the house. “BE FREE!”  

    Labradors [are] lousy watchdogs.  They usually bark when there is a stranger about,

    but it is an expression of unmitigated joy at the chance

    to meet somebody new, not a warning.”  ~ Norman Strung

     

    I’ve always wondered what dogs actually call themselves. You know that they can’t possibly use the names that we give them. I mean, Alfie probably thinks of himself as “Zoltar, Biter of Hands and Thief of Bread Loaves,” while Shakes is “Rombus, Owner of Container of Treats—Trespassers Beware.” Tillie on the other hand is probably Tillie. Let’s face it: Labs don’t have time to be concerned with such things. They want to know about three things: when they can have their next treat, who is going to play with them next, and when someone is going to scratch their belly next.

     

    I love my dogs. They bring me pure joy, except when they are barking at nothing but air and leaves, and I have a migraine. Then, I have to admit, I wish that they were cats, but only momentarily, because cats have totally different feelings about people, as in, cats truly believe that people are superfluous. There has only been one dog in my life that I didn’t really like. He was a poodle that we owned when we were in London, and he was definitely my Dad’s dog. His name was Sooty, and that dog hated me. Swear to god. Sooty used to chew little round holes in everything I owned, my clothes, my toys, even my curtains. If Dad paid any attention to me, you can bet the next day there would be a new hole in something I owned. 

    When we went to the park to play, Dad would take Sooty for a walk on his leash, and the two of them would sit at the bench while we played. Sooty always had this superior look on his like, “Ha, you have to climb on those metal things while I get to sit here with my human.” (Okay, so maybe I’m imagining things, but I don’t think so.) When we came back to the states, we were planning to go across country and then to the Philippines. Sooty would have had to stay in quarantine for six months. Mom and Dad gave him to some friends. It didn’t break my heart.

    Aside from that one blip on the screen, though, all of the dogs in my life have been wonderful companions that I have loved and missed terribly once they were gone. Getting a dog may be a gamble because you never know how long he or she will be in your life, but it’s definitely a gamble worth taking. Dogs love you unconditionally. They ask so little of you and give you so much in return. Looking into a dogs eyes is like looking into a well, an endless pool. You can see pretty much anything you want to see there.

    If you ever want to know the quality of a person’s soul, look at how they treat their animals. Especially, look at how they treat a dog. If an individual has no time for a dog, views dogs as beneath them, sees dogs as stupid, thinks of dogs as expendable, or worse, would kill a dog without batting an eye—run, don’t walk, because how an individual treats a dog is a good indicator of how that individual treats other people, especially women and children. Animal abusers are people abusers.

    Always remember,

    “Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms”

    ~ George Eliot

    And one of my personal favorites: 

    I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love.

    For me they are the role model for being alive.

    ~Gilda Radner

     

    More later. Peace.

     

    Music as Muse

    muse-loreena-mckennitt-album-cover

    Euterpe: Giver of Delight

    For as long as I can remember, music has played a large part in my life. I remember being in the chorus in the sixth grade and getting one of the coveted solo spots in the big end of the year pageant. I was such a ham. Then all through junior high I took chorus until I had to choose between chorus and foreign language, and I picked French because it was what I needed for my academic diploma. But it didn’t really matter because by that time, I was already well into formal piano lessons. I took lessons for 14 years.

    Many people asked me why I didn’t major in music in college. To put it simply, I wasn’t that good, and I knew it. I loved playing the piano, but it didn’t come second nature to me, not like reading and writing. I knew that if I were going to be a classical pianist, then playing should be as natural to me as breathing, and it wasn’t. I tried to explain that to my mother, but she didn’t understand that. My piano teacher did, though. It’s just one of those things. Either you have it, or you don’t, and I knew early that I didn’t. I loved it. I loved the instrument, loved the music, loved learning, especially Chopin, even Bach’s two and three-part inventions, but they were not extensions of myself. I had to fight hard to win them. And so I did not go to Julliard as I once had dreamed of attempting.

    However, that never diminished my love of music. When I write, I always have music playing in the background. I create play lists for everything. When I worked, I always had music playing in my office. I once had a job that did not allow music to be played, even for those individuals with private offices. It was like working in a tomb. I did not stay at that job for very long, not just because of the music. That was just a symptom of the larger issues, namely complete control over the employees.

    But as usual, I digress . . . To me, music is a reflection of a person’s soul, a soundtrack of your life. My tastes are very eclectic. I love classical music—symphonies, operas, string quartets, piano solos, the cello, all of it. But I also love classic rock ‘n roll, pop, country, soundtracks, reggae, salsa, blues, alternative, even some metal once in a while. Most of the time, I’m mellow, but driving with all of the windows down, I want rock, loud. In the islands, I want reggae and Buffet. Sunday afternoon, I might want an opera. Saturday afternoon, some blues would be good. Right now, I have my mellow mix on because I’m writing.

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    Music of the Sphere by Michail Spiridonov

    Artists who inspire me tends to be writers themselves: Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan, Sting, Van Morrison, Jamie O’Neal, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Springsteen, Melissa Etheridge. Of those, my favorites are probably Lennox, McLachlan and Etheridge, probably because they tend to write in my key, and their songs are so intimate and moving. Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” is one of my all-time favorite songs because it feels as if it were written just for me.

    I still love to sing, and I’ll admit to being a karaoke junkie. I used to go to a favorite karaoke bar at least once a week back in the day. I would take my journal, and sit and write, people watch, and wait for my turn to sing. Then when Corey came into my life, I got him hooked on the karaoke habit, and we would go together, but when money is tight, you give up things, and that’s one of them. We haven’t been in over a year. It’s good for grins if you’ve never been. Lets out your inner star, the one that’s been hiding inside.

    When I was still living at home, I would put on soundtracks and go around the house and sing at the top of my lungs when I was the only one home. Then when I got my first apartment, I would do the same thing. My poor neighbors. Every Saturday when I cleaned, I would sing and dust. Lemon pledge and “A Little Night Music.” Yes sirree. Pine Sol and “Grease.” Let no one be spared.

    So now that I can’t clean every Saturday, the Broadway musicals are left unsung, and since I don’t go on long drives too often, Springsteen doesn’t get rocked out. But I still listen everyday to my tunes, and anytime I hear something new that I think might touch a chord in my creative muse, I download it and add it to my play list. I go on my friends’ MySpace pages and check out their play lists occasionally and steal from them as well, because, well, they get out more. And there is always my oldest son, who loves music as much as I do. I steal from him as well. So from all of these sources, I manage to stay fairly relevant.

    But some songs still have a way of moving me to tears. Right now, the one that is wrenching my heart is Annie Lennox’s “Lost.” For a while, it was Brad Paisley’s “Whiskey Lullabye.” Undoubtedly, though, one of the most beautiful songs ever written is David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream.” Bartolomeo Cristofori is generally regarded as the inventor of the piano, and this song is a beautiful homage to the instrument. The soaring chords are reminiscent of a cathedral, and the song itself paints a picture in my mind of many vibrant colors and hues.

    That is what the best music does: transports the listener to a different place and time, removes the here and now, if only for three or four minutes, so as to allow that transcendence beyond the mundane, the dripping faucet, the leaf blower, the blare of the television, the neighbor’s mulcher. Instead, all that you hear are the notes of pure beauty and power and timelessness.david-lanz-cristoforis-dream

    More later. Peace.

    Dreams, Angelina Jolie, and Jello

    And Now for Something Totally Different

    Politically-free Day

    For my friends who are tired of me writing about nothing but politics, I thought that I would take a break since I seem to be alienating my Texan readers (you know who you are) . . .

    I woke myself up this morning while doing my nails in my sleep. Now while that may seem odd to some of you, there are those of you who will find this completely normal for me. I was having this wonderfully wild dream in which I had stopped by my favorite nail salon to paint my nails myself (I know, this makes no sense), and I was painting them a truly fugly shade of beige, something I would never do. Believe me when I say that I am a RED woman: garnet red, blood red, ruby red, “Woman in Love” red (one of my favorite shades), and then the darker shades of red once the weather cools. I do not do beiges or neutrals. Unfortunately, due to the economic downturn that began at our house months before the NYSE plummeted, I have been unable to keep up my nail fix for months, so I have finally begun to dream about having long nails again. I suppose the fugly color that I was painting them was to bring myself back to reality. However, the funny part was that I woke up with my right hand in the air and my left hand moving a pretend polish brush over my nails. Ah, que sera, sera . . . whatever.

    Angelina Jolie Makes it Hard for the Rest of Us

    I was reading an article online about La Jolie that was accompanied by pictures taken by none other than her love (who was my love first; he just did not know it). The pictures were black and whites of A. aprés the twins, and of course, she looks absolutely lovely. In the article she talks about how Brad wanted to capture her changing body after giving birth and how he accepts all of the changes in her and how wonderful that is. I only mention this because the pictures were not retouched, and several were close-ups, and of course, it is terribly hard to see these changes of which she speaks.

    I have always found Jolie to be one of the most sensuous women on the planet earth. There is just something about her that I find terribly compelling, and it’s not the lips; it’s in her eyes. Her eyes are ageless. They have seen things. I have always been partial to men and women with dark hair and eyes for the most part. Jennifer Aniston is pretty, but she does not seem to have depth. Brad was always pretty, but he did not seem nearly as interesting until he found Jolie. Now that he is older and has crinkles around his eyes, he seems to have much more gravitas.

    But I digress . . . The thing about Angelina Jolie, for me at least, is that she is so much more than a face or a body, and so it shows in her face. No makeup, head covered by a scarf, t-shirt, or completely decked out for the red carpet. It doesn’t matter. Her eyes reflect a very old soul.

    From the Exquisite to the Mundane

    I’m trying to break myself of my ice cream habit, so I’m eating more jello. I had forgotten how much I like jello, and how few calories are in one of those little snack cups. Of course, if you eat two snack cups at a time, it kind of defeats the purpose of the calories, but hey, I’m trying here. The problem is Corey. It’s really his fault. You see, when he fixes me a bowl of ice cream, he won’t make just a small portion. He makes these great big portions and pours on lots of caramel or chocolate topping, so I’m blaming all of the calories on him. Does apportioning the calories also transfer the calories?

    My Space Versus Face Book

    Dilemma: Friends who are opening Face Book accounts when I already have a My Space account? I’ve had a My Space account for about two years now. I finally have it set up just the way I want it. I have my music players set up; all of the fonts are finally the correct size. I finally got around to putting my pictures in different folders and labeling them, and I even created a slideshow.

    Now Jammi and Mari have set up Face Book accounts. Traitors!!The only way I can look at their FB accounts is if I open an account too, and because I’m so anal, I won’t be able to just set up a half-assed account. I’ll have to go in and set up a real page with everything, and if I set up a real page with everything, then I’ll have another page that I have to check everyday, and if I have another page that I have to check everyday, then I’ll never get any writing done. Oh it sucks to be me *&@(!

    It Really Is Fall in Naw-Fick

    Wouldn’t you know it that if I wrote (several weeks ago) that we never have a real fall around here, we would  actually have more than two weeks of wonderfully temperate weather? I’ll have to remember this and write the same thing before spring. We’ve actually had weeks of weather that’s been in the 70’s with light winds and sunshine. I know that I’m taking a big chance in actually writing about this, probably jinxing myself. I’ll probably regret even acknowledging that this is happening, but it’s been so wonderful that I wanted to thank the weather gods for such manna.

    The air conditioner has been off for weeks. The nights are in the 50’s. The dogs are pleasantly sunning themselves in the backyard (except for the horizontally tall one who refuses to leave my side for more than a few moments at a time; as I type, he is quietly snoring by my feet). I see more and more mums in bloom all around the neighborhood (along with lots of McCain/Palin yard signs; alas, it is a predominantly Republican neighborhood). High school football games keep getting postponed because of gang threats. My next-door neighbor is putting a new room on her house, which gives her a new excuse to spy on our backyard (she’s my arch nemesis).

    All in all, it’s a beautiful fall in the neighborhood. I wish that I were in the mountains taking pictures of all of the turning leaves. Oh well, maybe next year, after Obama has been in office for his first nine months. Oops, sorry. This was supposed to be a politically-free one, wasn’t it? Just can’t help myself.

    More later . . .