Sunday, September 26, 2004

Ripped from the real news: In the "huh?" category


Statement from Lambeth Palace on the 'network' stories

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, has had a wide range of meetings and conversations with many groups and individuals on all sides in relation to the current concerns in the Anglican Communion. These meetings remain private and confidential.

Amongst those with whom the archbishop met last autumn were those dissenting from the impending consecration of Gene Robinson; those involved wished to discuss the shape that might be taken by groups dissenting from the decision of General Convention but remaining within the structures of ECUSA.

The term 'network' was suggested as offering one appropriate model to provide support for those dissenting from the resolution but intending to remain within ECUSA's structures. The Archbishop felt that this might prove a suitable working concept, but no proposals as to its potential form, structure or outworking were advanced.

In relation to the discussion of the term 'confessing church'; this concept indicated, in accordance with traditional Protestant usage - that the dissent was understood to be on a matter of conscience that, for the dissenter, touched on the integrity of the church itself. No narrower example or more specific comparison, for instance to the church in Germany in the 1930s, was intended.

Well, thank goodness there was no intended comparison to the Nazi churches.

Just what is the Archbish saying?
Too tired for this

Hurricane Jeanne made landfall last night, near Vero Beach, Fla. It looks like she will skirt to the south and west of us instead of tracking directly over my county, as predicted Friday.

We will still get tropical-storm weather today, and may get some hurricane force gusts soon, as some of the storm's bands move ashore, said a TV weathercaster, with entirely too chipper a tone in his voice.

No one I've talked too has the psychic or physical energy to deal with this. We're all tapped out from Charley and Frances, and to some degree, from Ivan.

I forced myself through the hurricane drill, filling jugs and cleaning the bathtub and filling it with water. Securing all the outdoor things. Tidying and cleaning up. Putting together a new camp lantern I bought with with my hurricane provisions.

I gritted my teeth and did it, grumbling and complaining, then cooked some chicken to have for today. Lastly, I took an extremely long, hot, shower and tumbled into bed.

I didn't have the energy to post an entry last night, though I wanted to, thinking the power would be out by this morning. It's still on, for now. Thank goodness.

I had a good night's sleep, snuggled under the covers as the air conditioning blasted. My few excursions outside last night to check the weather took me into a sauna -- hot and wet.

Now I'll have to see what today brings, remembering those who are in Jeanne's direct path, in great danger from this hurricane.

Dear Lord, keep us all safe, in the palm of your hand.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Dreaming of Jeanne and invading Canada

YES, Jeanne is coming at us. My prediction was too correct -- she's been like a shark circling, rebuilding her strength, deciding where she would take a bite out of Florida. Looks like us again. Sigh.
I'll post more on that later, but in the meantime, here's something
I wrote partly for fun, but based on truth, except the invasion far as I know, anyway!

U.S. to liberate Canada - invasion set

WASHINGTON, D.C. - UNS (Unsaintly News Service) - Confirming rumors running rampant in the nation's capital, President Bush announced a massive invasion of Canada by U.S. troops is in the works. Even as this newspaper goes to print, forces are setting up staging areas along the Canadian borders of New York, Vermont, Maine and Minnesota. Sources inside the State Department say Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec are targeted cities for U.S. troop deployment, which will probably start Nov. 3.

Tensions have long been building between the two countries' governments, with the president claiming Canada has stockpiled numerous WMDs (weapons of medicinal dispensement). The president claimed Canada's actions in continuing to fill Americans' prescriptions at about 40 percent of the cost in the United States is "economic terrorism, attacking one of our most vital and sacred industries, pharmaceuticals."

In addition, the U.S. president charged Canada with biological terrorism, by filling prescriptions with drugs untested by the FDA and endangering millions of U.S. lives.

Canadian Minister of North American Relations, Hugo Putupon, hotly denied these allegations in a BBC interview today.

"It's ridiculous," he stated. "These are the exact same drugs sold in the United States, made by U.S. pharmaceutical corporations, and Candian controls on drug manufacture are at least as stringent as the FDA's. If the United States is concerned about these drugs endangering U.S. lives, you would think they would be concerned about the safety of Candian citizens, also."

Putupon also contested U.S. military intelligence data suggesting Canada has stockpiled large quantities of U.S.-manufactured drugs in anticipation of boycotts by U.S. drug manufacturers. The prime minister accused the U.S. pharmaceutical industry of influencing American policy toward Canada.

"Because they spend $85 million a year lobbying the administration, they call the tune," Putupon said of the U.S. drug giants. "Plus, they donated almost $900,000 to the president's campaign coffers. Your own Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld is the former chief executive of one of the big drug makers, for heaven's sake."

Bush called these claims "absurd." He said, "It's all about national security. We have to protect our citizens. We have to protect our federal agencies, like the FDA. We have to protect our American way of life, and part of that is getting prescriptions filled at American pharmacies, not dealing with foreigners we don't know anything about."

The president also said, "It's important to bring our form of democratic government to the oppressed peoples of Canada, who have long suffered under the yoke of a socialist-leaning system. Governmental price control on prescription medications is just one example of this. The people of Canada know we are a freedom-loving nation, who want to bring them the same freedoms we share."

In response to questions about the advisability of invading Canada with winter coming, or, "the New Russian Front," as one pundit dubbed it, the president said there is no need for alarm.

"We've already figured that out and awarded Halliburton a $40 billion contract to provide our American forces with special, winterized uniforms, tanks and weapons. Dick Cheney has all the details on it," Bush reported.

In a related announcement, Attorney General John Ashcroft noted the arrest of two prominent Vermonters under the Patriot Act. Green Mountaineers Mayor Peter Clavelle of Burlington and U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders are being held at a detention center in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Ashcroft said they may soon be allowed access to legal counsel and the media.

Ashcroft did not specify the nature of the charges, saying a statement will be issued next week, but Clavelle, as mayor of Burlington, is famous for leading a city plan, now in place, for city employees to buy lower-costing prescriptions from Canada, saving the city millions of dollars.

The National Guard has been sent into key cities like Burlington to keep the peace.

Sanders is one of the most vocal congressmen in the House, supporting legislation allowing reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada. He has accused U.S. drug companies of price-gouging and lying.

Sanders, also the first congressman to take citizens across the border to fill prescriptions, said buses full of Vermonters, mostly senior citizens, regularly go over the Canadian border for day trips. While there, they drop off prescriptions at Candian pharmacies, then pick up their filled prescriptions before heading home. Many said this, along with Internet purchases from Canada, is the only way they can afford life-saving prescriptions.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Hurricane Updates

Here, where I live in Central Florida, we scarcely felt a breeze as Hurricane Ivan churned through the gulf. Everyone around here held their breath as they waited for Ivan to go by -- afraid he'd make a sudden right turn and clobber Central Florida. Not that we wished anything on the Gulf Coast, it was just that we've been suffering post-traumatic stress.

See, we're not supposed to be clobbered by hurricanes. We're the favored children of Florida. The 'canes that approach the peninsula from the Atlantic usually either come ashore down south of us, or go north and smack Georgia or South Carolina. The ones that go into the Gulf usually hit the northern or western part of the gulf. Even the ones that turn and hit Tampa don't come through with anything like Charley's force.

Having two major storms (Hurricanes Charley and Frances) crisscross our territory in less than a month's time is unheard of, even by the old-timers.

Then came Ivan, with an uncertain forecast. Several models showed him curving in as he moved north through the Gulf of Mexico and clobbering us, a third storm to do so in a month's time.

Dear hearts, it was too much for many to bear.

As I said, we didn't want to wish Ivan off on anyone else -- we just wanted him to go away. Disappear. But he refused the invitation. The people in Alabama and northwestern Florida have my prayers and sincere sympathy, as do all the people who were in Ivan's path as he marched northward, carrying death and his bag of tricks -- floods, twisters and more misery.

The devastation Frances left is still evident in my neighborhood. It looks like a twister went through -- you can trace a path of destruction across an intersecting road then down the main thoroughfare, chewing up trees, electric poles and power lines. Maybe that's what woke me at 2 a.m. as the hurricane came through, a twister beating on my windows and tossing a neighbor's tree through my privacy fence as it brushed by.

It was a massacre of trees as Frances came through, much worse than Charley. Frances took her time wreaking havoc. Towering old oaks with trunks six feet wide were torn to bits. Out-of-state contractors are swarming all over the county like ants, throwing sawed-up tree trunks and branches into their plywood-sided trailers.

The miracle is, there was no loss of life around here.

Now I'm watching Tropical Storm Jeanne out in the Atlantic. She's craftily circling, like a shark, trying to build her strength back up to hurricane force. The computer models are all over the place, so who knows what direction she'll end up taking.

I'm praying she'll just stay out in the Atlantic and fizzle away.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Surviving Frances

Yep. I'm back. Survived Frances. Still no power (they say it may be another week) or phones.

How, you might ask, am I blogging? My employer rented a conference room in a local hotel that has power, since our office is also powerless. So I'm sitting here, after work, blogging. My employer doesn't mind -- a fringe benefit. Also, I brought my two dogs here. The heat at home was really affecting Good Old Boy, the retriever whose health has been suffering. Coworkers have been great, watching the dogs while I ate supper, etc.

Here's what I would have logged the rest of the weekend, if I coulda:

Sunday, approximately 2 a.m.

The noise wakes me up -- the wind is beating on the windows like the balled-up fists of a monster who wants in. I wonder if I should move into another room, since my bedroom faces east, where the wind is coming from.

How futile my efforts to tape the windows seem now. If Frances wants to send glass flying everywhere, she surely can. I doubt she'd even notice the tape.

I lie in bed, waiting for the sound of breaking glass.

Sunday, 5 a.m.

I'm awakened again, this time by the light in the living room flickering. It fades almost to nothingness. Rebounds. Fades again.

"Please stay on," I beg.

The light resurges, only to die, this time completely and finally.

Sunday, 7:30 a.m.

The winds have died down a bit. I barely crack the kitchen window, sending a blast of air through the room, then assemble the gas camp-stove, bring a pot of water to boil, and pour it through the grounds in a coffee basket to make a pot of hot coffee, then close the window. While the water is heating, I put batteries in the radio.

The radio reports Frances is moving slowly. Frances is wobbling. Frances is zigging north, now south. Frances made landfall as a "high" Category 2 hurricane, in the darkness. She is creeping across the Florida peninsula, moseying, taking her time, a diva who enjoys keeping everyone waiting. She is fickle and temperamental.

Thank God she wasn't a Category 4 storm.

Jack the Brat has lost interest in Frances. He plays kitten games, stretched out on his back, bouncing a little cloth toy on his feet like a seal tossing a rubber ball.

Imagine Puss 'N Boots (the Shrek 2 version), speaking in campiest Antonio Banderas tones:
"'Urricane? I muck your 'urricane. I play weez my toyz. I don't care about no stinkin' 'urricanez."

A little while later, Frances is throwing more punches, and Jack is hiding under the bed. Alongside him in hiding is his trusty cohort, Elvis, a large black-and-white tuxedo cat.

Sunday, 2 p.m.

What's this on my ceiling? I shine the flashlight on the area for a better look. Two narrow streaks of moisture. Oh, great. (Monday, I check the roof, and Frances had partially succeeded in prying up part of the flashing to the roof vents.)

The radio is my companion, my link to the outside world this day. I listen to a couple of different stations, getting updates on Frances' position, community responses, and callers' questions.

I keep hearing cracking sounds around the neighborhood, the sound of trees breaking, as tropical-storm winds continue. The top of a tall pine in my yard broke during the night. Somehow, it manages to keep its tenuous hold on the tree through all the wind.

Sunday, 4 p.m.

In one of the lulls, I go out into the yard with the dogs again. They're too scared to go out by themselves -- they seem to think my standing over them while they do their business will keep them safe.

I look toward the well, which used to be in the back corner of the yard, and wonder where it is. Then I realize a neighbor's tree has come across the fence and hidden the well.

The wind starts to kick again, and all three of us run for the shelter of the house.

Monday afternoon

Two coworkers come by to check on me. The main roads are pretty passable now, they say. I decide to make a run myself, gathering information for the newspaper. The appeal of riding around in my car with the air-conditioner blasting is not lost on me, either. My Australian shepherd, The Best Dog in the World (Betsy), road-trip lover, comes with me.

We may not have electricity (and thus, air-conditioning and refrigeration) restored here for another week. Has the power company decided to wait and see what Hurricane Ivan does before bothering with more repairs?

I had been feeling a bit sorry for myself before this trek, with tree damage, roof damage, no power, no phone — but no longer. My town literally looked like a bomb had gone off over it.

I saw the source of yesterday's cracking sounds. Tree after tree in my neighborhood was broken in half.

It strikes me that Providence has been at work, in this storm, as in Charley. So many huge trees that could have fallen on houses and injured or killed people fell away from homes, instead. It's too much to be coincidence.

Still, trees had exploded all over roads, houses, power lines. Several streets in my neighborhood are blocked by huge, downed oaks. At one intersection, someone, I'm not sure if man, or more likely, Mother Nature, had taken downed power lines and looped them over other power lines, so they were off the road.

People stand in their driveways here and there, trying to catch a cell phone signal. Others are piling up yard waste by the roadside. The buzz of chain saws fill the air.

You know it's a disaster in Central Florida when the convenience stores are closed, and many of them are.

Downtown, a restaurant's awning is torn apart. Business signs are blasted apart. Fascia and siding are ripped from buildings. Broken trees deface the university’s campus.

The grocery stores and the Marts are open and busy, but have no ice -- a hot commodity when there's nothing else to keep perishables from spoiling.

The southbound traffic on the main drag is nonstop with people returning to check their homes. A long line winds around McDonald's, where the drive-through is open. In fact, every open restaurant is doing great business. So is every operating gas station.

At a little apartment complex, a group of neighbors sit outside, relaxing and talking, as chicken and meat sizzle on the grill.

"You might as well get it all out of the refrigerator and cooked, before it spoils," they explain. It's much more pleasant outside, in the breeze, than inside sweltering buildings, too.

They have the right spirit. A little thing like a hurricane won't keep them down.

I go home and get the porch furniture and grill out of the garage, and the nearly-thawed steak out of the freezer.

I'm grateful damage to my home is minimal, and we're all safe.

Now we'll have to watch Ivan.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Frances plays games, says 'here I am'

Okay, I have to admit it...I got a little spooked. The winds got up to tropical storm force; the rain pounded; the trees tossed around. Then the sucker punches: three separate, strong gusts of wind -- must have been around 70 mph each. There's no way to anticipate them, and certainly nothing I can do about these slams. It makes me feel so helpless against the elements.

Once again I'm reminded of my need for the one who calms the sea and the wind.

This was just a taste of what's to come -- this is just the very, very edge of Hurricane Frances starting to move in. A reminder of her power.

Jack the Brat sat by the window, fascinated. A line of dark stuff from the east, the Atlantic, boiled up, and he moved to the safety of the sofa to watch it. Betsy assumed the usual position she takes when anxious -- wedged between the sofa and the coffee table, near my feet. She moved with me into the office and is now curled up at my feet here.

We're under a tornado warning. I think I'll shut down the computer and unplug everything to protect it against power surges. We've already had one brownout and resurgence of power.

If I get another window, I'll post later this evening, if anyone's reading.

Waiting for Frances

I spent the morning taping up windows and digging up some sandy dirt which I can use to make sandbags, if needed. I brought home some plastic sleeves from the newspaper office, which I can fill to make my own mini-sandbags. Hopefully, I won't need any, except maybe around the sliding glass door to the patio.

Everything that needed to be done outside, I wanted done this morning -- before it could start storming, and to make sure I had enough time to take a nice, warm shower afterward. The hot, humid air just smacks you when you go outside, and the simple act of putting tape over the windows left me soaked with sweat.

Now I'm just putting around the house, watching the TV coverage, and petting the animals. They sense something is up and all four of them are staying right under my feet. Good Old Boy and Betsy got baths yesterday so the house won't stink of damp dog so much -- now they smell like cheap shampoo. A definite improvement. I brushed a half-bushel (well, it seemed like it) of fur off Good Old Boy, who loves to be brushed, and less off Betsy, who hates it.

Jack the kitten is now officially Jack the Brat instead of One-Eyed Jack. The vet checked him Wednesday and declared his injured eye in amazingly good shape -- he's even seeing out of it. So it won't need to be removed. Yaayy! (But what I thought.) He's a miniature Tasmanian devil, screeching around the house. Cute personified.

Last night, Jack the Brat got up on the sofa with me, where I was lounging. He wedged himself between the sofa cushion and my leg, on his back, his front paws crossed over his chest and his big, back feet sticking up in the air as he snoozed. How could anyone resist something so adorable?

The hurricane hasn't hit here, in northern Central Florida, yet. Frances has been moving very slowly, and the eye of the storm will make landfall much later than originally projected. I gather from TV reports, a lot of people are getting really antsy -- especially the ones who've been in shelters since Thursday. Can't say as I blame them. The outer bands of the hurricane are creeping closer, and it's been windy, about 20-25 mph winds with some gusts, but nothing extraordinary. I'm guessing in another couple of hours we'll be getting some higher gusts here. They're already getting pounded down in Broward County and southern Brevard -- just from the outer bands.

I'm watching the satellite pictures, and Frances looks like a huge spider slowly moving over her prey to devour it. Her winds aren't as high as they were before she attacked the Bahamas, but her eye has spread out -- 70-80 miles wide now, and her wall has spread out, with hurricane force winds 120 miles out from the eye wall. She's just getting started on Florida. I hope people will be patient and use their common sense, and not decided to run out and check on their mobile or beachside home, or pick up a few more items. They could get caught in the nasty stuff.

I'll post again later, if I can. We'll have to see how long the power holds out.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I just don't get it

Dubya is 11-12 points ahead of Kerry in the polls? I just don't understand it. Okay -- let me think about it.

Humm. Nothing is too low or too dirty for Dubya. Tell the big lie. (Go over to Father Jake Stops the World for a look at the big convention-speech lie.)

Attack the person and character of your opponent. Get people who still carry all that anger from the Viet Nam era, the ones who believed that any criticism of our government was treason and betrayal of our troops. Fan the flames of their hatred. Encourage them to attack your opponent's war record, not because of his war record, but because of his politics.

Besmirch and smear as you smirk. The Dubya trademark. He and his "have more" power base.

The good news is Kerry has finally gotten really mad about it, I think. Mad enough to sling the shit back on the shitster. I caught Kerry on the attack on Bush for Bush's attack on him: how dare Bush, with his record of evading service, question Kerry's service record?

Kerry sounded mad. Good. He needs some fire in his campaign. I think people will respond to some passion from him -- I get the impression many think he's an Ivy-league, dispassionate intellectual, talking about a "sensitive" war on terror. (More Bush/Cheney twisting and distortion.)

I want to see Kerry on the attack.


Meanwhile, the party crasher approaches

Hurricane Frances is sending her calling cards in advance of her visit. It's been a bit more windy and gusty than usual today. A couple of brief, hard showers passed through, then the sun came back.

It's as if Frances RSVP'd to a party to which she was NOT invited. She's a definite party-crasher.

We'll probably get more showers tonight, but the really tropical weather shouldn't set in until tomorrow afternoon. Then we'll be in for it for 24-36 hours, as Frances takes her time moseying on down the road.

I'm going to do some cooking tonight and tomorrow, then I'll have stuff that can be warmed over sterno. I can make coffee on my camp stove, and I've got plenty of PBJ, cheese and crackers, canned and fresh fruit, etc., that doesn't require heating. I'm well-provisioned for this hurricane.

I've filled up every container I could find with water (and I've accumulated plenty for just such an emergency), along with all my hoarded water jugs, so I should have enough water for washing up and toilet flushing, as well as plenty of drinking water.

I notified the church I could take some evacuees here, for some live on the beachside and in mobile homes, but so far, haven't had any takers. The Episcopal retreat center near Orlando opened its doors for such evacuees, and I guess other have gone to stay with relatives. The deacon would have stayed with me, but she's allergic to animals.

I've got plenty of food and beverage. The threat to my safety seems to bring out the buried hunter-gatherer in me. I've hit the grocery stores several times this week, picking up this and that and more of the other, so I could easily provide for a few needing shelter from the storm.

I'm going to tape up the windows in the morning. I wish I had some plywood to put over them, but I don't. Still, I feel safer here than most places. I'm away from the coast and the river. My cinderblock-and-stucco house, tiny and inexpensive, was nevertheless built to the latest post-Hurricane Andrew hurricane codes.

Hope I don't end up needing shelter myself. The forecast of Frances' path now indicates the eye of the storm will come closer to my neighborhood than earlier predictions indicated.

She is a party-crasher, that @#@X#, Frances.

More later.

P.S. -- keep not only us in Florida, but those in the islands in your prayers. The Bahamas have taken a terrible beating from the hurricane.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Oh, no, not again!

Guess what. Another hurricane is bearing down on Central Florida.

Like many folks around here, I haven't quite recovered from Hurricane Charley. Now, big, mean @#X@#!! Hurricane Frances is coming at us. Frances is big, too, a heck of a lot bigger than Charley, big enough to cover the state with her bands. She's a Category 4. Just swell.

Thank goodness, some church friends had come by and cut up the big pine tree Charley toppled. Its top was caught in some viny growth in the wild hammock along the edge of my property, and in another windstorm, it could have ended up on top of my well or crushing the chain link fence below. A semi-retired Father-type from church, his grandson and a couple of their friends labored over that tree for several hours. {{{thank you, guys!}}}

Adding trial and tribulation, my well pump went out last weekend. I jiggled and cussed it; a friend came over and checked it; I finally broke down and called the well company (sigh..can't afford these expenses). The service guy said a couple of capacitors had burned out. It wasn't as expensive a repair as I feared it might be, though, which is the good news. At least I didn't have to spring for a new pump motor.

I had to get the well running, so I could start stockpiling water for Hurricane Frances. I spent some time yesterday evening and this morning filling up my motley collection of plastic jugs and pots with water. I want enough to last 5 days, because with everything so saturated now, Hurricane Frances' winds and rains will pull down a lot of trees and the power lines will come down with them. Frances is expected to take her time moving across the state, taking about 24 hours, plenty of time for her to dump 10 inches of rain. We may have tropical storm-to-hurricane winds for 24-36 hours.

I hit the grocery store last night and again this morning, stocking up on coffee, sterno, charcoal, nonperishables and steak. Yes, steak. I can cook out on the grill after the storm goes by!!!!

Luckily, I had already stocked up on batteries, because the stores were running out of them again.

We shouldn't be getting bad weather until tomorrow evening or early Saturday, when the tropical stuff preceding the hurricane starts rolling in. The eye won't be in this area before Sunday. Some models are now calling for it to stay on a westerly course instead of turning more to the north, which will put us on the northeast side of the hurricane, which may not be an advantage -- it's nasty on that side of hurricanes.

So we're just playing a waiting game. Hoping and praying and waiting to see what Frances does next.