Firework Cookie Jar        

This fun craft turns an oatmeal can into a firework cookie jar! Perfect for putting patriotic oatmeal cookies in. You can make this firework cookie jar in the time it takes the cookies to bake! This craft is part of Craft Lightning Week. All week long Angie from The Country Chic Cottage, Laura from Me […]

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          Patriotic Sparkle Sunglasses        

Looking to add a little sparkle to the holiday? Whether you’re spending on the porch or at the beach, these patriotic sparkle sunglasses will add some flair to any 4th of July outfit. This project is part of Craft Lightning Week. All week long, I’m sharing patriotic crafts you can make in 15 minutes or […]

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          Patriotic Star Coasters for 4th of July        

I love adding touches of holiday decor that aren’t overwhelming. These star coasters are easy to make, easy to set out and enjoy during the holiday, and easy to tuck away when not in use. You can make your own 4th of July Patriotic Star Coasters with very little work – and the raised star […]

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          Patriotic Star Hoop Art        

Hoop Art is simple to make, and a great craft for teens, tweens, and anyone with some spare time for crafting. You don’t need expensive supplies or fancy equipment to make this Patriotic Star Hoop Art, and an experienced stitcher can whip one up in 15 minutes! Even less experienced stitchers will be able to […]

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          Cross Stitched Card        

Even young children can cross stitch this simple card for Mother’s Day, or any special occasion. Cross stitch is really fairly easy, and even easier on paper. And a competent cross-stitcher can whip out this card in just a few minutes! This project is part of Craft Lightning week – All week long I’ve been […]

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          By: Brett_McS        
<p>Hey, it's 2006! That's because they needed to put the international dateline somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and we are right next to the middle of no where! We need to figure out some way to make money out of this. If a kid can drawn in a million bucks selling pixel squares...</p> <p>What about some firework shots ala the "Sleepless in Seattle" scene?</p>
          Make 4th of July Fireworks        
Some sparkle and pop for the fourth is great if you are having guest over to celebrate. With just a box of plastic drinking straws and some glitter, I created this fun little firework centerpiece.
 To make it, gather 8-12 straws together, tie tightly in the center with a piece of waxed twine and bend to fray the straws out into a circular star form. Paint the straws with white glue and sprinkle on different glitters.  I used this fabulous Martha Stewart Crafts holographic glitter that comes in the shapes of stars, hexagons and diamonds. The variety of chunky glitter flakes makes the fireworks more dynamic than just glittering them all with your standard fine glitter. Make 5 or 6 fireworks and display on skewers in a vessel filled with colored sand, or even silver dragees.
And you can use the same straw tying technique to make snow glittered snowflakes for the wintertime!

Happy Birthday America!!!

          Fausto Part II by Stephen Richter        

 

They crossed the lobby. Persephone took her purse from the chair at the check-in desk. She brushed some hair behind an ear and wrote a note. They walked out of the hotel. Across the street, Omar’s face reflected in the backseat window of the Cadillac.
He tried the door handle.

“What the fuck there, Omar?” said Fausto.

Omar stiffened. He smiled. “Just admiring your Brougham, Fausto, it’s beautiful,” he said.

Persephone opened the passenger’s door. She climbed inside.

“That’s my dad’s Bro-ham you’re admiring there, Omar.” Fausto climbed behind the wheel. “Never lets anyone drive it though, especially not me.” Fausto put on his shades and fired up the engine. He rolled down his window.

Omar leaned in.

“You shouldn’t rush into things without meditation,” said Omar, “Seriously, you need some rest, Fausto.”

“Good looking out, Omar,”

Fausto stepped on the gas pedal. The Cadillac drove away.

“Namaste,” said Omar. He looked back at the hotel.

The Cadillac glided down the road past the mission. The sun sank on the horizon. Fausto drove through a grove of palm trees. A cloud of mosquitos dissipated then reformed again. Water trickled. A vein of sawgrass and cattail split the desert near the oasis, beneath the town of Todos Santos.

The Cadillac turned onto highway 1.

Persephone placed a foot on the dashboard in front of her. Her skirt opened. A pale thigh. A friendship bracelet adorned her ankle. Fausto looked back at the road. The Pacific appeared then disappeared again. The Cadillac crested a hill. Cactus stretched to the horizon, to the coast and the blood red sea approaching sunset. They drove south, towards Land’s End. The Cadillac passed shrine after roadside shrine. Each cross marked the place of  someone’s death on the highway. The majority were at the curves in the road. Some crosses had flowers beneath them.

“So, what exactly do you do down here?” said Fausto.

“Im a florist.”

“in the desert?”

“You’d be surprised how much people will pay to have a little beauty,” said Persephone, “especially in the desert.”

“What about my father?” said Fausto, “Did he ever pay?”

“For what?”

Persephone fished through her purse.

“For the beauty,” said Fausto, “Did he ever have to pay for this beauty you’re talking about?”

Persephone laughed. She took out a bag of weed and rolling papers. She rolled herself a joint. “So, what do you do in the army?” she said.

“Marines.”

“In the marines, then.”

Persephone lit her joint.

“Drug counterinsurgency,” said Fausto.

“Counter-whom?”

“Intelligence to stop drugs and drug-lords.”

“Well, you’re not stopping me,” said Persephone. She smoked her joint and squinted. “This is México, Fausto. You’re a gringo down here. Never forget.”

“And what are you, invincible?”

“I’m better than invincible,” said Persephone, “I’m Canadian.”

They crested a hill.  The coastline appeared. They descended into the next canyon.

“I have three days, Persephone.”

“Me too,” she said, “I leave Easter Sunday.”

“Why so soon?”

Four skeletal cows crossed the road at the bottom of the arroyo. Fausto pumped the brakes. The Cadillac stopped just short of the crossing cattle. Ribs moved beneath their grey hides. Their heads hung. Fausto drove around them. The Cadillac accelerated to the top of a curve.

“I’m only here for the winter,” said Persephone, “After high season I go back to Montréal.”

“Why did my father give you the necklace, Persephone?”

Persephone pointed. “Your gas lamp,” she said.

“Shit,” said Fausto.

The black Cadillac coasted down the hill, towards Cabo San Lucas, on nothing but gravity and gas fumes. El Arco, the great stone arch at Land’s End, marked the outer edge of the bay. Cruise ships, yachts, and fishing boats drifted off the coast of Médano Beach. The sky and sea purpled with the approaching night. The lights of the resorts sparkled in the twilight.

Fausto yawned.

He blinked and shook his head. “I need coffee anyway,” he said. He put the transmission into neutral then raised his arms above his head. “Woooooooo! burn the boats, baby, we’re coming in hot!” he said. He looked to Persephone. She raised her arms and smiled. She shrieked. The Cadillac coasted down the hill into the PEMEX service station at the edge of town with a bounce.

<p style="text-align: center;">

****

<p style="text-align: left;">

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - 20:30 hrs.

The Cadillac climbed an unpaved street. It labored up the backside of a hilltop colonia. Persephone looked out over the city and bay. The Cadillac’s undercarriage scraped a rock. It sparked.

“Damnit, Persephone!” said Fausto, “this is horseshit.” The dirt road steepened. At the top of the incline, sat a white minimalist residence. “There?” said Fausto. Tires spat gravel and lost traction on the hill. The Cadillac slipped backwards.

“That’s where he lives, Fausto. Do you want to go or not?”

Fausto put the tranny into first gear and floored the gas. The Cadillac lurched forward.

“I like your attitude, Fausto,” said Persephone, “you are man of action.”

“Action Jackson.”

The Cadillac climbed and fishtailed and fought its way to the gates at the top of the hill.

“That’s how we get her done,” said Fausto. He set the parking brake with his foot.

“Yes,” said Persephone. She looked Fausto up and down then climbed out of the vehicle. They walked to a stainless steel intercom beside an iron Door. The walls were over ten feet high. The view of the bay behind them was spectacular.

“Wow,” said Fausto.

“I know,” said Persephone. “Don’t let it get to you, Fausto.” She dialed a sequence of numbers on the key pad. “It happens to everyone.” A telephone rang somewhere inside the compound. The ringing continued.

“He’s not here,” she said. “Want me to text him?”

Fausto stared at the bay. “Huh? Yeah, do that,” he said.

Persephone turned away from Fausto. She leaned over her mobile device. Light from its screen illuminated her face. She laughed and typed with her thumbs.

“Get the fuck out of here, Dionisio. You’re such a cabrón,” Persephone laughed. “He’s over at... Oh, god-”

“Oh, god what?”

“It’s just pictures... He’s at Passions, and Nikki Beach at the ME,” she said.

“The who?”

“The Meliá,” she said. “He’s texting me again. He wants us to meet him there.”

“Where?”

“Nikki Beach,” said Persephone, “It’s spring break, Fausto. There’s no way Dionisio will abandon the party tonight. No way in hell.”

“What’s wrong with you people?” said Fausto. “Bunch of goddamned hedonists.”

“It’s getting late.”

“Alright, damnit, we’ll go to spring break.” said Fausto.

Persephone’s eyes flashed. “I’ll get my scarf.”

They climbed back into the car. Persephone removed her shirt. Her breasts were pale like her thigh. She pulled a long silk scarf from her purse. She tied it around her neck, then wrapped it around her body into a dress. Persephone shook her hair out then looked at herself in the rearview mirror.

“It’s Hermès,” she said, “You can drive, you know,”

“I will if you let me.”

Fausto twisted the rearview mirror back to where he could see again. He started the engine. Persephone laughed.

“You can’t counterinsurgency everything, Fausto.”

“Just trying to find my father, that’s all.”

“Let’s go find him then.”

Fausto nodded.

<p style="text-align: center;">

****

<p style="text-align: left;">

The black Cadillac bounced along a dirt road between the Casa Dorada Beach Resort and the Meliá Cabo San Lucas. Shirtless and bikini-clad people roamed the streets in flip-flops and straw sombreros. Humvees and limousines inched through the crowd to the main entrance of Nikki Beach. Arclights crossed the sky above the red glow and smoke rising from the oceanfront nightclub. Fausto parked. The stream of tourists engulfed the vehicle. Fausto reached into the seabag in the backseat. He removed a navy sport coat with brass buttons.

Maj. L. Burnes USMC

was embroidered beneath the inside pocket in gold. Fausto put the jacket on over his t-shirt and jeans.

“Fancy,” said Persephone.
Fausto locked the seabag in the trunk of the Cadillac. They crossed the street, hand in hand. They walked to the entrance of the the nightclub.

“Persephone!” said Ricardo at the velvet rope, “Canada’s in the house, baby.”

“It is now,” said Persephone.

“Clearly Canadian,” said Ricardo, “Mmmm, grade A maple syrup right there. Y’all seeing this?” He closed the rope in front of Fausto.

“He’s with me, Ricardo,” said Persephone.

“My bad,” said Ricardo, “Welcome to paradise, soldier.”

“Marine.”

Persephone pulled Fausto behind her. They merged into the crowd entering the courtyard. Bass thundered through the open air. Moonlight shimmered on the beach and bay beyond the resort grounds. The crowd was dense but far better than the chaos being caused by college students on the public side of Playa Médano. At Nikki Beach, everyone wore white. Fausto and Persephone wore black. A DJ in white denim spun dance music from his tower above the swimming pool. Persephone pointed. A shirtless man in linen pants danced onstage. Black curly hair shook with beads of sweat. Go-Go Girls in white plumage samba-danced around the man. Hips gyrated.

The man’s shoulders shimmied in a blur, like a Turkish dancer.

“Dionisio,” said Fausto.

A girl grabbed ahold of Dionisio’s waist onstage. Her eyes widened. Dinisio’s ass shook in a flurry between henna-painted hands. A conga line formed. It coiled around the DJ booth. Dionisio danced at the head of the serpent. The conga line snaked onto the dance floor below. People cheered.

Dionisio raised his arms to the night sky.

“Hurry!” said Persephone. She took Fausto’s hand.

“What?!”

Fausto followed Persephone into the sea of dancing bodies. She placed Fausto’s hands on her hips. They merged into the conga line dancing behind Dionisio. Fausto shook his ass and tried to mimic Persephone’s movements.

“I can’t believe this shit.” said Fausto. They sambaed their way poolside, around a palapa, a fountain, then to a private corner on the sand. A row of giant beds were elevated on stilts beside them. Sheets of white fabric blew in the night breeze. Dionisio placed his forehead to Persephone’s and grinned. He lifted her off the ground. A diver’s mask was tattooed to his shoulder.

“Have a drink with me, “ he said.

“Nice moves there,” said Fausto. He adjusted his jacket, “Hard to keep up with.”

“Who is this sexy man?” said Dionisio. He smiled.

“Fausto,” said Persephone, “Fausto Burns.” Dionisio’s expression faded. “He’s looking for Louis, Dionisio, have you seen him?” Dionisio seemed sober now. He looked towards the entrance of the club.

“He never showed,” said Dionisio, “I’ll radio him tonight.”

“Show up for what?” said Fausto. Dionisio looked around.

“I’m meeting a friend here,” said Dionisio, “After that I can take you to use ship-to-shore radio at my place, yes?”  People danced all over the beach. Beyond the white ropes of the club the crowd swelled into a fish farm of dancing bodies. Fireworks exploded overhead in molten red.

“How long?” said Fausto.

“Thirty minutes,” said Dionisio, “maybe less, or the anchovies are free.” He put on a linen shirt and buttoned it. “You like anchovies?”

“Does my father?”

Dionisio smiled. “Yes... Yes he does like anchovies.”

“Alright,” said Fausto, “where should we wait for you?”

“Smart and sexy... Are you Greek, Fausto?”

“No.”

“Shame.” Dionisio looked at Persephone. “Meet me in the beach bar at midnight.”

“No time for quickies, Dionisio,” said Persephone.

“always time for quickie, my darling, this is Dionisio!” He backed away from them smiling, his tongue between his teeth.

“What the hell’s with you people?” said Fausto, “Thirty minutes there, Dionisio! No bullshit. you hear me?” Dionisio danced into the crowd. Fausto ran a hand over his scalp. The music thundered. He squeezed his temples between his thumb and forefinger. Persephone touched Fausto’s cheek. Fireworks painted their faces with color.

“I like you,” she said. Fausto Smiled.

“Buy you a drink?”

“I don’t think we should, Fausto.”

“I’ll watch your back, Seph.”
 
Fausto pointed to his eyes. “Better than waiting here for Dionysus with our dicks in our hands.”

Persephone laughed.  “Don’t let Dionisio hear you say that.” She shook her head.

“It’s true,” said Fausto.

Persephone wrapped Fausto’s arm around her shoulder and clasped his fingers. They walked down to the beach bar on the sand. They kicked off their shoes. Fausto rolled up his jeans. They sat on barstools beneath a moonlight sky.

“Tequila, porfis,” said Persephone.

“Dos,” said Fausto. The bartender obliged. Fausto looked into Persephone’s eyes. She smiled. He looked at the locket around her neck. “Persephone?”

“Yes?”

Fausto watched the colored lights play over her face. Boats floated on the bay over her shoulder.

“Salúd,” said Fausto. He raised his glass.

“Salúd,”

They drank for thirty minutes.

Dionisio returned, covered in sweat. He searched the beach bar but Persephone and Fausto were nowhere to be found. He tapped his PDA.

Persephone rolled into Fausto’s arms atop one of the giant beds on stilts above the beach. They kissed. Persephone reached inside Fausto’s jeans. The screen lit up on her PDA. Dionisio peeked his head over the mattress with a cell phone to his ear. Persephone howled. She rolled off the bed and hit the sand with a thump. Fausto laughed.

“I need to leave, like now, people,” said Dionisio. He put away his device. “We can do this at my place, yes, we can, we will, my friends. But we must go now, okay? right now.”

“We’re the black Cadillac at the top of the hill,” said Fausto. He tossed Dionisio the car keys. “Go on ahead. I’ll get Persephone and catch up with you.”

Dionisio nodded. He walked through the crowd. Fausto tried to help Persephone to her feet.

She slapped his face.

“Fuck you, Fausto, why’d you throw me off there?!”

“I didn’t throw you off anything!”

“Then why’d you laugh?!”

A firework burst with a flash of blue.

“Come on, Seph, give me your hand.” said Fausto.

Persephone jumped into Fausto’s arms. He caught her.

“Carry me... I’m dizzy. I’m tired, and you did this to me, Fausto,” she said. “I told you I didn’t want to drink.”

Fausto shuffled through the dancing bodies with Persephone in his arms. Her face pressed against his chest. Her arms clung to his neck. Fausto walked out of the club. Sweat rolled down his face. They reached the top of the dirt road. Fausto set persephone down. Three men in boots and black cowboy hats looked through the Cadillac’s open trunk, across the street.

“Wait,” said Persephone.

Fausto walked towards the men.

“What you doing there, hard-chargers?” Fausto closed the distance between them. A Cadillac Escalade idled in the shadows of an alley, in the background.

“Que quiere este güey?” said the man with the seabag.

Fausto gripped the man’s hand.

“That’s my father’s.”

It happened in a blur. Persephone screamed. The first man ran off, his arm bent grotesquely backwards. The second man crawled away from Fausto. Blood poured from a hole on the side of the man’s head. He scrambled to his feet and ran into the night.

Cowboy hats littered the ground.

Fausto crouched in the street behind the Cadillac. His knee pressed into the remaining cowboy’s throat, beneath the bumper of the vehicle.

“Fausto, stop!” said Persephone. She ran.

Fausto pressed his thumbs against the man’s eyelids. His nostrils flared.

A human ear lay in the dirt beside Fausto’s knee. Fausto blinked at the sight of it.

“Fausto!”

Persephone threw her arms around him. She pulled. Fausto sprang to his feet.

“Goddamnit!” he said. “What’s wrong with you people?” His eyes widened. Fausto looked around. He breathed through his teeth.

The remaining cowboy ran down the hill towards Nikki Beach. “Motherfuckers. What the fuck’s wrong with you?!” said Fausto.

“Fausto!” said Persephone. She rolled the seabag into the Cadillac’s trunk and slammed the door shut. “Get in the car.”

Fausto climbed into the passenger’s seat. Persephone drove. The Cadillac fishtailed around the corner in a cloud of dust. The moon shone overhead. Headlights illuminated Persephone’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Faust looked back. Dionisio was passed out cold in the backseat. His linen shirt  was rolled up, exposing his stomach. A syringe hung from a swollen injection site beneath his navel.

Fausto’s lips puckered up, like a fish, but he couldn’t find the words.

“Ay, Dionisio,” said Persephone, “you could have at least helped us, cabrón.”

Dionisio smiled. He moaned. “Their black hats, they were freaking me out, so I stayed here.” His accent was even thicker.

“Want to secure that syringe there, hard-charger?” said Fausto. He pointed to his arm.

“Oh, god. How embarrassing is this?” said Dionisio. “It’s not what it looks like, Fausto, not really.”

“Really?” said Fausto.

“Nothing in the Baja is, Fausto, never.” He removed the syringe from his skin and rolled his shirt down.


“How do you know my name?”

“I’m psychic,” said Dionisio.

“I introduced you two at Nikki Beach,” said Persephone.

Fausto nodded. Persephone turned onto the same dirt road from before. Dionisio’s house sat at the top of the incline. “Easy there, Seph.” Fausto reached for the steering wheel. “Maybe I should just-” Persephone rolled her eyes.

She floored the gas.

Dionisio laughed.

<p style="text-align: center;">

****


          July 4        
Woke up early for a trail run up Millcreek Canyon.
Breakfast at our house with all our trail running friends was pancakes and fixings.
Spent the afternoon at Steiners for some pool time.
That night we BBQed at a friend's house and then walked over to Sugarhouse for the firework show. Another friend's house for a street show with Courtney's fireworks.
Midnight corn hole matches before we went home.
So nice to have Teen and Lindsay in town for the holiday weekend.

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          Japanese study 2015 recap        
Wow, is the year almost over already AGAIN?! I’m just getting older and older and seeming to accomplish less and less. I guess I’m playing games too much as usual. Some words I learned from my twitter account. Firework trivia … Continue reading
          Kate Nash review – spry confessionals from pop prizefighter        

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
On a self-funded tour to mark 10 years since her No 1 debut album, Kate Nash is as physical a performer as she is on Netflix wrestling drama Glow

It’s not every day you see “no crowdsurfing” signs deployed around Edinburgh’s genteel Queen’s Hall. But a sold-out visit from Kate Nash – DIY pop star, TV wrestling queen and veteran creator of millennial vignettes – is occasion enough. With an expectant audience crammed tight against the stage, there is a nervy crackle in the air.

This self-funded tour is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Nash’s platinum-selling debut Made of Bricks. That No 1 album had its release date brought forward to capitalise on her summer 2007 ubiquity, fuelled by MySpace, some smart major-label promotion and endless comparisons to Lily Allen. Nash’s firework rise seemed to chime with the immediacy of her songs, conspiratorial snapshots that, as well as being spry and melodic, had a forthrightness that was both refreshing and relatable.

Continue reading...
          Fourth of July Can Mean Increased Chance of Auto Accidents in Florida        
The Fourth of July can be a time of great fun with family and friends. People typically get together to barbecue, spend time with one another, and watch firework displays. The celebrations often require people to drive. Many families go on road trips to meet up with loved ones. Unfortunately, the Fourth of July weekend […]
          New Bedford Fireworks Save My Fourth Of July [VIDEO]        
After last night's debacle at UMass Dartmouth, and today's Fourth of July festivities, my wife and I decided to check out the firework display in downtown New Bedford at the harbor, and we were quite pleased. Continue reading…
          Top 10 Sensational Drone Videos        
10. Inside A Firework Show https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=67&v=a9KZ3jgbbmIVideo can’t be loaded: Fireworks filmed with a drone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=67&v=a9KZ3jgbbmI) 9. Best Drone Surf Video https://vimeo.com/83187924 Video can’t be loaded: Pipeline Winter 2013 (https://vimeo.com/83187924) 8. Niagara Waterfalls https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=98&v=cfoLYTKObiUVideo can’t be loaded: DJI Phantom – Niagara Falls (https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=98&v=cfoLYTKObiU) 7. Inside Chernobyl https://vimeo.com/112681885 Video can’t be loaded: Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl (https://vimeo.com/112681885) 6. Burning Man Festival https://vimeo.com/106057991 Video can’t be loaded: Burning Man 2014 by Drone (https://vimeo.com/106057991) 5. Inside a Burning Vulcano https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=55&v=0-shWVW1UBcVideo can’t be loaded: Dji Phantom flies into Volcano (https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=55&v=0-shWVW1UBc) 4. Koh Yao Noi https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=193&v=lRC-8pCCCysVideo can’t be loaded: GoPro: Koh Yao Noi – a film
          Taking Photos of Fireworks | What You Should Know        

Taking Photos of Fireworks Made Easy

Fourth of July is here again. With it, many (if not all) of you have aspirations of taking photos of fireworks this year. Here are some tricks I use to capture fireworks photos. Hope you find them helpful…

Ready? Here we go…

No doubt, you have read several articles on how different photographers shoot fireworks. Keep in mind this is more art than it is science and all of these articles (mine included) are starting points. Beginner or seasoned pro. use what information makes sense to you, and then adapt it to make it your own.

For most, the style of fireworks shots you are aiming for will require a long exposure. In doing so, you capture the trails of light emitted from the fireworks. When taking photos of fireworks using this style, here is the essential gear you will need: A good tripod, a cable release or remote trigger, a working knowledge of how to operate your camera, and (because it is dark out) a headlamp (headlamps with red lights are the best, as they don’t affect your night vision).

Now for the good news/bad news (depending on your point of view)… to get the best results you are going to need to shoot in manual. I know… I know… some of you are freaking out. But trust me, fireworks is one of those times where you want to turn your camera’s “ Hal “ off. For those of you who are not 2001 A Space Odyssey fans, you want to sincerely thank your camera for tying its best to keep you from making a bad photo, and just let you take the manual controls.

As a reminder, any photograph is built on three legs: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. As a starting point (and nothing more), here is what I recommend when taking photos of fireworks… Aperture between 8 and 12 (I typically like f10) and shutter speed around 4 seconds. Depending on your location and light conditions, you will need to adjust your ISO appropriately. ISO 200 is a good starting point, but keep in mind you may have to made adjustments on the fly.

If Manual mode really freaks you out, you can shoot on Shutter Priority and set your ISO to Auto. I do not recommend this but it is an option.

If you have the ability to shoot on Bulb mode, do it. This will allow you to better sync your shutter release more closely with the firing of the shells in the mortars. You may have to tweak your aperture and ISO setting based on this. Timing can make or break your fireworks photography experience.

Because of the general nature of a long shutter speed, you do not want to be touching your camera (even depressing the shutter) when taking photos of fireworks. If you have a cable release, use it. If you do not, try using the built in timer function on your camera. It’s not ideal but better than introducing camera shake into your shots.

In terms of lenses, your mileage will vary based on your location. The closer you are, (typically) the wider you will need to be. I avoid using anything over 200mm. My go to lens for fireworks is my 20-105mm lens that I zoom into about 35-45mm. I like this approach because it accounts for all firework shell sizes. I then crop, in post.

Also, shoot on manual focus. There is not enough light for your camera to know what you want it to focus on. Additionally, it will take precious seconds during the show. Get set up during the day and aim your camera toward the area where the fireworks will be fired from and then lock the focus (probably at or close to infinity).

With the basics lined up, here are a couple more suggestions for taking photos of fireworks…

  • Safety: It’s going to be dark and your adrenaline will be rushing. Keep in mind that safety comes before anything else. Remember your headlamp!
  • Location, location, location: This item cannot be stressed enough. Good fireworks photos have foreground subjects in them. My favorite place in Colorado is a truck rest stop that overlooks a lake. It’s a wonderful spot, which means it's also very popular. I typically arrive 6 hours in advance to get the ideal spot.
  • Bring LOTS of memory cards: Make sure they are formatted and ready to go.
  • A Word About The Finale: Some people love to photograph the finale. I do not. Typically, the finale has way too much smoke for anything to be useful. I have found that when you are taking photos of fireworks, the best shots come toward the beginning.
  • Landscape AND Portrait Orientation: Change your orientation. You’d be amazed at how many people forget this.
  • Charge Your Batteries And Bring Backups: The last thing you want is for your battery to die before the end of the show. Come prepared.
  • Use A Level or in-camera horizon: Photographs that do not have a level horizon annoy me. I put a bubble level in my hot shoe and when I change orientations, I always look to make sure things are level.
  • Leave your flash at home: it won’t help you.
  • Consider underexposing: Your colors will pop a little more with less noise in dark areas.
  • Remember to enjoy yourself: It’s a lot of fun to get some great fireworks shots. But also enjoy the show too.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoy the Fourth this year. Now get out there and go chase the light (and keep the camera on Manual this 4th…).


Extra Credit:

Ok 2 extra credit ideas…

If you are a seasoned pro at taking photos of fireworks, try to shoot them in HDR. That should spice things up!

If you want less light trails and more explosion, cover the lens with a black sheet, cardboard, etc. while the fireworks climb and then remove the sheet to just get the explosion. Bulb mode is highly recommended for this!

OK that’s all. Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July. Pet the nice dog. Throw the Frisbee. Go make some photographs!

I'm looking forward to seeing your images on the Outdoor Photo Gear Flickr Group.

Check out Ted's work on his website, and follow him on Twitter.


          Shark Camouflage in Australia        
This week, we have a final show from Perth in Western Australia. Chris Smith and Victoria Gill find out how camouflage wetsuits might help protect surfers from sharks, hear about a new development in muscular dystrophy treatment, how sea sponges can be used to mend fractures and whether the chemicals that a cell produces just before death can help us reverse the damage caused by stroke. In the news, why money makes the world go round, the comet that will be lighting up the skies in November, the eniromentally green military flares that could result in clearer firework displays and the scientists that have produced the world's most accurate clock.
          Weekend Review        
I love long weekends and hot summer weekends!!


Friday I got off work early and met my sister and did a little shopping. We got Skinny Girl Margaritas and went back to my house to enjoy the cold drink and the warm weather in my back yard. Summer is finally upon us and we were loving it!! Later in the evening, our friend (my best friend from middle school whom I reconnected with via Facebook) came over to join us. Eventually we ended up out to dinner and going to the movies. We saw Bad Teacher and I must say I was seriously disappointed. My sister even fell asleep. I wanted it to be good and the previews make it look hilarious, but it was not.


Saturday morning my sis and I hit up some major garage sales. We had such a good time trying to find a good deal. My sis got some great items and I got two pieces of furniture for $50 total. I am really excited to refinish the desk I got for my craft room so I can actually get my craft stuff of the floor. After hitting up a lot of garage sales and sales at the mall, we ate dinner and parted ways. Since Mr. Pickle was out of town (for a BBQ Competition) I rented a chick flick, invited over a friend, opened a bottle of wine and relaxed (and did laundry). We ended up talking through the whole movie (No Strings Attached), but I was fine with it because it was good to catch up and the movie only cost $1 to rent.


Sunday morning my sis, grandpa and I headed to Rancho Cordova to meet up with the boys at their BBQ competition. I was about 107* outside and their booth was right in the sun, but we still had fun. The boys did really good too. They got 10th place overall (out of 38 teams)...5th in chicken (got to walk and trophy), 8th in brisket (got called), 13th in ribs and 26th in pork. This is great no only because they were up against teams that are on the Pit Masters show and have been doing this for YEARS (this is the boys' first year in this division), but also because they were one member short (due to a death in the family). So proud!! The rest of the night was spent cooling off, cleaning up and resting. Plus, there were tons of firework shows that I could see from our window/front yard. I love fireworks!!


My sis and I enjoying the band at the BBQ Comp


Cowboys


These guys were dressed up as Ghostbusters (they were advertising a Haunted House or something)


Me and Grandpa



Mr. & Mrs. Pickle


Starvin Marvins BBQ Team (minus Missouri Mike)


Trophy for Chicken


Showing off the trophy


Monday Mr. Pickle and I went to breakfast and then shopping for the BBQ we were having later on. We ended up hanging by the pool in the afternoon and BBQing with friends back at our house in the evening. When it got dark enough, we all moved to the front yard to watch the fireworks. Such a great way to end the weekend, although after all that, I could have used one more day :)



          Eat up!        
I finally got to go to my first firework show of the season yesterday. This one was a big one too! We made a BarBQ out of it.

Here in Japan, regular BBQ sauce (American style) simply doesn't exist. So, on trips to America I am always sure to pick up a few bottles. So yesterday, we carry all this stuff out (2 small grills, chicken wings and legs, pork ribs, marinated beef, family recipe kababs, a hell of a lot of drinks...) and set up. We got there at about 11am and my girlfriend and I sit in the sun with no shade for a few hours waiting for people to show up. Eventually they do. We set up the grill and an official comes over and says, "Your cooler is far too small, so you will have to dispose of my body by some other means." (What he really said is, "You can't BBQ here.") This is after hand carrying about one hundred pounds of stuff by hand over bus, train, and a heck of a lot of walking.

So, we go over the hill and set up there. News comes that this is no good too. So, we pull out the secret weapon: E. Her name is longer, but we will identify her as agent E. E has the ultimate weapon combination: a killer look and a sexy voice. She talks to the official a minute or too and says we have no where else to go. Permission is granted! (She's just got a weird voodoo power. She doesn't have to do anything, it's just a mind job. Space like: The female of the species is more deadly than the male...)

So, the BarBQ goes off great. Many of the Japanese had never had American style BarBQ before. The two kids (three and five) really liked it. I ended up giving the extra bottle to the father. (To make it sound dramatic, preceed the previous sentence with "In a drunken rage".) Since I was cooking, sadly, I did not bring my camera. One of the guys (the father actually) had his Pentax digital SLR and I got to try it out. Nice feel to it! I hope he will send me some of the pictures I took of the fireworks. The fireworks are wonderful and the show was about 1 hour long.

One thing I should remember for next time though... Since it was going to be very hot, I work a tighter fitting running shirt. But, regularly wearing T-shirts outside has given me a nice farmers tan. Some of my shock white upper arm was exposed. Though lathered in spf 50, it just didn't stand up to the sun. Now, I have Neapolitan arms brownish on the bottom, pink in the middle, white on top. Strawberry stings a bit, but mostly it's just funny looking. Maybe I should find one of my long sleeves...
          One for America!        
I was just reading an article on Forbes Magazine (on-line) and there was an article called The Year's Best Coupes. Now, it's no secret that I am into cars, so, I decided what the good people, and by good I mean very rich people, at Forbes magazine think are good cars.

Predictably, there are many very expensive cars. In fact, the first car mentioned is the Bentley Continental GT as "Best coupe for flaunting your wealth, tastefully". Tastefully starts at the tune of $171,285. So the parade begins showing cars that range in price from the oh-so-cheap Infiniti G35 ($33,700 and up) to the national economy of some small islands.

But one grabbed my attention: the 3rd cheapest on the list. Not much was said about this car. Only a few lines that basically said, "If you like American cars and you really can't spend $150,000 plus on the Ford-GT, then you could get this... I guess...". It was the Corvette.

But the Italian cars? Gush gush gush. For example, I learned that the Ferrari F430 "looks beautiful" and will present "the most engaging driving experience you can have in a street-legal car". Emphasis was placed on its "terrifying" 0-60mph time also.

Ah, but the dream...

And now I present, in full factual status, a salute to America:

Ferrari F430

Base Price: $163,845 (tested at over $205K!)
0-60mph: 3.9sec
0-100mph: 8.6sec
Top Speed: 195mph
Quarter mile: 12.0sec

Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Base Price: $65,800
0-60mph: 3.7sec
0-100mph: 7.9sec
Top Speed: 198mph
Quarter mile: 11.5sec

What to do with the spare $100,000? I think I'll buy a big 'ol America flag and a giant firework show.

Oh say can you see?

(sources: Forbes.com, Fast-autos.net, Motor Trend)
          "Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science" by Richard Dawkins        
Oxford Zoology Professor Richard Dawkins is finishing up a whirlwind book tour through the U.S., addressing sold-out venues of free-thinking fans who flock to him as much for his sermons on Reason and Science as they do for a signature on his memoirs.

One of Richard's favorite stops is always Kepler's Bookstore in Menlo Park, where I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard about his memoirs before a crowd that sold out four weeks in advance. Richard graceed his audience by reading several excerpts I selected -- chosen to give a sense for his writing but, like any good trailer, not to reveal crucial plot lines.

So rather than write a review of the book (which the NY Times and Guardian have already done quite well) I'm here to share a little preview of the story, which covers the second half of Richard's illustrious life so far. With this taste of the book, you can relish how Richard crafts every message with subtle detail and humor that, in Silicon Valley parlance, delights the user.

The first excerpt gives a glimpse into life at the hallowed institution of Oxford University, featuring brilliant but eccentric personalities who mix profound wisdom with the backseat bickering of children.  As Richard recounts his unwelcome rotation as Sub-Warden, the setting seems less like Oxford and more like Hogwart's.
Although the Sub-Warden doesn’t have to seat people and their guests (as the presiding fellow does in some other colleges), he is expected to beam the role of genial host at dessert. I did my best, but there was one awkward evening. As I was helping people to find their seats I became aware, from a sort of ominous rumbling, that all was not well. Sir Michael Dummett, immensely distinguished philosopher, Wykeham Professor of Logic in succession to Freddie Ayer, stickler for grammar, conscientious and passionate campaigner against racism, world authority on card games and voting theory, was also famously choleric. When angered he would go even more than usually white, which somehow seemed – though this may be my fevered imagination – to make his eyes glow a menacing red. Pretty terrifying . . . and it was my duty as Sub-Warden to try to sort out whatever this problem was. 
The rumble grew to a roar. ‘I have never been so insulted in my life. You have the most atrocious manners. You obviously must be an Etonian.’ The target of this damning sally was not me, thank goodness, but our quirkily brilliant classical historian, Robin Lane Fox. Robin was hopping with anxiety and bewildered apology: ‘But what have I done? What have I done?’ I didn’t immediately succeed in discovering what the problem was, but in my hostly role I saw to it that the two of them were seated as far from each other as possible. I later learned the full story. It had begun at lunchtime that day. Lunch is an informal, self-service meal and fellows sit where they like, although it is conventional to fill up the tables in order. Robin noticed that a new fellow was hesitantly looking for a place. He courteously motioned her to sit, but unfortunately the chair he indicated was the very chair for which Sir Michael was heading himself. The perceived slight rankled, simmered up through the afternoon and finally boiled over after dinner at dessert. The story had a happier ending, as Robin told me when I asked him recently. A couple of days after that distressing incident, he was approached by Professor Dummett who offered the most gracious apology, saying that there was nobody in the college whom he would less wish to insult than Robin. Thank goodness I was never the target of his ire, although I might have been vulnerable as he was a devout Roman Catholic with the zeal of the convert.
Here is a memory of Richard's biogeographic expedition to Barro Colorado Island in Panama with John Maynard Smith:
This party was also memorable because of the firework display on a huge ship passing through the canal just beyond the trees. Actually falsely memorable, because for years I have been utterly convinced that we saw in not just a new year but a new decade: 1 January 1980. So detailed and full were my recollections of ‘seeing the new decade in’, it took multiple documentary evidence, kindly sent me by Ira Rubinoff, Ragavendra Gadagkar and Nancy Garwood, to finally convince me that what I had thought to be a crystal clear memory was faulty. It was actually 1 January 1981, not 1980. I was quite shaken to discover this, because it made me worry how many other clear memories actually never happened (and the reader of my memoir is, I suppose, duly warned). 
The dreamlike presence of large tankers deep in the jungle was one of the most vivid memories I took away from the place. On several afternoons I had joined the resident scientists swimming off a raft, and it was a surreal experience to see those gigantic vessels gliding calmly, and surprisingly quietly, through the still, clear water, just a few yards away behind the trees. Some of the women scientists liked to sunbathe, and I couldn’t help wondering what the tanker crews thought about the undraped feminine pulchritude diving off the raft deep in the jungle. If those mariners were Greek, did they think Sirens; or if German, Lorelei? Or – peering through the lush tropical vegetation – did they see a vision of Eve’s innocence before the Fall? They had no way of knowing that these tropic nymphs had PhDs in science from some of the top universities in America.
Among my favorite passages is RIchard's recollection of the BBC-televised Christmas Lectures, an annual lecture series for children replete with physical demonstrations. Michael Faraday had launched the London tradition and the honor on has since passed on to the greatest science educators like Carl Sagan, Sir David Attenborough, and Richard.
One agreeable and unanticipated feature of the Christmas Lectures was that the very name was a golden key to unlock goodwill whichever way I turned. ‘You want to borrow an eagle? Well, that’s difficult, I honestly don’t see how we can realistically, I mean do you seriously expect… Oh, you’re giving the Royal institution Christmas lectures? Why didn’t you say so before. Of course. How many eagles do you need?’  
 â€˜You want an MRI Scan of your brain? Well, who is your doctor, have you been referred to the MRI department on the National Health Service? Or are you going privately? Do you have health insurance? Have you any idea how expensive MRI scans are, and how long the waiting list?... Oh, you’re doing the Christmas lectures? Well, of course, that’s different. I’m sure I can slip you into a research run, no questions asked. Can you come to the radiography department on Tuesday during the lunch hour?’
 By just dropping the name of the Christmas lectures, I managed to borrow an electron microscope (big, heavy, and transported at the lender’s expense), a complete virtual reality system, an owl, an eagle, a magnified circuit diagram of a computer chip, a baby, and a jactitating Japanese robot capable of climbing walls like a much enlarged, ponderously hissing gecko.  
 I chose, as the overall title of my series of five lectures, Growing Up in the Universe. I meant ‘growing up’ in three senses: first, the evolutionary sense of lice growing up on our planet; second, the historical sense of humanity’s growing out of superstition and towards a naturalistic, scientific apprehension of reality; and third, the growing up of each individual’s understanding, from childhood to adulthood.
It was a tradition to call up volunteers from among the children, which is what Richard proposed to do in preparation for an experiment that involved injecting a human eye.
This being the Christmas Lectures, the next thing to do was to call for a volunteer . . . I produced a huge veterinary hypodermic syringe, fit to sedate a rhinoceros, and asked who would like to take part in the experiment. Normally, the children at the Royal Institution Lectures fall over themselves in their eagerness to assist in demonstrations. Surely nobody would volunteer in this case, and I was about to reassure everyone that it was only a joke when one little girl of seven, probably the youngest in the audience, hesitantly raised her hand. It was my darling daughter Juliet, sitting shyly by her mother. I still choke up a little at the memory of her uncomprehending loyalty and courage in the face of the monstrous hypodermic that I was brandishing.
When Richard does call up a volunteer, it turns out to be a plant -- his friend Douglass Adams. Later in the story he recounts how Douglass introduced Richard to his current wife, Lalla, to whom Richard dedicated the book.
This was 1992, when Douglas Adams reached his fortieth birthday, and his party was memorable for a particular reason. It was there that he introduced me to the actress Lalla Ward, whom he had known from the days when Doctor Who was at its wittiest because he was the script editor and she and Tom Baker gave added value to the wit by their inventively ironic playing of the two leading roles. At the birthday party, Lalla was talking to Stephen Fry when Douglas led me over and introduced us. Douglas and Stephen are both absurdly much taller than Lalla and me, so it was natural that we should find ourselves facing each other under a Gothic arch formed by Douglas and Stephen as they exchanged lofty witticisms high above us. Through the archway I shyly offered to refill Lalla’s glass, and when I returned we rapidly reached agreement that the party was too noisy for conversation. ‘I suppose, by any faint chance, it wouldn’t just possibly be a good idea to go out for a quick meal and – of course – return later?’ We discreetly slipped away and found an Afghan restaurant off the Marylebone Road.  
That Lalla had read The Selfish Gene and watched my Christmas Lectures was gratifying. That she had read The Extended Phenotype (and Darwin) as well was too good to be borne. I subsequently discovered that, in addition to Doctor Who’s companion, she had played a beautiful Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC TV production, and was also a talented and versatile artist, published author and book illustrator. As I said, too good to be borne. We didn’t return to the party.  
I mentioned to Lalla that I was about to embark on my American journey, having added to the itinerary a visit to John Brockman. She said she was about to set off for a holiday in Barbados, with a girlfriend from the theatrical world. Impulsively she asked if I would take her to America with me, although it would mean letting down her friend in Barbados. Equally impulsively I agreed.  
Slight embarrassments then opened up. I was due to stay with Dan and Susan Dennett on first arriving in Boston, and later with the Brockmans in Connecticut. In both cases one house guest was expected, not two. How could I broach the subject? Lalla and I fretted that our hosts would ask – it is, after all a perfectly normal question to ask of a couple – ‘How long have you known each other?’ and we would have had to answer, ‘A week.’ As it turned out, they didn’t ask, and it was only years later that Lalla confessed to Dan the truth. ‘Really?’ said Dan, with possibly mock innocence. ‘I thought you’d known each other for years.’
In this excerpt, Richard recounts some of the backlash he faced from his most successful and controversial book God Delusion:
Opposition from religious apologists was predictable, and I’ve already mentioned the flea books. But attacks came, too, from fellow atheists, sometimes in outspokenly belligerent terms. One well-reputed reviewer went so far as to say that The God Delusion made him ashamed to be an atheist. His reason seemed to be that I didn’t take ‘serious’ theologians seriously. I dealt fully with those theological arguments that purport to support the existence of a deity. But I was entirely right not to bother with those that assume the existence of a deity as a starting point and go on from there. 
I have tried but consistently and failed to find anything in theology to be serious about. I certainly take professors of theology seriously when they use their expertise to do things other than theology: jigsaw the fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls, for instance; or minutely compare Hebrew and Greek texts of scriptures, or sleuth out the lost sources of the four gospels and the other gospels that didn’t make it into the canon. That’s all genuine scholarship, fascinating to read and deserving of respect. It’s even true that historians need to study theological logic-chopping in order to understand the disputes and wars that have stained European history, for example the English Civil Wars. But the vacuous deepities (Dan Dennett’s splendid word) of ‘apophatic theology’ (Karen Armstrong’s obscurantist smokescreen), or the expenditure of precious time arguing with other theologians over the precise ‘significance for us today’ of Original Sin, Transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, or the ‘mystery’ (sorry, ‘Mystery’) of the Trinity, none of that is scholarship in any respectable sense of the word, and it should have no place in our universities. 
Theological gymnastics over the ‘significance for us today’ of nonsensical ideas from the past like transubstantiation lend themselves to satire – positively beg for it. A gem that I recently met: ‘Of course we don’t literally believe the story of Jonah and the whale. But it is symbolic of Jesus’ death and resurrection . . .’ Suppose science worked like that. Suppose that (to take a most unlikely hypothetical) future scientists were to find that Watson and Crick were completely wrong, and the genetic molecule is not a double helix at all. ‘Ah well, of course nowadays we no longer literally believe in the double helix. But what is the significance of the double helix for us today? The way the two helices twine intimately around one another, though not literally true in the crude, materialistic sense, nevertheless symbolizes mutual love, don’t you feel? The precise, one-to-one pairing of purines with pyrimidine is not literally true, nothing so crude as that, but it stands for . . . When you contemplate the Watson–Crick model, don’t you get an overwhelming feeling – I know I do – . . . etc. etc.
The book features many wonderful cameos in by Richard Leakey, Francis Crick, Chris Hitchens, and so many other great thinkers. For the final excerpt, here are Richard's impressions of Carolyn Porco.
Carolyn came to visit us in Oxford, and has been friends with Lalla and me ever since. She is a planetary scientist, in charge of NASA’s Cassini imaging team – the team that has brought us those stunning pictures sent back from Saturn and its many moons. But she is more than just a good scientist; she is inspired by the poetry of science, especially the romance of the spheres that share our sun. She is the nearest approach I know to a female Carl Sagan, a poet of the planets and singer of the stars. Whether or not the heroine of the book Contact was actually modelled on her, it is a fact that Carl Sagan invited her to be the character consultant on the film version. The scene where Ellie first hears the unmistakable communication from far space still gives me goose bumps when I think of it. The slender, clever young woman, woken up by the mind-shattering signal, bouncing back to base in her open car, exultantly yelling the celestial coordinates into the intercom for her dozing assistants: numbers, numbers, the spine-tingling poetry of those numbers and their arc-second precision. And how poetically right that the hero of the numbers should have been a woman. A role model, just like Carolyn. 
An anecdote displays the poetry of Carolyn, and I related it in the Oxford Playhouse when introducing her Simonyi Lecture. A beloved professor from her days at Caltech was the geologist Eugene Shoemaker, co-discoverer, with his wife and David Levy, of the famous Shoemaker–Levy comet. A pioneer of astrogeology, Shoemaker was part of the Apollo space programme. He was in the running to be the first geologist on the moon, but to his sad regret had to drop out for health reasons, and he turned to training astronauts instead of being one. In 1997 Shoemaker was killed in a car crash in Australia. Carolyn, in her grief, raced into action. She knew that NASA was about to launch an unmanned craft, which was programmed to crash-land on the moon after its mission was accomplished. She managed to persuade the mission manager, as well as the head of the planetary exploration programme at NASA, to add her teacher’s ashes to the spacecraft’s payload. Gene Shoemaker’s ambition to be an astronaut was denied him in life, but his ashes now lie on the moon’s surface where no wind stirs them (it is said that Neil Armstrong’s footprints are almost certainly still intact), and with a photographic engraving bearing these words that Carolyn chose, from Romeo and Juliet: 
      . . . and, when he shall die  
      Take him and cut him out in little stars, 
      And he will make the face of heaven so fine 
      That all the world will be in love with night, 
      And pay no worship to the garish sun. 
I have dined out on that story from time to time, but I usually cannot manage to recite the Shakespeare, and turn to Lalla to rescue me. When she speaks the lines from memory in her beautiful voice, I think I am not the only one around the table to choke up. 

Richard takes a break from book signings to appear on Bill Maher with Neil dGrasse Tyson


                  

Thanatophobia and everlasting darkness at diwali, the festival of lights.

I suffer from thanatophobia and have done so all my life. In my teens it kept me awake most nights. I feel very ashamed of this phobia. I live my life in total awe of those who manage to get on with life while not screaming internally: "don't panic, don't panic," like Jonesy in Dad's Army. The idea that I won't be there, there will be no me one day is a tragedy I just cannot get beyond.  I realise this means I have a towering ego, especially as I do so little to deserve an immortal place in the world, but I have tried every day of my life to stop taking it all so seriously  and have never succeeded. I think it is totally amazing that we don't all cluster in a huddle at work and cry together about it. But, believe me, it is tedious to live ones life as a series of last moments. 

I sometimes think that I got into the habit of flagellating myself about death as a means of whipping myself into some kind of action to create something lasting.  I seem to remember the phobia starting just before I got to my teens- about nine- when I discovered that Michelangelo spent years painting the Sistine Chapel. Around then I decided my life would be wasted if I didn't at least try to create something before I died. Dying without an everlasting achievement became a Really Bad Idea. But thanatophobia has been a total failure in terms of propelling me into creativity. There I have been, hanging on a thread a spittle in the jaws of death for the last forty years or so, and the best I have come up with is a couple of hair and cosmetic commercials. And one would have thought that if I was so scared of dying I would take better care of myself. 

Having a child has changed the phobia. To start with it made it considerably more real. I now have a genuine fear of dying that is laced with guilt. I took X away from potentially younger parents. To become close to one old person and then that person die would be Very Bad for her. In an attempt to absolve this guilt I rewrite my will about once a year, I have life insurance to make sure she will have plenty of money, should I die, and I harrange my close friends and family on a regular basis about how I would like her to be looked after in an 'emergency'. I have a feeling that adopting a child, even when in a pair, makes this attitude more common. We are taught to consider wills and what will happen to our adoptive children, should we die, before we have even got them.  I admit it, I am slightly obsessive about 'emergency' situations. with long notes to schools, minders and close friends about where, who and how X would be best off in the immediate days after I am knocked down by a bus. 

On the other hand, for the first time since a teenager, the fear has modified. I now enjoy every single day just for little things. I can almost live with the fact that I won't leave behind an act of greatness as she will still be in the world. It no longer bothers me there won't be a me one day as there will be a her. I am not sure why this makes up for it as it isn't as if she is 'a part of me', there being no genetic link. It is not logical at all, but - hey- why break the habit of a lifetime? My first boyfriend said it was impossible to quarrel with me: he just couldn't follow the logic of the argument. 

I've been thinking about all this because of what happened on saturday. The day started serenely making goulish halloween lanterns with X's half sister and her mother. The evening was set to be the very opposite of dark-death phobia. We went to a diwali party: a party for the 'festival of lights'. The house was lit from top to toe with shimmering candles, the women were in colourful saris, we were all given Indian stoles to wear. There was fragrant Indian food, a lavish firework display. I was with people I adore. All was full of golden light. I sat eating supper next to a lady a little older than me who I didn't know. She was clearly intelligent, a spinster who had no family, I guessed - rightly-  a friend of the host. We spoke a little about our host, who had made a big decision a couple of years ago, to move from Notting Hill to North London to live with my Indian friend. I mused how sometimes big life decisions can sometimes actually be good. "That's interesting," said the lady, "as I made a big life decision today. I signed the papers for Dignitas. I should be off before Christmas."

Forgetting death for a moment, there are some moments in life that one hopes one will cope with as they are the mark of who you are. The real me. There is a moment in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant's sister meets the famous actress played by Julia Roberts and she says she knows this is a moment when she should be cool and she is so, so going to fail and then she gets so overexcited about meeting the star that she forgets to leave when she shows her the way to the loo.

And there was me, in a life-defining moment like this thinking about Notting Hill. Anyway, I hope I didn't fail this moment. I tried not to. I shut out the thoughts squealing in my inner ear and tried to ask logical questions one after another and to actually talk to the lady, as I think this is what she wanted. Se was frighteningly clever and confident, having been a senior producer of famous BBC programmes for her career. She poo-poo-ed religion and therapy so maybe just talking to a stranger, even one as stupid as me, was better than nothing. I lived with her the moments she found the lump in her breast, the problems with her siblings going with her to die. I tried not to run away until I thought I might be sick or faint, especially when she coughed. 

I spent the rest of the weekend alternately feeling overwhelmed with fear and sorrow for this brave lady and then wondering why she chose me to share her news. I  felt the stench of death upon me. I was glad that X kept me busy with ordinary little day-to -day things. 
















          Teens wanted for blasting through Wendy’s in fireworks prank        
Police in Broward County, Florida, are searching for a group of teenage boys who pulled off an alarming prank just after the Fourth of July. On Wednesday, the Broward Sheriff’s Office released surveillance footage from the night of the July 5 incident, in which an unidentified suspect tosses a lit firework into the Wendy’s restaurant...
          Dog And Cat Wallpapers        
Source(google.com.pk)
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers Biography
Dog and Cat is an American television series that aired on ABC on Saturday night at 10:00 p.m Eastern time in 1977.Lou Antonio played Sgt. Jack Ramsey, an undercover detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, who found himself teamed with a very green partner named J.Z. Kane (Kim Basinger). Together they formed a relationship based on friendship and trust (completely platonic) that led to them capturing many of L.A.'s criminals. Lieutenant Arthur Kipling (Matt Clark) was their boss.
"Dog and Cat" is a slang term used by police officers to denote a male-female partnership. The show is especially remembered for the car that Kim Basinger used in the series: a souped- up Volkswagen Beetle with a Porsche engine.We are fast approaching the time of year when life as a dog can become quite stressful! With the festivities due to begin shortly, now is the time to act and prevent stress occurring before it happens.
KEEPING CALM
Traditionally there are a handful of techniques used to keep your dog (and cats!) calm during stressful situations such as during the New Year firework displays. These traditional methods can be split into six main categories:Stop what you are doing right now and make sure your dog has tags and your cat has a tear-away collar.  The cat’s collar is to let someone know that cat has a home.  They should be micro-chipped with up-to-date registration information.
Why?
The upcoming holiday season is hazardous to your dogs and cats.  They are at an increased risk of loss.  You have people coming in and out, to visit, to party, or to deliver packages.  This is the number one time of year for animals to get lost.

Your favorite aunt from the East Coast may casually say, “Your cat wanted out, so I let him out.”

That’s right, your inside cat who you battle to keep inside has just been ushered out!

And then there are the fireworks on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. . . .

Some rescuers say that New Year’s Day they see the most lost animals.  Several years in a row, this reporter got calls on Christmas Day from people who had found lapdogs.  Those dogs were all visiting with their families and so were really lost in that they did not know the neighborhood. When visiting with your animal, you can always put tape on their collar with a local phone number -especially if you have no tag or the tag has your landline home phone on it.

How can you diminish the possibility of an animal getting out?
Make sure your guests know which animals are allowed out and through which doors.  Lock your gates so children don’t leave them open.  (It also helps keep track of visiting children if  to leave your yard, they have to go through the house.)
Your friends may want to greet your animals when they arrive at your home, but it is better to keep the dogs and cats in another room until the initial commotion of greetings and carrying in luggage subsides.

Maybe your dog or cat is a party animal, but many are more comfortable not being underfoot and seeing strangers. So if you have a party, consider confining the animals where they can doze instead of stealing holiday cookies.
Follow the same restrictions for nights there are fireworks.  Some dogs will go over, under or through a fence that ordinarily is an impassible barrier.  If your dog hates explosions, put him inside in an interior room.  Turn on some music.  Consider giving him Benadryl.  (Consult your vet for the proper dosage.)  Many people swear by Thunder Shirts which calm a dog by wrapping him tightly about the chest.  Apparently that is a comforting sensation.
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
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Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers
Dog  And Cat Wallpapers

          Firework Frenzy        
Fireworks are flying over London. Miss one firework and it's game over. The quicker you click them, the more points you get.
          Ð¡Ð±Ð¾Ñ€Ð½Ð¸Ðº - Топ чарт №1. Музыка лета (2017) MP3        

Категория: Музыка / Music MP3
Размер: 821.38 MB
Траффик: Раздают (отдают): 6, Скачивают (качают): 12
Добавлен: 2017-08-10 09:34:03
Описание: Информация о музыке
Исполнитель: Сборник
Название альбома: Топ чарт №1. Музыка лета
Год выпуска: 2017
Жанр: Pop

Список композиций:

Файлы
Время звучания: 05:47:12
Формат: MP3
Качество: 256 Кбит/с
          BONFIRE NIGHT: Where to see spectacular firework displays this year        
A FLURRY of fireworks will scatter the skies across the county next week as final preparations take place to make sure the night goes off with a bang.
          Turkey Day Firsts        
Dac and I hosted our first holiday together this Thanksgiving, with his fam...

In our first house. (our family room is pretty much the only room with stuff in it at this point)
Using pretty much any kind of T-giving decor for the first time.
With a meal prepared by lots of great chefs in our first real (non-rental) kitchen. Go, Klanci, go!
Including our first turkey.
Which we ate on our China, used for the first time (other than to eat our wedding cake on our first anniversary). Was pretty excited about the gravy boat. Like our makeshift dining room table? Dac's parents were awesome to bring us a card table to use. (Still haven't found a dining room set we love. Suggestions welcome.) PS: See that hurricane in the middle of the table? My mom introduced me to the fact that a bag of cranberries looks really pretty around a candle for the holidays. Cheap and easy!
Then afterwards we went to our first Plaza Lighting Ceremony. Every Thanksgiving night, our Country Club Plaza has a big celebration leading up to when they "flip the switch" for the Plaza lights to come on for the season. They are beautiful and my fave thing about KC at Christmas time. By the amount of people that turned up it's obviously a tradition for a lot of families in KC to go to this thing.
As soon as the lights came on, they had a pretty awesome firework show that we turned out to be standing in the perfect spot for. Pretty sure those were my first Turkey Day fireworks.
Had to get a pic with the lights (our first of probably many this season).
Thanks for a great weekend McCabes!
Here's to a lot more holiday hosting ahead.



          Fireworks in Rexburg – Where and how to buy them.        

Can you believe that firework stands only opened Monday?? If you want a great display of your own by the 4th, you better get on it! Here is everything you need to...

The post Fireworks in Rexburg – Where and how to buy them. appeared first on Rexburg Online.


          Five 4th of July Ice Cream Desserts [Patriotic Treats]        
Patriotic Ice Cream Sandwiches from Farm Girl Dabbles

There is no better treat for a hot 4th of July than some yummy ice cream and what better way to deliver it to your guests then in a fun patriotic ice cream sandwich.  Farm Girl Dabbles created these yummy ice cream sandwiches with red velvet shortbread cookie stars and cream cheese ice cream.  YUM! 


If you want to take advantage of the delicious, and patriotic, berries available during the summer months, check out these fun berry shortcake ice cream sandwiches from Southern Living.


I love this idea because you can take vanilla ice cream sandwiches right out of the box and dress them up!

If you love the idea but want to use homemade ice cream like these delicious  red, white, and blue ice cream sandwiches from Taste and Tell:


 you can make your own sandwiches with this fun ice cream sandwich maker:





If you want to add a little spark to your 4th of July ice cream sandwiches, Apollinas will show you how to make these fun firework ice cream sandwiches.


And if you are looking for something patriotic and easy to put together, grab some red white and blue sprinkles and check out these 4th of July ice cream sandwich pops from Living Locurto.



          Sticky Firework Surprise        
Sticky Firework Surprise Here's how someone runs when you attach fireworks to them without them knowing.

          Retro Encounter 3-1: Final Fantasy Tactics        
Join the Retro Crew as we talk about how amazing Final Fantasy Tactics is! Discussion revolves around our history with the game, how intimidating it is for new players, the best job classes and the differences between the original and War of the Lions versions, It is important to note that with the Fourth of July firework festivities and a myriad of Internet issues, parts of the recording suffer from technical difficulties. Those worried about listening to an entertaining podcast should proceed with caution. Featuring: Josh Curry, Peter Triezenberg, Caitlin Argyros, Marcos Gaspar Questions? Comments? You guy are sick? Email us: retro@rpgfan.com
          Fireworks & fun planned for 4th Fest        
The City of Pasadena will have a 20-minute firework show, scheduled to begin at approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 4 in celebration of Independence Day. The fireworks will be the final activity at the city’s 4th Fest celebration, a free event that will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center and Municipal Fairgrounds (7902 Fairmont).

The 4th Fest begins at 4 p.m., and throughout the day, there will be activities, competitions and entertainment for the whole family. To help beat the heat, the air-conditioned Convention Center will be transformed into a KidZone, full of inflatable bouncers and games for kids.

The event will also feature the USMC Toys for Tots BBQ cook-off, live music by The Powell Brothers, a special patriotic concert performed by the Pasadena Philharmonic, sports, games, a water balloon war zone, and a variety of food and novelty vendors.

The Car and Truck Show will return again this year from 4-6 p.m. and is open to motorcycles, cars and trucks. Participants can register the day of the event for $20. Awards will be given in many different categories at an awards presentation at 5:30 p.m. In addition, the first 100 people registered will receive a special edition calendar, and all participants will have a chance to have their vehicle featured in next year's calendar for the event.

Admission to the 4th Fest is free. For more information about Pasadena’s 4th Fest, visit fun.pasadenatexas.net or call (713) 475-7048.
          4th Fest sparkles as fireworks display caps holiday celebration        
The City of Pasadena will have a 20-minute firework show beginning at 9:15 p.m. on July 4 in celebration of Independence Day. The fireworks will be the final activity at the city’s 4th Fest celebration, a free event that will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center and Municipal Fairgrounds (7902 Fairmont).

The 4th Fest begins at 4 p.m., and throughout the day, there will be activities, competitions and entertainment for the whole family. To help beat the heat, the air-conditioned Convention Center will be transformed into a KidZone, full of inflatable bouncers and games for kids.

The event will also feature the USMC Toys for Tots BBQ cook-off, an exotic bird show, a water balloon war zone, live music by the Brian Evans Band, hayrides and a variety of food and novelty vendors. There will also be athletic competitions throughout the day, including: a tire roll, a water balloon toss, a skillet toss, an egg toss and tennis activities.

The Car and Truck Show will return again this year and, for the first time, is open to motorcycle entries, as well as cars and trucks. Participants can register the day of the event for $20. Awards will be given in many different categories, and the first 100 people registered will receive a special edition calendar. In addition, the first 50 car show participants will get a commemorative dash plaque, the first 100 motorcycle participants will get a limited-edition, custom bandana. And by participating, vehicle owners will also have a chance to have their vehicle featured in next year's calendar for the event.

Admission to the 4th Fest is free. For more information about Pasadena’s 4th Fest, visit fun.pasadenatexas.net or call (713) 475-7048.
          Irrational takes a legendary name to the skies...        

 

 

Bioshock Infinite

"Irrational takes a legendary name to the skies..."

 

Platforms:

 

PS3, Xbox 360, PC

 

Creator/Producer:

 

Irrational Games

 

ESRB Rating:

 

Mature

 

Genre:

 

First Person Shooter

 

 

 

Back when the first Bioshock launched in 2008, it was quickly recognized as one of the greatest and most influential games of the generation, its name still holding up today. I too, consider Bioshock perhaps one of the greatest first person shooters ever create, thanks to its dark and highly original location of Rapture, the big daddies, and the excellent and innovative combat. Fast forward to 2013, the last year of this current generation, and Irrational Games seeks out to provide yet another achievement seen in gaming history. Do they succeed with something better then the first Bioshock? Or do they fall behind and craft something that is only just great. Lets find out. 

 

Concept:

Perhaps one of the greatest concepts I ever seen, even rivaling the first Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite delivers. Irrational games yet again blows us away with the brand new beautiful city in the sky known as Columbia. Representing an alternate America, Columbia comes off as a more impressionable world then the first Bioshock's rapture, with art style that Adam Sessler stated in his review "numbing" which I whole heartedly agree. Columbia is perhaps one of the greatest locations ever created in the boundaries of the game world, and its inhabitants and products of destruction (the vigores) are ever bit as memorable. From the intimidating and daunting Song Bird, to the Handymen, to the George Washington mechs, Bioshock Infinite boasts a much broader variation of spectacular foes over then the first Bioshock's small number. The vigors, which are this games iteration of Plasmids, provide just as much as fun and variation as the first Bioshock's, and also giving opportunities that allow for combat never before seen in gaming. From murderous crows you dispatch from your hands, to possession to the ultra fun shock jockey, all these vigores are upgrade-able, and in the later stages of the game, can reach levels of devastation so high, you will forget your sense of maturity and will feel like a 5 year old again pretending to be a super hero. And let me mention again that the city of Columbia is just gorgeous. 

 

Bioshock is one of the greatest universes created, and Bioshock Infinite just adds to that, making what was already great, even that much greater.  

 

Score- 10

 

 

 

Controls:

Bioshock Infinite handles very well, on the line with triple-a shooters such as Battlefield 3. Players will have the smoothest controls, and the aiming reticule is one of the best I have had in a game. You can literally play the whole game without ever using iron sights once, just to give you an idea. Sky hook controls handle well enough for such as complex gaming system, and navigation is as simple as any other first person shooter: Walk forward and shoot straight. Searching and looting items from around the game world is as easy as pressing two buttons. The game also provides a very handy directional arrow that shows up drawn on the ground at any time with the press of a button, which acts very similar to the locater system seen in the Dead Space games. Everything works how it should, no gripes here. 

 

Score- 9.5

 

 

 

Content:

Although quite lengthy at around 12 to 14 hours on hard difficulty, Bioshock Infinite comes up rather bare when it comes to amount of additional content. There are side quests, but I will admit I found none of them engaging, all of them pretty much consisting of fetch quests that task you with finding a code or some item. Its needless and the reward is never worth the bother. The game comes with no multiplayer, so I can't judge there, but it does help high-light the flaws of the actual structure of the single player experience: It is primarily a shooting game, rather then a promised revolutionary feat in story telling. The game has you engaging in non-stop huge scale battles that stretch 15 minutes every time, within intervals or 5 minutes at some occasions. Alot of this could of been cut to fit in more story. The excessive combat dilutes the story experience. Yes, I know this is a video game and not a movie, but I have seen games that can do it right, a prime example being Red Dead Redemption, which feels like a game, one of the best ever, but also provides one of the greatest story experiences ever made. Bioshock Infinite does have innovative gameplay, but like a firework show, its cool and fun for just so long before you say "This is pretty much the same thing, I've had enough." 

 

After the half way point in the game, I found myself dreading another combat scenario. After the first few, the combat situations you are pitted in, all give a hearty challenge, but at the consistency that Bioshock Infinite gives... I almost found myself screaming for some of the excellent story that Bioshock is known for. I recognize the fact that it is a shooter, but the developers at Irrational could have cut out many unnecessary combat stretches, and filled those cut spaces with more story and we would have still been easily as satisfied. 

 

Score- 8

 

 

 

Story:

Infinite's story is the strongest part of the experience, however it is weak in amount. By now, we all know the story, Booker Dewitt has to pay off a debt, and to do that he attempts to take an extraordinary girl by the name of Elizabeth away from the oppressive grip of Columbia. Up until the end, with the exception of the legitimate charisma exchanged between Booker and Elizabeth, and some of the surrounding mystery and intrigue, alot of the story is actually filler, and mediocre at that. Certain aspects of the story are excellent, like the mystery of Booker being the "false shepard" and Elizabeth's mysterious powers. Comstock I felt, was a great antagonist, and the hidden details hidden in the voxophones and the kinectograms I felt were all intriguing. The story can also be hard to follow and very complex at times, a most notable example of when the "tears" are introduced. But a good chunk of the story I felt was filler to stretch a story past spaces where I felt the developer couldn't think of anything creative to put in, so they force us to undergo monotonous tasks by the likes running across the whole world of Columbia to find find one vigor, or chase after a gun smith across multiple dimensions just to obtain some guns. 

 

I mean seriously, it feels stretched at many times, one thing that was supposed to lead to another, pretty much leads us into a deeper pit of nothing. Its almost nauseating. And it doesn't help the fact that throughout all of this you are fighting monumental scaled battles just to carry out these meager tasks that, only to receive meager rewards. But the ending makes it all make sense, well sort of. The ending, I felt, was brilliant, a little rushed, but overall brilliant in its thought. You will not guess the ending, never in a million years, its that smart. It makes the narrative seem more complex, and it is very smart indeed. It will have you thinking about it for at least two days after finishing. Hell, it even made me give the first Bioshock's story a second thought. That is how deep it goes. 

 

Overall, I felt the story of Bioshock Infinite is a smart one. Bioshock Infinite is a better story telling experience then the first Bioshock, but it could have been something better. And as for the much hyped relationship of Booker and Elizabeth, I felt that aspect was lacking also. The two never really interacted enough for their relationship to flourish, myself counting about six notable moments all-together. But in the end, Bioshock Infinite is a rewarding experience, but Generation Defining? I don't think so. 

 

 

Score- 8.75

 

 

Gameplay Features and Variety:

Bioshock Infinite does offer some of the greatest combat gameplay I ever experienced in a game, like I stated earlier in this review, it returns you to your former child. Its actually a step up from the first Bioshock, implementing innovation that allow for opportunities of increased strategy. Two new additions are added to the standard Bioshock formula. These additions are the Sky Line system and the Tears, both wonderful additions. In the early hours when combat is first unveiled, combat is a rush. You feel like you have a whole battlefield that you can manipulate at your own control. How will you go about defeating this batch of enemies? Will you posses that patriot across the map to gun down some of the enemies, then leap to the Sky Line and take most of the rest from above, before leaping down and finishing the last with a flock of angry killer crows? Or will you take the traditional route of gunning your way through, taking cover at the necessary times, opening tears of cover or health. There is alot you can do, and it is fun for some time, but like I have already stressed, the combat gets so ridiculous (that part is good), but so frequent, that you start to dread it and find yourself just trying to get through things as fast as possible. Yes, there is alot of variety, but the number of combat scenarios could have been easily cut by 30 percent and we would have still been able have the same experience. 

 

One cool thing, but ultimately worthless, is how the player can outfit Booker with clothing pieces that grant increased abilities, which are cool at most, but never really become too useful. Exploration is enhanced slightly this time around, as in many areas you will find buildings and rooms that hold many goodies and can be accessed with Elizabeth's lock picking skills. Outside of this, you are either pretty much running around and searching loose containers for supplies, or shooting your way through eight hundred and fifty waves of enemies at a time. At the surface, this look great, but once you get in deeper, the same tricks becomes predictable and almost exhausting . 

 

 

Score- 8

 

 

 

Highlights:

Elizabeth. Nuff' said. She is one of the greatest (and beautiful I may say) female characters created in game, I liked her alot and was intrigued to see everything she did. Ever second she had on screen I had devoted my fullest attention to. She is great, but isn't used enough. The world of Columbia is almost just as good of a highlight, as it is stunning and elegant to the fullest degree, offering one of the most unforgettable locations for gaming. The ending itself is what makes the game (next to Columbia and Elizabeth), because it makes everything that seemed to have no worth, actually feel like it did have worth in the end.

 

 

Score- 9.5

 

 

Immersion:

Bioshock Infinite is one of the most beautiful, and stunning games I have ever laid eyes on. Combing the highly original and dazzling art style, along with the beautiful graphics, the world of Columbia literally comes to life. Detail hides behind every corner. Something worth seeing awaits in every direction. Its a very breath taking and immersive experience. Bioshock Infinite has some of the greatest art direction and graphical beauty I ever ever seen in a game, no exaggeration there.

 

 

Score- 9.75

 

 

 

Overall Experience:

Bioshock Infinite is NOT a generation defining moment. But despite this, it is a game well worth playing, offering one of the greatest worlds' to explore, and telling a very smart story that will stick with you. It doesn't afflict you emotionally (other then amaze and awe in the initial moments of the game), it doesn't really give you enough reasons to feel for the main character, much less care about anybody other than Elizabeth. Bioshock Infinite does do, is it makes you think. It tells a very smart story that would otherwise be much less if not for its ending. Is it disappointing because of this? Not in the least, even if your expecting some masterpiece it was praised to be. It is a great experience hands down, and one of the better games of this year. It defiantly does deserve to share the name of Bioshock, and belongs in the universe. And in some ways, Bioshock Infinite is art. It truly is. But I do feel like its over hyped. It isn't this overly amazing, masterpiece of today's generation, but it is great, and I guarantee, most of anybody who plays it to the end, will no doubt, leave impressed.

 

 

 

Overall Rating:

9/10

Gold

 

 

 

 

The Good Stuff:

 

++ The city of Columbia is one of the greatest locations for game.

 

+ Elizabeth is one of the best female characters ever created.

 

+ A very smart story

 

+ Highly Original

 

+ Amazing Art Direction

 

+ Combat is superb

 

 

The Bad Stuff:

- Alot of the game is stretched with overly excessive and unnecessary combat sequences that dilute the story. 

 

- Not much gameplay variety outside of combat and item searching. 

 

 

NexGenReviews

 

 


 

 


          Red, White And Blue Cream Soda Bar        

For the last Michaels Makers challenge for this year, Michaels is celebrating all the fun summer occasions. Gifts for Moms, Dads and Teachers, and parties to celebrate birthdays, graduations, and the 4th of July! We were so excited to find out that our theme was all about the Red, White and Blue! 

We love to celebrate the 4th of July around here. Everyone gets dressed in their red, white and blue and we show our pride for this great country.  This year, we thought it would be fun to change things up a bit.  What's better than watching a firework show with all of your family and friends?  I can tell you....sipping on a yummy cream soda while watching a firework show with all your family and friends.



We had so much fun hunting down some good ol' red, white and blue at Michael's.  I think we can agree, these long neck bottles are way too fun!!  


If you couldn't tell, our fun banner is made out of paper plates! I love it because it was inexpensive and we whipped it up in about 10 minutes. All you have to do is cut a slit about 1" on both sides of the plate (where you plan to fold). Then, fold the plate in half. Insert the twine or yarn in the fold and staple at both ends. We spaced them out a little over an inch apart but you can easily move them around once you get it hung up. Now, for the drinks!

Cream Soda:
1 c. of cold club soda
2 1/2 tbsp. of syrup
2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream



Now...sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

...

Be sure to check out all the Celebration Parties and Projects... 




          4th of July / Bushwick Local Fireworks / 2013        
This is documentation of Bushwick's [Brooklyn NY] world famous local firework display! Keep in mind fireworks are illegal in Brooklyn so I have a lot of respect for the guys taking the chances to make this neighborhood party happen! Well done guys!! Looking forward to next year!
          Kids NYE firework design will be a cracker        
NYE-fireworks
Creative kids across the country are being asked to look to the sky and let their imaginations run riot for the 2017 Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks design competition. The Design Your Own Firework competition will see one lucky winner’s … Continued
          Hoian travel - Two firework sites in the new year’ eve        

Hoian travel - On January 14th, Hoian cultural Center said “there are many impressive and large scale entertaining activities to greet new year”.
          Keygen SN / Crack Adobe CS 5 Master Collection        
Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection ini mempermudah instalasi beberapa program Adobe CS5, yakni:
  • Adobe After Effect CS5
  • Adobe Contribute CS5
  • Adobe Dreamweaver CS5
  • Adobe Encore CS5
  • Adobe Firework CS5
  • Adobe Flash Builder CS5
  • Adobe Catalyst CS5
  • Adobe Flash Pro CS5
  • Adobe Illustrator CS5
  • Adobe Indesign CS5
  • Adobe Onlocation CS5
  • Adobe Premier Pro CS5
  • Adobe Soundbooth
Sehingga wajar, jika ukuran file Adobe Master CS 5 mencapai 7,6 Gb. Khusus untuk Adobe Premier dan Affter Effect, hanya bisa diinstal jika Windows System yang digunakan adalah 64 bit.

Langkah instalasinya juga sangat mudah, tinggal klik setup.exe, > Klik Accept > Isi SN dan pilih Bahasa > Klik Next > Kemudian hilangkan centang pada list program yang tidak diinginkan > Klik Instal. Tunggu sampai proses instalasi selesai.
























Untuk mendapatkan serial numbernya bisa menggunakan keygen, tinggal pilih aplikasi yang diinginkan maka secara otomatis akan muncul SN sesuai aplikasi tersebut.









Aktivasi menggunakan crack yang berupa file amtlib.dll, untuk me-replace file amtlib.dll yang asli.
Tempatkan file tersebut pada lokasi sesuai program yang diinstal. Misalnya yang diinstal photoshop dan illustrator, maka:
Pada photoshop:
Secara default, file amtlib.dll ada di C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS5\

Pada illustrator :
Secara default, file amtlib.dll ada di C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS5\Support Files\Contents\Windows.
Selesai.

Silahkan :
Download Keygen-nya. (pass: master-cs5).
Download Crack-nya (pass: master-cs5).

           Pamplona’s famed San Fermin running of the bulls festival kicks off with wine soaked party [Photos]         
The launch of the traditional firework rocket known as the “Chupinazo” kicked off Pamplona’s famed San Fermin running of the bulls festival on Thursday.
          Mammút - Kinder Versions        
'Kinder Versions'
Intriguing post-punk sounds from the Icelandic collective...

The vocabulary of post-punk is one that shifts, but never bends. Its album reviews – certainly this side of ‘Silent Alarm’ – are littered with the kind of abrasive descriptors that suggest the album may also function as a rudimentary bandsaw: jagged, angular, serrated, combined with a mitre fence for accurate repetitive cuts. Thank heavens for Mammút then, whose fourth album ‘Kinder Versions’ is equally arch at its edges and swollen with unkempt joy in the middle.

It’s a deliberate step out, too. Singer Katrína Kata Mogensen (whose dad Birgir, we feel obliged to mention, played bass with Björk in ‘80s post-punk pioneers Kukl) formerly sang in Icelandic, but made the conscious decision to start singing in “an international language”. They also signed to Bella Union, and what a perfect marriage that proves to be: like founder Simon Raymonde’s dreampop deities Cocteau Twins, or occasionally ‘Spirit of Eden’-era Talk Talk, Mogensen’s exploratory vocals shine a light across even the darkest corners of the record.

Certainly ‘We Tried Love’ deserves to rank alongside ‘The Rainbow’ in the sprawling, pristine opener stakes; if anything, it sets the bar impossibly high for the rest of the album to compete. Mogensen’s pitch-black sarcasm (“Did I light your body on fire? / Then I must owe you a dance in my rain…”) is reward enough, but gradually gives way to a firework display of sincerity: “I love you,” she cries into the exploding din, “I love you.” As the track feints an ending before bursting back into colour, the feeling is entirely mutual.

While the rest of the record sometimes feels a little slight, and there are moments where ideas seem thin on the ground, there’s enough charm and innovation scattered across the ensuing 32 minutes to keep it interesting. ‘The Moon Will Never Turn on Me’ and ‘Walls’ are full of cinematic twists, while ‘Sorrow’ provides a brutal finale, bassist Ása Dýradóttir and drummer Andri Bjartur Jakobsson tearing the track apart as the album clatters to an end.

‘Kinder Versions’ may not be a fully formed classic, but it demonstrates that the band’s ambitions are no empty threat. “We crave to move further,” Mogensen stated recently, and there should be no doubt that on this evidence, Mammút are capable of achieving just about anything.

8/10

Words: Matthew Neale

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          Massachusetts Attorneys Release 4th of July Firework Safety Checklist        

Each year, millions of Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with lavish firework displays and family gatherings, but too often, these celebrations result in severe burns and fatal injuries. The Massachusetts attorneys at Kiley Law Group, LLC have released a safety list designed to help prevent injuries and promote safe firework activity.

(PRWeb July 01, 2013)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/7/prweb10888297.htm


          Presenting – The Zed Executive Range        
The celebrations and firework displays are now over for another year. It’s now back to work, back down to business. 2015 is already shaping up to be an interesting year. New Year’s resolutions are in full swing but will they last? That’s a subject for another day. However, if you’ve received some inspiration regarding office furniture over the festive period look no further. The ‘ZED’ range is sure to be a hit this year. Designed and manufactured in Bielefeld, Germany, the Zed range combines elegance with durability to the highest level. A country renowned for its reliability and quality when it comes to any manufactured product, from Mercedes all the way down to Office Furniture (yes, I have likened an Office Desk to a Mercedes Benz, but hear me out). The motto remains the same “EXCELLENCE IS KEY". A motto which is emphasized by the ‘Zed’ range. If you want an Office environment that combines undisputed quality with contemporary design then look no further. You've stumbled upon the perfect range for you. Zed frame desks have seemed too have petered out of late. In the mid-2000s there was an influx of ‘Z’ desk styles and demand was high. They look set to make a return. Appropriate for a commercial working environment? I’d have to say NO. Suitable for an Executive Office Space? YES! Its contemporary design and finish make it the perfect range for any Executive office space. It’s even versatile when it comes to finish options. Choose your preference, glass or wood? The 25mm MFC wood desktop is available in an anthracite or white finish, continuing the aesthetic style that the silver ‘Z’ shape frame creates.  But it only comes as a rectangular desk I hear you say. That is correct. However, the triangle desk link has combatted that issue. So if it’s an executive corner desk you’re after that is also achievable. Just to cap it off, the ‘Zed’ range comes complete with an extensive storage range. You really can create everything. Many ranges don’t give you the versatility you are looking for when it comes to acquiring the perfect office space. In my opinion, this ticks all the boxes. With a 7-10 day lead time and installation being available upon request, this range really does have everything. If you feel that the ‘Zed’ range is what you’ve been looking for, but you’d like a bit more information, don’t hesitate to contact one of our sales. They will be more than happy to help you.
          Best 4th Of July Concerts & Fireworks Displays In Los Angeles        
Besides excellent firework displays, rockers ranging from Steven Tyler to Ted Nugent, Bryan Adams and others will be performing before the fireworks light up the sky!
          Bonfire Baking: Apple, Toffee and Hazelnut Loaf Cake        


Hurrah it's Bonfire Night!

Or, if you live in a community similar to ours, Bonfire Week, as we've been hearing fireworks pretty much every night for the last seven days. Good to get some practice in I guess and perhaps my neighbours didn't get the memo; prior to 1959 it was illegal not to celebrate Bonfire Night.

It was of course thanks to an incompetent Guy Fawkes who failed miserably to blow up the Houses of Parliament, that each November 5th we set off rockets, light the bonfire and start the Catherine Wheels whizzing. Interestingly each year, prior to the State Opening of Parliament, the Yeoman of the Guard still search the cellars to ensure there are no conspirators hiding down there, a tradition since 1605.

It looks a super weekend for a firework display with dry, cold weather forecast. The only decisions left are which sweet treats to enjoy while craning your neck to get the best view of the fireworks. Will it be a traditional gingery parkin? A teeth-numbing, dentist-visiting Toffee Apple? Or will you stick to savoury and enjoy a couple of bangers (of the sausage kind)?

This warming apple, hazelnut and toffee cake is just the thing to take along to your bonfire night celebration. Tuck in to a slice or two in between trying desperately to write your name in the dark sky with a sparkler (alright if you are a Sue, not so if you a Sebastian).

Apple, Hazelnut and Toffee Cake

150g unsalted butter
150g light brown sugar
150g golden syrup
200ml milk
250g plain flour
2 tsps mixed spice
1.5 tsp baking powder
3 medium eggs
75g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
3 eating apples, cored, peeled and chopped roughly into chunks
Handful of toffees
Icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 2l loaf tine
2. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup over a gentle heat until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk before setting aside to cool
3. In a large bowl, sift the flour with the spice and baking powder. Make a well in the centre and pour in the cooled butter mixture. Gently stir togther with a wooden spoon. Fold in the eggs, nuts and apple
4. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for five minutes in the tin then transfer to a wire rack
5. For the toffee sauce, put the toffees into a saucepan with a splash of milk and melt, stirring regularly. Drizzle over the cake and dust with icing sugar

This is based on a delicious magazine recipe 
          The Fourth of July        

The Fourth of July: Facts & More


The Fourth of July is known as Independence Day in America. It was on that memorable day in 1772 that the president of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. This formally freed the United States from the rule of Great Britain. It is commemorated each year to remind everyone of liberty and freedom.

Celebrations are conducted nationwide. Parades are usually held in the mornings. Speeches on patriotism are given by politicians. The flag is displayed in every public building. The most common tradition is the display of fireworks.  Firework displays are done during the evening hours, after dark.

The colorful firework displays are more elegant and beautiful when they are lighted against the dark skies and twinkling stars. Many people buy fireworks for their own personal show in the neighborhood.

It’s Time for Outdoor Fun

Many activities, such as baseball, outdoor parties and picnics are part of the Fourth of July celebrations. Since it is summer, it’s the perfect time for these outdoor events. Kids can play Frisbee, baseball, football or swim or play in a sandbox.

Food Plays an Important Role in Fourth of July Activities

Backyard barbecues are held everywhere. Hamburger and hotdogs are good choices for barbecue meals. You can vary the hamburger patties by using different kinds of meats, like veal, lamb and beef. You can mix some celery, onions and pickles in the meat. Use a little seasoning of salt and pepper. You can put in some egg and bread crumbs to keep the burger firm and moist.

Try a variety of hamburgers and see which ones are best enjoyed by your family and friends. The hamburgers can be given more zest by adding some barbecue sauce on the grill. If people prefer cheeseburgers over the plain burgers, you can use the standard Cheddar and Provolone cheese. You can make a typical burger more exotic by using Blue Cheese. 

Create your own special dips to go with your barbecue foods. There are many refreshing dips for summer. Mexican dips, such as salsa and black beans are very tasty and go well with all kinds of dishes.

Be sure the buns are soft and filled with sesame seeds. The buns should be able to absorb the juice oozing from the burgers. You should have relish, ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut available for the hotdogs.


Baked beans also go well with hotdogs. Let your guests mix and match the condiments for their burgers and hotdogs. Include an offering of chips, potato salad, corn on the cob and other favorite side dishes. And don't forget to include a dessert or two.

After a day of fun activities and lots of good food you will likely be ready to slow things down. End the day by relaxing with friends and family as you enjoy watching the fireworks light up the sky. 

From Everyone at Package From Santa -
Happy Fourth of July!!!

          New meaning found in the 4th of July and old meaning kept alive        
I've always loved the 4th of July since I was a kid. Loved the home-town parades with kids on decorated bikes and streamers flowing, families pulling kids in decorated wagons, the local school band, a troop of scouts marching and the corn queen sitting on the back deck of a convertible, waving to all, regally! I just love that stuff. Not everyone does. They can go ahead and make fun, and I'll just take their seat and be as happy as can be.

Love the soap box derby. Love the ice cream socials that raises money for the senior center. The Elks weenie roast. The smell of the big smoker set up behind the church for the picnic. Pies, oh my, the pies!

Love the fireworks, not all of them purchased legally. Sparklers, which were featured on the news today as highly dangerous. Must confess to being a bit happy that we didn't know that when we were young. The surprise of an early evening rogue fireworks display by neighbors down the way, lasting for only a half-a-minute. Or one high-flyer firework breaking the evening silence. Lightning bugs in jars. Wouldn't be complete as a summer evening without them. Mosquitos too.

I enjoyed the simple childhood pleasures that followed me in fondness of memory into adulthood. Oh, sure, now we all see the danger everywhere. But then there was freedom and fun in it.

I also remember that time when circumstances dictated that we move into a high-rise building on July 4, 1976. The Bi-Centennial. We were somehow invited up to the penthouse to view Op Sail and the fireworks over the Hudson River. That was an exhausting but memorable 4th of July!

Now in my older adulthood I also understand the truer meaning of the 4th. Today I've thought about my eight Revolutionary War ancestors recognized by the DAR, as well as those who haven't yet been recognized. Since being active in the DAR their memory has gained added dimension.

I wonder if any of my ancestors were born on the 4th of July. I'll have to look.

Enjoy your 4th!


Backyard picnic or church picnic, we found ourselves at a picnic on the 4th of July!
 
 

          5 yards Left Summerfest Cotton Candy Floral Firework Multi 24031 12 Yardage by April Rosenthal of Prairie Grass for Moda by SerendipityWoods        

4.50 USD

Cotton Candy Floral Firework Multi
24031 12


April Rosenthal, Designer, about her latest collection - Summerfest:

'Summer is a celebration of Summer - that most magical season. The asphalt feels like a frying pan and the nights are breezy and balmy. Everywhere you look, the colors are bright, vibrant and cheerful – swimsuits, snow cones, tank tops and flip flops. The prints in Summerfest are inspired by fireworks, parades, picnics and flower gardens - the epitome of Summer to me.'


•Collection: Summerfest

•Designer: April Rosenthal

•Manufacturer: Moda

•Content: 100% Cotton Quilt Fabric

Other Serendipity Woods listings within this fabric line, including the full bundle collection can be found here:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SerendipityWoods/search?search_query=Summerfest&order=date_desc&view_type=list&ref=shop_search


          exportando web desde firework        

exportando web desde firework

hola amigo buen dia. disculpa la molestia
queria saber si pudieras ayudarme con algo por favor;
coye estoy haciendo una gaina web el firework cs4 ; hice una medio galeria de imagenes, con la opcion de intercambiar imagen, la exporto para ver como qdo y funciona perfectamente.
pero cuando la subo al servidor me coloco sobre la imagenes pequenas y no intercambia la imagen grande. esto deberia ocurrir pero no.
me dirijo a la carpeta de img y no me aparecen dichas imagenes.
esoty...

Publicado el 02 de Marzo del 2011 por americo

          Trump’s “Popular Hawk” Dilemma        
It’s tough being Donald Trump. The Deep State hates you, the Neocons hate you, Conservatism Inc. hates you, GOP hacks hate you, and even the Alt-Right is sometimes less than complimentary. And that’s just from people who are supposed to be on your side. Despite all the “friendly fire” — and the relentless barrage from the Left — Trump has managed to keep things together and even nudged the country in the right direction. But more than that, he has become a symbol of hope to the masses long shut out of America’s so-called democratic processes, and the relationship is mutual. When Trump is in a corner it is the American people to whom he looks for support. This means that for Trump, popularity, expressed in poll numbers and approval ratings, is not just important around election time. It is of vital importance all the time, bigly. With the sound of sharpening impeachment knives forever ringing in his ears, popularity is his best defence against his enemies. If his numbers plummet, few would question unorthodox moves to oust him, no matter how underhanded. But with the people at his back, his enemies — at least some of them — would think twice. But how can he boost his popularity? There is the stuff that really resonates with his base — border security, the clamp down on illegal immigrants, draining the swamp, job-related anti-globalism, etc. But a lot of that, as we have seen, runs into all sorts of complex opposition from the cucks in Congress and an over-politicized judiciary. This means that path can often be a difficult, uphill struggle. In the realm of foreign policy, however, the President is more unfettered by the other branches of government. He is freer to do what he wants. For this reason foreign policy has become a kind of safety valve for the Trump administration. Whenever the domestic pressure is too intense and approval ratings are sliding, the administration can always find an escape in some popular piece of overseas posturing. Unfortunately the actions that seem to have the best payoff are hawkish chest-thumping acts. Whenever there is some tense stand-off, with accompanying footage of bombers, aircraft carriers, or marines being readied on TV, then — weirdest thing! — Trump’s numbers seem to either stop falling or rise. There are two reasons for this. One is that it galvanizes the patriotard element that has always been a massive part of the GOP base. The other is that the Leftist media is now a lot more Neocon than anyone (outside the Alt-Right) would have suspected possible. Whenever there is the smell of war in the air, suddenly Trump’s not such a bad guy after all. The President knows that if he wants to boost his numbers he merely has to pick a fight, rhetorical or otherwise, with some “dastardly” foreign power. A combined graph and timeline showing Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings during his first 100 days, published by the boomer cuck newspaper the Daily Telegraph, highlights some interesting points. Back in March when his approval rating was sagging towards the low 30s, the Trump administration managed to turn things around by releasing a number of statements criticising North Korea’s missile testing and pressuring China to do more to “rein in” Kim Jong-un. Then in April, he went along with the “Assad is gassing his people” narrative and bombed a largely deserted Syrian airbase. This stopped another slide in his numbers. Interestingly, it didn’t start his approval rating going the other way — it kind of levelled off — but this might have had something to do with the fact that the bombing was just a one-off firework show. However, later that month, Trump’s numbers did improve when Vice-President Pence made a speech declaring an end to the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea. But, like all preceding Presidents, Trump can’t just play the popular hawk anywhere. The options are severely limited to a small range of countries that are (a) not big enough to be really dangerous and (b) established in the American popular consciousness as “nasty, evil states” — thanks to the tireless efforts of the biased media. So, which countries are we talking about? Russia and China are still widely seen by the American public as being a bit on the “nasty” side, but because of their vast military forces and nuclear arsenals they are not usually on the hawk menu. This leaves Syria, North Korea, and Iran, as three places where Trump can reliably improve his ratings by beating the war drum. Syria is a low cost option. The administration can always dig up some fake gas attack and bomb away to its heart’s content. But because of the chaos in the country and the fact that ISIS or ISIS-lite would be the main beneficiaries from this, the US public is not too impressed. Also, Syria is too close to Iraq, reminding even patriotards of past failures. Only out-and-out real Neocons and Hezbollah haters see this as positive. So, low cost but also low returns. Iran is higher cost but also higher returns. A showdown with Iran of some sort would in theory boost Trump’s approval ratings, especially if they were sagging. Most Americans still have a highly negative image of Iran in their heads. This is related to America’s past humiliations and former Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s supposed comments about wiping “America’s greatest ally” off the face of the Earth. But actually Iran is quite different from its image. It is far from the Islamist caricature that patriotards like to paint. More importantly, any stand-off with Iran that went beyond sanctions or rhetoric would be extremely high cost, as (a) Iran would be backed up by Russia to some degree and (b) occupies perhaps the most strategically vital position in the world, overlooking the Straits of Hormuz. North Korea, by contrast, occupies a rather remote corner of North East Asia. A bit of brinkmanship here is less of a […]
          NEW "finale" show firework box: For Sale $ 20.00        
I have 8 individual boxes of "Whack Job" and 8 individual boxes of "Rave Revenge." Each box is a finale showpiece that lasts 20-30 seconds. Whack job is mo ..
          Siapa takut nginap di Bintan Lagoon Resort        
Lagoi atau kemudian dikenal lagoon,
Merupakan bagian
Dari Pulau Bintan ini,

Nah jika kalau dilihat dari Peta,
Tanjung Pinang berada disisi bawah, 
Dan lagoi berada di sisi bagian atas.
(silahkan Peta Pulau Bintan di Googling)

Jadi wajar jika jaraknya lumayan jauh
Karena gak pakai macet,
Jarak tempuh sekitar 2 jam.


Selalu ada Kemesraan setiap Travelling ---> "Modus"
Jalanan dari Tanjung Pinang ini
Super mulusss...,Infrastruktur sudah
Bagus untuk daerah ini.
Tinggal Menunggu
gebrakan Pemerintah saja nih,
untuk declare Cantiknya Pariwisata ini.
Jalanan 2 arah, dan kiri kanannya hutan
masih perawan,
kayaknya sih kalau malam
gak ada lampu jalan..
jadi datanglah sebelum Gelap kesini :)

yuuk ah, beli kelapa nya Rp 59 ++ sajah

Lagoi ini,
Sangat identik dengan kota yang Mahal...
Beberapa tahun yang lalu,
Jika di Lagoi, semua menggunakan
Mata Uang US Dollar atau Dollar Sing.

Beruntung sekarang,
Ada kebijakkan dari pemerintah
Harus menggunakan mata uang Negeri sendiri ..
(namun faktanya tetap saja,
Harga-harga mahal melintir dikalikan ke Dollar hiiks)

Bintan Lagoon Resort

Idealnya, jika ke Lagoi
Adalah menginap dan bermain di resortnya.
Karena masing-masing resort ini,
Memiliki Pantai yang berbeda-beda.
(Mereka kayak sudah membeli pantai sendiri)
Beda resort, beda pantai.
Beda Fasilitas dan beda Nilai jualnya.

Terdapat banyak Resort di Lagoi ini.
Ada Bintan Lagoon resort.
Ada Nirwarna Resort.
Ada, Ria Bintan khusus untuk pecinta golf
Dan banyak resort-resort lux lainnya.
Dan untuk bisa masuk area Resort-resort ini,
Pengunjung/pengantar
Diminta kode booking hotel terlebih dahulu hiiks


Persiapan Travelling kitah...(lihat detail fotonya hihi)

Eeeits.. Tapi Siapa takut nginap dilagoi??
Seperti sayah...
Yaa sayah..
Yang sudah membawa peralatan tempur
Seperti Mini rice cooker lengkap dengan beras.
Rendang. Dendeng, dan tentunya dengan sambelnya !
Ini camping atau wisata lux sih ??
maklumlah turis kere,
yang tetap ingin kelihatan exist hahaha


Resepsionis, dan area Resepsionisnya serasa di Neverland :)


Setiap Resort di Bintan, di lengkapi oleh Peta Resort


Jam 4 sore, kita
Sampai di Bintan Lagoon Resort
Saya sudah booking 2 kamar dari agoda.

Tarif Peakseasson saat itu  (tanggal 24des)  Rp 1.300jt/malam 
Dan untuk tanggal 25des Rp 2,5jt
Woow..
Harga normalnya sih Rp 950ribu
(meskipun sebenarnya, rate Hotel, kota-kota lain
juga banyak kok yang selangit)

Gak ada hambatan sih saat check in.
Minta kamar dekat-dekatan/conecting door tidak tersedia.
Maklum sih, saat booking, pakai 2 nama berbeda
Cuma rese aja,
Minta deposit 1juta untuk 1 kamar hiiks


aaw, welcome drinkpun dikasih setumbrak :)

Kitapun di kasih welcome drink.
Rada deg-degan sih.
Kita yang jumlahnya 10 orang ini,
Cuma booking 2 kamar.
Mmm boleh gak ya?
Jadinya masuk rada mencar-mencar gitu deh,
(Gak berbarengan haha),

Aah ternyata, di kamar sebelah
Ada indiahe, 1 kamar tumpuk-tumpukkan orangnya..
Alias rame abisss
Haha tau geto 1 kamar aja cukup hihi


Masuk Kamar rada bete,
Pintu gak bisa di buka.
Eeh si office boy, juga binggung
Tau nya dia baru masuk kerja H1 saat itu aduuh !

Interior kamar, tidak sekece di Foto Agoda

Toiletries

Sueer kamar type Deluxe ini sih,
Keliatan Biasa aja ya,
interior kamar tidak keliatan mewah.
Ukuran memang lebih luas dari kamar
Hotel lainnya.
Di Pojokan Ada area kayu. (Kayaknya buat ruang tamu ya)
Kamar mandi dengan bathup

View kamar

Dan terdapat teras dengan view hutan !
Aah view yang kita dapat gak kece dah
Padahal sudah booking view swimming pools.
Trus baru masuk kamar.
Ada area penyemprotan Asap nyamuk
(Walllah .. Baru kali ini nginap diresort begini)

Karena Di resepsionis
Dibilang Swimming pools tutup jam 7malam.
Maka saya dan anak anak sih santai santai
Aja main di kamar.
Jam 6kurang baru swimming.
Baru celup-celup air dikit.
Anak anak udah disuruh keluar dari kolam renang.

Katanya jam 6 kolam sudah tutup.
Jadi jam 6sore, kolam harus kosong dari pengunjung
Huhuhuk *cry...

area resto dan Cafe

Makin sore, tamu hotel makin banyak.
Tampak antrian check in
Yang panjang, maklum lah..
Karena besok Natal.. Dan semua pada libur panjang.
(Tamu-tamu ini, mayoritas dari Singapore,
malaysia dan beberapa Indonesia)


Harga menu Resto,Patokan Harga tetap serasa dollar Bo !

Harga menu Resto


Nah ini, Penyewaan dan kasih makan ikan Rp 40k, standarnya mah 3rebo haha


Ada peristiwa yang kocak,
Kita lupa, beli Minuman di luar.
Begitu lihat menu di Hotel
Aqua 600ml ternyata 60-80rb shoking !
Akhirnya kita milih masak
Air minum saja pake kran Hotel hiiks..

di Halaman Resort yang Luas

Eiits, si Manis Lolipop

Mobil Golf ini pun di Sewakan,Rp 250k/ Jam *cry

Resort saat malam Hari

Area Senang-senang hihi


Malam hari nya kita gak ingin melewatkan
Menikmati keindahan Hotel ini.
Di lobby hotel ini,
Tampak ada perayaan nanyian,
Menyambut Natal.
Keliling ke area Leisure kids,
Disana terdapat aneka permainan anak anak.

Dan juga area kolam renang ke-2
Jadi di Bintan resort ini terdapat 2 swimmingpools
Yang jaraknya lumayan jauh dari kolam renang pertama.


Resort saat malam hari, Kenapa Lampunya kurang banyak??

Tamu-tamu kece badai, saat itu :)


Tampak kamar hotel ini super luas.
Terbagi dari berbagai area.
Lapangan hotel ini pun cukup luas.
Jadilah malam itu kita bernarsis ria
Loncat-loncatan, plus menikmati
Area hotel yang luas ini.
Dan bersantai ria, di ayunan rotan ini.
Seru juga liburan dan nginap ramai-ramai gini ya

oya, nurut info dari resepsionis
Bakal ada firework malam ini
Yeaaay...kok cepat tahun baru di legoi ??
Ya bukan karena kecepatan.
Tapi Karena besok adalah Natal ooo..
Baru tau, kalau malam Natal juga ada
Event firework.

Saya yang niat mau nungguin firework.
Jadi gak bisa tidur (padahal sudah masuk kamar)
Trus suami juga bangun jam 11.30,
Ya udahlah, ngajak suami keluar kamar.
Sampai lobby hotel.
Keadaan gelap, seperti tidak tampak
Ada perayaan firework.
Mmm bikin malas nunggu.
Trus saya balik lagi ke kamar.

Perasaan gak lama setelah itu
Jam 12 teng.
Dan Mercon serta kembang api,
Bergantian berbunyi di lobby hotel.
Aaah saya sudah gak sempat lagi ke Lobby.
Terpaksalah melihat firework ini,
Hanya dari teras kamar..
Firework ini Cukup lama,
dengan varian letusan yang bagus/bagus.
Mmm... Saya memang Gak pernah bosan
Melihat lagit berwarna...baca disini
Selesai firework.. Bobok lagi

Pantai Bintan Lagoon di pagi hari

dan Saya merindukan Pasir "Bedak bayi ini"

it's me..

Jam 7pagi.
Rasanya Masih malas buat keluar kamar.
Masih pengen bobok-bobok tjantik.
Tapi sodara dan tanteku yang lainnya
Sudah telpon, agar bermain di Pantai...

bermain di Bedak Pasir bersama anak,  enak banget..

View Pantai



hihi Kostumnya masih Pijamas


Dan Aku menantimu di Bawah Pohon nan Rindang

Keluarga si Bolang

Say, cheerss...

Gaya Paporit.. haha

Yeeeay... Pagi pagi adalah
Saat yang indah bermain di Pantai...
Pantai Bintan Lagoon resort ini,
Bersiiih pake banget..
Sangat terawat dan rapi.

Trus yang paling saya suka adalah pasirnya,
Karena Pasirnya lembut banget dikaki,
Kayak bedak bayi.
sekilas pasir ini, mirip di Tanjung Bira
dan Tanjung Aan Lombok

Jadi kalau bermain disini,
Saya lebih senang buka baju,
Ehh buka sendal.. Biar makin terasa kelembutannya.

eiit's ada Putri duyung terdampar

Jarang banget Pasir seperti ini, di Pantai lain



Batu besar, cuma Se-iprit , begitu dekat Satpam siap-siap tiup pluit... ciaat !!


Namun sayang,untuk bermain
Di area bibir pantai,
Dikit-dikit di pluitin satpam hiiks
Malesin..
Katanya sih, ombak lagi pasang,
Dan tidak bersahabat saat itu.
Ya usah deh, akhirnya kita
Bermain di pinggir pantai saja..
Menikmati pasirnya yang lembut.


ini, Dermaga Ferry dari Singapore

ada  Imigrasi di Resort ini, Hebat khaan??


Mmm... Baru tau,
Ternyata di Resort ini,
Tersedia pelabuhan ferry loh,
Dan langsung terhubung ke Kantor Imigrasi.
Wooow hebat banget Resort ini.
Turisnya benar-benar dimanjakan.
Wajar kalau disini, ramai turis Singapore
Dari pada Indonesia.
Laaah woong aksesnya,
Ke singapore lebih cepat daripada Tanjung Pinang/Batam...


Menu Breakfast kurang berkesan


Abis bermain di pantai kita breakfast..
Area breakfast cukup ramai saat itu,
Untuk makanan cukup banyak,
Dan aneka pilihan menu.
Sayang untuk air putihnya,

Rasa kaporit, seperti air minum yang
Kita masak di kamar hihihik..
Padahal dah rindu minum air Aqua :)

Untuk Breakfast  Tambahan per-orang
Rp 280k *makin kecekek sayah haha

View Swiiming Pool, di lengkapi dengan Pohon kelapa
Cukup 3 anak sajah haha

a Day in the Life of a Swimmer



hei baby...
aah ketika Spiral ini, airnya sereet

yeaay, main Basket di Swimming Pools


Abis breakfast,
Nonstop deh, cuuss berenang..
Mmm matahari sudah mulai terik,
Tapi apa boleh buat.
Karena kita hanya nginap semalam
Apapun cuacanya harus di nikmati...
Area kolam ini cukup besar,
Ada area seperti pantai, landai kemudian
Makin dalam sampai 2meter
Trus ada area untuk bermain basket.

Jadilah, membuat kulit muka kita
Mulai terbakar disini..
Namun semua puas kok bermain di Bintan Lagoon resort ini.


Nb:
-Bookinglah hotel jauh hari
Untuk mendapatkan Harga Promo.

-Untuk Harga makanan/minuman
Sangat mahal disini,
Jika repot membawa persiapan,
Belilah terlebih dahulu,
Di area Kantin, yang berada di luar resort
Sebagai perbandingan Aqua 600ml
di resort Rp 65K-80K, di kantin Rp3k hihihi

-Jika ingin praktis,
Masuk Lagoon Bintan Resort ini,
Bisa melalui ferry dari Singapore

-Karena Jika masuk dari Tanjung Pinang,
harus mengeluarkan ekstra Budget
untuk Rental Mobil

baca juga :
Sulit move on, dari Pantai Tanjung Bira
1hari, 3 Pantai di Lombok
Nyesal gak, Wisata Bintan Manggove
Kepiting 2ribu, di Vihara Sengara
Menyeberang ke Pulau Tanjung Pinang
 

          Camps in the Philadelphia Area        

Here is a list of Summer Camps in and around the Philadelphia Area. I have tried to include as much information to help you learn more about camps. I have a variety of camps some are full day, half day and even over night camps.

If you don't see a camp listed here that meets your needs check out American Camp Association (ACA) Keystone Section has an easy to use Find-A-Camp search engine that allows parents to enter a lot of custom fields to locate day and overnight camps - you can find it, and other good information, at http://www.campparents.org/.




Overnight Camps



Golden Slipper


Location: Bartonsville, PA (Near Stroudsburg), but main office is located in Bala Cynwyd, PA


Ages: 7-15 for campers... 16= counselor in training

General Information: Golden Slipper Camp emphasizes Jewish values and includes Jewish programming, but more importantly aims to unite children from various cultures and give them the best summers of their lives. There is a unique diversity and spirit at this camp that is palpable year after year. The facilities are comparable or even better than for-profit camps, and a vast array of activities are offered, from sports, to arts and crafts, to a challenge course, to a water activities in our mile long lake, and more. And being in the beautiful Poconos, kids experience the wilderness like they never have before.


Villanova Volleyball Camp

Location: Jake Nevin Field House at Villanova

Ages: girls entering grades 8th - 12th

General Information:
Led by Villanova Women's Volleyball Head Coach,this camp provides campers with a complete volleyball camp experience. 1:8 coach to camper ratio. Campers will focus on individual skills as well as competition and game strategy. Commuter campers do not miss any sessions and are at camp from 8:30am to 8:30pm.



Full Day Camps

Glenhardie Gator Sport Camps


Location:
Glenhardie Country Club, 1399 Old Eagle School Road Wayne, PA 19087
Ages: ages 7 and older
General Information:





It's the best of Glenhardie all rolled into one fun package for our kids - ages 7 years or older. Camp runs from 9:00 am - 3:00 pm with extended day available through 5:00 pm at an additional cost. Campers will be given a free t-shirt and lunch is provided each day. Parent/kids may choose their lunches from a limited healthy menu upon check-in the first morning of camp, making selections for each of the 5 days of camp. Yum! And, a morning snack/beverage is also provided daily. For extended day campers, an afternoon snack/beverage will also be provided. Club membership is not required to attend this camp.

Briarwood Day Camp


Location: Furlong, Bucks County, PA.

Ages: 3-14 years old

General Information: They pick up from people's houses (they have campers in Delaware County) and they provide lunch each day.They have 3 pools, softball fields, soccer fields, basketball courts (indoor and outdoor), a rock wall, bmx, zip lines, an art room with two kilns, jungle gyms.


Summer Discovery


Location: University of PA

Ages: Grades 9,10,11,12

Day Camp at the University of Pennsylvania-offers 4 or 6 week college credit and pre-college enrichment courses

General Information: 6 weeks, Pre-College Program for students completing grades 10, 11, 12- 4 weeks, Science & ESL Academies for students completing grades 9, 10, 11, 12
Nearly 50 college credit & enrichment courses
Intensive Penn Summer Academies: Biomedical Research, Forensic Science, Physics, ESL College visits and excursions throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, New York City and Washington, DC



Camp Media Theater

Location: Media, PA

Age: 5 - 17 years old

General Information: Camp Media Theater is an extraordinary and exciting opportunity for young actors to study with Professional Directors, Performers, and Technicians. This intensive, two-week day camp is a fun, enriching and rewarding experience. Campers write, design, and perform an improvisational theatre production that is performed on the Media Theatre stage for family, friends and the general public. Jesse Cline, Artistic Director, oversees all aspects of the Camp.
Each camp session* is designed for children 5-17 years of age, in three separate age groups. Your child will have the most unique and exciting experience at Camp Media Theatre!


Tyler Arboretum

Location: Media, PA

Ages: 6-11

General Information: Nature Explorers Summer Camps
Tyler Arboretum's Summer Camps connect kids and nature as campers explore our unique and diverse ecosystems. Enthusiastic, highly-qualified staff and low student/teacher ratios facilitate fun, interactive learning with nature and stewardship projects, games, naturalist-led lessons, crafts, and hikes.




Double D Gymnastics

Location: Media, PA

Ages: 3 year old - 8th grade

General Information: Special Themes each week they offer: gymnastics, rock climbing, music, cooperative fun and games, crafts, indoor soft play, running, climbing, swinging.. Gymnastics.. the Basic Training for ALL Sports. Lots of flexibility offered can sign up for 1 day or 5 days***Full and Half Day Options***



Colonial Plantation

Location: Ridley Creek State Park

Ages: Kindergarten - eighth grade

General Information: Students from kindergarten through eighth grade attend the Plantation's Summer Camp Program. Week long sessions begin in late June and continue through early August. Each session provides information and hands-on workshops that are age-appropriate.




Media-Providence Friends School


Location: Media, PA

Ages: 2-9 (world explorers) and 5th -8th grade (summer synergy)

General Information:

World Explorers
Within a relaxed, safe, accepting environment, children aged 3 to 9 learn about two major world cultures during two four-week sessions. Campers explore each region through encounters with its music, art, dance, food, geography, history, ecosystems and languages.


Summer Synergy

Featuring the fun of hands-on learning (without homework!), Summer Synergy provides rising 5th-8th graders a mid-summer "boredom break", immersing them in stimulating weekly "intensives" which integrate two different disciplines:

Hedgerow Horizons Theater Camp

Location: Rose Valley, PA

Ages 6-12, they also have camp for kids 13-18 years old

General Information: Through the acting out of classic stories and time-honored myths, accompanied with songs and dances, campers experience the joy of theatre through a collaborative process that culminates in a final performance. Each camp focuses on a unique story and allows the campers to explore different cultures, country's and periods.




The School in Rose Valley Summer Camp

Location: Media, PA

Ages: 3 to 14 years old

General Information: All full day camps from 8:30 to 3:30 pm All 1/2 day camps run from 8:30 to 12:00 pm They have weekly themes, serve healthful snacks in the morning and Popsicles in the afternoon. Campers must be toilet trained.




Radnor Day Camp

** Not updated with 2011 schedule yet check back in May

Location: Radnor High School

Ages: 5 to 15 years old





General Information: Planned activities such as arts and crafts, sports games, swimming, performing arts, and a camp carnival. Special events includes exciting field trips to Devon Bowling Lanes, Water World water park, and Citizens Bank Park! Transportation is available for full day campers.



Benchmark School Camp

Location: Benchmark School 2107 North Providence Road, Media, PA

Ages: 6-11 years old

General Info: The five-week Summer Language Arts Camp is designed for students ages 6 to 11 who can benefit from reading and writing instruction beyond the regular school year, as well as enjoy the fun of a recreational day-camp experience. The program combines 1–3/4 hours of Benchmark's nationally recognized language arts program with extensive recreational activities, including a Confidence Course. Designed to make even the most reluctant reader "hooked on books," the program places emphasis on developing increased confidence and self-esteem both at work in the classroom and at play with peers.

Rock & Roll After School Summer Band Camp


Location: 400 Franklin Ave, Suite #109 Phoenixville, PA 19460


Ages: 7 to 17 years old

General Info:

July 11 - 15 July - 18 - 22
August 8 - 12 August 15 - 19

Join a band, write a song and perform on stage. No prior music experience necessary. Bands rehearse from 8:30am to 3:00 pm each day with no-cost, supervised extended care until 6:00 pm.


Villanova Boys Soccer Camp
Location: Villanova University


Ages:
Session I: (Boys 6yrs- 18yrs old)

Session II: (Boys 11yrs-18yrs old)

Dates: Session I: July 24-27

Session II: July 27-30

General Information:
Led by Villanova Men's Soccer Head Coach Tom Carlin, the goal of the Villanova Boys Soccer program is two fold. 1) To give high school soccer players (Grades 9-12) the edge on recruiting by providing an in depth look at the college soccer recruiting process plus having a collection of top coaches for the players to showcase their abilities. 2) For players (grades 3-8) to TEACH, challenge and develop the enthusiastic, young soccer player in a competitive and fun environment. All players will be trained in a 1:8 coach to camper ratio by our professional staff, comprised of top collegiate, club, and high school coaches as well as collegiate players who are all here to help you reach your goals. Commuter campers do not miss any sessions and are at camp from 8:30am to 8:30pm. For more information please visit our website
www.vusoccer.com or call our camp hotline at 610-519-6782.

Camp Garrett

Ages: 5 - 15

Location: Newtown Square, PA

General Information: Camp Garrett is located on 240 acres at the Garrett Williamson Foundation located in Newtown Square, PA. Camp runs from June 20th to September 2nd and goes from 9am to 4pm each day with extended care available. At Camp Garrett, we strive to give each child the opportunity to develop to his or her fullest potential. We provide exciting and interesting activities that enhance not only physical development, but social, emotional, and intellectual development.
TCDN's Summer Club
Location: 301 N. Chester Road, Swarthmore, PA 19081
Ages: Children entering grades 1 through 6
Times: Half day or full day with hours Choice of enrollment hours either 7:30 to 3:00 or 7:30 to 6:00
General Information:

Our program features 6 segements (Movin' and Groovin', Say It your Way, Out and About, Under the Microscope, Makin' A Mess, and Back By Popular Demand). The program runs from June 20th to August 31st. Campers may enroll by the week. Children will make choices to experience interesting activities and guests, while having a great deal of fun! Swimming, field trips and culminating "events" are all part of the Summer Club.

“ANTHROPOLOGISTS IN THE MAKING” AT THE PENN MUSEUM
Location: 3260 South Streets on the Penn campus in Philadelphia
Ages: AGES 7 TO 13
Times: 9 am to 3 pm, with optional pre-camp (8-9 am) and post-camp (3-5 pm) care
General Information: This summer, adventurous children ages 7 through 13 can experience a unique day camp that takes them through time and across continents at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on Penn’s campus in Philadelphia.

“Anthropologists in the Making,” runs eight theme-oriented one-week sessions from June 20 through August 12, 2011. Details about the popular camp, coordinated by the Penn Museum’s Community Engagement department, are online: www.penn.museum/camp. A downloadable registration form is also available.

Location: Haverford, PA

Ages: 4-13 years old (Teen Studios offered for ages 13-18)

Times: Camp is full day and half day (although half day only for the 4-5 year olds). Full day is 9 am-3:30 pm and half day is 9-11:45 am or 12:45-3:30 pm. Before, after and lunch care are also available

General Information:
This summer, we’re putting ART in the spotlight, and highlighting the many ways that the visual arts enhance every form of creative expression. Explore drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, ceramics, metalwork and jewelry through projects inspired by theatre, music, dance and more. Camp runs June 13-August 26 in 11 one-week sessions in full and half days for children ages 4-13. Before care, after care and lunch care available. Discounts for multiple sessions and siblings too!





Half Day Camp

Makin Music Rockin Rhythms

Location: Media, PA

Ages: 3 1/2 to 7

All campers must be potty trained.

Times: 9:00 am—1:00 pm (bring a lunch)



General Information: For a week or two, they get transported to another world. They make new friends, learn new things, create works of art, and get to experience independence in a fun, safe, and nurturing environment. They have the opportunity to bond with other kids in a way no other place offers - learning camp chants, playing games, water fights, singing, dancing, and working together to put on a show. Kids make memories at camp that they'll treasure for the rest of their lives. Makin' Music is proud to be a part of this magical experience for your child.

*** They also over a camp for 7-12 year olds***




Tyler Arboretum

Location: Media, PA

Ages: 4-5 year olds

General Information: Nature Explorers Summer Camps Tyler Arboretum's Summer Camps connect kids and nature as campers explore our unique and diverse ecosystems. Enthusiastic, highly-qualified staff and low student/teacher ratios facilitate fun, interactive learning with nature and stewardship projects, games, naturalist-led lessons, crafts, and hikes.



Double D Gymnastics

Location: Media, PA

Ages: 3 years olds - 8th grade

General Information: Special Themes each week they offer: gymnastics, rock climbing, music, cooperative fun and games, crafts, indoor soft play, running, climbing, swinging.. Gymnastics.. the Basic Training for ALL Sports. Lots of flexibility offered can sign up for 1 day or 5 days***Full and Half Day Options***



Newlin Grist Mill

Location: Glen Mills, PA

Age: 4- 16 years old

General Information: Newlin has a wide variety of camps for all different ages.




Media Youth Center

Location: Media, PA

Ages: K-8th grade

General Information: The camps runs in June and July from 9am to 1pm




The School in Rose Valley Summer Camp

Location: Media, PA

Ages: 3 to 14 years old

General Information:All full day camps from 8:30 to 3:30 pm All 1/2 day camps run from 8:30 to 12:00 pm They have weekly themes, serve healthful snacks in the morning and Popsicles in the afternoon.




Swarthmore Recreation Association

Location: Swarthmore, PA (Rutgers Avenue School / C.A.D.E.S.)

Ages: For grades K thru 5th (Grades going into in September)

Gerneral Information
Swarthmore Recreation Association Summer Club Day Camp Monday thru Friday: 9:00—11:30 a.m. Everyday activities are planned according to age group and interest; including: Crafts, indoor and outdoor games, sports Playground activities, story time, beverage break Special events will include special "Days" such as:Carnival, Watermelon Hunt, Pop Corn Day, Treasure Hunt, Bingo Party, Hot Dog Day, Water Ice Day,Homemade Ice Cream Day, Magic Show, MoonBounce Day, Skit Day, Color the World Day, Paper Bag Puppet Day, Spin Art Day, Grandparents' Day,Balloon Man Visit, Puppet Show, Collection Day,Karaoke Day, Concert by Makin' Music Band, Franklin Inst. visit.



Swarthmore Recreation Association Pre-School Day Camp

Location: Swarthmore Friends Meeting House Swarthmore College 12 Whittier Place

Ages: 3 yr olds (by June 30) and 4 yr olds (must be toilet trained)

General Information:Monday thru Friday: 9:00—11:30 a.m.

Everyday activities are planned according to age group and interest; including: Crafts, indoor and outdoor games Playground activities, story time, snack break Special events will include special "Days" such as:Pony Rides, Watermelon Party, Pop Corn Day, Nature Hunt, Bingo, Puppet Show, Hot Dog Day, Water Ice Day, Ice Cream Day, Magic Show, Makin' Music Day,Book Day, Color the World Day, Parachute Day, Color Days.



Nature Kids Day Camp at Ridley Creek State Park

*** 2011 info is not available yet***

Location: Ridley Creek State Park -Park Office, second floor

Age: 8- 14

General Information: 9 am-1 pm, Monday-Friday
Each session is 2 weeks long
This is a rigorous program designed for rugged outdoor-loving kids. It is not designed to toughen up or introduce children to nature.

Radnor Day Camp
***2011 info will be available in May

Location: Radnor High School

Ages: 5 to 15 years old





General Information: Planned activities such as arts and crafts, sports games, swimming, performing arts, and a camp carnival. Special events includes exciting field trips to Devon Bowling Lanes, Water World water park, and Citizens Bank Park! Transportation is available for full day campers.


Radnor Tot Lot Camp

Location : Ithan Elementary School

Ages: 3 & 4 year olds


General Info: This camp is a great way to become acquainted with the summer camp experience. An opportunity to meet new friends. Each week features a theme which all activities and special events are planned around. Lots of great visitors each week!


Vanilla Beans Cooking Camp

Location: 27 Oberlin Avenue Swarthmore

Ages: 8-16 years old

General Information: Kids will explore foods from the various regions of the United States and around the world! For those students planning on joining for more than one week, they can look forward to new recipes and experience each week.

Benchmark School Camp

Location: Benchmark School 2107 North Providence Road, Media, PA

Ages: 6-11 years old

General Info: The five-week Summer Language Arts Camp is designed for students ages 6 to 11 who can benefit from reading and writing instruction beyond the regular school year, as well as enjoy the fun of a recreational day-camp experience. The program combines 1–3/4 hours of Benchmark's nationally recognized language arts program with extensive recreational activities, including a Confidence Course. Designed to make even the most reluctant reader "hooked on books," the program places emphasis on developing increased confidence and self-esteem both at work in the classroom and at play with peers.




Holmes Presbyterian Church Vacation Bible School

Location: Located on the corner of Holmes Road and Academy Avenue in Holmes, PA

Ages: ages 5 thru the 6th grade

Gerneeral Info: This summer camp runs from July 11th – 15th from 6:00 – 8:30 pm. The theme is: High Seas Expedition: Where kids explore the mighty love of God. We do amazing crafts, have lip-smacking snacks, sing incredible music, and witness awesome Bible dramas. VBS is for children ages 5 thru the 6th grade. There is no registration fee but donations to offset expenses are appreciated. We are located on the corner of Holmes Road and Academy Avenue in Holmes, PA. To register online go to www.holmeschurch.org/vbs or register upon arrival. Any questions, call 610-532-0346.

Swarthmore Basketball Camp with Dennis Stanton

Location: Swarthmore College

Ages: Boys & Girls Ages 8-16

General Info:

Each camp breaks down skill development and kids work with coaches. There are also guest speakers at the camps.

Summer Reading Program at Saint Joseph's University
Location: Saint Joseph's University, Merion Hall
Ages: elementary and middle school students
General Info:
June 27 – July 28, 2011 M-Th 8:45 a.m to 12 p.m
Saint Joseph’s University Summer Reading Program provides children with individualized assessment profiles, small group instruction, and collaborative literacy learning focused on higher-level thinking. The program is designed to serve elementary and middle school students ranging from struggling readers to those who need to be challenged or enriched. Current literacy research will guide all instructional and reinforcement activities being implemented by certified teachers.





19th Annual Phillies Dance Camp at Springton Dance Academy
Location: 5050 West Chester Pike, Edgemont

Ages: Ages 6-13
General Info: June 21st – 24th

Perform at a Firework Game with the Phanatic Saturday, June 25th


Faith Community Church of Brookhaven
Location: 3515 Edgmomt Ave, Brookhaven, PA
Ages: kids entering kindergarten through 5th grade
General Info: Join Camp Treasure Islands Big Apple Adventure: Where Faith and Life Connect. Sunday, June 26- Thursday, June 30th. . Each day tourists will discover that Faith and Life do Connect, through games, crafts, snacks and music. For more information and to register for this FREE event: www.faithcc.info or call 610-874-1729  

Shake It Up Cafe Vacation Bible School at First United Methodist Church of Media
Location: First United Methodist Church of Media
Ages: K - Grade 5
General Info:
July 10- 14, 2011, 5:30 - 8:30pm
Kids K – Grade 5 are cookin' at Shake It Up Cafe Vacation Bible School July 10-14, 2011 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. Register at http://www.cokesburyvbs.com/shake-it-up-cafe/ShakeItUpVacationBibleSchool before June 15 and it's free. Evening begins with a light meal for kids and families; then music, stories, fun and more are mixed in!


VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 
GALACTIC BLAST!
Location:  Reformation Lutheran Church Media PA
General Info:
July 10 – July 14, 2011
6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.


The cadets will have fun as they create Cosmic Crafts, sing and dance at Moons & Tunes, explore the 
universe at the Orbital Observatory, play at Rocket Rec. and eat tasty treats at the Astro Bistro.










          Kingsley Parish Council Thursday 26th 7:30pm        
Kingsley Parish Council meets on Thursday, 26th January 2017 in the Kingsley Centre at 7.30pm

AGENDA

1. Chairman’s Opening Remarks
2. Apologies for Absence
3. Declarations of Personal/Prejudicial Interest
4. Public Question Time
Public Questions
Consideration of agenda items which will be open to public participation
5. Approval of Minutes of the Meetings held on 24th November 2016
6. Matters Arising
7. Planning Applications

Applications ongoing:
TAG Farnborough Airport Air Space Change Proposal

54919/001 Land at Kingsley Golf Club, Forge Road, Sleaford, Bordon
Erection of 7 houses and 6 flats with associated car parking and external works

30633/030 Frith End Sand Quarry, Grooms Farm Lane, Frith End, Bordon GU35 0QR
Variation of condition 1 of planning permission 30633/019 to allow the continued importation, handling and re-sale of aggregates until 31 December 2022

30633/031 Frith End Sand Quarry, Grooms Farm Lane, Frith End, Bordon GU35 0QR
Variation of condition 2, 5 and 24 of planning permission F30633/012/CMA to revise the approved timing, working and restoration of sand extraction operations

27396/048 Old Park Farm, Forge Road, Kingsley, Bordon, GU35 9LU
B8 storage building after demolition of existing grain store/dryer

22246/004 Sickles House, Forge Road, Kingsley, Bordon, GU35 9NA
Listed building - demolition and rebuild of sun room and garden elevation, part demolition of roof of 20th century addition and rebuild to provide additional accommodation with re-cladding, remodelling of porch, new detached car port, enlargement to car parking area and internal remodelling

22246/005 Sickles House, Forge Road, Kingsley, Bordon, GU35 9NA
Demolition and rebuild of sun room and garden elevation, part demolition of roof of 20th century addition and rebuild to provide additional accommodation with re-cladding, remodelling of porch, new detached car port and enlargement to car parking area
New application:

56687 Land South of Crossing Gate Cottage, Sickles Lane, Kingsley, Bordon
Small single storey timber barn comprising 4 stables, short access track, change of use to equestrian
57024 Bakers Court, Forge Road, Kingsley, Bordon, GU35 9NZ
Two detached buildings for use as offices and workshop
52947/003 Old Park Farm (Land to the East of Kingsley Sport Club, Sickles Lane)
Kingsley, Bordon
Change of use of land for the siting of up to six tourism pods, car parking and general
landscaping

8. St Nicholas Cemetery & Cemetery Chapel
To receive an update from Cllr Rigden

9. Transport, Highways and Road Safety
Speedwatch update
Road Safety
To consider the renewal of the SLR subscription at the slightly increased subscription of £474.91
(from £456.00)

10. Commons, Village Greens and Rights of Way
Upper Green
To consider re-instatement of east end of Upper Green now Piggery development is complete
1. Level area for safe mowing and seed with grass - £310 ex VAT
2. Remove dead and fallen trees - £185 ex VAT
3. Supply and plant hedging to complete front hedge along B3004 to Piggery Development -
£620 ex VAT
Dog Fouling
Playground annual inspection
Lower Green
To consider obtaining legal advice concerning liabilities for giving permission of utility supplies to
run along across footpath 6 to Dale House and new stables. Initial cost about £250

11. Community Resilience
12. Environment and Biodiversity
13. Kingsley Village Forum
Report of firework incident
14. Housing, Business & Commerce
15. Review of Capital Projects
16. Communications
The correspondence received this month was listed & circulated to all Cllrs prior to the meeting.

17. Broadband
To receive an update from Cllr Coury & Cllr Clayton

18. District Councillor
19. Procedures, Finance and Payments
To discuss digitisation of Parish Council legal documents
To receive an update in regards of the invoice for £930 for services from the Kingsley Centre

Payments to be made & Accounts to accept
December 2016 Payments authorised by Cllr Rigden & Cllr Lowe

Payment
Date Payee
Payment
Mode Description Amount
22/12/2016 HMRC BACS PAYE December 2016 20.60
22/12/2016 Karine Nana Yonko BACS Clerk's December 2016 expenses invoice 0009-2016/17 98.60
22/12/2016 Karine Nana Yonko BACS Clerk's December 2016 salary 399.40
January 2017 Payments to be authorised
Payment
Date Payee
Payment
Mode Description Amount
09/01/2017 Southern Electric DD St Nicholas Chapel electricity bill from 30/09/16 - 22/12/16 18.37
27/01/2017 Karine Nana Yonko BACS Clerk's January 2017 expenses invoice 0010-2016/17 80.50
27/01/2017 Karine Nana Yonko BACS Clerk's January 2017 salary 332.40
31/01/2017 HMRC BACS PAYE January 2017 3.60
31/01/2017 Paul Grace BACS Invoice dated 04/01/17 Upper Green grass cutting 264.00
31/01/2017 Harvey Lamport BACS Allotments annual rent unpaid Nov 2015/16 350.00
31/01/2017 Harvey Lamport BACS Allotments annual rent Nov 2016/17 350.00
Date of Next Meeting of Kingsley Parish Council –
Thursday 23rd February 2017 – 7.30 pm at the Kingsley Centre
          How Not To Handle Fireworks        

Remember kids, the first rule of firework safety is to light them by your face! Second...make sure your wick is as short as possible.


          Baby You’re A Firework! DIY Firework Balloons Parade Wagon        

There’s something so magical and nostalgic about waiting until dark for the firework show to begin!  Now that I’m a parent, sharing it with my children makes it all the more special. Although the baby may be a bit young to hang for the real fireworks, that doesn’t mean he has to miss out completely! Follow along for an inexpensive way to make sure baby gets in on the fun with our simple DIY Firework Balloon tutorial and deck out his ride for your... Read more »

The post Baby You’re A Firework! DIY Firework Balloons Parade Wagon appeared first on Itsy Belle.


                  
By unwritten law of internet social networking, this entry was supposed to detonate with the rest of the millions of 4th of July pictures posted to blogs exactly a week ago, meh. Sorry. Some people have been waiting for it since I'm the only one loyal to her holy archival ethics. Last week, however, I dunno. let's say I was too busy. Most of these pictures are substandard quality because I am ridiculous and failed to wipe off my smudged camera lens all weekend, but cute nonetheless thanks to the objects.
On Friday night we threw a family shindig at our place.  All of B.J's siblings and their families came over, my parents also stopped by.  Jill brought over a pool and Amy brought a Slip n Slide!  We chased the kids around and hung out on lawn chairs in the backyard, then moved to the front yard and sparked sparklers and ejecting army parachute men high in the sky.  The kids chased them down and Zoe was pretty eager to do like them, but we all managed not to get hit by the jerk vehicles that fly down our neighborhood.   Later BJ and his brothers amused us with a gripping firework show and we passed out 4th of July party favors of mini-flags, stickers, and these cool red/white/blue blingy blinkie rings.  It was seriously such a fun night, it turned out even better than we anticipated.  Everything fell into place and I think everyone really enjoyed the evening.  Worthy of tradition, even.
                                        Zoe and her cousin Winston kicking it poolside.
Water balloon brawl!



They found the plastic vampire teeth.
I lit a sparkler for Kylee.  The face seems to be one of simultaneous enthrallment and terror. :)



We left the pool out overnight and played in it the following day after it had warmed up (a little) and all three of us slowly waded in until the chill turned to numbness and we were okay being there. 
Zoe's suits are getting a little small on her. :(  They are all becoming flasher suits.
We also filled a cooler up with water balloons, which Zoe found fast and created mayhem with.  Mostly mayhem on herself.

Saturday was up in the air.  We defaulted to having another BBQ at our house.  I mean, I really haven't been able to find a good reason not to have a BBQ.

First album cover?

Night light version of baby!  This lighting looked so pretty through the naked eye, but didn't translate.
Sometimes Zoe and Penny look like they could be sisters...

Aw, we're pals.

Hahaha.  They reminded me of two old men veterans sitting at the parade.
Lolz.  I took advantage of Zoe's will to be like all her friends and strapped her in a carseat like Penny was in hers so she wouldn't run into the road while we were doing fireworks.  It worked for about 15 peaceful, beautiful minutes.
My pretty and patriotic sister and Ace.

This is the point where Zoe was supposed to sleep since she stayed up until midnight the night before but suddenly it was almost midnight again and she was here for the party.

The following day, we went on a picnic with our friends Ian and Stef at Silver Lake.  The canyons were swarming with people, I had never seen anything like it.  By some miracle they located a perfect picnic spot away from the chaos...it was beautiful!


Ian, Stef, and their 11 day old baby boy.
Zoe and her dad doing the trick

          So you went to Carnaval in Cadiz?        
Welcome to Cadiz!

Last week I wrote about my trip to Carnival in La Rinconada, 10km outside of Seville. Well this weekend marked the last weekend of carnaval and to celebrate we went to Cádiz, the capital of carnaval and (apparently) the only place where the dictator Franco failed to squash carnaval celebrations.

The most important thing about Carnaval is you have to dress up. I saw some American students on the train from Seville to Cádiz who had made very poor effort. One of them was wearing normal clothes with a Spanish football shirt on. I shook my head at her in disdain. I imagine she saw me... I say this because everybody on that train was staring at me. Due to circumstances out of my control, I was not sitting with my friends. Which meant I was sitting in a coach of people dressed in normal clothes, dressed like this...

Me and Harry Potter
I know, I know: we look fabulous! There were three other girls in flamenco dresses too. As we were walking from our flats to the train station in Seville, people stopped walking in the street to watch us. A taxi driver got out of his car to try to take a photo of us (rude.) An old man shouted "ENJOY YOURSELVES FLAMENCAS!!!!" Actually a few people shouted that; they used a phrase that I actually thought meant "enjoy your dinner" (buen provecho) but in that context I assume means "enjoy"...

So anyway, we thought we looked great. Our aim (obviously) was to be sexy Spanish senoritas. And if we were in any other country, I think this would have been a convincing costume. However, because we were in Spain people know what Spanish ladies actually dress like. And apparently they do not dress like this. Our Spanish teacher (who was a MASSIVE fan of the costumes by the way) explained to us that flamenco dresses are the only type of folk dress that change with fashion. And ours are old. He was very clear to emphasise that they were old ... and apparently, not in the good "oh my Grandma wore this and I'm a vintage princess" way that we'd hoped, but in a like "Jesus Christ where did you even find that monstrosity" way.

We actually found them in a charity shop called Humana on Calle Feria, and the tags said they cost 15 euros but that day everything in the shop was 4! Four euros! Who would even try to resist a bargain that good!? I bought two! (I also wanted to buy a pair of lemon yellow cotton dungarees but didn't have enough change. and had to choose between those and another dress that has massive green sleeves that look like a cabbage...obviously chose the latter.)

So I guess people in Seville thought we looked pretty crazy because we were so out of fashion. But in Cádiz people weren't that concerned about the vintage of our dresses but the fact we were wearing them at all. You see, Carnaval is insanely important in Cadiz, and it doesn't exist in Seville. In Seville they have Semana Santa (Easter week...hoods that look like the KKK etc etc) and Feria. Feria is a couple of weeks after Semana Santa and the girls wear beautiful (more fashionable) flamenco dresses and everybody spends a week drinking and dancing all night, every night.

Cheeky Cathedral
Apparently there's a bit of a rivalry between Carnival in Cadiz and Feria in Seville. So when the people of Cadiz saw the dresses, the first thing they thought was "SEVILLE!!!!", and they said things like "its not Feria, girls!" or "You're a bit early!" or simply "Sevillanas! Sevillanas!" I thought that was a bit pedantic but there you go. (It also reminded me a bit of the time I wore my traditional Austrian dirndl to Vienna to celebrate Austria Day and realised, the only people who wear dirndl in Vienna are waitresses. Both outfits make me feel like a princess. Both outfits were an absolute bargain and it transpired I wore both of them on inappropriate occasions).

So apart from the dresses, what was Carnaval like? Well, firstly I was struck by how beautiful the city is. Its on the coast with a humongous cathedral and beautiful views over the ocean. The promenade reminded me of the malecón in Havana, which brought back lots of happy memorise, and we sat there to watch the sun go down...

The Atlantic Ocean
During the whole of carnaval there is a great singing competition where local people form groups and write satirical choral songs. They then perform these, in full costumes, on floats and on street corners. For example we saw a bunch of nuns singing and a van full of 'samurai' soldiers.

The nuns singing on a street corner

As it gets later the singing stops and Spanish people do what they do best - hang out on the street drinking. This seemed to be the main activity going on (OBVIOUSLY we joined in). We also found an outdoor concert but I actually missed the concert because I wanted to eat pizza (priorities!).

Crowds outside the Cathedral
After dinner we were wandering around and found a group of people with percussion instruments. They started playing samba beats and walking around so we started a parade behind them, dancing alone and feeling extremely excited. As it got later it got much, much colder, so we spent the early hours in a friendly bar and then a club, until we finally made it back to the station for the first train home at 6.40. There was a big group of us there, and we inevitably ended up separated, but thankfully everyone made it to the station on time.



I felt horrendous all of Sunday and very sorry for myself. Even worse was I found out there had been a firework display at midnight which I totally missed! AND I LOVE FIREWORKS! But overall it was a wonderful experience with all my new friends. And that's the end of my very long post about Carnaval. Two more photos of weird things...

A couple of locals selling seafood I imagine they just caught from the ocean. They gave me a little snail to try but I spat it out when they looked the other way because I didn't want to risk being POISONED  

All nationalities were welcome. In fact, throughout the night I didn't meet that many people actually from Cadiz: mainly Malaga.

Chao for now xxx


          This Incinerated Car Is Exactly Why Boys and Fireworks Don't Mix        
Post by Jacqueline Burt Cote.

incinerated car fireworks
Stories about kids without drivers' licenses taking the family car out on a joyride rarely end well, though usually these tales take a turn for the worse with a fender bender (and that's the best case scenario). But when one 14-year-old Washington boy took his mother's SUV on a secret mission to buy fireworks, the actual driving part went just fine -- it was the fireworks part that ended up totaling the car.

Thankfully -- and, quite frankly, miraculously -- no one was hurt in the incident. But someone most certainly could have been, judging from King County sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West's description of the day's events:

"This morning, a 14-year-old boy took his mom's car without her knowing, picked up friends, and bought fireworks," West told Q13 Fox. "They ... came home, parked the car in the driveway. One of the windows was open and during a Roman candle fight, a firework went into the window and lit the car on fire."

More from CafeMom: 10-Year-Old Girl Burns Down Entire House by Playing With Fireworks

D'oh! It was almost the perfect crime, and then ... teenagers. Also, this:

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14 year old boy takes parents car with friends to buy fireworks; friends shoot Roman Candles at vehicle setting it in fire. @kingcosoPIO 1/2 pic.twitter.com/F5hndatPgI

— Skyway Fire (KCFD20) (@SkywayFire) July 5, 2017
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Yikes! Well, if you ever wondered what would happen if you threw a Roman candle into a car (which you probably never did), now you know. I guess we have to give the kid who drove some credit for making it to the store and back without, apparently, violating any major traffic laws or knocking over any mailboxes (of course it goes without saying that he had no business going anywhere near his mom's car). But a Roman candle fight? That's some straight-up horrible adolescent judgment right there. Who knows where that thing could've landed?! One hates to think what could've happened if the firecracker fell near one of the kids instead of in that open window, considering the state of that poor car.

More from CafeMom: Mom Who Lit Fireworks in Car With Kids Inside May Have Been Seeking Revenge

According to the sheriff's office, the teen's mother is not pressing charges, but there is still an investigation ongoing (West told Q13 Fox it's illegal in King County to sell fireworks to anyone under 16, which sounds like a very sensible law). And hopefully these kids have learned their lesson: Underage driving can have serious consequences, especially when Roman candle fights are involved.


          What’s on | Editor’s pick – November 2016        

Light up the night sky November wouldn’t be November without a family firework display. This is one of the region’s most spectacular, with plenty of additional treats and diversions on offer, as well as tasty food and drink. Firework Fiesta Saturday, 5 November, 5 pm East of England Showground, Peterborough www.peterborougharena.com Expanding your horizons Part […]

The post What’s on | Editor’s pick – November 2016 appeared first on The Moment Magazine.


          Novel Spotlight and Giveaway: Riding Irish by Sara Brookes        
Riding Irish By Sarah Brooks      A Message from Sara: The idea for the Sinners & Saints series is a simple one. Take one “sinner” character, toss them at a “saint” character and step back to watch the sparks fly like a Fourth of July firework display. Or a WrestleMania cage match. Okay, so […]
          Welcome to Peterborough Arena…        

Peterborough Arena is well known for hosting events that a regular venue would struggle to contain, such as the Autumn Food and Country Fair, the Land Rover Owner International Show, and the ever-popular Firework Fiesta. But did you know that the Arena also offers far more compact and bijou spaces for meetings and get-togethers, as […]

The post Welcome to Peterborough Arena… appeared first on The Moment Magazine.


          Camping with Ferrets and a Lone Duck.        


We took Opal camping for the first time last weekend and, as Jesse so aptly put it, we lived to tell the tale.

All-told, it was approximately a 24 hour escapade, with multiple hours on each end for preparation and take-town. But it certainly seemed like a lengthy trip, condensed as it was.

We hardly roughed it. I purchased a "family-sized" tent from Costco that had been set-up and suspended from the rafters in the store, enticing me with my oversized bags of blueberries from below. It was large enough to accommodate a queen-sized foam mattress alongside Opal's Pack-N-Play, providing an extraordinary area to lounge, play and eventually sleep in. We packed camping chairs, an overstuffed cooler stocked with a variety of food and beverage options, the Coleman stove, citronella candles. We packed Opal's Twilight Turtle (that projected stars onto the interior of the tent) and her Giraffe that created battery-powered white-noise. We brought her 3 changes of clothes—she went through every one of them!—while Jesse and I stayed in our same clothes through the length of the journey.

With all this gear, we considered ourselves immune from calamity.

The campground that was selected for our maiden voyage was Lone Duck Campground in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Jesse and I had been there many years prior to Opal's birth, during the era when we subscribed to Sunset magazine. We'd tear out the "Weekend-Trips" pages and follow their instructions on how to have a good time in the particular city they'd featured. I don't recall Lone Duck making it on to their recommendations list, but we did learn where else to visit in Manitou Springs. The town is completely adorable, from the accoutrements gift shop that sells all things bacon to the old-school arcade furnished with a row of Skeeball. We were guided on where to eat, go for scenery and for adventure. We even used Sunset's suggestion to find a place to rent bikes.

But, as I said, Lone Duck was discovered independently. I'll never forget pulling into the campsite the evening of that first visit just as the sky opened up to storm. Jesse and I spent the first few hours sitting in the front seat of his Subaru waiting for the rain to pass, listening to mood music and using his dash as an impromptu bar for a bottle of Sake and two sake cups. (We finished the bottle before the rain finally let up enough to put the tent together.)

Lone Duck is one of those just-add-water, already-assembled type places. The amenities included (but were not limited to) a swimming pool, a playground, an arcade accompanied by an endless supply of fresh-popped popcorn and a fishing pond stocked with one single, solitary Lone Duck. There was a souvenir/convenience store open to offer a variety of impulse buys—ranging from snub-nosed pliers to teddy bears dressed in leather moccasins—to vulnerable campers until 10pm. The sum of the aforementioned details created a place that vacillated between comforting and blatantly silly.

It was mid-afternoon when we pulled into our campsite with a sleeping kiddo in the backseat of the car. At that time, we thought we found some prime real estate located in the far-off corner of an empty gravel culdesac next to a lush thicket of grasses, completely surrounded by trees. But by 8pm that night, there were 5 other vehicles, tents and sets of campers crammed into that same culdesac, stripping the space of any real rustic appeal and replacing it with more of a tone of "Block Party."

But it remained lovely. None of our fellow campers were obnoxious in any way.

(The author must take a moment to reflect on a camping trip taken with Jesse and Olive-the-dog long before Opal came along. Those who were camping close-by grew in volume and rudeness in direct proportion to their increasing beer consumption—blasting classic rock, revving car engines, hooting and grunting like animals—to the point where Jesse and I actually put in earplugs while we sat by the fire before deciding to pack up our entire camp and leave.)

In fact, the fellow camping just down the way from us, who sported a dozen or so 666 tattoos in an array of fonts and sizes, happened to be camping with his two pet ferrets. He brought them over to greet Opal, offering his own delightfully bright eyes that immediately brought his appearance back to the level of neutral. They sniffed Opal's arms in a tickly weasel fashion that had her in stitches. Later in the night when a random firework was set off in the distance, it was our dear 666 friend, Jake, who yelled Knock it off!

He's turned out to be our protector. Jesse said.

There was nothing for a toddler not to love about our tent. A down comforter on the foam-mattress where she could walk and read and play with her Tommy Trains and finger puppets. It was limitless access to mommy and daddy's bed, on the ground, enveloped in orange walls. She enjoyed the playground as it brimmed with friendly kiddos of all ages, hi kiddos!, (it was too rainy and cold for the pool) but I consider it to be a safe assumption that she'd have preferred to stay in the tent with mommy and daddy for the entire stretch of the afternoon.

In the evening, we took a short drive to evade a series of monstrous, bloated clouds and wound up in Green River Falls. A precious dollhouse of a town with a tiny lake that brimmed with ducks and geese and a foot-bridge that lead to a gazebo right in the center. It had an expansive kelly-green lawn with picnic tables nestled under shade trees, an impressive park with half a dozen slides and swings and a sandbox as big as our bedroom at home. There was a row of little shops ending with the quaintest of diners called, aptly, The Pantry. Jesse and I had ridden our (rented) bikes down here during the aforementioned Lone Duck adventure, and dined at The Pantry, were served by a waitress who wore her hair in a classic Beehive. (However, I would not have remembered how to get to this place had it not been for Jesse, so the Beehive portion could easily be a figment of my imagination.)

The Pantry had opened a garden patio with an open-air bar and full menu, nestled beneath enough shade trees and umbrellas that the impending storm no longer concerned us. A portly feline that dangled from a branch near the entrance sold Opal instantly on our spontaneous dinner choice. A live musician—an irresistible John Wayne-type cowboy—serenaded Opal with Hush Little Baby and the crowd of diners cheered and waved and grinned in her direction. Opal was so lit up that the notion of hunger didn't even occur to her until we returned to camp.

She didn't get too close to the campfire—HOT!— but it was heaven to sit her on my lap in our respective fleeces as the sun tucked away for the evening, and read her a book while she sipped milk that was warmed on the Coleman stove. There is something wildly liberating about taking her bedtime routine on the road and having it continue to be successful.

Encased in stars and the hushhhh of her noise machine, worn from her long and thrilling day, Opal fell asleep without a single peep. Jesse and I were able to sit by the camp fire—just the two of us!—where we waxed about what life would be like when Opal has a sibling as we sipped on beer and ate peanut butter cups. This peaceful and kid-free moment was not a moment I had expected.

Somewhere between the quiet time and preparing the area for bed, another car of campers pulled in right next to us. It was as if people were checking into the adjacent hotel room in a hotel without walls. When we climbed into the tent with Opal, I remember distinctly noticing how the conversations of our neighborhood of campers seemed to be getting louder—perhaps the drinking was loosening the vocal chords, perhaps we couldn't hear so well when we were sitting by the pops and crackles of the fire. Jesse asked if I wanted ear plugs but I declined, not wanting to miss anything if Opal needed me. (Silly, I know, she was less than an arm's length from my chin.) And if she woke, I also did not want to miss the reason why.

Then the rain came. The tink-tink-tink of individual raindrops shifted to the blaring wash of downpour in no time and the outside conversations were no longer an issue. (I must admit I felt a certain devious sense of satisfaction in visualizing the chatty campers being forced to scurry into their tents.) A storm ensued that lasted for what seemed like hours, though I couldn't see my watch in the dark and am not at all sure of the timing. Cycles of lightening followed by ground-shaking thunder accompanied the deafening, seamless downpour. Opal didn't even stir. Jesse and I lay there in the darkness (the Turtle-stars had shut off from the timer) and listened, smiling in spite of ourselves at our little toddler who was to wind up being the best-rested of the three of us.

I'd been so concerned with Opal not being warm enough at night. It gets frigid in the mountains at night, even in the dead of summer. I packed her snowsuit to sleep in, if push came to shove. But the night wound up being cool, not frigid, and she stayed put beneath her weighty comforter so she was perfectly comfortable . She woke twice during the night, independent of thunder crashes, and I held her and rocked her back to sleep with very little effort.

Again, I took great pleasure in transferring these familiar acts from home to a tiny vinyl hut in the middle of the night in the middle of a gravel lot in the middle of a campground in Manitou Springs. As I said before, there is a feeling of such satisfaction in being able to move the whole experience of day-to-day family life to new environs. Gives you a sense of being adaptable, capable.

In conclusion, our dress rehearsal of the Grimes family, unplugged, indeed went off without a hitch, barring lack of sleep and a minor cooler catastrophe.

Next stop: Colorado wilderness. Where we have a plot of space all to ourselves (and the previously inhabiting wildlife) just off a dusty old pull-off road where the Subaru can sleep close-by.



          Spear Family Reunion at Spirit Lake        
We went to the lake for the 4th of July and it was so cold.  That didn't stop the kids from getting in the water.  It was such a bummer that it wasn't warmer.








 We went to the firework show in Spirit Lake.  It was a pretty good show.



           Sophos podcast - DNSChanger, MS patches, App Store malware, virus ate my firework and password theft http://tco/J0L2WDHC        
2012-07-15 19:21:07 - SophosLabs : Sophos podcast - DNSChanger, MS patches, App Store malware, virus ate my firework and password theft http://tco/J0L2WDHC
          Comment on Help me 2017, you’re my only hope by Sara        
I really loved reading this post Lee-Ann! Personally, 2016 wasn't a great year and the deaths of Bowie and Prince affected me more than I expected - like you I was lucky enough to see Prince live (that one time I skipped school and travelled to the other end of the country-totally worth it! Sorry parents!) and both his and Bowie's music have been part of my life as long as I can remember. It's hard to believe that they are gone. I spent Hogmanay at the street party in Edinburgh, watching Paolo Nutini's concert under Edinburgh Castle which was possibly the best way to send of 2016. I love him anyway, but it was clear that Paolo wanted to help see out the old year in an uplifting way too - definitely the best I have ever seen him live! During one of his songs, he paid tribute to some of those who passed on in 2016 (Prince, Bowie, Carrie Fisher and others); and at the bells there was a huge firework display set to Let's Go Crazy and Rebel Rebel (and a snippet of the Star Wars theme). It sounds strange but it was honestly such an uplifting and cathartic night and the best way to welcome in 2017. I'm just hoping that 2017 is a better year for the world :p Hope 2017 brings you everything you want it to!
          VOLCANO's 4th of July Vape Sale        

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VOLCANO's 4th of July 3-Day Vape Sale

 

The 4th of July commemorates the day we adopted the Declaration of Independence and marks the day we became our own nation. We celebrate this festive holiday with barbecues with our family and friends, a day at the beach; marvelous parades and we top it off with splendid firework shows. 

During this time of celebration, don’t forget to celebrate your own independence from tobacco cigarettes. We want to celebrate with you with our special 4th of July Vape Sale! Enjoy incredible discounts on select vape products and receive up to 80% off so you can stock up and save on your favorite e-juices, devices, accessories and more.

 

Find a VOLCANO vape shop near you

 

Shop online or in-store and get in on 3 days of COLOSSAL vape savings from July 2 – July 4

 

SHOP NOW

 

Check out the incredible deals waiting for you below. Don’t wait too long because this sale won’t last!

 

fourth-of-july-vape-sale-2017-menu

 

 

Terms & Conditions 

Not combinable with any other discounts or offers. Sale prices valid from 7/2/2017 12:00AM HST to 7/4/2017 11:59PM HST. Deals valid on VOLCANO online store and at all Hawaii VOLCANO retail store locations only.


          VOLCANO’s 4th of July Weekend Sale        

Celebrate Your Freedom from Cigarettes With VOLCANO’s 4th of July Weekend Sale

 

The 4th of July marks the anniversary of the day we adopted the Declaration of Independence and marks the birth of our great nation. We celebrate with long days at the shore, barbecues with family and friends; extravagant parades and we end it with magnificent firework shows.

During this great weekend, also remember to celebrate your independence from smoke. We want to help you celebrate with our special 4th of July Weekend Sale, happening now and through the weekend.  Enjoy incredible discounts on select e-liquids, starter kits, vape accessories, and apparel.

You enjoy your freedom from smoke, now share that liberation with a loved one and with this weekend’s sale, there is no better time to introduce them to the better alternative.

 

Shop Now

 

 

Restrictions of Sale: Not combinable with any other offers, not convertible to points or cash value, additional restrictions apply. Offer valid 7/3/15 12:00AM HST – 7/5/15 11:59PM HST.


          New Year's 2014 Vapor Lounge        

The VOLCANO eCigs Vapor Lounge was on location at the NYE Party of the Year at Kaka`ako Waterfront Park on December 31, 2013 bringing in the New Year with a BANG! Festival goers 18+ were welcomed to enjoy the lounge for free which also included an eliquid flavor sampling bar complete with Bluewater Punch, Tobacco, Tobacco Pure, Menthol, Menthol Burst, Halawa Guava and also VOLCANO e-cigarettes new seasonal eliquid flavors, Apple Pie and Salted Caramel.  See all event photos on Facebook>>

Everyone who came by had the chance to spin the prize wheel to win goodies such as free sunglasses, t-shirts and coupons throughout the night. With one of the best seats in the house for the hourly firework shows, attendees were also provided with an area to sit down, relax and watch not to mention a dance floor right next to an amazing DJ to get their dance moves on! The Vapor Lounge was a huge hit entertaining crowds of Vapers and party people all night long!
 
The VOLCANO Fine Electronic Cigarettes Vapor Lounge will be at the Winter Wonderland event at the Kapolei Podium Raceway on Saturday, February 1, 2014 providing a free space for lounging, mingling with other Vapers, sampling our eliquids and the chance to win many prizes. It has been a whirlwind year at VOLCANO eCigs and it was a pleasure to bring in the new year with some of our awesome customers, and making some new friends as well. 

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Vapor Lounge
 
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          Facebook | Фотографии Katy Perry        
katy perry and firework image
          Firework Safety: Don't Get Burned This Holiday Weekend [Infographic]        
Consumers should not purchase and light fireworks, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
          Best Places To See Fireworks In Washington DC        
To save you the time of roaming around in the DC heat this July 4th holiday, here are some prime choices for optimal firework viewing pleasure.
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beauiful, black and white, and firework image
          4th of July Celebrations!        
Daily Dose

4th of July Celebrations!

1:30 to read

The 4th of July weekend is here, which means many families will celebrate with a long weekend with other families and friends. Let’s remember the importance of making it a safe holiday!   

Of course the celebration includes fireworks which are definitely fun to watch, but at the same time, when they are used by consumers (many of whom are children and teens) rather than by trained professionals, there are many associated risks.  Being on call in the ER as a new doctor was one of the scariest and longest nights in my life...and I can remember seeing children with burns...several which were disfiguring. Burns remain one of my biggest fears.

In 2013 there were an estimated 11,400 people treated in emergency rooms for fireworks related injuries, and the risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 0- years, followed by children 10-14 years. I know that having fireworks in your backyard or on the beach is fun, but also dangerous. Although I was used to my boys saying, “ Mom, you tell us that everything that is fun is too dangerous...which not only included fireworks, but trampolines, and motorcycles.”  I am sticking to that.

The majority of fireworks related injuries were to the extremities followed by those to the head (eyes, ears, face).  The greatest number of injuries were caused by small firecrackers, sparklers, and bottle rockets. Did you know that a sparkler burns as hot as 1200 degrees F, while water boils at 212 degrees F and wood burns at 575 degrees F!! Even a left over sparkler may cause a significant burn to little hands.

Fireworks are best left to the “hands” of the experts. Fireworks are dangerous and can be unpredictable, especially in the hands of amateurs (including parents).  Public firework displays are equally enjoyable and are carefully planned and executed. Especially with drought conditions and fires already raging in parts of the U.S. it is especially important to be aware of the risk of inadvertently setting a small fire from a misguided bottle rocket.  That small fire may lead to an even bigger fire which destroys acres of land as well as puts firefighters themselves at risk. No one wishes for that scenario but there were over 17,500 fires caused by fireworks in previous years. 

Start planning your holiday fireworks viewing now....from a safe venue! Happy 4th!


          Are you looking for a firework specialist for special event        
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          Micro and Macro Benefits Should Stay Separate        
Recent posts by Mark Thoma and Michael Roberts have spurred me to think more about how to evaluate fiscal policies at the zero lower bound. Both Thoma and Roberts make arguments that because crowding out is less severe at the zero lower bound, certain government investments become much more desirable. For Thoma, this policy is increased infrastructure investment, whereas Roberts focuses more on investments in environmental policy. As such, Roberts asks: “how do we more generally evaluate the costs and benefits of public policies in a depressed economy?” This post will be an attempt at answering that question. My core thesis is that while government investment can be more desirable at the zero lower bound, it is no more desirable when the economy is at the zero lower bound than when it is not.

Why is the zero lower bound important anyways? One argument against fiscal policy is that government spending can crowd out private spending, leaving net expenditure unchanged. This can happen through two ways. First, it can happen through direct channels -- when the government builds a new school, this may crowd out a private school that was built in the region. Second, there is an interest rate channel. To finance the new spending, the government has to borrow from financial markets, crowding out private borrowing and thereby attenuating any positive effect of fiscal policy. However, when the economy is at the zero lower bound, private investment is typically weak and interest rates are low. These conditions mean that government spending will likely result in “crowding in” as multiplier effects stimulate more activity. This was the major argument behind the  DeLong and Sumner paper about fiscal policy at the zero lower bound. Therefore government investment spending carries a “double dividend” at the zero lower bound; it boosts output, long run growth, while also avoiding crowding out effects.

I see two major problems with this argument. First, it ignores the Sumner Critique about monetary policy offset. If monetary policy controls the nominal growth path of an economy, then there’s no point in trying to get more aggregate demand with government investments. Any multiplier effect will just be canceled out by the monetary authority passively tightening in response. While we haven’t seen as much tightening in the U.S. economy, we have seen this process work in reverse. Even as the government has severely tightened fiscal policy, signs of aggregate demand have held surprisingly steady. A comparison with Europe -- a continent going through a similarly savage bout of austerity -- leads us to conclude that monetary policy still has a wide latitude in determining aggregate demand even at the zero lower bound. Japan’s recent spike in growth has also shown that monetary policy can have an effect even after a long period of zero rates. This contradicts the assumption made in the DeLong and Summer paper that assumes monetary policy becomes powerless at the zero lower bound, means that any multiplier effects of government investment are minimal. Therefore multiplier or “crowding in” effects do not serve as a sound basis for evaluating government investment.

Now suppose for some reason that the monetary authority has imperfect credibility and cannot pull the economy out of the zero lower bound. Does government investment become more attractive as a result? Still no. This is because the proper benchmark is not the absence of government spending, but rather the next best government spending option. When considering all these investment proposals, we should remember that the government could always spend its money on “firework shows” or “alien defenses”. This (inefficient) policy scheme would capture all the multiplier expenditure effects with none of the long run growth effects. But as a result, the dividend of using government investment are no greater at the zero lower bound than when interest rates are positive.

Some others have made the even more radical argument that the zero lower bound means aggregate supply reducing policies, such as more stringent environmental regulations, can actually have macro benefits at the zero lower bound by increasing inflation. However, a look at forecast data in Japan around the time of the tsunami and in the U.S. around the time of the Libyan oil shocks shows that adverse supply shocks are, well, adverse. Output doesn't rise in response to supply shocks -- even at the zero lower bound.

So where do we end up? While the “double dividend” hypothesis might be a strong political argument for government investment, the core, apolitical economic analysis suggests that the zero lower bound does not make investment more desirable than usual. As a result, focus needs to be directed towards identifying the efficiency costs of low investment, not low output -- focus on the Harberger triangles, not the Okun gaps.

          No Shortage of Choices at Champny's Fireworks        
Champny’s Fireworks in Bow is a family-owned business that has pyrotechnics of every shape and size. Deborah Colby, the owner of Champny’s Fireworks in Bow, stands in front of a TV display of fireworks, giving her customers a preview of what they buy. Lissa and Jessica Dubois of Hopkinton huddle close to the screen, transfixed. "These are really cool," they say. How many fireworks do they want to buy? "Like 20," Lissa says. "More than that!" Jessica says. It would be easy to want many more than 20 fireworks, especially with items like "The Poopy Puppy" firework for sale. "It…well you can see here, you can position it to sit on the ground, you light the fuse, and well…you can see the rest," Colby says. T he little plastic puppy squats, and makes a firework. There are also plastic chickens that lay eggs, blooming sunflowers with flames for petals, and mini motorcycles that shoot firey exhaust. And that’s just the small stuff. I request a demonstration—you know, for radio's sake. We step
          Templo releases Sunrise Vol II [FREE DOWNLOAD]        
Liam Shea, better known as Templo in our corner of the scene, just released his dreamy downtempo collection Sunrise Vol. II. The EP opens with 'Mai Dai' which is a soothing uptempo firework in your earbuds that produces a kinetic type of zen. It took me back to some downtempo escapes like older Royksopp or Tycho. Fans of Bonobo should be really happy with The Untz of late, having this new Templo release, and the amazing Frameworks album that was reviewed last week.
          Our top picks for New Year’s Eve        

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest events of the year, with parties all across the world to celebrate the start of the next 12 months. While a UK NYE is sure to be an exciting one, 2016 could be the time for you to try something different and head overseas to celebrate 2017 in style. With some cheap flights available this December, it could be less expensive than you think, too. Here are some of our top picks for a thrilling December 31st. Gibraltar Gibraltar is the perfect location for those hoping to head overseas without losing Britain’s party culture. The island is full of expats from the UK and boasts a wonderful party atmosphere every NYE. Casemates Square is the place to be on December 31st, with plenty of bars fuelling a fantastic family-friendly event. Live music starts from 10pm from local group JetStream, ahead of the traditional countdown at 11:59pm and stunning fireworks from midnight. If you would like to continue the festivities into 2017, there are a few clubs with special New Year’s celebrations, while those looking for a more peaceful start to January could simply relax on the mesmerising Catalan Bay. Barcelona As one of the most desirable cities in the world, Barcelona is a tremendous option for a NYE trip abroad. There are parties organised all over and, with stunning architecture and incredible restaurants dotted around the region’s neighbourhoods, a holiday to the Catalan capital could make for an excellent start to 2017. The official New Year’s Eve party takes place at the Montjuic Magic Fountain and is totally free of charge. The festivities begin here at 11pm and include the phenomenal Son et Lumiere show, ahead of the chiming of the bells at midnight as 2017 starts with a flurry of breathtaking fireworks. What’s more, there are some interesting traditions across Barcelona that coincide with the New Year. One of these is the superstition of eating twelve grapes during the midnight chimes. No one is entirely sure how this started, but it was popularised in the 19th century and it is said that those who manage to eat all 12 without choking will be blessed with good luck in the year! Rome Well-regarded as one of the world’s most romantic destinations, Rome could make for a magical start to 2017. The Italian city is home to some of Europe’s best restaurants and architecture, and it looks absolutely resplendent in the cosy winter atmosphere. Perhaps the best place to visit on December 31st is Circo Massimo, where a free concert is held every year. Live music starts at 9:30pm and goes on until midnight, when the city’s skies will be lit up with stunning fireworks. An excellent alternative is the New Year’s Eve Opera Gala, which takes place at the beautiful Methodist Church of Italy. The event kicks off at 7pm and sees some of the country’s best soprano and tenor soloists cover songs from operatic legends such as Rossini and Mozart. Perhaps the largest celebration takes place at the Colosseum, where live music performances start at 10pm, before magical fireworks light up the sky above one of the world’s most recognisable structures. Lisbon Visitors to Lisbon are spoilt for choice on New Year’s Eve, as amazing festivities take place throughout the city. The biggest event is at Comercio Square, where thousands of people enjoy spectacular fireworks reflecting onto the Tagus River, creating a jaw-dropping start to the new year. Another popular spot for NYE is Torre de Belem. As one of the most historic monuments in the city, it is a marvellous sight on its own, but when you add fireworks and a sensational view of the Atlantic Ocean, it is truly magical. Of course, if you’re not interested in the firework displays, you can always enjoy a delightful meal at one of Lisbon’s many top restaurants. Restaurante Belcanto’s deluxe menu of Portuguese cuisine is a top pick, while the seafood of Sea Me is hard to turn down. Just remember to check opening times and book a table in advance to avoid disappointment. Lisbon also has a unique New Year’s tradition of its own – eating 12 raisins after midnight. It is said to bring good luck. Venice As one of the most photographed cities in the world, everyone has been charmed by Venice’s stunning architecture, and there’s no better time to see it in person than December 31st. The iconic St Mark’s Basilica will host the countdown to midnight, which will be followed by wonderful fireworks. Whether you brave the crowds at ground level or watch the display from a local bar, you will never forget it. Elsewhere in Venice, the New Year’s concert will take place at the Fenice Theatre and run from December 30th to January 1st. The event includes performances by Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice, alongside some of the best soloists and choir singers in Italy. On New Year’s Day, the event is televised across the country and has grown to become a national tradition. You can even start 2017 in style in Venice by joining in the fun at the Blue Moon Beach Festival at Lido Beach, where people begin the new year with a dip in the water!

The post Our top picks for New Year’s Eve appeared first on Monarch Blog.


          Chester Bonfire Night and Firework Displays 2011        

Many thanks for visiting Your Chester. We have tried to list as many Chester and Cheshire bonfire nights and fireworks displays as we could find but we are sure there must be more!

Pop yours over to us at support@directoryofchester.net

Liverpool Bonfire Nights | York Bonfire Nights | Leeds Bonfire Nights | Newcastle Bonfire Nights | Manchester Bonfire Nights
          Vishu - Malayalam New Year - Kani Kanal Wishes,Greeting,Messages,Details        
Vishu is an important festival in God’s own country Kerala. It is second largest festival after Onam that comes in Spetemper. Vishu is a Malayalam New year that comes on April 15th every year. Kerala is known for its culture and greenish and tradition, they are strictly maintain the culture and love the nature that presented from God, they believe.Vishu is not only observed by Malayalis also by Tuluves in other states. It is called as Bisu in the Karnataka region it is in Mangalore and Udupi districts. It is also celebrated in some parts of Tamilnadu which comes after the Tamil New year. Vishu is something special to Malayalis and Kani Kanal is the one of the interesting moment in this festival.

Vishu – Kerala ‘s Own Festival:

Vishu_new_year_april15_2015

 Vishu is largely observed in the state of Kerala and some parts of Tamilnadu and Karnataka. Vishu is celebrated in the first day of Malayalam Month Medam which comes in the second week of April in the Gregorian Calender. Kani Kanal is the interesting one in Vishu celebration where under this tradition there is prescribed list of Items that should be seen first on the Vishu Morning. It gives wealthy to the family, a believe in Kerala. It is called Vishukkani, which means “The first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up”. It will consist of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles intended to signify prosperity, including rice, fruits and vegetables, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, yellow flowers called konna (Cassia fistula), holy texts and coins, usually in the prayer room of the house

Vishu  - Traditional Day of Kerala:

Vishu_malayalam_new_year_april15

Vishu is celebrated with much fanfare and vigour in all part of Kerala. It is considered as light and firework festival. Other special on vishu is Buying new clothes as PuthuKodi. Tradition of giving money is called as VishuKaineetam and feast or Vishu Sadya, which consist of equal proportions of Salty,sweet,sour and bitter items. It includes Veppampoorsam, Mampazhappulissery, Vishu kanji and Vishu katta. The day of Vishu is often considered as the first day of the Zodiac Calendar. However, if the transit of Sun into Aries (Mesha Sankramana) occurs after dawn on the first day of the zodiac calendar, then the Vishu celebrations will be on the next day, i.e. the second day of the calendar

Traditional day comes and celebrate it with your friends and family. As a part of Vishu lets buy new clothes and blast the crackers and Fireworks. Lets have a feast with your family and relation on this festival day. Vishu satya is the one of the best feast in  SouthIndia. Malayali’s always known for their tradition and welfare and wealth for state.Lets celebrate this new year festival comes on April 15 of every year. More about festival days like us and share this with your Friends. Vishu Aasamsakal my Friend.

          Spiraken Movie Review Ep 20:Hitchin a Ride With Someone You Love…or Hate        

Happy Thanksgiving, In this fun filled episode of the Spiraken Movie Review, Xan is Joined by Zorro as they review that John Hughes holiday classic “Dutch” starring Ed O’ Neil, Ethan Embry, and Christopher Mcdonald

dutch.jpg

Zorro also regals our audience with stories of his friend Roadkill ,Xan discusses restaurant cuisine, there is discussion on why goosedown feather jackets are not good firework deturents, and our hosts offerother insightful deviations from the review. We hope that you have a safe and eventful holiday and remember that Xan’s birthday is on the 30th so send him birthday wishes

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          4th of July Oriental Trading Review...        

* I was provided product by Oriental Trading in exchange for reviewing 4th of July products.*

Thanks to Oriental Trading, I am really excited to tell you about their amazing 4th of July products!

First, check out the fun centerpiece we received for our kitchen table...


I am excited to show this fabulous centerpiece to our guests! It has American flags, stars, and silver firework foil bursts. I think it's great that it is nice and compact. That will make it easy to store for next year.

We are also thrilled with our new glass jar set...


They hold our 4th of July treats just perfectly and they look so classy! Oriental Trading always impresses me with the great selection of party items they have to pick from.

Now look at these awesome handouts for our party...



The star sticky notes, matching pens, socks, and mints in these cute little patriotic buckets are for sure going to be a huge hit!

Another thing we know everyone will love is this super cool Light-Up Fountain...


We love that the cups hang nice and neatly on the side of the bottom bowl. This is going to be wonderful to use for many different occasions for years to come!

Now what are you waiting for? Hurry and head on over to check out all of the fantastic 4th of July products on their easy to navigate website!


After you go shopping then make sure and go visit them on Facebook here!

Thank you so very much Oriental Trading for the amazing products and customer service!!

Disclaimer: *I do not receive any money for my posts. I do however receive the review products at no charge to evaluate and express my opinion.*
          juegos faciles firework battle        
pincha en la imagen para jugar
juegos faciles firework battle: tienes que lanzar los cohetes y eliminar al enemigo que tienes en el otro bando, coje bien la graduacion y la potencia y pasa las fases eliminando al adversario.
          Bonus - Being You Is The Best Place To Start        
Welcome to a bonus episode of Join Up Dots, where your host David Ralph talks from the heart about allowing yourself to be you. Why is it at the very beginning of our venture to a new world, we try to do it with our hand tied behind our backs? We make it so much more difficult by not allowing ourselves to use the talents that life has given us to the full! Tip Toeing around picking up the scraps that people throw in our direction. Shouldn't we be blazing big to give ourselves the best chance to be noticed? Shouldn't we be taking a close look at the things that we do amazingly well, that others are in total awe off? In this episode David Ralph asks you all to do a simple exercise and report back on the talents that you are hiding away instead of blasting out into the world. He asks you to take a close look at two aspects of your life. Number One: What is the thing that you loved doing more than anything on earth? Number Two: Where do you feel the most comfortable working, performing or using your gifts? By looking at both of these key areas, you will gain a clearer understanding of where you should be focusing your energies. You will gain a huge head start on others who play the small game when beginning their jounrye to the life of their dreams. Blaze big people! And as Katy Perry says "You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine Just own the night like the 4th of July 'Cause, baby, you're a firework Come on, show 'em what you're worth Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah" As you shoot across the sky-y-y Baby, you're a firework Come on, let your colours burst Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah" You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe"  
          Katy Perry Persembahkan Album Untuk Fans Setia        
Penyanyi cantik asal Amerika Serikat, Katy Perry mengungkapkan, album terbarunya ia persembahkan khusus bagi penggemar setianya. Album TEENAGE DREAM: The Complete Confection milik Katy akan rampung pada bulan ini, dengan single pertamanya, Part of Me, yang kini menduduki posisi teratas di Billboard Hot 100.
"Rasanya rekaman itu tidak pernah berakhir! Tentu saja aku akan segera menyelesaikan hal ini. Aku siap membuat album baru dan mungkin mencoba untuk artistik yang berbeda, aku akan menutup buku Teenage Dream secepatnya, tapi ini semua benar-benar terasa alami," ungkap pelantun tembang Firework ini pada MTV News.
"Aku mempersembahkannya terutama untuk para penggemar setia, karena selalu mencintaiku. Dan juga, aku tidak bisa menaruh lebih dari 12 lagu di album TEENAGE DREAM yang asli, aku telah menulis lebih banyak lagu dan akhirnya aku ingin menggabungkan mereka."
“Aku menulis lagu selama dua hari. Ini gila, karena aku harus rekaman dini hari dan berusaha untuk tetap terjaga sambil menyanyikan lagu. Sangat melelahkan! Tapi tak masalah kalau akhirnya bisa menghasilkan sesuatu yang bagus,” pungkas Katy Perry(mcn/num) sambil tertawa.  

          Happy Fourth Of July!        
Happy fourth of July! I hope everyone has a fun and restful day spent with family and friends. The kids have been busy preparing for today, here are some of the things we have been up to.

Decorating our bulletin board with tiny foot prints and stars

Making curtains with the left over foot prints and star scraps 

Baking and decorating sugar cookies

Making firework paintings with pipe cleaners


Dying wild flowers from our walk  

Making flower inspired drawings 

Cutting up strawberries to top our ice cream with

And later on in the afternoon we made smoothies with the left over fruit
What a great way to end our day, Happy Fourth Of July!

          Light-writing my name!        

More firework magic - light-writing my name on Diwali. It would have been naive to expect my sparkler-air-writing to be any less unacceptable than my just pen-paper-writing.

If you don't know how to do this - it's quite simple; all you need is a tripod and a camera that has at least the shutter-speed priority function. Set it to 15+ seconds with fairly low ISO sensitivity, start the timer and start writing!
          The Ring of Fire        


Diwali firework magic this evening with a giant sparkler. That's me in my luminous red/orange shirt.
          Comment on Does Your Dog Have Thunder or Firework Related Anxiety? Don’t Make This Mistake! by Cindy B        
Our first 4th of July with our dog and poor thing is shaking so bad. My heart hurts just seeing him so scared. I immediately googled how to help him. The tip to tightly bundle a stressed pet worked great and with in 5 minutes he stopped shaking. Thank you so much!!
          Comment on Does Your Dog Have Thunder or Firework Related Anxiety? Don’t Make This Mistake! by C. Smith        
Just read Dianes comment and had a chuckle. Im lying in bed, reading this on cell phone and sure enough my boxer is calming down. Shes only 2 but shes never reacted like this before. Im so glad my neighbors decided to let a few fireworks go the night before...said no dog owner ever. Anyway, at least I know not to leave her at home with our other boxer alone tomorrow night. We just moved to a more rural area on a couple of acres, they are chipped but still dont want to risk coming home to a frightend pooch. Movie night, curtains down, frozen peanut butter Kongs. Happy 4th everyone. Stay safe.
          Write a letter of apology for inappropriate behavior to the host of a fictional party you attended the night before.        
Dear Mrs. Pearson

I must sincerely apologize for the deplorable contretemps that occurred at your New Year's Eve Party last evening.  I can assure you that had I not been tricked into thinking it was a Harry Potter Costume party, I would not have come dressed as such.  I certainly did not mean to surface your long buried, and deeply rooted fear of all things magical.

I supposed I should have realized when most attendees were dressed in rather muggle-like, excuse me, I mean normal clothing, that something was amiss.  I did not, however, realize the depths of my faux pas until those truly incredible, I mean, horrible magic events began to entertain your guests.

I assure you that I am not a witch, no matter how long you have thought thusly of me.  I have no clue how the bowls of candy turned into Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, nor how they actually functioned like those in the book.  Additionally, I was not aware of your fear of being pecked to death by canaries, but had I known, I can assure you I would not have encouraged your husband to try the candy.  He really was only trying to kiss you and wish you a Happy New Year.

Furthermore, the "wand" I brought is not a real wand, not even one that was purchased off of the internet.  I made it myself from a branch of a tree I found lying on the ground in the park.  The fact that my firework display overshadowed your simulation of the dropping of the ball at midnight was not intentional.  I was simply pointing out the lights to another guest and the totally awesome magic spurts came right out as I pointed the tip to indicate the direction she should look.

I am intensely aware that your grievances are too numerous to mention but I most humbly apologize for all, en masse.  Indeed, I am reminded of them nearly every moment of the day as my ears are still ringing from your amazingly high-pitched, piercing screams.

Should you ever come out of your house again, please do consider holding another party.  I promise never to mention, well, nevermind.

Sincerely,

Your (former) Boss
Ms. Candula Palmer

P.S.  As you requested, enclosed, please find your final paycheck.
          Firework Frenzy        
I love taking pictures of fireworks. You never know what you will get, and each picture is so unique. I have dozens of firework photos taken over the last few weeks, but I couldn't resist sharing a few from the Fourth with you. These are some of the fireworks that my friend's boyfriend set off at his house after we enjoyed a lovely all-afternoon-to-evening potluck at their property, and the kids delighted themselves with sparklers, pop-its, smoke bombs and fountains while eagerly waiting for darkness to fall.( The giggling as the kids ran through a field of 2 foot high Christmas trees while chasing after parachutes was positively contagious.) I like the last one in particular, the way it resembles a wildflower.
Fireworks are such a fun Independence Day tradition for our family. We love our traditions! Next is my birthday camping trip, which somehow always manages to distinguish itself from the 6 or 7 other camping trip each year, and then the pumpkin patches in the fall.  And so on. I don't remember too many family traditions as a child (Though I loved the few we had!) and neither does my husband, so we probably go overboard creating them for our little family. I don't think a single one of us, however, would have it any other way.
          Firework ring        

18k White gold, Sapphires.

A firework ring for Daniela from Vince...

'I gave the ring to Daniela on her birthday. She loves it and so do I. It's amazing. Thank you so much, Vince Urbano.'


          Tips for the holiday season        

With decorations lining the streets and carols filling the supermarkets, I think that it is safe to say that the festive season is well and truly upon us! With all the chaos that comes with the silly season it can be difficult to remember the extra risks to our pets that come with this time of year. This is a little reminder of things that you can do to help ensure that your fur and feather children have a happy and safe holiday period.

WARM WEATHER

It is important to mindful of how the warm weather affects out pets. Older animals, overweight animals, animals with heart disease, brachycephalic animals (“squishy face animals”- thinks Pugs, Boxers, Bulldogs and Persian cats), and pocket pets (e.g. rabbits, guinea pigs and birds) are most susceptible to hot weather. It is a good idea to avoid exercise in the heat of the day, provide ample shade and multiple, plentiful water sources. And remember that dogs die in hot cars- NEVER leave your pets unattended in the car, not even for a minute! For more information on heat stroke and how to beat the heat please refer to our blog “Are you ready for warmer weather?”

ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION

Unfortunately many animals become  lost at this time of year. With holidays and fireworks, many of our furred family can become frightened and escape. You can minimise the risk of escape by ensuring that your yard is well secured and by bringing your animals indoors during firework displays. Ensure that your pet is wearing a collar and ID tag and that their microchip details are up to date.

TRAVEL

If you are lucky enough to be traveling over the holiday period, it is important to remember this pet travel check list:

-        Ensure that vaccinations are up to date (essential for animals who will be staying in boarding kennels and catteries).

-        Ensure that parasite prevention is up to date (particularly heart worm and paralysis tick prevention if travelling north with your pet)

-        Ensure that you have an adequate supply of medications or prescription foods

-        Ensure that you have water and food supplies for long car journeys with your animal

-        Ensure that contact details (microchip and ID tag) are up to date

If you are traveling without your pet please make sure that there is a plan in place in the event that they should become unwell. Ensure that the person taking care of your pets knows about any pre-existing medical conditions and which vet to take your pet to in the event of an emergency.

A PET FOR CHRISTAMS IS A PET FOR LIFE

As the festive season approaches, please remember that a pet for Christmas is a pet for life! Puppies and kittens will live for at least 10 years (well beyond this holiday period). If you cannot emotionally and financially commit to them for their entire life, do the animals a favour and get some socks instead!

CHRISTMAS DINNER

Avoid a common Christmas emergency trip to the vet by ensuring that your pet doesn't help themselves to any Christmas or BBQ food. Unfortunately we often see a few very sick animals after they have gotten into rich food, the rubbish bin or even a full kebab stick. As much as we love seeing you we would rather keep your pets safe and happy.

The team at Bendigo Animal Hospital wish you and your animals a very happy and healthy holiday season!

Dr Jess


Happy Holidays!

          Slingstar Review        
B+

The term "wingman" has taken on a different meaning these days, but the original definition referred to pilots who would accompany others in dangerous flying campaigns. Well, in Slingstar, you control a ship with the most effective and crucial wingmen in history - they can kill anything. And yes, they also can help you pick up the ladies in a crowded bar when you've had 4 too many drinks and you can only communicate with facial expressions and hand signals.

Slingstar is a spaceship game with a 'hook' that involves flinging your wingmen around as your primary weapon. You don't have any guns, so you have to rely on this mechanic to clean up the bad guys. You're contained in one screen, and various enemies filter in from the edges - clean up the mess to advance to the next more difficult level. One hit, and bam you're dead.

I have to admit, I was skeptical of this concept. I've played other games with similar "fling" mechanics where I just didn't get much enjoyment out of mashing the joysticks around haphazardly, crossing my fingers that whatever I was twirling would go where I intended. There was no precision or skill really - it became blind navigation which tested my patience more than satisfied my need to explode things.

Well I cannot say that Slingstar removes this issue entirely, but it does it the best that I've seen it done. And it also does so many other things well that the total package became much more appealing. So you're still tasked with navigating your ship in such a way that your orbiting wingmen make contact with enemies. Like I said, this particular mechanic feels flawed by design simply because it's so highly random, but Slingstar makes it feel ..... pretty good.

With some practice, and if you gather some powerups, hitting enemies does get easier. You can exercise different tactics - such as zoom around quickly skimming by enemies to clip them with your wingmen. Or I also had some success by doing a back-and-forth motion that swung my wingmen around me in a wide forcefield like manner. It will depend on the enemies you're facing and how they like to kill you.
Remember how I said that Slignstar does so many other things right? Well it does - the graphics are simple but crisp and while enemies are mostly grouping of shapes, they move elegantly and offer different challenges (for example, see glowy octopus in screenshot). And the sounds are gorgeous - they interact with the gameplay/action and create a mellow/dark mood that suits the game nicely. It's casual in the sense that the only goal is to advance levels, and you have unlimited lives. There are some really nice (big) bosses to face off against, and cool explosion and firework effects built in.

So all and all, if you can find some novelty and enjoyment from swinging your wingmen around rather than firing off huge guns and missiles, then you'll definitely want to try Slignstar. This game is very nicely priced at 80MP ($1) so it's honestly worth that without question. It wouldn't be crazy to see it at the 240MP mark. So have a look, pull the trigger.

          Recipe: Sausage & Bacon Bonfire Party Buns        
Recipe: Sausage & Bacon Bonfire Party Buns

Bacon and sausage meat filled bread whirls, perfect with soup eaten outdoors by a bonfire. Perfect firework party food.

Continue reading Recipe: Sausage & Bacon Bonfire Party Buns at Fuss Free Flavours.


          Inside the Presidential Suite at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort        

During our recent whirlwind tour of magical Walt Disney World, Pursuitist was offered the rare opportunity to take an exclusive look inside the stunning Presidential Suite at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. Reserved for dignitaries, celebrities, sports figures and, well, presidents, this exceptional suite on the soaring 16th floor offers amazing firework […]

The post Inside the Presidential Suite at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort appeared first on Pursuitist.


          America's Dissociation and Denial: Wildfires        


Where to Begin? I desperately do not care whom I offend. Later I may regret this, but I am going to try with all the depth a white girl from Orem, UT can muster and try. 

While the billows of smoke rise higher and each day more fires begin. Man made fires, I grow angrier(this is normal, for me). Sure lighting causes natural wildfires, and fires are a healthy part of every ecosystem... However these fires are not natural.

Don't be confused by publications stating animals have heightened senses and can escape wildfires easily. This is just simply not the case. In a year as dry as this with much debris to burn, fires erupt quickly and without much notice. Animals that can escape do, but often rattle snakes, nesting baby birds, and many, many other animals can not escape the flames, and certainly not the smoke. Right now nesting bald eagles are dying of suffocation, and being burned alive. 

It will be no surprise to me some individuals will be found dead in this recent Alpine fire at the bottom of American Fork Canyon. In a very relieving, sick way I am happy a human life will be taken. This is in fact the ONLY  way in which to get the attention of the masses. 
Surely it is not enough to watch forests, and habitats burn. 

I regret to inform anyone I am an American. I do not desire to celebrate the 4th of July. I am not proud of what the United States has become and what it stands for. The question of Environment has not even been placed on the table in this election, because it is of no consequence to the economy. Job growth is.... But funny how directly related natural resources are to job growth.

Funny this relationship is never so bluntly connected...

Our environment is what gives us life. Is is not? So therefore our use of the environment is directly related to our economy. Our very way of life! Why then are we not talking about protecting our economy!? 
Why has there not yet been a statewide ban on fireworks this year?

When do you turn off your Televisions? 
Stop watching the realty racket in your ears, the KSL noise in your head and the empty spaces in between to stop yourself from lighting that firework. The firework you know may begin a fire, because you know the areas around your homes well enough to make the educated decision not to start a wildfire. 
For your safety , the safety of a future economy, and for the future of your babies, babies.

          famILY Visits the OC Part 2        
Hello blog family,
Well it is officially August. This year is flying by. It is going to be Christmas before we even know it. I'm normally a Grinch, but I especially can't wait for Christmas this year to spend more quality time with my family. This blog is dedicated to part 2/3 of my family visiting me in California.

In the last blog post I left off on Sunday and my awesome trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Monday-Wednesday I had to work :( while my family spent time at Disneyland. I didn't mind missing Disney since my last experience when my Mom was visiting was less than amazing. It was hard though because from my office window I look at Disneyland all day long. It sucked knowing, my family is here, I can literally see where they are, but I can't be with them. On Wednesday after work I drove over to the house they rented and my Dad cooked a huge delicious dinner for everyone. One of the things I miss most about home is my Daddy's cooking. He is an amazing cook, and made me turkey burgers (my favorite), shrimp, mussels, corn, and many other goodies. The cool thing about the house they rented is that it is only a flew blocks away from Disneyland. I can hear the fireworks every night from my apartment but can never actually see them. From their house, you can sit in the backyard or hot tub and watch the entire firework display uninterrupted. The house is so close to the fireworks that we could even hear the music that goes along with the show from the park. We sat outside a few nights and watched the fireworks light up the night's sky. It was great just spending time together, drinking wine, laughing, and telling old stories.

On Thursday I took off from work, so my parents picked me up from my apartment early to make the drive South to San Diego (about 70 miles from where I live). I've heard the San Diego Zoo is the best in the country so I knew my sisters would enjoy spending the day here. You could literally spend two full days here and still not see everything. It is huge and has every animal you could ever imagine. It even had some animals I didn't know existed. My sister Reece was most excited about seeing the pandas, which San Diego Zoo is one of four zoos in the country that actually have pandas. Every exhibit is decorated perfectly to how the animals would live in the wild and actually is really large. Most of the time when I go to the zoo I feel bad for the animals that are stuck in these small exhibits. The animals here are living in mansions compared to other zoos. The park was not crowded which made the day perfect. At some times, we were the only ones in a certain area. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. You can buy a 3 day pass ($150) that allows you to enter the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Safari Park, and also SeaWorld (watch the documentary Blackfish and you will never want to go here again). This zoo is hands down the best zoo I've ever been to and I've been to quite a few. If you are ever in San Diego, I recommend this be your first stop!
Logan with some crocs and a turtle
Just lounging around
With the elephants 
About to see some polar bears 

I took off again on Friday to spend another full day with my family this time in Disneyland. Disneyland has two theme parks, California Adventure and then Disneyland. When my Mom was here we went to Disneyland since it has the Sleepy Beauty castle and is more well known. Disneyland is geared more towards kids and has less thrill rides. I'm glad this time I got experience California Adventure with my Dad and family. If you only buy a one day/one park pass and have to pick between the two parks, definitely go to California Adventure. My last time at Disney I was bored standing in line most of the time, whereas this time I had a blast! My Dad was the king of the fast pass which I found out is free. We did almost every ride and the longest line we waited in was 30 minutes. Being at Disney, it made me realize just how big my sisters are getting. They went on every upside down roller coaster and thrill ride including the Tower of Terror, twice. I was probably more scared than they were (not probably most definitely). We stayed in the park till dinner time since I decided my sisters would have a sleepover at my apartment to give my parents an anniversary date night alone. I'm so glad I gave Disney another shot because I honestly had a great time.  
The ferris wheel that I can see from my office window
My loves  
Rapids ride that I got soaked on
Tower of Terror 
Yea, I was scared
Disney parade, NEMO!
A Bugs Life
Toy Story
Cars
I've been to the Irvine Spectrum a few times (blogged about it before) and every time I go I always think about how much I can't wait to bring my sisters here. I finally had that opportunity on Friday night after Disneyland. We of course had to ride the ferris wheel where my sisters and boyfriend made fun of me for being afraid of heights. They also rode the carousal after eating ice cream by one of the many water fountains. I'm so glad that I finally got to take my sisters here even though they wanted to buy every souvenir they laid their eyes on. We had a great night and sleepover just being silly sisters together.
Reece & Cho
Me & Logan
We survived the ride!
Eating ice cream 
Being silly
Riding the carousal 
I'll have one last blog post about my family's trip to California and I'll also be making an update on what's in store for us next.
XoXo,
Valerie 

          Tonight's the Night        

            I wonder, Sarah thought, what it’s like to be a mother.  She, stunning and youthful, rubbed her bulging belly under the pink maxi dress – two sizes above normal – and looked out to the cul-de-sac where the neighborhood children ran after each other, their eyes wide and mouths open. The sun was almost out of sight over the hill behind the freshly-sodded Pedigree house when the bluish LED lamp turned on and birthed shadows from bushes. Summer nights brought a certain kind of leisure in Missouri. It wasn’t like visiting Uncle B when he lived in Washington D.C. where you could walk around Wisconsin Avenue or Bethesda to keep yourself amused. No, there in the suburbs of St. Louis, you go out and sit on your porch or go for a hike at Castlewood State Park. Sarah was an active women who finished half marathons in a little over two hours. She liked to run down the lakeside trail and watch the ducks float on the river. Ever since her pregnancy and the move into her new home, time did not allow her to participate in these activities as much. As a child, Sarah lived a sheltered life. Her mother was an elder at the First Methodist Church of Chesterfield. Her father left her one week before her third birthday. When Sarah was a teenager, her mother talked to her about the dangers of higher education. Much to her mother’s fear, this discussion did not affect Sarah’s decision to attend college. During her sophomore year at Missouri State University, Sarah met Kyle in one of her elective classes, and their romantic relationship further distanced her from her mother. The only contact Sarah received from her mother was a yearly Christmas card that invited her to church and to repent from her worldly ways by accepting Jesus as her lord and savior.
Billy Conrad, as a member of Sarah and Kyle's neighborhood, liked to sit on his porch. His house was on the end of the street overlooking the main road. Sometimes, Sarah would take a walk to the top of the neighborhood where he lived. She would see him sitting on his rocking chair, hands greasy, gulping a tall boy of Natural Light. If he didn’t see the kids playing down in the cul-de-sac, he would take out his ‘68 Charger (or his ’72 Roadrunner or his ’69 Camaro) and gun it down the street. Sarah called the police department and complained – and so did many of the parents. One time, she even confronted him while he was working on a radiator. “Excuse me,” she said, “but there are children in this neighborhood. We don’t want them getting hurt.” Billy laughed. “I’m sorry missus, bu’ fast cars are made fer driving.” The neighbors didn’t talk to him much.
            After the darkness drove the children inside for the night, Sarah entered the kitchen and reached for her prenatal vitamins in the cabinet above the microwave. There was a letter on the counter; Kyle must have placed it there when he got home from work. He went to the bank about an hour ago, and Sarah expected him to come back anytime soon. There wasn’t a return address on the envelope and Sarah tore the taped flap in subdued anticipation. Inside, there was a single loose-leaf piece of paper – still with the broken frills on the left edge. Sarah recognized the handwriting as her Uncle B’s. Her uncle informed her that he opened a separate bank account to help with groceries and food for the new arrival. He also wrote down his address in the letter for future correspondence. "I did this," he wrote, "so no one at the post office could see it on the envelope. At the end of the message, he wrote, in all capital letters: BURN THIS LETTER AND THE ENVELOPE WHEN FINISHED. LOVE YOU. B. Sarah placed the letter on the table, shook her head and smiled.
                  Uncle B was a retired CIA agent who won $300,000 in the lottery six months ago. Sarah didn’t think that her secretive uncle would think to share his winnings with her. When Uncle B worked for the government, he talked about retiring late in life and using his savings to buy a boat and fish for bass on the Meramec. He previously lived in Washington D.C., but recently moved out in Union to get away from headquarters. The last time Sarah visited him was three years back when he received an award from the agency in D.C. She didn’t see him much, but she talked to him often. Uncle B said he would like to see her as soon as she got situated in the new house. He didn’t like to spoil new beginnings. Sarah crumpled the letter and envelope into little balls and placed them into the trashcan.
            “What a change of heart, Rorschach,” Sarah said, as she looked over to the living-room carpet, where a tabby pumped his paws and kneaded, languid from evening trickery. Sarah heard the garage open and looked at her watch. Kyle walked through the back door and looked tired. “How did it go?” Sarah asked.
            “It went all right,” Kyle said as he opened a sac and scooped grounds of coffee into the French-press while he filled up the kettle. Sarah could smell the earthy scent of ground Arabica as it circulated around the living room.
            “I’m surprised it took that long.”
            “I guess we will have to get used to it. We are going to have at least eighteen years to test our patience. What’s a little financial planning?” Kyle said as he turned from the stove and looked at Sarah with a kind expression and winked. Dimples appeared at the corners of his lips. His smile reminded Sarah of why she married him. She pressed her head firmly into the head of the recliner and her hair pressed outward; her bangs were a fortress.
            “We’ve been married two-and-a-half years now. I think I have the patience,” Sarah said and laughed. Rorschach looked up from the beige pool of synthetic fibers and stared.
            “I got a letter from my uncle today.”
            Kyle took out a mug from the cabinet. “So that’s who sent it. I should’ve known. I keep expecting him to send some sort of microscopic microphone to spy on us.”
            “He probably already has,” Sarah said as she opened the compartment under the coffee table, “I found out that my uncle can help us out with Charlie. Uncle B said he would open up a separate bank account for us.” Sarah took out baby blue nail polish from the cosmetics box. “It’s going to help out a lot especially since I haven’t had any luck finding a teaching job ever since we moved."
            “That’s very kind of him,” Kyle said, pouring the steaming water into the press.
            Sarah felt a sudden rise of uneasiness. She looked down at her fingernails. “All I know is that things are going to work out. We’ve wanted this for a while now. Sarah blew on her fingers and the polish clotted.
            Kyle said seriously, “I don’t think anything can hold us back.” He pressed down the plunger and noted the peculiar color of the coffee.   
            Kyle took his steaming mug and went to his office to research a case summary. After her nails dried completely, Sarah did some of the chores downstairs – vacuumed, emptied the trashcans and wheeled out the receptacle, and fed Rorschach. Then, she went upstairs to look at Charlie’s room. It seemed like there wasn’t a day that passed that Sarah didn’t spend time in it. Paint buckets with dried paint like shagbark hickory around the rims lined the wall. It’s almost time, Sarah thought as she looked at the half-full blue room. 
            The April moon was out and powdered the rooftops with a mix of white and blackish-blue. Children left tricycles and balls in the grass. Sarah and Kyle cuddled and laughed on the couch while they watched Look Who’s Talking.Sarah loved watching old movies she enjoyed as a child. Kyle never watched anything except the Discovery Channel and reality court shows, and Sarah was surprised to find that he didn’t watch lots of things people their age grew up watching. Sarah kissed Kyle’s cheek and then they heard a knuckling at the front door.
            Kyle looked down the hall. “Did you hear that?” Then, after a few seconds, the doorbell rang. Kyle walked to the door. The moment the door opened – the moment when the humid air scurried through the crack, an upbeat male voice said “Hello Kyle.” Kyle turned on the porch light. “Hello Mr. Pedigree,” he said. The visitor wore a formal dinner coat, slick black shoes, and sucked an unlit stogie between his dry lips.
            “I’m sorry it’s late,” said Pedigree, “but we were wondering if you guys had any milk?” His teeth were so white.
            Kyle rubbed the back of his neck. “I think we have some. What’s the occasion?”
The gray-haired man on the porch appeared nervous. “We are going to make pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. Martha was going to get some from the bakery, but we figured you would have it. I thought you two lovebirds would still be up doing something.” Mr. Pedigree guffawed and pat Kyle on the shoulder.  
            The couple was new to the neighborhood, but they met Mr. Pedigree and most of the other neighbors a couple times before. A month ago, when Sarah and Kyle were outside unloading the U-Haul truck, Mr. Pedigree walked over from across the street, wearing a black stovepipe hat and holding a black cane with a metallic eagle head. He introduced himself and said that he stayed home and watched the stock market and his wife owned a small bakery off Manchester. The Pedigrees were well off, although certainly not upper class. Mr. Pedigree said that his style made up for his money. Before he left the couple to unpack their belongings into their new home, he curiously looked at Sarah’s belly and asked how long. “Seven months,” she said. Mr. Pedigree smiled like a mime and said, “Oh my,” and took out one of Rorschach’s mouse toys from a box on the driveway. A playful toss and an “Oh ho!” and the mouse jingled into the grass. Some of the neighborhood children – Nick Jackson, who lived next door to the Pedigrees, and Megan Carlyle who lived two doors over from Sarah and Kyle – told them about Mr. Pedigree’s strange behavior. Nick said he saw Mr. Pedigree digging through their trashcan late at night and Megan swore she heard him having a conversation with himself in the backyard when she came home from walking her dog one night. When the children told Sarah and Kyle about Mr. Pedigree’s behavior, the children’s parents laughed and shook their heads. “He’s eccentric,” they said, “but he’s not crazy.”
            “Yeah, we usually stay up pretty late,” Kyle said, an effort to keep the conversation going.
            Sarah walked to the door and there was a patter from the bottom of her furry white slippers.  “Hello Mr. Pedigree,” she said.
            Mr. Pedigree looked at her bulge and his eyes were owl eyes. “Great Scotts,” he said. “The little guy is almost here!” He balled his fists and brought them toward his chest and shook with excitement. Sarah and Kyle laughed. “Well, we have milk,” said Kyle. “You’re in luck.”
            Sarah went to the refrigerator and came back with Vitamin D milk.
            “Thank you. We don’t need that much,” Mr. Pedigree said. “I will return it to you soon.”
Mr. Pedigree walked two steps and then quickly turned around. “Say, will you guys be home tomorrow evening?”
            “Well, I’ll be home all day except for my check-up at ten,” Sarah said. “One of the perks of a future temporary stay-at-home mom. Kyle has court at four, so he shouldn’t be home later than six.
            “Great. Martha gets off work early in the afternoon. Bakery hours,” Mr. Pedigree said. “You guys should come over tomorrow. Seven o’clock? Nothing big, just dinner.”
            “We’d love to,” Kyle said.   
             As Mr. Pedigree walked back to his house, he took out a butane lighter from his jacket pocket and the smoke from his cigar looked like cirrus clouds rising heavenward. He stood outside his front porch to finish his cigar before when he heard a croaking sound from the backyard. There was a small patch of trees that opened up into a small pond. From among the frogs the sound came, and Mr. Pedigree quickly forgot about it in a sudden wave of excitement as he remembered the shower for Sarah. When he finished and extinguished what was left, Mr. Pedigree put the milk in the refrigerator and went upstairs.
            Martha was sitting in bed, her gray brows creased in concentration. A notebook sat in her lap and her pen twitched between her fingers. Mr. Pedigree took off his jacket, hung it from a hanger, and placed it in the closet.
            “You’re up late,” he said.
            “Did you get the milk, Paul?”
            “Sure did.” he said. “It felt so sneaky borrowing ingredients from the victim.”
            Martha laughed. “Well, I’m glad we got some because if we plan on having the cake for tomorrow – “
            Mr. Pedigree gasped. “They can come, Martha! It will be delightful for them. I remember when our old neighbors from Clayton surprised us when Maddie was born. It created excitement."
            Martha yawned and nodded. “I thought that I could make several layers with blueberries. We can make it a boy theme.”
            “That would be good.”
            “I can get it started when I head to the bakery in the morning.”
            “I’ll be in charge of the festivities,” said Mr. Pedigree.
            Martha turned off the light. “There’s so much to do tomorrow,” Mr. Pedigree said.
Twenty-five minutes later, when Martha was on the edge of consciousness, Mr. Pedigree, fully awake, said, “Oh! We should see if the neighbors can come! And family – they need to see their families!”
“Go to sleep, Paul,” Martha said, but Mr. Pedigree couldn’t go to sleep.

            The sky was overcast and the moon looked like a headlight behind the clouds when Mr. Pedigree stepped outside in a black robe and loafers. The neighborhood was quiet except for chirps and croaks. He saw Rorschach standing by the mailbox – rubbing his caramel face into the pole. “Hey kitty kitty,” Mr. Pedigree said and continued walking toward the end of the neighborhood. Questions exploded in his mind. Should I hire a caterer? What wine should I buy? If the neighbors attend, should he have them park up the street so that Sarah and Kyle won’t notice? He stopped before Shoettler road, which ran perpendicular to the neighborhood street, and turned back. He heard a crunch of a can and saw Billy on his rocking chair. “Mr. Conrad! Great night for beer, eh?” Billy opened up another can and lit a Marlboro Menthol. “What are you doing tomorrow evening around seven o’clock?” asked Mr. Pedigree.
“The same thing I do every night,” said Billy as he leaned forward to get a closer look of the ridiculous character that stood at the end of his driveway. 
“Well, if you find yourself bored, I am having a surprise party for Sarah and Jack. They are the new couple that live down the street. They are about to have their first child.”
Billy brushed his brown hair away from his eyes with a greasy hand. “I know who they are.” His response had a slight tone of agitation.
“Well,” Mr. Pedigree said, “you should come. It will be so much fun! I think I am going to buy fireworks.”
Billy grunted and Mr. Pedigree nodded politely before walking back toward his house, whistling a piano riff from “What’d I Say.”

~

            Rorschach sat near the pond behind the Pedigree house and looked out over algae and lily pads. Coyotes howled in the woods and fireflies sparked over the greenish water.  The once overcast sky now revealed patches of clarity, and specks of stars peeked through the tree branches. Rorschach perked up his ears and turned toward the back patio, where Mr. Pedigree smoked a cigar and muttered to himself about preparations. The frog in Rorschach’s mouth kicked his slimy legs like a child doing a handstand in a swimming pool.

~

            The next morning, Mr. Pedigree’s Chrysler 300 drove west on highway 44. Every now and then, after he turned off the highway toward Union, he pulled over and looked at the directions that he scratched onto the back of Uncle B’s crumpled letter. He saw a clan of leather bikers turn into the FLEA M RK T parking lot. Venders left their unattended wares covered with tarpaulin and they looked covered bodies from where Mr. Pedigree calculated his turns.
             He eventually found his location. Uncle B lived in a mid-sized ranch with an in-ground pool in the back and a fishing boat hitched to his Ford Raptor in the driveway. The housing sat on a lot of about three acres, and there was a bullet-holed target set up behind the large open land behind the pool. When Mr. Pedigree parked on the side of the road near the driveway, he saw two white-tailed deer grazing in the backyard. Mr. Pedigree went up to the door and lifted the iron knocker when he heard a voice from the garage, “Who are you?”
            Mr. Pedigree turned and saw a late-middle-aged man with light blue Levis and a lumberjack flannel shirt. Uncle B walked around toward the front of the porch and Mr. Pedigree noticed a revolver holstered to his belt.
            “You must be Sarah’s uncle,” said Mr. Pedigree.
            “How did you find me?” Uncle B asked.
            “I saw Sarah the other day and asked for your address,” Mr. Pedigree said. “The reason why I came was to ask –“
            “Who is Sarah and how do you know her?” Uncle B’s eyes were slitted searchlights.
            “She and Jack live across the street. She said you were her uncle. God, if she is playing a trick on me, she is going to get it,” Mr. Pedigree said with a grin.
            “Spread your arms,” Uncle B said.
            “Oh! Is this a game?” Mr. Pedigree asked.
            After Uncle B frisked Mr. Pedigree and made sure he wasn’t wearing any cameras or microphones, Mr. Pedigree told Uncle B about the surprise party for Sarah and Kyle. He told them about the cake and the fireworks and all the neighbors that might attend. Even his daughter was coming in from Florissant. Uncle B said that this would be a good opportunity to finally see the new house. He agreed to go. After Mr. Pedigree left, Uncle B made a phone call. No one was home, so he left a voicemail: “Why in the world would you give that crazy son-of-a-bitch my address? Love you.”
             It was eleven-thirty in the morning when Sarah returned from her appointment with the doctor. He gave her good news, and everything looked normal. Once Sarah returned home, she wheeled the empty trash bin from the street corner to the garage. She noticed that Mr. Pedigree’s car wasn’t in the driveway, which was odd because he always did his investments in the morning. After she went inside, while the bluish flame fingers warmed the tea kettle on the stove, Sarah had to go upstairs to look at the nursery. Had to. It was going to happen – the child was going to happen. The doctor said so. It was Sarah’s dream ever since she first watched The Lion King as a little girl. Her cub was almost here, and the world would be his. She would teach him all about the great circle and the way things work and imagined her boy with his mama’s bangs and his daddy’s smile clinging to Kyle’s leg as he worked in his study. In a way, Sarah wanted to take her parental opportunity as a revolt against her terrible relationship with her mother. Charlie would view his mother as a guide and Sarah would try her best to make sure that he is well-equipped to deal with life’s adventures and mishaps. On the north side of the nursery wall, the shadeless windows offered glimpses of the outside world and Sarah looked out and saw the toyless lawns before she went downstairs to watch the tea.
Kyle came home around six – more toward six-thirty than six – while Sarah was upstairs straitening her hair. The two of them haven’t had much time to go out lately – especially because of Kyle’s long hours. This dinner at the Pedigree house was a rare double date for Sarah and Kyle.
Kyle took off his shoes, stretched his toes, and combed his hair. “Hey Sarah,” he said, “are you getting ready?” He barely heard her reply.
            As he made himself a whiskey sour in the kitchen, he saw Rorschach pawing at the back sliding-glass door. “Someone wants to come in,” Kyle said with a naïve voice. Kyle opened the door and saw red splotches trailing off into the grass.
            At 7:02, Kyle locked the front door of the house before they walked across the street to the Pedigrees. The sun was a giant grapefruit overlooking the earth.  The neighborhood was strangely uneventful; children weren’t out playing. None of the neighbors sat on their porches either – not even Billy Conrad.
            After Kyle and Sarah knocked at the door and were called to the backyard by a shout from Mr. Pedigree, they were greeted by a surprise from the neighbors. The Jacksons were there and so were the Carlyles. The Pedigree’s daughter, Maddie, also came to help out with the preparations. Uncle B was there too and Sarah couldn’t believe it. He told her that he parked his truck down the street so she wouldn’t get suspicious. It worked.
            Martha brought out the green bean casserole and the steaks with mashed potatoes along with paper plates and everyone except Uncle B laughed as Mr. Pedigree told jokes over the croaking frogs and rowdy children. Blue balloons bobbed in the gentle breeze and the silver streamers twinkled like an old man’s eye. Mr. Pedigree brought out four bottles of cabernet and the adults talked while the children wrestled in the grass as the moon started to show. “Tonight’s the Night” played from a portable stereo. Everyone was smiling and telling Kyle and Sarah about the excitement they had just before they had their first child. Kyle placed his hand on Sarah’s thigh and she met him with a squeeze. Eventually, the toads bounding through the grass distracted the children, and they started to chase after them. Sarah stood up in the middle of the conversation and said, “He’s kicking! He’s kicking!” The neighbors cheered and Mr. Pedigree lifted up his cigar and glass of wine made a toast.


            Every face in the neighborhood grinned in this moment. Even Billy Conrad smiled as his unsteady hands ran along the new clear coat of a Ford Maverick in his garage in an alcoholic haze. "She's so perdy," he said.

            Everyone finished dinner and thanked Martha for the delectable meal. Mr. Pedigree suddenly jumped and almost fell. “Wait! Wait!” he shouted and his face went into an elaborate frown, “I almost forgot the pièce de résistance!

            Billy guzzled three-quarters of his current can and crushed it on his forehead and grunted. He opened up the little wooded box that attached to the wall of his garage and took out keys. 

            Cue the music! Martha pressed a button and the sustained notes from the 1812 Overture filled the backyard while Mr. Pedigree took out a plastic bag hidden behind the steps to the sliding glass door.

            The 302 4.9 liter engine idolled in the garage. Billy put the clutch in reverse.

            Mr. Pedigree placed an artillery shell on a concrete slab beside his house. Everyone waited. The sky lit up as the first shell exploded. It looked like neon confetti. Mr. Pedigree lit the wick on the second shell when Rorschack ran in a greedy, fiendish rush past the side of the house toward the pond. "Oh!" cried Pedigree as he knocked over the firework cylinder. The golden tail of the firework arced across the street and connected with Sarah and Kyle's house. There was an audible tap like a wiffle ball hitting concrete and the shell exploded. There was a rumble up the street as the sparks and heat of the fireworks ignited the light gray shutters of Sarah and Kyle's home. "Call the fire department," Pedigree shouted.  Sarah saw the flames and she ran toward the street. Her open mouth was a black hole. The Maverick hit her right thigh at 40 miles per hour.


~
      "I don't know if there's any more I can do for you," said a low-pitched voice on the telephone.
            "I'll have to see what my husband has to say," said Sarah.
            "Please do. Oh, and one more thing. Even though it will take a few weeks to process your refund, we can offer our clients a one-month stay at a condominium."
            "It's fine. Thanks. We are staying at my uncle's." She hung up the phone.
A nurse came in and checked her blood pressure. Uncle B was there, sitting on the end of her bed and reading the local news. "I hope that son-of-a-bitch is enjoying his stay at county. There's a short article in here about the incident."
            "I'm done hearing about what happened," Sarah said as she lifted her hands and placed them on her stomach. "It could have been a lot worse." 
Uncle B peeked over the top of the newspaper and seemed to watch something outside the window. Sarah picked up a small carton of milk from the bedside table and sipped from the straw. 
            After all the visitors left her room, Sarah fell asleep. She dreamt that she was crawling toward the edge of a cliff that overlooked the ocean. Her arms strained under the weight of the rest of her body. Gulls cackled somewhere below and the salty air brushed her nostrils. The end of the cliff was just a few feet away - close enough for her to reach out and grab the end. There was an unknown man with a plastic mesh trucker hat with a fishing pole on the beach below. She did not know why, but she could not stop staring. Sea wind exhaled through her hair when the man slowly looked up and stared directly into Sarah's eyes from the beach. The man's face grew larger in small increments just like someone zooming in with a camera. All Sarah could see were his gray eyes.
            Kyle worried about Sarah for the two months between the Billy incident and his son's birth. He tried to stay optimistic by painting Charlie's room at Uncle B's house, which took a lot of lawyering to convince Uncle B to allow his nostalgia-inducing CIA room to be turned into a nursery. Uncle B said he would paint over it when the snail-paced contractors finished re-modeling the upper-story of their house. Sarah was still recuperating in the hospital when her son was born. Even though the doctors said she probably wouldn't walk again, Charlie was a low-hanging fruit of hope that Sarah thought she could reach from a wheelchair.

~

            Psychologists say that everyday things can trigger flashbacks of traumatic experiences. They say it might benefit victims of traumatic events to seek professional counseling. Something as ordinary as rain could incite the feeling of drowning in someone who almost died at the beach – say. One day, while Kyle was at court and Uncle B was fishing, Sarah heard a car horn at the four-way stop a block away from Uncle B’s house. She experienced a short, intense panic attack which caused her to unwillingly create an impenetrable boundary around herself that did not allow the slightest reaction to the objects around her. A few minutes later, while Sarah was nearing the end of her attack, Charlie started crying. Sarah sat in her wheelchair with her face in her hands. She eventually comforted him, though, after feeling guilt for her helplessness. Sarah used Charlie’s onesie to wipe her tears. This was Sarah’s first flashback.
            That Saturday, after Sarah’s physical therapy session, Martha and Mr. Pedigree stopped by for a visit. Sarah was watching Ghostbusters in the living room when she heard Mr. Pedigree’s laugh in the foyer. She sadly looked toward the ground, then picked up the remote and increased the volume.
            “There she is,” Mr. Pedigree said when he entered the living room. After intentionally ignoring Charlie sleeping on Sarah’s lap, he said excitedly, “Oh! Little lad! Don’t think I didn’t notice you!”
            “Paul, please control yourself. You will wake him up,” said Martha. She handed Sarah a bouquet of roses and chrysanthemums.
            After the Pedigrees left and after Uncle B returned from one of his weekend hunting trips, Kyle grilled chicken on Uncle B’s new propane Grillmaster and everyone ate outside for dinner. Charlie was asleep inside and his inhales and exhales transmitted through the monitor. After taking an aggressive bite from his sandwich, Uncle B said to Sarah, “I forgot to tell you,” he swallowed. “Someone from Fern Ridge School District called the other day. I thought it was one of those annoying telemarketers so I didn’t answer. They left a message though.”
            Sarah took a sip of iced tea. “What did they say?”
            “They said there’s an opening at the high school.”
            Sarah played with a piece of iceberg lettuce in her salad. The teeth of the fork made a cracking sound as she stabbed. “I think I should take some more time to recuperate.” She looked across the field of bluestems and wild rye that grew in wild thickets behind Uncle B’s house. Charlie sniffled on the monitor.
            “You take all the time you need,” said Kyle. “We are fine for the time being. No need to rush things.” Kyle touched her hand.
            Sarah had her second flashback that night when she slept in the nursery while Uncle B and Kyle were downstairs playing poker. She usually turned the T.V. off whenever Charlie went to bed but the tramadol made her drowsy and she fell asleep in the rocking chair. She didn’t know what spurred this feeling – the pain in her thigh had an almost phantasmagoric freshness. It was almost as if Billy Conrad ran into her again. She woke up and gasped. Charlie opened his eyes and hiccupped.
            The following morning, Sarah woke up early to talk to Kyle at breakfast before he left for work. An unexpected misty rain early in the morning formed a giant cloud of dense fog. Toast sprang from the toaster with a ding. Sarah sat down with Kyle at the walnut table and told him all about the flashbacks. “Maybe you should see somebody,” he told her. ”It might be good for you.” Sarah looked down at her hands, turned them over, and scratched her wrist. She knew what a mother would say – a good mother that would stop at nothing to make sure she was in the best condition for parenting. “You’re right, dear.” There was reluctance in her voice and Kyle sighed and straightened his tie. “You’ll be back. These things take time.”
            After Kyle left and while Uncle B was in the garage painting his skiff, Sarah sat by Charlie in the nursery and cried. Sarah felt vulnerable when she was alone. Even since her childhood when her mother and father deemed her old enough to stay home when they went out for short periods of time, Sarah felt exposed. There wasn’t a reason for it; she simply did not like the feeling of aloneness. She thought she was alone while Charlie gazed at the mobile over his crib with spittle running down the side of his chin like a tear.  
            Sarah did not expect her parents to come visit, but they eventually did. After Sarah took a nap, she combed her hair in front of the vanity mirror when she heard her mother’s voice downstairs in the kitchen. She took Charlie out of his crib and rubbed his head. “It’ll be okay,” she whispered. “It’ll be okay.” Her mother wore a pair horn-rimmed glasses and there was a little white swirl of sunscreen on her right cheek. She was talking with Uncle B when Sarah wheeled across the living room. Uncle B looked nervous. “So it is true,” her mother said. “How can my grandson ever expect to have a normal life when his mother doesn’t know the Lord and cannot take care of him?”
            Sarah didn’t answer. “She’s doing fine, Pat. She’s getting it all together,” said Uncle B.
            “I sure hope so. I can’t stand the thought of one of our little ones receiving any less than he deserves.”
            Sarah’s eyes narrowed and a wrinkle formed above her nose. “Why the hell do you care?” Her mother opened her mouth, but Sarah interrupted. “You’ve spent your whole life thinking about protecting me from outside influences that you forgot to show me love. You haven’t even met Charlie.”
            “I tried, Sarah. I tried, but your father – you know about his condition. He hasn’t been himself lately.”
            Sarah started to cry and she took Winston back to her room. She stared at Winston through the bars of the crib. Her hooked finger squeegeed her tears from her eyes as she pushed the power button of the television with her free hand. Just as the Pixar lamp animation displayed on the screen, she opened the door and wheeled toward the front door. Uncle B was standing in the kitchen drinking a Diet Coke and she could hear her mother talking on the telephone on the back patio. His eyes were balmy like menthol on chapped lips. “You’ve been through a lot, sweetie.” The hair above Sarah’s eyebrows were wet. “Can I borrow the keys to your truck?” Uncle B reached into his pocket and tossed her the keys. “I love you,” Uncle B said.
            The easiest part was transferring from the wheelchair to the driver’s seat of the truck. After ten minutes of crying and cursing to herself, she managed to climb into the cab. The wheelchair retreated slowly then turned and rolled down the driveway until it reached the grass before the sidewalk on the other side of the street. She knew that driving a vehicle would be almost impossible for her: her brace didn’t allow for Sarah to bend her knee to reach the gas pedal. She straddled the center console and let her right leg down into the foot space of the front passenger seat. With her left foot, she controlled the gas and the break while she leaned and steered. Tears rolled down her cheeks and pooled between her lips. While driving down Highway 44, Sarah saw the upper curve of the sun peeking over the hill. Dusk colored the sky and clouds a purplish-red. When she arrived at the house, Sarah parked on the street because the construction workers had two POD bins in the driveway. There were plywood boards in one of the upstairs windows, and debris cluttered the roof in small piles. Some of the neighbors sat on their porches while the group of playing children diminished as they went inside for the evening. Sarah thought she saw Rorschach run across the street.    
            Sarah exited the truck – her able leg searching for the ground. The neighbors were nice enough to cut the grass and there were some leftover grass shavings in the driveway. Once Sarah managed both of her legs out of the truck, she bent down on the pavement and crawled toward the front door through the yard. Her arms itched from the grass and she groaned when she tried to pull the locked door handle. She reached into her back pocket for the key before wiping her tears and unlocking the door. Everything she could from the front door looked just how they left it. The objects in the house – the cabinets and furniture – had an unmistakable eeriness to it; it was almost as if Sarah crawled into the ghostly ruins of Chernobyl. Silence permeated the house except for the uneven clunks from Sarah’s brace against the wooden hallway floor. Dust and ash rose in small plumes as Sarah crawled up the stairs. Faces on the walled pictures smile through the dust on the glass. The door to Charlie’s nursery was closed and Sarah cried hysterically when she noticed the Bambi ornament she hung from a nail lying on the floor. She pawed at the wall, lifted herself to the doorknob hole, and saw the black, charred room.

          Tuesday into Wednesday        

So much work for a day off! Weed whacked the jungle in the back yard with Broskys weed whacker and now my arms hurt, mowed the jungle with my mower (yay!) and now I have a semblance  of yard in my yard but I'm going to have to mow it again over the weekend.

I was going to mow the front yard too but I reminded myself it was just a Tuesday and I had to go back to work tomorrow and there was no sense exhausting myself like I had a Sunday coming to recover. I didn't, I had a Wednesday and an alarm to contend with.

And the computer at work hated me and IT messed up my label maker and now I'm going to have to go back and correct  over a  year's worth of DSS updates before I go on vacation! I'm so excited!  Because that is not going to be super time consuming or tedious  at all.

Tonight I cleaned up the back bedroom in preparation for the window guys to install my windows. They haven't told me exactly when they are going t o be here but I know they are going to give me no warning at all - because I can tell these guys are douchebags and that is how they roll. They are going to call me in the afternoon the day before and I am going to not have near the time I need to prepare for them. I can at least get the room I am not sleeping in ready to go ahead of time. Happier thoughts, here is Rocket at the ocean, in Oriental over the weekend.




Okay July 4th. Fireworks! I went to the Raleigh firework show and it was very nice. I drove around forever to find somewhere to park and ended up not getting a spot until right before the show started -  and watching them from a different place than I normally do, I normally watch from Fayetteville street, right underneath where they go off, this year I was behind Shaw University. It was a different perspective .










The fireworks setting on your camera isn't there to take up space, it actually works!


          REGULATION OF MANUFACTURING & USE OF EXPLOSIVE MATERIALS & FIRE CRACKERS        
REGULATION OF MANUFACTURING & USE OF EXPLOSIVE MATERIALS & FIRE CRACKERS

For ensuring Safety of Human Beings, Animals, Properties & To Contain Accidents, Loss of Life & Property
For Pollution Free Environment, Healthy Living

APRIL 2016


It is a fact that there is no accurate data with government/s regarding the quantities of raw material processed, used in the manufacture of explosives used for mining, industrial purposes, military applications, & also in the manufacture of fire crackers, related application in INDIA; also government is nor having accurate data of the storage, stock location, conditions of storage of the raw material, finished products of the explosives fireworks (including the individuals who purchased in retail and stored at their homes for festive occasions, which were left unused after that festive season/ occasion, which are otherwise lying for months at homes/ establishments till the next festive season, usually Deepavali, a potential threat for fire accidents at residential habitations; similarly due to lack of uniformity in storage, quantities of storage of explosives causing potential threat for not only blast accidents, but also serious threat of explosive material going into the hands of terrorists. Anti social elements) as a result there exist potential threats to loss of lives, property, resulting in stagnation/ decline of development of the country.

Also serious health hazards for humans & animals due to excessive pollutions caused (sound, air, water) due to indiscriminate use of fire crackers every nuke and corner of India, every now and then, in the name of some or other occasion like birthdays, marriages, victories, opening and closing ceremonies etc in addition to Deepavali and other festivals in the religious places resulting in prolonged illness and loss of working age group people due to health disorders, if there is no regulation from now onwards the situations will be out of control in future causing irreparable damage to the future generations, productivity of the country & development of the country.

As such government must regulate the manufacture, use explosive materials and also the fire crackers, with complete ban on use of fire crackers within the city limits, in all public places, in religious places, etc by ensuring that  all activities related to explosive, fire materials  from manufacturers, suppliers, users, and time, place of use must be within the preview of the government, and government must maintain the data bank of all the activities in the larger interest  by using the data in multiple ways.

The first step in this direction is creation of central unified authority for maintaining integrated data bank of all explosive material & fire work related acts across the country, followed by these exclusive measures to ensure safety prevails in the larger interest.

EXPLOSIVES

[1]                                  Government make stringent norms for providing licenses for excavation, processing, supply, storage of raw material of explosive in nature, used in explosives manufacture, and there should be uniform procedures across the country, and there should be standard procedures & design for transportation and storage of raw material; all storage godowns must be be far away from the habitations.

[2]                                  Mandatory registration with government by all end users of explosive raw material & fire cracker raw material, the quantities, the details of the suppliers. Also government must make standardisation use of different types of explosive raw material for different applications  for various uses like mining, construction, military etc

[3]                                   Mandatory that procurement, sale of raw material for explosive manufacture through online government department, in addition online real time sale/ dispatch of quantities by the manufacture, suppler with real time information to end user & to the government, with GPS tracking by the manufacturer, distributor, government, end user the movement of raw material and finished explosives till it reaches end destination for storage, use ensure exact quantities & quality as intended delivered without any pilferage/ wilful adulteration, theft  enroute.

[4]                                  All the raw material and finished products of the explosives transportation in covered vehicles with electronic locking, so that ensuring unloading at designated locations (like petroleum fuels transportation) with CC cameras mounted on the vehicles to record the vehicle driving, as well the electronic locks and entire vehicle, all the explosive material transport vehicles must be owned and operated by the manufacturer, else exclusive hire transport vehicles specially designed as per standards, meant only for transportation of explosive material which are registered, inspected, approved by the government.

[5]                                  All the drivers/ staff in the exclusive explosive material carrying vehicles must be teetotallers, non smokers, non consumption of any kind of tobacco products, non drug addicts, and periodic surprise checks by government under camera, online real time data storage, it should be non bail able criminal offence to indulge in alcohol consumption, smoking, drugs consumption or indulging in sex/prostitution while on duty/driving the vehicle carrying explosives, and it should be mandatory that breath analysers installed inside the cabin of the vehicle, and every time the driver before switching on the vehicle ignition, must undergo self breath analyser which records the data online real time. This measure prevents the accidents on account of alcohol consumption
[6]                                  Also it should be mandatory that all vehicles carrying Explosive material must be equipped two DASH-CAMS inside the cabin one focusing the road from the steering wheel to record the driving pattern of the driver, one focusing the inside of the cabin from the driver door side to know what all activities happening in the drivers cabin of the explosive material carrying vehicle. The Dash Cams provide the real time video streaming online remotely. This measure ensures perfect driving by the drivers of these vehicles by and large.

[7]                                  Complete ban on carrying mobile phones / use of mobile phones within the cabin of the vehicles carrying the explosives; soon they enter the vehicle all the staff/ drivers must deposit in the mobiles in the designated space in the vehicle cabin; also there should be online real time communication with a national call centre with the transport vehicles for any communication; they can do communication with fixed number of family members through calls routed through the call centre during rest period.  And all the mobile phone service providers in association with national monitoring centre for explosive material carrying vehicles should deactivate personal mobiles temporarily for the driving period of 10 pm to 6 am, of the driver and all staff in the cabin of the vehicle, all the communication through call centre only (This measure should be applied to all vehicles carrying Inflammable materials like Petroleum products, Chemicals etc);  This measure contains accidents to a great extent, as it become a common syndrome that most of the drivers use the mobile while driving, also most of the cleaners watch the so called films, songs, Pornography,  on the mobile phones which will distract the driving and causing accidents. (DASH CAMS, MOBILE DESPOT, DE-ACTIVATING DURING DRIVING, ALL EMERGENCY CALLS THROUGH NATIONAL CALL ENTER WHEN THE VEHICLE IS STILL/ NOT RUNNING is very need of the hour measure that should be implemented on all heavy vehicles plying in the high ways )

[8]                                  Mandatory that government standardise the methods, quantities and types of explosives  for mining activities and other activities where explosives are use for blasting/ collapsing the structures etc based on various parameters like soil condition, vicinity to habitations, amount of dust/ sound/ shock/vibrations generated out of the explosion  etc etc so that maximum safety is assured.

[9]                                  All the end users must specify the details of need for use of explosives in their place, so that before providing the permission to use explosives the government experts assess /analysis the need, type, quantity of explosive raw material enquired  through data submitted by the end user, also carry out the physical inspection by the government experts to assess the need for explosive materials as well safe use of explosive material ensuing no accidents/ damage to any other structures/persons within the vicinity of the place of explosives use and ensure the end user procure the same from authorised manufactures/ suppliers of the explosive material in the required quantities and qualities in their territory.

[10]                              Mandatory that all explosive raw material and finished products of explosives carried/ transported to manufacturing units or storage units in different destinations in a separate transport vehicles which should be  specially designed to withstand impact of shocks due to head on collision accidents (under normal conditions), also with stand the fire/ blasts (certain extent) like mine proof vehicles, also with separate colour coding of the entire vehicle, with night vision paints all along and flags for easy identification of other vehicles/ commuters to understand that these vehicles are carrying the explosive materials, with all vehicles drivers are specially trained to drive safely, with minimum number of year of experience in driving heavy vehicles in these specified territories/terrains, and it should be mandatory that separate horn/ siren for all explosive material carrying vehicles and mandatory at least 100 mt distance / gap maintained by other vehicles when the explosives material carrying vehicles ply on the highways.

[11]                              Also it should be mandatory that all explosive carrying vehicles play only during the period of less traffic i.e. after 10 pm and before 6 am even in high ways, so that the risk of accidents can be reduced, not only due to less traffic, but also due to less temperatures / heat on the roads in the nights in all seasons. All the explosive carrying vehicles must be mandatorily equipped with douse /nap detection & alert devices so that the driver will not fall asleep while driving.

[12]                              Also all the explosive material carrying vehicles should be checked for full fitness before it leaves the sight for destination, in addition must carry the trained mechanic, helper and also spare parts in the vehicles to get repair it in case of breakdown of the vehicles; Also all the explosive material carrying vehicles must possess fire extinguisher foam, one kilometre length water carrying pipes with spray guns and also the full first ait aid kits.

[13]                              Also there should be exclusive specific designated places for halting the vehicles carrying the explosive material, with mandatory follow of 8 hours duty by the drivers of the vehicles, and mandatory rest period of one day every vehicle driver.  And also must follow specific designated roads only to carry the explosive material to minimize the accidents, safe transportation.

[14]                              Mandatory that all the explosive raw material manufactures and explosive material finished products manufacturers, transporters, must deposit at least 1/5 of the projected turnovers or full value of the material/ Rs one crore which ever is higher, as deposit with the government as security deposit (simple bank interest for the money deposited to be credited to the account of the manufacturer), in case of violation of any norms the manufacture must forego its deposit.

[15]                              Mandatory all the explosive material users must deposit a fixed amount of 1/10 of the turnover or 1 core rupees as a deposit with government explosives department in case they procure the raw material/ finished  products and they themselves use the material with their employees.

[16]                              Also government must enhance its staff / trained manpower for to safe use of explosives for different productivity purposes, and provide them on hire to the required, like mining operation or any other place where use of explosives is required, in such cases there is no need for fixed deposit from the end users, only the material and user charges are required to be paid by the end user, as the operations for use of explosives is carried out by the government trained experts, this facility can be use only when the end user do not apply / possess permission to purchase, hold stock of explosive raw material.

[17]                              Mandatory that all in-house users of explosive raw material for blasting in the mines or in any other place, all the explosive material users must be qualified/get required certification from the government for understanding the nature, quantities, method of use of explosive material, and for obtaining the certification in use of explosive raw material,  there should be minimum education qualifications,  and all such certified persons must work only in registered organisations/ industry in a permanent employment (with complete ban on working on freelance/ temporary bases, it should a non bail able criminal offence to work temporary bases/ in un registered organisations)  and all those certified persons in explosives use should be under constant monitoring of the government, and must report their where about to government, also must get their licences / certification to get renewed every year.

Also all the in-house users of the explosives like all mining / excavation agencies both private and government must built the storage capacitates of explosives that are just sufficient for  one month operations on an average, with every 15 days the stock should be procured to  fill the balance buffer stock. All the storage places must be under high resolution CC camera surveillance, all the storage and handing should be done under CC camera recording. The PESO –Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation, should have full-fledged data with quasi judicial powers to work in tandem with local police to contain any deviations; all the licences details of all category users must be online with information, update online real time to local police, about storage, transport, usage of explosive material.

Also it should be mandatory that all the explosive material used in the defence, military should be under joint accountability of military as well as explosives department of civil administration; and every single gram of the explosive material and every single single weapon used for testing/ routine military exercises’ must be accountable, recorded in the CC cameras, all the storage, issue of the material should be online, and the fire safety of the explosive material should be joint responsibility of military as well as central explosives department (more accountability of the military to CFEES of DRDO- Centre for Fire, Explosives and Environment Safety rather than advisory & supportive role.. in order to ensure no scope for any pilferage/ corruption.

In a nut shell as far as Explosive material used for industrial and military purposes, Government should have data bank of the users of explosive material (raw material, finished products to be used to detonate) like mines etc; also online real time data of the stock piling of explosive raw material quantities and qualities with each of the end user establishments/ industries; also it should be made mandatory before use of the explosive material there should be online real time permission from the government for the use of the  explosive material (whether the end user is private, PSU, Govt. Dept), need for use, place of use, quantities of use, safety measures etc; also government must use the Geo Mapping of all the sites where explosive material is used and Satellite Imagining of the localised territories of explosion/ blast to monitor the mines/ explosives use in the open sites 24/7, so that all  explosives used can be identified with intensity of the blast, contain all illegal, illegitimate use of explosives; in addition it should be mandatory for the explosive material users must record the use of the explosive material blasting from preparation of the material to explosion on the high resolution video recording and up loaded to the government website online real time, in addition all mining explosives operators must install electromagnetic equipment at fixed distance from the explosions site to record the sound decibels generated, also to record the impact, intensity of the explosion/blast earth vibrations in that vicinity territory etc with online real time data flow at the central servers of the user and government authorities  to ensure only required quantities as approved by the government as per standards, as per pre approved online permission to use the explosives are followed by the end user; in case of violations severe punishments should be given to the end user for violation of safety norms.; also daily audit for the quantities of  explosive material manufactured in the country, stock with the distributors/ end users should be made (including in the demesnes establishments, with data of the defence use concealed, made as classified data), with monthly once surprise checks for on field stock positions at all locations of explosive material related organisations (including defence establishments); also mandatory that all explosive users in the mines and construction must adopt the dust control measures to minimize the dust pollution in the vicinity of the blast/explosion. Also it is a fact that due to explosive material being used indiscriminately by the mining operators across the country, causing severe pollution in the vicinity of the mines, causing life risks for the mining labour, in addition causing severe health discords to the mining workers, also loss of billions of rupees of revenue to the government public exchequer due to illegal mining activities, as majority of the mining activities requires use of explosive material, All these can be avoided/ marginalised.   

These measures ensure safety of the use of explosive material, prevents illegal mining/ illegal use of the explosive material, also it contains that explosive material being diverted/ used by the anti social/ terror groups for creating terror activities in the country.

FIRECRACKERS

As far as the fire crackers manufacturing and use is concerned

It is a fact that Deepavali is the occasion that fireworks display is a custom/ tradition followed in India from ancient times as a symbol of victory over darkness and leading life towards light, even though no were in any religious texts mentions that one should celebrate Deepavali with chemical fireworks/ crackers/ sound generating bombs disturbing the environment, causing health hazards to people, causing trauma/loss of life for other creatures like animals, birds, also to the ecology, still it being practiced as a custom, may be continued. Ideal that if all religious leaders endorse only lighting of oil lamps i.e. deepa’s (diyas) during the Deepavali festival or any other occasion as a symbol of bringing light to the lives from darkness/ ignorance, and for prosperity, happiness of the people, rather than burning the chemical based so called fire crackers, also endorse to practice lighting of a oil lamp every day at home as a symbol of light in life.

In the last few decades it becomes a fashion to use the fire crackers/ display of fireworks on every other occasion, especially in the marriages functions, since India is having over 65% youth population with average age of marriages is 25 to 35 years, and as of now over 10 million marriages are occurring every year in India, and most of the marriages fire crackers used/ fireworks display (the quantities may vary depending up on the financial status of the married couples families income). Also it is a fact that most of the cities are becoming concrete jungles and urban population on the rise due to migration from rural India to urban India all due to happening of developments, and most of the habitations are thickly populated and hardly any sufficient open spaces. Also it is fact that road to vehicle population density is very less in India with more vehicles on less roads, also it is a fact most of the marriage venues are within the city limits and people take procession from their homes to marriage function venue, along with display of fire crackers on road side, also display of fire crackers at the venues is a potential threat not only to the bystanders/ passers on the road/ at function places, but also to the household in the vicinity of the function halls with potential chances of fire accidents, accidents due to lack of safety measures/ precautions following in display of fireworks; In addition  also causing heavy amounts of pollution due to traffic stagnations on the roads on account of burning of the fire crackers on the roads leading to health discords in millions of people commuting/ plying on the roads, living in the vicinity of the territories, in addition to heavy pollution due to noise as well as chemical gases, dust/ waste from the burning of fire crackers, with hospitals, within the vicinity/ en-route the marriage function places &  Procession of the marriage function (so called Barath), as India having millions of cardiac patents, Millions of aged elderly people, millions of infants/ young children due to millions of new marriages, are getting affected due to indiscriminate use of crackers, which certainly disturbing/ deteriorate the harmony/ health of the vicinity of the population in every territory;  All leading to loss of productivity of the country, developments activities will effect due to loss of millions of  man-hours, due to loss of millions of life’s directly and indirectly due to non regulation of Fire crackers manufacturing, also unregulated indiscriminate use of fireworks by the individuals; All these draw backs can be contained by regulating the manufacture and use of Fire crackers.

1)                                    Mandatory that government formulate standard  designs of fire crackers, with quantities of materials and type of chemicals use, and the amount of heat generated, smoke generate, the amount of decibels of sound generated, the length and breadth of trajectory in case of fire crackers that goes vertical or horizontal etc, and classification of the fire crackers / grading of the fire crackers, and based on the grades, the use of fire cracker locations / territories can be specified; also based on the classification/ grading the age limit for use of the types of fire crackers should be fixed.  

2)                                    Also government set the limits for emissions of pollutant gases on account of fire crackers by improving R&D, like the vehicles emission, and every manufacturer must adopt the standards by up grading the use of less pollutant chemicals in the fire crackers.
3)                                    All the manufactures must get licence only by paying fixed deposit in the government, and all the manufacturing units should be in located in isolated locations with all safety measures in place, also all the workers working in the manufacturing of the fire crackers must be  register with government, to prevent under aged employed in the manufacturing of fire crackers; also standard uniform pay for all the employees engaged in the fire crackers manufacture, with uniform working conditions, uniform work output to pay, across the country.
4)                                    All the staff/ employees engaged in manufacture and distribution, sale of fire crackers must get training from National Civil Defence Collage – NCDC Nagpur, in Civil Defence and Disaster Relief  Management, and every worker must have adequate knowledge of safety, rescue operations in case of accidents, and every worker must become a volunteer in case of any accidents.; in addition all the apartments, gated communities, RWA security staff must be mandatory get trained in Civil Defence and Disaster Relief  Management so that causalities can be minimized to a great extent in the occurrence of any unfortunate accidents. Also all students aged above 18 years must get basic training in future in Civil Defence and Disaster Relief Management.

5)                                    All the manufacturing of fire crackers under CC cameras, all the fire crackers must be packed with bar coding in each pack; in addition  all loading, un-loading of material in boxes under cc cameras with bar-coding of the boxes, and tracking the destination of boxes of crackers; all fire crackers should be sold in boxes and not loose; All the boxes should be made of recyclable (mandatory to return by the  buyer along with security deposit for the Plastic box, non return of the box may lead to not only losing the security deposit for the box, but also fine of certain amount; this measure is necessary to reduce the use of paper  carton boxes to save water; also it is ideal to make use of alternative bio degradable material i.e. other than paper like jute threads etc to make the fire crackers to reduce the use of the papers in fire crackers.

6)                                    All the workers working in cracker manufacturing should be given training in safety / precautions needed in manufacturing process, handling of the explosive, flammable material, Also government must make standardisation of manufacturing process and equipment, and all the manufacturing units must have standard equipment, safety apparatus, all the workers/ staff involved in manufacture distribution of the fire crackers need to be provided with special medical care and periodic health checkups for ensuring they are not subjected to severe occupational health disorders due to prolonged contact with the chemical substances, ban on manufacture with bare hand, all the workers must wear safety gears , masks, gloves, apron, shoes, etc.

7)                                    Fixing the maximum percentage of wastage of raw material in the manufacturing process, all the waste raw material / processes waste should be accounted for and given back to the government explosives department for re use/ safe disposal of the material.

8)                                    Also sale of finished fire craters through government requisition by the individuals who wish to procure, only through prior online requisition from government with automatic permission number for fixed quantities after getting basic details of the purchaser like AADHAAR number, voter id card number, address, contact details, the place of use, the purpose of use, the person who uses them; all the sale from the customers to retailers to distributers to manufactures should be online real time data with government, and all sale must be mandatory quote the online government permission for that quantities of purchase by that individual in the online real time sale bill;  this measure ensures complete accountability of sale of items, also the retailers will adhere to sale within the time limit of operation of sale, also all sale must be under CC camera; complete ban on loose sale of the fire crackers/ ban on temporary outlets of fire crackers even during the Deepavali festival season; geo mapping of the fire crackers manufacturing units, retailers.

9)                                    Mandatory that all use of fireworks/crackers display on any occasion other than Deepavali festival should be only in large open sites with no habitations/ office establishments/ Godowns/ water bodies of any nature in the nearby vicinity (at least one kilometre away from the vicinity of habitations), (in the separate designated places by the government)  that too only on obtaining the prior approval from the government for display of fireworks, and each firework display should be allowed only on making fixed amount deposited in the government as a safety security deposit,   and the quantities of fireworks/crackers, type of crackers, should be restricted based on the chemicals quantities, pollution emission (air and sound) by the government, and any violation of the stipulated regulations or any accidents occurred  during that fireworks display, then the individuals/ institutions has to forego the deposit in addition to being liable for punishments for culpable homicide, and the deposited amount should vary based on the quantities and types of fireworks displayed, also depending up on the zone of the vicinity of the fireworks display.

10)                                 No permission for fire crackers storage, use in the vicinity of hospitals, nursing homes, old age homes, government welfare hostels, and in the vicinity of petroleum products store like Fuel stations, LPG Gas Godowns, also within the vicinity of fresh water bodies etc; with complete ban of use of firecrackers within 500 mt radius of hospitals even during Deepavali by the residents in that vicinity, with complete ban on use of sound generating bombs in the residential habitations even during the Deepavali occasion.

11)                                 Complete ban on fireworks use, display during the functions like birth days, weddings, or any celebrations of political party victories, sports matches victories, opening/ closing ceremonies of any events of what so ever nature (individual, local, regional, national, international events)  or any other event in the residential, commercial establishments, on the roads, near the function halls, stadiums etc in all public places, however they can display the fireworks in designated locations as specified by the government which are far away from the habitations/ industrial zones after following the standard safety norms.
12)                                 Only for Deepavali  fire crackers can be allowed to use at individual locations with stringent norms to ensure safety precautions are followed by every household and every user, in addition only such fireworks are allowed to use which do not contain explosive material/ that do not generate sound, Also government must fix the limit of quantities of fireworks/ crackers per house hold (not per person) sale & use during the festival of lights; fireworks display should not be linked to the economic status of the household, (which is otherwise prevailing at present, the more the financial wealth of the household, the more the fireworks display, the more the pollution they are causing, in addition making more risk of safety of the people in the vicinity causing the poor to suffer for the luxury/so called ego centric happiness of the elite); complete ban on sale & use of bombs/ sound producing explosives/ fire crackers of any capacity/ intensity to individual/ commercial users for Deepavali, or any event, also ban on sale & use of flower pots, rockets to individuals during Deepavali in the apartments, gated communities, RWA; however only in city out skirts, designated places government may allow the use of these kind of fire crackers including Bombs/ sound generating crackers within the permissible limits of decibels, within the permissible limit of trajectory of the rockets under separate licence/ permit to use under the supervision of government safety experts by paying additional fees.

13)                                 It should be mandatory that all fireworks/ fire crackers purchase by individuals in household/ institutions for what so ever occasion including Deepavali should be through bank payment/ mobile wallet or by cash at designated locations (cash payments should be 10% extra cost than normal cost); Also only one in a family should be eligible to purchase the fire crackers per household on any occasion including Deepavali per single location of display of fire crackers.

14)                                 All the fireworks purchased should be displayed / exhausted only on the designated date/occasion including  Deepavali day; the storage for fire crackers by the end users should not be more than 48 hours, i.e. the fire crackers should be allowed to procured by the end users only 24 hours before the use (on any day use including Deepavali occasion, since the items required are ordered online, and payments made online, the customers can visit the designated nearest store to collect the packs, so that sourcing one day before or on the day of Deepavali should not be an issue.); it should be  criminal office to sell/ procure any fire crackers without permission from government or well before the designated due date (24 hours). 
Quick phone snap as the Minorcan's bring an outstanding 2017 festival to a close with a firework display two minutes walk from the hotel.


          Check Out This Fun Fireworks Safety Demonstration [Video]        
ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos It's firework season again, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a video to educate us on firework safety. The video is full of watermelons and mannequins being blown up in the name of safety... Continue reading…
          Calming Tablets For Dogs & Cats - 20 tablets        
Calming Tablets For Dogs & Cats - 20 tablets

Calming Tablets For Dogs & Cats - 20 tablets

Sherleys Calming Tablets for dogs and cats 20 tablets Can help alleviate nervousness, for example, during thunderstorms, firework parties, and other noisy occasions without causing drowsiness.  Very popular in the run-up to Guy Fawkes Night.


          Macy’s Fireworks Moving Up River This Fourth of July        

Macy’s is planning a huge firework show this Fourth of July, but it will not include the iconic Brooklyn Bridge as the show’s backdrop. Last year Macy’s floated four barges between 23rd and 37th streets in the East River, as well as a double barge closer to the Brooklyn Bridge. This year, however Macy’s will […]

The post Macy’s Fireworks Moving Up River This Fourth of July appeared first on Gowanus Lounge.


          Comment on State of Art, Musical Firework Show ~ Numata Fireworks Festival by Cheap True Religion        
You know I love your blog!!!
           Episode 731 - 'Firework Fuel'        
January 19, 2017 - Power-packed fireworks could lead to the development of new alternative fuels.
          à¸Šà¸¡à¸ à¸²à¸žà¸–่ายการฉลองปีใหม่ทั่วโลก World welcomes 2014: In pictures        
Countries around the world have begun ushering in 2014, with fireworks displays erupting first in cities in the Asia-Pacific region. Auckland in New Zealand was the first major city to see in 2014 with a firework display. Australia’s biggest city … Continue reading
          New year celebrations welcome 2014        
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-25557023 Celebrations are taking place around the world to mark the start of 2014. People in Auckland, New Zealand, were among the first to celebrate. In Australia, hundreds of thousands gathered for a spectacular firework display around Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. … Continue reading
          è§†é¢‘:杰西麦卡尼 jesse mccartney 《because you live》+新歌+专辑试        

Jesse McCartney 他融合西洋流行摇滚及略带灵魂乐般抑扬顿挫的唱腔,带来感染力十足的舞曲及令人一听上瘾的旋律,他青春跃动的嗓音及热情洋溢的人生观,立即打动歌迷,加上标准金发帅哥外表使他征服少男少女的心,18岁的Jesse将要你无法抗拒他所带来的音乐魔力。 http://www.myspace.com/jessemccartney

 


杰西麦卡尼专辑
1. She's No You 她不是你
2. Beautiful Soul 天使的心
3. Get Your Shine On 你就是主角
4. Take Your Sweet Time 慢慢来
5. Without U 如果没有你
6. Why Don't You Kiss Her 为何不亲吻她
7. That Was Then 错误的曾经
8. Come To Me 奔向我
9. What's Your Name 请问芳名
10. Because You Live 你的存在
11. Why Is Love So Hard To Find 真爱难寻
12. The Stupid Thing 愚蠢的事
Bonus Track超值加收:
13. The Best Day Of My Life(from Cinderella Story O.S.T.) 幸福时刻
14. The Stupid Things(Acoustic Version) 愚蠢的事(不插电版)
获得荣誉:
《我的孩子》亚当一角2001,2002年连续两年获美国电视界最大奖项"艾美奖"提名"最佳年轻演员"
2005年MTV"TRL"年度颁奖礼中夺得"21岁以下最佳来宾"


 

Full Name: Jesse McCartney
Age: 16
Nicknames: Jess, Jester, Orange Boy
Date Of Birth: April 09, 1987
Grade: 10th
Astrological Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City
Current Residence: Westchester, NY
Hair Color: Blond (natural hair color is brown)
Eye Color: Green
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 120 lbs.
Shoe Size: 9 1/2
Best Feature: Smile
Right/Left Handed: Right Handed
Siblings: 1 younger brother; Timmy-5, 1 younger sister; Lea-11
Pets: Cat named Oliver
Jesse goes to Ardsley High
Favouritez
Fave Color: Orange
Fave Actresses: Joan Cusack, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Cady McClain
Fave Actors: Robin Williams, Will Smith and Jim Carrey
Fave Singers/band: Eve 6, Aerosmith, Sting, James Taylor, BBMak
Fave Music: Hip Hop, Pop, Rock and some R&B.
Fave DS Song: "It Happens Everytime"
Fave Song That isn't theirs: Mario's New Song ?("Braid My Hair")?
Fave Christmas Song: "Silent Night"
Fave Subject: Math and Physical Education
Least Fave Subject: History
Best Subject: Spanish
Fave Store: Abercrombie and Fitch, Structure, Tommy, Guess, and Gap
Fave Drink: Pepsi and Root Beer
Fave Food: Steak, California Rolls, Bagels & Cream Cheese.
Fave Fruit: Kiwi and Strawberry
Least Fave Veggie: Brussel Sprouts
Fave Candy: Gummy Bears & Sour Patch Kids
Fave Lollipops: Raspberry tootsie roll pops.
Fav Ice Cream Flavor: Chocolate
Fave Phrase: "Zip It!"
Fave Sports Team: NY Yankees and New York Giants
Fave Sports: Baseball and Football
Fave TV Show: Friends,
Fave Movies: The 6th Sense, Grease and American History X
Fave Type of Books: Biographies
Fave Type Of Clothing: Structure
Fave Cars: Farrari and Lamborghini Diablo
Fave Cartoon: Anything with Elmer Fud and Porky Pig.
Fave person you have ever worked with?: Hayley Mills
Fave Superhero?: God!
Fave Breakfast Meal: Scrambled Eggs and also Pumpkin Pie
Other Facts
Hobbies: Playing baseball, playing his sax, four wheeling, singing and acting
What sports do you play?: Baseball!!
Future Car: BMW M3. Baby Blue or Electric Blue
Commercials: K-Mart (1999), Lowes, Spokesperson for Kids for a Drug FreeAmerica 60 sec radio spot Broadway (and National Broadway Tours): "The King and I" w/ Hayley Mills (as Louis), "A Christmas Carol" as Young Scrooge (Madison Square Garden), A Sunny Delight Commercial (2002), Charmin' Ultra w/ Greg (2002), Auditioning for a pizza & hockey commercial..
Most Prized Possession: baseball glove and phone.
What Do You Look For In A Girl?: Personality and a nice smile.
Name Of His Baseball Team: The Panthers
Boxers or Briefs?: Boxers baby! (go Jess! lolz)
Biggest Like: Snow/Water Skiing
If you have a dramatic scene where you have to cry, how do you get ready for it and do it?: I think of things that made me upset a long time ago.
How did you get started in the business?: My parents used to be in it and they taught me everything they know.
What was your first acting job?: "Oliver," in a local theatre.
First Kiss?: It was in the sixth grade. He liked her a lot!
Biggest Fear: Car accidents
Future College?: UCLA
Type Of Cologne: Acqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani
First Date: "My first date was with a girl who is now one of my good friends. We went to Great Adventure for the day. We still laugh about it. It was a lot of fun."
Last Day (March 03): "About a month ago a friend of mine and I went on a double date and went clubbing. It was a dance workout. Good for the legs and lots of fun!"
Worst Date: "Looking back. my worst date is probably one of the funniest ones. It had been set up by a friend and so I didn't know the girl very well. We went to the mall. Everything went fairly well for the first hour or so until I stepped on the escalator and my shoelace got stuck in the stairs. I couldn't move. Eventually I had to take my shoe off and leave the laces stuck in the escalator. I had to wear my shoe for the rest of the night without a lace and it wa embarrassing."
Best Date: "I was in LA and a quite wonderful girl and I went out to dinner in an open-air restaurant right on the beach in Venice Beach. We walked down the bike trail there on the beach for a mile watching the Street Performers do their thing and then we took our shoes off and ran down the beach after dark right along the shoreline. The weather was beautiful, the girl was beautiful and I decided I may have to live in California at some point."
Did You Know...?
-Jesse wears glasses for fashion
-Jesse's Mom and Dad are/were both singers who have/had an acappella vocal group that sings/sang doo-wop. Jesse and Lea have both sung doo-wop background vocals at home his Mom and Dad for several years.
-Jesse use to act on the soap opera All My Children. He played Adam Chandler Junior (JR)
-Jesse drinks coffee [Jesse uses creme and two pacts of sugar]
-Jesse got braces at the end of December of 2001
-Jesse's rat Mocha just recently died
-Jesse was too shy to tell his crush that he liked her so he told her friend to her tell and realized that she liked him too!
-That the McCartney family did several shows together for several months a year before dream street.
-Their producer says that Jesse is the bad boy of the group. He says "I know he's the one who will be arrested first, out of anyone in the group." ::Credit to:: Untouchable
-When Jesse auditioned for Dream Street, he sang a Backstreet Boys' song, forgot the words, and covered it up with an "Ooh ooh ooh". That's when the producer knew he wanted Jesse for the group. ::Credit to:: Untouchable
-Jesse once got beaten up by some boys just for being an actor and model. ::Credit to:: New York Newspaper Article Untouchable
-He doesn't like the sound of squeaky shoes
-Filing finger nails gets on Jesse's nerves
-Jesse prized possession is his four wheeler
-Jesse says his best feature is his smile
-Jesse plays the Saxaphone
-Jesse was a member of a singing group called Sugar Beats
-Jesse is now going back on performing on Broadway
-Jesse might be going solo!
-Jesse's fastest pitch is about 65 MPH. People strike out on the curve ball.
-Jesse and his friends cook! They come up with their own concoctions.
-Jesse's fave animal is a Giraffe..:)
-Jesse usually stays up until about 11:00 PM on school nights and on weekends about 12:30 or 1:00 AM.
-Jesse was born on a Thursday
-Jesse's dad is a volunteer firefighter
-Jesse thinks himself as a 'preppy person'
-Jesse would love to meet Will Smith and work with him sometimes on music or movie
-Jesse has a scar on his left eyebrow
-If he could change his name he'd want it to be Boris (err...ok..?)
-He uses aresol spray deoderant
-His favorite roller coaster is the Goliath
-His favorite colonue is Acqua di Gio by Armani
-He hates Snowcones
-He wears shoes most of the time, not sneakers
-He tried out for the 6th sense (THIS i never knew!)
-He had braces (Jan. 23, 2002- May 10, 2002)
-He was in a NFL commercial as Peyton Manning
-He was in a sunny delight commercial
-A fan once gave Jesse a 24 k-gold bracelet with his name engraved on it.
-His favorite X-Box game is NHL Fever
-His first crush was a girl named Samantha
-The longest he had a relationship for was 8 months in 9th grade
-He prefers to wear hats over visors
-In March of 2003, Jesse's producer, Sherry, posted on his message board: "And okay, Jesse's eyebrows ARE a bit bushy but he's just too manly to wax or tweeze. I actually asked him if he would. Negative on that." aww! lolz
-Greg's little cousin Teresa has a HUGE crush on Jesse!
-During the filming of the music video for It Happens Every Time, a piece of firework exploded too close to the boys and a part of the rocket fell onto Jesse's arm and burned him!


中文版:
姓名:Jesse McCartney
生日:1987年4月9日 牡羊座
出生地:美国纽约市
现居地:纽约市威斯特郡(Westchester County )
身高:5'8" (约173公分)
体重:140磅 (约63公斤)
年纪:18岁
头发颜色:金色
眼睛颜色:绿色
交友状况:单身
宠物:名叫奥立佛的猫
最喜欢的书:"Death Be Not Proud" by John Guther
最喜欢的颜色:橘色
最喜欢的食物:披萨及加州酪梨寿司(California Rolls)
最喜欢的电视影集:六人行
最喜欢的电影:灵异第六感、美国X历史
最喜欢的男演员:威尔史密斯、金凯瑞、罗宾威廉斯
最喜欢的女演员:瑞丝薇斯朋
最喜欢的乐团:詹姆斯泰勒、约翰梅尔
最喜欢的歌曲:T.A.T.U "All The Thing She Said"
昵称:小杰
喜欢的音乐类型:流行及摇滚
最喜欢的乐团:Eve 6
最喜欢的运动:棒球及足球
最喜欢的运动球队:纽约洋基队和纽约巨人队
最擅长的运动:棒球!!!!!!
最喜欢的汽车: BMW M3
最喜欢的科目:数学及体育课
最不喜欢的科目:历史
上什麼样的学校:公立学校
嗜好:打棒球、滑水、演戏
最喜欢:滑雪/水
得过最喜欢的礼物:棒球手套及手机!!!!
[MOVE]喜欢异性的类型:好脾气及甜美的笑容(我喜欢会让我笑的女生,我其实不太爱笑,但如果有女生会让我笑的…我就会爱上她!)
最喜欢的约会方式:去海边!!!!
当你长大后想做什麼:当歌手
第一次演戏:在地方小戏院演「孤雏泪」的奥立佛
你最想从事什麼样的工作:当歌手及演员
当你在演一些情绪激动的戏你会如何培养情绪:想一些令人沮丧的事
手足:有一个弟弟(Timmy)及一个妹妹(Lea)
感情世界:在高一时曾经与一个女孩约会8个月
会与歌迷约会吗:会的,不过要先与她熟络以后
穿什麼样的内在美:四脚裤
习惯的事:喝咖啡加1个奶球及2包糖

 

Right Where You Want Me

Beautiful Soul Plus Up Close

Beautiful Soul


          2017 Northside Family Fun Fest        

Date: August 10, 2017

Location: North Muskegon, MI, 1502 Ruddiman Drive

Description: Parade on Thursday begins at City Hall (Ruddiman/Fleming) at 7:30 p.m. Taste of the Northside on Friday. This event will host local food vendors showcasing their specialty, a beverage tent, and music. This event takes place in Custer and Walker Park (Ruddiman Dr is closed during this time) beginning at 6:00 p.m. and continues until the sun goes down, ending the evening with a fantastic firework show over Muskegon Lake. Art Fair on Saturday. shop original crafters, art and homemade items. The…...View more detail »


          Happy Heavenly Birthday Michael...        
Today is filled with all sorts of emotions.  I am happy to report our newest addition looks very healthy - with no markers whatsoever.  This news coming right on Michael's birthday is really bittersweet.  It is hard to imagine that one year ago today Michael was still alive and I was in labor at the hospital.  I can honestly say not a day goes by that I do not think about him.  I am not always sad, but I would be lying if I did not say that today I am sad and that I miss him.  He is with God and I know we are all part of a bigger plan, but it is hard to  imagine he is in a better place and yet, I do know that he is. But the mother in me would prefer to be the one taking care of him.  I was out looking at a property a few months ago and looked out and saw a little angel in this cloud... Can you see it?


I just love it so Happy Birthday little man!!!

Then I walked in from having a minor little teary breakdown (just a little one...it happens) and my front doorbell rang and it was this from my brother and sister in law... Michael's Godparents - we are so blessed!


Isn't it just beautiful ( more tears and they are both happy and sad tears - mostly happy believe it or not, because they remembered ) .  So tonight we are planning on setting off a firework in his memory and the girls love that.  We were going to release balloons, BUT we cannot do that because we live on the water and sea turtles eat balloons and that would not be a good thing, so fireworks it is!!!


          Do You Know What Day Each Year More Dogs Go Missing?        

Did you know that July 4th, more dogs go missing than any other day each year?  And it’s no surprise to those of us in the pet care industry because between the partying with strange people coming and going out of the home and the loud firework celebrations, there is a lot of “not normals” […]

The post Do You Know What Day Each Year More Dogs Go Missing? appeared first on Professional Dog Groomer & Trainer in Ashburn, VA.


          2016 in pictures        
Hey, guys! Happy New Year! 

One of my favourite New Year morning traditions (besides eating leftover salads with a spoon while watching old movies) is to look back at the past year. Yes, I usually don’t do it before midnight (maybe I just want to make sure that the old year actually retired and will not get offended?). 

My last year’s post you can find here – 2015 in pictures

So, here we go. Many things had happened in 2016, good and bad, it was quite kind to me personally. I got to travel much more than I ever did, I got great opportunities, I worked hard and I’m quite happy with myself. I also got very aware of some of my limitations and started my own personal self-education – mostly on the topics of self-love, self-respect, not putting myself down and not letting anyone else do it.

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I’ve met many wonderful people and sadly parted ways with some others. So let’s look into it month by month. 

January 

January was a great month, mostly because I finally got to see some snow. I never thought that I will ever say this, but this winter is my third winter in the South of Italy and I cannot lie - I do miss snow. So in January we decided to fix it and went to Piano Battaglia. It was the best day ever and I blogged about it then - One-day trips around Sicily: Piano Battaglia.

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Ski chic!

Also in January, I got involved in a wonderful project for local youngsters called BaddarHome and it became a very important thing for me for the next many months.

February 

In February we went to Taormina - a beautiful town on the East coast of Sicily, that is an absolute must-see if you plan to visit Sicily. You can read more about it and my travel tips here - One-day trips around Sicily: Taormina.

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In February I was also writing articles, doing a lot of work and became addicted to Anima Ballaro - a type of a block party that took place every month at the market in the historic centre of Palermo (where I live). Normally it includes live music, dancing, meeting friends and a social lunch - a pot-luck type of meal. I absolutely love it and I hope this tradition will continue this year too.   

March 

In March one of my articles about life on Sicily was published on a Ukrainian website and thanks to it I got to know many nice people, living both in Ukraine and in Italy. My friend Laura graduated with Master's degree in psychology and moved to Turin (which is now one of my favourite cities ever).

01

I got to see Letizia Battaglia's exhibition (the legendary photographer that documented decades of the life of Sicily and is very famous for her works on Mafia).

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I've had a great opportunity and got to visit many cool places - you can read corresponding posts by clicking on links:

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- MilanWhat to do in Milan if you only have a few hours? and The new face of Milan

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- DenmarkRain and sun in Copenhagen

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- Sweden - Quiet beauty of the Swedish countryside and Beautiful Helsingborg

So March was one of my favourite months of the whole year - busy, full of celebrations, work opportunities and art, just as I love it. 

April 

In April I moved out from the dorm (not for long though) and rented a room in the city centre, where I used to live when I was still an EVS volunteer. I was sharing that apartment with four guys and things were going very well, apart from one detail (that turned out to be a huge one) - our landlord. I've met many people with questionable ethics over the years, but this elderly Sicilian lady managed to beat them all. She completely neglected not only everything we agreed upon before but also everything a normal landlord has to do in general (like updating the things that were too dated, guaranteeing me that the room will be cleaned and disinfected etc.). So I only stayed there for one month and moved back to the dorm. I have no time or energy to deal with any of those things and if I'm paying my rent on time and respecting the property, I expect to be respected as a tenant.

On the brighter note - I went to Hungary for the second time, now to Debrecen (I've been to Budapest in 2014 on a wonderful study session on gender-based violence and fell in love with it). It was a very nice project where I got to meet great people, and you can read about it here - Fun times in Debrecen.

DSC_0056 

Speaking of local work and volunteering - together with BaddarHome we organised an urban gardening workshop, during which I successfully planted a strawberry plant, that sadly died in a few weeks. But on this photo it's still alive and kicking.

DSC_0082

Also in April Palermo witnessed a despicable incident - a young guy from Gambia was a victim of a shooting and spent a few weeks in the hospital. The whole city centre was outraged by this accident, and on April 9 we had a huge manifestation - to say no to the violence of any kind. It was raining like crazy, but we no one got scared of the weather. I feel like this day was a very, very important step for the whole city. 

DSC_0325

May 

In the beginning of May, I finished my move back to the dorm (it was a great feeling btw) and went on a day trip to Erice and Trapani. I really wanted to write a One-day trips around Sicily type of a post about it, but it was raining almost all of the time, so I barely even took my camera out. I guess this means I really need to go there again because places like Erice need to be promoted worldwide - it's incredible.

Also, we went on a wonderful three day trip to Turin - as I said before it really became one of my favourite cities in Italy. You can read more about those wonderful days here - Turin - days 1 and 2 and Last day in Turin - shadows on via Garibaldi.

DSC_0080

June 

In June together with BaddarHome we drew a huge sun on the abandoned football field we were revitalising. It seems like a fun activity now, but in reality, those were two days of hard, hard work (during which I destroyed my black tennis shoes and I'm still feeling a bit sad about it, even though 10 euro can buy me an identical pair in H&M).

DSC_0018

Palermo suffered the worst sirocco out of those I've ever experienced. For me, this really was one of the landmarks, because I don't think I've ever experienced temperatures this high (not in a sauna anyway!).

* Sirocco is the hot wind that comes from Sahara and turns everything into an over. In winter on sirocco days you can walk around in flip flops and a tee and feel very comfortable. In summer though it's really bad, and this year's one was the worst - the temperature went up to +46 and most of Sicily literally on fire.

Also, June is the Pride month in Palermo. This year I enjoyed it even more because I got a chance to go up on the platform, take lots of photos from above and just enjoy myself even more than usual.

Untitled

July 

In July I finally found a new apartment (ironically it's the same apartment where my friend Maria used to live two years ago and where we had many, many parties - including the famous in certain circles watermelon evening).

In July Palermo celebrates Santa Rosalia day. Santa Rosalia is a patron saint of Palermo, and every year the celebration is more and more impressive, with 40-minute firework shows and air gymnasts. So this year we went out with our closest friend and had an amazing night!

In July I went on top of the Cathedral of Palermo for the first time ever (better late than never, no?). - Up and about.

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And the most important part - I got to go to Venice for the first time (Venice and revelations) and take part in a beautiful project in Slovenia (Ljubljana and Bled). This project taught me so much about working with people in vulnerable situations, photography and creating a full photo story - I wrote about this in my post Creating a photo story (and a photo exhibition). I also got to shoot the photo story I most proud of - Searching for equilibrium, that became a part of the exhibition in Slovenian Academy of Arts and Science during July-August.

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The last days of July I spent in Sicily - outside of Palermo, enjoying the sea and magnificent sunsets with a glass of wine in my hand. Those were great times!   

August 

In August I went to closer to the sea one more time (yes, Palermo is by the sea, but walking along the beach and walking in a port are two completely different activities) - to Partinico, Castellammare del Golfo and Scopello (which is not by the sea but is absolutely beautiful). I wrote a bit about the day we went to Castellammare - a day of sun, wind, striped linen and red tennis shoes, pane cunzato and ice-creams.

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In the second part of August I found myself in need of being very busy, so started the #45daysofblogging challenge, went to Valdemone festival in Pollina (you can read the post, if you click on the link), had endless ice-creams with my flatmate Magda and got a full face of makeup done by my friend Sameh - that was a perfect girls reunion!

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September 

In September I started studying French, which was cool, but in the end absolutely useless - I didn't and still don't have enough of free time to repeat what I've learned so I cannot start the next course.

My friend participated in Tearto Massimo's premiere of Madame Butterfly, and I saw it twice - once in the theatre and the then, the next day, outside on the screens. 

03

In the end of September, we finished a four-months-long project and held a Human Library event. 

October 

For five weekends of October, the historic centre of Palermo was very-very busy - it was the time of Le Vie dei Tesori. It's a wonderful project, during which you can buy a ticket for 1, 5 or 10 visits and see many buildings and palaces that normally are closed to the public. I actually got to see 7 or 8 places I've never been to before and basically won a cultural lottery - met a lady that was leaving in a few hours, so she gave me her ticket with 6 more visits.

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With my friend Viviana

Then my friend Roberta graduated! Please, look at this photo - yes, this is how warm Sicily is in October.

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Then my horribly pink suitcase and I went to Milan and had a few crazy days, rainy, cold, but very-very nice - October in Milan.

Untitled

Then I came back to Palermo, where my long waiting was finally over. Life became quite nice and on October 26 I turned 32 years old and wrote about my plans for the 33rd year of my life - Happy birthday to me.

November 

In November I was very busy and stressed out for many reasons. I barely had any time or energy to blog and if I had some free time I wanted to spend it with friends - cooking delicious things, enjoying some wine and watching documentaries about animals on Netflix.

Also in October one of my closest friends graduated with Master's diploma, finished his Erasmus Mundus project and left Palermo. It was very sad (as always), but what made it even sadder is that I've been to way too many goodbye parties in the last couple of months. I wrote so much about it I don't even want to link any posts apart from this one - Saying Goodbyes in November.

1

December 

December passed so fast I barely had a chance to notice it. I love this pre-holiday month, with all the early decorations, Advent chocolates, planning out gifts, Saint Nicholas day (in Ukraine we celebrate it on December 19 and it's a very sweet and lovely holiday). This year I spent it in Alcamo with my friend Sasha (the one from Castellammare del Golfo post) - having great walks, trying out make-up brushes in shops, having coffee on a windy terrace, cooking lunch together and talking for hours. In the evening, when I was about to get on a bus back to Palermo, the sky turned almost back and the wind turned so strong it was actually a bit scary. So I distinctly remember that I spent that evening in a company of a bowl of hot soup, my beloved heater and three movies in a row.

Palermo turned very pretty and festive, people became happier and stopped replying my emails, I had a great "first" Christmas and a wonderful New Year in a great company and now this is how the year 2016 ended.

03

It was very eventful and very successful, I've done some great things and met some great people, and for this I'm forever grateful. 

Thank you for all the experiences and all the teddy-bears, 2016! And welcome, 2017! Let's work together!

          The Leaving of Liverpool        
The Cunard Building being used as a giant screen

QM2 - a firework farewell
The Leaving of Liverpool

The last day highlight of Liverpool's Festival of the Waterfront (8-15 Sept) was the evening departure of the Queen Mary 2 - Cunard's magnificent star of their fleet. There were thousands lining the Mersey at the liner terminal - and the QM2, lit up against the night sky, looked spectacular. A firework display was Liverpool's farewell gift to the great vessel followed by the strains of The Leaving of Liverpool, Sailing, You'll Never Walk Alone and (ludicrously) Z-Cars. At the opening bars of this last tune the QM2 made her excuses with several blasts on the ship's horn (I think they call it a whistle - whatever it is called it makes a lovely, mournful sound) and began a gentle glide from her berth.

I watched as the great lady slowly sailed away and grabbed my last photos of the day. For the geeks my night shots were all hand held at stupidly high ISO and f5 - I had a tripod and all the necessary gear for remotely fired long exposures but there was no chance of setting it up in that crowd and the vantage point really needed to be much more elevated.

An unexpected bonus of the evening was the utilisation of the Cunard Building (the middle one of the 'Three Graces' - you know, the less 'showy' one) as a screen for Cunard images from past and present. I love it when images are projected onto buildings and grabbed lots of pics on the way down to the river. What a great evening - must find out when the next Queen will be dropping in.
          Infinite Serials - FireWork 2.0 serial download        
Infinite Serials - FireWork 2.0 serial download
          Album Review: Autumn - "Cold Comfort"        

Autumn's new album "Cold Comfort" is a work befitting its creator's name. Varying between pleasantly warm and icily fragile, "Cold Comfort" is both a promise of uneasy transition and muted optimism. That said, this album would have been more complete if there had been one breakthrough moment at the end of it. There are those who would counter that autumn as a season seldom announces winter's arrival with anything but a whimper. As a resident of the northeast, I can say that the fall foliage's evocative display represents its last gasp of defiance against the coming darkness, and therefore Autumn’s new effort invokes only half of the season’s nature.

What's particularly laudable about the swirl of tenuous emotions that the album presents is that they are prominently showcased through the undulating moods of the music, rather than smashed over the listener's head with blunt lyrical allusions. To listen to the title track is to hear music that brings visions of walking gingerly on ice of unknown thickness; the song rolls with the kind of distant, unsettling gait that a person uses on a slick sidewalk. When paired with lyrics addressing the multi-faceted nature of living through difficult times, “Cold Comfort” carries the banner for the entire experience. It is pleasant, in a marketplace gone mad with guyliner, revelations blasted in caps at 140 characters and a decided lack of debonair tact to see a group of musicians willing to trade in subtlety and introspective conjecture.

Those who despise hype, mainstream exposure and public knowledge of their metal may stand and announce that "Cold Comfort" is the direction that Lacuna Coil should have taken. They are not entirely without argument, but the comparison is not entirely accurate. The difference between Lacuna Coil and Autumn is like the subtle but critical difference between the ideas of "retro" and "vintage." To follow the analogy, Lacuna Coil is "retro," crafted in a style with sharp edges and pulsing, passionate emotions, while Autumn is "vintage"; not given to extremes and painted more delicately with earthier tones.

"Cold Comfort" is an album that savors each moment, and demands patience from the listener as it unfolds the entire story. There is no immediate response or instant result available on the album, and it is refreshing in its own way to hear a record that doesn't pander to easy answers.

However, the patience required to properly absorb the slow-footed seven minute piece "Alloy" can be hard to come by. In these moments, Autumn goes too far down the path of deliberation, giving the listener not just delayed gratification, but no gratification. Even a slow, simmering pot like Polanski's "Chinatown," "Se7en" or various scenes from "Jaws" must come to a crescendo to make the audience feel as though the time spent in anticipation was worthwhile. "Cold Comfort" never crests the hill to offer that kind of reward, though they attempt to do so with "Naeon," which is a little like watching a firework exploding under water. That’s not to say that the album would be enhanced by some kind of late 90’s Rob Zombie amp-fest. Quite the opposite, as such a piece would feel hopelessly out of place and manufactured. Still, some kind of beautiful, grand movement, with a powerful, rangy performance from vocalist Marjel Welman would have sufficed.

There are moments when Autumn makes a point of pushing the pedal a little further down, and giving the expertly smooth (perhaps to a fault) vocal performance of Welman a foundation to stand on. “Black Stars in a Blue Sky” introduces what is classically considered rock guitar into the mix, and utilizes the instrument in a rhythm somewhat akin to doom metal. The album’s last cut, “The Venamoured” treads into this same space, with similar effect.

The production, by longtime Autumn collaborator Erik-Jan Dodd is spacious and accessible, which is even more impressive given the number of layers at work on each song. While the musical lines are marginally progressive, they are based on simple rock structures. What Dodd (and the band) did was take those ideas and master them so that each song is both identifiable by its parts and concurrently more than the sum of them. It is too bad that the album does not feature more varied songwriting or unusual instrumentation, as Dodd’s production would have been capable of handling more twists and turns. Instead, each cut falls roughly into either the category of “ambient rock song with high vocals” and “crossover rock song with high vocals and a little gain.”

In truth, there’s nothing horribly wrong with “Cold Comfort.” The decisions to keep the album muted was the musicians’ own, and to their credit they have created a fine album in that image. It is easy to respect Autumn and “Cold Comfort” for the artistic creation that it is. However, it’s hard to recommend this album because it is unlikely to hook your ear or entice you into multiple repeated listenings. With the addition of just a little more punch or apex, “Cold Comfort” would be so much more.

Category:


          Fireworks In Leicester         

A large firework display lit up the sky as I traveled home from a LCFC football match so after parking up I filmed this short video of a spectacular display originating from Old Newtonians RFC on the edge of the city of Leicester.
          In The Mix 10 (All Time Favourites)        
Tracks include:
Meja - All 'bout the money (Pierre J's Extended Mix)
Charli XCX - Boom clap (Cahill Mix)
Sugababes - About you now (Spencer and Hill Mix)
Frou Frou - Breathe in (Watkins Vocal Mix)
Steve Brian and Tabasco Bob - Time and time (Original Mix)
Jennifer Paige - Crush (David Morales Club Mix)
Train - Hey soul sister (Karmatronic Mix)
Stuart - Now I'm free (Club Vocal Mix)
Sam Smith - Lay me down (Tiesto Extended Mix)
Michael Mind - Feeling so blue (Dancecom Project Mix)
Digital Dog - Clothes off (Digital Dog Club Mix)
Michael Gray - Borderline (Spencer and Hill Mix)
Steve Brookstein - Promised land (7th Heaven Club Mix)
Christian Falk feat. Robyn - Dream on (Moto Blanco Vocal Mix)
Aaron Smith - Dancin' (Thomas Gold and Eric Smax Mix)
Empire of the Sun - Celebrate (Hook N Sling Mix)
Beatfreakz - Somebody's watching me (Dennis Christopher Club Mix)
Lucas & Steve feat. Bethany - Blinded (Original Mix)
Danny Tenaglia - Music is the answer (Fire Islands Mix)
Fonzerelli - Dreamin' (Original Mix)
Deborah Cox - Beautiful U R (Soulseekerz Mix)
Katy Perry - Birthday (Cash Cash Mix)
Ellie Goulding - Lights (C-Rok Rok Candy Mix)
Nicole Scherzinger - Your love (Cahill Club Mix)
Katy Perry - Firework (Alex Gaudino & Jason Rooney Club Mix)
John Legend - All of me (Tiesto Mix)
Madonna - Ghosttown (Don Diablo Mix)
Chanel - My life (Haji & Emanuel Vocal Mix)
DJ Spen - Gabryelle (Olav Basoski Mix)
3lau and Nom De Strip feat. Estelle - The night (Original Mix)
Sterling Void - It's alright (Chris Lake Funky House Mix)
Zedd feat. Selena Gomez - I want you to know (Marc Benjamin Mix)
          Firework Display – 2017        
After a very successful first event in 2014, Fireworks are now fixed in the Thriftwood calendar. Remember, remember the 1st November! Tickets are: £5 Adult, £4 Child It’s a really great event and a good fundraiser for local Scout and Guide Continue reading Firework Display – 2017
          New York New Years Eve 2010 - 2010 New Year's Eve Parties in New York        

New year poetry new year quote new year quotes new year rhymes new year sayings new year stories new year travel new year's new year's 2009 new year's 2010 new year's eve new year's eve games new year's eve party ideas new year's eve songs new year's jokesnew year's message new year's poems new year's quotes new years new years 2008 new years 2009 new years 2009 2010 new years 2010 new years 2010 cruise new years 2010 cruises new years 2010 glasses new years 2010 vacations new years 2011 new years 2012 new years calendar new years celebrate new years celebrated new years celebrations new years Christmas new years club new years clubbing new years clubs new years club zone new years countdown new years cruise new years cruises new years customs new years dance new years day new years day 2010 new years desi new years dinner new years downtown new years eve new years eve 2008 new years eve 2009 new years eve 2009 2010 new years eve 2010 new years eve 2010 cruise new years eve 2010 events new years eve alone.

New years eve dinner new years eve events new years eve games new years eve ideas new years eve jokes new years eve las Vegas 2010 new years eve new York 2010 new years eve packages new years eve parties new years eve party new years eve party ideas new years eve plans new years eve quotes new years eve restaurant new years eve restaurants new years eve songs.

New years event new years events new years festival new years festivals new years festivities new years firework new years fireworks new years food new years foods new years holiday new years holidays new years in new York 2010 new years joke new years jokes new years kiss new years message new years messages new years music new years night new years nightclub new years nightclubs new years nightlife new years package new years packages new years parties new years party new years party 2010 new years parties new years poem new years poems new years quote new years quotes new years quotes for cards new years saying new years sayings new years songs new years south Africa new years specials new years stories new years tickets new years toast new years tradition new years traditional.

New years traditions new years travel deals new years wishes poems for new year poems for the new year romantic ideas for new years eve romantic new years eve ideas saying new year songs new year things to do on new years eve times square new years 2010 times square new years eve 2010 webster hall new years eve 2009 words for new year World cup 2010.


          Meatless Monday – 2015 #1 Indian Ratatouille        
Happy New Year! I watched the last day of the year go by in Cairns, and really enjoyed the chilled atmosphere and surprisingly lack of smart phones being pulled out as people watch the firework over the jetty. Makes a nice change and hopefully is a good omen for the year and the remaining 360 […]
          Introducing the Crafty Carrot Collective...        
Welcome all to our special introduction of The Crafty Carrot Collective! A selection of current Stampin' UP! Artisans from all over the world got together to form this interactive rewards program where you can learn and participate with us each month! We are kicking off in January 2017! No better way to start the new year, right? So why wait? Start now by following us on the links below.

The Crafty Carrot Collective

Here is a little detail on how it works...
Here is my project for today....

Everyone needs some thank you cards for all those generous holiday gifts you will be receiving but do you get them out after the new year? I definitely do that so I came up with some simple thank you cards that you can mass produce very easily now! And in keeping with the new year theme, I used the It's a Celebration Stamp Set with its firework images.
One of my favorites things to do is mix and mingle stamp sets!
I used 5 stamp sets on my cards.
It's a Celebration Stamp Set
Places You'll Go Photopolymer Stamp Set
Scenic Sayings Stamp Set
Confetti Celebration Stamp Set
Labeler Alphabet Photopolymer Stamp Set


Are you curious yet about this carrot tastes? Come follow us on Facebook and during the month of January, we are giving a whole 30 days of free tutorials and live classes for FREE! Tell your crafty stampin' friends too!


Inspire. Create. Share. That's what I love to do.
Cindy

The uber talented and organized Queen of the Collective Jennifer Frost over in Australia is next! Hop on over there and say hello!
USA followers can join the fun and shop with me!
Use the host code below when you order online with me this December and WIN!



          Come on Christmas        
It’s getting to feel a lot like Christmas as the song goes, and guess what I may even be organized this year.
I better not get that cleaver there is bound to be something I have forgotten.
I decided to go away this year go and party, live a bit or even a lot if the company is right. I will let you know when I get back.
It’s a coach trip only as I booked it on line the coach is coming up from the south and I’m heading across country from the opposite direction. The holiday is for singles so as long as there is at least one person who hasn't found a friend on the coach I should be alright. I just don't want to go somewhere and be the spare part. Which happens when everyone else happens to be part of a couple.
Please don’t let it snow until the New Year so that I can drive myself there. I do have a backup plan my big brother. He loves driving and has a nice posh car so I could arrive in style.
I get back from my Christmas break on Sunday and I am then heading down to London for the New Year. My friend and I decided to go and see the firework display for ourselves so with all these plans and a birthday as well I am now getting a bit excited. Then of course our Parkinson’s support  group have a Christmas Dinner which I do a lot of the organizing don’t you just love this time of year.

So if some kind person could take Parky off my hands it would be brilliant as I really don’t have time for him (not much chance of that but I can live in hope)

          This week’s challenges for Russian civil society: deportations, harassment, beatings        

Attacks on rights activists, harassment of Alexei Navalny's campaign and the slow-motion terror of deportation to Uzbekistan. 

Novaya Gazeta journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov faces deportation to Uzbekistan. Source: Ali Feruz's Facebook page.

We continue our partnership with OVD-Infoan NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly. 

This past week has been a difficult one for Russian civil society, with assaults on activists, fake news and a number of new criminal prosecutions.

The authorities are seeking to deport Novaya gazeta journalist Ali Feruz to Uzbekistan where his life is in danger. Feruz was detained on the afternoon of 1 August, the same day a court ruled the journalist should be forcibly deported to Uzbekistan. After the court hearing Feruz attempted to commit suicide. The journalist said he would rather die than return to Uzbekistan. Court bailiffs prevented him from cutting his veins; they also later beat him as he was being transferred to the Temporary Detention Centre for Foreign Citizens in Sakharovo (Novaya Moskva). In Uzbekistan, Feruz was tortured and the security services had sought to make him an informer, after which he left the country in 2009.

Four people were detained in single-person pickets in support of Ali Feruz on Thursday in Moscow. Those detained were charged with administrative offences under Article 20.2, Section 5, of Russia’s Administrative Law Code and released.

This week a number of activists were assaulted. In addition, there was an attempted murder. On 24 July, Vladimir Burmistrov, a member of the “Nation and Freedom Committee” and a candidate in Moscow’s forthcoming municipal elections, almost died when unidentified persons unscrewed the bolts on one of the wheels of his car, as a result of which he was involved in a crash. Previously, Burmistrov had been threatened by officers from the anti-extremism police.

On 27 July in Ufa an unidentified person assaulted civic activist and journalist Anver Yumagulov. In hospital Yumagulov’s injuries were recorded as including broken ribs, nose and jaw.

Anver Yumagulov, a rights activist from Ufa, after a brutal beating on 27 July. Source: Instagram. A court extended the pre-trial detention of Dmitry Krepkin by six months. Krepkin has been charged with using force against a National Guard officer at the 26 March protest in Moscow. His prosecution is the fourth to have reached the courts following the break-up by police of the protest on Moscow’s Tverskaya Street. Krepkin has maintained his innocence of the charges. He also says he was assaulted at the time of his arrest. Doctors at the emergency medical centre recorded very extensive bruising resulting from at least six blows. The National Guard officer who allegedly was injured as a result of Krepkin’s actions did not seek medical treatment and did not make an official report about the alleged offence. OVD-Info attended the preliminary hearing in Krepkin’s case and spoke with his mother about her son and his conditions in the pre-trial detention centre.

New charges — albeit very different from each other in nature — have been brought against two individuals currently serving terms in prison. Anarchist activist Ilya Romanov has been charged with incitement of terrorism on grounds of a video with Hebrew subtitles in which a woman from Chechnya calls for “combating kaffirs [unbelievers in Islamist terminology].” Romanov, a 50-year-old anarchist from Nizhny Novgorod, is currently serving 10 years in prison on charges of terrorism. Romanov’s “crime” consisted in the fact that in the autumn of 2013 a firework exploded in his hands, causing severe damage to his wrist. OVD-Info has learned the latest details of the new prosecution.

Rinat Galiullin, convicted in the 2013 Hizb ut-Tahrir case in Chelyabinsk, for which he has served five years in prison, is facing a new prosecution. On the day his prison term ended, Galiullin was not released. People in civilian clothes arrived in a car at the prison colony, some of whom proceeded to film events with a video camera. Subsequently, a police investigator telephoned Galiullin’s wife to say that her husband was now being prosecuted under Article 205.5, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (“participation in the activity of a terrorist organisation”). According to the investigator, while in prison Galiullin had conducted “collective and individual discussions” with prisoners and had sought to involve them in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Galiullin has served a prison sentence for organizing the activity of an extremist organization and preparing activities aimed at the violence seizure of power.

31 July: Alexei Navalny's Krasnodar campaign office is attacked by a "Putin brigade". Source: Twitter.The persecution of participants in Alexei Navalny’s election campaign continues. Moscow’s Simonovsky district court fined Navalny himself and the head of his election campaign, Leonid Volkov, 300,000 roubles each, while the head of the Moscow campaign headquarters, Nikolai Lyaskin, was fined 250,000 roubles, for urging the public to take part in a “campaigning weekend” on 8 and 9 July. At the end of July, members of the “Putin Brigades” boarded up the entrance to the Navalny campaign’s headquarters in Krasnodar.

In various cities Navalny supporters have been refused permission to organise campaigning in the streets. For example, in Krasnoyarsk campaigning was banned on the grounds of events celebrating the baptism of Rus, the cleaning of municipal fountains, the “July Heat” marathon, and the restoration of a clock tower.

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can help us here.

For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.


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          By: gary davison        
brilliant firework display last night grandson thoroughly enjoyed it nice beer very friendly people will definately be attending next year
          Confront the poison of emptiness with joy        
Dear friends,
I have a little catch-up to do, so please see below for the first installment of the last few Sunday messages from Pope Francis.  Some of these are my own translations, so forgive me for any mistakes!  Thank you, and enjoy!

POPE FRANCIS
ANGELUS 
Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 4 August 2013

(video and text
available here)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last Sunday I was in Rio de Janeiro. Holy Mass and the World Youth Day were drawing to a close. I think we must all thank the Lord together for the great gift which this event was, for Brazil, for Latin America and for the entire world. It was a new stage on the pilgrimage of youth crossing the continents bearing the Cross of Christ. We must never forget that World Youth Days are notPope John Paul II. He entrusted the cross to the young people and said: go out and I will come with you! And so it was; and this youth pilgrimage continued with Pope Benedict and, thanks be to God, I too have been able to experience this marvellous milestone in Brazil. Let us always remember: young people do not follow the Pope, they follow Jesus Christ, bearing his Cross. And the Pope guides them and accompanies them on this journey of faith and hope. I therefore thank all the young people who have taken part, even at the cost of sacrifices. I also thank the Lord for the other encounters I had with the Pastors and people of that vast country which Brazil is, and likewise the authorities and the volunteers. May the Lord reward all those who worked hard for the success of this great feast of faith. I also want to emphasize my gratitude; many thanks to the Brazilians. The people of Brazil are an excellent people, a people with a great heart! I shall not forget the warm welcome, the greetings, their gaze, all the joy. A generous people; I ask the Lord to shower his blessings upon them!
“firework displays”, flashes of enthusiasm that are an end in themselves; they are the stages of a long journey, begun in 1985, at the initiative of 

I would like to ask you to pray with me that the young people who took part in World Youth Day will be able to express this experience in their journey through daily life, in their everyday conduct; and that they can also express it in the important decisions of life, in response to the personal call of the Lord. Today in the liturgy, the provocative words of Ecclesiastes ring out: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” (1:2). Young people are particularly sensitive to the empty, meaningless values that often
surround them. Unfortunately, moreover, it is they who pay the consequences. Instead the encounter with the living Christ in his great family which is the Church fills hearts with joy, for it fills them with true life, with a profound goodness that endures, that does not tarnish. We saw it on the faces of the youth in Rio. But this experience must confront the daily vanity, that poison of emptiness which creeps into our society based on profit and possession and on consumerism which deceives young people. This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us, precisely, of the absurdity of basing our own happiness on having. The rich say to themselves: my soul, you have many possessions at your disposal... rest, eat, drink and be merry! But God says to them: Fools! This very night your life will be required of you. And all the things you have accumulated, whose will they be? (cf. Lk 12:19-20).

Dear brothers and sisters, the true treasure is the love of God shared with our brethren. That love which comes from God and enables us to share it with one another and to help each other. Those who experience it do not fear death and their hearts are at peace. Let us entrust this intention, the intention of receiving God’s love and sharing it with our brothers and sisters, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

          British Firework Champion Of Champions Display Plymouth 2012 A Photographic Glimpse        
A mini photographic e-book with 31 photos of British Firework Champion Of Champions Display Plymouth 2012.Filed under: 2012, British Firework Championships, Events, Plymouth Tagged: 2012, British, British Firework Champion Of Champions Display Plymouth 2012, Champion of Champions, Display, Firework, Fireworks, Glimpse, Photographic, Photographic Glimpse, Plymouth
          The British Firework Championships        
The British Firework Championships Plymouth Hoe Tuesday 14 to Wednesday 15 August 2012 9.30pm On Plymouth Hoe over two evenings there will be fireworks displays and this year the Champion of Champions competition in which the winners from the past six years will compete for the prestigious ‘British Fireworks Champion of Champions’ title. DetailsFiled under: Barbican, […]
          What Won't You Do for Us Lately?        

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008

The Going Gets Tough: In the first two debates, the presidential candidates and their running mates were asked a host of questions on what they will do about America's most pressing problems, from the financial crisis and the recession to Iraq and Afghanistan. But so far, the toughest question of all has been one the candidates would rather not answer: what they won't do for us—and what, because of the economic crisis, they might not be able to get done as quickly as they would have liked.

Two weeks ago in Mississippi, Jim Lehrer asked Barack Obama and John McCain, "What are you going to have to give up ... as a result of having to pay for the financial rescue plan?" Obama readily admitted that "there's no doubt that we're not going to be able to do everything," then cleverly used the rest of his answer to list key priorities he won't abandon. McCain repeated a proposal he made in April for a freeze on domestic discretionary spending.

Last Thursday in St. Louis, Mo., Gwen Ifill tried again, asking both vice-presidential candidates, "What promises have you and your campaigns made to the American people that you're not going to be able to keep?" Joe Biden said he and Obama would slow down their commitment to double foreign aid and would end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, then reaffirmed the campaign's agenda on energy, health care, and education. Sarah Palin said she ought to be able to honor all the promises she has made since she has only been on the ticket for five weeks.

It's easy to see why candidates wouldn't want to answer a loaded question like which promises they won't keep. And understandably, the campaigns are no more eager to look at the damage the past month has done to next year's federal budget than Americans are to see what the market has done to their 401(k)s.

Yet in many ways, it might be in the candidates' interest (not to mention the country's) to say a bit more about what they won't do. Voters won't mind, because for them, reality is already on the ballot. And the next four years will be a lot easier for the new president if he spends the next four weeks letting the country know just how hard that job will be.

As the front-runner for the toughest job on earth, Obama stands to gain the most from elaborating upon his point in the last debate that "we're not going to be able to do everything." The more Obama emphasizes that government can't do everything, the harder it will be for Republicans to scare voters into believing the cost of government will go up. Along those lines, Obama recently gave a smart, little-reported speech on his plans to cut spending through government reform.

Ironically, the credit crisis and the recession are bound to make the electorate need government more and like it less. That's why the politics of the rescue plan took us on a trillion-dollar rollercoaster ride last week. Voters know that in a crisis, sometimes government must step in—but with their own cupboards so bare, Americans are even less inclined than ever to pay more for it.

For Obama and McCain, the challenge is to make sense of that dichotomy. The Bush administration has been a case study in big government run badly, and the electorate feels doubly burned as a result. Consider a remarkable finding in today's NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, which has Obama up by six points nationally. Voters were asked whether they would prefer a president who'll "provide changes from the current Bush administration policies and create a government with more active oversight to protect consumers in areas such as housing and financial transactions" or a president who'll "provide changes from the current policies in Congress and deal with waste and fraud in the system to protect taxpayers from government inefficiency and pork-barrel spending." Voters deserve both, but forced to choose, they picked the pork-fighting president over the active-oversight president by a whopping 58 percent to 38 percent.

Since the next president's most difficult challenge will be holding onto the trust and patience of a beleaguered electorate, it wouldn't hurt to get a head start. Even before the credit crisis, the next president stood to inherit more problems from George Bush than he could hope to solve all at once. Now the next administration's burden will include a global financial crisis beyond what any one president, party, or country alone can address.

In the darkening economic climate, some of our pre-existing challenges will take on greater urgency—for example, cutting middle-class taxes to keep consumers and homeowners afloat, tackling health care costs before they drag the auto industry under, turning energy efficiency into a prime job-creation sector, and dealing with the nation's long-term balance sheet. On some other fronts, the rate of progress may depend on how long it takes the economy and markets to rebound, and how well Hank Paulsen's rescue fund pays off.

Acknowledging limits won't crush people's expectations—Americans have no illusions about how tough the next few years will be. They'll welcome a president who understands just how tough things are and levels with them about how to deal with it.

The next president doesn't need a broad mandate to solve everything. He needs a clear, focused, patient mandate to put us back on our feet so we can go on to do greater things. Our current president hasn't done much for us lately. We're ready for one who'll tell us what he won't do, and we can count on to come through on the rest. ... 5:03 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

Someone's Better Off: With a deep recession looming and the government going bust, the widespread consensus is that the financial crisis strikes a bitter blow to the presidential candidates' grand policy ambitions. As Ted Widmer asked in the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post, "Why on Earth would anyone want to be president right now?" The next president will have to spend so much cleaning up the mess, he might be tempted to let Treasury foreclose on the White House.

Is the next president worse off than he was eight days ago? In many respects, yes. No president can do well if ordinary citizens are doing badly. A number of national problems that were getting too little attention before Black Monday will now sink even deeper in the beleaguered next president's stack.

Yet in the long run, our next leader may look back on the current meltdown as the biggest break of his presidency. While the next president's job just got a bit more perilous, it also became a great deal more important. And if President Obama or President McCain is able to rise to the occasion, this crisis could increase the odds that his time in office will be a success.

Here are three reasons why, down the road, our 44th president might see the earth-shattering economic news of the past week as not all bad:

1. It takes a crisis to change the tone in Washington. Throughout their campaigns, Barack Obama and John McCain both have promised to put partisan politics aside and set a new tone in Washington. The financial crisis seems to have beaten them to the punch. Oddly enough, the two campaigns spent much of the past week jabbing at each other—while Republicans and Democrats back in Washington sounded more notes of bipartisan harmony than we've heard since 9/11.

That's not a coincidence. In normal times, the two biggest deficits in Washington are urgency and seriousness of purpose. In a crisis, those are no longer in short supply. JFK once said the time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining. But until the rain starts, it's also much easier for the political world not to notice any leak. On many public policy issues in recent years—health care, Social Security, climate change—the two sides have struggled even to reach agreement on whether crisis was looming. Not this time. You know it's a crisis when conservatives start the bidding at $700 billion.

Because of their inherent uncertainty, crises tend to force parties to hedge their bets, tamp down ideological certitude, and be pragmatic. "There are no atheists in foxholes and no ideologues in financial crises," says Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. The good feeling doesn't last forever: A president who wants to revive partisan rancor can do so in a hurry, as Bush demonstrated in the nasty 2002 midterm elections. On the other hand, a president who wants to keep the spirit of cooperation alive can do so till the crisis goes away—a window that might last awhile.

2. The next president will be too broke to fail. Like Wall Street titans, presidents tend to think more clearly when times are tight than when they have money to burn. When George W. Bush inherited a huge surplus, he squandered it in his first six months. When Bill Clinton took office, by contrast, all he inherited was a huge stack of IOUs. That forced him to make a few tough, painful decisions early in his presidency—which produced a far bigger economic payoff for the country over the long haul.

All politicians dream of a world in which they don't have to make choices. But for a president, having to make choices can be a blessing, not a curse. Bush would have done better fighting one war at a time, not two. LBJ ran into trouble because he thought he could afford both guns and butter. Most successful presidents concentrate on getting one thing done before moving onto the next item on their to-do list. With no illusions of plenty, the next president will be forced to focus his priorities and invest his political capital well.

3. Caution is not an option.  Consider this: Henry Paulson has proposed a more sweeping domestic agenda in the last eight days than George W. Bush proposed in the last eight years. The next president could get a whole term to govern like Paulson.

Exhausting as it sounds, that too could prove to be a blessing in disguise. For the past two years, Obama has worked hard to make the political world safe for change. McCain, caught between a failed brand and a reluctant base, is looking for ways to make change his friend. The economic crisis will give the winner an opportunity and obligation as president to be a bolder agent of change than they or their parties imagined.

For example, the current conventional wisdom assumes that big-ticket items like health care and distant challenges like Social Security must be put on hold until the economy recovers. But the more big new debts we take on in the short term, the more important it will become to shore up our financial stability over the long haul. For that matter, if we do nothing about health care costs, the auto industry could be next in line at the Treasury window.

From tax reform to energy to modernizing government, our economic woes will compel the next president toward what FDR called "bold, persistent experimentation." In the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt chose that course for a reason: When challenges we've never tackled before start appearing at rates we've never seen, bold experiments are our only hope of catching up. We have to try new things, and keep trying until we get it right.

Shortly after the 1992 election, the Clinton economic team met at Blair House to tell the president-elect that he was about to inherit a far bigger budget deficit than anticipated. He should have been crestfallen, but surrounded by portraits of FDR and other predecessors, he couldn't help feeling inspired by the challenge. Let's hope, for his own sake, the next president feels the same way. ...  4:25 A.M. (link)

Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Ice Time: When Joe Lieberman became the first Jewish vice-presidential nominee, Clyde Haberman of the New York Times summed up the American Jewish reaction as one of initial pride, followed immediately by the question, "Is it good for the Jews?" When Mitt Romney launched his presidential bid, he ran into similar worries from many fellow members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, who wondered if it would be good for the Mormons.

So perhaps it's only natural that since Sarah Palin emerged as the most famous hockey mom in history, the reaction around the rink has been, is it good for hockey?

Other sports have made their peace with politics. For a century, major league baseball has asked presidents to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. Both parties have elected retired football players to Congress, the Super Bowl is a major political event, and George W. Bush risked his life to watch an NFL playoff game. Barack Obama played basketball with troops; he and McCain both hyped their NCAA tournament picks.

Yet aside from Team USA's gold-medal upset in the 1980 Olympics, the worlds of American politics and hockey have tried their best not to collide. A few politicians may tout the sport in hockey-mad states like Alaska, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, and John Kerry nearly brought his skates all the way to the White House. But in general, the two arenas have kept their distance, each viewing the other as too rough, cold, and foreign.

Now comes Sarah Palin, who threatens to turn hockey into the biggest celebrity spectator sport in the world. Suddenly, "hip check" and Zamboni have entered the political lexicon. Last week, the New York Times examined the "hockey way of life," suggesting that in Alaska, the game is at best a way to keep young people off the streets and at worst the reason Bristol Palin got pregnant. This week, hockey moms went viral with a Swift Boat parody, "Hockey Moms for Truth."

As a fading hockey player and below-average hockey dad, I have one reaction to the overnight surge of media attention to our once obscure game: Thanks, but no thanks! If we wanted to become a political football, we would have signed up for a different sport.

At first, the rush of Palin publicity seemed like a boon for the game. Before she introduced herself as "just your average hockey mom," "average" wasn't the first word most often associated with hockey parents. In popular culture, the more common adjectives were "violent" and "homicidal." USA Hockey, the governing body for the sport, frets enough about the stereotype to run chill-out ads like these.

What's more, ice hockey suffers from the same problem as the Republican Party: not much of a female fan base. The scoreboard company Jumbotron makes the astonishing claim that only 22% of NHL fans are women. By comparison, women make up nearly twice as big a share (43%) of Major League Baseball fans, 41% of NBA fans, 40% of NASCAR fans, and 37% of NFL fans. (Hope is on the way: Ice hockey is one of the fastest growing women's sports.)

But after a few weeks under the media spotlight, the hockey world is starting to remember why we preferred our rinks dimly lit in the first place. Stu Hackel, a hockey blogger for the New York Times, wrote a long post recently on how much he resents the game being dragged into politics and used as a pawn. Several readers agreed -- and chided him for dragging politics into a hockey blog.

Over at OnFrozenBlog, pucksandbooks tried to look on the bright side: "If you love hockey, how can you not like how hockey is being celebrated (associated with perseverance and toughness) in the rhetoric of 2008's political debates?" For readers, however, pride was tempered by grave concern about what the association with politics might do to hockey's reputation.

In my experience, we hockey parents are already a little grumpy from ice times that are too late or too early. For many, the sudden attention just brings up the sore subject of how little respect the sport gets in the U.S. "You know hockey is never going to be better than the fourth major sport," one OnFrozenBlog reader lamented, recalling how ESPN's SportsCenter used to make fans suffer through golf highlights before getting around to the NHL.

Then again, at least we don't live in Canada, where politicians are always trying to put lipstick on a puck. The current leader, Stephen Harper, is a self-styled "hockey-dad-turned-Prime-Minister." A Canadian hockey pol gets to have it both ways – screaming at the refs now and then shows you're a regular bloke, while sitting behind your kid on the bench softens your image.

Yet even in Canada, the hockey schtick doesn't play well in all quarters. With national elections a month away, the Toronto Globe and Mail ran two articles last week after an "exclusive interview" with Harper. One piece discussed the Prime Minister's views on NHL expansion, noting that he has written an unpublished history of hockey. The other article took a different tack: "During a campaign stop at a winery in St-Eustache, Que., Mr. Harper, who many have called a Philistine, also spoke at length about his life-long passion for music and the piano." With great panache, Harper recounted writing poetry, suffering as a pianist from "nervous" hands, and overcoming one of the most unusual childhood hard-luck stories in political history: "For the first half year I was in lessons, we didn't have a piano and I would actually practice for my lessons on a cardboard keyboard."

If politicians start saying the difference between a hockey dad and a pit bull is a cardboard keyboard, hockey parents might decide we liked our old reputation better. ... 1:38 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

NASCAR on Ice:Every election, pollsters and pundits introduce another voter group whose views are certain to decide the outcome: soccer moms, NASCAR dads, security moms, office park dads, and (three times in the past week) Wal- Mart moms. These categories, while sometimes useful, share an important methodological flaw: On Election Day, when undecided voters finally make up their minds, exit pollsters don't ask them where they work or where they shop, what sports they watch or what games their children play. Exit polls eschew these trendy questions in favor of boring demographic perennials like age, race, gender, education, and income level.

Precisely because exit poll questions don't change much from one cycle to the next, however, they provide an interesting portrait of how the electorate evolves—or doesn't. Some segments of the electorate are fiercely loyal to one party; others lean toward one party but more dramatically in some years than others.

According to exit polls, the most volatile swing voter group over the last 20 years hasn't been hockey moms like Sarah Palin, commuter dads like Joe Biden, or soccer parents like Barack and Michelle Obama. Over the last two decades, the swing voters most prone to moving away from Republicans in elections Democrats won and toward Republicans in elections Republicans won have been white men with a degree from high school but not college. In other words, forget Sarah Palin: In recent elections, the biggest swingers looked more like her husband, Todd.

Democrats don't need to win a majority among white men without bachelors' degrees, but it's crucial to cut our losses. In 2000 and 2004, Democrats lost that group by about 30 percent. In the 2006 midterms, Democrats cut our losses in half. In 1992, with some help from Ross Perot, we managed to eke out a slim plurality. Because this voting bloc still makes up nearly one-fifth of the electorate, losing them by 30 points instead of 15 means a shift the size of George W. Bush's margin over John Kerry. The only group with a swing that comes close is white women with the same educational profile, who turn out in greater numbers but are less likely to switch sides.

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results, especially in a path-breaking year like this one. The Obama campaign has invested heavily in registering and turning out new voters, while the McCain campaign carries the albatross of an old, unpopular GOP brand. In an economy this troubled, and after an administration this bad, all kinds of voters who went Republican in the past should be up for grabs. Then again, that might be yet another reason men with no college degree should be among the most up-for-grabs of all.

So far, Todd Palin has attracted as much attention for his looks and his nickname as for his politics. No one knows whether he joined the Alaskan Independence Party because he wanted a vote on statehood, was a Perot supporter fed up with the two parties, or just liked this one's quirky platform: "The AIP supports fishing!" Sarah Palin called her husband "a story all by himself"—fisherman, oil worker, snowmobiler, part Eskimo, and perhaps the first person ever to be cheered by a Republican Convention for belonging to the United Steelworkers Union.

The current vice-presidential spouse, Lynne Cheney, grew up in a small Western town, got a Ph.D., and used it to write racy novels. Todd's passion is the 2,000-mile, NASCAR-on-ice Tesoro Iron Dog. Last year, he told the AP that his principal cause as First Dude of Alaska was expanding training for noncollege workers: "For those of us who learn by touching and tearing stuff apart and for those who don't have the financial background to go to college, just being a product of that on-the-job training is really important."

Noncollege men aren't going to vote Republican just because they identify with Todd Palin—and in any case, he's hardly the stereotypical working-class swing voter. He's now a registered Republican, married to a passionately conservative one. Before he left his job as a production operator for BP, he was earning between $100,000 and $120,000 a year—about three times the Census Bureau average for men who haven't finished college. In contrast to the Lower 48, Alaska remains a land of opportunity where it is still possible to succeed beyond one's wildest dreams through what the AP called "a lifetime of manual labor." Many of my high-school classmates in Idaho headed north for the same reason.

The trouble with the GOP argument is that so far, their only plan to boost the incomes of non-college-graduates is the one Todd Palin came up with on his own 20 years ago: work in Alaska!

So in the rush to court more familiar voters, Democrats shouldn't concede Dude Dads to the Republicans. Democrats may not have a First Dude on the ticket, but we have a good plan to help the forgotten middle class do better again. The next president needs to help the United States build the job-rich industries of the future, such as new energy-efficient technologies, and give Americans what Rep. Rahm Emanuel calls "a new deal for the new economy": health care they can afford, a 401(k) pension they can keep, a tax cut they've earned, and the chance to get more training and send their kids to college.

In this campaign, Americans have heard more than enough about the Bridge to Nowhere. What millions of voters want out of this election is a bridge to somewhere. A bridge to the 21st century would be a good place to start. ... 5:19 p.m. (link)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The New Frontier: Flush from a pitch-perfect convention week and a crescendo of can-you-top-this speeches by Bidens, Clintons, and Obamas, Democrats in Denver had no trouble bounding out of bed Friday morning. After running up the score at Invesco Field on Thursday night, our biggest worry was getting penalized for excessive celebration. Then, just when the party thought its luck couldn't get any better, John McCain's choice of an obscure rookie governor sent Democrats popping champagne corks all over again. Giddy partisans rushed to the phones and microphones to trash Palin as "Geraldine Quayle."

I wasn't so quick to jump for joy. For one thing, I would have rather spent the fall poking fun at Mitt Romney, and got my hopes up when his stock soared to 80% in the political futures market shortly before the Palin announcement. Alas, passing up Romney deprives us of the perfect slogan: "Four More Houses!" While we weren't able to elect the first presidential android, his supporters and I can take heart that thanks to his campaign, there are now 4.7 million cracks in that plastic ceiling.

For me, the choice of Sarah Palin cuts a little too close to home. She was born a few miles from where I grew up, went to junior college in my hometown, and has now eclipsed Deep Throat and Larry Craig as the most famous graduate in University of Idaho history. It's as if the McCain campaign were micro-targeting my wife's demographic: exercise-crazed hockey moms from Idaho who married their high school sweethearts. The Obama campaign can rest assured – universes don't get much smaller than that.

As governor, Sarah Palin helped stop the Bridge to Nowhere. Now she's the Candidate from Nowhere. That's a steep climb for any candidate, even one who shoots moose and runs marathons. Before every VP selection, the only people willing to talk about the choice don't know anything. With Palin, that was still pretty much the case even after her announcement. Republican congressman Mike Simpson doesn't know her, but told the Idaho Statesman, "She's got Idaho roots, and an Idaho woman is tough."

If national security experience is the measure of a potential Commander-in-Chief, Palin has an extraordinarily high burden to prove. To paraphrase the words Lloyd Bentsen used to destroy the last surprise vice-presidential choice, she's no Joe Biden.

But for a host of reasons, Democrats needn't rush to run down Sarah Palin. Obama seemed to come to that conclusion Friday afternoon, striking the right tone after Democrats had gone after her with a few early hip checks. Both Obama and Biden called Palin to wish her good luck, but not too much. Hillary Clinton echoed that Palin's "historic nomination" would nevertheless take the country in the wrong direction.

Why hold back? First, as Obama himself demonstrated in winning the Democratic nomination, 2008 is a tough year to handicap the relative virtues of being a fresh face and having experience. The natural reflex is to brand Palin as too great a risk. But McCain is practically begging our side to throw him into that briar patch. Convinced he can't win as a candidate of the status quo, he wants everyone to know he's willing to take a risk.

Second, anyone going after Palin for the important experience she lacks had better be careful not to dismiss the value of the experiences she does have. Raising a large family and running a small state may not be sufficient qualifications to assume the Presidency. But we're not going to get far by minimizing those jobs, either. Here again, the McCain campaign may be hoping that Democrats – or the press – will come down too hard on Palin, and spark a backlash that turns her into a working mom's hero.

Third, and most important, voters don't need our help to figure this out. In the end, they'll be the best and toughest judge of whether or not Sarah Palin is ready. Back in 1988, the Dukakis campaign actually ran an ad against Dan Quayle. It didn't work, and wasn't necessary. In any case, Quayle had only himself to blame for falling flat on the national stage. By straining so hard to compare himself to JFK on the campaign trail, he practically wrote Bentsen's famous line for him.

In fact, Quayle never recovered from his debut at the '88 convention, when voters witnessed his deer-in-the-headlights moment. Over the next few days and in the vice-presidential debate, Palin's reputation will be shaped in much the same way – by whether she can take the heat, or looks like a moose hunter in the headlights. … 1:38 A.M. (link)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Spoiler Alert: When the McCain campaign floated the idea of a pro-choice running mate, social conservatives reacted with the same outrage they've been rehearsing for 40 years: Some threatened to bolt at the convention; others said they'd rather lose the election than expand the Republican tent. "If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it's not going to be pretty," Rush Limbaugh warned.

But the most explosive threat comes from former right-hand-of-God Ralph Reed, in his new novel, Dark Horse, a "political thriller" that imagines this very scenario. Spoiler alert! Just hours after forcing his party to swallow a pro-choice VP, the Republican presidential nominee in Reed's pot-boiler is brutally murdered by radical Islamic terrorists at the GOP Convention. Reed's implicit threat to Republican candidates: The Christian right has so much power, they can even get someone else's God to strike you down.

Reed doesn't just kill off the character who named a pro-choice running mate—he has the running mate go on to destroy the Republican Party. For the Republicans (and the reader), the plot goes from bad to worse. With the pro-choice figure—an African-American war hero named David Petty—now at the top of the Republican ticket, evangelical leaders throw their support behind Calif. Gov. Bob Long, who just lost the Democratic nomination at a brokered convention and decided to run as an independent after going through a religious conversion in the chapel of the hospital where his daughter nearly lost her baby. Petty offends evangelicals, while Long—obviously a quick study—wows them with the depth of his knowledge of the Bible.

Petty's candidacy implodes when a YouTube clip shows him telling Iowans that his support for the GOP abortion plank is only symbolic. Days before the election, voters also learn that as defense secretary, Petty convinced a no-bid contractor to hire a lobbyist who moonlights as his mistress and madam of an exclusive Washington brothel.

Reed's clear warning: If you put a pro-choice Republican on the ticket, don't be surprised when he turns out to be a lying, cheating, no-bid-earmarking john.

By contrast, Reed's evangelicals love Long, who woos them with parables and waffles on abortion. "I've heard through the grapevine that he's become a Christian," says televangelist Andy Stanton, a composite of Limbaugh and Pat Robertson. "He may be someone we can do business with." With Stanton's enthusiastic blessing, Long sweeps the South and beats Petty 2-to-1 among evangelicals.

All three candidates come up short of 270 electoral votes, so the election goes to the House of Representatives. Even though Republicans control the House, Petty loses when Republican members of the evangelical caucus support Long instead. The message to McCain: Social conservatives will gladly support a maverick, as long as he says what they want to hear on their issues.

Of course, John McCain doesn't need to curl up with a Ralph Reed roman à clef to know that social conservatives won't budge on abortion. The more interesting question is why my evil twin decided to write the Great Republican Novel in the first place. True to his own life story, the book suffers from too much plot and not enough character. But it's not nearly as bad as I'd hoped, and it's chock-full of accidental revelations:

  • Ralph expects the Republicans to lose the White House in 2008 but win it back in 2012 and 2016. By the time the book takes place, Democrats haven't carried a single Southern state in five straight elections (2000 through 2016), and a Republican president who is retiring after two terms reminisces fondly about how "I did what I had to do" to win the 2012 election. Alas, his "botched effort to overthrow the Iranian government" inspires the terrorist attack on the 2020 GOP convention.
  • Much as social conservatives and neocons can't stand liberals and the media, most of all they hate each other. Reed's hapless Republican nominee insists that "this election is about terrorism, not social issues" and doesn't hide his contempt for social conservative leaders and "their self-importance, single-issue litmus tests, and insufferable sense of entitlement." Meanwhile, social conservatives view themselves as "abused spouses" trapped in a "self-destructive codependence" with "the spineless wonders" who run the Republican Party. Reed says the Reagan formula can't save the GOP anymore: "A pro-business party with the religious right grafted in like a wild olive plant, it no longer appeals to the center of the country."
  • Money-grubbing consultants are obsessed with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Long's adman is arrested for snorting cocaine, and his top strategist nearly costs his candidate the election by shacking up with a spy from a rival campaign.
  • Novel-writing operatives, by contrast, are obsessed only with sex. Reed tries his best to turn social conservative politics into steamy beach reading. In Dark Horse, the operative always gets the girl, and she is invariably "bronzed," with swaying hips and tight designer clothes. One femme fatale is "a brunette lollipop" who captures her prey with lines like, "I thought I was dessert."
  • Apparently, Reed does not have much experience courting the women's vote. Long's wife is an alcoholic who's upset that he found God. The Democratic VP candidate is a lightweight who can't remember her party's position on Iran. Two campaign operatives refuse to discuss their grand jury testimony but stop to answer press questions about the designer outfits they're wearing.
  • Reed enjoyed running the Christian Coalition more than humping corporate accounts for Jack Abramoff. He writes himself into the book as a minor character named Ross Lombardy, "a veritable computer hard drive of political trivia" and "strategist-cum-organizer with a killer instinct who could quote 200 Bible verses from memory" and "had an uncanny ability to cite the precise vote percentages in every key U.S. House and Senate race in the previous three election cycles." The Abramoff character, G.G. Hoterman, is a corrupt, ruthless multimillionaire lobbyist who crushes anyone who gets in his way. "Politics has a way of criminalizing the normative," Hoterman complains.
  • Reed writes knowingly of the "time-honored Washington tradition" of "expressing false regret at the misfortune of someone caught in a scandal, when the truth was everyone enjoyed it." With a twinge of bitterness, he adds that "Washington scandals burn like funeral pyres, and only go out after the angry mob has tossed someone to the flames to pacify the gods.

That pyre suggests Ralph's next move. It's time to gin up the social conservative movement to forget about McCain's running mate and wake up to the GOP-bashing, sex-peddling novelist in their midst. Nothing could do more for slumping sales than an urgent edict from the religious right: Burn this book! ... 3:58 P.M. (link) 

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's Your Money: Over the next two weeks, the Obama and McCain campaigns will spend an impressive $11 million to advertise during the Olympics. Obama's first ad, "Hands," outlines his plan for a green economy. McCain's attacks Obama on taxes. Both ads reflect the campaigns' respective game plans, although Obama's fits in much better with the upbeat not-the-triumph-but-the-struggle spirit of the games that surround it.

If I had a few million to help NBC fill the time between tape delays, I might go after a topic that is on most American viewers' minds during these games and that seems destined to weigh heavily on the next president: China.

When the 2008 campaign started a few lifetimes ago, this election appeared to be all about China—or, at least, about the long-term competitive challenge that the emerging economic superpowers of China and India pose to the American way of life. But a host of urgent short-term economic problems have pushed our long-term economic challenges aside. For the moment, falling housing prices, rising gas prices, and soaring credit-card debts have made us more concerned about the threat the American way of life poses to the American way of life.

But if our next president ever gets done cleaning up after our current one, he'll confront China's growing shadow on issue after issue. While the United States can make an enormous difference by finally doing its part on climate change, the Chinese have already passed us as the largest producer of greenhouse gases, and our ability and willingness to make progress will depend in part on theirs. Meanwhile, China's rising demand for oil to fuel its relentless economic growth will continue to cost us at the pump.

When the next president decides what to do about education reform in the United States, China should be on his mind. The Chinese education system churns out 5 million college graduates a year, while we still paper over our high-school dropout rate and look away as half a million of the young people we send to college every year never finish.

Perhaps most urgently, the next president will have to admit what George W. Bush would not—that if we don't put our fiscal house in order, China will foreclose on it. As Obama has pointed out, "It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong." This year's federal budget deficit will be a record $500 billion, not counting wars and economic bailouts. One of history's headlines on this administration will be, "Bush Owes to China."

The rise of China is the story of this Olympics and threatensto be the story of the next presidency. So it's only fitting to give viewers a sense of what's at stake.

My dream ad would show the robot Wall-E methodically stacking pressed blocks of discarded dollar bills to form giant structures, which turn out to be the Bird's Nest stadium, the Water Cube aquatic center, and the CCTV tower. The script would go something like this:

"Sponsor" (60 seconds)

Voiceover: "Ever wonder what Washington has done with your tax dollars? This Olympics is your chance to find out. For the last 8 years, the Bush administration has been paying China billions of dollars in interest on the trillions it borrowed for tax breaks, pork, and special privileges you never got. That money helped create thousands of businesses and millions of jobs—in China. So as you enjoy the games, keep an eye on your tax dollars at work. The way our economy's going, it's tough to pay your bills. But take heart: You already paid China's."

Tagline: "America's Taxpayers. Proud Sponsors of the Beijing Olympics."

What's an Olympics without a little national pride?  And with any luck, NBC might refuse to run it. … 10:30 A.M. (link)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trader Mitt: As if John McCain didn't have enough reason to keep quoting JFK's line that life isn't fair, consider this: According to the political futures markets, Mitt Romney now has a better chance of being McCain's running mate than McCain has of winning.

Since the primaries, Romney has steadily gained ground in the VP sweepstakes through hard work and a disciplined message: He'll help on the economy, he grew up in the swing state of Michigan, and he makes his current home in the right wing of the Republican Party. He seems at ease with the unattractive chores of being the vice-presidential nominee: raising money, playing the attack dog, telling the base what it wants to hear.

On paper, Romney's VP bid looks as picture perfect as his presidential campaign once did. Yet even as Mitt watchers revel in the current boomlet, we can't help wondering whether this Romneymania will last.

With that in mind, Romneystas everywhere need to start making new and urgent arguments on his behalf:

  • The French Are Coming!: Romney was widely mocked last fall when he warned that France posed a clear and present danger to the American way of life. But after watching French President Nicolas Sarkozy embrace Barack Obama in Paris last week, conservatives may finally warm to Mitt's "First, Not France" slogan after all. Romney has impeccable credentials as a Francophobe; Sarkozy would never dream of saying of him, "If he is chosen, then France will be delighted." In a few short hours in Paris, Obama claimed the president as a convert. Romney spent two whole years in France and converted no one whatsoever.
  • Leave 'Em Laughing as You Go: One of McCain's heroes, Mo Udall, loved to tell the story of primary voters who heard him say, "I'm Mo Udall and I'm running for president," and responded, "We were just laughing about that this morning." Poor Mo wouldn't know what to make of this campaign. Two months into the general election, nobody's laughing about anything. No one much wants to joke about Obama or McCain. If Romney were the VP, pundits across the spectrum would exult that at last they had someone fun to mess with. He's a good sport and a happy square, with a track record of supplying ample new material.
  • WALL-E's World: Mitt Romney's Web site is a shadow of its former self—no Five Brothers blog, no ad contests, no animatronic Mitt messages for your voicemail. Yet like WALL-E's stash of charming knickknacks, the few surviving objects on Planet Romney carry greater meaning. For example, a striking photo highlights a strength few politicians reveal: Unlike McCain, Mitt Romney was born to read a teleprompter. In the official campaign photo of him rehearsing his concession speech, Mitt is barely visible. All the focus is on the words in big type to be loaded on the prompter.

McCain doesn't much like giving speeches and treats teleprompters accordingly. But you can see how a campaign that has struggled to follow a script might be tempted by the first completely programmable running mate.  In 2000, McCain often joked that he was Luke Skywalker. This time, Romney could be his C3PO. ... 12:47 p.m. (link)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Make My Day: What a difference a month makes. At its June meeting, the D.C. City Council debated Mayor Adrian Fenty's emergency legislation to ban sparklers. After the Supreme Court struck down the city's gun ban, the Council spent last week's July meeting debating emergency legislation to let residents own handguns. Here in the District, we couldn't shoot off firecrackers over the Fourth because they're too dangerous, but we can now keep a loaded pistol by our bedside, ready to shoot down prowlers in self-defense.

Like most D.C. residents, I have no plans to stockpile guns in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. But if the city wants to take away my sparklers, they'll have to pry them from my cold, dead, slightly charred hands.

When I was growing up, the rights to keep and bear firearms and fireworks went hand in hand. My grandmother used a revolver to shoot garter snakes in her garden. Well into her eighties, however, her greatest pleasure in life was to spend the Fourth setting off massive strings of firecrackers, 200 at a time. When she came to visit, she'd step off the airplane with a suitcase full of firecrackers purchased on an Indian reservation. As soon as we got home, she'd light the fuse with her cigarette, then squeal with delight as serial explosions made the gravel in our driveway dance.

In recent years, firearm regulation and firework regulation have gone their separate ways. The National Rifle Association has successfully opposed most gun laws, even ones aimed primarily at criminals. Armed with Justice Scalia's maddeningly unhelpful ruling on the D.C. ban, the NRA already has begun to target the rest.

By contrast, although fireworks aren't nearly as deadly as guns, the government treats them like what they are – a widely popular, sometimes dangerous American tradition. The federal government long ago banned once-commonplace explosives like cherry bombs. Most states – even the libertarian bastion of Idaho – have banned or restricted the use of firecrackers. According to the website AmericanPyro, five states, including Iowa and Illinois, permit only sparklers and snakes. Five others, including New York and Massachusetts, allow no consumer fireworks whatsoever. In general, states insist that fireworks must be "safe and sane" – a balance that has been all but impossible to strike with firearms.

Thanks to the enduring power of pyromania, sales haven't suffered. Since 1976, fireworks consumption has increased ten-fold, while fireworks-related injuries have dropped. Fireworks manufacturers can take heart in knowing that this year's survivors are next year's customers.

Because there is no Second Amendment right to keep and bear sparklers, fireworks law is a straightforward balancing test – between the individual right to burn a hole in the back porch and the mutual responsibility not to burn entire communities to the ground, the personal freedom to pyromaniacal self-expression and the personal responsibility not to harm oneself and others. These days, the fireworks industry has more to fear from climate change than from the authorities. This summer, the threat of wildfires led Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask Californians to boycott fireworks. Drought forced John McCain to forego fireworks at his annual Independence Day barbecue in Arizona.

The trouble with the Supreme Court ruling in the Heller case is not that it interprets the Second Amendment as an individual right. The Second Amendment is the constitutional equivalent of the grammatical paradox Eats Shoots & Leaves, but whatever the Founders meant by its muddy wording and punctuation, most Americans now take it for granted. The real problem with the Court's decision is that the balancing test for gun rights and responsibilities is even less clear than before. Scalia's opinion devotes 30 pages to a grammatical history of the Second Amendment and a single sentence to how the courts should apply it to most other gun laws already on the books.

Alongside such vast imprecision, the Court went out of its way to strike down the requirement for trigger locks – an extraordinarily modest attempt to balance freedom and safety. Trigger locks can help prevent gun accidents and keep guns out of the hands of children. Far from impeding self-defense, new trigger locks can be unlocked with a fingerprint or a special ring on the gun owner's finger. That means today's gun owner can arm himself to shoot an intruder in an instant – compared to the 30 seconds or more it took to load a pistol or musket in the 18th Century.

Over the long term, it's not clear how much of a boon the Heller decision will be for gun rights advocates. In winning the case, the gun lobby lost its most potent argument – the threat that at any moment, the government will knock on the door and take your guns away. With that bogeyman out of the way, the case for common-sense gun safety measures is stronger than ever. Perhaps now the gun debate will revolve around more practical and less incendiary issues, like what can be done to reduce illegal gun trafficking and trace guns used in crimes.

If it's any small consolation, the real winners in Heller may turn out to be the sparkler lobby. If cities have trouble banning handguns, they will be hard-pressed to take away sparklers. Of course, as with guns, the threat to sparklers may well have been exaggerated. The D.C. Council rejected Mayor Fenty's sparkler ban by a vote of 11-2, as members nostalgically recalled playing with them in their youth. Councilman and former mayor Marion Barry voted no "with a bang." As Barry knows, there are worse things in life to light than a sparkler. ... 9:51 A.M. (link)

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Fight of Her Life:Ten years ago, at a White House farewell for a favorite staff member, Hillary Clinton described the two kinds of people in the world: born optimists like her husband who see the glass as half-full, and born realists like herself who can see the glass is half-empty.

As she ends her campaign and throws her support behind Barack Obama's remarkable quest, Hillary could be forgiven for seeing her glass as, quite literally, half-empty. The two candidates traded primary after primary down the stretch, two titans matching each other vote for vote. In the closest race in the modern era, she and Obama split the Democratic wishbone nearly right down the middle, but she's not the one who got her wish.

Yet for Hillary and the 18 million of us who supported her, there is no shame in one historic campaign coming up just short against another. History is a great deal wiser than Chris Matthews, and will be kinder, too. The 2008 contest has been one for the ages, and the annals will show that Hillary Clinton has gained far more than she lost.

The Obama-Clinton match will go down as the longest, closest, most exciting, most exhausting ever. Obama ran an inspired campaign and seized the moment. Clinton came close, and by putting up a tough fight now, helped fortify him for the fight ahead.

Our campaign made plenty of mistakes, none of which has gone unreported. But Hillary is right not to dwell on "woulda, coulda, shoulda." From New Hampshire to South Dakota, the race she ran earned its own place in the history books.

While the way we elect presidents leaves a lot to be desired, it has one redeeming virtue, as the greatest means ever invented to test what those who seek the job are made of. In our lifetimes, we'll be hard-pressed to find a candidate made of tougher stuff than Hillary Clinton. Most candidates leave a race diminished by it. Hillary is like tempered steel: the more intense the heat, the tougher she gets.

And has any candidate had to face fiercer, more sustained heat? As a frontrunner, she expected a tough ride, and as Hillary Clinton, she was accustomed to it. But if she was used to the scrutiny, she could not have anticipated – and did not deserve – the transparent hostility behind it. In much the same way the right wing came unglued when her husband refused to die in the '90s, the media lost its bearings when she defied and survived them. Slate at least held off on its noxious Hillary Deathwatch until March; most of the press corps began a breathless Clinton Deathwatch last Thanksgiving. The question that turned her campaign around in New Hampshire – "How do you do it?" – brought Hillary to tears out of sheer gratitude that someone out there had noticed.

For a few searing days in New Hampshire, we watched her stare into the abyss. Any other candidate forced to read her own obituary so often would have come to believe it. But as she went on to demonstrate throughout this campaign, Hillary had faith that there is life after political death, and the wherewithal to prove it.

In New Hampshire, she discarded the frontrunner mantle and found her voice. For a race that was largely won or lost in Iowa, the discovery came a few days too late. But the grit Clinton showed with her back to the wall all those months will make her a force with a following for years to come.

The chief hurdle for Clinton's presidential bid wasn't whether she could do the job; Democrats never doubted she would make a good president. Ironically, the biggest question she faced for much of the race is one she answered clearly by the time she left it: whether America was ready for a woman president. No one asks that question any longer. For all the sexism she encountered as the first woman with a serious shot at the White House, voters themselves made clear they were ready. The longer the race went on, the more formidable she looked in the general election. In this week's CBS News poll, she was beating John McCain by nine points, even as she was losing the Democratic nomination.

Last year, the press and other campaigns insisted that Clinton was too polarizing and that half the country was united against her. Now, a woman who was supposed to be one of the most polarizing figures in America leaves the race with handsome leads over McCain in places like North Carolina, a state her husband never carried.

When her campaign started, aides often described Hillary as the least known, least understood famous person in America. During this campaign, it became clear that in certain quarters she's the most deliberately misunderstood person as well. The recent RFK flap was yet another attempt to suggest that her every miscue was part of some diabolical master plan.

Yet while talking heads imagined the evils of Hillary Clinton, voters finally came to know and understand her. They saw someone who knew what they were going through, who would stick with them, fight for them, and get back up when she got knocked down. The phony, consultant-driven shadow boxing of the last few years has dulled Democrats to the party's historic mission – to defend the values and stand up for the interests of ordinary people who are doing all they can just to get ahead. For those voters, Hillary Clinton was the champion they've been looking for, a fighter they can count on, win or lose, not to let them down.

That's a fight she'll never quit. Like the woman in New Hampshire, we still wonder how Hillary does it, but this time, the tears are on us. As we wish her well, our hopes are high, our hearts are full – and if our glass is empty, it was worth every drop. ... 11:58 P.M. (link)

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Adventures of Bobble-Foot: For enough money, any McClellan or Stephanopoulos in Washington will write a kiss-and-tell book these days. But the memoir Larry Craig just announced he's writing could launch a whole new genre: don't-kiss, don't-tell.

Craig revealed his plans on Boise television during Tuesday's coverage of the Senate primary to choose his potential successors. For the senator, if not his viewers, it was a poignant moment, one last point of no return in a three-decade-long political career.

With a touch of empathy, the local reporter told Craig, "You're looking forward now to a much different life for yourself." Alas, the life Craig described isn't much different from any other

          Where's the Rest of That Moose?        

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The New Frontier: Flush from a pitch-perfect convention week and a crescendo of can-you-top-this speeches by Bidens, Clintons, and Obamas, Democrats in Denver had no trouble bounding out of bed Friday morning. After running up the score at Invesco Field on Thursday night, our biggest worry was getting penalized for excessive celebration. Then, just when the party thought its luck couldn't get any better, John McCain's choice of an obscure rookie governor sent Democrats popping champagne corks all over again. Giddy partisans rushed to the phones and microphones to trash Palin as "Geraldine Quayle."

I wasn't so quick to jump for joy. For one thing, I would have rather spent the fall poking fun at Mitt Romney, and got my hopes up when his stock soared to 80% in the political futures market shortly before the Palin announcement. Alas, passing up Romney deprives us of the perfect slogan: "Four More Houses!" While we weren't able to elect the first presidential android, his supporters and I can take heart that thanks to his campaign, there are now 4.7 million cracks in that plastic ceiling.

For me, the choice of Sarah Palin cuts a little too close to home. She was born a few miles from where I grew up, went to junior college in my hometown, and has now eclipsed Deep Throat and Larry Craig as the most famous graduate in University of Idaho history. It's as if the McCain campaign were micro-targeting my wife's demographic: exercise-crazed hockey moms from Idaho who married their high school sweethearts. The Obama campaign can rest assured – universes don't get much smaller than that.

As governor, Sarah Palin helped stop the Bridge to Nowhere. Now she's the Candidate from Nowhere. That's a steep climb for any candidate, even one who shoots moose and runs marathons. Before every VP selection, the only people willing to talk about the choice don't know anything. With Palin, that was still pretty much the case even after her announcement. Republican congressman Mike Simpson doesn't know her, but told the Idaho Statesman, "She's got Idaho roots, and an Idaho woman is tough."

If national security experience is the measure of a potential Commander-in-Chief, Palin has an extraordinarily high burden to prove. To paraphrase the words Lloyd Bentsen used to destroy the last surprise vice-presidential choice, she's no Joe Biden.

But for a host of reasons, Democrats needn't rush to run down Sarah Palin. Obama seemed to come to that conclusion Friday afternoon, striking the right tone after Democrats had gone after her with a few early hip checks. Both Obama and Biden called Palin to wish her good luck, but not too much. Hillary Clinton echoed that Palin's "historic nomination" would nevertheless take the country in the wrong direction.

Why hold back? First, as Obama himself demonstrated in winning the Democratic nomination, 2008 is a tough year to handicap the relative virtues of being a fresh face and having experience. The natural reflex is to brand Palin as too great a risk. But McCain is practically begging our side to throw him into that briar patch. Convinced he can't win as a candidate of the status quo, he wants everyone to know he's willing to take a risk.

Second, anyone going after Palin for the important experience she lacks had better be careful not to dismiss the value of the experiences she does have. Raising a large family and running a small state may not be sufficient qualifications to assume the Presidency. But we're not going to get far by minimizing those jobs, either. Here again, the McCain campaign may be hoping that Democrats – or the press – will come down too hard on Palin, and spark a backlash that turns her into a working mom's hero.

Third, and most important, voters don't need our help to figure this out. In the end, they'll be the best and toughest judge of whether or not Sarah Palin is ready. Back in 1988, the Dukakis campaign actually ran an ad against Dan Quayle. It didn't work, and wasn't necessary. In any case, Quayle had only himself to blame for falling flat on the national stage. By straining so hard to compare himself to JFK on the campaign trail, he practically wrote Bentsen's famous line for him.

In fact, Quayle never recovered from his debut at the '88 convention, when voters witnessed his deer-in-the-headlights moment. Over the next few days and in the vice-presidential debate, Palin's reputation will be shaped in much the same way – by whether she can take the heat, or looks like a moose hunter in the headlights. … 1:38 A.M. (link)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Spoiler Alert: When the McCain campaign floated the idea of a pro-choice running mate, social conservatives reacted with the same outrage they've been rehearsing for 40 years: Some threatened to bolt at the convention; others said they'd rather lose the election than expand the Republican tent. "If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it's not going to be pretty," Rush Limbaugh warned.

But the most explosive threat comes from former right-hand-of-God Ralph Reed, in his new novel, Dark Horse, a "political thriller" that imagines this very scenario. Spoiler alert! Just hours after forcing his party to swallow a pro-choice VP, the Republican presidential nominee in Reed's pot-boiler is brutally murdered by radical Islamic terrorists at the GOP Convention. Reed's implicit threat to Republican candidates: The Christian right has so much power, they can even get someone else's God to strike you down.

Reed doesn't just kill off the character who named a pro-choice running mate—he has the running mate go on to destroy the Republican Party. For the Republicans (and the reader), the plot goes from bad to worse. With the pro-choice figure—an African-American war hero named David Petty—now at the top of the Republican ticket, evangelical leaders throw their support behind Calif. Gov. Bob Long, who just lost the Democratic nomination at a brokered convention and decided to run as an independent after going through a religious conversion in the chapel of the hospital where his daughter nearly lost her baby. Petty offends evangelicals, while Long—obviously a quick study—wows them with the depth of his knowledge of the Bible.

Petty's candidacy implodes when a YouTube clip shows him telling Iowans that his support for the GOP abortion plank is only symbolic. Days before the election, voters also learn that as defense secretary, Petty convinced a no-bid contractor to hire a lobbyist who moonlights as his mistress and madam of an exclusive Washington brothel.

Reed's clear warning: If you put a pro-choice Republican on the ticket, don't be surprised when he turns out to be a lying, cheating, no-bid-earmarking john.

By contrast, Reed's evangelicals love Long, who woos them with parables and waffles on abortion. "I've heard through the grapevine that he's become a Christian," says televangelist Andy Stanton, a composite of Limbaugh and Pat Robertson. "He may be someone we can do business with." With Stanton's enthusiastic blessing, Long sweeps the South and beats Petty 2-to-1 among evangelicals.

All three candidates come up short of 270 electoral votes, so the election goes to the House of Representatives. Even though Republicans control the House, Petty loses when Republican members of the evangelical caucus support Long instead. The message to McCain: Social conservatives will gladly support a maverick, as long as he says what they want to hear on their issues.

Of course, John McCain doesn't need to curl up with a Ralph Reed roman à clef to know that social conservatives won't budge on abortion. The more interesting question is why my evil twin decided to write the Great Republican Novel in the first place. True to his own life story, the book suffers from too much plot and not enough character. But it's not nearly as bad as I'd hoped, and it's chock-full of accidental revelations:

  • Ralph expects the Republicans to lose the White House in 2008 but win it back in 2012 and 2016. By the time the book takes place, Democrats haven't carried a single Southern state in five straight elections (2000 through 2016), and a Republican president who is retiring after two terms reminisces fondly about how "I did what I had to do" to win the 2012 election. Alas, his "botched effort to overthrow the Iranian government" inspires the terrorist attack on the 2020 GOP convention.
  • Much as social conservatives and neocons can't stand liberals and the media, most of all they hate each other. Reed's hapless Republican nominee insists that "this election is about terrorism, not social issues" and doesn't hide his contempt for social conservative leaders and "their self-importance, single-issue litmus tests, and insufferable sense of entitlement." Meanwhile, social conservatives view themselves as "abused spouses" trapped in a "self-destructive codependence" with "the spineless wonders" who run the Republican Party. Reed says the Reagan formula can't save the GOP anymore: "A pro-business party with the religious right grafted in like a wild olive plant, it no longer appeals to the center of the country."
  • Money-grubbing consultants are obsessed with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Long's adman is arrested for snorting cocaine, and his top strategist nearly costs his candidate the election by shacking up with a spy from a rival campaign.
  • Novel-writing operatives, by contrast, are obsessed only with sex. Reed tries his best to turn social conservative politics into steamy beach reading. In Dark Horse, the operative always gets the girl, and she is invariably "bronzed," with swaying hips and tight designer clothes. One femme fatale is "a brunette lollipop" who captures her prey with lines like, "I thought I was dessert."
  • Apparently, Reed does not have much experience courting the women's vote. Long's wife is an alcoholic who's upset that he found God. The Democratic VP candidate is a lightweight who can't remember her party's position on Iran. Two campaign operatives refuse to discuss their grand jury testimony but stop to answer press questions about the designer outfits they're wearing.
  • Reed enjoyed running the Christian Coalition more than humping corporate accounts for Jack Abramoff. He writes himself into the book as a minor character named Ross Lombardy, "a veritable computer hard drive of political trivia" and "strategist-cum-organizer with a killer instinct who could quote 200 Bible verses from memory" and "had an uncanny ability to cite the precise vote percentages in every key U.S. House and Senate race in the previous three election cycles." The Abramoff character, G.G. Hoterman, is a corrupt, ruthless multimillionaire lobbyist who crushes anyone who gets in his way. "Politics has a way of criminalizing the normative," Hoterman complains.
  • Reed writes knowingly of the "time-honored Washington tradition" of "expressing false regret at the misfortune of someone caught in a scandal, when the truth was everyone enjoyed it." With a twinge of bitterness, he adds that "Washington scandals burn like funeral pyres, and only go out after the angry mob has tossed someone to the flames to pacify the gods.

That pyre suggests Ralph's next move. It's time to gin up the social conservative movement to forget about McCain's running mate and wake up to the GOP-bashing, sex-peddling novelist in their midst. Nothing could do more for slumping sales than an urgent edict from the religious right: Burn this book! ... 3:58 P.M. (link) 

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's Your Money: Over the next two weeks, the Obama and McCain campaigns will spend an impressive $11 million to advertise during the Olympics. Obama's first ad, "Hands," outlines his plan for a green economy. McCain's attacks Obama on taxes. Both ads reflect the campaigns' respective game plans, although Obama's fits in much better with the upbeat not-the-triumph-but-the-struggle spirit of the games that surround it.

If I had a few million to help NBC fill the time between tape delays, I might go after a topic that is on most American viewers' minds during these games and that seems destined to weigh heavily on the next president: China.

When the 2008 campaign started a few lifetimes ago, this election appeared to be all about China—or, at least, about the long-term competitive challenge that the emerging economic superpowers of China and India pose to the American way of life. But a host of urgent short-term economic problems have pushed our long-term economic challenges aside. For the moment, falling housing prices, rising gas prices, and soaring credit-card debts have made us more concerned about the threat the American way of life poses to the American way of life.

But if our next president ever gets done cleaning up after our current one, he'll confront China's growing shadow on issue after issue. While the United States can make an enormous difference by finally doing its part on climate change, the Chinese have already passed us as the largest producer of greenhouse gases, and our ability and willingness to make progress will depend in part on theirs. Meanwhile, China's rising demand for oil to fuel its relentless economic growth will continue to cost us at the pump.

When the next president decides what to do about education reform in the United States, China should be on his mind. The Chinese education system churns out 5 million college graduates a year, while we still paper over our high-school dropout rate and look away as half a million of the young people we send to college every year never finish.

Perhaps most urgently, the next president will have to admit what George W. Bush would not—that if we don't put our fiscal house in order, China will foreclose on it. As Obama has pointed out, "It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong." This year's federal budget deficit will be a record $500 billion, not counting wars and economic bailouts. One of history's headlines on this administration will be, "Bush Owes to China."

The rise of China is the story of this Olympics and threatensto be the story of the next presidency. So it's only fitting to give viewers a sense of what's at stake.

My dream ad would show the robot Wall-E methodically stacking pressed blocks of discarded dollar bills to form giant structures, which turn out to be the Bird's Nest stadium, the Water Cube aquatic center, and the CCTV tower. The script would go something like this:

"Sponsor" (60 seconds)

Voiceover: "Ever wonder what Washington has done with your tax dollars? This Olympics is your chance to find out. For the last 8 years, the Bush administration has been paying China billions of dollars in interest on the trillions it borrowed for tax breaks, pork, and special privileges you never got. That money helped create thousands of businesses and millions of jobs—in China. So as you enjoy the games, keep an eye on your tax dollars at work. The way our economy's going, it's tough to pay your bills. But take heart: You already paid China's."

Tagline: "America's Taxpayers. Proud Sponsors of the Beijing Olympics."

What's an Olympics without a little national pride?  And with any luck, NBC might refuse to run it. … 10:30 A.M. (link)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trader Mitt: As if John McCain didn't have enough reason to keep quoting JFK's line that life isn't fair, consider this: According to the political futures markets, Mitt Romney now has a better chance of being McCain's running mate than McCain has of winning.

Since the primaries, Romney has steadily gained ground in the VP sweepstakes through hard work and a disciplined message: He'll help on the economy, he grew up in the swing state of Michigan, and he makes his current home in the right wing of the Republican Party. He seems at ease with the unattractive chores of being the vice-presidential nominee: raising money, playing the attack dog, telling the base what it wants to hear.

On paper, Romney's VP bid looks as picture perfect as his presidential campaign once did. Yet even as Mitt watchers revel in the current boomlet, we can't help wondering whether this Romneymania will last.

With that in mind, Romneystas everywhere need to start making new and urgent arguments on his behalf:

  • The French Are Coming!: Romney was widely mocked last fall when he warned that France posed a clear and present danger to the American way of life. But after watching French President Nicolas Sarkozy embrace Barack Obama in Paris last week, conservatives may finally warm to Mitt's "First, Not France" slogan after all. Romney has impeccable credentials as a Francophobe; Sarkozy would never dream of saying of him, "If he is chosen, then France will be delighted." In a few short hours in Paris, Obama claimed the president as a convert. Romney spent two whole years in France and converted no one whatsoever.
  • Leave 'Em Laughing as You Go: One of McCain's heroes, Mo Udall, loved to tell the story of primary voters who heard him say, "I'm Mo Udall and I'm running for president," and responded, "We were just laughing about that this morning." Poor Mo wouldn't know what to make of this campaign. Two months into the general election, nobody's laughing about anything. No one much wants to joke about Obama or McCain. If Romney were the VP, pundits across the spectrum would exult that at last they had someone fun to mess with. He's a good sport and a happy square, with a track record of supplying ample new material.
  • WALL-E's World: Mitt Romney's Web site is a shadow of its former self—no Five Brothers blog, no ad contests, no animatronic Mitt messages for your voicemail. Yet like WALL-E's stash of charming knickknacks, the few surviving objects on Planet Romney carry greater meaning. For example, a striking photo highlights a strength few politicians reveal: Unlike McCain, Mitt Romney was born to read a teleprompter. In the official campaign photo of him rehearsing his concession speech, Mitt is barely visible. All the focus is on the words in big type to be loaded on the prompter.

McCain doesn't much like giving speeches and treats teleprompters accordingly. But you can see how a campaign that has struggled to follow a script might be tempted by the first completely programmable running mate.  In 2000, McCain often joked that he was Luke Skywalker. This time, Romney could be his C3PO. ... 12:47 p.m. (link)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Make My Day: What a difference a month makes. At its June meeting, the D.C. City Council debated Mayor Adrian Fenty's emergency legislation to ban sparklers. After the Supreme Court struck down the city's gun ban, the Council spent last week's July meeting debating emergency legislation to let residents own handguns. Here in the District, we couldn't shoot off firecrackers over the Fourth because they're too dangerous, but we can now keep a loaded pistol by our bedside, ready to shoot down prowlers in self-defense.

Like most D.C. residents, I have no plans to stockpile guns in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. But if the city wants to take away my sparklers, they'll have to pry them from my cold, dead, slightly charred hands.

When I was growing up, the rights to keep and bear firearms and fireworks went hand in hand. My grandmother used a revolver to shoot garter snakes in her garden. Well into her eighties, however, her greatest pleasure in life was to spend the Fourth setting off massive strings of firecrackers, 200 at a time. When she came to visit, she'd step off the airplane with a suitcase full of firecrackers purchased on an Indian reservation. As soon as we got home, she'd light the fuse with her cigarette, then squeal with delight as serial explosions made the gravel in our driveway dance.

In recent years, firearm regulation and firework regulation have gone their separate ways. The National Rifle Association has successfully opposed most gun laws, even ones aimed primarily at criminals. Armed with Justice Scalia's maddeningly unhelpful ruling on the D.C. ban, the NRA already has begun to target the rest.

By contrast, although fireworks aren't nearly as deadly as guns, the government treats them like what they are – a widely popular, sometimes dangerous American tradition. The federal government long ago banned once-commonplace explosives like cherry bombs. Most states – even the libertarian bastion of Idaho – have banned or restricted the use of firecrackers. According to the website AmericanPyro, five states, including Iowa and Illinois, permit only sparklers and snakes. Five others, including New York and Massachusetts, allow no consumer fireworks whatsoever. In general, states insist that fireworks must be "safe and sane" – a balance that has been all but impossible to strike with firearms.

Thanks to the enduring power of pyromania, sales haven't suffered. Since 1976, fireworks consumption has increased ten-fold, while fireworks-related injuries have dropped. Fireworks manufacturers can take heart in knowing that this year's survivors are next year's customers.

Because there is no Second Amendment right to keep and bear sparklers, fireworks law is a straightforward balancing test – between the individual right to burn a hole in the back porch and the mutual responsibility not to burn entire communities to the ground, the personal freedom to pyromaniacal self-expression and the personal responsibility not to harm oneself and others. These days, the fireworks industry has more to fear from climate change than from the authorities. This summer, the threat of wildfires led Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask Californians to boycott fireworks. Drought forced John McCain to forego fireworks at his annual Independence Day barbecue in Arizona.

The trouble with the Supreme Court ruling in the Heller case is not that it interprets the Second Amendment as an individual right. The Second Amendment is the constitutional equivalent of the grammatical paradox Eats Shoots & Leaves, but whatever the Founders meant by its muddy wording and punctuation, most Americans now take it for granted. The real problem with the Court's decision is that the balancing test for gun rights and responsibilities is even less clear than before. Scalia's opinion devotes 30 pages to a grammatical history of the Second Amendment and a single sentence to how the courts should apply it to most other gun laws already on the books.

Alongside such vast imprecision, the Court went out of its way to strike down the requirement for trigger locks – an extraordinarily modest attempt to balance freedom and safety. Trigger locks can help prevent gun accidents and keep guns out of the hands of children. Far from impeding self-defense, new trigger locks can be unlocked with a fingerprint or a special ring on the gun owner's finger. That means today's gun owner can arm himself to shoot an intruder in an instant – compared to the 30 seconds or more it took to load a pistol or musket in the 18th Century.

Over the long term, it's not clear how much of a boon the Heller decision will be for gun rights advocates. In winning the case, the gun lobby lost its most potent argument – the threat that at any moment, the government will knock on the door and take your guns away. With that bogeyman out of the way, the case for common-sense gun safety measures is stronger than ever. Perhaps now the gun debate will revolve around more practical and less incendiary issues, like what can be done to reduce illegal gun trafficking and trace guns used in crimes.

If it's any small consolation, the real winners in Heller may turn out to be the sparkler lobby. If cities have trouble banning handguns, they will be hard-pressed to take away sparklers. Of course, as with guns, the threat to sparklers may well have been exaggerated. The D.C. Council rejected Mayor Fenty's sparkler ban by a vote of 11-2, as members nostalgically recalled playing with them in their youth. Councilman and former mayor Marion Barry voted no "with a bang." As Barry knows, there are worse things in life to light than a sparkler. ... 9:51 A.M. (link)

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Fight of Her Life:Ten years ago, at a White House farewell for a favorite staff member, Hillary Clinton described the two kinds of people in the world: born optimists like her husband who see the glass as half-full, and born realists like herself who can see the glass is half-empty.

As she ends her campaign and throws her support behind Barack Obama's remarkable quest, Hillary could be forgiven for seeing her glass as, quite literally, half-empty. The two candidates traded primary after primary down the stretch, two titans matching each other vote for vote. In the closest race in the modern era, she and Obama split the Democratic wishbone nearly right down the middle, but she's not the one who got her wish.

Yet for Hillary and the 18 million of us who supported her, there is no shame in one historic campaign coming up just short against another. History is a great deal wiser than Chris Matthews, and will be kinder, too. The 2008 contest has been one for the ages, and the annals will show that Hillary Clinton has gained far more than she lost.

The Obama-Clinton match will go down as the longest, closest, most exciting, most exhausting ever. Obama ran an inspired campaign and seized the moment. Clinton came close, and by putting up a tough fight now, helped fortify him for the fight ahead.

Our campaign made plenty of mistakes, none of which has gone unreported. But Hillary is right not to dwell on "woulda, coulda, shoulda." From New Hampshire to South Dakota, the race she ran earned its own place in the history books.

While the way we elect presidents leaves a lot to be desired, it has one redeeming virtue, as the greatest means ever invented to test what those who seek the job are made of. In our lifetimes, we'll be hard-pressed to find a candidate made of tougher stuff than Hillary Clinton. Most candidates leave a race diminished by it. Hillary is like tempered steel: the more intense the heat, the tougher she gets.

And has any candidate had to face fiercer, more sustained heat? As a frontrunner, she expected a tough ride, and as Hillary Clinton, she was accustomed to it. But if she was used to the scrutiny, she could not have anticipated – and did not deserve – the transparent hostility behind it. In much the same way the right wing came unglued when her husband refused to die in the '90s, the media lost its bearings when she defied and survived them. Slate at least held off on its noxious Hillary Deathwatch until March; most of the press corps began a breathless Clinton Deathwatch last Thanksgiving. The question that turned her campaign around in New Hampshire – "How do you do it?" – brought Hillary to tears out of sheer gratitude that someone out there had noticed.

For a few searing days in New Hampshire, we watched her stare into the abyss. Any other candidate forced to read her own obituary so often would have come to believe it. But as she went on to demonstrate throughout this campaign, Hillary had faith that there is life after political death, and the wherewithal to prove it.

In New Hampshire, she discarded the frontrunner mantle and found her voice. For a race that was largely won or lost in Iowa, the discovery came a few days too late. But the grit Clinton showed with her back to the wall all those months will make her a force with a following for years to come.

The chief hurdle for Clinton's presidential bid wasn't whether she could do the job; Democrats never doubted she would make a good president. Ironically, the biggest question she faced for much of the race is one she answered clearly by the time she left it: whether America was ready for a woman president. No one asks that question any longer. For all the sexism she encountered as the first woman with a serious shot at the White House, voters themselves made clear they were ready. The longer the race went on, the more formidable she looked in the general election. In this week's CBS News poll, she was beating John McCain by nine points, even as she was losing the Democratic nomination.

Last year, the press and other campaigns insisted that Clinton was too polarizing and that half the country was united against her. Now, a woman who was supposed to be one of the most polarizing figures in America leaves the race with handsome leads over McCain in places like North Carolina, a state her husband never carried.

When her campaign started, aides often described Hillary as the least known, least understood famous person in America. During this campaign, it became clear that in certain quarters she's the most deliberately misunderstood person as well. The recent RFK flap was yet another attempt to suggest that her every miscue was part of some diabolical master plan.

Yet while talking heads imagined the evils of Hillary Clinton, voters finally came to know and understand her. They saw someone who knew what they were going through, who would stick with them, fight for them, and get back up when she got knocked down. The phony, consultant-driven shadow boxing of the last few years has dulled Democrats to the party's historic mission – to defend the values and stand up for the interests of ordinary people who are doing all they can just to get ahead. For those voters, Hillary Clinton was the champion they've been looking for, a fighter they can count on, win or lose, not to let them down.

That's a fight she'll never quit. Like the woman in New Hampshire, we still wonder how Hillary does it, but this time, the tears are on us. As we wish her well, our hopes are high, our hearts are full – and if our glass is empty, it was worth every drop. ... 11:58 P.M. (link)

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Adventures of Bobble-Foot: For enough money, any McClellan or Stephanopoulos in Washington will write a kiss-and-tell book these days. But the memoir Larry Craig just announced he's writing could launch a whole new genre: don't-kiss, don't-tell.

Craig revealed his plans on Boise television during Tuesday's coverage of the Senate primary to choose his potential successors. For the senator, if not his viewers, it was a poignant moment, one last point of no return in a three-decade-long political career.

With a touch of empathy, the local reporter told Craig, "You're looking forward now to a much different life for yourself." Alas, the life Craig described isn't much different from any other retiring pol's, nor does he sound like he's looking forward to it. He hinted that he is entertaining a number of lobbying offers. Because of ethics rules, he explains, "There are some one-way conversations going on, 'cause I've said I can't talk, but I certainly can listen." Perhaps they can figure out some kind of code.

These are heady times for the Idaho senator. Last Sunday, on National Tap Dance Day, the first-place St. Paul Saints, a minor league baseball team, drew their biggest crowd of the year with a special promotion in Craig's honor: a bobble-foot doll commemorating the bathroom stall at Minneapolis-St.Paul airport. The team website reported, "Saints Have Toe-Tapping Good Time, Win 9-3."

The bobble-foot promotion gave Craig a way to test his market value even beyond the lobbying and book worlds. Scores of Craig bobble-feet are now available on eBay, selling for upwards of $75 apiece. You'd better hurry: Like successful appeals of uncoerced confessions, supplies are limited.

The upcoming memoir may be the last we ever hear from the man, so it's worth asking: What kind of book will Larry Craig write? Consider the possibilities:

  • The Broken Branch: Left to his own devices (never a good idea), Craig seems likely to write an insiders' version of the woe-is-gridlock lament popularized most recently by political scientists Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann. "The thing that's important for someone with my experience to talk about is the state of politics in Washington," Craig said Tuesday. "It's created what I call a extremely dysfunctional, hyperpartisan Senate. We're getting little to nothing done." Craig cites immigration and energy policy. As his agent and editor will surely tell him, this sober approach is not the way for Craig to put his best foot forward. No one wants to read the case for decisive action written by a man who claimed his innocence after pleading guilty and remained in office after promising to quit. Then again, Craig might not be a household word if he had listened to the advice of Ornstein and Mann, who urged members to bring their families to live with them in Washington.
  • The Packwood Diaries: With slight modifications, Craig has modeled his entire Senate career after his friend, former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood. Craig sobbed on the Senate floor the day Packwood resigned. Packwood dug in his heels and remained in office for three years after his sex scandal became public. Craig has done the same, and is only leaving because his term is up. Considering how much Packwood served as his role model, it's possible that Craig tried to emulate another part of the Oregonian's legacy: the Packwood diaries. Packwood kept a meticulous journal of all his exploits, with an eye to history and none on the lookout for satire or federal prosecution. We can only hope Craig has done the same.
  • What Happened: Every publisher is looking for the next Scott McClellan, who told lies for a living but was scared straight after his escape. Craig could play this role with gusto. The pitch: It wasn't his idea to stand up in front of the press time after time and insist he wasn't gay. Karl Rove made him do it, in a deliberate cover-up to protect the Republican brand – and he'll never forgive Rove for it.
  • If I Did It: O.J. Simpson never got to keep a dime of his controversial book, If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. Craig, on the other hand, could hypothesize all the way to the bank. Senators love to write loosely autobiographical fiction. Gary Hart and Bill Cohen wrote The Double Man about a politician who wanted to be president. Barbara Boxer wrote A Time to Runabout a woman who becomes a liberal senator from California. Craig could write a great book about an imaginary conservative senator who happens to be gay. His hypothetical musings would wow the critics and sell like crazy. Besides, what does Craig have to lose? Hinting he did it would be no more an admission of guilt than the misdemeanor plea he was just kidding us about last June. ... 8:48 P.M. (link)


          They Shoot Dark Horses, Don't They?        

Friday, August 22, 2008

Spoiler Alert: When the McCain campaign floated the idea of a pro-choice running mate, social conservatives reacted with the same outrage they've been rehearsing for 40 years: Some threatened to bolt at the convention; others said they'd rather lose the election than expand the Republican tent. "If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it's not going to be pretty," Rush Limbaugh warned.

But the most explosive threat comes from former right-hand-of-God Ralph Reed, in his new novel, Dark Horse, a "political thriller" that imagines this very scenario. Spoiler alert! Just hours after forcing his party to swallow a pro-choice VP, the Republican presidential nominee in Reed's pot-boiler is brutally murdered by radical Islamic terrorists at the GOP Convention. Reed's implicit threat to Republican candidates: The Christian right has so much power, they can even get someone else's God to strike you down.

Reed doesn't just kill off the character who named a pro-choice running mate—he has the running mate go on to destroy the Republican Party. For the Republicans (and the reader), the plot goes from bad to worse. With the pro-choice figure—an African-American war hero named David Petty—now at the top of the Republican ticket, evangelical leaders throw their support behind Calif. Gov. Bob Long, who just lost the Democratic nomination at a brokered convention and decided to run as an independent after going through a religious conversion in the chapel of the hospital where his daughter nearly lost her baby. Petty offends evangelicals, while Long—obviously a quick study—wows them with the depth of his knowledge of the Bible.

Petty's candidacy implodes when a YouTube clip shows him telling Iowans that his support for the GOP abortion plank is only symbolic. Days before the election, voters also learn that as defense secretary, Petty convinced a no-bid contractor to hire a lobbyist who moonlights as his mistress and madam of an exclusive Washington brothel.

Reed's clear warning: If you put a pro-choice Republican on the ticket, don't be surprised when he turns out to be a lying, cheating, no-bid-earmarking john.

By contrast, Reed's evangelicals love Long, who woos them with parables and waffles on abortion. "I've heard through the grapevine that he's become a Christian," says televangelist Andy Stanton, a composite of Limbaugh and Pat Robertson. "He may be someone we can do business with." With Stanton's enthusiastic blessing, Long sweeps the South and beats Petty 2-to-1 among evangelicals.

All three candidates come up short of 270 electoral votes, so the election goes to the House of Representatives. Even though Republicans control the House, Petty loses when Republican members of the evangelical caucus support Long instead. The message to McCain: Social conservatives will gladly support a maverick, as long as he says what they want to hear on their issues.

Of course, John McCain doesn't need to curl up with a Ralph Reed roman à clef to know that social conservatives won't budge on abortion. The more interesting question is why my evil twin decided to write the Great Republican Novel in the first place. True to his own life story, the book suffers from too much plot and not enough character. But it's not nearly as bad as I'd hoped, and it's chock-full of accidental revelations:

  • Ralph expects the Republicans to lose the White House in 2008 but win it back in 2012 and 2016. By the time the book takes place, Democrats haven't carried a single Southern state in five straight elections (2000 through 2016), and a Republican president who is retiring after two terms reminisces fondly about how "I did what I had to do" to win the 2012 election. Alas, his "botched effort to overthrow the Iranian government" inspires the terrorist attack on the 2020 GOP convention.
  • Much as social conservatives and neocons can't stand liberals and the media, most of all they hate each other. Reed's hapless Republican nominee insists that "this election is about terrorism, not social issues" and doesn't hide his contempt for social conservative leaders and "their self-importance, single-issue litmus tests, and insufferable sense of entitlement." Meanwhile, social conservatives view themselves as "abused spouses" trapped in a "self-destructive codependence" with "the spineless wonders" who run the Republican Party. Reed says the Reagan formula can't save the GOP anymore: "A pro-business party with the religious right grafted in like a wild olive plant, it no longer appeals to the center of the country."
  • Money-grubbing consultants are obsessed with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Long's adman is arrested for snorting cocaine, and his top strategist nearly costs his candidate the election by shacking up with a spy from a rival campaign.
  • Novel-writing operatives, by contrast, are obsessed only with sex. Reed tries his best to turn social conservative politics into steamy beach reading. In Dark Horse, the operative always gets the girl, and she is invariably "bronzed," with swaying hips and tight designer clothes. One femme fatale is "a brunette lollipop" who captures her prey with lines like, "I thought I was dessert."
  • Apparently, Reed does not have much experience courting the women's vote. Long's wife is an alcoholic who's upset that he found God. The Democratic VP candidate is a lightweight who can't remember her party's position on Iran. Two campaign operatives refuse to discuss their grand jury testimony but stop to answer press questions about the designer outfits they're wearing.
  • Reed enjoyed running the Christian Coalition more than humping corporate accounts for Jack Abramoff. He writes himself into the book as a minor character named Ross Lombardy, "a veritable computer hard drive of political trivia" and "strategist-cum-organizer with a killer instinct who could quote 200 Bible verses from memory" and "had an uncanny ability to cite the precise vote percentages in every key U.S. House and Senate race in the previous three election cycles." The Abramoff character, G.G. Hoterman, is a corrupt, ruthless multimillionaire lobbyist who crushes anyone who gets in his way. "Politics has a way of criminalizing the normative," Hoterman complains.
  • Reed writes knowingly of the "time-honored Washington tradition" of "expressing false regret at the misfortune of someone caught in a scandal, when the truth was everyone enjoyed it." With a twinge of bitterness, he adds that "Washington scandals burn like funeral pyres, and only go out after the angry mob has tossed someone to the flames to pacify the gods.

That pyre suggests Ralph's next move. It's time to gin up the social conservative movement to forget about McCain's running mate and wake up to the GOP-bashing, sex-peddling novelist in their midst. Nothing could do more for slumping sales than an urgent edict from the religious right: Burn this book! ... 3:58 P.M. (link) 

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's Your Money: Over the next two weeks, the Obama and McCain campaigns will spend an impressive $11 million to advertise during the Olympics. Obama's first ad, "Hands," outlines his plan for a green economy. McCain's attacks Obama on taxes. Both ads reflect the campaigns' respective game plans, although Obama's fits in much better with the upbeat not-the-triumph-but-the-struggle spirit of the games that surround it.

If I had a few million to help NBC fill the time between tape delays, I might go after a topic that is on most American viewers' minds during these games and that seems destined to weigh heavily on the next president: China.

When the 2008 campaign started a few lifetimes ago, this election appeared to be all about China—or, at least, about the long-term competitive challenge that the emerging economic superpowers of China and India pose to the American way of life. But a host of urgent short-term economic problems have pushed our long-term economic challenges aside. For the moment, falling housing prices, rising gas prices, and soaring credit-card debts have made us more concerned about the threat the American way of life poses to the American way of life.

But if our next president ever gets done cleaning up after our current one, he'll confront China's growing shadow on issue after issue. While the United States can make an enormous difference by finally doing its part on climate change, the Chinese have already passed us as the largest producer of greenhouse gases, and our ability and willingness to make progress will depend in part on theirs. Meanwhile, China's rising demand for oil to fuel its relentless economic growth will continue to cost us at the pump.

When the next president decides what to do about education reform in the United States, China should be on his mind. The Chinese education system churns out 5 million college graduates a year, while we still paper over our high-school dropout rate and look away as half a million of the young people we send to college every year never finish.

Perhaps most urgently, the next president will have to admit what George W. Bush would not—that if we don't put our fiscal house in order, China will foreclose on it. As Obama has pointed out, "It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong." This year's federal budget deficit will be a record $500 billion, not counting wars and economic bailouts. One of history's headlines on this administration will be, "Bush Owes to China."

The rise of China is the story of this Olympics and threatensto be the story of the next presidency. So it's only fitting to give viewers a sense of what's at stake.

My dream ad would show the robot Wall-E methodically stacking pressed blocks of discarded dollar bills to form giant structures, which turn out to be the Bird's Nest stadium, the Water Cube aquatic center, and the CCTV tower. The script would go something like this:

"Sponsor" (60 seconds)

Voiceover: "Ever wonder what Washington has done with your tax dollars? This Olympics is your chance to find out. For the last 8 years, the Bush administration has been paying China billions of dollars in interest on the trillions it borrowed for tax breaks, pork, and special privileges you never got. That money helped create thousands of businesses and millions of jobs—in China. So as you enjoy the games, keep an eye on your tax dollars at work. The way our economy's going, it's tough to pay your bills. But take heart: You already paid China's."

Tagline: "America's Taxpayers. Proud Sponsors of the Beijing Olympics."

What's an Olympics without a little national pride?  And with any luck, NBC might refuse to run it. … 10:30 A.M. (link)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trader Mitt: As if John McCain didn't have enough reason to keep quoting JFK's line that life isn't fair, consider this: According to the political futures markets, Mitt Romney now has a better chance of being McCain's running mate than McCain has of winning.

Since the primaries, Romney has steadily gained ground in the VP sweepstakes through hard work and a disciplined message: He'll help on the economy, he grew up in the swing state of Michigan, and he makes his current home in the right wing of the Republican Party. He seems at ease with the unattractive chores of being the vice-presidential nominee: raising money, playing the attack dog, telling the base what it wants to hear.

On paper, Romney's VP bid looks as picture perfect as his presidential campaign once did. Yet even as Mitt watchers revel in the current boomlet, we can't help wondering whether this Romneymania will last.

With that in mind, Romneystas everywhere need to start making new and urgent arguments on his behalf:

  • The French Are Coming!: Romney was widely mocked last fall when he warned that France posed a clear and present danger to the American way of life. But after watching French President Nicolas Sarkozy embrace Barack Obama in Paris last week, conservatives may finally warm to Mitt's "First, Not France" slogan after all. Romney has impeccable credentials as a Francophobe; Sarkozy would never dream of saying of him, "If he is chosen, then France will be delighted." In a few short hours in Paris, Obama claimed the president as a convert. Romney spent two whole years in France and converted no one whatsoever.
  • Leave 'Em Laughing as You Go: One of McCain's heroes, Mo Udall, loved to tell the story of primary voters who heard him say, "I'm Mo Udall and I'm running for president," and responded, "We were just laughing about that this morning." Poor Mo wouldn't know what to make of this campaign. Two months into the general election, nobody's laughing about anything. No one much wants to joke about Obama or McCain. If Romney were the VP, pundits across the spectrum would exult that at last they had someone fun to mess with. He's a good sport and a happy square, with a track record of supplying ample new material.
  • WALL-E's World: Mitt Romney's Web site is a shadow of its former self—no Five Brothers blog, no ad contests, no animatronic Mitt messages for your voicemail. Yet like WALL-E's stash of charming knickknacks, the few surviving objects on Planet Romney carry greater meaning. For example, a striking photo highlights a strength few politicians reveal: Unlike McCain, Mitt Romney was born to read a teleprompter. In the official campaign photo of him rehearsing his concession speech, Mitt is barely visible. All the focus is on the words in big type to be loaded on the prompter.

McCain doesn't much like giving speeches and treats teleprompters accordingly. But you can see how a campaign that has struggled to follow a script might be tempted by the first completely programmable running mate.  In 2000, McCain often joked that he was Luke Skywalker. This time, Romney could be his C3PO. ... 12:47 p.m. (link)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Make My Day: What a difference a month makes. At its June meeting, the D.C. City Council debated Mayor Adrian Fenty's emergency legislation to ban sparklers. After the Supreme Court struck down the city's gun ban, the Council spent last week's July meeting debating emergency legislation to let residents own handguns. Here in the District, we couldn't shoot off firecrackers over the Fourth because they're too dangerous, but we can now keep a loaded pistol by our bedside, ready to shoot down prowlers in self-defense.

Like most D.C. residents, I have no plans to stockpile guns in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. But if the city wants to take away my sparklers, they'll have to pry them from my cold, dead, slightly charred hands.

When I was growing up, the rights to keep and bear firearms and fireworks went hand in hand. My grandmother used a revolver to shoot garter snakes in her garden. Well into her eighties, however, her greatest pleasure in life was to spend the Fourth setting off massive strings of firecrackers, 200 at a time. When she came to visit, she'd step off the airplane with a suitcase full of firecrackers purchased on an Indian reservation. As soon as we got home, she'd light the fuse with her cigarette, then squeal with delight as serial explosions made the gravel in our driveway dance.

In recent years, firearm regulation and firework regulation have gone their separate ways. The National Rifle Association has successfully opposed most gun laws, even ones aimed primarily at criminals. Armed with Justice Scalia's maddeningly unhelpful ruling on the D.C. ban, the NRA already has begun to target the rest.

By contrast, although fireworks aren't nearly as deadly as guns, the government treats them like what they are – a widely popular, sometimes dangerous American tradition. The federal government long ago banned once-commonplace explosives like cherry bombs. Most states – even the libertarian bastion of Idaho – have banned or restricted the use of firecrackers. According to the website AmericanPyro, five states, including Iowa and Illinois, permit only sparklers and snakes. Five others, including New York and Massachusetts, allow no consumer fireworks whatsoever. In general, states insist that fireworks must be "safe and sane" – a balance that has been all but impossible to strike with firearms.

Thanks to the enduring power of pyromania, sales haven't suffered. Since 1976, fireworks consumption has increased ten-fold, while fireworks-related injuries have dropped. Fireworks manufacturers can take heart in knowing that this year's survivors are next year's customers.

Because there is no Second Amendment right to keep and bear sparklers, fireworks law is a straightforward balancing test – between the individual right to burn a hole in the back porch and the mutual responsibility not to burn entire communities to the ground, the personal freedom to pyromaniacal self-expression and the personal responsibility not to harm oneself and others. These days, the fireworks industry has more to fear from climate change than from the authorities. This summer, the threat of wildfires led Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask Californians to boycott fireworks. Drought forced John McCain to forego fireworks at his annual Independence Day barbecue in Arizona.

The trouble with the Supreme Court ruling in the Heller case is not that it interprets the Second Amendment as an individual right. The Second Amendment is the constitutional equivalent of the grammatical paradox Eats Shoots & Leaves, but whatever the Founders meant by its muddy wording and punctuation, most Americans now take it for granted. The real problem with the Court's decision is that the balancing test for gun rights and responsibilities is even less clear than before. Scalia's opinion devotes 30 pages to a grammatical history of the Second Amendment and a single sentence to how the courts should apply it to most other gun laws already on the books.

Alongside such vast imprecision, the Court went out of its way to strike down the requirement for trigger locks – an extraordinarily modest attempt to balance freedom and safety. Trigger locks can help prevent gun accidents and keep guns out of the hands of children. Far from impeding self-defense, new trigger locks can be unlocked with a fingerprint or a special ring on the gun owner's finger. That means today's gun owner can arm himself to shoot an intruder in an instant – compared to the 30 seconds or more it took to load a pistol or musket in the 18th Century.

Over the long term, it's not clear how much of a boon the Heller decision will be for gun rights advocates. In winning the case, the gun lobby lost its most potent argument – the threat that at any moment, the government will knock on the door and take your guns away. With that bogeyman out of the way, the case for common-sense gun safety measures is stronger than ever. Perhaps now the gun debate will revolve around more practical and less incendiary issues, like what can be done to reduce illegal gun trafficking and trace guns used in crimes.

If it's any small consolation, the real winners in Heller may turn out to be the sparkler lobby. If cities have trouble banning handguns, they will be hard-pressed to take away sparklers. Of course, as with guns, the threat to sparklers may well have been exaggerated. The D.C. Council rejected Mayor Fenty's sparkler ban by a vote of 11-2, as members nostalgically recalled playing with them in their youth. Councilman and former mayor Marion Barry voted no "with a bang." As Barry knows, there are worse things in life to light than a sparkler. ... 9:51 A.M. (link)

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Fight of Her Life:Ten years ago, at a White House farewell for a favorite staff member, Hillary Clinton described the two kinds of people in the world: born optimists like her husband who see the glass as half-full, and born realists like herself who can see the glass is half-empty.

As she ends her campaign and throws her support behind Barack Obama's remarkable quest, Hillary could be forgiven for seeing her glass as, quite literally, half-empty. The two candidates traded primary after primary down the stretch, two titans matching each other vote for vote. In the closest race in the modern era, she and Obama split the Democratic wishbone nearly right down the middle, but she's not the one who got her wish.

Yet for Hillary and the 18 million of us who supported her, there is no shame in one historic campaign coming up just short against another. History is a great deal wiser than Chris Matthews, and will be kinder, too. The 2008 contest has been one for the ages, and the annals will show that Hillary Clinton has gained far more than she lost.

The Obama-Clinton match will go down as the longest, closest, most exciting, most exhausting ever. Obama ran an inspired campaign and seized the moment. Clinton came close, and by putting up a tough fight now, helped fortify him for the fight ahead.

Our campaign made plenty of mistakes, none of which has gone unreported. But Hillary is right not to dwell on "woulda, coulda, shoulda." From New Hampshire to South Dakota, the race she ran earned its own place in the history books.

While the way we elect presidents leaves a lot to be desired, it has one redeeming virtue, as the greatest means ever invented to test what those who seek the job are made of. In our lifetimes, we'll be hard-pressed to find a candidate made of tougher stuff than Hillary Clinton. Most candidates leave a race diminished by it. Hillary is like tempered steel: the more intense the heat, the tougher she gets.

And has any candidate had to face fiercer, more sustained heat? As a frontrunner, she expected a tough ride, and as Hillary Clinton, she was accustomed to it. But if she was used to the scrutiny, she could not have anticipated – and did not deserve – the transparent hostility behind it. In much the same way the right wing came unglued when her husband refused to die in the '90s, the media lost its bearings when she defied and survived them. Slate at least held off on its noxious Hillary Deathwatch until March; most of the press corps began a breathless Clinton Deathwatch last Thanksgiving. The question that turned her campaign around in New Hampshire – "How do you do it?" – brought Hillary to tears out of sheer gratitude that someone out there had noticed.

For a few searing days in New Hampshire, we watched her stare into the abyss. Any other candidate forced to read her own obituary so often would have come to believe it. But as she went on to demonstrate throughout this campaign, Hillary had faith that there is life after political death, and the wherewithal to prove it.

In New Hampshire, she discarded the frontrunner mantle and found her voice. For a race that was largely won or lost in Iowa, the discovery came a few days too late. But the grit Clinton showed with her back to the wall all those months will make her a force with a following for years to come.

The chief hurdle for Clinton's presidential bid wasn't whether she could do the job; Democrats never doubted she would make a good president. Ironically, the biggest question she faced for much of the race is one she answered clearly by the time she left it: whether America was ready for a woman president. No one asks that question any longer. For all the sexism she encountered as the first woman with a serious shot at the White House, voters themselves made clear they were ready. The longer the race went on, the more formidable she looked in the general election. In this week's CBS News poll, she was beating John McCain by nine points, even as she was losing the Democratic nomination.

Last year, the press and other campaigns insisted that Clinton was too polarizing and that half the country was united against her. Now, a woman who was supposed to be one of the most polarizing figures in America leaves the race with handsome leads over McCain in places like North Carolina, a state her husband never carried.

When her campaign started, aides often described Hillary as the least known, least understood famous person in America. During this campaign, it became clear that in certain quarters she's the most deliberately misunderstood person as well. The recent RFK flap was yet another attempt to suggest that her every miscue was part of some diabolical master plan.

Yet while talking heads imagined the evils of Hillary Clinton, voters finally came to know and understand her. They saw someone who knew what they were going through, who would stick with them, fight for them, and get back up when she got knocked down. The phony, consultant-driven shadow boxing of the last few years has dulled Democrats to the party's historic mission – to defend the values and stand up for the interests of ordinary people who are doing all they can just to get ahead. For those voters, Hillary Clinton was the champion they've been looking for, a fighter they can count on, win or lose, not to let them down.

That's a fight she'll never quit. Like the woman in New Hampshire, we still wonder how Hillary does it, but this time, the tears are on us. As we wish her well, our hopes are high, our hearts are full – and if our glass is empty, it was worth every drop. ... 11:58 P.M. (link)

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Adventures of Bobble-Foot: For enough money, any McClellan or Stephanopoulos in Washington will write a kiss-and-tell book these days. But the memoir Larry Craig just announced he's writing could launch a whole new genre: don't-kiss, don't-tell.

Craig revealed his plans on Boise television during Tuesday's coverage of the Senate primary to choose his potential successors. For the senator, if not his viewers, it was a poignant moment, one last point of no return in a three-decade-long political career.

With a touch of empathy, the local reporter told Craig, "You're looking forward now to a much different life for yourself." Alas, the life Craig described isn't much different from any other retiring pol's, nor does he sound like he's looking forward to it. He hinted that he is entertaining a number of lobbying offers. Because of ethics rules, he explains, "There are some one-way conversations going on, 'cause I've said I can't talk, but I certainly can listen." Perhaps they can figure out some kind of code.

These are heady times for the Idaho senator. Last Sunday, on National Tap Dance Day, the first-place St. Paul Saints, a minor league baseball team, drew their biggest crowd of the year with a special promotion in Craig's honor: a bobble-foot doll commemorating the bathroom stall at Minneapolis-St.Paul airport. The team website reported, "Saints Have Toe-Tapping Good Time, Win 9-3."

The bobble-foot promotion gave Craig a way to test his market value even beyond the lobbying and book worlds. Scores of Craig bobble-feet are now available on eBay, selling for upwards of $75 apiece. You'd better hurry: Like successful appeals of uncoerced confessions, supplies are limited.

The upcoming memoir may be the last we ever hear from the man, so it's worth asking: What kind of book will Larry Craig write? Consider the possibilities:

  • The Broken Branch: Left to his own devices (never a good idea), Craig seems likely to write an insiders' version of the woe-is-gridlock lament popularized most recently by political scientists Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann. "The thing that's important for someone with my experience to talk about is the state of politics in Washington," Craig said Tuesday. "It's created what I call a extremely dysfunctional, hyperpartisan Senate. We're getting little to nothing done." Craig cites immigration and energy policy. As his agent and editor will surely tell him, this sober approach is not the way for Craig to put his best foot forward. No one wants to read the case for decisive action written by a man who claimed his innocence after pleading guilty and remained in office after promising to quit. Then again, Craig might not be a household word if he had listened to the advice of Ornstein and Mann, who urged members to bring their families to live with them in Washington.
  • The Packwood Diaries: With slight modifications, Craig has modeled his entire Senate career after his friend, former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood. Craig sobbed on the Senate floor the day Packwood resigned. Packwood dug in his heels and remained in office for three years after his sex scandal became public. Craig has done the same, and is only leaving because his term is up. Considering how much Packwood served as his role model, it's possible that Craig tried to emulate another part of the Oregonian's legacy: the Packwood diaries. Packwood kept a meticulous journal of all his exploits, with an eye to history and none on the lookout for satire or federal prosecution. We can only hope Craig has done the same.
  • What Happened: Every publisher is looking for the next Scott McClellan, who told lies for a living but was scared straight after his escape. Craig could play this role with gusto. The pitch: It wasn't his idea to stand up in front of the press time after time and insist he wasn't gay. Karl Rove made him do it, in a deliberate cover-up to protect the Republican brand – and he'll never forgive Rove for it.
  • If I Did It: O.J. Simpson never got to keep a dime of his controversial book, If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. Craig, on the other hand, could hypothesize all the way to the bank. Senators love to write loosely autobiographical fiction. Gary Hart and Bill Cohen wrote The Double Man about a politician who wanted to be president. Barbara Boxer wrote A Time to Runabout a woman who becomes a liberal senator from California. Craig could write a great book about an imaginary conservative senator who happens to be gay. His hypothetical musings would wow the critics and sell like crazy. Besides, what does Craig have to lose? Hinting he did it would be no more an admission of guilt than the misdemeanor plea he was just kidding us about last June. ... 8:48 P.M. (link)


          Bush Owes to China        

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's Your Money: Over the next two weeks, the Obama and McCain campaigns will spend an impressive $11 million to advertise during the Olympics. Obama's first ad, "Hands," outlines his plan for a green economy. McCain's attacks Obama on taxes. Both ads reflect the campaigns' respective game plans, although Obama's fits in much better with the upbeat not-the-triumph-but-the-struggle spirit of the games that surround it.

If I had a few million to help NBC fill the time between tape delays, I might go after a topic that is on most American viewers' minds during these games and that seems destined to weigh heavily on the next president: China.

When the 2008 campaign started a few lifetimes ago, this election appeared to be all about China—or, at least, about the long-term competitive challenge that the emerging economic superpowers of China and India pose to the American way of life. But a host of urgent short-term economic problems have pushed our long-term economic challenges aside. For the moment, falling housing prices, rising gas prices, and soaring credit-card debts have made us more concerned about the threat the American way of life poses to the American way of life.

But if our next president ever gets done cleaning up after our current one, he'll confront China's growing shadow on issue after issue. While the United States can make an enormous difference by finally doing its part on climate change, the Chinese have already passed us as the largest producer of greenhouse gases, and our ability and willingness to make progress will depend in part on theirs. Meanwhile, China's rising demand for oil to fuel its relentless economic growth will continue to cost us at the pump.

When the next president decides what to do about education reform in the United States, China should be on his mind. The Chinese education system churns out 5 million college graduates a year, while we still paper over our high-school dropout rate and look away as half a million of the young people we send to college every year never finish.

Perhaps most urgently, the next president will have to admit what George W. Bush would not—that if we don't put our fiscal house in order, China will foreclose on it. As Obama has pointed out, "It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong." This year's federal budget deficit will be a record $500 billion, not counting wars and economic bailouts. One of history's headlines on this administration will be, "Bush Owes to China."

The rise of China is the story of this Olympics and threatensto be the story of the next presidency. So it's only fitting to give viewers a sense of what's at stake.

My dream ad would show the robot Wall-E methodically stacking pressed blocks of discarded dollar bills to form giant structures, which turn out to be the Bird's Nest stadium, the Water Cube aquatic center, and the CCTV tower. The script would go something like this:

"Sponsor" (60 seconds)

Voiceover: "Ever wonder what Washington has done with your tax dollars? This Olympics is your chance to find out. For the last 8 years, the Bush administration has been paying China billions of dollars in interest on the trillions it borrowed for tax breaks, pork, and special privileges you never got. That money helped create thousands of businesses and millions of jobs—in China. So as you enjoy the games, keep an eye on your tax dollars at work. The way our economy's going, it's tough to pay your bills. But take heart: You already paid China's."

Tagline: "America's Taxpayers. Proud Sponsors of the Beijing Olympics."

What's an Olympics without a little national pride?  And with any luck, NBC might refuse to run it. … 10:30 A.M. (link)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trader Mitt: As if John McCain didn't have enough reason to keep quoting JFK's line that life isn't fair, consider this: According to the political futures markets, Mitt Romney now has a better chance of being McCain's running mate than McCain has of winning.

Since the primaries, Romney has steadily gained ground in the VP sweepstakes through hard work and a disciplined message: He'll help on the economy, he grew up in the swing state of Michigan, and he makes his current home in the right wing of the Republican Party. He seems at ease with the unattractive chores of being the vice-presidential nominee: raising money, playing the attack dog, telling the base what it wants to hear.

On paper, Romney's VP bid looks as picture perfect as his presidential campaign once did. Yet even as Mitt watchers revel in the current boomlet, we can't help wondering whether this Romneymania will last.

With that in mind, Romneystas everywhere need to start making new and urgent arguments on his behalf:

  • The French Are Coming!: Romney was widely mocked last fall when he warned that France posed a clear and present danger to the American way of life. But after watching French President Nicolas Sarkozy embrace Barack Obama in Paris last week, conservatives may finally warm to Mitt's "First, Not France" slogan after all. Romney has impeccable credentials as a Francophobe; Sarkozy would never dream of saying of him, "If he is chosen, then France will be delighted." In a few short hours in Paris, Obama claimed the president as a convert. Romney spent two whole years in France and converted no one whatsoever.
  • Leave 'Em Laughing as You Go: One of McCain's heroes, Mo Udall, loved to tell the story of primary voters who heard him say, "I'm Mo Udall and I'm running for president," and responded, "We were just laughing about that this morning." Poor Mo wouldn't know what to make of this campaign. Two months into the general election, nobody's laughing about anything. No one much wants to joke about Obama or McCain. If Romney were the VP, pundits across the spectrum would exult that at last they had someone fun to mess with. He's a good sport and a happy square, with a track record of supplying ample new material.
  • WALL-E's World: Mitt Romney's Web site is a shadow of its former self—no Five Brothers blog, no ad contests, no animatronic Mitt messages for your voicemail. Yet like WALL-E's stash of charming knickknacks, the few surviving objects on Planet Romney carry greater meaning. For example, a striking photo highlights a strength few politicians reveal: Unlike McCain, Mitt Romney was born to read a teleprompter. In the official campaign photo of him rehearsing his concession speech, Mitt is barely visible. All the focus is on the words in big type to be loaded on the prompter.

McCain doesn't much like giving speeches and treats teleprompters accordingly. But you can see how a campaign that has struggled to follow a script might be tempted by the first completely programmable running mate.  In 2000, McCain often joked that he was Luke Skywalker. This time, Romney could be his C3PO. ... 12:47 p.m. (link)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Make My Day: What a difference a month makes. At its June meeting, the D.C. City Council debated Mayor Adrian Fenty's emergency legislation to ban sparklers. After the Supreme Court struck down the city's gun ban, the Council spent last week's July meeting debating emergency legislation to let residents own handguns. Here in the District, we couldn't shoot off firecrackers over the Fourth because they're too dangerous, but we can now keep a loaded pistol by our bedside, ready to shoot down prowlers in self-defense.

Like most D.C. residents, I have no plans to stockpile guns in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. But if the city wants to take away my sparklers, they'll have to pry them from my cold, dead, slightly charred hands.

When I was growing up, the rights to keep and bear firearms and fireworks went hand in hand. My grandmother used a revolver to shoot garter snakes in her garden. Well into her eighties, however, her greatest pleasure in life was to spend the Fourth setting off massive strings of firecrackers, 200 at a time. When she came to visit, she'd step off the airplane with a suitcase full of firecrackers purchased on an Indian reservation. As soon as we got home, she'd light the fuse with her cigarette, then squeal with delight as serial explosions made the gravel in our driveway dance.

In recent years, firearm regulation and firework regulation have gone their separate ways. The National Rifle Association has successfully opposed most gun laws, even ones aimed primarily at criminals. Armed with Justice Scalia's maddeningly unhelpful ruling on the D.C. ban, the NRA already has begun to target the rest.

By contrast, although fireworks aren't nearly as deadly as guns, the government treats them like what they are – a widely popular, sometimes dangerous American tradition. The federal government long ago banned once-commonplace explosives like cherry bombs. Most states – even the libertarian bastion of Idaho – have banned or restricted the use of firecrackers. According to the website AmericanPyro, five states, including Iowa and Illinois, permit only sparklers and snakes. Five others, including New York and Massachusetts, allow no consumer fireworks whatsoever. In general, states insist that fireworks must be "safe and sane" – a balance that has been all but impossible to strike with firearms.

Thanks to the enduring power of pyromania, sales haven't suffered. Since 1976, fireworks consumption has increased ten-fold, while fireworks-related injuries have dropped. Fireworks manufacturers can take heart in knowing that this year's survivors are next year's customers.

Because there is no Second Amendment right to keep and bear sparklers, fireworks law is a straightforward balancing test – between the individual right to burn a hole in the back porch and the mutual responsibility not to burn entire communities to the ground, the personal freedom to pyromaniacal self-expression and the personal responsibility not to harm oneself and others. These days, the fireworks industry has more to fear from climate change than from the authorities. This summer, the threat of wildfires led Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask Californians to boycott fireworks. Drought forced John McCain to forego fireworks at his annual Independence Day barbecue in Arizona.

The trouble with the Supreme Court ruling in the Heller case is not that it interprets the Second Amendment as an individual right. The Second Amendment is the constitutional equivalent of the grammatical paradox Eats Shoots & Leaves, but whatever the Founders meant by its muddy wording and punctuation, most Americans now take it for granted. The real problem with the Court's decision is that the balancing test for gun rights and responsibilities is even less clear than before. Scalia's opinion devotes 30 pages to a grammatical history of the Second Amendment and a single sentence to how the courts should apply it to most other gun laws already on the books.

Alongside such vast imprecision, the Court went out of its way to strike down the requirement for trigger locks – an extraordinarily modest attempt to balance freedom and safety. Trigger locks can help prevent gun accidents and keep guns out of the hands of children. Far from impeding self-defense, new trigger locks can be unlocked with a fingerprint or a special ring on the gun owner's finger. That means today's gun owner can arm himself to shoot an intruder in an instant – compared to the 30 seconds or more it took to load a pistol or musket in the 18th Century.

Over the long term, it's not clear how much of a boon the Heller decision will be for gun rights advocates. In winning the case, the gun lobby lost its most potent argument – the threat that at any moment, the government will knock on the door and take your guns away. With that bogeyman out of the way, the case for common-sense gun safety measures is stronger than ever. Perhaps now the gun debate will revolve around more practical and less incendiary issues, like what can be done to reduce illegal gun trafficking and trace guns used in crimes.

If it's any small consolation, the real winners in Heller may turn out to be the sparkler lobby. If cities have trouble banning handguns, they will be hard-pressed to take away sparklers. Of course, as with guns, the threat to sparklers may well have been exaggerated. The D.C. Council rejected Mayor Fenty's sparkler ban by a vote of 11-2, as members nostalgically recalled playing with them in their youth. Councilman and former mayor Marion Barry voted no "with a bang." As Barry knows, there are worse things in life to light than a sparkler. ... 9:51 A.M. (link)

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Fight of Her Life:Ten years ago, at a White House farewell for a favorite staff member, Hillary Clinton described the two kinds of people in the world: born optimists like her husband who see the glass as half-full, and born realists like herself who can see the glass is half-empty.

As she ends her campaign and throws her support behind Barack Obama's remarkable quest, Hillary could be forgiven for seeing her glass as, quite literally, half-empty. The two candidates traded primary after primary down the stretch, two titans matching each other vote for vote. In the closest race in the modern era, she and Obama split the Democratic wishbone nearly right down the middle, but she's not the one who got her wish.

Yet for Hillary and the 18 million of us who supported her, there is no shame in one historic campaign coming up just short against another. History is a great deal wiser than Chris Matthews, and will be kinder, too. The 2008 contest has been one for the ages, and the annals will show that Hillary Clinton has gained far more than she lost.

The Obama-Clinton match will go down as the longest, closest, most exciting, most exhausting ever. Obama ran an inspired campaign and seized the moment. Clinton came close, and by putting up a tough fight now, helped fortify him for the fight ahead.

Our campaign made plenty of mistakes, none of which has gone unreported. But Hillary is right not to dwell on "woulda, coulda, shoulda." From New Hampshire to South Dakota, the race she ran earned its own place in the history books.

While the way we elect presidents leaves a lot to be desired, it has one redeeming virtue, as the greatest means ever invented to test what those who seek the job are made of. In our lifetimes, we'll be hard-pressed to find a candidate made of tougher stuff than Hillary Clinton. Most candidates leave a race diminished by it. Hillary is like tempered steel: the more intense the heat, the tougher she gets.

And has any candidate had to face fiercer, more sustained heat? As a frontrunner, she expected a tough ride, and as Hillary Clinton, she was accustomed to it. But if she was used to the scrutiny, she could not have anticipated – and did not deserve – the transparent hostility behind it. In much the same way the right wing came unglued when her husband refused to die in the '90s, the media lost its bearings when she defied and survived them. Slate at least held off on its noxious Hillary Deathwatch until March; most of the press corps began a breathless Clinton Deathwatch last Thanksgiving. The question that turned her campaign around in New Hampshire – "How do you do it?" – brought Hillary to tears out of sheer gratitude that someone out there had noticed.

For a few searing days in New Hampshire, we watched her stare into the abyss. Any other candidate forced to read her own obituary so often would have come to believe it. But as she went on to demonstrate throughout this campaign, Hillary had faith that there is life after political death, and the wherewithal to prove it.

In New Hampshire, she discarded the frontrunner mantle and found her voice. For a race that was largely won or lost in Iowa, the discovery came a few days too late. But the grit Clinton showed with her back to the wall all those months will make her a force with a following for years to come.

The chief hurdle for Clinton's presidential bid wasn't whether she could do the job; Democrats never doubted she would make a good president. Ironically, the biggest question she faced for much of the race is one she answered clearly by the time she left it: whether America was ready for a woman president. No one asks that question any longer. For all the sexism she encountered as the first woman with a serious shot at the White House, voters themselves made clear they were ready. The longer the race went on, the more formidable she looked in the general election. In this week's CBS News poll, she was beating John McCain by nine points, even as she was losing the Democratic nomination.

Last year, the press and other campaigns insisted that Clinton was too polarizing and that half the country was united against her. Now, a woman who was supposed to be one of the most polarizing figures in America leaves the race with handsome leads over McCain in places like North Carolina, a state her husband never carried.

When her campaign started, aides often described Hillary as the least known, least understood famous person in America. During this campaign, it became clear that in certain quarters she's the most deliberately misunderstood person as well. The recent RFK flap was yet another attempt to suggest that her every miscue was part of some diabolical master plan.

Yet while talking heads imagined the evils of Hillary Clinton, voters finally came to know and understand her. They saw someone who knew what they were going through, who would stick with them, fight for them, and get back up when she got knocked down. The phony, consultant-driven shadow boxing of the last few years has dulled Democrats to the party's historic mission – to defend the values and stand up for the interests of ordinary people who are doing all they can just to get ahead. For those voters, Hillary Clinton was the champion they've been looking for, a fighter they can count on, win or lose, not to let them down.

That's a fight she'll never quit. Like the woman in New Hampshire, we still wonder how Hillary does it, but this time, the tears are on us. As we wish her well, our hopes are high, our hearts are full – and if our glass is empty, it was worth every drop. ... 11:58 P.M. (link)

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Adventures of Bobble-Foot: For enough money, any McClellan or Stephanopoulos in Washington will write a kiss-and-tell book these days. But the memoir Larry Craig just announced he's writing could launch a whole new genre: don't-kiss, don't-tell.

Craig revealed his plans on Boise television during Tuesday's coverage of the Senate primary to choose his potential successors. For the senator, if not his viewers, it was a poignant moment, one last point of no return in a three-decade-long political career.

With a touch of empathy, the local reporter told Craig, "You're looking forward now to a much different life for yourself." Alas, the life Craig described isn't much different from any other retiring pol's, nor does he sound like he's looking forward to it. He hinted that he is entertaining a number of lobbying offers. Because of ethics rules, he explains, "There are some one-way conversations going on, 'cause I've said I can't talk, but I certainly can listen." Perhaps they can figure out some kind of code.

These are heady times for the Idaho senator. Last Sunday, on National Tap Dance Day, the first-place St. Paul Saints, a minor league baseball team, drew their biggest crowd of the year with a special promotion in Craig's honor: a bobble-foot doll commemorating the bathroom stall at Minneapolis-St.Paul airport. The team website reported, "Saints Have Toe-Tapping Good Time, Win 9-3."

The bobble-foot promotion gave Craig a way to test his market value even beyond the lobbying and book worlds. Scores of Craig bobble-feet are now available on eBay, selling for upwards of $75 apiece. You'd better hurry: Like successful appeals of uncoerced confessions, supplies are limited.

The upcoming memoir may be the last we ever hear from the man, so it's worth asking: What kind of book will Larry Craig write? Consider the possibilities:

  • The Broken Branch: Left to his own devices (never a good idea), Craig seems likely to write an insiders' version of the woe-is-gridlock lament popularized most recently by political scientists Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann. "The thing that's important for someone with my experience to talk about is the state of politics in Washington," Craig said Tuesday. "It's created what I call a extremely dysfunctional, hyperpartisan Senate. We're getting little to nothing done." Craig cites immigration and energy policy. As his agent and editor will surely tell him, this sober approach is not the way for Craig to put his best foot forward. No one wants to read the case for decisive action written by a man who claimed his innocence after pleading guilty and remained in office after promising to quit. Then again, Craig might not be a household word if he had listened to the advice of Ornstein and Mann, who urged members to bring their families to live with them in Washington.
  • The Packwood Diaries: With slight modifications, Craig has modeled his entire Senate career after his friend, former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood. Craig sobbed on the Senate floor the day Packwood resigned. Packwood dug in his heels and remained in office for three years after his sex scandal became public. Craig has done the same, and is only leaving because his term is up. Considering how much Packwood served as his role model, it's possible that Craig tried to emulate another part of the Oregonian's legacy: the Packwood diaries. Packwood kept a meticulous journal of all his exploits, with an eye to history and none on the lookout for satire or federal prosecution. We can only hope Craig has done the same.
  • What Happened: Every publisher is looking for the next Scott McClellan, who told lies for a living but was scared straight after his escape. Craig could play this role with gusto. The pitch: It wasn't his idea to stand up in front of the press time after time and insist he wasn't gay. Karl Rove made him do it, in a deliberate cover-up to protect the Republican brand – and he'll never forgive Rove for it.
  • If I Did It: O.J. Simpson never got to keep a dime of his controversial book, If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. Craig, on the other hand, could hypothesize all the way to the bank. Senators love to write loosely autobiographical fiction. Gary Hart and Bill Cohen wrote The Double Man about a politician who wanted to be president. Barbara Boxer wrote A Time to Runabout a woman who becomes a liberal senator from California. Craig could write a great book about an imaginary conservative senator who happens to be gay. His hypothetical musings would wow the critics and sell like crazy. Besides, what does Craig have to lose? Hinting he did it would be no more an admission of guilt than the misdemeanor plea he was just kidding us about last June. ... 8:48 P.M. (link)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mr. Romney's Neighborhoods: Mitt Romney has a new motto: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. In the past two months, he has transformed himself from John McCain's sharpest critic to one of his most active surrogates. For more than a year, Romney traveled the country talking up his chances of becoming president. Now he coyly downplays any chance of gaining the vice-presidential nod.

On Saturday, we learned of another surprising reversal. In mid-May, the state Supreme Court voted to allow same-sex marriage in California. This weekend, news leaked that Romney has decided to buy a house there. With property in Massachusetts and California as well as New Hampshire and Utah, the crusader who once warned his son that Democrats would usher in same-sex marriage now owns homes in two of the eight jurisdictions on earth that allow it.

Diane Bell of the San Diego Union-Tribune—who began her column Saturday with the immortal words " Mitt Romney is in escrow"—sparked a rush of rumors by asking: "Could Romney be planning to establish residency in California with an eye on the governor's seat? Gov. Schwarzenegger is forced out by term limits in 2010. Stay tuned ..."

If Romney wanted to buy into a slumping market, his timing couldn't be better. San Diego real estate prices are down 18 percent from a year ago, making even La Jolla beachfront a bargain. When Schwarzenegger's term runs out, the California Republican Party will likewise be the political equivalent of a vacant lot.

Romney's staff quickly shot down any Golden State ambitions. A spokesman told the Associated Press, "Governor Romney has been looking at property on the West Coast because he has family in California, and because his wife, Ann, spends a good deal of time there riding horses." The AP noted that son Matt lives in San Diego, "while son Josh lives in Salt Lake City." That's  750 miles away—less than a month's ride on horseback!

Romney spent the weekend at John McCain's Western getaway with other vice-presidential hopefuls. The La Jolla purchase gives him one more advantage over the rest of the field: He now brings the most undisclosed secure locations.

This isn't the first time homeownership has emerged as an important theme for Romney. When he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, he had to amend his tax returns, which showed he had actually been a resident of Utah. His presidential bid made much of his vacation home on Lake Winnipesaukee, but a second home in New Hampshire wasn't enough to save him after he lost the first caucus in Iowa. If Romney had bought a summer place in Cedar Rapids instead, he might be the presumptive nominee today. Then he could have been the one to invite prospective running mates to spend Memorial Day weekend at his home, wherever that might be.

Last week, Mitt launched a new campaign vehicle, Free and Strong America PAC, which is backing candidates like … John McCain. He even has his own blog. While it's a far cry from the Five Brothers Blog, the Mitt blog brings welcome news of how they're doing. Ben is expecting his first child, Craig his second, Josh his fourth. Matt had his fourth a few months ago. Clearly, the Romney boys have put their blogging days behind them.

Remarkably, the Romney plan seems to be working. While housing prices plunge, Mitt vice-presidential futures are soaring. On Tuesday, Romney stock hit its highest price on Intrade in six weeks, moving into first place ahead of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Why the rebound? One of Romney's greatest weaknesses may also be his greatest strength: He's always making up for his last mistake. When Politico asked leading Republicans how to save their party, Romney had the best answer: new ideas, a better agenda, and "a very clear set of principles."

The GOP is in trouble if Mitt Romney is its go-to guy for principle. But if a house on your block is for sale, you have to admit: He'd make a great neighbor. ... 9:53 a.m. (link)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On the Rocks:After years of comparing illegitimacy rates around the world—which were low in Italy, moderate in Germany, and astronomical in the United States—Sen. Pat Moynihan used to joke that out-of-wedlock birth rates increase in direct proportion to distance from the Vatican. Now another member of the New York delegation has gone out of his way to confirm Moynihan's theory. Vito Fossella Jr.'s office is a long way from Rome.

Moynihan offered an even more prescient explanation of Fossella's behavior in his famous essay "Defining Deviancy Down." Citing a sociologist's rationalization that "the number of deviant offenders a community can afford to recognize is likely to remain stable over time," Moynihan feared a vicious cycle of what another New Yorker, Fred Siegel, dubbed "moral deregulation": The more people bend the rules, the further some will go in bending them.

Human weakness may be a renewable resource, but public attention is not—so, no matter how many cads live in the tri-state area, only the most shameless can make the front page of the tabloids. According to the tabloids, Rep. Fossella's troubles began in December 2002, when he fell for Air Force legislative liaison Laura Fay on a junket to Malta. The Daily News marvels that their union could take root on such rocky soil: "Malta is not an obvious place for a love affair to flourish. Not unlike Staten Island, it tends to be a conservative place."

Of course, in those days, so was the House of Representatives. Speaker Dennis Hastert himself led that congressional delegation to Malta. The following summer, Hastert took Fossella and Fay along on another European junket. One person on the trip told the Daily News that the affair became an open secret in Spain, somewhere near the Alhambra. The newspaper claims that "word about the affair spread, and Republican officials soon became concerned, fearing it would be exposed, sources said." The tabloid implies that the Air Force dropped Fay as a legislative liaison because she was a little too good at it.

Obviously, Vito Fossella's personal life is not Dennis Hastert's fault. Perhaps the speaker had his nose in a guidebook or was rereading Washington Irving's classic Tales of the Alhambra. (Unexplored tabloid angle: The namesake for Irving's most famous character, Ichabod Crane, is buried on Staten Island—just like Fossella's political career.) Moreover, once you've accepted the ethics of congressional leaders and Pentagon staffers taking taxpayer-funded fact-finding missions to the tourist capitals of Europe, you don't have to be above the legal blood alcohol limit to have trouble seeing any bright lines.

Still, the leadership's avoidance and denial in this case is eerily similar to the last great House Republican sex scandal, involving former Florida Rep. Mark Foley. A House ethics committee investigation determined that Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, learned of Foley's page problem in 2002 or 2003, the same period as Fossella's budding romance. The House leadership did nothing about it. As the ethics committee report declared, "A pattern of conduct was exhibited among many individuals to remain willfully ignorant."

In time, those years may be remembered as the Era of Willful Ignorance. Mark Foley was busy IMing House pages. Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed were busy e-mailing each other. Tom DeLay was busy hounding the FAA to track down Texas Democratic legislators who had flown to Oklahoma.

Today's New York Postreports that Scott Palmer, the Hastert aide, knew about the Fossella-Fay problem, too. He did something but not about the wayward congressman. Instead, Palmer called the Pentagon and reported Fay for unprofessional behavior. "I lost confidence in her and I'm not going to kid you," Palmer told the Post. "I was also concerned with this other relationship thing. It didn't look like it should."

Five years later, Republicans no doubt wish their leaders had lost confidence in Fossella after the Alhambra instead of waiting for the mistress, love child, and DUI. But as Pat Moynihan warned, there's a limit to the number of ethically deviant members any community can afford to recognize at one time. … 10:52 a.m. (link)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Three's Company:For Democrats who still can't decide between Clinton and Obama, a third candidate has put his name on the ballot in the Idaho primary later this month. Keith Russell Judd is pro-choice, opposes No Child Left Behind, wants to end the war in Iraq, and once bowled a 300 game. There's just one catch: he's an inmate at a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas, and won't get out until 2013.

Two decades ago, Idaho nearly re-elected a congressman who was on his way to prison. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before someone already in prison would see Idaho as a springboard to the White House.

Asked how a federal prisoner could qualify for the ballot, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa told the press, "We got conned." The state recently eliminated the requirement for candidates to gather signatures; now they just need to fill out a form and pay a $1,000 fee. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Keith Judd sent forms and checks to 14 states, but only Idaho put his name on the ballot.

Judd isn't the only out-of-state candidate on the primary ballot. Hal Styles Jr. of Desert Hot Springs, California, who has never been to Idaho, is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. For all the heartache and suffering that Larry Craig has caused the state, his arrest and subsequent humiliation have done wonders for candidate recruitment. Far from frightening people away, Craig has lowered the bar so much that even hardened criminals think they could win there.

Judd's 35-year membership in the NRA might give him an edge with some Idaho voters. But the road from Beaumont to Denver is a tough one. Idaho already selected its delegates in caucuses on Super Tuesday. The May 27 primary is just a beauty contest, and Judd seems to be going for the Willie Nelson look.

Even in a year when come-from-behind victories have become the norm, a come-from-behind-bars campaign requires exceptional resourcefulness. Judd used a Texas newspaper tip line as the phone number for his campaign office, and an IRS line in Ohio as the number for his campaign coordinator. He paid the $1,000 with a U.S. Treasury check drawn on his prison account.

Although no one has contributed to his campaign, Judd diligently files a handwritten FEC report every quarter. The FEC database shows Judd for President with $532,837 in total receipts, $11,285 in total expenditures, and an impressive $387,561 in cash on hand. With more than half a million in receipts, Judd's reported total exceeds that of Mike Gravel, who is practically a household name. The Huckabee and Giuliani campaigns would have done anything to match Judd's figure for cash-on-hand.

Running for president isn't a habit Judd picked up in prison, where he has spent the past decade since being convicted of making threats at the University of New Mexico. He has been running for office his whole life. He ran for mayor of Albuquerque in the early '90s, and tried to run for governor. He sought the presidency in 1996, 2000, and 2004 – when he won 3 write-in votes. He has filed more than 70 FEC reports going all the way back to 1995.

Judd has shown the same persistence in the courts, firing off appeals at a faster clip than Larry Craig. In 1999, after receiving a dozen frivolous cert petitions from Judd, the U.S. Supreme Court barred him from filing any more non-criminal claims unless he paid the required fees. In 2005, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals prepared an order noting that Judd had filed "at least 70 frivolous, duplicative and repetitive actions in this Court." By the time the order was issued, that number had reached 82.

Idaho has a long history of embracing maverick long shots, and Judd's iconoclastic background and platform won't hurt. He passes the Mickey Kaus test on welfare reform but not immigration. He favors eliminating all federal taxes so "the government can operate on its own self produced money." He wants to require gun licensing but let people carry concealed weapons. He says his national security views are "classified," but his Iraq position is "withdraw ASAP and forget it."

Judd plays the bass and bongos, belongs to the ACLU and the NRA, and admires JFK and Nixon. His nicknames are "Mr. President" and "Dark Priest," and his favorite athlete is a professional bowler. Bowling is hardly the rage in Idaho: In a fitting tribute to Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam's famous theory of social alienation, my hometown turned the bowling alley into a self-storage complex. Still, Judd's rivals can only envy his claim to have once bowled a perfect game.

Idaho pundits, who've had their fill of national attention, cringe over Judd's candidacy. "Jailbird Makes Us Look Silly," wrote the Ketchum Idaho Mountain Express. Others around the country note the irony that a felon can run but can't vote. The Illinois State University student newspaper, the Daily Vidette, defended Judd's right to run, but warned voters and party leaders not to support him: "All superdelegates should save their endorsements for candidates with a real shot."

At one particularly low moment of the 1988 campaign, a news crew tracked down Willie Horton and found out that if he weren't behind bars, he would vote for Dukakis. Give Keith Judd credit for passing up the chance to endorse Obama or Clinton, and running against them instead. ... 12:28 a.m. (link)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Running With the Big Dogs: While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama deflected Charlie Gibson's question about running together, last week was a big one for Democrats' other dream ticket: any Republican pairing that includes Mitt Romney. With a well-received cameo at a national press dinner and nods from Great Mentioners like George H.W. Bush and Karl Rove, Mitt is back—and campaigning hard for the No. 2 slot.

When John McCain wrapped up the Republican nomination back in February, the odds against picking Romney looked long indeed. The two spent the entire primary season at each others' throats. Romney trashed McCain over "amnesty" for illegal immigrants; McCain joked that Romney's many flip-flops proved he really was "the candidate of change." Even Rudy Giuliani, not known for making peace, chimed in from Florida that McCain and Romney were "getting kind of nasty," implying that they needed to come chill with him at the beach.

Sure enough, after a little time off, Romney felt better—good enough to begin his vice-presidential audition. He went on Fox to say, "There really are no hard feelings." He interrupted his vacation in Utah to host a fundraiser for McCain. After months of dismissing McCain as a Washington insider, Romney flip-flopped and praised him as a longtime congressional champion of Reaganism. Lest anyone fail to notice, Romney confessed that he would be honored to be McCain's running mate, and practiced ripping into the potential Democratic nominees: "When it comes to national security, John McCain is the big dog, and they are the Chihuahuas."

Of course, any big dog should think twice before agreeing to a long journey with Mitt Romney. The past would not be easy for McCain, Romney, and their staffs and families to overcome. Before New Hampshire, McCain's alter ego, Mark Salter, called Romney "a small-varmint gun totin,' civil rights marching, NRA-endorsed fantasy candidate." After the primaries were over, Josh Romney suggested that the Five Brothers wouldn't be gassing up the Mittmobile for McCain anytime soon: "It's one thing to campaign for my dad, someone whose principles I line up with almost entirely," he told the Deseret News. "I can't say the same thing for Sen. McCain."

For Mitt Romney, that won't be a problem: Any grudge would vanish the instant McCain named him as his running mate. And by the Republican convention in September, Romney's principles will be due for their six-month realignment.

The more difficult question is, What's in it for McCain? Actually, Romney brings more to the ticket than you might think. As in any partnership, the key to happiness between running mates is a healthy division of labor. When Bill Clinton and Al Gore teamed up in 1992, Clinton had spent most of his career on the economy, education, health care, and other domestic issues; Gore was an expert on national security, the environment, and technology. Even the Bush-Cheney pairing made some sense: Bush cared only about squandering the surplus, privatizing Social Security, and running the economy into the ground; Cheney was more interested in hoarding executive power, helping narrow interests, and tarnishing America's image in the world.

So, McCain and Romney are off to a good start: They come from different backgrounds and share no common interests. McCain, a soldier turned senator, prefers national security above all else. As a former businessman and governor, Romney rarely brings up foreign policy—for reasons that sometimes become apparent when he does so. In his concession speech, Romney said he was dropping out to give McCain a united front against Obama, Clinton, and Bin Laden. "In this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror," he said. "We cannot allow the next president of the United States to retreat in the face of evil extremism!!"

For the general election, the McCain campaign must decide what to do with conservative positions it took to win the Republican primaries. Here again, Romney is a godsend: a vice-presidential candidate who'll flip-flop so the nominee doesn't have to. No one can match Romney's experience at changing positions: He has been on both sides of abortion, talked out of both sides of his mouth on same-sex marriage, and been for and against his own health care plan. It's a market-based approach to principle—just the glue Republicans need to expand their coalition. Moderates might assume Romney was only pretending to be conservative, and conservatives will thank him for trying.

Straight talk is all well and good for presidential candidates. But as Dick Cheney demonstrated, the job of a Republican vice-presidential candidate is quite the opposite—keeping a straight face while saying things that couldn't possibly be true. Take the economy, for example. McCain gets visibly uncomfortable whenever he ventures beyond fiscal conservatism. Romney is more flexible. In an interview with National Journallast week, he had no trouble contending that corporate tax cuts help the middle class. He spent the primaries warning that the United States was on a slippery slope to becoming the next France. Now he's perfectly happy to argue that we have to cut corporate taxes to keep companies from moving to France.

In his surprise appearance at the Radio & Television Correspondents dinner in Washington last week, Romney showed another virtue that makes him perfect for the role—a vice-presidential temperament. With his "Top 10 Reasons for Dropping Out," he proved that he is ready to poke fun at himself on Day 1.

A vice president needs to be good at self-deprecation, yet not so skilled that he outshines the boss. By that standard, Romney's audition was perfect: He chose good material ("There weren't as many Osmonds as I had thought"; "As a lifelong hunter, I didn't want to miss the start of varmint season") and delivered it just awkwardly enough to leave the audience wondering whether to laugh or feel slightly uncomfortable.

After watching him up close in the primaries, Team McCain no doubt harbors real reservations about Romney. Some conservatives distrust him so much, they're running full-page ads that say, "NO Mitt." A Google search of John McCain, Mitt Romney, and food taster produces more than 100 entries.

But looking ahead to a tense fall campaign, McCain should put those concerns aside and listen to voices from across the spectrum. This could be the issue that unites the country across party lines. Democrats like a little fun at Mitt Romney's expense. The McCain camp does, too—perhaps more so. And after last week, we know that—ever the good sport—even Romney's all for it. ... 2:14 p.m. (link)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Twist and Shout:When the news broke last August that Larry Craig had been arrested in a restroom sex sting, he had a ready answer: The Idaho Statesman made him do it. He claimed that the Statesman's monthslong investigation into whether he was gay made him panic and plead guilty. Otherwise, he said, he feared that what happened in Minneapolis might not stay in Minneapolis, and the Statesman would make sure the voters of Idaho found out.

Craig's jihad against the Statesman didn't go over too well in Idaho, where people are more likely to read the newspaper in the restroom than worry about it afterward. On Monday, the Statesman was named a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting for what the committee called "its tenacious coverage of the twists and turns in the scandal involving the state's senator, Larry Craig."

The story took yet another strange twist and turn this week. For the past six months, the entire political world has been wondering why Craig promised to resign when the scandal broke, then changed his mind a few days later. In a rare interview Wednesday with the congressional newspaper the Hill, Craig finally found someone to blame for staying in the Senate: The people of Idaho made him do it.

According to the Hill, Craig said "support from Idahoans convinced him to reverse his pledge to resign last year." This was news to most Idaho voters, who have viewed the whole affair with shock, outrage, embarrassment, and dismay. But Craig didn't stop there. The Hill reports that he also said his decision not to run for re-election "pre-dated the controversy."

Last fall, Craig stunned Idahoans by insisting he was not gay, not guilty, and not leaving. Now he says it's our fault he never left, he was leaving anyway, and if he's not running, it's not because we don't believe him when he says he's not guilty and not gay.

Unfortunately, Craig's latest explanation casts some doubt on the excuse he gave last fall. If he had already decided long ago that he wasn't running for re-election, he had less reason to panic over his arrest, and much less to fear from voters finding out about it back home. In September, he made it sound as if he pled guilty to a crime he didn't commit to avoid a political firestorm back home. If politics were of no concern, he had every reason to fight the charges in court. For that matter, if he was so sure he wouldn't run again, he could have announced his decision early last year, which might have staved off the Statesman investigation before it got started.

Craig's latest revelation undermines his defense in another way as well. If he is telling the truth that he had made up his mind not to run before his arrest, that would be the best explanation yet for why he risked putting himself in a position to get arrested. Eliot Spitzer's re-election prospects plunged long before he got caught, too.

Nothing can fully explain why public figures like Craig and Spitzer would flagrantly risk arrest. But we can rule out political suicide if they'd already decided their political careers were over. ... 3:55 p.m. (link)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

B.Looper: Learned reader Kyle Sammin recalls that Idaho's Marvin "Pro-Life" Richardson has nothing on 1998 Tennessee State Senate candidate Byron "Low-Tax" Looper. Besides changing his name, Looper also murdered his opponent. Under Tennessee law, the names of dead candidates are removed from the ballot. So even though he was quickly charged with homicide, Looper nearly ran unopposed. The victim's widow won a last-minute write-in campaign. Looper was sentenced to life in prison.

Bloopers: The Pittsburgh Pirates are now the most mediocre first-place team in baseball history. In their season opener Monday night against Atlanta, the Bucs provided plenty of evidence that this year will turn out like the last 15. They blew a five-run lead in the ninth by walking four batters and booting an easy fly ball. Pirate players said they'd never seen anything like it, not even in Little League. For an inning, it looked like the team had gone on strike to demand more money.

But to every Buc fan's surprise, the Pirates won, anyway—12-11 in 12 innings—and with no game Tuesday, Pittsburgh has been above .500 for two glorious days. New General Manager Neal Huntington e-mailed me on Monday to promise that the team's new regime is determined to build an organization that will make the people of Pittsburgh proud again. That might take a while. For now, we're content to make the people of Atlanta feel really embarrassed. ... 1:35 p.m. (link)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Danger Is My Middle Name:Outgoing Senator Larry Craig can take consolation in one thing: out in Idaho, everyone wants his seat. Fourteen candidates have filed to run for the Senate, including eight Republicans, two Democrats, two Independents, and a Libertarian. Hal Styles Jr. of Desert Hot Springs, California, entered the Republican primary, even though he has never been to Idaho. "I know I'll love it because, clean air, clean water and many, many, many mountains," he says. "My heart, my mind, my body, my soul, my thoughts are in this to win."

The general election will likely be a rematch between former Democratic congressman Larry LaRocco and Republican Lt. Gov. (and former governor) Jim Risch. If Idahoans find those two insufficiently embarrassing, however, a number of fringe candidates have lined up to take Craig's place. According to CQ, one Independent, Rex Rammel, is a former elk rancher who is angry that Risch ordered state wildlife officials to shoot some of his elk that got away. The Libertarian, Kent A. Marmon, is running against "the ever-expanding Socialist agenda" he claims is being pushed by Democratic congressmen like John Dingell.

But by far the most creative third-party candidate is Marvin Richardson, an organic strawberry farmer who went to court to change his name to "Pro-Life." Two years ago, he made that his middle name and tried to run for governor as Marvin "Pro-Life" Richardson. State election officials ruled that middle names couldn't be used to make a political statement on the ballot. As plain old Marvin Richardson, he won just 1.6% of the vote.

Now that "Pro-Life" is his full name, the state had to let him run that way on the ballot. He told the Idaho Press-Tribune that with the name change, he should win 5%. He plans to run for office every two years for as long as he lives: "If I save one baby's life, it will be worth it."

As the Press-Tribune points out, Pro-Life is not a single-issue candidate, but has a comprehensive platform. In addition to abortion, he opposes "homosexuality, adultery, and fornication." He wants the pro-life movement to refer to abortion as "murder," although he has not yet insisted pro-choice candidates change their name to that.

Idaho Republicans and anti-abortion activists don't share Pro-Life's enthusiasm. They worry that conservative voters will check the box next to both Pro-Life and the Republican candidate, thereby spoiling their ballots. So last week, the Idaho Secretary of State persuaded both houses of the legislature to pass emergency legislation to clar

          Romneymania        

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trader Mitt: As if John McCain didn't have enough reason to keep quoting JFK's line that life isn't fair, consider this: According to the political futures markets, Mitt Romney now has a better chance of being McCain's running mate than McCain has of winning.

Since the primaries, Romney has steadily gained ground in the VP sweepstakes through hard work and a disciplined message: He'll help on the economy, he grew up in the swing state of Michigan, and he makes his current home in the right wing of the Republican Party. He seems at ease with the unattractive chores of being the vice-presidential nominee: raising money, playing the attack dog, telling the base what it wants to hear.

On paper, Romney's VP bid looks as picture perfect as his presidential campaign once did. Yet even as Mitt watchers revel in the current boomlet, we can't help wondering whether this Romneymania will last.

With that in mind, Romneystas everywhere need to start making new and urgent arguments on his behalf:

  • The French Are Coming!: Romney was widely mocked last fall when he warned that France posed a clear and present danger to the American way of life. But after watching French President Nicolas Sarkozy embrace Barack Obama in Paris last week, conservatives may finally warm to Mitt's "First, Not France" slogan after all. Romney has impeccable credentials as a Francophobe; Sarkozy would never dream of saying of him, "If he is chosen, then France will be delighted." In a few short hours in Paris, Obama claimed the president as a convert. Romney spent two whole years in France and converted no one whatsoever.
  • Leave 'Em Laughing as You Go: One of McCain's heroes, Mo Udall, loved to tell the story of primary voters who heard him say, "I'm Mo Udall and I'm running for president," and responded, "We were just laughing about that this morning." Poor Mo wouldn't know what to make of this campaign. Two months into the general election, nobody's laughing about anything. No one much wants to joke about Obama or McCain. If Romney were the VP, pundits across the spectrum would exult that at last they had someone fun to mess with. He's a good sport and a happy square, with a track record of supplying ample new material.
  • WALL-E's World: Mitt Romney's Web site is a shadow of its former self—no Five Brothers blog, no ad contests, no animatronic Mitt messages for your voicemail. Yet like WALL-E's stash of charming knickknacks, the few surviving objects on Planet Romney carry greater meaning. For example, a striking photo highlights a strength few politicians reveal: Unlike McCain, Mitt Romney was born to read a teleprompter. In the official campaign photo of him rehearsing his concession speech, Mitt is barely visible. All the focus is on the words in big type to be loaded on the prompter.

McCain doesn't much like giving speeches and treats teleprompters accordingly. But you can see how a campaign that has struggled to follow a script might be tempted by the first completely programmable running mate.  In 2000, McCain often joked that he was Luke Skywalker. This time, Romney could be his C3PO. ... 12:47 p.m. (link)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Make My Day: What a difference a month makes. At its June meeting, the D.C. City Council debated Mayor Adrian Fenty's emergency legislation to ban sparklers. After the Supreme Court struck down the city's gun ban, the Council spent last week's July meeting debating emergency legislation to let residents own handguns. Here in the District, we couldn't shoot off firecrackers over the Fourth because they're too dangerous, but we can now keep a loaded pistol by our bedside, ready to shoot down prowlers in self-defense.

Like most D.C. residents, I have no plans to stockpile guns in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. But if the city wants to take away my sparklers, they'll have to pry them from my cold, dead, slightly charred hands.

When I was growing up, the rights to keep and bear firearms and fireworks went hand in hand. My grandmother used a revolver to shoot garter snakes in her garden. Well into her eighties, however, her greatest pleasure in life was to spend the Fourth setting off massive strings of firecrackers, 200 at a time. When she came to visit, she'd step off the airplane with a suitcase full of firecrackers purchased on an Indian reservation. As soon as we got home, she'd light the fuse with her cigarette, then squeal with delight as serial explosions made the gravel in our driveway dance.

In recent years, firearm regulation and firework regulation have gone their separate ways. The National Rifle Association has successfully opposed most gun laws, even ones aimed primarily at criminals. Armed with Justice Scalia's maddeningly unhelpful ruling on the D.C. ban, the NRA already has begun to target the rest.

By contrast, although fireworks aren't nearly as deadly as guns, the government treats them like what they are – a widely popular, sometimes dangerous American tradition. The federal government long ago banned once-commonplace explosives like cherry bombs. Most states – even the libertarian bastion of Idaho – have banned or restricted the use of firecrackers. According to the website AmericanPyro, five states, including Iowa and Illinois, permit only sparklers and snakes. Five others, including New York and Massachusetts, allow no consumer fireworks whatsoever. In general, states insist that fireworks must be "safe and sane" – a balance that has been all but impossible to strike with firearms.

Thanks to the enduring power of pyromania, sales haven't suffered. Since 1976, fireworks consumption has increased ten-fold, while fireworks-related injuries have dropped. Fireworks manufacturers can take heart in knowing that this year's survivors are next year's customers.

Because there is no Second Amendment right to keep and bear sparklers, fireworks law is a straightforward balancing test – between the individual right to burn a hole in the back porch and the mutual responsibility not to burn entire communities to the ground, the personal freedom to pyromaniacal self-expression and the personal responsibility not to harm oneself and others. These days, the fireworks industry has more to fear from climate change than from the authorities. This summer, the threat of wildfires led Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask Californians to boycott fireworks. Drought forced John McCain to forego fireworks at his annual Independence Day barbecue in Arizona.

The trouble with the Supreme Court ruling in the Heller case is not that it interprets the Second Amendment as an individual right. The Second Amendment is the constitutional equivalent of the grammatical paradox Eats Shoots & Leaves, but whatever the Founders meant by its muddy wording and punctuation, most Americans now take it for granted. The real problem with the Court's decision is that the balancing test for gun rights and responsibilities is even less clear than before. Scalia's opinion devotes 30 pages to a grammatical history of the Second Amendment and a single sentence to how the courts should apply it to most other gun laws already on the books.

Alongside such vast imprecision, the Court went out of its way to strike down the requirement for trigger locks – an extraordinarily modest attempt to balance freedom and safety. Trigger locks can help prevent gun accidents and keep guns out of the hands of children. Far from impeding self-defense, new trigger locks can be unlocked with a fingerprint or a special ring on the gun owner's finger. That means today's gun owner can arm himself to shoot an intruder in an instant – compared to the 30 seconds or more it took to load a pistol or musket in the 18th Century.

Over the long term, it's not clear how much of a boon the Heller decision will be for gun rights advocates. In winning the case, the gun lobby lost its most potent argument – the threat that at any moment, the government will knock on the door and take your guns away. With that bogeyman out of the way, the case for common-sense gun safety measures is stronger than ever. Perhaps now the gun debate will revolve around more practical and less incendiary issues, like what can be done to reduce illegal gun trafficking and trace guns used in crimes.

If it's any small consolation, the real winners in Heller may turn out to be the sparkler lobby. If cities have trouble banning handguns, they will be hard-pressed to take away sparklers. Of course, as with guns, the threat to sparklers may well have been exaggerated. The D.C. Council rejected Mayor Fenty's sparkler ban by a vote of 11-2, as members nostalgically recalled playing with them in their youth. Councilman and former mayor Marion Barry voted no "with a bang." As Barry knows, there are worse things in life to light than a sparkler. ... 9:51 A.M. (link)

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Fight of Her Life:Ten years ago, at a White House farewell for a favorite staff member, Hillary Clinton described the two kinds of people in the world: born optimists like her husband who see the glass as half-full, and born realists like herself who can see the glass is half-empty.

As she ends her campaign and throws her support behind Barack Obama's remarkable quest, Hillary could be forgiven for seeing her glass as, quite literally, half-empty. The two candidates traded primary after primary down the stretch, two titans matching each other vote for vote. In the closest race in the modern era, she and Obama split the Democratic wishbone nearly right down the middle, but she's not the one who got her wish.

Yet for Hillary and the 18 million of us who supported her, there is no shame in one historic campaign coming up just short against another. History is a great deal wiser than Chris Matthews, and will be kinder, too. The 2008 contest has been one for the ages, and the annals will show that Hillary Clinton has gained far more than she lost.

The Obama-Clinton match will go down as the longest, closest, most exciting, most exhausting ever. Obama ran an inspired campaign and seized the moment. Clinton came close, and by putting up a tough fight now, helped fortify him for the fight ahead.

Our campaign made plenty of mistakes, none of which has gone unreported. But Hillary is right not to dwell on "woulda, coulda, shoulda." From New Hampshire to South Dakota, the race she ran earned its own place in the history books.

While the way we elect presidents leaves a lot to be desired, it has one redeeming virtue, as the greatest means ever invented to test what those who seek the job are made of. In our lifetimes, we'll be hard-pressed to find a candidate made of tougher stuff than Hillary Clinton. Most candidates leave a race diminished by it. Hillary is like tempered steel: the more intense the heat, the tougher she gets.

And has any candidate had to face fiercer, more sustained heat? As a frontrunner, she expected a tough ride, and as Hillary Clinton, she was accustomed to it. But if she was used to the scrutiny, she could not have anticipated – and did not deserve – the transparent hostility behind it. In much the same way the right wing came unglued when her husband refused to die in the '90s, the media lost its bearings when she defied and survived them. Slate at least held off on its noxious Hillary Deathwatch until March; most of the press corps began a breathless Clinton Deathwatch last Thanksgiving. The question that turned her campaign around in New Hampshire – "How do you do it?" – brought Hillary to tears out of sheer gratitude that someone out there had noticed.

For a few searing days in New Hampshire, we watched her stare into the abyss. Any other candidate forced to read her own obituary so often would have come to believe it. But as she went on to demonstrate throughout this campaign, Hillary had faith that there is life after political death, and the wherewithal to prove it.

In New Hampshire, she discarded the frontrunner mantle and found her voice. For a race that was largely won or lost in Iowa, the discovery came a few days too late. But the grit Clinton showed with her back to the wall all those months will make her a force with a following for years to come.

The chief hurdle for Clinton's presidential bid wasn't whether she could do the job; Democrats never doubted she would make a good president. Ironically, the biggest question she faced for much of the race is one she answered clearly by the time she left it: whether America was ready for a woman president. No one asks that question any longer. For all the sexism she encountered as the first woman with a serious shot at the White House, voters themselves made clear they were ready. The longer the race went on, the more formidable she looked in the general election. In this week's CBS News poll, she was beating John McCain by nine points, even as she was losing the Democratic nomination.

Last year, the press and other campaigns insisted that Clinton was too polarizing and that half the country was united against her. Now, a woman who was supposed to be one of the most polarizing figures in America leaves the race with handsome leads over McCain in places like North Carolina, a state her husband never carried.

When her campaign started, aides often described Hillary as the least known, least understood famous person in America. During this campaign, it became clear that in certain quarters she's the most deliberately misunderstood person as well. The recent RFK flap was yet another attempt to suggest that her every miscue was part of some diabolical master plan.

Yet while talking heads imagined the evils of Hillary Clinton, voters finally came to know and understand her. They saw someone who knew what they were going through, who would stick with them, fight for them, and get back up when she got knocked down. The phony, consultant-driven shadow boxing of the last few years has dulled Democrats to the party's historic mission – to defend the values and stand up for the interests of ordinary people who are doing all they can just to get ahead. For those voters, Hillary Clinton was the champion they've been looking for, a fighter they can count on, win or lose, not to let them down.

That's a fight she'll never quit. Like the woman in New Hampshire, we still wonder how Hillary does it, but this time, the tears are on us. As we wish her well, our hopes are high, our hearts are full – and if our glass is empty, it was worth every drop. ... 11:58 P.M. (link)

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Adventures of Bobble-Foot: For enough money, any McClellan or Stephanopoulos in Washington will write a kiss-and-tell book these days. But the memoir Larry Craig just announced he's writing could launch a whole new genre: don't-kiss, don't-tell.

Craig revealed his plans on Boise television during Tuesday's coverage of the Senate primary to choose his potential successors. For the senator, if not his viewers, it was a poignant moment, one last point of no return in a three-decade-long political career.

With a touch of empathy, the local reporter told Craig, "You're looking forward now to a much different life for yourself." Alas, the life Craig described isn't much different from any other retiring pol's, nor does he sound like he's looking forward to it. He hinted that he is entertaining a number of lobbying offers. Because of ethics rules, he explains, "There are some one-way conversations going on, 'cause I've said I can't talk, but I certainly can listen." Perhaps they can figure out some kind of code.

These are heady times for the Idaho senator. Last Sunday, on National Tap Dance Day, the first-place St. Paul Saints, a minor league baseball team, drew their biggest crowd of the year with a special promotion in Craig's honor: a bobble-foot doll commemorating the bathroom stall at Minneapolis-St.Paul airport. The team website reported, "Saints Have Toe-Tapping Good Time, Win 9-3."

The bobble-foot promotion gave Craig a way to test his market value even beyond the lobbying and book worlds. Scores of Craig bobble-feet are now available on eBay, selling for upwards of $75 apiece. You'd better hurry: Like successful appeals of uncoerced confessions, supplies are limited.

The upcoming memoir may be the last we ever hear from the man, so it's worth asking: What kind of book will Larry Craig write? Consider the possibilities:

  • The Broken Branch: Left to his own devices (never a good idea), Craig seems likely to write an insiders' version of the woe-is-gridlock lament popularized most recently by political scientists Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann. "The thing that's important for someone with my experience to talk about is the state of politics in Washington," Craig said Tuesday. "It's created what I call a extremely dysfunctional, hyperpartisan Senate. We're getting little to nothing done." Craig cites immigration and energy policy. As his agent and editor will surely tell him, this sober approach is not the way for Craig to put his best foot forward. No one wants to read the case for decisive action written by a man who claimed his innocence after pleading guilty and remained in office after promising to quit. Then again, Craig might not be a household word if he had listened to the advice of Ornstein and Mann, who urged members to bring their families to live with them in Washington.
  • The Packwood Diaries: With slight modifications, Craig has modeled his entire Senate career after his friend, former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood. Craig sobbed on the Senate floor the day Packwood resigned. Packwood dug in his heels and remained in office for three years after his sex scandal became public. Craig has done the same, and is only leaving because his term is up. Considering how much Packwood served as his role model, it's possible that Craig tried to emulate another part of the Oregonian's legacy: the Packwood diaries. Packwood kept a meticulous journal of all his exploits, with an eye to history and none on the lookout for satire or federal prosecution. We can only hope Craig has done the same.
  • What Happened: Every publisher is looking for the next Scott McClellan, who told lies for a living but was scared straight after his escape. Craig could play this role with gusto. The pitch: It wasn't his idea to stand up in front of the press time after time and insist he wasn't gay. Karl Rove made him do it, in a deliberate cover-up to protect the Republican brand – and he'll never forgive Rove for it.
  • If I Did It: O.J. Simpson never got to keep a dime of his controversial book, If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. Craig, on the other hand, could hypothesize all the way to the bank. Senators love to write loosely autobiographical fiction. Gary Hart and Bill Cohen wrote The Double Man about a politician who wanted to be president. Barbara Boxer wrote A Time to Runabout a woman who becomes a liberal senator from California. Craig could write a great book about an imaginary conservative senator who happens to be gay. His hypothetical musings would wow the critics and sell like crazy. Besides, what does Craig have to lose? Hinting he did it would be no more an admission of guilt than the misdemeanor plea he was just kidding us about last June. ... 8:48 P.M. (link)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mr. Romney's Neighborhoods: Mitt Romney has a new motto: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. In the past two months, he has transformed himself from John McCain's sharpest critic to one of his most active surrogates. For more than a year, Romney traveled the country talking up his chances of becoming president. Now he coyly downplays any chance of gaining the vice-presidential nod.

On Saturday, we learned of another surprising reversal. In mid-May, the state Supreme Court voted to allow same-sex marriage in California. This weekend, news leaked that Romney has decided to buy a house there. With property in Massachusetts and California as well as New Hampshire and Utah, the crusader who once warned his son that Democrats would usher in same-sex marriage now owns homes in two of the eight jurisdictions on earth that allow it.

Diane Bell of the San Diego Union-Tribune—who began her column Saturday with the immortal words " Mitt Romney is in escrow"—sparked a rush of rumors by asking: "Could Romney be planning to establish residency in California with an eye on the governor's seat? Gov. Schwarzenegger is forced out by term limits in 2010. Stay tuned ..."

If Romney wanted to buy into a slumping market, his timing couldn't be better. San Diego real estate prices are down 18 percent from a year ago, making even La Jolla beachfront a bargain. When Schwarzenegger's term runs out, the California Republican Party will likewise be the political equivalent of a vacant lot.

Romney's staff quickly shot down any Golden State ambitions. A spokesman told the Associated Press, "Governor Romney has been looking at property on the West Coast because he has family in California, and because his wife, Ann, spends a good deal of time there riding horses." The AP noted that son Matt lives in San Diego, "while son Josh lives in Salt Lake City." That's  750 miles away—less than a month's ride on horseback!

Romney spent the weekend at John McCain's Western getaway with other vice-presidential hopefuls. The La Jolla purchase gives him one more advantage over the rest of the field: He now brings the most undisclosed secure locations.

This isn't the first time homeownership has emerged as an important theme for Romney. When he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, he had to amend his tax returns, which showed he had actually been a resident of Utah. His presidential bid made much of his vacation home on Lake Winnipesaukee, but a second home in New Hampshire wasn't enough to save him after he lost the first caucus in Iowa. If Romney had bought a summer place in Cedar Rapids instead, he might be the presumptive nominee today. Then he could have been the one to invite prospective running mates to spend Memorial Day weekend at his home, wherever that might be.

Last week, Mitt launched a new campaign vehicle, Free and Strong America PAC, which is backing candidates like … John McCain. He even has his own blog. While it's a far cry from the Five Brothers Blog, the Mitt blog brings welcome news of how they're doing. Ben is expecting his first child, Craig his second, Josh his fourth. Matt had his fourth a few months ago. Clearly, the Romney boys have put their blogging days behind them.

Remarkably, the Romney plan seems to be working. While housing prices plunge, Mitt vice-presidential futures are soaring. On Tuesday, Romney stock hit its highest price on Intrade in six weeks, moving into first place ahead of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Why the rebound? One of Romney's greatest weaknesses may also be his greatest strength: He's always making up for his last mistake. When Politico asked leading Republicans how to save their party, Romney had the best answer: new ideas, a better agenda, and "a very clear set of principles."

The GOP is in trouble if Mitt Romney is its go-to guy for principle. But if a house on your block is for sale, you have to admit: He'd make a great neighbor. ... 9:53 a.m. (link)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On the Rocks:After years of comparing illegitimacy rates around the world—which were low in Italy, moderate in Germany, and astronomical in the United States—Sen. Pat Moynihan used to joke that out-of-wedlock birth rates increase in direct proportion to distance from the Vatican. Now another member of the New York delegation has gone out of his way to confirm Moynihan's theory. Vito Fossella Jr.'s office is a long way from Rome.

Moynihan offered an even more prescient explanation of Fossella's behavior in his famous essay "Defining Deviancy Down." Citing a sociologist's rationalization that "the number of deviant offenders a community can afford to recognize is likely to remain stable over time," Moynihan feared a vicious cycle of what another New Yorker, Fred Siegel, dubbed "moral deregulation": The more people bend the rules, the further some will go in bending them.

Human weakness may be a renewable resource, but public attention is not—so, no matter how many cads live in the tri-state area, only the most shameless can make the front page of the tabloids. According to the tabloids, Rep. Fossella's troubles began in December 2002, when he fell for Air Force legislative liaison Laura Fay on a junket to Malta. The Daily News marvels that their union could take root on such rocky soil: "Malta is not an obvious place for a love affair to flourish. Not unlike Staten Island, it tends to be a conservative place."

Of course, in those days, so was the House of Representatives. Speaker Dennis Hastert himself led that congressional delegation to Malta. The following summer, Hastert took Fossella and Fay along on another European junket. One person on the trip told the Daily News that the affair became an open secret in Spain, somewhere near the Alhambra. The newspaper claims that "word about the affair spread, and Republican officials soon became concerned, fearing it would be exposed, sources said." The tabloid implies that the Air Force dropped Fay as a legislative liaison because she was a little too good at it.

Obviously, Vito Fossella's personal life is not Dennis Hastert's fault. Perhaps the speaker had his nose in a guidebook or was rereading Washington Irving's classic Tales of the Alhambra. (Unexplored tabloid angle: The namesake for Irving's most famous character, Ichabod Crane, is buried on Staten Island—just like Fossella's political career.) Moreover, once you've accepted the ethics of congressional leaders and Pentagon staffers taking taxpayer-funded fact-finding missions to the tourist capitals of Europe, you don't have to be above the legal blood alcohol limit to have trouble seeing any bright lines.

Still, the leadership's avoidance and denial in this case is eerily similar to the last great House Republican sex scandal, involving former Florida Rep. Mark Foley. A House ethics committee investigation determined that Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, learned of Foley's page problem in 2002 or 2003, the same period as Fossella's budding romance. The House leadership did nothing about it. As the ethics committee report declared, "A pattern of conduct was exhibited among many individuals to remain willfully ignorant."

In time, those years may be remembered as the Era of Willful Ignorance. Mark Foley was busy IMing House pages. Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed were busy e-mailing each other. Tom DeLay was busy hounding the FAA to track down Texas Democratic legislators who had flown to Oklahoma.

Today's New York Postreports that Scott Palmer, the Hastert aide, knew about the Fossella-Fay problem, too. He did something but not about the wayward congressman. Instead, Palmer called the Pentagon and reported Fay for unprofessional behavior. "I lost confidence in her and I'm not going to kid you," Palmer told the Post. "I was also concerned with this other relationship thing. It didn't look like it should."

Five years later, Republicans no doubt wish their leaders had lost confidence in Fossella after the Alhambra instead of waiting for the mistress, love child, and DUI. But as Pat Moynihan warned, there's a limit to the number of ethically deviant members any community can afford to recognize at one time. … 10:52 a.m. (link)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Three's Company:For Democrats who still can't decide between Clinton and Obama, a third candidate has put his name on the ballot in the Idaho primary later this month. Keith Russell Judd is pro-choice, opposes No Child Left Behind, wants to end the war in Iraq, and once bowled a 300 game. There's just one catch: he's an inmate at a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas, and won't get out until 2013.

Two decades ago, Idaho nearly re-elected a congressman who was on his way to prison. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before someone already in prison would see Idaho as a springboard to the White House.

Asked how a federal prisoner could qualify for the ballot, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa told the press, "We got conned." The state recently eliminated the requirement for candidates to gather signatures; now they just need to fill out a form and pay a $1,000 fee. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Keith Judd sent forms and checks to 14 states, but only Idaho put his name on the ballot.

Judd isn't the only out-of-state candidate on the primary ballot. Hal Styles Jr. of Desert Hot Springs, California, who has never been to Idaho, is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. For all the heartache and suffering that Larry Craig has caused the state, his arrest and subsequent humiliation have done wonders for candidate recruitment. Far from frightening people away, Craig has lowered the bar so much that even hardened criminals think they could win there.

Judd's 35-year membership in the NRA might give him an edge with some Idaho voters. But the road from Beaumont to Denver is a tough one. Idaho already selected its delegates in caucuses on Super Tuesday. The May 27 primary is just a beauty contest, and Judd seems to be going for the Willie Nelson look.

Even in a year when come-from-behind victories have become the norm, a come-from-behind-bars campaign requires exceptional resourcefulness. Judd used a Texas newspaper tip line as the phone number for his campaign office, and an IRS line in Ohio as the number for his campaign coordinator. He paid the $1,000 with a U.S. Treasury check drawn on his prison account.

Although no one has contributed to his campaign, Judd diligently files a handwritten FEC report every quarter. The FEC database shows Judd for President with $532,837 in total receipts, $11,285 in total expenditures, and an impressive $387,561 in cash on hand. With more than half a million in receipts, Judd's reported total exceeds that of Mike Gravel, who is practically a household name. The Huckabee and Giuliani campaigns would have done anything to match Judd's figure for cash-on-hand.

Running for president isn't a habit Judd picked up in prison, where he has spent the past decade since being convicted of making threats at the University of New Mexico. He has been running for office his whole life. He ran for mayor of Albuquerque in the early '90s, and tried to run for governor. He sought the presidency in 1996, 2000, and 2004 – when he won 3 write-in votes. He has filed more than 70 FEC reports going all the way back to 1995.

Judd has shown the same persistence in the courts, firing off appeals at a faster clip than Larry Craig. In 1999, after receiving a dozen frivolous cert petitions from Judd, the U.S. Supreme Court barred him from filing any more non-criminal claims unless he paid the required fees. In 2005, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals prepared an order noting that Judd had filed "at least 70 frivolous, duplicative and repetitive actions in this Court." By the time the order was issued, that number had reached 82.

Idaho has a long history of embracing maverick long shots, and Judd's iconoclastic background and platform won't hurt. He passes the Mickey Kaus test on welfare reform but not immigration. He favors eliminating all federal taxes so "the government can operate on its own self produced money." He wants to require gun licensing but let people carry concealed weapons. He says his national security views are "classified," but his Iraq position is "withdraw ASAP and forget it."

Judd plays the bass and bongos, belongs to the ACLU and the NRA, and admires JFK and Nixon. His nicknames are "Mr. President" and "Dark Priest," and his favorite athlete is a professional bowler. Bowling is hardly the rage in Idaho: In a fitting tribute to Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam's famous theory of social alienation, my hometown turned the bowling alley into a self-storage complex. Still, Judd's rivals can only envy his claim to have once bowled a perfect game.

Idaho pundits, who've had their fill of national attention, cringe over Judd's candidacy. "Jailbird Makes Us Look Silly," wrote the Ketchum Idaho Mountain Express. Others around the country note the irony that a felon can run but can't vote. The Illinois State University student newspaper, the Daily Vidette, defended Judd's right to run, but warned voters and party leaders not to support him: "All superdelegates should save their endorsements for candidates with a real shot."

At one particularly low moment of the 1988 campaign, a news crew tracked down Willie Horton and found out that if he weren't behind bars, he would vote for Dukakis. Give Keith Judd credit for passing up the chance to endorse Obama or Clinton, and running against them instead. ... 12:28 a.m. (link)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Running With the Big Dogs: While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama deflected Charlie Gibson's question about running together, last week was a big one for Democrats' other dream ticket: any Republican pairing that includes Mitt Romney. With a well-received cameo at a national press dinner and nods from Great Mentioners like George H.W. Bush and Karl Rove, Mitt is back—and campaigning hard for the No. 2 slot.

When John McCain wrapped up the Republican nomination back in February, the odds against picking Romney looked long indeed. The two spent the entire primary season at each others' throats. Romney trashed McCain over "amnesty" for illegal immigrants; McCain joked that Romney's many flip-flops proved he really was "the candidate of change." Even Rudy Giuliani, not known for making peace, chimed in from Florida that McCain and Romney were "getting kind of nasty," implying that they needed to come chill with him at the beach.

Sure enough, after a little time off, Romney felt better—good enough to begin his vice-presidential audition. He went on Fox to say, "There really are no hard feelings." He interrupted his vacation in Utah to host a fundraiser for McCain. After months of dismissing McCain as a Washington insider, Romney flip-flopped and praised him as a longtime congressional champion of Reaganism. Lest anyone fail to notice, Romney confessed that he would be honored to be McCain's running mate, and practiced ripping into the potential Democratic nominees: "When it comes to national security, John McCain is the big dog, and they are the Chihuahuas."

Of course, any big dog should think twice before agreeing to a long journey with Mitt Romney. The past would not be easy for McCain, Romney, and their staffs and families to overcome. Before New Hampshire, McCain's alter ego, Mark Salter, called Romney "a small-varmint gun totin,' civil rights marching, NRA-endorsed fantasy candidate." After the primaries were over, Josh Romney suggested that the Five Brothers wouldn't be gassing up the Mittmobile for McCain anytime soon: "It's one thing to campaign for my dad, someone whose principles I line up with almost entirely," he told the Deseret News. "I can't say the same thing for Sen. McCain."

For Mitt Romney, that won't be a problem: Any grudge would vanish the instant McCain named him as his running mate. And by the Republican convention in September, Romney's principles will be due for their six-month realignment.

The more difficult question is, What's in it for McCain? Actually, Romney brings more to the ticket than you might think. As in any partnership, the key to happiness between running mates is a healthy division of labor. When Bill Clinton and Al Gore teamed up in 1992, Clinton had spent most of his career on the economy, education, health care, and other domestic issues; Gore was an expert on national security, the environment, and technology. Even the Bush-Cheney pairing made some sense: Bush cared only about squandering the surplus, privatizing Social Security, and running the economy into the ground; Cheney was more interested in hoarding executive power, helping narrow interests, and tarnishing America's image in the world.

So, McCain and Romney are off to a good start: They come from different backgrounds and share no common interests. McCain, a soldier turned senator, prefers national security above all else. As a former businessman and governor, Romney rarely brings up foreign policy—for reasons that sometimes become apparent when he does so. In his concession speech, Romney said he was dropping out to give McCain a united front against Obama, Clinton, and Bin Laden. "In this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror," he said. "We cannot allow the next president of the United States to retreat in the face of evil extremism!!"

For the general election, the McCain campaign must decide what to do with conservative positions it took to win the Republican primaries. Here again, Romney is a godsend: a vice-presidential candidate who'll flip-flop so the nominee doesn't have to. No one can match Romney's experience at changing positions: He has been on both sides of abortion, talked out of both sides of his mouth on same-sex marriage, and been for and against his own health care plan. It's a market-based approach to principle—just the glue Republicans need to expand their coalition. Moderates might assume Romney was only pretending to be conservative, and conservatives will thank him for trying.

Straight talk is all well and good for presidential candidates. But as Dick Cheney demonstrated, the job of a Republican vice-presidential candidate is quite the opposite—keeping a straight face while saying things that couldn't possibly be true. Take the economy, for example. McCain gets visibly uncomfortable whenever he ventures beyond fiscal conservatism. Romney is more flexible. In an interview with National Journallast week, he had no trouble contending that corporate tax cuts help the middle class. He spent the primaries warning that the United States was on a slippery slope to becoming the next France. Now he's perfectly happy to argue that we have to cut corporate taxes to keep companies from moving to France.

In his surprise appearance at the Radio & Television Correspondents dinner in Washington last week, Romney showed another virtue that makes him perfect for the role—a vice-presidential temperament. With his "Top 10 Reasons for Dropping Out," he proved that he is ready to poke fun at himself on Day 1.

A vice president needs to be good at self-deprecation, yet not so skilled that he outshines the boss. By that standard, Romney's audition was perfect: He chose good material ("There weren't as many Osmonds as I had thought"; "As a lifelong hunter, I didn't want to miss the start of varmint season") and delivered it just awkwardly enough to leave the audience wondering whether to laugh or feel slightly uncomfortable.

After watching him up close in the primaries, Team McCain no doubt harbors real reservations about Romney. Some conservatives distrust him so much, they're running full-page ads that say, "NO Mitt." A Google search of John McCain, Mitt Romney, and food taster produces more than 100 entries.

But looking ahead to a tense fall campaign, McCain should put those concerns aside and listen to voices from across the spectrum. This could be the issue that unites the country across party lines. Democrats like a little fun at Mitt Romney's expense. The McCain camp does, too—perhaps more so. And after last week, we know that—ever the good sport—even Romney's all for it. ... 2:14 p.m. (link)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Twist and Shout:When the news broke last August that Larry Craig had been arrested in a restroom sex sting, he had a ready answer: The Idaho Statesman made him do it. He claimed that the Statesman's monthslong investigation into whether he was gay made him panic and plead guilty. Otherwise, he said, he feared that what happened in Minneapolis might not stay in Minneapolis, and the Statesman would make sure the voters of Idaho found out.

Craig's jihad against the Statesman didn't go over too well in Idaho, where people are more likely to read the newspap