Here's an update on the Hurricane Charley aftermath. I'm on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, east of Orlando where so much damage was done, and the other side of the state from where the hurricane first made landfall. It was the worst hurricane we've seen in this part of Florida in 44 years, bad enough to be noteworthy.

The town is full of electrical contractors from other states, working on the restoration of power. Most people have power back, but not all. I've seen license plates on electrical and other service vehicles from Georgia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, to name a few.

Some of these are tree expert trucks, some are vans with a ladder on the roof and the name of an national insurance company on the door. These last are driven by adjustors who are here to settle claims; if the damage is not too great and the insuree agrees, a check will be written on the site once the adjustor has clambered up to view the damage on a roof.

I went to my bank during lunch hour today to roll a CD. When I asked about rates the agent reached under her blotter and extracted a spreadsheet in a plastic sleeve.

"We have a special offer that just came out," she said in a voice just above a whisper. "I can give you 2% on a 5-month CD, and you can close it out at any time after seven days with no penalty for early withdrawal".

I asked her "how come?".

"Many people are getting insurance settlements and they might not be spending the money right away", she told me. "Maybe they are going to shop around first before they buy a new car or whatever."

Yeah. Or maybe they are going to move back "up North" before there is any more crazy weather. Still, the CD is a good deal, considering interest rates today. If you've a pile of spare cash you're not planning to use for a couple of months, get in touch.

Today was the third day of my new job, bottling sake on a bottling line at a place called SakeOne. Eight hour days, minimum wage, oh well. There'll be better things, right?

Anyway, normally I carpool with my friend, but he's in Seattle on vacation for the next four days, so I had to take the bus to work. No big deal, hop the transit line, get on the bus, then walk from the bus stop to work. Simple, right?

Well, somebody hates me. About three-quarters of the way to work, the bus driver pulls the bus over, comes back to me, and says...

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the bus."

What the hell?! "Um... why?"

"I'm just going to have to ask you to leave the bus, sir."

That's it. No explanation, no goodbye, nothing. I wasn't even doing anything! I was sitting in my seat, waiting for my stop, minding my own business. It was like 6am, so I was very tired and not quite awake.

I walked three miles to work today. In the rain. Who ever said life was fair?


Update 8/25/04: I took the bus again today. Had the same bus driver. Wore the same jacket, same pants. He didn't say a word. I don't understand at all..

Just as a disclaimer side note: This is my first day log, and I don't frequently read them, so I'm not quite sure what passes as too much GTKY material, feel free to tell me that this sucks and not to do it anymore.

As I sit here in an airport terminal I start to think of how four years of blissful (oh wait, not exactly) high school has passed me by. And then I think of what's next. And then I get rather scared, because my college is over 1000 miles from home at the University of Puget Sound. My mom cannot possibly "run up and do my laundry" I don't have that option. So I start my packing.


Damn I had no idea I had so many clothes. More t-shirts than I would ever need, stuff that was given to me years ago and I've grown so attached to it that I have not even thought about throwing it away. Besides, what is a few tears and a stretched collar, it was from the Aquabats show that I saw when I was ten, IT’S NOSTALGIC! Anyhow, I've learn to part, and actually have found that the only shirts I've really kept are my groupie band shirts from of all the local shows I've seen in the past few. And then I move on to all the dress clothes which I don't know even fit anymore. Do I really need dressy clothes for college life, am I gonna want to put on a suit to go to a killer frat party? So I've decided to ditch all but two sets of nice shirts, slacks, and shoes. Time to move on.


What to choose? As a long-time computer parts collector (aka geek) I have way too much shit to bring with me, I no longer will have room for the multiple network cards, keyboards, and mice, they will have to collect dust in my room. I've decided to bring my bitchin' IBM ThinkPad T42 as well as my Dell desktop, although I know that it will just become an internet radio hub as it has no real use for class notes. Also, I am bringing my component speaker system just in case my music taste matches that of my roommate, cause you know it would be absolutely bitchin' to rock out in my little crib.


Now this is where graduation really pulled through, my mom's friend bought me this huge tub filled with munch food and school supplies. It was amazingly thoughtful, and she even bought me a pack of condoms, cause you know, I'm such a super playa. Although some of the food has had to be eaten lest it went bad there is still alot of gummy bears and ramen packets left for the first few weeks.


These are not exactly essential, but for not bringing a car they will be quite helpful transportation tools. My skateboard, of course, so I can show all the ladies my amazing skillz. My fairly new Gary Fisher Mamba mountain bike, so I can be like Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite, word. The Snowboard for kickin' it in the mountains, if I can ever get a ride up to them. And I am still on debate with myself on whether or not to bring my mountainboard, because it's large and I might not even end up using it that often, it's not exactly something you do alone. And as much as I want to bring my pretty pink rolla skates I think they will have to stay with my pipe, bong, and playboy mags, hidden away in my closet for later meetings.

Damn alright, so this Butterfinger Mcflurry is being eaten right across from me in the terminal, I think I'm gonna go get me one. Peace out.

Having the photographic memory that I do, there is one experience (technically it happened yesterday on the 24th) that I don't think I will ever forget for a long time, on several different levels.

I was out delivering pizza in one neighborhood, and there was a car travelling ahead of me. The car ahead of me passed a squirrel that was beginning to cross the street. About 1/3 of the length that I was behind the first car, the squirrel had entered the lane I was travelling in. As the squirrel came into clearer focus, I noticed that instead of having it's bushy tail straight out to go faster, below the tail I saw what looked like another tail as it tore across the street to evade my oncoming wheels.

Sure enough, when I got out, I could see where I had driven through the 'track' that the squirrel left, as evidenced on my tires. A couple of things occured to me after that. Maybe the urge to 'evacuate' on the spot in the face of danger is one of the most primal instincts in survival mode. The loss of the extra 'baggage' perhaps made the squirrel lighter and gain more speed..


That squirrel was trying to get some extra forward thrust with the explosive diarrhea it had, kind of like a rocket engine.

Today U.S. British and some Iraqi soldiers surround the Imam Ali Shrine in the old city of Najaf. M-1 Abrams tanks point their fearsome 120mm cannon at the golden domed building. Gunships circle overhead. Inside a number of Shi'ite fighters stare back behind sandbagged walls, finding Allah in the cool comfort of a rocket propelled grenade launcher. Black smoke from burning buildings clouds the sky. The followers of Moqtada al-Sadr take comfort from the blessed walls around them.

The Shrine of Imam Ali is one of the holiest shrines in all Islam, perhaps holiest among Shi'ites. It is revered among Sunni, for Ali is often regarded as one of the earliest caliphs, the leaders who took control of Islam after Muhammad’s death and began a military conquest that took Turkey, the Transcaucauses, the Balkans, North Africa, parts of India, and southern Spain. The faith was spred by the sword. While Muslims still live in most of those areas, Islam today is in no position to conquer anyone. Islamic states feature governments are generally incompetent or corrupt when they are not brutal. Tiny Israel forced its way into the region, and defeated Islamic states that once enjoyed a great name. Today it is American and British troops who occupy Muslim lands. Granted they deposed a horrid leader in Saddam Hussein, but they are not Iraqis, but secular Westerners. Infidels.

Many Muslims look back toward those days as the glory days. Today is not good. Western ideologies like socialism have been tried (Egypt, Syria, Libya, former Soviet republics). Democracies have proven corrupt (Syria, Algeria) and unable to uplift the populace. Civil war is the rule. To many the past is where they must go, to seek again the purity of faith and purpose that will return the days when they were great and Westerners came to their doors to seek terms.

The Imam Ali Shrine bears particular significance. Ali claimed the caliphate as the true descendent of his father-in-law Muhammad. Ali spoke for the ascetic Bedouin soldiers, who had fought hard for Islam, but received little under Uthman. Ali became their spokesman. This led to a civil struggle where Uthman was besieged at Medina, and slain by a descendent of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. Ali was then named caliph.

Uthman’s supporters did not sit idle. The enlisted the support of one of Muhammad's widows, Aisha, but were defeated in battle near Basra. But Muawiyah would not let Uthmann’s death lie, and vowed revenge. His forces fought Ali at the battle of Siffin. They did not do well, and sought arbitration. The mere act of accepting arbitration led one of Ali's most fanatical allies, the Kharajites to abandon his side, for they believed that arbitration placed man's law over that of God.

That enraged Ali, and when his appeal for their return was refused, he massacred many. The death of so many pious Muslims led to more desertions from Ali’s side. He was forced to withdraw to Kufah.

The open battle inside Islam led to a conference of Islamic leaders. They decided the best course was to reject both Ali and Muawiyah. They chose abd'Allah to replace them, but could not enforce their will. While they struggled, a Kharajite murdered Ali in the new Mosque of Sufah, in 661. Ali’s son Hasan renounced the caliphate, but soon died,. Many Shia believe that Muawiyah poisoned Hassan, though there is no proof.

The murder of Ali led many of his followers to band together again, and from them comes the Shi’ism. Muawiyah was declared caliph. Unlike Hasan, Ali's son Husayn refused to swear fealty. Nineteen years after Ali’s murder Husayn and his followers were massacred at Kerbala, an event Shi'ites still remember today through self-mortification.

The golden dome of Najaf houses the tomb of Ali himself, fourth Caliph. The cemeteries currently under attack and occupied by tanks occupy a route Muslims believe was walked by Abraham himself, along with his son Isaac. They say that Abraham himself predicted the construction of the Mosque, and that while he was there the earthquakes were calmed. The name itself descends from Noah. It means dried river and comes from the river created when God smote the moutain Noah waited upon, watching rather than boarding the Ark. This is not merely a tomb, but a place of pilgramage and beauty for all Muslims, and particularly the Shi'ites. They claim it is possible to feel Ali's presence whenever they are in the shrine.

This is why the forces of Moqtada Sadr occupy it today. The tradition of sanctuary is well honored in the world today. By taking refuge in the mosque they may seek sanctuary.

But only if they forsake the gun. They may not hide out there while the heat is on, emerge to fight, then duck back inside. They may not fire from inside the Mosque, store weapons there, or use it as a base. The Geneva conventions are quite specific on this. Religious buildings are to be protected. Using them as a fighting position and base strips away that protected status. The US and its allies now enjoy the legal right to simply level the place. No doubt many of the besiegers would like to do just that and go home.

Moqtada Sadr knew this when he sent his troops inside. He is Iran’s man in southern Iraq. The theocratic government of Iran has grown increasingly unpopular as reality has exposed the mullahs inability to provide for their people, and the oppressive nature of their regime. Iran is running from fundamentalism as fast as possible. The mullahs would like nothing more than to provoke another crisis with the US they can use to rally the faithful behind them. All the better that someone else should do the fighting and dying. All the better that it should be in Iraq.

They also hate America with a passion second only to bin-Laden. Ali may be a controversial figure in Islam, but he was a caliph, and revered by all Muslims. Desecrating his grave will strike at the heart of all Muslims, and will make many enemies.

Of course Sadr and his Mahdi army are unlikely to die just to make Iran’s mullahs happy. But martyrdom enjoys great respect within the Shi’ite tradition. Kerballah is remembered by shi’ite men who run through the streets beating themselves, drawing their own blood in sympathy with Husayn. Ali and his descendents are known as Imams in the Shi’ite tradition. The particular sect common to Iran and southern Iraq is known as 12er Shi’ism, because they revere 12 Imams. The 12th Imam was named al-Mahdi. He disappeared in Samarra. 12ers say he did not die, but entered into a state of "occultation’ and will emerge at the proper time. Moqtada Sadr did not name his militia the "Mahdi Army’' by sheer chance. His father was murdered. It seems likely that he shares the fanatics taste for martyrdom. Perhaps he sees a bit of Husayn in himself. If his death inflames the Islamic world against America, he may regard death a fine bargain.

The men in the tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles outside know all this. Soldiers are not stupid. The average field grade officer (Major and up) has at least one advanced degree, often in such related disciplines as political science, history or economics. Why do you think they hesistate, and try to put a half-trained Iraqi force up front?

They also know that the most careful assault on the Shrine will damage it. The more firepower they use, the greater the damage. Conventional military doctrine calls for using a lot of firepower. Using troops and light weapons might prevent major damage, but giving up their firepower superiority means accepting higher casualties. Their troops will die in greater numbers, and they are the people who will have to write letters to grieving widows and parents.They will have to comfort the wounded and maimed they call friends. They might be lost for nothing. Will the Islamic world be significantly less inflamed by a badly damaged mosque as opposed to a hole in the ground? And what if Sadr himself demolishes the place, like the Branch Davidians did to their compound in Waco, Texas? Will the Islamic world believe American denials? Do they believe anything we say these days?

This is the sort of dilemma occupation duty often places a country in to. The Islamic world will not understand the legal right of the US to damage, much less destroy their shrine. They see their own fighters as so weak, the US so powerful an oppressor that many will see Sadr’s use of the Shrine as nothing more than a slight leveling of totally unbalanced scales. Perhaps the return of Ali Sistani from the hospital will provide for an alternative. Certainly he enjoys a stature Sadr can only aspire too. He may be able to force a solution. Or delay the day of reckoning. That’s what happened last time Sadr’s people accepted a cease fire. They used that time to restock and rearm.

But Sistani cannot abolish the Mahdi Army or turn Sadr over to Iraqi authorities. He does not have that power. The men who fought and their families will remember their fallen, and their anger will not dim. Sistani is old and frail. Sooner or later the forces of Moqtada Sadr will re-enter the golden shrine.

It will be déjà vu all over again.

Update: By the summer of the 2007 the mosque has been all but destroyed, not at the hand of U.S. soldiers, but due to two bombings by Sunni extremists, probably inspired by al Quaeda. The bombings were quite successful, as they touched off a sectarian civil war

Here we are driving the six miles to my husband's parent's house in the middle of a frightening thunderstorm and to our bewilderment we look to our left and see a magnificent rainbow with its vibrant colors.  They were so illuminated and close that it felt like we could just reach out and touch them.  We could also see both ends, the entire arch of the rainbow, and the reflection off of it that made it look like a double rainbow.  Oh, what a sight to see.  This is the second time this year during a terrible storm that we have seen the sun shine through and show us a brilliant rainbow.  I have never seen one like them in my 36 years of life.  It was at that moment that we both looked at each other and said "I wish we had the camera"!

After our splendid ride to town, we end up being locked out of the house because my 81 year old father-in-law is in the hospital due to a tumor in his bladder.  He has several other health problems but this just happens to be the one containing him in the hospital at this time.  We have a key, but my husband forgot to put it on his keychain.  The reason he didn't have it on his keychain to begin with is that my 13 year old son was here for 2 months this summer and we went to Bluff Falls Water Park.  My husband wanted to avoid the act of losing any valuables such as keys, so, he had the very least amount of keys and money he could carry to avoid error.

So, my husband goes next door to borrow the phone and call his brother to come and let us in the house.  After he returned, we decided to sit on the front porch of my in-law's house amongst all of their beautiful flowers that they have suffered over all spring and summer to keep growing.  We sat there and behold, a hummingbird flies right by our heads and lands on the hummingbird feeder, then decides to sit quietly on a branch nearby, only to return moments later to the feeder.  It was a nice 74 degrees and cloudy due to the storm but the storm had subsided and evening was near.

Eventually my brother-in-law arrived and we entered the house to get the printer that had been delivered that day for us.  On our travel home, darkness appeared and the rainbow and storm had passed.  I felt a sense of sadness that the rainbow was gone, however, the thought of the storm passing and being almost to the comforts of home made me happy.  I can't imagine a more frustrating yet delightful way of spending an evening.

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