Confessions of a sanctimonious know-it-all self-righteous asshole

I really am awful. I'm a holier-than-thou bitch. I know more about what you should and shouldn't do than you do. And I'll be happy to tell you all about it. It doesn't matter what the subject is, I have the answer, you don't. Here's an example: When I was part of the Cof$ (Church of $cientology), I thought anyone who wasn't part of it was an imbecile, too stupid to be bothered with. Now that the bubble has burst and I am free to see the scam, I think anyone still "in" is a stupid, brainwashed, numbnuts who deserves what they get (being scammed by a cunning, money-grubbing cult). I was aware of those feelings, each in their turn. I knew when I was "in" that other $cientologists felt the same way -- it was common to put down "wogs" (the word used by $cnists for unenlightened commoners) and pity them for their ignorance. I was especially good at it. Now that I'm "out," I feel no compunction about my distaste for people who still practice $cn. In my defense, I will say that I feel sorry for the people I knew well and had friendships with. I'm sorry they haven't seen the light and are still giving their hard-earned money (and it's not like they have lots of it) to those thieves.

I'm pretty much always on my soap-box. And my realization today was that it's getting really old. Who do I think I am? I act like I'm the only concerned, intelligent, informed human being on the planet, the only one who's trying to save everyone else. What makes it so much worse is that I smoked for nearly 50 years. sigh. And there wasn't one sanctimonious holier-than-thou asshole telling me to quit. It's an epiphany. I can relax. The world will do whatever it's going to do. sigh. This will take some getting used to.

What do other people do who feel strongly about something? Like the environment, or government interference, or Catholic priests buggering little boys? What do they do? Sit quietly chewing their fingernails? Try to effect change? And if they're trying to effect change, don't they need to get on a soap-box at least a little bit? Hmm. sigh. I obviously need to do some research. I welcome your advice.



November 30th, 1952, these babies were born. They are Leslie and Gilbert -- the twins, as they came to be known in our family. I think Leslie is the one on the right. Have you heard those stories about twins, how they have some sort of creepy connection, always know where the other one is? Yeah, they had that.

They were wonderful, scrappy kids, loved to be outside, played hard, and were pretty much inseparable. See how Les looks tan and Gil looks kind of pasty? He had red hair and very fair skin. She was brunette and olive-skinned.

Ah, adolescence. She was smart and really good in school; he was rebellious and dropped out. He joined the Navy; she went to college. He smoked and drank; she abstained from alcohol and cigarettes.

None of those differences mattered. They were always close. No matter where in the world they were, they were together in that way twins are. Gil grew up still rebellious; Les was one of the first women graduated from the Border Patrol Academy. It's odd how they seemed to be two sides of one coin.

After our mother died, I lost touch with both of them. We were just too separate by that time. Our family had never fostered closeness and what little there was came from my mom insisting we get together at her house for the holidays.

The years flew by, Les and Gil remained close, helping each other with whatever came along. This is Gil's wedding day. Les and her son traveled from South Carolina to Arizona to be with him on his special day.

Gil was an accomplished explorer, hunter, and all around frontiersman. He knew about the animals, the plants, the soil, the wind and the water. He lived in Arizona his whole life (except for his brief stint in the Navy -- I don't know where he was besides San Diego). His marriage didn't last a very long time and he didn't re-marry.

Les worked for the government her whole working life -- Border Patrol, Bureau of Land Management, US Attorney's office in the District of South Carolina and other such outfits. A few years ago, she volunteered to go to Baghdad to help with accounting. She was there about nine months. While she was there, she got to go "out" several times (she was civilian, not part of the military presence). Here she is with her husband Tim in Germany.

Her stories of her time in Iraq are hair-raising to say the least. We worried. She was good about sending emails regularly. Imagine, 110 degrees and wearing body armor. Like I said, her stories are incredible -- that's for a different blog.

Les and Tim recently went to Africa. They went on safari (the photography kind, no guns) and visited some Masai villages as part of their work for their church. The Masai children were fascinated with her white hair and couldn't resist touching it.

A year ago Gil called Les for help one last time. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer and would be undergoing chemotherapy. Leslie went to Phoenix so she could care for him through the ordeal. On November 20 he died in her arms. Gil lived in Phoenix, but he had this house in Crown King for getting away from the city. Les and Tim will finish the work that needs to be done on it.

I've been thinking about what she lost when Gil died.

I can't imagine my sister's pain.


Florida stories: 4, 3, 2, 1......

Wow. Kennedy Space Center. Wow.

We've lived in Florida more than two years and hadn't been to visit this incredible place. I guess that's always the way. The things that tourists come to see, the residents never go to see. We don't like touristy kinds of things, so that was part of it. But we're both big fans of extreme technology, so we really had to visit it before we book out of Florida. (You might have noticed a few disparaging remarks about Florida in the blog. Don't get me started. I could rant for days.)

This is the tourist Kim visiting the Kennedy Space Center. We stayed away from the super touristy things, like the IMAX theatre. We wanted to see the history of the space program, the old rocket ships, stuff like that.

We were hoping we'd get to go into the Vehicle Assembly Building. It's a truly amazing building. It's 23 stories high and covers 8 acres. This is where the orbiter gets mated to the massive fuel tank (plus the two booster rockets). All four pieces are the shuttle, not just the one piece that looks like a plane. But, no. There might have been a time when ordinary visitors were allowed in there, but not now. I think there's a scene in Apollo 13 where tourists are in that building.

There are launches coming up. That's very exciting and we would really really really like to see one. Maybe we'll make the two hour drive and take our chances on getting a spot from which to watch. This is the orbiter Atlantis (the white part that looks like a plane). It's sitting on the pad waiting. The launch is scheduled for December 6th. This will be the Atlantis' eighth visit to the International Space Station. The mission is called STS-122 and you can find out about it and the crew here. This photo is from the NASA site, we did NOT get that close.

As I said, we didn't get very close to the launch pad, but this shows a bit of the layout. Way over there is the shuttle on launch pad 39A. See the lighter square in the bottom left of the photo? That's to call attention to the crawlerway. What incredible technology. Looks like a gravel road, right? Well, that 'road' is 7' deep. It has to support the weight of the crawler-transporter plus the shuttle.

This is another unbelievable invention. This is the crawler-transporter. It weighs 6 million pounds. Yup, 6 million. And the shuttle on top of it weighs another 4.5 million pounds. Do the math. The crawlerway has to stay put while this behemoth rolls from the VAB to the launch pad. It takes about 8 hours. This is also one of NASA's photos.

It's always been a bit hard for me to understand that when NASA throws something up into space, there are two very different places where it's happening. There's all the stuff that happens to get the shuttle put together, taken out to the pad and then actually launched into space. That's the part that Kennedy Space Center is all about. Then there's Mission Control, as in "Houston, we have a problem." So there's this huge crowd of people in Florida and this other huge crowd in Texas and somehow (you can look it up on the NASA site, I've given you the links) they get the rocket or shuttle or mission or whatever it is up and back. Amazing. This is a re-creation, using the original consoles, of the control room at Kennedy Space Center that was used for the Apollo missions.

Here's tourist Kim again, happy and excited to be standing under the massive engines of the Saturn V rocket, the same rocket that was used in the Apollo missions.

Rocket engine. Umm. What can I say? It's really huge and incredibly powerful and more than that you'll have to investigate on your own.

We looked around the International Space Station Processing Facility. There actually were things in this place waiting to go out to the Space Station. Remarkable. This is the famous Canada Arm. Meet the Canadian who manages the Canada Space Station Program. He knows a lot about the Arm.

There were work and habitat modules that you could walk through. Very cool. You have to be a total organization freak to even think about spending time in one of those things. And you obviously better not be claustrophobic. This is a wardroom. That means bedroom on a ship. The zipper bag is the bed. Gnarly.

Here's more of the equipment awaiting transport to the ISS. JAXA is Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. So the deal is, countries that have stuff that needs to go to the ISS bring that stuff here and then it gets scheduled and goes up. This is like visiting another planet. Know what I mean? So alien. So not everyday.

This is the Rocket Garden. It was fun standing next to real rocket ships. This is no attraction by the highway on your way across the country. No sirree. This is the real deal. And extremely awe inspiring.

By the end of the day, tourist Kim had really seen enough and read enough little explanation signs. A cup of coffee was needed before the long drive home. It was a lovely day.


Florida stories: Bad colors

There are colors that just simply should never be used on the outside of houses. In my opinion, of course. It's just wrong to paint a house pink.

Or yellow with dark purple (maybe it's dark blue) trim. I'm sure some folks would say it makes sense to use these colors because they're the colors of their favorite team. Of course. What was I thinking?

I also believe that lime green is a bad color for a house. Maybe you could get away with just a small bit of this color somewhere on the outside, but I'm thinking, why would you want to?

Here's another dark yellow one. What is it with these obscene colors? Why would anyone choose this for their house? Of course, in my humble opinion, the answer is: This is Florida.


Why I quit smoking

  1. So I can breathe.
  2. So I don't stink.
  3. Better health overall: circulation is improved, teeth and gums are healthier, less toxins traveling through my entire body (and goodness knows I don't eat enough foods high in anti-oxidants).
  4. No cigarette butts to worry about when I'm out (even though my sweet husband keeps buying me portable ashtrays).
  5. So our house doesn't stink. When we lived in San Diego, I only smoked outside. Here in Florida I had been smoking inside. Yuck.
  6. No ashtrays to clean.
  7. Save $$.
  8. To impress people.
  9. So my clothes don't stink.
  10. To prove that I could do it.


I'd like you to meet Allison

This is the story of Allison. She's really amazing. I've thought so since the first moment I saw her. She's always smiling. She just smiles and smiles and smiles. If smiles were money I'd be so rich.

Okay, maybe she didn't smile every single moment, maybe she cried once in a while, maybe she pouted once when she was upset about not getting another cookie. But honestly, she just was such a happy baby and a happy child. At least that's what it looked like to me.

She wanted to learn ballet, so she studied at a studio run by a graduate of the Royal Academy of Ballet Teacher program. It was a very good program -- an inspector came from the Academy once a year and held examinations. Sometimes the teacher would spend too much time correcting a particular student and the rest of the class would drift off. It was fun watching the classes. It takes a really special person to teach little girls that age.

A bit later Allison tried cheerleading for Pop Warner football. Neither one of us liked that very much. The football coaches were awful -- they encouraged violence and dangerous risks. The cheerleading coaches were just as bad. The cheers were horribly sexist and made the girls look ridiculous. Allison caught on by herself and decided she wanted to play soccer. Now that's what I'm talking about.

She also played the flute and loved to be in stage plays. She even majored in Drama for a while at San Diego State. She lost interest in that eventually and graduated with a degree in Psychology. Allison decided that San Diego was too small and moved to New York. That was a tough one. I worried -- needlessly -- for months. Such images I had! But I'd forgotten that smile, that amazing immediately-melt-you smile. She dazzled everyone she met. (That, of course, is a mother talking. She would have a very different version if you asked her to tell you about it. But I'm the one telling this story. So there.)

She had a few boyfriends in the first couple years she was there. And then she met Carl. Carl. He smiles a lot too. And it's a great smile. You wouldn't know it from this picture. This is them playing footsie.

So Allison and Carl fell in love and now they smile all over the world, starting in Central Park.

And San Diego....

And Jamaica...

And St. Martin...

And Rio....

And Sao Paolo.... (oops, where's Carl?)

And Germany....(for the World Cup)

And Montevideo...

And Seattle....

And Napa...

Aren't they lovely together? Where will they smile next? I'll keep you posted.