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Archive for March, 2011

Life, Liberty and Self Defense in the Fast Lane

 

I usually like to keep my promises.  For example, if I say that I am going to buy a jar of pickles, then I go out and buy a jar of pickles.  It may because I have the eldest child syndrome.  It may be because I’m craving pickles.  I don’t know.  I try to lead a simple life and not analyze anything too much.   

I know I promised myself, and maybe one or two of you out there, that I’d never write about pepper spray again.  But I have to.  If Scarlett Johansson can cut an album in the name of artistic pursuit, then I can venture off into uncharted territory, too. 

The last recorded incident is when pepper may have saved the life of my dogs on a walk when a pit bull, whose intentions I wasn’t interested in learning about, approached us.  The mutt crossed against traffic; I reached for peps and let her rip. 

And that got me to thinking about a self-defense system I tried called Krav Maga, but they made me stay in level one too long, and I quit.  So today, I am here to debate which is better, Krav Maga or giving someone a snoot full with pepper spray.  Some of the pros and cons are below.    

Measuring Success.   

It is easier to succeed with pepper.  All you have to do is press a button and voila.  It is so easy to use that even a German shepherd could use it and trot away happy. 

In Krav you have to get the instructor’s approval before moving from one level to the next.  No matter what, they wouldn’t promote me.  Maybe I knew there was trouble when they started laughing during one of my maneuvers. 

Hold on Reality: 

Much as I would have been able to had I been drugged, drunk, out of my mind or all three, I would never have been able to put that pit bull in a headlock or a half nelson.  He just wouldn’t have understood.  With pepper, you don’t run the risk of having to perform like Chuck Norris or Jackie Chan.   

On the other hand, it’s true that Krav is better if someone or something comes up behind you.  You then address the threat and wiggle, elbow and bite your way to freedom.  Pepper only works if you see someone on the front or side of you, depending on how good your peripheral vision is.  Then you give them a snoot full.   

Injuries: 

Injuries are part of the deal in Krav Maga. 

In pepper about the only occupational hazard is when the wind starts blowing in the wrong direction, and the spray gets in your eyes, mouth or nasal passages and causes a whopper of pain. 

Cost: 

Pepper is cheaper.  For what you pay for a year full of Krav Maga, you could buy some cases of pepper plus stock in the company.

So there you have it, life liberty and self defense in the fast lane.

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Another Pepper Spray Miracle

 

I promised myself, and maybe you, that I wouldn’t write another word about that wondrous device, pepper spray.  Well, I am going to have to break that promise because something miraculous has happened. 

Blessings of all blessings and hallelujah, I was ready for another near-emergency situation.  Dogs can be wondrous, loving creatures, but let’s not mince any words here.  They can also be trouble magnets both in and out of the house.  In fact, about the only time they aren’t trouble is when they are sleeping.   

Mine, who I have mentioned before in other pepper spray related articles, and whose names are Bitsy Boo and Mookie Moo, have gotten me in trouble several times since I brought them home from the shelter.  My partial tally includes: 

1.)    Damage to my bedroom carpet when one of them used it as a cesspool.  And the cost to repair the tears after I locked what I thought was the more docile one in to let her stitches heal after surgery.  (I forgot that looks can be deceiving.)  Cost:  $240.00, including tips. 

2.)    Missing socks, undergarments, pencils, erasers and a squashed bluetooth.  Cost:  $175.89, including the vet’s visit about the bluetooth.

3.)    A hole chewed into the rear end of some sweatpants. Cost:  $21.65, including tax.

4.)    Vet bills for all those allergies.  I lost count.

5.)    Hostile and unfriendly neighbors who thought I allowed said canines’ deposits to sit on their lawns.  Cost:  $ 22.50 for pepper spray and aspirin.     

But it was # 5, one of those unseemly neighbors, who caused me to go out and buy some pepper spray.  I could kiss him, if he wasn’t so tightly wound. 

Weeks after he had stopped keeping sentry duty outside his house, I was taking Bitsy and Mookie out for an afternoon stroll down another street when a pit bull approached us.  Now, I may be an animal lover, but I am not a naive or uninformed one.  I go on the Internet.  I read the news.  I’ve seen Animal Planet, and I know that pit bulls are not known for being helpful or docile, which is probably why you never see them as service dogs.  Besides, regardless of what people say about their bad PR being about their training, no one ever hears about a killer cocker spaniel or a killer collie.  Besides, I wasn’t about to test out any bleeding-heart theories with my dogs. 

Upon approach, I told that dog to bugger off, but it wouldn’t listen.  So I reached for pepper and let her rip while it crossed the street and ran off.   

I then called 911, but they weren’t about to send out a squad car over a roving dog no matter what.  I’d asked them before, and they didn’t do it then, and they weren’t going to do it now unless it contained one of their K-9 dogs.  They did, however, call animal control for me.  Meanwhile, and this is the best  part, a few people stopped and asked me if I needed any help, and they stayed until I assured them that everything was all right.  Bless them all.   

Aside from being pepper spray ready and staying away from that  neighbor on sentry duty, this may be the finest lesson of all, that people in this teeming metropolis might not be as out there as I presumed.

The Light at the End of that @#$$!! Tunnel

This economy is like a virus.  First, everyone else was catching it, and now it’s made its way to my house, my space, my bank account and the very crux of my very blogging being.

When I retired several weeks ago after years of indentured servitude in a school district, I thought I had everything in order.   Scratch that.  I only had some things in order. 

It turns out there were holes in my plans the size of the Federal Reserve.  And that is that even with a retirement professional, I added when I should have subtracted, lost a decimal or two somewhere and everything spun arund and turned black.

So I now have to join the hoards and look for a job, a job, and after all these years!  So let me tell you what I have discovered in my forty-eight hours of being a job hunter.  What they say is true.  It ain’t so easy.

My first step was doing what those career gurus tell you to do in career books – network.  So I called, texted or emailed everyone I know, ever have  known and who I saw on Facebook, which all led to the perfunctory, “I’ll keep you in mind.” 

Then, against said gurus’ better advice, I went on the Internet and began typing in sites like crazy.  Certain things like like munitions plants, nuclear energy and heating and air conditioning supply stores, or anything where I could drop a heave piece of machinery on my foot. were exempt. 

Otherwise, it was an open field.   

Sears has openings, for anyone interested.  So does Bed, Bath and Beyond, Nordstrom and Macy’s.  Fresh and Easy, you can forget.  Either that, or I couldn’t navigate my way through their site. 

I also soldiered on down to an employment agency and learned that I know my grammar, can sort of file but am a lousy typist and that a tomato could absorb more in the computer department.   

Although the career honchos frown on it, I also went through the help wanted ads and found what looked like a real peach of a job and sent an email.  Bupkes.  I called the company, and the receptionist told me to send another one.  This time, I got an email back asking about my experience in that field.  So we were making progress.  Though he never wrote back, so we weren’t making progress.  It’s been the same with a lot of them.  Next, I am thinking about climbing up the ledge, hanging on by my fingernails and looking through the window and begging for an interview, although I don’t want to look too intrusive. 

The only things that help are my mother, who keeps talking about fate and such, and a friend who sent me an email about Colonel Sanders’ recipes being rejected the first 1,000 times until 1,001 hit and became the chicken that laid the golden egg. Those people and networking.  Network like crazy.  I asked a neighbor where she works, and she told me to check out the website from her company.   

Who knows?  There may be a light at the end of the tunnel.  There always is.  It’s just getting through the damned tunnel.

Me Tarzan, You Jane. Oh, Boy

 There are all sorts of books about dating and relationship advice.  Some, like the “Rules,” advise women to play hard to get, though the authors got divorced, so what do they know?  Others say to drop the coy act and be like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.  One even advised people to talk about their feelings and preface everything by saying, “I’m going to tell you how I’m feeling.”  Is it any wonder that there are so many dinners for one?    

Years ago, I went out with a male type from the “I’m going to tell you about my feelings” school of thought.  Unfortunately, I made the faux pas of being twenty minutes late for our first (and last) date.  I apologized while he launched into “I’m going to tell you about my feelings.”  On some level, I understood.  I would have been miffed, too, but it was only twenty minutes.  Thirty or thirty five would have been different.  When the check came, he expected me to buy my own lunch, which really killed it.   

I don’t mind it when people talk about their feelings because it’s usually the ones who get featured on breaking news reports.  I mind it when they are presented like a university lecture. 

Then there’s that other thing that also falls under the “Don’t let this happen to you” category. 

I learned about it while having coffee with an acquaintance.  Prior to that, our conversations fell somewhere around, “Hi,” How are you?” “Nice weather we’re having,” and “Namaste.”   

So I was surprised when she filled me in on her latest fling that consisted of the following:  him going over to her house, eating her food and sleeping in her bed.  Only Goldilocks fared so well.   

One or two turns of that and most women would have kicked the Romeo out, boxers, shaving kit and all.  Because with or without those silly rules, there’s got to be some pride, some suspense, some romance, courtship and intrigue.  Besides, a guy who really likes his chick will do everything in his power to keep her, not everything in his power to be Don Juan, a Romeo and a gigolo all rolled into one. 

“For crimney’s sake,” I said, “Why doesn’t he just take you out for dinner, even for a hamburger?” 

“Because he can’t afford it,” she said. 

“But he can afford a place to live,” I said. 

“Yes, but he has doesn’t make that much on his job.” 

The real reason?  Because he doesn’t have to.  From Gloria Steinem on down, we women have dropped the chute out of our expectations of men, just to say that we have something vaguely resembling one. 

If that were me, that relationship would last about as long as the word “next!” would spring forth from my lips.  And it is those kind of things that cause many women be happy living with their cats.

Leasing a Car for Cheap

I’ve never really been a car person.  But like many others, I’ve become dependent on them.  So long as it has four wheels and goes and nothing falls off while I am either parked or driving, then I consider it a success. 

Recently, however, and much to my mortification, I had to go out and get another one after having had the other one for four years. 

It started when another driver and I tried to occupy the same space at the same time, which, according to a law of physics, is always bound to fail.  Except I had the green at the intersection, and she did not, although she drove right through it anyway. 

Knowing there was a problem, I slammed on the breaks while praying that she would get out of the way.  When all was said and done, I’d put a dent in her passenger door and my tires looked knock-kneed and my hood looked like watermelons were underneath.  In short, it wasn’t pretty. 

She got out of her car, pointed a nail with chipped polish at me and said, “It’s your fault.”

“It’s not my fault.  I had the green light.

“No, it’s your fault.”

Driver and Humanitarian of the Year, this wasn’t.  Then the witnesses came forth.  ‘Maybe it was my fault,’ I thought as the first one came towards me not looking pleased.  But when she spoke, it was like drops of clean radiator fluid coming forth. 

“It’s your fault,” she said looking at the Driver and Humanitarian of the Year.  The other three witnesses said the same thing, bless their hearts. 

I drove what was left of my car to the mechanic, who declared it totaled.  But we were both sort of happy because it had recently started costing me money with repairs that were now bent into an accordion-like shape.   

Sociologists have long known that when most car dealers see a woman in their dealership, the synapses in their brains start doing the rumba. 

This happened when I walked into Howdy Joe’s Car Dealership and found a car that met my minimum requirements of being easy on the gas, having power steering and a heater and AC system and with nothing hanging down. 

After I drove it around the block with the salesman “oohing” and “aahing,” it was time for the negotiations phase where other synapses and neurons in their brains do the foxtrot in anticipation of the bounty they hope will come forth. 

“For $2,000.00 you can take it off the lot with $350.00 per month in lease payments,” says sales rep number two. 

My mouth falls open, and I give him a blank stare.

“How much can you afford?” he asks

“Maybe a thousand.”

“Let me check with my bank.” 

He returns moments later saying that the bank approves.

“Let me check with my beloved mechanic,” I say, as I call him and get his assistant, a young recently married buck on the phone who tells me not to take it because he will find something better.

I share this with the salesperson, and he says that he would have to check with his bank again.  When he returns, he says that they will let me take it out for $800.00 and $275.00 a month.”

“Let me call my mechanic again,” I say, but he has found something better.

“He’s going to get me the same car with a $700.00 drive off fee and a $220.00 monthly payment,” I say. 

“Let me talk to my bank,” says salesman number two again.

He returns huffing and puffing and lets me take the car off the lot for $600.00 with a $250.00 monthly payment including gap insurance.  Not too shabby. 

I thank them and the mechanic and buy a Mediterranean lunch for his whole shop. 

In order to pull this off, the following are needed:  A mechanic and his assistant, a working cell phone, a car dealer with a bank on the premises and a restaurant that delivers and credit card to load it all on.  Thank you, amen and over and out.

Lessons from Japan

Some message board commentators were so adamant I expected them to start dueling with a Samurai.  Why help the Japanese when they were so brutal to us during the war?  Why help those who put barely alive GI’s in a hole and immolated them? 

Ah, because it’s the right thing to do, and the war was over 65 years ago and those who participated in the crimes against out GI’s are probably long gone.       

I was in the waiting room of the doctor’s office watching the scenes of the tsunami, and I was so shocked watching people’s homes wash away, I cried.  Though part it seemed so surreal I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like. 

But in the end we learn.  We learn that while we can’t control the course of nature, we can control how we choose our energy sources, and nuclear energy with all its potential for danger and radiation ain’t it. 

Maybe we also learn, like the man rescued from the sea after two days of floating on the roof of his house, that being prepared for a disaster is not completely possible.  But more than that, I now know something that I’ve always suspected, that underneath it all maybe we’re not that different from one other.  Maybe underneath all the surface differences of race, religion, creed and culture, maybe we really are all the same and have the same fears of loss and loneliness and hunger, and the same need for recognition and love. 

We can also marvel from the Japanese sense of order because they are a respectful society and believe in working together.  Miraculously, not one store has been looted as shop owners handed out cell phone chargers, water and other necessary supplies.  In the United States, it would be a miracle if one store remained standing.  And it’s all because we are a privileged people with that me first, Westward Ho mentality.  Add uneducated and entitled to the mix and a tsunami here would spell disaster and the ultimate collapse of our civilization by the average noodle walking along the street.  It’s a pity, too because we were once such a great nation, though those days may be long gone.

On the other hand and maybe as a beacon of light, we can commend ourselves and those countries that sent aid and have shown that we really are one community after all.

Categories: Japan, Tsunami

You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours

How shocking is that?  The Obama Administration planned on sending 50 refurbished armored tanks for $77 million dollars to Moammar Gadhafi of all people.  That would be like giving a penknife to Hitler and generally unwise.    

Buying and selling things like machine guns and military supplies, even to opposing sides at times, helps keep the economy running like the well-oiled rickety machine it is.  Yet the White House and the State Department suspected that Gadhfi was up to his usual no good when he asked for the extra shipment in 2009 to increase his ground defense, and he got his sons, Khamis and Saif, to do his bidding as well.  So long as it didn’t have too many pointed objects and only a single gun attached, the State Department only raised one or two of their collective eyebrows and reluctantly okayed the order.  Shortly thereafter, much of Europe followed Gadhafi’s call into the wild, though theirs probably remained stationary. 

What no one questioned was why the sudden interest from the Libyan leader and sons.  A few weeks ago while Tripoli was burning and Gadhafi’s supporters were firing at the rebels, they learned that he long ago knew trouble was a’brewing and wanted to increase his defense forces when it finally came a’calling.  This nixed the deal for the Americans even if the sale would have helped our economy and the BAE, the British company that has a defense arm called BAE Systems, which is the government’s 12th largest contractor.  If ever there were a textbook example of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” kiddos, this is it. 

As for me, I wouldn’t have sold Gadhafi one armored tank because there are certain people who should never have any sharp objects of any kind, including a plastic serrated knife that comes with a McDonald’s salad.

In no particular order, they are:  Moammar Gadhafi, Ahmadinejad, Napoleon, the Marquis de Sade, Klaus von Bulow, Joseph Goebbels, all Nazis and skinheads, the Mexican drug cartels, the man that caused me to buy pepper spray and more that I can’t think of right now.   But they top the list because they don’t know how to play well with others.