January 26, 2005

I Am Too Stunned For Words

A guy decides he wants to kill himself. So, he parks his SUV on the train tracks and slashes his wrists. Then, at the last minute, while the train is bearing down on him, he changes his mind. So, he leaves the SUV sitting on the tracks, while his cowardly ass runs away. The train, a commuter train, hits his truck and derails. The derailed train is hit by yet another commuter train. Now 10 are dead, so far, and over 200 injured. They arrested the asshole who caused it all. He wanted to kill himself, and instead, he killed 10 people. They arrested him for murder.

Article here.

Man Faces Charges in Metrolink Collision

One of the trains hits a car police say was deliberately parked on the tracks and then hits a second train.

By Michael Muskal and Jesus Sanchez, Times Staff Writers

A man intent on committing suicide left his car on a railroad track in Glendale today where it set off a three-train collision that killed at least 10 people and injured nearly 200, authorities said.

Police arrested a man who they said would be charged with homicide in the crash that left train cars mangled and seared. Debris including seat cushions, bloody towels and luggage discarded by fleeing passengers littered the area.

A southbound commuter train heading to downtown Los Angeles hit the green Jeep Cherokee parked on the tracks, said Glendale Police Chief Randy G. Adams. The train then apparently crashed into a northbound Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train was also hit and pushed off the tracks, officials said. The investigation was continuing.

Adams identified the suspect as Juan Manuel Alvarez, 25, of Compton, adding that he had attempted suicide before.

Alvarez, who was identified by witnesses at the scene, was detained there and appeared to have superficial self-inflicted injuries unrelated to the crash. The suspect was put on a suicide watch.

Distraught and remorseful, Alvarez told police he had left the vehicle and watched the derailment, Adams said. Alvarez was held, facing 10 counts of murder, Adams said, though formal charges are yet to be lodged by the district attorney's office. Alvarez, who will celebrate his 26th birthday on Feb. 26, had prior drug arrests, Adams said.

It is too early to say exactly what those charges will be, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said, but they could include multiple counts of murder with special circumstances based on the number of deaths and nature of the crime. Key to the legal case, Cooley said, "is the intent of the individual when he drove onto the tracks."

Adams said Alvarez may have tried to move the Jeep. "I think his intent at that time was to take his own life, but changed his mind prior to the train actually striking this vehicle. He exited the vehicle and stood by as the southbound Metrolink train struck his vehicle, causing the train to derail and strike the northbound train."

Glendale Mayor Bob Yousefian said that Alvarez "kind of ran, tried to hide, but because of his previous injuries, he got apprehended."

When asked why Alvarez was in Glendale, the mayor responded, "He came to Glendale to commit suicide."

At an evening news conference, Adams said there were nine dead men and one dead woman, who was identified as Julie Bennett, 44, of Simi Valley, an employee of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The Sheriff's Department also said that one of its employees, Manuel Alcala, 51, a maintenance worker, was killed in the crash.

There were some people still missing and that could change the toll.

A National Transportation Safety Board team headed to the scene. The Glendale Police Department was leading the criminal investigation, with LAPD and the Sheriff's Department assisting. Also involved was the local office of the FBI and there was a possibility of federal charges as well.

The 6 a.m. crash set off minor fires and diesel fuel spills as rescuers rushed to the scene at San Fernando Road and Chevy Chase Drive. The area is near where Burbank, Glendale and Atwater Village in Los Angeles meet.

"This is unbelievably tragic," an angry Sheriff Lee Baca told reporters at the scene at the first of a series of news conferences broadcast by local television stations. "It is a complete outrage as far as transportation safety is concerned."

At a joint news conference with Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton and Glendale's Adams, Baca said he was especially angry because one of the dead was identified as Deputy James Tutino, a 23-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department. He was aboard the southbound train, heading to work from Simi Valley.

Three LAPD employees were hospitalized and one was unaccounted for, Bratton said.

The death toll steadily climbed as the sun rose. By 10:30 a.m. the count hit 10. Fire officials said 123 people were treated and transported to 13 area hospitals. About 60 people were treated at the scene and released.

Many of the injured were city and county employees, Mayor Jim Hahn told reporters. "We are in mourning today, but I hope we can learn from this to prevent anything like this in the future."

Most of the injured were treated in the light rain at a triage center established in a nearby Costco parking lot. Hahn praised the Costco employees, who were the first responders and helped with supplies, for "being angels in the city of angels."

Glendale Memorial Hospital treated 13 passengers. Eight were treated and released. Two were listed in critical condition, including Theresa Gillen.

Her sister, Leah Gillen, 35, waited at the hospital for news about her sister, who works for Para Los Ninos, a downtown social services agency.

Gillen lashed out at Alvarez.

"I'm angry that someone would be so selfish and would destroy the lives of so many people," said Leah Gillen. "These people were just going to work."

Late in the afternoon, five area hospitals reported that 18 of the injured were admitted. At least one person was listed in extremely critical condition.

Hundreds of tons of wreckage from the commuter trains lay strewn across the area. Officials reported traffic delays and the commute on the Ventura and Antelope Valley lines was indefinitely disrupted. Buses were used to transport commuters between Union Station and the Burbank station.

More than 300 firefighters, police and paramedics combed through the derailed trains looking for trapped passengers in the predawn darkness. As firefights cleared each car, they garishly marked the side, giving the cars an eerie look as they formed a twisted zig-zag pattern next to the tracks.

At least five passes had been completed through the trains by 9 a.m., when officials said the focus shifted from rescue to recovery.

One Metrolink train, the 901, left Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and the other, train 100, was heading into Los Angeles. The 100 travels south from Moorpark on Metrolink's Ventura County line. The 901 travels northbound on the Burbank airport route.

Officials said the inbound train usually carried 200 to 250 passengers and the other train 50 or more. The top speed is 79 mph, though one train had just left a station, so was likely traveling at less than the maximum speed.

David Morrison, 47, an attorney, was heading to downtown Los Angeles on his regular morning commute. He said he got on train 100 at 5:19 a.m. in Simi Valley.

"I heard the crash. It sounded like the train was dragging something across the tracks," he told The Times. "There was a violent lurch and everything came to a stop."

He said the passengers fled amid the smell of diesel fumes.

Goddard Paialii, 53, of Woodland Hills, a communications electrician for the city of Los Angeles, said he boarded the train in Chatsworth and rode in the lead car. He was upstairs and said he was trying to nap, listening to his I-Pod.

After the crash, the train "appeared to be dragging whatever it hit. At that point, I just braced myself. Computers, seat pads, briefcases were flying all over. There was lots of smoke in the car."

But the exodus remained orderly.

"Everybody was trying to help everybody else get out," Paialii said. "The train I was in was entirely ripped out. We went out through a gaping hole," Paialii said.

He stepped over a woman who complained of back and neck injuries and said she did not want to move. He carried one injured man to a fence nearby.

Cathie Fransen, 57, was riding with her friend Ken Milds, 55, in the middle car. Fransen said she has ridden the train regularly for 12 1/2 years and was in the aisle seat, second floor, middle car. She does community relations for IBM in Glendale.

"It was very terrifying. We had seconds to think about what was going on," she said.

After the derailment, as the cars skidded, she said it felt like "it kept going and going. We were holding our breath."

The entire wreck of all three trains was contained between a gray warehouse and the brick wall of Costco. A single train car was propped at an almost perfect 45-degree angle from the tracks, a signal bridge crumpled over it, its upper corner resting lightly on the tracks. The car in front of it, still attached, was tilted at about an 80-degree angle, its wheels still just barely resting on the track.

All along the ground, large metal pieces of the side of the train and gray upholstered seats were scattered like discarded food wrappers. On the train cars, windows gaped or were shattered in their frames.

Each of the cars by midmorning were scribbled with neon orange spray paint from the firefighters, who had numbered them. On the warehouse behind the train people gathered to look down on the wreckage.

The accident occurred just north of the Costco store in a shopping center on Los Feliz Boulevard, where it was drizzling and dark, witnesses said.

"We heard a loud boom and the building shook," said Jenny Doll, 30, a Costco clerk from Monterey Park.

Employees took fire extinguishers from the store shelves and ran outside to help.

"Everybody was helping and trying to get people out of the train," said Doll, who was taking food and water from the store for firefighters at the site.

Ruben Cabrera, the 37-year-old store manager, said he first thought the noise of the crash was thunder, but soon his receiving dock called and told him there had been an accident.

"It was chaos. I was trying to keep a level head, and I didn't want to lose any employees," he said.

Inside the store, passengers were processed by officials trying to account for everyone on board. Once done, the commuters filed out and sat on white picnic benches in front of a snack stand.

An hour after the crash, crews worked on the wreckage as about 50 passengers waited nearby.

They sat in work clothes with tags around their neck: Name, Age, Condition.

One firefighter walked among the walking wounded shouting: "Who needs to go to the hospital? Who needs to go to the hospital?"

A few people raised their hands.

Then firefighters went person to person asking if anything else was needed and how they were feeling.

Staff writers Peter Hong, Jill Leovy, David Pierson, Wendy Thermos and Erica Williams contributed to this report.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:28 PM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson 1925 - 2005

I always loved his show. I never took to Jay Leno. I probably watched Leno, maybe twice. Article found here:

Johnny Carson Dies at 79

By Brian Lowry, Special to The Times

Johnny Carson, who in three decades as host of "The Tonight Show" became one of America's most influential political satirists and the entertainment industry's most powerful figures, died today. He was 79.

His nephew, Jeff Sotzing, a former producer of "The Tonight Show," said Carson died peacefully, but declined to give a location or other details.

NBC said Carson died at his Malibu home of emphysema. He had suffered a heart attack and undergone quadruple bypass surgery in 1999.

Former NBC chairman Grant Tinker called Carson's run on "The Tonight Show" "the biggest and best television has ever been." When he announced his retirement in 1991, another comedy legend, Bob Hope, said it was "sort of a like a head falling off Mt. Rushmore."

The late-night host had become an extraordinarily private figure in recent years given the national stage he commanded for three decades. He seldom appeared in public-and, other than a few cameos on David Letterman's late-night show and a tribute to Bob Hope-completely eschewed television after leaving "The Tonight Show" on May 22, 1992, with a retrospective that drew an audience rivaling the Super Bowl.

"I bid you a very heartfelt good night," were his parting words.

Ed McMahon, the sidekick who always introduced Carson with "Heeeeere's Johnny!" today said the former talk show host was "like a brother to me."

"Our 34 years of working together, plus the 12 years since then, created a friendship which was professional, family-like and one of respect and great admiration," McMahon said in a statement. "When we ended our run on 'The Tonight Show" and my professional life continued, whenever a big career decision needed to be made, I always got the OK from 'the boss.'"

After years of silence, Carson spoke to Esquire magazine for a 2002 profile, reconfirming his belief that he had done the right thing in essentially disappearing from public view.

"I left at the right time," he said. "You've got to know when to get the hell off the stage, and the timing was right for me. The reason I really don't go back or do interviews is because I just let the work speak for itself."

From a cultural standpoint, Carson's nightly monologue developed a reputation as a bellwether in terms of the national mood. When Carson began making Watergate jokes, The New York Times wrote in 1975, "we knew it was permissible to ridicule the president, that Mr. Nixon was done for."

"The influence he had on the country was unique. He was the conscience of America," said Peter Lassally, Carson's producer for more than two decades, who noted that Carson was also extraordinarily even-handed, so much so that no one ever knew his personal political leanings.

Carson also had a major effect on television standards, lacing his monologue with sexual innuendo that once would have been unthinkable on television.

"Next to Milton Berle and Lucille Ball, he's had the single greatest influence on the content of television," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy. "He really created the monologue and turned it into a cultural barometer of political and social events. Many people got their take on what was acceptable from the monologue."

Carson himself said in a 1986 interview, "I knew from the monologue the very night that Spiro Agnew was suddenly in deep trouble. From a one-line observation I can get a response, a reaction . . . that may be the best indicator of how [someone] is perceived in this country."

If Carson's jokes reverberated in Washington, who appeared on "The Tonight Show" was seen for many years in Hollywood as a career-making platform, especially for stand-up comedians. Jerry Seinfeld called receiving the "OK" sign from Carson after his first appearance "the Holy Grail of comedy."

Being asked to sit down after a performance was a sign of validation and prestige. As comic Garry Shandling said a few years ago, "I didn't get to sit down on the couch the first time. It is sort of a benchmark to sit on the couch. When you go to Johnny's house, you stand the first few times you are there."

Introduced by Groucho Marx on his first show, Oct. 1, 1962, Carson went on to host more than 7,500 hours of television and weathered numerous late-night challenges, including competing shows featuring Joey Bishop, Merv Griffin, Dick Cavett, Alan Thicke, Joan Rivers and Pat Sajak that all came and went during his tenure.

At the end, feeling NBC was maneuvering behind him to line up a replacement, Carson stunned the television world when he announced his plans to retire at an advertising presentation in 1991, setting off a flurry of debate and backstage jockeying to determine whether Letterman or Jay Leno should become his successor. Leno won the job, prompting Letterman to leave NBC for a competing show on CBS.

After leaving the network, Carson studiously avoided the spotlight, representing one of the industry's few stars who have been able to walk away. Friends said Carson remembered seeing one-time idols like Hope and Jack Benny near the end of their careers and wanted to avoid that scenario.

In 1979, at the age of 53, Carson said he couldn't see himself sitting at the desk in his 60s. Seven years later, he was still grappling with when to leave.

"I remember when [CBS President] Jim Aubrey canned Jack Benny, and that won't happen to me," Carson said. "I'll know when the time has come. The people tell you. . . .

"You don't just walk in and do what I do. You have to put it on the griddle, and it's from night to night. It's about momentum. That's why when I quit I won't come back to the same format. It's not like [golfer] Jack Nicklaus coming back to win the Masters."

Lassally called Carson's ability to shun celebrity at 66, when he could have easily continued to perform, and stay away despite entreaties to return "an elegant end to his career."

Friends frequently tried to coax him out of retirement. Steve Martin, a poker buddy, proposed that Carson make an appearance on the Academy Awards-which he hosted several times-and NBC Chairman Bob Wright pleaded with him to appear on the network's 75th anniversary special in May, 2002. Carson declined.

Nevertheless, he admitted in the Esquire interview that a decade after leaving "The Tonight Show" the program stayed with him, telling Esquire that he still had dreams where he was late for work and suddenly realized he was unprepared to go on.

"I wake up in a sweat," he said. "It's now been 10 years since I've been done with the job, but I will still be back there it was two-thirds of my adult life, remember and people will be as real and fresh and current as ever in the dream."

Later in his life, Carson did exhibit some signs of wanting to safeguard his legacy. In 2003, for example, he wrote the Wall St. Journal to correct a reference to the use of canned laughter on the program, stressing that he never did during his 30-year tenure.

"I don't mean to sound peevish," Carson said, "but I wouldn't want peoples' memories of 'The Tonight Show' to be dimmed because they believed the laughter they heard wasn't genuine."

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Carson, the host, was how effortless he made "The Tonight Show" look. His monologue, never rehearsed, seemed to perfectly capture the tone necessary to let people unwind. He also seemed to possess an innate understanding of the rhythms and pacing of television.

"It should be low-key," Carson once told reporter Rick Du Brow, then at the Herald-Examiner. "It's the end of the day. People watching don't want someone who looks like they're going to have a nervous breakdown."

Carson's demonstrated his ability to craft his own material during the Writers Guild of America strike in 1988. After two months of inactivity in which he respected picket lines, Carson returned to work while his staff of eight writers remained on strike, putting together his own monologues. At one point, he referred to the writers carrying "weird picket signs," with nothing written on them.

Some attribute part of Carson's vast appeal to his Midwestern roots and sensibility. Born in Corning, Iowa, Carson was raised in Norfolk, Neb., where he began his career as a teenager, performing a magic act he called "The Great Carsoni."

Unlike the comics he admired, many of whom were brought up in poverty, Carson enjoyed relative prosperity even during the Depression as the son of a district manager for the power company. He was a middle child, with an older sister, Catherine, and younger brother, Dick, who later worked as a director on "The Tonight Show" and other TV programs.

Carson served in the Navy (a ship he was on, the Pennsylvania, was torpedoed in August 1945, slaying nearly 20 of his crew mates) and subsequently attended the University of Nebraska. Honing his act by performing during college, after graduating he landed a job at a local radio station-WOW in Omaha-where he wrote comedy and announced commercials. Not long after the first TV station in the area signed on in 1949, Carson began hosting a 15-minute TV show, "Squirrel's Nest."

The comic moved to Los Angeles, in 1950 becoming a staff announcer at the local CBS station, KNXT, which led to his own program, "Carson's Cellar." He subsequently wrote for Red Skelton's TV show.

Carson ascended to network television at the age of 29, headlining a daytime show and substituting on CBS' "The Morning Show." In 1957, he became host of what become a popular ABC daytime show, "Who Do You Trust?," which first paired him with his long-time "Tonight Show" announcer, Ed McMahon.

When Jack Paar decided to leave "The Tonight Show," NBC saw Carson as the obvious replacement. Desperate to have him, the network used guest hosts for six months until Carson-who initially turned down the job-was free of his ABC contract.

His starting salary, $100,000 a year, eventually blossomed into millions (his earnings reportedly exceeded $20 million a year by 1990). Carson owned the sketches on his show as well, which were packaged and sold separately to TV stations under the name "Carson's Comedy Classics." His company also produced David Letterman's late-night NBC show and such prime-time programs as "Amen" and the movie "The Big Chill."

Still, Carson always remained detached from business matters, leaving them primarily in the hands of his attorney, Henry Bushkin, who he called "the Bombastic Bushkin" on the show. Bushkin was also Carson's closest friend, until a falling out later in his career severed both their professional and personal ties.

Carson moved "The Tonight Show" from New York to Burbank-which became another regular target for jokes-in 1972. He also pressed to cut the show from 90 minutes (it originally ran 1 hour and 45 minutes) to an hour in 1980 and threatened to quit to get the network to do so.

NBC resisted, resulting in a public and protracted contract negotiation. The network eventually caved in, however, giving Carson ownership of the show itself in the process. This was not surprising, since "The Tonight Show" accounted for nearly a fifth of the network's total profit.

Carson was equally successful as a headliner in Las Vegas, and he negotiated extended vacation time (as well as Mondays off) that allowed him to perform there frequently.

If Carson was a king in the entertainment world, his personal life was thornier. Carson remained an inordinately private person for such a public figure, but the facts that came out often seemed at odds with his genial on-screen image. A chain smoker, he married four times, wrestled with alcoholism and endured the death of one of his three sons, Rick, in a 1991 car accident at the age of 39.

Carson usually allowed his personal life to invade the show only in jest, but after that incident he fought back tears while eulogizing his son. After a much-publicized arrest for drunk driving in 1982, Carson had a policeman escort him onstage.

One of Carson's wives, Joanne, said the comic had focused on his career "because instinctively he knew the career would never let him down. He felt it would never betray him, and it never has betrayed him."

Although his first divorce became final in 1963, that relationship flared up in 1990 when his wife, Jody "Joan" Wolcott, the mother of all three children and his college sweetheart, demanded a nine-fold increase in her alimony payments, to $120,000 per year. Carson's attorneys called the request "a baldfaced holdup."

Carson was married to his fourth wife, Alexis, in 1987. The two met on the beach a few years prior and wed in a private ceremony at his Malibu home. His passions included astronomy and tennis, both as a player and fan, evidenced by his regular trips to the Wimbledon tournament in England.

"If I had given as much to marriage as I gave to 'The Tonight Show,' I'd probably have a hell of a marriage," Carson told the Times in '86. "But the fact is, I haven't given that, and there you have the simple reason for the failure of my marriages: I put the energy into the show."

For all the plaudits heaped on him, Carson's influence within Hollywood was equally legendary. Laurence Leamer claimed no other talk show would book him when he wrote "King of the Night," an unflattering 1989 biography of Carson, who he called "the most powerful person in Los Angeles." In the book, Leamer characterized him as a cold and ruthless individual, a womanizer who was both abusive with his wives and petty in his business dealings.

Carson freely admitted that he "never was a social animal." He didn't like being surrounded by people, drove himself to work and was extremely selective about his friends, spending lots of time in his sprawling hilltop Malibu estate, so large as to prompt comic Bob Newhart to quip, "Where's the gift shop?"

The build-up to Carson's final episode in 1992 became a national event. The Comedy Central network went dark during that hour, and Arsenio Hall aired reruns of his late-night series the last week out of deference to Carson.

Ratings swelled, with millions tuning in the penultimate night to see final guests Robin Williams and Bette Midler, the latter singing a memorable duet with Carson. His family attended the final "Tonight" taping, and Carson addressed his sons, Chris and Cory, in signing off.

"I realize that being an offspring of someone who is constantly in the public eye is not easy," Carson said. "So guys, I want you to know that I love you. I hope that your old man has not caused you too much discomfort."

Despite eschewing the public eye after leaving, Carson continued to maintain offices in Santa Monica, going in a few days a week. Company affairs-including the sale of "Tonight Show" videos that continued to sell briskly, marketed via TV "infomercials"-have been run by his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, who had been a producer on "The Tonight Show."

Carson also indulged his passion for the sea in his later years, sailing extensively on a specially equipped 130-foot yacht, the Serengeti-named, he said, for the region in Africa that captivated him on a trip there in the 1990s.

In fact, the night of NBC's anniversary, Carson was on his boat, on a trip that took him through the Panama Canal and to the Caribbean.

NBC's Wright told Esquire that he offered to send a helicopter to pick Carson up, but the host refused, saying his decision to stay away had "served me well."

Although Carson appeared in the 1964 movie "Looking for Love," which starred Connie Francis, he ultimately decided to focus his career almost exclusively on "The Tonight Show." Carson admitted he had "thought about movies for years" but felt movies didn't offer a terribly viable option because he was so well-known as himself. "[Robert] Redford can play a baseball player, but I'm playing me. Every night," he said.

Among the film offers Carson turned down was the chance to play a character modeled after him, opposite Robert De Niro, in the film "The King of Comedy," a role that ended up going to Jerry Lewis.

While he eschewed acting himself, Carson did host the Academy Awards on five occasions between 1979 and '84 (the exception being in '83). His own list of honors included six Emmys and the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award.

In a sense, Carson was the perfect personality for television-reflecting the generation following the great radio stars like Benny and Hope, one that grew up with the medium.

"I use the camera," Carson said. "I remember seeing a silent film from the '20s with Oliver Hardy sighing directly into the camera. I can't explain how perfect that sigh was. It's like trying to explain comedy."

Carson's nephew said there will be no memorial service.

Posted by Valkyre at 05:50 PM | Comments (0)

Things To Do After A Good Rain

As you may or may not know, a couple of weeks ago, Southern California got dumped on. I was going to write about the myriad of rain related problems we had here. But, it seemed so trivial, compared to the people who lost their lives and homes in the La Conchita mudslides.

Anyway, since I have been so busy with work and all, I have been neglecting the backyard. And, the rain gave the weeds much needed water. So, they have taken over the yard. It looks like a jungle out there. Tools that I couldn't find, turned out to be caught in the overgrown crab grass out there. I just spent part of this morning, dumping water out of any containers, to deter mosquitos. And, using Round-Up on some of the weeds that were peeking up throughout the paths out there. I just ran out, and need to go to the store and get some more.

After a small break, I am going to tackle the front lawn. It's a nice day to be working outside though.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2005

Uncontrollable Laughter

At work today, during lunch, a group of us were talking about incidents in our past, where we started to laugh hysterically at something. The story that came to my mind, and which I talked about was one that happened back when I was in high school. My best friend, from high school, Dena, and I decided to go down to the beach. When we went down to the beach, we actually went out into the water, not lay on the beach trying to get a tan. We could do that in the backyard, if need be. Anyway, this particular day, we went in the late afternoon. It was rather cold, and the waves were actually pretty wild. Not too good for swimming. But, we were teenagers, so we went in anyway. And, proceeded to get slammed by the waves. We would come up, and dive in again. One of these times, Dena came up, and the force of the waves had knocked her bikini top askew. So, yes, her boobs were hanging out. I looked at her for a moment, figuring that she would feel the sudden cold on her boobs and pull the top down. But, she didn't. I guess because we were already so cold from swimming. I was just about to tell her what was going on, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look. It was a guy, standing about 10 feet away from us. His eyes were locked on Dena's exposed boobs. His jaw had dropped, and his eyes were bugged out. Well, when I saw that, I started laughing. And laughing, and laughing. I was hysterical. I couldn't talk anymore. All I could do was point at Dena's exposed boobs and try to tell her to pull her top down. But, I couldn't get a word out. After about a minute of this, she realized what was going on and pulled her top down. She was pretty pissed at me. But, I couldn't stop laughing. Even after that. We ended up leaving soon after. She was, of course, rather embarassed by her brief foray into public toplessness. And, she was also embarassed by me, who was rolling on the beach laughing my fool head off. Just seeing that guys face sent me off into hysterics. She eventually forgave me.

Posted by Valkyre at 07:38 PM | Comments (2)

January 17, 2005

Finally!

Normally, I try to take the Christmas decorations down on New Years Day. It's always been a tradition to watch the Rose Parade and take things down. But, due to a misunderstanding, I showed up at work instead. When the owners got there, they sent me home. I had only put in about three hours. But, when I got home, I just watched the parts of the parade I missed and just lazed around the house. Then, I was busy on my other days off. So, today, I was able to start tackling taking down the decorations. I managed to get all the ornaments off of the tree, and put away. And the lights are stowed away now too. Some of the decorations, that are on the shelves are taken down. Tomorrow, I will try to finish. But, that will involve hauling down boxes from the attic. And, I'm not sure how I'm going to feel after I get home from work. And, to add to things, I am coming down with something. My throat has been scratchy and sore all day. It may be Valentine's Day before I get all the decorations down, at this rate.

Posted by Valkyre at 01:03 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2005

Are They Still Using The Pony Express?

I sent Lynne a Christmas card, about two weeks before Christmas. I sent out all my Christmas cards at the same time. Everyone else seemed to get theirs on time. Including Mike's cousin, who lives near Detroit, Michigan. However, Lynne just informed me that she recieved her card on Saturday, January 8th. At least she got it, I guess!

Posted by Valkyre at 05:47 PM | Comments (3)

January 06, 2005

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Caught the following on the CNN's site.

In Texas, man gets 4 mos. for killing wife, 15 yrs for wounding man

Thursday, January 6, 2005 Posted: 5:03 PM EST (2203 GMT)

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A man sentenced to just four months in prison for killing his wife, after a jury concluded he acted in a blind fury, drew a 15-year term for wounding her boyfriend.

Jimmy Dean Watkins pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempted murder for shooting Keith Fontenot on December 22, 1998. Watkins' estranged wife, Nancy, was killed with multiple gunshots as she tried to dial 911 during the attack.

The jury at his 1999 trial found Watkins guilty of murdering his wife but decided he acted with "sudden passion" when he discovered her with Fontenot.

In a decision that provoked an outcry, the jury recommended 10 years' probation. Because of the jury's recommendation, the most the judge could have given Watkins was six months behind bars. He sentenced Watkins to four months.

Another wrinkle was added to the case in 2003, when two defense witnesses who gave key testimony pleaded guilty to perjury. They had claimed that Nancy Watkins and Fontenot had taunted Watkins in the hours before the shooting.

The Watkinses' son, Eric, now 16, glared at his father in court Wednesday and testified that he wished his last memory of his mother was not seeing her dying on the kitchen floor.

"I will never call you Dad again," the boy, now Eric Braley, told Watkins. A year after his mother's death, he was adopted by his former school counselor and her husband.

Watkins had admitted the attack but claimed temporary insanity. Texas defines "sudden passion" as being so overcome by rage, resentment or fear that the defendant is "incapable of cool reflection." Jurors said they recommended probation because they didn't think Watkins could be rehabilitated in prison.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:35 PM | Comments (1)

January 02, 2005

Some Good Stories Among All The Tragedy

There have been stories of survival trickling in, after all the tragic ones about the devastation from the tsunam's. Here's one:

Family dog saves boy from waves

Sunday, January 2, 2005 Posted: 5:52 PM EST (2252 GMT)

CHINNAKALAPET, India (AP) -- "Run away!" her husband screamed from a rooftop after he spotted the colossal waves.

The command was simple but it presented Sangeeta with a dilemma: She had three sons, and only two arms.

She grabbed the youngest two and ran -- figuring the oldest, 7-year-old Dinakaran, had the best chance of outrunning the tsunami churning towards her home.

But Dinakaran didn't follow. He headed for the safest place he knew, the small family hut just 40 meters (yards) from the seashore.

Sangeeta thought she would never see him again. The family dog saw to it that she did.

While water lapped at Sangeeta's heels as she rushed up the hill, the scruffy yellow dog named Selvakumar ducked into the hut after Dinakaran.

Nipping and nudging, he did everything in his canine power to get the boy up the hill.

Sangeeta, who like many south Indians only uses one name, had no idea of the drama unfolding below. Once she had crossed the main road to safety she collapsed into tears, screaming over the loss of her eldest son.

"I had heard from others that the wall of my house had collapsed, I felt sure that my child had died," said the 24-year-old mother.

Selvakumar looks pretty much like every other dog in the village. He hardly ever barks and lets the three boys climb all over him and pull his tail without protest.

At night, he joins the rest of the family and sleeps among them, no matter how may times they throw him out.

Most days, the dog escorts Dinakaran to and from school, spending the rest of the day playing with the other two boys, or begging for food.

Sangeeta's brother-in-law gave her the puppy, following the birth of her second son. When the brother-in-law died in an accident two years ago, they changed the dog's name to his.

Sangeeta's family had always lived along the coast, just north of Pondicherry, a former French colony.

The morning of December 26 began like most others, with sunny skies and a cool breeze.

Sangeeta's husband, R. Ramakrishnan, had just returned from his early morning fishing with a boat full of fish.

From their home, the view of the ocean was obstructed by a two-story community center. So when they heard a strange noise coming from the sea, Sangeeta's husband went to investigate.

When Ramakrishnan saw the waves, he ran to the roof of the center and shouted down to Sangeeta to flee. That's when she made her agonizing choice.

"He is somewhat older than the other two. I knew he would be able to run, so I grabbed the other two," Sangeeta explained.

Dinakaran credits the dog with saving his life.

"That dog grabbed me by the collar of my shirt," the boy said from under some trees at Pondicherry University, where the family is waiting for relief. "He dragged me out."

Sangeeta said she wept with joy when she saw her son walking up to her, with Selvakumar by his side.

The Tamils of south India believe that talking about the death of a living person can make it so, so Sangeeta didn't want to mull over her decision or speculate how she would have felt had her son not survived.

She did say that she believes some special spirit, perhaps her brother-in-law's, resides in the young yellow dog.

"That dog is my God," said Sangeeta -- with Dinakaran sitting on the ground at her feet and Selvakumar sleeping on the warm asphalt next to him.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)