November 30, 2007

What is This Stuff?

Woke up this morning to darkened skies and a sound I haven't heard for awhile. The rattle of water running down the gutter spout just outside the bedroom window. Get out of bed and I can hear rain pattering on the roof. Yay! Some much needed rain has finally hit here. It's a pretty decent storm. Enough to wash the dirt off of everything. I'm really happy, because I did my annual "plant rye grass seeds and cover with steer manure" thing a couple of weeks ago. After soaking the lawn, until the grass sprouted, I hadn't watered it in awhile. I wasn't looking forward to it, because the grass was so high, I would have had to use the water hose and done it myself, instead of using the sprinkler. And, it was hard to find time. Well, Mother Nature has decided to assist me.

Posted by Valkyre at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2007

Not Your Mothers Tupperware Party

So, I got invited to a Passion Party, yesterday. It's a lot like Tupperware parties, or Princess House. The hostess gets booking gifts. And, they try to get guests to book parties. Instead of crystal and plastic containers, they sell sex toys. I didn't know this, but some guys had been invited too. They are members of a band that the hostess knew. They were funny. And, I think, a little uncomfortable. The woman who was doing the demo was kind of nervous. She had just started at this, and had never done a coed party. She had nothing to worry about. The guys seemed more nervous than the girls. Of course, us girls had had rum and Coke and Long Island Iced Teas, so that may have helped. I wouldn't mind booking one of these in the future.

Posted by Valkyre at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2007

Valkyre's Rules of Spiders

Lately, I've been feeling a little guilty about killing bugs and spiders. I leave the real tiny spiders alone and have ignored the Daddy Long Legs that hang around here. Some spiders, I try to catch in a glass and release outside. But, I'm sorry spiders.... If you are so freaking big that I can see you crawling down a wall, in the dark, with my peripheral vision, then you go to go. When you are so big, that I hesitate, wondering if the small box I am holding will kill you on the first strike.... When you are so big that I wonder if even a .45 slug may not kill you, but only piss you off..... Wham! And then, even though you don't seem to be moving, I flush you down the toilet. I considered tossing you in the trash, but I was afraid that you might come back alive and seek revenge. Even then, I still had visions of you crawling out of the toilet, even bigger, meaner and full of revenge. *Shudder*

Posted by Valkyre at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2007

An Update to the Megan Meier Story

I posted here about Megan Meier. The 13 year old girl possibly driven to suicide by the treatment she received by who she thought was a guy. But, it turned out to be an adult who came up with the scheme to see if Megan was talking trash about her daughter. Seems that this story has gone nationwide. And the family, the Drews, who came up with the fake profile scheme, are persona non grata in their town. Seems the townfolk, and much of the nation, wants to run them out of town.

Article here:

In MySpace suicide case, community fights back

After a teen girl falls victim to a Web hoax, angry neighbors take matters into their own hands.

By P.J. Huffstutter
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

November 22, 2007

DARDENNE PRAIRIE, MO. For nearly a year, the families who live along Waterford Crystal Drive in this bedroom community northwest of St. Louis have kept the secret about the boy Megan Meier met last September on the social networking site MySpace.

He called himself Josh Evans, and he and 13-year-old Megan struck up an online friendship that lasted several weeks. Then the boy abruptly turned on Megan and ended it. That night, Megan, who had previously battled depression, committed suicide.

The secret was revealed six weeks later: Neighbor Lori Drew had pretended to be 16-year-old Josh to gain the trust of Megan, who had been fighting with Drew's daughter, according to sheriff's department records and Megan's parents.

After their daughter's death, Tina and Ron Meier begged their other neighbors to keep the story private. Let the local authorities and the FBI conduct their investigations in privacy, they pleaded.

But after waiting for criminal charges to be filed against Drew, neighbors learned that local and federal prosecutors could not find a statute applicable to the case.

This community's patience has dried up. The furious neighbors -- and in the wake of recent media reports, an outraged public -- are taking matters into their own hands.

In an outburst of virtual vigilantism, readers of blogs such as RottenNeighbor.com and hitsusa.com have posted the Drews' home address, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and photographs.

Dozens of people allegedly have called local businesses that work with the family's advertising booklet firm, and flooded the phone lines this week at the local Burlington Coat Factory, where Curt Drew reportedly works.

"I posted that, where Curt works. I'm not ashamed to admit that," said Trever Buckles, 40, a neighbor whose two teenage boys grew up with Megan. "Why? Because there's never been any sense of remorse or public apology from the Drews, no 'maybe we made a mistake.' "

Local teenagers and residents protest just steps from the Drews' tiny porch. A fake 911 call, claiming a man had been shot inside the Drew home, sent law enforcement officers to surround the one-story, white-sided house. People drive through the neighborhood in the middle of the night, screaming, "Murderer!"

The Drews, who have mounted cameras and recording devices onto the roof of their house to track the movements of their neighbors, declined to comment for this article.

Cyber-bullying has become an increasingly creepy reality, where the anonymity of video games, message boards and other online forums offers an outlet for cruel taunts. But it can be difficult to draw the line between constitutionally protected free speech and conduct that is illegal.

Still, Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy lawyer and executive director of WiredSafety.org, points to one federal statute that may apply in the Meier case: the telecommunications harassment law. Amended in 2005, the law prohibits people from anonymously using the Internet with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person.

Terri Dougherty, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in St. Louis, declined to comment on whether prosecutors could apply the federal statute in the Meier case.

The mounting tension and heated emotions have local community leaders worried. The St. Charles County Sheriff's Department, which had rarely visited the suburb, now regularly patrols there. County prosecutors are reexamining the case.

On Wednesday evening, Dardenne Prairie's Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a law that makes cyber-harassment a misdemeanor -- with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail, $500 fine or both for each violation. It's the most stringent punishment available to the city.

"We're all in shock," said Mayor Pam Fogarty. "If I have anything to say about it, we'll never have our hands tied legally like this again."

Dardenne Prairie is an upper-middle-class enclave of about 7,400 people, about 35 miles northwest of St. Louis. Over the years, the flat expanse of farmland has been taken over by sprawling subdivisions, high-end bistros and strip-mall cafes.

The Meiers moved to the east side of town 13 years ago, where clusters of maple trees and prairie grasses still remain relatively undeveloped. Eager for more space at a budget price, the couple were drawn by numerous families and safe streets with names like Swan Lake Drive and Tri Sports Drive.

"There were kids everywhere, and they've all grown up together," said Tina Meier, 37, who works in real estate. "They ride their bikes together, have barbecues together, go on family vacations together, go to school together."

Megan befriended Lori and Curt Drew's daughter in elementary school, and the two became close, Meier said. When Megan transferred to a different middle school last fall, in an effort to help her deal with depression and get away from some bullies, the girls grew apart, her parents said. The Meiers declined to discuss the details behind the girls' estrangement.

Around the same time, Megan started to use the Internet, under the supervision of her parents. Sitting on the family's brown floral couch with her father, or nestled next to her mother in the family's office in the basement, the eighth-grader browsed through her friends' websites and chatted about school.

When a boy messaged Megan on MySpace and asked to be her friend, she excitedly agreed. The two talked online for about six weeks, her parents said.

On Oct. 16, Josh told Megan he'd heard that she was a terrible friend. The two fought. Tina, who had to leave to take Megan's younger sister, Allison, to a doctor's appointment, ordered Megan to get off the computer.

She didn't. The messages grew nasty, according to an FBI transcript.

The final message isn't included in the transcript: "I remember it said something like, 'The world would be a better-off place without you,' " said Ron Meier, 37, who works as a machinist.

That evening, as her parents were downstairs preparing for dinner, Megan hanged herself in her closet. She died the next day.

In the weeks that followed, the Drews comforted the Meiers. They said nothing to them about the fake MySpace account.

They prayed at the wake and consoled sobbing community members at Megan's funeral. They invited the Meiers to birthday parties and had Allison over to bake holiday cookies. They asked the Meiers to hide Christmas gifts in their garage, away from their own children's prying eyes.

It was last Thanksgiving weekend when the Meiers said they learned the truth from a neighbor who had figured out that Lori Drew had devised the online relationship with Megan. In a fit of rage, they hacked up one of the gifts they were storing -- a Foosball table -- with an ax and sledgehammer. Tina and Ronald dumped the pieces onto the Drews' driveway.

"I heard this god-awful screaming," said neighbor Kristie Kriss, 48. "It was Tina. When I heard what happened, I couldn't believe it."

When the Drews complained to the authorities about the loss of their Foosball table, the story became public. According to a sheriff's department report, Lori Drew said "she wanted to 'just tell them' what she did to contribute to the Meiers' daughter's suicide." Drew told the officer that she, with the help of a temporary employee, "instigated and monitored" a fake profile prior to Megan's suicide, "for the sole purpose of communicating" with the girl.

"Drew stated that she, her daughter and [the employee] all typed, read and monitored the communication between the fake male profile and Megan," the report said.

Drew then told the officer that the account had been accessed by other people, "and Megan found out she had been duped."

The Meiers hired an attorney.

"We told our friends to trust the system, and we would have our justice," said Ron Meier.

The neighborhood may have agreed to stay mum, but they couldn't keep their feelings hidden: Many people here say they shunned the Drews, meeting their gaze with sneers and obscene gestures.

On the anniversary of Megan's death, Ron's relatives lined the street with black-and-white polka-dot balloons and put up signs around the neighborhood that asked for "justice for Megan."

Meanwhile, the Meiers' marriage fell apart. Tina moved out of the house in the spring and now lives with her mother. The couple is getting divorced. Allison, now 11, splits her time between the two.

Ron has remained in the house on Waterford Crystal Drive, and has tried to preserve Megan's room. Her clothes fill the closet. But he's stopped sleeping at the house.

His attorney has suggested that he spend the nights with friends or family, because "if something does happen to the Drews, I'm going to be the No. 1 suspect and I'll need a witness to prove my innocence," Ron said.

"All we feel is frustration, anger," neighbor Kriss said. "For months, we've been asking ourselves, 'What mother in her right mind would do this? And why won't the cops do anything to punish them?'

"We just want them gone."

p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com

Times researcher DeeDee Correll in Denver contributed to this report.

Posted by Valkyre at 11:13 PM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2007

Another Addiction

I had the demo to this saved on my computer for months. Finally got around to opening it this past Sunday. Now I'm hooked. You find hidden items in the pictures. You have a set time. You can use hints, but it takes away from your time. When you clear out the required rooms, you have to then complete a puzzle before you advance to the next level. It's a lot harder than one might think. I ended up giving myself a headache on Sunday by playing too long. It also has some interesting trivia about the Titanic.

Posted by Valkyre at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2007

Some People Aren't Fit to Live in Society

My daughter, Teresa, showed me the following article. I thought at first, that it was the typical adult male posing as a younger male to lure an underage girl. It's not a typical story. It's disgusting what some people will do.

Article here:

POKIN AROUND: A real person, a real death

By Steve Pokin
Saturday, November 10, 2007 12:40 PM CST

Roy Sykes photos Tina and Ron Meier look up at the mausoleum gravesite of their daughter Megan, who would have been 15 on Nov. 6.

His name was Josh Evans. He was 16 years old. And he was hot.

"Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at him!" Tina Meier recalls her daughter saying.

Josh had contacted Megan Meier through her MySpace page and wanted to be added as a friend.Yes, he's cute, Tina Meier told her daughter. "Do you know who he is?"

"No, but look at him! He's hot! Please, please, can I add him?"

Mom said yes. And for six weeks Megan and Josh - under Tina's watchful eye - became acquainted in the virtual world of MySpace.

Josh said he was born in Florida and recently had moved to O'Fallon. He was homeschooled. He played the guitar and drums.

He was from a broken home: "when i was 7 my dad left me and my mom and my older brother and my newborn brother 3 boys god i know poor mom yeah she had such a hard time when we were younger finding work to pay for us after he loeft."

As for 13-year-old Megan, of Dardenne Prairie, this is how she expressed who she was:

M is for Modern

E is for Enthusiastic

G is for Goofy

A is for Alluring

N is for Neglected.

She loved swimming, boating, fishing, dogs, rap music and boys. But her life had not always been easy, her mother says.

She was heavy and for years had tried to lose weight. She had attention deficit disorder and battled depression. Back in third grade she had talked about suicide, Tina says, and ever since had seen a therapist.

But things were going exceptionally well. She had shed 20 pounds, getting down to 175. She was 5 foot 5 inches tall.

She had just started eighth grade at a new school, Immaculate Conception, in Dardenne Prairie, where she was on the volleyball team. She had attended Fort Zumwalt public schools before that.

Amid all these positives, Tina says, her daughter decided to end a friendship with a girlfriend who lived down the street from them. The girls had spent much of seventh grade alternating between being friends and, the next day, not being friends, Tina says.

Part of the reason for Megan's rosy outlook was Josh, Tina says. After school, Megan would rush to the computer.

"Megan had a lifelong struggle with weight and self-esteem," Tina says. "And now she finally had a boy who she thought really thought she was pretty."

It did seem odd, Tina says, that Josh never asked for Megan's phone number. And when Megan asked for his, she says, Josh said he didn't have a cell and his mother did not yet have a landline.

And then on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, Megan received a puzzling and disturbing message from Josh. Tina recalls that it said: "I don't know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I've heard that you are not very nice to your friends."

Frantic, Megan shot back: "What are you talking about?"

SHADOWY CYBERSPACE

Tina Meier was wary of the cyber-world of MySpace and its 70 million users. People are not always who they say they are.

Tina knew firsthand. Megan and the girl down the block, the former friend, once had created a fake MySpace account, using the photo of a good-looking girl as a way to talk to boys online, Tina says. When Tina found out, she ended Megan's access.

MySpace has rules. A lot of them. There are nine pages of terms and conditions. The long list of prohibited content includes sexual material. And users must be at least 14.

"Are you joking?" Tina asks. "There are fifth-grade girls who have MySpace accounts."

As for sexual content, Tina says, most parents have no clue how much there is. And Megan wasn't 14 when she opened her account. To join, you are asked your age but there is no check. The accounts are free.

As Megan's 14th birthday approached, she pleaded for her mom to give her another chance on MySpace, and Tina relented.

She told Megan she would be all over this account, monitoring it. Megan didn't always make good choices because of her ADD, Tina says. And this time, Megan's page would be set to private and only Mom and Dad would have the password.

'GOD-AWFUL FEELING'

Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, was a rainy, bleak day. At school, Megan had handed out invitations to her upcoming birthday party and when she got home she asked her mother to log on to MySpace to see if Josh had responded.

Why did he suddenly think she was mean? Who had he been talking to?

Tina signed on. But she was in a hurry. She had to take her younger daughter, Allison, to the orthodontist.

Before Tina could get out the door it was clear Megan was upset. Josh still was sending troubling messages. And he apparently had shared some of Megan's messages with others.

Tina recalled telling Megan to sign off.

"I will Mom," Megan said. "Let me finish up."

Tina was pressed for time. She had to go. But once at the orthodontist's office she called Megan: Did you sign off?

"No, Mom. They are all being so mean to me."

"You are not listening to me, Megan! Sign off, now!"

Fifteen minutes later, Megan called her mother. By now Megan was in tears.

"They are posting bulletins about me." A bulletin is like a survey. "Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat."

Megan was sobbing hysterically. Tina was furious that she had not signed off.

Once Tina returned home she rushed into the basement where the computer was. Tina was shocked at the vulgar language her daughter was firing back at people.

"I am so aggravated at you for doing this!" she told Megan.

Megan ran from the computer and left, but not without first telling Tina, "You're supposed to be my mom! You're supposed to be on my side!"

On the stairway leading to her second-story bedroom, Megan ran into her father, Ron.

"I grabbed her as she tried to go by," Ron says. "She told me that some kids were saying horrible stuff about her and she didn't understand why. I told her it's OK. I told her that they obviously don't know her. And that it would be fine."

Megan went to her room and Ron went downstairs to the kitchen, where he and Tina talked about what had happened, the MySpace account, and made dinner.

Twenty minutes later, Tina suddenly froze in mid-sentence.

"I had this God-awful feeling and I ran up into her room and she had hung herself in the closet."

Megan Taylor Meier died the next day, three weeks before her 14th birthday.

Later that day, Ron opened his daughter's MySpace account and viewed what he believes to be the final message Megan saw - one the FBI would be unable to retrieve from the hard drive.

It was from Josh and, according to Ron's best recollection, it said, "Everybody in O'Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you."

BEYOND GRIEF INTO FURY

Tina and Ron saw a grief counselor. Tina went to a couple of Parents After Loss of Suicide meetings, as well.

They tried to message Josh Evans, to let him know the deadly power of mean words. But his MySpace account had been deleted.

The day after Megan's death, they went down the street to comfort the family of the girl who had once been Megan's friend. They let the girl and her family know that although she and Megan had their ups and down, Megan valued her friendship.

They also attended the girl's birthday party, although Ron had to leave when it came time to sing "Happy Birthday." The Meiers went to the father's 50th birthday celebration. In addition, the Meiers stored a foosball table, a Christmas gift, for that family.

Six weeks after Megan died, on a Saturday morning, a neighbor down the street, a different neighbor, one they didn't know well, called and insisted that they meet that morning at a counselor's office in northern O'Fallon.

The woman would not provide details. Ron and Tina went. Their grief counselor was there. As well as a counselor from Fort Zumwalt West Middle School.

The neighbor from down the street, a single mom with a daughter the same age as Megan, informed the Meiers that Josh Evans never existed.

She told the Meiers that Josh Evans was created by adults, a family on their block. These adults, she told the Meiers, were the parents of Megan's former girlfriend, the one with whom she had a falling out. These were the people who'd asked the Meiers to store their foosball table.

The single mother, for this story, requested that her name not be used. She said her daughter, who had carpooled with the family that was involved in creating the phony MySpace account, had the password to the Josh Evans account and had sent one message - the one Megan received (and later retrieved off the hard drive) the night before she took her life.

"She had been encouraged to join in the joke," the single mother said.

The single mother said her daughter feels the guilt of not saying something sooner and for writing that message. Her daughter didn't speak out sooner because she'd known the other family for years and thought that what they were doing must be OK because, after all, they were trusted adults.

On the night the ambulance came for Megan, the single mother said, before it left the Meiers' house her daughter received a call. It was the woman behind the creation of the Josh Evans account. She had called to tell the girl that something had happened to Megan and advised the girl not to mention the MySpace account.

AX AND SLEDGEHAMMER

The Meiers went home and tore into the foosball table.

Tina used an ax and Ron a sledgehammer. They put the pieces in Ron's pickup and dumped them in their neighbor's driveway. Tina spray painted "Merry Christmas" on the box.

According to Tina, Megan had gone on vacations with this family. They knew how she struggled with depression, that she took medication.

"I know that they did not physically come up to our house and tie a belt around her neck," Tina says. "But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old - with or without mental problems - it is absolutely vile.

"She wanted to get Megan to feel like she was liked by a boy and let everyone know this was a false MySpace and have everyone laugh at her.

"I don't feel their intentions were for her to kill herself. But that's how it ended."

'GAINING MEGAN'S CONFIDENCE'

That same day, the family down the street tried to talk to the Meiers. Ron asked friends to convince them to leave before he physically harmed them.

In a letter dated Nov. 30, 2006, the family tells Ron and Tina, "We are sorry for the extreme pain you are going through and can only imagine how difficult it must be. We have every compassion for you and your family."

The Suburban Journals have decided not to name the family out of consideration for their teenage daughter.

The mother declined comment.

"I have been advised not to give out any information and I apologize for that," she says. "I would love to sit here and talk to you about it but I can't."

She was informed that without her direct comment the newspaper would rely heavily on the police report she filed with the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department regarding the destroyed foosball table.

"I will tell you that the police report is totally wrong," the mother said. "We have worked on getting that changed. I would just be very careful about what you write."

Lt. Craig McGuire, spokesman for the sheriff's department, said he is unaware of anyone contacting the department to alter the report.

"We stand behind the report as written," McGuire says. "There was no supplement to it. What is in the report is what we believe she told us."

The police report - without using the mother's name - states:

"(She) stated in the months leading up Meier's daughter's suicide, she instigated and monitored a 'my space' account which was created for the sole purpose of communicating with Meier's daughter.

"(She) said she, with the help of temporary employee named ------ constructed a profile of 'good looking' male on 'my space' in order to 'find out what Megan (Meier's daughter) was saying on-line' about her daughter. (She) explained the communication between the fake male profile and Megan was aimed at gaining Megan's confidence and finding out what Megan felt about her daughter and other people.

"(She) stated she, her daughter and (the temporary employee) all typed, read and monitored the communication between the fake male profile and Megan …..

"According to (her) 'somehow' other 'my space' users were able to access the fake male profile and Megan found out she had been duped. (She) stated she knew 'arguments' had broken out between Megan and others on 'my space.' (She) felt this incident contributed to Megan's suicide, but she did not feel 'as guilty' because at the funeral she found out 'Megan had tried to commit suicide before.'"

Tina says her daughter died thinking Josh was real and that she never before attempted suicide.

"She was the happiest she had ever been in her life," Ron says.

After years of wearing braces, Megan was scheduled to have them removed the day she died. And she was looking forward to her birthday party.

"She and her mom went shopping and bought a new dress," Ron says. "She wanted to make this grand entrance with me carrying her down the stairs. I never got to see her in that dress until the funeral."

NO CRIMINAL CHARGES

It does not appear that there will be criminal charges filed in connection with Megan's death.

"We did not have a charge to fit it," McGuire says. "I don't know that anybody can sit down and say, 'This is why this young girl took her life.'"

The Meiers say the matter also was investigated by the FBI, which analyzed the family computer and conducted interviews. Ron said a stumbling block is that the FBI was unable to retrieve the electronic messages from Megan's final day, including that final message that only Ron saw.

The Meiers do not plan to file a civil lawsuit. Here's what they want: They want the law changed, state or federal, so that what happened to Megan - at the hands of an adult - is a crime.

THE AFTERMATH IS PAIN

The Meiers are divorcing. Ron says Tina was as vigilant as a parent could be in monitoring Megan on MySpace. Yet she blames herself.

"I have this awful, horrible guilt and this I can never change," she said. "Ever."

Ron struggles daily with the loss of a daughter who, no matter how low she felt, tried to make others laugh and feel a little bit better.

He has difficulty maintaining focus and has kept his job as a tool and die maker through the grace and understanding of his employer, he says. His emotions remain jagged, on edge.

Christine Buckles lives in the same Waterford Crossing subdivision. In her view, everyone in the subdivision knows of Megan's death, but few know of the other family's involvement.

Tina says she and Ron have dissuaded angry friends and family members from vandalizing the other home for one, and only one, reason.

"The police will think we did it," Tina says.

Ron faces a misdemeanor charge of property damage. He is accused of driving his truck across the lawn of the family down the street, doing $1,000 in damage, in March. A security camera the neighbors installed on their home allegedly caught him.

It was Tina, a real estate agent, who helped the other family purchase their home on the same block 2 years ago.

"I just wish they would go away, move," Ron says.

Vicki Dunn, Tina's aunt, last month placed signs in and near the neighborhood on the anniversary of Megan's death.

They read: "Justice for Megan Meier," "Call the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney," and "MySpace Impersonator in Your Neighborhood."

On the window outside Megan's room is an ornamental angel that Ron turns on almost every night. Inside are pictures of boys, posters of Usher, Beyonce and on the dresser a tube of instant bronzer.

"She was all about getting a tan," Ron says.

He has placed the doors back on the closet. Megan had them off.

If only she had waited, talked to someone, or just made it to dinner, then through the evening, and then on to the beginning of a new day in what could have been a remarkable life.

If she had, he says, there is no doubt she would have chosen to live. Instead, there is so much pain.

"She never would have wanted to see her parents divorce," Ron says.

Ultimately, it was Megan's choice to do what she did, he says. "But it was like someone handed her a loaded gun."

Posted by Valkyre at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2007

Traveling Around Southern California

Well, at least it's not as bad as this! But, I've been waiting for a package from Dell. It decided to take a tour around Southern California before it arrives at my house. As you can see from the above map, instead of going from Signal Hill to our house in Gardena, a trip of 12.7 miles, it took a trip to Riverside. From Riverside, it went to Westchester, which is north of here. A total trip of 127.6 miles! Hopefully, it will arrive on Tuesday. Wouldn't surprise me to see it take another detour. Maybe to New York?

Posted by Valkyre at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2007

Andree de Jongh

I had never heard of this woman before! She's a true hero. I wish I had heard about her before she died:

Andree de Jongh, 90; resistance fighter helped downed Allied airmen escape

By Adam Bernstein, Washington Post

October 22, 2007

Andree de Jongh, a Belgian resistance fighter who established the most successful escape route in Europe for downed Allied airmen during World War II, died Oct. 13 in Brussels. She was 90.

De Jongh began her resistance work in May 1940 after the Nazi advance into Brussels. At the time, she was a 24-year-old commercial artist and Belgian Red Cross volunteer.

The British authorities, whom she sought out for logistical and financial support, and Germans, who eventually sent her to concentration camps, found her an improbable heroine despite her determined bearing.

At first, neither side believed her when she described herself as the ringleader of the escape route dubbed the "Comet Line," a daunting 1,000-mile trek across occupied France, over the Pyrenees into Spain and down to the British colony of Gibraltar.

The idea began after the British retreat at Dunkirk in 1940. German patrols were increasingly monitoring the English Channel, and De Jongh helped bring many of the remaining Englishmen overland, through France and into neutral Spain. This evolved into a plan to try to rescue American and British aviators who were shot down over Europe.

With the help of her father in Paris, she created a route of safe houses throughout France. At the Spanish border, she arranged for Basque guides to ferry the Allied airmen over the goat trails used by smugglers in the Pyrenees.

The Germans made attempts to capture De Jongh, but she managed to stay free for 18 months -- until Jan. 15, 1943, when a farmhand in the French-Basque village of Urrugne betrayed her, along with the three aviators she was helping to escape.

The Comet Line was credited with rescuing more than 700 airmen, of which De Jongh was said to have led 118 to safety. It continued operating through the Normandy invasion of June 1944, by which time hundreds of Comet Line operatives had been captured and sent to concentrations camps or executed.

Peter Eisner, whose book "The Freedom Line" (2004) examined the escape network's pivotal figures, said the Comet Line was the "greatest of escape lines in Europe in numbers of rescues as well as the most sophisticated, longest-operating and most successful."

"The value of what she was doing went beyond the individuals she was saving," said Eisner, a former Washington Post editor. "She gave hope to air crews in England before they took off that there was this angel of mercy working in occupied territory that had a complete system working to find them. It was a great psychological boost."

De Jongh was born Nov. 30, 1916, in Schaerbeek, in German-occupied Belgium during World War I. She trained as a nurse but found work as a commercial artist before her father, a schoolteacher, deepened her involvement in the resistance.

She crossed the Pyrenees 24 times before the German authorities arrested her near the Spanish border.

The Gestapo sent her to a series of prisons and concentration camps, and she ended the war at the Ravensbruck camp, near Berlin.

Her father had been executed by firing squad in Paris in 1944. De Jongh said she survived the war because the Germans might have been hoping to use her in a prisoner exchange.

After the war, she was feted at Buckingham Palace in London and received the George Medal, a top British civilian award for bravery. She was made a Belgian countess several decades later, after her career had taken her to Africa, first the Belgian Congo and then Ethiopia to work in a leper hospital in Addis Ababa.

She retired to Brussels after her eyesight faded and other medical ailments persisted. She periodically attracted media coverage as aging veterans whom she had helped made their way to Belgium to thank her for rescuing them.

Posted by Valkyre at 09:25 AM | Comments (2)

November 07, 2007

What's Next!?

Yet another toy recall. And this one, to me, is one of the worst. Children going into comas? Makes you wonder if anything else is going to be recalled. And for what reason?

Article here

Millions of toys recalled; contain 'date rape' drug

Two U.S. children went into comas after who swallowing Chinese-made Aqua Dots found to contain a chemical that converts into 'date rape' drug when ingested.

November 7 2007: 9:04 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Millions of Chinese-made toys have been pulled from shelves in North America and Australia after scientists found they contain a chemical that converts into a powerful date rape drug when ingested. Two children in the U.S. and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

With only seven weeks until Christmas, the recall is yet another blow to the toy industry -- already bruised by a slew of recalls this past summer.

In the United States, the toy goes by the name Aqua Dots, a highly popular holiday toy distributed by Toronto-based Spin Master Toys. They are called Bindeez in Australia, where they were named toy of the year at an industry function earlier this year.

It could not immediately be learned whether Aqua Dots beads are made in the same factories as the Bindeez product. Both are sold by Australia-based Moose Enterprises.

The toy beads are sold in general merchandise stores and over the Internet for use in arts and crafts projects. They can be arranged into designs and fused together when sprayed with water.

Scientists say a chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into the so-called date rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate. When eaten, the compound -- made from common and easily available ingredients -- can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

Naren Gunja from Australia's Poisons Information Center said the drug's effect on children was "quite serious ... and potentially life-threatening."

The recall was announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday several hours after published reports about the recall in Australia.

Fisher-Price recalls 155,000 toys for choking risk
The two U.S. children who swallowed Aqua Dot beads went into nonresponsive comas, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said Wednesday afternoon.

In Australia, the toys were ordered off store shelves on Tuesday when officials learned that a 2-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were hospitalized after swallowing the beads. A 19-month-old toddler also was being treated.

The news jolted the toy industry because Aqua Dots has been one of the few bright stars of the toy selling season, which, along with overall retailing, has gotten off to a sluggish start. The item, which had been heavily advertised, had appeared on many toy experts' list of must-have holiday toys, and toy sellers are now in the midst of canceling advertising and scrambling to figure out how to replace it.

Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy consultant, noted that the incidents could have been isolated, and Spin Master may be erring on the side of caution.

"This is something that they could not have foreseen. This is an extremely hot toy. ... It's a little scary," Byrne said.

In a statement, Toys "R" Us Inc., said that it issued on Tuesday a "stop sale" on the entire Spin Master Aqua Dots product line in its North American stores and on its Web site after it learned of the news. "We understand that Spin Master and U.S. regulatory authorities are investigating this product and we have asked Spin Master to fully explain what it believes happened," said the toy seller in a statement.

Meanwhile, a separate recall was announced for 405,000 children's products made in China, most of them toy cars, because of dangerous levels of lead.

The recall includes about 380,000 Pull-Back Action Toy Cars imported by Dollar General Merchandising Inc. of Goodlettsville, Tenn., and 7,500 Dragster and Funny Car toys imported by International Sourcing Ltd. of Springfield, Mo.

Four of the recalled products were imported by Schylling Associates Inc. of Rowley, Mass., including the items Duck Family Collectable Wind-Up Toy, Dizzy Ducks Music Box, "Robot 2000" collectable tin robot and Winnie-the-Pooh Spinning Top. The company recalled another 66,000 spinning tops Aug. 22.

Representatives from Schylling Associates Inc. were not immediately available for comment.

Wednesday's recalls include about 7,200 "Big Red" Wagons imported by Northern Tool & Equipment Co. of Burnsville, Minn. Totaling about 405,700, the recalled children's products all had excessive levels of lead in their surface paint.

Although no illnesses connected to the toy car recall have been reported, lead is toxic if ingested by young children. Children's products found to have more than 0.06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.

Posted by Valkyre at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2007

Park Wherever You Have To

If there's one thing I absolutely loathe, it's shopping at Costco on Sunday. Weekday evenings, no problem. But, I would rather have my teeth yanked, without Novacaine, that go to the local Costco on Sunday. But, sometimes, I don't have a choice. Which is what happened today. Sunday, the place is wall to wall people. People who leave their carts out and block the aisle. People who walk up to the food sample tables and leave their carts to block the already crowded aisles and yak with the sales clerk. Unattended kids who run all over the place. Families of 10 who walk next to each other, instead of one behind the other and block the aisles. Oh! And the husband and wife who were arguing over what bagels to buy and not allowing anyone else in to select their choices. You get the picture. But, the thing I dread the most is trying to find a parking space. I pull in and notice that the few Compact spaces are occupied by large SUV's, that stick way out into the parking aisle, as usual. And the Costco store, itself, decides to alleviate the parking problem by shoving a line of carts into about a half dozen spaces at the very back of the lot. Oddly enough, there was no one parked there. Why not? I don't know. I nudged the Beetle in as close as I could without hitting them. As you can see, I was in the space. I did my shopping and came out to find that no one else took the initiative. Until I pulled out my cell phone camera. If you look closely, you can see a taxi cab pulling in next to my car. He didn't seem to care that about 4 feet of his car stuck way out into the aisle. After I buckled in and started to leave, another car took the space next to me. A small 4 door that could pull in completely and not block the aisle. I really love having a small car in situations like this.

Posted by Valkyre at 05:37 PM | Comments (2)