Harry Potter and the Spitting Camel Child

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The Harry Potter books and movies are some of my favorites of all time. Getting the chance to see behind-the-scenes goodies was something I never dreamed of and I’m still pinching myself.

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(The real chess pieces!!)

While we were waiting for our tour time, we had some sandwiches (we packed a picnic lunch. Cheap!) in the cafe along with several other families. One of the families was busy having an argument. They were speaking a language I don’t understand and the women were wearing scarves which covered everything but their eyes. A teenage boy spit in the face of one of the women during their argument and hit her on top of her head.

The spitting wasn’t just a “p-tooy” spit. It was a wad of nasty looking gunk that landed on her scarf with an audible splat. When he hit her head, she cried out and tried to scoot away on the bench seat. As she was scooting away, another female (all wrapped up, but had the girth of a mom) slapped her shoulder and shook her finger at her. The girl put her head down and wiped the spot from her scarf with a napkin.

I saw that group later in the tour…the girl with the spit-stained scarf had her eyes fixed firmly at the floor.

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(Dumbledor’s stand…every year there’s more and more wax because they really did light candles and let them drip. The crew was on standing orders to not bump the candle wax to ensure none of it broke off.)

At the beginning of the tour, there were a couple of short films about the books and how they became movies. Then Daniel, Emma, and Rupert come out and talked about how they love the crew and they cried when it was over and they were so lucky and magical things really do happen to normal people. By the end of the films, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Then the screen parted and there it was. Hogwarts. My inner child squealed with delight.

When the doors were opened, the Great Hall was in front of us. I had pushed my way was lucky enough to be near the front, so when the doors opened, it was like they were opening just for me.

In the Great Hall of Hogwarts, the girl with the scarf kept her head down.

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For an extra charge, we rented digital guides narrated by Tom Felton. Malfoy guided us around, offering tidbits of behind the scene info and jokes shared by the cast. The girl with the spotty scarf had a digital guide, but she didn’t have her headphones anywhere near her head.

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I don’t know their situation, but it occurred to me that she looked like someone who’d been around a Dementor and needed chocolate. Here was in a magical place, surrounded by amazing props and scenery, but she wasn’t allowed to enjoy it. Every time she’d look around, the Spitter would raise a hand as if to slap her. The Spitter couldn’t have been more than 13? 14? at the most…

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(The chefs on set really did make a bunch of chocolate for the kids to eat for the chocolate feast.)

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(Those wooden beams are actually painted foam.)

A few times, the Spitter and I made eye contact. He would glare at me and show his teeth. At first, I glared back just because that’s my nature. Later, I smiled and rolled my eyes at him. I tried to stay away from their group, but in a museum-type of setting where everyone wants to see the same cool stuff, sometimes proximity was unavoidable.

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Finally, after Dumbledor’s Office, their group wandered away and I didn’t see them again.

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(A real set of moving/winding stairs was made. It was the hardest thing the crew had to make.)

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During the tour, visitors can jump on a Quidditch broom in front of a green screen and pretend to play the famous wizarding game. Also, they had butter beer!

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Just like at Universal Studios in Florida, the music of Harry Potter movies was piped throughout. With the giant sets and stages and authentic props, I half expected Hermione to pop around a corner and start scolding me.

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(The Ministry set was huge and very elaborate. It was also Daniel Radcliffe’s favorite set.)

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(#4 Privet Drive)

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(Hagrid’s massive animatronic head.)

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(Buckbeak moved! He would blink and move his head…and bow!)

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(Super detailed white-card models.)

The last display is the model of Hogwarts used for aerial shots. It was mammoth. And amazing. And I want it.

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Finally, through Olivander’s store. They really did build a shop filled with 21,000 wand boxes and all the wand boxes really were labelled.

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And they really did destroy the store and blow up a bunch of boxes and glass.

The tour was expensive but it was worth it. The kids had a blast and my daughter, the budding artist, was inspired by the vast world that started on a train from Manchester to London so many years ago. …as The Doctor said, “Good ol’ JK.”

After the tour, we had to hurry to catch trains and find our hotel. We caught a flight back to our starting point and we’re waiting to go home. We’re experiencing a significant hiccup in our travels, but I know that I have my family and I am loved. I know I won’t get spit on by some mutant camel person. It’s been an amazing trip and I’m so glad we’ve done all the things we’ve done…but I’m ready to come home. I’m ready for free tap water and free bathrooms. For my house and my dog. For my kitchen and my bed.

I will keep that girl with the spotty scarf in my prayers…and the camel child, too. It must be hard to be that miserable.

Keep us in your prayers, too, as we make our way home. :)

The River Thames Messed Up My Hair

Today was a cold and cloudy day in London. Proper English weather, I’m told.

Our first stop of the day: the filming location for BBC’s Sherlock. Well…the front door, at least. ;)

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Speedy’s was closed. :(

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While we were stopped there, at least 10 people came by to get snaps of their own. The door is there, the knocker is the same, but obviously the address is different, as this is on North Gower St, not Baker Street. Check out Sherlockology for details on locations.

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Then it was on to Buckingham Palace.

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Wow…this place is huge. Also, the Guards with the fuzzy hats are really far away now. No posing with them, no trying to make them laugh… We’re told it’s a security risk. :( I hate bad guys.

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The fountain out front was mammoth. And because my boys refused to move from their spots, there are hundreds of tourists headed home with photobombs. Awesome.

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And the parks…

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And buildings…including Westminster Abbey…

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We headed across the Thames to the London Eye. The crowds were insane! There were street performers and “Guess which cup!” guys and “Take your picherrrr?” girls everywhere. The skies were drizzling rain and the wind was almost bitey. My hair was blowing all over the place and the guy trying to crowd behind me complained to his wife. To her everlasting benefit, she said (in a very Hackney accent), “Your problem, ya know, is that you ain’t got no concept o’ personal space.”

We finally made it through the ques for tickets and made it to The Eye. I did my best to not freak out in the pod…but honestly it was scary/amazing/don’t-look-too-closely-at-the-bolts/wow-it’s-really-windy/cool. The view was worth all the terror-filled thoughts about plunging into Thames or worrying about a fellow pod-goer coughing up The Plague.

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By the time we had a picnic in the park and crossed the river again, my hair had become a curling mass of frizz. The humidity had conspired with the wind to turn my locks into something between Medusa’s snakes and that guy with the 70’s ‘fro.

Stupid River Thames…no consideration. I used the last of my good conditioner for this trip this morning. ((Sigh))

Here are some sights on the way back to the hotel:

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^^^friendly photobomb…^^^

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Snails. They’re everywhere.

Tomorrow: The Warner Bros. Harry Potter studio tour.

Now: The Food Network. The British Food Network is very different from what I’m used to in America. It’s cool…and apparently, “brown sauce” is its own food group. ;)

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Germany to Italy, Days 1-2

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We left Bavaria by train and headed south through the Alps. A word of advice: when traveling by train and you have the chance to secure a compartment for only €8, do it. I’m so very glad we did. The 4 hour ride from Innsbruck to Venice would have been brutal otherwise. The seats in the hallways were no bigger than toilet rims and anytime someone wanted past, folks had to stand up. There were people everywhere: in the gangway, in the connecting areas… kids, dogs, huge suitcases, body odors. We had a compartment with a/c, shades, and a door. I felt bad for the people in the gangway, but I was grateful that my kids could sleep.

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When we got off the train in Venice, this greeted our eyes:

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I cried. I cried the same cry when I got to mile 24 of my first marathon and knew I would finish. Exhaustion, elation, disbelief, gratitude. I’m from small town America…Vegas and Memphis were really big deals when I was a kid. Venice? Only in books. Not for me. Never gonna see it, might as well be a fairy tale. …but I did get to see it! And my husband gave me a hug and my kids chased pigeons.

Our friend Ty picked us up and we spent a relaxing evening eating and catching up. After a shower and a good night’s rest, Ty had a surprise for me: his neighbor Lidia agreed to give me a cooking lesson! The catch? …

Lidia speaks no English. I speak only Food Network Italian (malto benné!). Ty called his sister (they are Nigerian) to translate over the phone for Lidia and I so we could get things arranged. Lidia was anxious to get things going; ten minutes later, I was in her kitchen.

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I don’t know exactly what I expected…but I was very surprised when she pulled out a mini food processor to chop the onions and tomatoes. :)

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We stirred and she talked and I smiled. Every once in a while she would mutter something that sounded an awful lot like “I really wish you spoke Italian; You’re exhausting me.” to which I would smile and nod and say, “Butter?”

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We made a meat sauce (I learned how to speak some Italian, not spell it. I won’t insult the language by butchering the spelling), some zucchini with peppers, and beef ribs cooked over an open fire in her downstairs kitchen.

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The afternoon was amazing and there isn’t a show on the Travel Channel to compare how fantastically wonderful my day was.

Her tiny table was transformed with a plywood sheet, masking tape, and a table cloth.

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To get the table cloth, she directed me to a ladder and a cupboard which she referred to as her linen mausoleum. Holy cow, that woman has some table cloths.

The it was time to eat. And eat. And eat…

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We laughed and the kids fell in love with Lino, Lidia’s husband. He doesn’t speak English either, but it doesn’t matter. Laughter and piggy faces are universal.

After the food was coffee!

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Lidia honored us by bringing out her good coffee set.

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…Italian coffee is not something to be taken lightly. It is strong and thick and positively divinely caffeinated.

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Lidia refused to let me help with dishes. She said it would take away her hospitality; not wanting to insult her, I hugged her and told her thank you a million times. She said I can come back, anytime I want. :)

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Lino showed us their garden. No pesticides. All natural…

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…and then at 1400 on the dot, it was announced that it was Lino’s nap time and we were shown the gate. There are some things in Italy, he said, that are not negotiable: time to eat and time to sleep are at the top of the list.

It is 1500… I feel as though I’ve lived a month since I woke up this morning… and we haven’t even seen down town yet.

Kick Rocks

Her Ladyship and I went for a run tonight. There was a nice breeze, lots of toads

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and many people out on front porches. Some of the people would wave back at me, some looked on with puzzled expressions, and one group was down right mean…

I live in military housing, which means all my neighbors are service members and their families. Running at night (my habit) means that I see and hear quite a bit of … humanity’s extremes. I’ve seen surprise home coming hugs, surprise home coming fights, wives holding a phone and crying, and I’ve heard all manner of conversations people have in the dark. I pretend not to hear, keeping my eyes forward; I listen always, though. I listen out of curiosity and I listen for danger. The nicer the weather, the more opportunities there are for folks to be outside.

There was a group of 7 women on a porch. I could smell the cigarette smoke long before I saw or heard them. I smiled. I waved. I heard, “I like your dog! What kind is it?”

Ask me about me dog and I’ll talk your ear off. So I stopped running and sang the praises of the local Pound Puppies. Maggie sat and smiled. Then I heard, “You know you’re too fat to be out here, right?” …laughter…loud laughter…

Okay… This came from a group circled around the carcass of an RC cola case, cigarettes, and had their plumber’s cracks shining in the lamplight. Also, I’m no barbie doll, but dang…

I said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” and turned to go.

I heard, “Stuck up officer’s-wife-bitch! You and your pearl earrings! Keep running, dumbass!” I turned back and said, “Enjoy the spoils of your evening, ladies.” and curtsied. (yep…an honest-to-goodness curtsy that I could pull off because I happened to be wearing a running skirt.)

Maggie, to her everlasting credit, growled at them. I heard vague threats about Animal Control and pepper spray… I didn’t hear them long, though, as I happened to be going at a pretty nice little pace, if I do say so.

Why are women so mean? I wasn’t bothering them. I wasn’t trying to convert them. I was enjoying a run with my dog, thinking about an upcoming trip to the beach.

I am an officer’s wife, but I’d like to think I’m not stuck up about it. It’s his rank, not mine. I do run with pearl earrings, though. All runs. Training runs, races, trail runs, marathons… I wear them to remind me that I am a lady, I am not a quitter, I have a husband who believes in me, and I am an example to those around me. I wear my pearls for my fellow army wives…

…I wear my pearls for those mean-y faces who hurt my feelings.

My dad has a million sayings; he should write a book. The one that came to mind tonight is “Kick rocks, sweet heart. You’re burning’ daylight.”

kick rocks :get a move on; start walking; do your job.
burnin’ daylight :wasting time.

So there it is. Kick rocks.

I think about those sad, angry women and I’m glad I met them when I was sweating and smiling from effort. I’m glad I met them at mile 3.5 and my eyebrows were crunchy with salt. I’m glad I met them with my happy, healthy dog at my side.

I’m glad I met them while I was kickin’ rocks.

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In Which Dr. Suess is Sorely Ashamed of You

A while back I posted a blog entry called “I Don’t Wanna Be Skinny” and it struck a chord with some folks; some chords were good and others…others not so good.

For example: I got a response from a person I’ll call… Person. Person is unhappy with me and my blog…

“I’m sorry, but blogs and post like these really tick me off. I am 27 years old and have 2 children a 7 and soon to be 3 year old. I am one of the unfortunate women who don’t gain weight. 5’2 and 103 lbs. But people like you are the reason why I am out of shape. I know i shouldn’t care what people say but if your constantly being reminded how skinny you are sarcastically you can only imagine what their thinking or saying behind your back. So yeah because of your post (which i found googling if Skinny girls should use Zumba) I am once again reminded that i would only be ridiculed if i step into a gym or a Zumba class. So thank you for being so naive when it comes to weight not all skinny girls want to be skinny!”

                           -Person

I suppose I should be wringing my hands and hanging my head right about now because of how I made this Person feel?

No. I do not feel guilty. In fact, I’m sort of disgusted and angry at this Person’s attitude. Allow me to make my points:

1) I write a blog, not a news site. The heading up there on the front page reads “When My Head Leaks, This is What Comes Out” not “I’ve done extensive research and provided you with 12 non-Wiki resources.” My blog, my opinions. Don’t like it, don’t read it. I’m not some government-funded social hour, requiring me to powder your tax-paying-butt and make you feel special.

2) Person has just given me an uncomfortably large control over her life. She has allowed the opinion of a perfect stranger to keep her from having a good time. In fact, if Person would re-read my post, she’d see that I encourage everyone to try Zumba and then I reference yet another post in which I expound on the glorious variety of body-types enjoying Zumba. Perhaps I should post an entry entitled, “Everyone Born on Tuesday Should Give Me a Dollar!” and then, simply because of the drivel sent out into cyberspace, I’ll become a zillionaire. …probably not, though, because People will fail to read the entire entry and links provided…

3) Person is actively teaching her children to abide by my whimsy and whim. “If anyone on the internet has a poor opinion of your body-type/religion/political view/hair style, you must immediately hide under a rock until you can obtain a written release giving you their leave for your very existence, kids.” Which could otherwise be translated to “forget your own ideas” and “other folks’ opinions about you should define your self-worth” and “don’t ever try anything new”. This is a frightening, nauseating, dangerous, and scandalous mind-set to teach our children.

4) Opinion is not fact. Opinions abound; facts, apparently, do not. One of the great down-falls of our society will be the ignorance of fact for the worship of opinion. (This, of course, is my opinion.)

5) When you put something on the internet, such as a blog entry or a reply to a blog entry, you are opening yourself up to all manner of douche-baggotry and joy. There are those who will “Ah! Yes! Thank You! You’re Marvelous!” and those who will “You Suck! I Hate You! You Made Me Cry!”. The grade-school play-yard has simply gone electronic… “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue…” “You Have Cooties…” “He Says He’ll Never Sit With You…” “I’ll Be Han Solo, You Be Chewbacca…” It’s all the same, you know, only now, we have to hope that our fellow playmates can at least spell correctly and know the difference between your, you’re, there, they’re, and their.

6) Seriously, who cares what others think?? Honestly??  My best friend’s husband runs marathons and ultra-marathons. Bald-Headed. Barefooted. Wearing a kilt. (just…think about that image for a mo’) Imagine all the joy the world would miss out on if BareFootJim just…wore shoes and shorts? What joy is Person keeping from the world because she cares so incredibly much what the world thinks?

Here’s my response to Person:

  • Thanks for your comment. (really.) And yes, I am sarcastic and naive and sometimes (often, actually) not very nice at all. Am I the majority? Nope. Are there skinny girls out there doing Zumba and dancing circles around my fat arss? You betcha. So screw what others (I) think about you and your scrawny butt. Dance your heart out. Have a good time! Remember this, though: if my fat butt can line up to run a marathon and get nasty looks for even dreaming of a finisher’s medal (I have two medals for a full marathon and 8 for halves) you can get your bones out on a dance floor. Allowing someone like myself, whom you’ve never met, to determine your fitness (life expectancy and quality) is suicide by proxy and lazy.

    Suck it up and dance.”

    …there you have it. There are Star-Bellied Sneetches and those with small breetches and those that cry in the weeds. Be happy with yourself, though you have the ears of an elf, and my opinion you’ll never need.

    my contribution to the sea of fluff and pink

The TuTu’s of the Diva Half Marathon, Myrtle Beach, SC

the beach was about 100m from the starting line…love a sunrise on the beach!

waiting to start

Thing 1 & Thing 2

“Diva Tinkerbell”

my contribution to the sea of fluff and pink

sweet hat

“crusty jugglers…” This guy was super friendly. Thanks, Dressed Up JugglerGuy!

around mile 10…

the heaviest and blingy-est medal I’ve earned to date

The Wedding…Photographed

My cousin Jessica got married last week and I got to be the photographer.  Let it be known, however, that I was not chosen because my photographs are particularly fabulous, but because, drum roll please…I’m family and I did it for free.  Free trumps awesome most of the time.  My other cousin, Karen, actually owns a photography studio but because her photographs are actually good, she was already booked for the weekend.  So…free trumps gainfully employed, too.  Laura, one of my superfantasticohmygoodnessI’msoluckytohaveherinmylife sister-in-laws agreed to come and help me take pictures.

This is the part of the story in which I say LAURA ROCKS.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day. Laura uses a Sony Alpha (I dunno the number) and I used two different Olympus bodies, an E-620 with a 50mm lens and an E-5 with a kit 14-42mm lens. For fill light, I used an external flash equipped with a mini light box for more even distribution of the light. I uploaded everything to Aperture 3 and edited there. I don’t use Photoshop. Outdoor photography began around 4:30 in the afternoon, with the ceremony beginning at 7p.  Lighting was the hardest part of everything for me…to say the least.

These are my favorites:

Laura, working her mmmmojo, baby, yeah!

My Uncle David...

So there ya have it.  It was a beautiful wedding and I really was honored to take the pictures.  Laura was so kind to come and take pictures with me and generally save the day.  The cake was delicious (I ate three pieces…for my WW homies, that equals 28 pps.  it was totally worth it), the bride was glowing, and I wish them love, luck, and happiness.   Congratulations, Stan and Jessica!

In Which I Lose Readers and/or Get Laughed At By Lawyers

(Dear Celeste: please try really hard not to laugh at me. Rolling your eyes is fine, though. Thank you. Love, Me.)

So, here’s where I probably piss you off:

I think its perfectly okay for restaurants and other businesses to have “no kids allowed” policies.

Yes, I have kids. Yes, I like taking them places. Yes, I have to feed them, sometimes in public. Yes, I’ve been asked to leave a store because I had a toddler in tow.

No, I don’t like everyone’s kids. No, I don’t think everyone’s kids are cute. No, I don’t always like my kids or think they’re always cute. No, I didn’t slash the tires of the snot who kicked me out of her store.

Restauranteurs are business owners, simple as that. As business owners in a republic such as ours, they can run that business as they see fit. They choose their product, their location, and their clientele. They choose their menus, their wine lists, and their signage.

If you don’t particularly care for blanquette de veau, well, then you’d just better stay away from that French place downtown. If you don’t want to endure second hand smoke, you can Google restaurants in your area which are strictly non-smoking. You can take your money, or not, wherever you choose based on your personal desire.

The fact is, when I take my kids out to eat, I spend more money than if its just The Husband and me. 5>2. See there? I’m not completely worthless at math. The restaurant that chooses to omit a large portion of our population is exercising its capitalist right to do so. Again, I say: capitalism is not democracy, is not a republic, is not up for a popular vote. They’re missing out on money, to be sure. (unless its one of those places with no prices on the menu, in which case, neither my children nor I could afford to walk in the snooty, Chanel scented door.) They are not, however, missing out on the point of a free market society.

Would I eat at a restaurant that doesn’t allow children? No. I’m not going to support that kind of elitist, prejudicial, and intolerant behavior.

I’m also not in favor of flag burning, Ugg boots, public intoxication, hang nails, my sophomore year of high school, split ends, Guy Fierri, soy-based cheese, the “American Pie” movies, lobotomies, McDonald’s, mom jeans, Guns and Roses, wedge heeled shoes, Paris Hilton, or the United Nations.

I do, however, acknowledge the right of those things to exist, no matter how many times I’ve wished for them not to.

( I realize that “right to refuse service” signs don’t give businesses the right to discriminate arbitrarily. There has to be Just Cause-or some other fancy legal term, I’m sure- for them to be able to actually refuse service or kick someone out. I am aware that some people would use this as an excuse for racial, religious, or social bigotry, which is not only illegal but pretty damn stupid. My opinion here is only pertaining to the “no kids” kerfluffle. Don’t be hatin’, mmmkay?)

Good Dog

…how does that quote go?… “I hope I can be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.” or something along those lines…

This is a now-widely seen photo taken at the funeral of a Navy SeAL who was killed in AFG. His dog’s name is Hawkeye (like the character from MASH) and wouldn’t leave his master’s side.

…I hope that I can be that good a person. I hope that Maggie would think enough of me to do the same. For a creature with no known vocabulary, a dog can sure say an awful lot about their master…

I love my dog.

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