Honoring Veterans

Yesterday people across the United States celebrated Veterans Day, gathering together in cemeteries, schools and clubhouses to honor the people whose sacrifices have made our many freedoms possible.

But much of the rest of the world celebrated the same day under a different name: Armistice Day. Armistice Day, initially meant to honor the veterans of World War I, was later expanded into Veterans Day by the United States to honor all veterans.

Dictionaries define a "veteran" as anyone who has served in the military, but especially one who has served in a war.

But Armistice Day isn’t about war. It’s about peace.

Because veterans understand peace better than anyone else. They have experienced the terror, the confusion and the violence of war and they know that peace isn’t merely the lack of war. It has a meaning of its own to those who have experienced its opposite, to our veterans, who have sacrificed time, safety, blood, limbs, mind, or life for the ideals the United States of America does its best to uphold in every way: freedom, equality, goodness, honor.

These ideals sometimes cost us the peace we hold dear and with it, the lives of some of our best and brightest young people. It is a hard price to pay, but our veterans, and their friends and families have paid it.

On Armistice Day, we honor our veterans not on the day that a war began, but on a day it ended, a day their sacrifices were no longer required: a day of peace.

Messy Signature? You May Be a Governor!

My mother (who is, as all mothers are, always right) has been chiding me gently for decades now about the atrocious state of my signature, which consists mainly of my first initials followed by some wobbly penwork vaguely resembling a tachycardia victim’s EKG readout.

Apparently credit card companies and so forth have an easier time of checking your signature if it is neat and tidy.

Actually I think mothers just like their children to be neat and tidy generally and she’ll use any excuse to attempt to improve my atrocious handwriting.

Alas, it is too late. My handwriting is at best the second worst in the newsroom, but in reality, it is probably the actual worst. This does have its benefits; I am able to decipher the handwriting of the other person with bad handwriting, easily discriminating between the words "outdoor pool" and "cat door pool," for example. And I never need to write in code or do what Leonardo Da Vinci did and write everything backwards. Instead, everything I write is automatically recorded in a secret language only I can read.

When I need to leave someone in the office a note, I email them. That way there’s a chance they might be able to figure out what it means. They’re reporters, not cryptographers.

In any case, you can only imagine how gratified I was when I spied this post, with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s signature, complete with analysis, on the Forum Communications Co.’s Capitol Chatter blog.

It included this quote in reference to Pawlenty, although it could equally well be applied to me:

"When one cannot discern the name in the signature, it generally means that the writer knows who he is and if you don’t, it is your problem," said Alice Weiser, a Houston, Texas, hand-writing expert and author. "Rather than be a clear communicator, he prefers a bit of showmanship."

Next time someone points at one of my notes and wonders what language it’s intended to be in (it does kind of look like Assyrian cuneiform at times, I will admit), I will inform them that I am merely demonstrating my showmanship.

Unless it’s my mother.

Movies and Tartans

A few interactive links for you this depressing evening:

You can make your own tartan, if you don’t have one, and use it as a background for your website or computer monitor.

Lady GaGa’s lyrics sound better when spoken with complete seriousness by Christopher Walken. They sound even better spoken by Walken and set to music.

Here’s a rather funny collection of notes used by bank robbers to get tellers to hand over the dough. It’s surprising how many of them have a polite little "Thank you!" tacked on to the bottom.

Oops, it didn’t again: 10 failed doomsday predictions.

And finally, nude live bears!

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I Am Cat Lady, Hear Me Meow!

Not too long ago, I took a Facebook quiz that found my old lady name, which is apparently Eleanor. The bad news, though, is that it also told me something I already knew: I am destined to be a cat lady.

I posted the quiz result with a Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!-style NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! behind it.

I also renamed my FarmTown character "Catgirl."

And now, FarmVille came out with black cats. Given that I’m apparently fore-ordained to have 95 cats and talk to them as if they were people, I snapped up all the cats I could get in FarmVille, and I already have four. They look hungry.

Now, there’s got to be some sort of a benefit to being a crazy cat lady, besides keeping irritating people from visiting your house. The way I figure it, I can train my kitties as attack cats, who will relentlessly sniff and cuddle people who hate cats and bite people who love cats (except me, of course, since I will feed them).

That might make it worth it to be a crazy cat lady.

Creating an Index of Evil

Steve Hodel believes his father was not just one, but three of the most notorious serial killers in history, and thus ranked among the most evil murderers of all time.

In "Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story," Hodel makes the case that his father, George Hodel, murdered Elizabeth Short – known after her death as "The Black Dahlia" –  and mutilated her body back in 1947.

In his most recent book, Steve Hodel, a former Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective, attempts to show that his father may also have been the Lipstick Killer (known for begging the police to catch him in a message written in lipstick in 1945) and the Zodiac Killer, who murdered people in California in the late 1960s.

Hodel makes a strong case for the Dahlia killing and a somewhat flimsier case for the others, though the resemblance of his father to the police sketch of the Zodiac is striking.

Hodel named his second book "Most Evil," after a television show of the same name which purports to categorize killers on a scale of evil. The TV show uses a scale from 1 to 22 to "rate" evilness, with 1 being someone who kills in self-defense, and 22 being someone who inflicts extreme torture on their victims and then kill them.

For example, the "Most Evil" show rated Charles Manson as a 15 (psychopathic spree or multiple murderer) and Jeffrey Dahmer as a full 22. Jim Jones rated a 22, and Ed Gein, who "Psycho" Norman Bates was based on, only rated a 13– he was a psychopathic murderer who killed out of rage.

The Black Dahlia killer rated a full 22 on the evil scale, making him the most evil type of murderer possible, if you buy into the show’s categorization scheme: hence the name of Hodel’s second book, "Most Evil," which accuses his deceased father of being one of the most evil killers in history.

Hodel doesn’t talk much about the "Most Evil" categorization, but instead methodically lays out the case for his father being a globe-hopping, continent-crossing debonair, homicidal sophisticate of the like which is almost always seen in films and very rarely shows up in real life.

The interesting part "Most Evil" and "The Black Dahlia Avenger," however, is Hodel himself, as he writes about his findings and his slow, horrified realization that his father may have been a killer (and was certainly depraved). Hodel, who dedicated his professional life to catching killers, struggles to come to terms with his father’s evil legacy throughout both books, and even chronicles the reactions of some of his relatives to his theories.

It’s Steve Hodel’s fight to discover the truth about his father and what it means that makes "Most Evil" interesting, not George Hodel’s alleged murder and torment of other human beings, and not the case Steve assembles for his readers.

Halloween at the Dayton House

You haven’t experienced Halloween until you’ve visited a Victorian-era, restored home with period furniture and decor, with scary music and sounds in the background, that people have actually died in. Especially when the woodwork in the main hallway looks exactly like a spooky, bloodshot eye.

This is the third year I’ve handed out candy at the Dayton House on Halloween night.

Some kids just bop right up the steps and don’t flinch when a creepy Bride of Death (me) floats out of the door and offers candy. Other kids pause on the sidewalk up to the house, and a few of them even hustle by the house as quickly as they possibly can without looking chicken. Some groups don’t even stop, but have long discussions on the sidewalk leading up to the house.

In previous years, when it wasn’t quite so cold, I stood outside, very still, leaning up against one of the pillars of the house, and then I’d move suddenly when the kids got close enough. I heard quite a few "WOAH!" and "Oh my GOD!" from the sidewalk when they saw me moving.

Of course I wouldn’t do that to little kids. Occasionally they get wigged out by my… creepy black wig, black lipstick and torn-up veil, so I’ve taken the veil and wig off before to reassure them.

This year there weren’t quite as many kids out as there have been in the past. I started out limiting each kid to one piece of candy, but eventually moved to three pieces and by doing that, got rid of most of the candy (generously donated for that purpose by Wal-Mart, and it was the good candy, too, not those horrible orange and black peanut butter things).

It was a lot of fun, even if the eye in the woodwork stared at me whenever I went indoors to refill the candy platter.

Maybe it just wanted some candy.