Caption, Please

By Piper Bayard

One of the fun parts of my job is all of the traveling I get to do. Needless to say, Holmes and I are careful where we meet up, and it can make for some interesting sites along the way.

How about a caption for this one? Please keep it clean, and don’t insult anyone’s religion. I know that will be a challenge with this one, but you are clever people, so I’m sure you’re up to it. Have fun!

image by Piper Bayard

image by Piper Bayard

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Driving School for Dogs

Though it is for a good cause, it’s too bad we don’t put this much effort into teaching humans to drive. Maybe the “click and treat” method should be employed in human Drivers Ed classes.

Perhaps we could get more people to adopt orphans and foster children if there was a program like this to show people how awesome those kids can be with time and attention.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

The Three Stages of Author Marketing by historical fiction author Susan Spann over at Writers in the Storm this week. Look for Susan’s debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT, next July.

Claws of the Cat Cover

Heather Konik over at Prawn and Quartered is one of the most astute people I know. How Bob Costas Got it Wrong

Sometimes it seems we can never do enough. Pack Your Bags, We’re Going on a Guilt Trip by the ever-clever Best Selling Author Kristen Lamb.

What have been your turning points? Life-Defining Moments by Award Winning Best Selling Author Vicki Hinze.

KM Huber shares her journey to digestive health. At a time when so many of us are going gluten free and making other dietary changes to avoid that daily handful of pills that seems to accompany middle age in the West, it helps to hear how persistence can get you there over time. And Then, You’re There

Dating Guru Blake Eastman Decodes Body Language

Five Things Really Smart People Do

Black Panther Magnus Manske wikimedia

Image by Magnus Manske, wikimedia commons

Black Panthers sightings have been common throughout the South for decades, yet scientists still don’t believe. Black Panther Folklore by Catie Rhodes.

And in case you’re wondering what to get those ladies in your life this holiday season, don’t forget we now have Bic Pens for Women. Hysterical video from Ellen Degeneres that comes to us thanks to mystery writer Kathy Owen. Thanks, Kathy! Good thing I can type. Not sure I could handle one of these.

And now for our Campaign Style Poll Daddy of the week.

All the best to all of you for a safe week behind the wheel.

Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Dreamers

By Piper Bayard

My parents sat us in front of the TV on that July day back in 1969 and said, “You will want to tell your children about this.” We watched Neil Armstrong take the first walk on the moon, not understanding how remarkable it was, but thinking it was incredibly cool just the same.

Our young lives were filled with Tang and Quisp and astronauts, and since each generation believes the world springs fully formed at the moment of its own birth, we took the moon walks for granted. After all, they happened every few months, and at our age, there wasn’t really a time before. We were certain people would be living on the moon by the time we were adults, using it as a base to explore the rest of the solar system.

And Star Trek? Why not? Even Russians and Americans eventually set aside the space race fueled by the Cold War and shared the International Space Station. Space wasn’t only the final frontier. It was the place where humans stood together in the face of the unknown Universe. The very essence of Star Trek made real.

I am only now fully feeling the possibility that there will be no more moon walks in my lifetime. In fact, I’m fond of saying, “We put a man on the moon with a slide rule. Why can’t we do it again with all of these computers? I’m not seeing any improvement here.”

But Neil Armstrong and the other brave astronauts of those years planted a seed in the minds and hearts of humanity that not only stands for the wonders we can find in the night sky, but for what is possible here on earth. My parents were right. I do point to that moment and tell my children, “Anything is possible if we choose to make it so.”

Image from NASA.

Thank you, Neil Armstrong. R.I.P.

All the best to all of you for keeping the fire burning.

Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

By Piper Bayard

That’s it. I’m in love with Canada. Genuinely a land of Northern efficiency and Southern hospitality.

We spent most of the past two weeks on Vancouver Island, in Victoria and on the shore outside of Sooke. The full moon reflecting off the Strait of Juan de Fuca was worth the trip in itself. The best of both civilization and the wild in a land where vast tracts of mountain forest drop straight down to the sea.

I learned many things in this place where earth, sky and water converge.

This calls for a list.

Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

  1. It takes approximately 39 hours for Americans to add “eh” to their vocabularies.
  2. Poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese curds) is a food group.
  3. Residents of the Vancouver Island coast have driveways so steep you could use them to teach raccoons to climb trees.
  4. The ocean can transform from surreally perfect glass to “Oh, hell! How’d I end up on Deadliest Catch?” in approximately 30 minutes.
  5. The waves of an incoming tide will mesmerize you like online games and, like online games, can leave you wondering where you put the last five hours of your life.
  6. Seeing a killer whale up close in the wild is worth every bit of the sandblasting rain you endure to get to it.
  7. A fifteen pound halibut can win two throws out of three against a six foot woman.
  8. Snorkeling in Victoria Harbor is an excellent argument for snorkeling in the Caribbean.
  9. The friendly common greeting and farewell of Canadian island children is to moon arriving and departing guests as the ferry passes.
  10. Canadians do not consider it friendly for ferry passengers to moon the children in return.
Overall, it was a pocket of time with my family so precious that a part of me will always live there. Click on the tab Vancouver Island 2012 above for a few of my favorite photos. And yes. It was overcast most of the time, but that didn’t bother this desert refugee one bit.

Have you ever been to The Great White North? What fun and interesting things have you learned in your travels?

I’m happy to say that HOLMES IS BACK! We will be publishing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while we work on our spy thriller, Blood Truffles, so keep an eye out for more current events, history, and side-stitching sarcasm.

All the best to all of you for a week of beautiful moons.

Victoria Has No Secrets — Bayard & Holmes Cyber Smack US Airways CEO

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

US Airways CEO Doug Parker has earned the honor of having his otherwise pathetic existence being mentioned on our web page. Doug’s claim to infamy is based on the fact that he collects a $2.8 million paycheck as the CEO of US Airways.

US Airways recently got some attention in the media, and like most of the attention that it has received since its merger with America West in 2005, that recent attention was negative.

On June 15, a US Airways pilot had Deshon Marman, 20, arrested because he did not pull up his pants above his boxer shorts in a timely fashion. An employee at the boarding gate in San Francisco asked Marman to pull up the baggy pajamas he was wearing because he was exposing his boxer shorts to God and everybody, none of whom cared to see them. According to his mother, who was traveling with him, Deshon’s hands were full of his luggage so he was not able to comply immediately. Instead, he boarded the plane, then pulled up his pants and sat down. As a result of his “defiance” of an order from a US Airways employee, the plane was evacuated, and he was taken away in handcuffs with the whole Reality TV treatment. Click here for more.

We have no problem with US Airways not allowing people in sagging pajamas to fly on planes that other members of the general public are paying to share. We’re personally sick and tired of people running around in public in their pajamas and underwear, and we’re glad US Airways showed a little bit of respect for the rest of the passengers by booting this youngster from the plane. But the story doesn’t end there. . . .

We have since found out that on June 9, six days prior to that incident, a middle-aged man dressed only in scanty women’s lingerie and a see-through shrug was allowed to board a US Airways flight in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Several passengers complained about the cross-dresser’s lack of clothing, but their complaints were ignored, and the panty-clad fellow was allowed to complete his flight.

Yes, really.

We see a double standard in this. If flying in scanty women’s underwear with no pants or skirt meets US Airways’ minimum requirements for attire, why was the young football player booted for having his boxer shorts exposed? While many people are offended by the overt display of boxer shorts, more people are offended by people walking around in any public place in nothing but their underwear, regardless of whether it is gender appropriate.

From our point of view, US Airways showed a lack of respect for its passengers when it allowed the Florida cross-dresser to board the plane without sufficient clothing. Had he chosen to fly in a black evening gown, an Ann Taylor ensemble, or any clothing similar to that worn by any other passenger, male or female, we would mind our own business concerning his personal dress preferences, and we would fly on the same plane without complaining.

We suspect what occurred here was political correctness run amok. While we would not want any cross-dresser to suffer any negative discrimination simply because they choose attire from the “other” side of the department store, we also don’t think that being a cross-dresser should earn anyone any special entitlements. Shame on US Airways for such spineless discrimination against it’s non-cross-dressing passengers.

The young man traveling in baggy pajamas was smart enough to contract an attorney. We don’t know how US Airways defense team is going to explain away the comparison to the cross-dresser. At this point, it looks like a jury will have the chance to sort that out.

Normally, we wouldn’t automatically blame the CEO for what could be the conduct of a few employees who are ignoring corporate policy, but US Airways has a long and distinguished record of bad customer service. Just so you don’t think we’re being too harsh with Douggie Parker, we’d like to point out a couple of the more heinous incidents at US Airways that we can recall.

  • In May, 2009, a blind man was dragged off a flight, jailed, and told he was faking his blindness. His crime? He was asking too many questions about why the flight was delayed. Click here.
  • US Airways booted a man with cerebral palsy from one of its planes in October, 2010, saying the man was too disabled to fly. Never mind that the man is a professional motivational speaker who has flown thousands of miles without his disability being an issue. Click here.
  • In January, 2011, they left an elderly stroke victim stranded in her wheelchair in the rain. Click here.

Since such an outstanding record of passenger abuse is evidence of a top-down problem, we are awarding US Airways CEO Doug Parker with a Cyber Smack. This prize includes weekly commutes as a normal passenger on his airline. To make his travel experience more entertaining (for the rest of us) Douggie will be required to negotiate the TSA checkpoint not once, but four times for each flight, and he will be required to fly in a wheelchair, with a mask covering his eyes. He will also be seated next to Rosie O’Donnell, who will be clothed in nothing except men’s underwear.

If Doug Parker proves to be more intrepid than we assume he is, and he actually survives a year of flying on US Airways without being killed or committing suicide, perhaps the experience will help him develop some compassion toward his passengers.

If you’ve suffered the misfortune of flying US Airways at some point in time, please share any special messages you may have for Douggie below in the comments.

Have you had any Close Encounters of the Troubling Kind with your airline carrier? Are there any airlines or airline employees you would like to give a Cyber Smack?

Trading Babies

By Piper Bayard

I recently learned about a new fad called Maternity Tourism. That’s where wealthy women, primarily from China, travel to America at the end of their pregnancies to have their babies here, ensuring they are born American citizens. They fly here on legitimate travel visas, stay in boutique hotels that are set up with nurseries, have their American babies at American hospitals, and then, after their recovery period, they return home with their little Yanks. Click here for a short CNN video on the topic.

image from Dreamstime.com

Yep. Arrive pregnant. Leave with an American citizen.

So when I first heard about this, I thought, “Wait a minute! That is soooo not cool.”

American citizenship is a first class privilege, not a Plan B. Immigrants who come here to identify with American laws and ideals and to contribute to the well-being of this country with their time, talents, and loyalties are the people who keep our country young and vital in a changing world. But immigrants who come to take advantage of our bounty while maintaining their first identity and loyalty to other countries . . . those immigrants bleed us of our vitality without contributing any value that supersedes the harm they cause. Allowing people to illegally use us while simultaneously spitting on us is just mental. Maternity tourism, at first glance, fell into that latter category to me.

And then I gave it a second thought. . . . Hey, why not? It’s not like Americans don’t fly over there to bring home Chinese babies. Besides, these women are coming here legally. They are paying for the goods, services, and health care they receive, and they are abiding by the terms of their visas and going home with their babies. They are not using their babies as anchors to legitimize their illegal presence in America. We should be thanking them for being good and responsible tourists.

Not only that, but these new little Americans can serve our country in a unique mission. They can help us balance the trade deficit with China. . . . Think about it. The USA currently has a $270 billion trade deficit with China. That means we buy around $270 billion more clothes, machine parts, and unnecessary plastic objects from them than we sell to them.

Now, there are roughly 341 million family households in China, approximately one-fourth of its population. If each of these 341 million families has an American child growing up in China, those kids will eventually translate into 341 million American adults contributing to the functioning of Chinese society. In all fairness, the labor and money collected by American citizens on Chinese soil should apply toward balancing that trade deficit.

Our US government needs to start negotiations now to ensure that our American-Chinese citizens will receive an American standard of fair labor treatment, and at least an American federal minimum wage for their services. Consider that the children of China, for all practical purposes, can begin to work and contribute to society’s functioning as early as 3 years of age. I’m not making this up. Check Google Images with the search “Chinese Child Labor.”

But we’ll be charitable and round that up to a generous 10 years, since these are American citizens we’re talking about.

Now, let’s put this all together. If 341 million American-Chinese children begin earning $7.25 per hour, forty hours per week, 50 weeks per year, in just 10 years they will be worth, collectively, $4.945 trillion annually to the nation of China. Look at our trade deficit now! Who knows? Perhaps we will earn China’s Most Favored Nation Status.

Considering the benefit to our country from having 341 million American-Chinese children reversing the trade deficit back in our favor, we should not discourage these clever tourists from purchasing the benefits of our establishment. In fact, we should actively encourage them, and even thank them. Personally, I think these new mothers should receive a complimentary mani/pedi upon arrival in the USA—something every pregnant woman enjoys—and a baby gift in the form of a child’s pet to take home with them at their departure. . . . A pregnant Imperial Dwarf Deer.

Imperial Dwarf Deer (formerly known as a muskrat), image from Alan D. Wilson, www.naturespicsonline.com

What do you think of Maternity Tourism? Do you think it’s ok since these women are following our laws? Or do you think our laws should be changed? How would you change those laws? And what other appropriate baby gifts can you think of to give these folks?

All the best to all of you for finding the silver lining.