Friday, June 1, 2012

Editor's Corner

June 2012

The path of least resistance makes all rivers, and some men, crooked. -Napoleon Hill, author (1883-1970)

Since May was such a busy month, (included travel to San Antonio's RiverWalk to celebrate May birthdays with Leo's daughter) one could hope for some peace and quiet in June, but don't hold your breath.

 Everyone is trying to line out vacations, but this area is so full of people from every state and a couple other countries just looking for a place live because of the oil boom. When the school had Kindergarten Graduation yesterday there were probably a thousand cars there. Some were single drivers, but most had at least two and some were filled with families. This graduation included one of the great granddaughters of yours truly from kindergarten, while another graduated the 25th out in S. Carolina, from High School and is college bound. Bless, bless.

Our authors, including Leo, have slacked off for the summer, so no cooking column in this issue, and LC Van Savage isn't here either. However, Peg Jones with "Angel Whispers," John I. Blair with "Always Looking," Mattie Lennon with "Irish Eyes," Thomas F. O'Neill with "Introspective," and "Eric Shackle's Column" by him include a lot of info. Eric also has an article for June, the timely one about the possible demise of shortwave radio broadcasts, "BBC Overseas Service May Be In Peril."

Poems include two by John I. Blair, "The Furry Gift" and "Anole." Bruce Clifford shares three of his, "Never Let You Go," "Secret Life," and "Walking in Glue." Bruce's daughter Brooke who has written for us in the past finished her College, so another graduate!! Bud Lemire also has three, "Island Friends," "Josephine," and "The Whispers of Nature." There are two from yours truly, one written on the natal anniversary, "To Be Again," and one on Leo's birthday, "All The Time."

Mark Crocker has added Chapter 5 to his second book of Rabbo Tales, "Rabbo II -Chapter 5." Remember you can click his name to go to his previous chapters.

We urge you to make comments at the blog version of the ezine. The magazine version will not accept comments at but you can say what interests you (or even click a 'funny' or 'interesting' button) at the blog version.

See you in July.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.
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Always Looking:

The Most Unlikely Birding Site In Texas

    Birders are always trading notes about great spots to pursue their passion. Some of these are tranquil lakes; some wave-washed beaches; some windswept prairies; some leafy woodlands. All of them lovely and sweet-smelling, picture-pretty wild places.
    But one of the most vaunted birding sites in north Texas is an abandoned sewage plant drying bed. And a rather malodorous one at that. The birding there can be so spectacular as to get hard-core birders virtually babbling to each other. I know; I’ve been there many times. And babbled. Ducks in winter, migrating shorebirds, raptors and passerines in spring and fall, and rare water birds in summer, all in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, next to a busy six-lane street.
    Less than a mile northeast of Fort Worth’s sprawling Village Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant alongside Green Oaks Boulevard lie acres of former sludge drying beds. From 1970-1995, the drying beds were the final dewatering step in waste solids processing. Each summer the biosolids were removed from the beds and beneficially recycled as a fertilizer and soil conditioner on area parks, golf courses, highway easements and farmlands.
    But in April, 1995, Village Creek ceased pumping sludge to the drying beds. The sludge that remained in the drying beds and adjacent stockpiles was removed under a series of contracts from 1996-2001. The drying bed site is now maintained and available as an emergency backup for sludge storage, as outlined in the City's master plan. And it has been opened, on a limited basis, to the birdwatching public.
    Because a unique feature of the Village Creek sludge drying beds is an incredible abundance of birds and other animals, attracted to the area over the years by the nutrient-filled water teeming with organic life. Due to the availability of water and the sheltered structure of the site, the area is also a resting stop for hundreds of migratory birds on the Central Flyway of the United States.
    The 240-acre site includes 45 two-acre ponds surrounded by a high levee (to keep out floodwaters from the adjacent Trinity River), plus some swampy woodland and damp meadows just outside the levee. The beds are immediately adjacent to, and bordered on three sides by, Arlington’s 1,000-acres-plus River Legacy Parks greenbelt area. Most of the park area is dense riparian woodland dotted with small meadows. Not far away is a chain of shallow lakes left from decades of sand and gravel extraction. Miles of paved and unpaved hiking and biking trails run the length of the parklands, providing access to a seemingly endless succession of other excellent birding areas along the river banks. But the drying beds are the crown jewel because of the exceedingly rich variety of birdlife to be seen there.
    Just a Few of the Unusual Species You May See
    Black-bellied Whistling Tree Duck – remarkably colorful and rare hole-nesting duck usually seen only in areas close to Mexico, but often numerous here.

         Black-bellied Whistling Tree Duck
    Ibis – very Egyptian-looking wading bird with a down-curved beak. Both the white and glossy versions are seen here.
    Piping Plover – pale shorebird with a distinctive black-ringed neck, these run along the pool edges, looking for food on the damp mud.
    Piping Plover
    Roseate Spoonbill – spectacularly beautiful bright pink wading birds with a unique flattened bill used for filtering tiny food animals from muddy water. These drying beds in Arlington must be about the only place in north Texas where these birds have been regularly sighted.
    Black Tern – rare and declining species of graceful bird that dives from the air to grab fish from the water. Freshwater marshes such as these are critical to their continuing survival.
    Black-necked Stilt – very slender-beaked wading bird with incredibly long and delicate legs, these feed in shallow ponds and flooded fields, stepping gingerly along as they probe for prey.
    Black-necked Stilt
    Peregrine Falcon – associated with city skyscrapers and rocky cliffs, these handsome raptors also fancy open woodlands such as the park adjacent to the drying beds and are often seen there, attracted by the plentiful prey of small birds and animals so numerous in the area.
    Prothonotary Warbler – a marvelously bright yellow and orange migratory warbler named because its plumage supposedly reminded early Spanish explorers of the garb worn by medieval ecclesiastical court clerks. Loves swamps and shallow waterways.
    Yellow-headed Blackbird – a primarily western United States relative of the familiar Red-winged Blackbird, this species is rarely seen in Texas east of the trans-Pecos area, but has been spotted at the drying beds.
    Least Bittern – secretive and retiring wading bird that is especially attracted to the interior of cattail marshes, creeping among the stems and elevating its neck to blend into the background of reeds when threatened.
    How to Get There:
    From the Fielder Road exit on IH 30 in Arlington, go north on Fielder for 1.3 miles to Green Oaks Blvd. Turn right on Green Oaks and go 0.3 miles to the entrance on the left – double iron swinging gates between brick pillars. Gates open to public 7:30-4:00 most days. Follow the long entrance drive past a marsh on the left and over the boundary levee to a central parking area from which gravel drives radiate. DO NOT drive beyond barricades, though the entire area is accessible on foot. Not open during inclement weather and usually closed for a short time after rains to allow the roads to dry out. Closed by 4:30. Do not overstay or you will spend the night (or have to abandon your car and walk out). There are no shelters, drinking water, or restrooms, so come prepared in more than one sense. Bring binoculars or other optical aids, birding manuals, and a sense of wonder. You will likely not be disappointed.
And after the gates close, be sure to stop by River Legacy Parks next door for more great birding. (See photo bottom of page.) Among the many species sighted in this vast and semi-wild park by avid local birders, it’s said even wood storks have been seen. Owls and woodpeckers are commonplace. As a bonus, you may see one of the park’s resident bobcats. And alligators in the Trinity are not unheard-of, a twelve-footer having been reported nearby a few years ago.
Happy birding!

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Photo below shows a tiny portion of the main trail through River Legacy Parks.


Angel Whispers

Angel Message for May

    Taking a leap of faith in the unknown is also taking a big leap in to trusting the universe. It's pretty easy for us to think, or to not take the leap of faith, because of the fears, we have with doing so. The angels ask you to come out of your comfort zone, and take that leap.
    When I was just learning about the angels, and how to trust them and all that was in the Universe, I realized that they were there for me all that time, I wasn't speaking to them.
    There were times, when I had felt very alone, because I didn't understand that they were there for me. I know now that they are always there for me. I know I can talk to them about anything that is on my mind, and that I will receive an answer back from them.
    I have found in trusting them, is when I receive the most powerful of messages. When I let go of my ego thinking, and think with my heart, I get the answers that I am looking for. When I find the heart place, I find the love I am looking for. I can feel the peace, and have the clarity I need, in living day to day. It is where kindness and trust live too. It is where I can find my true self.
    Sometime when thinking with the ego, I find that judgement and anger is pretty prevalent. But when I think in the heartplace, I find I can breathe easier and I find I am smiling a lot more.
    The angels tell me that you can speak to them too. They remind me that they believe in free will and would never speak to you unless you ask them for assistance. They respect your decisions and want you to know they are there for you at anytime. They know that some are doubtful and that some are afraid to to speak to them. They remind you that their messages of only of love and peace.
    Peg Jones
    Certified Angelic Life Coach
    Healing Center Beverly MA O1915

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BBC Overseas Service May Be In Peril

The BBC may be about to close its shortwave service which has presented Britain to the world for 70 years.
    I stumbled on this disturbing information while researching a story I was writing about the world's most powerful radio transmitters.
    "RAMPISHAM’S radio transmission station may close before Christmas with the loss of more than 20 jobs, even though it’s currently broadcasting into Libya," Jonathan Hudston wrote in his blog.
    "The proposed shutdown of the Dorset site follows the BBC’s decision earlier this year to cut back on World Service shortwave broadcasting and stop it altogether by 2014, even though nearly half of the World Service’s audience (184 million in 2010-11) listens via shortwave.
    "The BBC says it’s phasing out shortwave because the Foreign Office cut the World Service grant by 16% (£46 million).
    "The possible closure of Rampisham raises some big questions.Such as: Isn’t it just a stupid idea? And: Is it even possible?"
    Some 80 years ago, in the early days of commercial broadcasting, a New Zealand radio station, 4ZF Dunedin, used only seven watts to play gramophone recorded music to its few hundred listeners.
    Far away across the Pacific, the Crosley Radio Corporation, of Cincinnati, Ohio, boasted I've just added a new story to my blog: that its station, the new 500,000 watt WLW, was the most powerful in the world.
    As a teenager in Christchurch, New Zealand in the 1930s, my hobby was DXing, searching for lond-distance radio programs. I managed to listen to both 4ZF and WLW.
    Where are the most powerful broadcasting stations today?
    To find the answer to that question I consulted my friend David Ricquish, founder and chairman of the Radio Heritage Foundation, in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. He has compiled an amazing database of thousands of stations around the world.
Here's his surprising response: These seem to be the 4 largest SW sites by kW power.
1. Voice of Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, Kamalabad site = 12 x500kW, 1 x 350kW, 3 x 250kW, 10 x 100kW = 8,100kW
2. RTRN [Russia], Taldom site = 3 x 1000kW, 4 x 250kW, 12 x 100kW =5,200kW
3. Babcock International, Rampisham UK site = 10 x 500kW = 5,000kW
4. SARFT [China], Urumqi, Xinjiang site = 8 x 500kW, 9 x 100kW =4,900kW LINKS:
BBC prediction:
Middle East on Shortwave:
Sunday Mail, Brisbane (1938):
RTRN Russia:
Posted by Eric Shackle at 21:17 Monday, 28 May 2012, From Sydney, Australia.

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Author's Blog.

Irish Eyes

WHAT? No Owl Sandwiches?

    Your June Irish Eyes is been hurriedly written on the last day of May in the Culture capital of Ireland. I’m on my annual pilgrimage to Listowel Writers’ week. It was formally opened on Wednesday night by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.
    The president is a poet, writer, academic, and human rights advocate.

    He has been described as, “ . . . promoter of inclusive citizenship and champion of creativity within Irish society”. The president ( having tapped his feet to the music of Aoife Ni Argain , a senior All Ireland Harpist champion. ) gave a wonderful speech In which he payed tribute to the literary tradition of Listowel. He said that "Writers' week doesn't have to try too hard . . . Writers' Week is to Listowel what the Spa is to Lisdoonvarna." He spoke of how the Writers of Listowel John B. Keane, Bryan McMahon et al had an, "Unparalleled gift for developing characters." The President then presented the John B. Keane Award (A lifetime achievement award cor contributions to the Arts) to Anthony Cronin.
    Entertainment was provided by Claire Keane, a local girl who won the Voice of Kerry in 2001 and Aoife Ni Argain. The Chairman, Sean Lyons, gave a riveting speech in which he told us how the dedication of all involved in Writers' Week since 1971 has , “ . . . echoed down the corridors of the decades." and how he shares every moment with us as we enter the fifth decade of the celebration of the written word that is Writers’ Week.” The opening ceremony included the presentation of the writers Week Literary Awards.
    Christine Dwyer Hickey won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award which includes a cash prize of €15,000.
    It was a long night in Listowel.
    Today started early with a Literary Walking Tour where we walked in the footsteps of the late, great John B. Keane. We visited his birthplace and the schools he attended with a flavour of his writings through song and story along the way. It coincided with readings from the winners of the writers’ Week Literary Competitions but one couldn’t be everywhere.
    Orla Tinsley
    Orla Tinsley, who received the Rehab Young Person of The Year Award in 2008, was in the Listowel Arms at noon. There was a medley of the early works of John B. Keane in St. Johns at 1.00 o’ clock followed by an interesting session with novelists Belinda McKeon and Aifric Campbell in the Plaza Centre. Just time for a quich snack before going to the Listowel Arms for a "conversation between John Lanchester and Colm Toibin.
    Back to The Plaza C to hear Helen Dunmore author of "Zenor in Darkness" and seven other novels. A later interview will feature the two funniest men on the island when journalist, broadcaster and Public speaker Billy Keane interviewed Des Bishop.
    Des Bishop
    It’s an early start tomorrow as “The John Murray Show” Ireland’s most popular radio programme will be broadcast live from Listowel. (Later in the week John, one of our best loved broadcasters, will interview Germaine Greer, author of “The Female Eunuch” and many other controversial books.)
    Another Walking tour tomorrow morning followed by “The Virgin ant the Vulture” , written by and starring Shadaan Feifeli, at 2.30 in St John’s Art Centre, there will be “Writers from Three Continents” at 2. 30 and at 3.00 o’ clock “Poetry Without Pints” hosted by John McGrath, in the Seanachai Centre.
    At 3.30 Patrick deWitt will be in conversation with Sinead Gleeson at the arms Hotel. Patrick is author of “The Sisters Brothers.”
    Later in the day acclaimed novelist Christine Dwyer Hickey will read and discuss the Creative Writing Process in St John’s and at 6.30 we saw, and heard, two established Australian poets Paul Hetherington and Petra White.
    In between there will be a number of Book-launches and fringe events to attend; A Press Photographers exhibition and two Art Exhibitions.
    “Poets’ Corner” an Open Mic session will finish off the evening.
    It’s going to be another hectic but very enjoyable three days. The festival will wrap up on Sunday evening when yours truly will participate in the final of the “Eamon Kelly International Storytelling competition.”
    It has been said that a Storyteller can’t afford the luxury of an ordinary life. Maybe he can’t afford a Sheanachai’s costume either but I had most of one. I was missing the “Grandad Shirt” but Lee Valley Original Irish Country Clothing, Inchigeela, County Cork ( came to the rescue. I’m now a fully attired Irish Storyteller. For the story I’m telling I needed a prop, a traditional Irish Clay pipe.
    Where would I get one of them?.

    The Penn Valley Pipe Shoppe in Appalachian, New York, makes such a pipe. And the very agreeable proprietor one K. C. Ellis fixed me up with the appropriate prop.
    It's exactly ten years since the great John B. Keane died during Writers' Week. Fifty years ago in a collection titled "Strong Tea" he published a collection of essays about all kinds of food from "Owl Sandwiches" to black pudding.
    And guess what? There's a special Writers' Week menu available in John B. Keane's. (There are no Owl Sandwiches available.) And do you know what I'm going to tell you? Billy Keane would put Jamie Oliver to shame. And . . . he has a few words that Gordon Ramsey hasn't learned yet!!
Here are a couple of “cultural” websites worth looking into: is the website of a voluntary organisation aiming at bringing the Kerry Diaspora home.
Doneraile Literary and Arts Festival is all about the forthcoming Doneraile Literary and Arts Festival to be held in August. It includes information on Short-story and Poetry competitions.
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Eric Shackle's Column

Two towns: HAMM and TWO EGG

TWO EGG is the quirky name of a small town in Florida. Its official website says there are more stories on how it changed its name from Allison than it has people. And HAMM is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
Since we first wrote about amusing or peculiar names of towns a decade ago, readers around the world have told us of dozens of their favorite weird place names, .
Here are some of their e-mails:
Have you heard of the town of HOTAZEL in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa? It gets quite warm there! - RG, (Johannesburg, South Africa).
In addition to HELL, Michigan has a town named PARADISE. (It's in the Upper Peninsula, on the shore of Lake Superior.) When we bought a cottage there, one of the previous owner's wall decorations was a road map of Michigan with the route from Hell to Paradise highlighted and "325 Miles from Hell to Paradise" scrawled across the top! Oh, and while Pennsylvania has INTERCOURSE, Michigan has a CLIMAX. - Barbara Bushey.
There is a CLIMAX, Michigan that may be worth a visit... or maybe CHRISTMAS, Michigan as well. - Nathan Miller.
Here in Arizona we have WHY without a question mark, and a place between Wickenburg and Wikieup called NOTHING. It really is a nothing. New Mexico boasts TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES, named after a long since gone radio program. - Stanley Dickes.
Here's some more for you: DIMBOX, GODLY, CUT AND SHOOT (all in Texas), and one of my favorites: TOAD SUCK, Arkansas. - Don Cooper.
Just read about the various town names, and thought I'd send a greeting from my town of ROUGH AND READY, California. - Rosie Mariani.
(Reminds us of Ben Ryan's 1926 song, Heart of My Heart:

When we were kids
On the corner of the street,
We were Rough and Ready guys,
But oh, how we could harmonize!) My father knew the man who named ZZYZYX (I am sure it is pronounced "zai-zix"). As I recall, he was a bit of a promoter, who wanted to create a town there, and sell land. He selected the name in order to create interest. I guess he succeeded! - Radha, St John, U S Virgin Islands.
Hello from the UK. It is quite common to live in HOPE around here - there's one in Montgomeryshire, Wales and the other just over the border in Shropshire, England. There is also a village in Shropshire called GREAT NESS. I always thought I was destined for greatness but never could afford a house there. - Chris Bartram.
You missed mentioning PARADISE, Pennsylvania, which is not far from INTERCOURSE,Pennsylvania: and both are also close to BIRD-IN-HAND, Pennsylvania. - Lisa A. Hallett.
You don't have to go to California to find PARADISE. Near LANCASTER, Pennsylvania you can find both PARADISE and INTERCOURSE. On a highway there is a sign there pointing in two different directions, one to PARADISE and the other to INTERCOURSE. Most people opt to take the road to INTERCOURSE, out of curiosity. I am not sure if they go straight to PARADISE after INTERCOURSE or return disappointed and then opt to go to PARADISE. The three cities, BiRD IN HAND, INTERCOURSE, and PARADISE are all within 5 miles of each other. - Sethuraman Subramanian.
Another place to visit, other than HELL, is DILDO, Newfoundland - Dave Ritchie, Canada.
I have been to Intercourse, PA. If you love fun place names, you should check out a map of Newfoundland. My mother-in-law is from there, and we have visited. Some are just picturesque, like Harbour Grace, Bay Bulls, Tickle Cove, Tickle Beach, Tickle Harbour, Leading Tickles (a jolly bunch those Newfies must be), Cupids, Mosquito, Goblin, Garnish, Harbour Buffet (to go with the Garnish, perhaps?), Goobies, Come by Chance, Renews, Dildo, Dildo South, Bacon, Old Shop, Gin Cove, Doting Cove, Noggin, Tilting, Little Seldom (emphatic redundancy, perhaps), Joe Batt's Arm, Too Good Arm, Virgin Arm, Whale's Gulch, Lushes Bight, Black Duck, Jerrys Nose, Witless Bay, and Blow Me Down.
Some tell stories of great hardship, which is remarkable considering the penchant of most New World pioneers to give their godforsaken new home a name with some gloss and hopeful (if not outright deceptive) - but what do we make of Hungry Hill, Burnt Islands, Little Burnt Bay, Isle aux Morts, Camp Boggy, Bareneed, Farewell, Gallows Cove, and such? But some must have found contentment and prosperity there. There are Heart's Content, Heart's Delight, and Heart's Desire, all just across Trinity Bay from Little Heart's Ease. - Randal Allred.
There is also a town in Norway, just north of Trondheim, called Hell. They get no shortage of English speaking visitors in this little town who go there just so they can say they have gone to Hell and back. - Kerilyn Cole.
Paradise, Pennsylvania and Hell, Michigan seem to call for Purgatory, Maine. It is actually quite a disappointing place. Its corner grocery store didn't even have post cards celebrating the name! - James and Helen Miller.
We found two websites with huge lists of even weirder U.S. place names.
First, we discovered a story written by Sherry Stripling in the Seattle Times, which mentions Scratch Ankle, Alabama; Good Grief, Idaho; Panic, Pennsylvania; Stinking Point, Virginia; Yum Yum, Tennessee (reminds us of Australia's Woy Woy and Wagga Wagga); Dynamite, Washington, and Tranquility, California, Nothing, Arizona and Zero, Montana.
Sherry was reviewing New York photographer Gary Gladstone's book, Passing Gas: And Other Towns Along the American Highway (Ten Speed Press, $19.95), so named because people who drive through Gas, Kansas, are told not to blink or they'll pass Gas.
Eager to learn more about Gary's book, we found a detailed description of it, plus a gallery of superb photos, on his website
"I drove 38,000 miles visiting tiny places with funny names," says Gary. "I made a portrait in a different town every day and posted daily journals on the Photo News Network website. It is now a book."
His photos have appeared in Life, Look and the Saturday Evening Post. Making nine trips in five years, he shot 21,000 frames of film, and visited (among many other odd places) Ding Dong, Surprise, Goofy Ridge and Monkey's Eyebrow.
If you visit his website, be sure to look at his remarkable slide show. There are great pictures of Gas, Purgatory, Tightwad, Rough and Ready, Sweetlips, Good Grief, Bitter End, Suck Egg Hollow and Lovely.
Two Egg, Florida:
Posted by Eric Shackle at 23:09 Saturday, 19 May 2012
Condom, Intercourse and other strange places
Most countries have towns with strange names. PITY ME is in England, INTERCOURSE is in Pennsylvania, HELL is in Michigan, while MORON is in Cuba; PARADISE is in California, while SURFERS PARADISE is in Australia.
"INTERCOURSE is the hub where the Amish and local folks do their business and host thousands of visitors each year," says that town centre's website.
beautiful Amish farms surround the Village.... INTERCOURSE is [near] our sister Villages of BIRD-IN-HAND and STRASBURG .
"The Village stands as a clear reminder of our traditional American heritage as people live by a simpler way of life. Formerly known as CROSS KEYS from a noted old tavern, this village was founded in 1754."
No one knows for sure how INTERCOURSE acquired its name, says the Centre. It cites these theories:
The entrance to a racecourse east of the town was known as ENTERCOURSE, which gradually evolved into INTERCOURSE, the name given to the town in 1814.
Two major roads crossed there. The junction could have led to the town being called CROSS KEYS or eventually INTERCOURSE.
"Old English" language was more common in 1814. Intercourse referred to the "fellowship" or social interaction and friendship which was so much a part of an agricultural village and culture at that time.
So much for Intercourse. Now what about PITY ME? My friend Ian Scott-Parker, an Englishman living in HURRICANE, Utah, used to live near that oddly-named English village just north of DURHAM (pronouced Durrum).
He recalled other odd names: "COCKERMOUTH and GREAT COCKUP are always worth a giggle," he said. "The Scottish town of ECCLEFECHAN (birthplace of Thomas Carlyle), not far north of Carlisle, seems to please, though I never figured out why; visitors to Cumbria are amazed to find that TORPENHOW is pronounced Trapenna, and the delightful town of APPLETREEWICK in North Yorkshire is pronounced Apptrick."
British historian David Simpson says "It has been suggested PITY ME was the site of a small lake or 'mere' and that the name means Petit Mere, Petty Mere or Peaty Mere.
"A more fanciful suggestion is that St Cuthbert's coffin was dropped there by wandering monks on their way to Durham. The miracle-working saint is said to have pleaded with the monks to be more careful and take pity on him.
"Another suggestion is that PITY ME is the cry of the Peewits (or Lapwings) which inhabit the area. Other PITY MEs can be found in the north of England, including a small place near BARRASFORD in the North Tyne valley, and a PITY ME near BRADBURY in south Durham."
Across the Atlantic, there's a place named HELL in Michigan. "Tucked away as it is amidst the hills, creeks, and rivers, HELL maintains a strange combination of notoriety and attraction," says the website. "People come to visit, to see HELL, to say they've been to HELL and back."
It says there are two theories as to how the town gained its name in the early 1830s.
    Theory # 1: Two German travelers slid out of a curtained stagecoach one sunny summer afternoon, and one said to the other, "So schoene hell." "Hell," in the German language, means bright and beautiful. Those who overheard the visitors' comments had a bit of a laugh and shared the story with the other locals, who [promptly adopted the name for their village].
    Theory # 2: The area in which HELL exists is pretty low and swampy. Traveling through the area would have been wetter, darker, more convoluted, and certainly denser with mosquitoes than other legs of the journey. River traders would have had to portage between the Huron and the Grand River systems near the present location of Hell. You can picture them pulling their canoes, heavy with provisions and beaver pelts, through the underbrush, muttering and swatting bugs as they fought to get to the banks of the next river.
In California, there's a place named ZZYZYX (just the place for a quiet zizz).
Other countries have place names which sound strange to English-speaking visitors. Cuba, for instance, has a town called MORON. It has a population of 50,000. What do they call themselves?
Readers of the Sydney Morning Herald's quirky Column 8 trivia pagecontributed these imaginary yet familiar place names:
  • Going to Buggery
  • Drinking in Moderation
  • Living in Sin
  • Living in Exile
  • Living in Poverty
  • Living in Hope
  • Taking Care
  • Taking Umbrage
  • Dying in Vain
  • Placed in Jeopardy
  • Bombing at Random
  • Escapees at Large
Random has its place in history, says Ian Hunt, of Carlingford. After a foggy night during the World War II blitz, he says, the BBC reported that German planes had dropped their bombs at random in south-east Britain. That afternoon, the German propaganda broadcasts proudly boasted that "the town of Random has been heavily bombed".
We're reminded, too, that in the 1944 northern Burma campaign around Myitkina, the US forces, having captured the airfield, grandly announced they had captured the town, where the Chindits were still fighting. It's said a message went out that the "the British have taken umbrage". The Americans couldn't find Umbrage on the map. -- Sydney Morning Herald.
Link: Intercourse:
Posted by Eric Shackle Wednesday, 9 May 2012, from Sydney, Australia.

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Author's Blog.


       By Thomas F. O'Neill
    My students in my cultural diversity classes here in Suzhou, China enjoy discussing the differences between the U.S. criminal justice system and China’s penal system. I tell my students that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population but it has close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
    Americans can get prison sentences for such crimes as writing bad checks or using drugs. In most industrialized nations offenses such as these warrant stiff fines and community work assignments. In China convicted offenders pay restitution to the victims through work assignments that are assigned to them through the courts.
    In the U.S. prisoners are sentenced to much longer prison terms than in most other countries. There are 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. the highest percentage of inmates than in any other industrialized nation.
    China with four times the number of people than the U.S. and has 1.6 million in its penal system. Statistics show that for every 100,000 people in America 751 of them are incarcerated. One out of every hundred adults is currently serving time in prison in the U.S.
    The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63.
    Criminologists and legal experts here in China and in the U.S. point to a tangle of factors to explain America's extraordinary incarceration rate. Major factors would be higher levels of violent crime in our country and harsher sentencing laws.
    Our history of racial turmoil and racial injustice that is not found in most industrialized nations is just one of the contributing factors to the high inmate population in our country.
    Most politicians in the U.S. have a special fervor in combating illegal drugs which also leads to longer sentences. Many in the U.S. also lack employment skills and social safety nets which can lead them to commit crimes out of desperation.
    American democracy is certainly a major factor in the high crime rate in the U.S. The availability of guns in our country is leading to more violent crimes as well. There are more guns in America than people and our modern era of gun possession has become an anomaly. The nations where gun possession is illegal like here in China have much lower rates of violent crimes.
    Politicians and Judges in the U.S. also run on ‘Get tough on Crime’ platforms and many of them are elected on populist demands for tough justice. The gap between American justice and that of the rest of the world is however enormous and growing.
    From 1925 to 1975, the rate of incarceration in the U.S. remained stable, around 110 people in prison per 100,000 people. It shot up with the movement to get tough on crime in the late 1970s. The availability of guns is directly related to the fact that America has four times the murder rate than all the western European nations combined.
    Those who commit nonviolent crimes in the rest of the world are less likely to receive prison time and certainly less likely to receive long sentences. The United States is, for instance, the only advanced country that incarcerates people for minor property crimes.
    Our Nations' war on drugs seems to be a losing battle as well. I say this because in 1980, there were about 40,000 people in American jails and prisons for drug crimes. These days, there are almost 500,000 with long incarceration stays and most crimes in the U.S. are drug related. Many criminologists and sociologists believe it is time to reexamine our war strategy on illegal drugs.
    Many American prosecutors, though, say that locking up people involved in the drug trade is imperative, as it helps thwart demand for illegal drugs and drives down other kinds of crime. For instance, many prosecutors have fought hard to prevent the early release of people in prison on crack cocaine offenses. Many of those addicts are among the most serious and violent offenders due to the staunch realities of addiction.
    It is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes America from the other industrialized nations. The number of sentences imposed would not place the United States at the top of the incarceration lists. If lists were compiled based on annual admissions to prison per capita, several European countries would outpace the United States. But American prison stays are much longer, so the total incarceration rate is higher. Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.
    Blacks are also much more likely to be imprisoned than other groups in the United States. Minorities in Canada, Britain and Australia are also disproportionately represented in those nation's prisons, and the ratios are similar to or larger than those in the United States.
    The American character — self-reliant, independent, judgmental — also plays a role in our high prison population. American’s are known for being ruggedly individualistic that characteristic of our Americana has not only shown up in popular literature and films but in our criminal justice system as well.
    Several specialists here in China and in the U.S. pointed to a surprising explanation for the high incarceration rate in the United States: Democracy.
    Most state court judges and prosecutors in the U.S. are elected and are therefore sensitive to a public that is, according to opinion polls, generally in favor of tough crime policies. In the rest of the world, though, criminal justice professionals tend to be civil servants who are insulated from popular demands for tough sentencing.
    Democracy is interwoven into our political structure and we are a politicized nation. Political opinion whether it is sound or hyped does influence our Judges, prosecutors, and politicians. They pander to the political demand for harsher sentences for criminals. This however is resulting in prison overcrowding and a higher recidivism rate among inmates. Most eventually do get released back into society lacking the proper skills to become productive citizens.
    My student's interest in American politics and our criminal justice system generates lively discussions in my classes. One of my students who is heading off to America next semester to study International Affairs told me she is concerned about her personal safety when she arrives in the U.S.
    I said to her “if you ever get the chance to visit Central Park in New York City and if you decide to sit down on a park bench next to a little old lady. Nine times out of ten that little old lady will not be packing a Magnum 44 pistol in her purse.” I was referencing a story that was amusingly aired on a popular Chinese television program. The show's segment was about gun possession in America. I reassured my students by saying, “America is not as bad as the Chinese media makes it out to be and that is certainly a good thing.”
    America’s image seems to be diminishing in the world and there is no easy answer to solving the issues plaguing our country. But that being said the number of exchange students entering America from China has increased by 28 percent in 2011. America will always be the land of opportunities and dreams for a better future no matter what the crime statics may be. Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill

    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

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All The Time

All the time when I look at you
My heart rises up and I smile
It's the little things that you do
That make my life worthwhile.

Each day wanders by without much stress
And the night offers calm and peace
Though often there are problems to address
They aren't big enough the brow to crease

So happily I sit here and contemplate
Plans for a trip or two
We won't leave too early, rather late
For there's no rush for what we'll do.

Summertime and wintertime, spring and fall
And thus we grow older hand in hand
We laugh as we share the days in all
Which is something we won't countermand

So make every moment one of just caring
And the months fly by it seems
But we'll just keep on loving and sharing
And see each other in our dreams.

©May 18, 2012 Mary E. Adair

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The Furry Gift

Here’s a furry gift
I’m proffered every day –
When Zander roams into the room,
Rubbing everything in sight,
Maowing greetings,
Thrusting his pointy snout
Against my leg, marking me
(In ancient feline fashion)
His, his, his.

He swipes his hugely plumy tail
Around in air, bumps the chair,
The table leg, the wall;
And I do nothing special
To deserve this treat
Except love him, love him, love him.

©2012 John I. Blair

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Almost every day
If I glance outside my window
Chances are I’ll see you
Poised atop the deck rail,

Whip tail curled along the wood,
Hind legs spread flat,
Front end half-raised
As if about to lunge.

You scan both ways at once
Then bob your head
To gain perspective in a world
Where 3D vision is unknown.

The stance looks oddly like a dance,
A solo strut upon a narrow stage
With an audience of none
And all the world.

I am abashed to think
How many eons you and yours
Have pranced this prance,
Many times the stretch since my kind

Shed our tails and learned to pray.

©2012 John I. Blair

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Island Friends

He walks the island with a Butterfly as his Guide
A trusted Yellow Warbler is always at his side
The Warbler speaks in a language much like a song
He's always happy to have this friend along

The Butterfly Guide comes around every day
So he won't get lost or lose his way
Flying in front, so close to his eyes
“Know that we're here, know that you're wise”

The Butterfly doesn't talk, yet he hears the words
As it flies in the trees, among all the birds
Then among the lilac bushes, and then to the ground
“You'll smell the lilac, and know I'm around”

There goes the Warbler, off to another tree
He doesn't stray far, he always comes back to me
I'll hear his song and know he's nearby
Until a notion takes him, and then he'll fly

Many people don't see, and many don't hear
The Butterfly so close, or the bird song so near
Each have an important role, just as we do
A journey in life, that they must get through

©May 26, 2012 Bud Lemire
Thank you dear God, for all the wonderful creatures here on Earth.

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In the office is where she's seen
She goes by the name of Josephine
Everyone I know says she is kind
When I talk with her, that's what I find

She's the newest member of the Harbor Tower team
Assisting the residents, she's sweet Josephine
I believe she tunes in to the people who are here
Has a great understanding and all becomes clear

Why you could sit and chat with her for over an hour
And it would seem like just minutes right here at the Tower
A likeable woman that we've come to know
Brightens the day just like a rainbow

I stopped in one day just to say hello
We talked about a recipe she seemed to know
It was roasting asparagus in the oven with cheese
When it comes to cheese I'm easy to please

I thought at this time I would write you a poem
To make you feel a little more at home
Hope you are here to stay for awhile
Thanks for your kindness and your wonderful smile

©April 1, 2012 Bud Lemire
If you haven't met Josephine yet, stop into the office to meet her. She's a wonderful soul. I've been getting a lot of good feedback on her. Wonderful to talk to, and very helpful when you don't understand something.
Thank you Josephine!

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The Whispers Of Nature

I walk in silence as the birds fly around
The butterflies flutter and land on the ground
The whispers of nature are calling to me
So calming to the soul, a feeling so free

A chipmunk runs towards me and then scurries away
A Yellow Warbler appears, which makes my day
There up above sits a blackbird in a tree
It looks around and then down at me

A butterfly follows me wherever I go
I wonder what does a butterfly know
What are birds saying in their language I heard
It sounds really nice, but I can't understand a word

The sun shining down on this moment in time
Nature comes alive, which is a wonderful sign
Whispers are heard of all things that will be
Beauty is seen in the shape of the tree

You'll see the flowers and the colors they show
And you'll feel a warmth of an inner glow
Walk into nature, quietly if you can
You'll feel a connection of a much greater plan

©May 15, 2012 Bud Lemire

The feeling is so wonderful to be with nature
and watching all the creatures as they go about their day.

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Never Let You Go

The emptiness of the system
Quiet is the noise of pain
I was right there for you
I would have never let you go

The memories that never fade away
A distant place where promises were made
I was right there for you
I would have never let you go
Never let you go

When I woke up it was as if I was living another life
Everything I knew was gone
Everything about this place was wrong

When I woke up I was in another place and time
Nothing was clear to me
I missed her, but she can't remember how we used to be

So I go on each day
I go on my merry way
When I look her in the eye
I wonder if it's only I
Who can remember

But it stays with me in my heart
As if my world has been torn apart
When she looks at me in my eye
I wonder if she remembers her and I
I would never let you go

I would never let you
How do these worlds connect
Why am I the only one who can remember what was
The memories that never fade away
A distant place where promises were made
I was right there for you
You were once there for me too

Do you feel it late at night
Do you see glimpse of what was
Do you know what could be could be
Do you remember how it used to be

©5/4/12 Bruce Clifford

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Walking in Glue

I'm walking in glue
Got things in my head
I don't know what to do
Think I will cry in my bed

I can't figure this out
How can I break through
No one hears when I shout
I call out to you

I'm walking in glue
Trying to survive
I tried to write a love song for you
But you never arrived

I can't figure this out
I'm so lost, it's true
I can't live without
Being so in love with you

I'm walking in glue
There's no spring in my step
They don't have a clue
Got things in my head

I can't figure this out
I'm without any clue
It's aways been you
You've always been true

I'm walking in glue
My heart is stuck in the air
I don't know what to do
Nobody seems to care

I can't figure this out
I'm losing my mind
I'm walking in glue
Like standing in time

©5/16/1 Bruce Clifford

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Secret life

Secret life
What's my name
Who am I
It's not a game

Late at night
The edge the cure
Secret life
It's what I live for

Certain things are important to me
Where do I begin to tell my story

Secret life
To the other side
What did you say
I will show you off with pride

Late at night
The lines are drawn
Secret life
A new world is born

Secret life
I feel so torn
Who am I
My mind is worn

Late at night
The fear and rage
Secret life
Don't go away

Secret life
You are so dear
Hold me close
Never disappear

In my secret life it's not the same
I'm free to be me, for all to see
My thoughts are mine and mine alone
It's a place where I'm safe and free

Certain things are important to me
Where do I begin to tell my story

Secret Life
You're here today
Sing me a song
You're here to stay

Secret Life
It's not a game
Who am I
What's my name

©5/4/12 Bruce Clifford

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To Be Again

None the less
I'd rather guess
Than face the truth
Loss of youth.

Quite a spell
Of living well
Must offset
All missed yet

Up in arms
Soft alarms
Tumbling down
Peering round

Bravely face
Wrinkles trace
Wonder when
I'll be again.

©05/08/12 Mary E. Adair

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Rabbo II-Chapter 5

Chapter 5 - Beginnings

    Rabbo looked out of the library window at the snow falling hard adding to the deep snow that was already lying on the ground.
    The first huge storm was five days past and this new storm looked like it might drop as much snow as the first one. But Rabbo had learnt from the pervious winter that sometimes a storm looked like it was going to be big and it would past right overhead and drop hardly any snow at all. And a little storm would drop far more snow than a huge storm. Rabbo thought that was a little on the strange side. But then he was still learning a lot of new things about the world that he was on.
    Rabbo was learning about human females and all the moods that they went though and it was very confusing for him. When he had asked Merwyn about some of Athena’s moods when she was pregnant Merwyn had shrugged his shoulders and said that Athena’s body was changing for the babies and that they had to get use to her wild mood swings and that the female body went though monthly cycles and the hormones would make Athena moody at times and that was part of life. Rabbo had to agree that at times Athena’s mood swing were pretty wild but he had gotten use to them. Rabbo was just glad that Athena was not planning on getting pregnant again.
    Rabbo had to admit that the snow was coming down hard and that watching the flakes was not the smartest of idea’s as they were making him sleepy and dizzy.
    Rabbo turned and watched the rabbit kittens as they came racing outside into the falling snow. He spotted Soft eyes in her little jacket as she bounced around with her brothers and sisters.
    Athena had been keeping a close eye on all the rabbit kittens that mischief had brought with her to the house and so far there had been only soft eyes that had shown any signs of being sick. But as Athena had put it “it’s only a matter of time before the others show signs of being unwell”.
    But then mischief and her kittens had only been at the house for about a week now and they were only about three months old so it really was too early to tell if there was going to be more health issues for the kittens other than the one that soft eyes was having.
    Rabbo turned to watch the snow again and noticed that it was not falling as hard as it had been. So he sat down on the window sill closed his eyes and slipped gentle out of his body to take a good look at the storm from above and to see if it was fast moving or slow moving.
    Rabbo sat above the clouds and noticed that the storm was moving fast and that behind it was very cold air that was pushing it forward and a fast pace.
    But behind the cold clear air mass was another storm that was building and that one looked like it was moving very slowly and as yet had not dropped any rain or snow.
    Rabbo sunk down below the clouds and headed northward towards a set of mountains that where dark and high. He followed the east west curve westward until he hit the foot hills. He then descended down to the lower level until he reached the coast.
    Rabbo followed the coast working his way back towards the house. As he traveled he saw small groups of huts dotted along the coast sometimes there would be a few fishing boats and people out on the water kneeling on those small fishing boats catching fish.
    Then he came across a harbor with a few larger boats. Up on a hill over looking the harbor was a small city of stone buildings with a few temples.
    At first Rabbo thought it was Bastet’s small village until her realized that it was too far up the coast by far and that there were too many buildings for it to be Bastet’s village.
    Down at the beach just south of the harbor Rabbo saw about three hundred people following a small body being carried on a bier.
    Walking behind the bier was a man and a woman who screamed at the sky and shook their fist at the sky.
    Rabbo was not sure what was going on other than clearly the man and the woman were very upset and the small body was more than likely their child that had passed.
    Rabbo followed the line of people back down the pathway and saw that many were sad and that they were following not because they had to but because they wanted too.
    Rabbo wanted to say and watch but he knew that he was close to the limit of his astral travel ability and that if he pushed it he would not be able to hold it much longer. Yet he so wanted to watch and see and start to understand the people of the planet.
    So Rabbo started to fight the tugging feeling on his astral body while at the same time watching the people who were now gathered in a semicircle on the beach watching the little body being gentle lowered into a small boat that was filled with toys that had clearly belonged to the child.
    Rabbo ignored the feeling of being pulled sideways and watched closely as the little boat with the little body was pushed gentle out into the water. As he watched the boat drifted out to sea and he saw the man and woman cry tears that streamed down their cheek without shame.
    Rabbo’s heart went out to the man and woman remembering his own grief at the lose of his great great grand mother and the deep hurt inside that felt as if it would never be filled again. He wondered what it would be like to lose a child and remembered that all of his children still lived and that he had not lost one. Yet watching brought up the fear in him for soft eyes and her brothers and sister.
    The feeling of being pulled sideways grew and he fought it harder as he wanted to stay and see what the people would do once the small little boat was out of their sight. He waited as the people on the beach waited. He moved to their point of view and he could make out the small boat riding the waves that lapped the shore.
    One old blind old man stepped forward and raised his arms to the sky and started to speak. Everyone turned towards him and went down on one knee as he shouted to the sky.
    Rabbo was unable to understand what the blind old man was saying as the words were foreign to him.
    Again he felt the sideways pull and this time it was worse. The pull was such now that he could no longer hold himself in place so Rabbo let it pull him back. He remembered what Merwyn had told him about keeping control should the feeling of being pulled happened and Rabbo did as his training had taught him. But unlike the training Rabbo pulled against the pull yet at the same time let himself be dragged home by it.
    Rabbo was surprised to see below him the temple that Helena lived at. He was surprised to be that far south of where he thought he had been.
    The rain was falling softly over Helena’s temple and the two other priestesses where sitting in the door way of their house watching the rain falling and talking.
    Rabbo then floated over the woods and about a quarter of the way over the woods the rain turned to a light snow and then a heavy snow.
    Rabbo opened his eyes to see Merwyn standing in front of him with his arms crossed and an upset look on his face.
    “Rabbo what have I told you about pushing yourself like that” said Merwyn looking down and Rabbo.
    “Yeah I know. It was that I got interested in some people and I watched their customs of burial” said Rabbo trying to ignore the pounding in his head.
    Athena came walking in and looked at Rabbo and smiled “I can hear that thumping sound in your head from the kitchen”.
    “Oh I’m sorry” said Rabbo looking up at Athena.
    “Here drink this” said Athena giving Rabbo a wine goblet full of a green warm liquid that steamed slightly. “Drink it all down like a good rabbit”.
    Rabbo took the goblet and did as he was told and drunk the green steaming liquid. He felt his head get light and then he started to feel very sleepy.
    Athena reached down and picked him up and carried him out of the library into the kitchen and then headed upstairs and placed him on his cushion in the window in her bedroom.
Rabbo awoke to soft giggling and at first thought that it was Athena and Helena having fun on the bed. But instead it was Wenna and Merryn that were sitting on the bed waiting for Rabbo to wake up.
    The twins were holding a plate of greens with uncooked pea’s bean and carrots.
    Wenna stood up slipped off the bed and walked to the door and shouted “Mommy silly wabbit not seapy now”.
    Merryn slipped off the bed and placed the plate on the window sill and then climbed back on the bed.
    Rabbo suddenly felt very hungry and had a hard time control himself as his stomach hurt as if he had not eaten in weeks.
    Rabbo picked up the fork and started to eat with a hunger that only the starving have. He attacked the greens with single mindedness thinking only of the food and that soon his hungry would be gone.
    Merwyn, Athena and Helena walked into Athena’s bedroom and sat down on the bed and looked at Rabbo as he stuffed his mouth with food.
    “Slow down Rabbo. You will choke yourself eating that fast” said Athena.
    “While you eat I better explain a few things that you seem to have forgotten” said Merwyn. “While it is true that you can increase your abilities by pushing yourself to the limit you have to do it in a controlled manner. And as you have seemed to have forgotten what we went over we will go over it again to refresh your memoir. Now listen carefully Rabbo. When you start working on increasing your astral travel ability there are two ways you can do this. The first is hard painful and dangerous. The second which is not as painful and far less dangerous is the method I would like you to use. This is how you do it”.
    For the next two hours Rabbo sat and listened with Helena holding him in her lap while Merwyn explained in detail the fine points of how to increase Rabbo’s and Helena’s astral travel abilities. Merwyn went over in great detail all the issues that could crop up all the warning signs and all the pit falls and dangers that could happen to someone while they were increasing their ability.
    Finally Merwyn finished up “Now after your three and half days of sleep you should go outside and play and relax. And NO traveling until I ok you to do so”.
    “Three and half day I was a sleep” said Rabbo a little shocked at how long he had been asleep.
    “Yes sweetie” said Helena. “Athena was very worried and she sat up with you while you were asleep to make sure that you were ok”.
    Helena stood up and held Rabbo in her arms. She looked over at Merwyn raised an eye brow and then adjusted Rabbo so that his front paws where over her shoulders. Then she walked out of Athena’s bedroom and walked downstairs into the kitchen.
    Athena was in the kitchen chopping vegetables and making pasta. She looked over at Rabbo and put he knife down and walked over. She leaned in kissed Rabbo on the nose then leaned over and kissed Helena on her lips.
    Helena took Rabbo outside and sat him down on a freshly cleared pathway.
    Outside were Diana, Merryn, and Wenna playing in the snow. Not far away was mischief, soft eyes and the other rabbit kittens.
    Soft eyes had on her little jacket and was bouncing on her sister and brothers as if there was nothing wrong with her.
    Rabbo hopped weakly down the pathway until he found an area that he could take care of his business without being seen or watched. Then he hopped back up the pathway and sat down on the ground and watched the rabbit kittens play.
    Rabbo was surprise to see that his mother come out and join the kittens playing as if she was the same age. She raced around in circles and pushed over soft eyes before she was jumped on by the other rabbit kittens. Then she rolled over kicked her legs wildly in the air and bounced off into the snow.
    A few moments later snow started to shoot out of the area Rabbo’s mother had jumped into and mischief hopped over and disappeared into the snow where Rabbo’s mother had also disappeared.
    The rabbit kittens continued to play and chase each other as Rabbo watched soft eyes leaped up high and landed on her sister. Her two brothers bounced over and soon there was a rolling playing pile of rabbit kittens rolling towards Rabbo.
    Suddenly Rabbo’s mother’s head popped out of the snow and she leaped out into the rolling pile of fur. She was followed by Mischief who also leaped into the huge fur pile.
    Rabbo thought about joining in but he still felt weak from his long sleep and his legs felt as if they did not want to work that hard.
    Merwyn came walking out wearing a long black cloak and stood next to Helena and watched the rolling fur ball as it moved around.
    Mischief suddenly popped out of the fur ball and looked around wildly. Then out of the snow burrow popped soft eyes that leapt onto mischief and started to kick at her playfully.
    Rabbo turned to look at Merwyn and noticed that Helena was standing on tiptoes whispering in Merwyn's ear.
    Merwyn opened his cloak and Helena moved into Merwyn who closed his cloak around her.
    Rabbo was rather surprised when Merwyn leaned down and kissed her like Athena and Bastet kissed. What was even more surprising was that Helena seemed very willing and to be enjoying the kiss as much as Athena and Bastet enjoyed kissing each other.
    Merwyn then opened his cloak and pulled away took Helena by the hand and walked back inside the house leaving Rabbo alone with his mother, mischief and the rabbit kittens.
    As Rabbo watched mischief and soft eyes hopped over to the snow burrow and disappeared.
    Every so often soft eyes or mischief would reappear pushing snow out of the snow burrow before disappearing back into the burrow.
    Then suddenly mischief head popped out far down the pathway from a new burrow hole that she had made. A few seconds’ later soft eyes head popped out from another hole that was at the other end of the cleared area.
    Rabbo had to laugh to himself as it was clear that soft eyes and mischief had started to make a snow warren.
    Sudden Rabbo heard a squeal come from down the garden and then some loud giggling and laughing. At the same time Diana Merryn and Wenna came running up the pathway being chased by Cat who was running side way.
    Rabbo sat and watched the twins and Diana build a snow fort while the rabbit kittens played in and out of the snow burrow. Rabbo’s mother and mischief worked on enlarging the warren and after a few hours it was clear that the warren was getting huge as it was easy work for the two rabbits.
    Rabbo looked up at the sky and noticed that the clouds were getting gray and that a storm was moving in. He also noticed that it was getting colder and colder by the minute so he hopped over the little girls that had just finished building their snow fort.
    Rabbo checked them to make sure that they were not cold and found that while they were still warm but their hands and faces felt cold so he ordered them inside so that they could warm themselves by the fire.
    Once in the kitchen Rabbo noticed that Merwyn Athena and Helena were nowhere around but the door to the living room was closed and he could hear Athena and Helena giggling.
    Rabbo was about to make warm milk for the children when Athena came walking out of the living room.
    She walked over to the sink washed her hands and then went upstairs and returned with a small wooden box.
    “Oh there you are Rabbo” said Athena. “I was about to hail you to ask you to bring the girls in as there is a storm coming”.
    “I saw the clouds and the girls where getting cold so I thought it best to bring them in” said Rabbo. “I was going to make warm milk and let them nap in the living room but well you Merwyn and Helena were in there”.
    Athena laughed and looked to the closed living room door and smiled to herself. She then turned back to Rabbo “No that would not have been good”.
    Merwyn came walking out of the living room wearing a long bathroom and winked at Athena. “I think going upstairs would be a good idea”.
    Merwyn went upstairs to his rooms leaving the living room door open.
    Helena who had been lying by the fire stood up grabbed her toga and came out into the kitchen to help Athena make sandwiches before she too headed up the stairs.
    Halfway up the stairs she turned and looked back at Athena. “Are you going to join us or are you going to stay down there”?
    Again Athena laughed “Let me take care of the children and I will be up”.
    “I’ve never had this much fun even when I was at the ceremony of deflowering. I think I need this. It’s been so long for me” giggles Helena as she turned and walked up the stairs.
    Rabbo and the children went into the living room and sat on the couch drinking their warm milk and eating cookies.
    Athena came in and checked on them before she turned to Rabbo.
    “When they wake up hail me on my private mode and I will come down and cook dinner” said Athena smiling softly.
Dinner had been over for about two hours and Athena had put the children to bed and was sitting in the living room talking with Rabbo when Merwyn and Helena came down into the living room.
    Merwyn was dressed in his normal pants and shirt while Helena was wearing nothing more than a short dress.
    Merwyn sat in his chair by the fire. Helena walked over and sat down in his lap and snuggled closed.
    Athena looked over got up and went and got a wine skin and four goblets for the wine.
    Athena placed the goblets on the center low table that Merwyn would sometimes rest his feet on
    Rabbo’s mother, Cat, Mischief and the rabbit kittens hopped in and sat down by the fire to warm themselves as they had been outside playing in the snow that was falling.
    Cat started to clean Rabbo’s mother while mischief line up her kittens and started to clean them one at a time.
    Rabbo looked over at Merwyn “Can I ask a question”?
    “It’s hard to stop you sometimes” replied Merwyn.
    “What is going on with you and Helena” asked Rabbo.
    Merwyn laughed “the question should be what is Athena up to”? Merwyn said looking over at Athena. “But to answer your question a lot I think. I think she is filling a void that I have been suppressing for centuries. It’s hard to explain” a confused look crossed Merwyn's face. “I did not know that the woman of this planet were umm so fun loving. I have to admit” but Merwyn was cut himself short.
    Helena smiled at the comment Merwyn had made then snuggled in closer and kisses him gentle.
    Rabbo started to feel sleepy so he hopped out of the living room though the kitchen and over to his elevator. As he rode upstairs he thought about what Merwyn saying and what he had not said.
    Rabbo thought back to what Athena had said earlier at dinner and it was clear that Athena was still worried about Merwyn fading. But Rabbo was not sure what she meant by fading and how that worked. Plus it seemed that she was hoping that Merwyn would get Helena pregnant and that had something to do with Helena’s Sirian blood in her. In fact there was a lot for him to thinking about and sitting on the window sill in Athena’s room was a good place to do that.
    Rabbo hopped into Athena's bedroom and saw Diana sitting on Athena’s bed with her cross legged with her eyes closed.
    Rabbo hopped onto Athena’s bed and slowly and quietly hopped up to Diana and sniffed her. He noticed that she felt cold but he could see her chest rising and falling as she breathed but slowly. He knew at once that she was out of her body and astral traveling. So he sat back and waited for her to come back to her body.
    After a while Diana opened her eyes and after a few moments her eyes refocused and she looked at Rabbo.
    “Hello bunny” said Diana.
    “Hello Diana” said Rabbo. “Where have you been”?
    “To see mommy” Diana said in her little girl voice. “She is with Zeus”.
    “Oh Zeus” said Rabbo. v“Yes mommy likes Zeus. She make me a little brother or sister” giggled Diana.
    “Oh” said Rabbo “Zeus”?
    “Yes. Daddy of goddess Athena. You know Zeus” giggles Diana.
    As Rabbo sat and talked with Diana she started to yawn “It’s warm here. Warmer than mommies house. I have to sleep under a huge heavy blanket to stay warm and snuggle next to mommy. Sometimes I get so cold that I hurt and snuggle closer to mommy”.
    Diana lay down on Athena’s bed so Rabbo hopped up close and snuggled against her.
    As Rabbo lay next to Diana he heard faint laughter and giggling coming from downstairs. He was about to step out of his body when he remembered what he had been told about not traveling and that if he did he could strain himself and do permanent damage to himself and even possible fry his brain.
    As much as Rabbo wanted to astral travel he did not. So he curled up next to Diana and went to sleep.
Rabbo awoke to Diana snuggling close and the twins had just joining him on Athena’s bed. As he lay still he could hear the wind blowing outside so once the twins were a sleep Rabbo slid out from between the twins and Diana and hopped up onto the window and his cushion.
    He peaked behind the curtains and saw the snow falling hard and fast. As he watched the snow built up fast coving the pathway that had been cleared by Merwyn and Athena.
    As he was about to fall asleep again he heard “Psst Rabbo”
    Rabbo was quickly awake “Who’s that” he said.
    “It’s me Bastet. What are you doing”?
    “Trying to get back to sleep. Why”?
    “Oh I won’t keep you long” said Bastet.
    “What do you need”?
    “I can’t hail Athena. Do you know what she is doing” asked Bastet.
    “Making a baby possible with Helena”
    “She can’t do that she does not have the skill for the gene splicing” said Bastet sounding a little worried. “Unless it’s the normally delivery method? Do you know if it is”?
    “I don’t know” said Rabbo.
    “Can you take a peak and hail me back” asked Bastet.
    “I can’t. I strained myself and Merwyn said I can’t travel until he said I am ok to travel” said Rabbo a little upset with himself.
    “Oh! What did you do” asked Bastet.
    “I was stupid ok and tried to watch something longer than I should have at the end of my limit and strained myself doing it”
    “Oh silly rabbit. I thought Merwyn taught you better than that”
    “He did. Just I messed up and was more interested in what I was watching than what I should have been doing”
    “Ok I’ll let you go back to sleep. But tell Athena to hail me in the morning” said Bastet her voice fading out.
Rabbo awoke to a faint pale sun light coming in though the curtains. After peaking though the curtains and seeing that the snow was still falling Rabbo looked around Athena’s bedroom and saw the twins and Diana covered up and still a sleep.
    As Rabbo arrived in the kitchen he saw Helena making oat meal porridge with milk and raisin. Athena was washing the dishes that had not been washed the night before and there was no sign of where Merwyn was.
    “Bastet hailed me last night” said Rabbo to Athena.
    “Oh what did my beloved want”?
    “She wanted to talk to you and want to know if you where helping get Helena pregnant” said Rabbo.
    Helena giggled and the blushed so red that Rabbo thought that she was unwell until Athena started to giggle and also turn red.
    The kitchen door opened and Merwyn came walking in. He stopped in the entrance and kicked the snow off his boots. He then took off his jacket hung it up and walked over to the fire to warm himself.
    “I think we are in for a lot of snow. We have about two feet out there right now and more coming down hard” said Merwyn.
    “The storms not that big” said Helena. “I looked and it’s only a small storm”.
    “I am glad to see you are putting your astral travel to good use. Unlike some that use it to spy on people” said Merwyn looking at Athena.
    “Oh” said Rabbo. “Talking of spying. I caught Diana watching you three last night”.
    Merwyn and Athena both turned and looked at Helena.
    “I am teaching her how to astral travel” said Helena blushing. “Merwyn you said that it’s a good idea to start teaching people when they are young. And well Diana is only three summers and well I just thought”.
    “You are doing the right thing” said Merwyn.
    “Yes I agree” said Athena.
    “But I think she needs to learn about private space. Which is a custom with us” said Merwyn.
    “Oh at my house I don’t have private space and well she likes to travel and I don’t mind” said Helena.
    “You don’t mind her watching while you make love” asked Athena.
    “I’ve not had a man since my husband was killed” said Helena sadly “and well I’ve only got Agatha who is willing. And well Diana did asked me about that and well I umm explained it that it was adults playing and well umm”.
    Merwyn laughed and turned to Athena “I think we are going to have more house guests for the rest of the winter. After all we have five rabbits. What are two extra mouths to feed? Thankfully we have plenty of food”.
    “So you are going to teach my daughter to astral travel” said Helena looking relieved.
    “Yes. But you seem to have been doing a good job” answered Merwyn.
    “I do the best I can” smiled Helena.
    “Yes but you yourself had only a few days of training in one session and other lessons when we had the time” said Athena looking at Merwyn out of the corner of her eyes.
    “True” said Merwyn. “As we have time and there is not much happening now we could sit down and teach you far more about astral traveling than you already know and improve your skill and at the same time teach Diana how to travel safely”.
    Just then there was a loud thump followed by the sound of running feet. A few moments later a door slammed and then there was silence. But just as Athena was about to speak a door opened and the sound of running feet was heard again. Then Diana started down the stairs slowly holding on to the rail to stop herself falling.
    When Diana reached the bottom of the stairs she ran over to Helena held her arms open to be picked up.
    Helena reached down picked up Diana and placed her on her hip. She then turned back to the stirring the porridge.
    “That should be ready by now Helena” said Merwyn.
    “I’ve never made porridge before so I am not sure how it should look”.
    Merwyn looked at the porridge reached for a wooden spoon and tasted the porridge and then looked at Helena.
    “Tastes good. I’ll set the table and you serve it” Merwyn turned and almost tripped over soft eyes who was sitting at his feet looking up at him with huge doe eyes. He reached down picked up soft eyes and walked over to the fire place and placed her in his chair before he started to set the table.
    Athena went upstairs to wake up the twins while Merwyn, Rabbo and Helena sat down to talk.
    “Being a single parent is hard work” said Merwyn.
    Helena looked at Merwyn and just nodded.
    “When Athena’s mother was umm when she umm well anyway I had to be a single parent. Bastet helped but well Bastet was about your age and Athena was eight summers old. It was hard on her when her mother umm well. So I had to be both father and mother at times. And children at that age can be a real handful. But thankfully Bastet helped a lot even though she is a wild crazy woman. She handled those things that no man can understand and only another woman can understand. What I am trying to say is that you have a lot of hard work ahead when it comes to Diana and if you become pregnant again. I guess I am offering my help to raise Diana and if you are pregnant our unborn child”
    Helena just nodded and smiles as she looked at Merwyn.
    “I want to be apart of our child’s life if you are pregnant” said Merwyn getting a little uncomfortable with Helena’s lack of words.
    Merwyn got up from the table went over and stirred the porridge and looked back at Helena.
    “Helena I want to be part of your life too” Merwyn paused and waited for Helena to say something. “Dam it woman say something”.
    Helena smiled and then looked confused. “I am still trying to adjust to the fact that both you and Athena are not gods but you have powers that only a god has. And even harder for me is that I have some of those powers and my daughter has some of those god like powers too. I was brought up to believe that you and Athena are gods and that you lived up in the mountains and watched over us. It’s hard for me to not be overwhelmed with all that I have seen here. I mean power that comes out of walls, things that move on their own a talking cat and a talking rabbit. These are god like things and then there are things that you and Athena do with your minds like astral travel. Picking up things by using your minds and making people do your bidding without saying a work or holding a knife to their throats. Its hard for me to have a god” Helena held up her hand to stop Merwyn from interrupting her “even though you claim not to be gods. None of the people I know can do what you Athena and Bastet can do. And I learn that I can do some of them too. And then I learn last summer that my daughter can do what I can do and that is very hard to adjust too. Merwyn to us you are gods. I guess I am a demigod too in a way as I have the ability to step out of my body and see things that you see. Please I am still trying to understand what is happening to me and my daughter. And if I am pregnant then what of that child. Will it have the same abilities that I have and you have? It’s hard for me to understand. Please give me time and space”.
    Athena came walking down the stairs followed by Merryn and Wenna. They walked over and sat down at the table.
    Merwyn brought over the sauce pan full of porridge and placed it in the center of the table.
    Athena looked at Merwyn served the children first before she filled Helena’s bowls and then Merwyn's, then Rabbo’s and lastly her own bowl.
    Athena looked at Helena “I think what dad is trying to say is that we are here to help you with your children and to be apart of your life. But not to control you or tell you what to do. After all you are a high priestess and you have your own life path that you have to walk” Athena laughed “As smart as dad is he is not that good dealing with woman. He gets all confused. So please for give him if he confused you and scared you a little”.
    Helena smiles “what is it that you both offer? If I understand right you want to help me raise Diana and if I am pregnant my unborn child. Is that right”?
    “Yes” said Athena.
    “No” said Helena and held up her hand much like Merwyn had a few minutes before. “I would like my children to have normal lives. I know they need training in what abilities they may have and yes I want to be pregnant. But I so want them to have normal lives. I do understand that they will need training in how to use those abilities that they have and will have. But if I let you train them and let them live here they will be cut off from who they really are. And that would not be healthy for them as I want them not know what we people of Athens’s are really like and not to be above the people of Athens’s”.
    Rabbo who had been sitting listening as he ate spoke up.
    “Helena might I make s suggestion that might help” Rabbo said though a mouth full of porridge. “It seems to me that your heart is in the right place and wanting Diana and your possible unborn child to have a normal life is admirable the truth is that they won’t have a normal life due to the fact that they are not normal children. In fact they are far from it. What I suggest is that Merwyn and Athena teach you before they give Diana and your unborn child their lessons they tell you what they will be teaching and you yourself go though the same lessons before hand so that you know what they will be learning. But instead of being every day maybe once a week so that you can attend to your duties as the priestess you are. Or once each month you come here for a week and have a week of lessons so that you can teach Diana and your unborn child what you have learnt”.
    All three turned and looked at Rabbo with amazed looks on their faces.
    “Rabbo that’s a great idea” said Athena.
    “The perfect answer” said Merwyn.
    “I agree” said Helena. “I will come here once a month for a week of lessons. Without Diana and my unborn child. That is if I am pregnant”.
    “Deal” said Athena.
    Merwyn was still looking at Rabbo amazed that Rabbo had achieved so easy what he had clearly failed to do.
    Just then the door opened and Cat came walking covered in snow and muttering to himself.
    Cat ignored everyone and went over and sat down by the fire pushing the sleeping rabbit kittens to one side.
    Mischief came hopping over and stood up on her hind legs and pushed Cat away from her rabbit kittens and nosed them back into the spot they had been sleeping at.
    Mischief then sat and looked at Cat and shook her head.
    Cat moved around to the side and lay down to nap.
It had been snowing hard all day and there was about four feet of fresh snow outside. Athena and Merwyn had been outside keeping the pathways around the house and other buildings clear.
    Helena had helped Athena feed to the cattle and milk the cows while the children had watched and played.
    Rabbo had been worried at first about mischief’s odd behavior with cat but she had explained to Rabbo that the kittens had been bouncing around outside before the sun had come up and that they all had gotten very cold and that soft eyes and been shaking so badly from the cold that she needed extra warming.
    Rabbo had asked Athena to check the rabbit kittens to make sure that they were not having health problems.
    After looking at the rabbit kittens Athena told Rabbo that everything was ok but that soft eyes was not to go outside without her little jacket.
    But now it was close to dinner and Rabbo was busy chopping vegetable for Merwyn who was cooking that night’s dinner.
    It amazed Rabbo and Helena that Merwyn and Athena always seemed to have fresh vegetables and some how the vegetables never seemed to get soft or age.
    Merwyn was cooking venison steaks on a grill that was in the fire place and at the same time he was working on a cream sauce on the range.
    To Rabbo it looked like the venison steaks would be over cooked and he was glad that he did not eat steaks only thinly sliced ham and salami.
    Athena, Helena and the children came walking from the living room where Athena had been telling them stories about when she was a little girl in Egypt and how she use to go sailing on a huge river and fish.
    Diana was holding her moms hand when suddenly Helena started to shake.
    “Merwyn we know you are alive and can hear us. We have to use the voice of a native of the planet you are on as we are too weak to break though your shields. We come in peace and ask. No beg your help. If you hear us hail us we are on the fours planet of the system you are in”.
    Diana looked up at her mother so scared that she let go of Helena’s hand and was about to cry when Helena opened her eyes and looked down at Diana.
    “It’s ok darling. Just the gods using mommy’s voice” said Helena softly to Diana. Then Helena turned to Merwyn and Athena “Those are different thoughts and voice. I am not sure as they felt weak and it was a group of minds not just one mind and it was aimed at me and not just something that floats out of my mouth”.
    “Dad are you going to help them. It could be a trap” said Athena not hiding a worried tone in her voice.
    “I’ve never turned my back on someone that is asking for help with honest intent. I will see what they want and then I will go from there” said Merwyn “But first let’s eat dinner as they can wait”.
    Dinner took longer than anyone thought as Merryn Wenna and Diana kept playing with their food and in the end Athena Helena and Merwyn had to sit and feed them to stop them spreading their food all over the floor.
    Then they eat their dinners that Merwyn reheated so that it would be warm and tasty again.
    The children where a sleep in their bed and Rabbo, Athena, Helena where sitting in the living room sipping on wine as Merwyn got ready to travel to the fourth planet.
    “Dad I am still worried. What if it’s a trap? You never answered me” said Athena.
    “If it’s a trap they have to catch me first. And if they are using Helena as the bait and are not as weak as they claim I will get out of it” said Merwyn dryly.
    “That is not an answer. That’s an evasion. Again what if it’s a trap” said Athena pressing the issue.
    “Darling I’m not about to travel to the fourth planet and drift in and say “here I am trap me”. You know me better than that. I plan to go in stealth mode and see what’s going on first. In fact I have been watching them for some time now”.
    “What” said Athena interrupting Merwyn “You never told me”?
    “There is a lot of things Merwyn never tell you” said Rabbo speaking up.
    “And he tell you everything” said Athena looking hard at Rabbo.
    “I don’t tell Rabbo everything either dear daughter. I keep my own council as I have done for many years”.
    “So let me get this straight before we wander off topic and you change the subject and head off to the fourth planet” said Athena.
    “I plan to go there is stealth mode and look around then I will come back here and then Hail them from here as they asked. That way I have updated intelligence and I know their disposition. With that I can hail them and we can talk’ said Merwyn leaning back in his chair.
    “I am still not happy about you going there” said Athena.
    “Might I make a suggestion” said Helena.
    “Sure” said Athena looking hard at Merwyn.
    “Why not both of you go and look. That way you have two sets of eyes and Athena’s mind can be put at rest” said Helena.
    “Yes” said Athena.
    “No” said Merwyn.
    “How about I go instead of Athena” said Rabbo.
    “Yes that’s a good idea” said Merwyn.
    “No I want to come” said Athena.
    “Look dear daughter if it is a trap I need someone here that can help me get out of the trap. If you come and it’s a trap then you will be trapped as well and who will come and rescue us” said Merwyn.
    “Oh now you admit that it could be a trap” said Athena.
    “Its like anything there is always risk. If we never faced the risks of life then we would still be swimming around in water” said Merwyn.
    Rabbo cocked his head to one side. “Why did they not ask Ra for help”?
    Merwyn and Athena laughed.
    “For the very same reason that we don’t have much to do with Ra” said Athena. “They seem to know what Ra has become. And unlike some they are being careful”.
    Rabbo hopped into Merwyn's lap and looked up at him.
    “Ok lets go and see what the people on the fourth planet are up to and lets get this over and done with” said Rabbo.
Rabbo and Merwyn closed their eyes and together they linked minds and stepped out of their bodies as one.
Watch for Chapter 6 in July issue.
Click on By Mark Crocker for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.