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This time, I am ready. Meticulous preparation and wise counsel have availed me in the prior months. The darkness comes towards me, but I laugh at its approach. All the terror and evil it possesses cannot frighten me, for I am stronger now than I once was. Well-trained and focused, I am confident of my victory.

The last time, I was defeated. I have learned from my trials, and now run no longer, but prepare and face them. Those that were once my demons now come to be vanquished at my hand. I look around. Where once were sheer walls with no escape, I see the traps that I have laid for the enemy. Success is certain.

Now, at last, the time has come! The darkness approaches me. It remembers a weaker foe, over which it easily triumphed. But I am that man no longer. Now it comes for me, and I am a beacon of blazing light. I beckon, and the darkness hesitates, and then lunges. Battle ensues. I am wounded by the attack, but my preparations are not in vain. I rise up and lay waste to my demons, and emerge more powerful than ever before.

I have won through!

How to dispose of a body in North Wales


Introduction
When I was a kid I used to go mountain biking on the hills and in the valleys of North Wales. Llangollen ("Klan-goth-len") was a particular favourite as it had a great little camp site by Valle Crucis Abbey (apparently a haunted derelict Abbey) just outside the village. One summer I had ventured particularly far from the campsite on my bike in search of some offroad. Having reached what must officially be the middle-of-nowhere I came across an old shed on top of hill. Curious, I hauled open the door to the shed (which took quite a bit of effort as it had rusted badly) and had a look inside. To my surprise, there were some grubby, moss covered steps leading downwards. I had a quick look around to see if anyone was about, padlocked my bike, and made my way down the steps. They didn't go very far, just to a dark, damp, smelly little "room" (for lack of a better word). It was here that my idea sparked. What a great place to dump a body!

Instructions
So, in true Mr-Wolf-from-Pulp-Fiction style, here's how to dispose of a body in North Wales. You may of course want to remove any identifying features from the body beforehand (if you haven't already).
  1. Wrap your body in a sheet (not carpet! It's too heavy) or tarpaulin (helps keep the smell to a minimum and stops blood leaking) and tie *tightly* at both ends (prevents the body slipping out - you may want to use some rope too). Wrap the whole thing with another sheet and throw in a few Haze air fresheners and tie the top of the second sheet. No blood showing through? Good, now we're ready to rock n' roll.


  2. Go hire a small van. Aberconwy Car Hire, Llandudno, are pretty good and have been around for years (web address below).


  3. Get the "package" into the back of the van along with a shovel/spade and a torch/flashlight. You may want to do this at night and drive up to Llangollen. When you get to Llangollen, follow the signs for Valle Crucis Abbey. As you head out of the village, Crucis Abbey is on the right. You'll drive past it and then take a turning on the right. Follow the bumpy road down past the Abbey and off to the left. If your vehicle breaks down you should call Chris's Motors (based in Llangollen) who'll come out and fix any problems (flat tyre, out of petrol, etc) pretty sharpish. If you want, you can charge the recovery fee back to the car hire guys.


  4. After 5-10 minutes, you'll come to a metal gate. Open the gate, drive through, and close it again. From here on, it's just a set of dirt tracks. Follow the tracks carefully - don't go too fast, take your time, you're almost there. After about 20 minutes at a reasonable pace, you'll come to a line of trees (you can't miss it). There's a gap in the middle, drive through (you'll find another set of dirt tracks going through). Follow this set of dirt tracks up the hill for about 15 minutes until you come to the shed.


  5. Things should be easy from here. Get the body into the shed (you may have some difficulty with the door) and down into the little room. Place your body on the edge of the room. Start digging the grave using the length of the package at the edge of the room as a measure for length. Dig as deep as you can in the time you've got - the deeper, the better. And lets face it, out here you've got all the time in the world!


  6. Once you're done, open the package completely (be prepared for the stench) and roll the body into the hole. Place the sheets or whatever over the top of the body and start covering it.


  7. Once covered, and you've picked up everything you arrived with - torch, shovel, etc - get into your vehicle and go home. Remember to cleanup any mess *thoroughly* in the front AND back of the van. Burn the clothes and shoes you're wearing.

Related reading
Llangollen web site: http://www.llangollen.org.uk
Car hire: http://www.aberconwycarhire.co.uk

The UN, what a gang.

The United Nations continues to slide down the moral slope. Now, we're finding out that the "oil-for-food" program was a scam. Not only did the UN itself skim a ton of money off the top (a billion bucks to "administer" the program), but they refuse to say where the money is, what kind of interest is being paid, what banks benefit, what Iraq was allowed to purchase, and what companies sold what goods to Iraq. This article from last Friday's NY Timeshas some interesting stuff:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/18/opinion/18ROSE.html

Since its inception, the program has overseen more than $100 billion in contracts for oil exports and relief imports combined.

According to staff members, the program's bank accounts over the past year have held balances upward of $12 billion... the oil-for-food program has evolved into a bonanza of jobs and commercial clout. Before the war it employed some 1,000 international workers and 3,000 Iraqis. (The Iraqi employees - charged with monitoring Saddam Hussein's imports and distribution of relief goods - of course all had to be approved by the Baath Party.)

Bureaucratic lags notwithstanding, putting a veil of secrecy over tens of billions of dollars in contracts is an invitation to kickbacks, political back-scratching and smuggling done under cover of relief operations.

So, it's easy to see why France and Russia wanted the status quo. They were milking a big, green cash cow named Iraq and they didn't want to see it end. All we know is that they got gobs of cash from the UN, but no one has to say what they provided in return. The UN had every reason to love it too: $1B dollars, 4,000 people, that's $250k per person - somebody did pretty well, since you know they didn't pay those Iraqi's squat. More nasty stuff:
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/22/international/worldspecial/22NATI.html

The United Nations oil-for-food program in Iraq has little prospect of releasing even $1 billion of its approximately $14 billion for emergency food and medical aid before its authorization runs out on May 12, the program's director said in an interview today.

It has also revived longstanding criticisms over items like its administrative budget, paid for from a 2.2 percent share of all the oil sold under the program, which has totaled more than $1 billion.
Then, there's William Safire asking us to follow the money:
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/21/opinion/21SAFI.html

"Sophisticated international blackmail" is what Senator Arlen Specter called it yesterday. Blackmail is the apt word: unless the U.S. and Britain turn over primary control of Iraq to the U.N. - none of this secondary "vital role" stuff - Chiracism threatens to hobble oil sales and prevent recovery.
Of course, not only is this body determined to undermine the US economy and US interests, but it insists that the US pay for the priviledge:
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2003/04/21/asparks.DTL

There are 191 member nations, including many with large and powerful economies, but, of course, when it comes to paying the bills, these countries seem to have gone AWOL -- the U.S. continues to pay 25 percent of the entire U.N. budget!

In July 1995, in Srebrenica, Bosnia, a U.N. peace-keeping battalion in a U.N.-declared "free zone" handed over 8,000 Muslim civilians to the Serbs, who promptly slaughtered them all. There was no U.N. inquiry to review that terrible human atrocity. Instead, soon after this massacre, Kofi Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
We have here an organization that can't stand even a glance of scrutiny. Billions of dollars pass through its hands secretly, with no oversight. It's no wonder, then, that when these reports came out over the last few days France, Russia, et al, decided not to press for continued sanctions. There's no way they would be able to stand the heat of media attention on these matters. Only a few days ago, before all of these articles, they had a different opinion (http://www.sunspot.net/news/nationworld/iraq/bal-te.hoot17apr17,0,3601328.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines). If the UN is such a Good Thing, with world-wide focus, why do its decisions boil down to what's good and bad for the most powerful individual member states?

All of this should come as no surprise. The UN was all wrong from the start. Why should a country like Antigua and Barbuda, with its population of 67,448 have the same UN representation as China, with its billions? How is that fair? How is it that a medium-sized country like France can have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, able to unilaterally veto anything they please, while a huge country like India has no permanent seat and can veto nothing?

What kind of goofy world organization would treat an illegitimate leader, such as Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus or Jose Dos Santos of Angola the same as a fairly elected leader? Any thug tough enough to take over a country gets to speak in the UN with complete legitimacy. What sense does that make?

What kind of crackpot outfit would put Sudan on its Human Rights Committee, a country who was condemned by that body only recently and who didn't allow envoys from the Committee into the country to investigate? That would be as silly as putting Libya on the committee... D'oh!

Even worse is the lack of accountability and oversight. When a UN employee was accused of participating in the genocide in Rwanda, they declined to even investigate (see http://www.newsmax.com/showinside.shtml?a=2001/12/4/142550). When Kofi Anon botched the peacekeeping in Rwanda (sending in a woefully inadequate and under equipped Belgian force) and hundreds of thousands died, he got promoted to Secretary-General. If anyone wants to know the details of the food for oil program in Iraq, such as exactly what goods were allowed, where the money went, accounting details, they're out of luck. The UN doesn't provide those facts to the press. If there has been fraud or error, the UN will be left to police itself.

This isn't a body seriously dedicated to getting the countries of the world to get along and live in peace.

It's a gang.

No one ever said I want to be a stocker when I grow up part III

If my life got any worse I'd be the non-human, cyborg, soulless owner of the Sparkle Market. That's right, I just returned from the bottomless pits of despair called my job. I've decided to keep this 'news letter' going because I have no life and I feel I need to spread the horror of this establishment to warn future customers.

I don't have much to write today, except one, disgustingly vile story. It all begins when a lady and her daughter enter my checkout line...

I ring up all her groceries and she hands me a check. While I'm processing her check she turns to her daughter and exclaims, "Hey, rub my back would ya?" Her daughter consents and begins clawing her hands on the mother's hind. And to my repulsion the fat woman states, "Aaaahhh, that feels really good! I think my back is peeling. Maybe I've got some sort of rash or blisters."

I almost vomited on her bananas...

It's so strange. I stand at the cusp of ...something...I grasp at words darting just out of reach. I am not sure quite how to describe it.

My attorney stands beside me with a broad grin. He looks forward to this duel on Friday. My counselor stands beside me with a broad grin. "Call me as soon as you leave the field. I want to be one of the first to know".

It's so strange. Both of these people are hired guns, one on my left and one on my right. The excitement is palpable in the air, hovering around me, mere feet away. They can taste it, yet they have no emotional investment in the outcome. Waiting for the meeting at dawn of a "gentlemen's dispute". Coins slip from my fingers into outreached palms. Fighting for the lady's honor?

It's so strange. This time in the predawn, I stand on the convergence of these dusty roads. The wind is whipping up my hair, blowing it into my eyes and snagging strands upon my parched lips. Dingy white skirt pressed against trembling legs, my body is drained close to depletion. My knees beg to crumble and plant my form firmly into the well worn path of crossing traffic. This place I can not stay for long. The Earth still spins. The sun still rises. The world will awaken and move forward as it has done since the beginning of time. To stay in such a place is to invite injury.

It's so strange. Looking over my shoulder down the road just travelled, I still find it difficult to see beyond the catastrophic tearing up of the path. An underlying layer of sadness and regret for the might have beens tugs at my petticoats. Laden sighs and vinegar tears alternate with sylphlike relief.

It's so strange. Turning forward towards the rising sun, I am blinded by its brilliance. Squinting eyes, and hand cupped over weary brow do not make it any easier to see what lies before me. Determination pulls me to my feet, brushes off the dust and reminds me of the appointed hour. It has been brought down to the basics. It's a matter of survival. The sky is changing. The white gloves are off. It's just so...strange.

A moment of Americana bought to you by Smart Money:

There's no getting around it: If you're going to instill any culture into your household, it has to come from a force bigger than the family television. And while that may sound like a tall order, the solution is remarkably simple: a piano.
I can't even make a joke of this, it already parodies itself. People with a lot of money are wierd.

Taken from a Yahoo! news bulletin:

WASHINGTON, April 21 President Bush's advisers have drafted a re-election strategy built around staging the latest nominating convention in the party's history, allowing Mr. Bush to begin his formal campaign near the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and to enhance his fund-raising advantage, Republicans close to the White House say.

The story goes on further to say that Mr. Bush plans to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of up to two hundred million sheaves of Grade-A George Washington lettuce in order to finance campaign advertising and other expenses next year, which would amount to twice as much as he spent in 2000. Taken in mind that he is not expected to be strongly opposed within his own party, that is one damned aggressive marketing strategy, if I do say so myself.

But I'm not quite sure how well this news (particularly, the first item) sits with me at this point in time. For one, it seems to me to be at least a tad perverse (if not downright gauche) for a head of state to urge others to rally around a tragedy that happened as, to use the now infamous phrase, "a failure of imagination," -- even moreso, one that occurred on his very own watch. Ten years ago, an attempt by W.J. Clinton to inject his fundraisers with a heavy dollop of pathos by means of reference to the poorly-anticipated disasters of the Branch Davidian Compound at Waco, the Alfred Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, or (ahem) the World Trade Center that occured in the first four years of his administration would have brought heaps of scorn and disgust from his critics, not to mention the inevitable accusation of trying to exploit a national tragedy for cheap political capital.

Not to say, of course, that I am belittling the events of 9/11 or implying that G.W. Bush is a completely heartless, opportunistic, bloody-shirt waving bastard. Far from it. I just think it is a bit ironic, however, that a president who has endeavoured to make "national security" such a strong selling point for his intended upcoming term should choose to draw so much attention on its arguably greatest oversight since the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Whatever the case, it will be very interesting to see how American public perceptions will view this by next fall, assuming that Bush adheres to his current plans. His perceived capability in the defense / national security sphere of affairs seems to be carrying him along all by itself at the moment, but should he lose approval points by being out of step with demands for a (gasp) strong and coherent economic or some other form of domestic policy, that "regime change" which Sen. John Kerry spoke of might not be that far off after all.

Today was a good day.


Unfortunately I tend to be one of those people that dwells in angst, it's a drama my life can't quite shake. Today wasn't one of those days.

I woke up, got dressed and grabbed a nutrition shake and my keys this morning in a 30 minute span of time. My mind was cheerfully blank of unhappy thoughts, replaced by the hope that today my personal inbox would perhaps contain a request for an interview at a design firm I'm trying for.

The drive to work was gorgeous. It's spring, there can be no denying it despite the few sputters of snow we've experienced. All behind us now, hopefully. The sky was blue, still is, the wind howling with chill tales of distances traveled and sights seen as I left my little valley, and the still sleepy cows, and climbed the mountains. The fact that I was driving a borrowed car because mine has been in the shop for the past three weeks with intermittent electrical problems didn't even cross my mind today.

I got to work, smiled my hellos, slid behind my desk and fired up my Mac ready to work. Seeing my plastic Angry Beaver, Norbert standing on my container of Mars Mud next to my yo-yo ball always brings a kid-like joy to me when at work. These are things I play with when the work is slow. These are things I use to occupy my hands when trying to work out a design in my mind. These are fun things.

It was a slow day; my inbox was full of messages from friends, well wishes on the job hunt, and tales of relationship sorrow. As I made a small correction to a catalog cover I whipped up yesterday I noticed that my co-worker was watching a movie. Night of the Living Dead. So I turned and watched too, pausing to stare at my design trying to work out which parts should remain unglossed by the printer.

I had a slow, creative day at work. Then I came home. I was bitten in the face by the monster, whom I later entertained in the backyard with a bright orange orb of delight. Then I had to scream like a banshee to keep his natural instincts at bay while I rescued a little Starling from beneath his puppy paws. Poor thing. I carefully picked up the bird, amazed at how calm it was, and held it in what I hoped was a comforting manner. Then I walked it to the veterinary clinic. Where else do you take injured animals?

The quick jaunt down the block reminded me of my childhood, when I was considered the neighborhood vet by my peers. I liked to take in the sick and injured wild things. That my mom worked at a pet store and had some knowledge of animals helped, of course. I once had a three-legged frog because of this habit. I currently have four baby eastern box turtles and three hermit crabs that I've rescued in one way or another.

The Starling is ok, in hands more capable than mine, and my day is ending and evening is nearing. Today was a good day. I didn't get a job offer, I didn't get my car back, I didn't bump into some guy who would sweep me off my feet but I saved a bird from a puppy.

I also got another mailer from some paper company in Ohio, this time in the form of a postcard on Benefit Snow Day Vertical 100lb cover stock. For me this is a treasure, the texture is lovely.

Today was a great day.

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