Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Joyous Kwaanza!

Ho, ho, ho!

I'm hitting the road later today for my own happy happy. I hope your coming days are full of family, friends, food, and fun (made that alliteration without trying!) -- I know mine will be.

If not now, when?

Just an observation:

It's December 20. Only today and four more shopping days until the big day.

My new SuperWalMart has 30 checkout lanes.

When I stopped by to pick up my pictures, six were open. I waited in line for 20 minutes.

Four and a half shopping days until Christmas. What exactly are the other 24 lanes for?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Actual Blogger Verification Word

I think I used to have one of these:


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Woman Versus Nature

Two days ago, I sorted a pile of laundry but left it on the floor overnight. Yesterday I gathered it up to wash it, and as I threw the clothes in the machine, a small green lizard jumped out…and into the washer. For those of you who don’t live in Florida, these lizards run about 5 inches long…and run around everywhere. This one is smaller than that, so it’s probably a lizard-teen.

I promptly pulled out the clothes and tried to catch the lizard, but it hid under the agitator. I decided that I didn’t need those clothes washed all that badly, so I gave up for the day.

Today doing the laundry is more urgent. I hoped that somehow the little thing had climbed out, but when I peeked in the machine, I saw its tail sticking out from under the agitator ever so slightly. (When it jumped in the machine yesterday, its tail was a stub, so it must have regenerated it in the meantime.) I tried filling the washer with water just a little, just barely above the point where the agitator’s base fans out, hoping that it would come out from under and perch on the dry agitator as if it were a desert island. No such luck. I kept checking back ever so often. No lizard.

I figured that it either found a way out under the agitator or I was just going to have to proceed with the laundry, although I didn’t want to agitate the lizard around in clothing and suds. I mean, I have to wear these clothes. Finally, in desperation but also hoping that it really was out, I put the washer through a rinse and spin cycle. I felt like a lizard murderer, but truly, I don’t have time for the laundromat right now!

I know what you’re thinking: only a woman or a liberal would worry about this. So?

Finally I got up the guts to look in the washer, and there it was, its limp little body at the bottom of the machine. I couldn’t deal with its corpse just then, so I went back to the school work. After a while, I decided that this was silly, that I needed to get the clothes washed. So I wadded up a paper towel, determined to get rid of the evidence of my crime.

As I brushed it with the paper towel, it twitched.

I ran that little guy through five or six minutes of agitation and a ten-minute centrifuge, and it twitched.

I brushed it with the paper towel again and it ran under the agitator.


It finally occurred to me that if I bundled the clothes back in the washer, it might climb into them again, and then I could scoop lizard and clothes out later. This is, after all, how the whole adventure started.

The dry clothes are now in the washer. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Packing for Guantanamo...

I found this quiz at Dr. Bitch's place. I'm not as smart as she is; all I got was a 96.

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 96%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I thought it was a ploy to start identifying all us libbrals so they can get a headcount and ready the prison cells. Guess I was right, because the quiz is followed by this statement:

I'm glad you took this quiz. If it came out that you are an America-hating scumbag, the authorities are probably already on to you. Hopefully you are actually a pro-war Republican patriot, and if so, please cast a vote in November in support of George W. Bush. The liberal forces are plotting against him and we'll need you to help ensure his winning policies remain unchanged for years to come!

It could be farce, but I can't tell because I'm a woman and have no sense of humor.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Early Christmas Present

Today students begin registering for Spring classes (which of course mostly take place in winter).

I checked in to look at enrollments, and in what I consider to be my most interesting class content-wise, two former students have enrolled.


I have a brother/sister duo in a current class (they've never officially announced this and they have different last names, but in their chit chat it comes up). Boyfriend/girlfriend combos are common. And of course there are the platoons of BFFs who sign up for classes together. But never have I faced a situation like this. I met the sisters in different classes, one last fall and one currently in a class.

These young women are powerhouses. If colleges were full of young people like these sisters -- articulate, hardworking, thoughtful, ethical -- America would be the place we like to say it is in the soundbites.

It may be yet.

In the meantime, I'm going to have a splendid Spring.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Excerpt from actual e-mail from student

...if you do not receive this e-mail, please let me know...

Obsession, Or, Context is Everything

Checking out to see what's on tonight, I caught in passing this title under Fox News's listings: Obsession: The Threat of Radical Islam.

It took a moment or two for me to realize the title was not a confession on Fox's part.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your day be all about the things for which you are thankful!

Now excuse me while I drive to South Carolina for turkey and ham and poker.

Poker? I only know two things about poker. Cards and chips are involved...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just One of My Many Regrets, Fame Edition

Yesterday's Question of the Day at Shakespeare's Sister involved brushes with fame. This was my response, a story that seven years later still tears me up.

In 1999, right about this time of year, I attended the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, and they had set up a booth where some of the acts signed autographs either before or after performing. I was torn between staying in my seat and listening to Rick Braun or getting in line for Grover Washington Jr.’s autograph. Since Washington played the festival practically every other year, I figured I’d get another shot at his signature, and I decided to sit and listen to Braun, then go to the booth for his autograph following his performance.

I got in line immediately after Braun finished, so I was right there beside the booth. Washington hadn’t left. He was still signing; a handler gently tried to pull him from the crowd and get him in the little golf cart to take him backstage because he was to perform in less than half an hour. But he kept signing and joking with the fans. I wasn’t close enough to get an autograph, but I was close enough to watch the delight he took in talking with the crowd. The handler finally pulled him away from the fans and almost had him in the cart when Washington saw some people he knew and started hugging on them and talking and laughing with them. What a guy.

Rick Braun showed up a few minutes later and coldly signed his autographs, barely looking at the fans.

Washington gave his usual phenomenal performance. He was as exuberant on stage as he had been in that makeshift autograph booth.

About three weeks later Grover Washington, Jr. died of a heart attack following a performance at CBS’s studio in New York.

A Very Bad Moment Courtesy of Symantec Corporation

Imagine my surprise when I woke up my computer this morning and a little window claiming to be from Norton was there to greet me, telling me my subscription had expired! All the evils of the net were poised to attack my poor little Presario!!!

Anyone who has owned a computer and internet security protection for more than a year knows that -- it seems -- months before the subscription expires, the warnings begin:


Ok, I exaggerate. But not much.

So to see a "you're expired" message out of nowhere was freaky. I thought it was (there's probably a technical term for it, but I don't know it) an impostor message, someone trying to lure me to a site to sell me something or steal something from me. After all, (a) my computer is less than a year old, and (b) I started my subscription in February, after the free trial expired. So I clicked on my Norton icon to check my subscription status, and Norton its own self told me my subscription had expired.

Fortunately for me, I'm a packrat. I found my receipt for Internet Security, and I took a moment to pat myself on the back for my attitude toward purchasing software. I like to go to a store and buy virus protection, on an actual disk I can hold in my hand with an actual paper receipt. So I was clutching the receipt in my sweaty, shaking hand (Staples sale #589461 7 002 16312, 2/24/06 at 3:19), loaded for bear, ready to do battle with Symantec Corp.

I went to their website. A quick search located Customer Service for my product, and a series of clicks on questions brought me to a point where I was told to pull up my Norton product, click on Help & Support, then Subscription, then "I have already purchased a subscription, [sic] check my status." (It's early in the morning; do I have to start looking at and correcting comma splices ALREADY???) My Norton product then connected with the mother ship and changed my "expired" status to "90-something" days left.

I was partially relieved. But I'm left with this uneasy question:

If Symantec Corp. is the company watching my back as I tootle around on the web, how secure should I feel if its product can forget that I have a valid subscription?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Help Lee

Click here.
(And consider posting on her situation on your blog, too.)

In which Waveflux does simple home maintenance and cracks me up

If I linked to every shiny bauble that caught my bloggy eye, I'd add 30, 40, 50 posts a day. But really, this is funny.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Meanwhile, on the right…

(I won’t link to Michele Malkin; if you’re interested enough, you can find her words on this for yourself on her self-titled blog. You know how to use The Google.)

Progressive bloggers are trying to raise funds for a woman in need of an operation (see below); Malkin reports that righties are trying to raise funds – if only in jest -- to pay John Bolton’s salary in case mean ol’ Democrats fail to anoint Bolton as permanent ambassador to the U.N. and Bush "must" appoint him in the interim again. (Apparently Bolton cannot serve twice as an interim nominee and still get paid?)

If you had five bucks to spare, where would you send it?

The answer to that question would say a lot about a person, methinks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Help Lee

Because "the system" is failing her.

As Anntichrist writes on Blondesense:

This is Leola "Lee" Kinchen, one of the most amazing human beings that I have ever met. She works part-time at the local Fred's Super Discount Store, and when I was dragged here three years ago, Lee was the first person here who actually BEFRIENDED me in this whole snotty-ass pretentious little hick town. To her, I wasn't a "freak" for my tats or my piercings or the bumperstickers on my truck. She was just as kind and funny and sweet as all get-out, with a huge dose of cayenne-hot smartass to balance it all out.

Contrary to popular belief, Neurofibromatosis is not "Elephant Man's disease." John Merrick actually had a combination of about 6 other diseases. But the NF-1 has suddenly blossomed a huge brain tumor in Lee's head that is pressing down on 8 of the 15 major nerve branches and blocking most of the major blood vessels. And she's still working.

That's how she lost her SSI/SSDI, Medicaid and Medicare, and if she waits until April or May when they MIGHT be able to work her into what's left of the Louisiana state hospital system, she'll be dead of a massive stroke.

There are many more details about Lee's story, and about Susan, her manager at Fred's and guardian angel, at the fundraiser blog.

We talk a lot on the internet about the need for social change, including health care for everyone, regardless of bank account size or employment status. However, you and I can only get that done through indirect action, such as blogging, letter-writing, and voting. And in the meantime, many people go without health care. In some ways, however, it's all a little abstract.

For Lee, it's not abstract. Here's a real person in urgent need of health care and who can't sit around waiting for politicians to finish posturing and take action.

If the blogging community has any power, and I think it has, there could be no more better way to wield that power than to save a life.

Five bucks, ten bucks each. It wouldn't take much money from any one of us if we instead have a huge number of people lining up to drop their spare change into the PayPal account.

I've donated.

Let's get Lee that operation.


From the Department of Very Bad Taste comes this:

In a new TV interview and book, O.J. Simpson discusses how he would have committed the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend "if I did it."

The two-part television interview, titled "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened," will air Nov. 27 and Nov. 29 on Fox, the TV network said Tuesday.

"O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes," the network said in a statement. "In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade."

"This is an interview that no one thought would ever happen. It's the definitive last chapter in the Trial of the Century," Mike Darnell, executive vice president of alternative programming for Fox, said in a statement.

In a video clip on the network's Web site, an off-screen interviewer says to Simpson, "You wrote 'I have never seen so much blood in my life."'

"I don't think any two people could be murdered without everybody being covered in blood," Simpson responds.

In recent years, Simpson has made a living signing autographs at trade shows. But according to the National Enquirer, he's being paid $3.5 million for his story, reports CBS News Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kaufman.

The interview, conducted with book publisher Judith Regan, will air days before Simpson's new book, "If I Did It," goes on sale Nov. 30. The book "hypothetically describes how the murders would have been committed," the network said.

Presumably the man thinks he is Teflon now. Having been acquitted of the Brown/Goldman murders, having been civilly sued by Goldman's father (who won, but who has never collected a dime), perhaps he thinks he's home free.

At the very least, considering the effect this book and TV show surely will have on his and Nicole's children, I nominate OJ for Clueless Father of the Year. Over the years I've wondered -- once they're adults (and I know the daughter is...might be too soon for the son) wouldn't those children be able to bring a civil suit against him?

Unless of course they really think Daddy didn't do it.

I'm considering taping the show -- it's in two freakin' parts -- for the purpose of taking down names of the advertisers. If I remember to do that, I'll post them here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

799 and counting

The Official George W. Bush "Days Left In Office" Countdown clock rolled down to 799 at midnight. For the first time since I downloaded it, the number doesn't start with "8."

I'm working very hard on paying off two bills, and I get quite the thrill watching those numbers shrink each month. But nothing will excite me quite as much as watching that countdown clock hit zero.

In the category of things I already knew...

I picked up this quiz at kona's house. The results are unsurprising, since, um, my family hails from midwest Illinois and I spent my first 4-1/2 years there.

When I was growing up in Maryland, however, I was sometimes told I had a cute accent. Ha! Listen to someone from Baldimer (Baltimore to the rest of the country) speak sometime. That's a trip. And living in Florida, I can never anticipate the accent that might come out of the next person's mouth. Even the Southern accents have a wide range, so the quiz results' flip remark about Florida is oh so true.

(I'd be most interested in hearing what the quiz makes of friend Alanna!)

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The West
The Northeast
The South
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

George Bush Arrives; Charlie Crist Runs As Fast As He Can in the Other Direction

If Charlie Crist does win the governor's race (as is likely), he'll at least get a nod from me for displaying a little bit of good judgment in getting the hell away from George Bush(but I sure wish it wasn't the slimy John McCain he chose to stand next to):

A few years back, the popular Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was preparing for an election-eve "fly-around,'' a victory lap really, in which the governor would draw thousands to airport rallies. Charlie Crist, the Republican candidate for attorney general, wanted to climb on board to share in the love. But Bush had no room for Crist on the plane.

Today, President Bush has arrived in Florida for an election-eve rally for the Sunshine State's Republican ticket – a rally at which Attorney General Charlie Crist, running for governor to replace the retiring Jeb Bush, was supposed to introduce the president.

But Crist has bowed out as emcee. The GOP's candidates for governor in Arkansas and Texas will introduce the president at rallies today in Little Rock and Texas, but the GOP's candidate for governor in Florida has other plans. With his own seven-city fly-around, Crist plans to join Republican Sen. John McCain at a rally in Jacksonville today.

Where's Charlie? :)

Sunday, November 05, 2006


This video (first viewed by me at Shakes) leaves me nearly speechless.

I voted already. Get out there and get your vote counted, too!

It's freedom time!

Bitty Runs an Errand

Getting out of the house, away from the press of undone work, is always good, even if it's only a grocery run.

Winn Dixie is running a serious t-bone sale, and carnivore that I am, I thought I should go buy a few and stock up. And I needed other things, too.

It's rainy and a bit cold today, but somehow I find that cheery. Change can be good, and we've had very little rain for months and not much cold yet this season.

As I pulled into my parking space, the rain ratcheted up from a 2 to an 8 on the downpour scale. I thought I'd try waiting it out and did a little people-watching to pass the time. The woman who owned the car next to me showed up and tried to shove her groceries in the back of her car as fast as she could, but she had a lot of them and was getting soaked. Then a girl, a WD employee, donned a heavy yellow raincoat and raced from the store to the woman to help her get the bags in. The girl and I smiled at each other as she raced off, superhero-style, to save the next shopper from drenched clothing.

Finally I got tired of waiting for the rain to slack off, so I grabbed the trusty umbrella and waded to the store entrance. As I was thinking about how I maybe should praise the parking lot girl to the manager, and while I was shaking off the rain, I was greeted by my neighbor K, the young man who doesn't know he's famous on the web for not mowing my lawn. He's working at WD now, although I couldn't tell at first because his WD uniform was covered by his jacket. As I congratulated him on the new career, I wished him not to get too wet retrieving carts.

"Oh," he said, "I'm not going out."

I thought about the chasm between his work ethic and that of the young woman who was still dashing around out in the parking lot. K's a nice kid, but a lazy one, and I don't expect to see him at WD too much longer. We'll see, though. (And it could be he's training and so strictly bagging today. Maybe I just misunderstood his comment. Maybe.)

I had just enough time to load up on Diet Pepsi from the display in front and find a 4-banana bunch (enough for me to eat before they start turning a most unpleasant squishy brown) before the lights went out. Pitch black, but only for about 5 or 6 seconds. Then the emergency generators kicked in, and all of us went back to what we were doing, but now in lighting suited more to romantic dining than price comparing. A man, a fellow shopper, affected an announcer's voice and said, "Attention all shoppers! Attention all shoppers! The cameras are not operational! It's free-for-all time!"

For the next 20 minutes, I maneuvered through the store, reading labels when necessary by finding the closest available pool of light. I followed my list 100% and bought everything on it and nothing more, except that, faced with the possibility that K might be my bagger, I decided against buying the one rather personal item on my list. I got over squeamishness about such things decades ago, but then my neighbor kid never bagged my groceries before.

As I reached the cash register, the electricity returned, and K was nowhere around. (Break time?) The rain had tapered off to about a 1, so I loaded up the goods without drama.

I ran another quick errand on the way home, one that took me past a fundamentalist church whose sign offered this message:

How would Jesus vote?
Vote on Tuesday.

Well, I think Jesus would vote to end all the things that make people suffer so: the death and destruction of war, hatin' on the gays, poverty, the refusal to look at potential solutions for the seriously ill, etc. etc.

But I suspect that was not the answer the questioner was looking for.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Tale of Two Booksellers

I decided late in the game to assign Orwell’s 1984 to my lit class. I frankly assumed that they were reading it in high school, and I didn't want to be redundant, but after I polled them, only about 5 out of 54 had read it. It wouldn’t be fair – and I’m all about the fair, folks; I’m a Libra (plus it probably violates a policy somewhere) – to ask them to buy a book after they had already received the syllabus, bought the required books, etc. The book is online anyway, so cost is not a factor.

But I thought it would be a pain to work with the novel in class without real paper books. It’s hard to ask students to look through the text in class when there is no text. Since the bright idea to read it was mine, I set out today to buy some used copies of 1984.

There is only one used bookstore near me. I’d never been in it, but it was close. Once there, I found a jovial man (almost too jovial, ya know? The a-joke-to-be-made-of-everything type). I told him I wanted a lot of copies, and he found what few used copies the store had.

"We don’t have many copies because the teachers give the students points or something for giving the books to her," he said. (Note here that a teacher is automatically a "her.")

"Hmm." I said. "I wonder why?"

"Oh, she gives them to other students later, I suppose. It would just be easier if they would bring them back here."

Easier for you, I thought. There’d be money to be made.

Because there were only three used copies and I’d hoped for 13 (one to be shared by each two students in class at a time), I decided to just buy one. As we’re concluding the financial part of the transaction, Bookseller #1 becomes a literary (or perhaps cultural or perhaps educational) critic.

"It’s time teachers found something else for students to read, anyway. 1984 has come and gone."

"Yeah," I said. "1984 was so 22 years ago."

"Right," he said. "They could find something better than that if they want to teach about tyranny."

I was pretty grumpy as I left, having been insulted and all.

So I went to the best bookstore on the planet, even though it was going to add some significant time to my errands. There I found more than enough copies for my purposes. As I checked out with a stack of 1984s and a book of “found” Raymond Carver stories (found after his death; remind me to hide a few short stories in my underwear drawer or something so that after I die, they can continue to publish new work by me, too, ok?), the cashier asks, “Are you a teacher?”

“How did you know?” I asked with a smile, knowing full well how she knew. She was smarter than Bookseller #1, who couldn’t pick up on the clues.

“Well…” she said, gesturing to the stack. “Who else would want this many 1984s?”

And then she gave me a 10% educator’s discount.

Remind me to continue to go out of my way to the best bookstore on the planet.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More about spooky Katherine Harris

WaPo, by way of MSNBC:

Katherine Harris, who is trying to become a U.S. senator, says she is writing a tell-all about the many people who have wronged her. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to: the Republican leaders who didn't want her to run, the press that has covered her troubled campaign, and the many staffers who have quit her employ, whom she accuses of colluding with her opponent.

She is vague about what, precisely, makes her a victim, but she says she has it all documented.

Scary AND paranoid.

Perhaps the worst blow to Harris's campaign has been the stories that have emerged from former staffers. They describe a Jekyll-and-Hyde candidate who can be seductively charming at one moment and pitch a temper tantrum the next, throwing a cellphone at a wall or a sheaf of papers at a campaign manager. Former chief adviser Ed Rollins, who managed Ronald Reagan's reelection to the White House in 1984, said working for Harris was like "being in insanity camp." He likened her staff to dogs that have been kicked.

Before he became the first of three campaign managers to quit, Jim Dornan programmed his cellphone to play the theme song from "The Exorcist" when Harris called.

Happy Halloween!

Oh, and happy Halloween, by the way...

Because I won't post photos of the grandkids, I went through my photo collection and pulled up some scary faces instead.

Hardly a complete set, but here are some of the boogey men and women who scare ME.

Happy Halloween!

A witch

A scarecrow

Marie Antoinette

Jack Torrance

The Walrus (kookoocachoo)

How Much I'm Worth: $140.50

Lifted almost verbatim from Madame X, who is worth a good deal more than me however we add it up...

At first I missed the fifty cents and tacked it on anyway but didn't understand why...but I actually never have peed in a pool. If I count the ocean, however, I'm with you.

I got a chain email... kind of funny: you're supposed to go through the list and add up the amounts for the things you've done-- give it a try!

> Things you have done, BUT you have to add up the > money amount along the way, > then post the amount that you are as the title of > the bulletin such as "I'm > worth 15.50" or "I'm worth $300.50" or something > like that. > > > Send it to all ya e-mail buddies and don't forget > to include a copy for the > person who sent it to you. > > > ****NOW IF EVERYONE IS HONEST - THERE SHOULD BE .50 > TACKED ON TO EVERYBODY'S > TOTAL - DON'T FRONT!... :) > > Smoked pot--$10 > Got drunk, passed out and don't remember the night > before--$20 > Went skinny dipping-- $5 > Had sex in a pool-- $20 > Kissed someone of the same sex-- $10 > Had sex with someone of the same sex $20 > Cheated on your g/f or b/f -- $10 > Cheated on your g/f or b/f with their relative or > close friend--$20 > Done oral-- $5 > Got oral-- $5 > Done / got oral in a car while it was moving --$25 > Prank called the cops-- $5 > Stole something-- $10 > Stole something worth more than a hundred > dollars--$20 > Had sex with someone 10 years older-- $20 > Had sex with someone under 21 and you are over > 27--$25 > Cried yourself to sleep-- $5 > Cried during sex--$20 > Been in love-- $25 > Been in love with two people or more at the same > time --$50 > Said you love someone but didn't mean it-- $25 > Went streaking-- $5 > Went streaking in broad daylight --$15 > Been arrested-- $5 > Spent time in jail --$15 > Peed in the pool-- $0.50 > Played spin the bottle-- $5 > Did something you regret-- $20 > Had a crush on your best friend--$5 > Had sex with your best friend --$20 > Had a crush on someone at work --$5 > Had sex with someone you work with--$25 > Lied to your mate --$5 > Lied to your mate about the sex being good --$25 > > DON'T FORGET TO REPOST WITH YOUR DOLLAR AMOUNT

I heart Jon Swift, too

Jon Swift: Rush Limbaugh Takes on the Wheelchair Lobby

Nobody tells it like Jon does:

Limbaugh said what many were thinking. Why do disabled people constantly feel the need to call attention to themselves? Why don't they do a better job of hiding their afflictions so that we don't have to see them, which just makes us uncomfortable? There was a time when someone like Franklin D. Roosevelt hid from the public the fact that he used a wheelchair because of his bout with polio. If Roosevelt had lived in the 19th century or in India, he might have been forced to become a street beggar displaying his affliction to earn a few alms. It is actually an example of our advanced civilization that we allowed him to have a proper job by shielding his disability from view. Now the 21st century has brought us the video version of the crippled street beggar, asking for votes instead of alms. I was horrified to see beloved conservative icon Alex P. Keaton in this condition, especially in an ad shilling for a Democrat. Aren't there FCC rules or network standards against this sort of thing? Now it seems as if the disabled not only have stopped hiding, they have to get in our faces.

Although Timothy Noah at Slate almost pulls it off with Rush Limbaugh Fakes Stupidity:

I'm not saying Limbaugh isn't a little bit stupid. I'll give him that. But give me a break. On the subject of Fox's Parkinson's, he's just all over the place making one asinine comment after another! He can barely control himself! But you'll notice Rush can still cut to a commercial when his engineer tells him to. I'm telling you: Limbaugh's moronic blowhard routine is purely an act. Limbaugh is exaggerating his stupidity to advance political ends, and I find that despicable.

Theater of the Absurd

From Shakespeare's Sister, the cleverly-named "Back to the Reality." I offer the first few frames. Go see Sis for the rest of the story.

More at Sis's place.

I've said it before: if Rush Limbaugh had something truly horrible happen to him, like, say, losing his hearing, perhaps he would show a little compassion for those who bodies turn against them through no fault of their own.

Oh, yeah. I forgot...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nyah, nyah, nyah, you ca-an't see me!

I have been waiting my whole life for this.

Scientists create cloak of invisibility.

Oh, the places we'll go!

Next stop: time machine. I have some things to take care of just as soon as that one becomes available at Target.

Yesterday John Lithgow was 61

Yesterday John Lithgow was 61.

Ty Pennington was 41.

Evander Holyfield was 44.

Bitty was 53.

I wonder if John and Ty and Evander were too busy at work to celebrate? (No pity for Bitty, though...I'm going with Tall Son and latest girlfriend to my favorite Japanese hibachi tonight!)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

If you are at all compulsive, ignore this post!

I got around to PostSecret late this week. One of the secrets was this:

...followed by a link to Virtual Bubble Wrap. If you are compulsive, don't click on the link. DON'T CLICK ON THE LINK!

Don't click here.

I told you not to click.

Manic mode isn't nearly as fun because it's not necessary to push the mouse, so ignore that (my advice anyway) because pushing is what creates the "real" experience.

But here's the freaky thing: if you ask for a fresh sheet, a crazed female voice whispers, "Must. Have. Moooooore!"

That voice sounds exactly like mine.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Searching for answers

I picked up this simple but powerful ad at Shakespeare's Sister.

It speaks for itself -- or, perhaps, doesn't.

I Blame George Washington

Listening to George Bush speak yesterday about the growing threat from North Korea and to analysts on NPR talk about the history of the United States’ relationships with North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, I realized that we’ve been looking at the current world situation all wrong.

A lot of fingers have pointed at Bill Clinton lately, indicating that Clinton failed to nip these problems in their evil little buds. And of course many others blame George Bush for the mess that is current U.S. foreign policy. But all that is misplaced criticism.

I blame George Washington.

Did Washington at any time ever attempt either bi-lateral or multi-lateral talks with North Korea? History shows us that the answer is no. George Washington completely ignored this growing threat.

Did Washington ever try to hunt down Osama bin Laden and put an end to his plotting? Again, historians cannot find so much as a memo to indicate that George Washington ever took the alQaeda threat seriously.

Did Washington attempt to stop Saddam Hussein from harboring terrorists determined to strike the U.S.? Did he try to interfere with Iraq’s program of developing weapons of mass destruction? Did he even once acknowledge the walking piece of havoc that is Saddam Hussein? No, no, and no.

Did Washington make any effort to stop Iran’s vile plans to develop a nuclear weapon? Indeed, no. He turned a blind eye, as if Iran’s plans didn’t even matter to America.

Clearly the troubles that hound this nation today can be directly attributed to the utter failure of the alleged father of our country, George Washington, to anticipate the dangers of 21st century America and to take the necessary steps to keep us safe. Washington’s dismal record on both 21st century foreign policy in general and the Axis of Evil in particular prove that our first president had clearly taken his eye off the ball, had clearly failed to protect the interests of America.

George Washington: an utter failure.

Why did he hate our freedoms so?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kitchen mini-remodel, episode 2: How to remove wallpaper and how not to

A few weeks ago I removed most of the wallpaper from the eating side of the kitchen. Although I used a Paper Tiger and water, I wasn't having a lot of luck getting all the paper and glue off, and in some places the paint is coming completely off, revealing the paper of the drywall. I didn't use a chemical stripper with the Paper Tiger because I had pulled some of the paper off previously with good results, and frankly I didn't want to spend the money.

Right after that, I was watching Designed to Sell on my beloved HGTV, and Monica Pederson had a family removing wallpaper. She mentioned that if you mix liquid fabric softener with the water, it helps loosen the glue. (In this particular case, she had the family pull off the top part of the paper first, and then she had them spray the "underpaper.") This sounded really something I had heard before and forgotten.

So today I was back at work on the mini-remodel. I perforated that paper so that not a single inch went unperforated, then sprayed the whole thing with the water and softener mix. (I estimate I put an ounce or two of softener into a quart of water.) I made no attempt to pull off the top layer first--I don't see the point. I saturated the wall, then saturated some more. I was going to wait about a half hour because that time frame seemed to work well in the past, but curiosity grabbed me by the arm and led me to the kitchen to start prying off the paper about 20 minutes in. It sort of came off ok, but the paper was partly wet and partly dry, so I sprayed it one more time and waited another five minutes.

At that point I was able to pull the paper off in sheets...I didn't even have to stand on the stool to get to the top. I just grabbed the bottom part and peeled it off upwards. It was, I'm not kidding, as easy to get off as pulling tissues out of a tissue box. All work should be so hard! It also does seem that there's very little glue residue left on the wall.


Kitchen wall before:

Kitchen wall right now:

(Well, I can't show it to you right now. I've uploaded the picture twice, Blogger says the upload was successful, but then it's not here. I'll try to do it again later.)

Obviously the refrigerator was in the corner beneath the cabinet. I'm trying to get Tall Son to build a microwave shelf under that cabinet. The refrig is moving to the area in the left part of this picture, and I'm installing cabinets in the space between. (This is why I didn't remove all the wallpaper, but as easy as it was, I could have.)

One concern I have is that in a few more places the paint is coming off clean, as a single piece of latex. I could almost peel the wall clean to the drywall if I had that kind of time and patience. I'm not sure how to deal with this...I think I'll try to sand the edges of these "peels," then prime. If that doesn't work...?

Later today Tall Son and I go to pick up the new Whirpool RANGE. Whoopee!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bitty v Too Beautiful to Be Involved, Part 2

Frankly, when I wrote about TBBI before, I thought she was a one-hit wonder, a subject to be whispered about and never spoken of again.

But now she's working on my last nerve.

We had a Famous Writer on campus last night. If students could go to the lecture, they were to go. If they couldn't, they are to do an alternate assignment in the coming days.

Both verbally and in writing I announced that students were to find me at the event and get themselves crossed off the list. I stood until the house lights dimmed, and the venue isn't that large. I wasn't invisible. Fifty or so students easily found me.

So TBBI shows up in class today, all breathless, and says she didn't know about having to check in with me, but really she was there. Really. See? Here's her ticket. Here's her program.

Honey, this may have worked with other people. But you're up against Bitty now.

I iterated that the requirement was to find me. But nevertheless, I tell her, she'll have to prove her attendance through what she says in the writing assignment -- which was also announced in advance.

Does it surprise you, dear reader, that TBBI wrote nothing about the talk? Does it surprise you that she instead took the alternate assignment description with her when she left class today?

Bitty 2

And TBBI, losing at the Game of College is not in your best interest, especially when you're losing in the events that are easily won.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The day grocery shopping was actually FUN!

Winn-Dixie is running a serious BOGO sale this week (with many other things on sale), and while I didn't immediately NEED most of the things I bought, they are all things I will USE. Added to that, last week they gave me a $10 coupon off this week's order.

Spent: $66.40
Saved: $59.95

Now if only the free food were also calorie free...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tell me I did the right thing!!! Kitchen mini-remodel, part one

I bought this tonight at Lowe's:

Whirlpool RF262LXSQ. Smooth cooktop; self-cleaning oven; drawer (big deal to someone who's had a drop-in for 30 years...)

I wanted a GE because the outgoing stove (May I please call it a stove now? Everyone I know calls these things STOVES, but people who make them and sell them call them RANGES. Now that I'm finished shopping, may I please use my own terminology?) is 30 years old and still works. But oh, how ugly it is! Home Depot isn't having a sale, I'm po'd at Sears, so Lowe's was my target store. However, all Lowe's had in stock in my price and feature range that was GE cost $600. But I could get the Whirlpool for $500. So I did. Did I do the right thing???

The kitchen is undergoing a mini-remodel. I wanted to rip everything out and create one of those magazine beauties. But I had to get real...I'll need a new car soon. I can probably limp along another year or two in the hand-me-down truck I drive, but as I look ahead I see that taking out a loan for a car is more important than taking out a loan for a dream kitchen. Especially since I avoid cooking...

More later.

Friday, October 06, 2006

How to tell you've been looking rough lately

You put on a little makeup and three people tell you how good you look with it.

Oh dear.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Too Beautiful to Be Involved

So I show a movie in class. (It doesn't happen that often.) It's a documentary, a rather amusing one, so most students are engaged. But Too Beautiful to Be Involved is checking her IMs (I may not be able to hear the dogwhistle, but I can see the glow, old as my eyes might be), gossiping with her friend, etc. She is quiet about it, and I don't want to interrupt the experience of the other students to call her out, and of course she sits in the back, so I let her go -- for now. I look forward to what she'll write on Thursday, however, when I ask for specific reaction to the film (NOT a pop assignment -- I announced the writing assignment before the film). On other occasions, she and her pals do group work quickly and superficially so they can get to the important talk -- about their lives, about other people. No need to bother your pretty head about strengthening your brain power, Too Beautiful.

I thought quite a while before posting this. Am I being unfair, prejudicial because she IS beautiful? My soul-search says no. Beautiful 17-to-20-year-olds are in abundant supply in my classes. They don't always act like this. Many -- heck, most -- are very involved, very curious. And while maybe Too Beautiful doesn't get involved because those looks have given her a free pass through life so far, maybe also she has some other reason -- intrinsic laziness, perhaps?

Later in the day, I unintentionally create a little experiment and in the process feel a little better about student curiosity. As students come into class, I hand them a copy of the New York Times. More than half the class sit down and start reading through the paper just because. The others stare off into space, take a power nap, or chat. But it nevertheless heartens me that so many freshmen read news voluntarily.

And now I'm considering handing papers to Too Beautiful's class to see what happens, this time creating an experiment on purpose, and not just directed at Too Beautiful.

I have to remind myself that no one -- especially 18 year olds -- are exactly what they appear to be. I'm remembering the beautiful student from this past summer who wrote eloquently on how empty she feels when she's not in a relationship and then how empty she feels when she is. She doesn't look or act like someone who is "empty." But that's the exterior.

I don't know how to "make" someone curious. And I'm not sure yet if I have the right approach, but I'm thinking through some strategies for forcing Too Beautiful to be involved in spite of herself, because call me foolish but I think a pretty head ought to have something in it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My Other Doppelganger

Last year when I was toying with starting a blog and trying on names for size, I settled on Bitty as my handle because I was fascinated by the idea that a grown woman would have such a name. Bitty! It’s like being named Baby! Or Tiny! Or Princess! Yet there were real people with the name and at least two Bittys out there in TV land, actress Bitty Schram and Bitty O’Sullivan-Smith, dialogue editor (wish I knew what that is but don’t care enough to research) whose charming name always caught my eye in the credits for Sex and the City and who, it turns out, has quite the impressive resumé. So, me too! Me too! I wanna be a Bitty, too.

Anyway, as one of my students loves to write, I digress.

Bitty all by itself wouldn’t be blog name enough, it seemed. It took only a few moments of brainstorming for “back porch” to appear, and to appear as the perfect choice. My fondest wish is to have a back porch, although that porch dream keeps morphing between the grand and the reasonable: a full-on extra room, no, a lanai, no, a sunroom, no a screened porch, no… (and all sadly now pushed at least 7 years in the future -- because I really need to work toward a new car first -- by which time I may be in a Halliburton Concentration Camp over my liberal views and it won't matter anyway, so look at the money I'll save; but anyway, I digress…)

Bitty’s Back Porch: friendly and alliterative.

Not very far into my blog journey, I Googled the name, eager to see one of my posts come up in a search.

Imagine my surprise to find another Bitty’s Back Porch, not a blog, but a restaurant in Alabama.

Imagine that “Bitty’s” even bigger surprise some time later to apparently Google herself and find my blog.

Some time back I was visiting over at Waveflux and noticed what had probably been there all along, a Bio link. Clever ol’ Waveflux introduces himself by introducing all his doppelgangers, all the people he’s not. And that reminded me of another Google search I did a few months back.

My real name is – so far – unique. Not the first name, but the combination of that and my last name, Former Husband’s name really. (Why I kept it would lead to another digression, so let’s save that for another day.) Google my real name and you get me. *

One day I had the bright idea to Google my maiden name. Well, not really my name: my first name and stepfather’s last name. (Again, let’s go there another day.) I expected – well, nothing, really. It’s a unique name. Not the first name, but the combination of that and my stepfather’s last name. Or so I thought.

The search turned up 2700 hits.

There’s something really odd about seeing “your” name in a context utterly unrelated to you, the feeling that people must get when their identities are stolen. So if I’d read that Other Bitty was a real estate agent or wine broker or escaped convict, that would have been unsettling enough.

Instead, I read that Other Bitty is something I always aspired to be, and still vaguely do: a widely published writer. Widely, as in many of the 2700 hits were in foreign languages because her books are published all over the world.

Granted, she writes children’s books and books of scholarship about children’s literacy, not the genres I had in mind. But them’s books just the same, and obviously her bliss.

Other Bitty is living the life I wanted to live, and she’s doing it with my name.

And I’m left with the odd feeling of having taken the road less traveled.

*I wrote this a few months ago, but didn’t post it. I don’t remember why. In the meantime, I did a search (not a Google, someone else) and discovered THERE IS another person with my real first and last name. If you knew how weird my last name is, you’d be as surprised by this as I am. However, since this doppelganger is in Maryland, where both I and Former Father-in-Law grew up, she must be some distant relative or in-law of Former Husband.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A book meme-thingy

Meowkaat has tagged me on this meme, and I'm perfectly happy to comply. It gives me a prompt, pushes me out of the I-have-absolutely-nothing-to-say-and-no-time-to-say-it-in mindset, even if the second part of that description is too true.

1. One book that changed your life- hardest question first.
Except, for me, this is the easiest question: The first one I read, whatever it was, because it lit the path for all the others. But my first “book” probably wasn’t a book. I could read when I was two, said my grandmother; all I can add is that I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t. I have two theories about that: it was a skill left over from a previous life OR I was so bored in my playpen, where Grammie penned me up until I was more than two because she feared I’d get hurt, that I broke the code on the cereal boxes she put in my playpen to entertain me. I like the second theory best.

For a more specific answer, however, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. I first read it in 1980. ((Not as) Faraway Daughter was an infant; that's how I know the date.) At that time, I was an unfocused reader. I read, just as Meowkaat described, whatever was handy, and that wasn’t usually anything approaching brain food. (My mother-in-law, for instance, had an impressive library of Harlequins – paper bags full – so I too got my fill of that genre.) FLW had been a big bestseller in the then not-so-distant past (which in retrospect amazes me; I can’t imagine an America that literate…), and I thought I’d give it a try. Be warned: John Fowles knows words not in your bookshelf’s dictionary. He knows a lot of them.

So I struggled through this book with the honkin’ big words and (to me, then) abstract themes and plotting about as far from Harlequin as books get, and I hated it. Hated it. Hated it.

Fast forward, 1995: my last semester of undergraduate work. I took a course called “The British Novel.” On the list? The despised FLW. I dreaded and dreaded it, but the day came when the novel must be cracked.

Two pages in, I recognized that it was brilliant.

The book didn’t change me, but it proved to me that I had changed. And that’s just as good.

2. One Book That You've Read More Than Once.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison, the best book of the 20th century. If I get two choices – and who says I don’t…who’s Hall Monitor here, anyway? – I’d add The Scarlet Letter, the best book of the 19th century. There’s far more going on in that little adultery book than the Letter A. And no Demi Moore in sight.

3. One Book That You'd Want On A Desert Island.
I'm practical. My complete works of Shakespeare would keep me busy a while, and it’s all there: “comedy,” history, tragedy. Plus it’s annotated, so I’d be able to follow the obsolete words and customs even though I (presumably) wouldn’t have internet access. Before I finish, I hope to be rescued. And if not, it’s always best to give Shakespeare a second read.

4. One Book That Made You Laugh.
They aren’t really funny books, but I enjoy Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries, starring Kinsey Millhone. Kinsey often makes me laugh. Garrison Keillor’s books make me laugh, too, although I’d rather hear him read them to me.

(Scary – my first thought was something I read decades ago: Joan Rivers’ Having a Baby Can Be a Scream. But it’s not my answer.)

5. One Book That Made You Cry.
Bel Canto. That’s one.
Othello. That’s one.
Whichever of the Little House books that featured Mary's going blind. That’s one.

6. One Book That You Wish You Had Written.
The one I’ve been trying to write my whole life. I suspect if I ever do, I’ll be the Grandma Moses of the literary set.

7. One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written.
George W. Bush’s playbook.

8. One Book That You Are Reading Right Now.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but since it’s my “car” book and I only read it when I go out to eat alone, I’m not getting very far. And it’s quite a hefty tome.

9. One Book That You Have Been Meaning To Read.
Cued up and ready to go, but unread: Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle and Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight. Looks like I’m leaning toward memoir. And yes, once again that’s more than one. I’m an English major, not a math major. Or a control freak. Oh, and What’s the Matter with Kansas? I have the books. That’s not the problem…

10. Tag five others that you would like to do this meme. You and you and you and you and you. You know who you are. Feel free to post here in the comments if you don’t have a blog, Alanna.

Sure sign you're tanking in your English class

...when it's the fifth week of classes, you show up, and your instructor has no idea who you are.

I'm lookin' at you, Thomas.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Those were the days!

Overheard on campus this morning, sixty-ish man talking to younger man:

I wanted to go to law school, but in my day I wasn’t the right race or gender to get in.

So I got elected to the state legislature.

I wasn’t good enough to study the law so I made it.


Those were the days.

From where I sit, it doesn't look like anything has changed, actually.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Shout it from the rooftops

I dragged feet on signing up for YouTube because I am sick to death of answering personal questions, choosing user names and passwords, and then remembering -- or more likely forgetting -- what they are.

Keith Olbermann's impassioned response to Rumsfeld's latest inspired me to get on the Tube.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Unflushed Toilets and Inept Politicians: Joining the Katrina Blogswarm

Last week I attended a meeting in our school library. I needed the restroom, and when I walked into the first stall, I found an unflushed toilet.


So I moved to the second. Oddly, unflushed.

I moved to the third stall. Unflushed.

It took me that long to recognize the problem—the water was out in the building. I checked: the other stalls had unflushed toilets and the water wasn’t flowing in the sinks.

Without better options, I chose the least disgusting toilet and added my business to it.

I tried to imagine what it might be like to be not the second or third person to use an unflushed toilet, but the tenth or hundredth or thousandth person without better options: the plight of those who fled from Katrina to the Superdome, of course.

In Katrina’s aftermath, those overflowing toilets came to symbolize to me the plight of those left behind in New Orleans. Without better options, the poor and marginal were trapped in a drowning city, without resources, without hope.

In Katrina’s aftermath, I tried to get my students to research and examine the social ramifications of what happened in the Gulf Coast and specifically in New Orleans, but most of them, comfortable in lives that so far had been handed to them, blamed the victims. They should have gotten out when the authorities said go. They should have planned ahead. (Never you mind that the authorities themselves planned poorly.)

Eighteen year olds can perhaps be forgiven their naiveté. They’re inexperienced in the ways of the world.

What, though, was the excuse of those in local, state, and federal government?

Given, at times the local and state authorities looked like a cross between Keystone Cops (Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco, well-meaning but inept) and the KKK (the authorities of Gretna, Louisiana who blocked New Orleans residents from entering their town), but in the face of national disaster, national government should be warmed up and ready to take the lead.

Should be.

Was under Bill Clinton. Was so clearly not under George Bush.

What Katrina revealed is what liberals have asserted for years: our current version of federal government is as self-centered, ham-fisted, and oblivious as those in the White House who daily bungle their way through administering it, and in time of genuine need is utterly impotent.

This fall we have the opportunity to both send a message – the current state of this country is unacceptable – and to make real change by electing legislators who will hold this administration accountable. Unfortunately, we also face real questions about the legality of our elections in the face of voting-machine tampering and other voting transgressions (this horror story happened in my county).

We’re all in trouble, not just those of us at the bottom of the socioeconomic food chain. We all need better options. And we need to find those options – soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Back, but busy

Too much to do as we get ready for the new school year.

In the meantime, amuse yourself with The Official George W. Bush "Days Left In Office" Countdown clock.

It just can't move fast enough for me.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Seen on a bumper sticker

When Jesus said, "Love your enemies,"
I think he meant don't kill them.

Leavin' on a jet plane

I'm off to visit (Not as) Faraway Daughter and little grandsons tomorrow, and the new house. (Son-in-law is off doing military things; if I knew just what they were, I'd have to kill myself. But I can say he's not in a place that starts with "I.")

Even though they're only an 8-hour drive away, I have an old, weary vehicle that I don't trust to make the trip. After weighing my options -- train, plane, bus -- flying turned out to be the most practical.

And despite the craziness of the last week, I still think it is.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What are these women DOING????

Answer here.

Merci beaucoup to Madame X.

Mystery solved!

My work parking permit hangs from my rearview mirror, and I've always been mildy amused by a sentence on it: REMOVE BEFORE VEHICLE IS IN MOTION. (And these words are turned outward toward the road, adding to the efficacy of the message.)

I've always wondered why I needed to remove the pass. And was it an actual rule? Were the parking enforcers gonna give me a ticket if they caught me tooling down the interstate with my parking permit prominently displayed? With all this hanging up and taking down, how often do you think I would misplace the thing or forget to hang it back up once I returned to campus and parked? (Was this an evil plot to generate more parking ticket funds?)

Today I picked up my 06-07 model parking permit, along with a brochure that, instead of the Joe-Friday-just-the-facts-ma'am- informational flyer, reads like a motivational seminar.

And on the back of the brochure, the mystery is solved. I should remove my 2 1/2" (wide) x 5" (long) pass before I drive off "for safety [sic] sake."

Wouldn't want that big 'ol decal interfering with my view of the road, now, would we?

Monday, July 31, 2006

Still Snakey

Although Tall Son came over to work on the siding problem this weekend, he distracted himself -- as he and I are both infamous for doing -- with another project.

My central a/c went out several years ago, and since my funds were low, I decided to use them to buy two window a/cs. And the central unit was old, old, and not worth throwing money at.

Tall Son, being in the construction industry, comes home with all sorts of interesting knowledge, tales, and just stuff.

One such item of stuff is a Trane a/c from a house being demo'd. The Trane was otherwise on the way to the landfill.

He was coached by an a/c guy on what to do to hook it up -- and we know we might have to call a pro to charge the freon -- but he gave it a try. But for the fact that his sautering on the copper piping didn't take, all seems to be well. However, the sun set and he had to stop work. Then come Sunday he wasn't feeling well, so all progress has stalled.

So now I have a not-quite-installed a/c unit, siding materials stacked up outside, and another little issue.

To try to drive the snake(s) out of my house, if indeed they are in my walls, I bought a BUNCH of mothballs. For starters, I spread them in a shallow cardboard box and put them in the storage room, which is adjacent to the laundry room, site of the snake sighting. I had also planned to have Tall Son lob mothballs all over my attic, just in case. Now I'm glad I didn't.

Even though the door between the storage room and the rest of the house is closed, the not-so-gentle aroma of mothballs wafts throughout my home. Standing outside the house I can smell the things.

Imagine brownies and mothballs.
Chicken and mothballs.
Rose-scented candle and mothballs.
Litter box and mothballs.

I hang some of my clothes in the laundry room to dry, and as I pulled my nightgown over my head last night, I acknowledged I might have to spend the night smelling like an acrid closet. But I slid between the sheets and pulled the blankets up to my neck, hoping a thermal blanket would be enough to keep my nose and the paradichlorobenzene apart.

I don't know the status of the snake(s), but I might be leaving soon.

My Afterlife

Following Meowkaat's lead, at least now I know what I have to look forward to...

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Third Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Moderate
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Barbara Ehrenreich has a blog!

Via Dr. Bitch, I learned today that Barbara (Nickel and Dimed) Ehrenreich has a blog.

Once there, I discover that Ehrenreich's most recent post explores the high cost of being poor, a subject I was just discussing with Meowkaat by e-mail a few days ago. Ehrenreich writes:

A new study from the Brookings Institute documents the “ghetto tax,” or higher cost of living in low-income urban neighborhoods. It comes at you from every direction, from food prices to auto insurance. A few examples from this study, by Matt Fellowes, that covered 12 American cities:

Poor people are less likely to have bank accounts, which can be expensive for those with low balances, and so they tend to cash their pay checks at check-cashing businesses, which in the cities surveyed, charged $5 to $50 for a $500 check.
Nationwide, low-income car buyers, defined as people earning less than $30,000 a year, pay two percentage points more for a car loan than more affluent buyers.
Low-income drivers pay more for car insurance. In New York, Baltimore and Hartford, they pay an average $400 more a year to insure the exact same car and driver risk than wealthier drivers.
Poorer people pay an average of one percentage point more in mortgage interest.
They are more likely to buy their furniture and appliances through pricey rent-to-own businesses. In Wisconsin, the study reports, a $200 rent-to-own TV set can cost $700 with the interest included.
They are less likely to have access to large supermarkets and hence to rely on the far more expensive, and lower quality offerings, of small grocery and convenience stores.

I would be unfairly poormouthing (ha!) to describe myself as poor today, but I had a lot of rough years in the not-distant past, and I continue to pay the premium for my past inability to keep up.

My Sears account charges an interest rate of almost 29%. I am throwing every extra dollar I have at it and expect to pay it off by the end of 2007. Still...

Although I've been a Nationwide customer for 15 or more years, they have demoted me to their off-brand auto insurance based on my credit report. I do not qualify for a multi-policy discount (they carry my homeowner's insurance, too) and I pay a rather high rate for an old (96) vehicle with fairly minimal coverage. I should add that I've never had an accident or a moving violation (had a few burned-out lights, though) and I've never filed a claim. (In fairness to Nationwide, they're going to look at my account next month when it's up for renewal, but I'm not optimistic.)

And there are other stories from my past, not worth going into right now.

Except for being a day late on my Capital One Visa in February when my grandmother died and I lost track of the day of the month, I have not made a late payment to anyone in four years. In fact, I may be one of the few people around who enjoys paying my bills -- because I can. But today, barely in the middle class, I still "pay" dearly for having once been a poor chick.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What Makes God Laugh?: Homeowner Edition, part one

It’s an old joke, and I find it more true every day. What makes God laugh? When people make plans.

I had plans for today.

Up early, get the mowing done* before the real heat kicks in. Shower and dig into the grading by noon.


My mower is old, at least 10 years and maybe more. (I’m thinking lawnmower years might be very similar to dog years.) Three or so years back, the gas suddenly started pouring out of the side. The mower doctor diagnosed it as dead carburetor. Eight weeks (really) and $160 later, the mower had a carburetor transplant and was back home.

So I pulled out the old guy this morning. He hadn’t had much use lately, but I had mowed the back yard last weekend and the front, small side, and back three weeks back (while patiently waiting for Neighbor Boy to do the rest, to no avail). I’ve had a lot of trouble starting the mower this year. Tall Son tried and he had no trouble, nor did Neighbor Guy, but I swear the cord would catch hard and whiplash my arm when I pulled it. So just getting the thing started was a trial. That done, however, I could mow along merrily until something made it stall out (tall grass, usually) or I chose to stop. Then there would be no starting it again for at least a half hour.

I managed to get the front, small side, and back mowed this morning, along with at least a tenth of the ginormous side. The mower had been making something of a clanging sound all morning, and smoke was wafting out the engine, so I was already trying on for size the idea that I’d probably have to buy a new one soon. (And yes, I did put more oil in the mower.) During one of my stall-imposed half-hour breaks, I researched prices at Sears, Home Depot, Lowe’s. So I was semi-emotionally prepared for what happened after I ran out of gas.

I filled the gas tank, stepped back, wiped my brow, and watched while the gas poured right back out the side of the mower. Deja vu all over again.

I really had other plans for that money.

Tall Son was building a building nearby and stopped for lunch. We caught up – hadn’t even had time to talk on the phone for over a week – and he agreed to stop by after work to unload the new mower I was about to go buy.

“It’ll cost you more, probably,” he said, “but get one with a Honda engine. Everything we use on the jobsite that has a Honda engine never needs anything but basic maintenance: oil changes, and so on. They never give us any trouble and they always start right up.”

Start right up. That sounds appealing.

One hour and $400 later (tax and extended warranty because darned if I’m dealing with a broken mower again any time soon), my new fire-engine-red Troy-Bilt-self-propelled-with-a-Honda-engine mower and I were home from Lowe's. This one, I'm pretty certain, is a female. Tall Son came by, got her out of the truck for me, put in the oil and gas, started her up.

She purrs. I swear.

So it’s not what I planned to spend my money or my day on, but at least I have Mower Security. Now I’m planning to get out there tomorrow morning before the tropical heat sets in and finish the ginormous side of the yard.

I’m hoping God’s not laughing too hard about right now.

*Neighbor boy and I have parted on amicable terms regarding the mowing situation. His family’s mower is simply not working properly. Going forward, I will do my own mowing.

What Makes God Laugh?: Homeowner Edition, part two

God wasn’t finished laughing today, not at me and not at Tall Son. I’m sure Tall Son had plans for next weekend. But he has new ones now.

It’s hard to get him to do maintenance (and finish projects) on my house, but he always comes through when it’s urgent, such as the time my water heater started leaking by the gallon.

So this afternoon I was sitting outside in the shade in my plastic replica Adirondack chair, waiting for Tall Son to come by and unload the new mower (see post immediately above).

While the main part of my house is concrete block with a brick front, the laundry room section, and now the newly-enclosed-once-upon-a-time-carport-now-turned-storage-room, is frame, sheathed in what is commonly known as T1-11. The back wall and the 2-foot side are original construction, 30 years old and rotten at the corner. Replacing this siding is on Tall Son’s to-do list.

This afternoon it moved up. Way up.

I was enjoying the breeze in the shade, thinking about how I might convince Tall Son to replace that siding and help me paint the house, when a two-foot snake started doing a vertical snake dance right next to that rotten corner. And I knew what was about to happen even as I willed it not to, not to, not to.

Like a piece of spaghetti slurped into a ten-year-old’s mouth, that snake zipped right into the hole in my house.

I will let you ponder that a moment.

I live in this house. And so, it seems, does at least one snake.

I am putting the best possible spin on this. First, I’m almost certain it was a black snake, which means that it’s not what I want for a roommate, but it isn’t going to kill me – or Molly. Second, like the discovery of a cheating spouse, there’s a good chance I’ve not caught the snake’s first time in my house. It’s probably been living there a while and hasn’t caused me any grief. It seemed to know exactly what it wanted to do, where it wanted to go. Third, it probably is living right there where it went in, in between the drywall and the rotted siding, although I keep thinking about whether it might be slithering all the way to the attic…

No. I simply will not go there.

I’m in emergency mode. I’ve moved the litter box out of the storage room and closed the cat door that leads to the storage room. I’ve closed the door between the laundry room and storage room. I’m playing a radio in the storage room in an effort to keep it out of the storage room and therefore the rest of the house, because I’ve heard snakes don’t like loud noises. I’m doing my laundry as fast as I can, catching it all up, and then I’m going nowhere near that room again until next weekend when Tall Son plans to pull down the siding, evict the snake family, and replace the siding.

And oh how I hope God is not reading my words and laughing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

One thing I'm buying and one thing I'm not

First, the not: grocery...

Everything is sold in supersize bulk, I suppose for those who don't have time to get to Costco biannually. I love me some popcorn, but even I don't need $40 worth at a pop.

Then, thumbs up for Pandora --

Custom "radio" on my PC. Why didn't someone tell me about this sooner? Really? They play songs based on your love of certain artists or songs. You can set up multiple "stations." They even boot songs ya don't like. What could be better? No Phil Collins, ever!


(Note: the "buying" is metaphoric in the case of Pandora. It's free.)

On a hand-lettered sign


Yeah, it took me a moment, too.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Like Shakespeare, only not eloquent...

Via The Fat Lady Sings, something the English teachers in the crowd will find unsurprising, and everyone should find hilarious. Number 6 has a knowing quality the rest seem to lack...

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year's winners.....

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph. (Must have just left Math class)

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Miss Bitty Sends Her Regrets

Dear Alanna,

I’m afraid I won’t be able to have lunch with you this Friday. Thanks to Mr. Gordon’s rule that each student must write 6000 words in our classes, I am barely able to breathe under the weight of half a ton of lovely white paper covered with sometimes incomprehensible squiggles.

I was so looking forward to it. Let’s not even try next week…last Friday before the last week of class.

I must devote part of my Friday to grading. Either I’ll get a lot of work done this weekend, or I’ll be in desperate condition next week. Tall Son had promised to come over this weekend and clean up some of the personal physical mess he left behind when he moved out and to finish – finally!—the work on the storage room so I can call the county building inspector for approval then slide all the shelves back against the walls. (I have a path open so he – it’ll be a he of course – can look at the quality of the construction.) Of course, if Tall Son follows through on his promise (always 50/50 odds, since he so often has to work Saturdays and even Sundays and there’s a new girlfriend – again – or, as far as I know she’s still around...), I’ll be distracted, wanting to direct him to this undone task or that one. I don’t want to be a nag, but this work was his only “rent” when he lived with me, and he’s behind on the rent AND no longer living with me. Ah, me.

Then there’s the kid across the street. You may well hear of a murder this weekend in my county, but if I can get a jury of working-woman homeowners I’ll be acquitted without fuss. It takes a lot to rile me up, but I think he’s accomplished it. He has only mowed my lawn once ALL SUMMER. The drought kept it from getting too out of hand in the early part of the season. When I returned from the Long Drive, he mowed. Since then it’s been one excuse after the other; he has promised to mow on a date certain each of the past three weekends. Here’s the thing, though: he doesn’t HAVE to mow my lawn. I would do it. But he keeps coming over and telling me he’s going to. Promising. Nine days ago when he promised to cut it on the Sunday just passed, I told him he had to let me know if he couldn’t because I needed to plan if I had to do it. (I only mow in the mornings due to the heat, and I’m not home that many mornings…). He promised, promised, promised it would get cut this past Sunday. I fumed all day waiting for him. Around 6 he showed up…said he’d planned to cut it that very evening when it was cooler, but now that a storm was brewing, he couldn’t do it. He promised to do it Monday eve. Of course when I came home Monday (after dark, after his family had put out the lights for the night), the lawn was not mowed. Might I add three things here? First, I looked at the Doppler on the weather channel after he left on Sunday. There was no rain in sight…just clouds. Second, he is mowing WITH A RIDING MOWER! A snowman could handle the job at two in the afternoon and still not melt away if he did it on a riding mower. Finally, young K works for a landscaper during the week! What, pray tell, does he do for the landscaper that he gets to avoid the frickin’ heat all day? At this point I don’t think I CAN mow because, except for the front and back which I did mow once since his last pass at it, the grass is too high. But if he doesn’t come through for me by Friday morning, I’m getting out there to do it. And I’ll have white-hot nuclear anger to power the mower.

So that’s why I can’t do lunch Friday.

Shall we aim for Friday, August 4?