Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cultural whiplash

On the same day,

Coretta Scott King dies...

Alito is not only confirmed by the Senate to take a seat on the Supreme Court, but he is sworn in before most of us have had time to chew our lunches...

Brokeback Mountain is nominated for 8 Oscars...

Bush will deliver a "state of the union" speech that promises to describe everything but the state of the union.

And the day's not over.

No wonder our necks hurt.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck...

According to the Washington Post,

The investigation of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, took a surprising new turn on Thursday when the Justice Department said the chief prosecutor in the inquiry would step down next week because he had been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush.

The White House says it isn't a duck:

The administration said that the appointment was routine and that it would not affect the investigation,
but Democrats say that sure looks like a waddle to them:
Democrats swiftly questioned the timing of the move and called for a special prosecutor.
Although we have a country full of lawyers, somehow the Bush administration finds Mr. Hillman, a man in a position to shine light on some ugly truths, the best fit for the new judgeship. That a prosecutor had been, if not bought off, "bought away" from prosecution of what promises to be a major scandal for the administration would be shocking if this sort of behavior hadn't already become routine.

Quack. Quack. Quack.

(Thanks to Alanna.)

Ironic bumper sticker of the day

On the left, a confederate flag.

On the right, this important public service announcement:
If this flag offends you, you need a history lesson.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Poetry Fridays, installment 2

In addition to being a highly accessible poet himself (that is, people who don't "get" poetry "get" him), Billy Collins in his turn as poet laureate established Poetry 180, a program specifically designed for high school students. But I ask: why should teenagers have all the fun?

One of my favorites from this program, and one that has gone over well with my students, who are, after all, barely out of high school anyway, is Julie Lechevsky's "Dandelion," currently #156 on the Poetry 180 list. What young people see in this poem is a little fascination all of its own:

---Julie Lechevsky

My science teacher said
there are no monographs
on the dandelion.

Unlike the Venus fly-trap
or Calopogon pulchellus,
it is not a plant worthy of scrutiny.

It goes on television
between the poison squirt bottles,
during commercial breakaways from Ricki Lake.

But that's how life
to my home.

where they make you do
what you don't want to do.

Moms with Uzis of reproach,
dads with their silencers.
(My parents watch me closely because I am their jewel.)

So no one knows how strong
a dandelion is inside,
how its parts stick together,
bract, involucre, pappus,
how it clings to its fragile self.

There are 188 florets in a bloom,
which might seem a peculiar number,
but there are 188,000 square feet
in the perfectly proportioned Wal-Mart,
which allows for circulation
without getting lost.

I wish I could grow like a dandelion,
from gold to thin white hair,
and be carried on a breeze
to the next yard.

Comments, anyone?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Join John Kerry and add your name to the Congressional Record--An Open Letter to all Senators

John Kerry, who is trying to organize an Alito filibuster, is also collecting electronic signatures on a letter to be placed in the Congressional Record. The letter reads:

Dear Senators,
I am writing to ask that you vote against Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court and work hard to convince other Senators to join you.

Judge Alito does not represent my values. He does not represent mainstream American values. I think it’s time that the United States Senate confirms once and for all that extreme ideology has no place on the highest court in the land.

This is a critical fight for the future of our country. It’s no time to sit on the sidelines. That’s why I’ve taken the time to sign this letter and pass it along to my friends and neighbors. And I hope that’s why you’ll step up to the plate and do the right thing for America: defeat Samuel Alito.

I am honored to join John Kerry by putting my name in the Congressional Record against Judge Alito. I call on you to do the same with your vote.


Will this make a difference? I don't know. But sitting there sighing sure won't.


(F, I tried to e-mail you, but your mailbox is full.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Great minds and all that

And here I thought I had an original idea.

Having read somewhere that Arrested Development has such a large DVD audience that certain bits were filmed exclusively for the DVD crowd, and knowing that despite its "poor" ratings, the show has a huge DVD audience, it seemed obvious to me that AD should embrace its divorce from TV and continue production on a direct-to-consumer basis. I was going to e-mail the producers earlier today about that but didn't have time to do it.

Then this evening, I read an article in Slate in which Andy Bowers suggests that West Wing (and AD) continue production in just that way. Bowers suggests iTunes as the delivery system:

This model would have been absurd a year ago. Now it's completely possible, although admittedly improbable [for West Wing, Arrested Development, etc]. In the near future, I guarantee it will be happening regularly. Once we realize that we can overrule the lowest-common-denominator decisions of network honchos with a few bucks a week, I think it'll become a habit.
I've never believed the Nielsen ratings; I've always thought its system had too many built-in flaws. When ratings are determined by consumer dollars rather than surveys, then we'll see what gets canceled and what doesn't.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Two names--no further comment

Jill Carroll.
Bill O'Reilly.

Blogbinders: the ultimate in vanity publication

They are going to make a fortune!

One thing I got from Grammie

She has insanely soft hands; touching them is like caressing silk.

I have those hands, too.


Elegant elegy for Alan Enwiyah, Jill Carroll's interpreter.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Poetry Fridays, installment #1

One thing leads to another leads to another...

In her post about returning to school, jo(e) mentioned (not for the first time) her plan to teach poetry on Fridays this semester. This led to a clamor of voices asking her to let us in on it, which led to her suggestion that we all start posting poetry on Fridays. (Oh, and let's talk about the poems, not just read them...)

One of the rewards of an active-learning, student-based class is how much the teacher gets to learn. I've been teaching poetry in part by assigning groups to poets and letting students choose which of the poet's poems we'll study. Among the advantages: it's not the mean ol' teacher's fault if the class doesn't like the poem, and anyway, they probably will like the poem since it has already passed peer-muster. Thanks to students I've come to appreciate Raymond Carver's poetry. While I've always been a fan of his fiction, I never took the poetry seriously. It appears I was wrong to do so.
To those not familiar with Carver, biographical information might enhance your appreciation of the poem. Carver had a hardscrabble life. A poor kid, he married his pregnant girlfriend when he was quite young -- 19, I believe -- and struggled to support her and the two children they eventually had. Carver fell into alcoholism, divorced, beat the drinking problem, became famous, found love again with poet Tess Gallagher, quit smoking (not necessarily in that order) -- then developed lung cancer and died at age 50.

This poem was chosen by my students this past fall. I'm grateful they pointed me in its direction:

What the Doctor Said
--Raymond Carver

He said it doesn't look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I'm real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hello, Senator

I e-mailed my Senator, Bill Nelson, asking him to vote against Alito's confirmation based on my concerns about Alito's subscription to the "unitary executive theory." (I have other reasons, but I think this is the strongest reason to keep him off the bench...if we maintain checks and balances, if we don't hand the country over to the president permanently, there's hope other bad decisions can be reversed.)

I got back a nice e-mail, a form of course, sent out to anyone writing on this subject, whether they want Nelson to vote up or down. In the e-mail he indicates that he'll weigh all the information carefully and said (emphasis mine):

It is important that we confirm a justice who will be a voice of reason and a staunch defender of our constitutional rights.

Yeah, that's what I say. Of course his idea and mine about what that means might be different.

Didn't bother writing to my other Senator...Republican Mel Martinez.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It worked for Netflix...

Netflix's "use it, then mail it back and wait for the next one" service model has now been picked up by purveyors of designer handbags. Can't afford Kate Spade? Bag, Borrow, or Steal lets you buy a time-share in a pricey purse.

Now that the Netflix model has jumped the rail and taken on a new life, think of all the other things that we could "own" if other vendors adopted this odd blend of capitalism (somebody makes a busload of money) and communism (what's mine is yours, what's yours is mine, and we all get what we need):

Toys -- parents will save a fortune by scooping all the noisemakers off the floor once a week and mailing them back to ToysRAllofUs. The tykes get variety and Mom and Dad get a clean house for 48 hours.

Designer lingerie -- Victoria's Secret bustles out the bodysuits on demand. Be a new woman every week!

Guns -- Uzis from UPS could become Tony Soprano's next big moneymaker...or favorite web-vendor

What would you be willing to rent on a rotating basis?

"Trouble is the one thing that never does get stopped"

Storms Payback From God, Nagin Says
Mayor Faults War, Blacks' Infighting

By Brett Martel
Associated Press
Tuesday, January 17, 2006; Page A04

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 16 -- Mayor C. Ray Nagin suggested Monday that hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" -- and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"I wish I could be like Mama and say the Lord's will be done, but I don't know it seems to me that trouble is the one thing that never does get stopped and I don't know what good it does to blame it on the Lord."
-- Sonny's letter from prison to his brother in James Baldwin's classic story "Sonny's Blues"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I hate when this happens

My checking account has a mystery post: I spent $6.82 "at" Compass Group. I have no idea what that is. Most of my check card transactions use names that are self-explanatory: IHOP (never again...too much money for too little food and really horrendous service), My Grocery Store; My Gas Station; Home Depot (a/k/a My Second Home).

Time to dig out the receipts. I thought I had everything written down. But why can't names that vendors use with banks jibe with names they use when they sell us the stuff? Please?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Golden (not so) Global View

Handful of observations about the Golden Globes, which I did not watch in its entirety:

I don’t get The Office. I’ve tried. (Maybe it's because I've worked for clueless bosses.) But Steve Carell’s acceptance speech made me laugh.

I watched Commander-in-Chief once, the pilot. Was it really worthy of its nominations/Davis's win? (I don’t know; I’m asking.)

The director sure loved putting the camera on Scarlett Johansson.

And of course Lost won.

Breaking news! CNN misrepresents the facts!

CNN has been banned from Iran:
Because of a translation error, CNN incorrectly quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Iran had a right to build nuclear weapons, when he actually said the country has the right to nuclear power and doesn't need atomic weapons, the network said today in an e- mailed statement. CNN apologized for the error and said it is ``very disappointed'' by the ban.

Over here, CNN merely ignores the news.

Today's challenge

While people elsewhere in the country struggle to shovel their sidewalks and keep their homes warm, I'm faced with an unexpected pail of lemons to juice, courtesy of my neighbor. (The bright orange fruits are a handful of tangerines. The rest of the pail are mammoth lemons.)

(Actually, it can get plenty cold here. Last month's electric bill was the highest I've had in probably a decade, and it was due to usage, not increased price. On the other hand, January's weather has so far been schizophrenic, mostly near-tropical, but occasionally near-freezing. Right now it's 68 outside and I'm wearing a t-shirt.)


I once worked for a man who was giving and compassionate in many, many ways. But he was also a Southerner through and through, and whenever the rest of the country was talking about or celebrating MLK Day, he would pointedly call it "Robert E. Lee" day.

Some Southern gentlemen are still bitter about the gains made by the civil rights movement.

Today, as is the case with many other holidays, people will enjoy their day off (for me, no day off -- the day before class is always a prep & grading day), but they won't think about why they have a holiday. Americans will sleep in, shop, use the extra 24 hours away from the job to paint the porch or clean out the garage, but only some will take even a minute to remember the incredible courage of the people who stood against those in power who believed that only some people, the "right" people, were fully human and fully citizens.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a fascinating, complicated, flawed man (read Taylor Branch) -- who did the right thing even though it was so personally inconvenient it cost him his life.

When I think of civil rights heroes, though, I think of Bob Moses. Not nearly as famous as King or Rosa Parks, Moses went to Mississippi alone when oppression of blacks was at its peak, and tried to register blacks to vote. Alone. I'm going on memory here because I don't have time to recheck exact facts (planning & grading and all that...), but if Moses wasn't the absolute first to give this a try, he was among the first. This was the era when Mississippi blacks who even spoke to people like Moses found bullets flying through their front windows. This was the era when Schwermer, Goodman, and Chaney, who arrived* with many others to register blacks to vote, were murdered by "Southern gentlemen" in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Bob Moses tried this alone. And beyond Moses were thousands of others whose names no one remembers who pushed hard to right the embarrassing wrongs of a country that claimed to be a land of freedom.

We've learned over the past few years that we don't have to be part of a minority to be on the receiving end of oppression by the powerful. We only have to be sitting on the wrong side of power. (And not even that -- many Americans today support the oppressors and are enthusiastically giving up their civil rights.) And while we're in dire need of heroes right now -- Cindy Sheehan can't do it all -- we can't wait for "big name" leaders to step up. Like Bob Moses, we each need to do what we can.

*My sometimes unreliable memory insists that Chaney might have been a local -- that's the kind of fact I don't have time to research right now.

Edit: That link I inserted says that Chaney was, indeed, local.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Life with cats

Molly is pacing the house nervously. Each time I make a move, she takes it as a sign, darts down the hall, and shoves her nose into the edge of the doorframe, trying to get as close to the inside of my bedroom as she can without the door's actually being open. Her tail swishes optimistically.

Bad news, Molly. You're not getting in there.

I learned a long time ago that in order to live with cats, I have to set boundaries. One is that I can't sleep with them any more. Molly is the worst offender. Normally she's skittish, even around us. For instance, none of us have ever seen her eat; if we come into the room while she's at the bowls, she rushes off, yet she's the fattest of the cats. However, if we sit down, or worse, lie down, skittish Molly gets as aggressive as a used car salesman just shy of his quota. She nudges -- hard -- she bites, she rubs. She's relentless. She's hungry for touch and an utter nuisance to a hopeful sleeper.

Molly loves my bed more than any other spot in the house. So we compromise. She can go in there during the day but gets put out at night. Not today, though. I'm washing the bedding, including the spread.

And so she's losing her mind. She hasn't been on my bed since I went to bed last night. I don't think she's napped all day -- almost impossible for a cat -- and she's pacing, pacing, pacing, and since that hasn't worked, she's scratching frantically on the door.

Another hour or two, Molly. It'll be all right.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Promoting healthy families through blackmail

Salon's Broadsheet reports that under a proposed policy, employees at Oklahoma Christian University who file for divorce would face more than the usual divorce-related financial woes:

The university has reportedly proposed a policy that would let higher-ups fire employees who get divorced. By way of explanation, university brass sent a letter to faculty saying, "Because the Christian mission of the university is most effectively fulfilled through mentoring and example, all married faculty and staff should strive to model (healthy) marriages to students."
Ever actually hang out with a married couple who really didn't want to be married any more?

Yeah, that would be my role model.

We now pause for a moment of revelry

The current principal balance on my first mortgage is $668.84.

(Bitty does happy dance.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What's hot in books

I ambled over to Amazon for something and stayed to check out the hot 100. A few observations:

The scuttlebutt over the accuracy of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces hasn't hurt sales. Not only is the paperback version #1 at this writing, but the hardback is #29, and another of his books, My Friend Leonard, is #4. There's apparently no such thing as bad publicity.

Does anyone know why Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed is hot again? I read it years ago. Right now its paperback version is #68.

Another book that seems to be perennial is Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, currently #98--no, wait: it's up to #97. I sometimes suspect that it will pop in and out of the hot 100, reminding me of its existence until I break down and read it.

"Brokeback Mountain" appears in two forms: Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay at #31, and Close Range: Wyoming Stories, the Proulx anthology that contains the story, is at #74. It appears there is so a market for a story about gay cowboys.

Liberal feminists--no, sorry: that's radical feminists--are demonized at #41 in Kate O'Beirne's Women Who Make the World Worse : and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports. Now there's an original idea: demonizing feminists.

And finally, the book I would buy if I had a little coin, Misquoting Jesus: the Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman, PhD., Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, currently weighing in at #76. The fact that the Bible we know today is not merely a "pure" translation of original texts has interested me since back when I researched Tolstoy (one interesting dude), and discovered that his distrust of the Russian Orthodox church was so intense that he taught himself languages --I believe Hebrew and maybe Latin--so he could go behind the church's translations and read the earlier texts for himself. He found the Russian Orthodox versions to be highly revised, not just translated, versions of the ancient texts. Dr. Ehrman apparently continues that conversation with his book.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Two pictures are worth two thousand words...

Thank you, F.

Hey, gang! It's not just us!

J.K. Rowling has a messy desk, too (no photos provided).

It's also nice to know that she, too, is sometimes capable of coming up with only a "few useful nuggets amid a lot of complete dross."

No Child Left Behind

Happy fourth-anniversary to the unfortunately-named No Child Left Behind act, which suggests that, well, not a single child will get left behind. Oops.

I was listening to a discussion of it on NPR, and turned it off about 3 minutes in. Why? Some guy was cheerfully touting its success by quoting statistic after statistic after statistic.

Therein lie all the fallacies of (it often seems) all governmental programs intended to "improve" academics. Create a test, have significant number of students pass test, declare program a success. (A. If even one child fails, isn't the program then a failure, "no child" and all that? B. Around the blogosphere people are quoting Greg Palast's article on the program, which features actual test questions clearly skewed toward more privileged children, and the perhaps intended outcome of such skewing.)

Florida has the wonderful FCAT. Because high schools. in self-defense, tend to teach the test and not the subject so they'll get the "right" statistics and a share of schools' lifeblood, a/k/a money, many college freshmen show up knowing how to pass an essay test but not how to communicate.

They can structure a five-paragraph essay like a beaver can build a dam, but they can't actually SAY much in them. (And having been raised in another state and another era, I never even heard of a five-paragraph essay until I was an adult.)*

We have statistics and we have reality. And we still have children being left behind.

*Sidebar: I once counseled a student that his paragraph was reasonably well-written and contained great ideas, but its syntax was off. It consisted of several very short, choppy-sounding sentences. I went on about independent and dependent clauses, varying sentence structure, etc. Then he told me that, well, he knew all that, but no matter what he did, he couldn't get five sentences out of that idea, so he chopped his thoughts into five little sentences so his paragraph would be "correct."

What's in a name?

My Town, Florida blossoms with new construction. Much of it is commercial, which is good for Tall Son, the construction supervisor. A lot of it, however, is residential and most of that is quite lovely, very pricey stuff. I presume that those in my income bracket are expected to buy the old houses that the people with money give up to move into the new homes, because I don't see a lot of low-middle class housing going up. (Actual quote from the website of one of these developments, emphasis mine: "It offers single family homes for everyone's budget ranging from the $200,000's to over $1,000,000." If you're reading from California, trust me that this does not cover everyone's budget in these parts.)

This brings us to the naming of developments. Such names are not chosen randomly. Developers want to make money and people want to live in a pleasant-sounding place, such as Willow Woods, versus an unpleasant-sounding place, such as Garbage Glen. Right? One would presume, then, that as part of the marketing strategy these names are carefully thought through.

At least three of the new, ginormous (I'm talking mid-size town) developments that have sprouted in the recent past carry the name "Plantation," as in Oak Leaf Plantation.

Think about what that evokes: the best of genteel Southern living -- luxurious homes and grounds, men arguing politics with a cigar in one hand and a brandy in the other, beautiful women in elaborate dresses peeking coquettishly over their fans. In other words, the opening scene of Gone with the Wind. Who wouldn't want to live in a place called Oak Leaf Plantation?

Maybe the people who associate "plantation" with picking cotton and overseers and lashings and an utter lack of control over their own lives?

In other words, could the naming of these new Southern "plantations" be a subtle device to discourage "certain people" of means from buying in?

Just wondering.

Israel divided once more

Israel is now divided into those who can do business with it, and Pat Robertson:
Israel won't do business with Pat Robertson after the evangelical leader suggested Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's massive stroke was divine punishment, a tourism official said Wednesday, putting into doubt plans to develop a large Christian tourism center in northern Israel.

Guess that'll put a kink in the plan to convert the Jews and bring about Armageddon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On pregnancy and birth...

Over at Dr. Bitch's place is a thoughtful post, followed by lively discussion, on the dangers of pregnancy and on pro-choice (and pro-life, primarily as defined by progressives) issues. (Her post is dated January 10 if you visit it after today.)

In October I visited my maternal family in Illinois. As part of the grand tour that we took of the family burial plot, the various places where my great-grands lived, etc., we drove by the place where my great-grandparents farmed for decades. Even today it's not that close to the next home and a considerable distance to the next place where a doctor would likely be.

As we sat outside the isolated, now-crumbling farmhouse, my uncle said, "That's where your mother and I were born."

I was stunned.

I'd never thought about this before. I'd never thought about women that I have known giving birth in an isolated farmhouse in wintry conditions (my uncle was born in December 1932; my mother in November 1934). How terrifying that must have been! Add this to the list of questions for my grandmother that I'll now never ask or get the answers to. (To console myself a bit, she probably wouldn't have spoken in much detail on the subject, even if I could have engaged her in this conversation. I'd tried with other topics years ago and she'd claimed not to remember, this at a time when I knew she wasn't suffering from any physical ailments that would cause memory problems. Perhaps she blocked out most of the bad memories. And I thought about asking her these questions while I was visiting in October, but I wasn't sure she'd talk about it. I was being careful not to upset her by that time.)

Why did she give birth in her parents' home?
Did her mother assist with the births?
If not, who did?
What was it like?
What, if anything, was done for the pain?

I have another option. My grandmother has one sister. She's seven years younger, which would have put her in her teens when this happened. Perhaps she could answer some of these questions.

Juxtapose my wondering about this and Dr. Bitch's post/reader commentary with the story of the birth of one of my grandsons. The short version: I would have been present at his birth, but instead I was down the hall because he had to be delivered by c-section in the operating room. His cord was caught between his mother's pelvic bone and his own shoulder, thus cutting off his oxygen. The doctor later said that fifty years earlier, in the era before the monitors we now all but take for granted, he would have been born a beautiful, perfectly formed, dead baby. And no one would have suspected it until it was too late.

His words -- now juxtaposed against my image of that isolated farmhouse -- haunt me still.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Back to school tomorrow...

And while my things are ready, I'm not psychologically ready. Please can't I have another two weeks? Please?

Word verification: friend and foe

Two or three months into this blog, I turned on word verification because I got tired of the comments spam. Word verification can be a good thing.

But sometimes it's just a pain. To comment on my own blog just now I had to type in three sets of "words" before, apparently, I got it right. And more than once I typed lengthy replies to comments here only to find myself unable ever to get the "word" right.

That's all. I just wanted to rant. And to thank those of you who comment, because I'm sure you've faced the same problem.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Public, voluntary mortification

I'm always one to jump on a bandwagon. Not all bandwagons, but certain ones. Bandwagons that interest me.

Hither and yon and even beyond that, bloggers are posting their workspaces. I thought I'd join up, too.

Here's the thing I've noticed over the years about photographing rooms: they rarely look the same way in the photo as they do to my eye. For instance, my kitchen always photographs a lot classier looking than it actually is (not that classy, but better than it looks in person). More often, rooms look a lot worse, as in the case of my office.

So I jump on this bandwagon slightly reluctantly, because this just might be the Biggest Mess Ever. Other than my son's room, this is yea verily the worst mess in my house. Posting this photograph might be the bravest thing I've ever done. I'm not kidding.

Keep scrolling down.

Keep going.

Good grief. I swear it looks better in person. I swear. (1-10-06 edit: turns out it does look better on the work monitor...)

The thing is, I already planned to start cleaning up today because, um, I don't know where two of my textbooks are, and I need them for classes on Tuesday. And no, I'm not going to show the view in the other direction.

Two things to point out: brand new computer (old monitor). Very happy with it.

On the left, on the bookshelf: the Bush voodoo doll, courtesy of my friend F. You can't see, but the pins are in his ears (so he can't listen to bad advice), hands (so he can't sign bad bills), heart (probably a waste of a pin), and crotch (just because). I skipped the mouth and the brain because someone obviously got to them before I did.

In a few weeks, if not sooner, I plan to post a revised office photo. I'm fairly certain I'll make few changes to the bulletin board, but most everything else will be fair game.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Garrison Keillor, my hero

I missed part of Prairie Home Companion this past weekend, so I headed on down to the show's website to see if it's available online yet. (Ah, the joys of high-speed internet and a zippy new computer!) There I encountered a furious letter from a Catholic taking Keillor to task for his poking fun at the Pope.

Keillor's response is logical and amusing and classy, but it was his closing that made me want to post about it. In fact, the idea he expresses is nothing new; I just like the way he said it:

Christ said a great deal about the poor, so one would think that's important in Christian theology, but you can make up your own mind about that. If you're outraged at a piece of comedy about the Pope and you accept with equanimity the people in your party cutting Medicaid, then you're a very interesting Christian indeed.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Don't worry about me

Besides goodbye and I love you, the last thing my grandmother said to me was don't worry about me.

I'm working on that.

She's now beyond conversation. She says things, but they're not in the context of give and take. They're just blurtings.

I didn't know that the last time she said goodbye, only Tuesday, would be, well, goodbye.

I'm living two lives right now. One is on death watch and dreading the ring of the telephone. The other one is blissful.

Blissfully enjoying music: Last night well after midnight Tall Son knocked on my bedroom door and asked What's the name of that song? It's not "I Want My MTV." I understood the question, vague though it was. "Money for Nothing", I replied, and by this morning, he'd purchased that and "Sultans of Swing" and "Walk of Life" from iTunes and we were making ourselves deliriously dizzy with Dire Straits, playing those songs over and over. It's hard to be sad when you're singing Money for nothing and your chicks for free! at full volume.

Blissfully enjoying loved ones: I had lunch with Marine Son, Indian Princess, First Grandson, and Tall Son at Johnny Carino's. I love its decor; I could live there, at least as a second home. And these people to whom I am related are astonishingly beautiful. And often clever.

Blissfully enjoying purging: I'm going through a lot of junk. I have three piles: yard sale, trash, keep. So far, not so much keep.

And while I live the blissful life, now and then and without warning, my stomach clenches and I burst into tears. Then it passes.

And I work on not worrying.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

One thing to be said about 2006

This is a year that's literally been meaningful to me for decades: it's the year I pay off my first mortgage. Four more payments, one to be made this week.