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.