Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Holidays!

I'm off to California to meet my youngest grandson. Have a splendid holiday season!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

400 Days

Only 400 days left of the Bush Administration.

Only 400 days left to send billions upon billions of dollars into the economic sinkhole that is Iraq.

Only 400 days left to send countless soldiers to one of four fates: death, physical injury, PTSD, home well and in one piece.

Only 400 days left to wage war on Iran.

Only 400 days left to wage the war on terror just as the Three Stooges would. (That is, if Larry punches ya, ignore him and hit Curly...)

Only 400 days left to drag-foot on positive environmental policies.

Only 400 days left to further tarnish our reputation on the world stage.

Only 400 days left to push an energy policy that does little to nothing to implement ideas and technology that would help decrease consumption while simutaneously blaming consumers for consuming.

Only 400 days left to pad the bank accounts of energy executives and war profiteers.

Only 400 days left to push the ineffective strategy of abstinence-only sex ed.

Only 400 days left to advocate for the fetus while abandoning the infant.

Only 400 days left to pretend our country is doing something productive for those areas damaged by Katrina.

Only 400 days left.

If on day 401 we aren't looking forward to significant and positive change on all these issues and more, there simply is no hope for us.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Splotchy's Story Meme

Tagged by konagod, I herewith keep Splotchy's Story Meme alive and well. To quote kona, "Each tagged person needs to add to the story and then tag others. Them's the rules and I don't make 'em." I backtracked to Splotchy and discovered a request that we link to those who go before us. Well, that makes sense. So I did.

I hereby tag Phil, Kaat, Madame X, and Maya's Granny.

(And even if I haven't officially tagged you, if you drop in and read this, please do pick up on the meme. It's a hoot!)

Now, on with the story:

I woke up hungry. I pulled my bedroom curtain to the side and looked out on a hazy morning. I dragged myself into the kitchen, in search of something to eat. I reached for a jar of applesauce sitting next to the sink, and found it very cold to the touch. I opened the jar and realized it was frozen. (Splotchy)

I was used to the house being quite cold in the mornings, as the night log usually burns out around one AM when I am dreaming cozily under my covers, not normally waking to put a new one on until morning. I was surprised because on the rare occasions that it actually had reached sub-freezing temperatures in the house, I had awakened in the night to restart the fire. I would have been worried about the pipes before P-Day, but there hadn’t been running water in two years and that was one of the few advantages to being dependent on rainwater, no pipes. (Freida Bee)

The nightmares began during the following spring. The apple trees came to life in my dreams. At first the trees spoke and I thought they were amusing. That changed when the messages arrived. Lately, their anger was directed at me. (mathman6293)

I turned and stared out the kitchen window, past the frosty-lidded cistern to the orchard beyond. My trees, my beautiful fruit trees, stood leafless and dark. I wished with all my heart that this was just a normal winter thing, but it wasn’t.

"Why are you blaming me, guys? You know I love you. You watched me go out and vote that last time, in the ice-storm. It’s not like I didn’t try!”

I turned with a sigh and went to the phone to give Zaius a call. Perhaps The Good Doctor had made some incremental progress on his Long-Shot-Theory. (TCR)

Unfortunately, the phone was dead. Not from the inclement frigid weather, but because I didn't pay the phone bill and my service was shut off. "Oh well, I'll use the cell phone," I said aloud to no one but myself. As fate would have it, the cell phone battery was completely drained. I never even heard the thing chirping during the night to remind me to charge it. Being somewhat annoyed by all this, I went back to the kitchen, grabbed an ice pick and began chipping away at the rock-solid apple sauce when suddenly there was a very loud knock on my door which startled me. (kona)

In my surprise, I dropped the applesauce; no one but me had been on the property since Cordelia had died, not even Zaius. The frozen jar smashed into my big toe, which was inadequately protected by a worn green handknit slipper, one of Cordelia’s last gifts to me. Blood gushed from the crushed digit as the knocking escalated into insistent pounding. I moved from room to room in a frenzy, limping yet rushing, knocking over stacks of books and papers, blood documenting my every move. Where were my glasses? I had to have my glasses to see out the peephole. It hadn’t been prudent to fling open a door in welcome since the Winter Cleansings of 2018, just after the internet was shut down. Where did I put them? Just as I spotted the spectacles beside the fireplace, the pounding stopped, replaced by a most inhuman howl. (Bitty)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Afterlife

A few months ago, my almost-13-year-old grandson told me his great-grandmother (mother's mother's mother) had recently died. At least, that's what I thought he told me. I'm not on unfriendly terms with his mother (who is not my son's wife), but we don't chat regularly, either, so I hadn't heard this news.

I confirmed this info to be true with Marine Son, First Grandson's father.

I'd meant to send belated condolence letters/cards to FG's mother and her mother -- dead grandmother was a nice lady and I'd liked her -- but I hadn't got around to it.

Imagine, though, my surprise this week when I received a Christmas card from said dead grandmother.

The stick-on return address label showed just her husband's name, but I immediately recognized the handwriting that had penned my name and address as the same hand I'd been seeing for the 12 years the couple had been sending me cards. My initial reaction was that the great-grandfather had been writing out the Christmas cards all these years and I just hadn't known it until now.

Then I opened the card and found it signed Him and Her.

Signed Him, the widower. Signed Her, the deceased.

I decided that I must have not been paying close attention when First Grandson and Marine Son both told me about the death. I thought it must have been First Grandson's grandfather's mother.

I was, gotta say, freaked out, but also embarrassed that I'd made such a mistake. And I was oh so grateful that I hadn't sent the condolence cards.

However, tonight I decided to double-check. Marine Son is away from home doing training and I certainly wasn't going to call First Grandson or his mom. So I went to the net, plugged in the appropriate info, and...

discovered that the kind lady who sent me the Christmas card did indeed die in July.

Either it really is the husband who's been writing out the cards all these years and he simply can't let go of her, or she was one of those hyper-organized types who wrote them out well in advance and her husband decided to mail them anyway.

In any event, I feel deeply uncomfortable about this.

But I put the card out with the others anyway.

Merry Christmas, Him and Her.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Friends

On the phone today with Daughter’s Littlest, who will be 3½ any day now, and who started preschool in September:

Bitty: Do you like your school?
Littlest: I have lots of friends.
Bitty: What are their names?
Littlest: I don’t know. (Aside) Mommy, what are their names?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Clever



Tall Son sent this video this morning. I think he sent it mostly because he could; that is, he just bought an iPhone and he sent it through the phone. Tall Son is a marketer's dream: he has probably owned at least 25 different cell phones since portable phones were first invented. His first looked like the radios in the war movies. Now that he's purchased the iPhone, I'm left wondering what took him so long. Me, I'm on my third phone. I gave the first away to a domestic violence program and the second one broke.

However, Tall Son's patriotic spending habits are not the point of this post. The clever video is. It interests me on two levels: these guys clearly spent a lot of time practicing this routine since the camera never cuts away. One little goof and they'd have to start over. I'd like to know how many takes it took to get it right. The other thing? It reminds me of Les Miz and its circular stage. I have students doing a presentation on the movie version of the play next week, and after that I'll be watching Les Miz myself as I evaluate their efforts.

I'll try not to think of treadmills as I watch it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dilemma

So I'm being asked at work to do an important, labor-intensive job. There's something in it for me, but I suspect that "something" won't be worth it. Instead, I'll likely have 8 months of time-management hell trying to get it all done.

I want to be helpful, but at the same time, I have REPEATEDLY gotten myself into tasks that involve a lot of work and a little thanks. One nearly sent me to the looney bin.

In other words, yes, Bitty is a doormat.

You would think I would know better by now.

I do know better.

And I'll probably still agree to do it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mais oui....!

How unsurprised am I by this?

Personal to Alanna: you should do this. I'd love to see what it comes up with!

Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.
You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.


Found at Shakesville.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey Float

I didn't know for sure that I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner until just recently, so I didn't get my turkey until Monday evening. It's ginormous, and the turkey websites advise a 4 to 5 day thaw for a ginormous bird.

I don't have 4 to 5 days.

Plan B advises thawing in cold water. And I quote:
You may also place the wrapped turkey in the sink and cover it completely with cold water for about 30 minutes per pound.
No, I may not.

Sounds like a plan, but (a) I have the shallowest sink in the western world, and (b) when I attempted to immerse the bird in water in a plastic bin, I discovered...it floats. How am I to "cover completely" a turkey that floats? I may be a mere English major, but even I know that no amount of water will cover something that persists in bobbing on the surface. All I can think of is putting a weight on it.

Now where did I leave that brick?



Update: I tried placing a big, heavy bowl on top of the turkey, but the bird shoved the bowl aside and stubbornly rose to the top. I wondered if David Letterman ever tried to make a turkey float, but I found no results.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

This Week in Post Secret

We use LOL a lot here on the internet, but I really don't LOL all that often.

But I sure did today after visiting Post Secret:



Except in my case, I live in fear of something slightly less dramatic. A mere robbery or kidnapping, perhaps. Then, God help me, I'd be alive to face Griss and Cat. Because, fear or not, my house doesn't get cleaned nearly often enough.

The Name Game

I dropped in on one of my favorite reads, Maya's Granny, and found the name meme. I did something like this a while back on someone's blog with my real name, but I think I'm going to stick to my blog name, Bitty Sue, with "Sue" operating as both middle and last name. Let's see what happens:

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & first car) - Taffy Datsun

2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie) - Butter Pecan Oatmeal (doesn't sound very gangsta if you ask me!).

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name) - B Sue (well, that was no fun)

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal) - Periwinkle Cat

5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first) - Suebi

6. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink) - The Sage Pepsi

7. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers) - Ralph David

8. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter) - Hendricks Houston

9. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, favorite flower) - Spring Gardenia

10. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”) - Banana Slacksy

11. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree) - English Muffin Maple

12. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”) - The Reading Lightning Tour

13. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born) - Sue Chicago

14. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names ) Josephine Unknown

I think this at very least proves that I have no business being a gangsta, but I might make a great soap opera character or weather anchor...

Feel free to join in, in comments if you are without blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In which Bitty gets one inflammatory forwarded e-mail too many

Not As Faraway Daughter (she's not as far away as she used to be) forwarded this e-mail to me recently.



How can this be!!Mom & DadMom was a homemaker and Dad worked all his life and paid into SS.Dad has passed away and now Mom can barely make ends meet. While thepossible "illegal" alien in front of her at the grocery store buys thename brands, Mom goes for the generic brands, and day old breads.She doesn't have out of state calling on her phone, because she can'tAfford it and shops at the thrift shops and dollar stores. Sheconsiders having a pizza delivered once a week "eating out". She grewup during the depression, watched her husband go overseas to fight inWW II a year after their marriage, and then they went on to raise, feedand clothe 5 children, struggling to pay tuition for parochial schools.The Senate voted this week to allow "illegal" aliens access to SocialSecurity benefits. I'm sorry, but how can the Senate justify this slapin the face to born and bred, or naturalized citizens. It is alreadyimpossible to live on Social Security alone. If they give benefits to"illegal" aliens who have never contributed, where does that leave usthat have paid into Social Security all our working lives?Attached is an opportunity to sign a petition that requires citizenshipfor eligibility to receive Social services. If you do not wish to signthe petition yourself, please forward on to anyone you think might beinterested.PETITION FOR: President Bush Mr. President: The petition below is aprotest against the recent vote of the senate which was to allowillegal aliens access to our social security! We demand that you andall congressional representatives require citizenship for anyone to beeligible for social services in the United States .


This gem was followed by 670 names, the last one being my daughter's.

(Before I get started on my rant, I question the wisdom of sending your full name, city, and state of residence around the web. That was in my third reply to Daughter.)

The day she sent this, I sent out a first reply, letting her know that when I had time, I had a few things to say about this. Here, then, was my second reply to her:



Dear Daughter,

I still don't have time to fully address this, but I never will and need to move on. Here are two things on it:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/petition.asp

http://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/socialsecurity.asp

This petition and things like it irritate me for two reasons:

1. The probable intent is to inflame its readers, to make them angry. In this case, its intent is to intensify anti-immigrant, esp. anti-"brown people" attitudes. People read this and when governors or Congress or Presidential candidates try to deal in whatever way with immigration issues, they remember how pissed off they are about those social security benefits and how "the government" is trying to give away the store. What the e-mail DOESN'T do is accurately describe the issue and just serves to make people even more ignorant and reactionary than they already are. Look at how many people signed it without bothering to confirm if it's true or not!!!! This is true of ALL of these kinds of e-mails, which generally stretch the truth to appeal to people's prejudices and fears.

2. As I said, it's inaccurate. The 2nd link above addresses this in more detail than I had intended, but the bottom line is this: NO ONE gets Social Security benefits without paying in.

By the way, my first paying job was with Social Security. I worked in the department that handled claims by foreign citizens. That's right. We've been paying Social Security bennies to foreign people forever. Since the beginning of Social Security, I presume. In these cases, they were legal workers, but they were aliens.

Let's go for a number 3. It's this kind of crap thinking by Americans that makes my job harder; I spend all kinds of time trying to undo pre-formed opinions, a/k/a prejudice.

Don't assume that just because someone said it, it's true. Don't assume that just because it comes in an e-mail it's true.

Don't think with your emotions. Think with your brain.

Love,
Mom
I spend all kinds of time trying to educate my children, too, apparently.

It's possible that this e-mail was begun by someone who half-heard, half-understood what it was that Congress did and went off on a tear.

It's just as possible that this e-mail was begun by a sly political operative who wanted to further poison the anti-immigrant attitudes in our country.

It only takes one of these outrageous stories, true or not, to get people angry and then motivate them to vote according to misinformation.

Don't assume that just because someone said it, it's true. Don't assume that just because it comes in an e-mail it's true.

Don't think with your emotions. Think with your brain.

________________________________________________________

Post script: At least 13 years ago, I took a Culture Wars class. I had no idea how engaged I would be in those wars later. Anyway, the professor, 13 years ago, said that there's always talk about how Social Security is going broke, and that it would intensify as the boomers reached retirement age. He said that we will eventually fix it the way we've always fixed Social Security problems: invite a large influx of foreign workers into the country to increase the level of contributions to the fund.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

5309

The cashier rings up the groceries.

I slide my check card through the black plastic card reader.

The cashier says, "Your total is $53.09."*

The black plastic card reader asks for my PIN.

I stand there, confused. Disoriented.

Something's wrong, and I'm not sure what.

PIN? PIN? This is an easy question. Why am I unsure of the answer?

I look at the total on the screen. $53.09.*

The confusion clears. My PIN is 5309.* My total is $53.09.*

For a heartbeat, my financial universe is in alignment.



*Like me, my PIN has a pseudonym.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside

42

I realize that for many around the country, 42 degrees at this time of year is a heat wave. However, this is our first night with weather like this. The sky is clear; thanks to the falling back property of Daylight Saving Time, I get an extra hour of life tonight; my heat works; and I have warm jammies, fresh sheets, and a good book:


(Ann Patchett: who I want to be when I grow up.)

Life is good.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Random amusing photo

I was going through some pictures, and I came across this one. It's the house next door to where, until recently, my great-aunt lived. It's not something I'd expect to see in my suburban Florida neighborhood, and so I took the photo, but in rural Illinois, I don't suppose it's so surprising to see corn growing in a gutter that's past its scheduled cleaning.


(Click on the photo to embiggen and better see the corn.)

Snurg, Piffle, Burst!


Found at the blog of the delightful Maya's Granny, and so suited to the blog of an English teacher that I just had to make a home for it here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A rose by any other name...

Those ubiquitous stickers on the back windshields of family SUVs with an outline of a sports figure and a name: they scream "Mama of a Baseball/Football/Soccer, etc. Player on Board."

I had to pass the SUV and get a good look at that mama this morning, because I wanted a firm picture of what kind of woman names her child Anakin. (However, this mama was either a grandmama or she'd been living a seriously rough life.)

Some of the baby name sites that offer meanings and origins of names take the name Anakin seriously and attribute it to George Lucas, yadda yadda. The site I linked to above says it means "warrior." Whatever. Other say "no results," as it should be. I tried checking to see what it might mean to name a baby Chewbacca. Surprisingly, no results.

As I clicked along from link to link, I arrived at the Social Security Administration's baby name site, a site in some ways more interesting than others because it has the weight of a really good set of statistics behind it. (Anakin does not make SSA's top 1000; that's as far as SSA's statistics run.)

I gave up the search for Anakin and had fun playing with the SSA's site for a while.

Clicking on "Popular Names by Birth Year" and limiting myself mostly to the top 20, I see that the year Marine Son was born, his name was #1. I knew this well before today, but at the time of his birth, I only knew a few people by that name and thought it was quite unusual and lovely. Ha!

The year Tall Son was born, his name was ranked #16. There goes Bitty being all cutting edge again.

The year Not As Far Away Daughter was born, her name was #5. (Both the year of TS's birth and D's, all three of my children's names made the top 20 list.)

The year of my birth indeed reads like my high school yearbook. Whatever happened to Barbara, Brenda, and Cynthia anyway? And why don't people name their daughters Linda any more? Yet I was a bit surprised to see that the year I was born, my own non-Bitty name was #10. I don't know many people by that name, but those I do are all indeed around my age (give or take 10 years). Apparently we were really hot for a short while. However, had I been named Mary, I'd have been #1. (Between Marine Son's and Tall Son's births, Mary dropped out of the top 20 after a very, very long run at the top.) Interestingly, the year my mother was born, in the early 30's, Mary was number 1 and my mother's name, like mine during my birth year, was #10.

The year Grammie was born, in the early nineteen teens, Mary was still flying high at #1, not imagining a day when she'd be bumped from that honor. Grammie didn't make the top 20 list (she made the top 100), but her name was in the top 20 for some years when her own mother was a child.

My children have been more successful at thumbing their noses at trends. None of my four (count 'em, 4!) grandsons made the top 20 lists for the years of their births, although Grandson #1's name is currently in the top 20, and Baby A, born recently, may be at the beginning of a trend, since Indian Princess reported that several babies in the nursery received the same name that he did.

Most of my current students are 18 or 19, and sure enough -- I've griped about this before -- the top three girls' names in both 1989 and 1990 and in the same order both years were Jessica, Ashley, and Brittany. In fact, looking at the top 20 lists for both girls and boys for those years is pretty much like looking inside my gradebook.

I will probably retire in 2022 or 2023, unless they make me do it earlier. That last year, the young men in the classroom, who are now in the sandbox with my daughter's youngest son, will sport names very similar to those I see now. But when it comes to girls, I can expect to face a classroom sparse on Brittanys and instead, except for an abundance of Madisons, full of girls who sound like they should be Grammie's classmates: Emily, Emma, Abigail, Olivia, Isabella, Hannah, Ava, Grace, and Chloe.

And not an Anakin in sight.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Birthday Buddies. Or not.

CNN’s candidate profiles offer a surprising bit of information.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was born on October 26, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois.

Dennis Kucinich was born on October 26, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois.

Except that it doesn’t seem to be true. Other sources indicate that Kucinich was born on October 8, 1947 (in Cleveland).

A leading news outlet making an error? I’m stunned.

(I'm also bummed because I was considering the astrological consequences of two presidential candidates having exactly the same birthdate and place. Oh well.)

Deprivation

This I know:

There are not nearly enough orange Tootsie Roll Pops per bag of Tootsie Roll Pops.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thursdays are Lonely Without You


Spoiler alert: If you haven't seen the final episode of Mad Men or you haven't seen any of it but plan to watch in rerun, don't read this post!

Last night I had that odd feeling that something was off, the feeling we get when perhaps we've forgotten to brush our teeth or lock the door or turn off the stove.

Or watch Mad Men.

Sadly, there's no Mad Men to watch. At least not until the reruns begin or summer 2008 gets here: the season ended last Thursday.

Wandering around the 'net, I've found a few brouhahas (0r might the plural also be brouhaha?) about Peggy's "surprise" pregnancy.

Surprise? Raise your hand if it hadn't crossed your mind. Uh-huh. That's what I thought.

For some, it wasn't the pregnancy but the fact that Peggy herself didn't seem to recognize she was with child.

TV Guide had a thread running on this; I don't know quite where it is now and don't really feel like looking it up, but for every two people who screamed implausible! Mad Men has already jumped the shark! was at least one who had a story like the two I'm about to tell.

In 1971 I worked with a woman who told me the story of her first pregnancy: she had no idea until she went into labor. She'd always had irregular periods and continued to spot during the pregnancy. She didn't gain much weight and hadn't begun to attribute it to a possible pregnancy. How did she account for all the wiggling in the belly? That I don't remember. She gave birth to a full-term child.

This one I can directly verify. Ten years ago last month my 14-year-old niece gave birth at home. Until the child arrived, her mother (my sister) had almost no idea, nor did anyone else in the family. C looked a little chunky (as did Peggy) but not nine months pregnant and my sister had even asked her once if she was pregnant. The girl denied it. In this case, it apparently wasn't full denial on the pregnant girl's part, but denial regarding dealing with it. C's doctor told my sister that these invisible pregnancies aren't all that uncommon when the pregnant girl/woman has a strong reason to deny that it's happening. The mind is an interesting, interesting thing. C's daughter A was full term and healthy despite no prenatal care, and today is a sassy, active ten year old.

In Peggy's case, she was living in an era when women just didn't know much about their bodies. She'd obtained birth control pills, but we all remember just how helpful her doctor was, don't we? And (going on fuzzy memory) I believe Peggy first slept with Pete within days of obtaining her pills.* (We are all assuming it's Pete's child, yes? If it's not, that would be jumping the shark.) Having been given no real information, Pegs probably thought those pills were magically protecting her, not knowing that they take some time to fully kick in. Recall her insistence that it was impossible.

More evidence that not only is Peggy's denial real but that her unknown-to-her pregnancy is not some impossible event: a nurse rather quickly says she'll call psych, as if this is a common occurrence.

Next summer seems so far off...

*Reading the episode 1 synopsis on the show's website, it appears it was the same day, although there's no mention whatsoever here of Peggy's actual visit to the gynocologist. Odd, since the synopsis is quite detailed otherwise.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In which Bitty gets a guest-starring role at her tied-for-favorite blog

The other day Waveflux (Phil) made some pertinent comments about the relationship between writing and weight-lifting, but as an aside demoted "setting and time" to the B-list of writing elements.

I got all huffy.

And Phil turned it into a blog post.

I wish I could say this was brilliant, but it's kind of like an auto mechanic knowing which wrench to use.

(The other blog with which Waveflux is tied for favorite is Shakesville, but since he's a contributor there, I guess Phil is number one.)

An integral part of the next contract for actors on Lost should be...

drivers.

The only question is, should the actors demand them or should the producers demand that the actors use them?

Fires, part 3

Marine Son is fighting the fires.

Indian Princess and Baby A remain at home, feeling secure that they're far enough away from the flames. I hope so. My greatest comfort lies in the fact that they live in military housing, and the Marine Corps will evacuate their own if it's necessary.

But Baby A is breathing polluted air through lungs that have only been operational for 34 days.

So Grandma Bitty ordered an air purifier, and after an initial delay in the UPS system, the package is back in transit, due to be delivered on Tuesday.

Get it there on Tuesday, or even sooner -- that's what I want Brown to do for me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tales from the Second Life: Why Opera Is Not My Thing

Today's Question of the Day at Shakesville was custom-made for me. My comment seemed to be blog-post length, so I decided to add it here, too. Three posts in one day. Am I back, do you suppose? Anyway, here's my tragic opera tale.

When I was in high school, I managed to meet one of my fondest high school goals (just about the only time I did): I made the elite chorus. I don't have that fab a voice, but I can sing on key, so there you are. The cornerstone of the chorus, I suppose. I was so excited; our chorus director was beloved by all, etc. The chorus was chosen in the spring. I couldn't wait to return in the fall, when we took our new positions.

However, over the summer the chorus director moved into administration. Administration!!!

We faced a dour, disillusioned soprano when we returned, a woman who clearly had other plans for her life, a woman who never tired of warning us not to make her raise her classically trained voice.

She had a singing partner in her other life. To this day I can't remember if he was Mr. Fish or Mr. Trout. Whichever he was, we students privately called him by the other name.

It happened in a church basement somewhere in Baltimore. Dour Soprano booked our chorus all around the area to do Christmas concerts, and one night she booked The Trout to sing along with us...without telling us. I stood front and center, right next to him. When he launched into his overblown rendition of whatever Christmas carol we had on the program, I. Lost. It.

Bent-over-double-wetting-my-pants-getting-the-hiccups lost it. I couldn't stop couldn't stop couldn't stop. I had the hysterics throughout the song, right there in front of all those little old ladies who were groovin' to "Silent Night" or something like it.

The Trout probably had a very fine voice, but I simply can't hear opera without revisiting the moment of my greatest public shame.

Alanna, I hope we can still be friends.

Postscript: I once voluntarily heard Roberta Peters in concert, so maybe I'm not completely opera-phobic.

Fires, part 2


This satellite photo, found on signonsandiego.com, the San Diego's paper's website, offers a better look (better than what I'd seen before) at where the fires are...and aren't.

Marine Son is now off fighting the fires; another map I found suggests that Alpine has not been involved in the flames (this time).

Fires

The CNN map showing the southern CA fires is grim. I'd paste it in, but rather than being a photo, it's an interactive map. In essence, Marine Son, Indian Princess, and newborn A, in Oceanside, are surrounded.

Marine Son says that within hours he'll be on the way to help with the fires in some way. Indian Princess and A are at home. Marine Son says, using his best upbeat voice, that they'll "be fine," which is the way Marine Son speaks to his mother, even in the face of disaster.

According to San Diego Fire Battalion Chief Bruce Cartelli,
It will not end ... until it reaches the ocean or the winds turn around.
I asked Marine Son what, exactly, they were being advised to do. Should all of SoCal go stand in the ocean?

Marine Son says his best friend has a boat and they'll head out in that. I don't know if he's kidding or not. If he (and presumably friend) are fighting the fire, I don't see the two wives and the newborn launching the boat from what will probably be seriously crowded boat ramps.

I've had a pen pal in Alpine (east of San Diego) since 1979. I don't have her phone number (pen pal, remember?) and the last e-mail address she gave me is no longer valid. When I was visiting there in the summer of 2005, she took me around and showed me the charred areas from the last big fire, and told me the rather dramatic story of how a neighbor saved all their homes.

I have to wonder if her lovely home still exists.

Here's the latest from CalFire on Marine Son's fire:

Rice Fire
Rice Canyon
San Diego County
This fire has burned 6,100 acres in Rice Canyon in Northern San Diego County. 500 homes have been destroyed and another 30 have been damaged. 2,500 homes are threatened. The town of Fallbrook has been evacuated. Camp Pendleton and Oceanside are threatened. 170 firefighters are assigned to this fire including 11 CAL FIRE staff.


I hope Glenn Beck is happy.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In the category of memos that don't apply to me:

"The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced yesterday that the 2008 Social Security wage base will be $102,000, an increase of $4,500 from the 2007 wage base of $97,500."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A baby is God's opinion that life should go on

Considering the awful state of affairs in this world, it's easy to understand why some people are skittish about having children.

Others are more foolish -- or more optimistic. I throw my lot with the optimists.

As does Carl Sandburg, the official poet of Bitty's Back Porch, who famously said, "A baby is God's opinion that life should go on."

As do my son and daughter-in-law, as they make their awestruck transition to parenthood.

Little A was born last night in California, a thoughtful young man who limited his birthing process to the time between late morning and 11:23 pm, allowing his parents a little sleep -- except all they wanted to do last night was keep their eyes open and gaze at this commonplace miracle.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Barry "The Man" Manilow

So here I am coming out of hiding to cheer on my long-ago crush, Barry Manilow. Whether he declined the invite or was disinvited is not that important, but Manilow did not appear on The View because he refused to be interviewed by Republican Goddess Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Directly from the "latest news" portion of Manilow's website, complete with a misspelling of Hasselbeck's name:


I wanted to let you know that I will no longer be on The View tomorrow as scheduled. I had made a request that I be interviewed by Joy, Barbara or Whoopi, but not Elisabeth Hasselback. Unfortunately, the show was not willing to accommodate this simple request so I bowed out.

It’s really too bad because I've always been a big supporter of the show, but I cannot compromise my beliefs.



When you write the songs, you don't have to suffer fools gladly.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mini Rant: Overexposed Names Edition

Attention!

Expectant parents: think ahead. Imagine the day you gaze lovingly upon the face of your newborn daughter, poised to call her by name for the first time. If that name is Brittany (in all its spellings) or Ashley, please, please, please, please, please, please reconsider.

Experts predict that the United States will exceed its Brittany-Ashley quota by the year 2010, approximately one year after the majority of American teachers' heads are predicted to explode over the confusion caused by 75% of all young women in the classroom being known by one of the two names.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Nature Imitates Art

...or something like that. When I logged on just now, I was greeted by a graphic of Hurricane Dean, except in the instant I first saw it, I thought it was a painting by Van Gogh.


Dean



Vincent

Friday, August 17, 2007

Foregone conclusion

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire with a cup of hot tea/chocolate and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance appeal to you? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and its eloquence, and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society; however, you can probably be overly-critical of works.
It's okay. I understand.

Drama Nerd
Social Nerd
Artistic Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Musician
Anime Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace


So when I saw this quiz at Shakesville, I took it myself, even though I knew the conclusion before I read the first question. Anyway, the questions hardly touch my nerdiness level. I mean, question #26, How many books have you read in your lifetime?, offers as its extreme answer 60 plus. What kind of book nerdishness does that signify? I probably own 600 plus. Never mind all the library books I borrowed and books I've given away. And those two degrees I have in literature? Not a single question about that.

I'm not a literature nerd. I'm a literature super-nerd. And what qualifies me as one more than anything is that I'm extremely aware of just how much I haven't read and probably can't get to in a single lifetime.

And as the ultimate proof of my literature nerdiness, I completed the incomplete sentence and corrected the grammar and punctuation errors in the narrative of the quiz results before I posted it. We won't be having any of that on MY blog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Scribbles from the past

I found an old notebook, a small one, the kind I carry in my purse in case Something Needs to be Written Down.

Clues, such as an old Christmas shopping list that includes the name of my son's former fiancee, suggest that I started it about 3 years ago, then misplaced it for a while until I found it again last spring and used it to take notes from a lecture I attended.

It contains several lists of names, obviously students' names, but I don't remember most of these students. It sometimes distresses me how many of them simply flee my memory. In the early years I only taught a few classes at a time and over the years some students voluntarily came back to me for seconds, but a good estimate of the average number of students I've taught each year is 200. Nine years, 200 names a year -- probably I've forgotten 1600 of those 1800. This saddens me, because I tend to really like most of them.

I've found old to-do lists and notes from department meetings, and the thing that I actually wanted when I pulled out the notebook -- a folded-up handout from that spring lecture.

The oddest thing in the notebook, however, is this message to myself, in large letters, clearly intended to catch my attention:

POINT THE ARROWS TOWARD THE PATIO DOOR!

I have no idea.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I Hate When That Happens

I'm reading final papers, compiling final grades. Once that's done, I am finally free to CLEAN MY HOUSE! MOW MY LAWN! RECONNECT WITH MY FRIENDS! RECONNECT WITH MY FAMILY! GET BACK TO UNFINISHED PROJECTS! Etc.

So I took a break to have a snack and watch a little TV in my bedroom. (The living room TV has been disconnected for seven weeks; I was in mid-project when my summer semester began, and that's still the status of the project: mid.) The next thing I know, the poppies have overtaken me and I'm lying down. Ok. A half-hour snooze wouldn't hurt.

Four and a half hours later, I awaken.

Oh, this stinks.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cool news

I made two major changes to my electrical consumption during the same week, about 6 weeks ago. I changed most of my light bulbs to compact fluorescents (the remaining light fixtures get used either rarely or briefly). And Tall Son finally rendered operational the recycled central air conditioning unit that he salvaged for me last summer.

This time last year I was cooling by using two window a/c units and keeping my spare bedroom and office doors closed, so I was only cooling a part of my house.

To add to the equation, two weeks ago I had removed the tree in front of my house that provided shade during the afternoons, so I'm sure that the a/c now has to work even harder to keep me cool.

I’ve spent one very comfortable month: I keep the temp at about 75, even at night (I sleep poorly if I’m hot).

So today I got the electric bill, and I fully expected that upon opening that bill I’d have to turn the a/c up to 80 and start living in the dark.

Wrong.

The bill is for $74.69. For a full month. In Florida.

The recycled a/c is a Trane, but it’s 10 years old, so I wasn’t sure it would be all that efficient. I suppose it is.

My electric company offers interesting statistics on the bill: the KWH total and daily average and the same info from the same month one year earlier. Last summer, same month, with partial-home a/c and incandescent bulbs, I used a daily average KWH of 29. This summer, it’s 25.

I won’t really know the impact of the bulbs alone until a/c season is over and I can compare KWH consumption during the heating months to last year’s consumption.

But for now...cool!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Where did the mud go?

Yesterday I was on the phone with my daughter, who was in her backyard, and I overheard her Littlest, age 3, approach her and ask, "Where did the mud go?"

Apparently the day before his toy had been muddy, but now it wasn't.

“Here it is,” my daughter said. “It dried up. It’s dirt now. Mud is dirt mixed with water.”

“It is?” he asked incredulously. “Mud is dirt?” Littlest has a most appealing way of emphasizing his words when he’s expressing his amazement. Like Shirley Temple, only less precious.

At age three, one finds much to be amazed by.

Like mud, whose secret identity is dirt.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dear Netflix,

I know you’ve been worried about your movie. I’ve had it for over three weeks, and now you’re putting little notes on my queue, gently letting me know that it’s ok if something’s gone wrong with the disk; I can let you know without getting punished.

Well, Netflix, the disk is ok. I’ve just been really busy. You’ll see that other disks have come to and gone from my mailbox, but that’s because they’re episodic TV. I can fit in a 40 minute TV fix where I can’t manage a 120 minute flick.

And, oh, I don’t know. I think this disk was giving out vibes. I only vaguely knew what it was about anyway: general concept, big awards nominated and won. But I couldn’t get myself to actually put it in the DVD player.

Last night I did. Netflix, although it was tough for me to part with some films, such as Remains of the Day and Capote, you can have Adaptation back. I liked it and I hated it. I’m so confused.

(SPOILER ALERT!)

It was, at first, stunningly – almost annoyingly – clever, so not-Hollywood. I even loved the revelation of “Susan Orlean’s” secret life. Because I was rather enjoying myself, I had such a sinking feeling when the movie decidedly went Hollywood. “Susan” decides to solve her problem by becoming a homicidal maniac? What?

On the other hand, the ending might be part of the looping-around metatextual nature of the film. After all, everything changed immediately after Charlie had his one-on-one with Robert McKee, the motivational hack screenwriting coach. So, upon McKee’s advice, Charlie – the fictional and the real one – does precisely what earlier he said he wouldn’t: “I just don’t want to ruin it by making it a Hollywood thing.”

I either get it: Kaufman’s making an ironic statement about the inability to escape the Hollywood ending (and didn't Altman already cover that in The Player?).

Or I don’t get it.

Anyway, Netflix, stop worrying. The disk is in the mail.

Love,
Bitty

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mad Men

Obvious to anyone with eyes is that I haven't done much blogging lately.

I wish I could say I was having too much fun to blog, but really, I'm just too busy with the complications of life.

I've also paid little attention to television lately, so it was utterly accidental that I came across Mad Men this week. For this I must pop my head back into blog world momentarily.

Omigod.

Watch this show.

AMC has a fairly heavy rerun schedule for it (click on "episode 1 encore schedule" just below the giant picture), including "The Making of Mad Men," which I have yet to see.

It's about the early 1960s...but it's not. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!

Two scenes particularly struck me: the moment that Joan whisked the dust cover off the IBM Selectric and told Peggy not to be intimidated by the technology, and Peggy's visit to the gynecologist.

Even though I didn't learn to type until 10th grade -- later in the 60s -- that jump from manual to electric was as jarring as driving a VW Beetle and then hopping out and driving a sports car. And let's just say that I was patronized almost as much at my first gynecologist visit in 1971, although I wasn't subjected to cigarette smoke, too.

I turned 7 in 1960, and I remember it well: the fashions, the cigarette smoke, the sharply delineated lines for men and women and no one with darker skin in sight.

This show is genius.

Now back to temporary blackout.

Monday, July 09, 2007

More about getting shot down

Apparently it's not just those nutty women who are full of excuses for dumping people. Now corporate America's in on the act:

Sprint Nextel is hanging up on 1,000 of its cell-phone subscribers because, the company said, they complained too much.

Sprint Nextel ... which ranked at the top of MSN Money's Customer Service Hall of Shame in April, apparently didn't appreciate when people called their customer-service lines to voice complaints, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. So the company told those unhappy customers to hit the road.

"The number of inquiries you have made to us . . . has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs," Sprint said in its [Dear John/Jane] letter.

However, the jilted customers get a consolation prize: their balances have been zeroed out and their early termination fee has been waived.

Thanks for not charging your customers for getting dumped, Sprint Nextel!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

If She Doesn't Want to Date You, She's Probably Nuts

I've logged on a dozen times today and I even though I have no time for this, I can no longer remain quiet about the first "story" that AT&T offers me on the homepage today. Here's the teaser:

Guys Reveal: 'The worst turn-down I ever got was...'
Rejection is never fun, is it? Comfort yourself with the knowledge that some of the women who dole out these turn-downs could be, well, a little bit nuts.

Shall we scan these nutty shoot-downs quite apart from the comments made by the puff piece's author or its "expert," Dr. Lillian Glass?
"I was told that I'm too neat. Neat?!" —Gary, 56, Toronto, ON

"She told me it wasn't a good idea because she was anemic and was having her period." —Joe, 54, Justin, TX

"She didn't think her father and I would get along." —Curtis, 43, Jacksonville, FL

"One woman told me I was too intelligent for her. Sure." —Ray, 37, Raleigh, NC

"A woman told me she was probably going to be too tired the night I asked her out... but she told me this two days ahead of time." —Kevin, 41, Dallas, TX

"A girl I liked said she wouldn't date people born the same month she was." —Greg, 22, Wilmington, DE

"A girl said that her car broke down and gave me a big, long story about what was wrong. Only problem? I have a car and could have driven her. Plus, I'm a mechanic." —Wally, 20, Chicago, IL

"She told me she had to go buy the donuts for her Singles with STDs group. Point taken." —Greg, 32, San Diego, CA



Ok, I'm old, so it's entirely possible I have no idea what I'm talking about, but it seems to me that even though many a woman will go after a man who interests her, males still do much of the pursuing, especially cold-call pursuing (no prior acquaintance or even across-the-room flirting).

Again, call me on this if I'm wrong....

But as old me remembers it, a lot of men just won't take no for an answer. And the more attractive the woman, the more likely she'll be pursued by an overabundance of Randy Romeos.

If no doesn't work or if the sheer volume of unwanted advances gets a gal down, what then?

Well, mentioning menstruation will make him move.

Saying "STD" sends him slinking away.

Most of the rest qualify as clever putdowns. Telling a man he's too intelligent? (rejecting him with flattery) Telling a mechanic she can't see him because she has car trouble? (signalling she has utterly no use for him) Planning to be tired in two days? (an update of the "I have to wash my hair" meme)

Dealing with unwanted advances in a less-than-forthright way might be breezily classified as passive-agressive (and Glass uses that term), but fending off an advance with sarcasm or even a tall tale is simply not the same thing as "nuts."

It's dismaying that a female psychologist and a female writer would characterize women who reject men's advances in clever form as "nuts," an "embarrassment," "insecure," "hostile," "a liar," and "evil." Yet those are Ascolese's and Glass's words. That two women, one a purported communications expert, have pronounced these women (who just want to be left alone) as evil, insecure, hostile, embarrassing, lying fruitcakes suggests how deeply the idea runs that men have the right to expect that their advances will be welcomed. Anything else from women is a display of mental illness.

No wonder the women don't just come out and say hell, no.

Author Caitlin Ascolese breathlessly leads into the putdowns with "for once, guys, it might really be them and not you!"

No, Ms. Ascolese. It's still the guys.

And you're not helping any.

Separation Anxiety

My Netflix membership has changed my life. I've given up a bad habit or two (never you mind what) to make time for the films and I reward myself with a movie at the end of the day if I've been productive. (Or need to console myself because I haven't.)

I stand staring at the movie selection in stores in wonder because I needn't buy a single one of them. I "own" them all. I just pay Netflix a few bucks a month to store and ship them to me.

But sometimes it's hard to let the movies go back. I want to tuck them on my shelf, or buy myself a copy to keep. So far I've resisted the urge.

But it was so, so hard to return Capote and The Remains of the Day. So hard.

Now you know something about me.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You know you're a Grandma when...

you find yourself at the age of 53 having dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for dinner.

And it's not half bad.

A nice round number

600 more days for the Bush administration.

May the republic last that long.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gone

I'll be doing even lighter than my usual light posting for the next few weeks. I'm in one or another of the Carolinas, watching my small grandsons for a few weeks while my daughter jets off to see Europe. Or at least some parts in Germany and Ireland.

You should be lucky enough to have such a mother.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Post Office Standard Time, or 5:03 is the new 5:30

I had to go into the office today and was gone much longer than I planned. This meant I had to make a beeline to the post office to get my bills sent out before I leave town in the morning. Not to fear, though. I know EXACTLY when the boxes outside my post office are picked up: M-F 5:30 and S 4:30. This is emblazoned somewhere on the side of my brain. I sometimes plan whole days around these times.

Imagine my surprise, then, to pull up to the boxes at 5:03 today, a Monday, and find a post office employee cleaning out the boxes. Seven of us in line jumped out of our cars and RAN to him, frantically waving our mail. I told him that I thought the box was picked up at 5:30. He said something that made no sense (he was finished inside?), but I didn't argue with him because I wanted to make sure my bills got in that bin of his.

Maybe since all three numbers are the same -- 5, 3, and 0 -- 5:03 is just as valid a pickup time as 5:30.

This shouldn't be optional, though. If the posted time on the boxes is 5:30, we the patrons should have until 5:30 to get our little letters in those boxes.

(EDIT: My skeptical mind asked if the guy might be an impostor, but if he is, he's both well-prepared and impudent. He was wearing a post office uniform, driving a post office car, and he had the keys to the post office box. After he finished collecting the mail, he drove to the back of the post office. I sat and watched to make sure.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Yards of work


When I first came out to work, the resident bunny ran out from under this chair and streaked across the yard. I have yet to catch a good photo of the bunny. But I continue to try.


While school was in session, I didn't have time to do things properly, including yard work. We've had so little rain that it almost doesn't matter that the leaves still cover the ground and the grass remains uncut. (Except for a small patch of weeds, the ground cover has barely grown.)

So today I MUST do the worst of it, since I'm leaving town for three and a half weeks the day after tomorrow.

Under normal circumstances it wouldn't be possible to do this kind of work in the middle of the day on May 20. According to weather.com, it's 81 degrees, but it's the insanely low humidity -- 46% -- that makes yard work in mid-day not only possible, but pleasant. I would be enjoying it but for the knowledge that this is not normal and suggests something scary about our climate.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Cavemen are Coming!



ABC has placed Cavemen on its fall schedule, a spin-off from those clever GEICO ads. You can keep the Gecko; I'm half in love with the long-suffering C'man who scoffs at the insensitive GEICO ads and struggles through sessions with a therapist who, from her position of privilege, just doesn't "get" the prejudice faced by a caveman.

The ad's guy doesn't seem to be one of the series' cavemen, however. I suppose he isn't/can't be available since he's already the very public face of GEICO. Too darn bad.

ABC/Cavemen producers: don't screw this one up.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

I wanted to post some flowers for all the mothers -- my mother, your mother, you, you who want to be mothers but aren't yet, and especially those who want to be mothers but can't be.

We all mother in our way.

I wanted to post a photo of flowers, but my parched yard doesn't have any, and I didn't want to pinch a copyrighted photo. Then I noticed the tiny basket of shell flowers that Grammie gave me years ago.

It seems appropriate.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Justice for Pfc. LaVena Johnson



Go here.
(I'm keeping this post at the top.)

Not all Army work is destructive


By now, those of us paying attention have heard of the Case of the Mysterious Missing Honeybees:

In 24 states throughout the country, beekeepers have gone through [...] shocks as their bees have been disappearing inexplicably at an alarming rate, threatening not only their livelihoods but also the production of numerous crops, including California almonds, one of the nation’s most profitable.

“I have never seen anything like it,” Mr. Bradshaw, 50, said from an almond orchard here beginning to bloom. “Box after box after box are just empty. There’s nobody home.”

The sudden mysterious losses are highlighting the critical link that honeybees play in the long chain that gets fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and dinner tables across the country.

Beekeepers have fought regional bee crises before, but this is the first national affliction.

Now, in a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.

As researchers scramble to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call “colony collapse disorder,” growers are becoming openly nervous about the capability of the commercial bee industry to meet the growing demand for bees to pollinate dozens of crops, from almonds to avocados to kiwis.

Along with recent stresses on the bees themselves, as well as on an industry increasingly under consolidation, some fear this disorder may force a breaking point for even large beekeepers.

A Cornell University study has estimated that honeybees annually pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the United States, mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts. “Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food,” said Zac Browning, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation. (emphasis mine)

However, the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center may have solved the mystery:

Researchers have identified potential culprits behind the wide-spread catastrophic death of honey bees around North America and Europe. A team of scientists from Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and University of California San Francisco identified both a virus and a parasite that are likely behind the recent sudden die-off of honey-bee colonies.

Using a new technology called the Integrated Virus Detection System (IVDS), which was designed for military use to rapidly screen samples for pathogens, ECBC scientists last week isolated the presence of viral and parasitic pathogens that may be contributing to the honeybee loss. Confirmation testing was conducted over the weekend by scientists at the University of California San Francisco. ECBC scientists presented the results of their studies yesterday to a United States Department of Agriculture working group, hastily convened to determine next steps.

For the past year, experts have observed a marked decline in the honey bee population, with entire colonies collapsing without warning. Approximately 50 percent of hives have disappeared and researchers around the country are scrambling to find out why. Scientists have termed this phenomenon "Colony Collapse Disorder" and fear that without honey bees to pollinate crops like fruits, vegetables, and almonds the loss of honey bees could have an enormous horticultural and economic impact around the world.

ECBC is one of many academic, commercial and government concerns studying the honey bee population decline. ECBC’s role will be to identify the extent of the problem and conduct ongoing detection activities.

One summer when I was in high school and both ECBC and I had different names -- its was Edgewood Arsenal -- I worked there. So did my pal Vintage Flowerchild. Sixteen years old and I had a security clearance. Yes, I used to work for Uncle Sam, just like George Bush does. (clears throat)

Anyway, it's nice to see that all that military whiz-bang genius designed to save soldiers from chemical attack might also help us save our food supply, especially since the news from China is so frightening.

Woman Survives Being Pushed over a Bridge, or, Damn Those Hummers!


This is either Arlene Payan's worst day ever, or her best:

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Her hands still trembling, her clothes and hair still damp, Arlene Payan found the strength to talk about the drop that could've taken her life.

"It's scary, it's nothing fun," she said.

A blown tire forced her to stop on the bridge.

"There was a huge rock on the bridge," said Arlene. And I got off the passenger side to check it out. And that's when I heard the screeching when the other car, a Hummer, hit the side of my car."

The H2 Hummer smashed into her little Toyota.

The force sent Arlene's car into her.

She sailed over the railing.

"After that, I just remember when I was flying over the bridge," she recalled. "I don't know how the car hit me or anything."

She popped up like a cork, twenty feet below, unhurt.

"I just started swimming, I had to. I just started swimming and just hoped everything was going to be OK."

A Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer leapt from a helicopter hovering over the river and hauled her to a boat.

"It was wonderful. I'm glad they were there."

Back on dry land, Arlene refused a ride to the hospital and came back to check on her car.

She works as a manager at a pharmacy in Jacksonville Beach. Her boss gave her the day off.

Pavlov's Bitty

In my current job, I rarely use the phone. By contrast, during the 12 years I worked as a real estate secretary, I spent half my time on Mr. Bell’s invention.

But it’s the end of the semester, when everything changes. Students suddenly discover that they want information from me, want feedback. Students are dropping by the office; students are calling.

Perhaps it was because I was distracted: I had one student in the office and we were in mid-conversation when the phone rang. But how surprised was I when, in automatic response to that ring, I almost said into the receiver, “Mr. C’s office”?

I haven’t worked for Mr. C for nine years.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Let there be LIGHT!


Recently our school installed motion detectors in offices and bathrooms to control the lights. (But not classrooms yet...are they afraid that everyone will go utterly still and the lights will go out? Sometimes students are sluggish, but not THAT sluggish).

In my building, when we go into the ladies' room, there's a little anteroom that we enter before we go into the stall/sink area. Each of these two rooms has its own motion detector. When no one has been in those rooms for a while, the lights turn off.

When I walk into darkness, I stand in the anteroom and wait until the outer door closes (so no one sees me acting like an idiot), then I walk into the stall/sink area, thrusting my arms upward as I enter as if I'm invoking my magical powers. Lo, this movement turns on the lights. I can't do this in my office because the movement of the door swinging in turns on the lights. And someone might see me.

It's a heady, catharctic feeling, having power over power.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It's (going to be) a Boy!

Marine Son just called. The latest sonogram shows that grandchild #4 will also be grandson #4.

I get to meet him in September.

:)

Edit: with some sadness, I just realized I won't be meeting him in September. New Little One will be born in California, a world away from me.

Time to buy webcams.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Southern Living, indeed: Garden & Gun


Just when I think I've seen it all, I see more.

Grocery shopping today brought me face-to-face with the premiere issue of a new mag dedicated to modern genteel Southern living: Garden & Gun.
You read that right.

Garden & Gun.

Gracing the cover is uber-Southern man Pat Conroy.

I was in a hurry so I didn't open it and thumb through, but Lia Miller of the New York Times, in her article "Garden & Gun Magazine Has an Awkward Debut", has the skinny:

Garden & Gun, a glossy new lifestyle magazine from Charleston, S.C., says it is for those who love “an adventure-bound, art-loving, skeet-shooting lifestyle.” In reality, the magazine is less about guns than it is about gardens, “Southern tradition” and land conservation. The gun part of the title, said Rebecca Darwin, the magazine’s publisher, is a metaphor for “the sporting life.”

It is also an inside reference to a popular ’70s Charleston disco called the Garden and Gun Club.

The name might not have raised an eyebrow had not the premiere issue arrived on newsstands just days before the shootings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., on April 16. Ms. Darwin said only one critical e-mail message was received, among many positive ones, but others in the magazine industry noted the unfortunate timing.

Ms. Darwin, a former publisher of The New Yorker and Mirabella, said that there were no guns in the first issue. The “sporting life” piece is an article by George Black on trout fishing in Georgia.

Garden & Gun, which is published by the Evening Post Publishing Company, has an initial distribution of 150,000 and plans to publish five issues this year and 10 in 2008.

Samir Husni, the head of the University of Mississippi’s journalism department, said that he winced when he saw the name. “In this day and age, any title that you have to explain, you know it’s not the right title.”

But Ms. Darwin, who had 20 years of publishing experience in New York before returning to her South Carolina roots, said she was confident of the magazine’s appeal. “There are 40 million people that enjoy hunting and fishing; when you get outside of New York City, there is a whole other world out there.”


Oh, well if they're only metaphoric guns...

When my aunt and uncle, who live in Illinois, visited a few weeks ago, they were startled by the occasional gunshot in the not-so-far-off distance. I remained unruffled. I don't know who's shooting, or at what, but the occasional KERPLOW!! has been a fact of daily life for all of the thirty-one years I've lived in this house. I live in a subdivision that backs up to a woodsy, trailer-occupied area. KERPLOW!! is a sound as mundane as the crackle and whoosh of the squirrels who chase each other through the dry leaves of my backyard.

Gardens.

And guns.

New South, same as the Old South.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I am not 250 years old!

I almost never look at my profile. Today I did and discovered that somehow I was listed as 250 years old.

Fixed.

I feel really young now.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Not a conservative molecule in my whole body

I am:
0%
Republican.
"You're a complete liberal, utterly without a trace of Republicanism. Your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure. (You hope.)"

Are You A Republican?


Put on the trail of this quiz by konagod.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The kind of momentous event for which blogs were invented....

I've completely used up the ink in a ballpoint pen.

That never happens; I always lose them first.

Mark this day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Laugh of the Day

A student came to my office to discuss her paper. While she was here, she insisted on giving me a doctor's note for her most recent absence. I require no notes; students get X absences, then no more.

She left the note on the desk hours ago, and I only just looked at it.

Student J's illness was confirmed...by a plastic surgeon.

Instantaneous (Lack of) Gratification

At 4:50 a student e-mailed everyone in the class (including me) to see if she could borrow a book to read tomorrow’s assignment.

At 4:57 she wrote to me to complain that no one had answered her e-mail and what was she to do? By the way, I already had responded, offering my book. I wrote back and offered the book a second time.

I’m trying not to laugh. It's 5:02. Why hasn't she responded to my twice-made offer yet???

When we don’t get what we want, it should fail to come immediately, yes?

(Edit: over an hour later, she still hasn't responded to my two e-mails. Imagine that.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Out of Excuses, or, Not All Fluorescent Bulbs Are Created Equal

About a year ago, I bought a few fluorescent bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs, but I hated the color the light put off: so yellow that everything, including people, looked jaundiced. I even tried searching for info on a bulb with more "natural" light, but I guess I kept using the wrong keywords. Until now.

Apparently the thing to look for is the CRI, or "Color Rendering Index":

Color-rendering Index (CRI): Refers to how well the light from the bulb reflects true colors.

The CRI scale tops out at 100, the equivalent to natural sunlight or soft white incandescent bulbs. The CRI for fluorescent bulbs typically ranges from 50 for a basic bulb to 90 for a plant and aquarium bulb.
I presume this number is on the bulbs' packaging.

Time to go shopping.

Karl Rove Revokes Sheryl Crow's Citizenship

Or something like that.

Karl Rove's debate with singer Sheryl Crow and producer Laurie David about global warming heated the atmosphere at a black-tie Washington dinner.

On the eve of Earth Day, Crow and "Inconvenient Truth" producer David walked over to the presidential adviser's table at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner Saturday night at the Washington Hilton.

Their differences on global warming quickly bubbled over, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

"I am floored by what I just experienced with Karl Rove," David said later. "I went over to him and said, I urge you to take a new look at global warming. He went zero to 100 with me. ... I've never had anyone be so rude."

Rove said: "She came over to insult me and she succeeded."

As the debate intensified, Crow tried to calm things down but was drawn into the debate with Rove instead.

"You work for me," she told Rove, according to the Post column "The Reliable Source."

"No," was his response. "I work for the American people."

Heather Lylis, a spokeswoman for Crow and David's global warming tour, said Sunday that Crow's response for Rove was: "Yes, and I'm an American citizen."

It's not news that this administration has a hard time with the concept (one I learned in grade school) that government officials work for us and not the other way around (and that would be all of us, not just those who agree with them). But hey, don't go messin' with Sheryl Crow.


Sheryl Crow and Laurie David at said dinner. You know what Rove looks like.

Earth Day 2007


We only have the one planet. Without it, what happens with Don Imus, or on American Idol, or even in Iraq is rather irrelevant.

Let's get our priorities straight. Let's take care of the earth.

Earth Day 2007.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bad News


For a few minutes today, in a very small way, I knew what the families of the VT students felt when the news of the shooting there first broke and little was clear, because Marine Son lives in a military housing area just about a mile from where a Blue Angel crashed this afternoon during an air show. The initial reports only indicated that the plane went down in “a residential area.”

I was away from home and heard the story on the radio. I know my son well enough to know that if an air show was in town, he was there…and not in his home. But then he didn’t answer his cell phone when I called to check. Fortunately for me, I suppose, I’m not an overreactor.

He was indeed at the air show and he and his family are fine. We now know that apparently only the pilot died.

But for those few minutes, the horrible thing was possible. And for one family, the pilot’s family, that horror is real.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When I'm Wrong, I'm Wrong, or, Gov. Crist, Are You Sure You're a Republican?


First Charlie says he wants to get rid of paperless voting machines, potentially restoring confidence in the integrity of Florida's voting process to skeptics like me.

Then Charlie says he's going to restore the voting rights of felons who have fully "paid their debt" to society.

Now, at a RALLY AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING (my poor abused mind is still trying to wrap itself around that one), Charlie announces that he has legal staff looking at the possibility of a posthumous pardon for Jim Morrison, who was appealing his conviction in Florida for indecent exposure at the time of his death.

Gov. Charlie Crist said he was seriously considering pardoning music icon Jim Morrison's 1970 indecent exposure and profanity convictions stemming from a Miami concert the year before.

"He died when he was 27. That's really a kid, when you think about it, and obviously he was having some challenges," Crist said Monday, after attending a rally against global warming with rock star Sheryl Crow. "There's some dispute about how solid the case was."

Morrison's arrest generated a lot of attention at the time and is still a part of the Morrison legend. He was drunk at the concert and police said he exposed himself, which Morrison denied.

Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek said Tuesday that he never saw Morrison expose himself and none of the more than 100 photos entered into evidence showed Morrison's genitals.

"He taunted the audience. 'I'm going to show you! I'm going to show it to you!' Then he took his shirt off, held it in front of him like a bullfighter's cape, wiggled it around as if there was something going on behind it," Manzarek said.

Morrison appealed the convictions, but was found dead in a Paris bathtub before it could be heard.

"Trying to clear his name and then he dies. If you have a heart pounding in your chest, that has to tug at you a little bit. It should," Crist said. "To have that much talent and to have it sucked out, even if there was some self-involvement ... that's very sad and very tragic."

Crist is the man who ran to the other end of the state during the last moments of the gubernatorial campaign to avoid being seen with George W. Bush, which now no longer looks so much like a political stunt as it does a metaphor for his political worldview.

Salon reports that Crist has a 73% approval rating in Florida. Me? I'm leaning against the wall in the corner, arms crossed, watching with interest to see what Charlie will do next.

Rock and roll, Charlie. Rock and roll.

4-20 edit: I discovered tonight that a friend attended the Crow concert and heard Crist speak. She reported he is indeed passionate about doing something about global climate change.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The difference a day makes

Our classroom's door is usually kept locked and students can't get in until I arrive with the key. That's fine, but it stays locked from the outside and becomes a nuisance after class begins and the stragglers start knocking on the door and jiggling the doorknob. Either I stop what I'm doing and open the door -- over and over -- or the student nearest the door patiently gets up -- over and over -- and lets in Mr. or Ms. Tardy.

Today I sat at the back of the room during my first class and watched students make presentations, and because I was in the back, I was facing that door, that heavy, solid wooden door with the strong lock.

Last week a classroom not easily entered was our curse, but today it feels like our blessing: a snug, safe haven.

May the Virginia Tech community find peace.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

My life is just like that

I dropped in on Sarah Sometimes tonight and read a post that, if not in the details, in the spirit, perfectly captures MY life. It's nice to have someone else do the work for me.

Somehow it is the end 0f March and I see I have written not a word here. I do feel as if I have been running a marathon--work, teaching, grading, preparing, uh-oh, have to write a paper for a conference, uh-oh, have to get to the airport, too much traffic, am I going to make the flight? yes, I made it! uh-oh, am I going to finish the paper in time to deliver it at 3:30 the next day? yes! it's done, sort of, well, I can always ad lib, it's just like teaching, isn't it? Conference is over, race home, see my family for a birthday gathering, uh-oh, it's Sunday night, am I ready to work and teach tomorrow night? Okay, I can do it, I did it, but, now it's Wednesday night, help, I'm being observed in class! Now it's Thursday, I'm going to work, I'm seeing the tax person after work (too late, though, she'll have to file an extension), after the tax person I take the bus crosstown, back to the school where I teach, meet with the observer, whew, she liked the class!

Home, collapse, take nap, watch Grey's Anatomy, whoops, it's a rerun, I'll watch it anyway.

I read a handful of teachers' blogs because it's so, so, so reassuring to know that all over the country brilliant people -- not just me -- are walking into classrooms partially prepared for class, partially rested, partially going mad.