Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dispatches from Bizarro World: Choosy People Don't Choose Evolution

The nuts in the peanut butter nicely complement the nuts in the video.

It is not satire.

(Hat tip to Misty at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

60 Minutes interview with Elizabeth and John Edwards

60 Minutes interview with Elizabeth and John Edwards:

We choose to live our lives fully and with strength and optimism. We get to make that choice.


According to the "Official George W. Bush Days Left in Office Countdown," Sunday, March 25 marks 666 days until the (p)Resident leaves the White House. Do with that what you will.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The "right" kind of ketchup

For a few months prior to the 2004 election, my daughter and her children lived with her inlaws. Her Navy husband had had to go on ahead, and Daughter and the kids followed once housing was available.

One day while she was still living here, Daughter and I were running errands. Among them was a trip to the commissary. In addition to the groceries she needed for herself and the kids, she had a little bit of cash from the inlaws and a short list of things they wanted her to pick up.

As we were driving, Daughter said, "Mom, FIL wants me to get ketchup."


"Mom," she said, "he said it has to be HUNT'S. Nothing but Hunt's. He said he wasn't giving any of his money to that liberal Kerry by buying Heinz ketchup. He was really mad about it."

We had a good laugh, and she bought the Hunt's; the Hunt's/Heinz thing has become something of a shorthand between us when we talk about her in-laws.

Last night Daughter and I had a long phone conversation. The in-laws had just finished a short visit at her house, and she was talking about something that had happened at dinner, but then she interrupted herself (as we often do -- I'll bet you do, too) to tell me about a special moment at the table. FIL picked up the ketchup -- the Heinz ketchup.

"He looked at it for a long time," Daughter said. "He didn't say anything but I could see he was thinking about it."

Because dinner with two little ones at the table is lively, she never really noticed whether FIL actually used the ketchup.

This conversation reminded me of the Buy Blue site. I hadn't been there in some time, but the last time I looked I was quite disheartened -- I concluded that to be politically and socially responsible I'd have to stop eating, drinking, and buying clothes, at the very least. However, the ketchup incident sent me back to look, and I was mostly pleasantly surprised. Many of the places I shop are either blue, neutral, or represented by rather small elephants. I can substitute "bluer" (or less red) businesses for some I currently use. (The directory can also be viewed according to category or ranking.) It pleased me to see that while Blockbuster is represented by a medium-sized red elephant (because it makes more donations to Rs than Ds), my new love Netflix has a small blue donkey, representing its contributions to mostly Ds. Amazon makes many more R donations than D, while Barnes & Noble's medium-sized blue donkey represents not only its Democratic donations, but also props for "employment equality" and "social responsibility." I love Amazon's site, but I can get books at B&N just fine, thank you, and thanks to Netflix I'll be buying very few movies anyway.

The funniest statistic, though, I've saved for last. While it might be true that the purchase of a bottle of Heinz ketchup puts a little change into the personal pocketbook of Teresa Heinz Kerry and her husband to do with as they will, the H. J. Heinz Corporation makes generous donations -- currently 71% of its donations -- to the REPUBLICAN party. (Con-Agra Foods, Inc., maker of Hunt's ketchup, isn't listed on the Buy Blue site at all.)

So FIL, keep on boycotting Heinz. It'll make you feel good, but it'll make me feel even better.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday cat blogging: Molly update

Molly has now been on antibiotics for several days, and her status is...inconclusive.

She is frisky (as frisky as a 14-year-old cat gets), she's sleeping (which she wasn't doing at all last weekend), she's walking with her tail up (again, she wasn't before the doctor visit), and she's asking for frequent petting sessions (again, normal). In fact, everything about her behavior is utterly normal except one thing.

She's not eating much. She ate a fair amount on Tuesday, a little bit more than a full can of Fancy Feast, but since then, she's just been picking. So I'm still worried.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards

Add me to the list of people saying prayers for the most remarkable Elizabeth Edwards as she and her doctors work to control her incurable, but "manageable," cancer.
Not too long ago, I heard a blurb advertising an upcoming news story -- must have been on NPR -- that said cancer treatment was improving to the point that many cancers could be considered a "chronic" rather than terminal disease. I never got to hear the actual story. But we're about to watch one family publicly live with just that situation.

May Mrs. Edwards' cancer remain manageable for many, many, many years.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pfc. LaVena Johnson

I'm way overdue posting on this, although I assume that most of the four people who visit my blog already know about this. Still -- it's worth mentioning if only one new person becomes informed and does...something. At least sign the petition to the Armed Services Committees.

Pfc. LaVena Johnson, 19 years old, died in Iraq. While she's not alone in that, the circumstances of her death -- and what happened afterwards -- deserves the attention and action of every person in this country, regardless of political affiliation, who claims to "support the troops." Other than to ask you to sign the petition and write your congresspersons (if you're in Florida like me, a lot of Floridians sit on the Armed Services Committees), I'll turn the rest over to Phil Barron, who has been tireless in his devotion to getting this story out and who spearheaded the Johnson petition (follow the link to get the links imbedded in this story, including the TV news report):

Once upon a time lived a young woman from a St. Louis suburb. She was an honor roll student, she played the violin, she donated blood and volunteered for American Heart Association walks. She elected to put off college for a while and joined the Army once out of school. At Fort Campbell, KY, she was assigned as a weapons supply manager to the 129th Corps Support Battalion.

She was LaVena Johnson, private first class, and she died near Balad, Iraq, on July 19, 2005, just eight days shy of her twentieth birthday. She was the first woman soldier from Missouri to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The tragedy of her story begins there.

An Army representative initially told LaVena's father, Dr. John Johnson, that his daughter died of "died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries," but initially added that it was not a suicide. The subsequent Army investigation reversed this finding and declared LaVena's death a suicide, a finding refuted by the soldier's family. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dr. Johnson pointed to indications that his daughter had endured a physical struggle before she died - two loose front teeth, a "busted lip" that had to be reconstructed by the funeral home - suggesting that "someone might have punched her in the mouth."

A promise by the office of Representative William Lacy Clay to look into the matter produced nothing. The military said that the matter was closed.

Little more on LaVena's death was said until St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV aired a story last night which disclosed troubling details not previously made public - details which belie the Army's assertion that the young Florissant native died by her own hand. The video of the report is available on the KMOV website.

Reporter Matt Sczesny spoke with LaVena's father and examined documents and photos sent by Army investigators. So far from supporting the claim that LaVena died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the documents provided elements of another scenario altogether:

Indications of physical abuse that went unremarked by the autopsy
The absence of psychological indicators of suicidal thoughts; indeed, testimony that LaVena was happy and healthy prior to her death
Indications, via residue tests, that LaVena may not even have handled the weapon that killed her
A blood trail outside the tent where Lavena's body was found
Indications that someone attenpted to set LaVena's body on fire
The Army has resisted calls by Dr. Johnson and by KMOV to reopen its investigation.

We have seen in other military deaths, most infamously that of Army Ranger and former professional football player Cpl. Pat Tillman, that the Army has engaged in an insulting game of deny and delay when it comes to uncovering embarrassing facts. Only when public and official attention is brought to bear on the matter - as happened, eventually and with great effort, with the case of Cpl. Tillman - do unpleasant truths come to light.

Astonishing as it seems, it takes that level of outrage to compel the Army to find the truth and tell it, to honor its own soldiers. No such groundswell has yet emerged in the case of LaVena; not enough voices have demanded that someone in the military, anyone, speak for her. At first glance, the contrast between the cases of Pat Tillman and LaVena Johnson seems vast, but at the core the situations are the same. In each case, the death of a young soldier in a dangerous place and time was not explained to the families they left behind, the families that gave them up so that they could serve us. An honest accounting of their passing is all the dead ask of us.

The mother of Pat Tillman put the matter in stark and honest terms:

"This is how they treat a family of a high-profile individual," she said. "How are they treating others?"

In the case of Private First Class Johnson, we know the answer.

Put a loved one's mug on a free mug!

Publix, through Snapfish, is offering a free mug (must pay shipping costs of $5.99) until March 31. You must enter PUBLIXFREEMUG in the coupon code as you check out. Follow THIS link.

This is a real, dishwasher-safe ceramic mug, not a plastic thing with a paper insert.

It was hard to decide. The grandsons? Molly? Finally, I chose the last solo photo I took of Grammie.

Don't YOU need a new mug?

The mailbox is a happy place again!

Distracted by Molly's situation (see below), I completely forgot about my new Netflix membership and didn't go to the mailbox until very late in the day. Imagine my delight to find my first video, Prime Suspect, season 1, disk 1, especially since I truly hate going to the mailbox for what I see as the daily garbage run.

At the end of the day, I climbed into bed and watched most of the two-episode video. Less than an hour in, I realized that this show clearly inspired The Closer, which is more formulaic and less gritty, but, at least initially, addresses the same kind of sexism as Prime Suspect: resentment by the men of a woman in charge of the "murder room" (as well as disbelief by the public that the woman is in charge), led by one of the woman's subordinates in particular. As I await PS disk 2, I fully expect one of the junior men, probably Burkin, to warm up to Jane Tennison very soon, just as Sgt. Gabriel became the first to respect Brenda Johnson.

I think I'm gonna like Netflix, but did I really need another thing distracting me from getting things done?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Power of Positive Thinking

Yesterday I took Molly to Dr. J, compassionate veterinarian and husband of friend Alanna. Molly, it seems, is an overachiever, having produced test results that show the highest white cell count the animal hospital has ever seen. It likely means one of two things: she has an infection or she has cancer. We could confirm the cancer (or not cancer) with a $350 ultrasound or we could treat her with antibiotics for infection and see what happens. Considering that we're going to know one way or another soon enough, I chose the antibiotics.

Dr. J gave her pain medication and her first dose of antibiotics yesterday. I swear she is some better today. Her fur looks a little less ragged, she spent some time stalking squirrels through the patio door, and, most importantly, I can tell from the condition of the food bowl that she at least tried to eat a little. I annoyed her greatly giving her antibiotics this morning (liquids -- I am no good with the pills and this is too important to mess up), but I'm willing to make her mad at me to keep her alive.

I'm going with positive thinking until I'm proven wrong. Feel free to join me with thoughts and prayers. I'm not ready to be a no-cat household.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What Makes God Laugh, Spring Break edition: When the good news is also the bad news

So it's Spring Break.

For me, that means plans: Get caught up on the grading. Get caught up on the house, which I have utterly torn apart so I can put it back together better. (At least that's how I justify its condition.) Get caught up with the yard work.

First day of Spring break...I break. I sat down to write out the bills and suddenly felt ill. Stayed in bed the rest of the day.

I've been playing catch-up ever since. Today was supposed to be full-tilt grading.

My cat is sick and I must seek medical care for her tomorrow. (No, she doesn't eat any of the tainted foods, but thanks for thinking of us.)

Today I learn my wonderful uncle and aunt, who have never visited my very humble home, are coming to 10 days.

I can't even decide which project to clear first.

Bitty becomes the last person in America to join Netflix!

I almost never watch movies. I really can't say why. I own DVDs I've never seen, for pity's sake.

But this $4.99 Netflix deal caught my eye a while back, and, after watching and enjoying an actual movie on TNT yesterday (The Pledge), followed by finding yet another "free trial" Netflix ad in my junk mail...I gave in.

Only a few movies in my queue so far, on purpose: the two disks of Season 1 of Prime Suspect (which are on the way), Sherrybaby, Quinceanera, and Mad Hot Ballroom. Because the $4.99 deal allows me only 2 films per month, if it turns out I actually WATCH the films, I'll probably upgrade to the $9.99 deal.

So...anyone have any suggestions? Interests, besides (obviously) independent films: smart thrillers/detective. Smart comedies. Smart romances.

I don't have time for foolishness.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Time and loss

My work office is a mess. I moved out of the old one and into the new in August, in media res: trying to pack, unpack, plan, and start a new semester all at once. However, the most immediate chores always win the Bitty's Time Sweepstakes, so the clutter just keeps cluttering.

Little by little I unpack and rearrange: a pile, a box, an envelope here and there. I recently came across an envelope of photos that were formerly taped to my old office's wall and in them was a particularly beloved one of Grammie and her lifelong friend Reeney (who deserves a post all of her own someday), taken in my kitchen on May 20, 1995. (I know this because once upon a time I properly labeled my photos...). At the time, Grammie was a robust 82; Reeney was a few years older. I propped the photo in front of the monitor.

Looking at it today, I realized that it really is a record of the past: Reeney died in 1998, Grammie last year. I threw away the miniblinds a few months ago, and the chairs the ladies are sitting in now wait in my living room for me to take them to the local women's shelter thrift store this weekend. The only tangible objects in the photo still in my life are the door handle that peeks out from behind the blinds, the coffee mug in front of Reeney, and the blouse Grammie is wearing. (I kept a suitcase full of her blouses, a time capsule that comforts me even though I haven't opened it once since I packed it over a year ago.)

The things and people that surround us seem so permanent because we see them day after day.

And then suddenly we look around and everything is different.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I feel ever-constricted by time, but it's not time's fault: it's the way our social structure uses and abuses it. In his poem “A Martian Sends a Postcard Home,” Craig Raine catches this idea perfectly as the “Martian” tries to explain life on Earth:

… time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

Yesterday I sat down with a friend and colleague as he showed me a huge web project he has almost finished. Colleague Friend is not a computer expert and he taught himself Dreamweaver to do this. This man accomplishes more on his lunch hour than I do in a week.

How is this????

We both get 24 hours per day.

My current dilemma? It’s 6:00 a.m. I must be “up” by 7:30. I woke up, however, at 3:30 and have been trying to exhaust myself back to sleep ever since. Later I will drag myself through the day only to not be able to sleep tonight. I fully expect that before the day is over, Abe Lincoln and a beaver will give me a pep talk as a silent astronaut observes.

Of course, I’m not really sure I’ve been awake since 3:30.

When we rolled into this experimental Daylight Saving Time, my home computer and cell phone automatically adjusted for the change.

I changed the time on my stove, but I changed it wrong. It’s – somehow – 15 minutes early. To get to the real time, I’ll have to take the time to scroll forward 11 hours and 45 minutes. This is a bad system.

I changed the time in my car.

I changed the time on my alarm clock and bedroom VCR. I can’t change the time on my living room VCR because I lost my remote somewhere in my house and I’m waiting for the new used one that I ordered from eBay.

I don’t care whether my living room TV and stereo know what time it is.

I haven’t changed either of my hanging-on-the-wall clocks yet.

My work office phone adjusted for the change; my work computer didn’t.

I feel like I'm ticking with impatience.
And the boxes are as confused as I am.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Teenage Molly Ninja Turtle

Nineteen ninety-three was a year of change in our cat population. First I found JJ along the side of the road and brought her home "temporarily." Then, Semmi, the most majestic-looking cat I ever hope to own, was murdered with a small-caliber gun, and in my grief, the next weekend I followed a "free kittens" sign to my most-beloved cat, Molly.

She had been with us only a few months and was still in her kittenhood, probably technically a cat-teen, when we discovered her amazing talent: like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Molly could defy gravity and fight foes in mid-air. Like a Honey Nut Cheerios mini-beach ball:

Back in the old days, toys sometimes actually came in cereal boxes and we didn't have to send away for them. The beach ball was one such toy. The kids were casually batting it around when Molly went into hyperdrive and leapt to the attack. Leapt, as in gravity-defying heights.

So the game was on. For some weeks, several times a day, the kids would post themselves at either end of the hall and bat the ball back and forth; Molly, between them, would leap and twist and contort in her efforts to attack the ball, and she would play this game until she was exhausted. We took a number of photos -- this is the best -- and some video (which is somewhere in this house...). After a few weeks, she lost interest in the beach ball, as teenagers do. They grow up, find new interests, and move on.

The old TV has been replaced twice over, the nasty carpet ripped out years ago, the son now property of the USMC, but Molly and I are still here keeping each other company, both a little too sluggish and creaky to chase after inflatable balls, but still here. And so are the memories.