Monday, December 22, 2008

Jettin' But Not Jellin'

I'm flying to CA tomorrow with the oldest, tallest grandson to visit with the youngest and smallest grandchildren.

I was just checking out the TSA website because one just never knows what might be verboten. Common sense tells me that I'll have to leave my hand grenades and liquid bleach at home, but common sense is not always the best indicator of what can't be taken on a flight.

Like gel shoe inserts.

It's good to see, however, that fingernail clippers apparently don't pose the threat that they did in the past.

I think we're making progress in the War Against Travelers.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Coundown to Christmas: Grown-Up Christmas List

Countdown to Christmas: Merry Christmas, Darling



Because this song was released while we were still in Vietnam, I always heard it as being sung to a soldier there.

I've never been able to hear it in any other context.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: Feliz Navidad



When I was much younger, I didn't see "new" songs as "real" Christmas songs.

But this one grew on me, and apparently the rest of the world, too.

And it hasn't been new for a long, long time now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: Bing and Bowie



I actually saw this bit of strangeness when it originally aired.

Now I own a classic Christmas anthology CD that contains the song.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: Carol of the Bells



Once upon a time, music was important -- not just the music stored in our iPods (of which I still am not possessed), but the music we made.

When I was in elementary school, we had a music teacher. I don't remember her name, but I can't forget her presence: she was tall, blonde, beautiful -- the kind of woman for whom the adjective "willowy" was coined -- and once a week she wheeled her upright piano into our classroom for an hour or so of blessed relief from math and history: for an hour or so of song.

In junior high, chorus was an elective. I was there. This began my real life in song, a brief but mostly happy life. (I was going to scan my 8th grade yearbook, which contains the only known photo of me in a chorus, but I can't find it. More on my bitterness about lack of ocular proof later.) In 11th and 12th grade, I also took chorus as an elective. From the first week of school in September, we started practicing for the Christmas concert. While the leaves were falling outside, we practiced "Let It Snow." As people planned their Halloween costumes, we rehearsed "What Child is This?" Just before school broke for the brief Thanksgiving holiday, we put the finishing touches on "Carol of the Bells." Today as I absentmindedly sing along with classic Christmas songs, I still precisely pronounce that one line in "Angels We Have Heard on High" as "in egg shells cease day-oh" because that's how the music director told us to do it so it would come out sounding right...

In short, chorus was a major part of my young life, a major part of my adolescent identity. None of my regular crowd went out for chorus, so I had my primary friends and a chorus set of friends. Together we understood something that the others didn't, something I couldn't have articulated at the time, and still can't fully. But music, communal music, was an important creative outlet.

In high school, the top chorus was called the Choralairs. This was an elite group; one joined it only through audition. We in the school always knew when the Choralairs had an event: the boys wore suits and the girls wore their dresses: burnt orange suit-dresses.

How I craved owning one of those dresses.

In 11th grade, after a few years away from chorus, I made room in my schedule for a general chorus elective. This was not really a chorus of my peers. Most were there for a perceived easy grade -- or at least an easy-to-live-through hour -- and participated in lackluster manner. This made the handful of us who were there for the music stand out. In the spring, I tried out for the Choralairs, along with my neighbor. I made it; she didn't.

Senior year was going to be great.

(Now is probably a good time to point out that I don't have the voice I wish I did. I have pretty much the same vocal skills as Madonna: I can carry a tune without embarrassing myself. However, my whole life I've longed for the skills of k.d. lang, which is something else entirely.)

I was dealt two blows upon my return to school in the fall of my senior year. Somebody had fouled up my schedule and placed me in general chorus. Worse, our beloved chorus director, Mr. W, was now an administrator, and we had a new, far-from-warm-and-fuzzy director: Mrs. M, a woman who took every chance she got to remind us that we'd better not make her raise her classically-trained voice.

Somehow I managed to convince people that I did, indeed, belong in the Choralairs, and I got my schedule fixed. (I think Mr. W vouched for me.) But there was no fixing the fact that we were stuck with Mrs. M.

As an adult, I can look back and see that this was probably not her dream job and that she was doing it because she needed the income. She was probably also cowed by the fact that the love that everyone felt for Mr. W hung over the room like her personal black cloud.

She was always grouchy.

She never tired of telling us how superior her 9th grade chorus was to us, and again, as an adult I can see that it was probably insecurity on her part: the 9th grade chorus was untainted by the memories of How Good It Used to Be Under Mr. W.

Worst of all, she also ended the era of the burnt-orange suit-dresses. We performed in chorus robes. I never got the chance to carry the mark of being a Choralaire as I walked through the halls of EHS. I looked just like everyone else, even on concert days.

Except that, for the record, I was ultimately invisible.

On the day the Choralairs had its yearbook photo taken, I skipped school and went to Philadelphia. It wasn't my idea. My then-boyfriend and future ex-husband wanted to go. I really didn't want to; I wanted to be in the yearbook photo, and I think this is precisely why he thought this was the day to make the road trip. If I really loved him, I would go, etc. (Only much later did I realize how hard he tried to make me less successful and how much I bought into it. This is a story unto itself.) Several more candid yearbook photos of the Choralairs in concert also managed to crop me out. Almost 40 years later, I still haven't quite gotten over this.

Still, I was in the Choralairs, and despite Mrs. M and my invisibility problem, it was a great experience. By spring, she had mellowed somewhat. Perhaps she didn't feel as insecure as she had when she first arrived.

For each of us who celebrates Christmas (and this is surely true of any major holiday), there's an element of it without which the holiday just isn't right. For me, more than anything, it's the music. I hope that you all get plenty of whatever "it" is for you.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why Students Need Math Classes



So they'll understand why they aren't passing their English classes.

They can't do math: it's the only explanation I have.

I have two students who haven't turned in MAJOR work. Both have failed to turn in papers worth 20% and 25%. Student Y is also missing a paper worth 15%; Student Z did a paper worth 15% so incorrectly -- as in the assignment was to analyze a personal situation and he instead reworked his first paper -- that I really question his ability to read instructions. They also both didn't turn in a recent assignment worth 5%.

I assumed that they had each figured out that they weren't passing and were walking away from the class as another student has clearly done.

However, now I see that both Student Y and Student Z have gone out of their way to submit a final assignment worth 5% of their final grade.

Do they think I'll have mercy on them and their approximate 35% averages since they turned in this last thing?

Or is it not a math problem at all, but simply that they're unable to read the writing on the wall?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: Snow!

The first in a series of Christmas music videos, because nothing symbolizes Christmas more for me than music, the way music used to be done.



(Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen.)

Are You on Drugs????

I have a little bit of a head cold. It's no big deal, but I don't have time right now to be wiping my nose every three minutes, so I went off to Walgreens for a medicinal aid.

I settled on Daytime Zicam, something I've not tried before. Among its claims is this:

Virtually taste free when mixed in any hot or cold beverage.
Most of us misuse that word "virtual," which does not mean what you might think it means. And it definitely does not mean what Zicam implies it means.

Zicam's label said that I should mix its elixir with 6 to 8 oz. of a hot or cold beverage. I decided to take the label at its word and poured part of my iced tea into a small glass, mixed it with Zicam, and tried to send it down the hatch.

What hit my tastebuds with the force of a jackhammer was a most horrifyingly medicinal-flavored iced tea.

But there was still more yuck in the glass, so I gulped a few more gulps.

It took five tries to get all of the putrid stuff down the throat.

I'm really grateful that I didn't pour the Zicam into the full iced tea. Otherwise, I'd have had to drink 32 oz. of horrifyingly medicinal-flavored tea instead of 6 oz. in order to get all the medicine.

If this stuff works, if it's worth taking, I'm just going to drink it straight next time and chase it with a hot or cold beverage.

It couldn't possibly taste any worse, and it'll all be over in a few seconds.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I know this is not news and all, but

OMG! Barack Obama is going to be president!

I still have those moments when it hits me hard, as it did a few minutes ago.

It's just like almost being in a car accident -- the bad thing didn't happen; you managed to get out of the way just in time. All is well. Everything looks stunningly beautiful -- not just the blue sky and the sweetly-singing birds, but also the color of the concrete curb and the trash on the floorboards of the car.

May the thrill never be gone.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Don't stand...don't stand so...don't stand so close to me...

This is the ultimate video of the Bush legacy. Seriously.




The troops look not at all happy about Bush's intrusion on their space. In fact, they look like they're going to throw up. The young man raises his eyebrows in exasperation, and the troops to the left of the young woman (her left) seem to be jostling her so as not to allow him in. She also throws in a little shoulder action to try to keep him out.

Maybe he smells bad.

And look how fast that gap closes up as soon Bush leaves it.

Patriots, all of them.

Thank you to commenter srv at Balloon Juice, whoever you are.

NOTE: I have no idea why the comments option quit showing; I have comments selected for this post. This isn't the first time this has happened lately. Grrr. If you want to point and laugh along with us, click the post's title and you'll get the comments option.

Notes from School

Two vignettes:

1. Yesterday, an email from a student:

Subject line: I need help ASAP!

Message: How do you find database articles and scholarly articles on the [My School] library. I’ve been trying to for like 40 mins I completely forgot how. Can you tell me the step by step process thanks.

Context for this message: This research paper was due two days ago.


2. Earlier this semester: I've had one of my students pegged as an arch-conservative, although in retrospect, I realize that I may have misunderstood his deep anxiety about the election, especially his excitement about bad weather in parts of the country on election day. I read it as "woo-hoo! The liberals won't be going to the polls!" Now I have to admit that I don't recall his ever actually declaring a side.

This morning: I read his latest paper, in which he talks about coming out.

I suppose he could be conservative. This happens. Now, for me, his political orientation is a point of curiosity while his sexual orientation is not at all.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Spending Too Much Time on Amazon

One of Amazon's lists caught my eye as I was checking out a video: A Last Role Before Untimely Death.

Grisly, really. And I read the whole list.

Edit: Upon reflection, I realize that he left out the last role of she who had the most untimely death of them all: that of Natalie Wood.

As I Was Saying...

I certainly saw this coming.

Following the lending freakout by banks regarding lending to businesses and corporations, it was only a matter of time before they stopped lending to you and me in the form of credit cards.

The U.S. credit card industry may pull back well over $2 trillion of lines over the next 18 months due to risk aversion and regulatory changes, leading to sharp declines in consumer spending, prominent banking analyst Meredith Whitney said.

The credit card is the second key source of consumer liquidity, the first being jobs, the Oppenheimer & Co analyst noted.

"In other words, we expect available consumer liquidity in the form or credit-card lines to decline by 45 percent."

Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co represent over half of the estimated U.S. card outstandings as of September 30, and each company has discussed reducing card exposure or slowing growth, Whitney said.

A consolidated U.S. lending market that is pulling back on credit is also posing a risk to the overall consumer liquidity, Whitney said.
So at a time when both consumers and the overall economy might need the credit a little more than in the past, the lenders are going to pull back.

It may well be true that many of us have more credit than we need (I do) and use more credit than we should. On the other hand, if consumers are demonstrating their ability to repay (I am--I pay more than the minimum each month and pay my cards off on a regular basis), a 45% decline comes across as punitive. Perhaps that won't be across the board. Perhaps it will be decided on a case-by-case basis. But I doubt it.

This plan might be good for the lenders, but "sharp declines in consumer spending" certainly won't be good for the economy.

And I voice my concern once again about what this will do to our credit scores, which are determined in large part by the ratio between the credit we use and the credit we have. Cut our lines by 45% and suddenly some of us are much closer to kissing the max than we were previously. Having changed nothing about our spending or paying habits, we may find ourselves with lower credit scores.

The game is stacked against us.

(Hat tip to Petulant at Shakesville.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Obamamania!

According to Google maps, my mother's home is 56 miles from the White House.

On a good day it's a challenging ride getting to DC from there, partly because of Baltimore traffic (although that really depends on the time of day), but mostly because of DC traffic.

My mother and sister each work in motels near their home.

Those motels are booked solid for the Obama inauguration.

Wow.

Remember this next time you hear someone say that the man didn't get a mandate.

Bitty and Marine Son Do Their Part to Save the Economy

By buying this, the Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens:




And in my case an expensive zoom lens to go with it (but I got $100 off for buying them together).

I'd been looking at the Nikon D60 and D40 for a while. A friend has the D40, and this is what started my jonesing for a camera upgrade. I have a really nice Kodak point & shoot, but I hate indoor flash photography. As a result, I end up with a lot of blurry photos because I turn off the flash and then the exposure is slower and I can't hold the camera still enough.

Now that I'm up to five grandchildren and I'll be spending Christmas with three of them, I decided to buy that Nikon. I was going to do it this weekend.

Then I talked to Marine Son yesterday.

He was on the verge of buying the Canon, based on friends' recommendations and internet research he'd done. This morning I remembered that Daughter has a Consumer Reports membership and had shared her access info with me. So I went to the CR site, where I learned that, in this class, CR rates only a Pentax model higher and only by a hair, and when I looked at the ratings in the various categories, I agreed that the Canon was the better choice (Canon rated higher in image quality and ease of use).

So I bought the camera.

Then I emailed Marine Son.

He emailed back.

He bought it just after midnight from another vendor. He got the camera for $107 cheaper than I did, but he didn't get the zoom lens, on which I saved $100. So I'm satisfied.

We'll have a lot to talk about over Christmas as we teach each other how to use our new cameras.

And I think we'll annoy the juice out of Teenage Grandson who's exactly at that age (almost 14) where he absolutely hates having endless photos taken of him.

Won't it be fun?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hurray for the Pumpkin Pie!

(Still warm!)



I hope you're all having a splendid turkey day!

Due to work pressures and so forth, I decided to forego cooking today. My family in town, such as it is, had other options anyway. Instead, since I'm going away for Christmas, I'm going to have a family holiday meal sometime in the next two weeks.

For today I've put together a miniature Thanksgiving meal: a baked chicken, a baked potato, corn, cranberry sauce, rolls. And of course the thing makes holiday meals holiday meals for me...the pumpkin pie.

Gotta have the pumpkin pie.

My favorite pumpkin pie story: one summer years ago, when I was about 10 and lived in Maryland, I went to visit relatives in Illinois. Because my great-grandmother knew that pumpkin pie was just about my favorite food in the universe, she baked one. She cut it into four quarters, one slice each for herself, her husband (Grandpa L), their daughter (my Grammie), and me. When the time came for dessert, Grandpa L was just so full! He just couldn't possibly eat another bite! He just didn't know where that pie was going to go! Could I possibly help him out by eating it for him?

I was so happy to oblige.

Eventually I was old enough to look back and realize that Grandpa L had not at all been too full to eat dessert, but had instead lovingly turned his share over to me.

That moment of my life and the memory of it, along with many others, is something I am thankful for still, 45 years later.

Hurray for the pumpkin pie!

Monday, November 24, 2008

DVD Price Wars, Continued

Woe is me...

The West Wing's price for the complete season has dropped to $114.00.

I ordered it on Saturday for much more (Yes, I got it for $118, but that was after applying a $25 coupon.)

I feel so used.

I mean, I said in comments below that I didn't mind if the price drops. But for pity's sake, don't change it while my disks are en route...

(Alanna, don't read this line.) If anyone cares, the complete Sex and the City is $99.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is it January yet? Or, I Wonder What the AP Really Thinks of W?

Today my homepage offers an AP news story recapping the "summit of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic forum," Bush's last visit to this gathering.

And this is the accompanying photo:






Photo:
Wearing a traditional Peruvian poncho, President George W. Bush gestures as Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso stands below before the official group photo of the 16th summit of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, in Lima, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)





I really have nothing to add. Picture, thousand words, etc.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Amazon.com Thanks You


I've been a huge West Wing fan since mid-season two. I don't know why I didn't watch from the start -- probably for the same reason I rarely watch any new shows: I don't trust the networks not to cancel the show out from under me just a few episodes in.

Anyway, for a lot of reasons, most especially because of the recent election, I've spent a certain amount of time going to Amazon and just looking at the WW complete series. It's kind of funny that I do that -- I wonder if others do? It's exactly what I used to do when I thought I was going to have my kitchen professionally done. Every time I went to Home Depot, I'd go visit the model kitchen that I wanted. I'd open and close the doors, run my fingers along the countertop that was not the one I wanted, and otherwise imagine how it would look in my house. In the same way, every few weeks when I was at Amazon for some reason or another, I'd go look at the West Wing complete series.

I almost bought it.

It was just over $200, however. I don't remember the exact price, but I think about $208.

A week to ten days ago, I noticed the price had dropped dramatically, to $143.99.

That got my attention.

But still, I didn't act. I wasn't sure that I really needed to spend money on something pretty frivolous when the hard times are upon us (and I'm saving up to try not to work next summer -- don't envy me yet; the best I am going to get is one class - 1/4 of a schedule, so why not find a way not to go in at all?).

The other night, lying in bed waiting for sleep, I remembered the $25 reward certificate I have tacked to the bulletin board, a certificate I earned with my Amazon credit card.

Do the math: that $208 purchase suddenly became a $119 purchase.

Still, I didn't act.

Then I went to visit Brave Sir Robin today and read his sad story of planning to buy the complete Buffy on sale, only to discover that the sale had ended abruptly.

It was a sign.

Delivery estimate for my West Wing complete series: December 8, 2008 - December 12, 2008.

Now, excuse me while I go stare down the complete series of The Wire, which becomes available on December 9.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Do Racists Know They're Racists?

I don't know if I can word this quite the way I intend. What I've been mulling over a lot lately is the relationship that hard-core racists, those who aggressively and vocally express their hatred for non-white people using words that would make many of the rest of us blush, have with the word "racist."

Do they feel misunderstood if someone uses that word in relationship to them? (As in, I'm not a racist. I'm just right.)

Do they embrace the word as a badge of honor?

If they don't own the word, what, exactly, do they think a racist is?

I have a reason for thinking about this. My daughter is currently dealing with a racist in her life, a family member, who, during election season, tried to fill her ears with scare tactics regarding putting a you-know-what in the White House. She told him to cut it out; she didn't want to hear it. This person almost lost his job because he would not shut up around his coworkers during the election (although I don't think the n-word was actually used in the workplace -- just a lot of badgering). Now that the you-know-what is heading to the White House and my daughter put a stop to all the n----r talk, this person continues to pester my daughter by redirecting his passion toward all of the President-elect's non-pigment-related flaws, whatever they might be.

My daughter does not have the option of dropping this person from her life, and I'll leave it at that.

Again, I wonder what this person's relationship to the word "racist" is -- badge of honor? Or insult?

I don't want to get close enough to ask, frankly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to Margaret Atwood


It's hard to believe that she's 69 today. That must mean that I'm...


Oh, dear.


In class, I get a lot of mileage out of this poem. Simple, but very, very complex.

You Fit Into Me
--- Margaret Atwood

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

If you are a West Wing fan and found that the recent election reminded you of that show, there's a somewhat eerie reason:

Sensory Overload

It may be more than I can bear.

January 20, 2009 at noon, EST: the inauguration of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America, and the return of grownups to the White House.

January 21, 2009 at 9:00 pm, EST: the return of Lost.

Election Night: The Beginning of a Presidency

I was messing around on BarackObama.com and found this Flickr slideshow of election night photos. Enjoy!



(I'm sure NBC is thrilled to know that Obama watched election returns on its network! CNN may have had the highest ratings, but NBC had the Obama contingent.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Is This Where the Sacrificing Begins?

I'm -- so far -- fortunate in this economic crisis. I guess. I have a job and can pay my bills. There have been down sides: like everyone else, my food and other costs have risen (although inexplicably, gas expenses have plummeted). I canceled plans to both buy a new car and build a backyard shed because I expect little-to-no income next summer due to decreased enrollment at My School. Therefore, the summer belt will be really tight.

But so far I'm ok. (A little superstitious about putting that in writing, though!)

I get a raft of junk in the mail every day. I deal with the good stuff and the urgent stuff right away, and then once a week -- or less often -- I open, sort through, recycle or shred the rest. Yesterday I was hard at work on this annoying task and opened an envelope from one of the companies with which I have a credit card to find a letter notifying me that my card has been canceled because I haven't used it lately.

Maybe this is normal. Maybe this happens in good times -- I don't know. I've never had a card canceled before over a zero balance. This was my only American Express card. Maybe that had something to do with it. Or maybe it's this company's way of reducing its risk, although it seems strange to go after the ones who pay the bills.

Last weekend, I was online at my Lowe's account and asked for an increase in my credit line because they hadn't yet processed a large payment I'd made, and they had a 12 month no-interest deal in place. I needed to buy the last of my kitchen cabinets and a few other final expenses on the kitchen, and I wanted to take advantage before the deal expired last Sunday. I received an instantaneous doubling of my credit line, more than I wanted or needed, but fine. The "experts" say that the available-credit-to-used-credit ratio is extremely important in determining credit scores. The larger the gap the better. And this is one of the reasons I'm angry about that other card's being canceled.

I've seen another change in my available credit in the last week. I have two Lowe's cards, and the company links them on the website. One is a store card only, and the other is a small Visa that I haven't used in a while (again, no balance). I went online yesterday to pay on the store card and noticed that my credit limit on the unused card had been cut in half. Perhaps this was because they raised the limit on the other card; perhaps it was because of the non-activity.

This is an unnerving trend.

I have another card from the company that canceled my AmEx card. It hasn't had a balance since March, and it's one of my oldest cards. This is another thing the credit experts say: keep those old cards open (and active) because it makes you look good to have long-established credit. So the next financial errand I run, I'll use that card, wait a week or two, and then pay off the balance. They'll have to find some other pretense for canceling that one. Worse, I have a fistful of cards without balances. Again, I want them primarily to establish myself as a responsible person, worthy of credit but not maxing out my cards. I guess I'll have to rotate them around -- buy groceries on one, then pay it off. Pay for gas on another -- then pay it off.

I wonder if what's happening now in the larger economy will in any way impact how credit scores are determined -- especially if companies are going to be canceling cards and lowering credit limits. Probably not. As our "available balances" plummet -- if this is how it's going to be done -- we may see our credit scores drop. I hope not. But even if we as individuals change our good habits not one whit, I have an uneasy feeling we're going to pay the price anyway.

Edit: Maybe this isn't exactly about the current economy after all, but instead one company's odd business practices. I found this on "Ripoff Report" and it's about the same company that closed my account:

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. You must use your credit card constantly or it will be cancelled. I opened this account in 1987 & my credit limit was 14,900+. The last item I charged was $293 in September of 2007.

I receive a letter telling me the account was cancelled due to inactivity. I tried to access this account online & it was closed also. I ran my credit bureau and it stated that I closed the account. NOT!!!

When I called and asked to speak to a supervisor the response I got was that at their discretion any inactivity from 6 months to a year can be cancelled. I told them I had 6 months inactivity and it was a 20 year old account & I wanted it reactivated. They flat out refused & told me I had to reapply.
My account had been zeroed out for about 6 months, too. You better believe I used my other card with these people, my much older one, yesterday...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

That was fast...

At Bee's place, I was mulling over the probability that the popularity of the name Barack for baby boys is about to increase enormously. I was trying to get a sense of how popular it currently is (hasn't yet broken into the Social Security Hot 1000), when I arrived at the Baby Name Wizard, which, under famous people by this name, says this:
Famous real-life people named Barack:
Barack Obama, President-elect of the United States of America

Someone was really on top of this one.

Edit: And so it begins.

More Tears. Oh My.

Among my heroes is one Bob Moses, a black Northerner who all by himself walked into Mississippi in the 1960s to register black voters. Out of context, this sounds unremarkable. In context, it was something akin to a suicide wish.

So reading this started the post-election waterworks all over again for me:

Some, like Kennedy [Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of George Wallace] and an entire generation of white Southerners, risked social rejection for renouncing the bigotry of their parents. Others risked their lives while leading civil rights campaigns in the Deep South. Some almost lost their belief in the inherent goodness of America because they saw so many innocent people die.

They are people like Bob Moses, who led African-American voter registration drives in Mississippi during the early 1960s. He was a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi when three civil rights workers were murdered by a group of men that included a Mississippi deputy sheriff. He also helped lead an ill-fated attempt to sit African-American delegates from Mississippi at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, which was segregated.

Moses grew so disenchanted by his experiences that he moved to Tanzania. He returned to the United States in 1976 and founded the Algebra Project, a national program that encourages African-American students to attend college by first teaching them mathematical literacy.

"We seem to be evolving..., " Moses says. "The country is trying to reach for the best part of itself."

Moses is evolving as well. Obama is the first president he's voted for in three decades, he says.

"I don't do politics, but I made sure to vote this time," says Moses, now 73 years old. "Obama is the first person I really felt moved to vote for."

Moses says he is amazed that Obama has helped lead the country through a racially transformative moment without anyone getting killed.

Pivotal events in America's racial history -- the debate over slavery, the assault on segregation -- sparked widespread violence, Moses says.

"I don't think people appreciate how delicate it is to move the society around these questions without descent into chaos or into pockets of chaos," he says.

Obama's victory also offered a rare public acknowledgement for Moses. He recently attended an Obama rally when Obama -- a keen student of the civil rights movement -- discovered he was in the audience.

"When he got on the platform, he gave me a shout out," says Moses, whose reluctance to be in the spotlight was notorious among his civil rights colleagues. "He said, 'there's someone in the audience, and he's a hero of mine.' "

Moses paused when asked how it felt.

"It was good."

I Fell Asleep


Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama waves to the crowd beore his presidential victory speech at a massive outdoor rally in Grant Park in Chicago on November 4, 2008. Obama spoke shortly after Republican candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gave his concession speech. (UPI Photo/Mark Cowan)



And when I awoke, the world was new.

I tried to stay awake last night, but I'd only had four hours of sleep the night before.

I hung in there until about 10 pm EST, maybe a little later. CNN's projections had Obama's electoral vote count at almost 200. So many, many states had not even been called, so I was comfortable that it was probably over, and in Obama's -- and the rest of the nation's, believe it or not, conservatives -- favor.

Yet I still tried to stay awake. I had the DVR on to record until 3 am to catch anything I might miss, so I climbed into bed and set the TV's sleep timer to run another 2 hours, intending to watch as long as I could stay awake. That's pretty much the last thing I remember...

Until I partially awoke at sometime shortly after 11 to find John McCain giving a concession speech. I was surprised it was happening so soon.

I rolled over and closed my eyes again. I knew it was safe, safe to sleep.

We're going to be all right, finally.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day, Or My Last Day to Obsessively Follow the Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll

It feels like Christmas, for -- as my 6-year-old grandson says -- serious.

In fact, it seems odd that Obama and McCain are still doing a little campaigning. Don't they know the "shopping" is over? It's time to celebrate the holiday.

It looks like I didn't get chosen as one of the people to fly to Chi-town to join Obama at the Grant Park celebration. Oh well. It's cold up there, anyway. And I'm not that fond of flying.

Today Rasmussen says that the polls show Obama at 52%, McCain at 46%, 1% voting 3rd party, and 1% undecided. More interestingly, it says this:
Thirty-six percent (36%) of voters cast their ballots early this year and those voters favored Obama by a double-digit margin. Among those who will actually cast their ballots on Tuesday, the candidates are essentially even.
I think that just said that today is an exercise, people. Florida is leaning... It could be that I helped decide the election last week -- for Obama!

Over the last week, I've begun to believe that this will really happen -- that our long nightmare is over.

If the will of the people is truly manifested, if pre-programmed machines and other crookery don't get in the way, I expect to be celebrating, finally, on election night, for the first time since 1996.

I'm almost afraid to put that in writing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wealth, Redistributed

For fifteen years, from 1982 until 1997, I was a single mother on active duty. (I’m still single and still a mother, but I no longer have financial responsibility for the tykes, the youngest of whom is 29.) Those were really tough years financially. I didn’t make a lot of money, and if I hadn’t had a house with a low mortgage payment and people who looked out for me, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through that period of my life. Sometimes friends would donate their old furniture to me. One sold me a car; another, later, helped me buy a different used car. A few times, friends came over and did minor home repairs. One once found me a deal on a new central air compressor.

I wasn’t lazy. I wasn’t on welfare. I had three kids, a full time job, and all of those 15 years I was working on several college degrees, ending with a master’s the year after my youngest child turned 18. But I had very little money.

In short, times were tough, financially and otherwise.

One “person” who looked out for me was my Uncle Sam. Because we have a graduated income tax system under which people pay according to their means, I received tax breaks for my “head of household” status and for my three minor dependents. I don’t have easy access to my old tax records, but I probably paid well less than $1500 in federal income taxes in 1997, the last year I qualified as head of household and had a dependent other than myself. For argument’s sake, let’s say it was $1500.

In 1998, I became, for tax purposes, a “single” person. I no longer maintained a household for dependent children and had only myself as an exemption. My taxes might have skyrocketed, but for the next three years, ironically, I made even less money than before, in part because my previous job had ended with my boss’ retirement and I was teaching part time. For a while there, I also had a very crummy low-wage mortgage company job (with one of those companies that recently was bought out just before it collapsed). My income was even lower, but due to my new status, my taxes increased somewhat.

Six years ago, I obtained a full-time teaching job, and my income increased considerably, although I am still hardly a top-wage earner. Last year I made about $46,000, including summer work. Next year it’ll be a lot less because I will have little or no summer employment.

In 2007, I paid $5300 in federal income taxes. This means that over a ten year period, I have had an increase in taxes of more than 300%.

I have never once complained about this, and I’m not writing this post to complain now.* Between 1982 and 1997, I was financially insecure, and sometimes financially paralyzed. Now times are better, and I am comfortable enough not to have to worry about how I am going to pay for the groceries or if I’ll be able to make it to the next paycheck. (Other things are more problematic, but I can cover all the basics.)

For this reason – because I am financially stable and can afford all the basics – I think it’s just that I have received that 300% increase. Sure, I’d like to pay fewer taxes, but I haven’t forgotten that when I needed the “wealth redistributed” to me, it was. When I couldn’t afford to pay $5300 in taxes, I wasn’t asked to. And now that I can afford to pay it, I am asked.

On a small scale, this is Barack Obama’s tax plan. Some people can better afford to share the cost of running our country. And those complaining should consider that Obama isn’t asking anyone, not even those making over $250,000 per year, for a 300% increase.

So to those complaining, get over it.




*I have sometimes complained about how the money was spent, but never that I was required to pay it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Got lunch: check. Got groceries: check. Helped save the country: check.

The parking lot of the tag agency was as full as I've ever seen it, and parking spilled over into an adjacent empty lot. I stood outside in line with about 40 other voters (they let about 5 into the building at a time). A woman came out from time to time and spoke to the line about what kind of ID we needed to present, what the ballot would look like and how to complete it, and to otherwise answer questions. Inside, the voting area was crowded, but efficient. Because we were using a corner of the auto tag agency, there was a long countertop, and one of the poll workers offered to let me go to an isolated section of the counter rather than to wait for a plastic "booth" that was not one bit private (as I waited to show my ID and get my ballot, I watched a woman color in her choices). I took her offer.

I was prepared. I had looked over my sample ballot in advance, researched those races and issues I didn't already know about, and had it, filled out, with me.

Although I thought I was going to have to used the dreaded touch-screen machine (as I did in 2004), I instead used a PAPER ballot, which upon completion, I put into a scanning machine, just like in the olden days. Everyone in Florida now votes on the same kind of machine -- and it involves PAPER!
...unlike 2000, there is now a clear paper trail that shows voter intent in case of a recount. Voters now use pencil or pen to mark paper ballots, which are then counted by machine. Punchcards and their chad are no more.
However, before I turned in my ballot, I TRIPLE-CHECKED to make sure that the arrow I completed said Obama-Biden. It did, I assure you.

The cynical part of me wonders if our statewide paper-rich system -- which would presumably allow for a fraud-free recount -- is the reason that John McCain's campaign is focused on Pennsylvania. I'm not the only one worried about McCain's new obsession.

While I was still outside waiting, the helpful poll worker was telling someone that the turnout had been steady. The first couple of days, about a thousand each day. The lowest turnout day was over 500. Our county has about 120,000 registered voters. Some are voting absentee; some on the big day; some won't show up at all. My early-voting site is not that big. I suspect that the larger venues have significantly more traffic. Florida has five more days of early voting: through Saturday.

It took a half hour from the time I left the car until the time I returned. I had reading material and wasn't bored.

When I returned to the car, I could see that there were still about 40 people in line. And while I live in SuperRed County, I know that I wasn't the only one to vote Obama.

I know this because of the Obama bumper stickers on the car that was in front of me as we waited to pull out of the parking lot and off to the next task in our busy lives, having done our part to try to pull this country back into sanity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palin Says Election Result Rests in God's Hands

As the AP reports,

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin describes herself as a "hard-core pro-lifer" and expresses confidence that in spite of disheartening polls, "putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on Nov. 4."
So I presume she'll be as thrilled as those of us on the left when Barack Obama is elected President, seeing how it will be God's will and all.

Good to know.

Hillary Called Me

I received the nicest robo-call from Hillary Clinton today.

She didn't call anyone names.

She didn't try to scare me.

She asked me to vote early and to vote for Obama/Biden and the rest of the Democratic ticket.

She tried to be helpful and tell me where my nearest early-voting site is, although she was wrong. There's one closer. But thanks, Hils. As busy as you are, I wouldn't really expect you research the location of my home so thoroughly as to know that.

Did I say she didn't call anyone names or try to scare me?

That's how you do robo-calls.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

(Don't) Let Your Freak Flag Fly!

First, we need to establish that I live in a Very Red county.

I confirmed something driving to work today that I thought I had noticed before: on the signs and billboards dotting our landscape that advertise the candidacy of those running for local offices, "REP" is not prominently displayed. There's a lot of fine print under the signs, print you can't read while driving. It may show up there.

As I thought about it, I remembered that this same thing happened in 2006.

Bottom line: these guys are not willing to admit they're Republicans.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monkey Business

Somewhat passively watching Anderson Cooper's show tonight, I thought I saw something in the footage from John McCain's visit to Missouri, but it was on screen for just a moment, and the reporter made no note of it.

When the show reran the next hour, I taped it. Sure enough, there it was: another monkey proudly waved over the crowd. Of course, this one didn't have Obama's name stuck to its forehead, so I'm not sure what, exactly, the message is this time.

Monkeys for McCain?

Yeah, right.



Monkey shows up right away, at about 5 seconds into the video.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In Which Obama Listens to Me

My favorite moment in last night's debate went something like this.

McCain was complaining about Obama's plan to "just" give tax cuts to those making under $250,000. He couldn't see why EVERYONE couldn't get a tax cut.

As the floor went to Obama, I said aloud, "Bring up Warren Buffett," who has famously pooh-poohed the idea of giving tax breaks and cuts to the rich. From 2007:

Buffett cited himself, the third-richest person in the world, as an example. Last year, Buffett said, he was taxed at 17.7 percent on his taxable income of more than $46 million. His receptionist was taxed at about 30 percent.

Buffett said that was despite the fact that he was not trying to avoid paying higher taxes. "I don't have a tax shelter," he said. And he challenged Congress and his audience to see what the people who "clean our offices" are taxed, to loud applause.
Anyway, you know what happened next. Obama brought up Buffett.

Before that, I had no idea the debates were interactive.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Campaign Is Over

I just learned that Someone I Know, someone military, someone lifelong Republican (but not a crazee or a racist), cast his absentee vote for Obama.

If Obama can reach this person (or perhaps it was that McCain can't), it truly is all over.

Mouths of Babes and All That

My daughter and I were on the phone, talking politics long distance. Her six-year-old son wandered in to the room where she was, and she said, "Tell Grandma who you're voting for."

He hollered, "Barack Obama!" and giggled.

Well, that was cute, no doubt. I presumed he had heard Mommy talking about this and was parroting her, as so many children do of all ages, but I asked her just the same how he had made his decision -- was he saying it because she says it?

"Oh, no," daughter said, "he saw them both on TV and said that John McCain was scary looking."

A six-year-old doesn't come to this election with the literal prejudices that adults do. This particular six-year-old has never been indoctrinated at home in racial hatred, and he lives in a neighborhood where he plays with black, white, and hispanic children. So as he made his snap judgment, he never weighed whether race mattered or not. And a six-year-old doesn't know what "looking Presidential" means, but when he looked at these two men, he found one frightening and one (presumably) reassuring.

As do I, T. As do I.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Definitive Solution to the Economic Crisis

Today I received the email below. I'm not in a hurry for myself, so I sent it on to six friends, but the thing you can really thank me for is that I sent it to my Uncle Sam. Assuming he opens his mailbox today and sends it on to 12 (I know for a fact that Uncle Sam has at least twelve friends), the economy should be back on track by Sunday.

You're welcome.



Money Coming Your Way! Tag...you're it!



Money Angel
This is a money angel Pass it to 6 and be rich in 4 Days.
Pass it to 12 and be rich in 2 Days.
I am not joking. You will find an unexpected windfall. If you delete it, you will never know!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The After-Party

I watched the debate on a number of networks (switching back and forth) and recorded a rerun of it from C-Span.

Unlike the other networks, C-Span's cameras stayed with the debate room following the festivities, since its follow-up is not with talking heads but with ordinary folks who call in. The comments range on one end from thoughtful and articulate to the other end, or ranting, raving, and incoherence. This is true of supporters of both major candidates and of other candidates. For the most part, they're pretty entertaining.

Most of the time while these calls were airing, C-Span showed the after-party. It was telling. The cameras watched as the two candidates and their wives worked the room. (This included the moment when the McCains and Obamas were in the same part of the room, and John refused to shake Barack's hand, passing him on to Cindy instead.) All this was aired completely without comment, except for the occasional "we're watching video of the candidates talking with the audience" or something similar. The audience talked, shook hands with the candidates and wives, had their photos taken with them, solicited autographs. After a short time, I noticed that the cameras were trained solely on Barack and Michelle, who were surrounded. Even without sound, the crowd's excitement was palpable.

At first, I thought there was a bit of favoritism going on on C-Span's part, but then realized that the McCains had left (this was later confirmed by the on-air journalist, probably to explain why only the Obamas were being filmed). In the meantime, the audience -- independent/undecided voters, if I recall correctly -- were eating up the attention from the Obamas. This struck me as classy, for one thing, and wise for another. Maybe the cost benefit for spending extra time with those 80 people wasn't that high -- but maybe it was. Each of those people has friends, after all. Add to that all the people still watching at home who saw what I saw: the one man left the hoi polloi behind as soon as possible while the other one ("that one") stayed to mingle.

Yet another example of the wide gulf between the two candidates.

(Wish I could find video, but I can't, and I'm too technologically dumb to create my own.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Excitement Continues for Mr. and Mrs. Marine Son

So, Marine Son returned home (to CA) from Iraq late Saturday afternoon.

About 60 hours later, today at 12:30 am Pacific time, his wife gave birth to their daughter Miss M, my first granddaughter -- two weeks early.

If you're a long time reader and are intimately familiar with this blog, you might think that wait, didn't Mr. and Mrs. Marine Son just have a baby?

And you would be correct.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Kitchen Remodel, phases 2 and 3

I'll expand on this later, but here's the kitchen at the almost-end of phase 3. Left to do in phase 3: installing baseboards and the pieces that go at the end of the countertops. Raising the feet at the back of the range so that it's level and even with the countertops.

The kitchen used to be an L-shape. Nothing on the left existed (although these photos barely show the left), and the refrigerator was in the left corner as this photo is oriented. Because the old, battered cabinets had a missing drawer (long story), I suffered through having only 2 drawers for about 15 years. Now I have 8.

Phase 4: replacement of upper cabinets, starting with the one above the range, and all cabinets to the right of it. (If the old and new cabinets look a lot alike, it's because I've used the same paint color on both of them.) Knobs for the cabinets (they'll match the faucet). New light fixture over the sink. Probably nothing fancy or even visible except by those standing at the sink and looking up. Combination microwave/exhaust fan over the range. This might be finished by year's end.

The color scheme was inspired by the Mexican plate that hangs over the range.

A big shout-out to Tall Son, who has done most of the work, but not without my help -- and interference. As I tell him, he has skills, but I have opinions.


For fun, here's Phase 2, the other side of the tiny room (mine is a tiny house):



The flooring on the right has since been completed.

This post shows the kitchen in the midst of phase 1. At the time, I had no idea how many phases it would take.

One More Thing the Demagogue Sarah Palin and I Do Not Have in Common

We do not both have sons in Iraq.

Mine came home Saturday, as scheduled, unharmed.

(Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. There just aren't many hours left at the end of the day to pull together coherent thoughts for publication. And this election is draining out all my emotional juices. Thank you to everyone who has posted concern messages. I'm fine -- just slightly overwhelmed.)

Edit: Hello, anyone who clicked over from Shakesville. I'm honored to see you here, and thank you for the kind thoughts about my son.

I'll add a few more thoughts for now. This was his second time there. He was also there when we first went into Iraq. While he was there this time, he said in his emails that it was very quiet. I never pressed for much info by email, assuming that his mails were probably read. I let him say whatever he wanted to say (or not say). Now that he's home, he says he's "glad to be out of that sand" and that he hopes to never see sand again. He's across the country from me, so all the talks that we've had, we've had by phone, with his wife sitting beside him, so I haven't asked for details.

But he kept saying, "it was ridiculous. Just ridiculous."

I don't think he was talking about the sand.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homage to Molly

Tall Son is working on phase 3 of a four-phase kitchen remodel, about which I will eventually blog. I was storing the photos we took yesterday of the project and then started looking through the others. Among them for reasons unknown was a photo of Molly, dead now for more than a year.

I really like it on so many levels, not the least of which is that its subject is Molly. At the time this was taken (the date on it is wrong because I didn't realize for some time that I had to reset the date every time I change my camera batteries), she would have already had the cancer that killed her, even though neither of us knew that, so her sleeping half in shadow comes off as quite metaphoric. Then there are a lot of compositional issues that I can only partly articulate (since I'm no expert), so I won't try. But I like the photo. I think it needs worldwide exposure. So here it is.



(I'm not sure a small version of it does it justice, but of course you can click it to make it bigger.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Presenting My Qualifications for the Vice Presidency of the United States of America

In 2005, I took the Amtrak from the west coast to the east. This was just before Katrina, when the Sunset Limited went through New Orleans. It didn't end there, as it does now.

Along the way, the route practically kisses the fences at the Mexican border.

I took pictures.

They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Mexico from the lower 48, from a train chugging through Texas.





This provides me with extraordinary insight into our neighbors to the south, and proves without question my foreign policy credentials.

Furthermore, approaching New Orleans I saw a number of graveyards, which provides me with extraordinary insight into the afterlife and only deepens my foreign policy experience.


Furthermore, this is not the first time I've qualified for higher office. Excuse me now while I go pack for DC. Just let me know when the limo is coming.

(h/t Shakesville, and other sources)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

From the Department of Irrelevance, Misogyny Unit

Reading through a Fox Sports story on the shooting of Jaguar Richard Collier, I come across this:

Here's the lead:

Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier was shot and critically wounded outside an apartment building early Tuesday as he and a former Jacksonville teammate waited for two women they had met at a nightclub, police said.
Ok so far.

Further down, this:
The shooting happened around 2:45 a.m. in a middle- to upper middle-class neighborhood just west of downtown Jacksonville and blocks from the St. Johns River. The players had gone to the apartment complex so the women could drop off their car, authorities said.
Again, fine. Discussion of the women thus far makes sense because it provides context for the shooting.

Then, this, emphasis mine:
The women, who appeared to be in their 20s, declined comment when they were escorted by police back to the complex midmorning Tuesday. One was wearing a short, silver dress and the other was wearing a short, black one.
What?

What?

What?

Have we suddenly moved to the Life & Style section, where evaluating fashion at a crime scene is all the rage?

Really, I can't figure out what the point is here, except to allow for some leering and drooling and casting of implied aspersions on both the women and men involved in this situation, one of whom is a shooting victim.

And I won't go any further than that with this stinkin' pile of irrelevance.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Unintentional Hilarity

Marine Son, who is currently serving in Iraq, is being promoted tomorrow. It was supposed to happen in October, but for whatever reason has been moved up.

In this technologically advanced age, my daughter-in-law and baby grandson will be "attending" the ceremony via some form of broadcast.

I sent him congrats today, and I wanted to send another set of congrats to reach him "tomorrow," whenever that might be in Iraq. So I did a Google search to find out what time exactly it might be there right now.

The site I chose to click offers its information in exchange for hawking services. I'm sure they use the same language for all places and just insert the name of the city or country the site visitor has chosen. Hence, this unintentionally ironic howler, emphasis mine:

Traveling to Iraq soon?
Start planning your trip with VirtualTourist.com! You'll find travel guides and reviews with real traveler tips and photos on hotels, restaurants, nightlife, shopping and things to do (or not do). You can even meet locals in Iraq and make friends with them before your trip!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don't Ask; I Won't Tell

General note to the world and at least one person in particular:

Don't ask how I'm doing if you don't want to hear the answer.

Fortunately for you, I have a lot of miles on me, and I've developed a few skills. I can pick up quickly that, even though you asked about what I've been up to, it was only social courtesy, and you do not give two figs about what's going on in my life (after I heard all about yours in excruciating detail). Fortunately for you, I gave you the short version of my situation.

Really, I'm more bemused than offended.

But if you don't want to hear it, don't ask. I won't tell.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Now I Know Why Home Phone Service Is Dying

I would say it nickel-and-dimes the customer to death, but it actually ten-dollar-bills us.

Wow.

After decades of being in the dark ages, I decided to buy a cordless phone and order caller ID. The last cordless I had was such a disaster that I threw it away after less than a month of use. But since most people I know successfully use cordless phones, and because I was weary of not knowing who is calling (and therefore I would just not answer), and because my daughter is probably weary of having to ring 20 times before I will answer, I bought the phone yesterday and set out to order caller ID today.

It cost ten dollars. Ten dollars! Caller ID comes free with cell phones. For another 52 cents, I could "bundle" call waiting ID and so I did, but now it occurs to me that I don't have call waiting on my home phone. I'm so used to having it on my cell phone that I take it for granted -- something that comes with the service. Geez. I guess I need to go back in and change my order again.

I feel so used.

I'd give up the land line, but I want to limit the number of people to whom I give the cell number. As in, no business contacts. As in, not facilitate junk calls to my cell phone.

But this, this is a heck of a price to pay for "convenience." One hundred twenty dollars per year.

The worst part is that I hardly ever use either phone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Because I Don't Say Anything, It Doesn't Mean I Don't Love You

A general notice to my blog-pals: for the last, oh, two months or so, my back has been against the proverbial wall, time-wise. I'm astonished that I've posted anything here at all, but in each case it was something I could spit out in 10 minutes or so. Lately that's been me: the 10-Minute Blogger.

I've also been visiting my favorite haunts, but not always commenting. That's been the compromise. I allow myself the time to read, but mostly I nod and move on.

This behavior will continue for at least another two to three weeks, when my back should be released from the proverbial wall, and I will return to my normal level of over-stress.

I just wanted to let you know, if I haven't been commenting on your blog, that I'm still reading in fits and starts, and I'll be back. Please don't forget about me.

And now, to make sure this post doesn't go over my 10-minute time limit, I'll sign off and see you in a few weeks. Or sooner. Maybe.

We Wouldn't Want to Offend the Dead

Opposed to gay marriage? Then don't marry someone who's the same sex as you -- problem solved. That stale joke is my credo.

I absolutely do not get why some people think they get to be the boss of other people. It's not just the gay marriage issue, of course. For instance, my neighbor is a real alpha dog and tries to run all sorts of things on our street that are none of his damned business.

Anyway, some people in California are upset because Ellen and Portia got married and others like them have and will.

But one man there offers the most illogical reason for opposing gay marriage yet:

"I've never stumped before, but I want to be a part of this [campaign supporting a ban]," Bumgarner said. The retired insurance executive and devout Mormon said his late mother would "turn over in her grave" if she knew that gays and lesbians could marry.
Well, that's different, isn't it? Ban gay marriage immediately! We wouldn't want to offend the dead, now would we?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Coupon Applications Facilitated Here

Here, to be precise.

Applying for a government coupon to buy a TV converter box is something I've been meaning to do. I don't, under normal circumstances, need one. I have cable. But I'd been thinking about getting the coupon (and the box it purchases) anyway, because what if financial times get Really Bad? The first thing I'd give up would be the cable, even before the cell phone.

Then came Fay.



My cable hasn't gone out (and in fact my total trouble thus far has been lots o' rain and lots o' wind, although the news is reporting a tornado very near me...), but it could have. And Fay will hardly be the last storm to ever come visit. And sometimes the cable goes out just because.

So I moved "ordering coupon" up from the someday list to the right-now list, and it took all of about 25 seconds. Maybe 35.

You can order your coupon in less time than it took to read this post, so once again: click here to order your coupon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Impressed Beyond Words

One of my recent students just completed his first day of play in the U.S. Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, NC. He's holding his own -- nowhere near the bottom -- and I can't wait to see how he does tomorrow.

I'd love to print his name, but I choose to stay anonymous and all, so no.

Still, go student, go!

Update: He made the cut, and again, was nowhere near the bottom of the cut. Cool as all get out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bernie Mac -- Read

I was looking through merchandise offered by the American Library Association, and I saw that one of its iconic "Read" posters features Bernie Mac:



Dang. Sorry to see one more reader gone.

RIP, Bernie.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goodbye, Boys. Goodbye, Summer.

I've seen my daughter's sons more this summer than I ever have before in their short little lives. Circumstances brought us together for a week in May, two weeks in June, and two weeks in July/August. I've become used to having them around, but today they climbed in the mini-van and went home to North Carolina.

I'll miss them more than I can say.


T and W, playing with a Nintendo DS in the motel in Maryland where we stayed for a week while visiting family. Good times.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Customer Service

The following is a true story, although I've had to recreate the dialogue since at the time it was happening I didn't realize I had to memorize it for archival purposes.

I have a rather inexpensive cell phone account with a minimal number of "peak" minutes: 300. Usually this is plenty for me. I'm not much of a phone person.

However, my July bill was more than double its usual amount because, due to making family plans and a long talk with a boss, I ran over about 45 minutes and was charged about $40 for them. Ouch. (And I am making some plans to leave my current service, but right now I have no time to breathe...)

Anyway, since then I've been in the habit of calling at off-peak hours to confirm the number of minutes used. With my carrier, that involves calling 611. Here's how it went this morning:

Mechanical phone voice: Thank you for calling Your Phone Service. For balance due, payment options, or minutes of use, press or say "1."

Me: 1

Mechanical phone voice: Following this call, we'd like to ask you six questions about your customer service experience. To take the survey, press or say "1." To decline, "2."

Me (not in a mood to be surveyed): 2

Mechanical phone voice: I'm sorry, but I didn't understand your answer. To take the survey, press or say "1." To decline, "2."

Me (louder): 2!

Mechanical phone voice: I'm sorry, but I still didn't understand your answer. Please hold for the next available operator. (The sound of ringing.)

Whereupon I decided I didn't need to know my minutes used all that desperately and hung up.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Paper Checks Officially Declared Dead

I received an email from Amazon.com yesterday, which reads in part:

Greetings from Amazon.com. We're contacting you because you've previously paid for orders with a paper check or money order. We wanted to let you know that we will no longer be accepting paper checks or money orders beginning September 8, 2008.

If you still have check or money order funds remaining in your account on September 8, the funds will be transferred to an Amazon.com Gift Card balance. The Gift Card balance will be automatically applied to the next order you place on Amazon.com. These funds will never expire and can be used to purchase millions of items from Amazon.com as well as other sellers on our website.
Now, it's true that I've not used a paper check to pay for almost any purchase in a long, long time. (I used one to order a death certificate copy recently -- does that count?) But this email reads as much like an obituary as any we're going to get for the late, lamented paper check.

I'm rather sad to see them go. When I remortgage my home to make improvements, what will I burn in celebration when it eventually pays off? My computer monitor?

RIP, my pretty kitty checks.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Perspectives

There's nothing like interacting with others to see the world in a slightly different way. As old as I am, that happens now and then. This week it happened twice.

Girl Next Door is my daughter's best friend, dating back to their nine-year-old days. She actually lives behind me (back home with her own daughter while she finishes nursing school and re-establishes herself), and I know her much better than I do her parents or any of her other family members. Relatively early in the Iraq misadventure, Girl Next Door's brother was essentially handicapped for life when the jeep he was driving (chauffering a major) was hit by a mortar and his knee was turned into something resembling raw steak on broken pottery. At first, the Army wanted to patch him up and send him back, but when it became obvious that he was crippled, they put him on 100% disability.

Here's the catch: as a 100% disabled vet, he's severely limited to the amount he can work. A certain number of hours a week (a month?) and that's it. He's in the ugliest of Catch-22s; damaged serving his country, he has two choices: live on the inadequate military pension or forego it and hope to earn more money otherwise, despite his disability. In other words, he's almost forced to remain in poverty. I realize there's a good reason for limits -- some would try to cheat the system otherwise. If a man or woman can hold down a job, perhaps he or she doesn't need a full disability pension. But apparently this young man's problems are sporadic. Sometimes he's well enough, out of pain and mobile enough to work. Other times he's not. Bureaucracy isn't flexible enough to handle these fluctuations. He's in his thirties with no real aboveboard hope for financial improvement. He tries to work a little under the table to help care for his family.

Serve your country and be rewarded with a lifetime of poverty. That's somehow a new perspective for me, even though I've heard stories before. I guess it's different when you know the name, face, voice, of he who has been sentenced to poverty.

The other example, short version: my niece was the victim of a home invasion this past week. Signs indicate that her attackers had watched the family closely and knew their routine. Her family lives in a townhouse development laid out in a square. It's lovely, but this means that about 30 homes are visible from any one home. It never occurred to me before how vulnerable this layout makes a family. I thought being so visible would make one safer. Before, I thought my cul-de-sac was vulnerable (and maybe it still is) because we have only seven homes and where I sit is NOT easily seen, providing happy cover for anyone who might want to burgle. However, precisely because it's relatively private, anyone who wants to observe my home can't just blend in. The nosy neighbors would see the outsider and betcha by golly wow would be out asking questions or calling the cops.

I wonder what else hasn't occurred to me before? I look forward to paying attention and learning some more lessons in the coming week.

Student Update, or, You've Got Mail

I haven't been teaching this summer because I've been working on another project for My School. So I haven't been thinking about students, individually, just students, unknown-to-me group that I'll meet in a few weeks.

However, today my work email included a link to an online list of people who graduated from My School last Friday.

I recognized five students on that list. Not bad. Some of the more common names could have been past students as well: Ashley Williams, for instance. Or she might have been some other Ashley Williams. As for the five students, I am not one iota surprised that these five made it past the finish line, and I wish them well.

While I was reading the list, my work email made its little "you have mail" doinky-sound.

I received an email from a past student dated February 9, 2007, telling me about a problem she had with a class/job conflict.

Has that mail really been surfing in cyberspace for almost a year and a half?

And worse, am I eventually going to get all that mail that students claim they sent me but I never received?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Economic Observations from Someone Who Has Never Taken an Economics Class

I'd like to take out a smallish loan to finish all the small-to-medium nuisance projects around the house. I can afford to pay it back since, probably unlike most, I don't have a mortgage (nanny nanny boo boo!). But I fear losing my job, even though that fear is probably pretty irrational. Or maybe not.

Since I'm not taking out the loan, I'm not buying the materials or hiring the craftsmen.

Since I'm not buying the materials or hiring the craftsmen, HD and Lowe's aren't getting my money, and the craftsmen aren't getting hired to do my projects. Therefore, they don't get my money.

Since no one's getting my money, the economy is that much worse because the sales at HD & Lowes are down, and they have to lay off someone. And the craftsmen can't make their truck payments, so their trucks get repo'd and now they can't work.

And because the HD employees and the craftsmen can't run around and spend money, thereby paying taxes into the state coffers, funding at My School is cut even more drastically and enrollment dips even more.

And then maybe I don't have a job any more.

Clearly the only way to save my job is to take out a loan.

(And I say this in only partial jest...)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Potpourri

Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul (and I'm not even going to remark on these two otherwise, although it's tempting to) are co-sponsoring a bill to modify the illegal status of pot, to make it not illegal to use, only to abuse. Just like booze. (Didja like my rhyme?) You all probably know this by now.

For the sake of full disclosure, I'm probably the only surviving member of the 60s generation who has never tried the stuff. When I was in high school, it still had an aura of "badness" around it. That is, those who smoked were hardcore. I was anything but hardcore, and frankly no one ever offered. I don't know what my answer might have been if they had.

I married extremely young, and while I was a wife, again the offers never came. I didn't travel in those circles -- or perhaps I simply had the aura of a goody two-shoes. In any event, the first time anyone ever offered me weed, I was 36. And not particularly interested.

Nevertheless, I am in full agreement with the proposed law, although it probably doesn't go far enough. It ought to also allow for a modest garden for those wanting to grow for personal use. You know, just like tomatoes.

Even if the law is enacted, don't look for a big run on pot sales. This would only affect federal laws, not state laws. I don't see most states rushing to change their laws -- although they should. In my state, the current budget deficit is extreme. Potential students are being shut out of college because the state can't afford to educate them. But it will pay to incarcerate them if they run afoul of locoweed laws.

Proof positive that those who champion these laws are kidding themselves appears on the DEA's site (I'm not linking -- see the article):

Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety. It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior, and drugged drivers.
Got that? Now substitute "alcohol" for "marijuana" in that sentence. As the relative of too darn many alcoholics, I can attest to the truth of every syllable of that modified statement.

Yet the DEA is not going after drinkers.

Leave the responsible pot smokers alone. We have more important things to do.

Lament

I'm squinting and doing my best to see the changes at work as a half-full glass.

Rather than a half-empty one.

It's hard and it's giving me a headache.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Service is Key

Just yesterday, my daughter called me to ask exactly what laptop I owned because she was on her way to Wal-Mart to buy one.

"Do you have a special reason for going to Wal-Mart?" I asked, thinking that maybe she was going to buy it with a WM credit card.

"No..." she said slowly. "Why?"

"Go to Best Buy," I said. "They can actually answer your questions there."

Recently Tall Son bought a laptop at Wal-Mart. But Tall Son knows a lot about computers and can understand those info little cards that they stick on the shelf that offers all the specs. Tall Son is the kind of person who can effectively buy a computer at Wal-Mart. He knows what he wants and doesn't need help.

Last month, I bought a computer at Best Buy. I had an ad in hand and a mission. I "knew" what I wanted. However, when the sales person asked me why I wanted that particular one and exactly what I do on a computer, he pointed out that the computer of my choice might not have sufficient memory. He could sell me more memory for $100, or he could sell me a computer that cost $100 more that already had that memory installed (same kind of computer, different model). (Lest you think that he was trying to beef up his commission, I quickly discovered he wasn't. I went to apply for credit so I could get the "6 months no interest" deal, and I told him I'd come back to see him when I was finished. He told me I could get the computer from anyone available because they didn't work on commission.)

So I paid $550 for my little computer instead of $450, and we're living happily ever after.

Today I came across an article that says my take on Best Buy was accurate. It's thriving despite the economic downturn precisely because it offers service.

Some things, like toothpaste, customers can find on their own. More complicated purchases often require the help of knowledgeable staff(and plenty of it to go around, not one expert with four people lined up to talk to her). And the company who provides that knowledgeable staff wins, period.

Someone should forward this article to Home Depot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some Days You Can Find What You Want on the Intertubes

And then you decide maybe you wish you hadn't.

I've been looking at old photos, and among them were some photos of friends of my grandmother. I don't know how intimate a relationship this was, but these people showed up several times. In one photo, infant me was sitting on the lap of their son, a boy about 10 years older than me.

I went looking for these people out of nothing but curiosity -- and found the obituary for the boy on whose knee I sat (who was, in fact, 11 years older than me).

How very, very strange.

I don't know how I feel about this.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One of the Many Reasons I Hate to See the "Ugly" Comments Thrown at Maggie Gyllenhaal

Because she's the one famous person ever whom I think I resemble. I won't post a current photo of me, but I will post a childhood photo.

Here's Maggie:

And me at about 10:



(There's another reason, too: she's not ugly.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There's a Word for That

And it's mondegreen.

When we hear Jimi Hendrix sing, "'scuse me while I kiss this guy," or John Fogarty croon, "there's a bathroom on the right," we're creating a mondegreen: "a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung."

Mondegreen was first coined by author Sylvia Wright in 1954 in Atlantic magazine, when she confessed to a childhood misinterpretation of the Scottish ballad 'The Bonny Earl of Moray.' When she first heard the lyric "they had slain the Earl of Moray and had laid him on the green," she felt terribly sorry for the "poor Lady Mondegreen."

Mondegreen made MW's new words for 2008, and to celebrate, it's collecting mondegreens through July 25, after which time it will publish the best of them.

The only one that occurs to me offhand is the one that puzzled me for years (until the internet cleared it up), part of the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light" as performed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, which sounded to me like "wrapped up like a douche in the middle of the night."

The real lyrics, apparently, are "cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night."

I'm not sure that I'm any less puzzled by the real lyrics.

What's your mondegreen?