Friday, November 28, 2008


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.


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:

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 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 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.