Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Little Women


On this day in 1868, Louisa May Alcott first published her novel Little Women. I loved this book as a child. I'm not sure how many times I read it! If you've never read it, you should. It's the story of the March girls, Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg; they live with their mother, Marmee, while their father is away at the Civil War. I always felt like I was a combination of the rambunctious Jo, and Beth who was quiet and sweet. I loved the way they amused themselves by reading books and playing make-believe games. Jo's friendship with the neighbor boy Laurie fascinated me. Of course, by the end of the book I didn't want to be Beth anymore, but no spoilers here in case you haven't read it.

I hated the movie with Winona Ryder but I liked the original one with Katharine Hepburn as Jo; the 1949 one with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy was good, too.

I still have my childhood copy of the book; maybe I should dig it out and reread it!

The Radio City Rockettes


The Rockettes are coming to Century Tel for a Christmas show - December 15 and 16! I think we should go.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The ACORN Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree


As this financial debacle has unfolded over the past few days, I keep hearing about the controversial group ACORN. I'm no student of economics but I've been trying to read up on some of these issues because I think it's important to be informed. So I decided to read up on ACORN.

ACORN is an acronym for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Their official function is to register voters and support housing. They are all-out Democratic supporters yet have been plagued by charges of voter fraud. Ken Blackwell, writing for "National Review" reports that ACORN personnel "are facing criminal charges in over a dozen states."

As it turns out, this is one of the groups that pushed banks into making bad housing loans. This whole process goes back to Carter and the Community Reinvestment Act, which was revived by Clinton. The short version is that this legislation required banks or mortgage lenders to make loans to folks for homes that would not normally be able to afford them; if they failed to do so they would face harsh penalties. ACORN pushed to get these folks into homes that they actually could not afford. Now the irony: this group was set to receive money from the originally proposed Democratic bailout plan. And guess which famous community organizer went to work for ACORN after graduating from Harvard?

Now that Mrs. Pelosi has given her inflamatory, partisan speech before the vote today, the speech in which she blamed Republicans for the whole mess, the bailout vote is once again off the table. But Mrs. Pelosi is wrong in blaming the Republicans wholly for the whole thing. As I've said before, there is plenty of blame to go around but consider this quote from Blackwell's article (and which I have stated here before, as well):

"Republicans have tried to rein in Fannie and Freddie. Republican attempts to reform them in 1999 failed. In 2003, when Alan Greenspan testified about how Fannie and Freddie’s loose practices could endanger our financial system, it was Democrat Barney Frank who said these institutions were fundamentally sound, and should be more aggressive in getting loans to low-income people. In 2005, a Republican reform passed the Senate Banking Committee on a party-line vote, only to be blocked by Democrats from passing the full Senate. And in 2006 when John McCain spoke on the Senate floor of the need to reform Fannie and Freddie immediately, Democrats (including Barack Obama) would not respond."

My bottom line is this: those folks in Washington need to put silly partisan politics behind them and get this mess straightened out. There's lots of time later for the blame-game, but meanwhile, the stock market dropped nearly 800 points today. Quit grandstanding and take care of business!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fall Food



There is something about fall weather that makes me want to start cooking. I don't like to cook much in the summer; it's either the lazy days or the heat, or maybe both. I grill a lot in the summer. Plus, a lot of the things I like to cook are more fall-type things, like gumbo or hearty stews. My sweet tooth is pretty much year round; things like an apple pie (pictured) interest me or a pineapple upside down cake, like my grandmother used to make.

I have an old, old Chambers range that I would not trade for anything. I'd say it's the one thing I'd "grab in a fire" but I couldn't move it with the help of twelve men. That thing is HEAVY. Because of the narrow configuration of my kitchen I cannot take a decent photo of it to show you, but it looks like the one here. On the left side is a griddle, and mine, like the one pictured, has a cutting board sitting on top of it that I just move aside when it's time to make pancakes. On the back right is a well, in which a deep pot sits, which you can make soup in. I never use it for that. I can warm bread or rolls in it though. The oven is on the left and that is storage on the right. Mine is white, like this one.

The only problem with this stove is 3 burners; when I cook Thanksgiving dinner it takes a bit of juggling, but I get it done.

Right now my stove has a rump roast in the oven (it will be very rare when it comes out; I like it that way!); fresh peas from Lester's Farm are on the front left burner and a pot of rice on the back. When the roast comes out, I will slide a pecan pie in the oven, for dessert. I wanted to make the maple-nut pie, below, but didn't want to go buy walnuts. I guess I could have substituted pecans, but usually the first time I try a recipe I like to stick to it as written. Since I have pecans on hand (my mom has two pecan trees) I'm going for the pecan pie.

As fall progresses I suspect I'll be sharing more recipes here. There is something about fall, cool weather, football and holidays, that means FOOD!

Maple-Walnut Pie
  • 1 Recipe Single-Crust Pie Pastry, see recipe or 1 rolled refrigerated unbaked piecrust (1/2 of a 15-oz. pkg.)
  • 1-1/2 cups pure maple syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. light rum (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • Rum raisin or vanilla ice cream

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare pastry and line 9-inch pie plate. Prick bottom and sides of pastry with fork. Line pastry with double thickness of foil. Bake 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 5 minutes more or until crust is lightly browned cool. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In saucepan bring maple syrup to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until reduced to 1 cup.

3. In medium bowl beat eggs with electric mixer on medium to high speed until thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes.

4. In large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated and brown sugar; beat to combine. Beat in reduced syrup and eggs. Fold in walnuts, vanilla, rum, and nutmeg. Pour into prebaked crust.

5. Bake pie on baking sheet in lower third of oven 35 minutes or until set around edges; cool. Serve with ice cream. Makes 10 servings.

Red River Revel



I'm kind of disappointed after checking this year's Revel line-up. As best I can tell, the music headliner is Edgar Winter. There are other acts as well, some of them from the country genre, that might actually be headliners, but since I don't "do" country I wouldn't know. One year they had "Little Feat" and I went alone (couldn't get anyone to go with me!) and sat in the drizzle just so I could hear "Dixie Chicken."

I usually love going to the Revel because I like to look at the art stuff. A lot of it is kind of the same from year to year, but I like it anyway. I like the folks that sell the little carved sheep with real wool glued on. I LOVE all the stained glass people. One year Steve bought me the most gorgeous stained glass piece that reminded me of a Mondrian. Gorgeous color blocks. It hangs in my living room window now.

I love going for the food, too, overpriced though it is. The funnel cakes are great, and I love the crawfish etouffe. I always get a slice of mufaletta pizza!

The best thing about the Revel is the atmosphere; I always run into someone I know that I haven't seen in ages. The food smells, the music coming from all ends of the site, the crowds - it's all good fun. I will probably go mill around, but I'm sad that there's no big music draw this year. At least, not for me!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This Week


It's been a crazy-hectic week. It seems like each day this week I've been running from 5:15 a.m. to 10 p.m. with little rest in between. I'm hoping for a nice quiet weekend!

Mondays and Wednesday are my mom's physical therapy days, so after school I rush home, throw the teenager on the curb and rush to pick up mom then rush across town to the PT place. While there, it's sit and wait. So I pull out my cell phone and check e-mails. Then drive mom back home and get her settled back in. She hates the effort of getting to PT but likes the results so it's a pretty decent trade-off.

I took Wednesday off so I could take my mom to the DMV - we both needed to get license renewals and she had to have some blood work done that had been requested by her doctor (in July!) You know it is a bad sign when you get to the doctor's office and the lab-tech looks at your work order and gasps. "God, I'm going to have to do a LOT of blood work!" Then she calls the ordering doctor. Not very reassuring. So, 45 minutes and seven vials of blood later, I take my poor mother back home for 3 cigarettes and a coke so she can recover enough to go to the DMV. The DMV promptly refuses her renewal because she can't walk without a walker. We don't really care that much because she can't drive anyway. Then we still had Wednesday's PT appt. to make.

Last night, Friday, we had a home football game at school; the teenager works in the pressbox with one of the coaches who does the play by play announcing. He helps the coach spot plays and players; he is another pair of eyeballs, basically. But he likes it, so I go. Of course, last night was the debate, so instead of sitting in the game, I sat in the parking lot listening to the debate on the radio and sending out Tweets to my Twitter friends. We finally got home around 9:45.

For dinner last night Steve and I went to our favorite Mexican place, Nicky's. I needed it. We are both excited about our Oktoberfest date next Friday night and he has purchased our tickets! Hooray! In our excitement we went on base and loaded up on Oktoberfest beer. He got a buggy and we selected an Abita Fall Fest, a Spaten Oktoberfest, and a Spaten Optimator. Naturally while loaded down with nearly $50 worth of beer, I run into one of my students in line behind me (who was NOT buying beer) which was sort of embarrasing. Steve was all "We look like alcoholics!" I said, "No. We look like connoiseurs." I don't know. We probably looked like alcoholics.

So today I'm hoping for a little down time and to get in some house cleaning. Maybe cook something interesting - a gumbo maybe. The cool air is nice and I will open the windows. Crank up some football. Read some; I've started a Harlan Coben book whom I've never read before. So far it's pretty good. It's light. Weekends are good!

Let's Go To Madagascar


Is this not the cutest creature EVER?! Time Magazine wrote this week about the efforts to save the wildlife in Madagascar and the pictures just drew me in.

Did you know that lemurs are only found on the African island nation of Madagascar? And did you know that the vast majority of Madagascar's 2,300 species are found ONLY there and nowhere else? Time reports that vast deforestation and climate change have already "pushed countless species out of existence" and that of the "surviving 71 lemur species and subspecies...63% are endangered." Lemurs are adorable; and it seems that they have incredible eyesight and "an unmistakable smell."

Conservation efforts are ongoing; villagers have been hired to help plant new trees. At present, more conservation money is pouring into Madagascar than any other place in Africa. Many organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund, are involved.

It's not just the wildlife that is in danger, either. It's the trees and plant life, too. These great baobab trees fascinate me. Some of these trees are reported to be a thousand years old but it's hard to tell because their trunks don't produce the rings that most trees do. The trees serve practical purposes; the leaves are edible either fresh or as a dried powder. The tree also produces a fruit, sometimes called "monkey-bread" which has more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than cow's milk.

I'd love to pack my camera and go check it out!

(Image credits: Time.com)

Paul Newman


I'm so sad to hear this morning of the loss of Paul Newman. He was one of the classiest actors in Hollywood, in my opinion. I have admired his long-standing marriage in a land where marriages often last 48 hours, as well as his extensive charity work and films. Some of the very greatest movies were graced by his performance. No way to name them all but I have to point out Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as one of my favorites; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Hustler, The Sting, The Color of Money, Slap Shot, and of course, Cool Hand Luke ("I can eat fifty eggs.")

What a sad day for his many friends and fans.

(Image credit: IMDB.com)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bring on the Debates


I, for one, am hoping that the debates go forward tomorrow if for nothing else but to get the campaign back on track. I think they will. For the record, I do not think McCain's decision to return to Washington this week was a "stunt" as some liberals have insinuated. While there have been lots of votes that both candidates have missed while on the campaign trail, none have been quite as important as this one and I think McCain was right to head to Washington to be a part of it, despite Dingy Harry Reid's "thanks but no thanks" response. Taxpayers are actually paying McCain and Obama a nice senatorial salary and it is in fact their obligation to be there. In the military McCain would have worked by the code "Duty, Honor, Country" so this would be a second-nature response for him. I think Obama's "call me if you need me" response because he was busy studying for the debate was a bad move. For the Obama camp to then come up and say that McCain was scared to debate was laughable as Obama had refused the McCain request for a series of townhall debates earlier. Who was "scared" on that one? Seriously, I'm anxious to see how Obama performs without a teleprompter, so I want to see the debate go forward.

A couple of ads have come out this week that I find reprehensible. One was the McCain skin cancer ad by Howard Dean's brother and friends. The Obama camp, thankfully, had no part in the ad. But still, PACS like this group do not help Mr. Obama; if they really want to help him get elected, they should put their energies into more productive ads.

Another ad that made me nauseous was the Sarah Silverman Great Schlep ad. Words just fail me on this one. It's beyond words. Does she think this will help Obama? Because when I look at it, what I think is "Ohmigod and these freaking loons want to run Washington? God help us."

The more "out there" Obama's supporters get, the more I think it helps the McCain campaign by alienating those undecided voters. When it gets right down to it, I think that people are going for "the safe" bet which is McCain. With Russia and Venezuela pairing up and sharing nukes, and North Korea amping up its own nuclear program, I just don't want to take the chance that Obama is going to ask them to a tea party for the purpose of talking things out. I would prefer a proven leader in my White House, thank you.

So bring on the debates and let's get to the issues. McCain needs to get on the plane and be in Mississippi Friday night!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oktoberfest is Here!



I have been wondering for the longest time WHY a city the size of Shreveport/Bossier does not have an Oktoberfest celebration. We've only recently started a St. Patrick's Day parade (it's a local, neighborhood affair right now). We go all out for Mardi Gras here with folks camping out along the bayou waiting for the parades, all day tailgating, etc., but Oktoberfest has been left out in the cold.

When Steve and I get to Des Moines, we like to go to the Hessen Haus to eat. It's a great little German place downtown, in front of the science center. They have authentic German food, lots of atmosphere and a polka band. Steve, with his German heritage, loves German food and I like the German beer! LOVE thos dark, German Oktoberfest beers. We had a Spaten Oktoberfest on draft last time we went there which was fabulous.

Finally, today, I came across this article announcing the first Oktoberfest celebration that I know of around here. Leave it to our Air Force base to come up with it! This celebration was just made for me and Steve! They will have a variety of German "biers, wines, sauerkraut, schnitzel, giant pretzels. German potato salad and Bavarian dinner rolls." Lots of music, a German oompah band, and people dressed up in German costume. Souvenir steins and t-shirts will be for sale. I'm there!

(Image credit: Hessenhaus.com)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Geese Whalebone

Yes, if I was born to Sarah Palin, my name would be Geese Whalebone Palin. Holy Smokes. What would your name be?

http://politsk.blogspot.com/2008/09/sarah_13.html

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Writer's Almanac


It makes sense that my 100th post would be about writing, doesn't it?

One of the things I love to do everyday is to listen to The Writer's Almanac podcast. Garrison Keillor's hypnotic, soothing voice just lulls me into a relaxed state. We're nowhere in the same political hemisphere, but I love to hear him speak. He could read his grocery list and I'd listen.

The podcasts are all about 5 minutes long and I always learn the niftiest little factoids! And each podcast is closed with a short poem.

Today's factoids:

Sunday of this week is the anniversary of William the Conquerer's arrival on British soil in 1066 (The Norman Invasion). The English language evolved greatly after this, introducing Latin words into the mostly Germanic language.

Today is the birthday of novelist Fay Weldon.

In 1862 on this day, Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation.

In 1776 Nathan Hale was executed for espionage. "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country!"

Here is one of my favorite poems from a 2006 podcast:

Poem: "Coconut" by Paul Hostovsky from Bird in the Hand. © Grayson Books.

Coconut

Bear with me I
want to tell you
something about
happiness
it's hard to get at
but the thing is
I wasn't looking
I was looking
somewhere else
when my son found it
in the fruit section
and came running
holding it out
in his small hands
asking me what
it was and could we
keep it it only
cost 99 cents
hairy and brown
hard as a rock
and something swishing
around inside
and what on earth
and where on earth
and this was happiness
this little ball
of interest beating
inside his chest
this interestedness
beaming out
from his face pleading
happiness
and because I wasn't
happy I said
to put it back
because I didn't want it
because we didn't need it
and because he was happy
he started to cry
right there in aisle
five so when we
got home we
put it in the middle
of the kitchen table
and sat on either
side of it and began
to consider how
to get inside of it.

Goodbye to Yankee Stadium


I sort of wanted to watch the Emmys last night but could not tear myself away from the final game at Yankee Stadium. The opening festivites (pictured) were just fabulous. Many of the old players were back (Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, etc.) and family members represented those that were no longer with us. The old players wore the same version of the uniform they wore when they were playing. The United States Army Field Band played the Star Spangled Banner which was fabulous. As the old players were announced they ran out and took their old positions on the field. Willie Randolph ran out and slid into second base, grinning and reveling in the dirt on his uniform.

I love the spirit of baseball; I always thought it just looked fun -- looked like a bunch of big kids out there having a good time. The dugout was so crowded with old-timers last night that some of the younger ones were sitting on top of the dugout swinging their legs.

It was a fun night but bittersweet, too. When the game was over and the Yankees had avoided post-season elimination one more time by winning 7-3, the Yankees gathered on the field for last photos. Some scooped up some dirt from the pitcher's mound and put into bags or cups for saving. Many fans had tears in their eyes and were reluctant to leave. Derek Jeter made an eloquent statement and the Yankees then took their caps off to the fans and made a lap around the stadium to salute them while Sinatra's "New York, New York" played in an endless loop.

The thing that really struck me, though, was the absence of Joe Torre; he didn't even merit a mention which was just shocking to me. After four World Series titles and twelve playoff appearances, I thought Torre should at least get a nod.

All in all it was very moving and I'm hoping that the new Yankee stadium brings lots of new and wonderful memories!

(Photo credit: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The O. J. Simpson Trial


Is anybody paying attention to the O. J. Simpson trial? Well, Dominick Dunne is, but is anybody else? This time O. J. is on trial in Las Vegas for armed robbery and kidnapping and the trial centers around sports memorabilia he says was taken from him.

The last O. J. trial was in 1997 (stemming from the 1995 murder of his wife and Ron Goldman) and was all anybody was talking about at the time. I had taken time off from working full time to finish up my last two years of college, so I was pretty much free during a lot of the day to watch the trial. And I watched every single minute of it, even the monotonous DNA testimony that was so boring it made you want to stick hot needles in your eyes. What a media frenzy that trial was! Prosecutor Marcia Clark was scrutinized relentlessly for her hair, her make-up, the mole on her face, her personal life, etc. Remember Judge Lance Ito? He got it too, lampooned on the late-night talk shows. Mark Furhman became a celebrity as did Kato Kaelin, the infamous house guest.

When the verdict finally came, I was working at an attorney's office, waiting on a teaching job. Oh but what a great place to work during the O. J. trial! There were four lawyers in the office and two paralegals; we had grand conversations over O. J.'s guilt or innocence. It seemed so obvious that he was guilty. So obvious. But the overhanging question was always "But did Marcia PROVE it beyond a reasonable doubt?!?" And the debates went on. We called her "Marcia" as if we knew her personally; the trial was broadcast live on television, all day long. Every day.

When the verdict finally came, the nation waited on pins and needles. Everyone was interested. At the law office we all gathered in the conference room where the television was. Everyone just stood around the table waiting, silently as Ito read the verdict. We tried to guess what it was by his expression. The verdict was read, "Not guilty" and everyone moaned with disbelief. And then life went on.

We went back to work. O. J. vowed to spend "the rest of his life" looking for his wife's killer. People say that unless the killer is on a golf course, O. J. won't find him. Dominick Dunne says that O. J. has finally realized "how wrecked his life is" and that there is a sense of sadness about him.

It seems nobody is really interested in O. J.'s trial. Dominick Dunne is there as he was for every moment of the last one. Marcia Clark has requested a press pass but has not yet attended. Twitter is microblogging it for the Las Vegas Sun, posting updates every three or four minutes! Lots of folks, I guess, are hoping that O. J. gets convicted this time because he got off last time. Our system is not supposed to work like that, but you never know about juries. He was convicted in the civil suit filed by the Goldmans and will likely never pay the settlement that was awarded the Goldmans. I wonder if they are watching.

(Image credit: New York Times; Pool photo by John Locher)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Emmys


On Sunday night I will be in front of my television switching back and forth between the Emmys and the final night game in Yankee Stadium. The Yankee festivities kick off in the afternoon and go all day; my kleenix and I will be ready.

As for the Emmys, I, who watch very little television, have an interest because of the 23 nominations for the John Adams miniseries. I honestly don't watch very much on television except for news and such, but I've watched the Emmys in the past because I've always had one or two shows that I'm anxious to see win. Like the Sopranos. LOVED that series. I love watching House, but probably would not watch the Emmys just for that. Ditto for Grey's Anatomy.

But, as I have posted before, the John Adams series was really well done and I enjoyed watching it. I learned a lot about American History that I (sadly, embarrased) did not know. Laura Linney was inspiring as Abigail and Paul Giamatti as John Adams was also great but the actor that swept me off my feet was Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson. Dillane is tall, as Jefferson was, and had the swagger and slightly superior demeanor that Jefferson is reported to have had. He was great. The series is also nominated for a cinematography award, but for me, sometimes the camera angles made me seasick. Sometimes they were all titled and crooked like you were on a ship on rocky seas. I also loved the theme music and hope it wins its category.

The series really gave you a sense of what was at stake for these guys and what sacrifices they made for their country. Of course after the series was over I had to go out and buy McCullough's book, which was excellent. The series left little out. If you have not seen it, you absolutely should! I hope it rakes in the awards tomorrow night!

Here's the scene where Adams and Franklin get their first look at Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence:

Still Mourning the Stadium...

For my continuing dirge on Yankee Stadium, a song of the day...

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Boys of Summer Are Losing Their House


The House That Ruth Built is about to fall. This is the saddest weekend in sports, to me. This Sunday night will be the last game in Yankee Stadium. Forever. They are going to tear it down.

The legendary stadium opened in April, 1923.

It is where Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run in 1927.
Roger Maris hit his 61st home run in 1961.
A-Rod hit his 500th in 2007.
Mickey Mantle hit the right-field facade in 1963, one hundred and ten feet above the field.
Reggie Jackson hit three home runs there in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.
Don Larson pitched a perfect Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
And it is where Lou Gehrig gave his "luckiest man" speech in 1939.
It is where Babe Ruth gave his farewell address.
Derek Jeter, on Tuesday, passed Gehrig for the most hits in Yankee stadium.
There have been 100 World Series games played there. Not this year.

It is so sad to me that it will be gone; it's such a piece of American legend! They are tearing it down and replacing it with a park with three baseball fields (will bricks show up on ebay?). Trees will outline the old ballpark. The new digs will be across the street.

I can't imagine the emotions that will flood the fans and players on Sunday. There will be a formal fan goodbye ceremony in November, but oh to be there the last night...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Anodyne Update


I took my mom to her physical therapy appointment yesterday for her Semmes-Weinstein test. This is where the physical therapist uses these nylon filaments of various diameters to test the sensation in her hands and feet; the objective is to see if the Anodyne Therapy is working. The results were actually pretty good as "her numbers" were greatly improved from the first test several weeks ago. So it seems the therapy is working, just not fast enough to suit mom.

I've mentioned before that it is a common thing that a patient develops a unique bond with their physical therapist. Mom has names for each of "the girls" and for the guys as well. There is "Pigtail" named, of course, for her braided pigtails; "Cowboy" is the guy she talks football with, and her favorite, "Thumbs-Up" named for her hand-signals. "Thumbs-Up" talks with mom about all kinds of things; she is married to an oilfield engineer which won mom over because my dad was an engineer too.

The Anodyne treatments last 30 minutes one visit and 45 the next, then back to 30. It's boring. You just sit there. To break the boredom one day, mom was reciting poetry that she remembered from her school days; the first was some crazy Robert Louis Stevenson poem about a cow, and then she moved on to "Annabel Lee" by Poe. The cow poem had "the girls" in hysterics. They were standing a few feet away from us, discretely folding towels and updating charts and trying not to giggle too loud. It was hard not to!

Every time we go mom asks one or the other of them "how long" it takes for people to get the feeling back in their hands and if they've ever seen anyone who didn't. Of course there is no answer to this as everyone is different. She's a trooper though, and tries very hard to stay optimistic and upbeat. It must be difficult with no feeling in your hands.

The Semmes test yesterday took about 35-40 minutes with mom having to respond whenever she felt the filament touch her fingers and hands and say on which finger she felt it. They added that part - WHICH finger - because Mom would say, "Yes" repeatedly and it was hard to tell if she was feeling anything or not! "The girls" thought she might be cheating and got a kick out of that.

When we left yesterday Mom said she wanted to call and send a tray of cookies for the staff because they've been so sweet to her. But she wants to be sure it is on a day when "Thumbs-Up" is there.
The Cow by Robert Louis Stevenson
The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Who Needs Halloween? Politics is Scary.


This political season is just depressing me. I know I said I would not post on politics until the debates (9/26) and at the very least, if I did, it would be only on issues. I'm trying to stick to this resolve BUT it is so hard.

I know that you, whoever you are and wherever your politics lie, have probably made up your mind just like I have. I know that most people have done their research and selected their candidate. But know that there ARE people in this world that have not. There are LOTS of 18 year old kids who are going to vote for the first time in this election and they are not voting on research. They are voting on personal whim, on what others have told them, and what last sound bite they heard (either D or R, either way).

I am begging people to do your research. Find out what matters to you. Don't vote on one single issue. Vote for the good of the group; for the country. Country first. Dig into history. Look at what has gone before you and before this one election.

As for me, *deep sigh*, I'm just depressed. When Jimmy Carter (D.) was elected, I was in high school and just becoming politically informed. I had a GREAT American History teacher (I LOVE you Miss Whitehead!) and we talked politics in class. I can remember with startling clarity how I felt during that election cycle. I could simply not fathom the fact that America would elect this bumbling, ill-spoken person. (Neither could Miss Whitehead, for that matter). I was absolutely STUNNED when he won. I can remember thinking clearly that it was a bad dream and could not be true. I guess people felt like that when GWB won, too, maybe, to be fair.

I look today at the Democratic candidate and I get depressed. Last night at his Hollywood fundraiser he said "We may be passing on an America to our children that is less prosperous, maybe meaner and more divided than the country we inherited from our parents." He was referring to (in context) of what will happen if he is not elected. This comment depresses me.

Then you have Michelle: "It's easier to hold onto your own stereotypes and misconceptions. It makes you feel justified in your ignorance. That's America."

And Barack: "America is no longer what it could be, what it once was."

Whatever the context (and that can be your defense if you wish), there is a PATTERN of statements from these two of a hatred, or at the least, discontent of their country. This scares me. Of course you don't have to blindly accept the status quo; of course not; but I would hope that the president of my country would at least LIKE the country. I just do not feel that the Obamas do. I don't.

Thomas Sowell, in his column yesterday, quoted Jean-Francois Revel: "A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than to an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence."

I'm not going to copy and paste or excessively quote from his column because that would do it an injustice. Just read it; whatever side of the fence you stand on, just read it. Sowell says in this column what scares me most. You might not love McCain/Palin; they might even make your skin crawl (as Carter did mine). But if you simply want to know what I think and what scares me to death, what keeps me awake at night, consider Sowell's point. If you want to research both sides, read it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why I Love Teaching



I don't want to jinx anything, but I have the most awesome group of students this semester! Every so often you get a group that reminds you, in case you forgot, why you love teaching so much. Sometimes you get a tough group that makes you wonder..."WHAT was I THINKING?!" No, even in a tough group there are always some who keep you grounded, but some groups just have a more challenging dynamic than others.

Today we wrote in-class essays. I'm doing more in-class writing this semester partially as a prep for those standardized tests and partly because they will all turn one in this way. If I make an essay a homework assignment I am lucky to get a 60% return rate. This way I think they are more likely to be successful. They learn by doing that they CAN actually do it and so later in the semester when we get to research papers they will approach that assignment with more confidence.

Two things were especially rewarding today. One was that after class, one of my girls held back to tell me, "Mrs. Austin, in your class, for the first time, I actually FEEL like I'm a good writer! I actually enjoy writing!" She went on to explain how last year she just didn't feel like she was very good at writing but now she feels more confident. WOW! That knocked my socks off.

The other thing that got me was that I got an essay from one of my boys, one who very seldom turns in anything; I can beg, hover, coax, prompt, and he will seldom turn in his work. He did his essay today. This may not seem like a big deal, but trust me on this one; it was. I could not wait to read it. It was a beautiful essay; very moving and personal. I was so proud of him.

The thing about teaching that I love is that I learn something from these kids every single year. This is year 14 for me and every year I am still learning. They all think that I am teaching them, but the truth is, they are the teachers. They teach me every single day not to underestimate them, not to assume anything, not to prejudge and not to give up.

(Image credit: discoveryeducation.com)

Grading Essays



As an English teacher I thought this was sort of funny. I am NOT BASHING Obama; I just thought this was such an English teacher thing! As someone who is currently grading 75 essays, it made me laugh.
http://www.suitablyflip.com/suitably_flip/2008/09/how-come-i-woul.html#more

Monday, September 15, 2008

Abby Meets the Furminator


Steve bought Abby a Furminator this summer. Abby is Steve's white German Shepherd and she sheds. A lot. Whenever I go over there I always brush her because she loves it, but I had not tried the Furminator until last night. I first heard about the device on The Daily Coyote; Shreve Stockton was raving about how great it was to use on her coyote (she's even saved some of the fur and had it made into yarn!)

Then Heather Armstrong wrote about it on HER blog and posted photos about all the hair she raked out of her dog.

So I could not wait to use one on Abby. This photo is the result of less than five minutes of brushing (she was not in the mood for lengthy grooming so I had to turn her loose). The thing works! If you have a dog that sheds (Checkers does not, really), you need to check this thing out!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Music in Me


So much of who I am is wrapped up in music. It is a wonder that I never learned to play anything but I have a perfectly good piano sitting here and who knows. Maybe.

My sister saw to it that I was introduced to the Eagles and to Jackson Browne (among others) at an early age; she loaned her albums to me (don't you MISS those?! I miss those cracks and pops that you don't get in CDs.) and I played them over and over. And over. And then she introduced me to musicians. Shreveport is known for producing great musicians. And she introduced me to the folks who recorded the musicians. She was the overseer of my musical education and to her I am forever indebted for that.

I've posted on here before of my total adoration and love for Jackson Browne (well, his music anyway; not sure we'd get along in real life.) My iPod is a perfect blend of Jackson Browne, Eagles, Buffett, Stones, Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and others. I find such solace in music that I can NOT find anywhere else. But that's another post for another day. Just know when you find me plugged into my iPod, you should let me be...I need to be there!

Steve and I went to Nicky's for Mexican food tonight, then took a swing by his place to check out his storm damage (one Bradford Pear). My photo is of Steve's dog and her fallen Bradford Pear. When we got back here there was a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert on HD which quickly sucked me in. I love those big-haired guitar players!! Listening to that concert reminded me of my old Skynyrd "Skynyrd's First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album" which has the most beautiful unreleased version of Freebird. I think Freebird is one of those songs in danger (or already there) of being played out, but this version is so beautiful to me and I think it's because of the piano. God, I love that piano.

At the risk of sounding like my parents, I'm not sure I "get" lots of music today. Some semi-contemporary stuff I like. But hip-hop and rap - not at all. Not AT ALL. It's filled with the same droning bass line and filled with hate. Awful. Give me the big hair bands, the girl bands, the originals, the folks that knew how to write music and perform it. They had talent. Ah well, I don't want to go there, even. Have a listen at Freebird from 1977. Chill.

Technology Gone Amok


The Rocky Mountain News is under fire this week because one of their reporters "Twittered" the funeral of a three year old child who was killed when a pickup truck crashed into a Baskin Robbins. This is the lowest, sleaziest thing I've heard lately (outside of politics!). How callous!

The reporter was allowed into the funeral and once inside he sent play-by-play "tweets" to his newspaper website. For those who don't know what Twitter is, it's a social networking site where you can send "tweets" or updates from your cell phone or your computer of your daily doings in 140 characters or less. I'm on Twitter and I think it's kind of fun; I've networked with lots of other teachers around the country and learned some things from them. Some people on Twitter are just funny and send out entertaining Tweets (Fireland comes to mind); but to use this technology for a child's funeral goes beyond insenstive to me.

One of my pet peeves is someone texting in a movie theater. How distracting and rude can it be to text throughout a funeral? How could this guy think nobody would notice? This all goes to the idea of technology etiquette in our culture. Cell-phone etiquette is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I hate being in the grocery store or a check out line somewhere and having to listen to someone's cell phone conversation. I hate being in a restaurant enjoying my meal and having Mr. Important five tables over broadcasting his importance to the whole place. Ugh!

At any rate, I think both the reporter and the paper in this case are at fault. The paper's defense is that the community was grieving and also wanted to be included in the funeral. I think there must have been a better way.

Pushing Back from Politics



I am signing off (for the time being) with regard to political posts! We are now, as it is called, in the "silly season" of politics; let the mudslinging begin! The candidates and their aides are degenerating into the worst name-calling, mud-slinging, rumor mongering campaign than I can remember in a long time. I want no part of it. I've made up my mind on how I will vote and absolutely nothing will change it. If I continue to listen to the current headlines I might find myself packing a bag for Australia. A sample:

Obama aide: McCain tactics sleaziest in history (CNN)
Palin "scares the hell" out of Ed Koch (CNN)
Obama mocks McCain as computer illiterate (Breitbart)
War Injuries Prevent McCain from Typing on Keyboard (Politico)
Obama Plans Sharper Tone as Party Frets (NYTimes)
McCain's Blizzard of Lies (NYTimes)
Sarah Palin: Not Just a Liar, a Bad Liar (Daily Kos)
Once Elected Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes (NYTimes)
Sarah Palin's Hypocritical Oil Tax (The New Republic)

It goes on and on and it's coming from both sides. I'm sick of it. It's negative and non-productive and for the most part, like the lipstick mess, it's irrelevant. I'm going to watch the debates and I'll likely get back into the fray on some of that, but for now, I'm SICK OF the name-calling, finger-pointing, hate-feeding political game.


(Image credit: RonMartin.net)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shreveport, Meet Ike


Holy Cow!


I am a carnivore; I love a good, rare steak. And I don't care WHAT the global warming fanatics at the U.N. think, I'm going to continue to eat my steaks, cheeseburgers, and rare, rump roasts.

According to statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, I, as an average person in the industrialized world, eat 176 pounds of meat annually. But according to the FAO, I am killing the planet because cows pass methane gas. And because ranchers have to kill trees to make pastures for cows. Who pass methane gas.

It seems to me if all those cows are killing the planet, then I should eat them. Bad cows.

(Photo credit: Robert Nicklesberg/Getty)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Horrible Hurricane


I am trying to figure out why people don't evacuate in a hurricane like the one about to decimate Galveston, Texas. I just read this article where an estimated 11,000 to 20,000 people did not leave an area where officials told them they would face "certain death." If someone told me that, and then instructed me to write my social security number on my arm with a permanent marker, I think I might pay attention.

It is so horrible to watch what is likely to be such a tragic situation develop. God knows we hope that the weather folks are giving worst case scenario but it sure sounds dire. I totally don't understand Geraldo Rivera standing on a beach in Galveston broadcasting on Fox News right now. He's holding up a meter saying "117 mph winds! 117!" All kinds of junk is flying all around him and he has another guy standing next to him holding him up! What a freaking idiot!!

As for us, WAY up here in north Louisiana, we are supposedly looking for winds 39-74 mph and 4-6 inches of rain with possibility for tornadoes. I'm paying attention. As I am sure all over the country, gas is hard to find. I got gas on the way home from work with little problem but I saw my neighbors around 5 who had been out for a while looking for some. It's OUT all over town. Where there IS any, there are long, long lines.

What is so scary about this storm is these media folks talking about how this is the worst storm in YEARS; how large it is and how large the eye is and how large the storm surge is. They are using adjectives that they don't usually use! Those poor folks in south-western Louisiana who are just beginning to recover from Hurricane Rita...

Say a little prayer tonight for those folks that stayed behind all over that part of Texas. I have some friends in Houston that I'm worried about. Hopefully this will be the last storm for this season!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And One To Lift Your Heart...

If you haven't seen this already, you must. And if you have, you should watch it again. It lifted my heart (again) after a somber 9/11 day.


Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

And If THIS Doesn't Bring a Tear To Your Eye...

Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace, 9/11/2001



Even Steve shed a tear on this one.

Man's Best Friend


Steve left a comment on my 9/11 post in which he mentioned the rescue dogs at Ground Zero. This evening I came across this article on therapy and rescue dogs and what they did during those sad days. You should check it out; it's a great little story and will warm the heart of animal lovers everywhere. I love my little dog, whatever she is. I don't know if Checkers is more Boston Terrier or more French Bulldog, but she's a sweetie. Steve's dog Abby is a white German Shepherd and is a sweet dog, too. I have a neighbor down the street who has the most beautiful male German Shepherd in shades of black and brown; a most majestic looking dog. His name is Mojo. And Nikki's Bailey; how adorable is Bailey!

Honestly, lots of the time I can promise you that I like dogs more than I like most people!

(Photo credit: Peter Cihelka: The Free Lance-Star)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9/11/2001

Because I know you are dying to know, I will tell you where I was on 9/11/2001.

It was my first year at my current school; my 6th year teaching. I was on the second floor of the main building and we were wrapping up first block. Then the intercom buzzed and our principal came on with the announcement that the WTC had been attacked. My principal was an officer in the Army Reserves and I knew he had full comprehension of the gravity of the situation. The news was more than I could absorb right then, as it was with most everyone.

Our school is very near a large Air Force Base and we have lots of "base kids" enrolled. Many of them were considering the implications to come for their own families, I suspect. I know that Steve was. He was working at my school at that time as a school resource officer. As a member of the Army Reserves, he knew immediately what HIS implications were going to be.

My off-period was second block. I went to the school library where the big TV had been rolled out and tuned into Fox News. Many faculty members drifted in and out in the 90 minutes I was there just to see it for themselves. As with most Americans, I can still see those images as clearly as if it happened just yesterday. I remember Steve sitting at a table nearby, eyes glued to the screen, not moving. Knowing what was to come. He knew he would be activated. Our principal would be too.

Eventually I returned to my classroom. Numb, I walked through the breezeway, back to the main building. I remember, crystalized in time forever, looking up at the sky. It was clear sky blue; not a cloud in sight. There was a slight breeze and a lovely fall nip in the air. Such a beautiful day. Not one plane in the sky. Silent.

Later that night, in the dark, I sat on my deck and looked upward. Trying to comprehend the day's events. What struck me most was the stillness of the night; the silence. No planes.

George Bush came to Barksdale, AFB that day on his way back to Washington. He promised the nation that he would fight terror. He promised the nation to do everything in his power to keep 9/11 from happening again. He has kept his word. It has not happened again. I don't want to make this a political debate; you can give me all those tired arguments against Iraq, how he's not captured Osama, all of it. But he has kept his promise. I believe history will be the legacy of George Bush. Love him or hate him, history will be his judge, not you. Or me.

Every year since 9/11, my journal topic for my students has been along the lines of "where were you when 9/11 happened and how did it affect you personally or change your life?" Over the past year or two, more and more of them don't even remember what they were doing. I thought it would be one of those pivotal generational moments, like when Kennedy was shot. You'd always remember it. Now I get responses like, "Gosh, I guess I was in elementary school but I don't really remember."

I think on this day we should be non-partisan and come together, once again, as a nation. I don't think we should ever forget.

WTF?


Mr. Obama to Mr. Letterman:

"Just calling [ideas] change, calling them different doesn't make it better, hence lipstick on a pig," Obama said.

He then clarified his statements even more.

"Keep in mind, technically, had I meant it this way, [Palin] would be the lipstick. The failed policies of John McCain would be the pig, just following the logic of this illogical situation," Obama said.

So, she's not a pig, she's lipstick. This is supposed to be better?

(Image credit: CoxandForkUm.com)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Unsavory Politics


I was trying to sort of drift away from politics a little bit; last night I was too exhausted to post anything of relevance, politics or not. I'd had a couple of comments that my blog was more interesting when it was funny and not about politics but I really just write what is on my mind at the time.

At any rate, the campaign is sort of on my mind a little bit tonight. I'm thinking Peggy Noonan was right about the campaign getting ugly (not that it wasn't already). Case in point: the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Democrats have "airdropped a mini-army of 30 lawyers, investigators and opposition researchers" into Alaska in search of information on Sarah Palin. I suspect it is dirt they are trying to dig up, but I'll withhold judgment on that one for now. It is certainly fair that we are well informed about our candidates.

Another case in point: I watched Part 3 of Bill O'Reilly's interview with Obama (I did not watch the first two parts). I find Bill OReilly bombastic a lot of the time and overbearing. However, he asked Obama tonight about his associations with Wright, Resko and Ayers, making the point that there are a lot of unsavory folks in his circle of friends. Despite Obama's disclaimers, I find it just hard to swallow that he never heard Wright say anything that inflamatory in TWENTY years. With regard to Ayers, Obama is sticking to his talking points that he was 8 when Ayers bombed the Pentagon and therefore it has nothing to do with him. He said that Ayers was working with Mayor Daly at the time Obama met him and doing some good work in the community. In other words, I don't care what he did in his past, he's not doing it now. As if the amount of time between bombing the Pentagon and now makes it a less reprehensable act. It does not. What bothers me most about that is that Obama is, by this explanation, sticking by his association with Ayers, which I still find disturbing.

I'm not even going to touch his quote today: "You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig." I heard his explanation, dismissing it as a reference to McCain's statement about Hillary's health care plan, and I find that explanation paper thin. It's clearly an insulting reference to Palin and a comment which I find to be beneath him.

And finally, in Vanity Fair this week they priced out the outfits of Laura and Cindy from the convention. Give me a break. I cancelled my VF subscription ages ago because of their blatant liberalism and their hatred and disrespect for the President, but certainly they can find something more worthwhile to report than how much Cindy spent on her watch. WHY do they care if she inherited money from her father? How is that her fault and a reason to disparage her? Hasn't she done enough humanitarian work to atone for her sins of inheritance? If you are interested, here's what they spent:

Laura Bush
Oscar de la Renta suit: $2,500
Stuart Weitzman heels: $325
Pearl stud earrings: $600–$1,500
Total: Between $3,425 and $4,325

Cindy McCain
Oscar de la Renta dress: $3,000
Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500
Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000
Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000–$25,000
Shoes, designer unknown: $600
Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100

Of course, those are just estimates. From a liberal rag. But anyway.

As I said, I think Noonan was right earlier this week in her WSJ column and I really wish folks would just stick to the issues. And before you get all defensive on me, I mean BOTH sides. Just stick to the issues. The American people deserve that.

Just the Facts


Here's a link to the Newsweek article which clears up some false rumors about Sarah Palin. While I realize she's not EVERYone's "cup of tea" so to speak, I still support her as VP pick! The more I learn about her the more I like her.

(Photo credit: Newsweek)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Come To My House


I don't watch a lot of TV; most of what I watch is either news or old movies (1930s, 40s, 50s) . But, I can't wait until September 16 and the return of House! The Teenager is actually the first one who introduced me to this show, about 2 or 3 seasons in. We both loaded onto our iPods for the gazillion hour drive to Iowa from Louisiana. I watched the entire first season on that trip!

Huge Laurie is such an engaging actor and I have a sick fascination with his character on this show. His sarcasm and his ego are so, well, those aren't good qualities, are they? But on him they are.

The show has changed some through the seasons, adding Sela Ward and changing the "team" that assists House, but he's constantly adorable.

I'm also awaiting Grey's Anatomy. They lost me a bit on strike-year, but I'm going to give it a shot. I'm kind of over the soap-opera-everyone-sleep-with-everyone else thing, but if the writing gets back up to par I might stick it out. They' re on probation with me for a few episodes.

Other than that, I hardly notice the new tv season. I have a feeling I'm going to be watching a lot of politics over the next couple of months!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Small Town America


With all the talk in politics this week about "small town America," I was interested to read this article this morning in the New York Times. It's about the changing face of Iowa farms. (Be sure to click on the interactive map when you read that article; several small towns are spotlighted with 2 minute video clips and the pictures ARE Iowa - they are gorgeous).

One reason it caught my eye is because Steve is from Iowa and his family has been farming in Iowa for years. Steve's brother now runs the family farm that Steve and his brother and sisters grew up on in Grand River, Iowa; Steve's parents ran it before him and the grandparents before that. But farming is not what it used to be. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on farming or even know much about it, but I know that Iowa is beautiful country.

The first time I went to visit Iowa I was thinking "This is just going to be flat cornfields as far as the eye can see." I don't get out much. Not well travelled. I was stunned when I saw Iowa. Rolling hills. Every shade of green in the crayon box. Cows, gravel roads, Amish people, and barns. Barns of all types, styles and ages. There are preservation movements for many of the old barns because barns today are not what they used to be either. Equipment is different; needs are different.

One of the many things I love about Iowa is that midwestern, all-American way of life. Sure, you get into Des Moines or one of the other cities and you can be just as big-city as Dallas or anywhere else. But I like the small towns. I love Lamoni with its little shops, its public library and everybody-knows-everybody else way of life. I love Villisca with its town square with the war memorial and the tornado siren. I love Mount Ayr with its old movie theater and friendly people. Everywhere you go Ameican flags are proudly waving in the breeze. I haven't spent lots of time there, but there's something about Iowa and those small towns that makes you feel safe and like you are at home.

I know that lots of people who would never consider living in a place where there was no huge art museum or did not have a huge concert or sports venue. And we need those things. But in Iowa, I'm more than happy to sit around the fire pit in Sheryl's back yard cooking hotdogs over the open fire. I'm more than happy to light the citronella candles as the fireflies come out and the evening air holds a perpetual chill; listen closely and you hear the clip clop of the Amish heading home from selling baskets and jelly on the side of the road. You feel every nerve ending in your body relax as you sit there and listen to the low voices visiting, talking over fences, recounting their day while you gently rock back and forth in the patio swing.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Listening To...


Talking about Tom Hanks, I was reminded of his classic film "That Thing You Do" which I love. It's such wholesome, cheesy fun! If you've never seen it, you should (Netflix, Sarah!) Tom Everett Scott was adorable as Guy and Johnathon Schaech was the cutest jerk on film. But Liv Tyler stole the movie. I love that scene when she's putting letters in the mailbox, transistor radio in hand, when she hears Jimmy's song ON THE RADIO and takes off running down your "typical middle American main street" screaming her head off. She was gorgeous. Go ahead, click and take a little time trip! It's fun! If you don't tap your foot, there's something wrong with you.

Note to Obama


Dear Mr. Obama,

Shame on your campaign for dumping 12,000 flags in the dumpster after your big show at Invesco Field. You might be happy to know that they have been rescued by a vendor at the field and will be distributed by Boy Scouts to be used in Mr. McCain's rally this afternoon. We know you didn't personally dump the flags in the dumpster but you might want to advise your volunteers to study up on the U.S. Flag code. It doesn't make such a good impression on Americans when their flag is treated with disrespect. Thanks so much.

Your Average American

I Don't Like Ike


I'm not freaking out yet but I'm not happy with this picture. We have just cleaned out the shelters and gotten those poor people back home! I seriously hope this track changes over the next few days; I don't wish a hurricane on anybody but we've had it in Louisiana. It wasn't on the national news so much, but we got some major damage from Gustav. Once the levees in NOLA didn't break and flood everything, the national media got up and left, but in Alexandria, Natchitoches, Baton Rouge, and other places further south and west, they took a hit. Huge numbers of people were still without power yesterday.

As far as the shelter business goes, Darrell Rebouche covered that pretty well in his blog and posted some photos as well. For me, the last photo he posted tells the story (go ahead, go look!). Steve's department went on 12s, (12 hour shifts) and he just went back to regular schedule yesterday. He's beyond exhausted.

From all accounts, most of the evacs were grateful for the help but as always, there were some that were not. There were some that thought FEMA ought to put them up in a Ramada Inn instead of a shelter. Some didn't want to obey the rules at the shelter, such as the curfew. Others wanted to fight and several were arrested. Some complained about the food and some complained about the facilities themselves.

We got into a discussion about this in my first block class yesterday as we were talking about this new hurricane. Even my students had heard the press about the ungrateful evacs and were displeased. I tried to caution them that we need to put ourselves "in their skin" as Atticus Finch would say, and try to imagine the incredible stress they are under. Most of those people did not know if their homes were okay; everyone remembers the Katrina pictures and certainly people were worried about looting. And then Ray Nagin was telling them they couldn't come home (as soon as they wanted to). Quite stressful, I'm sure. People were worried about their pets, and some pets were even evacuated here and were housed in a special shelter. In Steve's shelter a chihuahua got left behind when its owner left and Steve has been worrying about that dog getting back home for days. (It will).

At any rate, Dear Ike, we hope you weaken to a little late summer thunderstorm and drift away to someplace other than Louisiana. We don't need you.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along?


Quoting Peggy Noonan's column today:

"Campbell Brown of CNN did nothing wrong for instance in pressing a campaign spokesman on Palin's foreign policy credentials. She was unjustly criticized for following an appropriate and necessary line of inquiry. But endless front page stories connected to Mrs. Palin's 17-year-old daughter? Cable news shows that had people insinuating Palin, whom America had not yet even met, was a bad mother, and that used her daughter's circumstances to examine Republican views on abstinence education? That was ugly.

In the end it made Palin the underdog, and gave her the perfect platform for the perfect dive she made Wednesday night.

We have had these old press fights in the past – they were a source of constant tension when I was a child, when Barry Goldwater came forward as a conservative and the press scorned him as a flake, and later when Ronald Reagan came up and the press dismissed him as Bonzo.

But this latest fight commences on a new and wilder battlefield. The old combatants were old school gentlemen, Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite; the new combatants are half-crazy cable anchors, the lower lurkers of the Internet, and the anonymous posters on the comment thread on the radical website.

This new war on new turf is not good, and carries the potential of great harm. Everyone really ought to stop, breathe deep, and think.

I am worried they won't. A friend IM'd the day after Palin's speech, and I told him of an inexplicable sense of foreboding. He surprised me by saying he shared it. "Calling all underworlds reporting for duty!," he wrote. "The bed is about to fly around the room, the puke is about to come out." He meant: this campaign is going to engage unseen powers and forces. He meant: this campaign, this beautiful golden thing with two admirable men at the top and two admirable vice presidential candidates, is going to turn dark."

After Noonan's open mic gaffe this week, I figured she would have to tread carefully into Palin territory. Gifter writer that she is, she did. And I like the point of this quote. Stop. Take a breath.

We've been going at it pretty good on this blog on some of the comments and I love that. I love the productive debate. I think it informs us all. I know that when one chooses to enter politics then basically you are volunteering yourself and your family to be flayed, salted, abused, tortured, examined, poked, and prodded. It's part of the game. But stop. And think. We have been respectful and fair on this site, I think, for the most part. But I think that some of the things said about Palin, about McCain, about Obama, about Michelle, in the media have been mean. Hateful mean. When Randi Rhodes said on her program tonight that Palin should "just stay home and raise her retarded baby" that just crosses a line.

I'm in agreement with Ms. Noonan. We need to be real careful here as this campaign continues. Politics is politics, but hate is hate. And I don't do hate.

Curl Up and Read


When I got home yesterday a book I ordered had arrived in the mail. Honestly, I spend MORE of my discretionary income on books than absolutely anything else. I have on my beside table at least five books waiting patiently in line to be read, and I have two old favorites standing by. The two old favorites are both E.B. White; one is his letters, and one is a collection of essays. I love E.B. White. Like Noonan, he has a conversational, easy writing style that I just love.

The book that arrived yesterday was for "The Teenager" who I don't talk about in this blog because he has a private life and teenage years are hard enough without them being posted on the internet. But he also loves to read. And a lot of those books I order? They are for him because I totally love for him to read.

He mostly loves reading sports biographies, mostly football players. But of course we've been through the Harry Potters and the Paolini books, and Jonathon Stroud. Artemis Fowl. ALL the Buffy series books (there are LOTS of those.) I put in his hands today his first Stephanie Meyer book and he has not come up for air. I love this. The video game is off. So is the TV. He said, "Mom, this is good. I want them all." (He likes series books).

I've never read any Stephanie Meyer but she's getting a lot of buzz now with her latest release and people say good things about her books. It's just not my genre, really. But I'm thrilled that my teenager is curled up with a good book on a Friday night. My kinda kid!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Celebrity Worship



I have a lot of friends who are more tuned into celebrity-worship than I am so I am appealing to you for an answer. In this article we have the lovely Annette Bening coming down on Palin. That's fine - that's her right. I don't care. What just GETS me is why celebrities think they are more relevant than anyone else when it comes to politics just because they are famous?

Back in the "golden era" of Hollywood, when you were under contract to a studio, you did NOT discuss your politics in public and your dirty laundry personal life was also private. Actually, your private life was pretty much managed and manufactured by the studio. Times are different, celebs own their own studios and can do what they want.

I do NOT deny their right to express their opinion. Of course they can, just as I can. It's just when they get all preachy that gets under my skin. Johnny Depp comes to mind. I used to really like Johnny Depp's movies, but he got all "I hate America and I can't stand to come to America I'm going to stay in Europe until we have politicians in power that I can stand" on everybody. Gwynneth? You hate America? Fine. Stay in Europe. Shut up already.

It's not just politics. I mean I loved Tom Cruise. But he lost me long before he jumped on The Oprah's couch. Now I can't even stand to look at him. I mean, the way he tried to shut down SouthPark because he didn't like their Scientology episode....good grief. Get a grip.

There's a point when we know too much about celebrities. There is a point where it begins to damage their careers. I mean, Tom Hanks? John Travolta? They are just as political or Scientologized as others but they keep it to themselves for the most part. And I love their work. I do not care if LiLo and Sam Ronson are holding hands. Their business. I do not care if Britney is wearing underwear for crying out loud. But folks like Cruise and Depp and Gwynnie - I can't separate their work from their opinions anymore.

Do I just not GET the whole celeb thing?

Tommy Bolt


I read today that Tommy Bolt died. This is sad to me and I never met him; on top of that, he lived a long, full life. Tommy Bolt was a great golfer and when I was growing up, Golf, (yes, with a capital "G" was always on.) I come from a LONG line of golfers even though I never played. My grandfather, father, and brother played, all very well. In fact, Dad even beat Tommy once in a local tournament.

Tommy Bolt, as my Dad used to tell it, could have been a much greater golfer than he was and he was pretty damn good! But, oh the legendary temper. Bolt was known for throwing clubs; in fact, he slung one in Texarkana that my mom had to duck. My Dad knew Tommy Bolt; Bolt moved to Shreveport when he was 6. As my mom tells the story, times were hard and Tommy's family lived "over the river" in Bossier; he was a little self-conscious about his family's economic status and one night after hanging out (drinking!), my Dad was driving him home. Tommy had Dad drop him at the Shreveport foot of the bridge so he could walk home from there rather than have Dad see where he lived.

Another Bolt story is that Tommy had to play in a big local tournament. He did not have any clubs; because of his bad temper he had either wrapped his clubs around a tree or thrown them into the pond, I can't remember. But he had no clubs for the tournament, so he asked Dad if he could borrow his. Dad was really nervous about it because he didn't want Tommy to lose his temper and throw HIS clubs in the pond. But he loaned them to Bolt and all went well; Bolt even won the tournament and began a come back from a long, dry spell. Dad always took a sort of silent credit for Bolt's success!

I hope Dad and Tommy are up there at the 19th hole reliving the old days.

(Photo credit: AP)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008