Monday, December 29, 2014

The Space Race and Other Loose Thoughts

On the go this morning, but be sure to read this most excellent article by Charles Fishman in The Atlantic; it's also the subject of my DaTechGuy post going up later today.

I've always had a fascination with space; maybe it's generational.  I remember the lift-offs, the splash-downs, and the human drama and achievement it all epitomized.

With the cessation of manned spaceflight, it seemed there was nothing much more to watch.  The human element was gone.

Fishman's article brings back that human element and paints a picture of the American space mission today.

A must read.

Oh, and Lucky got adopted!  Read about that, too.  I'm over the moon about that!  (see, I've got this whole space thing going today).

H/T: Instapundit.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from SIGIS!

Merry Christmas!

It's been a lovely Christmas season Chez SIGIS; we did the family thing last weekend and my grandson - 2-1/2 years old - is a joy.  So cute!

We have a few more activities before we hunker down for the day tomorrow and unwind, relax, and rejuvenate.  Oh, and I will, of course, watch A Christmas Story marathon as tradition dictates.

Looking back, it's been a very nice year and we've been truly blessed.

Going forward into 2015, I hope to do better in keeping this blog updated - I know we've talked about this before, but the political landscape right now is so horrible, so beyond horrible, that I just haven't been able to blog politics too much.  I did celebrate the defeat of Mary Landrieu this year, which was nice.  I may be able to pick back up with politics as the ever-lengthening presidential election season heats up but it will depend on the candidates.  For now, let's just say NO MORE BUSHES.


I will be very, very busy in 2015 trying to finish the book I'm working on.  I've spend almost a year doing the research and that is not yet complete, but close.  Even still, there are sections that I can work on in the mean time and have already written a measly 10,000 words.  A drop in the bucket.  But, my goal is to have a manuscript by the fall of 2015.  We shall see.  The process certainly eats up all blogging time, though, thus my extended breaks between posts.

Steve and I both have become involved with the animal rescue community here in Shreveport-Bossier and are finding that very rewarding.  We both hope to do more with that in 2015.  The first item on the agenda will be Justice for Braveheart -- the jury trial for Braveheart's abuser will be in January.  I can't fathom why this person's attorney is letting this case go to a jury trial so this will be interesting.  What jury in the world would look at those pictures and let this man off?  He has no defense.  He already admitted everything.  I can't imagine what the defense will be.

We still have not heard anything from the SPD on the investigation from October.

So, I'm off to enjoy the holiday and hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas.  I know it's a difficult time of year for many of us, myself included, but I'm finding that new traditions and new celebrations help.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Loose Thoughts

Centenary Candlelight Service 2014
This is such a busy time of year and my already sporadic blogging has been more sporadic than usual it seems.  It seems like about all I can get together as far as blogging goes is my weekly contribution to DaTechGuy's blog.  Between Christmas, the book, and my job it seems like there's no time left for blogging!  But, here's a quick check in:

1.   Tomorrow is Pearl Harbor Day:  take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in service that day and in the days following.  One of the things on my bucket list is to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial one day.  Even in her last few years, my mother would still tear up and struggle to talk about the friends she lost that day.  Here's a fellow that was there:
Bombs were dropped on surrounding Ameican aircrafts, except the planes in the photographic squadron Pouyadou belonged to. "Our aircrafts were able to get up and start taking pictures," Pouyadou said. 
He stepped into action and helped survivors get medical assistance.
"There were bodies everywhere. We were leaving the dead and picking up the people we thought we could save their lives," Pouyadou said. 
As Pouyadou opened the door of the dispensary, headed out with a stretcher carried with the assistance of his partner, he heard the whistling of a bomb.
He yelled at his partner to jump as the bomb hit the dispensary, but the bomb did not go off. 
"It was a dud. That's the only reason he's alive," said Becky Pardue, Pouyadou's daughter, as she sat next to her father Friday evening listening to his story.
2.  I'm trying to get Christmas together; ever since I lost my mom, almost two years ago, Christmas has been hard.  I keep telling myself that pretty much almost everyone my age has lost their parents, or at least one of them, and do know that I'm very lucky to have had her for as long as I did.  I know others have lost parents and even children and we all keep going.  But sometimes the memories rush back when I least expect them and suck the air right out of me.  Last year I walked into the grocery store right after Thanksgiving and saw the candied fruit for fruitcake sitting up front in a big holiday display; because making fruitcake cookies was one of the things mom and I did together it triggered a flood of memories and there I was feeling sorry for myself and sobbing through the store.  Felt like an idiot.

But there's progress.  I saw a similar display this year and no tears.  Some sadness and longing, but no tears.

It's a process, I guess.  I'm okay.

About six months after mom died I got an email from a reader who told me she just couldn't read my blog until I quit grieving so publicly about my loss.  It sounds harsh, I guess, and I was taken aback at first, but she was right.  It was a sort of virtual "Snap out of it!" moment that I needed.  I still grieved, but in private.  Nobody wants to read about how sad you are, right?!  Anyway, Christmas is a difficult time of year for everyone who has lost someone close, and I'm more conscious of that now than I used to be.  All this forced cheer and merriment sometimes is rough.  But we make new traditions and memories and forge ahead.

3.  To that end, Steve and I went to the Centenary College annual Candlelight Service at Brown Chapel last night -- why have I never done this before?!  I've lived in the shadow of this college my entire life and have never attended this event.  It was simply lovely, the choir sounded like angels, and the moment at the end of the service when the lights go down and the chapel is filled with congregants holding lighted candles and singing "Silent Night" was surreal.  Such a feeling of peace!  The only thing that would have made it better would have been to walk out of the little chapel and find snow, but we got fog.  It's enough.  It was wonderful.

4.  I'm deep into this book I'm working on about Cammie Henry and Melrose Plantation.  She's simply enchanted and fascinated me and so it goes.  I spent most of last summer in the archives at Northwestern in Natchitoches and have made a few trips this fall.  The Melrose collection there is massive and I'm reading my way through a great deal of it as it relates to Cammie and the Melrose group.  At home I have dozens of books I've collected for research and spend my time reading and studying those.  I've got a couple of good systems going for organizing all this information (and it's massive!), but we're still quite a ways away from a finished book.  I'm trying to be very thorough and I'm so OCD about things I check and cross-check everything.  I'm optimistically saying another year, but it may be two.  Or longer.

5.  This is my favorite time of year at work -- we have Senior Project presentations next week.  My kids have worked so hard, and I've driven them like a mad woman.  It's so stressful for them but the payoff is after the presentations and they all feel such confidence and pride.  Senior Project has its drawbacks -- we lose a lot of time for literature with it, but at this particular time of the process, I really like it.  Just filled with pride for my students!

6.  Mary Landrieu is going to lose her job today.  Prediction.  I need to go vote.

7.  The news nationwide is so depressing I just can't even bring myself to blog it right now.  The Ferguson thing and the Eric Garner case in New York -- everyone else is weighing in on those and my little voice will contribute nothing.  I have strong feelings in both cases but I'm keeping them to myself.  Both are incredibly polarizing.  I will say this:  the race-baiters like Sharpton and Jackson make me go ballistic.  Angry, angry, angry.  Why can't people see that they are simply stirring up emotions for the purpose of lining their own pockets?  I loathe them.

8.  Lots of you have asked about the outcome of our incident with the SPD storming into our home and pointing a gun at Steve's heart:  no word from the Internal Affairs investigation yet.  I'm not sure what their timeline is on these investigations but I will note that it's been over a month, now.  We were told we would be notified of the outcome, so we shall see.  I'll keep you posted.  Everytime someone knocks on my door unexpectedly now I almost jump out of my skin.  It's getting better, but that was just CRAZY!

I think that covers my loose ends for now.  It's a quiet morning here at Casa SIGIS so I'm going to make another cup of coffee and try to work on my Cammie project.

Stay in touch!  Is anybody still out there?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lucky Update

Lucky:  November 23
Update 12/29/14:  So very happy to report that Lucky has been adopted by one of the vet techs at Benton Animal Hospital!  She and her husband have fallen in love with Lucky and so Lucky will be moving with them to their new home next month.  He will have a life full of love and kisses and I couldn't be happier for him.  A perfect ending and a new beginning for Lucky!  Congratulations to all and big public thank you to Benton Animal Hospital for their support and unending care for Lucky!

You remember Lucky?

Steve and I went to Petco today to the TSR La Baby Momma Rescue group's adoption event and we got to check in on Lucky.  What a difference some loving care can make!

Look at our boy, now!

Lucky had a challenging day in his quest for a furever home because there were at least 20 cute, fluffy puppies at the event, but he was still just as happy and friendly as he could be.  He was sniffing and kissing everyone who walked up, but one after another turned to the puppies.  But it's okay because I know Lucky will end up with a loving home and when he does, it will be the right one.

If I didn't have three rescue dogs already I would take Lucky into my home in a heartbeat!

Many of you donated to Benton Animal Hospital for his care after he
Lucky: October 30
was rescued, so I just wanted to update you and let you see your donations at work.  He's still improving daily but it's clear right now that he's a beautiful and loving dog.  Even after the abuse he endured as a bait dog, he is today sweet, loving, and full of kisses; even better, he is friendly to all the animals (he even made friends with a goat).  He just wants to be loved.

Thanks for your donations for Lucky!  He thanks you too, I'm sure!  And if you, or someone you know, is looking for a sweet little dog who will love you forever (and won't chew up your shoes), contact Ronda Spataro at Benton Animal Hospital, or come to Petco on Youree Sunday, November 30 from 12 to 5, and you can meet Lucky.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Am Not a Smart Geek

Most people are probably a lot more technologically savvy than me, and if you scoff at my technological ignorance it really won't hurt my feelings.  I can screw up something as simple as an iTunes account so badly that it takes a genius to unscramble it and get it back to something resembling normal.

That's were SmarterGeek comes in.

Let me explain.  Briefly.  The adult child that lives at home (going to school) upgraded to the iPhone 6.  We use the same Apple ID ( I know, I know...) and didn't realize that in order for me to NOT receive his incoming text messages (never a good idea) we simply had to uncheck one of the devices in the settings on the phone.  Before we figured that out, however, we attempted to set up a new Apple ID for him and somehow erased the original Apple ID (mine).  This seems like it would be okay -- just use the new one, right?


The problem got ugly when my iPad began prompting me to verify my iCloud account.  My password didn't work, of course, because that Apple ID was no longer in service.  I couldn't log out of it because I had to log into it in order to log out of it.

You see the problem.

The new phone was working great, but my devices were freaking out.  Many of my apps were inaccessible because of this Cloud issue and of course nothing would back-up.

So I tried to fix things, we reset passwords and reset the reset passwords; we tried to go back to how it was originally, before the phone upgrade.  The mess got worse and Apple disabled the account.

I vented on Facebook about how awful Apple is (and it was never Apple's fault) and my friend Rex at SmarterGeek said, "Call me.  We can fix this."

I could never have fixed it without his services.  Never.  We spent most of yesterday on the phone -- first so he could untangle the mess and diagnose the problem, and then we had to eventually do a conference call with Apple because the original email account had to be rescued.  I couldn't have even called Apple myself because I didn't know how to tell them what the problem actually was or how to tell them what I needed.  Rex anticipated a couple of issues that we were able to straighten out before they were problems.

In the end, my devices are back to normal and working fine (I think!).  The kid's devices are working fine too, except that he has to delete and re-install some apps because they were purchased under a different Apple ID and now they won't work.  We need to figure out a way to get his music onto his device, too, but in light of what we just went through, these seem like minor problems.  He's a little out of joint about it all because a couple of his apps were gaming apps where he had attained certain "levels" (no, not Candy Crush!), and he's disgruntled about having to start over, but hey, you can't have everything.  He's got a new iPhone 6, after all.

Anyway, all this is to say, if you ever need tech services, call SmarterGeek.  There isn't much he can't do, from what I can see.  What I most appreciated is that throughout the whole process I was in stressed out, panic, hair-on-fire meltdown mode and Rex was very calm and not alarmed in the least, which helped me calm down a little; his confidence that he could fix this was reassuring.

So, I'm sharing this in the hope that maybe I can avert a similar mess for someone else, and if such a mess occurs, know that there is hope and someone out there who can fix the problem!

And always, always, have your own Apple ID.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day and a Lizard

With the schools closed today for election day, I had a rare day off.  I was full of big plans to spend the entire day working on my manuscript, but an aging dog who had to be let outside every two hours last night derailed that plan.  I may have slept two hours the entire night -- and not all at once.

Today I managed to go vote and to take a picture of a lizard.

Thank goodness I filled out a sample ballot yesterday.  With multiple local elections, a Senate race, and fourteen amendments on the ballot there's no telling what I'd have voted for (or against) without my cheat sheet.

My brain is in a fog today.

Hope you voted!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Take a Trip to The Battle of Natchitoches

Today the South rose again in the fictional battle of Natchitoches.

The little city of  Natchitoches, Louisiana celebrates its 300th birthday this year and as a result there has been something exciting happening in the area all year long;  this weekend there was a Civil War reenactment in which Confederate and Union forces fought it out on Front Street.

There never was an actual battle for Natchitoches, although of course there were many Civil War skirmishes in the area and there were well known battles at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill roughly 35 miles away.  Grand Ecore was important, too.  There was plenty of Civil War activity around these parts, but never any actual "Battle of Natchitoches."

But today, there was a Battle of Natchitoches!

We got there about 10:30 this morning and the encampments were waking up, finishing off breakfast, and setting up shops and displays.

Steve got a t-shirt.

We walked around and looked at the camps.

And listened to a fellow playing an accordion by the river.

There was a blacksmith there making cool items for sale:

Around noon the Confederate troops marched down Church Street from the riverfront and gathered outside the Immaculate Conception church on 2nd Street where they received a blessing of their standard from the priest.

The ladies followed behind their men:

And then the blessing... front of Lasyone's, where they make the best meat pies in the world.


Then the Confederate troops headed to their bivouac area while the Union troops gathered by the Cane River.   I loved the period costumes the ladies wore...

...but they were all in character with the ladies shouting "Get those Yankees!  Get 'em, boys!"

The boys in gray plotted the battle plan...

...and the Union forces got their final instructions...

The tents sat empty.

Finally the Union forces made it up to Front Street...

...and the Confederate troops began marching up the side streets toward Front Street.

The ladies waited on the sidelines...

and the battle began.

It was fun as a spectator.  These guys were looking around the corner waiting for the Confederate troops to make a move; one guy looked over at us and asked, "Are they coming yet?"  Steve shouted, "Why would we tell you?  We're on their side!"  They laughed -- everyone was having fun.

Soon the air was filled with smoke as the two sides fought it out:

It wasn't long before we had a man down...

(But he got up later, saying "I feel much better, guys!" and rejoined the battle).

I got a kick out of the photographers trying to get a good shot of the "dead man."

He got right on down there with him...

Men were "down" on both sides.

And the battle raged on.

This went on for probably 30 or 45 minutes I guess.  Maybe longer.  There was a lot of firing and the smell of cordite hung in the air.


Finally the Confederate troops captured the Union army's regimental flag... Steve said, right there in front of the Japanese sushi bar on Front street!

And with much cheering, the battle was done.

The ladies were happy:

Then the armies gathered up their "fallen" and off they went.

The troops returned to their "camps"...

...And we went to find some lunch.

It was my first reenactment so I really didn't know what to expect; I loved it!  It was just good fun on a gorgeous fall afternoon.

Many, many groups from all over the country took place in this reenactment.  I was impressed with their authenticity, their good humor, their willingness to share their knowledge and talk history with anyone who wanted to visit.   Families and kids were all involved in it together; kids were shoveling dirt over campfires as the adults broke camp and loaded up to hit the road.

It was a fun day!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Friday, October 31, 2014

Lucky's Best Day

Look at this adorable face!

This is "Lucky" on his way to Benton Animal Hospital yesterday.  He was found by a former student of mine after being starved and abandoned.  Now, Lucky is at BAH getting the veterinary care that he needs.

Lucky breaks my heart because as soon as we got him to the vet yesterday, we learned that he was definitely used as a "bait dog."  You can see on his tail where he had been repeatedly tied to a stake and therefore unable to defend himself.  His ears are chewed away at the edges and he has defensive wounds on his legs.

Lucky is about a year old and has probably never known proper nutrition; his feet are flat because he never had the proper amount of calcium and nutrients for them to grow properly; this can be remedied with vitamins, supplements, and good nutrition.

My mission here is two-fold.  First, we have got to have tougher laws against animal abuse.  We have got to do a better job educating people about the existence of this kind of behavior and somehow make a change.  How in the world anyone could tie a puppy to a stake and use him as bait in training
fighting dogs is beyond me.  There must be tougher penalties for this!

Second:  Lucky needs some financial donations.  The good people at Benton Animal Hospital are taking care of him.  Steve and I took him in yesterday afternoon and by the end of the day he had been examined (no heartworms!  no parasites!) and given a round of vaccinations.  He's got to be neutered when he is healthy enough and he's got to have a strong nutritional program.  If we can get some donations phoned into Benton Animal Hospital for Lucky, he can get the care he needs.  And when it's time for him to go to a foster or a rescue, having donations tagged to him will help make him a more attractive candidate.

Lucky has never known love until my friend found him last week.  All he has known is abuse.  I believe we can do better for him.  No more abuse.  He deserves to know love.  He deserves a safe, warm bed at night and to be a loyal companion for someone.  This is the friendliest dog I've ever seen.  After everything he's been through he is totally people-friendly and dog-friendly.

He is still offering unconditional love.

We can help him/  Please call Benton Animal Hospital at 318-965-2371 and tell them you want to make a donation to Lucky.  Even if it's just $5.00, it will help him./

He's a good dog!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Shreveport Police Storm the Wrong House and Draw Down on Innocent Citizen

UPDATE #2: 11/1/14:  I've received some emails asking about the status of this investigation; there is no update to share yet.  I can only say that we have filed a formal complaint with the Internal Affairs Department of the Shreveport PD and we are awaiting the outcome of that investigation.  Beyond that I don't want to say anything else; I want to let the investigation take place without putting the officer or the PD on trial here.  

The comments on this post have been vigorous and interesting.  Please remember to refrain from insulting each other!  Be nice!  And remember, not all officers are over-zealous like this one.  Most are doing good, honest work.  

I'll update more details when I can.  Thanks.

UPDATE:  The Shreveport police administration is actively responding to this investigation in a positive manner and have been in contact with us.  I'll update with what I can when I can, but please know that we do support the Shreveport police department and the officers on the job.  This was a bad situation and hopefully an isolated one.  Thank you for your support.

As the wife of a retired police officer, I appreciate more than most people the dangers that police officers face on a daily basis.  It's a dangerous job and most people wouldn't do it.

That being said, I had my first encounter with an over-zealous police officer last night and it scared the ever living hell out of me.

Scene:  Saturday night, about 8:30.  Steve and I are sitting in our living room with the World Series on television.  Kansas City was leading the Giants 4 - 1.  Steve can't stand listening to Joe Buck so the sound was turned way down.  He was working on his computer and I was reading a book on my iPad, and all three dogs were sleeping around us.

We have relatively new neighbors in the house directly behind us and these people have small children.  Lately the weather has been cool, turning to fall, and the evenings pleasant so the children are often playing out in the backyard, squealing and screaming as kids will do.  Yesterday their father was out there with them doing some home repair because I heard saws going and some hammering.   The kids don't bother me; I'm glad kids play outside and are not stuck in front of video games.

As Steve and I are watching the game, we can hear the kids playing and screaming; he asked me if I heard that because he wasn't sure what he was hearing; it could have been on the TV, which as I said, was turned way down.  I confirmed that I heard the kids screaming and we went on about our business.

About 15 minutes later, about 8:45, Steve looks up from his computer and says, "Hey, there are police outside, I mean RIGHT outside."  He could see the lights flashing through the blinds.  He got up and peeked out the blinds and saw patrol cars, and he saw officers with flashlights running down the driveway that cuts between my house and the neighbor's house: it's a wide double driveway that we share.

I stood up from the couch to look and as I crossed my living room I saw officers with flashlights running between my house and the neighbor's house on the other side.  One was shouting "It's back here, it's back here!"

I said, "Steve, they're over here now," and pointed to the window.  About that time there is a fierce pounding on my front door and lights pointed at my house.  "Open up!  Open up right now!"  Pounding, pounding on the door.

Steve tells me to grab the dog (the Lab who is very protective, but not barking) opened the front door and starts to ask what in the world is going on when this cop with his gun drawn and aimed at Steve's chest starts screaming "Get back!  Get back!  Who is screaming in this house?  Who is screaming!"  The cop props one foot on the threshold-step and continues screaming at us.

Steve raises his hands in an open gesture, the way you do when a cop is aiming a gun at you, and said, "What are you talking about?  Nobody is screaming in here!"

The cop, with the gun still aimed at Steve, looks at me and yells:  "Who else is in this house, who is doing that screaming?!"

I said, "Nobody is screaming in here!  It's those children behind us!  We have kids living behind us and they play in their backyard!"  And Steve is saying "We're just sitting here watching the baseball game!"  And the dog is standing there, who I've never managed to grab because this happened so fast, but he isn't barking or charging at the cop, thank goodness.

Steve tells him, "I'm a police officer, I'm a retired Bossier City police officer; we are just sitting here watching baseball!"

At that point the cop turns his gun so he's no longer aiming it at Steve but still has it in a firing grip, he turns to the officers standing behind him and in the driveway, and says "It's the house behind, on the other street!"  and takes off running.

Steve hollers after him, "What's your name!" and the officer gives it to him.

We closed the door in stunned silence.

We stared at each other, in silence, and then the fear and adrenaline hit me.  I started shaking and trembling and could not stop.  I sat back down on the couch, got back up, Steve is dumbfounded and then furious.  He gets on his cell phone and calls to speak to a supervisor and I walked outside on the back deck to see if I could hear anything.

I saw flashing police lights and the neighbor's back flood light was still on.  I heard a stereo playing, maybe from their house, maybe another house.

I went back inside and Steve was still on the phone demanding to speak to a supervisor.  He finally got a lieutenant to come to the house to talk to us; he came within about thirty minutes and he had Mr. Over-Zealous Cop with him.  We had the door open, watching through the storm door for the lieutenant to show up and we saw Mr. Over-Zealous walking the supervisor through the run down the driveway and down the other side of the house, explaining what they did.  Then Mr. Over-Zealous walks back to the street, crosses his arms, and leans against his patrol car watching us as we speak to the supervisor.

In the end, the whole thing was terrifying.  I know it could have been much worse; I kept thinking what if my dog had jumped at the cop?  He would have shot him.  What if the cop thought Steve was making a threatening move?  Would he have shot him?  He was definitely drawn down on him.  What if my 22-year old son had come out of his room, walked around the corner into this scene - would he have shot him?  What if Steve and I had gone out and my son was home alone to face this craziness?

The what-ifs kept me up all night long and haunt me.

Like I said, I know it could have been worse, because no shots were fired in this case, and you certainly read about incidents that have gone wrong all the time.

I blame all this on the over-militarization of the police force.  Officers dress like SWAT teams now in all black or in riot gear with cargo pockets all over them.  What happened to first assessing the scene before you draw down on a civilian?  What happened to knocking on the door and saying, "Hey, we've got a noise complaint and just need to be sure everything is OK in here."   And if he really thought someone was in mortal danger, why just take our word for it before running off to terrorize someone else?  When they were running between the houses, we had open windows (actually OPEN windows, as well as open blinds and curtains) and any officer could have looked inside or listened to see what was going on before drawing down on us.

I know police work is dangerous and I know that domestic calls are often the most dangerous.  I appreciate the difficulty of their job.  But with any job, your first responsibility is to do no harm, to avoid making any situation worse, and to act responsibly.

It is my own personal opinion that this officer is a menace and should not be on the street.  He very easily could have done something very, very bad last night.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In the Weeds

I am beginning to see why this book hasn't been written by anyone else in the past.  I think I'm also beginning to see why OCD people can not write books.  Or maybe they write the best books.  I'm not sure yet.

It drives me insane when none of my sources agree on the most basic of dates - dates you think should be able to be confirmed rather easily, like say, a marriage, or a death.  A newspaper article says one thing, a wedding announcement another, and a family genealogical chart says still another.  I can't even get a clear consensus on the name of a parish where someone was born - Assumption or Ascension?  My subject herself has said both in her own handwritten notes.

Even sources you think would be reliable do not even agree on the correct number of children - that one, however, I have nailed down.

Yet still, I spend all my time in the weeds, confirming each tiny fact with multiple, as-reliable-as-possible sources.  Checking, cross-checking and re-checking.

I'm going to drive myself crazy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bill Bush: A Shreveport Legend

Shreveport has lost a music legend.

Local legend Bill Bush died yesterday.  You can go to the very nice Shreveport Times article for the official write-up, courtesy of the talented John Andrew Prime.  In fact, I'll copy/paste some of it here because it won't be there forever:

Bush was elected to represent Council District D in 1982 and was unopposed in a re-election bid in 1986. He chose not to run for re-election for a third term in 1990, opting instead to run for Shreveport mayor in a 12-candidate field. He placed third in that primary, which wound up pitting Hazel Beard against Dr. C.O. Simpkins. He ran unsuccessfully for state Senate District 38 in 1987.
Bush’s first race was in 1978 against local attorney John B. Hussey, who praised his one-time opponent.
“We were both Democrats,” recalled Hussey, who served as mayor from 1982 to 1990. “It was kind of an open primary. There were four of us running, and Bill and I got into the runoff. I beat him in the runoff. But unlike a lot of political campaigns, we got to be friends.”


A Byrd High School and Centenary College graduate, Bush was involved with alumni associations, the Progressive Men’s Club, Local 116 of the American Federation of Musicians, Holy Cross Episcopal Church, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Downtown Shreveport Unlimited, Historical Preservation of Shreveport, the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the Shriners and the Elks.
He was known for his work with the Bill Bush Combo, an entity he first formed after being asked, as a football player at Byrd High School, to perform at a pep squad talent show his senior year.
“Before each Byrd game,” a Times profile of Bush in 1968 read, “the football coach warned players ‘Don’t step on Bush’s fingers,’ because he played for the post-game dances.”
He also encouraged younger musicians, taking them under his wing for stints in his combo, or hiring them for gigs at his downtown nightclub, Bill Bush’s Moulin Rouge, which he owned and operated from 1971 to 1990.

I, along with hundreds of others, called Bill a friend.  Of course we all knew Bill from his days as owner of the Moulin Rouge on Common Street in Shreveport, and his political days, and for the past few years Steve and I have been going to The Anvil restaurant on Tuesdays to hear Bill play.  I'm going to have to change my Anvil night - I don't think I can do Tuesdays anymore.

There are so many stories and reminiscences about Bill that people have shared in the past 24 hours.  Mine are trivial in comparison, I suppose.  Honestly, there was never, ever, ever a time that he didn't come sit at our table with us and visit about something.  We talked about baseball, politics, music, travel, just about every subject under the sun.

I was always amazed at Bill's memory: he could tell you who wrote nearly every song you threw at him and who recorded it and what year.  And more than likely, he could play it.  He had the kindest heart I've ever seen in a human - for both adults and children.  Many nights we saw him sing "The Wheels on the Bus" for a kid at the restaurant or he might pull a child up and hand him a cowbell or a tambourine to play along with him.

One night his mother was in town from Texas and he had her come up to the keyboard and play.  They did a couple of songs together and it was the sweetest thing I've ever seen.  And Bill's sister Becky, who worked at The Anvil, stood by smiling from ear to ear.

And Bill laughed: he had the funniest stories.  One night he told us about a trip he made to France when he was on the City Council.  He was trying to set up a "sister city" deal and was in a club one night; in visiting with the staff he told them that he lived in the US and that he was the owner of The Moulin Rouge.  Language barriers being what they are, they thought he meant the Moulin Rouge in Paris.  They questioned him and he produced his AmEx business card which said, "Bill Bush Moulin Rouge" and he said he got the best service of his life after that!

Bill loved his trips to Mexico and he had a song he always played for me; he said he wasn't sure of the name, that a friend had played it for him, but he thought it was "La Bochina."  I've never been able to find the same song recorded anywhere, but I have a recording of Bill playing it for me on my iPhone.

I listened to it last night and cried.

I can't believe I'll never hear him do that song again.

He always played Route 66 for Steve and me because he knew we loved taking that trip in the summers.

He was such fun; one night last December his friend Jeri brought him a Santa hat to wear while he did his Anvil gig and of course he wore it all night:

One night he slid into our booth, scotch in hand, and we got into a discussion about politics.  Well, you know that Bill and I were polar opposites on politics, but it just didn't matter to him.  He was so good natured about hearing differing opinions.  This was shortly after Obamacare had passed and of course Bill was all for it.  He simply couldn't understand what we all thought was bad about it and genuinely listened to our position.  And then he began to explain his position, and my jaw dropped.  I said, "You really believe that?"  and he looked at me as innocently and intelligently as anyone I've ever seen and said, "Well, yes, I do."

If ever a liberal made any sense at all to me, Bill could.  He so whole-heartedly believed what he believed but he would always, always listen to the other side without animosity or hostility.

He was as good a man as I have ever known and I will miss him every single day.  He was, by all definitions, a gentleman.

I know that Bill missed his wife Judy deeply after she died earlier this year.  He grieved for her.  When she was in the hospital he took her dinner and held her hand before coming to his gig at the restaurant.

I like to think that now they are sipping a cocktail together and he is singing love songs to her once again.

Rest in peace, my friend Bill.  I miss you.

(Top photo courtesy of The Shreveport Times)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Birthdays Aren't So Bad...

This has been a simply fab birthday, so far!

I'm not much for birthdays, really; the older I get...well, I actually had to do the math today to double check how old I am today and to my pleasure discovered I'm a year younger than I thought.

That was good news.


Since there's no rule about NOT having to work on your birthday, I went to work.  I'm having a good semester and my kids are working hard, doing everything I ask of them, and doing it without complaint.  What more can I ask?

When my first block found out it was my birthday today they were at first a little irritated that I hadn't told them; as we transitioned into our last activity of the morning I noticed Timmothy was out of his seat and walking around to other groups with his paper in hand.  Ever diligent, I directed him to sit back down and he complied.  Then (head-smack!) I figured out what he was up to.

They'd made me a card!

My heart melted.  And Timmothy forgot to sign it!  So he made me a bookmark that noted "This was Timmothy's idea!" and he drew a picture of a Jolly Rancher.    Well, I just love it.

My daughter sent me these gorgeous flowers:

And my 22-year old son, for the first time ever, went out to a store and bought me a gift and two cards (one from the cats!).

I cried.

Steve and I will go out to dinner tomorrow with friends and so the festivities will continue for another day.  I'm looking forward to that!

Birthdays aren't so bad, really!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grande Vente Wrong

Please don't try to justify this by showing me all the times any other president didn't do a snappy salute:

This is just insulting.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Writing

I was searching for something online last week and came across this Atlantic interview with author Stephen King.  It's been nagging at my subconscious ever since.

I've been frustrated lately because I can't find the time I need to write.  You see, I have a real job -- one that pays the bills and one that requires lots of time and energy.

And Stephen King cuts to the root of my dilemma:

Lahey: You paint a pretty bleak picture of teachers as professional writers. Teaching is, after all, a “consumptive profession,” as a friend of mine puts it, and it can be a real challenge to find the juice for our own creative endeavors after a day at school. Do you still feel that teaching full time while pursuing the writing life is a doomed proposition? 
King: Many writers have to teach in order to put bread on the table. But I have no doubt teaching sucks away the creative juices and slows production. “Doomed proposition” is too strong, but it’s hard, Jessica. Even when you have the time, it’s hard to find the old N-R-G.

I am reminded of Harper Lee and her wonderful friends who gave her a year's salary so she could take a break from her job and concentrate on her novel.  And she wasn't even a teacher; she was a clerk at an airline counter at the time.

But he is correct.

I love teaching; I truly do.  But in all honesty, to be a good teacher you have to re-dedicate yourself to it every single year.  I've never been one of those teachers that can use the same lesson plans every single year.  Yes, I teach the same short stories, usually.  I may add or subtract from the repertoire but basically I'm covering the same stories.  But I can never do them the same way.  It changes with the group.  It also changes with your own experience and training; I went to Pre-AP training this summer which was absolutely great, but it totally changed how I teach my classes.  I'm re-writing every single lesson plan once again.  (It seems to be working, by the way -- my students have much, much higher grades and are much more engaged than in the previous sixteen years which makes me wonder why such training isn't part of the teacher education curriculum in the first place, but that's another blog for another day.)

At any rate, my writing project isn't moving at the brisk clip that I might wish.  I wake up on Saturday or Sunday and for a brief moment am full of inspiration; I'm composing sentences, paragraphs, chapters in my head!  It's rolling fluidly and beautifully just the way I want to tell it!

But then I have to do the laundry and vacuum the carpet, run to the store, dust the furniture and pick up the dry cleaning.  Then it's time to plan supper, and well, heck, it's already 2 or 3 o'clock and the inspiration is gone.

How do real writers do this?

Must I wait until I retire to write this book?  I can certainly do research for the next seven years -- there's plenty of research to be done.  That doesn't really take any creativity or inspiration, so I'm really good at the research part.

I want to be able to drop everything and run down to NOLA and sit in the Tulane archives for a couple of weeks.  (A hotel for two weeks?!  Ha!  Yeah, that's not happening.)

I want to sit in the archives in Natchitoches at NSU for days on end until I've read every single thing that could possibly pertain to my book.  Will they let me pitch a tent and a sleeping bag in the back room?  Doubtful.

But, oh, I really want days of uninterrupted silence where I can put it all my research together and tell the story.

It will come.  I know I have to be patient.  I need to learn to enjoy the journey and to take my time so that I get it right.

But I do wish I knew how to burn the candle at both ends, teaching all day and writing all night.  What's the secret?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Natural

I stand corrected; I said last week that Obama has no cajones, but I was wrong.  He's got to have some huge stones to say this:
"Part of this job is also the theater of it," Obama said, adding that "it's not something that always comes naturally to me. " 

Legal Insurrection nailed it:

Nope, he's not into theater or stagecraft at all:

Remember, he's not interested in photo ops.

Nope, he's got no sense of theater whatsoever,  All those doctors rushed right over to the Rose Garden in their lab coats, right?

Good grief.

He's so delusional it's just dangerous.