Monday, March 31, 2008

Just deserts

Not much happening today, other than rain, and a day at work. Nothing overly strenuous, but it just bites to go back after a nice weekend! It was nice to have a surprisingly warm day today--I didn't even wear my parka today! It's supposed to get cold again, though, so I'll probably be wearing it tomorrow. <sigh> A very nice surprise when I stepped outside this morning, though...I could hear the peeper frogs out in the ponds! That always makes me feel that warm weather is right around the corner, and I love the sound of them. I find them very soothing. The next sign of spring should be the arrival of our hummingbirds. I should probably get the feeder up this week, because they should be here soon. I just love those little guys, although the females are much braver and more curious--it's always the females who hover in front of me when I'm sitting outside. They're so close, I can feel the breeze from their wings, and it makes me laugh how they just look at me. Like, "Hi. Are you the lady who feeds us nectar? Thanks!" [she buzzes off] I'm getting excited to see our little friends again! Oh, and I got some great turkey pictures yesterday--I'll get those up soon. Three toms were displaying!

 

Since I don't have those ready to go yet, I'll put up a couple of Cousin Shane's pictures from his Tucson trip, along with a few of his comments. He just loves it out there, and I can totally see him moving there one day. Hmm, perhaps there's a little motel on Route 66 that could use some TLC...? Actually, Shane and I have talked about how neat it would be to do that, and Ken and I have also discussed it. I don't see us doing it, because I don't really want to run a motel, but it would sure be interesting, wouldn't it?

 

 

the yellow flowers in bloom were just everywhere.  i love to show people that the desert is not a dead place.  there is so much life in it.  it's a fascinating environment, and when i am in it, i feel such a spiritual connection.  it's weird.  was i a desert dweller in a previous life?

 
i took a couple pics of signs because i like what they said.  "deserts are charming to those who know how to see them."  of course i have a couple pics of the mighty saguaro in there as well, along with the yellow plants (i can't remember their name -- something like boxweed) and the famed ocotillo, the plant with the many long thin stalks that come out of a single plant at ground level.  i saw some of those this year that made me think of don king's hair!  ha!

 

myra is right, the clear blue sky, the beautiful warm weather, the starlit nights, it's just incredible.  even in the city of tucson, you can see the stars -- there is a telescope observatory about 50 miles west of the city (as opposed to 53 miles west of venus) so the lighting in tucson is mandated by law to be diminished so as not to create too much light pollution.

 
the name tucson comes from the O'odham indians -- their word Cuk Son (loosely pronounced as chuk shon) literally means "at the base of the black hill" and refers to an adjacent volcanic mountain.   i love the sound of it.

there was a man at the nature center at the park who was talking to one of the park rangers.  he was from baltimore, and had never been to the sonoran desert before.  he was just astonished at how beautiful it was, how much plantlife was there, and how thriving it appeared.  he said he took over 300 pictures and couldn't wait to show friends and family back home how alive the landscape was.  i understand his fascination.

i learned on this trip that the sonoran desert, which covers the lower southwestern and south-central parts of arizona., southeastern california, and northwestern mexico, is the wettest desert in the world, receiving about 8-13 inches of rain per year!  for comparison, we get about 38-40 inches per year, and new orleans gets around 60 inches!  i was surprised to learn that the sonoran desert is so wet!

Shane and I are so much alike, it's scary sometimes! Wherever we go (in all honesty, wherever we live, too), we love to find out more about it and learn a few things. Turns out that Ken is that way, too, so we're perfect vacation companions. (I was excited when I was checking out the New Smyrna Beach web site and found out that there are Indian mounds not too far away! There are also a couple of historical homes that might warrant a visit, too. Cool!) I told Shane that I just don't get how anyone can NOT be curious about things, and want to, you know...learn. Learning is fun! This has been a public service announcement.

One more thing! Speaking of learning, I learned something new today! Jillian and I were talking about "Earth Hour" on Saturday, when people were supposed to turn off their lights for an hour. (This concept originated in Sydney, Australia, so it didn't take into account the NCAA regional finals. Sacrebleu!) I said that when I Googled something, the screen was black for the day. She said, "Oh yeah, that's Blackle. I use that instead of the regular Google." I said, "They have it all the time?!" She said, "Yeah, it's run by Google, but instead of a white background, it's black. It saves energy." Well, dog my cat! I've been exploring Google a bit (I'm considering using Picasa), but I haven't seen anything about Blackle. How cool is that? Blackle.com

I spoke too soon. One more thing! Remember I was getting excited about seeing political ads on our local station! Obama has started airing his ads first, and since I've been watching the local news, in the space of an hour, I've seen his ad FOUR TIMES. Holy moley! They must be spending a mint.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I bid you welcome...

 

Did everyone read the interview with Mick Jagger in today's Parade? It was COOL.

You know that old question, "Beatles or Stones?" While I loved the Beatles, it was always the Stones for me. They were just edgier, and "Sympathy for the Devil" remains one of my all-time favorite songs. It still gives me chills.

It was a great interview with Mick. A couple of things struck me:

On Music and Memory

"It reminds you of a moment. Music does that to people. It doesn’t have to be that old either. It can be something that happened two weeks ago. You hear a song in a certain situation, and that music has that ability, like a smell almost has that ability to take you to a certain place."

That is so true! We were talking about that at work the other day, how when you hear a certain song, or smell a certain aroma, it can trigger an utterly vivid flashback to a different time and place.

On His Physique

"It’s not quite nil [his body fat]; it’s under the percentage it’s supposed to be, whatever that is. But I have to eat an awful lot. People say, 'You’re not eating,' and I eat so much. I say, 'I just ate twice as much as you did. I watched you.'"

Look at this guy--still skinny as a rail, at 65 years old. His energy level is phenomenal. Shane and I saw them back in...I guess it would have been '91 or so...and even at 50-something, we were amazed at his energy, running around the stage like the crazy man he is.

It made me think of how cool it would be to hang out with Mick. (I heard a story once, and I don't know if it's true or not, but supposedly some girl got to go backstage, and when she met Mick, she was so excited she peed her pants. Isn't that awful?! I'd like to think I have better control of my bladder than that.) This in turn made me think of that other old question, about who you'd invite to your dinner party. I know it's as old as dirt, but it's still fun to think about once in a while. For the purposes of this entry, I'm going to make it 6 people, living or dead, so with me and Ken, we'd have a nice smallish gathering of 8. So here's Beth's Dinner Party list, which changes continuously:

 

I would want to try to assemble a group that would get along well--isn't that part of a hostess's job?--and would find many interesting topics of discussion. While I would also be curious about the pathologies of people like Hitler or Vlad Tepes (AKA Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula), the goal would be to have a pleasant evening with many enjoyable discussions. Hitler and Vlad would definitely bring the party down.

We'll start off with Mick Jagger. His longevity as a performer has made a believer out of those who mistakenly assumed that he was nothing more than a stupid rock singer. Many years ago, I watched an interview with Mick by Tom Snyder, and I was struck by Jagger's intelligence and humor. While I'm sure he'd have plenty of interesting stories about the wild days of the sixties and life on the road, I'd be more interested in hearing about his current interests. Is he into art? Politics? Is he excited about the new James Bond movie? 

 

Jesus Christ is an almost universal choice for this question, but I would have some different questions for him. I wouldn't ask, "What did you mean when you said..." or "Was that part real or allegorical?" I'dwant toknow his take on what people do in his name, the current crop of "prosperity evangelists," and whether or not people have understood his message. I suspect I'd be in for an earful.

Given the current excitement in the political world, I'd have to choose Barack Obama. While I wouldn't want to dwell on politics--no major campaigning at my dinner party!--I'd like to hear about his time in Indonesia, and growing up in Hawaii. If we could speak frankly, and since we're all among friends I believe we could, I'd like to hear his thoughts on having a black father and a white mother. It sounds like he wasn't a deprived child, but that had to be a struggle to deal with at times.

In the same political vein, I'd like to invite Condoleezza Rice. Not only is she a brilliant woman, I'm sure she'd have many fascinating anecdotes about working in the White House and about her travels around the world. She got her Master's at Notre Dame, so we could talk Notre Dame football. After dinner, she might be kind enough to treat us all to a piano concert.

I'd love to have Stephen King be one of our guests. He's got such a warped sense of humor, and it would be fun to talk about all the great sci fi books and horror movies that everyone loves. I bet we could have a 15-minute discussion about "Psycho" alone!

 

Finally, I'd invite Tiger Woods. He is one of the greatest athletes of all time, and I'd love to get some insight into his competitive streak. What exactly is it that drives him? Since I'm very much a beginner when it comes to golf, maybe he could give me a few tips and advice for someone just starting out.

I think it would be quite an intriguing bunch. There are so many others that I think would make wonderful dining companions, and this is a list that changes frequently, depending on my mood, my whims, and what I'm currently reading about. I know it's silly, but it's fun to think about, and it's even more fun to think about some of the conversation.

Mick: Jesus, would you pass the salt, mate? Thank you.

Jesus: You're welcome. You know, I totally get where you were coming from with "Sympathy for the Devil." Too many holier-than-thou types thought it was a glorification of Lucifer--he was an okay guy until his ambition got the better of him, by the way--but I know it was pointing out his evil side. What a shame that some just don't bother to really listen to the lyrics. Great percussion on that song, too.

Steve: Yeah, I've gotten a lot of the same crap about my novels. Don't those people [rolls his eyes to much laughter at the table] get that it's the classic struggle between Good and Evil? And in my books, Good always wins.

Tiger: Yeah, me too. [much laughter]

Beth: You da man, Tiger!

Jesus: Actually, I'm the man. [laughter]

Beth: Excuse me, does anyone need more wine?

Jesus: I've got you covered! [laughter]

Barack: Seriously, though, how did you deal with the persecution? It had to be hard growing up in that atmosphere. Condi knows what I'm talking about. She's seen it first hand.

Condi: Unfortunately, yes. I'll never forget that night the bomb went off. It was terrible, and just like that, I'd lost a friend to terrorism.

Jesus: Well, just like Rage Against The Machine says, "Killing in the name of..." In this case, killing due to ignorance, small-mindedness, and bigotry. Many of you here have experienced that, as have I, and I abhor that kind of behavior, as does my Dad.

Ken: But what can we do about it?

Tiger: Work hard to be the best, and totally kick their asses. [laughter]

Mick: I get you, Tiger. I've worked hard to be in the business this long.

Jesus: While there's nothing wrong with kicking ass when the occasion calls for it--oy, I've been there! Remember that day in the temple?! [laughter]

Beth: Yeah, from what I've read, Jesus, you were there to kick ass and chew bubblegum...and you were all out of bubblegum! [laughter]

Beth: <SNORT> Oops, sorry!

Ken: Well said, Honey. [laughter]

Condi: <SNORT> [more laughter]

Steve: If everyone is done snorting, I'd really like to hear what Jesus has to say about that. What CAN we do about it?

Barack: Yeah...how do we get people past the hatred and get them to work towards a common goal?

Jesus: I wish I had easy answers for you. You've been given the tools: intelligence coupled with compassion. You've been given free will. How you use those tools is entirely up to you. I'll be honest with you all...We haven't been pleased lately with what We've been seeing. Dad and HG and I still have faith in you, though.

Condi: How can you, with what you see going on around the world?

Jesus: Sometimes it isn't easy. Everyone here understands that it's not US doing these things, right?

[murmurs of agreement from all]

Jesus: Good. Because it seriously pisses Us off when We hear, "How can God let this happen? Oh poor us, O vengeful God!" Give me a break. Getting back to the free will thing, it is YOU who do it to yourselves. Natural disasters? The key word there is "natural." We would never do such a thing to you...We love you. Don't you get that? Things like Katrina happened because you've messed with the environment so much you destroyed the natural barriers. Things like the aftermath of Katrina happened because of incompetency, on many levels. C'mon. You're smarter than that. You can do better.

Ken: So what's the answer?

Jesus: Probably the best thing I can tell you is to remember that whole "do unto others" thing. If you think about it, you'll see the simplicity of it. Like I said, We still have faith in you. But sometimes it doesn't seem like you have faith in Us. You have the world at your feet. Don't screw it up.

 

Acting globally

Yesterday I wrote about some political stuff (amazing, I know), and one of the things I mentioned was President Bush's efforts in Africa. Lisa commented and said that she can't think of anything good to say about our current President.

I know that it IS hard to look around us today and try to find something positive to say about President Bush, but I encourage you all to read Bob Geldof's Time essay about traveling to Africa with the President. Sir Bob doesn't agree with the war or some of our foreign policies, but the President made a believer out of him when it comes to Africa. We have done good things there, and the President has driven that. I know this begs the question, "Doing good things in Africa is fine and dandy, but what about our own country?" I can't argue with that, and agree that we need to address plenty of our own issues. However, it's no longer possible to think locally or to have any kind of isolationist leanings; we must think globally. Things happening in Africa today may not affect us tomorrow, but they will in years to come. Not to mention the fact that people are dying there of diseases that we can prevent, with something as simple as a $5 mosquito net. It's just the right thing to do.

Ken and I have had discussions about this, and he did a little research this morning. He wrote what I think is a fine entry about President Bush (whether you love him or hate him). Check it out when you get a chance.

 

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Beacon of Hope?

 

One of my coworkers, Mary, has a daughter who is spending her junior year in college abroad. She is living with a family in France, and she has availed herself of the opportunity to travel as much as possible. She's been all over Europe, and recently traveled to Morocco.

Allison has had a wonderful time (even getting to appear in a music video in Amsterdam!), and we've all enjoyed hearing about her adventures in Europe and beyond. Mary was telling me about some of Ally's experiences the other day, especially her time in Morocco. What struck me the most was that Allison said that in talking with some of the shopkeepers and folks in the market, they all love Americans. They don't like our current president and they don't like our current foreign policy, but they asked Allison all kinds of questions about life in America and our politics. She told Mary that they love our freedoms, our abilities to be what we want to be, and the fact that we can get an advanced education.

I had recently heard on NPR that the rest of the world is watching this campaign and the upcoming presidential election with great interest. They said that most of the world considers America a "beacon of hope," and it seems that Allison's experiences abroad are similar.

 

The world is watching us, and they want us to be that beacon of hope. I know that many have maligned President Bush, and while there's no denying that he has been a big disappointment, he HAS made major commitments to disease prevention and treatment in Africa. (Ask Bob Geldof.)

Allison's experience, as well as the reports from world correspondents, is a reminder that the world still looks to us for help and hope. It seems to me that while we may have lowered the bar for ourselves for a while, the rest of the world has raised it again for us. Are we country enough to rise to the challenge?

A quiet Saturday

It's been a quiet day here at Nutwood. We've been busy being un-busy! Actually, we've both gotten some things done, but nothing overly complicated or serious. Ken got the high speed Internet cable grounded today--the cable company neglected to do that when they installed it, and after going through 2 modems and a couple of fried phones and phone jacks due to lightning strikes, he knew that with summer's volatile weather on the way, it needed to be done. He also got 2 new wine racks put together, and our "hobby" room in the basement is starting to look like a nice little wine cellar! I've been doing laundry, and managed to read quite a bit of Sophie's Choice. (More about that in a moment.) I also bit the bullet and ordered another CD cabinet from Sorice.

 

A while back, Cousin Shane mentioned our Sorice cabinets in an email. We both have them and love them. I've got 3, and I think he might have 4. (We love our music, have I mentioned that?) Although they're pricey, they're solid wood and very nice. I asked Ken if he wanted me to look for something that wasn't so expensive, and he said if we're going to have it for a long time (and we will), we should go ahead and get one that matches the other ones. This is what they look like, although I've got the dark oak rather than the golden oak shown in the picture. I outgrew the 3 we have some time ago, and the stacks of CD's by the stereo are about as bad as the stacks of books by my side of the bed! A major housecleaning is coming soon....

Speaking of Cousin Shane, I just got an email from him that he got home safely. He was visiting his Dad in Tucson, and had a great time. Other than when he was taking pictures in the desert, and backed into a prickly pear cactus. Ouch! He said the desert was blooming, so I'm looking forward to seeing his pictures.

I forgot to mention that I heard from Bill, AKA "Wildcat," of The Wildcat's Lair. I wrote that I loved his graphic art about Frank the cat, and noticed that he hadn't posted in a while. He wrote that he's been very busy lately, because he and his wife are getting very close to publishing their novel! Let's hope they are successful! He also mentioned that he wants to get back to Frank one day, so I'm also hoping for more of those adventures. Good stuff!

Oh, about Sophie's Choice, the March book for our book club. Jillian and I were talking the other day about how good it is, but how difficult to read. Not difficult as in hard to understand, but difficult as in we can only handle so much pain and anguish at one sitting. William Styron has an incredible talent for putting you into the middle of the story, the emotions of the characters, and the sheer agony of their experiences. I read quite a bit today, but I got to the point where I had to put it down. I may pick it up again later tonight, but I needed a mental health break.

Sometimes I read things online that really disturb me. 99% of my fellow bloggers and J-Landers write fun and interesting things (at least the ones that I've read), and I'm enjoying getting to know so many of you. But there are a few that I've stumbled across that just plain give me the creeps. At first glance, they seem fairly normal, but as you keep reading, you sense a deep-seated and constant paranoia, and get a sense that their lashing out at others is a poorly disguised attempt to cover up their own inadequacies. I've read things that make me feel like I've been slimed, or like I've just looked into a dark and scary basement of mental disturbance. The outpouring of vitriol, bile, and hatred is so alien to me that it hurts my mind and my soul. The blogs I enjoy are ones that make me smile, or think, or marvel at their writers' cleverness and excellent writing. The ones I don't enjoy are the ones that leave me with that look of mingled disgust and disbelief on my face, as in, "Good God...this is nuts." Thank goodness the vast majority fall into the former category.

Thundersnow

Lisa commented, "thundersnow!! I love your wording of things....we had like a small hail and then harsh thunder thing going on the other night too...may  have been the night you had your thundersnow. The weather has been just insane this year."


It HAS been insane, Lisa! When her comment came in, I was reading the paper. I said to Ken, "Lisa likes the word 'thundersnow.' But I'm pretty sure that's real. Isn't that really what it's called?" He said, "I think so, but I'm not sure." I went on reading the paper, and was reading the weather page. One of our local meteorologists, Andrew Sweeney, often writes about various odd weather phenomena. You guessed it...his topic today was thundersnow! Here's what he wrote:

"Usually when we think about thunder and lightning we think about warm spring or summer days. However, it is possible to have thunder and snow at the same time. We had some in our area on Thursday night. Thundersnow is rare but it can occur if the conditions are just right. Thunderstorms are fueled by warm temperatures so we usually see them in the spring and summer. To get thundersnow temperatures will need to be close to freezing and there must be a good amount of instability in the atmosphere. Cold temperatures at the surface allow for the snow to fall while cold air and warm air clash in the upper atmosphere and the result is thunder, lightning and snow."

Et voilà! Thundersnow!

Together

 

I've been thinking. (Run for your lives! You've been given fair warning.)

Yesterday at work, my manager asked my pal Greg about what he thought of Barack Obama's self-destruction (or words to that effect). I happened to be standing close by and overheard this. Greg and I looked at each other, obviously a little puzzled, and Greg said, "Uh...I didn't realize he had." I said, "He still seems pretty intact to me."

My manager went on to say that more is coming out about the Reverend Wright controversy, that it's really hurt Obama's campaign, that there's no way he'll win the nomination now, and also no way she'll vote for him. Greg and I were still puzzled. Greg said he thought it was a non-issue, and I said that I'd heard just that morning that Obama's poll numbers were relatively unaffected. She said that's not what she heard, and said that she just couldn't support someone who went to a church like that or was friends with someone like Wright.

Now, I love my manager, I really do. However, I really disagreed with what she was saying, so do you know what I did? I quit on the spot! That's right. How could I continue to work for someone with whom I disagreed so completely?

There's that sarcasm again. Obviously, I didn't quit, but that's exactly how ludicrous this argument is. The fact of the matter is that people don't always agree with each other. Far from it. Obama has made it clear that he does not agree with some of the more outrageous remarks made by Reverend Wright, but that he is still a friend and that he values that friendship. I don't have a problem with that. John McCain doesn't have a problem with that. When asked whether a candidate should be held accountable for the views of his pastor, McCain said, "knowing Senator Obama... he does not share the extreme views..that I saw on television."

In doing some reading this morning, a couple of things about Wright's comments. First, it looks as if many of the remarks were taken out of context. In an interview with Charles Gibson, Obama said, "If all I saw of Rev. Wright … were the 30-second or one-minute clips that have been looped over the last two weeks again and again as opposed to the body of work for 30 years that he engaged in in building a church that is a pillar of the community on the South Side [of Chicago]....It's as if we took the five dumbest things that I ever said or you ever said … in our lives and compressed them, and put them out there, you know, I think that people's reaction would be understandably upset."

Second, I think it's important to remember that Wright is of the age where he saw first-hand much of the racism of our very recent past. As someone who has never been through such struggles, I feel I cannot pass judgement on the man. As for the comment about infecting blacks with the AIDS virus? While I don't believe that happened, have you ever read about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment?

Finally, Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald raised a very valid point. "...the idea that America deserves terrorist attacks and other horrendous disasters has long been a frequently expressed view among the faction of white evangelical ministers to whom the Republican Party is most inextricably linked. Neither Jerry Falwell nor Pat Robertson ever retracted or denounced their view that America provoked the 9/11 attacks by doing things to anger God. John Hagee continues to believe that the City of New Orleans got what it deserved when Katrina drowned its residents and devastated the lives of thousands of Americans. And James Inhofe -- who happens to still be a Republican U.S. Senator -- blamed America for the 9/11 attacks by arguing in a 2002 Senate floor speech that "the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America" because we pressured  Israel to give away parts of the West Bank."

While I believe it was important that Obama addressed these issues in his speech last week, I find it sad that we are focusing on the incendiary remarks made by his pastor, rather than on Obama's message in his speech: we need to move on and solve our problems together. "My argument is not that we should focus obsessively on race. My argument is, we should acknowledge the dangers of racial division, precisely in order to focus on those problems that we all have in common as Americans," he said. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Addendum

You might want to read Leonard Pitts' column about this. Excellent.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Glass slipper, size 14

 

I'm sorry for all my Wisconsin pals, and Ken and I always support Big Ten teams, but we were shocked and awed by Davidson's win over the Badgers. This wasn't a nail biter, it was a blowout. Davidson seemed to want it more, and they are this year's Cinderella team. No matter where you're from, or who you root for, I think everyone loves the little team that makes some big noise. This is what is exciting about the tournament! I can still remember 15 years ago or so, when my alma mater, Ball State University, made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Ball State is a state school (David Letterman is our most famous alum, and he's been very generous to us...and I think he's kinda cool to have as our most famous!), and they'd never been on the national level in sports until that year. I remember watching them almost beat UNLV (I believe the Rebels went on to win the championship that year), and literally jumping up and down in front of the TV like I had a pogo stick in place of my spinal cord. So I get how Davidson feels.

Congrats to Davidson. Huzzah!

Ken just weighed in on his journal, and I liked what he had to say.

Fallout, boy

The school superintendent (the big meany) was quite a topic of conversation at work today. Everyone is pretty disgusted with him, and as one of my coworkers, Mary, pointed out, school superintendent is an elected position, and people aren't going to forget this. I still think I'll write to him. I may not have a kid in the system, but we pay taxes, and this is our community, where many of these kids will live and work. Our school system should be fostering responsibility and engagement with the political process.

Oh, and the high school where she WAS going to be? They allowed students the day off, if they had parental permission, to go see Hillary at the high school where she DID appear. Huh? Ridiculous. And I feel sorry for those kids who lost out on a chance to see a presidential candidate speak at their school. I am outraged. Outraged, I tell you!

Oboy oboy, it's the weekend, and I don't have to work. We don't have anything planned, other than the usual weekend puttering, and watching some NCAA basketball. It's just nice to be able to relax a bit and enjoy our days off together. I also found out today that "Spamalot" will be coming to our local theater--YES! Ken and I had even talked about flying out to Vegas just to see it, but now it's coming to us! I'll have to check the dates and see if tickets are on sale yet. Cool!

Hey, you know yesterday when I was writing about the gloomy day and our "snain?" Guess what we had last evening? Thundersnow! It's been ages since I've seen that. I was making dinner, and there was a big rumble of thunder. Ken and I looked at each other, and I said, "You gotta be freakin' kidding me!" It lasted a while, too, with lightning and thunder, all the while the wet, heavy snow coming down. Weirdness! I had a bit of a struggle getting out of the garage this morning, because the snow was so heavy and slick. But I got going, and had an absolutely lovely day at work. Oh, I'm sorry, that was really sarcastic. Actually, it was crazy busy, but Pat, Mary, and I had a good discussion about politics. It's not just me...we're all abuzz!

Have a great weekend--you'll see me hanging around!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Not so fast, Spring Thing!

 

This isn't Sheeba, but I thought it was a cute picture, and sums up our gloomy day quite well!

I guess I jinxed myself--and all of us around here--with my talk of spring and my pictures of crocuses. The crocus blooms are closed up tight this evening, because it's been precipitating this afternoon. I don't know quite what to call it...it was basically raining big globs of snow. I'll call it "snain." (As opposed to "snirt," which I learned about when I lived in North Dakota. If anyone knows what snirt is, leave a comment--you get a gold star for the day!) I know we're getting close to spring, but bleahhh, what a crummy day! Blimey! (Thanks, Yasmin!)

Well, some big doin's here about Hillary's planned visit on Friday. The plan was for her to visit one of the local high schools tomorrow morning, but the school superintendent denied the visit, stating something about how they have always had a policy of not allowing campaigning during the school day, and it could subject the kids to safety issues, blah blah blah. I don't know what the heck he was talking about, but I think most people in town are pretty pissed off at him. For the first time in years young people are engaged and interested in the political process, and a visit by a presidential candidate would be huge for them! I don't have a kid in this school system, but I'm half-tempted to write a letter to this guy. Shame on him! A couple of cool things, though. 300 students at the high school where she WAS supposed to speak got together and signed a petition demanding that the superintendent explain to them why he denied her visit. Good for them! Also, our "sister city," right next to us, has approved a visit, so she will be speaking here after all.

Okay, I didn't send the superintendent an email, but tonight's Question of the Day on our local news was about this topic, so I just fired off my two cents' worth. It seems to me that having a candidate speak is no different than having any speaker at the school, or going on a field trip, or any of those activities that we all did in high school. Way to go, man. Squash their interest, stomp on their enthusiasm, and make sure that you don't teach 'em to be responsible citizens, proud and happy to engage in their civic duty of voting for the best candidate. Sheesh.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Crikey! Crocuses!

 

 

My mini-crocuses that had popped up and were on the verge of opening...well, they opened today! (I also have some larger, deeper purple crocuses up by the house, and they should open up tomorrow.) There's also a yellow mini-crocus, but it hasn't opened fully yet.

 

 

 

 

 

I took 5 pictures of them, and I hope you'll indulge me as I put all 5 of them up here. I think I'm so starved for greenery and warmth that these little crocuses have just made my day (and I didn't have a bad one to begin with!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

While crocuses aren't my favorite flower (I have to go with Shasta daisies--they're so cheery, and they bloom in the heat of summer, so they just say summer to me.), I think they're special to most of us in winter climes, because they're a sign of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

Winters can seem awfully long here, and it's right about this time that we all start getting especially tired of the snow and very anxious for spring. Crocuses give us a light at the end of the tunnel. They push through a carpet of leaves (and here at Nutwood, that's a mighty thick carpet) even when it's still chilly, and let us know that if we hold out just a little bit longer, we'll soon be sitting out on the deck enjoying the sunshine, opening all the windows to let the warm breeze air out the house, planting things in the garden, and firin' up the grill.

It also reminds me that I need to get busy with my garden plan for this year. I need to figure out what I'm going to plant and where. I don't think I'll do much different this year, just the usual suspects, but I do need to figure out my crop rotation.

Summer isn't here yet, and we've still got some cold weather ahead of us (I just hope we don't get a bunch more snow--yuck), but with these pretty little crocuses, at least I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

 


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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

 

The local news tonight reported that Hillary will be coming to our little city on Friday. (Chelsea will be speaking at Notre Dame tomorrow.) While I'm not a supporter, I really am so excited that Indiana is playing a part in this year's primaries, because it's very unusual with our late primary. We are attracting attention, and the candidates are visiting! (I'm waiting for an Obama visit.) It's been 40 years since we were "in play" for a candidate, and it is just incredibly exciting. For most of you who have already had your primary, I'm sure it's not a big deal, but look at it this way: this is the first time in my remembrance that a presidential candidate has come to my town. It is a HUGE deal around here, and I am quite thrilled!

Our local news also reported that we are going to start seeing political ads from Clinton and Obama. I said, "Honey! Political ads! Oh boy!" Ken said, "Oh GOODY." I said, "Hmm..a blessing or a curse?" I know that with local politics, it's always a curse, but we never get to see political ads like this. It was kind of fun when we were in Ohio last month to visit the kids, and we got to see an ad or two. Do you understand that it's very alien to us to BE in this situation? This is all new to me! Do you also forgive me for being so riled up and excited about it? I hope so. I hope you'll hang in there with me, and we'll all get through this together.

Not a day goes by at work that we don't talk about the latest. Our county is one of the few in Indiana that is mostly Democratic. In most years, it would be foolish for the DNC to campaign in our state, but this year, it's all up for grabs. When the actual election rolls around, I doubt that the DNC will do much campaigning here, but for the primaries? Hey, we're getting some major action, and I love it!

Dinner chat

I'm really in the mood to eat. Not eat a lot, I'm just looking forward to making dinner and eating! Probably because I didn't really cook for myself last night while Ken was working--I warmed up the sauerkraut Mom brought me, ate another pickled egg, and had a piece of cheesecake. It all tasted pretty good to me, but it's not the same as cooking. Last night, I got some beef out of the freezer, planning on doing a roast. But when I went to the store this morning, sliced mushrooms were on sale, and I was struck by a sudden hankering for stir fry. I bought some pea pods, too, and some teriyaki sauce, so stir fry it is. I have some egg rolls in the freezer, and I'll make some sticky rice. For some reason, that just sounds really good to me.

That got me to thinking again that I want a wok. I just use a large frying pan now, but I think I'd like a real live wok. I used to have an electric wok, but it pretty much just sat on the top of the fridge and collected dust. I think a pan would be more practical, and I could use it for other things if I needed to. I'm not quite sure where I'll put it, but one of my projects after I stop working will be a complete reorganization of the kitchen cabinets. I want to get some racks for the cupboards so I can get a handle on the various baking pans, lids, etc. It's driving me crazy! We have a small kitchen, and our plans to expand a bit are a few years off, so I need to be clever in my kitchen storage. Time to put my anal retentive Virgo-ness to work!

I'll stay busy for a while, I think, because I'd say that every closet and storage place in the house needs some major reorganization. (Except for Ken's closet--he just wants to go through his clothes and see what he should donate.) Odd that I'm suddenly in spring-cleaning mode, because it doesn't feel very spring-like at the moment. It may be in the mid-50's, but the wind is still crazy and it feels wintry.

I got off the subject--imagine that! So does everyone have a wok? Do you love it? Is it an indispensable part of your cookware? Would I be wasting our money to get one? (I won't spend $50 on it or anything--probably $25, tops.) Tell me what you think.

I just blew in...

...and boy, are my lips tired! Or something like that.

It is majorly windy out there at the moment. While Ken was sleeping, I went over to take care of Cousin Shane's cats, then went to the grocery store. The winds are howling! Yes, howling, I tell you! Unfortunately, it's recycling day in our area, so there are boxes and cartons and papers flying all over the place. They picked ours up this morning, so we didn't lose any boxes in the woods. Let's hope we don't lose any trees, either.

A couple of comments about the Hillary Clinton sniper fire bugaboo, then I'll let it go. Her comments weren't off the cuff or spontaneous, they were part of a scripted speech she gave last week. And while I'm sure that many of the memories of such trips would run together, and various people would remember things differently, it's unfortunate for her that this was all taped by the news agencies that were traveling with her. In this day and age of constant filming and picture-taking, not to mention voice and email records, it's foolish to think that you could ever get away with misleading comments (just ask the mayor of Detroit.) I'll put up the video of the NBC Nightly News that talks about it, because that's the national news that I watch, and it's where I first saw the video of this.

Amazing Discoveries

While Ken and Sheeba are snoozing in the bedroom, I've been semi-randomly surfing. I was looking at the list of AOL journals, and came across this one: The Wildcat's Lair. It's an hour later, I haven't gotten anything done, I haven't gotten dressed, and my neck hurts because I've been glued to that journal. Oh my God, I am cracking up. The adventures of Frank and Wildcat are...well, that's some of the funniest stuff I've seen in ages! It seems there aren't any recent entries, so I don't know what's going on, but there are plenty of archives in which you can find Frank.

Was this around for a while, and everyone knew about it, and I'm thinking I discovered something hilarious, but I didn't? That's entirely possible.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mem'ries...like the corners of my mind....

Y'know, I recall, as I was heading into work this morning, that when I parked my Mustang, I parked under sniper fire. I expected some kind of committee to greet me, but instead, I had to run with my head down to get into the golf cart, so that the security guard could drive me 50 yards to the entrance of the lab. This is what I recall.

But as I look back at the video, I think that maybe there was some little girl there...I don't know what she was doing there, because it was really really dangerous to be there, where I was, and seriously...it was really dangerous. But for some reason, that little girl was there. Oh, and as I watch the video, I remember having our cat there with me. Sheeba was traveling with me as a goodwill ambassador, because he really is very smart and cute and charming. He didn't seem to run with his head down to dodge the sniper fire, but as I look at the video...hmm...neither did I. We were both walking normally, as if we weren't under sniper fire. I don't know what is up with that...I remember it being really really dangerous. Seriously...it was dangerous. But in saying that, I may have misspoke.

Okay.

As Candy Crowley of CNN said, "This is the kind of thing that people hate about politicians."

In all honesty, I really can't and won't apologize for any hint of sarcasm you might have noticed <cough>, because...well, I just can't help it.

'Scuse me. I need to go don my bulletproof vest. I feel very vulnerable sitting here in our dining room, and it's really really dangerous right now. Seriously.

 

Rosy

 

Here is one of my pickled eggs, shortly before I ate it. Note the lovely pink color of the whites. It is just barely beginning to sink into the yolks, but it never penetrates very far.

I know some think they sound disgusting, but I find them the Food of the Gods. The pickled beet juice is not overpowering, it just gives a nice little tang to the eggs.

I've asked my Mom for the recipe before, and she said something like, "Oh, you just take some beet juice, add a little vinegar, boil it, then put it on the eggs." Over the years, I've learned to operate the way my Mom does in the kitchen (at least I've tried), and the key with many things is to take a taste and adjust if needed. Since I've never made pickled eggs before, I wanted to try to find something a little more definite...an actual recipe with measurements! I found this in my Southern Country Cookbook. I'm not sure if it's a southern thing to use beet juice (my Mom's family is from Kentucky), and maybe those of you who live in the South can tell me if you know of this.

Pickled Eggs

15-18 hard-boiled eggs

3 cups white vinegar [*see below]

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

Shell eggs. Bring vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Place eggs in jar and cover with boiling liquid. Cover immediately.

*To pickle eggs with beet vinegar, drain liquid from jars of pickled beets and use instead of vinegar and water.

************

That's all my cookbook says, but a couple of notes here. I think my Mom uses part beet juice and part vinegar. I guess I would use about 3½ cups of beet juice and ½ cup of vinegar. Also, the longer they sit in the fridge, the better. I'd go with a minimum of 3 days in the fridge, to get that beautiful rosy glow. My Betty Crocker cookbook actually calls them "Rosy Pickled Eggs," but Betty calls for a bunch of other stuff like garlic cloves, pickling spices, etc. That's making something uncomplicated and beautiful way too difficult. Stick with the beet juice and vinegar. Oh, and you can throw the pickled beets in the jar, too. Oddly enough, I don't care for pickled beets, but I love eggs pickled in pickled beet juice. Go figure.

Do you hear accordions?

Wishing you all a very Happy Dyngus Day!

In these parts, "Dyngus" is also a verb, as in "Are you Dyngusing today?" Here's a little history of this strange holiday, which has its roots in European Catholicism:

Easter Monday is the day after Easter Sunday and is celebrated as a holiday in some largely Christian cultures, especially Roman Catholic cultures. Dyngus Day or Wet Monday (Polish Śmigus-dyngus or Lany Poniedziałek) is the name for Easter Monday in Poland. In Poland, traditionally, early in the morning boys awake girls by pouring a bucket of water on their head and strike them about the legs with long thin twigs or switches made from willow, birch, or decorated tree branches (palmy wielkanocne). 

 

Later the focus shifted to the courting aspect of the ritual, and young unmarried girls were the only acceptable targets. A boy would sneak into the bedroom of the particular girl he fancied and awaken her by completely drenching her with multiple buckets of water. Politics played an important role in proceedings, and often the boy would get access to the house only by arrangement with the girl's mother.Throughout the day, girls would find themselves the victims of drenchings and leg-whippings, and a daughter who was not targeted for such activities was generally considered to be beznadziejna (hopeless) in this very coupling-oriented environment.

 

 

Most recently, the tradition has changed to become fully water-focused, and the Śmigus part is almost forgotten. It is quite common for girls to attack boys just as fiercely as the boys traditionally attacked the girls. With much of Poland's population residing in tall apartment buildings, high balconies are favorite hiding places for young people who gleefully empty full buckets of water onto randomly selected passers-by.

 

Though not largely observed in the United States, the day remains informally observed in some areas such as the state of North Dakota and the cities of Buffalo, New York and South Bend, Indiana. Traditionally Polish areas of the country such as Chicago observe Dyngus Day as well. In Buffalo's eastern suburbs, Dyngus Day is celebrated with a level of enthusiasm that rivals St. Patrick's Day. In South Bend, the day is often used to launch the year's political campaign season (particularly among Democrats), often from within the West Side Democratic Club, the M.R. Falcons Club, or in local pubs, where buying drinks is favored over handshaking.

                                 

Sounds great, huh? I'm glad they've kind of let the willow switches go by the wayside. But it is indeed a big day here in northern Indiana (even if we don't dump water on each other), with Bill and Chelsea Clinton in town for Hillary, and various current and former Indiana politicos all paying a visit to kiss hands and shake babies. If you listen real hard, you can probably hear the polka music wherever you're at! We're livin' La Vida Polka tonight! Nah, we're not Dyngusing. It's just fun to hear about. I get the impression that it's more of a chance to go barhopping, drink lots of beer, and eat mass quantities of kielbasa on a Monday night than anything else! 

Besides, Ken is working tonight. Bummer. The planned refueling outage starts tomorrow, and he's part of the management team that helps run the thing. He's only supposed to work one 12-hour night shift a week this year, but the guy he's replacing has the flu, so he had to cover for him tonight. I'll miss hanging out with my Hubby tonight, but I'm happy at the prospect of having a day off tomorrow. I'll just have to be as quiet as a little mousie while he's sleeping tomorrow. I'm not too worried about it, because I generally AM fairly quiet, and once he falls asleep, he's pretty much out like a light.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A recipe for you!

Special Management Meal (AKA Nutraloaf)
Yield - Three Loaves

• 6 slices whole wheat bread, finely chopped
• 4 ounces imitation cheddar cheese, finely grated
• 4 ounces raw carrots, finely grated
• 12 ounces spinach, canned, drained
• 2 cups dried Great Northern Beans, soaked,
cooked and drained
• 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 6 ounces potato flakes, dehydrated
• 6 ounces tomato paste
• 8 ounces powdered skim milk
• 4 ounces raisins

Shape into two meatloaf shaped loaves on cookie sheets or other large flat pans covered with foil. Bake two hours at 325 degrees or until done. Enjoy!

********************

You know what really gets me about that? The raisins. All the other stuff together sounds disgusting, but throw in some raisins? That's one nasty combo. Blecchhh. I'm with Yasmin--I'm glad I'm not in prison, so I don't have to eat it! In fact, that could be one heckuva deterrent. Start doing "Prison Friday" lunches in school cafeterias (no meat in the recipe, so it's okay for Catholics) and say, "If you don't want to eat this when you grow up, stay out of prison!" I think we're on to something here!

Easter dinner at Alcatraz?

So did everyone have a nice Easter? I hope you had an enjoyable time with family and friends, as well as plenty of good eats! I had to work, and for some strange reason, we were busier today than we were yesterday! But I got home at a decent time, and my parents stopped by on their way home from my sister's and en route to see my Dad's sister. They brought us some food, including my absolute Easter favorite, PICKLED EGGS! YES! <happy dance> While I was at work today, I tried not to think about it too much because it was making me salivate, but every once in a while I'd wonder if Mom was going to make some pickled eggs for me--she knows I love them. Well, Mom didn't make them this year, but my sister Diana did! Love you, Di! (I'm going to have to learn how to make pickled eggs, because sometimes I just have to have some.) It made my day to visit with Mom and Dad, and the pickled eggs were the icing on the cake. So to speak.

Speaking of food, I was more than a little grossed out--not to mention agitated--by a story I read in the paper this evening.  

This is a...a thing known as "nutraloaf." Apparently some Vermont prisoners have filed a class-action lawsuit about being served nutraloaf, saying that it is a punishment given to them without benefit of the usual disciplinary process.

Nutraloaf is a delicious mixture of "cubed whole-wheat bread, nondairy cheese, raw carrots, spinach, seedless raisins, beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk and dehydrated potato flakes." Yummy yum! I think the presentation is fabulous, too. Doesn't that picture just make you want to whip up a batch right now?! Apparently, nutraloaf and its cousins aren't anything new to the penal system, and have been used for years as an attempt at behavior modification. While the prisoners' lawyer says that he has no argument with behavior modification, nutraloaf is nothing but punishment without due process. In 1988, a federal judge agreed, and ruled that the Michigan Department of Corrections' use of nutraloaf constituted punishment.

Sounds to me like it actually provides dietary essentials to the prisoners. As Lucy said, "It contains vitamins, meat, megetables, and vinerals."

Before you start feeling too sorry for the prisoners who are served nutraloaf, the "behavior" it is usually used to modify is the throwing of body waste and fluids, such as feces and urine (I'm sure you can think of a couple more), via the trays and silverware provided with usual meals. Nutraloaf is served on a piece of paper, with no utensils, partly taking away the opportunity for "flinging" said waste and fluids.

Would anyone care to ask me if I feel sorry for the prisoners being served nutraloaf? No? Ahh, you know me so well already.

First of all, they are in prison. 99.9% of them (and I'm making that number up, but I bet it's pretty dang close) are there because they have committed a crime.

Second, they ARE being fed. It may be pretty disgusting, in looks and in taste, but it is food, it is nutritious, and they won't starve to death if they eat it. If my Uncle Buck were alive, you could ask him about what he had to eat when he was a prisoner of war in Korea--I bet he would have been happy to have a heapin' helpin' of nutraloaf. For that matter, I bet you could ask my Dad if he would have eaten it when he was in North Africa and their supplies were delayed, and they had almost nothing to eat for a week or so. I bet he would have asked for seconds.

Third, these are prisoners that are slinging stuff at the guards, much like monkeys slinging stuff at zoo patrons. Does anyone remember when Clarice Starling goes to visit Hannibal Lecter in prison for the first time? Think about that and tell me that if you were in her shoes, you wouldn't be slinging a big wad of nutraloaf right back at them and yelling, "Eat THIS!"

 


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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fishnet stockin'

 

Are you a stocker-upper? I sure am, and while it verges on obsession at times, I'm happy that I'm able to do it.

I just got done separating 3 family-sized packages of boneless-skinless chicken breasts into freezer bags and meal-sized portions for Ken and me. They were on sale this week, and who am I to pass up a good deal?

I think I come by my hoarding tendencies honestly. My parents grew up during the Depression, and I know that there were many times that they were hungry kids. When I was growing up, my folks had two refrigerators (the regular one in the kitchen and an old one in the basement for pop), a chest freezer (for the side of beef they'd buy most years, the corn she'd blanch and freeze, the noodles she made from scratch, and the strawberry and blackberry jam she'd make every year), a pantry upstairs for all the staples, and a pantry in the basement (for all the vegetables and fruit she canned). And we also had a vegetable garden so we could have fresh vegetables during the summer. Believe me, there was never a lack of food at our house.

Mom is such a smart shopper, and one of the many things I learned from her and Dad was to take advantage of a good deal and a great sale. When I lived in apartments, I wasn't able to stockpile groceries, although I managed to keep the hallway closet full of toilet paper, toothpaste, aspirin, etc. When we bought our house, there was already a good-sized pantry in the basement, with many shelves on which we could load cases of canned mushrooms, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, green beans, corn (kernels and creamed), asparagus, soup, and peas, along with pasta sauce, pasta, granola bars, salad dressing, salsa, coffee beans...you get the idea. We bought an upright freezer, and I look for meat on sale, so it's stocked most of the time with ham, pork tenderloins, fish, sausage, frozen vegetables, frozen pie crusts (for quiche), and the side of beef we bought from one of Ken's coworkers earlier this year. A little over a hundred pounds of hamburger, along with packages of steaks and roasts, made me feel more confident about us not starving to death. Not on my watch! 

I'm really happy to have so much space for this kind of food storage, because I love being able to go downstairs and figure out something to put together without having to shop frequently. I can always rustle up something, even if it's a frozen pizza and a salad, and I find it oddly comforting to have my little pantry "security blanket." I'm not sure how much money we save by stocking up like we do, but I'd be willing to bet it's quite a bit. I'm glad I got this particular quirk from my parents...it might be close to a bunker mentality, but it will be a cold day in Hell before we run out of toilet paper here.

Besides, if we ever experience a national crisis such as nuclear bombs or pandemic influenza, we'll be the most popular people in the neighborhood!

Shooting myself in the foot

After my nice little entry yesterday about the importance of sleep, what did I do? I stayed up too late last night. I have no good explanation for it other than that I enjoyed the day so much, I just didn't want it to end! I felt pretty sleepy today, but I did okay. We had a great day at work today, maybe because doctors' offices started closing early on Friday, so not as much work came in for today. I hope we all have as good a day tomorrow. It's kind of weird, because the weekends have been so bad lately that our manager asked us to come up with some ideas of how to handle things if the workload was really crazy. There were some suggestions about reassigning duties, switching tasks to other benches, etc., but I said I was hesitant to do that because workload on the various benches can vary so much. Sometimes Blood cultures are crazy, sometimes Hospital cultures are...we decided to play it by ear, assess things as we went along, and go from there, but keeping in mind what is priority and what can be left if need be. (That's pretty much what we do anyway!) It worked really well, and as I was checking with everyone and hearing that things were good, I told our crew, "We ROCK!" And we do!

And hey, we didn't get walloped with snow the way they were forecasting. Although Eugene, who lives in Michigan, got several inches, we only got about a half an inch here at Nutwood. No problems on my drive into work this morning.

Today was a good day--and the sun is shining!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ode to Remo

Ken wrote about our cat, Sheeba, and Sheeba's romance with what (who) we call "Remo." Yeah...we're not quite right. We know.

 

Friday roundup

What a nice, relaxing day it's been! I've been doing the usual things like laundry, and Ken got our flights and rental car booked for our upcoming trip to Florida. I talked to my Dad today (Mom was washing her hair, but got on the phone later to tell us that they'd bring us dinner Sunday evening when returning home from my sister's--what a nice treat!) and they're doing well. The pork roast has been cooking all day in the crock pot, and it smells yummy. (I'll be roasting some asparagus, too.) We've watched some great NCAA games, including a couple of upsets, the latest one the University of Connecticut getting upset by the University of San Diego (I wrote about one of their players recently, Rob Jones, the grandson of cult leader Jim Jones). This is so much fun to watch!

It stopped snowing for a while, but it's started again. ARGH. I'm hoping that it will end soon, and Ken is hoping even harder, because if we get a bunch more, he'll be taking me to work in the morning!

The big news in our town tonight is that Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton will be visiting us on Dyngus Day (Easter Monday). We won't be going to see them, but then we both have to work that day. (Not that we would if we were off that day.) I'm kind of disappointed that the "big guns" aren't coming for Dyngus Day, but there are still several weeks to go before our primary on May 6, so we may see a visit yet. Other big political news is that Bill Richardson has endorsed Barack Obama. I'm wondering if a Barack-Richardson ticket might be the ticket. Hmm!

I'd be remiss if I didn't include this cartoon, one that I put up on my locker at work every year. Everyone seems to get a kick out of it. Happy Easter!

Sleepytime Gal

I think we all know that there's nothing like a good night's sleep to renew and refresh us. But studies indicate that it is also vital to our physical well-being.  According to the CDC, it is an essential part of a healthy life and the prevention of chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Lack of sleep also causes car and other vehicular accidents, and has been shown to be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. The CDC reports that more than one-quarter of people in the U.S. report occasionally not getting enough sleep, and almost 10% suffer from chronic insomnia.

The CDC and other organizations have found that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, although that can vary with individuals. I know that if I have the chance to sleep in, I awake naturally after 8-9 hours, or less in the summer when it's sunny earlier in the morning. How often do I get that much sleep? Rarely. Usually it's 6-7 hours, which is probably pretty good for most people. I've found that in order to function well at my job, I need to get that amount on most nights if I want to be on top of my game, alert, and productive. I learned a long time ago that being up until 1 or 2 AM didn't bode well for my abilities during the work day.

 

Sleep is a way for our bodies to heal. If we are sick, what is the first thing we want to do? Stay in bed and sleep. It's our body's way of repairing damage, and our immune system's way of fighting off the marauding Huns of bacteria and viruses. While we sleep, our body can put all of its efforts into cellular repair, damage control, and defense. It's a remarkable thing, but we have to give it a chance to work.

It's also a chance to repair our wounded psyches. We all wonder about various dreams that we have--some are funny, some are scary, and some are downright disturbing. We are constantly stimulated during the day with images, sounds, situations, thoughts, memories...what's a poor, overworked mind to do? Dream. Every night, we clean out the attic of our mind by dreaming, and we have no control over it. Someone from our distant past can appear alongside someone we see every day, someone we've never met can speak to us, and we can experience surrealistic situations that we would never see in real life. Some dream analysis has merit, and if we think about it, we can usually figure it out, but I find that most dreams are nothing more than our minds breaking out a big vacuum cleaner and sucking up the detritus of our day, assembling it all into an interesting movie, and then chucking the whole mess into the trash.

Some people say that they'll sleep when they're dead. True enough, and I find that most days, I wish I had more time to do the things I want to do and still get a solid 8 hours of sleep. That doesn't usually happen, because how can a person fit in a day of work, dinner, time with family or friends, and time to relax with TV, a movie, or reading, and still get 8 hours? I'm not sure it can be done. But every so often, there are times when I say, "I need to sleep," and I go to bed at 8:30. It happens rarely, but it's very restorative. If I'm physically and mentally exhausted, just the sheer indulgence of going to bed that early can give me a sort of boost, knowing that I chose to give my brain a chance to shut down. Sometimes we need to prioritize and listen to what our body is telling us. "For the love of God, will you please get some sleep! I'm dyin' here!"

As the CDC says, "sufficient sleep is not a luxury—it is a necessity." 

 

Testing, one two three...

 

I'm trying a little experiment this morning, so bear with me. Here's Brian Setzer again, just because I like him, and because I wanted to try another format for writing, so I can wrap text around pictures. I've noticed that there doesn't seem to be an easy way to wrap text when adding an entry in AOL, and that's always bugged me.

I tried doing this in Microsoft Word, and I found it cumbersome and difficult to navigate. (I don't use Word a lot, though, so there are probably easier ways to do it.) I'm not sure where I read about Google Docs (docs.google.com), but I thought I'd give it a try. It seems to be fairly easy to navigate, and I've made it this far, so that's good! It's an interesting program, too. It's still in Beta, but basically, you can create and edit documents, but also share them with others, so they can go in and edit them as well. I can see how that would be invaluable for collaborating on papers or presentations. It autosaves, too. Neato!

So I'm going to write a bit here, then try copying it and pasting it into my journal.

Again, nothing to do with Brian Setzer. Although since I wrote about him the other day, I've been on a major Brian kick. I loaded up several CD's onto the MP3 player, and I've been playing him at work for the past couple of days. Good stuff, man!

And speaking of music (okay, that was my first transition from writing to the right of the pic to underneath, and it worked perfectly), Shane went to Chicago the other night with his friend Steve to see the band X. They were a punk/New Wave band from the '80's that we really liked a lot, and Shane said they sounded great. One of our favorite albums from that time was X's "Under the Big Black Sun."

 

Okay, here we are trying a right-aligned picture, and I'm wrapping the text left. It's working, it's really working!

Here is Shane's review of the show:

just thought i'd let you know how the X concert was.  oh my god, it was awesome!  i was not quite sure what to expect, but they ended up doing almost exclusively stuff from the first 3 albums.  they totally punked it up!  there was a mosh pit in the middle, and young 20-something kids were slamming around.  i thought it was really cool that a 30 year old band with 50+ year-old members was playing music that was exciting enough for younger people to be moshing it up to!  the power of GOOD music!  exene cervenka was so cute.  you could tell she was older, but she was so unintentionally funny.  she wore kind of a frumpy looking black dress with white trim and buttons up the front, but she pulled the look off great!  it looked cool!  she just let her hair fall in her face all the time as she was singing and bopping around the stage.  billy zoom played the guitar with such precision and with that shit-eating grin on his face....he makes playing his instrument look like nothing, he almost looks like a machine in his playing manner, but yet he's always looking at people in the audience and smiling at them, looking at them, even winking a few times!  seems to be a very personable guy.  john doe was really into it, playing bass and singing (he reminds me of johnny cash, kind of weathered-looking but really moved by the music), and dj bonebrake really did a great job on the drums! i was just totally blown away by the show.  they were much better than i thought they were going to be.  they totally punked out!
 
How cool that it was such a great show. Sometimes you never know how some of our favorite bands from the '80's will sound, but of the few we've seen (Blondie and The Tubes for me and Shane, B-52's and now X for Shane) have proven that they've still got the chops to play great music!
 
Another subject, then I'll be ready to get this up and see how it works. I was right about not staying awake for the entire Notre Dame/George Mason game last night, but it was a moot point, because they were never in any real danger of losing the game. They played very well. We watched the end of the Duke/Belmont game in which Belmont almost pulled off a huge upset! We kept saying, "Wow!" and "Oh my God!" and agreed that this is what makes the NCAA tournament so exciting.
 
Post-posting
 
Okay, it worked pretty well. The spacing didn't quite make the transition, so I had to tidy that up a bit, and I had to fiddle with the fonts a bit, but all in all, it worked. I am now able to wrap text around pictures, and I'm as happy as a little girl! Also, the entry is saved on Google. Good deal!

 

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Overcoming the past

March Madness has begun, and we're seeing plenty of human interest stories about the teams and players. I was struck by one I read yesterday, about a player for the University of San Diego, Rob Jones.

Rob's father is Jim Jones, Jr. and his grandfather is Jim Jones. Yes, THAT Jim Jones, of the People's Temple and the mass suicide in Guyana. I'll never forget seeing those images on TV, the hundreds of bloated bodies in the intense heat. What an appalling, bizarre story, one that should be a cautionary tale about blind faith and fanaticism.

The remarkable thing is that Rob's father has never hid his history (he survived the mass suicide because he was away playing on the Jonestown basketball team) and has been open and honest with his son. Other teams' fans taunt Rob about "drinking Koolaid," etc. Can you believe the idiocy and insensitivity of some people? But Rob just uses it as motivation, and refuses to accept blame for the insanity of his grandfather's actions. Good for him. He's a kid who wants to play basketball, and he's good at it, and I am so impressed by his refusal to let the darkness of his family's history define his own life. That is real courage.

Majorly mellow

A great day at work today--almost no overtime! Will wonders never cease?

It was a beautiful, sunny day, although still chilly. I'm trying to drink in the sunshine, because tomorrow the forecast is for 3-5" of snow. Bleah. Ken and I both have the day off tomorrow, him for Good Friday and me because I work the weekend.

When I took the garbage out this evening, I noticed some tiny crocuses coming up along the path out to the road. Neato! Some are popping up by the house, too, but the ones along the path have little blossoms on them. Even though we're supposed to get snow tomorrow, I feel like this may be winter's last gasp. I sure hope so.

I went to the grocery store after work tonight, and it was fairly busy, so I was happy to get out of there quickly. I got everything put away, and now I'm sitting here letting the work day roll away, and I feel so relaxed and calm. I'm almost slug-like in my mellowness! <grin> It's just such a nice feeling to know I don't have to get up early tomorrow, and we can stay up and watch the Notre Dame game (Who am I kidding? I'll be out like a light before the half!), and just have an all-around nice day off together. Ahhhh!

                                                          

Hey, last night we watched a documentary on PBS about Lucy and Desi Arnaz. I had only intended to watch an hour of it, then switch over to "American Idol," but it was so dang good we watched the rest of it (missing the first half hour of AI--no problem). It was so well done and so interesting--and of course, so funny--that we both really enjoyed it. She was a remarkable woman, and although everyone knows about her comedic genius, she was also an extremely smart businesswoman. She ran Desilu by herself after she bought out Desi's share, and did you know that she was responsible for giving the go-ahead for the production of "Mission: Impossible," AND...one of my all-time favorites, "Star Trek"? Yep. And Desi was also a genius when it came to production. He's the one responsible for multiple cameras used to film the "I Love Lucy" show, a technique that is still used.

One of the most touching stories came from Carol Burnett, another crazy redhead. She and Lucy became good friends, and Lucy was a mentor to Carol. Lucy would send Carol flowers on her birthday, every year without fail. Lucy died the morning of Carol's birthday, and that afternoon...Carol got her birthday flowers from Lucy.

I think I went through a couple of Kleenexes at hearing that one.