Saturday, November 22, 2008

Edumacation in jebbardy!

Last night on NBC Nightly News, they aired a very disturbing report. It's basically a story and statistics about how the credit crunch and the economy is adversely affecting higher education.

This is happening to colleges across the country. Oral Roberts University will lay off about 100 employees, roughly 10% of their workforce (although part of their problem apparently stems from misuse of funds, and corruption). Harvard announced last week that a research service is projecting a 30% decline in university endowments in the current fiscal year, and that Harvard needs to prepare to absorb that loss and plan for a time of financial restrictions. As stated in the video, Frostburg State in Maryland is experiencing difficulty in paying student financial aid, and California State may not be able to accommodate 10,000 students due to layoffs and increased costs of maintenance and operation.

It is affecting community colleges as well. CC's have always been a great option as a stepping stone to a Bachelor degree, for those students who need to get their grades up a bit, or those who can't afford to go to a university right away. Community college enrollment is up 8%, with many students seeing it as a way to cut costs for a Bachelor degree, and with many members of the workforce entering for retraining. It's only a matter of time before requirements tighten as more and more people try to get into community colleges.

I had never really thought about how the credit crunch might affect higher education, but it makes sense. It becomes pervasive, spreading throughout not just the business sector, but all aspects of our economy. I find this particular incarnation of our troubles disturbing on many levels. At a time when we need to grow more competitive and educated rather than less, it's becoming harder and harder for people to obtain that education. Community college has been a great way to cut the cost of a degree, whether Associate or Bachelor or higher, and it bothers me that it's becoming harder and harder to receive those degrees.

Everything indicates that it's likely that we'll lose even more jobs in the coming's getting harder and harder to find other employment as more jobs are eliminated, and for those who want to retrain and find a new profession, they could have a hard time doing even that. I try not to be bleak or pessimistic, but as someone who believes strongly in higher education, I find it very bothersome that it's becoming farther out of reach rather than more attainable. We need to be going in exactly the opposite direction, and how awful that the current situation might delay or even prevent someone from achieving their goal.

It's bad enough that there is a certain element in our country these days that sees no use for further education, or thinks that anyone who pursues such a goal is "getting above their place." It's vital that we get away from that sort of backwards elitism and understand that a degree is desirable and worthwhile (and becoming increasingly essential). Now add to that the possibility that many more people may not be able to attend college because of staffing cutbacks and credit contraints, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

I hope we see a turnaround soon for many reasons, including people being able to find good employment at a decent wage, but one of the most important reasons (at least to me) is so that anyone who has the desire to further their education can do so. The alternative makes me very sad.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paging Dr. Freud

My friend Sheria just sent me the link to this. It has got to be one of the most surreal things I've ever seen. Be sure to stick around for the closing wink.

Buried alive!

Okay, it's not that bad, but as you can see by the handy dandy super double viper Doppler, there's a big white cloud sitting over our area. What's amazing to me about lake effect snow (that's when the wind blows across a relatively warm Lake Michigan, picking up all that moisture and converting it to snow) is that the bands can be so narrow. I've seen it dump a foot on New Carlisle, while South Bend stays fairly dry. (We're about 15 minutes apart.)

Ken took a picture this morning, and since I've been up, it's been snowing off and on. Looks like about 8 inches so far, and it's coming down again. I suspect we'll end up with about 10 inches, just like Aerosmith. (Those of you that get that reference get a gold star for the day.) When we went to bed a little after 11, there wasn't much out there, so I imagine that the morning commute was pretty awful. I'll turn on the noon news and see what they say about it.

I'm glad Ken was able to work from home today. He would have been fine in the truck, but it's always better to stay off the roads when it's like this. He's also been getting a lot of work done. He'll get out later and snowblow the driveway.

I promised Hollie a picture. Hollie, you can see Ken's picture at the link above, and here's a little video for you! I hope everyone is staying warm!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book review

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.

~~Revelation 6:8

I read Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter today. Wow. That has to be one of the most chilling and tragic tales I've read in some time. (If you have any desire to read it, you should skip this entry, because it's a synopsis of the whole thing.)

It's 1918, and Miranda is a young lady working as a newspaper reporter. As the story opens, she is having a bad dream, which turns out to be foreshadowing. In the dream, she is riding a horse, and she is accompanied by another rider on a gray horse.

The stranger swung into his saddle beside her, leaned far towards her and regarded her without meaning, the blank still stare of mindless malice that makes no threats and can bide its time.

She meets a young soldier named Adam, and during the course of his leave they become close and begin to fall in love. The influenza outbreak is alluded to early on, but it is not dwelt on; the bigger issue of the story is the War, and Miranda and Adam's knowledge that he will soon be shipped out. This novella is as much an anti-war treatise as a tale of the influenza pandemic. Adam feels it is his duty, and has no qualms about going; Miranda is sick of the war. After attending a play and being subjected to another "Buy War Bonds" lecture, they leave the theater and discuss the lecture and the man who gave it.

"Just another nasty old man who would like to see the young ones killed," said Miranda in a low voice; "the tomcats try to eat the little tomkittens, you know. They don't fool you really, do they, Adam?"

Adam brushes it off, but Miranda continues:

"Adam, the worst of war is the fear and suspicion and the awful expression in all the eyes you if they had pulled down the shutters over their minds and their hearts and were peering out at you, ready to leap if you make one gesture or say one word they do not understand instantly. It frightens me; I live in fear too, and no one should have to live in fear. It's the skulking about, and the lying. It's what war does to the mind and the heart, Adam, and you can't separate these two--what it does to them is worse than what it can do to the body."

As they continue to grow closer, Miranda begins to feel the symptoms of influenza. Her landlady threatens to throw her out, telling Adam that "it's a plague, a plague, my God, and I've got a houseful of people to think about!" Adam assures her that he will take care of Miranda, and to keep out. He tells Miranda that the landlady can't throw her out, and when Miranda asks if it's really that bad, Adam says:

"It's as bad as anything can be...all the theaters and nearly all the shops and restaurants are closed, and the streets have been full of funerals all day and ambulances all night..."

While Adam is out to get more supplies, a doctor comes at the request of Miranda's boss at the paper, and she is taken to the hospital, where they eventually find a bed for her. Adam tries to see her, but they don't allow him into her room. As she descends into near death, her hallucinations and fever dreams become increasingly real, but she eventually begins to fight off the infection. As she begins to regain her senses, she realizes that she has narrowly escaped death, and feels that she doesn't quite belong in the world of the living. She finds out that while she was struggling for life, the war had ended. As she begins to look through the letters that accumulated during her hospital stay, she comes across a letter from a soldier at the base where Adam was stationed. He writes to her that Adam asked him to let her know if anything happened to him, and goes on to write that Adam perished of influenza in the camp hospital, over a month before.

I found this tragic on two levels: not only was Adam taken from her, after he'd tried to save her, but while he was so stoic about going off to war, he was felled by a virus before he got near the battlefield. As Miranda leaves the hospital, the book concludes:

No more war, no more plague, only the dazed silence that follows the ceasing of the heavy guns; noiseless houses with the shades drawn, empty streets, the dead cold light of tomorrow. Now there would be time for everything.

Bleak, yes. But some damn fine writing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Midweek Miscellany

Finally a chance to write! And I haven't even started reading blogs yet....

First of all, the blackened tuna turned out great, and the mango salsa went very well with it. I'm not sure I'd make the mango salsa every time, but the tuna was spicy enough that the sweet made a good partner. I will definitely make the blackened tuna again--it was quite easy, and a nice blend of spices. Oh, and I got a dozen roses, too. Isn't that sweet?

Fellow blogger Laurel and I exchanged a couple of emails about the Packard Predictor. I don't know if you've read Laurel's blog, but she runs a restored gas station on Route 66 in Afton, Oklahoma, and has several Packards on display. I love hearing her stories about the "Roadies" that come through! Anyhoo, she mentioned that she'd love to have the Predictor in her collection, but since it's the only one, that might be kind of difficult. I was surprised, because while I knew it was a concept car rather than a production car, I thought they'd made at least 2 or 3 of them. I emailed my contact at the Museum, and she forwarded my email on to the archivist, Andy. He wrote me back right away, and said that yes, the '56 Predictor is indeed the only one ever made. How cool is that? It's in such beautiful shape, too. Looks like Laurel and I love our "rarities!"

Today was errand-running day, because the snow is supposed to fly tomorrow, and it sounds like it could be a doozy. First stop was our library branch, where my book was in (I had it transferred from the main branch to our local branch--what a great service!). Remember when I wrote about the 1918 influenza pandemic? While I was researching, I came across the title of a book by Katherine Anne Porter: Pale Horse, Pale Rider. It's a fictional account of a girl who falls in love with a young man ready to go off to war, and it is set during the outbreak. I knew it was a must-read! It's actually a novella, so I should be able to knock that out pretty quick. I'll let you know what I think of it. While I was at the library, I heard someone go, "Pssst!" I looked up and it was Aubrey from the lab! It was great to see her, and she had some wonderful news--she bought a house! I'm thrilled for her. We had a nice chat and got caught up on a few things.

Let's see...then it was a stop at Circuit City. They just opened this one by us last year, and they're already closing it! CC is in a fix financially, and they're closing several stores. What a drag that they're closing this one. Everything is on sale right now, but it's odd how the prices seem higher than they were before...! Hmm, interesting! I've been wanting to get a car adapter for my MP3 player for a while now, and I did find one for a pretty good price. That will come in handy when we drive to Missouri for Thanksgiving. I also picked up the new Pretenders CD, "Break Up The Concrete." Chrissie Hynde rocks!

A quick stop at PetSmart for some Enchant-a-Cat litter (it's really Exquisicat, but I like Enchant-a-Cat better, so I call it that), and a peek at all the kitties. Awww, they are so cute! There were a couple that looked just like Sheeba, and I wish I could bring all of them home with me! But Sheeba wouldn't be happy with me, and I also don't want to be known as the Crazy Cat Lady of Nutwood.

Then on to Target, where I got a few more presents for Ken, so I think I'm done with his Christmas shopping. A couple of house things, and I treated myself to another CD. Cousin Shane wrote to me the other day about how he bought some new CD's recently, because of the band names. We used to do that once in a while--if we were intrigued by a band name, we'd get the CD despite never hearing anything by them before. One of the ones he got was by a band called The Wombats, I believe. Ha ha! I haven't done that for a while, and I think the last one might have been The Ass Ponys (and I ended up liking their music quite a bit). I did it today with a band called The Ting Tings. I can hardly wait to listen and see if I like it or not! Isn't that a fun name for a band?

Finally, off to the grocery store. (I got this monster head of cauliflower on sale--the thing is huge!) I was happy to get home and get everything unloaded. We're well-stocked, so groceries won't be a problem. I'm off to do some reading now, books and blogs, but I also want to get my new CD's on the MP3 player. That actually might have to wait until tomorrow. Hope you all had a good day!

My plan is to write about something more substantive tomorrow. I haven't figured out exactly what, but I will!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lucky Seven

It's a special day here at Nutwood for me and Ken: it's our anniversary! Yep, 7 years and counting.

It really is hard to believe that 7 years have gone by so quickly--and without an itch! Hey, get it? Without a (h)itch? Seven year itch? HA!

Anyhoo, we got married at Tippecanoe Place, which is one of the nicer restaurants in town. But what is special about it is that it was the mansion built by one of the Studebaker brothers (Clement). It was his home, and after going through a couple of different incarnations, it ended up as a restaurant. We were married in George and Ada Studebaker's room. I like our Studebaker connection. It was a very small wedding, with just immediate family (and Cousin Shane, of course!) and a few good friends, like Bill and Mary Sue from Michigan.

It feels like we've accomplished a lot in 7 years, and I guess that's what happens when people work together, with a common goal. (Are you listening, Washington?) We've also had a lot of fun, and been to some really neat places, and that's what happens when people have common interests (such as traveling). And all without ever having a fight. I suppose there are some who find that hard to believe, but that tells me more about your modus operandi than anything else! If someone can't even begin to comprehend living in peace and quiet, or that there are some planets on which the native species discuss things in a rational manner, that's kind of pathetic and sad. Different things work for different people, and if you really get off on the histrionics and drama, hey, knock yourself out. Or knock each other out, as the case may be! Ken and I work quite well together, thank you very much, and our plan is to keep doing what we're doing. We'll see what the next 7 years bring our way. I'm sure there will be some interesting adventures in there somewhere!

My Dad said a nice thing to me last week. We were over at my niece's, and Dad and I were chatting. He stopped and said, "You know, you look really good, Honey!" He said I looked like I'd put on a little weight (I have, from quitting smoking), and that I didn't look so "gaunt." Ha ha! He and Mom were always trying to fatten me up, and thought I was too skinny. I said I'd probably had a net gain of about 5 pounds, and he said, "Well, you just look really good. I think the happiness shows!" I think he's probably right.

Nothing real special tonight. We're not the going out type (unless we're on vacation), and we had our dress-up night on Saturday. I thought I'd try new recipe, though. How about blackened tuna steaks with mango salsa? Probably some rice, and a nice white wine. Sounds kind of yummy, eh? I'll let you know how it turns out.

I was awakened this morning by a diffuse white light filling our bedroom with hateful intensity. I remembered that "look" from last year, and I wasn't mistaken: we got about 6 inches of snow here last night, and the morning sun was shining off of a white world. It's pretty and all, sticking to the trees, and one of my favorite things is to play pioneer woman and spot the different animal tracks in the snow. (This morning I saw deer tracks and some big cat tracks...if by "big" we're talking the average housecat.) But why do I not feel mentally prepared for winter this year? At least I don't have to drive to work in it this year, which I'm very pleased about. Ken took the truck this morning, so I knew he'd be safe. I suppose the spring and summer just flew by so quickly that winter kind of snuck up on me this year.

So it's our first good-sized snow of the season. They're really getting socked a little further west of here. Up to a foot in some areas. Urgh! It does feel nice to be cozy inside, with the cat curled up on my lap. He's been here for a while, though...I think my butt is going numb.

Monday, November 17, 2008

No spouses were harmed during the course of this dinner

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous going into Saturday night's dinner event. Within about 5 minutes of getting there, I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. The Museum looked fabulous, and our 100 or so people was the perfect number for the space available. Peggy (the events coordinator at the Museum) was there the entire time, so we knew that we could go to her if there were any problems.

As people started arriving, they looked around a bit and everyone expressed what a beautiful place it is, and a great place to have the event. After an hour of hors d'oeuvres and mingling, I was starting to feel more relaxed that everything was going to go well. The head honcho (Mike) at Ken's workplace sat by us again--he sat by us at the Huckabee speech--so that was kind of cool. Mike and a couple of others (including Ken) said a few words, then we proceeded to the buffet line in an orderly and controlled manner. (Ha ha!) About the only question left was whether or not the buffet dinner would be good. Buffets can be tricky things...they can sit there too long and get overdone and dry. Not the case here. They did a great job, and the vegetable lasagna was nice and cheesy, the rosemary chicken was tender and not dried out, and the roast beef was very flavorful. And I loved the roasted veggies, with lots of squash and zucchini, but then I love stuff like that.

I was so pleased with everything, and I'll be writing some very nice letters. I heard from Ken a little bit ago, and he said that there was a conference call about the PAC, and someone made the comment that they feel sorry for whoever plans this event next year, because it will be hard act to follow. Sweeeeet! It was just really neat to be able to have this in South Bend, and have everyone who attended enjoy the Museum and appreciate it so much. It made me proud to be a South Bender.

After we left the Museum, a few of us met at Sean O'Casey's, a replica of an Irish pub downtown. It was a fine end to a fine evening, and I think I can say that a good time was had by all!

Oh, and for those of you wondering about whether or not anyone perished while eating what Ken and I came to call the Mushrooms of Death...I'm happy to report that were no fatalities due to the ingestion of verboten food items! (And the Mushrooms of Death were to die for! Lots of cheese melted on top. Yummm.) But when people were arriving, Ken and I were out at the registration table, so we were there when that particular couple got there. As they were looking for their name tags, the guy said "I'm so-and-so," and this is what his wife said: "He's the one whose wife has all the food allergies!" If I'm lyin' I'm dyin'. Why on earth would anyone define themselves that way? I found that sort of bizarre and sad. However, I encountered the guy in the exhibits after dinner, and he said, "Thank you for taking good care of my wife." I thought that was very kind of him to say, and I'm sure it's really difficult to deal with such severe allergies. I just hope they can kind of take it down a notch, because I still think it's a little presumptuous to expect a buffet dinner to conform to your dietary needs, let alone calling the caterer about it. As a couple of commenters noted, it's probably better to eat something at home and then eat what you can at such a dinner. (And the cost of this dinner was picked up by the head honcho--no one had to pay for it.)

Speaking of not paying, the open bar was a big hit! (wink)

Ken has made an entry about the evening, and put up a slideshow of everyone enjoying themselves. My slideshow focuses on the venue and the cars. There are several shots of the Packard Predictor, because I just LOVE that car! And Laurel, I think you'll see that I'd need a pretty large pantsuit to be able to fit the Predictor in there! Ha!

One final thing. A couple of people commented on Ken's entry about how, based on our picture together, he must be really tall...or else I'm really short. The answer is...both! Ken is fairly tall, at around 6' to 6'1", and yes, I'm very short, topping out at not quite 5'. And in that picture, I even had 2-inch heels on!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's official....

Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond of all time, surpassing Sean Connery.

When "Casino Royale" came out, I think most of us Bond fans were blown away with Craig's portrayal of him. But in order to be fair to Mr. Connery, I decided to hold back on such a big switch until I saw the second movie with Craig. We saw it late this afternoon, and I now feel that it is time to give the Number 1 spot to Daniel Craig. This takes nothing away from Mr. Connery, and I'll always have a special place in my heart for his suave Bond, especially because those were some of the finer Bond films in franchise history. And the sixties decor and clothing were pretty cool, too.

However, I love it that they've taken Bond in a different direction with Craig...they've reminded us that James Bond does indeed have a license to kill. His air of menace and cold blue eyes never let us forget that he would have no qualms whatsoever about snapping someone's neck with his bare hands.

"Quantum of Solace" isn't groundbreaking, but who goes to James Bond movies to see groundbreaking? It's a typical Bond movie with lots of great action sequences and a creepy villain that you can't wait to see get smacked around by James. A couple of beautiful women who are charmed by James, and plenty of political intrigue. James is still trying to come to terms with the loss of his love in "Casino Royale," Vespa, and what he believes was her betrayal of him. Will his desire for vengeance mean the end of his MI6 career, and his good relationship with M? Who can he trust? Can he even trust his own government?

Good stuff, but as always, the chase sequences and fights are what makes this movie a hell of a lot of fun. The movie opens with a bang as we watch a high speed car chase in the mountains of Italy. There's also a chase on foot through various homes and churches in Italy, and a plane chase. James gets to beat the crap out of several bad guys. My favorite, though, is the final fight with the creepy villain. I'll say no more.

If you like James Bond, you'll love this movie. If you don't...what's wrong with you?! Totally kidding--Bond isn't for everyone. If you're not a fan, this movie won't change your mind. If you are a fan, go see it in the theater. It's a blast. Literally.

I haven't forgotten to tell you about our evening at Studebaker last night. I'll work on the pictures tomorrow and make a slideshow for you (if I can remember how to do it). Suffice it to say, for now, that I think it was a hit! Ken is working on a slideshow for his blog, so you can see pictures of the event there. My pictures are mostly of the cars.

I got a present!

I was touched and flattered this morning to find out that the wonderful Indigo gave me an award. It's my first-ever blog award! To quote Indigo, who quoted her award presenter, "the award is given for being a real blogger with real interesting stuff to post." I know I'm real, because I just pinched myself, and I guess Indigo thinks that I post interesting stuff!

The Marie-Antoinette A Real Person, A Real Award

These are the rules:

1. Please put the logo on your blog
2. Place a link to the person from whom you received the award
3. Nominate at least 7 or more blogs
4. Put the links of those blogs on your blog
5. Leave a message on their blogs to tell them

Thank you, dear Indigo. If you've never read Indigo's blog, are you living in a cave? Seriously, she's a wonderful writer, so this award from her means a lot to me. Without further ado, I would like to "pay it forward" to these blogs:

Ken (you knew I'd pick him, didn't you?)

Obviously, I read a lot more blogs than that, and I love all the stories of your real lives. But I stuck with 7. Stop by and say howdy when you get a chance.