Saturday, September 12, 2009

A visit to the friendly confines

Wrigley scoreboard Today I went up to Chicago with my sisters Diana and Sue, and Diana's husband, Tom. Di and Tom treated us to a Cubs game, and it was a fantastic day! Thanks, Di and Tom, you guys are so sweet!

We couldn't have asked for a better day. Sunny and around 80°, not a cloud in the sky. We made it up there with no problem, and it's always fun driving along Lake Shore Drive and seeing Lake Michigan on one side and all the interesting buildings on the other. We found a parking spot not too far away (people rent their apartment parking spots...helps pay the rent, I'm sure) and found a cool little diner where we stopped for lunch. Lots of food for a great price that close to Wrigley Field. I wish I'd paid attention to the name of the place. All I remember is a big red neon EAT as a sign, which I think is usually a good harbinger. (A Silver Squirrel Award to whoever remembers the late 70's song, and the band who played it, in which a tiny little voice says "eat!") Hey, I paid for lunch, let me check the receipt! It's called Salt & Pepper. Very tasty food and very reasonable. Highly recommended!

Sue, Di, and Tom We hightailed it over to the ballpark and made our way to our seats. It was so great to see the ivy-covered walls again! It's been a long time. We were out of the sun, behind home plate, and a slight breeze was blowing in (always a big deal at Wrigley--that wind can really come whipping in off of the lake). Just a perfect day for a game, and everyone was in a great mood. There was an older couple sitting behind us, and they were really nice and funny, and it really tickled me to hear that Chicago accent. I'm tellin' ya...I have a very harrrrrd Midwesterrrrrn aaaaaccent. Hard r's, flat a's. The Chicago accent is all that and more. I could almost hear the Super Fans saying, "Da Bears!"

I haven't followed baseball closely for quite some time, but in the late 80's, I was a huge Cubs fan. That's when Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace were playing for them, as well as Greg Maddux and a pitcher named Mike Bielecki. I went up with Tom and Di one year for the annual Cubs Fan Convention, and got my picture taken with Bielecki. I'll have to hunt that picture down, because that guy was incredibly good-looking. Tom mentioned that trip, and he cracked me up. He said that when we went down to dinner that night, Diana was wearing some sort of gold dress, and I was wearing a tight black one that was kind of open on the sides--you know how there will be sort of lacing on the sides of a dress that holds the two parts together? I'd forgotten about that dress, but I remembered it when he mentioned it. He said that as we walked in, me and Diana on either side of him, people were watching us, and he felt that they were thinking, "Who is that guy?" He said it was his Hugh Hefner moment. Haha! I got such a kick out of that!

Beth, Sue, and Di This wasn't a boring baseball game at all. The Cubs went up 4-1 early (they were playing the Reds, by the way), but the Reds came back with a three-run inning to tie it up! Yikes! The Cubs hung in there, and ended up winning 6-4. Cubs win! Cubs win! We even got to see a Cubs home run. Of course, we got to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the seventh inning stretch, a fine tradition! Loved the day, loved the company, loved seeing beautiful Wrigley Field, and loved watching the Cubs win. Believe me, that is sometimes a miracle on Addison Street!

One of the biggest crowd-pleasers was the appearance of a squirrel on the field. Twice! The first time, he ran from the Reds' dugout behind home plate to the Cubs dugout. Then he ran back. Everyone cheered the squirrel! I wonder if it was the same squirrel who crashed vacation photos?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two little words

Obama health care speech So did everyone play like a good citizen and a Do-Bee last night and watch the President's health care address? I thought it was fantastic, but of course, I'm biased. I wasn't the person he was trying to reach, anyway. He was trying to get the moderate Democrats firmly on board, and the moderate Republicans (is that an oxymoron?) leaning towards his side. From everything I've read, there were mixed reactions in both of those camps. Some thought that it was a game-changer...others weren't so sure.

What puzzles me is how they're going to reconcile those who are majorly hung up on the public option. Republicans are saying they won't vote for the bill if it includes a public option; some Democrats are saying they won't vote for it if it doesn't include a public option. Sounds like a stand-off to me, but I'm sure a lot of it is posturing. I remain confident that some sort of compromise will be reached, and we'll see a health care reform bill passed, maybe before the end of the year. I'm not sure what the final bill will look like, but I think this is going to get done.

Today Sarah Palin was all boohoo and junk because the President called out those people who spread lies (not mentioning her by name, of course), saying that it would be "laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple." She wrote something on her Facebook page like "So much for civility." Yeah. The same woman who accused him of "pallin' around with terrorists" and stood there grinning while her supporters shouted out "Kill him!" is lecturing him on civility. Blah di blah blah, Palin. The woman grows tiresome.

Wilson Speaking of lying, the big story is obviously Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who, when the President said that this bill does not and will not pay for health insurance for illegal immigrants, shouted out, "You lie!" The look on Speaker Pelosi's face was priceless. He was immediately and roundly condemned for it, from both sides of the aisle, and issued a quick apology. Apparently, the rules of conduct issued by the Republicans specifically say that although disagreement is part of the process, it is unacceptable to call any President something like a 'hypocrite' or a 'liar.' We'll see if he's formally censured for it. I believe he should be, and have signed a petition. (For the record, I would be as equally appalled if it had been done to a Republican President. Like him or not, I believe it's a matter of respect for the office.) He apologized for his behavior, but he didn't apologize for being wrong. There is absolutely nothing in any of the bills' iterations that provide health insurance for illegal aliens. If you're going to call the President a liar, I would think that at least you'd want to have your facts straight. What a maroon!

I also have to wonder about his self-control issues. He said in his apology that he let his "emotions get the best of" him. Well, you need to work on that, dude. It's one thing for rednecks all over the country to put up idiotic, juvenile photos and videos mocking the President; you have to love a country where you're free to be as ignorant and as childish as you want to be. But for a member of Congress to show such disrespect is way out of line, and if you continue to act out, Congressman, you've got a problem you need to work on. Perhaps therapy can help.

Here's what really cracked me up about it, though. Right after the speech, he tried to speak to the President directly. Instead, he got this guy.

Rahm in the carThat's right, he talked to my pal Rahm. Oh, what I wouldn't give to know how that conversation went! I'm surprised Wilson didn't just burst into flames.

Well, he kind of did burst into flames with his spontaneous, Tourette-like least politically. No, he's not going to be impeached or anything, and he shouldn't be. However, he's got an election coming up in 2010, and his challenger is Democrat Rob Miller, who was narrowly defeated by Wilson in the last election. Miller is a retired Marine and an Iraq war veteran. Oh, and because of Wilson's outburst last night, Miller's campaign has received over $200,000 in contributions already.

And who says politics isn't fun?!

In honor of the occasion, I made a LOLdemz. The picture was taken as Wilson shouted at the President.

Democrats(This is in reference to the first Austin Powers movie, in which Dr. Evil wants "sharks with freakin' laser beams attached to their foreheads!" Instead, he has to settle for ill-tempered sea bass.)

Come to find out, my friend Milwaukee Dan #2 also made a LOLObama right around the same time!

LOLObamaWhew, I've been laughing about this all day. Hard to believe that two, tiny little words can generate such good times!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance, revisited

Cognitive dissonance4 Well, that big brouhaha about President Obama's speech to schoolkids turned out to be a big ol' heap o' nothing, didn't it? Laura Bush thought it was a good speech to give to schoolkids; most teachers thought it was an appropriate message; heck, even most of the schoolkids who heard it thought it was a pretty cool speech, and said that it showed them that sometimes you have to try harder, it's okay to ask questions, and that not everyone is immediately successful at achieving their goals. When the President mentioned that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, I saw one young lady who showed a look of stunned surprise, then smiled to her friend. After the speech, it was neat to see the kids coming up to shake the President's hand, some of them turning to their friends with an "Oh my God!" look. All in all, I'd say it was successful in its targeting of schoolkids to try a little harder, and to realize that what they do today can make a difference years down the road. It was a good message.

Even Florida RNC chairman Jim Greer, who initially opposed this speech because he felt it was pushing Obama's "socialist agenda" onto kids, came out and said it was a good speech and he was going to let his kids hear it. Of course, then he had to go muck it up by saying later that it wasn't the speech that Obama had "intended to make," that he rewrote it. Really? I wonder how Mr. Greer knows this? Did he see a copy of the speech that Obama decided not to give? I have to say, I'm amazed at his ability to understand the unspoken intentions of our President. That is some parlor trick.

A pre-speech question and answer session with a handful of students wasn't part of the speech, and I found it even more interesting. If anyone wanted to accuse the President of pushing his agenda, that's where he did it. Except it was kids asking the questions, and they were some good ones. One kid even asked about universal health care. For anyone who thinks that they need to protect kids from hearing any of Obama's ideas, I...I...I just don't understand where you're coming from. These are ideas, and discussions, and kids should be interested in the workings of our government and want to be engaged in the process. The restriction of dialogue and information seems positively medieval to me. I honestly do not understand why anyone would have a problem with that. (And let me reiterate: I was not aware at the time of the controversy over GHW Bush speaking in schools. I would not have agreed with any protests. Let the President speak.)

Dogbert Now that I've learned what cognitive dissonance is, I seem to be seeing it everywhere. Whether it's Mr. Greer giving an actual compliment to the President, followed by backpedaling and justifying his initial protest because of his perceived "intentions" on behalf of the President, or the off-her-meds Orly Taitz who continues to file lawsuits stating that President Obama is a Kenyan citizen and filing not one but two birth certificates--both of which are obvious fakes--to prove it, it seems that our country is absolutely lousy with cognitive dissonance right now.

Oh, and Obama's "socialist agenda?"

Today I read an interview with Frank Llewellyn, the National Director of the Democratic Socialists of America, which is the largest socialist organization in the country. Here are excerpts:

Q. Where on the scale does Obama fall on socialism?

A. There are many ways we can say that Obama is not a socialist, and that he is in fact governing as a centrist, but that doesn't necessarily get people to listen. Clearly the Republicans are saying it since that's all they've got to say. I don't believe they're going to stop making this charge.

It's good for me, we have more media attention as a result of this stuff than anything else in the last 10 years. When I announce our membership numbers, I'm contemplating sending Michael Steele a letter thanking him.

Q. On the school controversy, what was your reaction to people saying that the president speaking to schools is socialist? What goes through your mind?

A. The same thing that's gone through my mind every time the Republicans talk about socialism. It's silly, surreal, uninformed, and it certainly doesn't reflect what modern socialists think, and it doesn't reflect what Obama thinks. Obama's a market guy! Obama believes in markets. He probably spoke more about the role of the markets in the primary than Clinton did. So, there's no question that the Republicans are doing the same thing they did when Roosevelt was president -- confusing somebody who is trying to save capitalism from itself with somebody who is trying to destroy it. He's not trying to destroy capitalism.

And this school thing is just ridiculous.

Q. Is Obama a socialist?

A. No.

Q. Is he a secret socialist?

A. He's not a secret socialist. He's not any kind of socialist at all. He's not challenging the power of the corporations. The banking reforms that have been suggested are not particularly far reaching. He says we must have room for innovation. But we had innovation -- look where it got us. So I just...I can't...I mean laugh out loud, really.

I was on Glenn Beck recently and he said Canada is a socialist country. Well, there is a party in Canada that's called "socialist" within the Democratic party, that's won some provincial elections, never won a federal election. It would be news to them that Canada is socialist. So it's just unserious.

They always use socialism to try to defeat moderate reforms...just because something is government run doesn't mean it's socialist. I've never heard anybody say we have a socialist army.

Read the full article here.

So let me get this straight: the right wingers are saying that Obama is a socialist, or that he has a socialist agenda. (I've read a few people who have called it "socialistical." Watch the extraneous suffixes, folks.) Yet the Grand Poobah of the largest socialist organization in the country says that Obama is in no way, shape, or form--or in policy--a socialist. He finds the suggestion "silly, surreal, and uninformed." Do you think that will get people to stop calling Obama a socialist? Not a chance. "Uninformed" is the key word there. As Llewellyn states, government run is not the equivalent of socialist. But the cognitive dissonance will continue, with people ignoring facts, logic, and reality.

Tonight, I'll be settling in with my hubby and we'll watch our President's speech to a joint session of Congress concerning health care reform. I'm looking forward to it, and I think he'll be bringing his A-game.

Cognitive dissonance3

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is redemption possible?

Ted Kennedy2 On Monday afternoon, I read several articles about Senator Ted Kennedy in the September 7 issue of Time, the one with him on the cover. A fascinating read.

Some love him, some hate him, and I suspect that many, like me, have had serious concerns about issues in his past. Reading these articles, and reading about how many positive things he did in his many years of Senate service, made me wonder if perhaps there is more to be considered. Things are rarely black and white, and the same holds true here.

To begin with, the mere circumstances of his early life had to be almost overwhelming. Three older brothers who were shining lights in the family, cut down in the prime of their lives by incredible violence and unspeakable hatred, leaving the younger brother, Ted, to hold the reins of the family and be its patriarch at an absurdly young age. That's a lot of pressure, and he obviously didn't handle it well. He made many mistakes in his life, including his involvement in the death of a young woman at Chappaquiddick, his heavy drinking, and his womanizing.

But from everything I've read, he turned his life around when he married his wife Victoria in the early 90's. Whatever mistakes he'd made in the past, he seemed determined to atone for them by being a mentor to new members of the Senate (like some young kid from Illinois) and the patriarch of the Kennedy family. He was obviously well-loved by his family, his wife, and by his colleagues in Washington. Even those who often opposed him politically spoke fondly of their personal relationships with him.

Whether you loved him or hated him, or fell somewhere in-between, there is no denying that he had a very profound impact on our nation and its policies. The Civil Rights Act; the Ryan White Act helping those with HIV and insufficient health care coverage; the Family and Medical Leave Act; the No Child Left Behind Act; sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa; the Americans with Disabilities Act; and a constant and unflagging support of the disenfranchised and forgotten.

If you have issues with any of those legacies, that's your choice. I suggest that you remember that he was also a beloved husband, father, uncle, and grandfather. He was many things to many people, including some on an intensely personal level. I have to wonder about those who have suggested that he was dispatched immediately to hell. I'm not sure when it was anyone's place to decide the ultimate destination of the departed, or to be judge and jury. I know that's above my pay grade.

Senator Kennedy was a flawed person with many personal issues, as are many of us.

He was also a devoted family man who spent many years serving his country and trying to help people. Did he achieve redemption? That is not for me--or for anyone--to decide. Those who would have him spend eternity in the fiery torment of hell, or who would dance an Irish jig on his grave, would do well to remember that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Don’t hate the message

Jarts The cookout went great yesterday! We had a really nice time visiting and having Ken's family over. Jimmy and Paula had never been to our place, so it was nice to have some Nutwood Newbies. :) Ken fixed up the horseshoe pits, and the four of us played a round. I had never played horseshoes before, isn't that odd? I grew up around people playing horseshoes at family reunions and get-togethers, but had never played. I really enjoyed it, and did okay! (They were kind to me, though...just like in golf, they let me pitch from a closer spot. I was pitching from the “women's tees.”) I didn't get a ringer, but I got a couple of points. It was fun. Now if they'd only bring back Jarts! Nothin' says family fun like the flinging of steel-tipped projectiles!

The food was excellent. We made some adjustments on Ken's burger recipe; the last time he made them, they were moist...a little too moist. They started coming apart when they were on the grill. I suggested some bread crumbs, so we put some Italian ones in there, and voilá! Perfect! We have a couple of burgers and a couple of brats left over, but today is another nice day, so we'll take advantage of it and grill some steaks. (Back from the basement...I thought I'd better get them out of the freezer while I was thinking about it. We're slowly but surely getting the freezer emptied, because we've got another side of beef coming this fall. But I digress.)

I hope everyone is having a relaxing and fun holiday weekend! You can see a picture of yesterday's gang over at Ken's blog.


It is with growing astonishment that I watch some people continuing to protest President Obama's 15-minute speech to school kids tomorrow.

The guy wants to talk to kids about studying hard and staying in school, but some are saying that he's trying to promote his "socialist agenda."

Vintage headshot Really, people? Really?

This is beyond ludicrous. I'll say okay to the objection to the lesson wording about "helping the President." That was taken out of the lesson. I'll also give you that apparently some Democrats objected to a school feed from Bush the Elder several years ago. (Personally, I wouldn't have had a problem with him speaking to kids, either.) I'm willing to bet it was nothing like this hooraw, though, with people keeping their kids at home, or not allowing their kids to watch the broadcast. Yes, that's a very clever tactic: in order to keep your kids from hearing the President of the United States telling them about the importance of staying in school...keep your kids out of school! That's nothing short of brilliant! Way to go with passing your prejudices and ignorance on to your kids.

The fact of the matter is that while parents should ideally be the ones stressing the importance of school to their kids, sometimes an outside influence can have even more impact. President Obama is a perfect role model to show what kids can achieve if they work hard and stay in school: he came from humble circumstances, he worked hard...and I suppose you could say that it paid off for him, if you consider becoming the President some sort of, you know, achievement. To be completely honest, I believe that our President is even more of an inspiration to minorities or kids of mixed race; at some point in their lives, they have probably received the message, either explicit or subliminal, that they were a little bit "less than." I see absolutely nothing wrong with a role model such as our President reaching these kids who way too often believe that they are incapable of achieving great things.

Obama teaching It's not like he's planning on going in there and telling kids details about his health care plan. This is simply a message about the importance of staying in school. If you've got a problem with that...well, maybe you need to examine your reasoning. Sometimes we let our own biases stand in the way of what is obviously a positive thing. Believing that telling kids about the importance of education is somehow pushing a socialist agenda is...I hate to use the word crazy, so let's just know what? It is crazy. I'm not going to spin it in any nicer way. It's dumb and it's crazy, and it makes these people sound like ill-tempered idiots.

One of our local districts, Penn-Harris-Madison, is allowing its teachers the option of showing the broadcast; I'm proud to say that the South Bend Community School Corporation will be showing it.

It's time to stop this fear of the message because of your hatred of the messenger. Knowledge is power, and that is all that the President wants to convey. Our education system is lagging behind much of the rest of the industrialized world, and it's time to stop the skid and turn this around. I believe it can be done, but this attitude that other opinions are to be avoided and other viewpoints are somehow bad is ridiculous, although it's a time-tested tactic of the reactionary right. It is avoidance of the worst sort. It is avoidance of exposure to other beliefs, orientations, cultures, and systems in the mistaken belief that such exposure will result in personal downfall and moral turpitude. Like it or not, he is our President; like it or not, he has something to say; and like it or not, there are plenty of people who want to, and plenty of kids that should, listen to what he has to say about staying in school. It's a simple--and important--message. Quit making such a big deal about it.


Here is a link to the full text of Obama's speech to schoolkids tomorrow. Anyone got a problem with it? No? Good.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

ND Marching Band video

Just a quick entry before I start cookout prep. I didn't get any football action pictures since I was a little too intent on the game, but I did get some of the band. You can see a handful on my YouTube channel.) The Notre Dame band is the oldest college band in continuous existence in the country, with the first reference to the band in 1846 (the university was founded in 1842). They're a lot of fun to watch, and here's a video after the game, when the players go over to the student section, the band plays the alma mater, and the students and players (and the alum in the Stadium) sing along. I'm not an alum, so I don't sing, but everyone yells the last line of the song, "Love you, Notre Dame!" and it chokes me up every time! Then they play the fight song, which is probably the most recognizable in the country.

For any non-Irish fans out there (sorry, David!) I hope I didn't make you throw up or anything.