Friday, November 28, 2008

Live, from the Springfield Public Library...

It's Nutwood Junction!

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a fun Thanksgiving. Sorry I haven't had a chance to update, but this is the first chance we've had to get online. This library is fabulous, by the way (she said, as she sipped her fruit smoothie in the library cafe).

We had an uneventful trip here, although we did notice that it seemed to be the annual driving outing of Teh Stoopid Institute, and all of them were on the same roads we were taking! What is with people? Our favorite was when someone would be riding our ass, so we'd slow down in order to get in the right lane and let them pass. Then they'd slow down, and we'd be boxed in. There were a couple of times when I thought Ken was going to spontaneously combust, but thankfully, disaster was averted.

I've mentioned before that I lived in Indianapolis for 7 years. It's been several years since I've been back, and that was the route we took--down to Indy, over to St. Louis, and on down to Springfield. I was stunned to see all the growth around Indy. I barely recognized the northwest side, where I lived when I first moved there, and the northern part of the city has sprouted tall office buildings like weeds. I guess it's an up-and-coming city, but I told Ken that I think I moved away at the right time, and I'm glad I did. I loved the city, but I enjoy the rural life a lot more.

We stopped in Terre Haute for lunch at a place called Cheeseburger in Paradise. I think this is a chain of restaurants, but we'd never eaten at one before. It was very good, and our choices were met with approval by Melissa, our "Islander," and holder of the title of World's Most Talkative Server. I'm not kidding, I have never had anyone talk us up as much as she did. The kitchen staff brought our plates, and there was Melissa: "Is everything okay? Can I get you anything else?" We said no, everything looked fine. I took 3 bites of my broccoli, and there was Melissa: "How is everything?" I had a mouthful of broccoli, so I just nodded and made the "okay" hand signage. She was very sweet and very attentive, but at that point, I wanted to say, "Melissa, I've had 3 bites of broccoli, which is indeed delicious. However, I haven't had time to smell my quesadilla, let alone taste it. Perhaps you'd like to let me take a couple of bites before I pronounce judgement on my meal." It was a little too much, know what I mean?

It gets darker much earlier now, so the last hour and a half or so, we drove in darkness. We were happy to get to Ken's mom's place and relax, believe me. (Apparently Teh Stoopid Institute outing was a 24 hour affair.) We had a nice time catching up, and then had a late dinner. Thanksgiving was a low-key day, and Ken's mom made a small turkey for the four of us, with all the usual sides. After a few errands today, Ken and I ended up here at the library, then it will be back home for turkey sammitches!

Guess where one of our errands was? Walmart! Ken's mom had to get a prescription filled, and we picked up a couple of things for weekend dinners. I didn't think I'd get anywhere near a store today, but I actually set foot inside of one! It really didn't seem all that busy, but the parking lot seemed pretty full there and at all the other shopping places around, so Ken and I speculate that Black Friday might not be outstanding this year, but most places will probably end up doing okay.

No pictures for you yet, but I'll get some. One thing I want to get a picture of us the lovely Munger Moss Motel sign. The Munger Moss is in Lebanon, Missouri, and is a Route 66 fixture. It's still operating, and is apparently a pretty decent place to stay. I could see the sign on the way down, and it was dark enough that the neon was lit--what a beautiful sign! So I'll get a little bit of a googie fix on the way back!

I've bonded with Scamper the Rotund, Ken's mom's cat. Scamper is a round mound already, but he also has incredibly long fur, so he looks incredibly fat! He's a good kitty, and he came right over to me when we first got there, so I think he remembered us! I miss Sheeba a lot, but I know his Uncle Shane is taking good care of him! Oh, and Ken's mom cracked me up this morning. She was reading the paper, and there was a picture of Rahm Emanuel in there. She said, "You know, I think that Rahm Emanuel is kind of nice-looking. In a sort of debonair way." So of course, I had to tell her about my Rahm Emanuel poll!

Ken is off at one of the library computers, so I'll finish up here and try to catch up on reading a few of your entries until he finishes up and comes back to collect me. I hope you're all having a lovely, long weekend! If I don't get back here before we leave, we'll be returning Monday evening, so I'll see you all then for sure. I may not get to very many of your blogs, so be patient with me, and I'll be back in normal operating mode before too long.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yes, Virginia...there is a Santa Claus!

Ann Coulter's Jaw Wired Shut: Report

Huffington Post November 25, 2008 07:39 AM

Ann Coulter may be completely silenced, at least for a while.

If the New York Post's Page Six report is true, Coulter broke her jaw and her mouth is wired shut:

We hear...that although we didn't think it would be possible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reactionary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut...


I'm off to bed, but I couldn't let this one go. I have many reasons to give thanks on this holiday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

See ya on the road!

I'm afraid our road trip won't be quite as glamorous as this picture. We won't be in the convertible, we'll be in the truck; I won't be wearing a cute little sundress, I'll be wearing comfy clothes and my barn coat; and it's not going to be a balmy, sunny, summer's November in the Midwest!

Still, road trips are always fun, and who knows what we'll see along the way? There are always lunches to be had at little diners or small cafes, there are always people to meet along the way, and it's always great to get a chance to see some of our beautiful Midwestern countryside.

We're off to Missouri tomorrow morning to spend a few days with Ken's Mom and stepdad. We always have a good time with them, and I know she's excited to have us come down. We're looking forward to seeing them and having a nice visit! We're taking one of the laptops, and Ken has already scoped out a Starbuck's near their place that has wifi. (It's no 7th and Montana, Marty, but it'll do!) I can't promise daily updates, and I hope you'll forgive me for not commenting much for the next few days, but I'll do my best to keep up.

Meanwhile, back at Nutwood, Cousin Shane will be taking good care of Sheeba, and giving him lots of love in our absence.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with fun and fellowship!

Late news update: Ball State Cardinals go 12-0! Yahooooo! I give thanks!

On a sad note....

Co-Founder of Slinky Company Dies

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (Nov. 22) - Betty James, who co-founded the company that made the Slinky and beat the odds as a single mother in the late 1950s to become a successful executive, has died. She was 90. She died Thursday, said a spokeswoman for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Ms. James's service will take place later this week, where her remains will be set at the top of funeral home stairs and allowed to descend to the bottom on their own forward motion.


Okay, the first part is true, but I made up the second part. I couldn't resist. However, I mean no disrespect to this lovely woman and I wish her family my condolences. I still love Slinkys, but these days I use them to keep squirrels off of the hooks holding the bird feeders. (It doesn't always work.) Still, the Slinky is one of the coolest toys ever!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mild-mannered microbiologist by day....

...guitar god at night!

Say hi to my pal Jim, or as I sometimes call him, Jimi. He started working at the lab not too long after I did, and I started training him on molecular testing. (Remember the LCX instruments, Jimi? AGHHH!) As we got to talking, we hit it off immediately, due to a mutual love of sports and music. I was in a fantasy basketball league with him one year, and he kicked my ass, but we had fun.

Jim recently took online courses to get his Bachelor degree in Medical Technology (he previously had an Associate), and I was so thrilled for him!

But what is really cool about Jimi is that there is more to him than a microscope, a lab coat, and an ability to screen through multiple racks of plates. He also plays guitar, and although I've never gotten to hear him play live, today he sent me a link to the page where he's put up one of his songs. He's been having fun recording and mixing music in his secret basement lair. He wrote the song, he sings it, and he plays all the guitar on it, except his buddy Rob played bass. The drums are a software program. I hope you'll give it a listen, because I think it's fantastic. Have I got cool friends, or what?! [song and lyrics property of Jim]

My Lesson

So this is how it feels
When nightmares become real
Don't tell me how to feel
This wasn't part of the deal!

But I've seen it all before
Guess you wanted more

I can't believe you turned on me
Never thought I'd get burned
My lesson learned.
You thought you'd make a fool of me
Now I see right through you
My lesson learned.

You finally showed who you are
We didn't make it very far
Thanks though, for the scar
I never knew who you were


I'm feelin' the burn here at Nutwood! Ken finished putting together the weight machine yesterday (I helped fasten a bolt, ha ha), and today, after a little over 2 miles on the recumbent bike, I lifted a few weights! I just did arms and shoulders today, and I have to say, it felt fantastic! I can see myself really getting into this, mostly for tone and strength, and building bone density. I've been using the elliptical lately, but I can't do much. The other day, I checked my heart rate and it was up to 160! I talked to Ken about it, because I thought that seemed awfully high, much higher than is really safe, and he agreed. So I'm going to work on building my endurance on the recumbent bike, and work my way up to the elliptical. Isn't my wimpiness awful? But I've honestly never been an exerciser, so I'm not surprised I'm such a wimp. I just feel good about doing something and becoming more active. Even if I'm starting with baby steps!

Another goal of mine is to eat more fruit. I don't think we eat a lot of bad stuff--we love our salads and veggies. But I'm a slacker when it comes to eating fruit. I have no idea why, because it's nothing but yummy goodness, and I always enjoy it when I do eat it! When I was at the store last week, they had these big ol' Florida grapefruit, and I got a couple of those. Oh man, they are tasting so good to me! When we get back from Missouri, I'm definitely buying more grapefruit when I go shopping. I love them even more than oranges. I tried those mangos last week, too, and those were mighty tasty.

Oh, and speaking of veggies, when I bought my grapefruit, they also had cauliflower on sale. I got the biggest head of cauliflower I have ever seen! I swear, it was bigger than my head (and I'm sure some would say that's quite big indeed!), and even after I used half of it last night, it was still huge. I'll probably fix the rest of it tomorrow night (we leave Wednesday morning). I think I've mentioned doing this before, but last night I roasted the cauliflower. That's becoming my favorite way to cook veggies--put them on a cookie sheet, drizzle olive oil over them, then sprinkle on a few pinches of kosher salt, and toss it. Bake at 450° until it's nicely browned. The time depends on the vegetable. Asparagus takes about 10 minutes, but cauliflower takes 30 minutes. It seems like it gives the vegetable a nice, nutty flavor, and we both just love it. Shane also liked it when he tried asparagus that way. I'm thinking I'd like to try roasted broccoli, and I bet carrots would be good, too. Similar to when you add carrots around a roast, but a little more browned.

I've always steamed our broccoli and cauliflower, but we always put a little spray butter on it...I would think the olive oil is much healthier.

OO! Brussels sprouts! I bet those would be delicious roasted!

Jeez, I'm making myself hungry.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A local take on a national issue

Our local paper had a great front page article today, looking at the topic of the auto industry bailout through a local perspective. And we do have one, because after decades of operation in South Bend, the largest employer in the area closed its doors. Studebaker shut down its local operations in late 1963, putting thousands out of work--and right before the holidays. This picture has always made me's the last day at Studebaker, the workers leaving for the last time.

From what I've read in various books about the company, it was a bleak time in South Bend, with many wondering if the city would survive. By that time, there were enough other companies that the city did survive the blow, but many workers were unable to find as good a job as they had with Studebaker, and many were old enough that they weren't able to find other jobs at all. Suicide rates went up. Local and state lawmakers visited Washington to plead for assistance, and they did get some, but not enough to bail out the company completely. Studebaker had always been the recipient of lucrative military contracts, beginning with the Civil War, and this kept them afloat for many years. With the pending shutdown, the federal government gave money, but not to save the company; the money went towards retraining of workers. The success of the retraining was mixed, as some workers had never worked for another company, and had never finished high school in order to go to work at the plant--for some, literacy was a problem.

The current crisis is compounded by the credit crisis, which has a broad effect on all industries and businesses. Also in today's paper was an article about a steelmaker near Gary that is going to have to lay off over 3,000 workers. The Union president is calling for government help for those workers.

This is a horrible dilemma, because while we all want people to keep their jobs, I believe that if a company no longer has a viable business plan, the government cannot continue to fund those plans that just aren't working any longer. The auto makers saw it this past week when Congress said, "This isn't good enough. You have to show us what you are going to do to make this viable again." The auto makers will need to make concessions, such as when the government loaned Chrysler money in 1979, and Lee Iacocca took a salary of $1 a year. I believe (and this is merely my opinion) that the auto makers really need to rethink how they make their cars, and part of that is stricter fuel efficiency. They should have done that years ago, but they took the easy way out and maintained the status quo, for the most part.

I am not against the American auto industry. I've never owned anything but a Ford Mustang, and I've always been satisfied with Ford's service. I think they're a fine company, and I'm happy to buy their products. But they, along with GM and Chrysler, haven't been really competitive for some time now, and they need--here comes one of those phrases that we all love to hate--a complete paradigm shift of how they operate. I believe they can still be viable companies, and I think it's time that the CEO's pony up like Iacocca did. If they truly believe in their companies, they will be willing to do so, they will work harder to turn the companies around, and they will care enough about their employees, their shareholders, and about the economy in general to do whatever it takes to reverse their companies' fortunes.

Based on some numbers that Ken is running, the federal assistance to the auto makers makes sense. Not to help the CEO's maintain their million-dollar salaries and lavish perks, but to save these great American companies and save the people who build the cars. To not do so will cost taxpayers more in the long run. The thought of Ford going under makes me want to cry. They can turn things around, but there have to be conditions, and there will have to be a lot of hard work.

I hope they're up to the task.

Source: South Bend Tribune, November 23, 2008