Saturday, August 8, 2009

Three for three!

Tonight we had a date with a Mystery Blogger. I gave you a clue when I said that I was "jazzed" for it!

Jamie and family We met with that sassy Jamie girl from An Animal Rescuer's Life, her husband Shawn, and their daughter Jasmine (AKA "Jazz") and son Evan. Evan didn't have much to say, but he was very smiley tonight! Jasmine is a bundle of energy, and such a cutie-pie--Ken had a blast being "Bucko" with her, and she was a lot of fun. Oh, and it was great to talk to Jamie and Shawn, too! Haha!

Honestly, I'm so glad we finally got to meet. We're old enough to be their parents--ack!--but I hope we weren't too much of a drag! I enjoyed talking with both of them, and I hope we get a chance to get together again. It's not like we live hundreds of miles away, so I don't see why it won't happen--with everything we both have going on, it's just a matter of when. Jamie is funny and sarcastic, and I'd have to say that Shawn is, too. No wonder I liked them both!

For anyone who thinks that online friendships aren't real, I say "piss off!"

Oh, and Milwaukee Dan #2? We talked about you, yes, we did. Wondered if we might get you to stop by this way en route sometime and meet up with us. What's it gonna be, boy? Yes...or no? We'll let you sleep on it, and you can give us an answer in the morning.

Wow, awesome weekend so far, and it's only half over. On the way home tonight, we put the top down and cranked up an Alice CD. I'm excited for tomorrow!

A meeting with our Congressman

Donnelly's visit Today Ken and I made our way up to the Martin's (a local grocery store chain) at Ironwood and 23 for a meeting about health care being held by our Congressman, Joe Donnelly. We quickly realized that was the wrong Martin's, and it was the other one on Ironwood. Whoops! We just assumed it would be the much larger one, and you know what happens when you assume...! We got there a few minutes before it was supposed to start, and the place was already jam-packed--Ken estimated 150-200, and it was a very small space. Congressman Donnelly was a few minutes late, so we had a chance to say hi to my friend Barb who was there taking pictures for the local paper. If I keep going to these rallies and meetings, I'll get to see Barb a lot more than I have lately!

Barb and I wondered what the meeting was going to be like. There was a guy out on the street waving around a couple of pig-shaped signs that said something about pork, and we saw several people in the crowd that had T-shirts reading "Tyranny Response Team." [rolling eyes] We also exchanged a look when one woman started her question by saying, "When I was listening to Rush Limbaugh yesterday...." Yikes.

When Congressman Donnelly arrived, he got a big round of applause, and quite a few of those who were sitting stood up for him. I thought that was cool. Donnelly is a Democrat, and to explain a little about usually leans heavily Republican, although in the last Presidential election, it went for Obama. (Yay, Indiana!) South Bend is very Democrat, though, while Elkhart, the town about 20 miles east, is very Republican. Even among Republicans, Donnelly is well-liked because he is fair, he takes time to listen to people, he is readily available (He told us today that his wife will kill him, but he's in the book...good grief, man, what have you done?!), and seems to have a lot of common sense and a good head on his shoulders. He also seems to be a hell of a nice guy.

The initial plan was to have people talk with him one-on-one to help them with concerns and issues about health care. That got scrapped immediately and he went right to a question and answer session, to be followed by the one-on-one. The crowd was starting to get a little grumbly, and I'd say that was a wise decision on his part.

For the most part, nothing got out of hand, although early on he had to try to get people to hold off on applause--there were several angry outbursts and applause when someone said something people liked. He said, "I came here to hear your opinions. If you try to hold off on the cheers and applause, I'll get to hear more," or something to that effect. It was an anti-health care plan crowd, as well as a very anti-immigrant crowd. That came up several times, and more on that in a moment. There were enough comments about keeping government out of health care that Donnelly had to mention Medicare and the Veteran's Administration programs, run by, you know...the government. Yes, he said, there are problems and inefficiencies, but most people he's spoken to are very happy with their coverage. A few people spoke up and said that they were pleased. One woman said she's had bouts with three different types of cancer, and every day she thanks Lyndon Johnson (who put Medicare in place). Another woman spoke up and said that her two daughters are on Medicaid, and they are NOT illegal immigrants.

Donnelly's visit2An elderly lady had a printout of something she'd gotten online with 51 points of concern, and asked Donnelly about the "mandatory" end-of-life counseling in the bill, and what right does the government have to tell her how and WHEN to die? Donnelly reiterated that it does not state that, it is an optional counseling for those facing a terminal illness or those who want to make decisions about their own treatments. (Ken and I have living wills--do you?) He went on to say that she should talk to his team, and they will address every one of those 51 points. He also reminded people that "just because you get a fax or an email doesn't mean it's true."

A few people tried to extract promises that he wouldn't vote for this or that or the other, and he finally had to say, "I'm not here to satisfy you, I'm here to do what's right for the country." BOO-yah!

One guy yelled, "Americans like our current health care!" My thought was, "Yeah, those who have it. This whole thing is about those who don't."

No one got really nasty, although there were quite a few mutterings, and some people (the old geezers behind us) felt compelled to carry on a conversation the whole time. I felt like saying, "Why did you come here if you aren't going to listen to what he has to say?" I settled for a lot of loud SHHH's. There was a palpable anger in the room, and a couple of times Donnelly had to say, "Listen, I'm not going to respond to those who shout the loudest." You could tell that he was getting a little exasperated a few times, but he's a cool customer.

Oh, and Ken got to ask a question, too! It was about how companies with their own insurance will be able to compete with any sort of public option. Donnelly said that the bill as it reads now is very limited in who can get the public option, if I understood him correctly. In other words, companies can't just ditch the insurance they already have in favor of the public option, that it's designed more to cover those who have no coverage. That was my impression, but he said he would clarify that and send a response to Ken if he'd fill out a card, so that should provide more information. We both shook his hand when we left, and my opinion of the guy increased even more than it already was. I believe he's one of the more accessible legislators we've ever had, and I will make sure to write him a letter expressing my thanks for coming today. I suspect he'll hold another meeting soon in our area, perhaps more of a town hall atmosphere rather than this informal meeting.

As for the coverage of illegal immigrants, Ken and I were talking about it on the way home. I know this won't be a popular opinion with many, but I believe that it would be better to make those who are already here citizens (after passing the citizenship test, of course, and then tightening the borders) and have them pay taxes and use the public health care option. The alternative is that they utilize the emergency room for all illnesses, those that are life-threatening and those that are not, and I can tell you that is a huge cost in health care, much more than preventive care. A woman asked a question about this, and Donnelly said something like, "If someone comes into a hospital emergency room because they're dying of a heart attack, but they don't have insurance, the hospital will treat them. How could they let them just sit there and die?" I'm happy to say that it left the woman speechless for a moment.

Donnelly's visit3That’s Barb taking pictures to the far left in this photo!

I know this is getting long, but I'll sum it up with a reminder that we all need to have a little compassion for those less fortunate. Ken and I are very lucky in that his company offers great insurance benefits; when I worked at the lab, they also had great and very inexpensive coverage. Not everyone is so lucky. One woman said that she works at a grocery store chain here (not Martin's) and last year was diagnosed with cancer. After initial testing, she was told that she had exceeded her benefits, and the surgery she needed would not be covered. We have a close family member who because of numerous medical problems had to declare bankruptcy. There are kids out there whose parents can't get a job that provides reasonable health insurance, and those kids go without needed visits to the doctor for preventive health care or for illnesses.

There are some that say that health care isn't a right. What does that make it? A privilege? How do we define who are the privileged and who are not? How do we evaluate who is worth saving and who is not? How can we deny health care to anyone? I can't pretend to have all the answers, and I believe that there are many things to be worked out in this bill. However, I believe we need to do something to make sure that everyone has access to quality care. If your legislators hold meetings near you, I urge you to go, become involved, and be informed. And please be respectful--nothing gets accomplished when people try to shout each other down.

I'll leave you with a German word that means "to your health." Gesundheit!

You can read Ken's take on the meeting here.

Life is just a dream here….

This looks to be a busy (at least for us) and fun weekend!

This afternoon, we're planning on attending a meeting held by our Congressman, Joe Donnelly (who is really a good guy), concerning health care. Ken has a question he would like to ask, and it should be interesting to see what happens. I told Ken that considering what's been going on at town hall meetings across the country, we might see some fireworks. He said, "If that's the case, I'll be glad to stand up for the guy, say that he's trying to answer the questions they’re asking him, so STFU!" (And he didn't use the acronym.) We are both disgusted by the lack of respect and civility we're seeing lately. Here's a clue: as soon as you start shouting, all discussion stops, and nothing gets accomplished. Is that really what people want? Dissatisfaction is one thing; shouting down your opponent is something else entirely, and completely counterproductive. I'll be writing more about some of these shouting matches soon...a big surprise, I know. [grin] I hope to get some pictures at the meeting, and to have some interesting things to report.

Saturday evening, we'll be meeting up with a special Mystery Date Blogger! I won't reveal their identity until we both have a chance to write about it. We've been reading each other and corresponding for some time, so I feel like I know this person already, although we've never met. I'm quite jazzed about it. So far, we're batting a thousand on meetings with fellow bloggers (we met Marty in Vegas, and went up to Detroit to see Mark), and I'm confident that we won't eff up our average with this meeting! Pictures will be taken!

Then...are you ready to rock?

What? I can't hear you! I said, ARE YOU READY TO RAAAWWWWK?!

Alice Cooper I knew you were! Me too! Sunday night we're going to see the legendary Alice Cooper at the Morris in South Bend. We'll have to make do with eleventh row seats. Blue Öyster Cult is opening, and although I was never into them as much as Cousin Shane was--I had the 45 of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and I still love the song "Godzilla", but I think Shane had all of their albums--it should be fun to see them. Alice is who I really wanted to see. I've liked him for years, and back when I ordered the tickets (I think that was in May), I wrote about the battle I had with my Mom over the poster of Alice I hung on the wall in my bedroom. I'd leave for school, and when I got home, she'd have taken it down and rolled it up. I'd put it back up. She'd take it back down. I don't recall how long that went on, but I finally hung Alice (pun intended, for those who know about his elaborate shows in the past) on the inside of my closet door, and that seemed to end the silent battle. I've already confirmed that I can take pictures (as long as they aren't for commercial use), so I'll have plenty of picture-editing to do this weekend! (I might even try to get a video...!)

I'm pretty sure I'll be wearing black to the concert. What else would one wear to a BÖC/Alice Cooper concert? One of my favorite Alice songs is "Welcome to my Nightmare." I like how it has a sort of laid back yet creepy vibe.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wherefore art thou…Art?

Jolie statue by Daniel Edwards As soon as I read one of the AOL headlines this morning about how a nude Angelina Jolie sculpture had created a stir, I thought, "Dan has done it again." Here is a longer article, which includes a video, about his Jolie sculpture.

Sure enough, as soon as I read the article, I saw that the artist was Daniel Edwards. I wrote about Dan way back in May of 2007, when he released his Paris Hilton autopsy sculpture, and I may have written about him even before that, when he did the sculpture of Britney Spears giving birth. I worked with Dan's wife in Indianapolis, and still keep in sporadic touch with them. Of course, when I saw his latest, I had to fire off an email to them. As I wrote in the email, it has to be kind of nice to realize that his work is instantly recognizable!

This got me to thinking. (Uh oh.) What is the nature of Art? Many look at Dan's work and find it obscene or intended to provoke. Personally, I think one of the goals of art is to provoke, but obscenity is in the eye of the beholder. What some would see as obscenity others see as a celebration of life, in which a woman gives birth, or breast feeds her children. My opinion is that a big part of Dan's work is a commentary on our collective obsession with celebrity and the cult of personality. His work does provoke, it does get people talking, and it does get publicity. Seems pretty clever of him to me. He's also an amazing sculptor, isn't he?

Beth art gallery I'm certainly no art connoisseur or art scholar, but I do enjoy reading up on artists and their works, as well as going to galleries. Seeing a work in person has a visual impact that can't be duplicated on the page, and I always enjoy seeing what reaction the artist invokes in me (or in others). I do enjoy modern art, including the colorful chaos of Pollock and Kandinsky, or the commercialism of Warhol. (I think Dan learned a bit about celebrity obsession from Warhol.) Two of my favorites are Edward Hopper and Maxfield Parrish. Parrish for his beautiful art deco-style paintings with that intense blue of evening skies, and Hopper for his vibrant colors contrasting with shadows. Even in the sunniest of Hopper's paintings, there are shadows. Parrish always makes me feel happy, as if I'm one of the women in his paintings, standing on a rock at the edge of a bottomless lake, my thin dress blowing in the gentle wind, looking up at a sky that is rapidly changing from evening to night, the stars shining against the deepening blue. Hopper has the opposite effect on me, inducing a feeling of solitary melancholy. His paintings often show deserted houses and empty chairs; a glimpse into a lighted window; a doorway leading into a house that seems to be unoccupied. Even when there are people in his painting, they are either alone or seem lonely in a crowd. (Think of his most famous painting, Nighthawks, which I'm happy to say I've seen in the Art Institute in Chicago.)

Beth art gallery Warhol Why would anyone want to look at paintings that make them feel melancholy, you ask? It's all part of the human experience. It evokes feelings that are a part of all of us. I also enjoy looking at art that makes me happy, and some that puzzles me. What was the artist thinking when they painted this? What are the people doing in this? If it's a deserted landscape, what happened to the people? Sometimes, especially in modern art, what the hell is that thing? Believe me, I don't see a lot of meaning in Mark Rothko's works, for example, but I do find his techniques and colors interesting.

When I look at art, I don't try to think about what it means; it means different things to different people. I try to think of what it makes me feel. Joy? Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Disgust? Indifference? Of all of those, I would imagine that the latter is the one that most artists never want to induce. All others are fair game.

Congratulations to Dan for never inducing indifference!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Rise of the Botnets

Anyone else have problems with Facebook and Twitter this morning? Twitter was completely down for a while, and Facebook was sporadic. I could pull up my messages but then couldn't get into them, for example. Both seem to have recovered now, and I was wondering if there were solar flares or something interrupting communication. Or maybe hostile aliens. Nope. According to an article on CNET, the source is human, just irritating and disruptive:

DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks typically come from a collection of compromised computers called a botnet, said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Internet security firm Sophos. The botnet computers can inundate a Web site's servers with communication requests, legitimate or malformed to cause extra trouble.

Thanks, hackers, for once again proving to all of us that you have no life. I honestly don't get that mentality. Trying to compensate for their own inadequacies, I suppose. Twitter seems to be okay now, and Facebook mostly okay--still a little sluggish, but much better than it was earlier.

Dreaming I haven't written about any of my odd dreams lately, but I had a good one last night. Not so much for the interesting content or any hidden meanings, but for a great one-liner that I really want to remember.

I was at some function in a church--I don't know if it was a wedding, or what. I was wearing an evening gown, but it was really an ugly one, with ruffles on the bodice, long sleeves, and an ugly rust color. Bleah! Totally not me! I escaped from the function and went out to the outdoor basketball court and was shooting baskets. There was another woman there who was about my age, but she was apparently in charge of the playground. (She reminded me vaguely of someone from high school, but I can't think of who.) She left to go do something else, and while she was gone, I noticed that there was a chunk of foam matting that was obscuring access to the basket, so I said to myself, "That's gotta go." I pulled it down, and as I was propping it up against the wire fence around the court, that piece of fencing fell down, taking the next section down with it. As I was trying to get the sections of fence back in place, I accidentally started a lawn mower that was sitting in a puddle of muddy water (I have weird dreams, remember?), and it hurled muddy water all over my dress. (Apparently, in my dreams, I'm a veritable Lucy Ricardo.) As I was struggling with all this stuff, Tony Randall happened to wander by, and I said, "Hey--wanna help me here?" He said, "I can't help you with this, I'm just an architect," and I said, "Then you're good at building things. Now help me get this fence up!"

We got the fence back in place, and that's when the woman in charge came back. When she saw what had happened, she gave me a dirty look, but didn't say anything. I went over to her and said, "Hey. Have you got a problem?" She said, "It looks as though you've been very busy," in a sarcastic tone. I said, "It was a series of unfortunate events." She made no comment, just gave me another dirty look, so I said, "Hey lady? Why don't you just sit there atop your high horse, take a look around, and enjoy it...then get off it!"

I have no idea what prompted this dream, although I would guess that it shows a bit of a problem with authority figures, which comes as no surprise to me. I should rephrase that. I have no problem with authority figures who treat others with respect, and don't abuse their authority. I have a big problem with those who are bullying jerks and throw their weight around just because they can. I'm sure we've all encountered both types.

I just love my last line in the dream about the high horse, though. I'm going to remember that one, and who knows? I might have a chance to use it one day. I'd be so happy, though, that after I delivered it in the appropriately scathing tone, I'd burst into laughter, do a happy dance, and say, "I got to use the line! I got to use the line!" That would probably detract from its effectiveness.

By the way, Barb sent me the picture today of the three of us at yesterday's rally. As you can see, none of us ever had any sort of problem with authority figures at Ball State. Nope, model citizens, all of us, never got into a speck o' trouble, never broke a rule. That was us! (teehee!)

Barb, Dan, and Beth

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A fun experience

Air Force One Last night, I got an email from the Obama Intrawebs Machine inviting me out to show my support today for his visit to nearby Wakarusa, Indiana.

I pondered it a little bit, because who knew how organized it would be, or if it would be worthwhile, and the speech itself wasn't open to the public...but Ken said, "Go. You never know what you'll see, and you'll be sorry if you don't." Right he was, so I set my alarm this morning, and was rarin' to go at 8 AM. Well, rarin' to go might be an exaggeration, but I was up! I had a message from my friend Milwaukee Dan #1 saying that he was going, too, and then when I updated my Facebook status, turned out that our friend Barb was also going! She's a photographer for our local paper, and the three of us went to Ball State together.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and around 80°. I got there at 9:30, and there were already lots of people there. I got a sign that said Health Care for America NOW! on one side and Health Care Can’t Wait! on the other side, and a sticker, and found a spot at the side of the road. I talked to a couple of nice women close by, who had volunteered for the campaign, and everyone was enjoying the day and hoping to get a glimpse of the motorcade. I'll end the suspense right now and tell you that it didn't come by us. Bummer! But we got to see Air Force One fly overhead, and that was cool! There were plenty of police, naturally, and choppers circling. There were several workers walking around and firing people up. One woman with a loudspeaker appeared to have boundless energy, and she had a pretty cool groove going on!

I saw Barb first, and it was so great to see her! It's been too long. She said she'd seen Guido (Dan's college nickname...are you still with me?) on the way up, so I was watching for him. I finally spotted him, and it was just as great to see him! Barb came by a little later and got one of her friends to take a picture of the three of us, so I hope to put that up here when she sends it to me or I can snag it off of Facebook. It was a freakin' Ball State reunion, I tell you!

Dan and Beth at Obama's visit Barb had pictures to take for the paper, but Dan and I hung out most of the time. He walked around more than I did and got lots of pictures. He ventured over to where the protesters were and said there were some really interesting signs. One that he saw said Let ME Treat My Patients. We saw one that said Obama Lied, Grandma Died. [rolling eyes] One woman had a sign up to sign a petition for state sovereignty. I was happy to see that sovereignty was spelled correctly. We agreed that although they weren't trying to be funny, their signs were definitely more humorous than our health care and energy signs!

Oh, and we each got super cool T-shirts that say Make Our Energy Clean, Make It American. Score!

The 'other side' sent a group of youngsters carrying anti-abortion signs over to stand behind us. Most of these kids did not look old enough to vote. Those of us talking felt that it was a little cowardly to send the kids over, obviously trying to incite us into some sort of clash. Of course, these were just kids, and had the right to protest, and I didn't hear anyone go after them. There were a few folks talking quietly and earnestly to them, and everything remained calm. At least at that time.

After it was determined that the President was in the building, we walked over to the Other Side. They had police line tape up, but people were crossing over to hear the speech broadcast from a sound system someone had set up. Dan asked, "Are you up for it?" I said, "Yeah, let's go," and we ducked under the tape. (Dan and Barb and I never got into any trouble in college. Really.) We were listening to the speech, although we couldn't hear all of it--I'll have to find it on YouTube tomorrow to hear the whole thing. Over to our right, we saw a guy with a video camera on a tripod, and with a microphone, setting up to interview one of the Obama supporters. One of the protesters came over and stood in front of the camera, then more came over and started harassing the reporter. He said, "I'm interviewing both sides, and I'll interview you if you want me to, but let me interview this lady!" The protesters started saying, "You're on private property. You can't do this here." Dan went over and said, "Hey, let him do his job!" (He's also a journalist.) The reporter was like, "Okay, I'll go back, but I don't know why you won't let me interview someone here." The people who were organizing the supporters were hovering around by this time and said, it's okay, let's move back, and as we walked back to Our Side, I said, "They're kicking us out! We were just listening to the speech!" and Dan yelled, "Freedom of speech!" It was a little exciting there for a while, but of course, nothing happened.

I have to say, though, that over on the supporters side, everyone was very positive and upbeat. The anti-abortion kid protesters that were sent over were not harassed, and no one was getting nasty. I wonder why the protesters were so negative and nasty? Most of us were just standing there listening to the speech, and the reporter was just trying to interview someone. I don't understand why they had to get so exclusive all of a sudden. They had people coming over to where we were...why couldn't they let us stand there and listen to the speech? Some of them were really negative and belligerent. If it was private property, they had the right to tell us to go away, and we did. It was all pretty interesting, though.

After the speech was over, Dan and I hung around a little longer (I saw Barb again, too, and gave her a big hug), and watched some of the Invited Ones driving off. Some local politicians, mostly, but apparently Indiana Senator Evan Bayh was there. Our biggest laugh of the day came when we saw the South Bend Police Department Bomb Squad truck drive by...and the driver threw his cigarette out the window. The irony just cracked us up! BOOM! We made our way back to our cars, said it was great to see each other and that we hope to have a chance to all get together, and headed home. I got to watch the local TV coverage of Air Force One taking off, so that was cool.

I think I'm sunburned, and I was sore from standing for 3+ hours, but I'm really glad I went. It was a disappointment not to see the motorcade, but it was still a great chance to experience the excitement of a Presidential visit and the sense of community that most of us shared. Great to see some old friends (I can say old, because we're the same age!) to boot, and I had a lot of fun. A very good day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kitty in a box

Obama2 Before I get to that, Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Apparently, to celebrate his birthday, albeit a day late, he is coming to experience the joys of Wakarusa, Indiana tomorrow. Ha! I'm not sure what he'll do there...maybe visit the slaughterhouse where I used to go to pick up cow blood for protein separation of coagulation factors at one job I worked at for a while. Not fun, and I'm glad I didn't work there long! Anyhoo, he is coming to this tiny town (lucky if it's 2000 people) in Elkhart County (one county east of us) to talk about things, and is speaking at one of the businesses in town. We're hearing that there is to be some sort of announcement, and speculation is that it's about another company setting up shop there, although that could just be wishful thinking. Elkhart County is the home of RV manufacturing, and has been particularly hard-hit by this economy. Unemployment is up around 18%, so people are really hurting there. I think everyone in the area is hoping for good news for the county, because we all know someone who is out of a job. Economic factors are certainly looking up, indicating that the worst of the recession is over, but that doesn't matter to the person who has been out of work for months and sees no end in sight. Jobs are always the last to recover, and I'm sure that will be the case now. I just hope everyone can hang on until places start hiring again, and new companies start up. [fingers crossed]

The event is not open to the public, so there was no chance that I might get to go. I was intending on going grocery-shopping tomorrow, but did it today so I can watch the local coverage of his visit. He'll be flying into our local airport at South Bend, then heading over to Wakarusa to speak. There are some in Wakarusa that don't give a rat's ass that he's coming to their town, but most folks are pretty excited. When you're a town of maybe 2000, a Presidential visit is a pretty big deal!

I finished Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad today, and I have to say I'm rather proud of myself. It's one of our book club books, and I gave up on it (temporarily) when we were in Florida. It was just not beach material! I picked it back up when we returned, and I'm glad I did. Definitely a gripping yarn, although tragic. Next up is The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen. It was first published in 1938, but the edition I have is from 1961. It's a hardback with sort of a funky, patterned cover, and it's old enough that it has that pleasant old book smell...aged paper with a hint of mustiness. Not unpleasant at all, more of a secret smell. As if you found it in dusty stacks, pulled it off the shelf, blew the dust off of the spine, and opened it to find...what? That's the magic of books. I know that my fellow readers will understand. [grin]

Sheeba in a bag So...the kitty in the box. This is our cat Sheeba. I know this isn't a box, it's a bag, but like most cats, he loves to crawl into empty bags and boxes of all kinds. One of his favorite games is, if we have an empty pop or beer carton at the top of the stairs, to push the carton over to the basement stairs and let it tumble down to the bottom. It cracks us up every time, and he never seems to get tired of doing it. Yesterday, I was sitting here and he was playing with an empty box. He crawled inside it, as he often does, but next thing I knew, he was pushing with his back legs right over to the top of the stairs, and BAM! Down he went. What is that phrase? Ass over teakettle?

I gasped, "SHEEBA!" and went running downstairs (I'm lucky I didn't fall). I'm not sure exactly when he came out of the box, but by the time I got to the stairs, he was at the bottom of the stairs and out of the box. He quickly trotted under the pool table. I imagined him saying, "I meant to do that." I got him out from under the pool table and gave him the once over. Nothing was broken and everything seemed to be intact--other than his pride. I think cats definitely have that attitude of embarrassment after they get themselves into trouble, don't you?

I watched him all afternoon for any signs of trouble, or aberrant behavior. He slept a lot, but...pfft, he's a cat. When Ken got home and I told him the story, and said that I was worried and watching Sheeba, well...Ken just couldn't leave that one alone.

Ken: [speaking as Sheeba] Mama? Is that you? I'm having a hard time seeing....

Me: Stop it!

Ken: [as Sheeba] Mama? I'm feeling a little dizzy and nauseous. I think I might have a concussion....

Me: Cut it out!

Later on, Sheeba was curled up on his perch, snoozing away, and I got this:

Ken: [as Sheeba] Mama?

Me: [resignedly] Yes, Sheeba.

Ken [as Sheeba] Look at me. I'm dead!


I'm happy to report that Sheeba is doing fine, and if sleep does indeed hold healing powers, he is at 100%.

Note to self: Never take Sheeba to Niagara Falls.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Get. A. Freakin’. Grip.

Twilight Zone Imagine, if you will, this scenario. (Thanks, Twilight Zone!)

Due to changing circumstances, you decide to relocate. You move out of your home state, and start anew elsewhere. Before you leave, you gather all documentation from your home town that you will need to make your transition easier. You know that even if you don't get everything you need, all documents are on record and can be easily accessed if you need them.

When you get to your new digs, you know that one of the first things you need to do is get a drivers' license. You love to read, so you know you want to get a library card. Since your new job involves a lot of travel, including overseas, you also need to apply for a passport. You do some research and find the requirements for all of these documents and licenses: proof of residence, proof of insurance, and in the case of your passport, you need your birth certificate. No worries, you've got your shit together and have everything at hand.

Your first stop is the the Post Office for your passport. You show them a couple of bills with your new address on them, and your driver's license from your previous state. You produce your birth certificate. The guy behind the desk looks everything over and says, "I'm sorry. This won't do."

You say, "What do you mean? I've got everything right here."

He says, "I need your birth certificate."

You give him a puzzled look, wondering if he's yanking your chain. "You've got it in your hand."

He says, "This says 'certificate of live birth.' I need your birth certificate."

By now, you're starting to get a little frustrated. "It's the same thing!"

He says, "No, it's not. One is a certificate of live birth. The other is a birth certificate. How is that the same? Besides, this doesn't look like my birth certificate."

Gritting your teeth, you say, "There is no national standardized birth certificate. Every state is different. This is what my state issued when I was born."

He says, "Whatever. I still need your birth certificate. Come back when you can show me that."

Stunned, you realize it's impossible to convince the man. You go home and think on it for a while, and come up with the brilliant idea of getting a copy of the newspaper that contained your birth announcement. You do a little online research, and for a small fee, you are able to access those archives and print out your announcement. Surely, you think, this in combination with my birth certificate, or certificate of live birth--whatever!--will do the trick, and maybe I'll get lucky and have a different guy tomorrow.

No such luck. Same guy, and as soon as you walk in, he's giving you the stink-eye. "You again. Do you have your birth certificate this time, or are you going to waste my time...again?"

"Well, sir," you say, "I still only have my certificate of live birth. There really isn't another--this is the real deal. See the official seal there at the bottom? I found a little more information, though, and I think this will convince you." You triumphantly produce the printout of your birth announcement, and lay it on the desk in front of him.

"What's this?" he asks.

"It's from the local newspaper where I was born. It's my birth announcement."

He laughs heartily. "Son, this doesn't prove diddly-squat. Anybody with half a brain can make a mockup of a birth announcement and print it out."

" can go online and look it up in the archives yourself! It's not a fake printout--it came from the paper!"

He stops laughing. "You know what? You seem like a decent enough guy, and I'm going to give you a break. I'm going to send this application through, but let me tell you one thing: I still don't really believe these pieces of paper. I think you're making it up, or you paid somebody off to try to make it look real. You're not fooling me, but I'm not going to keep you from getting your passport, because you need it to do your job. But mark my words, son. Not everyone is going to be as forgiving as I am. There may come a time when you remember my words, and will wish that you could get your hands on your birth certificate. Don't come cryin' to me about it, because I'm trying to help you here." He stamps your application as Approved and places it in his outgoing box. "Now go on, get out of here."

You manage to close your open jaw and mutter "Thank you, sir," turn and walk out. As you look back on the surreal encounter, you realize that you have just made a narrow escape from...the Twilight Zone.

Obama's birth certificate Such is the lunacy of the Birfer or Birther folks, those who believe that President Obama is not eligible to be President because he has not produced his birth certificate. He has. They just don't believe that it's valid. As Leonard Pitts put it in his excellent column on the matter, "Yours truly lacks the acumen to calculate how stupid you'd have to be to believe there is a shred of a shred of a piece of a fraction of validity to their claim."

I suppose that you can forgive the poor workin' joe (I wonder if Joe the Plumber is on board with the Birthers?) who doesn't have the capacity to comprehend the truth of the matter, but how to explain some GOP lawmakers who are still apparently unconvinced? Or a CNN talking head who although he says he believes Obama is a citizen, keeps asking for proof? As my fictional bureaucrat says, mark my words, GOP. Distance yourself from this lunatic fringe, or risk being known as the party of wingnuts. There is no logic to this strange story, and I can only speculate that for whatever reasons (racist? stubbornness? idiocy?) they simply cannot accept that Obama won the election and is now their President. It's time to straighten your tinfoil caps, put this baby to bed, and look to your future. The credibility of your party depends on it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Family Tour Weekend

After a visit with my folks yesterday, today brought a visit to my sister to deliver the bunk beds she bought from us. Her grandkids stay with her sometimes, and that will be perfect for Jared and Maddie. I asked who was going to get the top bunk, and she said, "I think I'll probably have to make out a schedule so that they both get their share of time in the top bunk!" So true! Ken got everything unloaded and set up the beds while Susie and I visited, and we helped when we were needed. She was very pleased with the results, and that made me happy! My nephew Steve is out of the Marines, and he and his wife and my great-nephew Hunter are staying with my sister until Steve can get a job and get enrolled in college. Unfortunately, they were at church when we were there, so I didn't get to see them, but Susie is thinking of having a family get-together soon.

Biltmore house After that, it was over to see Ken's Mom and stepdad, and we had a nice visit with them. They're doing well, and she is really enjoying the brand new library branch that opened close by, and even used the automatic checkout the other day! She was quite proud of herself, and I was proud of her, too.

Oh, and before I forget, when we were talking to my folks yesterday and discussing Biltmore Estate, they told me a story I'd never heard before. When they were there one time (when us girls weren't along), Mom got stung by a bee. As they were attending to her, some guy drove up in a VW Bug and was helping. Turned out it was the grandson of George Vanderbilt! He was running the Estate at the time, but has since turned it over to his son, who is the head honcho now. Kind of cool that Mom and Dad got to meet the grandson, and I think it's very cool that the family still runs it and has such a hand in the day-to-day operations.

Tonight is T-bones, grilled potatoes and Vidalias, and an iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing. Top it off with a nice Cabernet, and it's all systems go at Nutwood! Hope you all had a lovely weekend!