Saturday, September 19, 2009

A not-so-triumphant return

Anonymous It's interesting. When you speak of allowing gay marriage, and have supposidly dug into this issue, that you have neglected to learn that when our fat government legislates what has traditionally been a religious issue, the government inserts it self into religion...hmm. Oh, and when they start doing that, they will then have the right to tell churches and clergy who they can and can't marry based on the law and not on the religious beliefs of the particular church or clergy; once again inserting itself into traditionally religious issues. hmm. me thinks you have a little more lernin to do, ya think?

I can't tell you how happy I am to see our dear Anonymous pay us another visit here at Nutwood. Things have been so peaceful and quiet here, and we've been feeling a distinct lack of rancor, judgment, and general sanctimonious priggishness! Welcome back, Anon!

You say that marriage is traditionally a religious issue. I hate to spring this on you, but legal marriage has nothing to do with religion. Ken and I were married by the city clerk of Mishawaka, not a member of the clergy. We were married at Tippecanoe Place, a restaurant located in a Studebaker mansion, not a place of worship. Our ceremony was a civil one, with no religious element at all.

We are every bit as legally married as anyone who might have their ceremony performed by the Pope at the Sistine Chapel. You obviously don’t get it. It’s not about people wanting to get married in a church, or married in the eyes of whatever god. It’s about being granted the rights that every other person in this country has to marry the person they love and to have the rights of insurance, a say in medical treatments, the right to adopt children and raise them together, and to be a partner in every sense of the word. Marriage is not sanctioned by religion; it is defined by the government.

Thanks for proving my point, Anon. Legal marriage has nothing to do with the church. It has everything to do with equality of rights to everyone, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, or of their race, or of their orientation. Ergo, gays should be allowed to legally marry. Q.E. freakin' D.

It’s only love

Sheeba Kitty Before I get to today's topic, a few programming notes.

1. Sheeba asked me to tell you all that he appreciates the worship and well-deserved appreciation, but would like me to remind everyone that "I am not a GIRL!" Long story short, the person Ken got him from thought Sheeba was a girl (no comment), and Ken named her Sheeba, after his very first cat, Shee. (I think that's right--he'll correct me if I'm wrong.) We saw pretty quickly that Sheeba the girl kitty had a couple of extra body parts that she shouldn't have had, and we realized that Sheeba was a Heeba. And yes, he's very lucky (and very spoiled) to have a personal masseur.

2. Notre Dame-Michigan State coming up in about an hour. I'm already feeling agitated and nervous, so I'm working some of that out by writing. [Update as I get ready to post this: ND 7-MSU it's 7-3. Now 13-3. 13-10! Guess I'd better post this soon! Stop with the penalties already, Irish—they’re killing you!]

3. Scott the Botanist has posted his entry about Swamp Angel Nature Preserve. It's an excellent write-up, and I especially enjoyed the part about the parasitic plants, including the pitcher plant I mentioned here. I hope you'll stop by and see the viewpoint of a professional, rather than that of just a casual observer like me.

Now, to the topic at hand!

Marriage quote A Facebook friend posted this picture today, and I loved it. I've been pondering an entry about this for a while, and decided it was high time I did so.

I grow increasingly impatient with those who would legislate their own version of morality based on their religious views. Morality is a vague and subjective term based upon many criteria, including societal and philosophical. There can also be a religious element in there, but when it comes to legislation, it must also be vague and not predicated on any one religion or faith. People can quote the Bible or any other sacred text they want to, but in looking at this collection of Deuteronomy verses, I think most of us would agree that we cannot take much of this literally. If we stoned every woman who isn't a virgin when she gets married, we could very well be looking at the end of our species!

Marriage equality One of the great things about where we live is that we have the freedom to believe whatever we want to believe. Even if we don't want to believe anything at all. Whatever we believe, it doesn't mean that religion can be forced onto anyone else, or that it should shape our laws. Societal morality is one thing; religious morality is quite another. In other words, it is against the law to steal from someone because you are taking what is rightfully theirs—not because the Bible says it's wrong.

So when it comes to gay marriage, I look at it as a civil rights issue, not a religious one. Our country prides itself on equality for all, although we often fall miserably short of that worthy goal. Let me put it to you straight (so to speak): I don't care if you quote scripture at me until you're blue in the face. Your religion has no place in this debate. You are trying to force your religious beliefs on what is an equality and civil rights issue, and that is wrong. God doesn't approve of gay marriage, you say? So what? Apparently he doesn't approve of women who aren't virgins entering into marriage, either, and I don't see us trying to legislate that. I'm exaggerating to make a point, but I believe it's a valid one. It's time to get beyond this argument, because we don't legislate based on any religion or any religious tenets.

In the past, I was one of those who felt, okay, let marriage be between a man and a woman, but let civil unions—with all the benefits conferred to hetero couples—be okay for whoever wants them. I explored my thinking on this a little further, and realized that I had no good reason why that should be the rule. I believe completely that people are born the way they are, and love who they are wired to love. It's based on genetics, nothing more. (I still laugh at the Homosexual Agenda that so many people talk about. I'd be interested in getting a copy of that, if anyone has one.) If that's the case, that it's genetic, why should marriage be denied to anyone? Simple answer: it shouldn't. Don't even get me started on that "pray away the gay" bullshit.

Marriage equality2 I worked with a guy in Indianapolis who spent many years with his "husband" (not legally married here in Indiana, obviously, but that's the way they thought of each other). He stuck with his husband through years of severe illness; stuck with him as he suffered amputations, became confined to a wheelchair, and went blind due to diabetes. His husband was an artist, and his blindness made him angry and hard to deal with, but my friend stuck by him all the way to the very end. His sense of loss was as profound as anyone I've encountered who has lost a spouse, and their commitment to each other was every bit as real. They should have been allowed to marry...for real.

It's time to set aside objections based on religious grounds—they have no place in this debate. As far as I'm concerned, there is no debate. Gay marriage will soon be the law of the land. It will happen. It is inevitable, because it is the right—and only—thing to do.

A nightly routine

Sheeba sleeps much of the day while we're at home together, but when Ken gets home, no matter where Sheeba is at, he comes running. If he's in the basement, he'll come galloping up the stairs; if he's back in the bedroom, he'll come trotting down the hallway; if he's sleeping soundly on the warmth of Ken's laptop, he'll sloooowly get up and stretch, and come over to the door to greet Ken. He then follows Ken around like a puppy, meowing and chatting, and eventually flops over onto his side, rolls over onto his other side, and looks generally adorable. Why? He's waiting for his nightly kitty massage. Note the way he hangs onto the carpet for dear life, and although you probably can't hear it in this video, he purrs like crazy the entire time.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo?

Salsa Fresca Considering that I originally didn't have all that much to do today, I ended up being busier than I expected! I ran errands and made sure we were well-stocked for the weekend, chatted with Mom and Dad when they stopped by, and made a trip out to the garden to see what I could pick to add to the salsa I planned to make this afternoon. (That's not mine in the picture, but mine looks like that, but with peppers instead of green onions.) I was able to pick a few more tomatoes and peppers, so I'm glad I checked it out before I got going on it.

The bulk of the afternoon was spent chopping stuff for the salsa. Here's where someone who is more familiar with Mexican cuisine might be able to help me. I don't make the kind of salsa that you cook and jar--I saw on Facebook that my friend Pam and her Dad were making a big batch of that kind today. I chop stuff up and refrigerate it without cooking it, and I've seen that called Salsa Fresca. But I think what I made might resemble Pico de Gallo more than salsa: tomatoes, onions, and peppers, with a little lime juice, some salt and oregano, and a small can of tomato sauce to make it a little juicy. Frankly, I don't know what the hell you'd call it, but Ken has liked it in the past, and it will be a yummy snack while watching football games tomorrow. I don't put many spices in it, because I like the fresh, clean flavors of stuff from the garden.

When I bought my plants this year, it was late, so the variety wasn't there. Instead of Jalapenos, I got Serranos. They're supposed to be hotter than Jalapenos, so when I was chopping them up, I tried a little bite of one. Not too bad, although as with any pepper, the hotter parts are the membrane and seeds. I put eight of them in there, and there is a nice bite to it. I think Ken will like it! I don't like things really hot, but he does. Thank goodness for Tabasco sauce!

I hope everyone has a fun weekend planned! If you'd like to add to the fun a bit, remember that tomorrow, Saturday the 19th, is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arrrr, it's yer chance to be the saucy wench or the boozy swashbuckler ye knows ye arrrre! Be sure to tell lots of pirate jokes, like What's a pirate's favorite fast food restaurant? Arrrrby's! (That one was for you, David!)

Pirate text messaging

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I’m just waitin’ on a friend

Jim and Beth2 I had a very pleasant lunch today with my pal Jim from the lab! (This isn't a current picture--this is from the last time we were out with some other lab friends.) We met at Granite City Brewery, and it was Jim's first time there. He seemed to really like the atmosphere and food, and was excited to see that they have 25¢ wings on Mondays. We gabbed and ate for a couple of hours, talking about everything from his Mom's recent surgery to politics to Notre Dame football. It's always great to see him, and thanks for lunch, Jimi! Next time it's on me!

It was kind of funny...I got there about ten minutes early, so I was waiting in the foyer. The hostess saw me and asked, "Are you Becky?" I said, "No, I'm Beth, and I'm waiting on a friend." (The Stones song is going through my mind now.) She said, "Beth, yeah...I must have written it down wrong. He's here." So I follow her, and we come up to this booth and she stops. There's a fairly small guy with glasses and brown curly hair sitting there. Jim is a big guy, with short, mostly grey hair. Sometimes he even shaves his head. And he doesn't wear glasses. I said, "Uh...not the guy I'm meeting." The hostess was like, "Oops, sorry!" I went back and sat in the foyer again, and a few minutes later, Other Beth came in. Yes, her name really was Beth. What a weird coincidence!

I appreciate all the thoughtful comments I got on my entry yesterday concerning President Carter's remarks about racism. I made it explicitly clear that I was not equating everyone who is against Obama's policies with racists, and that I believe that the worst and most hateful of the protesters that are anti-Obama are the ones who are often motivated by racism. I don't think I could have been any more explicit than I was. I stand by my remarks, and I still agree with Racism Star Trek President Carter. However, the Obama administration is treating this as a distraction from the important work of health care reform, and does not want the focus to be on any discussions of racism. I can understand that to a certain extent; President Obama addressed the issue of race during the presidential campaign, so why should he have to do so again? I will respect their wishes and not continue the discussion to any great length until after health care reform is passed, but I do think it is something that can and should be discussed.

Jim and I talked about it at lunch today. We agreed that it is hard to pin down, but you know when a remark makes you feel uncomfortable. We have both resolved to speak up when we hear something that bothers us. It's always tempting to keep the peace and not start any sort of debate, but I've come to believe that silence is tacit acceptance of such remarks and behavior. You don't have to start a fight with anyone, but you can simply say, "I don't think that's a fair remark" and let your feelings be known. Until we all start speaking up, the sub rosa thread of racism will continue to run beneath the workings of our country. I don't believe we can eradicate it, but we can certainly do our best to show that we believe it to be shameful behavior.

I'll say little more about the subject...for now.

After I got home today, I was excited to dive back into Angle of Repose, and I finished this afternoon. I won't give any spoilers, because I know Laurel is reading it now. I will say that it is one of the best books I've ever read. Not only did I love the plot, I found the writing wonderful. I have a few passages that I wrote down in my journal, and I know you'll be thrilled to find out that I'm going to share them with you! [grin]

A wandering dog of a night wind came in off the sagebrush mesa carrying a bar of band music, and laid it on her doorstep like a bone.

I love that. I really do.

Civilizations grow by agreements and accommodations and accretions, not by repudiations. The rebels and revolutionaries are only eddies, they keep the stream from getting stagnant but they get swept down and absorbed, they're a side issue. Quiet desperation is another name for the human condition.

This book was published in 1971, so all the uncertainties, violence, and upheaval of the 60's made its way into it. I found it interesting to see what was happening at the time reflected in the writing.

...her white summer handbag like a white kitten in her lap...

Angle of Repose More excellent imagery. God, that is some kickass writing. I was just delighted with this book, and it's one of the reasons I'm glad I'm reading the books on the Modern Library list. (Thanks for starting the group, Jillian!) It's gotten me to read some books that I never would have read otherwise, and I've enjoyed some of them very much. After I had finished the book and posted on our Google group site, I read what another member had to say about the book (I think she was the only other member who read this one). Oddly enough, she was not so enamored of the book, and actually put it at the bottom of her favorites! This member lives out of state, so I've never met her, but I have to chuckle that we're so opposite on which books we've enjoyed. My previous favorite from the list was The Magus, and she put that right at the bottom. Isn't it strange to see what strikes different people? I suppose that is the way with all art or literature. What speaks to one person leaves another completely indifferent, or sometimes even disgusted. It's fascinating to me to see the different reactions some of these books generate.

Oh, and we had another nice life is like a box o' chocolates moment! Both Ken and I got comments from Scott the Botanist, who was on the Swamp Angel tour from last weekend. He has a blog, too, and is working on a write-up of our tour. I'll link to it as soon as he posts. How cool that he found our entries! He might be sorry...I can see myself picking his brain about native plants!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I’d like to phone a friend, Regis

Phone - vintage Today it was time for something completely different, and I toddled on down to the DNC local Headquarters downtown to do phone bank duty! It was all hustle and bustle, with dozens of people talking at once, phones ringing, people running in constantly with updates....

Well, not exactly. It was very quiet, and I sat at an oval table by myself with a list of names and numbers and a cell phone. There were other people there making phone calls, but one was back in an office, and one was at a desk several feet away. In two hours, I made my way through dozens of names, but at this time of day, many weren't home. These were all numbers of supporters and sometimes volunteers in the past, so I wasn't debating with anyone. It was mainly a way for Organizing for America to get people to contact their members of Congress to urge them to support health care reform legislation, and to get more volunteers. Everyone I spoke to was friendly and most had already contacted their legislators; a few even committed to coming down to do phone calls! (My Mom used to work on a switchboard like the one in the picture, by the way!)

One phone call was exhausting, lasting a good 15 minutes. A woman who was the caregiver to her mother had questions, some of which I could answer, some of which I couldn't. She was almost a nonstop talker, so I mostly said, "Mm-hm. That's right." The most heartbreaking call--one that brought tears to my eyes--was my next-to-last call, which would make it...anyone? Bueller? My penultimate call. That's right, class! Good job! Anyhoo, this guy was all for health care reform. He is the caregiver to his wife, who has Alzheimer's. He said about the only place he's been able to get help was through Hospice (a wonderful organization). He went to one place that told him he'd have to pay for a month upfront, $6500. He said, "We don't have that kind of money!"

Phone - vintage2 It's people like that man and his wife, or like my in-laws who had to declare bankruptcy several years ago due to medical bills, that have made me want to get more involved. You know what else finally did it? I was sitting here last week reading about these protesters that carry signs like "It's MY money, not yours" or "Obama lied, Grandma died," and people like Palin and Bachmann with their lies about non-existent death panels, and I was writing an entry about some of this stuff. OFA called and asked if I could work the phones, and I think I was to the point where I'd just had it, so I said, "Yes. I would love to do that."

I suppose that the message here is that for all those who think that their voices are being heard as they march (all 70,000 of them, not 1.5 million as Glenn Beck reported--oh, and he wasn't even there) on Washington, or those that think that carrying an assault rifle to a town hall meeting somehow makes them more of an American than me, or for anyone who thinks it's funny to carry a sign that says "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy," understand this: your voice is being heard. It's being heard by people like me who believe in affordable health care for all, and who find your lack of compassion appalling and frankly, un-American. Yeah, I said it. It's being heard by those of us who find your scare tactics ridiculous, and by those of us who can't abide the lies you're spreading about this plan. We're hearing you loud and clear, believe me. And those of us who feel differently also have voices.

On a related note, Sherry wrote that she'd be interested to know my thoughts on President Carter's interview with NBC, in which he said that he believes that much of the animosity, from some factions, towards President Obama is because of racism. I'm glad he said it, and I believe he's right.

Let me start off by saying that I do not believe, in any way, shape, or form, that everyone who opposes President Obama's plans does so because of racially-motivated reasons. I have several family members who do not care for him and did not vote for him, and I know without a doubt that they feel that way because of political leanings, not because of race. I know that the statement "Anyone who doesn't like Obama is a racist!" is not true, and it is hyperbole that has no place in civil discussion. If someone makes that statement to me, I will tell them that I believe that it is false.

President Carter However, I also feel, like President Carter, that some of the more vociferous and vitriolic anti-Obama sentiment is coming from those who do hate him because of his skin color. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst at the President's speech to a joint session the other night would not have taken place if it had been a white man standing up there. I firmly believe that. Wilson is a member of the Sons of the Confederacy and was one of only seven members of the South Carolina Senate who voted to continue to fly the Confederate flag over the state house in 2000. I don't believe his disrespect to the President would have happened if he didn't have racially-motivated feelings.

It can be hard to pin this down; most people don't speak right up and say, yeah, I hate the guy because he's black. (Although I'll never forget hearing a guy from Kentucky say on CNN during the election that the best advice he can give Obama was to "Quit bein' so black." Lovely.) Sometimes it's just a feeling, a general impression. Indiana has more than our fair share of racists (just one is one too many, in my opinion), and I've heard it all my life, so I know when I'm getting racist vibes from someone. It's usually sort of conspiratorial, like "Look at that black girl with that baby. I wonder how many more she has at home?" Right. White girls don't get knocked up, do they, Br--nahhh, I won't go there. Other times it can be blatant, like "Stay away from those street monkeys." It's ugly and hateful, and it's still here, in my state and in much of our country.

So when I see people carrying signs that show Obama as an African witch doctor, or when I still--still --hear people wanting to see his birth certificate, I get the definite vibe that it's racially-motivated. I heard a good example last night. Say that Obama was a white guy, with a father who came from Ireland. O'Bama, if you will. Do you really think people would be foaming at the mouth to see his birth certificate and producing bogus birth certificates from County Cork? You know they wouldn't. These are deep-seated feelings coming from certain people who just can't accept the fact that a black man is the President of the United States. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Get over it.

Racism I'm glad that President Carter spoke up about this. He grew up in the South, and I believe he is well-qualified to offer his opinion on this. If it were someone from New Hampshire, for example, people would be saying that he's just some liberal East coast elitist. (Whatever that is.) With him speaking out, I hope others will have the courage to stand up and say, "This is wrong. We’re better than this." Nothing will be solved overnight, but it has to begin with a discussion, and I applaud the former President for bringing it out into the open.

Let me reiterate. I do not believe that every person who opposes Obama is a racist. But without a doubt, there are many who are, and anyone who flatly denies that is naive and disingenuous.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tidying up

Road House2 Some loose ends, that is.

I'm sure everyone has heard by now that Patrick Swayze died yesterday. Last night was movie tribute night, so Ken got to choose between "Road House" and "Dirty Dancing." He picked the former, naturally, which just so happens to be one of my all-time favorite cheesy movies! I try to watch it at least once a year, and I last watched it in February when Ken was on a business trip. You can find my Road House entry from then via the link. I have to add a few more lines to some of the wonderfully bad ones I mentioned back then.

Calling me sir is like putting an elevator in an outhouse.

Pain don't hurt.

You're too stupid to have a good time.

That gal has got entirely too many brains to have an ass like that.

I see you found my trophy room, Dalton. The only thing that's your ass.

This toilet is worse than the one we worked in Dayton.

Good times! It is deliciously bad, and incredibly fun. Thanks, Patrick. You had a good run, and you'll be missed.


Silver Squirrel Award Before I forget, I owe my friend Milwaukee Dan #1 a Silver Squirrel Award! He knew that the song that has a tiny voice saying "eat!" was “Martian Boogie” by The Brownsville Station. Cousin Shane also knew this (no surprise there, because I remember we really liked that song when we were in high school), but Dan rang in first with a message on Facebook. Congrats, Dan, and do with the Squirrel what you will!


Speaking of Cousin Shane, we were emailing last night, and he had some interesting information for me. He works for the Post Office, so he's my source whenever I have questions know, mailing stuff. Recycling came up, and he wrote this:

What people don't realize is that when it comes to "bulk business mail" (what most people call "junk mail"), if you write on it "return to sender" or anything similar, it doesn't matter. That mail just ends up in the recycling bin. It does not go back to the sender and they do not honor requests to remove from mailing lists or anything like that.

I guess all I have to say is thank you, Post Office, for recycling, even when others won’t...from someone who recycles even her grocery lists and price tags on clothing. It all adds up, and our actions do have an impact.


Books - old I made a trip to the library today to pick up the next book on our book club list, The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. I haven't finished Angle of Repose yet (still loving it), but I'm getting close. One thing I've started doing when I request that a book be transferred to our branch is to look for the oldest edition available. This latest one is from 1953. I'm not sure why I enjoy these older books so much; most newer editions have some sort of Foreword about the book or author. Maybe that's one of the reasons I prefer the older editions. I enjoy reading them as someone from that time might have read them, before the books were recognized as literary classics. I try to not read much about the book before going into it, so that I don't have any preconceived notions about it. I don't mind reading that stuff after I've read the book, but I kind of enjoy going into it blind. I also think I just enjoy the smell and look of older books, and knowing that many hands have held it and turned its pages before me. Sometimes I wonder what they thought of the book.

I always stop at the Books For Sale section on the way into the library, and I got three great bargains today! A 1951 edition of the Wise Garden Encyclopedia (bought mainly because of its age), a huge native plant reference book called Botanica North America, and just for fun, I Am America (And So Can You) by Stephen Colbert. I think the guy is hilarious, and this book should be a fun read. Three books...three bucks. You can't beat that with a stick, and I dare you to try!

Osprey But here is the absolute best part of my visit to the library, and this totally made my day. As I was getting out of my car, I saw a large bird flying toward the parking lot, and it landed on one of the light poles. It some sort of raptor! As I watched him (I don’t know if it was male or female, but I’m calling it ‘him’), he flew down to the shrubs by a nearby house, and grabbed something off of the ground. He turned around to face me, and it was some sort of rodent. The bird tore into the thing, and it was gone in two bites. WHOA! He flew back up to the top of the light pole, and just sat there for a while. I got a really good look at him, and I probably looked like an idiot standing there in the parking lot gaping at this bird! At first I was thinking that he might be a peregrine falcon. They're rare, but we have a nesting pair, Zephyr and Guinevere, who live in downtown South Bend, and they have chicks every year. I looked in a Sibley's in the library, but looked further in my books when I got home, and I'm pretty sure it was an osprey. They hang out near water, and maybe the library's small ponds are enough for them. He had more of a striped head like an osprey, rather than the "helmet" that a peregrine has, and his chest was mostly white with little speckling.

It was the coolest thing. I told the woman behind the counter that I thought I saw a peregrine, and I think I'll send an email and say that I believe that it was an osprey instead. Oh, if only I'd had my camera! He was maybe 20 feet away from me, munching on Rodent Tartar. A very handsome bird--I think raptors are amazing! When I left the library, I was still so excited about it that I had to force myself to concentrate on driving! Have I mentioned that I'm easily amused?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Karma Chameleon

Action-Reaction I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that there are certain people that will never admit, even grudgingly, that President Obama has done or might do something good. I told someone the other day that the guy could find a cure for cancer, and these types of people would somehow, some way, find fault with it...even if they were undergoing radiation or chemo treatments themselves. It is a strange and amazing phenomenon to me. But this isn't an entry about politics, believe it or not, because it's gotten me thinking about the broader view.

Much like Monty Python's Argument Clinic, I've experienced people in my life who are automatic gainsayers. Whatever your position on something, they take an immediate and diametrically opposed position. If you say it's hot outside, they say, "Oh, I don't think it's all that hot." If you say you love tomatoes, they say, "Ugh, they're disgusting." If you say you enjoyed a particular movie, they say, "Are you kidding? That movie sucked." All silly examples, but then it's silly behavior. It's one thing to play devil's advocate; it's quite another to automatically disagree with whatever a person says. You soon realize that "Gee, this might be personal. In fact...I don't think they like me!"

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. That is how ideas are exchanged and how we broaden our minds. I believe it's important to try to see another point of view, whether it's about politics, personal issues, religion, or music, or any other of a myriad of topics. It's how we learn a broader world view as citizens of the world, learning about others and their cultures. It's how we grow as people, making friends with those who are from other areas or practice different lifestyles or have a different perspective on issues. (Blogging is wonderful for that!) It's all part of our journey through life, and for the most part, our life is made all the richer because of the wide variety of people and opinions that we meet along the way (there are always a few notable exceptions). Simply saying "If you love this, I hate it" is small-minded and foolish, because it can deprive us of some wonderful experiences, and we can miss out on things because of our inability to get beyond our stubbornness, anger, and hatred.

The opposite also holds true. There are types that suck up to you, for whatever reason, and whatever it is that you like, they like it, too. They agree with everything you say, and put you on a pedestal. Personally, the last thing I want in a relationship is to be put on a pedestal, because when you eventually fall of it--or are knocked off--it can hurt. I also don't want a Yes Man, someone who says, "Yes dear whateveryousaydear." Jeez, grow a pair, already. I'm not always right, no one should always get their way, and how can I respect my partner if he is afraid to speak up and give his viewpoint? In my dating days, it was my experience that the harder a guy tried to suck up to me, and the more he fawned over me, the more pathetic I came to view him. Respect and admiration are good; abject groveling is unattractive.

Chameleon We've all seen "chameleon" behavior: those whose convictions are apparently weak enough that they are unable to stand for what they believe in. They take on the characteristics of whoever they happen to be around. They may hate something one day, but come to embrace it another, or vice versa, merely because of the company they keep. Sometimes, they try to use it to their advantage, constantly seeing which way the wind is blowing and adjusting their course accordingly. It's opportunism without substance, and sometimes you get the impression that there are deeper issues in their desire to please. Parental issues, perhaps? Hard to know, but I'm sure there are many different reasons. We all change certain viewpoints over time, and that is also part of personal growth. Simply going with the flow of whoever you're around is not personal growth, however.

Both behaviors are nothing more than reactionary. Whether you hate the person or are infatuated with them, the automatic response is mindless and vacuous. It tells me that you have a hard time coming up with ideas and concepts of your own; if everything I do or say generates an auto-response, what has happened to your critical thinking? What has happened to your ability to have a thought that isn't initiated by me? There are always hot topics of the day that everyone discusses, and blog etiquette generally means not starting a flame war on someone's blog. That's just common courtesy, and I think most of us believe that if you have such strong opinions, perhaps you should start your own blog and write about them there. But seeing anyone, whether personally or in Blogtropolis, mindlessly gainsaying another person is lame, in my opinion. As those sages of 80's pop music, Culture Club, sang:

I'm a man without conviction

I'm a man who doesn't know

How to sell a contradiction

You come and go

You come and go

To paraphrase a friend of mine, when you have no moral compass of your own, you go where the prevailing winds take you. That can be a treacherous choice, and you can lose your sense of self. If it weren't so pathetic and creepy, I might find it funny...but it's really kind of sad. Which route will you take? Will you merely react? Or will you be an action hero?

Sailing away2

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Take a hike!

SA1 This afternoon Ken and I went hiking--no, not the Appalachian Trail!--at a place called Swamp Angel Nature Preserve.

Swamp Angel is located near Kendallville, Indiana, about an hour and a half southeast of us. It was a nice drive through farm and Amish country, and I told Ken that I was having a childhood flashback. I remember just driving around with my folks when I was a kid, enjoying the sights, usually stopping to visit a relative at some point. Seeing all the farmhouses and fields of corn, soybeans, and sorghum reminded me so much of those drives! Some of my relatives had farms, and often had barns built by my Grandpa. Even the houses were a reminder...white siding, two story, a porch (often with a porch swing), a clothesline in the back yard, big trees, a grain was a powerful feeling of nostalgia with some very sweet memories.

As supporters of the Nature Conservancy, Ken got an email a couple of weeks ago asking if we wanted to join in a guided hike, and we thought it sounded like fun. Come to find out, I'm really glad we did it, because Swamp Angel isn't open to the public due to the sensitivity of its plants and ecosystem. They don't even publish the address of the place, and only send out directions when people like us accept these invitations.

Island with oaks We had an interesting group, led by our guide, Beth. She's not much bigger than me, but she is a land steward of five or six Conservancy preserves, doing much of the work herself! One of the cool things about the Nature Conservancy is that they manage the land, and sometimes that isn't the equivalent of preservation. Well, in the long term it is, but they do planned burns because areas like this are managed by fires, which kills off the growth that isn't conducive to the continuation of the high ground oak portions or to the fens. They also go in and remove non-native, invasive species, which can quickly choke out native, desirable growth. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Swamp Angel is named after a character in the Gene Stratton Porter story "Freckles." Porter was an Indiana native and had a home near the preserve. She was a feminist, naturalist, photographer, and writer, publishing in the early 1900's. One of our fellow hikers was a big fan of Porter, and was able to tell us a lot of information about her, and that was great, because I know very little about her. (I know of her most famous work, A Girl of the Limberlost, but have never read it.)

Pitcher plants Another hiker was Scott the Botanist, and how lucky to have a botanist along on a nature hike! He had his observation journal along with him, as well as a field guide, and was able to tell us names of various plants and other information that even Beth the Guide didn't know. One of the coolest things was getting to see a pitcher plant! I've only seen pictures of them, and have never seen one in the wild. It is a carnivorous plant, collecting dew and rain water in its pitcher-shaped leaves. Insects fall down into the water, and can't climb back out; the plant digests the insects and uses them for nutrients. Isn't nature awesome?!

Me? I just had questions. What is the difference between a fen and a swamp? Why cut down maples and cherry trees? I wasn't seeing a lot of they not hang out in the fen, or were we disturbing them?

1. The botanist explained the difference between a fen and a swamp. A true swamp is forested, with stands of trees and deeper water fed by fresh or salt water inundations. (Think New Orleans' swamps.) Beth the Guide explained that a fen is fed by groundwater, and the water pH is neutral to alkaline due to minerals, with plants that thrive in such a pH. Some further research when I got home shows that bogs are similar to fens, but have acidic water; marshes are wetlands that have grasses and soft-stemmed plants rather than woody plants. All are types of wetlands, and it would seem that our wetlands at Nutwood are marsh. Which is good, because that's what I've always called it!

2. Even though maples and cherry trees are native to our area, they sort of take over and compete with the undergrowth. The high areas of this preserve, which was formed by glaciers, are populated with tall oaks, and need to be fairly open, without a lot of other trees choking out the undergrowth. It's about 95 acres of high areas with oaks, and low-lying wetlands of fens with wildflowers and grasses (and poison sumac...yikes!), and smallish lakes.

3. Since it was mid-day, Beth the Guide said that the birds would be pretty quiet. In the fen, she sees sandhill cranes, and quite a few ducks. I saw a couple of perching birds in the oaks, but couldn't get a close enough look to see what they were.

Fen and lake I take it back...I did have one answer to give. A fellow hiker asked an off-topic question about whether the Conservancy has found the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, which was sighted in Arkansas a couple of years ago, after having been thought to be extinct for 50 years or so. It was a very exciting sighting, and caused quite a stir in environmentalist circles! (Trust was really cool.) It was also controversial, with some saying that it wasn't an Ivory-Billed but a Pileated (like we have here), and I was able to say that as far as I know, they've never found confirmation of the sighting. No further sightings, no nest, no nothing.

But mostly I just listened!

It was a very enjoyable two hours (and an enjoyable three of driving). I am in constant awe of the variety of habitats and ecosystems that exist, throughout the world, our country, and even here in our own state. I'm fascinated by the way everything interacts, whether it's antagonistic or synergistic. If I were starting my career over again (and I'm glad I'm not), I might consider some sort of career in this field. Environmental engineering, field biologist, botanist, forest ranger...? I really do find it all fascinating, and I applaud the Nature Conservancy for their thoughtful, scientific approach to land stewardship, as well as their allowing some of us to visit places we'd otherwise not get to visit. It was a true treat, and our natural resources and the beauty and uniqueness of our ecology is something to be treasured and nurtured.


Go to Ken's blog for a very nice slideshow of our trip!

Fen from island

Disaster averted…sort of

ND football Ken and I enjoyed a lazy day today, and turned on football in the early afternoon. We half-watched some games and turned it over to ABC for the 3:30 Notre Dame-Michigan game. Just before kickoff...the station's signal cut out.

NOOOOOOOO! For the love of all that is holy, NOOOOOOOO!

We scrambled to try to find other ways to watch it. The TV in the bedroom didn't have a signal, either. The local ABC station didn't come in on the TV in the garage. We couldn't find a webcast. I caught updates on ESPN's website while Ken tried to figure out other options. We thought about going somewhere to watch it, but it's not as much fun watching it in a bar or restaurant; we were figuring we were going to have to go over to his Mom's, but I hated to drop in on them with such short notice. Both latter options had the added drawback of my not doing well with watching games around others except for Ken--I get way too agitated, foul-mouthed, and intense (although I'm not that way when I'm actually at a game...go figure). I don't want to make small talk, I don't do chitchat. I'm watching the game. You probably wouldn't enjoy watching a game with me. Besides, if we went somewhere, I'd have to put on pants.

Finally, DirecTV put up a notice that they were opening up other ABC channels that were usually pay channels, so we were able to get the game about five minutes into it. Whew. I was on the verge of a thrombo.

After seeing the way the game played out, it might have been better if we hadn't been able to watch it. Notre Dame had it won, but allowed Michigan to march down the field for a late touchdown--too late for them to mount a return drive. It was a very exciting game, and all in all, I thought Notre Dame played well, but they screwed themselves with too many penalties, and their defense was spotty. A reluctant congratulations to Michigan for the win (and you know I luvs ya, Alaina!).

Exhausted woman I was feeling rather surly after the loss, so I made an executive decision and...took a nap. I haven't gotten a lot of sleep the past couple of nights (staying up too late, yes, my own fault), and after going through that emotional wringer of a game, a nap seemed to be in order. It felt good, and I feel much better now. The surliness is definitely gone! On to Michigan State next week--that should be another good game, but I'll hope for a better outcome for the Irish!

We're looking forward to a fun and interesting afternoon tomorrow today. Ken got an email last week from the Indiana branch of The Nature Conservancy about a guided hike in the Swamp Angel--Swamp Angel, Swamp Angel, will you be mine?--Nature Preserve, about an hour and a half southeast of us, and we thought it would be a fun thing to do. I'll be taking my camera and hope to get some neat pics, and I've got my pocket field guide ready to go in case I see some new birds to add to my Life List. Nothing like a healthy dose of nature to put everything into perspective.

I also cheered myself up by watching this. Thanks, Craig!