Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dinner and a movie

Vintage voteI mentioned the other day that Ken and I were going to the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner given by the St. Joseph County Democrats. It was worth going to, and I’m glad we did.

A couple of nice women sat next to us, and we enjoyed chatting with them while we waited for the speakers to begin. Unfortunately, the “real” speakers weren’t up just yet. As much as I’m interested in politics, I have little interest for all the minutiae that is involved. There were a few party operatives who spoke, and it was a litany of thanking this and that person, welcoming various groups, that sort of thing. I know they have to do that stuff, but man, it was Snoozeville for a while there.

I have to say that I dislike extreme partisanship on either side of the aisle. I’m obviously quite liberal, but I was bothered by some of the cheap shots taken. The worst one for me was someone speaking derisively about Governor Daniels, calling him that “short guy in the Governor’s mansion.” I guess it’s not THAT horrible of an insult, but as a vertically challenged American, I found it petty and childish.

Ken and I both exchanged glances when one person talked about tradition and following your ancestors in their Democratic ways. I completely disagree with that...think for yourself! If I’d done that, I’d be a staunch conservative, and Ken would still be a Republican rather than an Independent. Whatever you decide you want to be, whatever your feelings on policies, read and learn and come to your own decisions rather than just saying you are what you are because your mommy and daddy were. To me, that’s just lazy.

Finally, we got to the main speakers. Congressman Donnelly wasn’t actually there, but spoke to us in a video. That was a bit disappointing, but he IS a working Congress Critter, so I can forgive him for that. We heard from John Gregg, who is running for Governor against Mike Pence. I like him, and I can’t stand Mike Pence, so that’s an easy choice for me. B. Patrick Bauer, the minority leader in Congress, spoke. He’s from South Bend, and I’ve never been a huge fan, but I give him credit for being a scrappy fighter. I went up to him before everyone started speaking to ask him about SB 89, the stupid creationist bill. Wow, I’m not the only one who is vertically challenged! The guy really isn’t much taller than me. Anyway, I said I’d heard that the bill might be dead. He said, “Oh, it’s so stupid. It’s a stupid bill.” I asked if he thought it was dead in the water, and although he didn’t explicitly confirm that, he didn’t seem to think it had much chance of going any further.

We also heard from Brandon Mullen, who is running for Congress against Jackie Walorski. We were both impressed by him and agreed that he is worth supporting, both with our votes and with what donations we can give. He is an Iraqi war veteran, and seems like a very sharp guy. Finally, our new Mayor, Pete Buttigieg spoke. For someone so young, he does very well in a speech. He sounded seasoned and was very well-spoken. He continues to impress me.

After everyone was done and people were making their way out, we stopped and shook hands with a few of the speakers, said we were happy to support them. I’m glad we went, although it was more of a rallying the troops kind of thing than anything else. I can tell you that if you think Democrats aren’t fired up for the 2012 election, you are quite mistaken. I think it’s going to be quite a year.

Midnight in ParisLast night we headed over to my sister Diana’s house for a small get-together to watch “Midnight In Paris.” Di is a huge Woody Allen fan (her and Tom even got to see Woody play clarinet with his band in New York), and was excited about seeing this movie. Based on what I had read and heard about it, I was excited, too. I’m happy to report that it lived up to expectations, and then some. I just loved this movie, and told Ken I’d like for us to get it, because I’d enjoy watching it again. The shots of Paris were just beautiful, and the literary and artistic legends that Owen Wilson’s character encounters were just so cool. I think all of us that were there are avid readers, and it’s something that Diana and I talk about often. I think Di was in seventh heaven! I recently finished A Farewell to Arms, so I especially liked seeing Hemingway. Dali was also a fun encounter.

It was a very funny and charming movie. I would recommend it to anyone! After the movie, we played some records and danced (Yes, you read that right! Actual records, and actual dancing. We’re all baby boomers, after all.), enjoyed more munchie food, and just generally had a fun time. Thanks to Di and Tom for a really fun evening!

Ken is off on a trip to Syracuse for a week, and I’ll be holding down the fort. It figures that we got a few inches of lake effect snow today, right before he left, but I hope it’s done and I’ll be able to get out later in the week. If not, I’m stocked up on everything, and even thought ahead and got my green peppers late last week to make stuffed peppers tomorrow. (That’s one of my Ken-is-on-a-business-trip dinners, along with eggplant parmigiana, eggplant lasagna, cabbage rolls, and...well, pretty much anything with eggplant, cabbage, or sweet peppers.) On Tuesday, my mother-in-law is coming over, and we’ll go have lunch and then I’ll put some music on her MP3 player. On Wednesday, I’m having dinner with Shane and Matt, and on Thursday, I may be going to a lecture at Notre Dame with Diana (that’s kind of weather dependent, though). I think I’ll manage to keep myself busy and out of trouble!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cautiously optimistic

Science Cat mitosisI totally love this picture.
You might recall my disgust and distress over Indiana Senate Bill 89, which would allow the teaching of creationism in public school science classrooms. I mentioned that I had written to my state representative, my state senator, and Governor Daniels.

I heard back pretty quickly from the Governor’s staff. It didn’t have much substance, just basically said that Governor Daniels values all input from the state’s residents, blah di blah blah, and I should contact my state representatives. They helpfully provided a link to find them. Well, that’s just dandy, but I already did that on my own, and already contacted them. What I wanted from the Governor was an assurance that if this bill somehow made it past Congress and onto his desk, he’d veto it. So I was kind of like “Meh, whatever.”

I haven’t heard back yet from my representative, a Democrat, which surprises me, because he’s always been pretty good about responding promptly. That’s okay though, because I’m pretty certain that if the bill were to come up before the House, he would vote against it.

Today I got a response from my state Senator, a Republican, and he wrote this:

Dear Beth,

Thank you for your email.  When SB89 was amended to include all theories, I did vote for it, but with reservation.  I had quite a few people asking me to support it, so I did in order to move the bill with the idea we can address it when it moved to the House.  It is my understanding that the bill will not be heard in the House, and at that point, the bill will be dead. 



Ryan D. Mishler

State Senator

*gasp* I was so heartened to read this! Okay, it was stupid of him to vote yes on the bill, even if it was amended to include all creationism stories, including, but not limited to, “Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.” I’m not sure who the supergenius was who added that amendment, but it was a stroke of brilliance. I am not being sarcastic. This left it open for our impressionable and innocent young Hoosiers to be taught about Scientology (“Today, class, we’re going to learn about Xenu!”) and horror of horrors, ISLAM! Can you imagine the thicket of complaints and lawsuits over this entire mess? I think our state legislators were finally starting to get an inkling of the hornet’s nest they were sticking their hands into.

Senator Mishler’s email also made me happy because he (remember, a Republican) seems to realize that it’s a dumb bill, and he got it out of the Senate in order to pass to the House, where he seemed to know it would not even be brought up for a vote. Politics is pretty weird sometimes, and I think this was a bit of maneuvering to essentially kill the bill. I’m reading other reports that the leader (also a Republican) of one of the education committees has also said that they will not recommend that this be brought up for a vote.

So I think I can breathe a sigh of relief here and rejoice at the demise of this misbegotten piece of foolishness. I’m still watching, though, to make sure that the corpse doesn’t become reanimated. Sometimes they come back, you know.

At least for now, it seems that science and reason has triumphed. And that makes me a happy Hoosier.

Tonight’s activity is the St. Joseph County Democrats annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, where we’ll get to hear from South Bend’s new Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, 2nd District Congressman Joe Donnelly (he’s running for Senate against Richard Lugar), House minority leader Pat Bauer, John Gregg (who is running for Governor against Mike Pence...ugh, Pence), and Brandon Mullen, who is running against Jackie Walorski (ugh...Walorski) for the 2nd District Congress seat that Donnelly is vacating. I’m really looking forward to it, and plan on taking notes and getting a picture or two.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

Mary Ann and GingerIn the tradition of such epic battles as the Cubs vs the White Sox, or Ginger vs Mary Ann, a new battle is being waged: e-readers vs actual books.

As with the previous examples, I’ve decided that it’s not an either/or prospect. I like Chicago, and although I prefer the Cubs, I don’t hate the Sox. Although I like Mary Ann’s Midwestern nice and that she makes a mean coconut cream pie, you have to appreciate Ginger’s sultry glamour. (I’m sure many of my male readers are thinking, “Yes. Both. At the same time!” And I’m not talking about baseball. Heh.)

I was thinking about it the other day, because as I’ve been reading, I’ve been going back and forth between my Kindle that I got for Christmas last year and some hardback books I got for Christmas this year. When e-readers became popular and much more affordable, there was much speculation that this was the end of printed books, the publishing industry, and even the end of libraries. I recall some pretty interesting articles at the time about the future of books, and thought then that there was room for both. Those of us who collect books or particular authors would still buy our hardbacks; the publishing industry would still be able to make money with digital sales; and libraries, with some creative thinking, would find ways to offer e-books as part of their lending inventory.

Beth's KindleI’m happy to say that all of those things have happened, and you can even add that it’s provided an easier way for aspiring authors to get their books out to the public. (There are also some pretty awful books that are being e-published, but overall, it’s a net positive.) I still like my hardbacks, especially by my favorite authors (I will always get any Stephen King book as a hard copy), and I can often find clearance copies of science books for a very reasonable price. I love my Kindle because it’s so light and easy to carry around in my purse, and it’s great for when I’m doing my workout and I’m on the bike. I still have to take a couple of magazines with me for a flight, because they make you turn off e-readers during takeoffs and landings, so that’s a drawback for me. But I can work around it.

If someone told me that I had to give up one or the other, I think I’d just punch the person saying that I had to make that choice and tell them to piss off. I choose both. I still love the heft of hard copies, and I love their smell. I love the artwork on the jacket covers, and I love peeking underneath to see what the actual binding looks like. I love having a half dozen over-loaded bookshelves. But I also love my Kindle and the super cute cover I got for it (Sheeba looks on with approval), and I love being able to carry a small library around with me. I have 500 or so books on my Kindle, and it will hold around 3,500. This is amazing to me, and although it’s definitely no jetpack (we’re all still waiting for that, along with our hovercars), I like this futuristic library computational device very much.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super City

Lucas Oil StadiumI get more than a little tired of the human interest stories on the Super Bowl pregame show, but I’ve got it on now because there is a lot of stuff about the host city, Indianapolis. I’ve been watching the lead-up to the game all week, anxious to hear how things are going for Indy. (I got this picture from a really good CNN writeup, which you can read here.)

From everything I’m hearing, things are going pretty well. My biggest concern was the weather, but it’s been a really nice week, and today it’s sunny skies and mid-40° temperatures. I’m absurdly happy for my capital city, a place I called home for seven years in the ‘90s. I thought it was a great little city even then, and since I left in 1996, they’ve done a lot to make downtown even nicer. I think hosting the Super Bowl is a very positive thing for them, and I hope it brings lots of good attention to the city and to my state. (I seem to be apologizing for Indiana a lot lately because of some truly horrid political decisions being made, so it will be good to hear some positive reports.)

I remember a while back, someone who has a major beef with me wrote about how ugly and polluted and industrial Indianapolis was. Like any city, Indy has its share of pollution, but it’s certainly not as bad as many other cities I’ve been in. There has been a lot of road construction going on for the past several years, well before we got the Super Bowl bid. Widening of the highway that circles the city, I-465, construction of numerous office buildings and huge new hospitals on the north side, construction of the Fieldhouse for the Pacers and Lucas Oil Stadium for the Colts, a brand new airport...I call that progress, and you have to deal with a bit of a mess in order to get to where you want to be. We still laugh about how someone could hate an entire city because I once lived there. What powerful mojo I must have! Or maybe it’s just a continuation of envy, because I sure don’t see that kind of progress happening in their little village!

Anyway, Indianapolis is a nice city, in both looks and activities (I went to a LOT of concerts in my time there!), and most Hoosiers are pretty nice in general. We really are a hospitable bunch, and although I’m two and a half hours away from Indy, I’m happy my state is having people over for the big game. I hope everything goes smoothly, and that it’s a good game. (I’ll be cheering for Peyton’s little brother, Eli. Go Giants!)

Ken and I were planning on going to the game, and we started saving up for it when we heard Indy got the bid. When it came time to check into tickets, we changed our tune pretty quickly! When you can fund a couple of full vacations on the price of a pair of tickets, you have to wonder just how much it means to you to go to a Super Bowl. Since neither of our teams (Colts for me, Bears for Ken) got anywhere close to getting to the game, we decided to pass. We’ll be watching from home, and I’ve got plenty of snack food (shrimp, lots of cheese, roasted garlic, veggies and dip, that kind of stuff) and a fridge full of cool beverages.

Congratulations, Indianapolis. Our Colts might not be playing today, but I think the city will shine, and I know you’ll make all of us Hoosiers proud!