To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There's some kind of horrible flu-like illness going around. I say "flu-like" because R refuses to admit he might have the flu: he had the shot, after all. Yesterday evening he suddenly announced that his throat was sore, and tonight he is prostrated.

A couple of years ago I made F get the flu shot. She'd had the flu every single year for, like, 3 years in a row. F is very fortunate in that she's only once been sick enough to need an injection other than her routine immunizations, so she wasn't thrilled about getting that shot. She was even less thrilled when she got the flu anyway. I semi-shouted at the doctor - "But we got the flu shot! WE GOT THE DADGUM FLU SHOT!" while he laughed at me and F whispered in her ruined voice, "I told you! I told you!" Last year she had the flu YET AGAIN. I hope that now she's out of her Petri dish of a high school she can dodge that bullet.

Echinacea. Vitamin C. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This was our Molly a year ago, when she was still a kitten. She found a roll of paper towels and started ripping it up. We just put her on the floor and let her have at it. She had a lot of fun pulling off bits with her teeth and throwing them around - you can't see the whole mess she made - and alternately going into frenzies of ripping and clawing, and stopping to stare at us.

Well, Molly isn't a kitten anymore. Her newest trick is to jump onto the Canon i860 printer when someone is at the computer, and bite or slap at the "on" button until she turns it on. As soon as the light starts flashing she leaves the button alone and whirls around to stare intently into the slot where the paper goes.

Molly's always been fascinated by that printer. She just knows some tiny troll or something lives inside to make noise and pull paper through, and one of these days it's going to slip up and she's going to catch it. Now that she can turn the printer on, she figures she stands a pretty good chance of that.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Deep Thought time again, on the nature of honesty. How important is it for a person to develop an internal commitment to the truth? How important is it to be truthful even if no one else will ever know if you lied?

Suppose a friend gets a haircut that you think is the ugliest thing you've ever seen, and she asks your opinion?

Suppose the truth is X, but you couch it in such a way that any reasonable person would assume Y; and you know your listener understood Y, and you didn't correct him? Is that lying?

What would you be more likely to lie about: something you did that was wrong, or something you did that makes you look stupid and hurts your pride?

Could you ever trust someone you discover to be a facile liar? Suppose you only catch him lying about things that don't matter?

Is there a connection between being careful to be truthful to others, and being truthful with onesself? We're all familiar with Polonius's advice: "This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." But does it work the other way, too: if a person is scrupulously truthful to other people about how much she drinks, or smokes, or gambles, or wastes time surfing the net (ahem) is she less likely to drift too far down the garden path?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

First Sunday of Advent

The Glory of the Lord shall be revealed
And all flesh shall see it together
For the Mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

We get snow in Memphis maybe once or twice a year - snow that sticks, that is. We get lots of flurries that melt right away.

Here's a picture we took a few years ago. The cat went out onto the deck and jumped up onto the rail as he usually did; then he realized that white stuff was COLD and we had to go out and get him. Interestingly, although the picture looks like a black and white with the cat colored in afterward, it really is a color picture.

Friday, November 25, 2005

I've been tagged by Change Destiny.

2 names you go by: Laura. Mom. My coworkers may have some more names for me, but I wouldn't know what they are.
2 parts of your heritage: Scottish, Welsh.
2 things that scare you: The thought of something happening to my daughter. Driving in Memphis.
2 of your favorite bands or musical artists : Canadian Brass. Neil Diamond..
2 things you want in a relationship (other than real love): Kindness. Loyalty. Those cut both ways.
2 physical things that appeal to you (in the opposite sex): Intelligence. Sense of humor.
2 things you want really badly: To fix my job so I can enjoy it again. To clean up my house. : (
2 places you want to go on vacation: Rome, the Gobi desert (not really). Actually, I'd like to see the Painted Desert, in the western US.
2 things you want to do before you die: Go to Mars. I'd go even if I knew I wouldn't make it back alive. If I can't go to Mars, I'd like to see my grandchildren (several years from now).
2 ways that you are stereotypically a dude/chick: I like pink. And I don't go out without my hair more or less combed and at least some mascara.
2 things you are thinking about now: That I don't have to get up early tomorrow although I probably will anyway. That I like having F home from school and I'll miss her when she goes back on Sunday.
2 stores you shop at: Walgreens. Macy's, although I window-shop more than I buy.
2 people you would like to see take the quiz?: Homer. Gosh, who else reads my blog?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

We had Thanksgiving dinner today at R's parents' house, with two of his brothers, his two sisters, and the youngest sister's children, who are 9, 7, 5, and 3 years old, respectively.

The 5-year-old, Ryan, is a fiend for trains. Two years ago at Thanksgiving my sister-in-law asked each child what he was thankful for. The oldest said "God." The second said, "My sister, Sarah, because she is so sweet." Ryan, who was 3 then, said, "Trains."

So today he and I sat together and looked through a picture book telling the story of the Nutcracker. We looked at all the pictures and talked about them. Each page had a pull-out and we had to work those. He was very interested and enthusiastic. Then we got to the last page. He looked at it in bemusement and said, "Where are the trains?" I said, "I don't think there are any." "Oh, man!" What a waste, you know, he had sat through the entire book for nothing. Then he remembered his manners - all these kids are excruciatingly polite - and told me it was a very nice book. And then he left it without a backward glance.

I wonder what Ryan would have fixed on if he had been born before there were trains.
In conversation with R, I used this phrase: "Let the devil take the hindmost.".

He stared at me and said he'd never heard it before. Of course, the meaning is intuitively obvious. I couldn't believe he'd never heard me say it before, because we've been married 23 years, but I suppose I'd never had occasion. I learned it at my mother's knee. She's very expressive.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

We got home this afternoon from picking up F from school, and we are all tired as dogs. F has been sound asleep ever since we got home. She virtuously brought home some things to study with, but I won't be surprised if she mostly sleeps before she goes back on Sunday. Don't know what it is about coming home from college ... but I seem to remember that I slept my head off every time.

So for kind of a late supper, we are going to have a very simple and easy-to-prepare although probably heartburn-provoking dish called "It's Bean Dip". We call it that because when you open a can of bean dip it sounds similar to the opening of a can of cat food. The cats can hear the difference now, but when I first began to prepare it they would all run into the kitchen and start hollering. I finally realized that R and F would go into the dining room when I went into the kitchen and wait for me to say, "It's bean dip! Bean dip, you dummies! You don't want this!" and they would die laughing.

How to make "It's Bean Dip":

Optional: Brown some ground beef.
Optional: Saute chopped onion and mushroom.

Open a can or two of bean dip and smear it around in the bottom of a glass bowl. I have a pretty bowl that has a flat bottom and fluted sides.

If you've browned beef, spread that over the dip.

Open a can of diced tomatoes, any flavor you like; drain and spread the tomatoes over the beef. Your cats, if any, might like to lick up the tomato juice.

If you've sauted onions and mushrooms, spread that over the tomatoes; also chopped black olives if you have them.

Microwave this until it's hot, about 3 or 4 minutes.

Dump a bunch of grated cheese on top and put it back in the microwave until the cheese mostly melts, about a minute or so.

Let it stand another couple of minutes unless you don't mind it being runny. It looks disgusting when you dip it out, but it tastes wonderful. Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Here's another poem for change destiny. This one is about how a person may change her destiny in seemingly minor decisions that she makes.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

--Robert Frost

Sunday, November 20, 2005

As kind of a follow-up to my post of yesterday, I want to talk about goals and what they should be.

Young people going off to college who are trying to decide what to major in, or who are trying to choose a career path, are frequently told, "Do what you love." Well that's fine, if "what you love" will pay the bills: if you are good enough at it, or it is in enough demand, for people to pay you to do it to the extent that you can support the lifestyle to which you would like to become accustomed.

But it doesn't always work that way. F loves to draw and do crafts. She's done some neat stuff, but it's not enough to support her and she's smart enough to know that.

Things that people major in that they "love" include English, esp. literature; history, art, religion, music, philosophy, psychology, and X studies (women's, or whatever), and I'm sure a lot of esoteric things I've never heard of. Now I'm not saying that people can't major in one of those things and do very well in their field. And I'm not saying that people can't major in one of those things and do very well in a different field. What I'm saying is that people major in one of those things and frequently end up teaching, which they may or may not have wanted to do, or working in a different field that they have no interest in and no career path in. The world, or at least this country, is full of twenty-somethings who majored in what they love, and are making $20K working at a bookstore and wondering when they will ever be able to afford a house or a car, or pay off the credit card debt they incurred in college when they were young and stupid. The answer is never, unless they pull up their socks and change course.

The advice that I gave F is this: Whatever you end up doing, it absolutely has to pay enough to put food on the table. Beyond that, it has to pay enough to support whatever lifestyle you will need to have to be happy. Some people are content to live their whole lives in a rented apartment and never have a car* but if that's not you, then you definitely need to take that into account. Or maybe you would like to spend your summers at archeological digs, to which as an amateur you would have to pay your own way - then pick something seasonal that pays a lot, like tax law.

Then, your choice has to be something reasonably honorable. I would not like to tell people you are an exotic dancer, for instance. It would be good if it's something that actually makes a positive difference in the world, although if it's legal and you pay your taxes that's probably really enough.

And finally, it must be something that you like and are suited to. Life is too short to spend 40+ hours a week bored and unhappy or overly stressed.

But - your job is not your true love. You should not look to your job to fulfill you as a person. That's where your love of art, literature, and music, your enjoyment of learning history, and so forth come in. They make you a cultured, interesting, happy, well-rounded person.

*I realize that in some places, like NYC, it may be possible to have a terrific quality of life in a rented apartment with no car, but not around here.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Well, let's see. Time for a Deep Thought, I guess.

How about the Meaning of Success.

I've heard it said that it's impossible to define success for another person. I disagree with that. The story is usually told that a businessman spends all his time and mental energy on making a lot of money, and in his old age is wealthy but estranged from his family. Could you say he is a success? Or not?

In my opinion, it depends. I think success can be defined as achievement of goals. If the businessman in the story wants to be wealthy and doesn't much care what his family thinks of him, then he is a success. If he always thought his twilight years would see him surrounded by loving children and grandchildren, then he is not a success.

I think people slip up when they never take the time to ask themselves what their goals really are, or whether they are on track for meeting them. New Year's resolutions are a good venue for having exactly that take place, and they are conveniently prompted once a year.

Friday, November 18, 2005

This makes me ill. It's an article about summarizing classics in text messages so kids will read them.

Okay, first, this is stupid. I remember that when F was reading Jane Eyre and we were talking about it, R mentioned that he had never read it. (It is kind of a chick book.) I began summarizing the plot for him, thought I would do it in a few succinct sentences, and you know what? That is one complex piece of literature. And they are going to reduce this to text messages?

Second, I'm not sure it's a good idea to encourage kids to read this way. I have come to the conclusion that written and spoken English are really two different languages. If I recall correctly, it's been determined that people who sound words in their heads read more slowly than people who let the words go straight from their eyes into their brains. When words are spelled phonetically, rather than the way we are used to seeing them, it forces us to sound the word as we read.

(I have to say, though, that sometimes when I read something written by someone I know, I can hear their voice in my head, especially if the wording is very colloquial.)

Here's proof:

Acocdrnig to an elgnsih unviesitry sutdy the oredr of letetrs in a wrod dosen't mttaer, the olny thnig thta's iopmrantt is that the frsit and lsat Ltteer of eevry word is in the crcreot ptoision. The rset can be jmbueld and one is stlil able to raed the txet wiohtut dclftfuiiy.*

You can read that easily, right? Try pronouncing it and see if it's understandable.

Finally, if things are to be simplified and scrunched together, I vote for this.

*This has been all over the internet, and I don't know how to credit it properly.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The poem I quoted below is, of course, William Blake's "The Tyger". It's the "Songs of Experience" counterpart to "The Lamb" in "Songs of Innocence".

"The Lamb" starts like this:

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?

Here's the full text.

It's a child's view of creation, written in a child's simple language.

In contrast, here's "The Tyger":

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


Here is an excellent discussion of the poem. The point it appears Blake was making is that as adults we have to confront the fact that creation isn't benign all the time. Some things we have trouble reconciling with the idea of a loving, omnipotent God. Blake's grown-up poem doesn't end with any answers, only unanswered questions. Some questions will never be answered... at least, in this lifetime.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Well, I got a kick in the pants today.

We had a dinner at church, for Thanksgiving, and the choir sang Rutter's arrangement of "For the Beauty of the Earth". I knew I wouldn't have much time to eat before choir practice at 7:00, but I hurried over right after work. The line was far too long to get food before we sang, so I asked if the kitchen would still be open afterwards - "Of course!" I was really hungy and the food smelled great. Everybody else either got there early enough to get food or had someone get a tray for them - R had to work late and couldn't be there. After we sang I stood in line forever, and right before I got up there - they ran out of food. I went straight to McDonald's, cursing (!) and feeling sorry for myself. I knew it wasn't anybody's fault; we had a much bigger turnout than expected. But dang.

After choir, I had to stop off at Walgreen's to get some cat litter because we were out, and when you have 3 cats... well, anyway. So I got back to the car, and there stood a little hunched-over woman with a blanket wrapped around her. She asked to speak to me, and in a soft voice I had to lean over to hear, she asked me to give her a ride to Piggly Wiggly. She was cold, her feet were soaked, etc. I just never let a stranger get in the car with me or come in my house, but I did tell her I would give her a ride. It turned out she was going to PW to beg enough money ($7) for a night in a shelter - not much luck begging at Walgreen's. I pulled into a parking lot and felt around in my pockets and found $7 and gave it to her. But she still was going to have to beg, because she'd had nothing to eat, and she really wanted enough money for 3 nights in that shelter. There was a lot of other conversation, you understand. So I went to the ATM and took out $30, and told her we'd get her some supper and she could have the rest. She started crying. I asked myself if I was thoroughly ashamed of myself for whining about having to have supper at McDonald's, and concluded that I was. We went by KFC and got her some chicken, and then I took her where she needed to go. When she got out of the car she gestured for me to lock my doors, then waved goodbye.

So, attitude adjustment. I hope it stays with me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

We have an unauthorized household animal that has moved in, probably to get away from the cooler weather. Probably either a raccoon or a really large rat.

We've had the smaller roofrats before, but you can barely hear them scampering and gnawing on whatever it is they gnaw on. They come in through the basement, we guess, and up through the walls and into the space between the kitchen ceiling and F's bedroom upstairs. R puts the live-animal trap up there when we think we have a visitor and within a day or two we hear it spring. He has to put on heavy gloves and climb the ladder to get the trap down, with the trapped rat lunging at him through the bars, then walk through the house with the cats trotting alongside - "Let me have him! Just for a minute!" (We're very glad to have those cats, because we think their presence deters the rats from coming into the living portions of the house.) R sometimes baits the trap with peanut butter crackers, but sometimes he doesn't have to bait it; they have a little path they like to run along, for whatever reason a rat ever does anything, and all he has to do is line the trap up with it and in runs the rat of the moment. I don't know what R does with the rats he traps; I suppose he turns them loose somewhere. He's too softhearted to kill them.

But our current unauthorized animal doesn't scamper and gnaw. We wake up at night hearing sounds like furniture being dragged, or heavy balls rolling. And we can't make out where it is. We thought it was in the crawl space next to F's bedroom upstairs, but R put an infrared camera in there and that's not it. We have got to figure out what and where it is and get rid of it before F comes home for Thanksgiving. I do not want to be in this house if she wakes up and hears that.

The strange thing is that the cats don't seem to notice.

...trying very hard not to think of Stephen King's "The Rats in the Walls"...

Monday, November 14, 2005

I'm pretty sure F never reads my blog. So I'm posting the self-portrait she drew on her tablet PC when, smack in the middle of reading the latest Harry Potter tome, she came to a startling realization: that after 4 years of Latin in high school...

That's Molly in the corner, and it's a very faithful reproduction, right down to the droopy left eyelid.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Name the poem:

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

edit, 3/4/06: The whole poem is here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Here is an article about restaurants where the misbehavior of small children is discouraged.

I think this is a significant quote:

"I love people who don't have children who tell you how to parent," said Alison Miller, 35, a psychologist, corporate coach and mother of two. "I'd love for him to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day."

You don't have to control their volume every minute. What you do is, you teach them that there's a time to run around and scream (and I hope her kids have such a time, at a playground or in the back yard) and a time to be quiet. This is how children start to learn self-control. People do their children a real disservice when they don't start working on this during toddlerhood.

And here:

Kim Cavitt recalled having coffee and a cookie one afternoon with her boisterous 2-year-old when "someone came over and said you just need to keep her quiet or you need to leave."'

"We left, and we haven't been back since," Ms. Cavitt said. "You go to a coffee shop or a bakery for a rest, to relax, and that you would have to worry the whole time about your child doing something that children do - really what they're saying is they don't welcome children, they want the child to behave like an adult."

Ms. Cavitt isn't taking into account that other people go to the coffee shop or bakery to rest and relax, too, and they don't want to hear her screaming kid. And I say this as the mother of a wonderful person who once was a screaming kid on occasion. I had to put up with her screams because I am her mother, but other people are under no obligation to do so and they do not find it charming.

Here's one more quote from a parent:

"The litmus test for me is if they have highchairs or not," said Ms. Dehl, the woman who scooped her screaming son from his seat during brunch, as she waited out his restlessness on a sidewalk bench. "The fact that they had one highchair, and the fact that he's the only child in the restaurant is an indication that it's an adult place, and if he's going to do his toddler thing, we should take him out and let him run around."

In other words, the world doesn't revolve around her son. How about that.

Via Joanne Jacobs.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Oh, and the poems, which are about to drop off the bottom, are Lochinvar, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and The Cremation of Sam McGee.

Sam McGee would have been another good one for Hallowe'en.
I want to talk about document validation. Now, I don't know anything about document validation, but that doesn't seem to stop anybody else, so here goes.

If I were asked to validate a document, my first question would be: "Where did this come from?" If the answer was that it was faxed from an unknown source, I would stop right there. It is so easy to cut and paste just using a pair of scissors, a roll of tape, and a simple copy machine. I've done it myself (not on anything official). I don't believe there is any way to validate a document that is not an original.

If I had the original, not a fax or photocopy, and if a reasonable chain could be made from, say, a file drawer in a Texas National Guard office to the paper in my hand, I would next look at the formatting of the document and compare it to any contemporaneous documents that could be found. Are the headers placed on the page the same way? Are dates formatted the same way? Are acronyms and abbreviations, and general wording, consistent with those other documents? Again, if I saw significant differences I would stop.

I would also examine the overall physical atttibutes of the document. Since I would not accept a fax or a photocopy, I would be able to compare the appearance of the paper and the ink with those contemporaneous documents. Is the paper the same size? Same color and weight? How about the ink?

But for pete's sake, if the letters on the document in question are formed differently than those contemporaneous documents, if in fact they were shown to be identical to the output of MS Word in its default settings, right down to the line returns, and especially once I noticed the little superscript "th", I would laugh my head off and throw it in the garbage.

Is that so hard?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Two men walked into a bar. The third man ducked.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Moral question here.

Suppose there were frequent break-ins in your neighborhood. Somebody is going into houses when no one is home and cleaning them out. You notice a car whose driver you don't recognize, going up and down the street and slowing down when it passes your house. You believe your house will be next. The police don't seem interested in having a visible presence in your neighborhood.

On a weekend, you send your family to a relative's house. Park your car around back. Keep the lights off. Don't collect the newspaper or the mail. And sit silently in your dark house with your shotgun, waiting. When the thief breaks into your house, you shoot to kill. Then you turn your lights on and call the police. While you're waiting for the police to come, you pick up your newspaper and your mail.

Legally, you are allowed to use deadly force if you are in fear of your life. If someone breaks into your house it is usually assumed that you are, although it would probably be frowned upon if your housebreaker was shot in the back ... although not necessarily. So putting law aside, is this scenario morally OK?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The cats are running through the house like mad things. I wonder sometimes what thoughts they could have in their tiny brains. It's true that their brains don't have to manage language or opposable thumbs, but they do have to process input from their whiskers, independently direct their ears, and control their tails. And they constantly make scentscapes of their surroundings. They are good at figuring out and exploiting our schedules. Our tomcat, whose picture I posted the other day, knows that I am first up in the morning, and that I always deal with the litterbox right before bed. So he watches me to see when I am going into the bathroom - he's watching me now - because he will want to jump into the bathtub and meow at me to turn the water on so he can wet his whistle. The cats' water dish in the kitchen is freshened daily, and he drinks from that, but the water in the bathtub is different.
I passed the citizenship test!

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

Now I have to go back to work.

Monday, November 07, 2005

How about some more controversy.

I find myself at odds with my fellow conservatives over a handful of issues. Public education is one. I keep reading comments on conservative blogs to the effect that everyone must pull their kids out of public school, now. And some hope for the day when there are no public schools, only private ones. News articles like this make this idea hard to argue against. Still, I just really differ about this issue.

Let me say first that I have no problem with people homeschooling or sending their kids to private school. F attended a parochial school for K-6. Our kid, our choice. I do think it's silly for people who want vouchers to point to the fact that politicians send their kids to private school and claim that they don't want others to have that choice. No one tried to stop us from sending F to private school. Yes, we had to pay tuition. She's our kid; who should have paid it?

The idea that we should have gotten our taxes rebated to the extent that they would have paid for her public school education is also silly. You don't pay taxes to educate your kids; you pay them so that you can live in a society in which people have at least a minimal education. Otherwise you're surrounded by an illiterate, unemployable permanent underclass. I can see people saying, "So how is that different from what we have now?" It's a lot different.

I remember listening to Ken Hamblin back when he was on the radio. This must have been years ago. A caller was complaining that black people are not given opportunities like white people are; no one helps them; no one gives them a hand up. They are excluded from the American dream. Here is a paraphrase of Ken's reply: "You're right. But I have an idea that is so radical, so far-reaching, that it will knock your socks off: Let's offer every child a free education in a public school." There was a moment of silence, then the caller started chuckling and said, "You got me. Tip of the hat to you, bro', " and then he hung up.

There are those who say that if all schools were private, and parents got vouchers, the parents would pick the best schools for their kids. I don't want to speak ill of parents; I am one. But some parents are completely out to lunch when it comes to making decisions about their kids' welfare. I'm not talking about parents making bad decisions about where their kids go to school, I'm talking about parents not giving a damn about their kids' welfare AT ALL. I remember reading a letter to the editor in the local newspaper that was written by a teacher. She noticed that one of her students had missed three days of school and she asked the office personnel to call his home and check on him. It turned out that his mother had sold all of his clothes to pay for drugs. All he had to wear was a bedsheet. Of course Social Services was called and the kid removed from the home. That public schoolteacher was the only person in that child's life who cared enough about him to come to his rescue. But according to some people, his mother was fully capable of deciding which school he should attend, or whether he should attend school at all. And even given this exact story, they still would shut down the schools although it would mean leaving this child in misery and sacrificing his chance at any kind of future. Situations like this one come up every day in schools across the country. And I keep coming back to the fact that these are American kids, who deserve the best we can do for them. They deserve their crack at the American dream every bit as much as F does, or any other child whose parents carefully plan their education and their future.

I know there are problems with the public schools. But we need to fix them. We certainly don't need to abandon them.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Name the poem:

The bride kissed the goblet; the knight took it up,
He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup,
She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.

And this one:

He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship," quoth he.
"Hold off ! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

And this:

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Saturday, November 05, 2005

How much do you dress up for church? (or whatever.)

The older ladies at my church wear pastel suits and shoes and carry matching purses. Some go for more serious colors. I remember that once one of my dad's sisters mentioned wearing pants to church - on a Wednesday night - on a really cold, miserable evening - and she felt AWFUL about it. I wear a dress, or a skirt and blouse, and try to match my shoes to some degree, but I carry the same purse everywhere I go until it wears out so sometimes it doesn't match at all. Some women wear nice pants outfits, and more and more I see blue jeans. I have a problem with that, and I have a problem with the fact that I have a problem.

During the week, I wear jeans and a t-shirt every day. You don't dress up in a lab, if you have any sense. If we have visitors I might switch to khaki pants. It's true that when I get home from church I switch back over to the jeans and t-shirt right away. But I don't WANT to wear jeans to church. It's partly about being respectful, and partly about trying to look like you know how to act, and partly about keeping up some kind of standard, and partly about keeping some nice clothes in the closet in case of weddings and funerals, and partly about not wearing the same clothes and having the same look ALL the time. So I don't like to see those jeans at church, especially when I know the people involved can afford different clothes. (If they can't afford anything else, of course I want them to attend church in their jeans rather than think they are not welcome.)

I honestly don't think God cares what we wear to church. That's why it bothers me that it bothers me.

Friday, November 04, 2005

I guess I'm not through with Hallowe'en.


by: James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)


To all the little children: -- The happy ones; and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones -- Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.

LITTLE Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:--
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you


And here is the story of the real Orphan Annie, as told by Riley. I've loved that poem all my life, but I never read this story until today.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I participated in an online discussion once that turned into an attempt to define "literature", which it was felt that Stephen King's work was not. (I love Stephen King's work. The Stand is one of my favorite novels, and Salem's Lot scares the stew out of me every time I read it.)

Here's basically what I said.

Sometimes a book is so rich that you feel that you know the characters and you're reluctant to leave that universe, even though it may be culturally very different from the one you live in. Middlemarch is like that for me. I always feel like I've returned from a long journey when I put it back on the shelf.

And sometimes a character is so richly drawn that by contemplating it, you actually get insight into real people and situations; I think that's significant.

Sometimes a book engenders so many thoughts that I feel that I have to discuss it with somebody. My husband was kind enough to read Ethan Frome a few years ago, after I'd read it for the first time, just so I could talk about it with him.

I'm not sure these things constitute literature (whatever that is). They raise a book in my estimation, though. And I do value a good story; in fact, a strong, original plot can cover a multitude of sins for me.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Here's a picture F took of one of the cats.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The recent news about Charles and Camilla visiting the U.S. makes me think of the time that F asked me about that whole Charles - Diana - Camilla thing. I think that if people are going to get married they should make their vows in good faith, which I don't think Charles did in his first marriage, and then they ought to stand by them. So I was probably a little less-than-favorable toward Charles when I told her about all of that. But then she asked me why, after all those years, and his marriage, and her marriage, he still wanted her, and I had to say, "I guess she really is his true-love." Too bad he didn't have the guts to put his foot down in the first place.

There are people in our Sunday School class who have been married for 50 or 60 years (we go to the old folks' class) and they are so sweet to each other. They look at each other tenderly and speak of each other with affection. They're good role models for R and me. I hope someday we're a couple of old folks setting a good example for the young'uns.

Married love, of course, isn't all about feelings. Feelings change, inevitably. A woman in our church who does pre-marital and couple counseling says that young folks don't want to hear that after the initial spark blows out, love is about behavior. I know that's true. R and I are always polite and respectful to each other. We say "please" and "thank you". He fixes my dinner, I wash his underwear, and so forth. Some people think that home is where you can let down your facade and act any old way you want to. I think that home is supposed to be a haven for everyone, and that means you have to reserve your best behavior for your family. After all, they deserve the best you have, right?

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - I Corinthians 13