Friday, April 29, 2011

Dear Dad, Please Send Rain!

rain in a city, nick fedaeff, 2004

            It has become commonplace in the Southeastern US for our governors to declare Days of Prayer for Rain. The most recent DOPFR took place in Texas, which is suffering a severe drought that is causing fires in the state to burn out of control. Since science has yet to find a way to supply rain to places that need it, I suppose it is sensible to want to do something about the situation. However, do the DOPFR actually work?

In November 2007, Governor Sonny Perdue declared a DOPFR in Georgia. I have to admit that this action did indeed bring rain. Unfortunately, the devout in Georgia failed to be specific in their request, and the Midwest endured torrential floods while Georgia remained dry. I don’t think this can be counted as a successful test of the DOPFR. It remains to be seen whether or not it will work in Texas.

Of course, asking deities to solve our problems is not new. The Native Americans had rituals that were performed every year in the hopes of bringing rain. I wonder if they kept statistics on how often these rain dances were successful.  Perhaps they had better results than we’ve had using the DOPFR. If so, I vote for changing tactics.

In other parts of the world, people are taking action instead of simply relying on prayer. The Parliament in Kyrgyzstan ritually slaughtered seven rams before the start of their April 21st session in order to banish “evil spirits” that were keeping the members of Parliament from working together amicably. If we started sacrificing animals in order to effect weather change, surely the Powers That Be would take notice along with everyone else. The Old Testament spectacle of a ritual sacrifice on the Texas capitol steps would be bound to make it onto the 6 o’clock news, don’t you think?

I find it interesting that sophisticated and educated modern humans find it necessary to resort to ancient rituals when faced with a situation they can’t control. We can’t force people to get along with each other, and we can’t make it rain. DOPFR are ineffective, but what are we supposed to do? Ask sociologists and meteorologists to research these problems and find effective solutions? Don’t be silly.

Read about the 2007 DOPFR in Georgia: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21680340/ns/weather/

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Artistic Display of Dirt

            “Hey, Chris, look at this! It’s an article about a new museum exhibit that just opened in London. I want to go.”

            “Of course you do. The fact that it’s a 7 hour plane ride doesn’t bother you in the least, does it?”

            “So not. I have speed-packing down to a science and I simply adore the TSA and Delta Airlines.”

            “That’s a lie. No one adores the TSA and Delta Airlines.”

            I waved my hand. “That’s irrelevant. Don’t you want to go to this new museum with me?”

            “Is it an art museum?”

            “No, not exactly.”

            “Historical artifacts?”

            “Um…not really.”

            “Dinosaur bones?”

            I shook my head.

            “OK, I give up. What’s in this museum we have to cross the Atlantic to see?”

            “Excuse me?”

            “The Wellcome Collection in London is exhibiting a show called Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life. We should go see it before it closes.”

            “You’re making that up.”

            “I am not. You can see stuff like secretions from cholera victims and historic diagrams of weird looking bacteria. They even have a display of bricks that the Dalits of India made out of human poop.”

            “That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. I wouldn’t walk across the street to see that.”

            I frowned at him. “It would be educational. Dirt is part of our lives, and we should understand the importance of it.”

            “You certainly don’t have to travel to see dirt. We have an interactive dirt display right here in our house. You can even touch it without anyone yelling at you to stay behind the display ropes.”

            “That’s really quite amusing.”

            “I’ll give you a free tour. Over there,” he pointed to the corner of the kitchen floor, “are tumbleweeds made out of dog hair. Just around the corner, there’s a lovely display of pink mold at water level in the toilet.” He moved a large planter and waved a hand so I could see behind it. “And there you’ll see a fine exhibit of dead American cockroaches."

            “You’re not going to take me to London to see the dirt exhibit, are you?”


            “Fine.” I smiled and handed him a bottle of Lysol cleaner and a sponge. “Then you can get rid of the pink mold display in the toilet.”

            “Hey, wait! Where are you going?”

            “Starbucks. You don’t expect me to work in this filthy house, do you?”

            “What just happened?” Chris asked our eldest son as I tucked my computer into my backpack.

            Pete laughed. “You got played, Dad.”

            “Help me clean?” Chris asked him.

            “You're kidding, right?”

            Chris sighed and looked at the cleaning supplies in his hands. “Well, shoot.”

If you happen to be in London and want to see the dirt exhibit, you can get more information at the following website:  http://www.historyextra.com/gallery/dirt-filthy-reality-everyday-life

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tag Under Fire - Again!

            Do you want to keep your children safe and protected from harm? Of course you do. You monitor what they watch on TV and see on the Internet, you enforce a curfew, you serve healthy foods and teach them to stay away from strangers. You want to make sure they get enough exercise, so you limit the amount of time they spend playing video games and repeat the wisdom that has become part of American oral tradition – “For heaven’s sake, turn that game off and go outside and PLAY!”

            Recently, a subdivision in Florida proposed fining parents who allowed their children to play outside. One of the activities specifically banned would be tag. It seems kids get noisy when they play tag, if you can believe that, and some homeowners who have forgotten that they were once children find that offensive.

            I read about something like that and shake my head, figuring that it is an isolated incident and considering myself lucky that I don’t live there. I mean, really, how many people in the US are that mean?

            Now the state of New York is in the process of revising their summer camp regulations in order to make sure that children are happy campers, so to speak. In order to keep the children of New York safe, one of the activities to be specifically banned is – you guessed it – tag. Also on the list of no-no’s are Red Rover, dodgeball, kickball, wiffle ball, and Capture the Flag. Wiffle ball? Really?

            I played these games when I was a child, and didn’t even think about not allowing my children to play them. My parents also remember playing them. Believe it or not, we are all still around to tell the story. Not only weren’t we physically harmed beyond an occasional scraped knee or elbow, but we learned a lot about teamwork by playing them.

So why do we want to “protect” the next generation by keeping them from playing these common outdoor games? Are there compiled statistics that prove that tag and wiffle ball are so physically dangerous that they must be banned by the government?

At what point do you say that the American government is officially out of control? I think we passed that point a while ago.

             BTW, have you considered how you are going to stop kids from playing tag once it has been banned? I wish you luck enforcing the "no tag" regulation. Given free time, kids play tag. I suspect it's instinctive.

New York:

Guess it's not just the US. Check out this article from the UK:

Friday, April 22, 2011

What would George Washington say?

            “The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”                                     George Washington

            “I wish I could ask George exactly what he meant by this quote,” I mused out loud.

            My father nodded. “It seems self-explanatory on the surface, but there is something deeper underneath.”

            “I have often wondered why the American people put up with their inept government misusing huge amounts of tax money. Why do people think the government is more qualified to spend their money than they are?”

            “There’s power in having that much money, so the government isn’t likely to cut back on their spending. Our only hope is to elect a congress that understands basic economics and is incorruptible.”

            “Funny one, Dad.” We smiled at each other a bit wistfully.
            “Of course the question is whether the people are truly patient, or if they are sheep willing to be led by the government. I’m afraid that Washington assessed his fellow citizens more kindly than I do. Do you know that a friend told me that she didn’t pay any taxes this year because she got a refund? That’s intolerable stupidity!”

            “Those are your education tax dollars at work,” he answered.

            I had to agree. “The sad part is that she is a public school teacher. That’s just scary.”

            “Do you think that the Constitution is going to last another 200 years?”

            “I wish I could say yes, but I fear that we’re going to see a Socialist form of government take over in the near future. It has already begun. The bailout of the banks and the auto manufacturers are clear signs that the American government has substantially veered from the course of our representative Republic. And then there's Obama-care, the latest in socialized medicine.”

            “What do you think Washington would have to say if he were alive today?” my Dad asked me.

            “I wish I knew,” I replied. “I think he’d be sad. What do you think?”

            “I think he’d say that freedom is worth fighting for, and that the American people need to get their act together before they lose their hard-won freedom.”

            “And he’d be right,” I agreed.

            “Besides, there is hope for the future. Look at the two fine young men you have raised. It’ll be their turn soon, and you have given them the tools they need to make a difference in the world. They are educated, well-traveled, and thoughtful. They’re what this country needs.”

            “That’s a big burden for the next generation.” I sighed. “I wish we hadn’t given them so much to overcome.”

            “Don’t forget that Washington also said, ‘Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth’."

            “I hope you and Washington are right, Dad. You know me, though. The glass is always half empty to me.”

            “I think you should do what you can to teach your students about freedom and liberty, and try to see the glass as half full. You are part of the solution, too.”

            “You’re awesome, Dad.”

            He laughed. “I try.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

China Bans Time Travel?

Fox News Headline on April 14, 2011: China Bans Time Travel
“Chris, did you see this headline?”

“The one about China banning time travel? Yeah, I saw it.”

“That’s…well…incredible, don’t you think?”

“Incredible is a good word for it.”

“Do you think that Chinese scientists are close to discovering the secret to time travel? That isn’t something to be taken lightly, you know. You could really mess with the future by playing around with time travel. I can understand why they’re concerned enough to ban it.”

“Vic, they didn’t ban actual time travel.”

“I’d love to go back in time, wouldn’t you? I want to see what life was like when our Patriots were fighting for their freedom from the British. Imagine having a drink with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. I bet I’d really like Abigail Adams, too; we’d have a lot in common.”

“Vic, you really should read more of that article. They didn’t ban actual time travel.”

“Wouldn’t it be something to take an art or science lesson from Leonardo DaVinci or help Beethoven compose a symphony? We could learn political strategy from Queen Elizabeth I. We could meet Jesus and Buddha and Confucius…in person! The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.”

“I’m pretty sure that limiting imaginations are what the Chinese are all about.”


“Vicki, the Chinese did not ban time travel. They banned television shows and movies and books that use time travel as a plot device. They are worried that time travel shows will glamorize the past and make the people unhappy with the world today.”

“That’s ridiculous. They think that the Chinese people can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction?”

“I guess not.”

“Jeez. It’s at times like these that I’m especially glad I was born and raised in America.”

            “I’ll drink to that.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

Global Warming and Haggis

                When it comes to food, there are delicacies more highly prized than having a pile of gold, finding the perfect pair of shoes, or getting a good night’s sleep. Revel in the perfection of your first sniff of that rare vintage Bordeaux wine. Savor the musky hint of truffle unearthed by a highly trained pig that transforms an ordinary dish into a work of culinary art. Appreciate the daintiness of caviar, long seen as the pinnacle of “the good life”.   Delight in the creaminess of Godiva chocolate, ecstasy wrapped in gold foil.
            Unfortunately, there is one highly treasured delicacy that is facing extinction due to global warming. I refer, of course, to haggis. No, really.

            Haggis, for those of us who don’t hail from Scotland, is a mixture of minced sheep organs, oatmeal, onions and spices stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and then boiled. The problem is that warmer climates in Scotland are allowing the sheep lungworm parasite to spread more easily than normal. The parasite, while not bothering the sheep much, does render the lung inedible for humans. Since the lung is a necessary ingredient in haggis, butchers in Scotland are having to import sheep lungs from Ireland, which does not have the parasite problem. At least the Scots haven’t had to give up their beloved haggis yet, although they probably are incensed at having to pay more for it. I know I would be.

            So I urge you to do what you can to save haggis. Educate other people about this important issue. I know that together we can save haggis from extinction. It’s a cause worthy of your effort. Raise the banner high.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Julius Caesar and the Ides of April

            “You know, the fortune teller should have told Julius Caesar to beware the ides of April instead of March.”
            Chris chuckled. “That wouldn’t have helped him much, considering that he died on March 15th.”

            “Shakespeare could have used poetic license and had Caesar die in April instead,” I answered. “It’s not like he cared a whole lot about historical accuracy anyway. He was all about the entertainment value.”

            “True. But why does it matter if Caesar died in March or April?”

            “April 15th is the day we render onto Caesar that which is his, so to speak. If Caesar required every citizen to fill out reams of paperwork and fork over a significant sum of gold coins in taxes on April 15th, it would make sense that he should beware. Some poor taxpayer was bound to get irate.”

            “I see where you’re coming from.”

            “April 15th is not a good day for me, your average poor taxpayer/paperwork-filler-outer. I think the US government is as out of control when it comes to taxes as Caesar was. I’m tired of paying for Caesar’s new gold chariots when my chariot is ten years old.”

            “I hear you.”

            “I’m sick of paying for an education system that doesn’t work, bridges that collapse, social programs for the ‘less fortunate’, and other people’s random pork projects. Something has to give and it’s not me. I’ve given till it hurts!”

            “Got it.”

“I thought the government was just supposed to provide for our common defense and promote domestic tranquility. As the owner of a small business, I’m not feeling the tranquility.”

“I understand completely. I do have some good news for you, though.” My husband patted my hand comfortingly.

“You do?” I perked up.”What is it?”

“It’s some sort of holiday in the District of Columbia today, so our taxes aren’t due until Monday, April 18th.”

“That’s your good news? Are you kidding me?”

“You get to keep the money you earned for a few more days. That’s good, isn’t it?”

“Uh...sure. It's peachy.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Word "FAN" - Does it mean what you think it means?

Okay, “fan” can be used as a noun or a verb, right? For example:

            The ceiling fan kept the room much cooler. (Noun)

            I am a fan of Elvis Presley. (Noun)

            I fanned out the cards so he could pick one from the deck. (Past tense verb)

            She has been fanning herself because she is too hot. (Present perfect tense

So how is “fan” used in this ad I cut and pasted from FaceBook?

Fan us and as thanks, we’ll hook you up with a $1.00 off Baby Swiss
            CHEEZ-IT® crackers coupon. Because clicking is hard.

You’re completely correct. “Fan” is a noun used as a verb. Apparently, I can now fan Elvis Presley without blowing air on him. I can fan OREO cookies if I want.   I just hope I can fan the Grammar Sticklers’ Anonymous page, because I am confused and not a little bit upset by this whole “verbing” of nouns issue. As Calvin says, “Verbing weirds language.”
BTW, please fan my blog if you haven’t already. I appreciate the support. LOL

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kids playing outside? Not if you live in Edgewater, Florida!

            “Mom! That’s not fair!”

            “I know, sweetie, but you’re not allowed to go out and play. Why don’t you watch TV or play a video game?”

            “I’m sick of watching TV. I want to practice jumps on my skateboard.”

            “Skateboards are forbidden in the neighborhood. You know that.”  Mom sighed. It was difficult to keep an 8 year old boy cooped up inside when the weather was so nice, but the homeowner’s association had just passed a rule fining parents who let their kids play outside in their yards without direct adult supervision. She couldn’t afford the $100 fine, and she had to be inside in case the sleeping baby awoke.

            Her son pouted and stomped off to his room. She was going to have to take him to the park when the baby got up. He really needed to run off some of that energy.

            Imagine passing a rule that prohibited kids from playing outside in their own yards, for heaven’s sake. She was going to put this house on the market tomorrow. It was going to be hard to sell, though. Who’d want to buy a house here?

 I did not make this up. The HOA at the Persimmon Place subdivision in Edgewater, Florida recently proposed passing a rule that would prohibit children from playing outside without direct adult supervision, using skateboards, playing tag, and using any noisy toys. What’s the matter with these people?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Keep your feet off the seat! No, I'm not kidding!

            “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners, young man? Get your feet off the seat of that bench!”

            “You talking to me, Pops?”

            “Of course I’m talking to you. Is there something wrong with you that you don’t understand simple German?”

            “You don’t have to be rude, old man. I’m moving already.”

            “Look at that,” the elderly gentleman pointed at the bench. “Your shoes left mud on the seat. The next person to sit there will get dirt on his trousers.”

            The teenager halfheartedly swiped at the seat, flashed the man a smirk and wandered off down the street.

            “Young people have no respect today,” the man muttered under his breath as he searched the surrounding park area for a clean bench. “Something has to be done about this situation. I’m going to speak to the mayor about this.”

              The gentleman’s complaint was not the first one Mayor Dieter Moerlein of Eppelheim, Germany had heard. As a matter of fact, the first of the mayor’s new park benches had been installed that very day.  A design invented by the mayor himself, the new park benches had the seat section on the top of the bench. That way, teenagers who usually sat on the back of the bench with their feet on the seat could still sit on the back of the bench, which was now the seat. The seat would stay clean, and everyone would be happy.

            The citizens of Eppelheim cheered, their problem solved by their ingenious elected official…except for one elderly gentleman.
            “Why can’t we just teach these young punks some manners?” he grumbled the next day as he observed chattering teenagers perched like roosting chickens on the new benches. “We have to have new benches to keep them from behaving rudely? Bah! This wouldn’t have been tolerated when I was a teenager. I don’t know what’s wrong with people today….” Sadly shaking his head, he shuffled home.           


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lost in Loganville


            “Where are you?” Gloria laughed. It’s not the first time we had a phone conversation that started this way. “Are you on your way?”

            “Um…yes,” I answered tentatively.

            “How far away are you?”

            “That’s a really good question.”

            “You’re lost?”

            “Well, if you mean that I don’t know exactly where I am at the moment, I’d have to say yes.”

            “What does your GPS say?”

            “I’m not using it. Stephanie’s e-mail said we were meeting at the Mexican restaurant across the street from the bowling alley in Loganville. I figured I could find the bowling alley without much trouble, so I didn’t get directions. I probably should have at least asked Stephanie the name of the restaurant, huh?”

            Gloria chuckled. “Why didn’t you?”

            “The last time I was in Loganville, there was one stop light and a gas station. I had no idea it had grown so much.”

            “You must have been running from Yankee soldiers back then, darlin’,” Gloria said, her normal Southern drawl exaggerated x5. “Loganville, Georgia is a modern center of commerce and entertainment. There are at least 3 bowling alleys here now.”

            “Thanks, Gloria. That’s so…helpful.”

            “Oh, you want helpful. Tell you what. You pull over and I’ll text you the address of the restaurant. Put it in your GPS and then follow the directions.”

            “I can do that.”

            “Good girl. Do you want me to order a drink for you?”

            “Well, duh.”

            “One mojito on the way. Hope you get here before the ice melts.”

            “That’s really funny, Gloria.”

She laughed. “Drive safely. We’ll see you in a few minutes.”

            It was less than a few minutes. The parking lot I had pulled into so I could enter the address into my GPS was the parking lot for the Mexican restaurant. Who needs directions when you have luck on your side?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Decorah Eagles: A Reason to Smile

            In a world where the consequences of one insane man burning a book in Florida are the deaths of 16 people at the hands of other insane men on the opposite side of the globe, it is often difficult to view our world in a positive light. The media tells us that pretty soon none of us will have jobs, that our deaths from radiation poisoning are imminent, and that our children (if they survive) will be saddled with a national debt they’ll never be able to pay. People around the world are fighting for freedom and for basic human rights against other people who seek religious supremacy and power. We are cursed to live in interesting times.

How do we cope with day to day life when faced with such problems? Perhaps the key is to narrow our focus and dig deep to see the small things around us that are good. The birth of a baby is hope for the future. Welcome to the world, dearest Grace, my newest grandniece. It is for you that your parents, proud representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard, and the others who love you work hard to make the world a better place. We won’t give up, sweetie, I promise.

There is good out there, if you're willing to look for it.  Admire the buds on the Dogwood trees. Read some poetry. Spend some time watching a pair of eagles bring new life into the world. Smile.

Live Videos by Ustream
Many thanks to my friend Rich Smith for forwarding the link to the Raptor Resource Project, which is sending out the live stream of the Decorah Eagles from atop their tree at the fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa.

Friday, April 1, 2011

News Flash: Not all waiters in Madrid speak English

            Is there a trick to getting what you want when you order in a restaurant in a foreign country and you don’t speak the language? Well sure, there are several tricks you can use. Here’s what I learned in Madrid:

            Some restaurants have English-speaking waiters. This is the absolute best scenario. Enjoy it when you find it because, believe it or not, not everyone in Madrid speaks English. The national language of Spain is – you guessed it – Spanish.

When you are not lucky enough to find someone who speaks English, I suggest that you ask if the restaurant has a menu in English. Many restaurants in Madrid do provide English menus for their Spanish-challenged customers. The best menus have English and Spanish descriptions of the dishes on the same menu, so you can stumble through ordering in badly-accented-but-understandable Spanish to your waiter who speaks no English.

            For those restaurants that do not have English menus, be sure to have your handy-dandy translation IPod app so you can look up unfamiliar words. If you are lagging behind in the last century as I am, I have found that pocket dictionaries (the paper kind) will also work. If you order octopus eyes when you wanted a slice of chocolate cake, you’re liable to be disappointed. Look it up.

            Another strategy is to choose restaurants that have pictures of the items on their menus. You can simply point at the picture of the ham and eggs and expect to receive ham and eggs. However, if you want the eggs scrambled instead of fried, you’re in trouble. You’re in Madrid – the eggs come fried. Period.

            I hesitate to mention this final tactic because it really is embarrassing to have to resort to using it. You can…eat at McDonald’s. Big Mac and Coke are words that are known around the world. If you have accidentally ordered octopus eyes at more than one restaurant in the last two days and you are about to faint from lack of sustenance, you may have no choice but to find the local McD’s. Try not to make it a habit, though. You lose much of the cultural flavor of traveling in a foreign country if you insist on eating at McDonald’s.

            If you are one of those people who are really picky about what you eat, you have a few options. 1. You can learn Spanish before you go so you can order exactly what you want. 2. You can resolve to be more open to food experiences. Octopus eyes might be delicious. 3. You can stay at home.

            As my friend Lucy points out, in life it’s often a matter of liking what you get rather than getting what you like. Eating out in a foreign country is an experience. Embrace it with enthusiasm!