Thursday, June 28, 2012

Long Regret by Veronica McKinny

World War I Memorials: Kathe Kollwitz's Memorial for her Son 

We lie long on river’s bend.
Twisted metal wrapped around
Tree bark and dug into ground.
Silence shattered, panicked sound
Whimp’ring, waiting for the end.

We ponder about goodbye.
Words over an empty abyss
Of sorrow, devoid of bliss.
Meetings are cut short by this,
Like lightning slicing the sky.

We grieve over future years
That we can’t have, and the weeks
In a place which greatly reeks
Of monstrous wrong. Our cheeks
Glisten slightly, regret’s tears.

We forget the faults of past,
Their burden too hard to bear.
To think causes heart to tear;
To wilt, to wane, to wear.
The mem’ries make us aghast.

We see day come to a head.
Darkness falls. It welcomes time
To share secrets of light’s crime.
As twilight melds old and prime,
We stand, join arms with the dead.

Primary Source Links for WWI : http://www.uncp.edu/home/rwb/hst332_p2.htm

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


It is my working hypothesis that Florida is currently experiencing a rift in the space-time continuum. Although it will be extremely difficult to prove or disprove this hypothesis, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to indicate that there may indeed be a tear in the fabric of space-time. It’s certainly worth investigating. Here are my observations:

The first event occurred last Wednesday while I was traveling from Atlanta to Orlando. My new car stopped running suddenly, leaving me sitting on the southbound side of I75. Nine months old, 6600 miles, and my Hyundai Elantra decided to take a powder? Now you’re probably thinking, “Well, these things do happen,” and you’re right, BUT let me tell you the reason my car died.

Gus, my service manager at Gainesville Hyundai, told me – and I quote – “Your car’s timing was off.” Somehow, the “maintenance-free silent timing chain system to enhance durability and improve noise vibration and harshness” (from 2012 Auto Spectator review) had gotten stuck in the wrong “time,” thus rendering it NOT maintenance-free.  Since it’s highly unlikely that a part that new would have worn out, the only other logical conclusion is that a sudden shift in space-time caused the timing of my car to be momentarily out of sync with normal space-time. It seems obvious, no?

Now Florida’s state nickname is “The Sunshine State,” right? At least it is in our normal space-time continuum. However, there is obviously another dimension in space-time in which Florida’s state nickname is “The Perpetually Dismal Swamp State.” I believe that much of Florida is stuck in this second dimension, as evidenced by the fact that Tropical Storm Debbie has swirled about off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico for several days now without moving on, as such storms normally do. Yesterday, the Florida legislature passed a law that Disney tourists must purchase a yellow rain poncho with Mickey Mouse on the back before they can be allowed through the gates. Yes, it’s that dismal.

There are times, though, when I’m convinced that space-time has shifted back to normal. There was a stretch of almost 2 hours today when it wasn’t raining. Unfortunately, there was another shift soon after that and we were back in the dismal swamp dimension.

Perhaps I can’t prove that Florida is shifting between space-time dimensions, but it seems to me that it is time to admit that we need some serious scientific help here. I suggest calling the Enterprise.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More car woes, but don't worry - I'm OK

            Last Tuesday, I wrote a blog about a stranded motorist in London whose car windows were blown out by security police who suspected that the seemingly abandoned vehicle might be a car bomb. I must admit to feeling a bit complacent – yea, even smug, if you will – because I am currently driving a 2012 Hyundai Elantra. It’s a new car; there are only 6600 miles on it. I have years to go before I have to worry about being stranded, right?

            Well, you know what they say about those who are complacent and smug. Yesterday, I was on my way from Atlanta to Orlando in my new little red car. There I was, bopping along to 50’s on 5, doing 72 mph in the middle lane, and my new little red car...stopped! The engine suddenly died. I did make it to the shoulder safely, if you ignore the fact that I was feeling as faint as a Victorian lady wearing a corset two sizes too small.

            I sat on the side of I 75 for more than an hour waiting for a tow truck.The shoulder of a major highway is not a comfortable place to spend an hour. It was 90 degrees, cars and semis whizzed past, and to the right of my car was a wooded, overgrown spot that was an ideal place to hide a body. I sat there in the passenger seat, cell phone in one hand, pepper spray in the other, and I sweated it out.

            I liked the tow truck driver; I just wish he had come 45 minutes earlier. He towed my little red baby 15 miles to the nearest Hyundai dealership in Gainesville, FL (Go Gaters!). The dealership rented a car for me, assured me that they would call me in the morning, and I went on to Orlando, driving an Impala that had last been rented by a chain smoker. So much for complacency, huh?

            True to his word, my service guy Gus called me this morning. Apparently, the fuel injector got stuck in the open position and gas had spewed out onto the cylinders. They had no idea what had caused this. They were going to ask Hyundai what to do. They had never seen anything like it.

            Gus called me this afternoon. Now they’re in the process of removing engine parts and replacing them with parts from one of the new 2012 Elantras they had on the lot. Sooner or later, they’re bound to find the bad part, don’t you think?

            Anyway, you can rest assured that I no longer feel smug about having a new car. My character has been improved, even as my transportation woes have grown. Another lesson learned.          

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Having a Bad Car Day?

Cars break down; it's an unfortunate fact of life. I've been stranded on the side of major highways, in parking lots, and once in my own driveway. It happens, right? The one similarity about all of these break-downs is that each was extremely inconvenient. Several times I had small children and dogs in my mom-mobile, it was invariably either freezing cold or scorching hot, and, needless to say, I certainly didn't make it to the doctor/vet/work on time.

I would whine and moan about these annoying instances of automotive fallibility, except that after reading about what happened to a stranded motorist in London, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get any sympathy.

Nima Hosseini Razi's vehicle broke down in Parliment Square. He was unable to move it to a legitimate spot, so he called for a tow truck which, as you know from personal experience, was scheduled to arrive sometime within the next 4 hours. He decided to take a stroll - it's impossible to be that close to Buckingham Palace and not stop in to say hi to Her Majesty - so he left a note on the windshield and took off.

Unfortunately, Mr. Razi must have neglected to include his mobile number on the note. Police in London, which is under maximum security in readiness for the upcoming Olympic games, found the abandoned vehicle and were forced to assume the worst. Unable to locate the owner, they evacuated Parliment Square and performed a controlled explosion of the car,  suspected of being a terrorist bomb.

It wasn't actually a terrorist bomb; it was simply Mr. Razi having a really bad day. He arrived back at his car to discover that, not only was it non-functional, but the windows had all been blown out and the interior was charred. While he was still in shock, a traffic officer handed him a whopping fine for illegal parking.

I can only assume that after these events, Mr. Razi did what the rest of us would have done - walk across the street to the nearest pub, get rip-roaring drunk, and then call a cab to take him home. Let's hope poor Mr. Razi has a better day tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

You bought me an iPad? Isn't that...nice.

I wonder if there's a way to make the screen less sensitive so I can touch type more easily? It will take some getting used to to hold my fingers above the keyboard.

No, there really isn't. You need to hold your palms up to avoid problems.

I see. I have to type the way Liberace played the piano. Nice.

Also notice that you can ignore common typos since they are likely auto-corrected for you when you hit a space bar or return key..

Is that true?fo FFA
Ll I thinkfa it makes may writing lessfjsa

I didn't mean to imply that you could barf on the screen and it would still figure you out. I have a Bluetooth keyboard you could try if you like, but I think all you really need is a little practice.

A little practice? I guess that might work. It might take some time to see me on this whole iPad experience. That would be sell, not see. Maybe I'll learn to type this way before I throw the thing across the room. Maybe not.

Now, to be fair, you should move your current keyboard out of the way and lay the iPad in the same spot, not at an angle on some papers. Also, you should take a look at how I am typing. I can go pretty fast and not make many mistakes.

But it's something new and I don't like change. Whatever happened to mechanical pencils and legal pads? You're right, though. When I put the iPad where my keyboard goes, it works much better. Darn....

You don't have to use it. I think I can find you a nice chisel and hammer in the basement. The other position you should try is holding it in your lap and typing. That's the most likely posture for you at Starbucks.

Ah, yes. I will need to be able to use it at my office. The iPad is a lot lighter than my laptop and it seems to give off less heat. I don't know, though. Those number 2 pencils are way cheaper.

I find it very hard to type on my lap... But then, I have the same problem with a laptop. Number 2 pencils would be a lot cheaper. But think of the trees, Lorax!

True. Truffala trees are what everyone needs. I guess I'll give this a try. Now how do I upload my blog on this..um...wonderful new piece of technology?

Oh. That wasn't too hard. I suppose this might work. Um...thanks for the iPad.

You're welcome.

George, Gracie, and the Brown Dress

            I “met” Gracie Allen and George Burns at an open house hosted by my father-in-law last Saturday in Dayton.

            “I absolutely adore your dress,” Gracie gushed. She was seated at a small table outside on the patio. Her friends pulled a chair up to the table for me and I sat down.

            “Thank you,” I answered. I had bought the dress specifically to wear to the event, and I liked it.

            “Brown is ‘in’ these days, isn’t it?” she asked.

            I nodded. This was the first time in years I had worn something other than jeans and a t-shirt, so it followed that I was not particularly up on the latest fashions. I did vaguely remember seeing a lot of brown clothing at the store, though.

            “Where did you buy it?”

            “Coldwater Creek,” I replied.

            “Ohhhh, I just love that store, don’t you? I was in there just the other day and, you know what?”

            I smiled at her enthusiasm. “What?”

            “I picked up that very dress. I’m sure it was the same one. I just love brown, don’t you?”

            A nod from me sufficed and she continued, “I was going to try it on, but I asked my husband if he liked it and he said he didn’t, so I didn’t try it on. I wish I had tried it on because I just love it!”

            “I’m sure Coldwater Creek still has it. I just bought the dress yesterday.”

            “Oh, what a good idea! I’m going to make my husband stop there on our way home. I bet if he sees what it looks like when it’s on, he’ll love it, too!”

            I left Gracie somewhat reluctantly – she was charming – but another woman was waiting to say hello to her. I offered her my seat and then went inside the house to get a glass of iced tea.

            I met up with Gracie a while later by the bar. She grabbed my hand and tugged me across the room to meet her husband.

            “George, this is Vicki,” Gracie said. We shook hands and said hi. Gracie continued, “Do you notice anything familiar about her?”

            George looked baffled. We shared a confused stare.

            “It’s her dress, silly,” Gracie explained to George. “Don’t you remember when I told you I liked it when we were shopping on Monday and you told me you didn’t like it?”

            I could tell by his expression that George barely recalled holding Gracie’s purse for her while she tried on clothes; remembering a specific garment that she had commented on days earlier was completely out of the question. I felt a bit sorry for him.

            “Well, this is it! It’s a darling dress. I want to stop at Coldwater Creek on the way home and buy one for myself. Don’t you just love it, George?”

            George eyed my dress dispassionately, and then frowned. “No.”

            Ba dum bum. It was a vaudeville-worthy skit.

As I walked away chuckling, I could hear Gracie continuing to argue with George about the dress. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that he bought it for her that very day.

Give that man a cigar, please.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Special Edition: June 6th

           Usually when I read the news, it’s a compilation of the same old, depressing news that I read the day before and the week before that. The Middle East is self-destructing, power-hungry governments are killing their own citizens, the American government is replacing our individual rights with government-enforced “security” measures, the world economy is in the dumps, and earthquakes destroy nuclear power plants and small villages in Asia. The world is a mess.

            That said, today is a day when there is news worthy of reading. Although readers throughout the world are deeply saddened by the death of author Ray Bradbury, we should take this time to celebrate his accomplishments. A self-taught writer, Ray Bradbury was a visionary who launched the science fiction genre with his short stories and novels. Fahrenheit 451, a staple in high school literature classes, envisages a dystopian society where reading and books are forbidden by law. If you haven’t read it, it’s well worth your time; the government hasn’t yet burned all of the copies!

            Today is also the 68th anniversary of D-Day. The liberation of Paris by the Allied troops followed the storming of Normandy Beach on this day in 1944. 9,000 brave Allied soldiers lost their lives that day, but not in vain. We honor them and are grateful to them for the freedoms we still enjoy. In observation of this anniversary, Life magazine has unveiled seldom-seen color pictures of the time period taken by photographer Frank Scherschel. Please take a moment to visit this web site and look at the photos. They show an aspect of World War II that many of us have never imagined.  http://life.time.com/history/d-day-rare-color-photos/#1

            Enjoy the rest of your June 6th.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Chewing Gum Police: In schools everywhere

            What pet peeve makes the teacher top 10 every time? Chewing gum, of course. The reason? The long-standing tradition of students sticking their old chewing gum to the undersides of their desks and chairs is unsanitary, messy, and just plain disgusting. Teachers have fought this battle for years, outlawing gum chewing in classrooms across the world.

            I personally stopped waging war on gum years ago, when I discovered the futility of the effort. Students will chew gum, and spending a lot of energy to make them stop simply isn’t worth the effort, in my opinion. However, I may have to change my mind on this issue. A new study has revealed that gum chewing reduces short-term memory processing.

            In education psychology classes, I had been taught that gum-chewing might actually stimulate the brain by increasing the blood flow to it. But now a research study, written up in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, reveals that the action of chewing gum makes it more difficult for subjects to enter simple random strings of numbers or letters into short term memory storage. Subjects who were not chewing gum were routinely able to score higher on the simple recall tests than gum chewers.

            Does this mean that teachers have been right all along? Well, sure. Now we know that chewing gum decreases student ability to learn AND it’s unsanitary, messy and disgusting when stuck to the underside of a desk or chair. I guess it’s back to being the chewing gum police for me. Sigh.