Friday, August 29, 2008

The Fire Dies

Surfing the news tonight, I came across this ever increasing trend in today's economy.

I just was shocked to see how close to home this swing of the axe would be.

Illini State Park in Marseilles was just over the river from where I lived. My dad would take my sister and I fishing there. Well, more like teaching me how to bait a hook and cast a fishing line, since I don't remember much actually catching fish. But, that never really seemed to be the point of fishing with my dad. It was zen like, watching the river flow and swirl in different directions, waiting for my bobber to disappear beneath the water's surface. To actually snag a fish would have broken the trance.

When I was a Girl Scout, scout troops from around the district would spend a week of day camping, where the different troops would set up little camping areas across the park. We would spend days hiking, learning to cook by campfire, and earning our badges. The older girls would be lucky enough to actually camp overnight throughout the week. That would be my first foray into tent camping, which I quickly learned, I did not like. The week would end with a variety show of sorts for the public that the scouts practiced during the week. Then the night would come to a close with a large bonfire and promises to return next Summer.

As I grew older, it became a place to try out new freedoms behind the wheel of a car. Some tried out more freedoms than I did, though, those freedoms involving the back seat. I was strictly a driving with Meat Loaf blaring from my 8-track kind of girl.

Then, just recently, I "rediscovered" Illini Park when we bought our little camper. It became my escape where Ottawa felt like a hundred miles away, not just shy of ten. There was a little ice cream stand that became the nightly meeting place of many retired folks. If you wanted to know what was going on, you didn't need to read the paper, just head down to the park and have ice cream.

And there was always that river flowing past me, zen-like.

The past two years I was able to enjoy these get-aways, and the nights would always end with a campfire.

Now, for Illini, all campfires will quickly smolder away to memory.

I would be remiss if I didn't state this...I just lost a place to relax...hundreds of people lost their jobs.

A woman for woman's sake?

Today, John McCain picked Alaskan governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate for the GOP.

The Democrats couldn't offer you a woman, but the Republicans there!

That's the feeling I get. Or maybe that's just me.

Yes, I'm most likely seeing this through a cynic's eye. Obama could have easily done the same, pick a woman VP to calm the feelings of those felt let down by the party when Clinton didn't win the nomination. But, he didn't. If he did, I would call 'pandering' just as I am with McCain.

Then, I could be wrong. I'm sure it's a very savvy move, politically.*

*In desperate need of a sarcasm icon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cheezburgerized Blaidd

I had to. I was compelled. This pic of Blaidd screamed for Cheezburgerization.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What if?

Newsweek ran an article entitled "So What If He Were Muslim?", which pointed out the religious bias and prejudice that runs through, as this article concentrates on, the political arena. The article also pointed out briefly the political run of Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and the fact that there hasn't been a Roman Catholic in the White House since JFK. So, religious bias has been muddying the political waters long before this election, yet not as strongly as today.

So many people have tried very hard to color Barack Obama with the Muslim-laden paint brush from the very beginning of his political run, based on mass emails, and opinions of my DH's co-workers, from what he tells me, although I doubt his workplace is of the exception.

"I'm not votin' for no Muslim!" seems to be the daily rally cry in the break room, when it has been made very clear that Obama is not a Muslim (as if that should really matter). And there is nothing one can say to these people to sway their opinion, which makes me wonder what is the real issue here.

When I read the above mentioned article, I started thinking, "What if Barack Obama's name was 'John Smith', and he was a long time Protestant, who just happened to have a father who wasn't a Caucasian...a black man?"

What if 9/11 never happened? What if Muslims weren't thought of as "Enemy No.1" by many as the Japanese were after Pearl Harbor?

What if no one could label Barack Obama with anything besides the obvious?

I think the real issue would come to light, and I wonder how many would be as eager to voice their racial prejudice as easily as their religious/cultural prejudice? I wonder what the mass e-mails would look like then?

I bet if you rip off the label of the Muslim paint can, you will find the original label underneath.

It's all racism, no matter how one paints it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back to the Flatlands

A very nice weekend was had by all. The old camper made the trip and back without a hiccup. I met a lot of nice people at my dad's campground, and visited with an aunt and uncle I haven't seen in almost twenty years. There was a lot of socializing that I'm not usually accustomed to; my idea of camping is mostly spent in quiet solitude (is there any other kind? Noisy solitude?), but no one seemed to mind when I would wander off by myself, or take off on my dad's golf cart, the vehicle of choice of campers.

Hike? Moi?

DH and younger daughter tried their hand (hands?) at lure fishing, and DH actually landed his first Northern. Younger daughter caught, as she said, a lot of "not-a-fish".

Sent back to the wild soon after

I spent my time reading, cursing GSM Internet access, or lack thereof, and taking pictures like someone who'd never been out of state before.

Pier where the Not-a-fish can be found.

Saturday night was amazingly clear, and with the lack of light pollution and no moon to wash out the dark, I was finally able to look up and see the swath of the Milky Way, arching across the black velvet sky. Forty-six years old, and it I had never seen it before until that night. I stretched out on a blanket and stared at stars I could never see at home.

Did I finally see a pelican over the weekend? Who cares? I surely didn't.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Camping, pt. 2

This afternoon, the DH, younger daughter, the corgis, and I will be heading up to Wisconsin for a weekend of camping. We decided to be brave and venture out with our 20+ year old camper 200 miles to spend the weekend with my dad, fishing, visiting around a campfire, and hopefully not finding ourselves at the side of the road with a major mechanical failure on our hands.

At least it has new tires. And, no, it's not on fire.

I may even have access to Internet while I'm there.

I won't have a river to watch flow by this time around, but I will have a marsh that I can spend time bird-watching...which reminds me, I need to pack my bird watching guide. I understand there will be egrets and herons, possibly some bald eagles, and if I'm lucky, some pelicans. The inside joke is, everyone in my family has seen pelicans here in my town, except me, so I don't believe them. Up until now, pelicans to my knowledge are big birds that sit on piers somewhere off the coast of California...not the riverbanks of Illinois, or the marshes of Wisconsin, as now my dad tells me.

See, he's in on it now, too.

I guess I could now turn this posting into something deep and mindfully vast, but I won't. It's just a "Hey, it's me here, just blogging about my upcoming weekend. Move along now. Nothing else to see here."

That is, until I come back next Monday with pictures...maybe one or two will be of the elusive (at least to me) pelican.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Day, 2008-2009

Today started the ritual of waking up in the morning a half-hour late, because I assumed I set my alarm on my cell phone correctly, then realizing I didn't (thank Bob for an internal alarm that eventually wakes me a half hour later than intended). Then, the stumbling out of bed, tripping over the dog and yelling up the stairs to wake up my daughter.

She also assumes she set her alarm clock. She has no internal alarm for a back-up, though.

Then I fire up the laptop then fire up the stove to boil some water for coffee. The water boils way before the laptop loads enough so I can log in. The laptop loads long before my daughter makes her appearance.

Luckily, she is not a girly-girl, or the next forty-five minutes would be spent in agony, waiting for her to apply make-up, pick out an outfit, run a straighter through her it is it's "throw on a black t-shirt and jeans, run a toothbrush around her mouth, hunt down the errant sock, grab shoes and a brush and spend the drive to school ripping the brush through her way-too long hair as she sheds all over my van's interior.

Today, I try and navigate though the throng of first day of school traffic. The buses, the young drivers, and an occasional police car, bottle-nosed as other kids whizz by on skateboards, or slunk by on...did I really see a pair of fluffy bedroom slippers?

I know there are stomach-dwelling butterflies fluttering everywhere. The butterfly swarm seems to be much larger this year, at least in my stomach, that I know. My daughter is heading for school this year with the usual uncertainty and trepidation, cranked up a few notches. She's in her Junior year. There is more emphasis in "What are your plans for college?". My daughter is still thinking in terms of, "What are your plans for the rest of the day?"

Just help my daughter get through high school first, please.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Books vs. Computers

Well, I guess this isn't really an "either/or" situation as the title suggests. I been thinking about books, and the piles of them I have scattered throughout my house. I think about how maybe I should buy a Kindle or some other type of E-book and download what I want to read. Or maybe find more books available on-line and read them on my laptop. It would certainly cause less clutter in my life if I did.

Then, tonight I was watching old episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on Hulu, (don't laugh, I'm a Whedonholic), and there was a discussion at the end of the episode between the librarian Giles (played perfectly by Anthony Head) and a computer lab teacher, explaining why he preferred books over technology.

I agree with this on a purely emotional level. Although it seems my lifestyle depends heavily on computers as a social network, as a source of news, or just to find those silly little tidbits such as pictures of cats with oddly typed "capshuns", for me there is nothing like holding a book, running a hand over the cover, and if it is an older book, taking a deep whiff of the pages, wishing that the papery smell could be captured in a bottle, for I would wear it as perfume. Well, not the ones that have succumbed to mold and mildew, of course.

As lost as I would be without my computer, how less my life would be if I could no longer become lost in a book...lost in something I can carry with me where ever I go. Something as simple as words on a page. Touched by my hand. Written by the hand of another.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thanks for cell phone cameras

Taking a drive to a local park this afternoon, we sat along the river bank, watching the geese float by. The sun was starting to set and steam was starting to rise from the river. I happened to look towards the sunset and saw how golden sunbeams were streaming through the trees, shining a spot on a picnic table in the distance.

I knew when I left the house I should have grabbed my camera. And, of course, every time I leave the camera at home, I find some view I want to capture, and nothing to catch it with.

DH came to the rescue with his cell phone. It didn't exactly capture what I saw myself, but he did pretty good with a simple point and shoot via his phone.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fireworks and Little Girls

Warning: Another Olympic/China rant. If you are tired of these diatribes, here's a cute corgi you can look at instead for your viewing pleasure. I perfectly understand if you'd rather see the corgi. If you don't like corgis, well then, you're on your own.

I can understand the issue with the digitally added pyrotechnics used in the opening ceremonies that only benefited the television viewing audience. Supposedly, it was a safety issue that involved not wanting to use a helicopter pilot to follow and tape the path of the "footprints" (which I thought were amorphous blobs, but what do I know?)

But, in the case of the cute little pony-tailed girl who sang "Ode to the Motherland", where it was revealed later that the voice was not her's, but of another little girl who just wasn't cute enough to take center stage in the "Bird's Nest", the explanation in the end was "National interests".

On a "talk-back" segment on CNN today, someone pointed out that people should stop picking apart the opening ceremonies because it was "entertainment", after all. Okay, I could buy that, that is until "National interests" came into play.

It's those same "National interests" that hid away protesters, told people who wanted to petition the government to stay home, and sent some of those who voiced opposition against the Olympics to prison.

Nothing "entertaining" about that now, is there?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


John McCain's ad-machine has been ratcheting up the idea that Barack Obama is more of a celebrity than a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. Commercials showing images of Obama speaking to swelling, cheering crowds, hanging on every bit of oratory as Obama smiles from the adoration are shown to point out McCain's question of, "Do we want a celebrity in the White House?"

Who dictates "celebrity", really? The man at the podium, or the actor under the Proscenium arch, or the rich dilettante stepping from a limousine to a light show of camera they?


There is no "celebrity" if there is no audience. There is no "celebrity" if there is nothing offered to said audience...a riveting soliloquy, a flash of naughty bits, and in Obama's case, a call for us to believe that there can be something better than what came before.

I use the term "celebrity" seldom, if at all. I tend to think the term is overused and therefore lessens the object of the terminology. Obviously John McCain sees it the same way.

Which, of course was his point all along.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Okay, I admit, I did watch bits and pieces of the Olympic opening ceremonies Friday was either that, or curl up in a cave somewhere so I could be hid away from technology. Anyway, DH wanted to watch the ceremonies, so I took to my laptop and would occasionally glance over to the television. Small house, one television, and all that.

The ceremonies were pretty and shiny, and done with a precision that I could not comprehend. All I could think of was the hours, days, weeks (years?) that was put in by the 15,000 volunteers as they went from one amazing routine to another. China definitely put on a happy, welcoming face for all the world to see, but I couldn't help but compare it to the poor kid forced to smile as Mommy and Daddy puts on the "functional family"act when company comes over to visit. But, hey, I'm a cynic. Cynicism aside, though, from what I saw, the people of Beijing should be proud of their achievement.

Then, this morning, I read an on-line article about how the "stone faces" of the police and military is scaring the tourists. The IOC is suggesting that the police should "smile more". The head of the IOC Marketing Committee was quoted as saying:

"The Chinese are scaring the wits out of foreigners. We can't have it like this. When, in addition, they have weapons and look scary, it is even worse."

Welcome to China.

Friday, August 8, 2008

But, but, but...

According to the dictionary, the word "but" appears to be a multi-tasking word. It can be used as an adverb (albeit awkwardly) as in, "Get out of here but fast!", a preposition as in, "Nobody said so but me", a conjunction as in, "They went to the store, but I stayed home and did laundry", and a noun, meaning a kitchen in a small dwelling (only in Scotland, though).

Alas, the word "but" seems to be mostly used as an attempt to lessen the severity of a situation, as in, "I had an affair with the woman, but, I didn't love her."

The word, "but" is also used to try and negate any opinion that has come before, such as, "You, know, I don't mean to be so blunt, but, you are an ass".

See, I really meant to be blunt, except I used the word "but" to hide my intentions, lamely. So, let me rephrase, slightly.

Mr. Former Politician Who At One Time Ran For Vice President, you are an ass. By your use of the word "but", you have tried to justify your actions.

The English Language. Use it wisely. Use it responsibly. Don't be an ass.

EDIT: It has been reported that Edwards had came out to his family in 2006 about the "liason" as he put it, so I do not know in where in the frame of time the above words were used...but the toothpaste can't be put back in the tube, and all that.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New BK Commercial

I have to wonder where the ad-men's heads were when they developed the new BK campaign, "Don't Cheat on Beef", where a pissed-off cow busts in on some guy eating a chicken product (or by-product, as the case may be).

Now, wouldn't the cow be glad he or any members of his family weren't being ground up for the sake of the King of Burgers?

Just sayin'...

Also, maybe depicting a Mad Cow isn't the best image to use in a fast food commercial?

File under, "Inane Ramblings"

Pompless Circumstances

I've really thought this one over...whether or not to watch the Olympics at all this year. I've always been a sucker for the pomp and circumstance of the opening and closing ceremonies. I've enjoyed the opening ceremonies mostly, because not only did it give the host country a chance to welcome the world, it gave the country a chance to say, "Hey, this is who we are". The country's culture and history are woven artistically through a cavalcade of light and sound and color...some countries were more deft at this than others. But with China's rich history and culture, the opening ceremonies should be one of the better ones.

But, can I watch with a sense of awe? Can I watch without thinking of Yang Chunlin. He passed around a petition in 2007, one that did not look favorably on the Olympics coming to China, and is now in prison for voicing an opinion. Or Hu Jia, a blogger, who compared the upcoming Olympics to the ones held in 1936 in analogy I had made in a past post some time ago. Difference is, Jia is in jail, while I am sitting here, asking myself if I am going to watch the Olympics.

Maybe I answered my own question. I may watch an event or two, but not the ceremonies. I guess no matter where, no matter who is the host country, the ceremonies do smack at promotion, if I want to don my cynic's glasses and see them in that light. But in this case, it's blatant propaganda, and I don't need cynicism to see that.

Life is but a dream

This has been around the Internet for a few years now. I came across it again last night and wondered if I could watch it again without welling up.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

*Why I Blog #46

...because I don't have the balls to sing at a Karaoke bar.

Wait a mo'. On the subject of Karaoke, blogging does have some things in common with attempting to sing in front of a room full of strangers.

1. A comment, idea, observation may sound really interesting, profound, keen only while it is still residing in one's head. Just as one sings to themselves, thinking, "Wow, I'm pretty wicked talented! I'm findin' me a Karaoke bar!", not realizing that the skull must have some strange acoustic qualities that causes the deluded to believe they are blessed with perfect pitch, the blogger grabs on to some random thought floating in his cerebral goo and thinks, "Wow, I'm pretty wicked deep! I'm finding me a bloggin' site!"

I don't know of any structural qualities of the skull that cause that delusion, though.

2. Both only gets worse with alcohol.

3. There are always exceptions, unless #2 is a factor.

Notice: There are far more talented bloggers than there are Karaoke singers. I mention this because I'd much rather have the Karaoke Community call me out than the Blogger Community. After all, Karaoke singers aren't in my living room, sitting on my lap at any given moment.

*Alcohol was not a factor in the creation of this post. Honest to Bob.

Mild-mannered insurance man by day...

On one of the way too many talent competition shows scattered across television today, America's Got Talent (although not the best of grammar) showcased a thirty-two year old insurance salesman from Missouri who wanted to sing opera to make his mom happy.

So next time you deal with a cubicle-dweller, he, or she, may have a secret this case, a young man who when as a child listened to "The Three Tenors", and became inspired.

When I first heard Pavarotti sing "Nessun Dorma" during a time when I felt I really needed to expand my music appreciation, I cried as his voice reached a crescendo, holding that last note for a seemingly impossible amount of time.

What this man lacked in professional skill, he surely made up for it with heart, soul, and love for his mom, and Opera. One can have all the training in the world but without passion, a gift is found wanting.

And it was this man's passion that brought me to tears, just as if it were Pavarotti himself proclaiming, "Vanish, o night! Set, stars! Set, stars! At daybreak I shall win! I shall win! I shall win!"

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Reading required on my terms

I have been reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I'm finding it a hilarious read. As usual, late to the party I am. The book has been out for y-e-a-r-s, and I'm just getting around to reading it. A friend of my daughter's had brought it over along with a bag of other science-fiction novels that she had no interest in reading. Pity, her. So, looking for something to read, I helped myself.

I am finding that it's one of those few books where I'll be reading along, then find myself bursting out laughing (well, really, the closest I get to "LOL", is a stifled "snorf"). It's as if the story is being played in my head, full sound, and the narration sounds oddly like a Monty Python skit. Michael Palin, to be precise. I wonder why I waited so long to read the novel. Oh, probably I was busy reading other books.

Speaking of novels I had never gotten around to reading, I remember when Nineteen Eighty-Four was required reading in high school, which meant, I never read it. Pity, me. I finally did pick up the novel, a few years ago, since at the time one of my daughters was requiredly reading it for an English class. Totally amazing, utterly depressing tale that left me in an empty void of a mood for a few days afterward. That is what I meant by 'totally amazing', that a story could affect my emotions to such a degree. I would think about the line, "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face -- forever", and wonder if that could actually happen in my childrens' future, and knowing that people live that type of existence in varying degrees all over the world today. The ending had left me with such despair, as Winston succumbed to the authoritarian regime. An apathetic old man, left to do the only thing he his love for Big Brother. In the end, we all give up and give in.

Or, maybe we are already doing so today...

Not all stories have happy endings, or should. Those that don't are cautionary tales that we all should heed.

Now, back to making up for lost literary time, reading the story about the world being quickly boiled away, so aliens can plan an intergalactic bypass...nothing depressing about that. And as far as picking up any other "required reading" of late, I did give Moby Dick a try not too long ago. Still haven't gotten past, "Call me Ishmael" yet. Sorry, Mrs. Radle.

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

I've returned from the wilds of Illinois, unscathed. Kind of hard to become scathed when I'm camping out of a mini-version of home, and I'm only 5 minutes away from the nearest town...just across the bridge.

The Illinois River and Dam, with the home town of my childhood across the way. Big brick building is the defunct Federal Paper, nee, Nabisco.

River view from the bridge's apex.

With the exception of an extremely hot Friday that found me in the cooler confines of the camper, it was a very nice weekend. But of course, my idea of camping is sitting in front of a fire, reading, or this:

And not a stray wi-fi signal in site. See, I was totally "roughing-it"

Saturday night, the humidity finally broke, the biting bugs took a break using me as a smorgasbord, and we watched the sun set and waited for the stars to pop out from the darkening sky. To which I discovered something amazing. Even though I could look up above and see maybe three or four stars (light pollution is a bit of an issue, even at the campground), I could take my binocs and point them towards the heavens. All of a sudden there were hundreds of stars dotting a totally blackened sky. That was the highlight of the weekend, found in the darkness.