Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A poem of my own devising

We have an orange mama cat;
She's round as round can be.
She's big as a pumpkin;
Will she have kittens?
Maybe two or three.
Or even twenty-three.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yes, Kathy, You Did Tell Me So

When I saw my sister. Kathy, last summer, her going-into-ninth-grade daughter had just gotten her own cell phone. My sister is not one for whom every latest gadget is a necessity. She is very back to basic. And a good money manager who would not waste her money on novelties.

At the time, I somewhat self-righteously, derided the idea of kids having cell phones. She chided me that once I have kids in various school related activities I may come to sing a different tune.

Woe is me. I have to put the old metaphorical tail between my legs and grovel before Kathy's infinite big-sisterly wisdom. I hope she's gentle with me.

I sent my kids to school today with our cell phone. I am sooooo sick of wasting time sitting out in front of the Oklee school waiting for the track bus to return from practice in Red Lake Falls. It often must wait for the baseball team and may or may not have to pick up the golf team and then has to drop half the kids off in Plummer before arriving in Oklee somewhere around the middle of the night. OK, I am exaggerating just a tad. Joe's told me a million times not to do that.

But yes, I decided to give in to modern conveniences and send the dumb thing with them.

BUT, much to Louisa's chagrin, the phone came ridden with the traditional Mary and Joe rules. No texting. No calling anyone but mom and dad. No giving out the phone number. No incoming calls from friends.  This is only to call home to work out transportation.  It is a tool not a toy.  Any use other than the prescribed one better be a true emergency.  And so on.

So Kathy, you were right. I only wish I would have given in sooner.

On the bright side of things, I did get a whole lot of reading done. Had I known earlier the number of minutes I'd spend sitting, waiting in the car, I would have started crocheting an afghan or something. I could have made probably a hundred by now.

I hope you all noticed...

I finished my Easter ticker. Yes, I know, a day late and a dollar short and all that. But, well, it's still an accomplishment and hence something to celebrate.

Building upon my recent jog with Matt and a little bit of additional jogging I've done by myself, I'm setting a very ambitious 20 mile jogging goal before my birthday, June 13. That amounts to 2 miles a week rounded up to the nearest ten. So, yes, that's ambitious. And it gives me motivation to keep trying, so I can continue to enter my (ideally) ever-improving times on the chart Matt made.

I did some checking and couldn't find a widget that would allow me to do that on my blog; I may or may not keep everyone "posted." If you never hear anything more, you can assume it is all a very sorry state of affairs.. There were a few sites that would allow me to design a custom widget; but, alas, computer programing skills are strangely absent from my genetic makeup. I didn't even understand the words for various tools they said I could use to do it.

The minutes should not be hard. Building upon my recent failures to meet my time goals, I scaled back a bit. I think my others were about 1200 miles in three months. This new one is 750 minutes in 8 weeks. It is not substantially less than before, but a wee bit. I started by figuring 20 minutes 4 times per week. But then I still rounded up to the nearest 250 minutes. Somehow it just feels more even. Don't ask. I wouldn't be able to explain. But you may call me Mrs. Monk if you wish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Year's at the Spring (and the chimes are on their hook)

It's still a little chilly here for a front porch cup of coffee. After getting up and making oatmeal for my Public Schooled kids this morning, I got dressed, threw on a fleece pullover, grabbed my book and my coffee, and wrapped in a fleece throw.

I perched on the edge of my tumble-down porch furniture and decided to not-read. It was a little chilly and a little too breezy to cozy into a book. Matt had come out with me to wait for the bus, so we visited a little. I asked how he liked Public School and we talked about the different classes. It was nice.

I also concentrated on listening to the sounds of spring. The meadowlarks were calling. My wind chimes were gently chiming.

I got my chimes for Christmas many years ago from my mom. They are bronze pipes and they are of lengths that blend into a pleasing harmony. When we first moved here, I had them out on our front porch and they drove Joe nuts with their constant clanging. And truly, they did clang and gong and bong. It is very windy here. The clanging of the chimes was beyond the pleasant harmonies one expects of wind chimes and would more accurately have been described as a cacophony.

Joe would bring the chimes in for a few moments of silence when their stridency got to be too much to bear (stri·dent adj. Loud, harsh, grating, or shrill; discordant. I'm using the loud, harsh and shrill definitions here, not the grating or discordant, mind you). After a few days respite, I'd stubbornly hang the chimes back out. At some point during the summer, the little wooden paddle at the bottom broke off, from the blustery assault to which it was constantly subjected. I tried a few times to fix it in one way or another and eventually gave up.

We brought them at the end of summer and put them in the closet on a shelf. Where they sat for several years. I guess knowing they drove Joe nuts, I didn't want to plague him. Eventually, during a cleaning rampage, I discovered the chimes on the closet shelf and was overcome with a desire to hear their mellow tones. I suppose the intervening years had softened my memory of what the local winds did with the pipes.

After I once again hung them from their hook on our front porch, I made a pleasurable discovery. Without the wooden paddle hanging from the center (yes, the very paddle I tried numerous times to reattach), without this paddle, the chimes were very pleasant. As they were designed to be in any less windy domicile. The remaining string with it's little knot at the end provides just the needed resistance to gently knock the musical pipes together in the pleasing harmonies they were intended to produce. What a discovery!

And so our paddle free wind chimes are the perfect addition to our summer enjoyment. Their dinging is pleasant in all but the most aggressive northwest Minnesota winds. We can hear them gently calling their songs throughout our days, but they no longer rattle our brains.

And so this morning I was out on my front porch not-reading. But listening. And feeling the cool breeze. And just drinking in, along with my coffee, thoughts of spring and the coming summer and the end of another winter's hibernation.
The Year's at the Spring
by Robert Browning

The year's at the spring
And the day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn:
God's in His heaven-
All's right with the world!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Check This Out

I'm a little bit brainless and probably won't get to this research today. But I imagine myself being really up on things and here's my take.

The US Senate may be voting soon on S-510, The Food Safety and Modernization Act. The Congressional Research Summary states
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act - Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to expand the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary) to regulate food, including by authorizing the Secretary to suspend the registration of a food facility. Requires each food facility to evaluate hazards and implement preventive controls. Directs the Secretary to assess and collect fees related to: (1) food facility reinspection; (2) food recalls; and (3) the voluntary qualified importer program. Requires the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare the National Agriculture and Food Defense Strategy. Requires the Secretary to: (1) identify preventive programs and practices to promote the safety and security of food; (2) promulgate regulations on sanitary food transportation practices; (3) develop a policy to manage the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and early childhood education programs; (4) allocate inspection resources based on the risk profile of food facilities or food; (5) recognize bodies that accredit food testing laboratories; and (6) improve the capacity of the Secretary to track and trace raw agricultural commodities. Requires the Secretary, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to enhance foodborne illness surveillance systems. Authorizes the Secretary to order an immediate cessation of distribution, or a recall, of food. Requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist state, local, and tribal governments in preparing for, assessing, decontaminating, and recovering from an agriculture or food emergency. Provides for: (1) foreign supplier verification activities; (2) a voluntary qualified importer program; and (3) the inspection of foreign facilities registered to import food.
Is there anything in there that falls under the auspices of the federal government according to our constitution? I suppose that legal precedents have been set, probably related to the commerce clause, that allow this sort of regulation. But when I read it, it just makes me mad.

I want to buy my food from producers or vendors of my choice. I don't want more regulation on those businesses from whom I purchase. I don't want more regulation on producers. I want more options not fewer, for consumers and producers. I want myself and my husband, not some Washington bureaucrats to be responsible for the safety of our family's food.

This is nothing new, really. But it makes me mad that these things are being passed regularly and we never hear about them. Have you heard about this one?

I have a few alternative/natural type sources of information. These sources are largely anti-big business of any kind, so I can't whole hearted endorse any one of them. Bit they are a good source for information that would otherwise be under my radar.

I've seen publicity about this bill, for instance, deriding it for being pro big agribusiness. It will put more limits on the small farmers. Also noted is that the big organic farmers are able to bend rules and regulations, and bills such as this help them to do so. That may be true. I don't know.

But if we want to get our country back, it will not be on the battlefield of big versus little. That just leads to more dissension. Dividing the populace falls right into the socialist playbook.

We need to judge the merits of a bill on the basis of whether a given law or regulation is allowed by the fundamental law of our land, our US Constitution.

I always hesitate to speak out on things that have not gotten lots of press. There just is not much information out there on this, without reading the bill itself. I certainly haven't taken the time to do that. If any readers know anything more about this bill and can clarify anything I may be misunderstanding, please elucidate me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Electrical Grid Mysteries

I'm in no way complaining about the luxury of having electricity. Don't get me wrong. Nor am I complaining about the luxury of having a plethora of listening choices in my vehicle. We have a CD player, tape player, AM radio, FM radio...

BUT, I am frustrated with this little inconvenience that is happening lately. Not really so much frustrated. Maybe a teeny bit frustrated. Mostly, I'm perplexed and intrigued.

The electrical wires that are strung along our road for the five mile section of road along which we live suddenly cause horrible interference with radio reception in the car. It is fine up at the house. It is fine when we turn off our road three and a half miles to the north. It is fine when we cross the Clearwater River about 2 miles to the south. But along this little stretch of road, once we get on the roadway, we get mostly very loud choppy static with a little bit of voice coming through.

Why is this? It makes me curious. We have lived here for over eight years. Suddenly, late this last winter, the the wires began causing interference.

I thought initially it was just the decrepit radio in our van. I'd turn it off in frustration soon after leaving the house. Later in a given trip, I'd forget about the interference and turn it back on and it would work fine. Until we got near home. I assumed it was our van radio, since it has another set of digital problems such as arbitrarily turning on and off and changing stations by its own accord.

But lately... lately I've been making frequent trips into Oklee driving Joe's car to pick up Matt and Louisa from play and track practice. Aha! It is not only my van radio. Joe's car radio does the same thing. Since I usually begin these Oklee travels alone, I've have the mental wherewithal to investigate the problem.

A pattern begins to show itself.

The wires strung along the road in front of our house, end at our neighbors' house, a mile and a half south of us. I don't know what happens to them after that. They must be underground. The other farms further down have no visible wires along the road.

The bridge I mentioned earlier is about a half mile south of our neighbors'. Once I get past the neighbors' house, the reception begins to clear up. But immediately statics up again as the vehicle approaches the bridge. Once across the bridge, the reception again clears and then is fine, even when the vehicle later passes along wires that are along other roadways.

It is just these wires near our house. And here's yet a few more mysteries. The wires at our house are on the east side of the road. One half mile to the south of us, where the county changes, the wires cross to the west side of the road. Sometimes, the interference is mild enough it only effects the vehicle when in the lane nearest the wires. Other times, both lanes are effected.

There is one of those green electrical boxes at the corner where the wires cross the road. The interference seems to peak at that point. North of the box, the reception is somewhat clearer than south of the box.

Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser.

And why did this just start happening? What is different about the wires now, compared to the first eight years we lived here? Is it a stray voltage thing? One used to hear talk about stray voltage regarding dairy farms. Maybe radios are effected, too.

Maybe there is something goofy in that little green box.

But the bridge. Why does the reception clear once I pass the wires, but then get bad when crossing the bridge. Maybe the underground wires are strung along the underside of the bridge.

Who knows?

Not me. I just wonder. For now it will have to remain one of my life's little mysteries.

We do have a friend in the Madison, WI, area who is an electrical engineer. He designs grid stuff for metropolitan areas. He would probably be able to answer my questions. But, alas, I don't think he knows this blog exists.

Bruce, are you out there anywhere? I have a little electrical grid mystery for you to solve.

Oklee Area Mother of Ten Jogs a Mile.

Breaking news. This just in.

I just jogged a mile. Yes, it took me 11:38. But I did it. I think this is the first mile I've jogged non-stop in about 18 years. My oldest son is going to be 17 this summer and I honestly don't recall jogging a mile since he was born.

Of course any of you who are facebook friends with Matt already know this, since he broadcasted it around the world in that fashion. Ahhhh, facebook. But I'm tickled he's proud of me. He rode his bike along side with a stopwatch and gave me periodic updates on my time. I'm quite sure I did better than I would have had he not been there cheering me along.

I did not even intend to jog the entire way. Matt had just timed himself on two miles and Louisa on a mile. He was making a chart to record his times. I told him to add a column for me. Then Matt and I went out to get a baseline time for me. I thought I'd just jog some and walk some as I usually do. I told him not to expect me to make it more that 4 or 5 power poles (100 yards each). But I just kept plugging along and made it the whole way.

So...yes, I added 12 minutes to my ticker. A strange number, but I'm not going to let this accomplishment go uncounted! Maybe I can find a gadget that lets me enter timed distances. Then I could do that instead of a ticker for the next few months. Anyone know of anything that would allow me to do that?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Exercise Update

I didn't obviously didn't make my ticker goal by Easter, but I'm still plugging along.

We went on a little post-Easter break so I was able to get in some hiking with the kids. Two different days, I went out with the kids and although I didn't check the clock either time (it was vacation after all) I gave myself 2 hrs and 20 minutes. I know one day was longer than an hour, but we didn't walk steadily. The other day was probably at least an hour, but I'm not sure anymore.

I was carrying a child on my back each day and the first day, I didn't take the stroller for the younger one, so I was carrying one on front and holding the other for some of the way. So the way I look at it, the extra work translates into any minutes I may have estimated wrongly.

The other somewhat interesting thing I've been doing is track practice with Louisa on occasion.

Louisa is in a play that will take place this weekend, Take Your Medicine. Because Oklee school is pretty small, they encourage the kids to be in multiple things. They would not have enough participants in most things if the kids didn't do this. The coaches and directors and other helpers for the various activities then have to be flexible about the kids attending every practice.

For those kids who are in both play and track, since track started, they have been missing occasional play practices to practice track. Other times they attend play practice and run on their own.

So there have been a couple of days that Louisa asks me to run with her. Now, I don't really run. I'm getting there. I can do much more than I could before. But certainly not as much as she can.

Last night we ran/walked a mile and then did her track practice drills. For the drills the coach has them do a series of strange runs and walks with legs going every which way. Some are quite challenging. We take turns crossing the parking lot with these unusual gaits. In case you drive by and see us out there, that is what we are doing. Hopefully that will never happen. I do try to watch and make sure there are no cars coming before my turn. :-)

With the play coming up this weekend, Louisa will be missing all her track practices this week. I'm not sure how often we'll go out together, but hopefully before the end of the week, I'll have my last 85 minutes done and be able to start my Spring Ticker.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Talk Radio Primer and Tom Coburn

Yes, I listen to conservative talk radio. Not often, since I'm a busy mom and it's just not a top priority. But I do like to listen to something political while driving. It's one of my little indulgences.

Am I a wacko? I certainly don't think so. Nor do I think most of the talk show hosts are wackos or as they are called these days in the Main Stream Media, wingnuts. You know, nuts from the right wing.

But I admit the various hosts can be abrasive and they may even seem mean spirited. But it is a shtick. You know, like Saturday Night Live or Conan O'Brien. They have this thing they do to entertain the listeners or viewers.

I started listening to Rush Limbaugh about 20 years ago already. Never regularly, but often enough to both appreciate his unique style and also to get irritated when he goes beyond my idea of good taste or propriety.

I also read the two books he wrote in the 90s and so I understand why he does what he does. Two points stuck with me that I think can apply to most conservative talk radio. His show must entertain. If it didn't, he would not gain the following he needs to get the advertisers who pay for his show to continue.

In other words, if there were more people in his listening areas who would listen to an academic lecture each afternoon for three hours, that is what he'd have to do. But truth be told, the typical American listening audience likes a bit of abrasiveness and the acerbic host.

The second thing that I remember him writing about, and that he periodically restates during his show, is that he tries to illustrate the absurd by being absurd. So a listener must take the things he says with a grain of salt and use what some might call his extremism to understand the point he's trying to make.

Each host has their own style and personality quirks that lead to varying degrees of success. And for each, the longer one listens, the more enjoyable the hosts is. Because they each have their personal shtick, the show is more enjoyable as one understands the style. I can't claim to know all the nationally syndicated hosts, but here are some strong and weak points of the hosts with which I am most familiar.

Laura Ingraham's show is often more societal than political. She has made a focus of discussing things of concern to families and people of faith, particularly her Catholic faith. Her pop culture references are closer to my experience than the other hosts. She can be acerbic. She is very knowledgeable. She has a wide variety of guests. And some fun little themes throughout her show. She worked in the Reagan administration as, I believe, a speechwriter. Later she was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Rush Limbaugh I've talked about.

Glenn Beck, I'm not sure of yet. He is sometimes very, very funny. I enjoy the video clips I've seen from his TV show. Like Laura Ingraham, he has a co-host who pipes in now and then and often these interchanges are pretty humorous. But I haven't quite gotten my brain around what he tries to do with his radio show.

Sean Hannity, like Laura Ingraham, is also a practicing Catholic and that comes through in his show. Although less focused on society than politics compared to Laura Ingraham, he does tend to be a bit more interested in the moral character of our nation.

For instance, he has talked quite a bit about Tiger Woods and his infidelities. But he always tries to put the focus on the fact that Mr. Woods is a cultural hero. Our nation's children look up to Mr. Woods and therefor his mistakes and their consequences for all involved also need to be made clear.

Mr. Hannity is often more compassionate with those callers he might get irritated at than some of the other hosts. But not always.

As far as Sean Hannity's political commentary, it is a bit less informative than some of the other hosts. I don't seem to get as many fresh insights or ideas from him. But his show is fun none the less.

Michael Savage I just can't take. I don't know why. He is very knowledgeable. He is a former microbiologist and dietitian or some such, and that interest comes through. But his shtick is just over the edge of my taste.

Lars Larson I really enjoy, but don't get to listen too often. Most of the year, because of limited daylight hours, reception of our local AM station does not reach our home during his broadcast time. I don't have a quantifiable description of his style, but he seems pleasant and well informed and polite to callers.

Now onto Mark Levin. I really love Mark Levin's writing. He is so methodical in how he presents information. He clearly articulates his points and helpfully references his sources.

Mr. Levin is really a genius. If I recall correctly, he was a child prodigy who spent his youth at museums studying constitutional history. He finished law school at a somewhat young age. He held several advisory positions in the Reagan administration, eventually serving as Chief of Staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese. At this time, he was still at an age when many are finishing up their education, but he was already a respected constitutional scholar.

But on his radio show I get so angry at the way he carries on and on and on. I know. It is just his shtick. But it is tiresome, and I can't help thinking that more people would read his wonderful books and listen to his show and therefore benefit from his immense knowledge and insight if he was not such a ranter on the radio.

That said, of all the nationally syndicated hosts I listen to, he probably offers the freshest takes and most informative political analysis. If one can wait through the tirades.

Which brings me to the second point of this blog post. I have made a habit of highlighting the generally excellent work Senator Tom Coburn has done on behalf of America. So I was understandably chagrined when I flipped on my radio the other day and heard Mark Levin lambasting Senator Coburn. What on earth?

So here's the scoop for those who might also be curious.

Apparently, last weekend, at a town hall meeting, Senator Coburn encouraged TEA party goers and others to be civil in their discourse. To offer thoughtful and well articulated arguments and not stoop to emotional attacks. Senator Coburn alleged FOX news engaged in some fallacious reporting. He encouraged everyone to listen to several news sources in order to be more ready to give our conservative answers.

Some people felt several of his comments were not within the proper stand for a true conservative to take. Some people felt he was unfairly ripping FOX news. Some people took his words as a insult to TEA party and town hall attendees as as if they were too dumb to figure this out themselves. Hear the audio clips and read a collection of his allegedly questionable comments here.

Mark Levin's concerns are here in a short audio clip. The full audio is available at his website. I don't have the exact minutes, but I think the part I heard was probably close to 5:15 (CST) on Thursday.

Tom Coburn's response can be found at The Daily Caller and also at Random Political Thoughts and News. Although these two takes are very similar, they have different but complimentary commentary.

(Update 4/11: I'm a little embarrassed as the above two links are to the exact same article. I must have lost in cyberworld the one I intended to link, because it's nowhere to be found this evening.)

So what is my take on this whole thing? I suppose were I to choose a side in this one, I would go with Senator Coburn. I think he's just a nice guy trying to be fair minded and encourage others to do their homework.

Here in Minnesota we are blessed with (or suffer from) what is known as Minnesota nice. And I don't think that phenomenon is exclusive to Minnesota. It is a heartland thing. I don't believe that people on either coast, but especially the East Coast truly understand that concept. We're polite. We don't like to yell. We allow others to go ahead of us in the check out line. We don't honk at intersections or yell service workers.

I think Senator Coburn was just showing some Oklahoma nice.

I can't find any information on whether FOX truly misrepresented the parts of the healthcare bill that Senator Coburn alleged. I'd like to read an analysis of that if anyone knows of it. I know any news agency can make errors, but twisting truth is an ugly thing on either side of the political isle. When it happens, it ought to be addressed and admitted and the truth told. And those who point it out ought not to be accused of joining the enemy or being weak spirited.

Current Events Photo Trivia

I was doing a little reading last night, looking for some tidbit of information. I don't even remember what. Isn't that how it is with the Internet. We have so much information at our fingertips.

I followed a link to Another Black Conservative blog. The photos in the header of this blog caught my eye. Photos of well-known African Americans who the blog author apparently considers to be important conservatives of color throughout American history.

Since I get the majority of my information through the printed word (I'm counting on-line news sources here), I don't always know what a well-known person looks like. I read the names in quotes or articles, so I am often familiar with various contemporary personalities. But since I don't always see a photo or video clip I'm not always able to put a face together with any given name.

Just to test my familiarity with historical and contemporary persons, I tried to put a name with each face in the above blog. And what do you know? I got them all right.

How will you score?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

"Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

I Corinthians 15:50-58

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Dancer

This is a little computer generated animation one of my daughters did. I think its quite excellent.