Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Day in the Park

Miss Chef and I were celebrating this weekend, and decided to leave the chores behind for a day (sorry, dirty clothes, you'll have to wait). That did kind of put me behind this week, since it's now Wednesday and I'm just putting up pics.

As you've probably figured out, we decided to go to the Schiele* Museum, a natural history museum in Gastonia, just west of Charlotte. We had tried to stop in on our way home from a trip last month, but managed to arrive 20 minutes before closing, so put it off.
We were blessed with a perfect fall day: clear blue skies and temperatures just under 70 degrees. We did wander through the exhibits for a while, but the highlight was the trail through about 20 acres of woods.


These are a species of redwood, so I'm guessing they are evergreen. I just thought this would be a nice way to show what a beautiful day it was!



Miss Chef found the pond very attractive, but I simply pointed out that we have a perfectly picturesque pond at home that's much larger and has birds and turtles and such. So there.




As a natural history museum, the Schiele includes a replica of a Catawba Indian village. Unfortunately, it seemed to be under renovation. While we did get some insight into the construction of a stockade fence (which could not have been a fun chore for anyone cutting their own timber), we only had a peek through the logs at the village itself.




There is also a grist mill along the stream, which is also apparently undergoing renovation. (They sure do like to keep things new here at the Schiele.) You can see the newly constructed sluice extending under the bridge, and the very beginnings of the mill wheel to the far left. It all looks surprisingly rickety; no wonder they have to keep rebuilding it. I wonder if that was a regular event in the Olden Days? How long was a sluice or wheel to last? Well, the mill was closed, so I didn't get to ask anybody.




In the opposite direction, the stream wanders in a very picturesque way past another little footbridge. We saw tons of birds in silhouette, flying down to drink on the other side of the bridge. I was able to determine that they were mostly robins; probably one of the migrating flocks we see invading our lawns in the fall.




This was one of our favorite pictures, a cluster of mushrooms atop a stump next to the mill.

We did take lots more photos, but time limits me here. Still, I thought it might jazz the place up to have some more pictures; I know I like photos more than reading a wall of text!

*rhymes with "steel"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vous et nul autre


I kissed a girl, and eight years later she gave me a ring.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not Much


Life is made up of little things. That is my attempt at being pithy in saying I haven't had many deep thoughts to work out in print. My mind is becoming cluttered with the usual collection of things to do, which is really more a list of things to worry about until I feel like doing them.

I am stupidly proud of myself for not missing any walks with Miss Rosie this week. Usually I start coming up with excuses mid-week about being too tired or too busy to spend a half-hour wandering the neighborhood. Perhaps it's the crispness of the fall weather, or the dog's resultant energy spurt, but I've been good. I'm even seriously considering dragging my butt back to the Humane Society to get back into that groove of dogwalking. (Please, if anyone's reading this, don't hold your breath.)

Today I decided to take Miss Rosie down one of the little cul-de-sacs that don't have sidewalks. I developed the habit of sticking to the sidewalks because I spend half the year walking a black dog in the dark, which does not make for safe conditions. I swear her coat actually soaks up light; crossing a room in the dark where she's lying in wait is a fast way to wake yourself up.

Anyway, so off we trundled, down what was essentially new territory for the doggie nose, and it was like walking a defferent dog. She was all over the place, leash manners be damned. Oh, she would listen to me when I told her to straighten out, but then a new lawn would beckon, something in that bush over there would move, or she'd hear an unfamiliar noise (no matter that it was ME putting something in my pocket; it was still worth going on high alert).

Rosie is quite adorable when her interest is aroused: half-flopped ears up, eyes wide open, bright pink tongue dangling from her open mouth and tail at full mast, she strikes a beautiful pose and stands stock still. Passerby often comment on her appearance, while I smile, try to thank them and do my best to avoid looking like a beast master as I struggle to get Rosie's attention again.

She generally has good leash manners, but when there's another dog to check out, every rule flies out of her head. She tends to forget there's something other than an anchor at the other end of the leash. As I learned the day I got her home, trying to move in a straight line from the driveway to the front door, that little 50-lb ball of fur can yank me right off my feet if she's of a mind to.

Well, we yanked and pulled and ran our zigzag path up and back on that cul-de-sac, until we got back to familiar territory: Sidewalk Land, where the rules have been well-established.

It's supposed to rain tomorrow, so I may have a great excuse to avoid walking her then...but the memory of her hop-skip-jumping along should goad me into remembering how much she needs to stretch her legs, and stimulate her mind (read: nose). And it's not like she's the only one who needs it!

Final thought for the day: If your dog's fat, you need to get more exercise.

Post-final thought for the day: If your dog's nonexistent, you should look into rectifying that situation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pigeonholed


I am getting way too caught up in the election. I already know who I'm going to vote for in the major races (no, I have NOT finished my homework on judgeships and the like), but I can't stop reading online articles about--well, let's face it, I'm really only interested in the Presidential and VP candidates.

Every day I get irritated at the humunguous split between Conservative and Liberal; Republican and Democrat; Redneck and Intellectual Elite, etc., blah blah blah, so on and so forth... Such hatred is spewed, and boy howdy, if the internet isn't just a playground for anonymous name callers and conspiracy theorists.

And I'm part of the problem.

Because man, am I ever judgemental. I consider myself all tolerant and full of concern for my fellow man, and you can read my rant about judgemental Christians below...but I cling as tightly to my stereotypes as anyone out there. Okay, I'm aware (sometimes) of my hypocrisy, so that makes me a little better, but not much. I steam over the haters so much, I start to...hate them.

Duh.

Every once in a while, I'll read a comment or article that says, more or less, "Guys, chill. It's an election. Everyone gets a vote. Someone's gonna be President; someone's not. What are you gonna do about it Nov. 5th?" And I'll calm down for a while and be reasonable. But it's so much more fun to point fingers and prove yourself right, that I'm soon back at it.

One online article I read proposed that, in a society that has become largely ideologically segregated, the only place most people interact with those of differing opinions is at work. I think the author has a point, but many of us in fact don't even work with people much different than ourselves. Wouldn't liberal-minded lawyers be more likely to join liberal-leaning law firms? Don't most intellectual elites end up in academics and most capitalism-supporters end up in business? Of course, I know there are conservative professors and liberal managers out there, but I'm talking tendancies.

I work in an office that does have a mix of liberals and conservatives, and I am impressed that we all manage to talk politics without nasty labels or namecalling; maybe even exchanging an idea here or there. I have a good idea of who's voting for whom, but I respect their decisions regardless of their vote. I get frustrated with their reasons, even some who will be voting with me, because I think they are being brainwashed or focusing on unimportant issues. But at least they're thinking about it.

And through it all, I am often thankful that the nutcase next to me, who thinks we never landed on the moon, is there to remind me that nutcases can still be perfectly enjoyable human beings.

Still, I wish he would vote for MY guy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Boob Tube



Miss Chef has the tv on in the next room as I sit here wondering what musings I had today that might develop themselves into something interesting. Though I'm not actively watching it, there's something magnetic about the sound of canned conversation that continually breaks my concentration. Which makes me think about the overwhelming presence of tv in American life.

When we moved, we decided to forgo cable for budgetary reasons, which has subsequently restricted our options to 5 networks plus 3 different PBS stations. With only 8 channels--or fewer, depending on the weather--I've often found it impossible to find anything watchable with a decent reception, and so have become much more comfortable turning the set off.

Nowadays, when people ask me if I watched Big Losers Star-Dancing with Bachelorettes, or whatever, I've developed a perverse enjoyment in responding "No; we don't have cable." Usually I get a pause, a blank look, and then a "well, anyway..." as they continue on. And I find myself exempt from trying to pay attention to or express interest in something that doesn't really deserve either. As an added bonus, my interlocuter realizes they need to cut to the chase, and the lack my knowledge in that show eventually leads the conversation into more fruitful areas.

However, the best bonus of tv lite is the incredible amount of time I have to do other things! Instead of spending an hour or two every evening staring into space, I often walk the dog, play in the garden, do chores or, perhaps most often, read through a hundred pages of a library book. All this, and we save hundreds of dollars every year.

*********

For example...now two hours have gone by, and instead of watching reruns of Two and a Half Men, I have enjoyed a wonderful hearty meal prepared by Miss Chef, followed by s'mores toasted over our fire pit outside (under the quiet supervision of Rosie the dog). Don't get me wrong; I really enjoy that show, and it makes me laugh, but it's still easier for me to turn it off for something else. For now, I'm free of the addiction of tv.

An addiction it is...Miss Chef and I occasionally discuss what channels or shows we miss in our uncabled home, but I'm nervous about the day we decide we can budget for cable. It won't be two weeks before I "have to" catch a different show every night. Our conversations usually end with "if only we could just pick the half-dozen channels we really want." (Don't worry--I'm not about to start analyzing cable and satellite packaging schemes.)

So, tomorrow at work, I may not be able to swap stories about how Jake learned something off-color from Uncle Charlie, but I'm betting one or two people will be just a leetle bit jealous of my s'mores fest on the patio.

APPENDIX: Y'know, if you google images of "boob tube," you don't get a whole lot of pictures of tv sets. Just a little extra info for your personal edification.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Furballs


Sunday, and the living is...dusty. Since I've moved South, I seem to have more motivation for Fall Cleaning than Spring Cleaning. Finally, we can open the windows and air out the stale funk and humidity, and let in the cool breezes and sounds of the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, this probably means my neighbors are treated to the piercing sound of my aging vacuum cleaner. It has--I think--a hyperactive full-bag alarm, so that after the first 3 minutes of happy housewife vacuuming, I am forced to push an earsplitting siren around my living room, trying unsuccessfully to suck up carpet-clinging black dog hair. Grrrrr....I would love to ditch this thing in favor of one of those tornado-action bagless jobbies that are becoming ubiquitous.

I actually spent several minutes today poring over the vacuum page of the Target flyer, wondering what the difference is between the $79 model, the $129 one and the $459 one. Sheesh; are there really that many people who have that much money to spend on a vacuum cleaner?? No wonder everyone bursts into tears when the economy or rising gas prices threaten household budgets. The "typical" American has gotten used to the best of everything.

Of course, this being two weeks before the election, everything in my mind relates back to the candidates. And the same thought occurs to me during many daily chores: When was the last time Senators Obama, McCain or Biden, or Governor Palin pushed the vacuum through their own houses? Do you think they even know where the vacuum cleaner is? Or the bathroom cleaner? Do you think they have a preference of Tilex vs. Lysol with Bleach? What are their stances on environmentally-friendly laundry detergent?

Do you honestly think any of these people can really relate to you and me?

Honestly?

Me neither.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Decisions, decisions...


I've spent the afternoon trying to choose whom to elect to the various offices up for grabs in my precinct. Besides the well-publicized presidential and gubernatorial races, there are 30 other contested seats, and four bond referendums to be decided. That's a lot of homework! After a couple of hours, I still have 20 more decisions to make.


This raises three questions in my mind:


1) Is it asking too much of the "typical" voter to spend 6 hours studying candidate statments and endorsements? This is beyond the 5 hours or so I've already spent watching televised debates (and I didn't even watch the first presidential debate). I only work 40 hours a week and have no children; I can't imagine parents finding that kind of time to surf the net as I've been doing.


2) Why can't we centralize candidate information? The state Board of Elections should set up a web site containing brief statements from all candidates who file to run, including links to their own web sites.


3) How the hell am I supposed to know what qualifications are necessary for the Register of Deeds or the Commissioner of Agriculture? North Carolina judges are also elected positions; there are 13 contests for judgeships that I am to vote for. I'm going to be elitist here: if I, a very well-educated voter with excellent reading skills and an active interest in seeking out information, have a hard time making these choices, what about the rest of the voters? The people who barely finished high school, people who aren't interested or not comfortable reading "between the lines," people who don't care or don't have the time to figure out what important issues will face a District Court Judge--how are they to make informed, intelligent decisions?


I remember the giddyness of our entry into the "Information Age." Now it's the Information Overload Age, and we're not doing a very good job negotiating it. Thank God for Google.


Also, if I am still blogging in April, be prepared for my income tax rant, which will decry the increasing complexity of a task required of all US citizens in the labor force. Should be fun!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Religious Difficulties


I've started keeping up with the blog at http://www.venganza.org/, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can get more info at the website, but it's essentially a fake religion created in response to a Kansas schoolboard's attempt to install creationism as an equivalent to science. There are quite a few atheists on the site, and a fair amount of Christian-dissing, but the original idea is to squelch our country's ironic penchant for religious intolerance.

I posted the following in response to a news article about a conflict between pro-life and pro-choice protesters at a college in Missouri:



I’m gonna go out on a limb here and admit that I consider myself a Christian. I’m a child of two biochemists who don’t see any conflict between science and Christianity, I think the Bible is a flawed book open to interpretation, and I’m happy to accept the unprovable parts of my beliefs under the banner of “faith;” nor will I dispute the unprovability of it… but I have stopped identifying myself as Christian.

Nowadays, in the US, whenever I see a symbol of Christianity, or read/hear someone state “I’m Christian,” my first reaction is not “Oh, goody, a follower of Christ’s message of love and tolerance.” No, it’s “Oh, great, another narrow-minded, brainwashed, anti-intellectual conservative who will automatically hate and exclude me from worship because God made me gay.”

I’m not ready to give up my spiritual beliefs, but I feel like “my” church has betrayed me. Just as extreme Islam has made westerners equate “Muslim” with “terrorist,” the word “Christian” has been co-opted by social & political terrorists. Where are all the “centrist” Christians who should be rising up against this identity theft?

Oh, wait, that’s me…chased out of the church by the witch-hunters–again.

Diving In


Questions: Who will read this? What will I say? Will anyone respond?


Answer: Only one way to find out.


Email and the internet have been the only way that I've kept in touch with many, many people that I like, love, admire and miss. Combined with my love of writing long letters about nothing--or about that stuff that happens while you're busy making other plans--I thought this might be a natural way to let all those people keep up with me. If they feel like it.


I wonder if I'll be able to be disciplined enough to keep this interesting? Stop by in March, and let's see if I am!


I'm gonna cheat and start off with a rant I just posted at http://www.venganza.org/, home of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. If you haven't visited yet, go check into it...but only after you read my next post.