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"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Unconscious Mutterings

I found this website yesterday which I thought might be fun (at least for a while). It's called Unconscious Mutterings and is based upon the theory of free association. The site publishes a list of 10 words every week and asks readers to write down the first thing that comes into their heads when reading each word. There aren't really any rules - you can write down a one word reaction or a series of words; You can post your responses with a bunch of other people on Sunday or post any day of the week. (Be sure to check out the website for more details.)

So here's my first attempt. If you've got a few minutes, try it yourself. You might be surprised what you come up with and who knows where some of these free thoughts can lead - I refer to continued inspiration for writing only ;)

  1. Traditional :: Antiquated

  2. Popeye :: Spinach

  3. Gin :: and Tonic

  4. Harsh :: Teenagers

  5. Topless :: Beach

  6. The thing :: You don't want anyone to know

  7. Defiant :: Bold

  8. Huge :: Ginormous (I can't believe that made it into the dictionary this year!!)

  9. Food :: Necessary

  10. Lenny :: Kravitz

  11. ****************************************
    P.S. I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Saturday and it was wonderful :) I am a little sad though that there won't be any more new adventures for Harry and his friends. I can still look forward to the final two installments of the movie version though!!

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

This WTF Moment Brought to You By . . .

While perusing the paper yesterday I happened upon this this headline: Courts struggle to find jurors who will serve. I couldn't think of any reason why off the top of my head, after all it's not like the adult population has suddenly dipped in number, so I continued on figuring it would be an interesting read.

Interesting, but somewhat maddening actually.

You see, the reason that courts across the country are having trouble finding enough jurors to serve is because PEOPLE JUST AREN'T SHOWING UP!!!

That's right. According to one study, "fewer than half of all Americans summoned report for duty." LESS THAN HALF!!!

When I shared this information with my husband, he was surprised (as was I) pointing out that he thought there were all kinds of penalties for not showing up. While I believe this is true, I also believe that many people are playing the odds that the courts won't prosecute them because they have bigger things to worry about. Apparently they're right.

Which is why I find this so despicable. Look, no one likes having to report to jury duty. It sucks getting up early, finding a parking space within reasonable walking distance of the courthouse (at least around the courthouses I've had to serve in), no one likes being locked up in what reminds me of a high school classroom with 30 or so other strangers (all as happy as you and I are about their present situation) and waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . . Hoping not to be called so that you don't end up with some case that brings you back to this place for several days, but hoping that they fill all the panels (without you) in a reasonable amount of time so you don't have to sit in a very uncomfortable chair all day.

Like I said, I don't like it either.

But it's necessary. It's one of those things that comes with the territory. I know we're all really busy with our own lives and all, but if we expect police officers to protect us then we have to back them up with a system that holds criminals accountable. (I will at this point agree that there are definitely problems with the criminal court system, of which I'm not about to get into here, but I'm pretty sure that there are very few, if any, who skip out on their jury service for that reason.)

So, according to the article, some counties are coming up with non-traditional ways of getting people to serve. For example, in Sanford, North Carolina court officials stand outside of grocery stores and hand out random jury summons - for that same day!! Now how inconvenient is that?! And if you mention not showing up because you have other plans, the court official will politely remind you that you will be held in contempt of court.

In New York state it is no longer possible to get a jury service waiver if you are a doctor, lawyer, police officer, firefighter or judge. In D.C. judges will issue a summons for those who skip out on their jury service and if they no-show again they can face up to seven days in jail and a $300 fine. In Tulane County, California officials have gone one step further and will personally deliver the summons to appear in court to the no-shows' home.

I don't personally know of anyone who enjoys juror duty, but you know what? Sometimes, as adults, we have to do things we don't want to do. We don't have to like it, we just have to do it. So next time you get one of those official looking envelopes in the mail, groan, let out a big sigh, complain about it constantly for the weeks leading up to it - but just show up, OK?


I'd also like to thank Em over at Notes from my Corner for giving out this award to me:

Now I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first - having never thought of myself as a schmoozer - but as Em pointed out, schmoozing can refer to simply conversing in a casual manner or to "talk intimately and cozily." Now that doesn't sound so bad, does it?

He has also sent some nice readers my way and I'm always glad to "meet" new people and hear their thoughts on things. I hope you all continue to visit and be sure to let me know what you're thinking!

So thanks again, Em! (Great post about the award itself, btw. I LOVED the last paragraph ;)


One more thing . . . This article was written by a truly talented reporter and while I have admired his work for years now, I must say that this particular piece has been one of his best so far. Really. So if you're interested, go on over and check it out . . . Oh yeah. In the spirit of full disclosure, the writer is my husband. It's still REALLY good though :)

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Haven't We Heard This Somewhere Before?

Well, he's at it again.

As reported yesterday by the New York Times, Dubyah is once again chanting an oldy, but a goody. Tuesday, Dubyah spoke at an air force base in Charleston, S.C. and was quoted as saying,

"The facts are that Al Qaeda terrorists killed Americans on 9/11, they’re fighting us in Iraq and across the world and they are plotting to kill Americans here at home again. Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of Al Qaeda in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat."

Do you notice how carefully this statement is worded? The way he mentions the fact that Al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11, then uses the pronoun "they" to group Al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents together and then brings it all back together to say that it isn't just about fighting in Iraq, but about potential for disaster in the U.S. itself. (Also known as one of Dubyah's favorite tactics, politics of fear.)

Them there are some darn good speechwriters, but I ain't buyin' it.

Once again, Dubyah refers to mysterious, classified intelligence information that, of course, he can't share the specifics of with the rest of us, but BELIEVE HIM there's a connection. After all, he's the President of the United States - he wouldn't lie to us, would he?

According to the NYT, "Kevin Sullivan, the White House communications director, said the speech was devised as a “surge of facts” meant to rebut critics who say Mr. Bush is trying to rebuild support for the war by linking the Iraq group and the one led by Mr. bin Laden." Interesting language used here as well - "surge of facts," and "devised," - oh, how I love the English language!!

Basically, it sounds like the same old crap. Dubyah thinks he's right about staying the course in Iraq and no one is going to convince him otherwise. He's just going to keep coming up with reasons (lies) why he's right. Regardless of what the rest of us think, although, before he took office I was under the impression we were living in a democracy.

The point is, staying the course - no matter how many troops you add to the mix - is NOT working in Iraq. Whatever the reasons for preemptivingly striking Iraq, it was wrong, it's still wrong and while you may have taken out a dictator, Dubyah, you've now created a civil war.

I believe that no matter what we do there will continue to be bloodshed for years to come. However, keeping U.S. soldiers there is only putting off the inevitable. At some point, we will have to admit defeat; we will have to admit that we can do no more good; we will have to admit that our presence in Iraq is an exercise in futility.

At this point I don't really care what the reasons for entering into this catastrophe were or are or will be. I believe that the Bush Administration lies and they will continue to lie as long as they are in office. (January 2009 can't come soon enough!)

What I do care about is that another 50+ people were killed yesterday during what was a celebration of victory for the Iraq National soccer team and that another 130 were injured. I care that these suicide bombings are perceived as everyday occurrences that are basically unpreventable. What I care about is beginning a process that will eventually allow the people of Iraq to begin to heal and rebuild their lives. You can't do that while under military rule.

So I guess what I'm saying is, Dubyah can make all the speeches he wants - I don't think many of us are listening anymore.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

I Did It . . . And I Liked It

I couldn't wait. I said I was going to. I said I didn't want to know. But the temptation was just too much and this morning, I caved.

I went online and got a preview of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I know, I know. I was so adamant about not reading anything regarding the book. I stayed away when I heard a couple of days ago that apparently someone had gotten a hold of the book and published photographs of every page on the web. Nope. I didn't want anything to do with it. I would be patient and wait for my copy to arrive early next week.

So much for that.

After hearing about the New York Times book review and the flack they were getting for publishing it before the book was released, I got a little curious. This came after I had reread Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as a primer for the final installment and then went to see the Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix movie Wednesday night. (The movie was amazing btw. There's one scene where Harry and a few other witches and wizards are flying through the night time skies of London on broomsticks - It was simply magical.)

I even thought about canceling my order and picking up the book today so that I could start it sooner, but by the time that idea occurred to me my order was already "being prepared for shipment" and therefore un-cancellable.

So I first gave in by reading the NYT book review which I must say doesn't really give anything away. All these people are up in arms that about it, but it didn't really say anything that we readers didn't expect. There are no big secrets revealed, no spoilers in my opinion. I understand the publisher and the author being upset by the fact that the reviewer was able to walk into a New York City bookstore on Wednesday and pick the book up . . . But then again I'm never all that disappointed when the big almighty marketing machine gets a wrench thrown into it.

The book review, however, did whet my appetite further and I found myself googling "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Sure enough, Wikipedia had an entry about it and gave a synopsis of the book with a few spoilers included. I didn't have to read it. And who knows, it might not even be accurate, but what I did read seemed pretty likely and confirmed some of my own feelings about how the story would wind up.

Now I'm no crazed Harry Potter fan. I didn't have any urge to dress up and go to one of these Midnight Madness events at my local bookstore (I'll leave that to the kids), but I am excited about reading the book and even after I gave myself a sneak peek, I'm still excited.

So if you don't hear from me for a few days starting Monday or Tuesday, have no fear I will be fully immersed in the magical world of Harry Potter. It's a wonderful story - one I never thought I would be the least bit interested in - and I'm a little sad to see that it will finally be over. Thank you, J.K. Rowling for creating such a wonderful reading experience for young and old. It has been a pleasure.

UPDATE, 2:01 p.m. - The mailman just delivered my book! I thought I would have to wait until next week and now I don't so I kind of feel bad that I couldn't wait to find out the end because now I will certainly devour this thing and stay up all too late reading . . . Gotta go!!

P.S. I wrote an entry this morning over at my website for my online writing journal that I'm sort of proud of and would like to invite you to read. I've been trying to give myself (and whoever else is reading) a weekly prompt to ponder and then posting my response to it. I liked this one, so if you'd like to read it I promise a warm, fuzzy feeling :)

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Go Green AND Be the Latest in Fashion

Come on. You knew it was inevitable. With all the celebrities involved. The obvious PR push to make environmentalism the latest and greatest. Well, now you can be "green" AND a hip, cool trend-setter at the same time.

According to this article which appeared in yesterday's New York Times, supermarket chain Whole Foods has started selling reusable, grocery bags designed by London handbag designer Anya Hindmarch. These bags, which sell for $15 and don the catchy phrase "I'm NOT a plastic bag," are being released in just 15 stores in the New York area (to create demand of course!) and they're already showing up on Ebay for as much as $300 a whack!! (Not to mention the near riot that occurred in Taiwan last month when shoppers stampeded in order to get their hands on one and sent 30 people to the hospital.)

Of course, the plastics industry is not happy about this. They say that it's not their plastic bags that are the problem (even though they can take up to 500 years to break down in a landfill and require millions of gallons of oil to produce) - it's people's behaviors. That's right. It's the public's fault as usual. The makers of plastic bags say that we need to recycle more, but I say that we need to start taking the 3 R's to heart and start focusing on reducing the amount of goods we consume and stop using recycling as the answer that makes everything OK. And because of that I think selling reusable grocery bags is a great idea which is why I wish I weren't so cynical about it.

See, I understand the need for making things fun and creating a buzz so that people tear themselves away from their televisions, computers, cell phones, etc. and take an interest in something other than themselves. I understand that we are facing a crisis as we try and figure out how to dispose of, without causing even more damage to our precious planet, the approximately 100 billion plastic bags we as Americans throw away each year (and recycle less than 1 percent of). I guess I'm just a bit of a romantic. I wish that people would take action, not because it's the "in" thing to do, after all fads fade away, but because it's the right thing to do; the necessary thing.

***This post also appears today over at the Soccer Mom Vote.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Our Garden

As those of you who have known me for any length of time can attest, the "domestic" life was always something I said would never appeal to me. I don't cook (except for Kraft macaroni & cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, tacos and occasionally pasta and sauce as long as the sauce is Ragu), my house is clean, but certainly could be cleaner and while I enjoy being a mother, when I was young I used to say that my sister (who loved to babysit and said she was going to be a teacher because she loved kids so much) was going to be my live-in nanny while I went to work in my corporate power suit.

My how things have changed.

Anyone who reads this blog even occasionally knows how I feel about corporate America and, of course, my boys. I love being married. I love my new home. I still don't cook (I leave that to my husband, aka The Chef) and I hate laundry, but I've surprised many with my new found interest in gardening.

Now I wouldn't call myself a gardener just yet. I have stumbled along and I think had a lot of luck. We still have a lot of work to do on our yard and I have plans, but the vegetable garden has come along quite nicely (as you can see). It was the one thing my older son wanted when we told him we were moving into a house and it's actually panning out.

I'm kind of obsessive about the watering thing and I find myself chasing squirrels away on a regular basis. The squirrels have been the worst. They completely annihilated our eggplant, although it seems to be coming back nicely and when I put some sunflowers out the other day it took all of 24 hours for the nasty little critters to eat them. They seem to finally be leaving the vegetables alone, however, and as you can see we've got LOTS of tomatoes and even a pepper!!

I'm like a proud momma talking about it. I just can't believe it really. I thought maybe we'd get something this go around . . . but it's been so exciting to watch the plants grow and we've got LOTS of somethings! I think I'm now more excited than my older son and I think he thinks I'm a little crazy about the whole thing.

Anyway, praise is welcome (for me and the garden). The pictures really don't show just how big the tomato plants have gotten. I'll have to spread them out a little more next year. Next year! I'm already talking about next year!! I'll make a gardener out of myself yet ;)

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

OMG! Broadway Here I Come!

I heard something on the radio the other day and my heart actually fluttered. I mean, I didn't really believe it when I heard it. It was quick. I figured I must have heard in correctly . . . But I checked it out this morning and IT'S TRUE!!!

Xanadu is coming to Broadway!!!

That's right. I said it. Quite possibly the cheesiest and best movie to come out in 1980 - Xanadu stars Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelley and Michael Beck. It's a movie about Sonny Malone (Beck), an artist who paints album (Yes, vinyl!!) covers to display in record store windows, but wants something more from his life. Enter Kira, a daughter of Zeus and a muse sent to inspire Sonny to make his dreams come true. Obviously, Kira and Sonny fall for each other, obviously a muse and a mortal cannot be together . . . and Gene Kelley is in there, too.

Anyway, there's GREAT 80's music in it - check out this video from the title track - and, oh yes, ROLLER SKATING!! Lots of roller skating!!

I loved this movie as a kid. I was a dancer in my childhood, Xanadu has a tap routine in it which was my favorite because I was a tap dancer, no kidding - and there was nothing I liked more than a musical. (I used to dance with my best friend in her basement to the soundtrack of Annie on a regular basis.) I actually used my Fisher-Price tape recorder to record (by holding up the tape recorder to the speaker of the TV) the songs from the movie.

So if anyone would like to accompany me on a trip to NYC to see Xanadu on Broadway (I'm singing the theme song as we speak!) then let me know! (Cheryl, I know you want to go. Admit it.)

What a great way to start my morning!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

If Harry Can't Do It, Who Can?

I know I say it all the time, but seriously, I LOVE National Public Radio. I listen to it everyday on my way to and from work and I'm always amazed at how many interesting stories there are out there. And they're not just 1 minute stories with cutesy soundbytes - the reporters tell a full story (and I love the way they use sound in the background for say a busy street market while they're speaking).

Anyway, I caught this topic today, Summer Reading and Harry Potter. In case you've been living in a cave for the past three weeks, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment of the Harry Potter series, will be released on July 21st and has brought about the usual discussions of children and their reading habits.

I'd always heard praise for the series because it was credited with getting millions of kids reading. And while not wanting to take away from what author J.K. Rowling has accomplished, it appears that while kids may be reading Harry Potter they aren't reading much else. As David Mehegan talked about today on NPR, and in a July 9th article in the Boston Globe, a recent survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts titled "Reading at Risk" found that leisurely reading among teens and adults has actually declined.

The New York Times wrote about the same topic in today's edition. Reporter Motoko Rich writes that the percentage of kids who say they read for fun drops from 43% of fourth graders to only 19% of eighth graders. And why is that?

Some believe it's television, although studies don't seem to show any kind of increase in television viewing between the age groups. The consensus seems to be that there are just SO MANY things competing for children's time - television, video games, music, the Internet, text messaging, cell phones and don't forget those traditional activities of going to the movies with friends, athletics and just plain old hangin' around.

I would say that I experienced a similar decline in my own reading life. I was an avid reader for much of my young life and then right around my freshman or sophomore year in high school - I just sort of stopped. Reading became a homework assignment; something I had to do; books assigned to me by teachers I felt didn't understand me and had no idea what I'd like to read.

It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I returned to the wonderful world of reading for pleasure. I started with fiction - my first love - but have branched out in recent years with plenty of non-fiction which includes some of my favorite magazines. While I don't pretend to represent all kids, I think my experience is pretty common. It was, at least, among my own friends at the time.

So maybe kids aren't all that different today than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Maybe we're just taking more notice because of our fear of "losing" them to a world of technology that we as adults don't fully understand.

What I hope is that those kids who don't read just for the sheer pleasure of it right now will find themselves devouring all that they missed out on in 10 years or so because making my way back to books - smelling those new, never touched, crisp, clean pages of a good novel - has been one of the best experiences (and continues to be) of my life.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha

I couldn't resist sharing this little news item. I heard it on the radio this afternoon on Weekend America. It's a short clip about how Dubyah's childhood home in Midland, Texas has been turned into a museum. It's been open for about a year now, and well, I won't spoil it for you. Just read it if you want a little laugh ;)

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Not Much Different Than Last Year

So it's the Fourth of July once again. Cookouts . . . Beer . . . Swimming pools . . . Fireworks . . . Oh yeah, and a celebration of what the United States of America stands for.

While our "forefathers" may have had lofty intentions (and I'm not even going to open that can of worms today) - that vision is certainly not being honored today.

We are currently under the rule of a president and vice president (an entire administration!) who believe that they are above the law in any and all circumstances.

We are living under tyrants who give tax benefits and subsidies to corporations and wealthy families with more money than they will ever be able to spend while the middle and working classes struggle to get by on their (VERY) minimum, non-living wage paying jobs.

We are living under a U.S. Supreme Court that has the power to tell us that when we find out our minimum wage paying jobs are paying us even less than our male or white co-workers holding the same position, we only have 180 days to make a claim of discrimination if we expect compensation.

We are still engaged in a war that continues to murder hundreds of people every month, military and civilian alike, with no real plan for containing the violence, putting an end to it or even withdrawing altogether. Meanwhile, our fearless leaders are puffing out their chests and talking about doing whatever is necessary and that military action is "not off the table" in an effort to stare down other perceived threats (read Iran).

All in all this year's Fourth of July looks pretty much like the last few - not a lot to celebrate. While I am appreciative of what I have because of where I live I do not believe that we as Americans, and especially as a nation, are living up to our potential. We have a lot of problems and it's time to stop sweeping them under the rug of patriotism and "we're flawed, but . . ."

I believe this Independence Day is not just an opportunity to eat some juicy burgers and watch fireworks. I think it's time that as Americans we do some thinking about which direction we want our country to head. That we consider what we want our image to convey to the rest of the world.

I think it's time to stop thumping about tradition and patriotism and the old Red, White and Blue and start living up to the image of a country that believes in freedom for its citizens in a democracy that doesn't just serve those with the most money.

I would also suggest checking out this great essay by one of my favorite writers and historians, Howard Zinn. I cited the article last year and I will point you to it again. It's short. It's strong. And it's just as accurate today as it was last year.

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

In Kiernan's Eyes

Sometimes I think the world must seem a very cruel place, through my baby's eyes.

As a newborn, his world was full of discomfort - colic, milk and soy protein intolerances we hadn't quite figured out, and reflux. If someone wasn't holding him, he just couldn't handle any of it.

Then things got a bit better. We got the diet under control, we got the medication under control, and teething started. And he got sick with colds. Or a diet error occurs. It seems to never end. The nights of crying, of not wanting to be put down. Of misery!

And yet, my baby doesn't see the world as a cruel place most of the time! He is happy, he is social, he wants to PLAY. He wants to be with you, he wants to learn, he wants to explore, he wants to see. He wants to talk and laugh and run - even though he isn't quite able to do all of those things yet. And although I am sometimes happy he will never remember these early months, because he's been uncomfortable for so much of it, his joy at most waking moments lights your heart. If only he could remember the excitement of all the discoveries he's making. Imagine remembering sheer joy at the taste of a fisher price metal cymbal, or at waving to grammie, and grandpa, and mommy, and daddy, and the kitty, and the mirror, and the lights, and the wall, and the flowers, and the cars, and the wall, and his feet!!!

I worry a lot that through my baby's eyes, life is a misery because he's had so many 'hiccups', but I don't think I really need to worry when I see how happy he is most of the time. I guess the trade off is me accepting that he isn't a good sleeper ;)

I had a hard time figuring out how to write a post with this topic and enlisted my husband for help. I'm including his suggestion because I'm not sure it isn't the better post :)

"In my eyes, by Kiernan

In my eyes I like to put fingers, and food and RUB IT IN, and sometimes my daddy pours water over my hair in the bath and he's protecting my eyes but I PUSH HIM AWAY and he gets water in my eyes and I HATE IT! But ooh, look, a ducky to hug... HEY WHY IS HE POKING MY EYES?!""

Lara is a 30 year old first-time mom from Ottawa, Ontario. Her blog is called Mommyhood for Lara, but a name change is imminent :) This post is part of the blog exchange and you can find Nancy's post for today here.

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