Why I Heart 2009

Thursday, 31 December 2009
I took this idea from Find the White Horse, thanks Natasha! 

2009 was special because this was the year Kingsley and I celebrated our union with friends and family on Bald Head Island.  May 17, 2009 was a glorious day.

I went on my honeymoon with my sweetie in Barcelona, Spain.  My love for Paella and tapas grew and I fell in love with Guadi's works.

My depression over being separated from Kingsley lifted somewhat when I adopted sweet, chic, little Violet.  I am no longer alone when I go home at night and she always listens...usually while purring.

This year went well professionally.  I earned a SPJ award for an investigative journalism piece, won access to the courts with cameras in Lane County and appealed a public records denial request from EPD and won.

In 2009, I found Failblog.org and Passive Aggressive Notes.com which allowed me a chance to laugh when I was beginning to take life too seriously.  Here's a sample of Failblog and serves as an analogy for 2010...if we go off the deep end, here's hoping there's someone nearby to help.

About Airport Security

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

While I was standing in long, winding, slow-moving security lines in San Franscico to get to Columbus, Ohio, I observed.  (That reporter thing kicks in at the strangest times.)  People were basically stripping down to nothing walking through a metal dector without even showing a ticket and mindlessly picking up their 14 bags (since no one checks anything anymore) and moving on.  The families with small children had it the worst.  The mother would have to strip down, strip down her children and stand there trying to keep them quiet and orderly until the appointed time when they could walk through the detector one by one.  The passenger-screening security system in the U.S. is not broken.  It works to slow everyone down, make sure no one has gun powder on their clothes and no bombs/guns/knives in their bags.

The attempted jet bombing upon landing in Detroit was on a flight that originated in Nigeria with a stop in Amsterdam.  The suspect did not get on a flight in the U.S. and try to bomb it.  He knew that wasn't possible.  He snuck his bubblegum bomb through Nigerian airport security. 

The security in airports abroad is not even close to being as strict as it is in the U.S.  I know, I've flown in and out of more than 10 countries.  You don't have to remove your shoes or your belt and often there's no rule about transporting liquid.  Why punish U.S. domestic travelers with mandatory pat-downs and ridiculous, time consuming bag inspections when the breech did not happen here? 

Perhaps the government should be looking at their own failings when it comes to monitoring who enters and leaves the United States.  The suspect's own father had alerted the CIA that he was an extremist radical who might turn violent.  The man was on the TERRORISM WATCH LIST but no red flags came up when he bought his ticket. 

What kind of reasoning does our country operate under?  This is even more upsetting to me since my husband (an educated, fully-employed, tax-paying British citizen) who has an expunged 15-year-old misdemeanor on his record from South Africa is not allowed to enter the U.S. for a day to visit his family but a KNOWN terrorist can easily come right in. 

Have *you* noticed changes in security since Christmas Day?   Maybe you feel like travelers should stop grumbling and do whatever it takes to stay safe.  Please post a comment.

The Dinner Party

Monday, 28 December 2009

This year I stayed happy through the holidays by planning a small dinner party for a few friends from work.  I blogged about the party planning so if you've been reading, you know the menu and the dilemna over the chairs.  Most of my readers suggested I borrow the chairs and Kingsley told me to just leave a note so I did and everyone had a place on which to place their bum.  Here's a look at my executive-size desk that doubled as a dining table:  

I used soy, no-smoke, no-drip candles in crystal holders, beautiful new linens made by Kingsley's sister, new flatware (a gift from CC's mother for our wedding) and little gift bags with Ferrero Rocher chocolates for guests.  My favorite part of hosting a dinner is setting the table and arranging the flowers.

The arrangements included reddish-orange roses, berries and pine cones.

Friends started arriving around 7 p.m. and Annie snapped this shot of me putting the rolls in.  Thankfully I was able to make the Cornish hens, couscous with pomegranate and pine nuts, salad and rolls come out hot at the same time.  We sat down to dinner after 8 p.m.

I wish I would've taken more pictures!   My main focus was having fun and cooking so I didn't get many shots.  Here's Molly, Jamie and Annie.

Appetizers were whole green olives, Kalamata olives in olive oil, peeled shrimp with zesty cocktail sauce and Brie.  (We also went through three bottles of Champagne!)

Molly brought the "Mutts Nutts" wine.  Hilarious - but also quite tasty.  If you'd like to bring this to a holiday party and make the other guests laugh, head to Trader Joe's.  (There's Mark Addison in the background!)

Cornish hen and couscous -- I wish I would've turned up the heat to 400F for the last 10 minutes of cooking to brown the poultry but it was moist and very tender.  (Cooked them in oven bags with onion, garlic, olive oil, Kosher salt, ground pepper - should've used cracked pepper - and Rosemary.)

We also had a tasty green salad.  Red lettuce, red onion, Roma tomatoes and pecans.   Balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side.

More flowers... wanted to do something that resembled Christmas so I went with the winter pine cones.  They are abundant in Oregon.

Violet was a perfect little lady.  She hid under the bed most of the night but came out to let Annie and Molly hold her for a moment.  She was soft and smelling lovely because of her bath the night before.  She hated it and held very still until I let up on my grip and tried to jump out of the sink.  Lol.

Dale Chihuly at Franklin Park Conservatory

Sunday, 27 December 2009
I am a huge fan of Dale Chihuly.  My first glimpse of his work was in the Cincinnati Art Museum's lobby in 2003.  The museum hosts a huge dark blue chandelier by Chihuly.  Then in 2007, while visiting my friend Melody in Miami Beach, we went to the botanical gardens to see his work.  

While I was in Columbus for an early Christmas, my mom invited me to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus to see his installment.  It was amazing and we had such a nice time together.

His chandeliers are certainly impressive.  The one above is "Orange Hornet wtih Eelgrass."  In literature by the Franklin Park Conservatory the writer explains the works as "simple blown glass parts together to produce suspended sculptures."

The towers are similar to his chandeliers except standing in different environments.  The one above is the "Sunset Tower."

"Pale Confetti Chandelier"

The "Macchia" is a favorite form of Chihuly's.  He uses 300 pigments for glass to make interesting color combinations.  "Chihuly created Macchia, the Italian word for 'spotted.' Different colors are used in the interior, exterior and lip of each piece."

My favorite work, the "Show House" is inspired by Chihuly's time in Venice.  "While working on his Chihuly Over Venice project in 1995, Chihuly and his team worked in Finland along a river, creating temporary installations.  When a partially submerged rowboat was found, Chihuly filled it to overflowing with glass pieces.  He has revisited this idea in several worldwide exhibitions."

"Neodymium Reeds"

His other impressive works include installations called "Reeds."  There were three groupings in the conservatory with this style of glass art.  "Chihuly often uses organic terms to name his forms.  To make the long and vibrant forms, one glassblower, positioned in a mechanical lift, is raised off the ground while holding the 'gather' of glass on a blowpipe.  As he blows the glass, the lift is sent upwards and another glassblower pulls the glass down from below."

We also sat in on a glass blowing workshop which was fascinating.  I have pictures and videos that I'll share this week.  Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

P.S. My dinner party was intimate, beautiful and the food turned out to be tasty.  I'll post pictures of that soon as well!

Merry Merry Christmas Baby

Friday, 25 December 2009

I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say this Christmas is a bit sad. My family is in Ohio, Missouri and South Africa and I'm in Oregon. My sweet husband is in London celebrating with a roommate (because as of now he's not allowed into the US see Saga part 1) and my day consists of working at KVAL and chilling out with Violet.

Even though it's a bit of a blue Christmas, I love the season of joy and goodwill. I'm thankful for professional opportunities this year, my beautiful wedding celebrated with friends and family and my decision to adopt a companion animal. Do you have a pet? Please consider adopting!

Merry Christmas to my blog friends. Thank you for a great year.

The video is cheesy but I do love some jazzy Elvis on Christmas. Enjoy.

Dinner Party Planning 2

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

I need something for people to put their bums on. 

A quick search of the internet shows folding chairs are going for $19.99 each at KMART.  That, my friends, is not bad but also not too good if you need six of them and really have no place to store them after your fabulous holiday dinner party.

So, I am considering doing something a bit shady.  What think you of this plan:  borrow small, light-weight chairs from KVAL's Studio B around midnight on Friday, December 25th and return them by Monday, December 28th.  Who would miss them??  True, they don't match the gorgeous linens (table cloth and napkins) made for me by Kinglsey's sister as a wedding gift but still - I'd rather spend my money wining and dining my guests.

My news director is off work this week and our general manager is not here tomorrow or Christmas so I don't have anyone to ask about the chairs.  Am I going out on a limb here to imagine no one would mind?  Will a production staff member notice them missing from the back, dark corner of our extra studio and call the Eugene Police Department to begin a theft investigation?  These are the trials of party planning.

The other problem in the mix this year - when should I do the grocery shopping? 

Should I:  a.) Drive to the grocery store wearing elbow and knee pads and fight the other shoppers tomorrow on Christmas Eve so that the shopping is finished before the day of the party?  Or b.) Brave the crowds on the day after Christmas on which I might find deals and the grocery shoppers will probably be stuffed with holiday goodies already and not need to rush out for last-minute items?  Speaking of grocery shopping, I need to make my list and check it twice.

Dinner Party Planning 1

Monday, 21 December 2009

Please, if you will, go along on my dinner party planning adventure.  I have 5 days to prepare to host a holiday dinner for 8.  The invites went out two weeks ago.  I am thrilled to have something to look forward to this week as my family is in Ohio, I have to work on Christmas and the love of my life is in London.

Today, I woke up early (8am is very early for me - darn jet lag) and went out to look for a few items to spruce up the place.  I found two new wool rugs for the entry way of my apartment and kitchen.  I purchased cloth napkins, candle holders and two vases since I want to have real flowers for the table and buffet.

I also unpacked 8 settings of silverware and my pretty serving dishes and utensils.  They are washed and placed nicely on the buffet.  My menu is close to being planned and will include:

Kalamata and Servillano olives
Peel-and-eat chilled shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce

Main course:
Green salad with pine nuts, red onion, cherry tomatoes, balsamic viniagrette
Cornish Game Hens
Couscous with pomegranate and almonds
Sweet potato bake with brown sugar and pecans
Soft bread

Third course:
Poached pears with chocolate sauce
Vanilla bean ice cream

Still to do:
Buy plates
Purchase extra wine glasses
Grocery shopping
Flower shopping
Re-arrange furniture for extra dining space
Set the table
Prep food

How are your entertaining plans coming along?

Snowing in Columbus

Saturday, 19 December 2009
Growing up in Saint Joseph, Missouri we experienced snow every winter in sometimes large quanities.  When my family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in the early 90s, we didn't see many flakes but occasionally we'd get a Winter Wallop (approx. 3'') that would shut down the city for days.  As a middle school student, those were the times to celebratae!  My friends Tiffany and Brad and I would make snow cream which is like ice cream made from snow. 

Our recipe was SIMPLE.  Snow, milk, vanilla and sugar.  Not much milk, keep in mind.  It was tasty but not very thick.  A quick Google search shows some Snow Cream chefs take this dessert pretty seriously.  If you want to go all out, try this recipe from Suite101.

Snow Cream (not a great idea nowadays with acid rain and all but ...):

1 cup sugar
1 TBS flour
2 eggs
1 can condensed milk
1 pint plain milk
1 TBS vanilla
food coloring
snow (a big bowl)

Mix all of the above together except for the food coloring and snow. Keep cold until the snow is gathered.  Send kids out to get snow - about the size of a basketball.  Stir snow in with Snow Cream base.

It is snowing this morning in Columbus, Ohio and the winter wonderland look is enchanting.  There's something about the purity of a white covering that stills the heart and produces a lovely calm.  I'm trekking to Eugene, Oregon tomorrow to get back to my job but I've had such a restful, fun time with my family this week and I'll be sad to leave. 

Is it snowing where you live?

Dannen The Graduate

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

There's Dannen's name - he's legit.  This is a close-up on the Ohio State University winter graduation program.  He received a B.S. from the Max Fisher business college in Finance.  We're proud.  Mom even spend 30 minutes ironing Dannen's graduation robe 'cause that's how we roll.

I walked down to the floor to get a shot of him in his seat. Dannen is center screen, a bit to the right.  That is his "I'm tolerating you for a few more moments smile."

The proud graduate with the family.  Even my grandmother was in town to celebrate the achievement.

I asked that we take this cheesy photo - Dannen and I with our bachelor's degree.

The Common Good

Monday, 14 December 2009

Graduations can be inspirational.  Guests are surrounded by hopeful, young men and women who've achieved graduate status.  They are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, waiting to leave the constraints of the classroom and put their knowledge to the test.  As the doctorate students walked the stage at my brother's undergraduate graduation at The Ohio State University last night, I vowed to someday earn my PhD and I also learned a little something. 

Kevin Boyle, PhD, was the speaker.  He is a humanitarian, enviornmentalist, author and a specialist in race, class and gender relations.  He was funny and as speakers usually do, had strong opinions.  I didn't agree with everything but the take-away for me was his iternation of our "goals" passed on from our founding fathers:  life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Boyle suggests that as we pursue the three rights, we are to do so for "the common good."  He asked the graduates to use their skills and education to do something for "the common good."  I paused and considered what I'm doing to help others.

I like to think as a journalist, working even beyond the denial of law enforcement to gain access to court rooms and public records (as provided by law) at least helps to uphold state statues and provide information.  My blog is also a tiny voice through which I can sometimes advocate moderation, tolerance, diplomacy and peaceful debate.  But really, what's so tough about that?  What I'd like to do, is take up a cause (poverty, homeless animals, children who lack education, legal immigration) and DO something.  Nothing huge but at least something. 

It's not enough to put out canned food for Food for Lane County or donate unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots this year.  Maybe we should challenge ourselves to use our resources and do something regularly for the common good as we pursue our happiness.   Not sure what form that will take but please share your "for the common good" stories.  Come on - brag on yourself!  I have at least one friend who cures Cancer for a living but we don't have to try to beat that.  ;)

A Quiet Protest

Saturday, 12 December 2009

If you're a regular reader of my blog or my retired blog www.blondacrossthepond.com then you know one of my favorite topics to blog about and therefore complain about is air travel.  There's no other service or product that we pay so much money for and get such a horrid return on.  And really what's up with the lack of customer service?  My troubles go something like this:

My friend checks my flight for me at work last night and finds out it is delayed 50 minutes because of a crew change.  He determines the delay will cause me to miss my connection in San Fran and put me into Columbus at 9:26 p.m.  Plenty of time to miss the "Christmas" dinner my mother and grandmother are lovingly preparing because I have to work on Christmas.   Nooooo!

Note:  I didn't get an update from the airline.  We were being proactive in the situation.

My friend calls reservations and tries for 25 minutes to get me on the United flight through Denver so I won't miss Christmas.  NO - because the only seats they have left on that flight are first class.  So?  The agent suggests I go out to the airport to talk with a United agent and see what they can do.

After work, driving 30 mph on icy roads, I make my tender way to the Eugene Airport. After I slide into the median trying to get into short-term parking, I'm really feeling sorry for myself.  At the United ticket desk, there are no agents and the lights are off.  I pick up the courtesy phone and after hearing my story and checking my reservation the man actually tells me to go to the airport to speak with an agent.

"Sir, I am at the airport.  There are no agents here."
"Oh, that's because the ticket desk is closed."
"But didn't you just tell me to go to the airport?"
"Yes, but you need to go during opening hours, at 8am."
"My flight leaves at 6am."
"Let me see what I can do."

He comes back on the line 12 minutes later and says, "I can get you on the 6am San Fran flight which will get you to Columbus by 5:34 p.m.!"
"I'm in Oregon, not California."
"There's nothing I can do."
"But this isn't a weather delay, this is a crew change and not my fault!"  I try not to raise my voice and hang up.

After sleeping for an hour and a half, I get to the airport (again) around 5am.  I go through security because the line at the ticket desk is out the door and approach a United desk.  I'm not even close to the agent, just hanging back smiling (hopeful I might be able to get to my destination at the time my reservations say I will) when he yells without looking up, "I'M NOT TAKING ANY QUESTIONS FOR ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES!!  EVERYONE NEEDS TO SIT DOWN!"  Holy Hanna.  This man was not to be messed with.  After five minutes, I quietly asked from a safe distance, "Excuse me, is there any room on the Denver flight?"  Again, not even looking up, "NO, NO ROOM!"

Absolutely heartbroken, I shrug over to a seat.  I will miss Christmas dinner and even though I paid $500 for a flight and more to check a bag, United does not care and has no accountability.  When I made it to San Fran, I waited in line to see if I could get a window seat.  Again, the United agent wouldn't acknowledge me at the desk.  Why?!  He called up 8 stand-by passengers and when I finally asked for a window seat he said NOPE without checking the computer.  The REALLY bad part of this?  When I got on the plane, there was no room left for my carry on so the agent checked it through.  I'm in Chicago with a magazine, my laptop, wallet, make-up bag, phone, laptop cord all just piled around me - with no bag.

I'm really thinking about permanently altering my mode of travel.  Maybe trains, cars and ships are the way to go when possible.  How else can we quietly protest the practices of the airline industry?  Had I wanted to get into Columbus late on Saturday night, I would've purchased the much cheaper ticket.  But because United needed to do a crew change without planning ahead, I miss Christmas dinner with my family and get no compensation for my time, trouble or money.  I can't even get a window seat or carry on a bag when I've already paid to check another one!  Who conducts business like that and expects to succeed?

So what's fair?  Air travelers should be able to reserve a reservation with a credit card and then pay once they arrive at their destination.  If there are problems because of the airline, travelers should pay accordingly.

Are you flying for the holidays?

Get Started

Friday, 11 December 2009
Thanks to @ThomastheBrave on Twitter for this quote to start off the weekend:

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."
-Mark Twain

(I'm going to use this thought as motivation when working on my book proposal.)

Dear Tiger,

Thursday, 10 December 2009
I don't understand the pressures of being a professional athlete and I certainly don't know what it's like to be a millionaire.  However, I do know what it is like to love someone, say wedding vows and be apart from my partner.

Why did you think you could get away with having no respect for your wife and living the life of a severe womanizer?  Because of your money?  Because of your popularity?  Because of your talent?  Thank God your chauvinistic behavior is now out in the open and people see you for what you really are:  dishonest and promiscuous.

I was a fan of yours.  To me, you were sophisticated, classy and a good father.  I also thought your wife was quite lucky to be with a man like you.  Now, I'm disgusted.  You didn't just fall prey to temptation and have an affair, you constantly sought women out (dozens? hundreds?) while you were married for only one purpose: sex.  Do you even regard women as anything other than a sex tool?

Elin must be so sad.  Your children will have to read about and cope with your actions when they are older.

Hopefully you can get some help for yourself.  You seem to have a sex addiction and your golf score (or bicep size) can't help you with that. 



Behind the scenes:  Man calls the newsroom tonight and wants to talk to the news director.  I said "Sorry, sir, she is not available may I take a message?"  He says, "Yes.  You need to tell the girls on the news to get their hair outta their faces!  They just stand there and flick their hair and those girls...they need to get the hair outta their faces 'cause we can't see how pretty they are!"  I said, "I'll pass along your comment, sir but these are professional women, not girls and I can assure you they aren't on TV just to look pretty. Have a nice night."

Christmas on Cash

Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Don't fall prey to Consumerism this Christmas.  Even though we should do our part to help the economy, if you are paying for gifts with credit cards that you'll later "pay back," STOP! 
I've said it before.  My spending on credit adventure began during my first week of college.  A Master Card representative politely asked me to sign up and even gave me a free gift outside the bookstore.  Now, in my 30s,  I'm working hard to be debt-free from actions in my 20s.

Here's how I control my spending:

1.  I stay out of the mall.   If I need something specific, I go in, buy the one thing and leave.
2.  Remember that as long as I have credit card debt, I do not have extra money to burn.
3.  Feel excited about paying off my last credit card.  Imagine sending in the last payment.
4.  Try not to look at certain magazines that show all designer duds so I don't long for the items.
5.  Think about what it will feel like to start the savings account for my vacation home.
6.  Educate myself on what drives Consumerism and learn how to be happy with less.

I'm not able to give flashy, spendy gifts to friends and family this year but because I know how to budget, everything I do purchase is with money I already have.  That feels good.

A Day's Work

For the first time in my eight years as a journalist, I've filed a public records request appeal to the District Attorney of the county I live in (Lane County).  Now, I feel like a seasoned reporter.  In my opinion, this is working towards the greater good of the community in which I reside.  Why?  The more information I can get released to Eugene citizens, the better.

So what went down?  Here's the background:  On September 22, 2009 a Eugene apartment manager made a 9-1-1 call to say someone was trespassing.  Eugene Police sent two officers to the location.  The officers enter the apartment pointed out by the manager and see a "suspect."  They take him into custody without a problem but they hear someone upstairs.

One of the officers, Judd Warden goes upstairs and sees another "suspect."  In the police report, he says the person was coming at him and he yelled for him to get back.  He then somehow fell down and fired his Taser.  The other officer said in the police report that the "suspect" was sitting on a bed when Officer Warden fired his taser.  What really happened?  We don't know because we were denied access to the video from the Taser camera which is public record.

Turns out the person who was shocked by the officer was a Chinese exchange student who didn't understand English and had just arrived in the country to attend the University of Oregon.  The apartment manager erroneously called police and the officer fired a taser at a student who wasn't breaking the law or committing a crime.  Now the student has reportedly told his attorney that he doesn't want the video released.

We found out about the incident through a rumor in October.  Then we confirmed it with police but they wouldn't even release the written police report - which is also public record.  Two newspapers in Eugene, the Register Guard and Eugene Weekly appealed the public records denial to the Lane County District Attorney and won.

Now, I'm trying to do the same thing to get a copy of the video from the officer's Taser camera.  Why?  There is public concern surrounding this incident and the video is public record.  If Eugene citizens have questions about the officer's actions, why shouldn't they SEE what happened?

Here's my report:

The other factor in play here is this isn't the only controversial Taser incident involving Officer Judd Warden.  He shocked a University of Oregon student twice with a Taser last year during a pesticide protest in Downtown Eugene.  The student Ian Van Ornum was later found guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Bowl 'Em Over

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

We had a blast Saturday night celebrating Natasha's 30th.  We went to Ring of Fire (strange name, hey?) in Eugene for dinner and I ordered Pad Thai with tempeh.  Delicious!

Then, it was on to Southtowne Lanes on Willamette.  It was so fun donning the ugly bowling shoes, picking out neon-colored balls and letting them fly down the lanes.

 I really need to practice before going out next time.  My first game was 75.  My second game I rolled a 76.  Pathetic but I still managed to bowl a few strikes and spares.  It was just the awful gutter balls that got me.

But check this out -- I thought I'd be clever and take a video of Natasha bowling and she knows how to perform under pressure.  Watch this:

A Weather Question

Monday, 7 December 2009
Me:  KVAL Newsroom this is Denae, may I help you?
Caller:  Yes, I have a weather question.
Me:  Maybe I can help you.  What's your question?
Caller:  I don't believe in any of that global warming stuff.
Me:  Okay.
Caller:  I believe in global changing.
Me:  Right.
Caller:  So, is there any way of knowing what the warmest year on earth was?  I don't mean what some of these organizations are saying these days. 
Me:  Let me do a quick Google search to see what comes up. 
Caller:  Some of those people say it was 1998 but I think it was 1934.  I was alive then and the summer was really hot.
Me:  The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's website (NOAA) ranks 2008 and 2001 as the 8th warmest years on record.
Caller:  Well, probably because the summers are longer.
Me: .....?.........
Caller:  But what's the warmest year?
Me:  NASA's website says 2005 was the warmest year followed by 1998.
Caller:  I think it was 1934.
Me:  Well, let's see... Skeptical Science's website says 1934 was the warmest year on record.  (The site also claims to have found a "glitch" in NASA's records.)
Caller:  Yeah?!  What was that site again?
Me:  Skeptical Science
Caller:  Oh, that's great!!  All right then!!!  Thanks so much for your help -- and GOOD WORK!! 
Me:  (Stunned silence)

People will only believe what is comfortable to them.  To some, it is much easier to believe that people's actions are not hurting the planet because then they don't have to make a change.   Why trust rocket scientists who work for NASA and are some of the most educated people on the planet when it comes to climate change?  And really, is there even a debate anymore whether or not Global Warming is real?  Yes, apparently there is.

Disclaimer:  The image below is a JOKE not a scientific argument.

Calling All Gearheads

Friday, 4 December 2009
It seemed like a good idea:  stop and get an adult beverage to celebrate a hard but successful day at work.  I pulled into the Circle K and went in for wine.  I paid, smiling to the cashier, being extra chatty to show how friendly I am (even to strangers).  The joy was short-lived, however.

My 2004 Jeep Liberty would not start.  I got in my car and accidentally unlocked, locked, unlocked and locked my car using my key fob (which is connected to the security system).  My key would turn but nothing happened.  The lights wouldn't come on but the radio worked.  I was wondering if it had something to do with the alarm system.  So, I tried locking, unlocking again, using my key...nothing.


I was about three blocks from home so in below-freezing temperatures in the dark, I hoofed it.  10 minutes later, pacing in my apartment, I found my car insurance policy number and phoned Geico.  No worries.  They'd send the "Pop-a-Lock" guy to give me a jump start.

Just in case the lovely vagrant men in the neighborhood wanted to mess with me, I pulled a steak knife from my kitchen drawer for the walk back.  Shaking my head and muttering about my bad luck, who would approach me anyway?

Back at my car, I opened the door, jumped in and tried to start it again.  No dice.  Did I mention it was cold?  A nice gentleman arrived with "Pop-a-Lock" and started charging my battery which appeared to be corroded.  The lights came on, the electric locks started working again but the engine would not turn over.  He suggested I need a new starter.

I called my road-side assistance program back and ordered a tow truck.  Then the waiting game began (in the cold again).  Luckily, for entertainment (they had an act cheering "Go Ducks!") there were two homeless men in the parking lot begging young college kids for money.  The two worked it together and ended up getting enough change to buy booze (I watched the whole thing go down while holding the steak knife in case they bugged ME).

Finally, around 2 a.m. the tow truck driver arrived to take my car to the shop.  Whew.

Now safely home, it is time for me to have a glass of wine and relax.  And in the time it took me to post my sob story my toes have started to get some feeling back.  I just needed to vent...and Violet is too busy running around my apartment in circles to listen.

The Civil War Game at Autzen Stadium

Thursday, 3 December 2009
It was cold and at times CRAZY but the KVAL News crew had a fun time covering the beginning of the University of Oregon and Oregon State game.  Final score was 37-33 and the Ducks are going to the Rose Bowl to play The Ohio State Buckeyes. 

Here's my live report from KVAL News at 6 p.m.:

O Christmas Tree

I didn't put up a Christmas tree last year or do any decorations because I was sad and missing my sweetie.  But this year, no more BAH HUMBUG!  Violet will get a present so we needed a tree.  I bought this little 3 1/2 feet tall artificial beauty for just $15.

I added the gold and red ornaments and if you can't tell... the tree is designer (hee hee).  It is black.  Yep.  When I told my mother I purchased a pre-lit black Christmas tree this is what she said:  "....    ..... Uhhh ....   ???   A black tree...?"  Strange, yes.  But I think it turned out to be kinda cute.

I even added little gold musical instruments since Kingsley is learning to play the bass guitar and I'm supposed to be learning to play the piano (must practice!).

Violet helped me decorate by chewing on the string of one of the red icicle ornaments on the floor.  She isn't quite sure what to think about our tree.  I told her I bought it to match her chic black coat.  At least she hasn't tried to climb it.  Yet...

Stop Moving

Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Violet is laying next to me on the bed trying to sleep.  Every time I sneeze or move to plug in my lap top she opens her left eye and glares at me.  She seems to be asking "Really?  Can't you see that I'm resting here?"

I guess I need to stop moving and start reading my newest books from the library.  My reserved copies of Crazy Love, a memoir by Leslie Morgan Steiner and Dear Husband, stories by Joyce Carol Oates came in.  

About the cat...case in point:  I just moved to get the second book off my bedside table to check the author's name and Violet glared at me again through one eye.

Silly kitty!

Fighting Extremism

President Barack Obama spoke during prime time tonight to discuss strategy in Afghanistan.  He says he is committed to battling violent extremism among the Taliban and helping Pakistan deal with the same problem. 

Extremism defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is "advocacy of extreme measures or views."  While never a violent extremist, I used to have extreme religious views.

My late grandfather (I miss him dearly) was a respected and loved Presbyterian pastor.  He helped people who were hungry and poor and even started a non-profit organization in Monet, Missouri where immigrants could buy affordable second-hand wares to start a home.  He was not overbearing in his views but he certainly believed the Bible was infallible.  That's what conservative Christians believe.  The Bible is the Word and the Word is God.

Raised as a conservative Christian (my parents aren't entirely conservative but were active in the church), I believed what my Sunday School teachers and preachers taught me at the First Baptist Church of Powell.  Science was secondary to the Bible.  Women were never to be leaders in the church.  Even if you are in debt, you give 10% of your salary to the church.  The world was created by God speaking it into existence and anyone who was pro-choice or homosexual were "sinners."

Those views spilled over into politics.  In my experience, conservative Christians vote strictly under religious guidance.  Also in my experience, conservative Christians feel safe believing what they were raised believing and do not deter much from what is comfortable.  At the age of 18, I began voting for the candidate who did not support abortion.  Why?  Because I didn't understand that taking away the choice to have an abortion was hurting young women who may not have the money or the support to have a child at the age of 14.   With my narrow-minded religious view, I wouldn't even consider anything beyond a stance for "life!"   I didn't understand that people who were not Christians should be valued just as much as those who are Jews. Was I extreme in my opinion?  Yes.  Debate was not an option.  I only knew what I believed which was what those who taught me believed.

Disclaimer:  Not all churches are this way, obvioulsy.  I remember Dr. Jimmy Albright (PhD) as our pastor in St. Joseph, Missouri.  He was down-to-earth and traveled The Holy Land almost every year and preached with some perspective of world view.  

What is the point of this lengthy rant?

There is still extremism at home.  We are not just in danger from the Taliban which is make up of Sunni Islamist radicals who have implemented a strict interpretation of Sharia Law (God's Law).  Sharia dictates how some Muslims must dress, eat, worship, be intimate, conduct business...etc.  What does the strict, conservative Christian church teach?  The same type of restrictions and lists of rules.  If you follow the "rules" are you closer to God?  Many extremists believe so.

I once helped lead an all-women bible study at my Southern Baptist liberal arts college, Carson-Newman College.  The two young women (20 years old) in charge told us if we wanted to be a part of it, we could not wear tank tops with straps that were less than two inches in width.  That type of clothing was "sexually provocative."  We were teens!  Extreme?  Yes, because it represented something larger than just a dress code.

I'm thankful that I've gained a world perspective and understand moderation.  I'm still learning.  Now I trust Science AND read the Bible.  I'm also thankful that President Obama doesn't believe that only the Christian perspective is right and dump diplomacy with Jews, Muslims and Mormons in the gutter.  He's reaching out to other religions and countries and I feel his actions are making life safer for Americans.  In his speech tonight he said so obviously:  "We cannot rely on military force alone."

Writing Retreat

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I've only been to Florence and Coos Bay so far on the Oregon Coast.  By comparison, I do love Newport.  It may have been the glorious weather (55F and sunny) but I fell in love with the neat, clean, eclectic Nye Beach shopping area and the Elizabeth Street Inn is cozy and luxurious.

Check out the view from my balcony.  It was beautiful.  I watched the sun set over the sea and listened to the waves crash all night by leaving the door cracked slightly.

Here's what I accomplished on my writing retreat:

1.  I DID get in 3 hours of writing as I'd hoped.
2.  I joined Writers Market.com and read about how to create an excellent book proposal for hours.
3.  My query letter took on a new feel and became more structured.
4.  The beginning of Chapter 1 just didn't fit with the rest of the book so I threw it out.
5.  I trusted my gut with my outline and re-wrote it in a simple form.  It can change as needed.
6.  I set a goal is to write every Tues. and Thursday for 30 minutes after work.

The views were beautiful and I even learned how to build a fire (flip the switch).  The Elizabeth Street Inn offers smoked salmon chowder to all guests for free at 5pm and a full, hot breakfast in the morning.  Writers will not go hungry there.  If you go to Newport, certainly visit Cafe Mundo and Nana's Irish Pub.  Plus, The Dapper Frog (retail shop) is adorable and features items from local artisans.