TSA Checks

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Pat downs or body scans? Doesn't seem like travelers have that many choices while using our airlines to get from A to B. I've read some shocking stories from people with medical stories that say they were treated like any other Jane or Joe without medical problems during the body searches.

One man had to hold his hands over his head while an agent searched him in a private room (the agents gave him trouble for asking for privacy). Even though he warned of his urine bag, that didn't matter and the agent spilled it on the man. A woman with a prosthetic breast had to show it to another agent to prove what it was. The process needs to change. Security is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

Here's CNN's coverage of a 31 year old man who said to a TSA agent during a pat down, "If you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested."

When faced with the choice of going through a full body scanner or getting a pat down by a same-gender TSA agent, I will chose the body scanner. No way do I want a stranger intimately touching me, or touching me at all for that matter. I would rather suffer the supposed health risks of the body scanners (they are very low). Children are even subject to pat downs as listed on the TSA's website.

Where does the madness end? I was already annoyed at the sometimes senseless security measures at airports in the US (the only country that forces passengers to remove shoes during screening) before the new TSA measures came out.

Efficiency has not been mastered in United States airport security. If the system was invasive yet efficient, I'm willing to bet travelers wouldn't be so upset. This is just another rung on the ladder to miserable travel in our country. I feel sorry for the airlines.

What about you? Pat down or body scanner?


Saturday, 27 November 2010

This year on Thanksgiving, I paused to remember what I'm thankful for.
In no particular order --

My husband for his unfailing commitment to our relationship and our fight to be together.

A family that is loving, supportive and willing to share knowledge, hopes and dreams. Our network of relatives now reaches all the way around the world (US, UK and SA!).

Books, lots of non-fiction books that teach me what I want to learn.

My house. The ability to get dirty and accomplish something with my own two hands.

Violet. A cat with the sweetest disposition which loves me without fail.

An interesting job that keeps me challenged and offers opportunities for growth.

Friends that check in, know when you need a hug, and make me laugh.

What are you thankful for?

The Fence is Up

Sunday, 21 November 2010

I snapped this shot from up on the deck so yes, you can still see the neighbor's business but there's certainly a large amount of privacy now compared to before. Our properties are very close together and I spend a lot of time outdoors. The polls seem to be holding up thus far and with help from my friend Whitney, we were even able to make sure the cedar pre-constructed panels were level. (See the before pics here.)

I had to trade "up" drills 3 times during the project (thank you, Home Depot, for your amazing return policy and helpful staff). The Dewalt 3/8in Pistol Grip 7 amp drill did the trick nicely. It is hard to explain how fabulous it is to be able to zip a deck screw (star head) through a 2 x 4 and into a post without it grinding to a halt.

Because my budget for upgrades around the home is not endless, I schemed a way to save major money on the six panels, posts and labor. First, of course, I did all of the work myself (besides the hanging and drilling with Whitney and the panel arranging with Hillary). I also purchased the panels on Craigslist for $20 each ($38 at the hardware store) since they are odd pieces. I used the panels in an "every other" pattern but made sure they were all the same height at the top. For the "shorter" pieces, I want to plant boxwood bushes (Kingsley's clever idea) at the base or arrange landscaping stones.

Thanks again to Whitney who is in her early 20s, tiny, but STRONG. She was lifting the panels easily and never split one while drilling (which I did). 

There is still a bit of work to do on the last panel. It looks crooked to me and I need to secure the final post (it is wobbly now) but what you see in the first picture is the final product for that section. Exciting!

Unwind, Be Kind

I was stressed out yesterday at work. My story assignment changed when we were almost to the first story and I was kind of tired. We drove around rural East Tennessee trying to get interviews about and video of a dog that was shot 3 times and starved. A woman found the dog and took it to the vet and it is expected to live.

When we finally made it to the vet's office to do the interview, we had to wait in the lobby for 15 minutes. While waiting, 2 young children started hovering around me and asking 100 questions about being "on TV." They were loud, they would scream, jump up and down and run around and no one seemed to be watching them.

Internal dialog: I really wish we could just get video of the dog while the vet is busy so we can get out of here sooner. Why are these kids acting like crazy fools? If she steps on my boots one more time... No, I don't want your post-it note pen/highlighter picture. I can't even tell what that's a drawing of... Sunshine? That's original.

To the kids' faces, I smiled, answered questions but acted aloof.

Later, after the interview, I noticed the children (there was later a third one in the mix) were hanging all over one of the people who worked there. She was trying to give them hugs and reassure them while working, interacting with pet owners and dealing with a TV news crew.

While I waited for my photographer to get an extra shot of the dog going back into his crate, I sat back down in the lobby. My mood was lighter because the weight of getting the vet to interview had been lifted. The little girls scurried back over to me.

I said, "Is that your mom?" The little one said, "No, that's our Mamaw." "My mom is... well... I don't want to... tell you about my mom. She is not here and that's why my Mamaw watches us. My mom (this part she said whispering) is not a very nice person."

I took the time to look at the kids. They were healthy and dressed nicely but they weren't smiling. They had a hollow look in their eyes and needed attention. My heart sank thinking about the time I could have spent being nice to them (just a few minutes!) and giving them something positive to concentrate on.  I am ashamed of how I acted.

It was a good reminder to spend extra time using love and kindness to communicate - even with strangers. You never know what someone else is going through and how an unselfish gesture or extra effort to give a genuine smile can go a long way.

Vegetarian Chili and Corn Bread

Sunday, 14 November 2010

1 (12 oz) can northern beans (white beans)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes with oregano and garlic
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 T vegetable oil
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil
1/2 t celery salt
1 t chili powder
2 squeezes of tomato ketchup

T = tablespoon
t = teaspoon

1 box Jiffy (or other) corn bread mix
If the recipe doesn't call for it, add 2 T of vegetable oil to the mix to make sure it is moist.

Put oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onions and garlic and saute for 10 minutes. I usually add a dash of water so I don't burn the garlic which I tend to do.

Add chili powder and celery salt, allow to heat with the onions and garlic

Add can of beans (including liquid).
Add can of tomatoes (including liquid).
Add basil, oregano, ketchup.
Bring to a boil.

Turn to low heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve with cornbread.

The Grapes of Wrath

Saturday, 13 November 2010
I'm going to blog about The Grapes of Wrath before I read the many online reviews. I don't know how I made it through 10 years of school without reading this. My copy was 50 cents at a thrift store and from the first page, I was hooked.

Image from Black Cat Books

The book is by John Steinbeck (his East of Eden is also a favorite). If you have never had the pleasure of reading one of his vintage treats, add it to your Christmas list.

The Grapes of Wrath is set in the 1930s during the migration to California but is eerily similar to current day events. The narrative follows the life of a farmer family from Oklahoma. They have to lease their long-owned land to the bank to afford to eat and eventually the bank comes in and forecloses. The land is worked over by "modern machines" and the Joad family stays until one of the tractors knocks their 100 year old house off its foundation.

Steinbeck is absolutely incredible in his use of descriptive language. As a wanna-be writer, I admire the way he makes a reader feel like she is in the scene he paints with words. I am also impressed how he captures the linguistics of the farmers.

Pa (talking about preparing a pig before they leave for California, Chapter 10): "We gotta figger when to start. Sooner the better. What we gotta do 'fore we go is get them pigs slaughtered an' in salt, an' pack our stuff an' go. Quicker the better, now."

One of the best monologues in the book comes from the Preacher in Chapter 8 (who has lost his religion). The family asks him to say grace over breakfast and after giving the disclaimer that he is no longer a preacher, they bow their heads and he says:

"I been in the hills, thinkin', almost you might say like Jesus went into the wilderness to think His way out of a mess of troubles..." "Seems like Jesus got all messed up with his troubles, and He couldn't figure nothin' out, an' He got to feelin' what the hell good is it all, an' what's the use fightin' an figurin'. Got tired, got good an' tired, an' His spirit all wore out. Jus' about come to the conclusion, the hell with it. An' so He went off into the wilderness..." "I ain't sayin' I'm like Jesus, but I got tired like Him, an' I got mixed up like Him, an' I went into the wilderness like Him, without no campin' stuff. Nighttime I'd lay on my back an' watch the sun come up; midday I'd look out from a hill at the rollin' dry country; evenin' I'd foller the sun down. Sometimes I'd pray like I always done. On'y I couldn' figure what I was prayin' to or for. There was the hills, an' there was me, an' we wasn't so separate no more. We was one thing. An' that one thing was holy..." "An' I got thinkin', on'y it wasn't thinkin', it was deeper down than thinkin'. I got thinkin' how we was holy when we was one thing, an' mankin' was holy when it was one thing. An'  it on'y got unholy when one mis'able little fella got the bit in his teeth an' run off his own way, kickin' an' draggin' an' fightin'. Fella like that bust the holiness. But when they're all workin' together, not one fella for another fella, but one fella kind of harnessed to the whole shebang- that's right, that's holy. An' then I got to thinkin' I don't even know what I mean by holy..." "I can't say no grace like I use' ta say. I'm glad of the holiness of breakfast. I'm glad there's love here. That's all."

The family fights a bitter battle across the country in one old truck. They believe they'll find green land and good jobs in California. When they arrive, they discover the truth -- men are paid as little as possible to pick fruit by big-time farmers and companies. There are more workers than jobs so they can be paid pennies because men will do anything to feed their families. People go hungry, they have no place to live, no jobs and a lack of sanitary conditions. The rich get richer and the poor die. Grandma and Grandpa Joad die on the journey and the 19 year old daughter Rose of Sharon who was happy loses her husband and her unborn child.

Why is this a good read you may wonder? It isn't a feel-good book, obviously, but the story seems bigger than just a novel. The story is the struggle of every family that doesn't have enough. For every couple that attempts to achieve the American dream the right way, Steinbeck's story gives the reality that it isn't always possible. He writes for the little guy. The man who had a farm, was trying to raise a family and lost everything. The man pushes on with hope and he reaches the end, the West coast and still cannot find work to feed his family. The corporations hate him. The powerful people call him an "Oakie" and offer no help when his son literally starves. Law enforcement hate the "Oakies" and arrest them and beat them for made up charges. How sad to get to that point as humans. (Reminds me of the immigration fight in the U.S. now.)

The ending is one I'll never forget. I puzzled over it all day. What does it mean that she "smiled mysteriously?" You'll have to read the book because I don't want to spoil it completely but here's what I think -- Rose of Sharon was unimportant the entire story. She had dreams and plans for herself. When she lost the baby, she was again on the back burner. She is the one needed at the end. She is able to save a life and she is pleased, proud of her power.

For Dinner

In my dream world, this is what I would have for dinner -- 

Image from myrecipes.com

First course: Veuve Clicquot's La Grande Dame Champagne, Russian Sevruga Caviar on rye crackers with creme fraiche.

Second course: King Estate (Oregon, Willamette Valley) Chardonnay '07, Brie with blueberries and walnuts, dash of honey

Third course: Lucia (California) Pinot Noir '08, butternut squash soup, crusty, fresh, French bread with rosemary herb butter

Main course: Christian Moueix Encore (France, Bordeaux region) Merlot '05, (Grass-fed) filet mignon, medium, lobster tail with steamed brussel sprouts and smashed chestnuts

Dessert: Milk chocolate peanut butter fudge, decaffeinated coffee with sugar and cream 

The wine choices are not too creative but I'd love this menu to just appear. What do you fancy?

Privacy Fence update #1

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Here's the first hole I dug and the post, plumb and ready for concrete. The digging was extremely difficult but I think putting in the flagstone patio myself was harder than this project (so far).

I did cut corners while putting in the posts so I don't want you to think I'm completely amazing. I was only able to dig the posts down to 19" each (another 6" would have been ideal) but I used landscaping timbers rather than 4x4 posts. They will not stay up forever but for now, they are perfect.

Middle school science lessons about the earth came back to me while I was digging the 6 post holes. Top soil is easy to get through but it only about 2 inches deep (in Knoxville, Tennessee). Next, you hit sort of a gravely  subsoil which is 4 inches deep, then you're digging red dirt with rocks. Past that, you hit hard, red clay that sticks to the diggers.

It was slow going. I literally dug a couple of scoops with my post hole digger then used a maddock to break up what I could, scooped with a spade and stabbed the soil to break it up and then started the process again. It was tedious work and today my right wrist is killing me.

The picture is blurry, sorry, but you can see the progress. I put up 6 posts (the far one is down a little hill and in a bit on purpose) and the opposite side of the fence-to-be is the neighbor's property. I'm putting up 6 cedar panels and I hope they like how it looks. 

When you hang a privacy fence, keep in mind you are supposed to put the "nice" side out and the posts will be on your side as well.

Next, I prepared the concrete. I used my spade and put 15 scoops into a large bucket, added water and mixed with the spade. Then I dropped it into the holes (around back filling such as broken bricks) and used the level to make sure both the wide and the "in" sides of the posts were level.

(Supposedly you are supposed to mix concrete in a wheel barrow and while I do have one, I preferred to mix in a large bucket using smaller tools. My neighbor across the street came over to watch me working and said, "I've never seen anyone mix concrete in a bucket!" I was brave, smiled and said, "Well, that doesn't matter." He also asked, "Who dug the holes for you??" Grrrr.)

The concrete hasn't quite cured today (dried) so I'm going to wait until Sunday to put up the panels.

Privacy Fence

Tuesday, 9 November 2010
The houses in my neighborhood are very close together and the next door neighbors (on one side) have three large dogs and an above-ground pool. We could both use some privacy.

Lowe's came out and priced a privacy fence at $1,900. Another guy said he could do it for $2,300. That's beyond my budget but I'm not one to give up. 

6ft x 8ft fence panels at Home Depot are $38 but I found seven cedar panels on Craigslist for $20 each. The guy only charged $20 for delivery so I've saved $106 so far on materials.

The big news is:  I'm going to dig the holes and set the posts myself. Then, I'll just have to get someone to help me hold the panels and screw them in. Woo-hoo.

I have a post hole digger, level, spray paint to mark the ground, tape measure, shovel, wheel barrow, cement, water, string and posts. Project Day begins first thing in the morning. Thank goodness the forecast is sunny, 75F. Perfect.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Law of Attraction

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Kingsley suggested The Secret the other night and I rented it on iTunes. (Pretty cool feature... you can rent movies online!) The narrative is presented in a documentary format and the "experts" discuss the Law of Attraction. It basically works like this - you maintain positive thoughts, more positive things will come your way.

The Law of Attraction is based on a premise that humans emit energy while thinking, moving and interacting. Positive energy attracts positive energy (so they say). People who wish to take advantage of the Law of Attraction are to focus on joy, success and gratitude while imagining more of it in our lives.

Have you ever studied The Secret? I kind of remember when it was all the rage because of Oprah a few years ago. She had the author of the book on her show and so did Larry King. Here's a link to some "success stories" on The Secret website.

I am not one for gimmicks or quick fixes but I already believe a positive attitude makes things better through influencing others. Thoughts?

Mani Money

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Picture from Stylist.com These are not my nails!

Do you ever think, ladies, for one moment the reason men are so far ahead of us in this world has to do with their grooming habits?

I spend God knows how much on makeup, facials and hair maintenance each month and I guarantee it is much more than my male colleagues spend. Add fingernails to the equation and let's face it, ladies. We spend an exorbitant amount of hard earned cash trying to uphold some sort of standard set for us by the fashion and beauty industry. Remember, they are trying to make money off of our vanity.

Many women I know get a manicure each week. Many women I know also pay for a pedicure each week. I used to be one of those ladies. I preferred a French (white tip) manicure and pedicure. Years ago, I even had artificial nails.

What's changed? This. Men in my industry and yours too, I'm sure, do not paint their nails or toes and few of them get regular manicures and pedicures. I have stopped painting my nails and I likely will not take up the habit again. I will still get a manicure when I need one but it will be natural. Here's why: nail polish does not stay on. I absolutely hate looking down and seeing chipped polish. It is like nails on a chalk board (no pun intended) for me. I could get my nails painted and manicured every 5 days but I feel the money and time spent on this is a waste. I'd rather be saving $35 a week towards a vacation home or spending that extra hour working in the garden or learning something.

Will I stop wearing makeup and using conditioning treatment on my hair next? No. Will I stop paying a handful of hard cash for designer handbags? Maybe. I do enjoy being glamorous and spending money on my appearance but only when I have it to burn, which is rarely.

Manicure or pedicure anyone?

Most Embarrassing Moment #2

Friday, 5 November 2010
I worked election night with a freelance photographer, Chris. He used to work at WATE and is a great shooter. We don't know each other but he was easy to work with and quick - which is key on election night. Things were going really well until I made us uncomfortable.

It wasn't intentional.

We went to an apartment fire to cover breaking news and it was cold out. My sinuses have been killing me this year and my nose started running. I really needed a tissue. I didn't have one.


I stared digging in my purse for something to wipe my nose with. I wasn't going to use my sleeve (I was wearing a suit) and there were no napkins or Kleenex in the news car. Ugh! What to do?

I noticed I had a sanitary napkin in the side pocket of my purse and the wrapper was a cotton fabric. Perfect! I didn't have time to be picky so I unwrapped the item, wiped my nose with the wrapper and got back to work.

The awkward part came hours later when we were rushing to get our election interview back to the station. We pulled in to the parking lot, jumped out of the car and practically ran to the building. Just as we got to the door, I whipped out my wallet to get my key card which would let us in. Stuck to the side of my wallet was a big, white pad and there was no way of hiding it. Chris kindly looked away and didn't mention it. Oh. My. Goodness.

Sometimes my life is very embarrassing.

Early November's book shelf

Thursday, 4 November 2010
The Street by Ann Petry. I don't read much fiction because I find it a waste of time. I want to learn something while I sit on my rear and read. This is an exception. Petry is an amazing writer. Not only does she accurately capture the 1940's realities of race and sexism in The Street, she surprises the reader with the ending. If you liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett, I predict you'll really enjoy this read. A single mother is doing her best in Harlam, trying to make a life for her 8 year old son. She confronts poverty, domestic violence and examines the meaning of hope through her dreams to be a professional singer. I finished this in 3 days including a 12 hour day of work.

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Here's another vintage read. In school, my teachers never assigned this book so when I saw in on the shelves of one of my favorite thrift stores for 50 cents, I had to grab it. I'm on chapter three, and it was hard to put down last night.

Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore is a memoir written in 1995. The author's brother murders two men and spends the rest of his life petitioning the courts to perform the death penalty for his case. Gilmore writes like he's talking to a friend and the story so far contains the background. Mikal seeks to explain what happened to his brother, Gary, growing up which helped to create a killer.

What are you reading??

Halloween 2010

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

I went as an Urban Chicken Farmer for Halloween this year. As you've probably read on my blog, I'd love to have my own chickens as pets and for fresh eggs. But alas, I've decided late fall isn't the time to start a project that will require lots of outdoor activity. I carried Dora the hen around with me (Kingsley picked her name) and posed for a picture with my friend Melissa who dressed as Mother Nature.

Everyone in our group dressed up and we met at Downtown Brewery in Knoxville where the bar tenders and waitresses were also dressed in '40s attire.

Kem and Ralph brought the peace and love to the group even though Ralph eventually complained of his wig hurting his head. Haa!

Melissa's friend Marion looked adorable in her cat costume. She was a friendly kitty (and resembled Violet).

I had to work the early show the next morning so I didn't stay out too late but enjoyed walking Gay Street at the end of the night to Ace's house. People were dressed up and having fun on a sort-of mild evening before winter sets in.

Clearing the woods

Monday, 1 November 2010
I did it! I reclaimed amazing space in the back of our property. We basically have an entire lot behind our house that was completely grown up with saplings, weeds, vines and fallen trees. Here's a "before" shot. This shows the back yard and then the "woods" behind it. The lot extends almost the size of another yard where the tree line begins.

I started one day with a hand saw and clippers. I cut down two trees and clipped back some branches. Then, I wised up and purchased an awesome tool - the Black & Decker Alligator Lopper.

It has "teeth" and works with a battery which can be charged easily and lasts for approximately an hour of work. I purchased this little wonder at The Home Depot for $35 on sale.

After four weeks of clearing the property all day both days of my weekend (one day, Haley, a friend and WATE intern helped me for two hours and another day I hired a guy to cut up two trees with a chain saw) it is ready to be developed into another "dream" space.

The seasons have changed since I snapped the "before" picture.

We've imagined having a hammock between two large trees and perhaps a large "outbuilding" when we can write, do art projects and such.  I even lined the back of the property line with the cut tree pieces. They are lined up like little fence posts.

I can also see having a large bash including a bonfire (in a pit that I need to create) and a keg of Sam Adam's Oktoberfest. Wanna come over?