A Real Woman?

On Facebook, the following post has been making the rounds:

A real woman always keeps her house clean & organized, the laundry basket is always empty. She’s always well dressed, hair done. She never swears, behaves gracefully in all situations & circumstances. She has more than enough patience to care for her family, always has a smile on her lips, & a kind word for everyone.

Yeah, right.

My house is not as clean nor organized as I would like, the laundry basket(s) are seldom empty, I’m not always well-dressed, and my hair often looks like I flew in on a Harley with no helmet.  I can’t promise that I never swear, am quite sure that I’m awkward in some situations, and run short on patience on occasion.  Sometimes I scowl, and not all of my words are kind.   That grouping is not what I aspire to, but it is what it is.

Yet, I’m quite certain I’m not a man.  I’ve given birth without drugs, and gotten out of bed the next morning to care for an infant and three children ages six and under.  I can pick things from my backyard garden and make supper of it, with all the nutritional value needed for my family.  Three of those four children — all girls, by the way — are in college or graduate school.  All are mastering fields traditionally not thought of as women’s work: math, physics, and materials science engineering.

And they can all cook, to varying degrees.  Alpha can sew, and Beta is learning.  Delta can take apart just about any electronic gadget, re-solder the loose connections, and put it back together in working order.  Gamma is very gifted with young children, especially teaching them to swim.  I bet none have empty laundry baskets, but they manage to wear clean clothes every day.

Yet, any one of us can comfort a child, or an animal in need.  Any one of us can prepare nourishment — for one, or many.

A “real” woman?  That would be one who puts her family first, whether that means excelling in the domestic arts or bringing home the check that pays the mortgage.  I guess the same would be true for a “real” man — one who puts family first, whether that is in the role of provider or caregiver.   Or some combination of both, as is more common today.

Come to think of it, I have some more caregiving duties to attend before the sun rises tomorrow.  Take care, and be real — whatever that is.

Just Imagine

Imagine for a moment being in a town where people have never been exposed to dogs: they know what a dog looks like, because they’ve seen pictures of them, or maybe seen them from a distance when they travel to other places… but they’ve never actually petted a dog, or walked one on a leash, or even spent five minutes observing one.

Now, some kook in the town wants to make it legal to keep pet dogs in the dog-free town.  “They will poop in the yards!” people exclaim.  “They will bark and make awful noise, and they will chase our cats!”  “Some people might even let their dogs in the house – just think of how unsanitary that would be, and how dangerous to the children!”   The townsfolk, having never been exposed to the companionship of dogs, are opposed.

Some bring up the scenario of dogfights, which attract gambling and other unsavory activities.

The dog-loving kook is fully supportive of a standard leash law, and that all dog owners should have to purchase a license from the city every year for every dog.  He supports requiring immunizations against dangerous diseases (like rabies), and the owner’s maintaining proof of such.  Many of the townsfolk mill about in opposition to the kook’s crazy dog plan, but little by little, respectable ordinary people step forward, cautiously expressing a willingness to consider the idea.

“My brother has a dog,” said one, “and he keeps burglars away from the house when my brother is gone.”  Another explains that she’d really like for her aged mother to have a dog for companionship.  Someone else mentions they’ve heard that dogs can actually be trained to assist the blind.  All of these people are in favor of reasonable limitations – no one suggests just letting the dogs run wild, stealing suppers from the table, biting children, and pooping on the town hall steps.

Can this hypothetical town accept change?  Is there any possibility that they can get past the fear of the unfamiliar, to find the benefits of a companion animal who helps guard their home, gives them a reason to go outdoors and walk, and offers unconditional love each day?

*  *  *

Now, turn your imagination 45 degrees, and see that the hypothetical town is our town.  The discussion is not about dogs, but about chickens.  The proposed regulations would be similar:  roosters would not be allowed (thus eliminating the noise component), the number of birds would be limited, confinement to the back or side yard would be required.  Registration and purchase of a license would also be required, just as it is for dogs.

The benefits are slightly different, but comparable.   Can this town ever get past its paranoia to try something new?

Parenting, anyone?

Hunger: stop fighting it:
In Knoxville, the schools are taking pretty serious measures to deal with the growing problem of childhood obesity.  Students are being led through calisthenics in academic classes and offered “healthy choices” in the lunchroom (were there any other choices to begin with?  If so, why?).

The problem, as I see it, is this: the problem didn’t originate at school, and it’s not likely to be fixed at school.  Parents getting off the couch and setting decent dietary and lifestyle examples tends to work much better.

A new take on the “crack tax”:
In Nashville, the Legislature is moving on a law that would impose a $1,000 fine for baggy pants… and of course, some idiot has already written in the comments that ” for something like this, it’s better to impose disciplinary action in schools…” because naturally, if the schools are in charge of making sure your child isn’t obese, they should also be in charge of making sure they’re properly dressed.

And teaching them about the birds and the bees.  And “character education.”  And on, and on, and on.  Who needs to be able to read, write, or calculate anyway?  They say that those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it, but with the current state of affairs, I’m wondering if that’s such a bad thing.

I don’t know that I’d want to live through the black plague or anything, but maybe living through the 1950s wouldn’t be so bad.  Maybe I’ll get to, because I’m young enough to have not lived through it, but old enough that it was not considered history yet  when I was in school.

With all these responsibilities heaped upon the schools, wouldn’t it be better if the schools just took them at birth?  But if we’re going to go that far, shouldn’t the schools be able to decide whose DNA gets contributed?  Seems fair.

*  *  *
Schools are very good at teaching children math, English, science, and to some degree, social studies.  They’re pretty good at providing exposure to music, art, and the basics of lifelong fitness.  In the upper grades, studies can be specialized or expanded. The Children’s ISA you can make a saving account to protect their studies, to make enough to cover University and living costs for three years!

But schools are not your children’s parents.  If you want them to be healthy, teach them healthy eating and exercise habits at home.  If you want them to appear neat and respectable, do not buy them (or allow them to wear) clothes that represent the worst of MTV.  Come to think of it, don’t let them watch MTV — have you seen the garbage on there??

Let the schools do what they were designed to do, but remember, they’re your kids.  Do your part.

Is TV ‘yesterday’?

We still have several TVs in the house, but they’re used less and less.

It’s not that there’s nothing on; Alpha tipped me off to a new series on Fox, Fringe, that’s positively addictive. But, it’s not always on when I’m home, awake, or available to watch.

Sometimes, I catch up on Hulu (which I find easier than tracking down which network something is on), but that requires an active internet connection.  And, it tends to make my laptop run hot.  Often, a better option is to watch stuff on my iPod, so I can watch it wherever I am.  Or, lying in bed awake, so I don’t disturb anyone else.

Just today, I downloaded last night’s presidential debate because, in all candor, I can’t stay awake for a two-hour debate that begins at 9 p.m.  I don’t even really need to watch it; I can grasp the content just by listening… while I drive, shop, cook, do laundry, etc.

Beginning in February, all broadcast TV will be digital.  How much longer before broadcast TV just slips into obsolescence?  Since I maintain internet access via DSL, how much longer will I need cable at all?

Even City Council meetings are posted on the web now.

Transportation puzzles

Why is it that the fastest airline route from Knoxville to Seattle goes through Dallas?  I mean, I can see going through Denver or some other large city that’s sort of on the way, but Dallas?  Some of the other choices were Chicago, Pittsburgh, and even Los Angeles.  None made any sense to me.

*  *  *  *  *
The gas station nearest my house ran out of fuel last Friday, priced at $4.99/gal.  This morning, they had fuel — at $3.99/gal.  It’s still no great bargain, but you can’t convince me that all the refineries closed for Saturday’s hurricane are magically back online, having piped their product some 800 miles already.  No, there was something else at play this weekend.

That said, my Weigels was still 50-60 cents per gallon cheaper than other stations along the turnpike this morning.  Gamma had stopped in Weigels last night to buy milk on her way home, and she said it was the saddest, lonliest place (on their fourth day with no fuel to sell).

I think that frustration over gas prices has had at least one positive effect on people: cars seem more courteous, giving a thumbs-up (and plenty of room) as they pass.

Monday’s Laugh

I don’t know whom to credit for this one, but it’s a good way to start a Monday when there’s so much bad news going around.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

SARAH PALIN: The chicken didn’t make it across the road. I shot it, cleaned it, cooked it, and had it for Sunday dinner. [credit: Rich Hailey at Shots Across the Bow]

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure – right from Day One! – that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn’t about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don’t really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where’s my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken’s intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.  [NM’s note: there are black chickens.  And red ones, and speckled ones.  Black chickens lay beige eggs, and red chickens lay brown eggs.]

DR.. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won’t realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he’s acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I’m going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he’s guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer’s Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I’ve not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can’t you people see the plain truth? That’s why they call it the ‘other side. ‘ Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay, too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like ‘the other side.’ That chicken should not be crossing the road. It’s as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn’t that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never craÅ #@&&^(C%………..reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Roth found guilty

UT professor (emeritus) J. Reece Roth has been found guilty on 18 counts of violating the Arms Control Export Act.

I take no joy in this, as he was a technically gifted professor from whom my children will not have the opportunity to learn.  However, having grown up in a city where national security secrets are taken very seriously, I know that he exercised exceedingly poor judgment.  Although fully cognizant of the high proportion of foreign students in graduate school — especially in science, math, and engineering — I simply do not believe that he couldn’t find qualified US citizens among his grad students to do this work.

Maybe there was a little bit of ego involved.  Roth was an "honorary professor" at two Chinese universities, and was regarded as something of a plasma physics celebrity there.

In this country, we need to get far more serious about preparing our middle and high school students to pursue these challenging fields in college, so we can fill up the graduate programs with home-grown scientists and engineers.  I’m fully aware of the benefits of a diverse society, and that we need people educated in business, English lit, and all those other things… but right now, the odds are seriously against us in math and physical sciences.

Hopefully, this conviction will cause universities all over this nation — and especially at UT — to really take a hard look at work that has, or could have, national security implications.   That doesn’t mean don’t do it, but it means don’t involve foreign nationals in those projects.

And we’ve got to do a better job of preparing students to fill the void.

Gem of the City

Downtown Hardware is the most amazing store.  It’s tiny and unpretentious, but tucked into the nooks and crannies is the most incredible variety of really useful items.

The PROJECT continues to consume our evenings and weekends; at this point, we’re re-assembing parts that attach to the new engine before we put the engine in the truck.  All of the old parts have been thoroughly cleaned, or replaced if they couldn’t be scrubbed clean enough.  The oil pickup tube was one of those.

Yesterday, we put the crankshaft pulley back on.  The crankshaft pulley has a Woodruff key that keeps the pulley from spinning independently of the crankshaft, but we missed that piece somehow when we took the crankshaft off the old engine.  We looked at each of the three auto parts stores in town and they all carried them, but not the size we needed.  What we needed is about the diameter of a penny, and about three times the thickness of a nickel.  We called two different Ford dealers — this being the most popular engine in the most popular vehicle they’ve ever produced — but the nearest one they could locate was in Memphis.  Would be about Wednesday before we could get it.

We were on our way to Downtown Hardware for something else, when someone suggested that they carry Woodruff keys in a variety of sizes.  Although we couldn’t find one that was an exact fit, we did find one that was just a little too big, so that HWTFM could machine it down to the proper size without too much difficulty.  And, while we were at it, we needed some Sevin Dust for the tomatoes anyway.

Later in the afternoon, we made another run to replace a bolt that had stripped (one of 25 holding the oil pan in place).  If my tomatoes ever get ripe — there are a lot of green ones — I’ll probably make another trip down there because they also carry the sealing ring for my antique pressure canner.  It belonged to my grandmother, and is of a vintage that is hard to find parts for.  Except that Downtown Hardware must have some magical stash — it’s like the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Wal-Mart can’t do that.

ketchup time

I’ve been gone for a week, and busy beyond belief both before and since.  So, this will be less than eloquent, but a catch-up of events to date:

  • Robertsville TSA had a great time at Nationals in Orlando, scoring several trophies and a number of finalists.  Delta was not among them, but she did learn a lot.
  • Gamma got home safely on Wednesday night.  She’s still on German time.
  • Delta and I left Islands of Adventure at 9 p.m. Wednesday, arriving at home about 7 a.m. on Thursday.  Yeah, I drove all night.  Alone.  Was tired.
  • Brother-in-law PJ arrived with his two kids about two hours after I got home on Thursday.  No rest for the wicked.
  • Although HWTFM lived alone for several years before we married, he apparently forgot how to do dishes.  Or even where the sink is.  The house was a mess.
  • We spent two days on the lake with RealtorChick and family; she is a saint for putting up with my extended crew for that long.  The fireworks were lovely from the middle of the lake.
  • PJ and pals left about 1 a.m. to head back to Maryland, but got seriously sidetracked along the way when he lost his wallet sometime in the middle of the night.  Trying to get two kids home with no cash, no cards, no driver’s license… just a checkbook and a work ID, must have been incredibly stressful.  It was stressful for me, and I wasn’t even in the car.
  • Beta’s cell phone has been shut off following repeated defiance of her curfew — by several hours each time, three days in a row.  Thursday night, she didn’t come home at all.  I’ve totally run out of ways to discipline her — no car, no cell phone… she just doesn’t care.  She’s still 17, or she’d be evicted.
  • That said, she did score a 5 on the Calculus AP exam.  Nonetheless, I’m not in a celebratory mood.

There — now that all that’s said, we can move on.

Spending five days in a luxury hotel with three young teenage girls (Delta and two classmates who needed close adult supervision) was both fun and exhausting.  The Rosen Shingle Creek is a great place for a student convention because it is secure and not within walking distance of anything (deterring kids who might be prone to wander off), but it’s definintely part of the top-of-the-line luxury mindset, where they’ll nickel and dime (and quarter) you to death.  Why is it that at any Econo Lodge (or similar budget accomodations), parking is free, wireless internet is free, and even breakfast is free?  Not at this place, though.  Parking is $8/day in the cheapest spot, internet (wireless or wired) is $10/day, and breakfast is about $20.  It’s about the same gig as the Opryland Hotel in Nashville — really nice, but there’s an extra fee for everything that others provide as a courtesy.

Given my choice of the matter, I’d always stay at Embassy Suites — comfortable, with all the amenities (usually free), and a free cocktail hour every night.  Okay, not suitable for school field trips perhaps, but still where I’d rather be.  The fact that it costs about half as much (or a third as much, if we’re talking about the Opryland) is just a bonus.

All of our separate travels are over now (except Alpha, who’s still at UGA), and our only remaining trip for the summer is to the farm.  We’ll live in the camper, cook on an open fire, and time will be largely immaterial.  Time to sleep, time to read, time to fish, time to roast marshmellows.  Time to pick fresh cherries.  Time to visit Grandma.  I’m looking forward to that one.

Notes from Gamma

Gamma writes that all of Germany is consumed with Euro Cup fever at the moment:

We have been watching almost every soccer game in anticipation to see who will place where in the European cup! The Americans have SO been Germanized! We argue about how bad the Swiss will OWN the Polish or if the Spanish can conquer the Russians…it’s intense…soccer is god here.


She also writes that there are more bicycles and motorcycles than cars, likely due to the "OUTRAGEOUS!" price of gasoline. Heh… we might be headed that way soon. Gamma will celebrate her 16th birthday one week from today — in Germany — but I suspect that the coveted driver’s license might not be good for as much as it was for her sisters.

Might need to trade the Mousemobile for a Vespa or something.

She says the weather has been excellent, and that they’re feeding her well. That’s good, because her first note home had some interesting culinary hints:

1) I like sweinebarten….a lot.
2) Germans are nice, but not if you get in the way of their bike (whether you apologize or not)
3) It is cool to have a couch in your room (i have one!!!!)
4) If the cheese is cream colored…don’t eat it
5) If the cheese looks old…DON’T EAT IT!
6) if the cheese looks yellow-orange with regular edges…it is probably safe to assume you may eat it…
7) if the meat has ”stuff” in it…don’t even THINK about eating it!

"Sweinebarten" is pork roast. I bet there’s a recipe for it in the German cookbook that Anne brought me back in April.