December 2006

Time to Move On

I’ve been a regular participant in the online forum over at the Oak Ridger, but no more.

The forum had such potential to be an arena for discussion of issues, both local and national.  Many local political leaders are computer-savvy enough to participate, though few have — mostly because the anonymity can be a little disconcerting.  I’ve found it useful to learn what people are thinking about in regard to the school system and city matters, and to respond where there have been unfounded rumors.

Unfortunately, the board has become dominated in recent months by a few people who seem to have a specific agenda, and not a nice one.  It’s gotten personal.  Daco has abandoned the forum, as has Jacket and probably ORHS73 — I loved arguing with those fellas over a variety of issues, but always respected their viewpoints, expertise, and style.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get Daco blogging.  That would be a good one.

Merry Christmas and happy (belated) Hanukkah to all!

Thoughts of Sugarplums

xmas treeGamma and Delta were terribly concerned that they hadn’t done any Christmas shopping, so I woke them at 2:30 this morning for a trip to Wal-Mart. Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t do WallyWorld during the day between Thanksgiving and Christmas; the crowd is more oppressive than Neyland Stadium at a Florida game.

Only more hostile.

Even at 3 a.m., the store was far from empty, but they each procured a load of items (with me wandering about on my own, to preserve their secrecy). Afterward, we had a little quality time with breakfast at Waffle House. I couldn’t believe how many people were there — only two booths were unoccupied in the whole place at about 4 a.m.

I helped Delta wrap when we returned home, adding to the festivity under the tree.

*   *   *

Now, in the quiet house where everyone else is sleeping, I think back to the point of last week’s visit to my mother-in-law.  Yes, it’s true that we stayed in an Inn; there are too many of us to invade her house, and having us all underfoot around the clock is stressful to her.  We visited for several hours each day, with hubby helping his brother clear briars from the blueberry patch, and even Delta helping a little in pruning the apple trees.  Mostly, she rode the ATV around, clipping a stray branch now and then… but at least she participated.

Grandma is more frail than last summer, moving from her armchair only to go to bed at night.  She’s consumed with worry over things she cannot control — a custody battle for one son, another who’s home alone for the holidays, and another with a significant challenge ahead… it’s only the oldest, my hubby, with no worries to contribute to the mix.

I tried to bring cheer, offering to decorate for Christmas (there’s not even a tree), but she didn’t want the bother of taking it down when we’re gone.  I baked cookies and a big pot of homemade soup for her, but even that didn’t seem to help much.

I can’t fix what’s really wrong: she’s old, and she doesn’t like it.  She’s always been a worrier, but in years past, she could do something about it… now, she hasn’t the strength to do anything but sit in the chair and fret.

It’s Christmas Eve, traditionally a time of joy, excitement, and celebration.  This year’s events have made me keenly appreciative of what I have — a strong, loving marriage, wonderful children, dear friends, a warm home, and enough to eat.

I guess that’s what tugs at my heart for my mother-in-law: her husband passed away, she worries about her wonderful (adult) children, she doesn’t see her friends anymore since she seldom leaves the house, and she’s dependent on her youngest son to shop and cook for her, meaning she probably doesn’t always eat what she would if she were still cooking for herself.

I married into a great family… I only wish that somehow I could have brought more happiness to them last week.  However, Brother PJ should be arriving sometime today, and he’s easy to cheer up.

Home Sweet Home

Thanks to the discovery of a new route, we made it home in record time — thirteen hours, commencing about 10 p.m. last night in a cold, driving rain.  I wish I’d snapped a couple of pictures along the way, but for the first I didn’t reach my camera in time, and for the second, well, I was driving.

Northern Indiana takes the prize for best Christmas decorations, in the stretch along Hwy. 31 from South Bend to Kokomo.  There were some businesses and residents who really went all-out, and it wasn’t tacky.  It was beautiful.  I admire the tractor dealer who actually put a life-size nativity scene on their lawn, and spelled out “Our Savior King” in lights across the roofline.

These days, that takes some courage.

Northern Kentucky had the most breathtaking sunrise this morning; leafless branches seemed to float up from a fog that drifted across rolling  pastures, as they sky cast pastel hues upon the scene.

The worst visibility was a tie between northern Michigan (had the rain been snow, it would be measured in feet) and southern Kentucky, where the fog on the interstate was so dense that it looked very much like driving in a snowstorm.  Crossing Jellico Mountain, the sun shone as brightly as in July, and Tennessee looked as good to me as it ever has.

It’s sure good to be home.

Cold Morning

Portage Point InnIt’s a crisp cold morning, but the coffee is on and the hospitality warm and inviting at the Portage Point Inn.

This historic luxury resort on a peninsula between Portage Lake and Lake Michigan, is a prime tourist destination in the summertime, but the masses are missing out on a beautiful time to visit this sleepy village.

There was two feet of snow on the ground until a warming trend last week.

Portage Lake - morning

Shedding the holiday stress means that several things have gone unfinished, but yielded time for some other important pursuits — playing backgammon with my youngest in front of the fire, preparing dinner for seven each evening, but always careful to make some extra for friends who may be around at suppertime.

I brought just a little work with me, which I finished before the sun began tinting the horizon with a pinkish cast.  Now I have the rest of the day to tend to the important things — my family.

Family Time

Today was a day for family time — breakfast at the historic Portage Point Inn, followed by an afternoon of horseback riding.

121706

From left are myself, he who tames flying monkeys, Delta, Gamma, Annie, Mike, and Teddy.  I’m riding Mustang Sally, so named because she was adopted from the wild.  She’s a spirited little sweetie who kept the stable owner busy because she could either untie the halter from the post, or slip her head out of the halter altogether, and wander freely about.

I love horses; they’re a lot like big dogs.  If you’re firm but kind and offer positive reinforcements, they’re loyal and playful.

Afterward, we visited with Grandma and Mark, drank hot chocolate, and let the kids run around the farm with the ATV.  Their two feet of snow melted earlier in the week so there isn’t any sledding or snowmen (yet), but it’s relaxing and we’re having a wonderful time.

Annexation – on again!

Word on the streets of Clinton has it that City Council has just approved the County’s “deal” of allowing annexation of the Bethel property in exchange for the Clinton giving the County an additional 12% of the new taxes collected — I’m assuming this is the City’s share of the new sales tax collections.

I’m surprised that Clinton caved in on the giveaway; with the annexation referendum approved, it seems that it would have gone through regardless of the County’s opinion… the only thing I can figure is that Clinton has a developer in the wings that might walk away from the deal if delayed by any further legal delays on the County’s part.

Watch Rex Lynch claim credit for the growth, in spite of his mightiest efforts to stop it.

Free Broadband?

There is an application now before the FCC from M2Z Networks that would allow them to provide wireless broadband internet access — free of charge — throughout the United States.

Free? Following the broadcast television model, users of the service would have to purchase a receiver (just as one purchases a TV or antenna to receive broadcast signals) and the service itself would be supported through advertising revenue. The speed they’re promising (384 kbps downlink) isn’t as fast as regular DSL or cable internet products, but is faster than the “DSL Lite” product used as a comparison in Comcast ads.

Unlike wired products (cable or DSL), the infrastructure cost of the wireless product would be more feasible to provide to rural areas that now have prohibitively expensive, if any, access.

The Coalition for Free Broadband Now site has more consumer-oriented information, but you’ll quickly notice that the site is a PR effort to generate consumer signatures on their petition for FCC approval.

I detest the thought of even more commercial interruption than already exists on the internet, but at the same time, recognize that there is much to be gained by improving electronic access for more Americans. I would not like for it to be the only option, but much like cable TV and premium cable channels, it seems like there would still be a market for faster, commercial-free (at least from the ISP) internet access. However, the free option might drive down costs for those services, particularly in areas where there is little or no competition.

A few of the immediate beneficiaries would be students who need internet access for homework, parents who would like to interact with the schools via K-12 Planet or similar services, and a general upgrading of Americans’ technological literacy. Distance learning options are growing rapidly, from online college courses to submitting assignments via e-mail in middle and high schools, and will continue to expand and improve. To bridge the digital divide, internet service must come to be seen as an essential utility, much as water, electric, and telephone.

It’s time.

Wanna join the Mafia?

In this morning’s News Sentinel, Sen. Randy McNally likens his replacement as caucus chair to the replacement of Tom Hagen as the Corleone family’s consigliere. “We need a wartime consigliere,” he said.

Terry Frank‘s closing comments on the matter exemplify precisely what’s wrong in politics today:

He refused to endorse several GOP house candidates here in his own district over the years, including the most recent GOP candidate, David Massengill.

If McNally says this was truly a smack-down like he seems to intimating, then here’s a real lesson from the Godfather. If you turn on the family, expect to being taken for a little car ride.

I fully understand the utility of political parties, but I draw the line at mafia-like tactics to force representatives of the people to toe the party line. We elect individuals based upon their individual qualities; I vote for individuals based upon their integrity, understanding of issues, willingness to listen, and ability to work with others. I’ve voted for Randy McNally every time he’s been on the ballot, and will continue to do so.

Massengill is a caricature, and one who would have done precisely as Terry Frank and the other neo-cons dictated without ever thinking about the people of his district. He looked me in the eye over coffee one afternoon and told me that “we’ve got to focus on social issues like abortion and gay marriage to grow the party,” which is precisely the opposite of my priorities in government.

Government should do only what people cannot do, or do well, for themselves.

The mafia operating mode is how Terry Frank destroyed the Anderson County Republican Party — no room for views other than her own, no room for candidates except those equipped with the strings of a marionette.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Do we want to be at war?

Forget the Middle East for a moment, and think about Tennessee.  Do we want to be obstructionist, or do we want to work together to accomplish something positive?

I’ll choose the latter — there’s enough war going on elsewhere.

When the State Senate Republicans met yesterday, Ron Ramsey was elected Majority Leader (sans the vote of Mike Williams, who abstained) and Mark Norris was elected to the post of caucus chair over Randy McNally, chosen last year following the resignation of Jeff Miller.

Williams’ abstention comes as no surprise, given the harsh words that have been exchanged thus far.  It seems that Ramsey would rule by intimidation and punishment, rather than respect and persuasion.  Williams’ response (via the Chattanooga Times) is what I expected:

Sen. Williams appeared upset when asked by reporters about Sen. Ramsey’s assertions in a personal letter to him that minority Democrats are trying to play him for a “patsy” as they seek to hold onto power despite the GOP’s majority.

“I think in my 16 years of service here, I think a lot of things could be said about me. I don’t think (any) person could ever say that I’m a patsy,” Sen. Williams said, citing his fight to oppose then-Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s proposed state income tax.

“I fought that in the best interests of the citizens of this state. … I spoke out on the Legislative Plaza when certain senators around were nowhere to be found. I think my record speaks that I’m anything but a patsy,” Sen. Williams said.

I don’t disagree with Ramsey that we should have a Republican speaker, now going into the second consecutive Republican majority in that body… I’m just not certain he’s the right one.

With McNally free of other caucus responsibilities, he would be the superior choice.  McNally is unwavering in his principles, yet able to work with others to be productive and accomplish something for Tennessee.

I don’t want a do-nothing, obstructionist Senate.  I’m tired of the name-calling, petty partisan games. It’s time to elect a Speaker who might actually accomplish something productive, and the man for the job is Randy McNally.

Words as paint

Even as a young child, I wondered if words created the same images for all people, and if those images were based on anything real, or just randomly associated.
Watching Harry Potter movies the other night (we’ve read all the books until the spines are worn and limp), I noted to Delta that some of J.K. Rowling’s made-up words actually look sort of like other words — words that create a specific picture. Diagon Alley, the mythical shopping place for wizardly books and school supplies, brings to mind something not quite on the straight and narrow — diagonally, to be precise. Even the characters’ names seem to fit, with Snape sounding like “snake” (fitting, for the headmaster of Slytherin) and the evil Malfoy family: Draco, looking and sounding like a little blond dracula; Lucius, with a name reminiscent of Lucifer; even the last name itself, beginning with “mal,” a prefix meaning bad.

Reading about reactions to the Iraq Study Group report prompted a slideshow of mental images as well… somehow, someone with the last name Talabani doesn’t elicit any feelings of trust. Neither does Al-Maliki (which sounds like Malachai, the name of the most evil character in Children of the Corn).
In Freakonomics, Steven Levitt explores the relationship between children’s names and their professional prospects. The reasoning is likely along the same lines: we associate images — good or bad — with the printed and spoken word.

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