Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivans

Columnist Molly Ivans died a week ago at age 62. I cannot imagine going through what will no doubt be a fascinating presidential campaign and election without her voice. She was funny, witty and insightful all at once - no easy feat.

Her last published column about the proposed troop surge appeared in mid January and was titled, "Stand Up Against the Surge." You can read the entire column at

She wrote, "A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country — we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls ... and at the polls. We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented."

That's what I always loved about Molly Ivans. She could cut to the chase and in a quick turn of phrase lay the responsibility right where it belonged - in this case with us, the people.

She continued: We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

Molly Ivans left us with an important charge. I hope we heed it.

It's easy to get caught up in the daily bits of news that is little more than psuedo-news, but easier for us to digest. Women astronauts in diapers driving across country over a man is something that's so alien to us that we don't have to think about it in terms of our own lives. It's easy to make jokes and dismiss it because it's not reality for very many people.

But we know that war is real. Real people are dying and that's much harder to deal with. But we must.


I have been having continual difficulty with the blog lately - tech stuff. Hopefully all will be resolved soon. But if things have seemed sporadic, that's why.


I had a speech very early this morning in Buhler. Nothing like leaving your house when it's still dark outside. But the speech went well. By the time I left to come back to Hutch a bit after 8, the beautiful day was developing nicely. It got up to 63 today this afternoon with lots of sunshine.

On my way back to town today I drove by a farmer's field where he had parked a number of his formerly used machinery. If you want to see a bigger photo of it, just click on the picture and it will take you to a bigger version.

I spent the day working on computer stuff mostly. I was relieved to discover I had not made an Id10t error on a database I need, so that was a relief. Otherwise, I got to have a quick lunch with Trish to talk about her campaign stuff and late in the day I took a walk at Dillon Nature Center. I was fascinated with the shadows on the still frozen pond.

The news has certainly been interesting today - from astronauts in wigs and diapers spraying mace, to evangelical Christian leaders who like to perform oral sex on men claiming they're "completely heterosexual." While I, as you can well imagine, have much to say on both topics, it will have to wait for another day. I have been up about 20 hours and even I need *some* sleep.

Third Places

I've been thinking a lot these days about "third places," the term coined by Ray Oldenburg. His concept is that home is the first place, and work is the second, and the "third place" is the community gathering location - whatever that might be.

He says these are essential to a democracy, a community, because they give people from different walks of life a place to gather where they're all on a level playing field. I see some beauty in this concept. And I do believe it to be true in some ways, but I fear in our modern society we no longer know how to make the actual contact once we're in this place.

I was thinking about third places with regard to my own life and contemplating which ones I have. I do have some.

I go to certain restaurants often enough that there are other regulars there now that I say hello to, even though we've never had a real conversation. It's friendly and it gives you a feeling of community. However, I've never even had a real conversation with them, much less anything more meaningful. We have no real relationship and to pretend otherwise is foolish.

This is where I think the concept of third places falls apart in our modern world where, as best I can tell, we grow socially more inept by the moment. I agree they're part of what forms a community and they offer a place for people to exchange ideas. But people have to actually do that. Exchanging pleasantries is not the same as exchanging ideas.

The Dancing Grouse, Diana's store, is a definite third place for me and for others here. And I have made some friends there. And it is certainly a place where people talk - the atmosphere is conducive to that and that's because Diana has made a real effort to create it.

I think the trick is how you move beyond that casual hello to each other in a coffee shop to something resembling a relationship. At one time people knew how to do that. I'm not sure we do anymore. We are a nation afraid of everything - including our fellow humans. Statistically the number of friends we have continues to decrease, as it has for the past few decades. We seem far too afraid of the risk to take a chance in most cases.

However, the idea of not having any gathering places seems awful. That, in a nutshell, is what suburbia is. People go to work, commute home, drive into their houses through the garage door, close them and don't venture out until the next morning when they go to work. In smaller communities people gather at the local restaurant where there's a group of elderly men "having coffee." In bigger cities, people have many choices of places to drop into. In suburbia there's no where to go.

I have read that planners have started to take these things into consideration when planning communities. I think that's healthy. We have to at least give people an opportunity to relearn the skills we've lost.

I've been mulling over this idea for the past few weeks. The conclusion I've come to is that "third places" offer the opportunity but it is still incumbent on the individual to go beyond the casual into the meaningful.

The Weekend

I have had an incredibly productive weekend. But, good grief, I'm exhausted. Saturday I cleaned most of the day. Not the "cleaning" I usually do, which is moving the clutter from one place to another, but cleaning as in moving furniture and cleaning beneath it and actually dealing with the clutter. This should not imply, however, that I am done. With even one room. But I did make a lot of progress.

Saturday night Greg, Teresa and I went to see Hubbard Street 2 at the Fox. It was a modern dance performance and I enjoyed it. I don't know squat about dance, but I was happy to get to go. Going to the Fox is always a treat - just to be in the theatre is cool - and there are always tons of people there I know so it's fun to get to visit.

I also made time to go to the monthly flea market where I purchased this beautiful pin and earring set from a lovely lady named Lillian Smith from Dodge City. We had a nice chat while I was making my purchase.

She had another really nice pin/earring set, but I couldn't splurge on both. This one set was all that was in my costume jewelry pin budget for today. (Doesn't everyone have a pin budget?) But I have never seen a one like this and I had nothing this deep green color.

I will probably never wear the earrings, even though they're very cool. How women ever stood clip-on earrings pinching their lobes I don't know. I put one on for about 20 seconds and that was all I could take, but it looked very nice.

Admittedly, poking a hole in one's ear does involve a tiny bit of pain, but it's a one-time thing, and it is minor - much more minor than having it in a vise grip on the back of some pretty sparkly things.

After the flea market I went and washed the car. Of course, it desperately needed it after driving in snow for a few days. But, the car washing was also designed to trick myself into thinking that I was doing something productive with the trip to that part of town, which also just happened to be where the flea market was. Never mind the car wash I generally use that's only a few blocks from my home is much better. There was no one selling old costume jewelry pins near it.

Later this afternoon we were treated to a decent sunset. I was in the car and started hunting for a foreground to snap a photo. I was near the Cosmosphere and realized I wasn't going to have time to get anywhere else in time to catch it. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best angle, but I got a bit of it.

We may not have a lot of skyscrapers in our little burg, but we have our own "skyline" - rockets, grain elevators, etc.

Pumpkin Bread

It is cold here and will stay that way all weekend. I think I'm going to cook. I love the smell of baked goods on a wintery day. OK, truth be told, I like the smell of baked goods pretty much anytime.

I think this is a perfect day for making some pumpkin bread. My mom always made pumpkin bread and it is my brother, Jim's, favorite. Whenever he would come to visit her she would bake him loaves to take with him. I think there might have been occasions when he didn't necessarily want to share it when he got back home.

When I was in college, I wanted to make some one time and didn't have my mom's recipe. For some reason I couldn't reach her so I started going through cookbooks until I found one. (Yes, even then I had a predilection for cookbooks.) I mixed it up and it was pretty darned good.

When I was next home I took some and my mom decided it was better than the recipe she had been using. I knew I had "arrived" as a cook when my mom started using my pumpkin bread recipe and relegated her old one to the trash bin.

I often make it without nuts if I'm making it for a group of people because so many people don't like nuts. Mama, however, saw no point in making any baked good without a healthy addition of pecans. So, do as you will, it's good either way.

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
pecans (optional)

Mix dry ingredients. Then add other ingredients and mix well. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Makes 2 loaves. This bread can be frozen after baking with no ill effects.

I like it plain, but also serve it with honey butter sometimes. I do swear by tea as the perfect accompaniment.


I had an 8 a.m. meeting today. It was 7 degrees when I left the house. Delightful! Fortunately, it was not windy so that made it much better. When I was done with that I came back to the computer at home to work all day, and have not left my house again.

I am meeting Greg and Terry, and maybe Teresa, for dinner so I'll need to start the bundling process again, although it's a toasty 21 at the moment. I am just about to get officially tired of winter. And, frankly, if we're going to have cold, I'd like to have snow. We need the moisture. We still have some on the ground, but we are so low on water here that we need every bit we can get. I'd much prefer it coming in the form of snow than ice, but I'll take it however we can get it.

I have been working on getting the Christmas stuff put away. I have made more trips up and down the basement stairs than I can count. And I have the "wall o' plastic tubs" down there, full of xmas goodies. The "wall" has become more a "cube" of tubs, really. I am happy to say that this year I added only ONE small tub of stuff to my stash of Christmas goodies. ("Small" being defined as a 20 gallon tub, but compared to the 45 gallon ones that is small.)

This year I also bought some laundry bags to contain the smaller trees and be able to hang them up. So far this seems like a much better system than them being piled a corner of the basement, which was my previous "system."

I should be embarrassed to show that corner of the basement, but there you are. There's another row of plastic tubs you can't see in this photo, plus a couple of huge ones that hold bigger Santas and other misc. things. I guess everyone has their things, and Christmas is one of mine.

I finished taking down the tree last weekend - it took three weekends to get it done. I have all the boxes of ornaments stored, the tree out in the shed, and the lights packaged ready to take to the basement so I'm making progress. I think I have everything off the shelves around the house now. I just need to finish packing it away and get it back down to the basement. I'm hoping by the end of this weekend that's all done.

Sometimes I think I'm a little nuts for doing all this, but it's so pretty and sparkly when it's done. In case you've forgotten, the tree is pictured here.

After I get all this done I will need to clean up all the broken bits from where the tree was. There is some attrition every year. When I'm buying "special" ornaments I try to get them in the "less breakable" variety. I have some glass things that are really special to me, but I try to get less fragile items.

I am, however, ready for Christmas to be packed away for a few months. By fall I'll be eager to do it all again.

In the meantime I've been working on the MHA Garden Tour. It's set for June 24 this year and it's our 10th anniversary so I want it to be extra special.

Afraid of Cartoons

When did we become a nation that can be traumatized by cartoons?

Boston was shut down today while they located a dozen circuit boards designed to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Admittedly, some judgement was lacking - they put these things around the city without getting the appropriate permits. However, lets get a grip on reality - they were little circuit boards running on batteries, with cartoon characters on them - not exactly a major threat.

These were placed in nine other cities too, but none of them reported any difficulties. But in Boston it became a major problem - because they chose to make it one. Otherwise reasonable people become concerned when they see officials and others getting freaked out.

This is a prime example of mass hysteria. Someone starts it and it just grows and grows and grows. Pretty soon roads are shut down, talk radio has no other topic to discuss, and a major city is at a standstill. They're cartoons, for heaven's sake.

When did we become a nation of scaredy cats? We're now afraid of cartoons? Good grief. We've already proven we're afraid of the dark by fleeing NY when the power went off for six hours. Is there anything we're not afraid of? What happened to the boogey man? He apparently has lost all the power he once had. He needs a better PR person.

When a friend was telling me about this tonight I said I figured it was a planned advertising stunt. At this point, it appears that might well be the case. And you know what? They got more than their money's worth because I'm watching it on the evening news and reading about it online - you can't buy this kind of publicity. To top it off, even if they have to pay for the city's expenses they'll still come out on top.

However, I have to say, I doubt anyone would have imagined a cartoon character would cause this sort of mass hysteria. I can't imagine how the company could have foreseen this reaction. It's so extreme it defies explanation, other than the above mentioned group think.

Turner Broadcasting said the devices had been in place for two to three weeks in Boston; New York; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Only in Boston did people get freaked out and that just built on itself. Boston officials are all up in arms, demanding apologies - more than they've already gotten, and threatening lawsuits.

This entire country needs to get a grip. We seem to be afraid of everything these days. Our reactions are so extreme, although I guess Boston officials got some good training today. "The terrorists" - whoever they are that we're supposedly fighting - can threaten us so much more easily than they ever imagined. That is the whole purpose of terrorism - to instill terror. Who needs bombs? All it takes to terrify us is a cartoon.

Virtual March

March on WashingtonMove On is working on a virtual march to discourage escalation of the war in Iraq. Click on the photo to sign up.

I'm not sure what needs to be said about escalation of the war in Iraq. It is one of the most foolhardy ideas I've ever heard. We're failing miserably, so we should - obviously - pour a ton more resources into it. Yeah, there's some good thinking. Oh, and in this case, "resources" means lives. Lives of young men and women.

Only Bush and McCain seem to think escalation is a good idea. They have largely been deserted by the rest of their own party, much less the public. So, this is a great way you can make sure your representative knows how you feel, just in case they're weakening.

It's set for Thursday, Feb. 1. You can sign up to call your representatives. Their hope is to have a steady stream of calls all day long.

Move On uses technology in a fabulous way. I'm always impressed whenever I do something with them.

Take a few minutes and support the military by saving their lives.


I have been hunched over the computer most of the day working on MHA projects. This is a very busy time of year for me with work so I don't get a lot of down time. In fact, at 1:17 a.m. I'm still working.

I did take time to have lunch with Trish. She is someone I never see enough of. I'm honored to have such great friends and she is one of them. We have been friends a long time now and have grown closer over the years.

We talked about her campaign for city council and what needs to be done. I know she will do a great job.

This afternoon I redesigned the MHA stationery. We're changing our name to be in line with national and so I have to redo everything. I need to print new business cards for myself, too. It's time to send membership letters and so there's motivation to get the letterhead done now.

This time of year I always feel like there's more for me to do than I have time/energy to get done.