Sunday, November 30, 2008

End of the Weekend

It snowed in Joplin today - big, fluffy, wet flakes. It's the first snow I've seen this season. And, as Greg and I were coming back from lunch I spotted this holly bush just a couple of blocks from Greg's mom's house. Yes, what can I say, I have an eagle eye for Christmas things and can spot small red berries many feet away from a car in motion. Greg took this photo, which I just love. It's a Christmas card in the making, don't you think?

Later in the day Greg got out a couple of decorations and put them on his Mom's fireplace, whereupon her cat immediately noticed said decorations.

Shortly after a double-pawed attempt to dislodge the stocking decoration, the cat gave up and posed for another photo.

This, of course, is the "what are you looking at, there's nothing to see here, move along" pose that all cats strike as soon as they realize they might be doing something that could get them in trouble. If scientists want to research nature/nurture, this would be a place to start. I think I've seen the innocent look on every cat I've ever known - farm cats, alley cats, feral cats and house cats. It must be an instinct.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. I'm so fortunate that Greg's mom includes me in their family celebrations. My family lives so far away it would be impossible for me to go every year. I talked to Mary Ann and Mattie the day before Thanksgiving. My neice, Angie, called Thanksgiving morning, but I was in the kitchen and didn't have the phone with me at the time. I need to call her back and catch up a bit. It was so nice to hear her voicemail message, though. Mark called yesterday but we were with the group in Branson so I didn't get to talk to him either. But, I'm sure we'll connect soon.

I had a great time this weekend. I wish I could have another few days with everyone.

Andy Williams Christmas Show in Branson

Greg, Mia, Miss Joy and I went to Branson today to see the Andy Williams Christmas show. Andy will be 81 on Wednesday and he's still putting on a great show.

There are other acts, but Andy is on stage almost the entire show.

He starts the show in his trademark scarf and does a couple of Christmas numbers, then changes into a more formal outfit.

The stage is simple - mostly Christmas trees and two staircases, but they do a lot with the lighting.

It's not all Christmas music, but a large portion is.

We have talked about going to see him and just never actually got around to buying the tickets and doing it. We're all glad we did.

The theatre is interesting, and there are Christmas scenes everywhere, including this life size Santa.

We ate lunch and dinner at his grill, which is next door to the theatre. We had hoped he would come over after the evening show, but he didn't. We were hoping to get photos with him. We understand he does come over often either before the early show or after the late one but he must have been too tired to do it tonight.

We went to the 3:00 p.m. show and then looked around Branson afterwards. I'd never been before. They have a new attraction, The Titanic. Greg got out to take a photo. I couldn't resist getting pix of Greg in this unnatural environment.

It's made to look like the ship, except it's only about 1/3 of the vessel and it's a corrogated building. I think we may have pinpointed part of the problem. Greg brought up an interesting question - at what point is a disaster something you can make into an attraction?

We also went to see the Trail of Lights at Shepherd of the Hills. I can't recommend it strongly enough. It's very cool. Two and a half miles of neat displays including lots of old automations.

And for your general Christmas extravaganza dollar, I think Andy Williams would be hard to beat.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Kinder Gentler Shopping Day

Greg and I got everything both of us wanted in the day after shopping frenzy. He had some specific needs. The things I wanted were all small items but we were able to get everything we were after on the sales. He was at Office Max and I was at Office Depot.

I have to say that Office Depot in Joplin was the most organized I've ever seen any store be the day after Thanksgiving or the day after Christmas. They had every hot item tagged with a specific number and were giving out certificates for those specific things as you went in the door. Then you waited in line at the stock room and handed over your certificate and they brought you that specific item. It was very well done.

I also have to say their employees were the most gracious and helpful of any I've seen in awhile. And considering how much stress they must have been under that was all the more amazing. I was very impressed. If every store were run like the Joplin Office Depot we'd all be having many more pleasant shopping experiences.

The only other stop I made was to Kohl's. I wasn't looking for anything major there but no one was up at Miss Joy's when I was done with Office Depot and I had locked the door behind me and didn't want to wake anyone to let me back in. I bought a couple of things at Kohl's and waiting in a line that was stretching to the back of the store on both sides to check out. By the time I was through that line I decided no one had anything I wanted that badly. Greg and I did pop in to Office Depot later in the day to pick up a couple of incidental things - not sale items - and it was desolate. I guess everyone was shopped out. I stopped by Michaels after dinner and it was the same way.

I witnessed many acts of kindness while shoppping. People were very courteous to each other and employees were going the extra mile to help people. When they had someone change their mind on items at Office Depot yesterday morning the employees came through the store, asking if anyone had wanted one of those things and hadn't gotten a chance at a certificate. It was quite nice.

Greg saw people loaning extra coats out of their car to other folks waiting in line and being very generous with their fellow shoppers. I saw no incidents of unpleasantness from shoppers or employees. I can't say that's always been the case. A couple of years ago at Hastings, Greg and I both saw one of the most ridiculous displays I've ever witnessed. An employee snapped at people who were reaching around her into a case for an mp3 player. When I say "snapped," I'm being kind. Of course, it was one of those situations where you could see the fault on all sides. The customers shouldn't have been grabbing and the employee shouldn't have snapped. But, the real fault lies with the company, that shouldn't have had a locked case in the middle of the store with a hot item in it where the crowds could get right up to it. And, of course, the people who were the most aggressive were rewarded because she just handed out the few items they had to those who were crowded around her instead of having a system for giving them to those who had waited the longest. Obviously, if I was close enough to even see/hear it, and I'd been somewhere else when they opened, there was a flaw in the system.

But this Friday seemed to be a much more laid back experience, at least here. I was shocked when I saw the news of a man dying when people broke down a Walmart door in New Jersey. I looked at the Walmart ad again and I cannot imagine what they had that was worth even going there for, much less killing someone for.

CNN is reporting that police officers patrolling overnight at the store had been concerned about the crowd, but had been unable to get it better organized. I'm not sure what the thinking was that if the police couldn't do it they expected temporary employees at a Walmart store to do it after the crowd was larger and more invested in the time they had spent waiting. Police do have the power to disperse crowds. Why didn't they do that if they were concerned? Part of the job description is public safety.

The tricky thing with all of this is that if you're at the front of the crowd, and being pushed by those at the back of the crowd, you are unable to stop if you see someone fall. And those in the back don't know someone has fallen. You may not know until you step on them if you're in the middle. It's an ugly situation and it's doubtful any charges will be filed because of that unability to identify any specific person/event that is the problem.

I've only once been in that sort of a situation and it had nothing to do with shopping. It was at an event and I was in the middle of the crowd when I found myself being moved along through no effort of my own. I had never understood the idea of being "swept along," but that's it. And it would be very easy to fall if you're trying to actually stand where you are. You'll just be bent over. Very difficult to consider.

The police officer involved with this case says it's incumbent on stores to manage it better. I would agree stores need better systems. A line, for example, would be a better system than what it seems they had. I haven't seen the video but the way they describe it it sounds like it was just a crowd, without any lines, which is much more dangerous. But I also think police have to share some responsibility in this case. If they realized there was a potential problem and didn't address it, there's an issue there.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Our Thanksgiving Day started off watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. We wanted to see Andy Williams, who they kept promo-ing from the start of the parade, and who was the last act before Santa arrived. Greg snapped a photo of the TV screen.

As soon as Santa waved to the crowd and the parade was over, I started asking Greg to start the tape of The Grinch who Stole Christmas, which is one of my favorite holiday shows.

When his heart grows I'm just nearly beside myself. I love to sing along with the show, and recite the lines. "Little Cindy Lou Who, who was no more than two..." Well, you get the picture.

And, in general, it just makes me really happy because it's all about how Christmas is coming. Maybe part of the reason I love it so much is that I think people might believe I wouldn't enjoy Christmas without the trappings, but I know I would. I love sending cards and wrapping presents and decorating the tree, but I'd love the season even if I didn't do those things.

Not everyone loves Christmas as much as I do... Steve would be representing those folks today.

Of course, during those things, there was cat-play. She was quite taken with Greg's bare foot.

I helped a bit with dinner, although not much. Miss Joy did most of it. I did peel potatoes. Greg was taken with his mom's mixer. She got it when she got married, so it has been around his entire life, but somehow until today it had escaped his attention. Isn't it funny how those things happen?

Greg and his mom carved up the turkey.

Mia came over and the five of us had a fabulous dinner. Everything was delicious. It was a lovely way to spend the day.

After dinner Mia went to work and everyone else took a nap except me. Michaels was open tonight from 6-9. There was an art easel I wanted on sale, and there was a 20% off coupon for tonight, so I went out to get it. I was not the only one.

The line was stretched about a block along the side of the building when I arrived a few minutes before they were opening. I was amazed at how orderly everyone was. The line is by the building, to the right. All the people you see in front of the doors here and to the left are folks who, like me, arrived after the line was formed. Everyone - and I mean EVERYone waited for those who were already in line to go into the store before they went in.

I had no trouble getting what I wanted. There was me and one man picking up those. Everyone else was after Christmas trees, which were 50% off, as far as I could tell. There was also a crowd up front and the checker told me people were after cricut cartridges. I'm not even sure what that is, but I think it has to do with scrapbooking. I don't want to want something else so I'd just as soon not know.

Later we drove out to Best Buy and there were people camped out with tents and sleeping bags, to get the bargains. I'm not sure what they have that's all that exciting - nothing I'm even going out for tomorrow.

All I've been hearing for weeks is how retailers are going to be trying to get our business on Friday. They're not trying too hard to get mine because I could ignore everything pretty easily. There are a couple of small things I'm going to try and pick up but not much. It's not that I'm unwilling to spend the money, it's that they're not offering anything I'm interested in owning.

Generally on black Friday there are a number of things I want and I have to choose what to go for. Tomorrow I'm headed out to get something for Greg and will try for a couple of small things myself. But, no one is going to get much money out of me because they're not offering any amazing deals on anything I want. There's no reason for me to get up at the crack of dawn and fight the crowds to buy  something for the same price I can get it generally on sale.

And, I'm not exaggerating. Two of the supposed great Black Friday deals on external hard drives are the exact same price they were a week ago on sale. The same.brand, size, color, everything. That is not a black Friday deal. That's just an average sale. So, if black Friday is a flop, it's because retailers didn't offer us something worth going out for. If you really want the consumers' business, you have to at least give it the old college try. Like Michaels did tonight - opening when they were the only store available, other than Walgreens and Walmart. That's some good marketing.

I hope you've had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and whatever bargains you hope to get tomorrow are all yours!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This is the day Americans give thanks for a bountiful harvest and all other blessings. As Americans we have so many blessings we take for granted.

On this Thanksgiving Day I'm thankful for the people I'm sharing time with, in person and in thought.

And I'm working to be thankful for this very moment in time, this experience that I'm having, these days I'm living.

I hope your Thanksgiving Day is full of goodness on all fronts. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I've been baking pies for Thanksgiving tonight. I made two pumpkin and one pecan. Those are Greg's favorites.

I don't know that I have a favorite pie. I like almost all kinds.

However, I'm not as enchanted with pie as other people seem to be. I like it. I like it a lot. But other people seem to l-o-v-e pie. Their affection for pie is far greater than that for cakes or cookies or other sweet treats.

For at least a decade I've been asking people why they love pie more. The answers range from, "you don't get pie as often," to "it's the mix of salt and sweet." Whatever the reason, I know that pie gets people excited more than other goodies.

I wish that I had some super secret, special, unique recipe to share with you for the pumpkin pie or the pecan. But, truth be told, I use the recipe on the back of the Libby's Pumpkin Can and the one Karo syrup published a few decades ago. I haven't found any better ones yet. Of course, a quick google search will net both of them so there's not much point in me adding them here.

Some things just shouldn't be messed with and those are two of them.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Baby Names in 1930 and Cereal Premiums in 1969

I've been working on the book tonight, fleshing out a few details. I needed to name some incidental characters so did a google search for popular baby names of the thirties and found that gives info on each decade and what was popular. It's interesting to see that.

I discovered, by accident, that the popularity of "Patsy" peaked in that decade. You can click on any name and see a little chart.

In addition to this, I also need some information about cereal premiums that were in boxes in the summer of 1969. If you happen to recall, or have some boxes lying about, I'd sure like to know what was being offered in those days.

Well, it's off to bed for me. I'm tired tonight. I had a doctor's appointment and ended up being there almost two hours. I guess they had unexpected delays/emergencies because that's very unusual for them - they're always very quick. Regardless, it was a long time to be there. Fortunately, I had a copy of the novel on my phone so I did some editing on it while I was waiting.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Unhappy People Watch TV More

University of Maryland researchers have analyzed 30 years of data to conclude that happy people read and socialize more, unhappy people watch TV more.

I could have told them this, without 30 years worth of research. Observation tells me that. Of course, that's not the same as actual research and I applaud the research.

Think about the people you know. The ones who are devoted to television, who can't agree to dinner with you on a particular night because of what's on TV, who can't be parted from the TIVO, are the ones who are overall unhappy. These are the folks who tell me they can't get anything done. Of course they can't. They're watching TV.

I think TV is great in its place. And there are some shows I like. But, people always take precedence over TV. Dinner with friends is always more important.

It's an interesting study...

Unhappy People Watch TV, Happy People Read/Socialize

Study: Channeling Unhappiness, In Good and Bad Economic Times

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A new study by sociologists at the University of Maryland concludes that unhappy people watch more TV, while people who describe themselves as "very happy" spend more time reading and socializing. The study appears in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research.

Analyzing 30-years worth of national data from time use studies and a continuing series of social attitude surveys, the Maryland researchers report that spending time watching television may contribute to viewers' happiness in the moment, with less positive effects in the long run.

"TV doesn't really seem to satisfy people over the long haul the way that social involvement or reading a newspaper does," says University of Maryland sociologist John P. Robinson, the study co-author and a pioneer in time use studies. "It's more passive and may provide escape - especially when the news is as depressing as the economy itself. The data suggest to us that the TV habit may offer short-run pleasure at the expense of long-term malaise."


Based on data from time use surveys, Robinson projects that TV viewing might increase significantly as the economy worsens in the next few months and years.

"Through good and bad economic times, our diary studies, have consistently found that work is the major activity correlate of higher TV viewing hours," Robinson says. "As people have progressively more time on their hands, viewing hours increase."

But Robinson cautions that some of that extra time also might be spent sleeping. "As working and viewing hours increase, so do sleep hours," he says. "Sleep could be the second major beneficiary of job loss or reduced working hours."


In their new study, Robinson and his co-author, University of Maryland sociologist Steven Martin, set out to learn more about the activities that contributed to happiness in people's lives. They analyzed two sets of data spanning nearly 30 years (1975-2006) gathered from nearly 30,000 adults:

  • A series of time use studies that asked people to fill out diaries for a 24-hour period and to indicate how pleasurable they found each activity;

  • General Social Survey attitude studies, which Robinson calls the premier national source for monitoring changes in public attitudes - in-depth surveys that over the years consistently asked subjects how happy they feel, how they spend their time, among a number of other questions.


Robinson and Martin found that the two sets of data largely coincided for most activities - with the exception of television.

From the General Social Survey, the researchers found that self-described very happy people were more socially active, attended more religious services, voted more and read more newspapers. By contrast, unhappy people watched significantly more television in their spare time.

According to the study's findings, unhappy people watch an estimated 20 percent more television than very happy people, after taking into account their education, income, age and marital status - as well as other demographic predictors of both viewing and happiness.


Data from time diaries told a somewhat different story. Responding in "real time," much closer to daily events, survey respondents tended to rate television viewing more highly as a daily activity.

"What viewers seem to be saying is that while TV in general is a waste of time and not particularly enjoyable, 'the shows I saw tonight were pretty good,' " Robinson says.

The data also suggested to Robinson and Martin that TV viewing is "easy." Viewers don't have to go anywhere, dress up, find company, plan ahead, expend energy, do any work or spend money in order to view. Combine these advantages with the immediate gratification offered by television, and you can understand why Americans spend more than half their free time as TV viewers, the researchers say.

Unhappy people were also more likely to feel that they have unwanted extra time on their hands (51 percent) compared to very happy people (19 percent) and to feel rushed for time (35 percent vs. 23 percent). Having too much time and no clear way to fill it was the bigger burden of the two.


Martin likens the short, temporary pleasure of television to addiction: "Addictive activities produce momentary pleasure and long-term misery and regret," he says. "People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged. For this kind of person, TV can become a kind of opiate in a way. It's habitual, and tuning in can be an easy way of tuning out."
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Writing on the World Wide Web

For nearly five years I've been writing on the world wide web almost every day. Even I don't remember all the things I've written about here.

Much of it is the "chronicle of daily life," as I'm fond of classifying it. Then some of it is more "reporting," about an event or lecture. There's the "opinion" category, which is really what all blogging is, but specifically in this case it's often about something political. And then there's what I refer to as "philosophical," which is when I share something I've been thinking about for one reason or another.

Those philosophical bits are the ones I often find most interesting in rereading. But they are just another post in a month's worth of entries, and don't jump out for any particular reason. So, unless I have reason to go back hunting for something I don't run across them.

Today Barbara wrote and told me she had gone back to January of 2007 and started reading my blog from that point forward. (Needless to say, I'm incredibly flattered by this.)

She was very taken with a post called, "Broken." I had no memory of what it was from the title and had to go look it up online. It's one of those "philosophical" posts. I think those are generally of much more interest to me than to anyone else, so it's good someone else found something valuable in it.

It prompts me to think that it would be interesting - for me, and maybe only me - to pull those sorts of posts together in one place. That's yet another thing that would be great to do with the blog/website/etc. Unfortunately, there's a very long list of those. And rarely do I have the time or motivation to do any of them.

But, it's a nice idea, nonetheless.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas Parade in Hutchinson Kansas

Today was the annual Christmas parade in Hutchinson, Kansas. It's always the Saturday before Thanksgiving and Santa makes his arrival as part of the parade. It's almost as if he is the Grand Marshall of the parade. And who better, really?

I watched from about Second and Main, near my office building. Of course, the Hutchinson High School Marching Band played. Our marching band has an angel playing.


And, at least two elves...

Later in the parade was one of my favorites - this dance group. They were so cool. I didn't see a banner indicating what group they were representing, but I loved it.

I'm not sure if the appropriate term for this dance is stepping or not, but it's the only term I know. They were a dance drill team, essentially, but with the movements you expect in stepping. There was also a caller, that you can see  in the background here in the black outfit.

Maybe someone will correct me if I'm wrong about the terminology. I loved their presentation. I could have watched them all day.

This little guy was standing a few feet away from me during the parade and was loving everything. He kept wanting to run out into the street. His adults had to keep corralling him. But, I love that sort of enthusiasm.

He was so cute people were coming over to give him and his sister/cousin/whatever candy.

Kathie did an entry for the democrats, as usual. She is so devoted. And she's very artistic so she comes up with some great entries. That's Nancy on the left and Cam on the right.

I loved year's entry...

Trish was walking with them, along with Rocco, who's name these days is "Ba-Rocco."  I guess Rocco is the official first-dog in Hutchinson. His duties include walking in parades, greeting residents and sniffing things.

Any parade has to have a selection of unusual vehicles...

I was taken with this little Shriner's vechile...

And real men do drive pink cars...

The phone number on this one was four numbers.

Bill Drews, who owns D and D Honey, which stands for Drews and Daughters, has the honey-mobile.

And there were tractors...

And this unusual moving present - I assume this is an ATV under there.

I appreciated the D and D Towing motto - When Santa Breaks down he calls them.

Antique firetrucks...

The Phoenician Salon and Day Spa had a great float, which included Lelani there under the hair dryer. She's one of our favorite Applebee's servers. It was fun to see her in a different environment.

If you can find them... unicycles add another dimension to the parade.

Greg took this photo of me at the parade.

You can tell a few things from it...
1. It was a little chilly today
2. I didn't put on any makeup - that is natural color in my cheeks, otherwise known as "wind burn."
3. I really am like a four-year-old. It's just that I can drive my own vehicle and pack my own bag of toys when I go somewhere.
4. I should learn to put on makeup or, alternately, learn to not put my photo on the world wide web.

Of course, parades always end with horsies. At least here.

And this one came complete with jingle bells.

If you were in the parade and want to see the raw photos, go to
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