Friday, February 29, 2008

What I Did Today

I woke at about 6:30. I couldn't wait to see what was on the editorial page of the Dayton Daily News. Yesterday, Victor Harris -- in the picture with Asburian Ted Strickland -- had questioned the DDN about a letter to the editor that featured a picture of his opponent. Victor had asked for equal space, and had been told that in today's paper would be an article that he would like.

I met Victor a couple of months ago and volunteered to help him in his campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination to run for representative of Ohio House District 40. The Montgomery County Democratic Party had already endorsed Victor's opponent. The idea that the Party would endorse and support one particular candidate in a primary contest offended me. District 40 always votes 70% Democratic, a very "safe" Democratic District, so the Party insiders basically wanted to reserve the right to appoint one of their own to a plum job.

I spoke my mind at the Montgomery Democratic Party Executive Committee concerning the Party's endorsement practices. I am a member of this committee because I am a Kettering Ward Leader. I later reflected on my comments and demeanor at that meeting, and I started a blog post, that I never finished, entitled, "When is it OK to show anger?" It seems to me, that losing one's temper is wrong, but having anger and showing anger is not only OK, but sometimes it is downright called for. I need to revisit that topic.

So, when Vic announced that he intended to seek the Democratic nomination for the 40th District, in opposition to the officially anointed Party candidate, I wanted to help him, even before I met him.

At 6:30 I got the paper. The DDN slugged it out of the park -- a home run -- two great articles. In response, I wrote this article that I posted on DaytonOS. Then, I met and had breakfast with one of my high school teachers, long retired, who I've kept track of. And then I started to seek out the homes of Democrats -- according to a list of addresses Victor supplied to me. District 40 includes the region north of Dayton where I grew up. My goal is to visit all of the Democratic voters on Victor's list in my old zip code, 45414, before March 4.

Visiting Democrats has been a pleasant experience; I've had some good conversations with fellow Democrats -- often they want to engage me in talking about Hillary and Obama. (On election day I intend on staking myself 100 ft outside of the poll where I graduated from high school and give Victor's literature to voters.)

On Martin Luther King Day, Governor Strickland was scheduled to make a speech at Dayton's Court House Square. I told Vic that I bet he could get a picture with the governor, and sure enough, Strickland was easily accessible. My camera refused to work -- why, did I not check the batteries? -- as the governor and the would-be state representative posed for me. The governor's official photographer finally took the picture and several days later, he e-mailed it to Victor.

I shook hands with the governor at the time of his inauguration last year in Columbus -- he had a public receiving line -- and when I said I was an Asbury graduate, he started singing, "Just within a village Wilmore, on a hill so fair ... "

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Concert: Inflationary Language

I'm sure you are familiar with Victor Borge's seminal work "Phonetic Punctuation". Here he inflates (uh, inflnines) the language.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

PTSW: Breathes There a Man...

Breathes There the Man...
from the Lay of the last Minstrel

by Sir Walter Scott

Canto Sixth


Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
"This is my own, my native land!"
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.

One of my regrets is that in sixty years of life in this blessed age of automobiles, trains, airplanes, interstate highways, and transcontinental rail lines, I have seen so little of " own, my native land."

In 1979 Sheila and I put up a map of the United States. On it we put red stars on locations where we had friends or relatives beloved enough that we would be welcomed for a night's lodging or more. We compared that map to the Amtrak route map. Amtrak had a promotion on their one-month "Rail Pass". Because of my school schedule that year, we had to schedule our trip to embark on the last day permitted by the promotion. But what a thirty-one days we spent touring this beautiful country by rail. We ended up imposing on only four families along the way - and one of those in absentia! What fun!

First from Brookwood station in Atlanta we boarded the Southern Crescent for the overnight run to the nation's capital. This may have been the least comfortable leg of the journey since the air-conditioning went out in our car. We crowded into another car for most of the trip, sleeping in our seats. We got to see a little of North Georgia in the twilight and then the bourgeoning housing developments of Northern Virginia in the dawn, but what a thrill to roll across the Potomac and see those gleaming monuments.

After a day or two in the capital city we boarded the Cardinal for a ride across the Appalachians through West Virginia to Cincinatti Ohio and a visit with our Kentucky friends, Bob and Sharlee and our Ohio buddy (and now contributor to the Limb) Mike Bock.

Then on to Chicago and a few days with my pregnant sister, Debi, and hubby Gregg. D&G, of course, made sure we saw all the Chicago sights.

The next leg was a long one up the Mississippi to the twin cities of Minnesota, then across the plains of North Dakota and Montana to Glacier Park. What a ride. The train was greatly delayed. 36 hours on the train! But it wasn't all bad. We met new friends. Played chess and Scrabble with complete strangers. And watched the plains slide by and the magnificent distant mountains approach.

Our first night at Glacier was spent at the Glacier Park Lodge. It was an old railroad lodge with a mammoth central lobby ringed by huge "whole tree" columns. In the morning we boarded one of the famous Glacier Park red convertible buses for the ride into the Canadian part of the park and the Prince of Wales Lodge. This grand chalet sits on the glacial moraine at the head of a beautiful lake. Our balcony overlooked the lake.

From there we took the red convertible into the heart of the park to the huge Many Glacier lodge. There the college age summer staff were all music majors and produced shows when they weren't bussing tables or making beds. We were there for their first week so the shows weren't ready, but I have never heard such beautiful renditions of "Happy Birthday" as we heard at each meal at Many Glacier Lodge. We hiked onto the retreating Grinnell Glacier. And along snow covered paths through gorgeous woods by raging glacier-fed creeks.

Soon we were back aboard the red convertible bus and climbing across the just-opened Going-to-the-Sun Highway cut through gigantic snowbanks over the continental divide at Logan Pass -- we got out to enjoy the snow and cold at the "top" --- and then descended into the warmth of the western side of the park and Lake Macdonald's smaller lodgings

There we hiked in shirt sleeves through the huge trees and great tree=strewn chasms.

From there we circled south of the park. We stopped to enjoy watching the mountain goats at a cliffside salt-lick.

Then back to the Glacier Park Lodge and a long hike through the blooming countryside there before reboarding the Empire Builder for the next leg of our journey.

From Glacier Park we passed through America's longest railroad tunnel in route to Seattle and a short stay at the station there before transferring to a different train for the ride along the coast to Portland. We could see the magnificent Mount Ranier from our coach.

At Portland we hunted down, not our friend Russ -- he was in Europe -- but his little convertible and its key and that to his Lincoln City beach house. We had wheels again! It was great to hole up in the little beach house, to walk along the beach in the June cold, and to motor up the coast in that snazzy little car. On one side of the road deserted sylvan scenes not unlike North Georgia except in scale; on the other the crashing waves of the anything-but-pacific Pacific.

The train ride from Portland climbs through the mountains hugging their sides precariously while displaying fantastic views for slack-jawed passengers.

At San Francisco's station our friends Steve and Laurie waited with baby Rachael and wonderful hospitality. We climbed through redwood forests with Rachael in a front pack. We visited Fisherman's Wharf. We ate chocolate sundaes at Ghiradelli's. We ate fresh salmon steaks. We grilled out at S&L's Oakland home. We watched the sea lions. We wondered at the marvelous Exploratorium. We hiked up the coast, playing in the tide pools, hanging over seaside bluffs on our bellies to commune with the hovering gulls practically at our fingertips, and eating cheese, bread, and nuts from our haversacks -- the best meal I've ever tasted. And we played with little Rachael, dressing her in red for June Christmas photos.

After a wonderful week we were back abouard Amtrak - the San Francisco Zypher -- headed to Salt Lake City. We spent two days there doing some family history research, shopping, and touring the Mormon sites.

On to Denver in a circuitous fashion -- backing there from Wyoming. We had no reservations in Denver and had to lug our suitcases many blocks and step over a drunk or two before we found lodgings. We toured the mint, the red rocks, and took a bus to see the mountains around.

That was really the end of our touring, Now it was back to Chicago and sister Debi's family, then onto the train to Birmingham. Sister Beth picked us up there and delivered us home, exhausted, inspired by the beauty of this great land, and happy to be back to our little corner of ".. my own, my native land!"

We have two big albums of photos from this trip. I'll scan a few and add them to this post when I get a round tuit.

Call for Submissions! (and Volunteers)

Call for Submissions!
(and Volunteers)

The March 2008 issue (our tenth!) of

Learning in the Great Outdoors

is being hosted by Terrell at

Alone on a Limb

If you have written or read an interesting post about the great outdoors, submit it to Terrell today.. If you have a suggestion of a deserving website that should be noticed by those interested in sharing nature with children, pass it along. Do you have a favorite nature-related children’s website that would be a candidate for the Virtual Outdoors award? Send it to Terrell. Would you like to see this carnival grow? Copy this Call for Submissions to your own blog! And after Terrell posts #10 (around March first), post an announcement and link on your blog. Help us make Learning in the Great Outdoors a great tool for anyone interested in watching children learn in the context of the environment around us.

And here are our scheduled editions for the rest of 2008:

#10 Mar 2008
Alone on a Limb

#11 April 2008
The Heart of Harmony (Barb)

#12 May 2008
Alone on a Limb or a volunteer (you?) yet to step forward

#13 June 2008
Miss Rumphius Effect (Tricia)

#14 July 2008
Alone on a Limb or a volunteer (you?) yet to step forward

#15 Aug 2008
A volunteer (you?) yet to step forward

#16 Sept 2008
Alone on a Limb or a volunteer (you?) yet to step forward

#17 Oct 2008
A volunteer (you?) yet to step forward

#18 Nov 2008
Alone on a Limb or a volunteer (you?) yet to step forward

#19 Dec 2008
A volunteer (you?) yet to step forward

Friday, February 15, 2008

Peel and All!

The thing you have to know about me is: I eat the peel and all! Geeeeshhhh!!!!

Saturday, February 09, 2008


A new Blog Carnival dedicated to plant life has been launched. Check it out!

Spring Has Sprung?

The bell has rung. The students have paraded to the busroom and the carline. The hall is quiet. Someone else has car duty today. It's Friday and, although he should be working on next week's lesson plans, it is a cloudless warm February day. Your reporter rolls up his sleeves at 3:20, grabs the camera, and walks forth in the after school sunshine to find bits of Spring brazenly climbing out of midwinter.

Sure enough, at the borders of the woods the sumac is budding.

Remember that little clump of jonquils getting ready to burst on February first? They've begun their display now. Below is the very same clump. The precocious ones are standing proud, fairly shouting for their siblings to come out into the sunshine.

Soon the huge tangle of wisteria will sprout a green and purple shroud that will block much of the sunlight from the deserted and mouldering old homesite. Only a bent and rusty coal scuttle here, a broken pipe there, the paintless hood of some thirties vehicle over yonder, a half-buried brick underfoot, a barbed wire embedded in bark, and other such bits and pieces join the jonquils and wisteria in testimony to a long-gone tenant cabin. Or maybe a part of the nearby CCC camp stood here?

Bright green stars are springing out on this moss.

Down by the creek, what I guess to be Tag Alder (Alnus serrulata) puts out hopeful tassels hanging about tiny red leaf buds.

The winter photo possibilities still abound. This backlit red leaf of what I call blaspheme vine stands out like a bright flower in the monochrome of February.

And the strangling cords of Wisteria do their violence to the trees around the old homesite.

The roots of an American beech grab at the eroding bank...

... as the tree's bole leans precariously across the water. Overall the woods are still wintry. Finally, some recent rains have filled the drought-sapped brook with a crystal clear steady flow. Things are looking up.

The fourth grade science teacher hoists his overweight sixty-year-old aching joints up the hill toward the school parking lot. The thirty minute walk was worth every twinge.

The escaping teacher is not the only mid-winter sun worshipper out today. Here an American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) finds a sunny perch atop a young pine at the edge of the playground. He snaps the crow's likeness before tossing the camera into a Toyota and motoring off into the weekend.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tell Me Once Again: What Does It Mean To Be a Conservative?

The debate between John McCain and Mitt Romney has centered on the question: who is the most reliably conservative? But it's a confusing debate because, anymore, who in the world knows what it means to be a conservative?

McCain was recently quoted as saying, “And I promise you, if I am so fortunate to win your nomination, I will work hard to ensure that the conservative philosophy and principles of our great party -- will again win the votes of a majority of the American people, and defeat any candidate our friends in the other party nominate”

But what is the conservative philosophy and conservative principles that McCann is referring to? Is it the conservatism of George W. Bush? George W. wants to present himself as a conservative. But, I don’t think that true conservatives could possibly believe that he is. Didn’t conservatives use to rail against interfering in the affairs of other nations, didn’t they use to rail against the whole concept of “nation building”? Didn’t conservatives at one time obsess over the importance of fiscal responsibility? Yet, George W. has increased our national debt by over $3 trillion -- all empowered by a Republican Congress that presents itself as conservative.

Wouldn’t a true conservative object to Bush’s practice of issuing legislative “signing statements,” that changes the intent of legislation approved by Congress? Since when is it a conservative principle that the executive branch should be given lopsided power?

It would be interesting to attempt to make a complete list of the many ways that a conservative, if true to his or her principles, must be appalled by much of what George W. Bush has wrought.

You would think that a philosophy of conservatism would be a philosophy that agreed with original principles that founded our nation, a philosophy that would embrace the original vision of our nation — that in this country all are created equal and that there should be freedom and justice for all.

But conservatism, as I hear it from the Republicans, isn’t all that concerned about justice, economic justice, anyway, and seems eager to worship a market system that blatantly unfairly distributes wealth — a system that causes a large segment of citizens to be working poor, bereft of the most important freedoms that every citizen should be guaranteed: freedom from want, freedom from fear.

Amazingly, spokespersons for conservatism advocate the use of torture as one way to define conservatism. John McCain’s conservatism, according to Ann Coulter, is called into question because of his anti-torture stance. This article says, “Ann Coulter took aim at McCain’s positions — particularly his fervent anti-torture stance — and said he and Clinton differ little on the issues.”

Evidently, according to Coulter, if you are a true conservative you should have a pro torture stance. But the conservatism that Coulter advocates for Republicans, that justifies torture, is strikingly at odds with traditional conservative principles. I especially appreciated The Limb’s recent quote denouncing torture from someone, I assume, conservatives would want to claim as their own, George Washington. To advocate the use of torture, seems to me, is not to advocate conservatism at all. Yet Coulter, Limbaugh, and other self-serving big mouths have the audacity to claim that a conservative is one who advocates the use of torture.

The above article also says, “McCain has been at odds with some of the conservative base for his support of campaign finance reform legislation and his vote against President Bush’s tax cuts.” So, it appears, according to the Republicans, advancing conservative principles means rejecting campaign finance reform and cutting taxes in time of war.

Since when is a vote against tax cuts automatically a vote against conservatism? Since when is it a conservative principle that taxes should be reduced, regardless, even if spending runs amuck? McCain and Romney, who want to boast how authentically conservative they are, both want to extend the Bush tax cuts -- giving the top 1% of incomes an astounding windfall -- regardless of the many additional trillions of dollars of national debt such an action would cause. This is conservatism?

The conservatism of Republicans, as revealed by the McCain / Romney dispute, is showing itself to be not much of a philosophy at all -- certainly not a philosophy defined by well thought out or consistent principles. It seems painfully obvious that Republicans simply use the term “conservative” as a means to confuse, deceive, and manipulate the public.

Tell me once again: What does it mean to be a conservative?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Notes and Questions after Super Duper Tuesday

How many total Republican votes were cast? How many Democratic votes?

In how many states did the top Democratic candidate outpoll the top GOP candidate?

How many of those states are considered "red" states?

In how many states did both Barack and Hillary outpoll the top GOP guy?

Huckabee won Arkansas going away. Hillary significantly outpolled Huck there.

Exit polls indicate a huge percentage of voters in the Democratic primaries like BOTH candidates.

Are Republican voters as pleased with the three remaining GOP guys?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday Concert: Early John Denver

Here's John Denver, again, this time with the short-lived trio that succeeded the Chad Michell Trio: Denver, Boise, and Johnson. "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Jonquils before Groundhog Day

Last week I took a stroll through our school woods, hoping to get a wildlife shot or two. Nothing as dramatic as the snake pictures from last summer or the groundhog shot from last spring. But it's nice to get the full view that the leafless woods provide this time of year. You get a better feel for the lay of the land.

Here you can see the meander of our little stream way down the hill from our outdoor classroom.

Here the double white horizontal stripes that mark our boundary with Berry College property and a more recent blue boundary tape helps me keep our trail on our property.

This is probably an old home site. There are already lots of buds on the jonquils poking through the leaf mould.

Here it is February first and I take another walk. My annual Find a Jonquil Blooming before Groundhog Day Walk. Usually I can find somewhere in Rome Georgia a daffodil holding high its trumpet to announce that winter will pass. No luck this year. I was sure the clump above that seemed so ready to burst forth last week would be blooming now. Here's the same clump on Feb. 1.

It won't be long though.

Guest Post: From George Washington

I will let the Father of our Country speak for me in response to the unpardonable behavior of his successor George and the present Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, who testified before Congress this week and could not bring himself to say that aborted drowning of prisoners of war is torture:
"Upon your conduct and courage, and that of the officers and soldiers detailed on this expedition, not only the success of the present enterprise, and your own honor, but the safety and welfare of the whole continent, may depend. I charge you, therefore, and the officers and soldiers under your command, as you value your own safety and honor, and the favor and esteem of your country, that you consider yourselves as marching, not through the country of an enemy, but of our friends and brethren; ... and that you check, by every motive of duty and fear of punishment, every attempt to plunder or insult the inhabitants... Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any Canadian or Indian, in his person or property, I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment, as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportioned to its guilt, at such a time, and in such a cause.
I also give in charge to you, to avoid all disrespect to the religion of the country and its ceremonies. While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only, in this case, are they answerable."
- General George Washington, 1775
What would George Washington say about the actions of George W. Bush and his Republican minions?