Tuesday, December 30, 2008

X-Ray Vision

If I had my choice of any superpower, I would chose invisibility - can you imagine going anywhere and nobody knows that you are there with them; listening, watching, etc.?

Next, I think, it would be nice to have X-Ray Vision. Look at the right bottom corner above - it's a guy working on a copier!

The bottle is empty - is that why he's leaning?


A football player who took his helmet and football along for the picture!


My personal favorite - 2 fruit bats.


The wheels on the bus go round and round...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friends Christmas

This coming Friday night will be one of my favorite nights of the year! How do I know that?

Well, it's my friends christmas - where my friends from high school; Faith and Janice - along with their families and I have our annual get-together.

It is always a fun night, even though we've been doing it forever (really, I can't remember when we didn't do it!) A guaranteed fun night.

Every year it's at a different house, but has usually been at Faith's or Janice's. I've hosted it twice in the past 15 years. Now that two of Faith's kids have their own homes, we've been able to spread it out a little bit more. Last year was Tim and Becky's year to host and the year before that was Rachel and Mike's turn.

This year will be Faith's turn. We'll have our usual appetizers while everyone is arriving. Then dinner (no idea what it will be this year) and we usually play Trivial Pursuit (boys vs. girls.) Intermingled in there is lots of talking, laughter and catching up. I'd like to say that the game is the highlight of the night, but all aspects of the night are fun. I especially enjoy Faith and Janice working in synch with each other and getting completely off track as they try to answer our question. There are a couple of attendees that seem to be bothered by that, (which is something that I can totally understand) but I end up enjoying their annoyance as well. It is what it is and I've learned to appreciate it over our many years of friendship.

Last year we added a new element which was a great deal of fun. It's called a Yankee Swap and everyone was instructed to bring a gift wrapped present of about $10 in a brown paper shopping bag. Now this bag had to be folded over and stapled with 3 staples!! There were more details than I am sharing right now but it was quite fun. I took it one step further and wrapped my gift to resemble a brown shopping bag, which was quite clever if I do say so myself.

As the kids have gotten older, it's been more difficult to get everyone together. Joseph is home from school in Minnessota. The next day Kimmy heads to Florida. The math that goes into figuring out which night works out best for about 15 people is more than I can do, that's for sure. It's always disappointing when someone is missing. This year we should have full attendance, and that makes me very, very happy.

Very much looking forward to a fun night with fun people who I love dearly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Story

I love this movie - one of the best Christmas movies ever.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Helen Philpot's Perfect Stuffing Recipe

This sounds so good I wanted to share it - I'll be trying it, that's for sure.

Helen’s Perfect Stuffing (Unless You’re Jewish or Vegetarian)

3 loafs day-old white bread, air dried
1 lb bacon
1 stick butter
1 large onion
1 stalk celery
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste

Prepare the night before. Chop the bread in a blender or food processor.

Fry the bacon but leave the grease in the pan when you remove the bacon.

Add stick of butter to the grease to melt. Chop onion and celery and cook in the grease/butter mixture.

Combine contents of pan with bread and crumbled bacon.

Toss in poultry seasoning and salt/pepper.

Mix well and if the dressing isn’t “gummy feeling” go ahead and moisten it with chicken broth or warm water.

Refrigerate until morning.

I like to stuff my bird - just make sure you adjust your cooking time to accommodate.

And forget about all that crap you hear about not stuffing a bird. Been doing it for 60 years and we’re all alive and well. Enjoy.

The Greatest Concert - 200 Years Ago Tonight

On December 22, 1808, Beethoven himself rented a hall in Vienna and promoted the concert to end all concerts: the debut, over four hours, of three of the greatest works in the history of music: his Fifth Symphony, the Sixth ("Pastoral") Symphony, and the astounding Piano Concerto No. 4, plus the wonderful Choral Fantasia (forerunner to his Ninth Symphony).

And yes, it was a fiasco.

But imagine: It was as if Orson Welles premiered Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Touch of Evil on the same night -- with The Lady from Shanghai thrown in for good measure.

This was mid-period Beethoven. He was 38 at the time and would live another 19 fitful years.

He had been losing his hearing for almost ten years and would soon be completely deaf. In fact, he would play piano in concert for virtually the last time at this epic 1808 program, as hearing himself play would eventually cease. That wouldn't stop him, a few years later, from producing his most astounding writing of all: the late piano sonatas and string quartets, the Ninth Symphony, and much more. If you know Beethoven only from his symphonies you are truly missing nearly all of his most amazing, moving, and profound work.

The hall in Vienna was freezing cold. Beethoven, as a taskmaster conductor, had alienated the musicians, rehearsals were inadequate, he finished one piece on the morning of the concert with (reportedly) the ink still wet that night.

Parts of the program went off very well; on the other hand, he stopped the Choral Fantasia after a few minutes and made the orchestra start over. In any case, the show went on, and on. In that era, it was hard enough for any audience to appreciate and/or grasp the unprecedented length -- and revolutionary nature -- of Beethoven's compositions, and now they were cold and tired.

The key newspaper review at the time noted the genius of Beethoven's new compositions but also the demands on the audience ("It is known that, with respect to Vienna, it holds even more true than with respect to most other cities, what is written in the scriptures, namely that the prophet does not count for anything in his own country").

Beethoven was the greatest composer in the history of Western culture. And in these tough times, you really might find that a little Beethoven -- principally the piano sonatas, trios and string quartets -- will help you make it through your week.

Below please findthe link to a brief clip, the 4th movement of the Pastoral Symphony, decades ahead of its time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5zNiUG__FM&eurl=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-mitchell/the-greatest-concert-ever_b_152804.html&feature=player_embedded

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Grateful Nation? I Don't Think So!

At a private meeting after the failure of Lehman Brothers, President Idiot reportedly asked his advisors, "How did we get here?"

Funny because, according to The New York Times, he helped chart the course. Early in his presidency, the Idiot promised to "use the mighty muscle of the federal government" to help make housing available to low-income families, offering tax incentives and forcing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to set ambitious lending goals.

His reward? Mortgage bankers and brokers tripled their contributions to his campaign from 2000 to 2004 and the founder of the nation's largest subprime lender became one of the Republican Party's top 10 donors in 2004.

Bush coupled this with a weakening of the SEC: His first chairman promised a "kindler, gentler" agency; his second was forced out for being too aggressive; and the third chairman has presided over the present catastrophe.

Gee, Mr. President Idiot, we all are just so grateful for everything you've done for, er, I mean to us during your presidency. Thankfully, we are now within a month of this idiot leaving.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cecile Richards, President-Planned Parenthood

Minutes ago, President Bush's rule limiting the rights of patients to receive complete and accurate reproductive health information when they visit a federally funded health care provider was made official. And, unfortunately, it will take a great deal of work to reverse it — starting today. Please help.

We knew this was coming, of course. With your help, we've been fighting it for months. The rule is clearly a parting gift from Bush to the anti-choice fringe that supported him all these years. Now, anti-choice medical staff can withhold information about abortion, birth control, and sex education from their patients.

Facilities that receive family planning funding, like Planned Parenthood, will have to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control. For example, a doctor who opposes pre-marital sex could refuse to provide a prescription or even information about emergency contraception to an unmarried woman.

Frankly, I'm livid. I believe that tricking women when they are most vulnerable is wrong — and the federal government shouldn't pay people to do it. Especially now, when so many people are already in crisis as a result of the economy, I can't help but feel that this rule is a particularly low blow to the people who need our help, our support, and our most accurate and effective care the most.

Even with a new president and administration coming in soon, this won't be easy to fix. It's going to take more than a simple signature to reverse it. We're starting our work today and we need your help. Please ask the Obama administration to reverse the new rule.

This is a particularly challenging time for so many. More and more people are turning to Planned Parenthood as they lose their jobs and their health insurance — and at a time when donations are down. Your financial support of the Action Fund's advocacy efforts, if you can spare it, is much appreciated. Thank you.

Pogo Game For You To Play

Fun - especially if you are a good speller.

For more Word Whomp go to Pogo to play 100s of Fun Games!
For more Word Whomp go to Pogo to play 100s of Fun Games!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Finally Adam Walsh Can Rest In Peace

Could you imagine if you didn't know where your child was? I can't even imagine that.

In 1981, little Adam Walsh was with his mother in a mall when he just disappeared.

I remember when this happened and felt so sad for the Walsh family at that time. The picture above was all over the news and I can recall that everyone was talking about it and wondering how it could have happened.

Today, the police have finally said that the case is solved - a serial killer took their son and we can only imagine what horror that little boy went through before he was killed and decapitated.

Out of that terrible tragedy many good things happened. Mrs Walsh founded the Center For Missing and Exploited Children and Mr Walsh went on to host America's Most Wanted. Laws were changed. This case contributed to massive advances in police searches for missing youngsters across the country.

Mr Walsh's subsequent activism on his behalf helped put faces on milk cartons, shopping bags and mailbox fliers, started fingerprinting programs and increased security at schools and stores. It spurred the creation of missing persons units at every large police department.

Even President Idiot finally got something right when in 2006 he signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act to establish a national sex offender registry and to make it harder for predators to reach children on the Internet.

I've posted this before, but here it is again.

About 100 children a year are abducted and murdered, and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children expects that number to remain about the same for 2009. Seventy-five percent of those children are murdered within three hours, the center says.

Peter Banks, a former Washington, D.C., police officer who is the center's director of training and outreach, says parents should prepare their children by talking to them because an abduction can turn violent. "Most abductions are not really abductions: They are seductions by people whose sole ambition is to use their guile and cunning to victimize helpless children," Banks said.

"The No. 1 weapon to arm a child with is self-esteem. Tell your kids you love them and make them feel proud. If you don't tell them you love them, then someone else will."

Whatever you do, don't try to scare your kids. Dr. Carl Metzger, a Portland-based child psychiatrist, recommends parents try not to instill fear in their children or harp on the topic. Repetitive warnings make the parent seem weak or unable to provide care. "Instilling fear ruins the balance for a young child. It would make them fearful or anxious," Metzger said. "The most effective approach is for parents to give a warning in context, such as if something appears on television or a child brings the subject up. That's the perfect time to give the message."

And what is the message? Metzger says it depends on the age of the child. You can talk to a 9-year-old about how it is unsafe to go with a stranger. But you might want to tell a 5-year-old that they may go only with Mommy or Daddy. Metzger says parents need to be vigilant because society has changed in recent years. "There has been a lessening of the network that keeps children safe, and by that I mean children are often left on their own while their parents work," Metzger said. He recommends that children not veer from their destination, avoid occupied parked cars, and if someone does try to physically overpower them, shout, scream and kick.

Police have found that many abductors will flee if a child reacts in that way. As with most attempted abductions, never let yourself be taken to a second location, do whatever needs to be done to get away. "It's fight or flight. You don't have a lot of options."

Steps to take to keep your kids safe:

-Never leave a child unattended in a parked car, park, playground or store.

-Have a family "code" word to use when someone other than the parents is picking up the child. If the "code" word isn’t give, the child should not go with that person.

-Let children know that they don’t always have to listen to adults. If someone they don’t know tells them to do something, let them know that it’s okay not to listen. They should draw attention to themselves in whatever way is necessary to avoid a predator.

-The number one target of predators is adolescent girls, mostly between the ages of 8 and 15. Most girls in this age group should be warned of the dangers to them. Have a plan of action as to what they should do in any instance of danger.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Not-So-Funny Part Of Shoe Throwing

The Iraqi people have been suffering for over 5 years now because of the U.S. invasion. They have every right to be pissed off. I'd throw shoes or whatever was handy at President Idiot.

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

Al-Zeidi's tirade was echoed by Arabs across the Middle East who are fed up with U.S. policy in the region and still angry over Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein.

The response to the incident by Arabs in the street was ecstatic.
"Al-Zeidi is the man," said 42-year-old Jordanian businessman Samer Tabalat. "He did what Arab leaders failed to do."

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Biggest Full Moon

The full moon Friday night will be the biggest one of the year as Earth's natural satellite reaches its closest point to our planet.

Earth, the moon and the sun are all bound together by gravity, which keeps us going around the sun and keeps the moon going around us as it goes through phases. The moon makes a trip around Earth every 29.5 days. But the orbit is not a perfect circle.

The moon's average distance from us is about 238,855 miles (384,400 km). Friday night it will be just 221,560 miles (356,567 km) away. It will be 14 percent bigger in our sky and 30 percent brighter than some other full moons during the year, according to NASA.

Tides will be higher Friday night, too. Earth's oceans are pulled by the gravity of the moon and the sun. So when the moon is closer, tides are pulled higher. Scientists call these perigean tides, because the moon's closest point to Earth is called perigee. The farthest point on the lunar orbit is called apogee.

Some other strange lunar facts:

The moon is moving away from Earth as you read this, by about 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) a year. Eventually it'll be torn apart as an expanding sun pushes the moon back toward Earth for a wrenching close encounter.

There is no proof the full moon makes people crazy.

Beaches are more polluted during full moon, owing to the higher tides.

The moon will rise Friday evening right around sunset, no matter where you are. That's because of the celestial mechanics that produce a full moon: The moon and the sun are on opposite sides of the planet, so that sunlight hits the full face of the moon and bounces back to our eyes.

At moonrise, the moon will appear even larger than it will later in the night when it's higher in the sky. This is an illusion that scientists can't fully explain. Some think it has to do with our perception of things on the horizon vs. stuff overhead.

Try this trick, though: Using a pencil eraser or similar object held at arm's length, gauge the size of the moon when it's near the horizon and again later when it's higher up and seems smaller. You'll see that when compared to a fixed object, the moon will be the same size in both cases.

You can see all this on each night surrounding the full moon, too, because the moon will be nearly full, rising earlier Thursday night and later Saturday night.

Interestingly, because of the mechanics of all this, the moon is never truly 100 percent full. For that to happen, all three objects have to be in a perfect line, and when that rare circumstance occurs, there is a total eclipse of the moon.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Castle

I got a phone call from my friend J who went through the castle with me last year. He was at George's Pizza for supper (there is no George at George's Pizza, the owner's name is Hercules!) and he ran into the guy who lives across the street from the castle. He told J he had bad and good news. The bad news is that someone broke into the castle and stole all the copper pipes (which is not a real big problem as the heating and plumbing systems need to be completely replaced.) The good news is that the owner, Marc Piccoli, who I have been trying to find for a year and a half has agreed to sell the castle for just $115,000!!! A friend of Richard (who lives across the street) is interested. When I get my voice back - it's been gone since Friday - I am going to call Richard and see if he can hook me up with the guy who is interested! I can give him some history as well as some information that could be handy with the renovations that need to be done.

I'm very pleased and I really hope that someone, anyone buys this beautiful piece of art that doubles as a house!
It's in some serious need of attention and love. To be continued...


Monday, December 8, 2008

October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980

Twenty eight years ago tonight, also a Monday, I was at the castle getting ready for bed when my father yelled up the stairs "Do you know John Lennon?" Once I heard the news, I called into work and said I wouldn't be in the following day. On Tuesday, one of the local radio stations (I don't remember which one, probably HJY) played only Beatles and Lennon songs. I called in and requested Elton John's Funeral For A Friend which they did play. I felt and still feel absolutely awful about his death. I think a little bit of my heart died back then, as well.

Here is a video tribute regarding his death: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE2m9cF_4Xo I have always loved The Beatles. The first album I ever bought was Beatles 65. It started my life long fascination of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Thank you, John Lennon, for your genius and your music which, thankfully, lives on. You are missed.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Friday, December 5, 2008

Another Brain Fart

Wow, our President Idiot sure has noticed a bunch of things lately. I just wonder where the H E double hockey sticks he's been the past 8 years.

New revelation: President George W. Bush said Friday that the fight in Iraq has been longer and more costly than expected, but he defended the U.S.-led invasion, saying the world could not risk leaving Saddam Hussein's power unchecked.

At the rate he's going, he might even realize how bad a job he's done and that we want him to go away. Gee, maybe OJ has some room in his cell for a roommate.

Can You Say Buh Bye?

See ya never, OJ, hope you die in prison!

Unprepared For Life

Since December 1st I've been trying to behave myself and not blog about our outgoing criminal in chief. I really have. But, I really, really have to blog about the interview President Idiot did with Charlie Gibson. It seems that finally some truth is coming out of his big fat lying pie hole:

Looking back on his eight years in the White House, President George W. Bush said he was "unprepared" for war and pinpointed incorrect intelligence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction as "biggest regret of all the presidency."

Incorrect intelligence, my big fat butt. He lied then and he's still lying about it.

President George W. Bush expressed remorse that the global financial crisis has cost jobs and harmed retirement accounts and said he'll back more government intervention if needed to ease the recession.

"I'm sorry it's happening, of course," Bush said in a wide-ranging interview with ABC's "World News," which was airing Monday. "Obviously I don't like the idea of people losing jobs, or being worried about their 401(k)s. On the other hand, the American people got to know that we will safeguard the system. I mean, we're in. And if we need to be in more, we will."

The American people got to know that we...blah, blah, blah. He can't even effing speak correctly. His whole entire life has been one friggin mistake after another. And he's sorry. He's the cause of most of it. Sending hundreds of billions of dollars over to Iraq and being responsible for the deaths of far to many service men and women, never mind the countless Iraq civilians who have died or been displaced.

He has to be one of the most idiotic people to ever live. I cannot wait for him to go. Just go, George, now!

Hmmmm

Sometimes I wonder...Why is that frisbee getting bigger?

...and then it hits me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

#53 With A Bullet??

Okay, you all know that I spend a lot of time on the internet - a real lot of time!!

The other day I came across an article titled The 100 Greatest Artists Of All Time, which intrigues me to no end as I am a major music lover. Come to find out it was a Rolling Stone magazine article from 2004. Many, many years ago I was a regular Rolling Stone reader. I had subscriptions and enjoyed knowing what was up with the music world. And Rolling Stone was and has been the preemptive music magazine for decades.

So back to the article - the first 50 are called "The Immortals" and number one on the list, of course, is The Beatles; #2 Bob Dylan; #3 Elvis - okay so far. #4 Rolling Stones (huh?) #5 Chuck Berry (he did sort of invent rock and roll) #6 Jimi Hendrix; #7 James Brown (not one of my favorites) #8 Little Richard (????) #9 Aretha Franklin, (queen of soul) #10 Ray Charles!

So, I'm wondering where is Eric Clapton, guitar god extraordinaire, if he's not in the top 10?

Well, come to find out, he's not even in the top 50!!!! What is up with that? There he was at #53 - Eric Clapton, who single handily changed the way guitars were played and perfected heartfelt white man guitar blues. And most of his success was while he was in the midst of highly public drug and alcohol addictions, which, thankfully he cleaned up in the mid 1980s.

Here's some highly questionable choices by whomever came up with this list (all I can think of is that the folks who voted must not have been born when Clapton Is God was the rage all over the freaking world!)

#16 Sam Cooke
#18 Marvin Gaye??? WTF is up with that one? He was a singer, not a musician!
#19 The Velvet Underground (who??)
#25 Fats Domino
#26 The Ramones
#27 Nirvana (they were around for just a few years, not decades like Clapton!!)

Boy, am I getting pissed all over again. And where the hell is Pink Floyd???

#28 Prince
#30 The Clash
#32 Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (again - singersss only)
#33 The Everly Brothers
#44 Public Enemy (!!!!!)
#46 Janis Joplin (again - a singer, and for just a few years)
#47 Patti Smith
#48 Run DMC
#51 Howlin Wolf (I have never even heard of this person or group or whatever they are)
#52 The Allman Brothers
#53 Eric Clapton - what an insult to him, his talent, his songwriting and his fans!
#66 was Cream - named for the "cream of the crop" when Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton joined forces for the first "supergroup."

Well, come to find out, Pink Floyd did not even make the top 100!! Unbelieveable.

But at least AC/DC at #72, and Radiohead at #73 were (heavy sarcasm)!!! The list goes on to include The Beastie Boys, The Stooges, N.W.A (again, who are they?) Tupak Shakur was #86 (who was known as Onepak after one of his nuts was shot off.) And, last and certainly not least (again, heavy sarcasm) at #100 is Lee "Scratch" Perry.

Granted, some of these artists that I haven't heard of because they were more behind the scenes, or, more likely, music that I didn't listen to. But really, Public Enemy and Janis Joplin weren't (even on a good day) "greater" than Clapton or Floyd.

I suppose that I'll get over this in time, but I really had to share my outrage.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Today In History

On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, defied the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white man aboard a Montgomery, Ala., city bus. Parks was arrested, sparking a year-long boycott of the buses by blacks. It's hard to believe that just 53 years later a black man has been elected President of the United States! Rosa Parks is a true American hero.

Here's the original AP story:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The arrest of a Negro who refused to move to the colored section of a city bus may bring a court test of segregated transportation in the cradle of Confederacy.
While thousands of other Negroes boycotted Montgomery City Lines in protest, Mrs. Rosa Parks was fined $14 in police court today for disregarding a driver's order to move to the rear of a bus last Thursday.

Negro passengers ride in the rear of buses here; white passengers in front under a municipal segregation ordinance.

An emotional crowd of Negroes, estimated by police at 5,000, roared approval tonight to continue the boycott.

Spokesmen at the meeting said the boycott would continue until people who ride buses are no longer "intimidated, embarrassed and coerced." They said a "declaration of citizens" is ready to help city and bus line officials develop a program that would be "satisfactory and equitable."

The boycott was organized after circulars were distributed in Negro residential areas Saturday urging "economic reprisal" against the bus company.

Mrs. Parks appealed her $14 fine and was released under $100 bond signed by Negro attorney Fred Gray and a former state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, E. D. Nixon.

Gray and Charles Langford, another Negro lawyer representing the 42-year-old department store seamstress, refused to say whether they plan to attack constitutionality of the segregation laws affecting public transportation.

But Gray told The Associated Press that "every issue will be raised that I think is necessary to defend my client."

Rosa Parks was not trying to make a political statement or start the civil rights movement, she was tired that day and just wanted to sit.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Venus And Jupiter Will Shine Monday Night

Every once in a while, something will appear in the night sky that will attract the attention of even those who normally don't bother looking up. It's likely to be that way on Monday evening, Dec. 1.

A slender crescent moon, just 15 percent illuminated, will appear in very close proximity to the two brightest planets in our sky, Venus and Jupiter.

People who are unaware or have no advance notice will almost certainly wonder, as they cast a casual glance toward the moon on that night, what those two "large silvery stars" happen to be?

Sometimes, such an occasion brings with it a sudden spike of phone calls to local planetariums, weather offices and even police precincts. Not a few of these calls excitedly inquire about "the UFOs" that are hovering in the vicinity of our natural satellite.

Very bright objectsVenus has adorned the southwestern twilight sky since late August. No other star or planet can come close to matching Venus in brilliance. During World War II, aircraft spotters sometimes mistook Venus for an enemy airplane. There were even cases in which Venus drew antiaircraft fire.

This winter, Venus is the unrivaled evening star that will soar from excellent to magnificent prominence in the southwest at nightfall. The interval by which it follows the Sun will increase from nearly three hours on Dec. 1 to almost four hours by Jan. 1.

It's probably the first "star" you'll see coming out after sunset. In fact, if the air is very clear and the sky a good, deep blue, try looking for Venus shortly before sunset.

Jupiter starts December just above Venus and is moving in the opposite direction, dropping progressively lower each evening. By month's end Jupiter meets up with another planet — Mercury — but by then Jupiter is also descending deep into the glow of sunset. In January, Jupiter will be too close to the Sun to see; it's in conjunction with the Sun on Jan. 24.

Earthlit ball A very close conjunction of the crescent moon and a bright star or planet can be an awe-inspiring naked-eye spectacle. The English poet, critic and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) used just such a celestial sight as an ominous portent in his epic, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

In addition, there are juxtaposed crescent moon and star symbols that have appeared on the flags of many nations, including Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Algeria, Mauritania, and Tunisia.

Also on Monday evening, you may be able to see the full globe of the moon, its darkened portion glowing with a bluish-gray hue interposed between the sunlit crescent and not much darker sky. This vision is sometimes called "the old moon in the young moon's arms." Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was the first to recognize it as what we now call "earthshine."

As seen from the moon, the Earth would loom in the sky some 3.7 times larger than the moon does for us.

In addition, the land masses, the oceans and clouds make the Earth a far better reflector of sunlight as compared to the moon. In fact, the Earth's reflectivity varies as clouds, which appear far more brilliant than the land and seas, cover greater or lesser parts of the visible hemisphere.

The result is that the Earth shines between 45 and 100 times more brightly than the moon.
The Earth also goes through phases, just as the moon does for us, although they are opposite from what we see from Earth. The term for this is called "complementary phases."

On Nov. 27, for example, there was a new moon for us, but as seen from the surface of the moon that day, there appeared in the lunar sky a brilliant full Earth. A few nights later, as the sliver of a crescent moon begins to appear in our western twilight sky, its entire globe may be glimpsed.

Sunlight is responsible for the slender crescent, yet the remainder of the moon appears to shine with a dim blush-gray tone. That part is not receiving sunlight, but shines by virtue of reflected earthlight: the nearly full Earth illuminating the otherwise dark lunar landscape. So earthshine is really sunlight which is reflected off Earth to the moon and then reflected back to Earth.

Keeping it all in perspective Keep in mind that this head-turning display of three celestial objects crowded together will be merely an illusion of perspective: the moon will be only about 251,400 miles from Earth, while Venus is nearly 371 times farther away, at 93.2 million miles.
Meanwhile, Jupiter is almost 2,150 times farther away than our natural satellite at 540.3 million miles.

Those using binoculars or a small telescope will certainly enjoy the almost three-dimensional aspect of the moon, but Venus will be rather disappointing appearing only as a brilliant blob of light, for right now, it's a small, featureless gibbous disk.

That will change in the coming weeks, however, as Venus approaches Earth and the angle it makes between us and the Sun allows it to evolve into a "half-moon" phase in mid-January, and a lovely crescent phase of its own during the latter part of February and March.

Jupiter, on the other hand, is a far more pleasing sight with its relatively large disk, cloud bands and its retinue of bright Galilean satellites.

All four will be in view on Monday evening, with Callisto sitting alone on one side of Jupiter, Ganymede, Io and Europa will be on the other side. Io and Europa will in fact, appear very close to each other, separated by only about one-sixth the apparent width of Jupiter.

Venus 'eclipse' for Europe As beautiful as the view of Venus, Jupiter and the moon will be from North America, an even more spectacular sight awaits those living in parts of Western Europe where the moon will pass in front of Venus.

Astronomers refer to this phenomenon as an "occultation," taken from the Latin word "occultÄ re," which means "to conceal."

This eye-catching sight will be visible in complete darkness across much of Eastern Europe. Farther west, Venus will disappear behind the dark part of the moon either during evening twilight or just before the Sun sets.

When Venus emerges, it will look like a brightening jewel on the slender lunar crescent. For virtually all of Europe, the Sun will have set by then, the exception being southern Portugal (including Lisbon).

Such favorable circumstances are quite rare for any given location. For example, the last time London was treated to such a favorably placed Venus occultation such was back on Oct. 7, 1961.

And after 2008, there will not be another similarly favorable Venus occultation for the United Kingdom until Jan. 10, 2032.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Most Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday. Of course it has to do with all the different food - it's my favorite meal of the year.

Oh That Chelsea!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bush 'Very Pleased' With Iraq War Outcome

Some 4,200 US soldiers have been killed in the country in a war which has also cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars, and President Idiot is pleased!

On the evening news tonight in Southeastern Massachusetts was a little girl - maybe about 11 or 12 who was crying over the death of her big brother who died in Iraq. She was trying to tell what her big brother had taught her; respect and being a good person was his message to her.

Another needless death at the hands of George W Bush, who is, by far, the worst president we've ever had. I have loathed him since the first time I saw him, just before he stole the 2000 election. As bad as I thought he would be at that time, I never imagined the reality we've been forced to live with for the past 8 years. He absolutely should be tried for crimes against humanity. I would be more than happy to be the one to pull the lever, or administer the drug, or whatever is done for criminals when they are put to death.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

May 29, 1917 - November 22, 1963


On November 22, 1963, when he was hardly past his first thousand days in office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; he was the youngest to die.

Of Irish descent, he was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917. Graduating from Harvard in 1940, he entered the Navy. In 1943, when his PT boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer, Kennedy, despite grave injuries, led the survivors through perilous waters to safety.

Back from the war, he became a Democratic Congressman from the Boston area, advancing in 1953 to the Senate. He married Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12, 1953. In 1955, while recuperating from a back operation, he wrote Profiles in Courage, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history.

In 1956 Kennedy almost gained the Democratic nomination for Vice President, and four years later was a first-ballot nominee for President. Millions watched his television debates with the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. Winning by a narrow margin in the popular vote, Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic President.

His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." As President, he set out to redeem his campaign pledge to get America moving again. His economic programs launched the country on its longest sustained expansion since World War II; before his death, he laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and poverty.

Responding to ever more urgent demands, he took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling for new civil rights legislation. His vision of America extended to the quality of the national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society.

He wished America to resume its old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights. With the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, he brought American idealism to the aid of developing nations. But the hard reality of the Communist challenge remained.

Shortly after his inauguration, Kennedy permitted a band of Cuban exiles, already armed and trained, to invade their homeland. The attempt to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro was a failure. Soon thereafter, the Soviet Union renewed its campaign against West Berlin. Kennedy replied by reinforcing the Berlin garrison and increasing the Nation's military strength, including new efforts in outer space. Confronted by this reaction, Moscow, after the erection of the Berlin Wall, relaxed its pressure in central Europe.

Instead, the Russians now sought to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. When this was discovered by air reconnaissance in October 1962, Kennedy imposed a quarantine on all offensive weapons bound for Cuba. While the world trembled on the brink of nuclear war, the Russians backed down and agreed to take the missiles away. The American response to the Cuban crisis evidently persuaded Moscow of the futility of nuclear blackmail.

Kennedy now contended that both sides had a vital interest in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and slowing the arms race--a contention which led to the test ban treaty of 1963. The months after the Cuban crisis showed significant progress toward his goal of "a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion." His administration thus saw the beginning of new hope for both the equal rights of Americans and the peace of the world.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It Was 40 Years Ago This Week - The White Album

Tomorrow the Beatles will release their first album in a year, titled simply The Beatles.

Copies of the album, one of their most unusual although not one of their best, will be delivered to most New York City record stores tomorrow according to Capitol Records, the distributor.

The album, on the Apple label, has received heavy play on several local FM stations for the last week. It consists of 30 songs on two records, including one long electronic-and-taped-noise composition.

In it, the Beatles sample from most every phase of popular music that it has gone through in the last 40 years, and imitate many of its heroes. There is Chuck Berry, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Robert Goulet, Bill Haley and Mantovani. Everywhere there are traces of the Beach Boys, but mostly there lingers the Beatles of 1965.

The album has nothing new and very little that is even recent. The main sound is pre-Rubber Soul. In the year before their Rubber Soul album was released in 1965, there was little but the Chuck Berry era, that long stretch where almost everything done by the Beatles seemed liked bleached Memphis. (Mr. Berry is a black singer and guitarist, who set the style for much rock music in the late 1950's.)

In The Beatles the group takes this old, basic rock sound and sees how many different superstructures are compatible. There are blues, country, easy listening, folk and 1955-to-1962 rock. There are a number of electronic distortions, and there are many put-ons.

Many songs are either so corny or sung in such a way that it is hard to tell whether they are being serious. In most cases, they seem not to be. In an act of lyrical overstatement, they sing "Have You Seen The Bigger Piggies In Their Starched White Shirts?" And it doesn't matter if the words--"Now it's time to say 'good night, good night, sleep tight'"--are sung as a put-on, they still are painful to hear.

It is a light record. The music is light, clean and crisp. The lyrics are light. Usually they are happy but often they are lacking in substance, rather like potato chips.

This new album sounds spectacular at first, but the fascination quickly fades. Where the best American groups--Jefferson Airplane and Blood, Sweat and Tears --produce substantial music that can be lived with, the Beatles tend to produce spectacular but thin music that is best saved for special occasions.

The Beatles, though they might not have intended it, have in essence produced hip Muzak, a soundtrack for head shops, parties and discotheques.

The Beatles is a continuation of the Beatles mystique, or maybe an attempt to ride on its coattails. The Beatles mystique was bolstered in mid-1967 when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released and hailed by the underground and music press as the rock album of the decade. It has been a year and a half since that album was released. And one wonders how much the praise heaped upon Sgt. Pepper's was deserved.

Once they were crowned as geniuses, there developed the self-fulfilling expectation of genius that the Beatles now enjoy, a factor that probably will help make this new album a million seller.

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was good, and maybe it was the best rock album of the decade. But it wasn't as good as its press. The new album is not nearly as good as Sgt. Pepper's.

The new album has no "A Day In The Life." Considering non-Sgt. Pepper's material, the new album has nothing to compare with "Strawberry Fields" and not even a passable "Penny Lane."
It is hard and exciting in parts ("Back In The U.S.S.R.") and funny in others ("Why Don't We Do It In The Road?")--but only in parts.

It lacks the originality of Music From Big Pink, by the Band, and the all-over excitement of Cheap Thrills, by Big Brother and the Holding Company. It doesn't have the emotion of the Doors or the musical expertise of Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. And by any measure of pure rock power, Blood, Sweat and Tears is far better.

The Beatles' double "White Album" is deemed an eclectic classic today. It's intriguing and amusing, therefore, to revisit Mike Jahn's contemporary New York Times appraisal of The Beatles on the eve of its US release in November 1968.--Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How To Save A Major Automobile Company

by Neil Young (acdc note: A couple of weeks ago, for who knows what reason, this thought popped into my head - I wonder what type of house Neil Young lives in? I hadn't just heard his music or read anything about him. I just wondered as the original grunge rock legend, is it a raised ranch or maybe a cape cod style. Ya see, if you think about it, ya kind of have to wonder what it's like. So I chuckled a little when I read his post on the Huffington Post website. Maybe I will find out what his house is like.)

Find a new ownership group. The culture must change. It is time to turn the page. In the high technology sector there are several candidates for ownership of a major car and truck manufacturer. We need forward looking people who are not restricted by the existing culture in Detroit. We need visionary people now with business sense to create automobiles that do not contribute to global warming.

It is time to change and our problems can facilitate our solutions. We can no longer afford to continue down Detroit's old road. The people have spoken. They do not want gas guzzlers (although they still like big cars and trucks). It is possible to build large long-range vehicles that are very efficient. People will buy those vehicles because they represent real change and a solution that we can live with.

The government must take advantage of the powerful position that exists today. The Big 3 are looking for a bailout. They should only get it if they agree to stop building autos that contribute to global warming now. The stress on the auto manufacturers today is gigantic. In order to keep people working in their jobs and keep factories open, this plan is suggested:

The big three must reduce models to basics. a truck, an SUV, a large family sedan, an economy sedan, and a sports car. Use existing tooling.

Keep building these models to keep the workforce employed but build them without engines and transmissions. These new vehicles, called Transition Rollers, are ready for a re-power. No new tooling is required at this stage. The adapters are part of the kits described next.

At the same time as the new Transition Rollers are being built, keeping the work force working, utilize existing technology now, create re-power kits to retrofit the Transition Rollers to SCEVs (self charging electric vehicles) for long range capability up to and over 100mpg. If you don't think this technology is realistic or available, check out the Progressive Insurance Automotive X prize. Alternatively, check out Lincvolt.com or other examples.

A bailed out Auto manufacturer must open or re-purpose one or more factories and dedicate them to do the re-power/retrofit assembly. These factories would focus on re-powering the Transition Rollers into SCEVs but could also retrofit and re-power many existing vehicles to SCEVs. These existing vehicles are currently sitting unsold at dealerships across America.

Auto manufacturers taking advantage of a government bailout must only sell clean and green vehicles that do not contribute to global warming. No more internal combustion engines that run exclusively on fossil fuels can be sold period.No Big Three excuses like "new tooling takes time".

New tooling is not a requirement for SCEV transition rollers.

Build only new vehicles that attain the goal of reversing global warming and enhancing National Security.

Government legislation going with the bailout should include tax breaks for purchasers of these cars with the new green SCEV technology. The legislation accompanying the bailout of major auto manufacturers must include directives to build only vehicles that attain the goal of reversing global warming while enhancing National security, and provide the financial assistance to make manufacturing these cars affordable in the short term while the industry re-stabilizes.

Eventually the SCEV technology could be built into every new car and truck as it is being assembled and the stop gap plan described above would have completed its job of keeping America building and working through this turbulent time. Detroit has had a long time to adapt to the new world and now the failure of Detroit's actions is costing us all. We pay the bailout.

Let's make a good deal for the future of America and the Planet. Companies like UQM (Colorado) and others build great electric motors right here in the USA. Use these domestic electric motors. Put these people to work now. This plan reverses the flow from negative to positive because people need and will buy clean and green cars to be part of World Change.

Unique wheel covers will identify these cars on the road so that others can see the great example a new car owner is making. People want America to win!

This plan addresses the issue of Global warming from our automobiles while enhancing our National Security and keeping Detroit working.


Neil Young, activist (Bridge School, Farm Aid) rock legend, has assembled a team that in the process of transforming his gargantuan 1959 Lincoln Continental from a gas guzzler into a showcase for green technology and sustainability. The car will be entered into the Automotive X Prize that offers a $10 million prize to develop a vehicle that can get 100 miles per gallon or better. The almost 50 year old Lincoln, one of the biggest, heaviest production cars of all time, has been re-named "Linc Volt" and is the subject of a feature documentary called "Repowering The American Dream" that is now in production under the aegis of Young's Shakey Pictures.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Today In History

On Nov. 12, 1927, Josef Stalin became the undisputed ruler of the Soviet Union as Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party.

1954 - Ellis Island closed after processing more than 20 million immigrants since opening in New York Harbor in 1892.

1987 - The American Medical Association issued a policy statement saying it was unethical for a doctor to refuse to treat someone solely because that person has AIDS or is HIV-positive.

1996 - Jonathan Schmitz was convicted of second-degree murder for shooting Scott Amedure, a gay man who'd revealed a crush on Schmitz during a taping of "The Jenny Jones Show."

1997 - Ramzi Yousef was found guilty of masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

2004 - A jury in Redwood City, Calif., convicted Scott Peterson of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay. (Peterson was later sentenced to death.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do Or Go Without

It's been one heck of a week. Other than the economy, we've pretty much gotten good news this week. Mr. President-elect Obama hasn't wasted any time, that's for sure. His transition team has made a list of 200 Bush actions to overturn. Among them are stem cell research (yeah!!) climate change (double yeah!!) and re-productive rights (infinitesimal yeah!!!) He's particularly looking to undo Bush regulations imposed for "overly political" reasons!! So far, so good.

One of the things that I hope happens under the Obama Administration (oh, I love saying that) is a nationwide recycling plan. There are many states that have no recycling programs in place.

Recycling is not only environmentally important, but it is also cost effective. It reduces the amount of waste for disposal, saves space in landfills, is more energy-efficient than burning materials, and conserves natural resources and, at this truly difficult time in the economy, would create new jobs.

Here in Rhode Island, many city and towns have been recycling for years. Hopefully the cities and towns that do not recycle will soon begin recycling!

I'll be the first to admit that it can be a pain in the neck to recycle at times. It's both convenient and annoying to always have a paper bag next to or under my desk for recycling papers. Every little piece of paper goes into that bag, and I mean every little piece of paper! Whether it's an envelope or a grocery list, it goes right in. And I always seem to have a pile of broken down cereal boxes and other paper packaging on the sideboard in my kitchen. It's just a few feet to the paper bag at my desk, but it sometimes takes a few trips before I remember to bring the paper packaging with me. Once the paper bag is filled, I take it out to the recycle container by the front steps.

Also on the kitchen sideboard are assorted plastic, aluminum and glass jars, jugs and containers that need to go into the plastic and glass wastebasket that's located in the front hall of my house. Again, once that wastebasket is filled, I transfer the contents to the recycle container outside.

So, while it's a little bit of work and a little bit of inconvenience having the recyclables hanging around the house, the satisfaction of being responsible and not adding more trash to the landfill makes it all worth it!

Another way to save the landfills from exploding is "Source Reduction" which is defined as reducing the volume of and decreasing the toxicity of your waste. It can be achieved through product design, package design, or by actions taken by individuals to reduce their waste. It is sometimes referred to as "waste reduction" or "pre-cycling." Reducing the amount of waste you create is more important than recycling or reusing because you can save money, energy and raw materials.

I've decided that I am going to join the organizations that are already lobbying for nationwide recycling. Here are some websites that have good information on how you can start recycling:


What grows in Rhode Island: http://www.whatgrowsonri.com/


Grass Roots Recycling Network - Kids Recycle!: http://www.kidsrecycle.org/overview.php

Friday, November 7, 2008

You Can Forget My Taxes

by Melissa Etheridge, an Academy Award-winning and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter

Okay. So Prop 8 passed. Alright, I get it. 51% of you think that I am a second class citizen.

Alright then. So my wife, uh I mean, roommate? Girlfriend? Special lady friend? You are gonna have to help me here because I am not sure what to call her now. Anyway, she and I are not allowed the same right under the state constitution as any other citizen. Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books.

Okay, cool I don't mean to get too personal here but there is a lot I can do with the extra half a million dollars that I will be keeping instead of handing it over to the state of California. Oh, and I am sure Ellen will be a little excited to keep her bazillion bucks that she pays in taxes too.

Wow, come to think of it, there are quite a few of us fortunate gay folks that will be having some extra cash this year. What recession? We're gay! I am sure there will be a little box on the tax forms now single, married, divorced, gay, check here if you are gay, yeah, that's not so bad. Of course all of the waiters and hairdressers and UPS workers and gym teachers and such, they won't have to pay their taxes either.

Oh and too bad California, I know you were looking forward to the revenue from all of those extra marriages. I guess you will have to find some other way to get out of the budget trouble you are in.

…Really?

When did it become okay to legislate morality? I try to envision someone reading that legislation "eliminates the right" and then clicking yes. What goes through their mind? Was it the frightening commercial where the little girl comes home and says, "Hi mom, we learned about gays in class today" and then the mother gets that awful worried look and the scary music plays? Do they not know anyone who is gay? If they do, can they look them in the face and say "I believe you do not deserve the same rights as me"? Do they think that their children will never encounter a gay person? Do they think they will never have to explain the 20% of us who are gay and living and working side by side with all the citizens of California?

I got news for them, someday your child is going to come home and ask you what a gay person is. Gay people are born everyday. You will never legislate that away.

I know when I grew up gay was a bad word. Homo, lezzie, faggot, dyke. Ignorance and fear ruled the day. There were so many "thems" back then. The blacks, the poor ... you know, "them". Then there was the immigrants. "Them.” Now the them is me.

I tell myself to take a breath, okay take another one, one of the thems made it to the top. Obama has been elected president. This crazy fearful insanity will end soon. This great state and this great country of ours will finally come to the understanding that there is no "them". We are one. We are united. What you do to someone else you do to yourself. That "judge not, lest ye yourself be judged" are truthful words and not Christian rhetoric.

Today the gay citizenry of this state will pick themselves up and dust themselves off and do what we have been doing for years. We will get back into it. We love this state, we love this country and we are not going to leave it. Even though we could be married in Mass. or Conn, Canada, Holland, Spain and a handful of other countries, this is our home. This is where we work and play and raise our families. We will not rest until we have the full rights of any other citizen.

It is that simple, no fearful vote will ever stop us, that is not the American way.

Come to think of it, I should get a federal tax break too...
A personal note: I'm no fan of marriage, that's for sure. But what I don't understand is how it's anyone's business who gets married. Two women, two men or a man and woman, who should care? acdc

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good Morning

Wow!! It's a new day, a great day for us all.

I honestly feel like a new person - that there's a new purpose in life!

As difficult as the campaign was - I first supported Hillary - but then John Edwards decided he'd run and I thought he was the best candidate (what did I know!) But when he dropped out a week before Super Tuesday, as upset as I was at the time (again, what did I know) I supported Hillary, whom I have always admired. I wasn't crazy about how her campaign was run and, ultimately, others felt the same way, I think.

I didn't really like Obama as a candidate at first. I thought he should have waited and run in 2012 (again, what the heck did I know.) I liked him as a person just fine, and really admired what I knew of his wife. But little by little he sold himself to me. Then I (finally) realized that he was exactly who we needed to repair the messes created by Bush and his cronies.

Of course, Barack Obama has a monumental job ahead of him, but I can actually feel and sense possibility in the air! He's smart enough to make some good decisions, unlike his predecessor.

I feel so happy for black Americans! How, just overnight, the world has changed for them - now it will be easier for them to feel as white people have always felt; they can become anything they want, with hard work - even President Of The United States! Just by being elected, Obama has shown other people of color that anything is possible. I can only imagine how wonderful that feeling is for them today! Two of my nieces, who, like Obama, have a white mother and a black father, are overjoyed at this victory. They had favored Obama all along and it's now easy to understand why. They look like him - with that same beautiful skin color. Their lives will be enriched by Obama as my life never will. I am overjoyed with that thought.

I'm looking so forward to watching those two beautiful little girls grow up - it's crazy, insane, and wonderful that a black family will be living in the White House! That just makes me smile.

It's truly a great day for America and the world. Anything is possible.

Election Day Wrap-Up

I've spent the better part of the last 2 hours wiping tears from my eyes. Hey, I knew an Obama win would be emotional for me, but I didn't actually realize just how much.

Watching the Obama family and then the Biden family come out made my heart fill with pride and hope.

Technology is crazy. As I was blogging during Obama's victory speech, I was able to get a picture of him giving the speech off the web to add to my blog. That's crazy, man!

The coverage on NBC and MSNBC was pretty good - but without Tim Russert, it just wasn't the same. I truly missed his wisdom, experience and humor. He would have loved tonight and with his love of history, we would have heard some stories, for sure.

I'm not an alcohol drinking person, but I did raise my water bottle to the memory of Tim Russert tonight. I'm sure I wasn't the only person missing him.

I'm tired, but not sure if I can sleep.

Finally, There Is Hope

President Elect Barack Obama has said that "Change has come to America" and asks us to "Put your hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day."

And Malia and Sasha are getting a puppy to bring to the White House!!

"This is your victory," Obama said. "So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after, not only ourselves, but each other."

"A new dawn of American leadership is at hand."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Barack Obama

MSNBC has just announced that they project Barack Obama as the next President Of The United States.

I cannot believe that this has happened in my lifetime. When you think of what black people have gone through through the years - it's just incredible. The work and sacrifices of Martin Luther King Jr., one of my personal heroes, has hit a historic and special significance tonight.

I cannot wait until January 20th, when President Obama's inauguration takes place. We can only wait to see what he is able to do to change our world.

Dare I Say It

President Barack Obama??? It's looking good so far! Obama now has 207 of 270 electoral votes needed to win. The crowd in Grant Park in Chicago is really something to see. There were 70,000 invitations sent out, but it seems like most of the city of Chicago has gathered on this unbelievably historic night for our country.
and Vice President Joseph Biden!

First Vote

My brother Patrick voted tonight for the first time in his life! He's 41 years old, has a developmental disability and never had any real interest in politics.

But this year he's paid a little bit of attention. When I took him a few months ago to get his photo identification card, the woman at the Registry of Motor Vehicles asked him if he wanted to register to vote. He said yes, even though I had asked him a day before we went - he told me NO.

So he registered and a few days later he got a voter card for Michael (his twin brother who lives in another city.) I called Nancy down at the town clerk's office and she had no idea how that happened. The only thing Patrick and Michael have in common besides their last name is their birthdate. So a few days later Patrick got another voter card for Michael. I called Nancy at the town clerk's office again and she asked me to give her a few days.

Sure enough, three days later Nancy called me and said everything was okay. Patrick should (and did) get the correct voter card. I called Michael and told him that he should confirm that he was still registered in his city (he was!)

Patrick was undecided about who he was going to vote for President - I reminded him of President Idiot's last 8 years. I showed Patrick the booklet and described to him what he would need to do. When we got to the school, I greeted the folks that were working there earlier when I voted. I walked Patrick through what he would need to do and one young guy who helped me earlier in the day took several minutes to explain to Patrick what he needed to do.

Patrick voted - for Obama, I'm happy to say - and we were home in less that 30 minutes from when we left.

My Historic Vote

Today is one of the happiest days of my life!

My eyes welled up as I proudly placed my vote for Barack Obama!

Here's the proof:

After placing my voting ballot in the machine (#601) I looked around for some "I VOTED" stickers. As I placed the sticker on my shirt I told the group of workers "I've waited 8 years for this!" They all laughed as I left the gymnasium.

Don't Forget To


The Big Day Is Finally Here

I feel like a kid on Christmas eve. I know something big is going to happen, but I'm not entirely sure I'll get what I want. It makes me think about how badly I wanted the album Chicago at Carnegie Hall back in my teens. It was either 1971 or 1972 and I really thought that life wouldn't be worth anything if I didn't get that album for Christmas.

So, I have waited a very long 8 years for this election day. I still remember how I sobbed through Al Gore's concession speech almost 8 years ago; my spirit crushed and the incredible anger I felt at the Supreme Court's wrong decision. I was pretty angry at Gore too, his concession speech that Wednesday night was the best speech he had ever given. I wondered why we hadn't seen that side of him throughout the election.
So many people have told me over these past 8 years that I shouldn't take Bush's policies so personal - but they have always felt personal to me; the invasion of a sovereign country, and the unnecessary loss of so many lives; the loss of personal freedoms, the constant threat of reversing Roe v. Wade and all of the other injustices that have taken place. It's been hard, the depression and despair that I have felt has, I'm certain, had much to do with my deteriorating health and the illnesses that I now deal with on a daily basis.

Then, four years ago when Kerry was up in the polls and then lost. I couldn't believe the stupidity of half of the U.S. population - weren't they paying attention to the first 4 years? I almost didn't make it - thinking of what another 4 years would do to me and my country.

As bad as I thought Bush would be, he has proven to be far, far worse. And while I don't like to say "I told you so" I'll say it anyway - "I told you so!" I have been proven absolutely correct by this shoddy, corrupt administration. I learned over these difficult 8 years that if a friend or relative felt that Bush was doing a good job, they became former friends. That proved to me that we didn't have any values in common and that I didn't want to surround myself with those who followed that inept idiot. It's really hard to describe just how deeply I hate Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Holmes, Rove, Card, etc. etc... And how angry I am at what they have done to the world that my nieces and nephews live in and how changed it now is for them as they go through their teenage years and become adults.

So, I'm really, really hoping and wanting an Obama win - a big one, actually - to show those stinking republicans that it's not just me who is tired of them, it's almost everyone. And while I know that Obama has a really tough road ahead, I suspect that many of the citizens of this (to be great again) country will hang tough with him, knowing we're all going to have to pitch in to fix the mistakes of the last 8 years. It's not going to be easy and it's not going to be quick - but at long last we will be heading in the right direction.

And as for Chicago at Carnegie Hall - I did get it for Christmas and I listened to that album until I couldn't listen any longer! And I enjoyed every minute of it - just as an Obama administration should help to heal me and my attitude.

On the other hand, if McSame wins, I'm out of here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Daughter Of Slave Votes For Obama

Amanda Jones, 109, the daughter of a man born into slavery, has lived a life long enough to touch three centuries. And after voting consistently as a Democrat for 70 years, she has voted early for the country's first black presidential nominee.

The middle child of 13, Jones, who is African American, is part of a family that has lived in Bastrop County for five generations. The family has remained a fixture in Cedar Creek and other parts of the county, even when its members had to eat at segregated barbecue dives and walk through the back door while white customers walked through the front, said Amanda Jones' 68-year-old daughter, Joyce Jones.

For at least a decade, Amanda Jones worked as a maid for $20 a month, Joyce Jones said. She was a housewife for 72 years and helped her now-deceased husband, C.L. Jones, manage a store.
Amanda Jones, a delicate, thin woman wearing golden-rimmed glasses, giggled as the family discussed this year's presidential election. She is too weak to go the polls, so two of her 10 children — Eloise Baker, 75, and Joyce Jones — helped her fill out a mail-in ballot for Barack Obama, Baker said. "I feel good about voting for him," Amanda Jones said.

Jones' father herded sheep as a slave until he was 12, according to the family, and once he was freed, he was a farmer who raised cows, hogs and turkeys on land he owned. Her mother was born right after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Joyce Jones said. The family owned more than 100 acres of land in Cedar Creek at one point, she said.

Amanda Jones' father urged her to exercise her right to vote, despite discriminatory practices at the polls and poll taxes meant to keep black and poor people from voting. Those practices were outlawed for federal elections with the 24th Amendment in 1964, but not for state and local races in Texas until 1966.

Amanda Jones says she cast her first presidential vote for Franklin Roosevelt, but she doesn't recall which of his four terms that was. When she did vote, she paid a poll tax, her daughters said. That she is able, for the first time, to vote for a black presidential nominee for free fills her with joy, Jones said.

One of Amanda Jones' 33 grandchildren, Brenda Baker, 44, said the family is moved by the election's significance to the matriarch.

"It's awesome to me that we have such a pillar of our family still with us," Baker said. "It's awesome to see what she's done, and all her hard work, and to see that she may be able to see the results of all that hard work" if Obama is elected, she said.

Jones lives in a small gray house with white trim just off Texas 21. These days, a curious white kitten and a sleepy old black dog guard the house. Inside are photographs and relics of a long, full life, including a letter from then-Gov. George Bush in 1998 commemorating her 100th birthday. A black-and-white picture of her in a long flapper-style dress was taken between 1912 and 1918 — no one can remember the exact year, Baker said with a chuckle.

Jones is part of a small percentage of active voters above the age of 100 in the state — and the country.

Sister Cecilia Gaudette, a 106-year-old nun born in New Hampshire but living in Rome, made recent national headlines as the nation's oldest voter. But if Texas records are any indication, that's hard to validate.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Ashley Burton said Texas can't confirm whether Jones is the state's oldest active voter because there is too much voter information to sort through. At the county level, there are other challenges. An election official in Hays County said its records are not searchable by age, and Bastrop County elections administrator Nora Cano said that some counties automatically list voters who were born before the turn of the 20th century with birth dates of January 1900.

The oldest active voter in Travis County is 105, officials said, and in Williamson County the oldest is 106 — making Jones the oldest-known active voter in Central Texas.

Making it to see the election results on Nov. 5 is important, but Jones is resting up for another milestone: her 110th birthday in December. "God has been good to me," she said.

BREAKING NEWS

A very sad piece of news, Barack Obama's beloved grandmother has died, just one day before the election.

Madelyn Payne Dunham died peacefully Sunday night after a battle with cancer, Obama said. She was 86.

"She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances," his statement said. "She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure. "

I think tomorrow will be such a bittersweet day for Barack Obama.

An Election Day To Remember

For legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, Election Day is not the only event on tomorrow's calendar. It's also his 92nd birthday.

Cronkite, born November 4, 1916 in St. Joseph, Missouri, will begin his day "with a trip to the voting booth," says his Chief of Staff, Marlene Adler. Adler tells TVNewser that "given his long political news career...it seems quite fitting that for his birthday this year he will be getting a new president!"After voting, Adler says, "if the weather permits, family members will join him for an afternoon sail in and around New York City's waterways, followed by a private dinner. At some point in the evening, (probably around cocktail time), he will tune into the election coverage on television."

"Family, friends, sailing, and a presidential election — one could not design a more perfect birthday for Walter Cronkite!," Adler says.

The Top 5 Reasons To Vote In Rhode Island

1. Big margin = big mandate. The popular vote doesn't put anyone in the White House, but it affects what presidents can do when they get there. Want Obama to be able to actually do the stuff he's been talking about? Pass universal health care? End the war? Then we need a landslide.

2. The other things on the ballot matter! For example: Congress. Without more support in the House and Senate, Obama will have a hard time getting progressive laws passed. Plus, there are other important local races and ballot questions in some places.

3. If you don't vote, everyone can find out. Voting records are public. (Not who you voted for, just whether you voted.) Pretty soon, finding out whether you voted could be as easy as Googling you.

4. Help make history. You could cast one of the votes that elect the first African-American president. If we win, we'll tell our grandchildren about this election, and they'll tell their grandchildren. Do you really want to have to explain to your great-great-grandchildren that you were just too busy to vote in the most important election in your lifetime?

5. People died so you'd have the right to vote. Self-government—voting to choose our own leaders—is the original American dream. We are heir to a centuries-long struggle for freedom: the American revolution, and the battles to extend the franchise to those without property, to women, to people of color, and to young people. This year, many will still be denied their right to vote. For those of us who have that right, it's precious. If we waste it, we dishonor those who fought for it and those who fight still.

Live your values. Love your country. Vote.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Vampire In Exeter

I didn't know the story of Mercy Brown until about 12 or 13 years ago when Dennis brought me to her grave one night in October. I found it fascinating that people would have thought that she was a vampire. As I stood by her headstone, I stomped the ground and called her name which totally freaked out Dennis. I wasn't scared at all. I'm so glad to read the real story in the Projo this morning and thought it was a great one to share with all of you.


We come to Exeter on this late-October afternoon to remember Mercy Brown, less for what she became in death than for what she was in life. Mercy, whose name would prove cruelly ironic, died on Jan. 17, 1892, at the age of 19. She left no known photographs, drawings or letters –– only a story, still growing, that she could never have imagined.

The story holds that she was a vampire, the most famous of several said to have existed in the United States. Google “American vampires” and Mercy’s name comes up second of more than a half million hits.

She was no vampire, of course.

She was a young woman who died of tuberculosis, a disease that was poorly understood. Victims frequently spit up blood, which in less informed times, some construed as evidence of evil.

Tuberculosis killed Mercy’s mother and sister in the 1880s, and when her brother, Edwin, and then Mercy became sick with the disease, a sort of hysteria descended on rural Exeter. What happened next was unspeakable, transforming someone who would have been anonymous for eternity into something worse.

On this late-October afternoon, we meet Sheila Reynolds, whose passion is Exeter history. Sheila drives us around town, past barns and farmhouses that were built two centuries ago. We pass grist and lumber mills, and orchards and fields defined by stone walls. We look inside a one-room schoolhouse. We hear about churches and inns. We picture Mercy.

“Most girls only went to the eighth grade; there were very few that went off to high school,” Sheila says. “So at that point, she would be taking care of her younger siblings.”

Mercy Lena Brown was born on Aug. 2, 1872, the fourth of the six children of Mary (Arnold) and George Thomas Brown, a farmer who traced his ancestry to Charles Brown, born in Suffolk, England, in 1620. By the time Mercy finished eighth grade, she had two younger sisters.

“She would be helping at the house making dinner for the farmhands, helping out with the other chores around the farm, collecting eggs,” Sheila says. “They would have to do a lot of canning. Once they dug potatoes and squash from the garden, they put them in the root cellar for the winter. They would salt the meat or salt fish, whatever they had to put up.” Families made candles and soap from the fat of pigs. They sewed their own clothes. They pressed cider from apples. When money allowed, they visited the general store for sugar and spices.

As her teenage years ended, Mercy likely shared the ambition of generations of young farm women before her. “Probably being a wife and having children of her own,” Sheila says.
We learn of University of Rhode Island Prof. Linda Welters, who oversaw a cataloguing of almost 1,000 Rhode Island-produced quilts. Mercy Brown made one, according to the scholars.

A call to Welters leads us to the North Kingstown home of Betsey Reynolds, a distant relative of Mercy Brown. Betsey and her sister, June O’Neil, who lives next door, show us the quilt in Betsey’s living room.

“This is actually a coverlet,” Betsey says.

“Like a bedspread,” June says.

It is a pretty patchwork of white, blue, brown and red squares, roughly a foot per side. Betsey, a quilter herself, says it was created from scraps of cotton cloth. The stitches are perfectly placed, the feel of the fabric soft but sturdy. Touching it, as Mercy herself did for hours, we can imagine a modest young woman, dreaming of a good tomorrow.

“As far as you know, this is the only evidence of Mercy Brown that survives?” we ask.

“There may be somebody in the other part of the family that has something,” says Betsey, “but we have never heard of it.”

No record exists of when Mercy contracted TB, but by the autumn of 1891, she was sufficiently sick to require a doctor’s attention.

She was experiencing night sweats, weight loss, fever and fatigue. She was coughing up blood, and may have awakened with crimson froth on her lips, a telltale sign to the superstitious. Until the 1940s, when a cure was found, TB slowly consumed a person –– hence its ancient name, consumption. It remains among the worst ways to die.

Some short while after Mercy was placed in the crypt at the cemetery behind Chestnut Hill Baptist Church, there to await burial when the winter earth thawed, acquaintances of George Brown came to believe that something more than contagion was responsible for his family’s terrible luck.

“During the few weeks past,” The Providence Journal reported on the front page of its March 18, 1892, edition, “Mr. Brown has been besieged on all sides by a number of people who expressed implicit faith in the old theory that by some unexplained and unreasonable way in some part of the deceased relative’s body live flesh and blood might be found, which is supposed to feed upon the living who are in feeble health."

“Mr. Brown, having no confidence in the old-time theory, and also getting no encouragement from the medical fraternity, did not yield to their importunities until yesterday afternoon, when an investigation was held under the direction of Harold Metcalf, M.D., of Wickford.”

On that day, Dr. Metcalf went to the cemetery and found that villagers had unearthed Mercy’s mother and sister. Of Mercy’s mother, the Journal wrote: “Some of the muscles and flesh still existed in a mummified state but there were no signs of blood in the heart.” Mercy’s sister Mary Olive, the paper reported, was also confirmed as being dead. They were reburied.

Mercy was then removed from the crypt and cut open.

“The lungs showed diffuse tuberculosis germs,” the paper reported, a detail quickly (and still today) overlooked.

Dr. Metcalf examined Mercy’s heart and liver.

“These two organs were removed, and a fire being kindled in the cemetery, they were reduced to ashes and the attendants seemed satisfied,” The Journal reported. Whether Edwin Brown later ate his sister’s ashes in hopes of being cured of his own TB, as some advised, cannot be determined. Edwin died that spring.

A leather-bound volume at Town Hall records the deaths of 19 people in Exeter in 1892. The oldest, Nancy Greene, 84, is listed as dying of “old age.” The youngest, Ernest Woodmansee, two months old, died of cholera. Diphtheria claimed three Exeter residents that year, tuberculosis four.

“Female, white, single,” is how the clerk described Mercy, dead at the age of 19 years, five months and 15 days; “tuberculosis” is recorded as the cause. Teacher Georgia Barber, who was one year older than Mercy, also died of the disease –– just three days before Mercy. But it was Mercy, not Georgia, who would be so strangely fated.

The cemetery behind Chestnut Hill Baptist Church is a mile east of Town Hall.

It is deserted of the living on this late-October afternoon, but evidence abounds that Mercy’s grave is regularly frequented. Among the items left at her tombstone are a ring, a piece of candy, a key chain, a beer cap, a set of vampire teeth, a heart-shaped rock, and black plastic roses. The site seems irresistible to the kooky and the curious. It is so popular (and vandalized) that a metal bracket and concrete post have been placed to prevent theft of Mercy’s stone, the only tangible evidence, beyond a quilt and a line in a death register, of her existence.

Mercy died in the year that Jack the Ripper was an international news sensation, and accounts of what happened that March in Exeter, R.I., were said to be among Bram Stoker’s inspirations in writing Dracula, the 1897 horror novel. Today, Mercy is the subject of hundreds of articles, books and movies, some posted to YouTube. “Do not investigate here alone!” one video advises.

“Creepy sounds came from the crypt.”

Not today. The only sounds are birds.

The setting sun bathes the cemetery in golden light. As her 116th winter in the ground approaches, Mercy Brown, a simple woman so wrongly remembered, is, for this moment, at least, at peace.


The Exeter Historical Society can be reached at http://www.exeterhistoricalassociation.net/