Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why I don't go to Philadelphia

We live in the 'burbs of Philly. Since we moved here in August of 2007, we haven't done too much sight-seeing downtown. We saw the Liberty Bell and the outside of Independence Hall. But that's about it. We do want and need to see more before we leave this area. But yesterday is a good example of why we have neglected these important sites.

The kids and I set off for a museum in the south part of town. I had my google map all set and knew where I was going. On the highway, we hit stopped traffic two or three times - just from people slowing down to watch cops write tickets. Ho hum, that happens everywhere. a 15-minute drive took 30. Then we got into downtown and approached the exit. Now this is Google's fault, not the city's, but the directions showed 1 exit to take whereas in real life there was a choice of 2 (one of those A/B exits). Since there were 5 streets on the signs, it was a little confusing and by the time I parsed it all out I realized I was committed to the wrong one. Detailed sign reading is hard at 65 mph. No, that's not the limit in downtown Philly, but that's the rate the traffic moves and woe to you if you hold anyone back.

Well, I knew I needed to get on a numbered street so figured I could double back easily enough. Well, no, because the freeway supports bisect the area and I was forced to turn just before the place the street I needed should have been. So I turned onto some side street in the scary part of town.

We managed to find a large shopping center parking lot to pull into and look at the Thomas Guide. Found our location and a way to get to the museum. It looked very easy. So we got on the road but the street suddenly became the highway we'd just gotten off. I don't know if I missed a sign to turn to remain on that road or what - I don't think so. But there we were on the highway again, going back the way we came.

Now this should have been a sign to us to just go home! GO BACK! "Surrender, Dorothy!" But no. This was the last week of a particular exhibit that my boy really wanted to see. We had to persevere. We got off at the next exit and once again I figured I could get to 26th Street pretty easily, But how did I get to 50th so quickly?

Once again we pulled over and got out the map. OK, we can do this. Just make this left, go down here... we started off and then came to a roadblock. There was a large intersection closed off and traffic was being diverted down another small side road. Two lanes into one. Oh yippee. That detour of 2 blocks took us about 30 harrowing minutes as people around us jockeyed for position - got to get ahead of as many people as possible, right?

By now we had been in the car for over 2 hours. I was trying so hard to control my temper - I have a bad problem of yelling when I'm frustrated in the car. (I knew this was a problem when my first child, at age 4 or 5, said "these people are all morons" as we drove around a crowded parking lot looking for a spot. Ooops.)

We got through the detour and once again I figured I'd hit the numbered street I was looking for. But no! Again I was forced to turn, back onto the same highway, but this time headed for a bridge to New Jersey!

There was one last PA exit so I took it. We were now down by the sport complex - hey, we got to see the Phillies stadium. By this time we had given up and decided to go home, if we could. We were all tired, hungry, and mad. And stiff from being in the car so long.

I found the highway back home and jumped on. Traffic flew. Then I made a tactical error. I missed a left exit and had to finish off our journey on a big city arterial that is easy to drive on, but slow and ugly. The kids hate that road: "Oh no! Not Broad Street! Aaaiiieeeee!"

Three hours after leaving, we came back home, defeated. The boy cried a little. We won't have a chance to try to get there again before the exhibit (some Lego thing) is gone.

Fortunately Dad cooked dinner and afterwards we had leftover pumpkin pie while I read aloud from a much-anticipated new book, about which I may write another time. I had been saving this ebay purchase for Christmas but decided to bring it out today. It was much appreciated.

"I've been on line since yesterday morning!"

That's what someone at that WalMart supposedly yelled when asked to leave the store after customers trampled an employee to death.

Bargains sure are important.

We don't do Black Friday around here. I browsed around online a bit but didn't buy anything. The things that go on sale on BF just aren't on our lists. Well, we don't have lists. But there is nothing there we need.

In years past I had a philosophical objection to shopping on the day after giving thanks for all we have. But then I guess Thanksgiving isn't about thankfulness for a lot of people; it's a chance to carbo-load in preparation for shopping.

I do know some people who enjoy the crowds and do BF shopping for the fun of it. I wonder if they are rethinking their post-Thanksgiving plans for next year.

Update: I can't stop thinking about this today. We told the kids about it at lunchtime and they couldn't believe such a thing could happen. Of course I still can't either, really.

I keep thinking about Michelle Obama's comment, way back during the campaign, about how America is just plain mean. Well I guess this incident is an example of that. But what makes people mean? Being conservative? Having a Republican President? No, the meanness comes from a feeling of entitlement. "I deserve this new object. My obtaining this desired object is very important; more important, in fact, than your life. Because I am more important than you." And which political party is the party of entitlement? Yes, it's the party of Michelle Obama. We're mean because we deserve to be.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

No, they aren't ALL MVPs...

Today was the last soccer game, played under clear skies on a windy 30-degree day. Our team won. They've won most of the games.

Afterwards we met at the coach's house for pizza lunch and trophy awards. As he was passing them out, one of the girls asked who the MVP was. Of course the adults all chimed in that "you're all MVPs!" Ugh. The girls were having none of that. They all knew who the MVP was and named her. One of the girls also named mine as the one who "got most better." "Most improved player" would be the award she'd get, if awards were allowed anymore.

It's so dumb. The girls know who is good, who is best, who has gotten better, who just isn't so great. They are all kind to each other; whenever the opposing team made a goal, everyone consoled the goalie, no matter what. Even if she was standing there checking her fingernails as the ball whizzed by. No one was nasty or snotty or acted superior. But they still know who the MVP is, and the adults don't do them any good by pretending they don't. What's that line from The Incredibles? "When everyone's special... nobody is."

My girl had a great first soccer season and is anxious for next year.

UPDATE: Oh, it gets worse! I just looked at the trophy! It says "Most Valuable Player." On the trophy! On everyone's trophy!

At least she agrees it's stupid.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Since the election...

the biggest excitement around here was coming home today to find an empty, torn up bread bag on the floor, and a very happy dog.

Later we found the rest of the loaf - some very nice seeded French bread, with only a few slices gone when we'd left the house this morning - "buried" under some clean laundry on the couch.

Yes, I sometimes do leave clean laundry on the couch. It's close to the laundry room and a good location for me to read to the kids while they fold it. Sometimes it takes a day or two.

Oh, the dog is now allowed to sleep on the kids' beds. So they are fighting over who gets the dog at night. The seminarian is wondering if we need a spare dog to keep everyone happy. Usually the girl gets him because the dog has become too lazy to walk up the stairs to the boy's attic room. Must be all the bread.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Scientific inquiry of the day

How did a sealed ziplock bag of dog treats go through the washing machine cycles still sealed yet full of water?

The once dry treats were all goopy and there was water in the bag, but it did not leak when I shook it upside after taking it out of the washer. The clothes that were washed with it did not stink of dog food. I rewashed them anyway. Just for the ick factor.

Yes, the bag was in the pocket of a nameless child's trousers.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Another rock 'n roll(ish) birthday

OK, Joni Mitchell doesn't really fit. But I have a huge pile of laundry to do and dinner guests to prepare for, so I am spending my time wisely this morning, looking up rock and roll birthdays. Fun!

I always like Joni Mitchell though I don't listen to her much anymore. The seminarian doesn't really dig her. Something about trying to fit too many syllables into the music. Hm... yeah, he's right. Maybe not on this classic so much.

We mostly agree on music, but on those we don't... well, he doesn't listen to his REM and Kate Bush CDs much anymore either.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I wonder how many Obama voters...

are sitting at their computers, slack-jawed, reading this:

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

I've heard and read a lot of commentary on this today. Some questions people are asking: Who's going to pay for this? How will they enforce it in schools? What about private schools? What about homeschoolers? What would be considered "community" service?

Here's my prediction for schools: first public schools will have to hire a volunteer coordinator to drum up work for the students. I am not sure how they'll get private schools into it, but maybe through the accreditation organizations (I am not sure of the right term for that): no accreditation unless you hire a volunteer coordinator and find some ways to put the kids to work. Oh, I am pretty sure that anything related to a church will be verboten. Maybe not right away, but, eventually someone will complain that that violates something. Or maybe they'll force Christian and Jewish kids to go "serve" at a Mosque - mandatory volunteerism and cultural reeducation in one fell swoop! Pro-life kids at an abortion clinic. Etc.

Anyway, then the homeschoolers. At some point we will need to be reined in. (I can't believe I had originally typed in "reigned" instead. While I was washing dishes and singing Johnny Rivers songs in my head, the error popped into my brain. Weird.) They could just criminalize it, but I don't think that'll happen, at least not for a while. I think eventually there will be a federal homeschool law with lots and lots of regulations. Oh, the Dept of Education will love getting their hands on us, won't they?

I also wonder how many Obama voters are wondering why they hadn't heard about all this before. But of course we know why, don't we?

UPDATE! The site was changed today. If you look at the paragraph I copy/pasted above, you will see that the "requirement" for middle and high schoolers is now a "goal" and there's a cash incentive too!

Lots of hope and change going on here these days!

Dr Helen and Joanne Jacobs are talking about it too.

More oldies inspiration

'Cause today is Johnny River's birthday.

Hmm... the soulful balladeer?

Love those dancers!

Or this one?

I don't know what movie that is.

Wonder why he is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Another good thing about having children...

among many others: Despair can't hang around too long. Life goes on! And so we have to go on, joyfully living the lives we have been given, in the circumstances we have been given. When we think of what others have endured, our lives look pretty easy.

When my kids got up yesterday and I told them who was elected, they both almost cried. But already I am not finding it so hard to take, and my kids will grow up respecting the Office of the President of the United States, and the person who holds it. Romans 13:1-7:

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

People are going on and on about this historic time, of an African-American as POTUS. My kids understand this, but don't see why it is remarkable. Of course they have been taught about slavery and discrimination. The idea of separate restaurants, for example, is very weird to them. Some of our best "lessons" on this came from discussing early rock and roll, and the fact that sometimes a performer did two concerts in a city - one for the whites, and one for the blacks, and how people like Elvis and Ray Charles helped break down some of those barriers. But anyway, they haven't been raised to see black people as really different from white people. A different history, maybe, but not different now.

I hope that before too long, no accomplishment by a black person is considered historic. Maybe we've passed that now, and if that's the case, I will rejoice in this Obama Presidency. But I don't hold out much hope that we have; there are too many people who want to hold on to that victim status. But it's time to let that go, isn't it? Maybe that's easy for me to say. But, I see accomplished black people all the time: high-ranking generals, Secretary of State, etc. How long will we have to keep making such a big deal out of it?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

At U Penn

Today we had to go down to the U of PA for an orthodontist appointment - we use the dental school there. Somehow we got there way early so we took some time to wander around the campus. I was anxious to do this because I love the atmosphere of a campus, and it was a perfect fall day - cool, windy, lots of brilliantly-colored leaves flying around and crunching underfoot.

I also thought I would see some exuberance after the election. Surely an urban campus would have lots of Obama supporters.

But, no. No one seemed particularly happy at all. In fact, my girl made a comment that everyone seemed very glum. There were no signs except one old Obama poster hanging up, half-covered with newer announcements. And, no signs on anyone's face that something good had just happened the night before.

The waiting room at the dental school was pretty full, and, as usual, at least 80% of the population was African-American. (Just an aside: I'm thinking that "black" is no longer OK?) But no, everyone there was pretty glum-looking too. Of course the orthodontics clinic is not a super happy place for anyone. Still...

I think we were the most cheerful people we encountered today. Because, you know, America didn't fall apart overnight, it's a beautiful autumn season, the boy doesn't need his retainer anymore, and we have 3 months till we have to trek down to the clinic again! So, what's not to love?

Oh, and as a bonus, he got to keep the old retainer as a souvenir. Now how cool is that?

At the optometrist

Guy at the reception desk at the optometrist this morning, getting his new pair of glasses, chatting with the assistant. He's got that "dumb guy" voice, know what I mean? (Yes, I know that doesn't sound good, and "nice," but that's the voice.)

"So, wha'd you think about that election, huh? McCain never had a chance. Did you see those big crowds Obama drew, givin' that speech under the arch in Michigan? McCain couldn't fill an airplane hangar. I mean, he fought, you know, but Obama, oh man. It's gonna be great."

Anyone know what arch in Michigan he's talking about? Could it have been that famous one in Missouri?

And the lesson is - the guy who draws the biggest crowds must be the most qualified. Right?

Oh, the assistant was polite but noncommital. After he left and I walked up, she rolled her eyes and gave a rueful grin. I love having the opportunity to use words like rueful.

At the grocery store

Spoken by the clerk checking out my purchases this morning:

"My union told me to vote for Obama, so I did."

Is that something to be proud of? I just did what I was told.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today's history lesson

Today in history we read about the aftermath of World War I - Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations, Article 231. As sometimes happens, the boy knew more than I did before reading the chapter. Here's the last bit of it:

And the debt imposed on Germany made it poorer and poorer, and its people more and more miserable. In a few years, the German people would be ready to listen to anyone who offered to revenge the wrongs done to Germany, and who promised to make their country great again.

And the boy said in his most ominous voice: "And then comes Hitler."

27 minutes

That's how long it took to vote today, not counting the walk to the polling station. We saw 4 neighbors while there. Fun!

It really is kind of cool to go into the little booth, look at the ballot and all. But, I live in a small suburban precinct - only 1100 voters total. I doubt it would be fun if we lived in the city of Philadelphia, where supposedly the vote fraud started early this morning... though I just saw an update that says "not so!" We will never know, will we?

So I still like Oregon's system better: vote by mail. I was dubious the first time I voted by mail (actually, by drop-off point since I don't trust the mail). But it really is the way to go. You get a ballot in the mail, and, separately, a big book of information on candidates and propositions. Oregon is a big state for ballot propositions, so it was nice to have all that information at hand. Then you fill out the ballot in the comfort of your own home, seal it up, and put it in the mail or drop it off at one of many convenient places. We usually took ours to the library.

No long lines, no voter intimidation . I don't see how there'd be much chance for fraud. The only downside I can come up with is lost mail.

Anyway, I am going to try not to check the internet for new information all day long, because it's not likely to be useful. I am going to my class tonight, I think - I am not sure I will be able to concentrate on the English Reformation. Class ends at 9:30 EST. Think it'll be called by then?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dialing for votes

Today I spent a few minutes here and there making calls for the McCain campaign. It's very easy to do; just sign up at the site, get the script and a name and call. Record a little information, and move on to the next name. Because I only have little bits of time here and there, I only made 25 calls. Now I wish I had started earlier; it's really kind of fun. But that's me, always a little late to jump on the bandwagon.

Most calls were answered by machine, as you might expect during a workday. The few times I did connect were mostly pleasant. Only one person was borderline rude. Most people were happy to tell me they had voted or were going to vote for McCain. No one wanted to give me their email address - no surprise there. The women were more talkative than the men; one apologized for not being able to talk long because she had company coming. A few calls were to fax machines and on a few I got disconnect messages.

Also today we were visited by an Obama volunteer, a young mom with toddler in tow. She was very hesitant and I wondered why she had stopped since we have a McCain sign on our lawn. But she wanted to know if anyone in the house was voting for Obama. We were in the middle of a chaotic moment in a chaotic day so I did not engage her in conversation, but later wished I had. I would just have liked to ask her what it is about Obama that makes her support him. Ah well, another opportunity lost.

At a homeschool writing class today a friend told of working the phones in McCain hq. Now that sounds like a lot of fun.

This is the most involved I've ever gotten in an election. Oh, well, there was that time I worked a precinct, must have been 1992 and I was enthusiastic about Clinton. Imagine that! But I was just signing people in to vote, not helping a candidate. Next time we will do more. Palin/Jindal? I would like my kids to be more politically involved and informed than I have been, and there's only one way to do that.

Of course I'm assuming we will still have free elections in 2012.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

For your listening pleasure...

a great new tune:

Found at Powerline blog.

Wonder what George Benson thinks of it?

"Think on it"

This morning I'm in the "not despairing" part of the cycle.

Despair is a sin, and often a mistake. The polls do not record the "refused to respond" which in my judgment is a much larger category than any admit -- it includes me, five times so far this year since I'm home to answer the phone more than many people are -- and I suspect that more McCain people refuse to respond than the trendier Obama enthusiasts.

Read the rest.

Yes, it's anecdotal.

Why did Zogby poll show McCain up yesterday, only to be down again today? The polls are so crazy!

Be sure to vote. Don't fall to despair and stay home eating Halloween candy. But put some in your pocket in case there is a long line.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Remember when...

conservatives were saying that it would be better to have Obama win the nomination because he would be easier to beat than Hillary? He was such a lightweight, such an unknown... he could never win.

Ha ha. Looks like the joke's on us.