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Monday, December 31, 2012

Be Careful. Your Microwave Might Know My Refrigerator And Your Car Might Be In On It, Too

Perhaps you remember last year during The Holidays when I was victimized by my house.  How my refrigerator quit right before Thanksgiving, the garage door refused to go up, and the fireplace billowed smoke into the living room, among other Domestic Tragedies.  What I neglected to confess to you in a later post was that my oven also went on strike in the middle of Christmas Cookie baking.  Luckily, a repair was all that was needed, not an entirely new stove.

This year, I felt confident, knowing I had a new refrigerator and a newly repaired stove and garage door.  We understood the fireplace's quirks, and I had posted a sign on the front door that the doorbell did not work, so no delivery person would ring in vain.  I was ready for The Holidays!

Oh, ha ha.  It is to laugh. 

Thanksgiving.  I went to pick up my fresh turkey on Tuesday afternoon.  "It seems a little...frozen in parts," I said to the butcher.  "Oh, no!" she said cheerily.  "It's a little frosty on the wings, but stick it in the fridge and it'll be fine for Thursday!"  Thanksgiving morning, after feeding the cats at 7:30, I pulled the turkey out of the basement fridge and unwrapped it.  It was frozen solid inside; I couldn't even wrench the neck and giblets out of it.  Panic.  Water bath thawing and cursing.  After all that, the damn thing popped its timer a whole hour early anyway. 

Christmas Eve Party Prep.  I go to the grocery store for a big shop.  When I come home, in the snow, I push the button on the keyfob to pop the tailgate so I can unload the groceries.  Nothing.  I go to open it manually.  Nothing.  I re-lock it and unlock it again.  Nope.  I'm standing there in the slushy driveway and the snow and cold with a car full of groceries.  So I go back in the garage where I have to wrestle with the backseat--fold it down, crawl in the backseat and the backend, and pull out the groceries.  And is this my only errand requiring the capacious tailgate?  Of course not. I have to go to the warehouse club and do all of this all over again. 

A few days later, I grab a glass to get some ice water from the handy dandy dispenser on the front of my year-old side-by-side fridge.  I press my glass against the ice lever and suddenly it belches a mixture of crushed and cubed ice with incredible force.  I remove my glass hurriedly, expecting the ice to cease, like it's supposed to.  But it doesn't stop.  IT KEEPS VOMITING ICE ALL OVER THE FLOOR WITH RECKLESS ABANDON.  I scream at it to stop, but it doesn't, of course.  I open the door, and it stops ejecting ice, but the motor keeps running.  I shut the door, confident that I've stopped the...cycle...and it starts spewing ice at me, at the floor, at the cabinets opposite in some sort of mad celebration of Appliance Independence.  I'm truly scared at this point, and I grab a wooden spoon and start poking, poking, poking at the lever, but it only spits ice at me faster and with more volume.  I open the door again, and it stops blurting ice, but the motor runs incessantly.  Frantically, I search for an ON/OFF switch, and I find one blinking red.  I throw it to OFF, but nothing happens.  I close the door and the avalanche begins anew.  Flinging the door open again, I take the ice bin off its pedestal on the door while the motor drones on.  Fearfully, I shut the door and I kid you not the thing still throws ice on the floor, but how? How? HOW!?  I grab my cellphone and call the appliance store that sold me this Hellish Beast.

Store:  Hello, and thank you for calling Appliance Store.
Nance:  I need Service, and hurry!
Service:  This is service, how can we help you?
Nance:  Hi, I bought my KitchenAid refrigerator there a year ago, and right now it's going crazy. It won't stop throwing ice all over the place.  I've switched it off, but it won't stop. Please send someone.
Service:  Well, the girl who usually schedules is at lunch and--
Nance:  This isn't something to schedule!  I need someone here now!  This thing won't stop!  The motor keeps running and it's throwing ice all over my floor! I need help NOW!
Service I understand, but I don't even know where the service guys are right now. I'm just filling in while she's at lunch.
Nance:  Please give my message to someone there that can help me as soon as possible. (hangs up)

To get to the final act, my icemaker spit out one last enormous clump of frosty ice, and then it shut off.  The appliance store called back and scheduled a service call for the 27th, and I had no icemaker for my Christmas Eve party of over 25 people.  One bright note in all of this?  The store agreed to backdate the repair so that it would be covered under warranty since the warranty ran out on November 26th.  The fridge needs a whole new circuit panel, which would also explain why my produce and cheeses often froze in the refrigerator side. 

I've been nothing but nice to that refrigerator.  My car, too.  The turkey's vengeful behavior, I could understand, but not that butcher.

Friday, December 21, 2012

And So I'm Offering This Simple Phrase

 
May you find the magic of the holiday and may it last the whole year through.
 

Merry Everything from the Dept. of Nance.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Catharsis

Picture found here
The horrific tragedy in Connecticut has affected me--as I'm sure it has so many of you--on a variety of levels.  As I watched the news and learned more and more of exactly what happened at Sandy Hook, a school, for heaven's sake, I wept.

I wept because, of course, they were just so little.  And all they did was go to school.  They went off to school for a day of reading and learning and laughing and having lunch in the cafeteria and smiling at their teachers who were there to help them.  Maybe today would be somebody's birthday in their class, and they would have  cupcakes or little mini Snickers bars. 

Instead, someone blasted his way into their school with an assault rifle and slaughtered their classmates and their teachers. And instead of Sandy Hook becoming the first name ever associated with a school shooting, it joins a community.  Instead of Sandy Hook being a rarity, it lands on a fairly lengthy list.

After the two teenaged gunmen strode the halls of Columbine in April of 1999 and killed fifteen people, including themselves, nothing meaningful regarding sensible gun regulation happened.  I was teaching at the time, and our school's reaction was to devise a security protocol and institute student I.D.'s.  My students wanted to talk about the I.D.'s, mainly how silly of a response they were.  "The Columbine shooters were Columbine students!" they pointed out.  "That's not the reason," one student said darkly.  "They want to be able to identify the bodies."

As I was watching the coverage and crying, I was also angry.  Angry because Columbine had meant nothing, obviously.  Angry because it seems as if politics is more important than, ultimately, commonsense safety of our schools and our neighborhoods.  Why is the NRA allowed to bully our legislature?  Do students have to die so that people can take their guns to National Parks?  Buy guns freely at gun shows?  And do you mean to tell me that guns make us safer when the USA has more guns than any other large nation, yet we have more gun violence and gun deaths than any other large nation?  If you put fifty people in a room and give them all a gun, does that make the fifty-first person who goes into the room safer?

I also became angry because I thought of those poor teachers who went to school that day prepared to teach, yet walked into a survival situation.  I thought about how our country as a whole does not value teachers.  How many times do I hear about how teachers are merely overpaid babysitters?  How they only work nine months a year; how "those that can, do and those that can't, teach?" 

I became angry when I thought about the shooter, who was only a twenty-year old young man.  How disturbed he must have been!  Did he ever get any help, or could his mother, who was his custodial parent, not get assistance because of some problem with insurance?  I thought about all of the baloney that Rick and I sometimes have to go through just for prescriptions.  Why is our health care system such a mess?  Was this a contributing factor?

Lisa, over at Anali's First Amendment, said she was trying to write it out.  Write about the Sandy Hook tragedy as a sort of catharsis, to release her grief and make some sense of her feelings and reactions so that she could regain some serenity. 

That's what this post is, too.  I couldn't put something up here in this space without first acknowledging this event.  It was too vast for me to go unmentioned.  And it was too much with me to go unwritten.

The writing is not as refined as I would normally like.  I didn't go for style.  It's not pretty.  It's not impeccably researched.  It's probably not even coherent.  Now, look out for this last part because it's raw and ugly, but it's very, very much what I want to say.

I knew that this time, because the victims were very little children and because there were so many, that there was a better chance of getting some real discussion on gun control.  Maybe not actual Gun Control Capital G And C, but at least some substantive talk.  Because no one gives a good goddamn about teenagers getting shot up, it would seem.  I do, but who cares what I think?  But we all know that until some poor deranged shooter goes into the Congress and shoots a bunch of these stodgy old men right in their zippers(which seems to be the only thing that they do care about), no one in Washington will have a sense of urgency regarding commonsense legislation about regulating guns in this country. 

How telling that not a single pro-gun rights senator would appear on today's Meet the Press.

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's A Major Award!

Daniel Day-Lewis, who is doing a stunning turn as President Abraham Lincoln in the Spielberg film Lincoln, is known for craving privacy.  He does, however, make it a point to be present whenever he is nominated for an award.  When asked about it, he said that his mother, famed British actress Jill Balcon, told him that when someone is nice enough to give you an award, you should be gracious enough to show up and accept it.

I kept that in mind when J. over at Thinking About presented me with the Reader Appreciation Award, which came with the task of a meme.  Longtime readers here at the Dept. know that I traditionally eschew memes, but for dear J., I decided to emulate DD-L.  (Look what it's done for his career.)

::Where do you do most of your writing/blogging?  In my huge leather armchair in the livingroom.  Usually, a cat is curled up on the backrest behind my head, snoring.

::What books were your childhood favourites?  As a very little girl, I loved when my mother would read aloud the Little Golden Books The Poky Little Puppy and The Color Kittens.  I learned to read years before going to kindergarten and soon moved on to the Little House series, Beezus and Ramona, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Rupert Piper collections, all of which I loved.  I looked forward to our weekly trips to the tiny storefront library and its librarian, Miss Mamie, who not only waived the eight book limit for me, but also introduced me to so many wonderful books.  My big sister Patti loaned me her Nancy Drews, and I collected Trixie Belden mysteries.  My usual punishment back then was, "Go sit in that chair...AND NO BOOK!"

:: Who is your favorite fictional character?  This is, for any teacher of literature, I’m sure, like asking which child we love best.  I thought about this question for such a long time!  Because I know them so thoroughly and intimately, it’s natural that I should choose a character from one of the works that I taught for so very many years.  How can I not choose Jay Gatsby, who remade himself for love?  Who believed wholeheartedly that you can, indeed, repeat the past if your objective is the love of your life?  Who can wear a pink suit, call everyone Old Sport, yet still be shy enough to be afraid of a tea party? 

 And the flawed yet righteous John Proctor, who speaks so forthrightly and has such command of any space he occupies, but suffers mightily from a guilty conscience.  He is a favourite of mine as well.  This is a Puritan man who has fallen away from his God so precipitously, yet he projects his sin and guilt upon his wife, who is the very paragon of Salem virtue.  His journey back to goodness is heartbreaking and human, and he shows that the better angels of our nature can win out.

“The better angels of our nature”…I stole that from President Lincoln, you know.  And it reminds me of yet another fictional character whom I love, Atticus Finch.  I used To Kill a Mockingbird as a parenting manual.  Atticus Finch taught me to raise my kids by appealing to their humanity and with the confidence that ultimately, their better nature would assert itself and they would do the right thing.  Did they make mistakes?  Everyone does.  But they never did the cruel or criminal thing.

Oh, I could go on and on because I love them all:  Hester Prynne, Scout Finch, Santiago….  And yes, I miss them on the most passionate level because I don’t talk about them anymore.  They don't live for me as they used to.  But my all-time favourite is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye.

I love Holden because he cannot love himself.  He wants so many things that should be so easy to get, but Holden can’t have any of them.  He wants his home, his family, love, and he wants his brother Allie back.  He wants to belong to someone or something so badly, yet he craves individuality.  He identifies with, of all things, ducks on a frozen pond; he worries where they will go when their home ices over.  Will someone come and take care of them?  He misses his dead brother Allie, but he can’t visit his grave because it’s surrounded “by dead guys”, and he feels terrible when it rains and all the mourners can seek shelter in their cars and later, nice warm restaurants for dinner.  He is overcome by guilt, knowing that his mother is still nervous and ill from Allie’s death, and now she has to deal with him getting kicked out of yet another prep school.  Through it all, Holden is by turns funny and bitter, but all the while, he is falling apart.  And searching, hunting for what and who he needs.  The mother in me hurts for Holden, and I want to take him home and heal him.  His needs are so simple and so urgent, and they have been so terribly ignored.
 
::What is your favorite time of day and why?  I love the mornings between 7:30 and 9:00.  It’s my coffee and newspaper and online time now instead of hall patrol and first and second period.  Rather than being frenetic and time-conscious, it's relaxed, quiet, and a daily affirmation of my retirement.
 
::Have you ever Googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found?  Yes, especially after the 2008 AP story broke about my other blog, The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives.  Now, not so much is new out there.

::Who would play you in a movie of your life?  My whole life?  Lots of people used to say I looked like Julia Louis-Dreyfuss during her Elaine days.  Now?  Maybe someone who knows me can cast it.  I don't really know who I look like.

The rest of the questions are not terribly enlightening, so in their stead, I'm offering The Major Award itself, designed and pasted up by me.  J., make sure you copy and paste it proudly at your site.  I've already done so.  And tell your recipients to Come And Get It.



 
Some of my most faithful readers and commenters are not fellow bloggers, so this Major Award is simply symbolic for Nanceketeers like fauxprof and Nancy.  J., a Valiant Commenter Extraordinaire has already been tagged and awarded.  The Bug is a Chatty Commenter whom I deeply Appreciate, so, Bug, consider yourself Awarded.  Ortizzle, Mary G., LaFF, all of my commenters, really, can answer any or all of the questions of the meme on their sites or in comments.  You all should know by now how much I appreciate you reading here, especially those who take the time to share thoughts.  A special welcome to newest commenter Ally!

I share this Award with all of you.  As Sally Field said, "I can't deny the fact that you like me; right now you like me."  And I like you right back.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Forgive Us, Al Gore, For The Dept. Hath Sinned

 
Part of Thanksgiving this year meant having a long weekend with Jared, my eldest.  He works at a job which gave him Thanksgiving and Friday off, plus the regular weekend.  Except for a night over at younger brother Sam's, Jay gave The Old Folks a thrill and hung out with us.  That's not to say that a few of Our Old Annoyances didn't pop up here and there.
 
Scene opens interior of small hallway with adjoining bathroom, master bedroom, dining rooms visible.  Doorway to upstairs suite visible, right.  Jared appears from dining room, wanders casually into bathroom and turns on shower.  Nance, in bedroom, is getting dressed.
 
Nance:  Jared!  You realize that we're leaving in less than fifteen minutes!
Jared:  (leans out into hallway)  Mom.  (insultingly calmly)  It takes me two minutes to shower.  It takes me less than two minutes to get dressed.  Seriously, calm down.
Nance:  (irritated)  Jay, you've had all morning to get in that shower.  For heaven's sake--
Jared:  (wanders back into kitchen via dining room)  Hey, Mom?  (something inaudible and unintelligible; after a moment or two, slowly wanders back in)  Never mind.  Got it.
Nance:  (styling hair now; grabs can of hairspray; applies in short, angry bursts)  Holy crap.  Hey, Jared?  Al Gore called.  He wondered why the shower has been running all this time and you're still not in it.
Jared:  Tell him 'Same reason you're using aerosol hairspray.' (walks into bathroom and gets into shower)
 
End Scene
 
picture found here

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In Which I Invoke A republican To Strike Fear In The Hearts Of My Pets

Scene opens on interior of living room.  Rick and Nance are on the couch.  It is approximately 8 PM.  Suddenly, in a move completely uncharacteristic of him, Piper, the normally well-behaved cat, jumps onto the coffee table and begins nosing around.  Nance is shocked and nearly, for her anyway, speechless.  Rick is almost asleep.





Nance(loudly and sternly) Piper! What on earth are you doing up there?  How ridiculous!  (to Rick now)  Do you see that? 
Rick(drowsily)  Yes.  Yes, I do.
Nance:  No, you don't.  You were asleep.  (During this exchange, Marlowe, the chronically disobedient cat, has leapt up onto the coffee table as well. Both cats sit staring at Nance.)  What in the--!  What are the two of you doing?  Not even close!  It is not even close to your night feeding!  And on the table!  I have absolutely had it with the two of you.  And Rick, I wish you'd speak to them.
Rick(eyes closed)  Hey.  Cats.
Nance(rolling eyes at Rick; speaks directly and sternly to cats in Teacher Voice)  You know, I am about ready to go right down to the Friendship APL tomorrow and march right in there and adopt the oldest, crabbiest, male cat they have.  And I am going to bring him home and name him...BobDole and have him just regulate the two of you!  BobDole will come in here and ride herd on you bad cats and shape you right up, do you hear me?  (to Rick now)  How about that, Rick?  How awesome would that be, to have a crabbyass old cat and name it BobDole?
Rick(rouses himself for this)  That's pretty good.
Nance (starts laughing)  Remember how cranky Bob Dole always was?  How he talked about himself in the third person? (breaks into Bob Dole impersonation a la Norm MacDonald on SNL) "Bob Dole won't raise your taxes!" BobDole is a great name for an old, fussy cat!  And if it had a mangled little paw, it would be even better! Remember how Bob Dole had the one hand that was---
Rick: (patting her hand)--okay, Nance, okay.  I get it.  Okay.
Nance:  I won't really adopt another cat, you know.  But the whole idea is pretty funny.
Rick(still patting)  I know.

End scene

cat photo found here

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gaining A Little Headspace: How's Your November Zen?

Quick!  Grab a Moment Of Zen right now because thanks to Halloween being Officially Over, THE HOLIDAYS ARE UPON US! I need room for all of that in my head, thanks to crass commercialism/consumerism via The Media (aka Target and KMart Layaway, the first retail outlets that I saw to air Christmas commercials), so I'm going to have a bit of a Cranial Clear-Out.  Here are a few embryonic thought nerfuls that have been nattering around, taking up space both in my head and on my Desktop StickyNotes.

^*^Parkinson's Law^*^ This principle is stated thusly:  Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.  First proposed satirically by Cyril Northcote Parkinson to criticize the British Royal Navy in the 1950s, this rule is now cited as often as the famed Peter Principle when skewering the operation of large organizations, most notably corporate entities.  All I can do is lament the fact that I was oblivious to the existence of Parkinson's Law when I was In Education!  I could have used it almost daily.  Every single teacher knows that no matter how long you give for an assignment, the vast preponderance of students will fritter away that time frame and still do the task the night before it is due.  OR, if possible, do it in the hallway five minutes before class.  These days, Parkinson's Law still applies to my life.  Now that I have an entire day to do, say, the laundry, grocery shopping, and cat maintenance, well, that is exactly how long it takes to do it.  Often, those chores are still incomplete at 5:30 when Rick gets home, and I am sheepishly folding towels as he walks in the door.  Oh well.

^*^I Don't Love Messes. Here's My Mommy Card.^*^ So I'm watching TV, and a commercial comes on for Clorox Clean-Up.  It shows a mommy in the kitchen, cooking/baking with her children.  Messiness and wonderful loving happiness ensue.  The mommy cheerily cleans up all of the foody messes with Clorox Clean-Up while hugging her kids and smiling.  The voiceover says, "Clorox Clean-Up...for the messes only a mother could love."  Really?  I've been a mother for over twenty-seven years, and I have yet to love a mess.  Or cleaning a mess.  And let me tell you, there have been plenty.  Even the Christmas cookie decorating messes, which are the worst, actually, with all the little nonpareils, the chocolate jimmies, the colored sugar, and heaven forbid if the food coloring gets spilled.  Did we have fun in the kitchen?  Usually, yes. But did I love the messes? Hell no.  Come on, Clorox.  Time to get real.

^*^And Yet Our Government Is Full Of Them^*^ By far, my favourite quote about men still comes from the book Bridget Jones's Diary.  The titular character's staunch friend Sharon maintains that "men--...are so catastrophically unevolved that soon they will just be kept by women as pets for sex...outside in kennels."  It is terribly mean, but think about it when you read the following dialog sent to me by Jared, my eldest.  It is a small snippet of a conversation that took place at his job, a workplace staffed almost entirely by men (They have one female employee).

Jared:  Dave, do you have the DC/Baltimore/Maryland map I created?
Dave:  No.
Gabe:  It's hanging right on your wall, Dave.
Jared:  Did you even know that that existed?
Dave:  The wall?
Jared:  Yeah.  Yeah, Dave.  The wall.
Dave:  Oh.  Yeah.  Yeah, I knew about that.  Just didn't know the map was on it.

Shake loose a few of your own Cranial Cobwebs in comments.  But hurry!  Here comes...well, you know!

illustration found here

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On History We Share

Recently, I went on a lovely jaunt south to Virginia, where I met up with Shirley and Veronica.  These ladies kindly played Tour Guide to me and I was able to add to my Civil War Battlefield Portfolio.  Poor Virginia!  Its woods are still scarred by soldiers' trenches, and the battles there evoked what is for me one of President Lincoln's most poignant quotes, "My god! What will the country say?"

My time at these sites made me thoughtful:  of history, of politics, of my childhood, and of perspective.  It sent me back into that impressive book Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson, which I will quote at length in this post.

When I was a kid growing up in NEO, my dad worked at the steel mill in our town, and my mom stayed home.  I had three siblings, and for family vacations, we did it on the cheap.  Lots of times we packed up and drove to Gettysburg, PA to impose on my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Dick and their three kids for a week or so.  They lived across the street from a huge battlefield marker and up the hill was another one.  Back then, townies also got into all the museums and everything for free, so for at least a few days, we'd steal the neighbor kids' identities, walk uptown, and do all the attractions. I loved the Jennie Wade house, the Electric Map, and one uncle even worked part time at the Lincoln Train Museum.  At first, the Gettysburg experience seemed to be all about battle strategies, weapons, casualties, generals, and maneuvers.  Sometime in the seventies (I think), that seemed to change.  It was suddenly all about Lincoln and the Union.  Maybe it was just me.  Maybe I grew up, or maybe my perspective changed.  But I remember that shift very palpably.  It didn't dampen my ardor for Gettysburg in the least:  I eagerly went on any car tour narrated by my aunt, hoping to glean more information to add to my expanding mythoi of the battlefield and its monuments.

In Virginia I was curious as to how a Southern State--the seat of the Confederacy--would present its history of the Civil War.  The Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville were both Confederate victories, despite their ultimate defeat.  In Virginia's Civil War History, Abraham Lincoln is the architect of destruction for some citizens' family trees.  Richmond, the capital, was a symbolic prize for the Union army, and its citizens knew it; they burned their own city to the ground as they fled before the bluecoats got there.  For much of the South near the end of the war, life had become an endurance test.  Federal troops were single-mindedly marching, taking provisions, doing anything to end the war, even if it meant brutal conditions for civilians.  If I were a Southerner, I would want some respect paid to that story.  It's a fine line to walk, I would imagine.

As is always my experience with our nation's National Park Service, there is a great reverence and honor for the battlefield sites and stories I visited in Virginia.  The focus there is very human and personal as the displays remind visitors of native Virginians who fought in the battles there, and whether they survived or gave their lives for their Cause.  Especially humbling and poignant is the Fredericksburg National Cemetery on Marye's Heights, the terraced ground in which rests over 15,000 Union dead, most of whom are unknown.

It is all so very, very sobering.  Abraham Lincoln was elected president on November 6, 1860.  On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.  In relatively rapid succession followed states Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee; these went on, of course, to make up the Confederate States of America (CSA).

(Ironically, unless Virginia leans Democratic, it seems that these states will vote against a man from Illinois again.)

It's conventional wisdom that our country, highlighted by election year politics, is polarized.  We were divided into Red and Blue by election maps, 1% and 99% by a movement, and a host of other designations that, sometimes, we chose ourselves.  During the Civil War, we truly were a country divided.  Consider this, from author McPherson (859):

Before 1861 the two words "United States" were generally rendered as a plural noun:  "the United States are a republic." The war marked a transition of the United States to a singular noun.  The "Union" also became the nation, and Americans now rarely speak of  their Union except in an historical sense.  Lincon's wartime speeches betokened this transition.  In his first inaugural address he used the word "Union" twenty times and the word "nation" not once.  In his first message to Congress, on July 4, 1861, he used "Union" thirty-two times and "nation" three times.  In his letter to Horace Greeley of August 22, 1862, on the relationship of slavery to the war, Lincoln spoke of the Union eight times and of the nation not at all.  Little more than a year later, in his address at Gettysburg, the president did not refer to the "Union" at all but used the word "nation" five times to invoke a new birth of freedom and nationalism for the United States.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.--A. Lincoln

The old federal republic in which the national government had rarely touched the average citizen except through the post office gave way to a more centralized polity that taxed the people directly and created an internal revenue bureau to collect these taxes, drafted men into the army, expanded the jurisdiction of federal courts, created a national currency and a national banking system, and established the first national agency for social welfare--the Freedmen's Bureau.

The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere. The desirable things which the individuals of a people cannot do, or cannot well do, for themselves, fall into two classes: those which have relation to wrongs, and those which have not.--A. Lincoln 

This change in the federal balance paralleled a radical shift of political power from South to North. During the first seventy-two years of the republic down to 1861 a slaveholding resident of one of the states that joined the Confederacy had been President of the United States for forty-nine of those years--more than two-thirds of the time.  In Congress, twenty-three of the thirty-six speakers of the House and twenty-four of the presidents pro tem of the Senate had been southerners. The Supreme Court always had a southern majority....After the war a century passed before a resident of an ex-Confederate state was elected president.  For half a century none of the speakers of the House or presidents pro tem of the Senate came from the South, and only five...justices...were southerners.

These figures symbolize a sharp and permanent change in the direction of American development....Thus when secessionists protested that they were acting to preserve traditional rights and values, they were correct....The South's concept of republicanism had not changed in three-quarters of a century; the North's had.  With complete sincerity the South fought to preserve its vision of the republic of the founding fathers--a government of limited powers that protected the rights of property and whose constituency comprised an independent gentry and yeomanry of the white race undisturbed by large cities,heartless factories, restless free workers, and class conflict. The accession to power of the Republican party, with its ideology of competitive, egalitarian, free-labor capitalism, was a signal to the South that the northern majority had turned irrevocably toward this frightening, revolutionary future.  Indeed, the Black Republican party appeared to the eyes of many southerners as "essentially a revolutionary party."...[I]nsisted Jefferson Davis during the Civil War, "We are resisting revolution....We are conservative." (860-1)

Be not deceived.  Revolutions do not go backward.--A. Lincoln

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Politics, Halloween, And Yard Art: Experience Life In A Swing State (An Interactive Post!)

At this point in October in Ohio, I don't know what I grow more weary of, Halloween or The Politics.  Last night while trying to enjoy some television programming, Rick and I counted eight ads in a row during one break, and those were just for two races, senator and president.

My great distaste for Halloween has been well documented here at the Dept. in other posts before, so we won't go back over all that territory now.  Suffice it to say, my feelings haven't changed except to perhaps intensify.  So while on my walk today during an unseasonably warm and gloriously sunny day, I made it my Mission not to be irked by the Halloween yard art I knew I was going to witness. 

Because that just allows the Terrorists to Win.

Now, here's an example of a very subtle celebration of Halloween:
 
What does this home say to you?  "Oh, hello.  Autumnal Greetings.  And we are proud Americans, by the way. (Or, we got a free flag from our councilman on Independence Day and, unsure of how to dispose of the flag properly, we just left it here.)"  It wasn't until I got the photo home that I even saw that there was a teeny pumpkin tucked next to each pot of mums, so subtle is this decor.
 
A few blocks later, we have this:
 
 
What does this home say to you?  "Bwaaahaaaahaaa.  We have unpacked our crazy and have a ton of Peter Pan Issues to work through."
 
Here's another view without the tree branches:
Or, perhaps it says:  "We used to work at Discount Halloween Town.  We are the Fun Parents, and everyone in the neighborhood borrows our ladders."
 
But, at least this house has a Theme.  This is a focused, directed Decorating Job.  Which is more than I can say for this:
 
 
Okay...what, now?  Just what does the decor here say to you? Go ahead-- I'll let you have some fun in Comments.



Sunday, October 14, 2012

In Which I Lament Yard Parkers, Pushy Companies, And, Always, Bacon


Today in NEO it was a golden autumn day.  We had temperatures early in the afternoon that peaked in the high seventies.  There was a brisk westerly breeze and the sun was warm and lovely.  Rick and I took a long walk and then settled into our bright red porch chairs with a glass of cider for some conversation and commentary on...well, everything.

Soon, I needed a snack, and this, as many of you may recall, is Perilous Territory for me, and by default then, for Rick.  I do not often eat during the day, and when I suddenly must, rarely is it obvious to even me what I want.  When I returned from my foraging, I had a bag of Lay's Potato Chips--just the crumbs, really (it was an old bag)--and Rick rolled his eyes.

Rick:  (nodding at the chips) That's not what you want.
Nance:  (sighs) I know.  But I have no idea.
Rick:  (puzzled) Didn't we buy a new bag?  What--
Nance:  Yeah, but there's still some left in here, and I'm not opening a nice new bag when this might not even be what I want.
Rick:  You're such a project.
Nance: (decisively) Boy, don't I know it.  (looks across the street at the rental house)  Rick, I am going to say something very, very horrible right now.  It's just terrible and awful.
Rick:  (looks up expectantly; his expression is almost joyful) Oh good.  I hope so.  It's been a really long time since you did.  A long time.
Yard Parker: the view from my porch
Nance:  I just wish that something--anything--would come down off the roof, or the tree, or something overhanging, and fall on top of their car and do a lot of damage.  I mean it.  I don't want anything to hurt them, but I am so sick of them parking on their lawn and right up against their house and their front steps for heaven's sake!  Maybe if something hurt their car, they would stop doing it.  I mean, how lazy are they?  It's just terrible.  It makes me terrible.  The whole thing is awful.  I don't know why I care so much.  I mean, it's not hurting me.  I just have to look at it.

Rick:  Well, it makes the neighborhood look trashy.
Nance:  It does.  It really does.  (sighs;looks down at chips)  Holy crap.  All I wanted to do was eat a few chips.  But no!  They want me to scan this code and go to their website.  Here they want me to design my own flavor.  Then they want me to post that to Facebook.  (a little indignant now) That's a lot of bullshit work!
Rick:  They want you to do their job.
Nance:  And here's what happens.  People come up with all kinds of exotic flavors.  They say, apple cinnamon!  Salted caramel!  Chicken and biscuits!  Duck confit!  And here's what will win--BACON. Period.  Bet me.
Rick:  What flavor would you want?
Nance:  I have no idea.  Guacamole?  Probably already sent in or already tested.  But the point is, it doesn't matter.  BACON WILL WIN.  Seriously.
Rick:  Everyone likes bacon.
Nance:  Then why ask? Ugh. Make a bacon chip and be done with it.
Rick:  Here.  Give me that.  I'm going in to get a beer.  I'll throw them away for you.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Add AR State Rep. Jon Hubbard To The List Of republicans Who Want To Take Our Country Back, And Here's How Far

Go here for the story of Gordon, the man pictured
"The institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth." --Arkansas State Representative Jon Hubbard.

This quote is part of a larger essay, which is in turn part of his book, vanity-published in 2009.  Because Hubbard is up for re-election, it has become fodder for the media.

I don't care.  It's disgusting filth like this--this kind of pervasive and intrinsic hate and selfish superiority--that seems ingrained in that party.  It spawned the audacious disrespect of  Joe Wilson and the misogyny of  Todd Akin.

It's hard to give up The Politics when it all becomes so very personal. How can anyone--anyone--choose not to vote?  Spite alone would move me to the ballot box. 

Monday, October 01, 2012

It's Like Looking At A Roomful Of Vegas Showgirls

Here in the Midwest we are often considered staid, provincial, even boring.  We owe our very existence to two rather pedestrian and mundane industries, agriculture and manufacturing.  Midwesterners are perceived by Left- and Right-Coasters to be unsophisticated and lacking in style.  We shop at WalMart and eat spray cheese.  We think Dr. Phil is God and Rosie O'Donnell should just admit that no one wants to hear about It anymore and go away once and for all, especially now that Will & Grace is canceled.  And if that Michelle Obama shows up in a sleeveless dress one more time...!  It's fine if she's looking to do a Playboy, we say, but her husband is running for President of the United States!  Thank Goodness Mrs. Romney has a little more class and modesty.

But not all Midwesterners are so modest and retiring.  On one of my walks I discovered a house whose tenant put her...jugs right on the front porch.

You can see she's got quite a rack out there.  I figured, what the hell.  I'll take a picture; it'll last longer.

Nice rack of jugs. 


More jugs...and wow!  Just noticed on either side of this rack...what a crock!

So much for the Midwestern Modesty.  The nights are getting much colder here in Northeast Ohio.  I can't imagine how those things will hold up once it frosts.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

They're Only Words...

"A word is dead when it's been said, some say.  I say it just begins to live that day."--Emily Dickinson

Oh, Miss Emily!  How grateful I am that you sleep in kind Death's arms, for today, the Dept. of Nance is about to wish for the demise of some common, innocent little words which, through no real fault of their own, are irksome to not only me, but also to Jared, who is teaming up with me today, just like we used to do over at our partner blog, Stuff On Our List.

Today's post was inspired by two things:  one, this article which stated that the Worst Word Ever is "panties"; and two, my reaction to a song Jared wanted me to listen to, sung by his friend Brandon "Blizz Moneybagz" Pride, a rapper.  I sent Jared the article because he, too, detests the word "panties," but he felt my objection to Blizz's liberal use of the word "bitch" in his song was evidence of my "unhealthy relationship" to said word.  We had a brief, civil discourse regarding the matter, closed it, and ultimately decided to do a post about Our Most Irksome Common Words.

These words are not grammatical concerns (irregardless); nor are they words that have obvious sexual or negative connotations rendering them horrid (slut, cancer); nor are they words that have become overused by The American Youth (awesome! amazing! like...).  These are just words that, for whatever reason, we have an aversion to. 

Here's Jared:

Sorry, Emily.  Some words have no business existing. And worse, I hate the way that they feel when I say them. Or they don’t make any sense. The following are words that I have made a conscious effort to not only remove from my own operational vernacular, but also to make an exhausting effort to avoid even having to hear. Since “panties” was already taken, and I happen to echo the sentiment that it is the worst word in the world, I will give you my second through sixth most hated words.

2. Eternity – Eternity? It isn’t any fun to say, it is cliché, and it also isn’t any fun to type. Just say forever.  And end it. We all know that’s what you meant anyhow. You only said eternity because you heard it during a Harry Potter marathon, and now you think that because it was in a movie and some plays or some shit, that it’s the best way to go. It isn’t. I have stopped saying “eternity”. And it is a decision I will stick with forever. See?

3. Sketchy – My friends say this for anything that is suspect in nature. People, food, bridges, bars, anything. And I don’t think it makes sense. Also, we have a word for that. Ready? I know it's difficult but here we go…SUSPECT! Hipsters made the word “sketchy” into a part of everyone’s everyday life. And for that, they are a suspect set of the population. My one buddy, who shall remain nameless despite my desire to expose him, describes his beard as “sketchy”. No. That isn’t what’s happening. You aren’t intentionally “growing a sketchy beard”. You just can’t grow adult facial hair and are too lazy to grab a razor.

4. Fattoush – This is an actual thing. Fattoush is, from what I understand, some sort of Lebanese crouton/salad thing. There isn’t anything else to call it. It is simply “fattoush”. But that doesn’t mean I have to be OK with it everytime someone in the office orders a fattoush salad from the Greek spot we like. It sounds like a noise that a child makes while he is pretend fighting. Or telling a story about doing a cannonball at a pool party. “I just jumped right in! FATTOUSH! I soaked everyone sitting poolside.” Someone told me recently, “Don’t worry about what you cannot control.” And I think that’s bullshit. That’s the only stuff worth worrying about. I can’t control that the Greek place calls it fattoush. Which is exactly why it stresses me out.


5.  Succulent – This word makes my skin crawl. “How is your steak?” It’s juicy. It is not succulent. Ask someone to define succulent for you. Go on. I bet they say “You know, like really tasty and juicy and stuff.” Then just say that, homey. Say you had a really well cooked chicken breast that was juicy. Anyone ever looks at me and says, “Good job on dinner. It was succulent,” and there’s an 80% chance I never talk to him again if he was serious. Only way to make this word worse? Put it next to “morsel.” “Succulent morsel.” Has to be the worst phrase ever.

6. Supper- This one makes no sense. When you eat DINNER, you are supping. That would make you the one that sups. And thus you are the supper. Not the food. What sort of sustenance does the meal get by being masticated around hastily and swallowed? "Absolutely zero" is the answer. Does that make the meal the “suppee”? I don’t know. Far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. Because all that’s happening is someone is having dinner.

Take it, Nance:

1.  Squat--This word is ugly.  It's serviceable, but it sounds terrible and looks worse.  It reminds me of when my mother used to make me pee outside at night rather than walk all the way to the outhouse at Grandma's cabin.  It is graceless, and my underwear always got wet.

2.  Nude--I prefer "naked."  Nude sounds cold, aloof, and unseemly.  Nude sounds like business.  Naked sounds warmer and less clinical.  Nude sounds like a police report is involved.  Naked sounds like cuddling might be.

3.  Underpants--These are what elderly men wear or cruel mothers with terrible Bronxy accents yell after their children who finally get invited to a slumber party (now their last):  "Mona! Did you remember to pack a clean pair of underpants?!" Underpants sound dingy, and like what get left on a floor to be found when new tenants get the keys to a rundown apartment.

4.  Community--This poor, overworked word just reeks of poverty, causes, charity organizations, strident women with petitions, and teeshirts with slogans.  It sounds like big long tables stocked with literature and clicky pens. I hate it.

5.  Pocketbook--What a terrible, dated, dumb word!  Worse is when someone pronounces it POCKABOOK.  How this is still used to identify a purse is beyond me.  Purses are not FOR your Pocket, they are NOT BOOKS, and rarely does one use one's purse expressly FOR A BOOK.  This word really does set my teeth on edge.

Jared and I will celebrate words in our next post by selecting some of our Favourite Words!  In the meantime, do share your Cringeworthy Words in comments, or commiserate with us about some of ours.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Cranial Casserole: It's What's For Dinner At The Dept.

This post will be sort of a Dept. of Nance mixtape (or mash-up, for my younger readers who are of A Generation who have no grasp of what "tapes" might be.)  It's like Leftover Night:  a dab of This-n-That, all odd assortments that don't really go together, but perhaps you might find something that you like.


Let's dish it up.


Once a week, I do floors in the house.  (I know:  how very June Cleaver of me.)  As I was Sharking the kitchen, I took a critical look at the front grill of the refrigerator and thought, I wonder if I should clean that someday.  In consulting the refrigerator's manual as to how to remove said grill in order to do so, I was shocked.  It told me not to clean it. There is no need for routine condenser cleaning in normal home operating environments, it said.  I was pretty excited.  There it was, in writing and everything.  I read further, however, because I know from experience that, if there is more writing, there is always a catch.  ...if there is significant pet traffic in the home, the condenser should be cleaned every 2 to 3 months....  What?  What does that mean--significant?  Of course my pets are significant!  My pets are extremely significant--to me!  Who in the hell has unimportant or insignificant pets?  ("Oh, my! What a nice dog. How long have you had him?"  "What dog?  Oh, that? That's just some animal that hangs around here to finish up our table scraps. It's a nothing. We haven't even named it.")  Needless to say, I cleaned that damn thing tout de suite

Speaking of language, we have a quick guest spot from the Defender of The Language.  A rather urgent missive arrived from California Math Teacher, and we wanted to address it right away.  He writes:

Dear Defender of The Language,  I'm a math teacher, and every time I teach my students the rules of solving equations, I have a question about grammar that I keep meaning to ask you. Two of the actions that are permissible when solving equations are adding the same quantity to both sides of an equation and subtracting the same quantity from both sides of an equation. These are generally presented as one rule and written as follows: "We can add or subtract the same quantity from both sides of an equation." This seems incorrect to me, as we subtract a quantity from an equation but we add a quantity to an equation, and this sentence uses the word "from" in both circumstances. On one hand I want to make this sentence more grammatically correct, but on the other hand I want to keep their notes as short and concise as possible. What should I do?

Oh, bless you, Math Teacher from California, for caring so deeply about grammar during a math lesson.  You are absolutely correct that the preposition "from" makes no sense after the verb "add" in that mathematical statement.  One way to test its grammatical logic is to remove the compound verb phrase, thusly:  We can add the same quantity from both sides of an equation simply does not pass the test of either English grammar or basic logic.  What to do for students who want to take short, efficient notes?  You can either heave a sigh of regret and press on, knowing that the basic understanding is still conveyed despite the grammatical misstep, or you can employ the slash in this manner:    "We can add or subtract the same quantity to/from both sides of an equation."  As a Defender of The Language, I naturally prefer the latter.

Thank you, Defender of The Language, for responding so quickly to this query.  As always, if you or anyone you know has a mechanics, usage, grammar, or spelling concern for the Defender, please send it to me here at the Dept.  My email link can be found in my sidebar.

Finally, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has again printed an intriguing obituary.  I must share it with you.  When I looked at the photo, I did a very cartoon-esque double-take.  I read the accompanying writeup with care, as I always do, and I smiled.  What a wonderful family this man must have.  What a great time he must have had with them all, and what memories they must have made together.  As I have often said when I share this sort of obituary picture, it would not be my style, but how I love that it was theirs.   
Legacy is a heady, serious thing to ponder.  Living one's Best Life each day...perhaps a little less so.  Tossing a little Fun in there obviously goes a long way.  I like that idea.  Always have.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ah, Politics! I Hardly Knew Ye!

I'm seriously thinking of giving up The Politics completely.  Truly, I am.  The past couple of years I've removed myself gradually, anyway--with a few relapses here and there--because it has all gotten to be so much noise.

Those of us in the Swing States (CNN currently lists them as Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire; The NYT adds Wisconsin) are in a constant media maelstrom of Super PAC propaganda.  In the evening hours especially, political adverts are stacked one on top of the other in a relentless barrage of partisan garbage.  Every single commercial break in Ohio has at least one (and that number would be a blessing), but more often, there are three or four in a row.  I witnessed the same fusillade of campaign proselytizing in Virginia in June.  Virginians also have a Senate race to decide, as do Ohioans, so we both get an extra helping of PAC crap.

I don't even listen anymore.  Yes, I've read The Research:  I know that the reason the ads are so negative is because They Work.  And, yes, I was one of the ones who said that Pres. Obama needed to get tough and dirty with the republicans because that's how they played the game.  For the record, I still say that.

But, thanks to the Supreme Court decision in 2010, we're all on overload.  A modicum of relief is coming, however:  On September 11th, the official campaigns of both presidential candidates are suspending ads.  Additionally, the primary pro-Obama Super PAC has agreed to stop running commercials in deference to the day as well.  But I want more.

I want the ads to be confined to one political ad per candidate per commercial break.  I want the ads to run only three months before any election.  I want there to be Ad-Free Days during the week, decided by each network, and that can be decided locally or nationally; I don't care.  I think those parameters are more than fair.  I've stated no regulations here about positive or negative; none regarding the Super PAC's monies or whether or not they have to be traceable or local in origin.  That stuff is already a lost cause.

The Politics used to be Fun for me.  Now it's ugly and tedious and tiresome, like cleaning the basement or arguing with a friend.  Whenever I can, I get rid of anything that's not fulfilling me.  So, The Politics has to go.

Part of my disgust, I think, has been all my reading and research into President Lincoln.  He was far from perfect, but in his service to the country, he remained thoughtful and mindful of the country.  He knew that some of the advisers he had around him had personal agendas and personal animosity toward him, but he valued them for their common desire to preserve the Union and for the expertise they brought in achieving that outcome.  He was a man who faced many tribulations simultaneously in all facets of his life:  a country at war, the deaths of his sons, a mercurial wife, a rebellious Congress, an often melancholy spirit, a series of failures as General for his Army of the Potomac, the cruelty of a fickle public and press, but he worked tirelessly for the restoration of his country.

The irony that my favourite president is a republican is not lost on me.  Yet, one would have to search deeply and profoundly to find any similarity between the current republican party and the party of Abraham Lincoln.  I wonder if he would be able to call himself a republican were he to find himself alive today.

In the meantime, I'll absent myself from The Politics of today in favour of the politics of yesterday.   

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