27 July, 2012

Sorry to have missed you. Oppressive heat will be back soon.

It's been incredibly hot and dry here, and Iowa is not known for either of those things. Sure, we get hot, a few days each summer around a hundred degrees, but along with the heat comes about 90+% humidity. Usually, in late July, you can see the air - it's whitish - because it's so crammed full of moisture. Many nights, there's a thunderstorm which will, temporarily, cut the heat and force some of the humidity to precipitate, instead of floating forever in the air. There's a relief, usually a short day or two, then it's hot and humid again.

Not this year.

We've had about a month at or around 100˚F. We've had about a month with humidity around 25%, which we don't usually hit except in the coldest parts of winter. We have rivers that have dried up, or are little more than a trickle. The corn is already turning brown with teeny, skinny cobs about the size of my thumb. The beans haven't grown tall or fluffed and just sit there slowly turning yellow. Instead of perfect growing conditions for grass, grains, and trees, everything is becoming crispy. Trees are shedding leaves, lawns are brown, and, frankly, wildlife, which is usually plentiful even in town, has all but disappeared. My bet is the deer, raccoons, possums and whatnot are staying near what few water sources remain, but I can't be sure. Even the birds are trimmed back, the mornings silent instead of filled with birdsong.

For someone used to sticky humid summers where we have to mow the lawn every other day, this is really distressing. There's a lot of worry that if we don't get a lot of rain this fall, before freeze, what fish remain in the rivers and lakes won't survive the winter. And neither will the trees. And who knows what the crap crops will do to our already faltering local economy.

Scary stuff.

Long term forecasts indicate the hot dry slow bake of the midwest will continue until mid September. Or maybe October. And once it starts raining, it won't stop. Maybe. If it starts raining at all. They think.

I just know that farmers here are selling their cattle because, with hay reaching $1500 a large bale, and grain at all time highs, they can't afford to feed them. The corn is so crappy it's not even useful as silage (mowed down to be used, leaves, stalks and all, for animal feed). Living in an Agricultural state, I see the fields, the pastures, the spindly weeds growing in hay fields and ditches, and it worries me because food prices are currently awful, and this heat wave and drought will only make them worse. A LOT worse.

I sure don't see it getting any better.

We're careening toward an economic cliff running hand in hand with climate change, yet our politicians bicker over gaffes, imagined affronts, and skewed data, telling us nothing about how they will actually repair our ailing economy, how they'll make it easier for folks to find and keep jobs, or how they'll deal with the coming food/water crises and lifestyle modifications that'll have to be used as the weather changes. Nothing they're saying really matters, it's all sound bites and bickering over the same damn crap, little different from the crap four years ago, or eight, or twelve, or twenty or any time I can remember.

Frankly, bail outs mean shit when people can't afford groceries. Taxes mean shit when people don't have income to tax. Gaffes mean shit when the national and global economies take a nose dive.

Sooner or later, the weather will change, we will get rain, and Iowa will be green again. Politicians, though, will continue to screech lies and half-truths at each other from their pedestals. Until they stop being so divisive and nasty, and instead start offering real solutions to real problems, nothing's ever going to get better.

08 July, 2012

Ready to fly! Maybe.

Here I am again with yet another meandering through random topics.

The generator tells me I must talk about Airline Failures. Another fabulous topic for yours truly since one of my absolute least favorite activities is flying.

I'm taking a guess here to assume the topic means not 'failure' but bankruptcy. Airlines go bankrupt and they, as a business, fail. I don't want to talk about that, though. I want to talk about the failure of airlines to consider their passengers.

Charging for carry-on bags? Fail.
No leg room? Fail.
No snack on a long flight, other than *maybe* a skimpy pack of peanuts or a cracker (both of which are so cheap and crappy I'd be embarrassed to give to trick or treaters for fear they'd egg my house)? Fail.
Crampy, crampy, crampy spaces where passengers' shoulders have to layer over one another. Fail
Too narrow seats? Fail.
Crappy 'canned air' smell (I usually feel I'm almost suffocating)? Fail.
Losing luggage? Fail.
Lack of assurance your belongings are safe? Fail.
Stuff that doesn't work, whether fans, lights, or call buttons (and, I assume, emergency oxygen masks)? Fail
People who have more right to put their head in my lap than I have to read, work on my book, or simply sit there without a head in my lap? Fail.
Crappy restrooms? Fail
Uncomfortable seats while we're stuck waiting to board flights? Fail.
Over-booking so passengers get bumped? Fail.
Price gouging rates, especially to 'non vacation' destinations? Fail.
Intrusive security measures? Fail.

I could go on, but that list is already plenty long. I truly despise flying. I'm a bit claustrophobic anyway but to be crammed into a seat with little to no wiggle room and my knees crammed into the seat ahead of me (oh, the utter JOY of when that person leans back and tries to snap off my kneecaps to give their leisure more room!) is, for me, worse than enduring dental surgery. At least with dental surgery I get a pain killer and some happy gas. I endure the security crap because it supposedly keeps us safe (frankly I have my doubts) but getting on and remaining on a plain is AWFUL. Just awful.

Airlines make seats and spaces smaller and smaller to cram in more people, raise overall prices, yet do nothing to improve service and overall enjoyment. I can see why they keep failing, I can. Sure there's a captive audience - some people need to fly for jobs and emergencies - but instead of doing their part to make travel enjoyable, or at least not crap-tastic, airlines seem to pride themselves on increasing the shittiness of the experience. With that business model, failure is pretty much assured.

I don't fly unless I have to. I'm sure I'm not the only one with that sentiment.

07 July, 2012

Holy Moly

Back again, (Happy Saturday, by the way) with another random post. each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Yay. Today's topic is Religion Definition Debate. Someone want to remind me again why I agreed to do this. Whee.

Let's start with something concrete. In this case, I'm consulting my personal, very battered copy of Webster's Handy College Dictionary that I bought around the time I graduated high school so I'd have a dictionary for college. Yes, it's copyrighted 1981, is surely dated, and it lost its cover years ago, but it's also the dictionary I use whenever I need to look something up. Like this. Don't like it, get your own dictionary.

Anyway, my dictionary's definition of Religion is:
n 1, a system of faith in and worship of a deity. 2, devoutness; dedication to a holy life. 3, a doctrine or custom accepted on faith.

Frankly, I see a lot of wiggle room there, and maybe that's the problem. Yeah, definition one pretty much insists that a deity must be part of the equation, but when you get to definitions two and three, things get fuzzy. Can someone be a devout, dedicated vegetarian who views their clean lifestyle as holy? Sure they can, but does that make it a religion? How about those troublesome investment banking practices that got the rest of us into a lot of trouble. Don't they follow doctrines and customs accepted on faith in financial markets? Doesn't mean they were good, or right, only indoctrinated. Could a greedy, self serving bastard use religious persecution as a defense for tricking people out of their savings? They probably could use it, but I don't know if it'd fly.

I think people need to realize that religion isn't something concrete. It's one of those 'I know it when I see it' issues, but everyone knows and sees different things. Who's to say one person's devotion to the rising of the sun every morning granting life to the earth is less a religion than another person believing a Roman era prophet is the son of God, or that believing it's all a bunch of hooey is just as vital, and correct, as any other faith?

I tend to follow 'to each their own' view, unless one persons faith impacts, impedes, or otherwise restricts someone else. If you're belief system insists you must sacrifice a human life every solstice and you're killing people, then I believe there's a problem. If you believe that smoking peyote brings you closer to the great maker and you're doing it in the privacy of your own home, then I really don't mind. What I find alarming is when one group decides that their brand of fervor is THE brand and everyone else must get in line with it or suffer. That bugs me a LOT. 

I saw an article recently where a state congress person was all for using public money to fund religious schools until a Muslim school was slated to receive part of the money. Then she did a complete about face and wanted to end the program because - gasp! - they're eeeeevil and not Evangelical Christian, omg! Imho, it shouldn't matter if they're christian, muslim, jewish, atheist, pagan, hindu, buddhist, sun worshippers, scientologists, or whatever. All should be treated the same under the law (and the separation of church and state, to me at least, says the law shouldn't fund them, but what do I know). 

Don't even get me started on the birth control mess. Boy oh boy oh boy.

Anyway. I think that we will continue to have debates on religion and its definition mostly because it's a vague, nebulous concept that tries to embrace too many dissimilar ideas. With my dictionary's definition, almost ANYTHING could be considered a religion. Until that's fixed, we'll be arguing the same points a century from now. 

06 July, 2012


I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

I'd like to start by saying that some topics the generator apparently generates are so far out of my realm of experience they seem impossible. Like today's toping Making Your Own Keyboard.

Um. I'd rather cough up the cash and buy one, thanks anyway.

But that doesn't get the blog post written, so instead of blabbering like an utter idiot, I've gathered a few links on the subject.

To start with, here's how to make your own steampunk keyboard.
You can also make your own roll up keyboard.
Or make an existing keyboard backlit

I even saw one keyboard turned into a waffle maker (but couldn't find instructions). Apparently the sky's the limit on keyboard modifications. If you could change your keyboard, what would you do?

05 July, 2012

Augmented Unison

I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Today the Random Topic Generator said I should write about Augmented Unison. I have to admit when I saw that suggestion I thought WTF?? Is that even a real thing?? It seemed like the generator randomly smooshed two words together.

Nope. It's a real thing. A musical thing.

I haven't taken music as an academic pursuit since I was a freshman in High School so please forgive me if I screw this up. From what I've read this morning, an Augmented Unison is a harmony interval where it widens (goes up) one half step from perfect unison. It's also called a Halftone. I think.

I found a pretty cool video that explains intervals. The information about Augments starts right at 3:00

I hope this makes sense and helps folks think a bit more about music. I know I learned something today. :)

04 July, 2012

Dark, Creepy Closets

I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Today's topic is Checking The Closets Before Bed.

A lot of kids fear the creepy darkness in their closets, and some adults too, I'm sure. Is it the darkness itself? The inability to see? The potential for eeeeevil? Or merely an imagination in overdrive from some earlier stimulus like a scary movie or fighting parents?

I honestly don't know, but I can admit I'm a frequent flyer of Nightmare Airlines and I always have a light on, somewhere, so that I can see at night.

Does anyone else still do that, or worry about what's lurking in their dark, creepy closet?

03 July, 2012


Sorry I'm late. It's 4th of July week which is a BIG DEAL for Bill's family and, well, it's been busier than usual around here.

Anyway, I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Today's topic (well, actually yesterday July 3rd) is Muscle Soreness. 

For some of us, muscle soreness is a constant distraction due to injuries or atrophy or disease. In my case, it's literally a pain in my neck. I got whiplash from being rear-ended about 24 years ago and I still have trouble with the left side of my neck, especially if I spend too much time on the laptop. Owie, owie. For other people it's their lower back, or legs, or their hands. Do too many sit-ups or crunches, your belly muscles might get sore. Run too far or without stretching properly, you can screw up your legs. Muscles can get pulled, or sore, from moving improperly or not moving enough. Diabetics have all kinds of pain from from dying nerves, and on and on and on. For me, at least, Ibuprofen is my friend, I have to take some every night before I go to bed or my neck will wake me up.

Do any of you have problems with muscle soreness?

02 July, 2012

Publicly Private

We're Number ONE!!
I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Today it's Sending a kid to private school vs public. I'm certainly not an expert on education in America, but I am a parent and I have to admit I have a little bit of experience with both public and private schools. 

When our daughter was teeny, she begged to go to preschool - as many kids often do. In our local area, though, the public head-start and preschool choices were, frankly, shitty. No funding, too many kids to too few teachers, dilapidated location, etc. So we saved up pop-can returns and did odd jobs until we could afford to send her to a private preschool. It was located in a church halfway across town, but was rated very highly and I have to admit it was pretty darn cool. We could visit any time we wanted, we got involved in some of the educational activities, and we got to know the kids and the parents. 

All in all, despite probably costing more than we could reasonably afford - we were a hair's breadth above the poverty line, after all - it was worth it, at least to us. Clean, bright, cheerful, and only a handful of kids for each of the three teachers. I think - but am not sure - the class was limited to 20 students. Twenty. With three teachers. When someone says you get what you pay for, they weren't kidding in this instance at least. Our daughter loved it, we loved it, and she came out of there happy, loving school, and excited to learn more cool stuff about bugs or art or numbers or whatever. She went there as a three year old, and a four year old, and both years pretty much rocked.

After that, she went to public school. We open-enrolled her out of the massive metro school district we were living in and into a rural school district for a couple of years. That was, all in all, a very good experience, too. Then we moved to the middle of nowhere and lived in a reasonably decent district where she'd be safe, at least. But was she educated there? Um... Kind of. Better than if we'd stayed in the metro, definitely, but not as well as we'd have liked. And she was on the bright side of the curriculum, she took advanced classes in science all through her schooling, was in band for a while, participated in things like basketball and choir, and, as a B student, her grades were decent, and she got into a good college. But she wasn't very motivated, and she didn't enjoy it much which made her less motivated so she enjoyed it even less, and round and round it went.

I do believe, tho, that if we'd have managed to keep her in private school, or home schooled, she would have been more motivated and learned more. Bill and I were both VERY involved with school and homework and making sure she did what she was supposed to do. We took her to band lessons and paid for project materials and extracurricular activities. We never missed a conference, open house, play, sporting event,  or bake sale. We were involved, but, still... She could have done better, her educational experience could have offered her more, demanded more, and, frankly, we could have made better choices too.

I'm not saying that public school can't, or doesn't, give a good education anymore. For some students it does, but I have come to believe that those students would have excelled almost anywhere anyway. Classroom size is a huge factor. Teacher burnout. Funding (for anything beyond sports. Oh, golly, don't get me started on that!) Administrative leadership. Facilities. Educational milestones and goals. All of those things matter and, in my truly limited experience, private schools kick public schools butts. They do. As in most things, you get what you pay for. 

01 July, 2012

Chasing rainbows

The lovers, the dreamers, and me. :)
I've been out of sorts the past few weeks - oh, the chaos! - and I'm struggling to get myself back on to a reasonable schedule in a lot of areas.  One is blogging. I really enjoyed the blog challenges from earlier this year, and I'm jumping in again for July.

This month, though, I'm doing a Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Anyway, todays topic, randomly generated today right after lunch, is Your Ever Changing Goal In Life.

Whoa. Talk about being publicly slammed with my own worries. Surreal.

So. Um. Goals. Life goals. Big goals. Plans, baby! What are your plans?

Frankly, I don't know and that's part of my 'flailing around in chaos and getting nowhere' problem. When I was young, my big life goal was getting the heck outta there, off to college and onto my own life. Did that, box checked, let's move on.

Got the funky-friendly house. Got the great marriage. Got the great kid. Got the health. Enough money. Enough time. Hell, I'm even published. Check, check, check, and a whole 'nother line of checks. I make quilts. check. Understand how to cook most everything (I still can't cook decent fish, but since I don't even like fish I can't see learning to as a 'life goal') so, check. Learned to like my hair. Check. Got the rosacea under control, check.

Frankly, most of those are 'little goals'. I mean, let's get serious for a moment, learning to love my curly mop wasn't exactly a metaphysical struggle.

What's next in the queue? Honestly, I don't know. Bill and I talk about it sometimes, how we've reached the point of 'this is enough'. We've climbed the summit of departing-poverty and are sitting here enjoying the view. Sure there are other big mountains out there - wealth, power, fame, what have you - but they don't interest either one of us. We don't care about stuff, it's just stuff. We don't care about money, once there's enough for bills and food then we're good there. And we are good there, truly.

There are things I'd like to do. I'd like to get back to writing productively for readers again, it is sort of my job after all. I'd like to get some sewing done this summer. I'd like to lose 20 lbs by Christmas. I'd like to be better at taking my vitamins. I'd like to finish sorting and organizing a mountain of miscellaneous papers I've been putting off sorting and organizing. I'd like to do lots of things, but none of them are life goals.

Again, I just don't know.

I suppose the closest thing, the most accurate goal I could articulate is I want to be happy. I want to like myself. I want to be less cynical, less grumpy, less prone to self loathing. I want to be thankful for all of the wonders I have and have accomplished.

You know, that actually sounds like a pretty good goal to have. :)