Monday, September 29, 2008

L’Shanah Tovah!

”L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi!” which translates to “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!”

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown this evening. It’s the beginning of the Jewish New Year, the first of the High Holidays, beginning the Days of Awe and leading to Yom Kippur. There is a tradition of self examination, making amends, emptying yourself of the negative, starting afresh with the positive. The essence of the positive is following what is commonly known as The Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated; Love others as you love yourself. As Hillel is credited with saying: everything else is commentary...

During this busy political season, the tradition seems especially important - particularly difficult perhaps, but especially important!

Maybe the custom of dipping a crisp apple wedge in honey will help insure “a sweet new year”!

That’s Billion - With A “B”

O.K., it’s true. I took only two economics courses in college.

That said, here’s what I think about the current economic crisis.

When the U.S. House of Representatives failed to approve the 700 billion dollar bailout today, the U.S. stock market fell . The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 777.68; the NASDAQ by 199.61. That’s wicked freakin’ huge, but it is not (yet) catastrophic.

The fact that the U.S. House did not affirm the bailout today is likely a very good thing.
It may well give everyone a chance to breathe and caucus and simmer down a bit.
It may give Congress a chance to start over.

This whole bailout is being dealt with by the U.S. Government which is, by definition, a political animal. But with the Presidential election little more than one month away, the entire process has been supercharged - damn near to the point of electrocution - by political partisanship. That’s a bad thing - a really bad thing.

President George W. Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wrote up this 700 billion dollar bailout in a proposal which was less than three pages long. We passed more papers than that to purchase our home which cost less than $100,000!

Bush and Paulson repeatedly expressed the urgency of the situation. The President went on the airwaves last Wednesday, with a glassy demeanor, using words like “danger”, “collapse” and “panic”. He scared my 84 year old mother. That’s never a good thing. But it made me begin to wonder if we weren’t being rushed; having something onerous forced upon us by an administration with a lousy record of decision making and an exceptionally high level of deceit.

Congressman Barney Frank (D - MA) and Senator Chris Dodd (D - CT) did a pretty good job of expanding the three page proposal from Bush and Paulson. They tried to build in protections for citizens, taxpayers and homeowners with mortgages. They tried to limit excessive benefits to the top dogs of the financial institutions at the heart of this situation. Then the rank and file got in the mix. Then John McCain supposedly “suspended” his campaign. Then the President summoned the Congressional leadership, plus John McCain and Barack Obama to the White House. All of this was swirling in the increasing din of politics and partisanship.

It was ugly. And it may well have been completely wrong headed. The flaw may well have been that everyone was working on that original three page Bush-Paulson proposal. Perhaps they should have been looking at the financial crisis with fresh eyes; not trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Enter Congressman Peter DeFazio, Democrat from Oregon. Two days ago, on September 27th, he wrote a letter to every Democratic member of Congress. In that letter he urged them to oppose the Bush-Paulson bailout. I encourage you to read his letter.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know what the stock market will do tomorrow. The investor in me wishes I had some spare cash to buy up a few bargain stocks. The saver in me is scared, because it’s our equity based retirement accounts which are effectively the “ox being gored” in this situation. But we’ve ridden out bad days and tough markets before. And if this is what it takes to get Congress to refocus its attention on the real problems and root causes of the financial crisis and away from the Bush-Paulson proposal, so be it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quick Tip

Most photographs from film used to be developed with a white border around the image. As photo processing evolved, you could request “borderless” which seemed so very modern. Now with digital cameras and home printing it’s all up to us.

When I create a scrapbook page digitally using Photoshop, sometimes it’s fun to scatter several photos onto the page. It makes for a casual look and more like a traditional paper scrapbook. When I wanted to add a border to a photo, I used to use the Rectangular Marquee Tool and the Paint Bucket Tool to create a small blank canvas behind the photo. After moving and adjusting, I would lock the two layers together. Then I discovered Edit > Stroke.

In either Photoshop CS3 or Photoshop Elements, make sure the photograph you want to add a border to is highlighted in the layers palette. Then choose Edit > Stroke. In the new menu which appears, I chose a width of 25 pixels, a barely beige-white for the color, the Inside location, blending Normal, Opacity 100%. Poof! Your photo has a border! Now just work with the rest of the photographs on their respective layers. Each time you choose Edit > Stroke, Photoshop remembers your last setting, so the rest of the photos breeze by. Then, using your move tool, position, resize and rotate until you achieve the desired effect. Add drop shadows and some text and/or journaling and you’re done!

Layout and photos by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac. Font: CK Jacque (from Scrap N Fonts)

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Presidential Debate

Attempting to be as objective as possible, I think that both John McCain and Barack Obama “scored” similarly in tonight’s debate.

What’s more important and what is not yet clear, is if the candidates reached their target audience: the still undecided voter.

It’s difficult for me to understand the thinking of the self-reporting undecided voter. Simply because the differences between Barack Obama and John McCain are so dramatic; their stands on the issues are at opposite ends of the spectrum; their personalities and temperaments are such polar opposites and their visions for the future of The United States of America are so radically different.

I hope the undecided voters watched tonight’s debate with care. I hope they go to the McCain-Palin website and the Obama-Biden website. I hope they explore each candidate’s stand on the issues. The United States of America deserves no less.

A Clear Message

CascadingWaters left a comment on my Wednesday post about the challenges Papamoka has been facing with his kids’ safety and school buses. In response to her suggestion I created this sign. It’s 11” x 8.5” so it can be printed out on a standard size sheet of printer paper or card stock. If it would be useful to you in any way, feel free to drag and drop it onto your computer and then print out and use as you see fit.

Or, you can download a larger file from this location.

Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac. Font: Verdana

Aw Shucks!

Thank you Claudia! I {heart} you right back!
I love your upbeat attitude, your loyalty to Worcester and the way you celebrate your family!
I’m From Worcester is always an interesting read.

The Big E

Chuck and I went to the Big E on Wednesday. The Eastern States Exposition is a combined fair for all six New England states. It began more than nine decades ago back in 1917. Fairgoers from the early 20th Century attending the Bid E today would recognize the farming and animal breed competitions. They would also be familiar with agricultural companies displaying their newest wares. But the flashing neon lights, the brightly colored flags, the cacophony of music and excited screams from the midway and the tastes of food from around the world would likely leave them slack-jawed. Heck, it leaves us slack-jawed - or as I wrote last year, gobsmacked!

The day was sunny and mild; the fairgrounds crowded but not overwhelming. We actually visited all six New England states via their individual buildings which are owned, as well as the land beneath them, by each state. So a quick trip from Connecticut to Maine was made, without the expensive gasoline and mileage. All in all, a fun day and a good change of pace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Level Headed Leadership

Barack Obama held a press conference today. I invite you to compare and contrast Senator Obama’s presence, gravitas, intelligence and his calm and deliberate manner to Senator McCain’s response to this economic situation, as well as to President George W. Bush’s speech to the nation this evening.

The differences are stark. The conclusion is clear. A McCain - Palin administration would not be four more years of Bush-Cheney-Rove; it would be much worse.

The Wheels On The Bus

Here in the U.S. we see a lot of bright yellow signs which state: “Motorcycles Are Everywhere - Look Twice, Save a Life”. That’s a good campaign. So where is the initiative which says: “School Buses Are Everywhere - STOP For Flashing Red Lights”?

Swing by Papamoka Straight Talk to read a headline no one ever wants to see in print.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


As our roofers were finishing up on the kitchen roof this morning, the landscape fellow was hard at work filling in the ruts in our front lawn. Those ruts were left by the huge dump truck the roofers needed to use to haul away layers and layers of old roofing materials from five different surfaces. As the roofers drove away, the landscaper seeded the loamed areas. He left it to us to water it all in. No problem, even though we never, on principle, water the lawn. But Chuck added a second length of hose on to the one attached to the outside spigot. Some water sprayed out. Then the lights on the oldest circuit in the house began to flicker and the water dried up.

When we moved here fifteen years ago, we had some significant plumbing improvements taken care of before we even took occupancy. (That became quite eventful. One snafu involved a flood from the bathroom upstairs, pouring down onto the newly stripped and sanded living room floor!) One of the necessary changes was separating the two water source systems which were commingled. Commingling water from two wells is against code. Our internal potable water flows from a drilled artesian well. Our outside water flows from an old dug well. The best part of the dug well is that it acts as a “canary in the coal mine”. If the aquifer is beginning to fall due to drought conditions, the dug well gradually begins to pump up muddy water. Sufficient water that season leads to clear water, which rushes out with great force.

So what happened today? Our neighbor Dave, farmer extraordinaire, happened by and helped Chuck troubleshoot the problem. We think the truly antique pump which governs the dug well overfilled its equally ancient holding tank, which meant there was no air to assure the continuous free flow of water. Chuck has drained the tank - which took hours because it could only trickle out. Then, with the air cushion restored to the tank, Chuck restarted the pump for the previously waterlogged tank. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that tomorrow morning the water from the dug well will go coursing through the hose to water in the new grass seed. I really hope so, because we already had the pump guys here for the newer drilled well back in July after the lightning strike fried its switchbox!

For some reason, visions of “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” keeping flashing through my mind.
But that had a happy ending.

Didn’t it?

UPDATE: The pump worked! The water flowed! The grass seed is watered in!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ruffling A Few Feathers

Chuck’s sister Carol forwarded an e-mail she had received. It described an interesting proposal: donate to Planned Parenthood - - - - in Governor Sarah Palin’s name! When you do, Planned Parenthood will send a card to Governor Palin letting her know a donation has been made in her honor.

Turns out it’s not a new concept. No matter, a good idea is a good idea.

Governor Palin opposes abortion even if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. And at the very top of the priority list for McCain-Palin is overturning Roe v. Wade. (My position on this issue can be found here.)

Ready to participate? Go to Planned Parenthood. (Or go directly to the Donate-In-Honor-Of page) Make a contribution (minimum donation is just $5.00). Be sure to check the “I would like to make this gift in honor of” circle.

Then fill out the section with Sarah Palin’s name. The e-mail advises using the McCain-Palin campaign headquarters for the mailing address:

Governor Sarah Palin
John McCain 2008
P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215

I think it’s important for Governor Palin and Senator McCain to understand the real impact they are making.

Autumn Arrived

The cooler weather got me thinking about slow cooked dishes where the heat generated by the oven, stove or crockpot are welcome in the kitchen. That’s what led me to make this very autumnal soup. Here’s what I did: (Sorry, as usual, this was all by eye and to taste!)

Oven Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

One Big Butternut Squash (maybe 3 lbs?)
Onions - couple of large ones, diced fine
Garlic - crushed
Olive Oil
Chicken stock and/or Vegetable stock
Black Pepper
Hot Sauce
Ground Nutmeg
Brown Sugar
(Light Cream - if desired, just before serving)

Quarter the Butternut Squash lengthwise and remove the seeds.
Place the four squash pieces face up in a large baking dish.
Drizzle on a little olive oil.
Pour enough water in the dish to get it about a 1/4 inch deep.
Roast in the oven, uncovered at about 400 degrees F for about an hour and a half - until fork tender and golden and it smells awesome. Check the water level about halfway through and add HOT water if needed.
Once cooked, let cool and then peel off the skin and discard.

In a large stockpot, saute a couple of Onions in some Olive Oil and Butter.
Add crushed Garlic.
Add some Sherry and cook until onions are soft and nearly translucent
Add Chicken and/or Vegetable stock.
Add the roasted Butternut Squash. Stir and simmer.
Use a potato masher to mash the squash into the soup. You can use a stick/immersion blender, but we prefer the less pureed, more rustic texture the masher achieves.
Now season to taste with the Pepper, Hot Sauce, Nutmeg, Brown Sugar and Salt.
The thick, slightly sweet, savory soup can be frozen at this point.

As with most soups and stews, this is even better the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to marry. But, by the time you’ve reached this point in the cooking, waiting is not easy to do. So just before service, when the soup is already hot, stir in a little light cream, if desired. (Isn’t it always desired?)


Time For A Happy Dance

George Geder has bestowed the “I Heart Your Blog” award on Pink Granite! I am honored! George is a terrific photographer who has a specialty in restoration. He’s also an excellent genealogist, who often posts about his own family research, coupled with before and after historical photos which he has rescued and restored.

According “the rules”, I now may nominate seven other blogs. Oh my! I’m not great at following rules (or reading directions), but here goes:

Roo of Lala Ween World
Ronnie of Purple Ronnie
B2B of Barbie2Be
Susan of Susan’s Blog
Jeff of Wormtown Taxi
Morgan of DancingMorganMouse (her blog is temporarily private)
and last, but by no means least, George of George Geder!

Here are the rules associated with “I Heart Your Blog”:
1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog;
2. Link to the person who gave you the award;
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs;
4. Put links to those blogs on yours;
5. Leave a message on the blogs that you’ve nominated.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Morgan, of DancingMorganMouse, who lives in Australia, left a question in the comments section about our political process. I answered it. It’s possible (O.K. - very likely) that she asked me a question equivalent to what time it was and I told her how to build a clock! Her “delicate” response was that it was now clear as mud! Self deprecation aside, she also wrote: “I suspect the US system is more democratic / participatory, but it would fair wear me out.” Spang on Morgan!

Chuck and I have been feeling the urgency of the presidential election building, while simultaneously feeling as if we are being worn down to mere nubbins by the intensity of it all. Based on the comments, we’re not alone. There are 45 days left until the election. That induces a coincident response of “Heaven help us! 45 freakin’ more days of all this! ” and “Yikes! Just 45 short days left to achieve our goals!”

So how do we pace ourselves? I think we have to work hard (see my Wednesday post “Thinking...”) and we have to play hard. Under playing hard there has to be lots and lots of laughter. A few months ago I wrote about things which make me happy: “Laughter is one of my top three responses in any situation. I’m not a Three Stooges/pratfall/whoopie cushion kind of gal, but if there is a way to inject a little socially appropriate levity into a stressful situation I’m there!” Don’t you think that will help keep us sane over the next 45 days?

I know if you are feeling like we are, you can’t help but work hard to elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden along with a functional Democratic majority in Congress. But we need to find the right balance of playfulness as well. Do whatever is necessary. Try “Pin The Tail on The Big Republican Machine” - you supply your own pictures! Think of a new rhyming or alliterative expletive every day. Most importantly, declare a Politics Free Zone or Time Out and let it all drift away. Watch a popcorn munching comedy (no not “ Dave” or “Primary Colors”!). Go for a walk. Fly a kite. Jump on a pogo stick.

Throughout it all, hang on to that attitude of gratitude.

Then come back here and remind me to do the same!


I love the way it’s possible to follow a trail of virtual breadcrumbs around the blogosphere and find something or someone nifty. Just look at my Blog Roll on the sidebar. Four continents are represented over there! From Barbie2Be who was one of my first links (thanks B2B!) to one of the newest; Kent from Georgia. His blog @issue is a mix of family, politics, current events (including a series of in depth posts on the oil crisis) and even digital-scrapbooking-by-marriage! (His wife is Renee of FertilePress.)

So swing by Kent’s blog, read up, say hi and learn what Kia Ora means...

Umm... Guys? Really?

You’re sure it’s going to look better in just a little while?

This is the view from our driveway, of the dooryard outside our kitchen.

Our wonderful roofers assure us, that while this looks much worse than during any other phase of this huge roofing job, it’s really going to be O.K.

What you see is the old kitchen roof which consisted of cedar shakes and a couple of layers of very old asphalt shingles. All of that is lying on a tarp, which is on top of our lawn, a back walkway, a bulkhead and our poor hosta, ivy and euonymus plants.

But it’s all going to be better in just a little while.

Then come the painters.
Oh my!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Milton!

This afternoon, Chuck was able to sing happy birthday to his Dad on the occasion of Milton’s 94th birthday! Chuck’s sister Carol was visiting with Dad at the time of the call and reported Dad had a big smile on his face.

The photo of Chuck’s Dad and Mom in the layout above, was taken several years ago before they moved out to Washington State. (Sadly, Mom passed away back in 1999, from Alzheimer’s Disease.) I recently printed this layout onto a card which we sent to Dad.

Happy Birthday Pop!

Layout and photo by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac. Paper: Autumn Bliss by Sarah Meyer/SarahB Designs (at Gotta Pixel) Fonts: Hypatia Sans Pro - Semi-Bold and Lucida Handwriting

As always, feel free to click on the image to get a better look.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve been thinking about differences and common ground; thinking about Pink Granite and my friends in the Blogosphere; thinking about why I’m still registered as a lower case “i” independent voter; thinking about growing up in a time when there were good guys and bad guys on both sides of the aisle; thinking about money; thinking about power and of people working together for a common goal, for the common good.

: : I am so very grateful for all of you who read this blog. I’m particularly appreciative of folks who leave comments. You make this whole thing yeastier and that is a good thing!

: : I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: through this blog, I have been delighted to find so many intelligent, warm, funny and well intentioned people from all around the world. You give me hope. You help me keep my sanity and my sense of humor.

: : I know I’ve been on a tear lately about politics and “The Big Republican Machine” relentlessly belching out its lies. Thanks for bearing with me if this particular election is not one you will be voting in. Many of you share my concern, as well as my hopes, but reading through the nitty-gritty details can’t be all that scintillating, unless it’s your ox being gored. Of course, when it comes to the U.S.A. the entire planet has a dog in this fight - to mix animal metaphors!

: : Growing up in Rhode Island (beginning a half century ago!) the politicians fell under a bell curve. There were good guys and bad guys and they were distributed between Democrats and Republicans. During my era, we had Senator John Pastore (D), Senator John Chafee (R) and Senator Claiborne Pell (D). We also seemed to alternate pretty regularly between Republicans and Democrats when it came to Governor. I mention this because as a kid it seemed to me that, generally speaking, the good guys got elected and reelected and you voted for the individual and his stand on the issues - not the D or the R after their name. I found the idea of “voting the ticket” a bit odd. That’s a big part of why I still haven’t relinquished my “unenrolled”/independent voting status.

: : It’s also why I’m working hard to parse folks who are registered Republicans or who vote for Republicans, from “The Big Republican Machine” as it exists today. The ruthless, win-at-any-cost BRM is an ugly thing which has evolved from eight years of Bush-Cheney-Rove, et al. I know that some of the voters who have been Republicans are dismayed, disheartened and disillusioned with the vicious, misguided, valueless, wrong-headed policies and Constitutional transgressions of the last eight years. Some of these Republicans are looking to the Obama-Biden campaign and seeing something good, thoughtful, responsible, egalitarian and honorable. That is resonating with them. They are not The BRM!

: : Which leads me to the need to get folks registered to vote. And, of equal importance, to get registered voters to the polls on November 4, 2008.
Here are some important links:
RockTheVote’s voter registration
Vote For Change voter registration’s voter registration Drive

: : Which in turn leads me to money. A few days ago I posted about sex and money. Money is a very private matter. Money is a very troubling topic these days as financial markets around the world are roiling. But it doesn’t cancel the need for us to contribute both time and money to the political process. Watch this video which Kate sent to me. It clearly spells out the scope of the challenge facing us in the next few weeks. And we mustn’t lose sight of the importance of electing a substantial Democratic majority to both the House and the Senate. As I mentioned in the comments, imagine how much more President Obama and Vice President Biden will be able to accomplish with a significant majority of Democrats in Congress!
Here are some links:
Barack Obama & Joe Biden
The Democratic Party
Democracy Bonds

: : Lastly, (You thought this post would never end didn’t you!) let me share a few images our friend Bruce sent us. These photos are from the “Alaska Women Reject Palin Rally” held on September 13, 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska. Over 1400 people came together last Saturday to say “NO” to McCain-Palin. I’ve also posted a video from the rally. If you think you’re alone, you’re not!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lies and Language

Lately I have been feeling my anger build, as the outright lies coming from the Republican machine and their candidates for president and vice president have continued unabated. I don’t swear on this blog. I figure I have a sufficiently broad vocabulary that I don’t need to dip into my beloved George Carlin’s (God rest his soul) “seven dirty words”. I do, however, swear out loud in my home life. Some of that swearing is creative or crude or anatomically impossible or alliterative (i.e. holy Christmas crap on a crutch). Unfortunately, the expletive phrase in heaviest rotation around here is “Lying sack of @#%$” - or “Lying sacks of @#%$” in the collective. That’s what the incessesant lying of Republicans has reduced me to.

Enter Anne Lamott. Ms. Lamott is a beautifully engaging writer. Today, she combined her writing skills with her outrage and published “A Call To Arms” over on Salon. Never once did she use the phrase “Lying sacks of @#%$”. I came away from her writing renewed, revived and refreshed - still incredibly angry, but determined to make a difference.

P.S. Not that you need any further incentive, but, as a bonus, when you read Anne’s article, you can follow the link to the “Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator”. I kid you not.

psssst...Do Something!

Primary Day In Massachusetts

Please remember to vote in today’s Massachusetts primary!

Need to find your polling place? Click here.

Still need to register to vote? You won’t be able to vote in today’s primary, but, by registering, you will be able to vote in the vital national Presidential Election on November 4th! Learn more by clicking here.

By the way, I urge you to vote for Senator John Kerry on the Massachusetts Democratic ballot today.

Do you need to register to vote outside of Massachusetts? You can go to RockTheVote Voter Registration and fill out the form to receive a voter registration form via e-mail. Or you can go to Vote For Change and follow the steps to register in your home state.

Turn HOPE into reality. VOTE!

Monday, September 15, 2008

McCain is “Volatile”, “Bellicose” has launched a new television advertisement. The powerful 30 second spot features Phillip Butler, a former P.O.W. with John McCain, who says: “Hell, I’m 70 years old and I’ve lived through being a prisoner of war. I’m going to tell it like it is.”

The television spot is excerpted from the four minute video posted below. I urge you to take the time to listen to Mr. Butler. As you do, think about the possibility of John McCain in the Oval Office, with Sarah Palin just down the hall.

psssst...Do Something!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thank You SiteMeter!

Here’s an excerpt from this evening’s message from SiteMeter:

Our Apologies

Dear Valued SiteMeter Customers,
As you’re no doubt aware by now, we’ve chosen to roll back our website to the previous “classic” version. 

Based on some performance issues we were experiencing along with feedback from the community it appears we have pushed our new site live prematurely.

Our intention is and has always been to offer you, our customer’s better tools and more accurate data. Obviously we fell short of this.  The first thing we need to do, moving forward, is to roll out new product releases in parallel to our current platform.  This will give everyone a chance to try out, evaluate, and comment on our new concepts.

We apologize for the botched rollout and will do our best to make sure the next time we do this it has your full support and blessing.
The SiteMeter Team

Thank you SiteMeter!

I’m impressed with how quickly SiteMeter turned things around and went back to the “classic” version I knew and loved. I have to imagine an enormous amount of work went into creating the new version and it must have been quite disappointing to hear the collective boos from the Blogosphere. Good for SiteMeter for dialing it back and responding so quickly to their customers!

Message To SiteMeter

Your site and service were just fine, thankyouverymuch.
Today’s migration is NOT an improvement!

I can’t yet vouch for the site or the service, but I just added SiteMeter’s competitor StatCounter to this blog.

Dear Readers,
If you are not both a blogger and a reader, I apologize for this technical, inside-baseball of a post. SiteMeter, which helps bloggers know if they are just posting for their own amusement or if people are actually stopping by and reading, changed their site today. What used to be simple to use, loaded with data and easy to read, is now ugly, limited and complicated. That’s why I’m cranky about it. That’s why I added StatCounter.
As always, thanks for reading - no matter the topic!
- Lee/PG

Tracking The Pattern

Today’s New York Times must-read cover story gives a clear, behind the scenes look at the political career of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The above-the-fold article chronicles Sarah Palin’s consistent pattern of cronyism, secrecy, punishing her critics and working her personal and religious agendas from within the government. The Times coverage ranges from her position as a member of the Wasilla, Alaska city council through her current twenty month stint as governor of that state.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sex & Money

Back in the early 1990s, I was contacted by a university about participating in an interview survey. The survey was about sex. I didn’t believe the letter was genuine. So I dialed information and called the University of Chicago directly. I actually believed that I would be reporting some sort of outrageous scam to them. Imagine my surprise to learn it was legitimate. I had majored in psychology in college and was both familiar with and appreciated the importance of all kinds of research. I talked it over with Chuck and then I agreed to be interviewed.

The female interviewer came to our home, set up an audio tape recorder and proceeded to ask me lots of questions. I felt it was much easier to be answering the questions than it would have been for me to ask a total stranger such detailed, personal and truly intimate questions! Right near the end of the process, the interviewer handed me an envelope. I had to open it up and answer just a few more personal questions in writing and slide my responses back into the envelope. What, pray tell, after all those sexually explicit questions, could they have asked me which would require such secrecy? Money. They wanted me to spell out what my financial circumstances were! Apparently, money was the only topic deemed so personal, that a sealed envelope was necessary to guarantee truthful and accurate answers.

Growing up, I had no clue what my parents earned. I knew we weren’t millionaires and I knew we weren’t poor. But dollars and cents on a pay stub? No way on God’s green Earth would that have ever been revealed. It wasn’t until my Dad was approaching retirement and I still had a couple of years to go in college, that my Mom pulled out her stenographer’s notebook. In it she had all the monthly bills written down, one page for every month. Mom quickly summarized what flowed in and what flowed out for our family. The next day I went down to the bank and signed on the dotted line for a college loan. For my mother, that conversation about money was second in anxiety only to the “birds and the bees” talk we had many years earlier!

I really threw her for a loop on that one. I came home one day to announce that my parochial school had taken all the girls in my class into the auditorium to watch a film strip. I immediately heard the strain in her voice. After dinner that evening, Mom wrestled through her own version of “the talk”, which distantly echoed parts of the filmstrip. At the very end, she asked if I had any questions. “Yes” I replied, “what about the pituitary gland?” Mom was nonplussed. “Pitui-what?” she asked. You see, in the filmstrip, they illustrated the pituitary gland as a little dot in the brain which sent out what looked like radio waves. It was those radio waves which somehow told the body that all these interesting and mysterious things should start happening. Clearly, the pituitary gland was the key to all the excitement and I wanted to learn more.

Funny, I don’t think the University of Chicago asked me a single question about radio waves and my pituitary gland.

Friday, September 12, 2008


You know how on automobiles, the steering wheel looks like a steering wheel and the accelerator and brake pedals look like you expect them to look? Perhaps more importantly, those critical items are pretty much where you expect to find them, right? One may have to look to find the wiper controls or the radio tuning buttons, but the really important things are pretty self evident.

O.K. So why aren’t digital cameras equally obvious and intuitive? True, unlike cars, there’s no safety issue. But it’s interesting how often folks offer to take a photograph of someone, using the subject’s camera, and the first question is: “What button do I push?” Frequently the second question is: “Where do I look?”, unless the oversized screen is staring right at them.

I know this isn’t an earth shattering line of inquiry. But as I thought back over Carrie and Al’s various celebrations, I did notice this recurring theme. And if one can’t ask the odd, niggling question here, well, what’s a blog for?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th

It was a day very much like today; blue skies, crisp clear air, puffy white clouds; lovely in its ordinary beauty.

I appreciate the proverb, perhaps found on an Irish headstone, which New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg quoted today:

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal;
love leaves a memory no one can steal.


More thoughts can be found here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pink Granite Productions

View from Ocean Drive in Newport, Rhode Island

The “Carrie & Al” DVD was transported to our local post office by Chuck (Hero/BFF/Wonder Hubby) this afternoon! My Mom/Nana-of-the-Bride might have it as soon as tomorrow or Friday at the latest.

The process was pretty darn cool. Apple’s iDVD is part of their iLife software package. iLife is where iPhoto lives, which is where we upload and organize all of our photographs, scans and JPEG copies of digital scrapbooking layouts. I usually make a new folder in iPhoto for each event. In this instance I had five Carrie and Al folders: Al & Carrie’s Wedding (this is where every uploaded photo related to all their happy occasions lives), the bridal shower, the rehearsal, Carrie getting ready and the wedding (which includes the photographer’s shoot and the reception). So when it came time to upload the photos to our family’s private web page or to create the slideshows in iDVD, I could turn to the pre-existing folders to help streamline the process.

I still had to learn iDVD. But between what Chuck gleaned by actually reading the directions(!) and my watching the video tutorials over at the Apple iDVD support pages, a DVD now exists. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a huge kick out of hitting “play” on our DVD player and reliving those wonderful events. And yes, I did shed some more happy tears, but that’s O.K. too.

I wish I could share more photos with you, but way back in 2006, when I first started this blog, I promised my family I would respect their privacy by not publishing contemporary, identifying photos of them - nor their home addresses and maps to the where they keep the silver!

“Nothing But A Chromosome”

Gloria Steinem has written an excellent and very thoughtful piece for the Los Angeles Times. The title of the essay is “Palin: wrong woman, wrong message”. Subtitle: “Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.”

Many thanks to Chuck’s sister Carol for alerting us to the article. You can read it by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


It’s still very noisy in here. But, happily, I am making progress. From fits and starts all the way to to slowly and steadily, I am getting better at iDVD. In fact, the final version of “Celebrating Carrie & Al” is burning in the background as I type this. I’ve been simultaneously loving the process and tearing my hair out.

I’m sorry I haven’t gotten around to visit any blogs recently. Just as soon as I get belched out and away from the digital beast, I promise I’ll stop by!

P.S. Hi DMM - Why is your blog suddenly private? May I have a secret decoder ring? ;o)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Digital Dispatch

Help! I’ve fallen into my computer and I can’t get out!

Well, that’s a slight exaggeration. But I have been swallowed up by iPhoto, Photoshop CS3 and iWeb. Yup. I’m in the belly of the digital technology beast. And that ain’t no hyperbole neither!

Ever since Al and Carrie’s wedding, Al and Carrie’s wedding is all we talk about. Those are some pretty happy conversations, though! Also, much of my time has been spent looking at the photos I took starting at the rehearsal Friday afternoon, all the way through to the last chorus of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” late Saturday night. A last minute problem with the professional photographer afforded me the honor of being invited to photograph Carrie, her attendants, her Mom, her Nana and her future mother-in-law all getting ready over at Carrie and Al’s home before the wedding. Due to the “whither thou goest” nature of our relationship, that meant Chuck was included. He was a little nervous about being the only guy there, but Carrie and Kate have known him more than half their lives, so it all was fine. Although there were a few moments when Chuck put his hands up to the side of his head saying he thought there were probably some things guys just shouldn’t be privy to! Of course Uncle Chuck was also pressed into service for all sorts of manly tasks - like moving cars, loading cars and holding umbrellas over the heads of beautifully gowned ladies!

All the gals were good sports and quickly got used to my snapping away. They also got into some posing and vamping for the camera - Carrie in particular had fun in that department. They allowed me to do a bit of suggesting, directing and “hold it right there-ing”. I had a great time and gained an even deeper respect for the work professional photographers do. Some moments I felt as if I had been dropped into a photo shoot, other times as if I was a stalking paparazzo, but throughout I felt lucky to be there.

Since then, I’ve kept busy uploading photos to our private family photo page. I had to overcome my perfectionist streak and send most of the pictures up onto the ether in their original SOOC form. Yes, it was hard not to edit out the stray elbow in the corner of a shot; to not brighten and sharpen some indoor pics. But I had promised Carrie they could see them before she and Al left on their honeymoon this morning. I did take a few moments to rummage for a picture of Kate’s husband Phil - the one who recently had knee surgery. He was unable to attend because of his knee. So I plucked him out of a photo I had from his wedding day with Kate and then had him “join” Kate and the wedding party in a couple of photos!

The only problem with all this internet communication and photo sharing is that my Mom, the Nana of the Bride, doesn’t have a computer. But then my sister Karen had a great suggestion: make Mom a DVD. Duh! I had never thought to try and Mom has the exact make and model DVD player we have. Well, several attempts of me muddling through pushing buttons in iDVD and Chuck actually reading directions, we burned a rough first attempt. Dang if it didn’t work like a charm.

Tomorrow I’ll come back to the DVD project with fresh eyes and better rested brain cells. I hope to have a disc winging its way to Mom A.S.A.P. I guess I’ll be in this leviathan’s digital belly for a while longer. But that’s fine because the photographs bring all the happy memories rushing back and that’s a good thing. The tears of joy are a challenge, but I’m trying to get better about that!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hard Hearted - Kind Hearted Hanna

Well, she was mostly kind!

The wedding ceremony was held indoors due to Hanna's rain. But just after Al and Carrie exchanged their vows, when the photographer was assembling the bridal party for the portraits, Hanna, bless her heart, took a breather. Soon after, the rain began again in earnest. And later in the evening, while everyone was out on the dance floor, the windows had to be lowered because the rain, blowing in nearly horizontal sheets, was making the floor too slippery!

Carrie was a stunning bride; Al a handsome groom. The ceremony was thoughtful, moving and celebratory - everything one could wish for. Kate, Carrie’s sister and Matron of Honor, had us in stitches with her toast. Mike, Al’s Best Man and friend since childhood, had us near tears with his toast and remembrance of Al’s late father.

It was such a fun group of guests - all 120 or so of us. Everyone was in high spirits. The food was delicious, the decorations charming, the music was toe-tappingly-irresistible. Chuck and I had a wonderful time. At the end of the night, voices hoarse from talking and singing; feet tired from dancing; cheeks aching from smiling; we all gathered our belongings and headed back out into the tropical storm.

After driving through torrential rain and dodging storm debris littering the roads, Chuck and I arrived home at about 2:30 a.m. today to find high winds had felled a tree on our street. We were without electricity, but not without resources. We donned the headlamps we had thrown in the car “just in case”, unloaded the car, fed the cats and headed to bed. Visions of rainbow colored disco balls danced in our heads as we fell asleep.

Thank you Al and Carrie!
We wish you good health, joy and contentment with one another, forever!

Friday, September 5, 2008

To Heck With Hanna!

The "aisle" to the ceremony

Where the ceremony will be held

The only sort of uninvited guest allowed!

We just got home from the wedding rehearsal and dinner, down in Newport, Rhode Island. Carrie and Al couldn’t have chosen a lovelier setting to celebrate their marriage! Mind you, it’s possible that Hurricane Hanna may crash the party. If that happens, I’m ready to Photoshop the wedding pictures onto this afternoon’s sunny, seaside shots!

The wedding is tomorrow afternoon, with the reception to follow at the same location. So, hopefully, I’ll have some more photos up on Sunday. Thanks in advance for your good wishes!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Increasingly Happy Homeowners

This may be one of the most boring photographs I have ever posted here. Unless of course you are the owners of the home with this ever improving roof! Our wonderful roofer has stripped the old layers of shingles off the worst of the five surfaces. New plywood was placed over the original boards, followed by the layer of roofing felt and then the new shingles. True to his promise, despite heat and humidity, he will have this side ready before the rains come this weekend.

Speaking of this weekend, our niece Carrie is marrying Al on Saturday! We’d appreciate it if you would send a little dry energy toward Tropical Storm/Hurricane Hanna. She’s headed up the coast toward Rhode Island and nobody likes wedding crashers, right?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More From the Colosseum

I just listened to Governor Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention. Aside from the folksy introduction of her family, it was more of the same condescending bombast which marked the rest of the evening’s speakers. She was less vociferous, but no less vitriolic - albeit a sugary vitriol, cheerfully delivered.

After viewing tonight’s spectacle, the following is clear to me:

We are a country deeply divided.
We are not divided into red states and blue states.
We are divided on culture, principles and values.
We are divided on the issues.

Make no mistake that the national election on November 4th is important - not just for who we elect as President and Vice President in the Executive Branch, but for who we elect to Congress in the Legislative Branch as well. And the results of those elections will determine the population and course of the Judicial Branch for decades to come.

At The Colosseum

I shouldn’t be, but I am flabbergasted by the extraordinary lies that the Republicans are spewing at their convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. They seem to take great delight in their viciousness. It seems to fuel their self righteousness. I wonder when they will be bringing out the lions...

Thank Heaven For Harry’s

Harry’s Restaurant on Route 9 in Westborough, Massachusetts is a classic. It has the casual, comfortable, homey feel of a diner. The waitstaff is great and the folks in the kitchen know what they’re doing. You can get breakfast, sandwiches, seafood and a whole range of dinner specials. Harry’s opens early and closes late. It’s been around since 1946 and Chuck and I have been going there together for more than two decades. Over the years we’ve enjoyed all kinds of tasty meals, but for quite a while now, our go-to comfort food at Harry’s is the Matzah Ball Soup. No it’s not what you expect to find on a menu generously graced with fried whole belly clams, bacon and sausage. But it’s delicious. The chicken broth has a rich, double-stock depth to it. The chicken is tender. And the matzah balls are perfect. Yes, perfect - firm, yet light; dense, yet tender and very flavorful. Try it, you’ll like it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What We’ve Been Up To

We’ve been busy around here the last several days. Friday we headed north to the Peterborough Players Theatre up in New Hampshire to see Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. Chuck read a review in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, which prompted him to check on tickets. We were in luck. They had two seats on the aisle available. The 200 seat theatre in a converted barn is air conditioned, has comfortable seats, which most importantly are staggered and well raked. I doubt there is a bad seat in the house. The play was very well done. I have read “Our Town” several times and, as a student, played “Mrs. Webb”. The play is as important to me as the book “A Lantern In Her Hand”. They each deal with the sweet, simple details of living a life across the full range from birth to death and beyond.

Saturday, Sunday and today we continued the de-jungle-fication of our property. This intense push was prompted by our previous successes, our desire to continue to make improvements and the impending arrival of our roofer (Yay!) and a building wizard who will help even up our front porch (Yay!). So, we’re tired but happy and now have a huge truck parked snug up against the house to receive the old roof. We also have staging in place and all the roofing materials have been delivered. This summer’s rainy weather has been tough on our roofer’s schedule, but he’s confident he’ll have the worst of our five surfaces cleared and newly shingled, before the vestiges of Hurricane Hannah arrive this weekend.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Today is our 17th wedding anniversary! We are fortunate that today is just as sunny, dry and breezy as it was seventeen years ago. We had a small wedding, with both the ceremony and reception taking place in our home at the time. It was a sort of well organized pot luck, in that we had folks sign up and let us know what they were bringing. We supplied the corned beef and the lox from the purveyors on Water Street in Worcester. My Mom, our nieces Carrie and Kate and their parents Gail and Ron, ferried the flowers up from a rendezvous point in West Boylston. Then they served as cheerleaders and caterers as they helped us get everything set up. Gail molded the cream cheese and cut out pickles to spell out our initials on top!

There were just a couple of glitches and hiccups, including an uncle locked in our only bathroom, which required Chuck to remove the lockset from the outside! But a smiley face was drawn on a paper plate (was that you Carrie?) and hung over the opening left in the door and all was well. It was a great day. It continues to be a great marriage. We've said before that we work hard at our marriage, but it never feels like hard work. May it always be so!