Friday, May 29, 2009

A log cabin moment

A more cringeworthy expression than "wise Latina" would be hard to find.

Unless it were "richness of experience."

I didn't find Senora Sotomayor's life story inspiring. I call that a "log cabin" story, as in Abe Lincoln's famous reminiscences of his humble beginnings. I'm sick and tired of hearing about these Harvard grads' virtual log cabins, up to and including our present president--he of the single mom on food stamps, raised by gramps and granny, etc., ad nauseam.

How come no-one found Clarence Thomas' life story moving and inspiring? How about Thomas Sowell, who also had a single mom? Don't conservatives have a right to humble beginnings?

Anyway, I wish they would all stow it for the time being. I am beginning to appreciate the value of a stiff upper lip. Stop trying to warm my heart, I haven't got one.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monuments neglected


This is deplorable!

As president of the Delaware Medal of Honor Historical Association, I received a call from a member of the Buffalo Soldiers informing me of the deteriorating and unsafe condition of the African American Medal of Honor Memorial at 18th Street and Baynard Boulevard. One of its 40-pound bronze panels is missing its two top anchor screws, and is in danger of falling off, which would damage it, or worse, hurt some unlucky soul passing by.

[snip]



If any powers that be reading this letter can help in this matter, make the needed repairs to the African American Medal of Honor Memorial in Wilmington now; waiting until later may cost the city much more....

Memorial Day

 
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

 


This was taken at Fort Ticonderoga, a long time ago.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

I know this guy!

He's the middle guy in the front row.




Well, not exactly--but I did exchange e-mails from him when I was writing a biographical article about him for my book.

This was a long time ago. 2000 or 2001, to be not quite exact. He was one of the astronauts assigned to me, and I couldn't find out much information about him, except the potted NASA biography. Then someone who knew someone who knew his mother gave me her phone number, and I called her. She was very gracious and proud of her son, and I found her a gold mine of information.

She gave me Bolden's e-mail address and I e-mailed him. He responded shortly thereafter, and gave me lots of information about his boyhood and early life, real human interest stuff. He was actually one of my favorite subjects, because he revealed so much about himself that I felt I knew him personally. And he was a general!

Lots of the astronauts and aviators we wrote about were still living. They were mostly very approachable. Bolden has had an exciting career, which I am sure will be all over the New York Times, so I'm not going to go into it. He seems like a competent guy and a good pick to head NASA.

Read my book to find out what he did as a kid.

American cemetery in Normandy



Remembering those who died for freedom.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Roses at Goodstay

 


On the University of Delaware campus.
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Today at Longwood Gardens

 

 

 

 
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our president is better than smart...

he's lucky.

If three people were walking beneath a tall skyscraper: man A, Obama, man B, and someone dropped a brick from the roof, it would hit either A or B, and Obama wouldn't even know something had happened.

Look at his record: Won the Dem primary by disqualifying his opponent; won the election by threatening a juicy scandal about the Republican candidate, intimidating him into withdrawing from the race; then beat Alan Keyes, who is clearly insane and doesn't even come from Illinois. He's never actually won an election before the Big One.

He might not have won that one if the economy hadn't crashed and burned just before the election, causing the electorate to blame Republicans for the mess.

He promised to withdraw from Iraq, but before he could keep his disastrous promise, Gen Petraeus won the damn thing, getting him off the hook. Lucky!

I hope some of his luck rubs off on the country. If we come out of his administration relatively unscathed, it won't be his fault. He believes that in order to fix the economy, we have to mess up health care. That's like a doctor telling you that he can't cure your bleeding ulcer until he cures your acne.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some photos of Gibraltar

 

 

 
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Something called Free to the First State took place today. Delaware residents could visit any number of historic sites free. These were taken at Gibraltar, a garden on Pennsylvania Ave in Wilmington. I was glad to make its acquaintance. I've often driven by and wondered what it was.

It was a beautiful day, despite the sun that fitfully emerged from the clouds.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Squalid family story

Mother, in an attempt to get my brother and me to clean up after ourselves, used to ask: "What would happen if nobody cleaned up?" We never found out, because mother had what my aunt called a "girl," to avoid the pejorative "maid," which for some reason was a low class way of speaking (Considering that my aunt called her friends--grandmothers all--"the girls," I guess girl was a better term. Well, you had to live through it, all women under the age of 90 were called girls, not women.) Anyway, we had a cleaning woman--a former client who had done time for shooting her husband--and the house was clean, if cluttered.

However, mother's theoretical was tested by a close relative, who I'll call Alvin. Alvin and his wife didn't like to clean, and didn't. Nor did they employ a cleaning person, girl, woman, or man. So we got to know what would happen if nobody cleaned up. It was pretty grotty.

Alvin and his wife, Alice, left piles of books, newspapers and junk mail on every available surface, and when that surface was covered they just piled it higher. Theirs was the only household I've ever visited where the toilets were covered with dust. And I have visited some very humble households, namely those of most of mother's clientele. Some lived in the country and had outhouses that were not as filthy as that of these two college graduates.

Add three children to the mix, and let them do whatever they want in the house, such as play ball indoors and scatter their possessions everywhere. A baby grand piano, shoved up against the wall where no-one could access the keyboard, made a cultural statement. A mattress and bedding in the middle of the living room floor attested to the fact that Alvin snored and Alice didn't like it.

To make matters worse, Alice was an awful cook, who served up whatever she could find in the refrigerator. So Shabbat dinner could include, but not be limited to, one baked potato, a few string beans, and a challah that had seen better days.

They were awfully nice people and very glad to see you, so once in a while you could not avoid Shabbat dinner. They were trying to be hospitable, the poor things. I guess they had long ago stopped seeing the dirt and disorder and thought it was normal.

But what about public health? What about germs? Had our ancestors left the poverty and oppression of Eastern Europe so their progeny could end up like this?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another former friend

A friend of mine was having a play put on in New York, and a bunch of local citizens was chartering a bus so they could attend en masse.

I invited Linda to join me on a theater trip to the big city. This one would be great for both of us, because the question of who would drive would not arise. Because Linda wouldn't drive in New York. Her car was too new. It would be acceptable if my old Taurus were completely demolished by rabid New York drivers, but her Lincoln was too valuable.

Anyway she agreed to go, and I agreed to order and pay for the tickets. The price was something like $40, $50, or $60 per ticket, I don't remember.

So we went, and a good time was had by all. As I drove her home from the bus stop, I asked her to reimburse me. She said she didn't have the cash on her. I said I would take a check. She didn't have her checkbook either.

What could I do? The amount was more than I wanted to lose, but small enough so I would feel like I was hassling her if I kept reminding her that she owed me. Pestering people for small sums put the onus on me. Don't you feel defensive when you remind people of trivial amounts of money they owe you? You feel like the guilty party, somehow.

All this went through my mind as I approached her house, a big old Victorian which had been restored and refurbished within an inch of its life and was now worth millions. I knew that if I didn't do something, that money was going to slip out of my life for good.

So I told her I would go into the house with her and wait while she wrote a check.
In her dining room, which sported a priceless Oriental rug and a lovingly restored dining room table, she retrieved her checkbook and managed to write out a check in a most annoyed, "why are you so petty?" manner.

The next I heard of her, she sent me an invitation to her daughter's wedding shower. Since I knew neither the daughter nor her fiance--and was not invited to the wedding anyway--I decided I couldn't afford a friendship with Linda. She was too expensive a date.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Does Obama really believe that fixing the economy depends on health care reform?

Byron York:


Meanwhile, the president is taking every opportunity to argue that real recovery won’t be possible unless we spend hundreds of billions of dollars to enact his so-far-unspecified health care reform plan. “I’ve said repeatedly that getting health care costs under control is essential to reducing budget deficits, restoring fiscal discipline, and putting our economy on a path towards sustainable growth and shared prosperity,” Obama said at the White House on Monday.


Jeff at Protein Wisdom:

Unlike York, I don’t have sources inside the beltway, but nevertheless I’m going to disagree with him and say that it is unlikely Obama is betting an economic recovery on the passage of universal health care. Instead, I’m guessing that Obama — always one to take advantage of historic symbolism — simply wants to be the one who brings about the total overhaul of the US economic system, to be the man responsible for pushing (or forcing, depending on your point of view) anti-capitalist progressive policy into the political mainstream, where it will become difficult to roll back.


The president's logic--if logic is involved--confounds me. it's like building a house with the roof constructed first, then the actual structure under that, and last, the foundation. Very innovative--but it doesn't make sense.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Big wind in Delaware

 


The wind apparently blew part of this tree down.
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Two toned tree

 

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My neighbor's tree looks like it grows flowers in two different colors.

From Delaware, for Mother's Day



They are Brandywine Bluebells.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Construction dust

When I went to Arizona back in early April, I was naive enough to believe the construction on my new bathroom might--just might-- be complete or nearly complete when I got home. This is equivalent to believing that the stars are God's daisy chain or that the Easter bunny lays colored eggs.

Brian the Boy Contractor seemed so eager to complete the job! He had nothing else to do--nothing! It would be his A-1 priority!

Well, Brian and his silent helper have managed to spend about eight hours a week on this job. The bathroom is the usual jumble of tools, wallpaper fragments, pieces of lath, sawdust and crumbly stuff. The entrance hall is completely covered with contractor footprints against a backdrop of mud. Bits of board adorn the front walk. The garage, which is usually full of junk, now contains a toilet, sink, and medicine cabinet in addition to the usual dreck. The dining room holds a large carton containing the stuff that was in the old bathroom. A fine layer of dust lies over every available surface.

And so it goes.

Any hope of actually keeping this mess presentable would be futile. I did sweep up the fragments that were in the kitchen so I could have an occasional meal there. I also mopped the kitchen floor and the entrance hall. Then it rained for nine consecutive days.

At this point all I do is cringe when I walk into the house and leave urgent messages on Brian's voice mail. Is this some sort of contractor's tradition to make the biggest mess possible for the longest possible time?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My brother's birthday

 


is today. This is what he looked like as a boy. Now he has a long white beard and looks like God.
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Wilmington Institute sells prints by N C Wyeth


Bad news.

The Wilmington Library plans to pay for a new roof, heating and air conditioning system and other repairs for its Rodney Square building by selling 14 illustrations N.C. Wyeth painted for the 1920 publication of "Robinson Crusoe."

The remarkably large collection of Wyeth originals is expected to bring about $5 million when it's auctioned piece by piece at Christie's in New York on Dec. 2.

"The paintings are among Wyeth's most famous book illustrations and their sale is significant in the world of collectors," said Eric Widing, an American painting specialist at Christie's.

It's rare that so many illustrations from one book -- there were 16 in all for "Robinson Crusoe" -- go to auction together, Widing said. That's likely to be seen by buyers as a momentous event, he said.

Also heading to the auction block in October is a rare, complete 20-volume set of Edward S. Curtis' books and photographs of the native peoples of North America and Alaska. It's expected to raise $700,000 to $900,000.


These items, particularly the Wyeth prints, belong here, not in some millionaire's collection in Saudi Arabia. No doubt it was the intent of the donor to assure them a safe home in the library--not to repair the roof!

I'm a librarian. I know what leaky roofs do in libraries. Air conditioning and heating problems are also quite familiar to me. But I wouldn't sell irreplaceable paintings to fix the roof. What will happen when the new roof needs a new roof, as it inevitably will? Will they sell the circulation desk?

A very similar incident took place in Paterson, NJ, a few years ago. The library had in its possession several priceless works by painters of the Hudson River School. These painters were very much in vogue at the time. They were sold, and some citizens brought a lawsuit, claiming that these paintings were a gift to the city of Paterson and were not really the property of the library. The suit was successful, the buyers returned the paintings, and the library had to re-pay the auction house for their lost commissions.

I'm not a lawyer, but I wonder whether the donor of the Wyeth illustrations intended the library to sell them for lunch money.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Cranky, and other, observations

I haven't figured out Verizon yet, and I don't think I ever will. But I think Verizon is going to get their comeuppance, just the same. Every few days, at least once a week, I get an offer from Verizon for phone+internet+tv for $99. These wonderful offers are for new customers.

Why are new customers gold and old customers garbage? If you can earn a profit selling service to some people for $99.00 a month, why not me?

I predict that someone somewhere is inventing a technology which will put Verizon out of business, and I can't say I'm sorry. Magicjack is already here, for $19.95 a year. Unfortunately, this does not work for me, but someday something will.

I can't feel sorry for the CIA either. They had a shiv stuck deep in Bush's back, the bloody traitors. I bet they all voted for Obama. Now let them take their lumps.

Nor can I work up much sympathy for the car manufacturers. The last time I had my car --a Mercury Sable--repaired at a dealer's it cost $400 and I had to sit around all day. What goes around comes around.

Senator Specter, the newest member of the Democratic Party, has had his seniority taken away. I'm crying bitter tears. I hope Norm Coleman takes his disputed election result all the way to the World Court. We don't recognize the World Court? Wait a while, we will.

I was out shopping last night in the dusk--you know, the brief period when all the light has gone away but darkness has not yet completely descended? It was raining and there was an air of mystery. Has anyone captured that light, or absence of light, in a painting?

Speaking of light, the stars shine more brightly in Sedona than they do here. The night sky is astounding.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Homecoming float

 


A picture of a homecoming float from a long time ago. These girls are all grandmothers now.

Would you believe I know the names of two of them? That's why you label your photos.
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Depression

When I am worried about something I lose my appetite and therefore lose weight. It's easy. I just don't feel like eating. When I feel better, though, I gain it all back. Now that's depressing!