Thursday, March 15, 2018

My thoughts stated perfectly by Ambulance Driver:

Kelly Grayson said this elsewhere on the web today, and I could not have said it more perfectly myself:

On kids protesting gun violence and demanding our leaders do something about it:
Welcome to Citizenship 101, high schoolers. It is your birthright, and your DUTY to exercise your right to free speech and actively engage in influencing, and in a year or so, CHOOSING your political leaders.

Keep on doing what you’re doing. I’ll support you 100%.
But don’t expect me to actually buy your arguments, because you’re naive, ignorant of the subject, and have all the perspective of the world that you’d expect from a... high schooler.
And remember that, when the people who came before you felt it necessary to commit civil disobedience to make their points - and walking out of school, disrupting government proceedings and the conduct of business IS civil disobedience - they also suffered the consequences of that disobedience. They stoically (well, most of them) took their punishment, however unjust, and swayed public opinion with their courage. They eventually changed society.
You want to impress the people who think you’re entitled, pampered little snowflakes? Don’t ask for special snowflake treatment when you get into trouble.
And if you’re a parent, using your child as a sock puppet to advance your own political views? Shame on you for your cowardice.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The lesson from 9/11 that millennials have yet to learn: a call to resistance

If a young American person is lucky, she will grow up with parents who teach her about boundaries. These boundaries are founded on the principles of selfhood ranging from intellectual freedom, to the sanctity of one’s physical health and safety. However, the Nanny State tells her that everyone around her is responsible for her well-being, both emotional and physical, so they will put in place measures to protect her. These measures include legislative foam bumpers on social interactions to insure that she never has her feelings hurt, and gun-free zones that are meant to seduce her into thinking they have taken care of everything. However, the Nanny State represents itself falsely: they cannot guarantee our girl a life free of emotional pain from others, or that she will never be at the wrong end of a gun barrel. Fortunately for this girl, there is a relatively recent example in American history on which this she—and every American—may model their behavior in those off-script situations in which everything has gang aft agley: the case of United Flight 93, in which a group of people who faced certain doom determined to embugger the nefarious plans of evil people. This lesson is a prime illustration that passivity is useless, and that sometimes, we must risk the ultimate harm to ourselves to stop bad people in their tracks and keep them from harming possibly thousands more people.
On September 11, 2001, four commercial planes were commandeered by terrorists in a synchronized effort to inflict maximum damage and casualties on American institutions. Armed with razor-bladed boxcutters, a group of men on each plane killed the pilots and subdued the passengers. Two flights ended at the World Trade Center towers in New York City, resulting in the deaths of thousands in those buildings and all souls on the planes. One plane was crashed into the Pentagon to yet more disastrous effect. However, passengers on the fourth plane, United Flight 93, learned via phone calls to friends and family on land that the hijacking was part of a larger planned attack. They knew they were going to die, so they determined to do what they could to thwart the ultimate plans of their attackers. The story of those 33 passengers rushing the terrorists with little more than determination and brute strength is awe-inspiring, and they most likely saved hundreds or thousands of lives at whatever structure was meant to be the crash site for which the terrorists aimed. The heroes of Flight 93 did not need to be told about boundaries: their lives in the hands of people who were the mind-numbed products of defective cultures, Thomas Burnett, Jr., Todd Beamer, and Sandy Bradshaw, and their fellow passengers effectively said “not today, Satan. Not today.” They drew a line in the sky.
As a middle-aged woman completing grad studies at a state university, I have plenty of time to observe the behaviors of young people in hallways, common areas, and classrooms of my campus. I see many young people who do not lift their eyes from their device screens even to check for cars at crosswalks. Many students spend entire lecture periods paying attention only to a smartphone. These people are halfway checked out of their physical environs, often with situational awareness that would register in the negative range, if that were possible. Let’s call it a zero level of situational awareness. In fact, they seem unaware when mass shootings on other campuses have taken place, as though they could never be touched by such violence. These people are so immersed in their headspace that they seem less than fully present, mentally. Such people would be ill-prepared for an emergency situation, such as an active shooter, should one arise.
My mind keeps going back to the eternal question about the Jews and the Nazi death camps: “Why did no one resist? Why did no one fight?” The answers to these questions would probably be as baffling and heartbreaking as anything else about the story itself. In his superb book Ordinary Men, Christopher R. Browning tells of how during the Nazi terror in Poland, 8,000 Jews were loaded onto a train that was overseen by only 20 guards. Can you imagine this? That crowd of humans--even if only a quarter of them were of hearty health to resist--could have CRUSHED the guards, but they did not. Why do American students not rat-pile active shooters? Because they are told to be passive, to hide, to run, to hope for mercy or the dumb luck of the numbers that they will be missed by the shooter. When the subject comes up on campus, I ALWAYS tell my peers that if something like that happens near me, if I am a student or a teacher, I will do my damnedest to get to the shooter from behind and claw their eyeballs out. I could do better to stop the threat if I could legally carry a gun in that situation, but even with recent changes in state ordinances on campus carry, most buildings on campus proudly declare at every entry that they are gun-free zones, so I guess it’s down to me and my fingernails. All this is by way of saying is that even if I am the only one, and even if I must give my life in that situation to try and stop the threat, I will do so. I pray I am never tested in this manner, but in the hideous case that something happens, I at least have a plan, and I hope I can go on automatic and do what needs doing.
In this age of decrying the violent and sexually licentious among us, why is there no movement to inculcate all people with a sense that they have a right to defend their own bodies by fighting back, if necessary? I think I have the answer: for at least five decades, Americans—particularly males—have been punished for behaviors that would keep them in fighting trim for a self-defense situation. These behaviors have been lambasted under the umbrella of toxic masculinity in an effort to eradicate violence, and the net effect has been a more passive populace that relies increasingly on the Nanny State for everything. The circular effect here is readily apparent: even though a small number of physically adept student athletes could easily subdue and shut down the activities of a malicious actor on campus, they simply don’t. The bottom line is the narrative of hiding or running is not good enough. Being able to defend the physical bounds of the self is a Good Thing. Why is self-defense not becoming a part of school curricula at both high school and college levels? If school administrations make self defense martial arts part of their curricula, all members of the student body would benefit, particularly female students who take these courses.
Life is messy. Eggs will be broken. We none of us are getting out of here alive, but in a free country that eradicated polio on the planet and put men on the moon, it’s not too much to ask that every girl and boy can be in a state of choice about how they face their ultimate demise, if that demise presumes to violently present itself prematurely. Girls and boys and men and women need to think seriously about what to do in the event of unexpected violence, and how to act. It would be nice if we never had to think of this again, but these situations will not stop. And taking guns away from the NRA members who already abide by our Nation’s laws is not the answer any more than all Muslims are to blame for the extremists who killed thousands on 9/11. The instinct to defend one’s boundaries is not toxic, nor is it exclusive to men. Likewise, people who try to cross those boundaries with ill intent should be met with ultimate resistance. “Don’t let someone take your life without a fight” should not need to be said, but if it must be said, then drill it into the skulls of everyone around you. We are blessed to live in this time and this place, and no one deserves to take this away from us, and that goes for young people as well as for any adult here. When you see the ultimate evil, do everything within your power to resist it. Shoot it, kick it, or claw its eyeballs out, if that’s all you can do to stop it. To do less is un-American.

P.S., For additional information on meeting lethal force in kind, I highly recommend The Cornered Cat for information.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Literature this semester

I am delighted that I have to read some of my favorite literature for a class this semester, most notably Howards End by E.M. Forster. After so many hours spent reading stuff that feels like watching paint dry, it's a delight to read something enjoyable. Now I'm on to Sons And Lovers by D.H. Lawrence, which was tough sledding in the beginning, but which I am coming to love. Still, I will probably do my big semester essay on Howards End-- it is SUCH a good book, and one that I can't recommend highly enough. Lots of cheap copies may be found on ebay, by the way.

Speaking of bargains on books, since the professors in my graduate discipline are nice people, nearly all the books they require of us can be found used for a song on Amazon or ebay. This is a refreshing development after all the ridiculous books I've had to buy that were hundreds of dollars new, and often worthless almost as soon as the course was concluded-- could possibly be sold on ebay for $10. Meh.

Speaking of my favorite writers, Google informed me that today was the birthday of one of my favorites, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. I loved his writing, and especially One Hundred Years Of Solitude. So good. :)

Spring Break is next week, and this is the 8th week of the semester. I can't believe this one is nearly halfway over, but considering how enjoyable this semester has been, it WOULD hurry by, wouldn't it?

Monday, March 05, 2018

Speaking of gardening...

The U.S. Postal Service has a gorgeous series of stamps called "Protect Pollinators" and I picked up a sheet of them last week, and intend to get a few more before they are gone. They are "forever" stamps that will be good for one first class letter in perpetuity, even when the price of mailing a letter changes. For those of us who are concerned about our pollinators (and that should be ALL of us, since pollinators germinate the food that we eat, or the food that our meat eats), it's a beautiful way to wear our hearts on our sleeves or on our envelopes.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

A Sunday post of wondrous beauty

No credit to me, of course, but the wondrous beauty will come at the end in the form of a marvelous piece of music which I hope will delight you as it did me.

I've meant to post for ever so long, but life continues hectic in my Master's studies. This semester is a glory and a joy compared to last semester, but the work remains intensive. I am happy in my studies. Spring Break begins in about a week. Halleloo.

Yes, the banner and other images on my blog are being held hostage by Photobucket, who used to be so nice, but changed their policies so that a student like me can't afford to use them. I will try to get the images ginned back up in another form soon. In the meantime, pardon our construction.  Remember all those Geocities sites in the mid-90s with the "pardon our construction" place markers? Well, about 1/5th into the 21st century, that's about where I am with this thing. Will try to address that soon. Giant raspberries to Photobucket. UPDATE - Thanks to Himself for fixing the banner. More construction to follow, but at least we don't have the beastly photobucket shrieking all over the page now. :)

I am excited about my gardening for this year. My school schedule is such that I hope to have more time to get lots of healthy prep done, as well as plant quite a few more wonderful things in the garden. I don't use any harsh stuff on my yard, so in summer evenings, my yard is ablaze with fireflies, and I want to keep it that way. The fireflies here are not the big rascals of my childhood in Arkansas and the Ozarks. These are wee tiny little things, with much dimmer lights, but they are beautiful, and I have so many. My next door neighbors call me the firefly whisperer. I'll take it. :) A few more people wanted seeds to the Texas Star Hibiscus, and if you have not received them yet, I will be sending them to you tomorrow. Apologies for the wait, and I hope you will enjoy these wonderful things and have lots of happy blooms on them within a year or two. :) I still have enough to send out a few more, so let me know in the comments if you'd like some seeds.

So, for the wondrous beauty, I give you a glorious recording of Polorum Regina (Queen of Heaven) recorded by The Waverly Consort. There are several wonderful recordings of this setting of a 14th century text, but this recording is my favorite. The soloist has a glorious baritone that I could listen to all day. I hope this brightens your day. :)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Texas Star Hibiscus

Gardening this year has been the best so far in this house. Several plants are well established, and they have put on a grand show. Among these is my Texas Star Hibiscus. I planted this about four years ago. Every year it gets about a foot higher than the previous year, and this year I enjoyed a wonderful profusion of blooms on the plant. I kept dead-heading spent blooms until about mid-July, and I let the last big wave of blossoms go to seed. I have not propagated any of these from seed, but if any readers would be interested, please leave me a comment with your mailing address. I won't publish your comment, but will mail you several seeds, and hopefully you can get at least one plant from them. I'd start them indoors in a sunny place in the winter, if possible. Also, if you're much north of Texas, I don't know how well these would do. They are a heat-hardy/water-thrifty perennial, and the plant dies down to the ground every winter, and puts a new set of canes at springtime. I like the look of the canes, so I let them stay up over winter and snap them off at the ground in spring. Also, unless you have tons of space for them, I would only plant the healthiest specimen to start with.
I first saw a Texas Star Hibiscus at a wonderful nursery in McKinney called The Green House, and they never watered theirs, and it came back year after year. Theirs was a massive stand of canes - probably several dozen canes, around 10' tall, with hundreds of blossoms through the summer. It was magnificent. My current plant will probably need a handful more years to get that tall, but it is on its way.

By the way, the purple plant in the right corner in the shade is a variety of Agastache (hummingbird mint) that I obtained from High Country Gardens. I just purchased that one this spring, and I was amazed at how quickly it established, filled out and started blooming. True to its name, it was a favorite with the hummingbirds, to my delight. :) I took this photo early in the morning when there was shade from trees across the street, but this stand of plants is around a boulder and gets full sun most of the day.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: long overdue

Yes, this is long overdue. This is the most recent photo of my darlings, although its not the best photo. I thought you should have a peek at them. Will try to post another photo soon.

They have been busy gobbling up as many freshly dropped pecans as they can muster. The nuts were huge early this year, but have only really started dropping in earnest in the last few days. It's a strange crop. Many I pick up are too light to have a healthy, edible fruit inside, and it looks to me as though about half the ones on the ground are bad. It is a shame, because I really wanted to share a huge pecan haul with friends, but it seems there won't be so many when all is said and done. Today it took a lot of effort just to gather about 175, and that added up to a handful of pounds, but when they have been shelled, that is not so many. Add to this the challenge of competing with the doggies for the nuts. I also don't want them eating the bad nuts, but as you know, Mochi will eat anything.

This is my mid-term week. Wow. Amazing. I have a massive annotated bibliography due Tuesday, and that is for a 20 page paper that will be due by the end of the semester. I will be pleased to have done with that. In truth, this is a class I would prefer not to have taken, but it is a small program and there are limited options for grad-level courses. I will be glad to have eaten this frog in the first semester, but I still reserve the right to bellyache. More than the misery, though, is the glory of the English Romantics. I'd never read essays by Charles Lamb. For those of you who do crossword puzzles, you know his alter-ego was Elia. Apparently he knew an Italian named Elia when he was younger and liked the name, plus Elia is an anagram for A Lie. All those years doing crosswords and I didn't know the backstory. So, yeah, mostly, the knowledge is rich, interesting, and meshes with earlier knowledge in a way that gives life a fuller feeling. Is nice.

If anyone is reading this, I hope you have a great week.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beautiful dreaming

If you have a minute and are bored, do yourself and search google images for Ernest Delune (1857-1949), a master architect who created some of the most glorious Art Nouveau structures in Brussels. I hope to get back there one day, but my heart leapt every time I passed 6 Rue du Lac, in particular. One evening, we drove past in the dark, and the interior lights revealed a glory of stained glass in the lovely windows. *le sigh*

The above image is from a lovely travel blog entitled Milliver's Travels, and on this post, the author includes photos and information about several more lovely structures in Brussels.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Big ideas.

The grad students have been told that this is a vital time for us to attend conferences and submit proposals for inclusion in those conferences. Today I had an idea for a paper that I hope will fit the bill.

I have the most phenomenal professor for English Romantic Literature. The lectures are fantastic, and I love the material. Have fallen in love with Keats, who is absolutely amazing. To Autumn seems particularly fitting today:

To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
   Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
     Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wow - has it really been almost 3 months?

Time is a nutty business. Amazingly, it's been almost three months since I checked in here. Sorry for the silence, but things have been busy, to put it mildly.

My 7th week of grad school is nearly over. The volume of reading is tremendous, but the material is mostly enjoyable to read. My assistantship is going well, and each interaction with students brings with it a lesson. Next Fall I will be teaching two classes, and I will be giving my lecture on The Tempest to the Shakespeare class in November. I am thrilled that professor asked me to come speak to his class. This is so much fun!

Happily, I was able to attend Blogorado this year, and it was restorative, to say the least. It is great to spend time with some of the dearest and best people in the world. :)

I am attempting to complete the lion's share of my major semester assignments in the next 3 weeks so that I can tuck into National Novel Writing Month with both feet starting November 1. The plan is to complete a novel I started several years ago. I'm also trying to encourage Himself to complete something brilliant he started earlier this year, which I hope he will publish on Amazon sometime soon.

Life is very busy, but things are going well. It is still rather amazing that I graduated in May, but it such a thrill to be working at studies again, and at another level. The challenge of grad level classes is dazzling, but it is thrilling to increase my knowledge.

I will try to check in again sooner than three months. Hopefully I'll have a publication of something from myself or Himself to announce soon.

Take care of yourselves!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Good reading. The Lawdog Files book is available today.

I admit I have a particular bias, but I do know objectively that this book is outstanding, and I highly recommend it.

LawDog's writing is evocative of the cowboy philosopher/poet that so many of us associate with the spirit of rugged individualism that defines the American spirit. The fact that these stories actually happened only makes them even better. Rather than making him seem lessened, the tales of his rookie errors (never insult a feral hog with a mere 9mm) serve as bona fides for his hard-won gravitas. Speaking in a voice that does not condescend or preach, LawDog inspires confidence that hearkens to the very best qualities we hope for in law enforcement personnel. I know many folks follow his blog, and much of this material is available there, through the years, but it is good to have so many stories collected in one volume. I hope you will read it. :)

Monday, July 03, 2017

On Trump's Tweets

In case anyone hasn't noticed, Donald Trump is rather good at marketing. Image is something of which he has a keen understanding. To that end, he has effectively whipped his opponents into a perpetual froth for the past 8 months with his seemingly careless tweets on Twitter. However, his opponents don't seem to have figured out how soundly he has played their feigned sensibilities, these people who were upset about "grab her by the pussy" but felt Bill Clinton's Oval Office sexual exploits were "none of our business" and that his private life should remain thus -- talking out of both sides of their mouths.

After Trump played them like a Stradivarius over the Hamilton/Safe Space tweets, I thought they would finally figure it out and leave off having their chain yanked by tweets: not so.  The outrage will go on and on and on, because Trump haters are cats, and Trump's tweets are his laser pointer. They will never figure it out.

Kurt Schlicter brilliantly sums up the entire state of affairs while hitting some high marks of ribaldry in this post. Read it for a few good laughs, and take his message to heart, whatever your political leanings. This too, shall pass, and I suspect that when Trump's two terms in office are concluded, his tweets may eventually be regarded as the primary way he managed to keep his opponents off balance while he got down to actual business in his job as President.

Never in a million years would I have dreamt of Trump as a candidate, nor as President. But he is who we have, and I want the best for our country. I was no fan of Obama and I certainly wanted fewer of his policies to gain traction, but to wish him ill was to wish a harm on our nation. I wish more people on both sides of the aisle could have such clarity of thought when someone they don't like is elected to that office. Schlicter is right: never mind the tweets.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day to the best Dad ever.

Like my dear Mom, I can't say enough nice things about my wonderful Father. I am well, truly, richly blessed for parents, and I couldn't be more proud.