Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Playlist Update

After getting a coupon from AT&T for a free ringtone, I went looking for a new song for the playlist. It would be the same song I'd add to my phone, if I weren't concerned about the cost of going online on it to download it. Doesn't that mean you pay for downloading time? I'm not sure how much that would cost but I don't like the idea. My last LG phone came with lots of free songs. This one has none. Anyway, the new song is "Our Song" by Taylor Swift. I love country and she is contemporary country, but what I like about this song is the intensity of romance expressed in it. It's young, and very hot in tone but somewhere in the lyrics they got it right. It's at the very bottom if you want to hear it. I thought about adding Teardrops on My Guitar too but while I love the chorus the lyrics are a sort of sad and I didn't feel like doing sad songs today. Maybe another time. Enjoy!

Book Tag

JSD, Paschal, and Alt have all done this so I guess it's my turn. Most of my books are ones I just couldn't bear to part with.

How this tag works:

(a) Fiction book
(b) Autobiography
(c) Non-fiction book
(d) A fourth book of your choice, from any genre

Explain why the books are essential reads, in 30 words or less. (For maximum fun, try for 30 words exactly).

: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
If I hadn't read this I doubt I'd have read the trilogy. An easy stepping stone to the rich tome which some find daunting. LoTR is richer after reading this.

Autobiography: Hate to say it but, I've read biographies but no autobiographies that I can recall.

Non-fiction: In The Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
Most history books are dry. This one isn't. It makes a connection between classic literature and fact. This award winner is now an American History classic. Info and 1st chapter are here.

Any book of your choosing: The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, edited by William S. Baring-Gould
By the time I finished these two volumes I could guess the plot's finish. Pictures and notes in the margins make the stories richer and provide social context on Doyle's popularity.

As Paschal so neatly put it, Tag! You're it!

Update: Paschal suggested I break the rules and list a biography. Great idea! Thanks, Paschal! This turned me to the Public Library page for a search of topics. The related subjects clued me into a book I both like and am still in the process of reading. So here's my biography entry.

Biography: Sex With Kings : 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge by Eleanor Herman
Great behind the scenes stuff! What attracted me were mistresses' pictures and answering the question, "Why would someone want to be a mistress?" It has its own website, here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Could You Survive in Poverty? - A Perspective Quiz

When I was attending college I went through a workshop designed to give me a better understanding of the conditions people in poverty live under. It was based on the book "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" by Ruby Payne. Life has a way of teaching us some of the things necessary to survive hard times and they are never fun, especially when we have a family to worry about.

Historically, life has always been hard. There have been easier times, but I don't think the world will ever eradicate poverty. I used to see lots of emailed stories about how people were more blessed by simple things than by fancy stuff, things like a night spent lying with your family and friends on a blanket in your back yard observing the stars with your naked eye instead of sitting in front of a TV watching a DVD on a big screen TV or playing a video game on your x-box or computer. I don't see many of those examples in my emails now. Maybe people feel that we are all having to remember simpler lives with less wealth to provide us with entertainment.

Because income levels have an insular effect on society, even those who work with the poor can be immune to how lives really function at the generational poverty level. And, sadly, that is what many parts of our country and others have, life long poverty that you can't escape to give your child a better life. When you live like that your whole perspective changes. Things that you or I might find insupportable are just a fact of life to the poor. For instance, moving in less than a day because you can't make the rent at your present home. When I talked to the associate rector at my church he told me that this kind of workshop was also part of his education. But is education in this enough? My parents and grandparents lived during the great depression. I have lessons in economics they taught me from those times. My father has never paid even so much as a penny of interest on a credit card in his entire life. My church prides itself on being reconciling but we are a pretty affluent church, not wealthy, but no where near poor. Our rector is an ex NY lawyer and his wife is too. Their kid is going to college in Boston. Our whole church does a whole lot to help the poor, but even so, I wonder what any of us would do if we suddenly found ourselves poor?

The most telling thing in the entire workshop was a quiz which we were required to take. It was based on the skills you needed to survive at different levels of income. I've decided to share this quiz because many of us, myself included, need a reminder that just because we live at one level of income doesn't mean things won't change. I think many in our country are experiencing that and if this quiz helps any of you interact with your friends, who may be struggling, in a way that is more reconciling then that's a good thing. But if this quiz doesn't teach you anything, be forewarned, life may do it.

Could you survive in middle class?

Count the number of items you know how to do:
1. I know how to get my children into Little League, piano lessons, etc.
2. I know how to set a table properly.
3. I know which stores carry the clothing brands my family wears.
4. My children know the best name brands in clothing.
5. I know how to order in a nice restaurant.
6. I know how to use a credit card, checking account and savings account—and I understand an annuity. I understand term life insurance, disability insurance and 20/80 medical insurance as well as house, flood and replacement insurances.
7. I talk to my children about going to college.
8. I know how to get one of the best interest rates on my new car loan.
9. I understand the difference among the principal, interest, and escrow statements on my house payment.
10. I know how to help my children with their homework and do not hesitate to call the school if I need additional information.
11. I know how to decorate the house for the different holidays.
12. I know how to get a library card.
13. I know how to use most of the tools in the garage.
14. I repair items in my house almost immediately when they break—or know a repair service and call it.

Could you survive in poverty?
Count the number of items you know how to do:
1. I know which churches and sections of town have the best rummage sales.
2. I know which rummage sales have “bag sales” and when.
3. I know which grocery stores’ garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food.
4. I know how to get someone out of jail.
5. I know how to fight and defend myself physically.
6. I know how to get a gun, even if I have a police record.
7. I know how to keep my clothes from being stolen at the Laundromat.
8. I know what problems to look for in a used car.
9. I know how to live without a checking account.
10. I know how to live without electricity and a phone.
11. I know how to use a knife as scissors.
12. I can entertain a group of friends with my personality and my stories.
13. I know what to do when I don’t have money to pay the bills.
14. I know how to move in half a day.
15. I know how to get and use food stamps or an electronic card for benefits.
16. I know where the free medical clinics are.
17. I am very good at trading and bartering
18. I can get by without a car.

Could you survive in wealth?
Count the number of items you know how to do:
1. I can read a menu in French, English and another language.
2. I have several favorite restaurants in different countries of the world.
3. During the holidays, I know how to hire a decorator to identify the appropriate themes and items with which to decorate the house.
4. I know who my preferred financial advisor, legal service, designer, domestic-employment service, and hairdresser are.
5. I have at lest two residences that are staffed and maintained.
6. I know how to ensure confidentiality and loyalty from my domestic staff.
7. I have at least two or three “screens” that keep people whom I do to wish to see away from me.
8. I fly in my own plane or the company plane.
9. I know how to enroll my children in the preferred private schools
10. I know how to host the parties that “key” people attend.
11. I am on the boards of at least two charities.
12. I know the hidden rules of the Junior League.
13. I support or buy the work of a particular artist.
14. I know how to read a corporate financial statement and analyze my own financial statements.

When I took this test I scored all correct on middle class and could do 6 or 7 things in poverty. I attribute that to my post depression upbringing. I could only do one thing in wealth and that was because I lived on the Mexico border and used to dine over there. How did you score?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Puzzle Share

Click to Mix and Solve

It's been a while since I last shared a puzzle with you. This one was so nice and the colors shimmered with the sunlight shining through the glass bottles that I couldn't resist. It looks like stained glass doesn't it? That's a fascinating art form and you'd be surprised at how easy it is to do. If you are a methodical, step by step sort of person you can learn to make things in stained glass. Start up costs are a bit high, around $300, but the joy of making a beautiful stained glass keepsake box for about a third of the price of one in a store more than makes up for that. Hope you enjoy the puzzle.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

JSD commented on my last post and gave me a great web site to visit. It's, the new website of our President-elect! I was impressed with the site. On you can watch the entire acceptance speech, learn more about Obama & Biden's plans for the future of our country, keep up with the latest developments as he builds his administration, communicate by telling your story or vision, and even apply for a job.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Follow Up.

Last night I watched the returns on the computer. BBC had a streaming broadcast and I sat through the whole thing watching as each set of states reported in. I felt blessed to live in a country where I could do that without having a TV or service to provide good viewing.

When the time came I watched McCain's concession speech. In it he proved himself a generous man and a good loser. I really liked it when he promised to work with Obama and Biden to help the country. I also liked the way he refused to let the crowd of disappointed supporters get angry and and ugly during his speech. That too is a sign of a sensible man with his heart in the right place, all campaign strategies aside. Then, because I was exhausted, I went to bed.

This morning, when I got up, I located a full version of Obama's acceptance speech. I sat there watching our President Elect talk about everybody under the sun. He didn't leave out a single soul in his acknowledgement of victory. He made everyone in the whole world a part of it. And he recognized each person's concerns as he talked about how we as a country, and a world, need to build things. When he started walking through the United States history and all our great events I started crying. When he started tying each generation and every person on the planet to our future I cried even harder. He tied all the hands in our country together and talked about the labor of building our future brick by brick. He didn't build us a pipe dream as he acknowledged the missteps and false starts that might happen and the fact that it would take more than a term to fix even the most crucial of our present problems.

What he sounded like to me was a "man of the people" and I hope that holds true. I'd like to see the resumption of fireside talks as we work to make things better for this country and the rest of the world. I also hope he will find ways to make himself more accessible to the American people. When the White House web page was first built it had a place where you could email the president and all the rest of his staff. Right now the only person you can email directly seems to be the vice president, although there is an interactive page where you can talk to the white house staff and that didn't include everybody. I guess if I want to say anything to Mr. Obama before he takes office I'll probably need to contact his campaign website.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!

It had been my plan to vote early. That didn't happen because I'm the kind of person who wants all their ducks in order before going to the polls. So when I finally found a version of the ballot that included everything I needed to know it was the last day of early voting and I missed my chance at that making preparations to help a friend, who'd just had back surgery, by answering the door and handing out candy for her thus minimizing her need to get up and down.

So this morning I pulled up Google to locate my polling place. The main system that you could use to find out where to go by your registration info kept giving me an error message. So I had to search for the entire list of places and then find my precinct on it. That was good, because then I had an address and could get a map of how to get there. I'm directionally challenged and get lost at the drop of a hat, or the turn of a corner.

One kind of neat thing I found while locating the list of polling places was an interactive tutorial of how to use the electronic voting machines. So I tried it out. It was simple enough that anyone should have been able to do it, but having done that tutorial walk through before heading out made the actual voting at the polls much more user friendly. So that's a good thing.

There was a prediction of a record turnout and long lines at the polls, so I had water, reading material, and my list of choices before I headed out. Then on the way to the polls I got lost. I overshot the street I was to turn on by at least a mile before I realized it wasn't where I had thought it was going to be and turned around to head back and find it. Once I found it, I was kind of surprised at the lightness of the traffic. I turned into the school parking lot and didn't see tons of ads which had been prevalent at the early voting places, which in my case was the public library. There was also plenty of parking. I showed my card, went up a ramp and showed my card again at the check in tables. I was handed a colored Popsicle stick with my precinct number on it for the fellow who set up the booth for you. My polling location was covering 4 precincts. They had about 5 or 6 machines. No curtained alcoves as in olden days. And no stickers for your driver's license...that was only for early voters.

When it was my turn, and the wait was less than 5 minutes, I approached the machine, turned the page of my list to match what I saw and went through the whole ballot (11 pages) one item at a time. There was only one thing on the ballot that wasn't on my paper example and that was a county vote on whether to change term limits on our councilmen and mayors or to leave them to two 2 year terms. I wasn't really happy with either choice and didn't feel they had put a middle of the road choice in there but I did the best I could with that one. Then I reviewed my ballot, hit the flashing red vote button, and voila! I'd voted.

Voting seemed much more relaxed this time around. One of the ladies manning a table outside said she had volunteered for that location because her kids went to that school. I told her that was great because she could not only see her kids but she was setting them an outstanding example. Then I came home. On the way home I got a call on my cell phone which was from "Kids First" and they were offering 2 free DVD movies for me to watch and review. I think it is the family entertainment folk who are no doubt out in force today. I don't have kids but they said they'd send me two free movies anyways. Yay!

When I got home I called a friend to see if they would be watching the election results on TV tonight because I had thought I'd enjoy watching them with someone, but they weren't interested. So I'm going to find a channel online and keep track that way with frequent refreshes if necessary. I don't expect my vote to make a huge difference. I'm just one person in a country of millions. But I know that if I don't express my choice by voting I'll have lost the opportunity to add my voice to the millions of others who also voted and together we can make a difference.