Friday, October 19, 2012

And a little outside Shanghai

We spent one day in China at my husband's plant in Jiangsu province.  It is about 45 minutes from Shanghai, but you never really leave the city.  Seeing this area helped put in perspective how truly huge Shanghai is.

The roads in most of Western China were excellent, huge multi-lane highways just like you would find in any major American city.  There are lots of people and goods (including food!) to move around Shanghai and these roads are designed to get the job done.  Here are a couple of views along the highway. Check out the power lines!  These are absolutely everywhere.


I snapped the next picture from the car, too.  This is a thoroughly typical high-rise apartment.  Very few apartments have dryers, so everyone except the ultra-rich hangs there clothes outside or in that glassed-in sunroom you see there.  Laundry everywhere:  another enduring image of my Shanghai.  With four kids, I can relate!

Getting to see Bill's plant was an amazing experience.  It was the first time I had seen the "other half" of what my husband has poured himself into for the last twenty years.  I remember when they bought this land and built the plant, little by little.  But I only heard about it second-hand, and with very few photographs!  The plant is thoroughly modern and just so much more than I had expected.  They employ skilled machinists and engineers in addition to less-skilled laborers.  All of the goods they produce here become components in other finished products that are made around the world, including in the U.S.
 Maybe you are thinking how awful it is that my husband makes his living selling parts made in China.  You are entitled to that opinion.  I do have a couple of thoughts on that score, though.  First, trade around the world is one of the great ways to encourage peace between countries.  Second, buying an item that is less expensive because of where it is made allows people to have more money to spend on other things.  Third, it wasn't a sweat shop, if that concerns you.  I've been in a fair number of plants because of my past career of engineer.  Bill's plant didn't feel appreciably different from anywhere else I've been.  (Now, the COUNTRY on the other hand...I'll have something to say about that later.)  It simply isn't possible in western China, especially in Shanghai, to operate anything less than a regular factory with good conditions for the employees.  I'm not making excuses for the policies of the government, especially the one-child policy.  But there are many sides to the economic issue.

The offices at the plant reminded me very much of the steel facility I worked at in France, except Bill's place was a little nicer.  Here's a picture of the outside.  Just to the left of this picture is the company cafeteria.  The employees get lunch every day (five days a week now).

Here's a picture taken out of Bill's office window.  You will see what is probably a familiar sign: 

They do offer squid and bean-sprout pizza.  I passed.

One final observation while we were outside of Shanghai proper.  Everywhere there was not a building, there was a rice paddy.  EVERYWHERE.  There really weren't any open spaces.  And even out here in the 'burbs, there were huge apartment complexes going up, 30- and 40-story towers, six or eight at a time.  Massive.  I always wondered where all the people were coming from.  No one could tell me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shanghai

I didn't mean to go so long without a post.  I just realized that it has been an entire month since we got back!

The first couple of days in China were spent in Shanghai.  My lingering impressions of Shanghai are the hustle and the enormity of it.  Shanghai was bigger than anything I have ever seen.  Masses of people everywhere, and businesses operating in every nook and cranny.

For the most part we took taxis in Shanghai.  Traffic is very, very bad in Shanghai, but taxis are pretty easy to get.  One advantage is that you can give the taxi driver the business card of the place you are going and--presto!--there you are.  Our first sight-seeing day was spent in taxis criscrossing the city.

Bill in the Bund.
We started in the Bund, right along the Huangpu (Yellow River).  The Bund is the Western colonial area; Shanghai was host to French and British colonies at different periods in its history.  You can see the Western influence in the buildings right along the west side (Puxi) of the Yellow River.
The famous Pearl Tower in Pudong.
We walked along the River, taking pictures of Pudong and marveling at the size of everything. Pudong literally means "East of the River," and twenty years ago it was rice paddies and farms.  Now this is Pudong:

More of Pudong.  This is looking south (to the right) of the picture above.
It goes on and on and on, massive skyscrapers and apartments.  We didn't explore much in Pudong, mostly because the interesting older things are in Shanghai Puxi.  But look at that and try to imagine the quantities of steel and concrete, drywall and glass that had to be brought to that small area of the world.  I heard that at one point most of the world's supply of drywall was headed to Pudong.  I can believe it.


 From the Bund we walked to the FangBang Temple district, really a bunch of little shops surrounding an old temple. The temple wasn't a very big deal--we didn't even see it!  We did see masses of people in the shops and restaurants.  This looked like a good place to buy souvenirs, but I hadn't decided to spend money yet, so I didn't really buy anything here.




Shanghai is built on the Yellow River delta--you see canals everywhere.  In the FangBang area most of the shops are built around bridges and over water.  It isn't particularly lovely but it is a respite from the high-rises that loom over you in most areas.

Our next stop was the Xingye Road area.  This is still part of the French Concession, I think, and the buildings reflect the European influence.  These days there are Western-style cafes and shops, but in the 1920s this was a residential area full of traditional Shanghai homes called "long-tangs."  They are two- or three-story homes built around a courtyard.  The entrance to the courtyard is over a high stone threshold and has a large wooden door.  All of the shops and restaurants try to preserve these entries, because they are so particular to Shanghai.  Each long-tang had three or four bedrooms, including a tiny back bedroom that was usually rented out to a student.

One of my favorite facts about this part of town is that Mao had an apartment at 76 Xingye Road.  Chinese communism was born in this little neighborhood where many radicals rented out the tiny bedroom.  So the home to one of the twentieth-century's biggest mass murderers and haters of all things free and capitalist has become a thoroughly gentrified, Western, capitalist neighborhood.

I don't even think you can see how crowded it was here.
A third neighborhood we visited that day was called TianZiFang.  This was an artists' colony, chock-a-block with tiny shops.  We were shoulder-to-shoulder with other shoppers here in the narrow streets.  This would be a great place to film a spy movie--it is wildly disorienting because there are no big cross streets, no grid and often...no outlet!  Think corn maze but with four-story brick and tons of Chinese people. 

Finally, that evening we took a walk near our hotel to get a bite to eat.  This is the exterior of the largest shopping mall in Asia.  Wow!  Some very familiar shops, some less so, but pretty busy for a Sunday evening.  In hindsight, the lights and shops reminds me of Las Vegas.  This is yet another side of Shanghai, I suppose, all modern and Western-oriented.  The big names over there are just what you might expect:  Hermes, Chanel, Burberry...  And no bargains here!  Prices are pretty similar to what you would find at home.

So that is four neighborhoods in Shanghai, pretty different from one another, some with MUCH cleaner bathrooms.  I hope you can feel how disorienting it was--sometimes Shanghai felt a long way from home, but more of the time it felt like it just wasn't that different from anywhere I'd been before.  For my next post I hope to share a little more of what we saw in Shanghai, including apartments and the suburbs.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bon Voyage--Leaving for China

We flew out of Detroit.  Unlike the rest of the city, the Detroit airport is wonderful.  We had a great hamburger there, thinking it would be our last for a while.  (We were right.) The flight over was nonstop, Detroit to Shanghai, about four movies and three meals long.  We had the new Delta "Extended" economy seating, with an extra four inches of leg room.  It is totally worth the extra cost.

We left the U.S. on a Friday afternoon, and we arrived early Saturday evening in Shanghai.  My first impression was that twilight is very short there.  One minute you see that it is sunset, and the next minute it is pitch black.  My second impression was that it was extraordinarily clean--surprise!!  The bathrooms were immaculate.

Now, I am going to tell you a little story that my sweet husband is not proud of.  They had changed the taxi stand location, and as we were looking for it, a man with a badge walked up to us and said, "Taxi?" We said yes, and he asked us to just follow him.  He would get us a ride to the city.

DO NOT DO THIS.  He took us out of the airport building, across the covered walkway and into the parking deck.  At this point I had (EXTREMELY FOOLISHLY) handed him my bag that he had offered to carry.  So we were stuck.  In the parking deck, he assured us that he had a "Buick, very nice" for us to go to Shanghai in.  This little bitty car pulled up, smaller than my parents' 1982 Buick Skylark.  (They don't have that car anymore, BTW.)  Nice badge-man loads our bags into the car and sends of packing with a much sketchier looking younger man.  Bill and I are in the back seat.  I wish I could tell you what I thought of Shanghai as we made our way in, but instead I was thinking, "OhmyLordwearegettingkidnappedandtheywilltakeourkidneysandwewillwakeupinsomeflophousein-
abathtuboficehowwillweexplainthistothekids?"  For real.

On the way to the hotel our driver had made numerous phone calls to someone, apparently to get directions.  This was a little mysterious since we were staying in a pretty popular part of town, near the stadium in Shanghai.  Bill's partner, Charlie, and his wife, Jean, were waiting for us in the lobby of the hotel.  Charlie fussed at us for such a dumb taxi move, and then yelled at the driver for trying to rip us off.  It was always helpful to have someone with us who could yell in Chinese!

Unbelievably, I have no hotel pictures.  I usually do better than that, but I just totally forgot to take any this time.  We stayed at Hua Ting Towers, and it was a perfectly nice, Hilton-like hotel.  There really is nothing remarkable to tell you about the hotel!  We had a great breakfast buffet every morning, where you could tell that they catered to a truly international clientele.  There were Asian,  European and American breakfast favorites, along with baked beans.  I was able to have my scrambled egg and a cup of coffee every morning to start my day off right.  Apparently most hotels in Shanghai are very accustomed to hosting Westerners, so good breakfasts are pretty easy to find.

Starting with my next post I'll have a lot more pictures, because we took a ton of photos away from the hotel.  Back later!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

China, part 1

Time to get back to writing.

Bill and I went to China a couple of weeks ago.  I know, CHINA!  It is literally half a world away, the longest plane ride I've ever taken.  We took this trip without the kids, partly out of caution and partly because plane tickets to Shanghai are unbelievably expensive (and we never have miles for anything like that).  But now that I've been, I'd take the kids in a second.  For now, though, I just want to share what I saw and a little of what we experienced.

First, why on earth did we go?  My husband has factories in China, and it was time for me to see them.  Way, way back (more than twenty years ago now), Bill and a couple of guys in graduate school started selling American equipment to Chinese factories.  It was a great sideline as he pursued his Ph.D.  The catch was that they couldn't get most of their money out of China.  BIG catch.  In order to get their money out of China, they had to import things--and that led to the idea of building a plant that could manufacture goods to sell in the West.  So that was how he came to have these factories.  It has been a long time now, and many, many improvements to the plants.  After we got married, we always talked about my going.  But pregnancies, babies, and life in general just got in the way.

Sometimes you just have to say, "Now." That is what we finally did this fall.

The next few posts are just my travelogue from my trip.  I like to keep notes in my super-cute and trendy Moleskine as I travel.  Since we've gotten back (two weeks ago now) I've also had some other impressions percolating, and I'll share those, too.  China can't fail to make an impression on you--it's just so darn big.  Not Texas wide-open big, more like suffocating, sit-on-you big.  Anyway, I'll share some of that.  Really, there were too many things going on for just one post.

Since I am admittedly out of the habit of posting, I will just say that I will try to post the whole trip over the next few days.  I have so many pictures.  And while it was not fun, it was interesting, and sometimes that is even better.  I am really looking forward to sharing this trip with the two or three people who read the blog.  (And your arrival at my little blog is much appreciated.)

And for the technical, in-and-out details of my trip, I like to post reviews on TripAdvisor.  You can find me there as "PeachtreeMom4."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lectionary reading for 6/10/2012

I was the reader at church today, and I'm so glad!  At my church the reader is assigned the Old Testament and New Testament lectionary readings, along with the Psalm.  The Pastor reads the Gospel reading.  Anyway, I always practice mine a couple of times to make sure I can pronounce everything.  So I read this a few times before I actually read it in front of the congregation (1 Samuel 8:1-20):
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.[a] The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and pervertedjustice.So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day. 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

That was long!  But this is when I love the Old Testament.  Human nature doesn't change.  Look at what we see here:

  • The people are unhappy with these judges.  Their answer is to sack the whole system and try something new.  
  • Not new, really--they want what everyone else has.  They are tired of being different.  But God had called them to be a special people, set apart.  Had they forgotten?  I don't think so.  I think they were just telling God, "Thanks, but your experiment is over now.  We really want to look like everyone else."
  • Historically, it isn't really clear how the judge system worked (according to my pastor today).  But it was probably some sort of tribal arrangement, where inter-tribal or significant intra-tribal disputes went before the judges.  It was a pretty loose arrangement, so you can imagine that a decision to go to war would have been a messy affair.  It is interesting that Samuel goes right to the war talk when trying to talk them out of it.  One king has a much easier time marshaling his forces than a bunch of tribal leaders.
  • Think how painful this was for God, and even then he was reassuring Samuel:  "It's not you they reject, but Me."  What kind of God is this, that will let us make the bad choices but stand by and love us through it.  He did not reject them and find a new people to choose.  This is a radical God--not the kind I think I would make up if I were making one up!
  • Samuel describes accurately what any king would do:  "Take...and take...and take...and take...and take..."  and finally, (v. 17) "you yourselves will become his slaves."  As I write this, I see that up until v. 17 he was threatening the sons and daughters of those demanding a king.  It is as if Samuel is thinking, "If you won't even save your own children, maybe I will threaten you personally and that will work!"
  • The king will only take one-tenth?  If you are like me then you thought--WOW!!  Bring on a king!!  (Instead of our government and its great gaping maw which is never satisfied.)
  • The last paragraph is so painful.  Can't you hear a child stamping his foot?  "I don't want the best you have to offer.  I want what everyone else has!"  They seek someone to follow, like sheep, someone who will "fight our battles."  Someone who will tell me what to do, so I don't have to think or provide for or defend myself.  Someone who will be responsible, so I don't have to be.  But look what you give up:  The best of what you have, ultimately even your children and yourselves, taken by the king and given as gifts to his lackeys.  

And that is just what happened.

It's funny.  Not being like everyone else really isn't something that bothers me most of the time.  But just having someone to tell me what to do--well, there are times when I really want that.  And I can see in my children the desire to fit in, to reject the gifts that God has given them because they want the gifts that God has given their friends...human nature doesn't change.  And THAT is why I will be re-reading 1 and 2 Samuel this month.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What a surprise

Dear Nashville,

You have been holding out on us!  Who knew how much fun you were?  Thanks for showing us a great get-away.  We can't wait to come back.

Sincerely,

A very happy visitor

p.s.  I said lots of nice things about you over at TripAdvisor.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Changes

From this...


to this...

in sixteen years.

We have been so blessed.  I have been so blessed.  I love you, Bill.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random Thoughts for Thursday

A few things I've been mulling over:

I forgot to link the National Review article on Jan Karski.  Linked now.  Go read it and be inspired.  And then note that the book the author recommends is out of print!  I may try another biography of Karski, though.

Every morning at 8:40 I drive my 8th-grader to football practice 20 minutes away, then I drive home.  An hour and twenty minutes later, I leave to pick him up.  This is already making me a little nuts--I need to find a carpool now!

Back to the National Review, this amazing article about Catholics and America, and a letter a Pope wrote more than a hundred years ago.  Even then he was cautious of people, Catholics, putting too much faith in themselves and not enough in God.  I have been mulling over this idea all day:  "one facet of the down-market theology that shapes the new Americanism:  the theology that sets Jesus (heavily edited down to a few sentences from the Sermon on the Mount) against the Church."  Think of that!  The Church is Christ's bride--it can't be separated from him.  And yet how often do you hear someone explain that while they love Jesus, they don't love church, or The Church, or organized religion of any kind?

I'm not Catholic, but I feel such empathy.  I believe that one group of Christians in America is going to end up coming together even more, while others change and become unrecognizable as Christian.  I hope I'm on the right side of that change.  And also, I did not realize that Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, considers herself Catholic!

I apologize in advance for this last one, but I can't take it.  You know it's campaign season if Michelle takes off her sweaters and puts on her boob belts.  Look at that skirt.  It is gorgeous!  Michelle, honey, I am also pear-shaped.  It has never, EVER occurred to me that a wide strap of leather just under my (smallish) boobs would make me look somehow svelter.  It doesn't work for you, either.  As a matter of fact, it makes you look like you have an ass the size of a house.  Maybe you do.  In that case, the belt does not minimize that fact.   Just loosen the belt and pull it down about three inches. But then again...

...if you're going for total abdomen protection, I'd say you achieved it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Curses! Foiled Again!

I am so bummed!  I missed posting last night; our internet was out AGAIN.  I hate my Bellsouth internet service.  Actually, I think it is AT&T but I still hate it.  I am especially disappointed because I had an awesome post topic, and it was before the rest of the blogosphere erupted with it.

Yesterday the President awarded the Medal of Freedom to thirteen men and women, among them Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison.  Also honored (posthumously) was a true hero, Jan Karski.  National Review ran an amazing, quick biography of this brave man, a Pole who fought for the liberation of his country and then sought to inform the world about the atrocities being committed by the Nazis in his country.  This is the kind of story my children need to hear.  Yours, too.

Then the President insulted 38 million Poles, as he referred to the "Polish death camps."  (via Instapundit) Now, if you think I am being picky, think again. This morning I described the story to my thirteen-year-old son, and I dropped the phrase into my discussion of Mr. Karski's exploits.

"Mom, they weren't Polish camps.  The NAZIS ran them."  He called me out.  (Then I 'fessed up.)

If my thirteen-year-old knows this, why doesn't a speechwriter?  Or a translator?  Or, maybe, the President?  How clueless do you have to be?  Pathetic.

The Poles are good allies, and we have spent the last few years treating them like we believe the pollock jokes (remember those?).  They have bravely fought alongside us in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters; we threw them over on European missile defense.  We can't treat our allies like this, or they won't be our allies.  Pathetic.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Week in Review, 5/25/2012 edition, late

If it bugs you to read posts where people brag on their kids, skip this one.  It was the end of the school year last week, and many honors were taken home by my bunch.  So I'm bragging.
My picture up there was our end-of-year celebratory milkshakes--yum!  We celebrated a return to less scheduled days, lots of swimming and sun and farm time.  But that was Thursday.  Let me back up a little...
From the upper left, look at that clean sewing room!  After I completed my skirt (the one I blogged about last week), I decided to clean my sewing room.  It had been about five projects since I'd vacuumed and the little threads and fabric scraps were getting thick.  Now it is all ready for the next project...probably a sundress in a cute grey-and-yellow print, perfect for the steamy weather down here.

The instant--I swear, the instant--we got home from milkshakes J started asking me for chores.  So I asked him to build my shelves that have been sitting in the closet since Christmas.  He and P did it!  Both of them, and they did a great job.  A thousand points on myjobchart.com and everyone was happy.

The wedding.  We spent hours helping set up for a beautiful wedding that took place at the farm on Saturday.  More about that in the next week-in-review post (trying to keep it Friday to Friday, you know).

My newest book, and part of why I need those shelves!  I need to be ready for the zombie apocalypse, or just a good old-fashioned storm, and we are absolutely not ready right now.  This book seems to do a good job of outlining what you need and why.

This is P with her very, very sweet teacher.  Fourth grade can be tough--higher expectations, tougher work.  I loved how Mrs. R challenged my sweet girl, becoming almost as much of a cheerleader as her mama.  We were really excited for P, though, when she received the P.E. award for her grade from the P.E. teacher, and the art award for her grade from her art teacher.  She was also one of a few students who completed their black belt in recorder karate, and she had perfect attendance!  (That one was completely shocking to me.) Finally, and maybe least importantly, her grades and test scores came back absolutely top-notch.  What a great, well-rounded girl she is.  I am so proud of the young lady she is becoming.  At our school, each child in elementary school is "awarded" a character trait, one that the teacher has observed after being with her for a year.  Paige's trait was Honesty, and I think that suits her.

M received great news this week, too.  He made all honors classes for next year, and in addition he made the audition-only honors middle school choir.  I love that he decided to try out for it completely on his own, and that he made it!

Even though J attended only one day of school this week, even he had good school news: he'll continue to be in honors classes next year, too.  See?  I told you I would be bragging a lot!

I really want D to finish her history book, but I can really tell it will be a challenge to do it with everyone home and relaxing.  Fingers crossed.

Our memory verse for this week:  Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  James 2:13


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Placeholder.

Sometimes keeping up a streak means writing a really inane post just to keep the streak alive.  This is that post.  (Ha!  You thought those other posts were placeholders, didn't you?)

I need to write a week-in-review post, because it was quite a week, with the end of school and parties and a WEDDING.  But my pictures aren't ready and it is late.  The boys have to get up early tomorrow, and that means I'm getting up early, to go be part of our town's Memorial Day celebration.  Specifically they get to fire black powder muskets with the Sons of the American Revolution.  That is how to get middle-school boys out of bed early on a holiday.

I did read this excellent piece by Mark Steyn today, in which he wrote:
In the end, revolution cannot be tweeted.
No matter how fun our virtual diversions are, no matter how important the online world seems, the only people who change the world are those willing to step away from their screens and do something.  This is such a simple idea and yet profound, and profoundly difficult.  The world hasn't changed.  The talkers will never really change the world.  The doers will.

Tomorrow we honor people who did something--no, they did everything in their power to preserve my right to sit here at my desk in my beautiful home, with my wonderful children sound asleep, and write about all sorts of important and unimportant ideas.  Tomorrow I will have to assess whether I've been worthy of that sacrifice.

And an important update:  Little Truman is getting better!!  Praise God.  He was moved from the PICU to the rehab wing and is breathing on his own.  You can get all the details at his family's blog.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Celebration (cue Kool and the Gang)

P even caught the bouquet!
Have you EVER been to a wedding where Kool and the Gang didn't heat up the dance floor?  Me, neither.  We spent the better part of today either helping prepare or actually attending a dear friend's wedding.  It was beautiful, everything we had hoped.  But that's not exactly what this post is about...

We had a hilarious discussion with the kids about great and terrible wedding reception music.  In no particular order, we liked:

  • Big Green Tractor (maybe because we were at the farm!)
  • Celebration (which was playing at the time)
  • Come Sail Away (because one of my boys is on an 80s kick right now)

The bad songs were, of course, much more fun to come up with:

  • Never Get Over You (Miranda Lambert)
  • Another One Bites the Dust
  • Bad to the Bone
  • Old McDonald (which I'm not really sure counts but it made us laugh)
  • Toes (the Zac Brown Band song...Toes in the water, "donkey" in the sand)

And our favorite BAD song:  "Dude Looks Like a Lady." We had a lot of laughs about that one.

This is a fun list to come up with!  What song have you heard at a wedding reception that was just wrong?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sigh.

Yesterday I turned over a leaf: from fourth grade to fifth; seventh to eighth; sixth to seventh...but the homeschooler still has some work to do.  That will be, um, interesting.  We spent the day helping a friend who is turning over a new leaf tomorrow:  girlfriend to wife.  Such an exciting time.

I ran across these articles yesterday and they left me in a pretty black mood.  I was glad to have today to lighten up with.  I'm passing them along, though, because they deserve a wide audience.  Shoving depravity back under its rock does no one any good.  It may even doom someone else to being a victim.

The first story (via Instapundit) is about a high school boy in Florida.  He had an asthma attack at school, but since his inhaler had been confiscated due to his mother not signing a form, the school nurse would not give him that inhaler.  Instead, she locked him in her office and stood outside, watching, as he collapsed.  The school policy is to dial 911 in cases where there is no medicine.  This time, though, no one called.  Not the principal (who was present) and not the nurse.

Think of that. Asthma kills people.  It isn't a joke. And this nurse locked the door and watched this young man struggle to breathe.  I don't care how afraid of a lawsuit a person might be.  I still shudder at such callous disregard for a person's life.

You may have already heard about the student from Long Beach who was accused of and then pled guilty to rape.  (He pled on the advice of his lawyer.) Now that he has been released from prison, his accuser:

  • Tried to "friend" him on Facebook, so they could, you know, patch things up;
  • Admitted to him that she made up the charges;
  • Said she didn't want to tell anyone about this because she didn't want to have to pay back the civil court damages of $1.5 million that her family had won following this young man's conviction.


Prior to his sentencing he was an excellent high school football prospect, with hopes of playing for the NFL (I know, don't they all?).  This young woman showed unbelievable and utterly callous disregard for this destruction she wrought on this young man's life, years and opportunities he will never get back.  Depraved.

I know I should come up with some optimistic line to end on, but I can't.  I guess every so often we have to be reminded of the evil that exists in the world so that we can be on our guard against it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Please pray.

A couple of days ago Ginny at Small Things said a friend of hers needed prayers.  The friend's sweet little baby had drowned but was revived and was alive in the hospital.  We have been among the thousands around the world lifting little Truman up in prayer as he recovers from this terrible accident.  You can read the family's blog here.

I want to say this one thing now:  Truman drowned in a FIVE GALLON BUCKET.  It wasn't even full. He and his brothers and sisters had been using it to catch bugs and lizards, and the bucket had been left out.  He fell in.  I would have never believed this could happen, but it did.  Please be careful, and if you have a really little one toddling around, please put away your buckets.

And please join us as we continue to pray for Truman, his recovery and his family.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are you done yet?


Our school year ends in dribs and drabs.  The sixth-grader, who doesn't take exams, was finished Monday.  The seventh-grader, who takes two exams, finished Tuesday.  The fourth-grader has to go tomorrow to Awards Day, and she'll be done by 10:30 or so.  The homeschooler, well....aren't we always learning?  I just want to finish her writing and history books, and those are easy to slip into the course of the day, even a summer day.

I love summertime.  I love vast swaths of unscheduled time rolling out in front of us.  I love swimming at 10 at night or 8 in the morning.  Okay, maybe 9.  I love forgetting to eat lunch, and then remembering, and then not being hungry for dinner so we just sit on the deck and eat watermelon.  I love deciding to go to the lake on the spur of the moment, because there is nothing on the calendar.  I love fireflies.  I love no one saying that we have to be anywhere at any time.  We can just BE.

But.  I don't love children sitting in front of screens playing games all day.  I don't love never poking noses outside.  I don't love never cracking books--actually the problem is more likely to be cracking too many around here and missing out on the sunshine.  And I don't love having to pick up after all my lovelies.  Makes it feel less like vacation for Mom, know what I mean?

So here are some of the tools I'll be using this summer, to make sure we all have FUN but also learn a little and share the workload.  First off, I've entered everyone's chores into MyJobChart.com.  We used this last year.  Assign basic or custom chores to each child. They log in, check their chores for the day, and do them.  As they do chores, they earn points that they can redeem for various treats or even (gasp!) real money.  We used this with wonderful success last summer.  I dropped it in the fall, but the kids even asked about it.  You can make anything a chore to get points; I assigned certain books to all the kids and awarded massive points for finishing. (Yes, they all finished their books, and enjoyed them, too!)  I also liked not nagging every morning.  And...it's FREE!!

I wanted each child to pick a topic to learn a little more about this summer.  One needs some reinforcement in math; we will use the awesome Khan Academy.  I also have a math course I ordered from Great Courses about problem solving, including game theory.  I like topics that show how creatively you can use math, so he and I will be doing this together.  It's only eight or ten 1/2 hour classes, nothing to onerous and it might even be fun!  He has also started reading Sherlock Holmes novels, so I am going to encourage that.

Another son is very quick with math.  I want to keep him interested bu don't see the need to work ahead in algebra. Instead, we're going to do statistics.  He's going to do that module on Khan, and our goal is to read the subversively-titled How to Lie With Statistics.  Should be, um, interesting.

One daughter has gotten completely wrapped up in the Dear America books, and now the Royal Diary books associated with them.  She wants to learn about the Victorian era.  I have a friend who knows someone who makes up activity boxes on different topics, so that is what I'm getting for this one.  I think she will have a lot of fun with it.

The other daughter discovered the joys of Roald Dahl this week.  I see many more of his books in our future, as well as winding up Story of the World, Volume 1.  With forty-two chapters in that text, we are a little behind.  We also discovered the Downy Quilts for Kids program, and we are going to make our first quilt!  I am so grateful that homeschooling gave her an opportunity to learn this fun skill.

None of it is set in stone.  If someone develops a curiosity about, say, Greek or marine biology, I'm game.

And me?  Earlier I declared 2012 "The Year of Finishing." I discovered so many half-done projects and unhung pictures hanging around the house.  So far I have finished two bags, a cross-stitch, two sweaters and a skirt.  I am going to work on a skirt and a hat next, then a pillow, then...I want to get all the pictures hung by the end of June.  Many were taken down or moved when we were painting or refinishing the basement, but that was at least a year ago, and some of them have been down longer.  Time to take care of that.  Then I want to make this cute blanket!

And riding.  Lots of riding.  We do have a show coming up....


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Breaking a streak...literally

Oh, man.  I missed posting yesterday, for the first time in thirteen days.  I'm bummed.  No excuses.

Today I want to blog about the use of the word "literally." Yesterday morning I heard an astronomer talking about the solar eclipse that just took place.  He was being interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition:  "It was awesome.  I was literally floored."  One hopes it isn't a permanent condition.

The word is abused to hilarious effect by our Vice President, among other people.  Just Google "Biden literally" and you get more than three million hits. Among them, he seems especially fond of saying that the Republicans "ran the economy literally into the ground" and that he wants to "literally put money back in your pocket."  Thanks, Joe! (Just be sure to keep your hands to yourself, 'kay?) He has also "literally met every major world leader" and believes that the current group of college grads is "literally the greatest generation."  WOW!!

This problem literally spans the Atlantic:  The UK Guardian ran a couple of articles about the (mis)use of the words, with no real solution other than to just laugh at how stupid someone "literally floating above the pitch" or that a person "literally is a greyhound" sounds, literally.


Being a math nerd, sometimes, I did find this graph pretty interesting.  The gist of it is to look at "literally" as it modifies verbs.  The more common a verb is, the less likely it is to be modified by "literally."  It's almost as if the word "literally" is signaling, "Look out!  Here comes something really unusual...be sure to listen up."  Unless the speaker is Joe Biden, of course.

Of course, a post like this would literally be incomplete without one crucial YouTube clip:


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Facelessness


As you have seen from other posts, I have been bothered by the Obama's use of the word "faceless," which together with the "Julia" campaign have me wondering about how he really relates to people.  And then I got to church today:

Facelessness!  I laughed, but it bugs me.  Leaving aside why this picture was chosen (I have no idea!), what was the artist trying to achieve with faceless disciples?  So we wouldn't try to figure out which figure was which apostle?  So we could see ourselves there? (Yuck, I hope not!) Was it just cheaper than adding faces?

Failing to see faces means you fail to see individuals; you can reduce everyone to a type.  It hit me this morning--Obama's mom was an anthropologist.  Her entire career was based on seeing types, not individuals.  There never were individuals--there didn't have to be in her study.  I have absolutely no doubt this has contributed to his inability to deal with people one-on-one.  He might have written Dreams from My Father, but I think his worldview was unmistakably influenced by his mother.  

When I was trying to decide if this idea works, I thought about my parents and how they've influenced my worldview.  Both my parents are Christian, and I grew up going to church every Sunday, youth group, choir.  And I still am a Christian, a better one I hope, and we are raising our children to believe in Jesus.  My mom grew up fairly poor, on a farm in the South, and as I was growing up she placed a huge emphasis on security.  My dad grew up in more comfortable surroundings, and he went on to the Navy and then a career as an airline pilot.  He figured that you just did what you needed to do, don't question it, check off the boxes, and I'll get left alone.  No need to make waves. I needed to have a college major that would lead to a profession, not just a job, and a profession out of undergraduate--not doctor or lawyer.  Marrying my husband, an entrepreneur, was looked on as incredibly risky!  I might have moved away from that security-seeking mindset in some ways, but I still see it in how we approach our savings and how we raise our children.  Who your parents are matters.

Back to facelessness.  If Obama can't deal with people as individuals, with faces, that explains his love of oratory.  A crowd of 80,000 is just a big crowd, not 80,000 separate faces.  And the people who line up to give you money are just a bunch of (fill in the type here:  Jews, gays, whites, business people, academics...), and once I get the money I can get out of here.  According to Ed Klein's The Amateur, these are both true.  

I am so interested in watching this campaign unfold.  A little nervous, too, truth be told.  We are finally hearing about the man who tried to tell us who he was years ago, in his books.  He's been telling us for years, even the last three years.  Can we listen?  What will we hear?  Maybe the bigger question is if he can stop seeing types, and start seeing people.   Will they have faces?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Week in Review, 5/19/12 edition

The last full week of school is behind us.  Next week are exams for the big ones, parties for P, and wrap-ups and deciding our direction for D.  But here is what we did:



Since we had finished D's math book, we are continuing math using Khan Academy, one of my most favorite resources.  Here's D using the newly-refreshed MacBook while I try to sew (in the top picture).  She moans about Khan but then loves it once she starts.  She actually asked to keep going on one section so she could finish a badge.  Khan used to have something called the "streak bar" on the problems pages, and it counted how many problems you got right in a row.  That made her paranoid to guess or try a harder problem.  They've moved away from that and I am so glad!  Thanks, Khan!

Those are fried biscuits in the bottom picture--ELEPHANT EARS, since we just read about Hannibal marching the elephants across the Alps. Hot fried dough rolled in sugar and cinnamon? Yes, please!

Some other happenings from our week:  Here are the boys, today, out on the deck.  They were readying their airsoft guns for their first-ever party.  I hate these stupid guns--I enjoy shooting but I don't think aiming a gun at a person and pulling the trigger is a game.  I am still not sure what I think.  I will say that J got a huge boo-boo on his cheek, just outside of his safety mask, from a pellet today.  He is thinking that he prefers laser tag.  Me, too.

Bill is continuing to take riding lessons.  Here he is, on his second ride of the day, riding one of our boarder's horses.  She is out of town for the week and asked that her horse be exercised.  Bill was eager to oblige!

D with her read-aloud book, reading to me on the deck one day.  Our weather has been nothing short of spectacular lately.  We have enjoyed sitting out and reading so much.  The book is Roald Dahl's Matilda.  Love!

We ended the week with P's end-of-year chapel.  This picture is from near the end of the one-hour-and-forty-five minute assembly.  Do you know the passage in Revelation that talks about the kings surrounding Jesus' throne in Heaven, and the kings all cast their crowns at Jesus' feet?  Well, all the kids wrote great accomplishments they'd had this year, "flashes of heaven" as their principal said, on paper crowns that they wore to chapel.  At the end of the chapel, they all walked up and left their crowns at the feet of the throne set up at the front of the sanctuary.  I like so much the idea of recognizing great things throughout the year as flashes of God's glory, and then giving them back to Him as we head out to the summer.

Finally, here's my Meringue skirt, from the pattern in The Colette Sewing Handbook.  I love the fabric, with the little cream thread in it.  I also love the scalloped hem.  Apparently my dogs liked that part, too.  I don't love the fit--I think I will need to grade down from one size at the waist to a smaller size around the hips.  I have never had to do that before!

Our memory verse this week:
Clap your hands, all you nations;
Shout to God with cries of joy.  
For the LORD most high is AWESOME (you have to shout that word!), 
The great King over all the earth.  (Psalm 47: 1, 2)

Have a great week!  I'll be back tomorrow ruminating on facelessness and what that means as a Christian. Meanwhile, check out this great post.  A Facebook friend linked to this discussion about reaching your children in their chosen language.  Love this and can't wait to use it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Where not a lot happened...

Lovely, lovely day today, thanks.  Went to my daughter's end-of-year chapel and it was terrific even if it did take ONE HOUR AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES.  I'll post a couple of pictures tomorrow when I do my week-in-review post.  As a side note, it is pretty incredible to think that the entire elementary school was good, quiet even, for the assembly.

I am reading Ed Klein's The Amateur.  It feels a little gossipy, frankly, but it has me thinking.  I've also been reading Ann Althouse's blog, especially her posts on Obama's use of the words "ghost" and "faceless" in his autobiography.  I think we have a very odd man in the White House.  I don't say that because of any one thing in Klein's book, or something that Althouse points out, but because these things and others seem to fit together to make a picture of someone aloof and arrogant, and just kind of odd.  I will talk about this more when I finish the book.

My sweet husband bought riding boots today--yay!!  While I might have to fight over the use of my horse some, I'm really more than happy to do it.  Bill seems to be pretty darn good at this, and it is great fun to watch him learn.  It's not like I'm some big expert, but I am glad to be able to ride together.  We went to the tent sale at a tack store on the far side of town, and it took us almost two hours to get home.  We were pretty worn out!  And so I haven't perused my usual quota of news.

Back tomorrow with pictures and a week in review.   And who knows what else?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Frustrated

I've spent the last forty minutes trying to upload a couple of pictures for a post, but I am having serious computer issues.  My new iMac needs a replacement AirPort card because it drops off the network about every ten minutes (or, today it is.  It went two days without dropping at all this week.).  I know this is the problem since I've spent hours and hours with Apple tech support since purchasing the computer.  I have a hard time blogging from the iPad. 

In the interim, this video from Uncommon Knowledge (the Hoover Institute) is aweome.  While it clocks in at 52 minutes, it is well worth your time.  I think Thomas Sowell's picture is next to the word "erudite" in the dictionary.  A real pleasure to listen to.

Back tomorrow with more!  Hopefully my computer problems will be on their way to resolution.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Commencement Addresses

So my question yesterday was to see if I could discern any over-arching themes, pertaining to the campaign, from Obama's and Romney's commencement addresses.  I can't compare and contrast them; frankly, Obama's speech mannerisms set my teeth on edge and that also happens when I read his speech.  I was trying for a neutral reading of each, to see if I can tell where each one is going with a campaign theme.

Romney's speech was given at Liberty University.  With a crowd of 35,000 or so, this was likely the biggest speech he has until the convention.  Romney focused on faith in this speech.  As a matter of fact, the point of his speech seemed to be, "I may be a different faith than you, but we have much in common.  Let me show you."  The speech was full of references to many Christian thinkers, from C.S. Lewis to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Chuck Colson.

I believe Romney's goal with this address was to make evangelical Christians comfortable with him.  They aren't going to vote for Obama, but they might decide to stay home.  Romney is after their enthusiastic support.  I think his speech went a long way in achieving that.  Frankly, I found it to be uplifting and hopeful.

Obama's speech was at Barnard College, a women's college in New York City.  I think he had much less of a "selling" job to do than Romney--after all, he is the President, and this is a very liberal campus.  It seems to me that Obama went to a women's college to reinforce his support among this group, shoring up part of his base.  In that way, his speech could be seen as a defensive move.  Obama spent a fair amount of the speech praising the women in his life.  (His comment about Michelle seemed a little vacuous:  "You can be stylish and powerful, too.  That's Michelle's advice.")  There was a surprising amount of "we" in his speech, "we are better off if we invest..." or "we are better off if women are treated fairly and equally..."

The word I take away from his speech is "defiance," though.  As a matter of fact, he even refers to the national spirit as "defiant, can-do," but never uses the words liberty or freedom.  There was an attitude of expecting to encounter bad, and to change it.  It wasn't an encouraging speech, although it was definitely full of lines that pandered to his audience of women.  For example, he had throw-away lines (that he himself acknowledged as throw-away): "And I'm convinced your generation possesses that will (to bring about needed changes).  And I believe that the women of this generation--that all of you will help lead the way." He encourages his audience, "Fight for your seat at the table.  Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table."  Writing that, I am reminded of McCain's "Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight with me." speech.

This was a less hopeful speech, I thought.  More pressing, more suspect of an unjust world.  Obama referred numerous times to injustices in the world, to looking for wrongs that need to be righted.  While that is fine for a commencement address, it was the tone that seemed pessimistic, or maybe just tired.  Maybe this is hope and change four years later.

A key line from Romney:  "The call to service is one of the fundamental elements of our national character.  It has motivated every great movement of conscience that this hopeful, fair-minded country of ours has ever seen."

And from Obama:  "And if you are ready to fight for that brilliant, radically simple idea of America that no matter who you are or what you look like, no matter who you love or what God you worship, you can still pursue your own happiness, I will join you every step of the way."

Incidentally, I just noticed that Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has written about this exact topic, published an hour ago.  I haven't read it yet, but it is here if you would like to.

Tomorrow's question:  I'm drawing a blank.  I'm sure something will pop up!  Come back tomorrow to be surprised right along with me.  Maybe the Greek banking crisis...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Well...Less Proud

Oh, dear.  Have you ever had something break, and you try and try to fix it, and then give up, and then take it to the shop, and then the nice man at the shop does something really, really, really simple to it, and then it is fixed?  That was me.

I'm still not sure how, but Jac over at Jac's Sew and Vac fixed my machine in about thirty seconds. He was incredibly nice about it.  And I should be fixed and ready to go tomorrow.  I am almost done with a really cute skirt that I can't wait to post about!

Since that got taken care of "sew" easily, I'm going to leave you with some other great links:

What do you think about no college at all?  Penelope Trunk thinks it isn't necessary, or won't be by the time my kids are ready for college.  This is interesting to me.  On Sunday Bill and I were discussing the benefits of a year or two of something other than college, similar to the Mormon mission (but we aren't Mormon).  I can see how it would be an enormous benefit to so many kids--it would have been good for me!

On the other hand, I have a real problem with unpaid internships.  Off the top of my head, I can come up with a couple of reasons:  only kids who have some other means of support can afford them, which excludes a whole bunch of kids from a certain class of job; if you aren't getting paid, it seems like you won't work as hard; related to that, there is something about doing menial work for a paycheck that everyone should experience, including that feeling the first time of "The government gets HOW much?!" As an aside, the high minimum wage makes paid internships and low-level part-time jobs even harder to come by.  This article lays out these and some other reasons to be against internships and for summer jobs.

This is just so hilarious that I will make you click.  (via the Anchoress)

For tomorrow:  Obama and Romney both gave commencement addresses recently, at Barnard College and Liberty University, respectively.  Both speeches were not aimed at (only) those present at the speeches.  I know the speeches are different in tone and of course will emphasize different ideals of America, because these men have such divergent ideas about where America is headed.  But I want to see if I can pull out a campaign theme from each, and see if we can tell what will be important in the next couple of months to each candidate.  A kind of compare and contrast, if you will.  See you tomorrow!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Proud

Yeah, I am.  Bill's company had a write-up in the local paper last weekend.  Moving to a new facility, doubling the space, probably hiring more people--we are incredibly blessed.

It was interesting dealing with the county and municipal governments.  The ones we are leaving were very blasé about losing out to the neighboring county, while the new county fell over themselves to help with the move.  Our county has had some issues attracting new businesses;  I wonder if this is why.

This boring little post is what happens when I don't pose a good question the night before.  I almost did a post on the messianic photos that we've had of Obama...but then I got nauseous and stopped.

Tomorrow's question:  can I take my sewing machine from this

to fixed and working?  I had to pull it apart because the bobbin isn't working right.  We'll see.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Background Check for Thee, But Not for the Other Guy That We Like Better

My question yesterday was whether the Washington Post had done a series of background articles on Barack Obama back in 2008, similar to the series that they are now doing on Romney.  After all, their ombudsman said that the "Mitt's a gay-basher" article had only been prepared as part of a series to give a background on Romney.  (As a side note, Lord, what I would give for an eye-roll or sarcasm font.)

So my question yesterday was, did the Wa-Po do this back in 2008?  If so, what did it say?

So that you don't have to, I have trawled the archives of Wa-Po.  You're welcome.  I found....nada.  Nothing.  Zilch.  After searching on terms like "Obama Occidental" or "Obama Indonesia," or even "Obama Alinsky," I have found nothing that looks or smells like a series of articles intended to vet the candidate.  Oh, I found some pretty ripe stuff, like the fawning 2006 articles (link goes to one example) filled with breathless anticipation of an Obama run--and also some pathetic prognosticating from the likes of Charles Krauthammer on a certain Obama loss.

It was eye-opening to go through the archives to see what had been written, though.  Richard Cohen, back in 2006, observed that if Obama did run, it would be super-awesome because he wouldn't be able to blame Bush for fooling him into fighting the war.  Unfortunately, Cohen failed to see that Obama would complain for four years that Bush fooled him on everything else.

And I had forgotten that the "President Cool" pictures didn't actually surface until after the election, when I saw this article:  Lisa Jack, the photographer, actually says at the end of the article that she is waiting for her invitation to the White House, since she figures that the President "owes" her.  I wonder how those pictures would have played prior to the election, rather than after.

Big surprise, the Washington Post didn't offer a series of articles vetting then-candidate Obama.

I don't have a question to pose for tomorrow.  I think I'll go watch Season 2 of Downton Abbey and come up with something.  Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Week in Review, 5/12/2012 edition

The school year is drawing quickly to a close.  The week didn't go exactly as planned, with D getting sick, but we definitely enjoyed the quiet evenings.  That all changes next week when M starts (ahem) football practice.

We spent a fair amount of time at the farm.  The weather was amazing and made just being at the farm delightful.  Friday we even picked P up from school early to take an afternoon ride.  Bill is starting to ride, including taking lessons, and there he is stealing my horse away.  That wonderful horse is my newer horse, Roman.  He is a Percheron/Tennessee Walker cross and is an absolute love.  Everyone pets him at the farm.  But he is MY horse, and apparently I need to guard him jealously.

D's school is starting to wrap up.  We finished her math text and are basically done with grammar.  We continue to do parts of speech with various other assignments, like memory verses.  But history is huge, and we remain in Rome.  This is one of my favorite projects all year, building a Roman road.  Very clear and a fun, effective lesson.

We were supposed to take a field trip to see a friend who just graduated from college.  Her senior exhibit (she's an art major) was at a gallery, and we were also going to visit and go to lunch with her and some other homeschool friends.  D woke up that morning with a 102 degree fever, though, and we had to cancel.  What a bummer.  She did feel well enough to sew later--the topic of an earlier blog post this week.

The very next day I ran across this fun blog.  The math in it is exactly what we had done to decide how big to make her pillow top.  The author is right--math is so much more effective when you are using it in real life than when you are faced with a big page of equations.

We ended the week at the lake.  We haven't been since January, I think.  I don't have any pictures because it is raining.  We did a little poking around in the shops in town, and have had a generally lazy day.  Not what we expected but it is a nice break to be here.  But I am having to blog on my husband's PC rather than my wonderful Mac and it just doesn't feel right.  Now that is certainly a first-world problem!

I hope you have a great Mother's Day tomorrow.  If you aren't lucky enough to have your mom around, you probably know someone who is a great mom.  Tell her!  I AM lucky--not only do I have my wonderful mom, I even live in the same town with her.  As a matter of fact, I just realized that I pretty much take her for granted because I don't even have a picture to post.  Need to fix that.

This week's memory verse:  Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.  Proverbs 10:4