Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to avoid getting the swine flu

Beth is back! And wouldn't you know it, she's got her own little take on how to avoid getting the swine flu. Here it is ...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine flu

Well, it's on every television channel, every radio station and all over the net. I received an e-mail today that I'd like to share with you ... ...

Frequently Asked Questions on Swine Flu Answers provided by an official at St. Luke's Episcopal Health System

Q: If I am healthy, do I need to worry about Swine Flu?
A: No, unless you will be traveling to Mexico. If you are healthy and you are in the United States, you do not need to worry. Just exercise caution by washing your hands frequently.

Q: What symptoms should I look for?
A: The main one is a fever. If you don’t have a fever, then you probably don’t have the flu. Other symptoms are severe body aches, chills, cough, runny nose, nasal congestion, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Q: Who is the most vulnerable to contracting this virus?
A: People who already have chronic problems, such as diabetes, cancer or other health problems that might weaken your immune system, may have a more severe case if they contract this virus.

Q: What if my friends/family/co-workers are sick?
A: Try to maintain distance between you and someone who is coughing or sneezing. Recommend to your co-workers and/or family members to stay home if they are not feeling well.

Q: Can I get Swine Flu from handling or eating pork or produce from Mexico?
A: No, it cannot be transmitted through food or food handling. It is communicated through direct contact with secretions from an infected person, which means someone coughing or sneezing on you.

Q: Will the flu shot I received in the fall help keep me from contracting Swine Flu?
A: Unfortunately, the information we have received suggests we should not count on it, because the strains in the vaccine are not the same as the Swine Flu strain.

Q: If I’m planning to travel to Mexico, should I get Tamiflu before going?
A: Following recommendations from our federal government, any travel to Mexico should be suspended unless there is a compelling reason to go. I think it’s just better to be on the safe side. If you do have to go and if you have underlying medical problems, then you’re at high risk and probably should be put on Tamiflu. Otherwise, simply take precautions by avoiding crowds and people who are sick.

Q: Is the United States prepared to handle a Swine Flu outbreak?
A: We are very prepared. The level of preparedness today is better than ever. We do drills for this. Our city, state and federal governments are all working together to be well prepared.

For more information on Swine Flu and government advisories, visit the following Web sites:

The City of Houston:

Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services:

The State Health Department (providing information about Texas' situation and response):

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

The World Health Organization:

Both the above and this next were sent out today ... ...

An Open Letter to All SLEH Employees

April 29, 2009

Today, I am writing to update you about the swine flu and to announce that I am going to be holding some live blogs, available to all employees, to answer your swine flu questions. The times for these live blogs will be posted on the Source.

First of all, let me commend all of you for your continued dedication and professionalism. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital is a tremendous asset to this community and time after time, whether it is flooding, a hurricane, the financial markets collapse, or now a swine flu epidemic, the people of Houston look to us to be there for them and to continue to provide the high quality and compassionate care for which we are known.

I also want you to know that while there is certainly reason to be cautious, there is no reason to be scared or panicked. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, the other TMC hospitals, the city, the state, and the federal government have been planning and training for a flu pandemic for years now. We have well thought out plans and we have plenty of supplies, including antiviral agents, to deal with this current outbreak.

As of the time of my writing, there are 91 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States. Sixteen of those cases are in Texas. There is only one confirmed case in Houston and that patient, a 23 month old child has died and this is the only death from swine flu in the US. It is important to note that this child lived in Mexico, contracted the illness there and then was transferred to a US hospital. I mention this because, so far, the cases of swine flu that have occurred in the US appear to be much milder than those reported in Mexico. We don’t yet know why this is the case. At this time, we are not seeing unusual volumes of patients in our Emergency Department or Community Emergency Centers and that is also the case for all of the TMC hospitals except Texas Children’s Hospital and the Harris County Hospital District hospitals. We have only seen two cases suspicious for swine flu in our hospital facilities and those patients were not sick enough to warrant hospitalization.

The following are the precautions we are taking. First, I want to encourage all of you to do what you already should be doing - wash your hands (or use the hand gel) frequently, and especially each time before and after you care for a patient. To assist our visitors, we are installing hand gel dispensers in each public elevator lobby.

Second, if you are ill and have fever, communicate with your manager and stay home. If your child is ill, do not send your child to school or child care. Be sure to see your physician right away and do not use the emergency room unless you or your child is too ill to go to the doctor’s office.

For those of you who work in the Emergency Department or the Community Emergency Centers, we are trying to identify patients who have flu-like symptoms at triage, place a mask on them and isolate them. If they can be discharged, we are sending these patients home to recover. If we do end up with a patient so ill as to require hospitalization, we will place them in droplet and contact isolation.

For any of our employees returning from Mexico, we are requiring symptom and temperature screening in Occupational Health before they report to their department or unit for work. This will occur every day until a week after their return from Mexico. Anyone with a fever will be tested for influenza and sent home to follow-up with their physician.

There are a number of reasons to be optimistic about this flu outbreak. That is not to say that I don’t expect many more cases of swine flu before it is over, but the fact that the disease we have seen in the US has been much milder than what Mexico has experienced is a positive sign and the fact that this is occurring so late in the flu season suggests that this will be much less severe than had it occurred in the typical winter months.

Swine flu will be a risk for the next upcoming flu season this fall. By that time, the flu vaccine should contain the necessary protection for the swine flu. I want to encourage every employee who does not otherwise have a contraindication, to get the flu shot this fall. It will be offered to all employees free of charge.

In the meantime, please watch for updated information on the Source, including the Frequently Asked Questions already available and posted.

I encourage you to write in any questions you may have on our live blog. We will get that schedule out to you soon. Check the Source for all the latest details and information.

Thank you for all you do for St. Luke’s and our patients.


David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.
Chief Executive Officer

St. Luke's Episcopal is located in what we in Houston term "The Medical Center". It is prestigious. I don't know what some of you might be hearing, seeing or reading about in the news, but above are the facts. Our governor has announced a state of emergency in his panic and some schools are closing. I have not been ill, do not feel like I'm getting ill, but have no plans to travel to Mexico or expose myself to crowds unnecessarily, either. Normal precautions ... well, maybe a little more than normal because this disease is just beginning to make its presence felt in our area.

I know it's been several days since I last posted, and thought I'd better get one out there before you all start worrying. Just real busy. I'll tell you about what's been going on soon. Take care, and I'll talk atcha later!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Happy birthday, Wendy!

The big double nickel is what she's celebrating today at Everest Base Camp (EBC). We're tickled that you made it past the Khumbu Ice Fields, Wendy, have recovered from the flu and will shortly be on your way to Camp One.

Who's Wendy? For those of you who are reading my blog for the first time and don't know who she is, she's the gal with multiple sclerosis whose goal is to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

I first wrote about her here ... a little 'teaser' of sorts, where I included a photograph of Mount Koscuiszko (a "little bump", as she later referred to it) - #6 in her quest.

The next day I posted an in-depth piece on Wendy Booker that included how I had come to first hear about her and why she interested me so. I was concerned that she hadn't posted on her blogsite since January and said as much. According to her "Where in the World is Wendy?" site, she was scheduled to be in Nepal in March. I was a little anxious. Overly anxious, as it turns out.

Well, she's in Nepal - see my April 1st entry - and she's been posting like crazy ever since ... well, as much as she can with limited Internet access. Can you imagine having Internet access and posting on your blogsite from Mount Everest? I can't, even though I know it's happening!

One of her more recent posts that I got a kick out of was the one (go to the fourth paragraph) where she was describing how she was able to finally "take a shower". It's a dandy!

Another of her posts that I found really interesting was the one where she was describing some of the frenetic activity at EBC. (Skip down to the 5th paragraph in this post, if that's the only thing in which you're interested.) In particular, she talks about a Discovery Channel team - actually, two Discovery Channel teams are there! - that has 28 clients, 54 Sherpas and 8 guides plus a film crew. Fascinating!

She gives a couple of links to sites that are supposedly sending back photographs from their group's expedition. Hang on a sec here while I check one or two of them out ... ... ... I recommend this one ... Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. And yes, they are sending back photos ... 123 of them so far, as of this writing. It's my understanding that this is their first-ever attempt to ascend Mount Everest. Fantastic photos! Here's the link to their slide show. Just click on the large photo under "RMI/First Ascent Everest Dispatches" to begin your own private viewing.

There were two main subjects in my post of April 16th ... Sherpas, and the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest. A Puja ceremony, with a lama present, is conducted prior to each major climb. It focuses on the weather on the mountain, the gear and the climbers themselves ... a "safe return" type of blessing that Wendy describes in great detail here.

I know that all of you join me in wishing Wendy a happy happy birthday. Oh! And, before I forget, let me give you the link - one more time - to her blogsite.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Heavens! Cubs fans can cheer from the great beyond

That's just one headline from the news today. What a novel idea!

Some guy in Chicago had this brainstorm a couple or so years ago, but evidently he couldn't get enough $$ together to get it off the ground until last year, when construction began on Chicago's north side. A brick replica of Wrigley's deep center field wall was erected with new ivy planted at its base. Now, it'll take a while to grow in and up, but ivy really doesn't catch much dust so it won't be all that long before that brick wall will be covered with ivy. Then, discards from when the old grass was being replaced at Wrigley were grabbed up and moved to the new "eternal rest while you wait for the Cubs to win another World Series" location along with a few seats that the owner snatched from somewhere so that relatives and friends of the deceased could be comfortable while visiting and communing (commiserating?) with their dearly departed.

I'm tellin' ya, folks, when I first heard that this morning, I started laughing like crazy and haven't stopped since. Just too funny!

Apparently, there are niches available for almost three hundred urns containing the cremains of devoted fans. Sports Illustrated - or was it CNN? - reported that upwards of 20 of these sites have already been spoken for. I Googled "Cemetery for Chicago Cubs fans" at various times earlier today, and got three different results. (A lot more info has probably been added since I last looked. You know how these stories can mushroom and perpetuate themselves, I'm sure. Kind of like that Susan Boyle story this past week.)

It's my understanding that many people have been calling with questions. Have niche installations officially begun? How much does one cost? What if I don't have an urn? Can a space be reserved? What security provisions are in place? Although the official 'opening' was just two days ago, there have even been a few inquiries about the legalities involved in moving a loved one's cremains - which have already been interred - to the newer (and more preferred) location.

I wonder if Chuck has made his decision yet? Right now, his Cubs are not doing all that well. Let's see, who beat them today? The Reds. My Astros lost, of course, and are currently being used as doormats for the rest of the National League Central. However, one bright spot is that we took the series from the Dodgers, who have a pretty decent team. Meanwhile, back at the Cardinals ranch, they are continuing their stampede onward atop the division. Patrick's team is hanging in there, and can hold their heads up just a bit higher now that the Marlins have come down a little from their stratospheric perch. Steven's Blue Jays pulled out another win. The Yankees and Red Sox were idle, as were ten other teams.

What a weird week in baseball! Does it seem to you as tho schedules are really light? I mean, Mondays and Thursdays are normally "off" days for teams, but this week - particularly Monday, due to the rainouts - I think it took our radio announcers all of about 10 seconds to recap final scores from the entire major league!

Last week was a real stranger! We went to Pittsburgh ... played Monday against the Pirates, had Tuesday off (What was all that about?) and then finished up the other two games in that set on Wednesday and Thursday. The Pirates, now, are a story in themselves. They swept the Marlins (!), did major damage against us and the Cubbies, I think it was, and are now sitting pretty in 2nd place - actually, they're tied with the Reds - in our division.

But enough about baseball. Wasn't intending to publish anything at all today about this sport, but that story about an eternal resting place for diehard Cubs fans was just too good to pass up.

PS. How is it possible that the Blue Jays are the ONLY team in the major leagues to have as many as seventeen games under their belts? I mean, I know it's true, but still!

Some are funny, some not so

What kind of c r a p have you guys been getting lately?

This one, which arrived about five minutes ago, made me laugh out loud ...

Request from: Mr mark collin
West African.

How are you today? Hope all is well. Please be informed that I have decided to contact you for a fund transfer transaction worth the sum of US$9.700,000,00 into your reliable bank account as the sole NEXT-OF-KIN to the foreign deceased customer of our bank MR MORRIS THOMPSON,an American prominent man who unfortunately lost his life with his entire family in the PLANE-CRASH of Alaska Airlines Flight 261,which crashed on January 31st 2000.You may read more about the crash on visiting this C.N.N News internet website below:

Since his death occured, no body have show up as his next of kin for the claim because the account is untraceable.Upon the investigation I carried out from his records,I found out that his foreign business consultant who would have trace the account died earlier before the deceased.Therefore,this is a confidential and sealed deal.

For the success of this transaction,you should apply and act as the only existing NEXT-OF-KIN to the deceased which our bank will replace the deceased account information through proper documentation in position of your own account.This transaction is risk-free,it will never harm your good reputation in your society because no one can trace the account,and on the instant of the transfer of the fund into your account,the chapter of this transaction will be closed entirely. Note that in a business of this nature,the bank dont want to know your difference between the deceased country,religion or believe because our bank inheritance law is against that.So,it is a preference for us to achieve this success without any
problem.Please note down that once the fund get transferred into your account, you will take 40% of the total sum while the rest will be for me as I will arrange myself down to your country to take my share.

I need your urgent response and include your private telephone/mobile numbers for easy communication.
Please reply if you can be trusted in this deal. Email:

Mr mark collin

That one's pretty typical of the ginormous amounts of money to be made if only I would provide them with my bank account, etc. and blah. I see lots of those! What made me laugh out loud was the grammar used. Hilarious!

This next one's not so funny. In fact, in reminds me very much of something that happened many years ago, when someone tried to latch onto my identity.

Natrona County High School

We are currently in the final stages of editing your biographical information to be included in the Natrona County High School Alumni Directory, but we need your help! A brief telephone call will ensure your listing is completely accurate and up-to-date.

Please, give us a call at your convenience this week so that we may verify your information with you.

CALL TODAY - TOLL FREE 1-800-235-8780
(Mountain Time)

Mon. - Fri. 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sat. 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Sun. 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

International Residents: You may also call at:
USA Country Code (1) 757.965.8092
Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. UTC/GMT-7
Thank you in advance for your cooperation in making the Natrona County High School Alumni Directory a success. If you have already called, thank you for your quick response and your help. Please do not send updates in response to this message.

They had my name right, including my correct middle name, but the year of graduation from high school was incorrect. And, although I have been to Casper, Wyoming, I didn't go to high school there. Yes, there is a Natrona County High School. I checked. Here's a shot of it ...

taken directly from their web page.

What happened many years ago was that every so often I'd get a postcard in the mail addressed to a "Madeline something-or-another", I forget the name, wanting to verify and update her information for either a high school or college alumni directory. Altho the postcard was addressed to this "Madeline", of whom I'd never heard, the street address was mine. I seem to remember writing them a letter stating my ignorance of any such person, and suggesting they look elsewhere for her. The next thing I knew, her name was showing up on my credit reports.

This one "smells" very similar to me. I'm not going to respond to it, but I'm certainly going to keep an eye out for further developments and any unauthorized or suspicious activity.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On giving ... (part four) ...

This post might, perhaps, have been more accurately titled, "Great expectations".

When you 'gift' something, are you expecting something in return? If so, it then becomes a "conditional gift", does it not? In contemplation of some future event? What immediately comes to my mind is the 'gift' of an engagement ring. This is very much a conditional gift, the 'condition' being that both the recipient of the gift and the giver will 'seal the deal' in marriage. If the marriage does not occur, the conditional gift must - by law, at least in this country! - be returned.

In my first post "On giving", I wrote about NYC cab drivers being 'asked' to donate one day's tips - an estimated $15-20 each - to help support the family of a fellow driver. I raised some questions in this post ... questions that arose as a direct result of my having been a taxicab driver for many years.

In my second post of this series, published the very next day, I went on to describe in some detail various 'askings' that I had experienced both as a cab driver and a schoolteacher and how I felt about them.

(Part three) of the series focused more on how I would define myself as a 'giver' and went on to describe my feelings in two different, yet somewhat related, situations.

How would you classify gifts of time? With very few exceptions, I think they should be outright gifts with no expectation of a return other than self-satisfaction and feeling good about one's self. As I said in part three of this series, I don't expect accolades nor would I want them. A simple "thank you" goes a long long way with me. If you cannot bring yourself to utter those words, a single smile will do the trick.

But is an expression of gratitude mandatory? To give "expecting thanks" is to qualify the gift, I think. A 'contingent gift', as it were ... one that is dependent on something else to be worthwhile. A gift should be given, imo, w/o qualification ... else how can it truly be labeled a 'gift'?

To receive thanks after giving is icing on the cake. An expression I often use is 'a really warm fuzzy'.

What about material gifts? Property, for instance, or money? At one time in my life I named the church I had belonged to for many years in my will. I wrote them a letter telling them of my decision and was pleasantly surprised to receive a very gracious thank you letter back. I wasn't expecting a thank you. The only reason I had even let them know about it in the first place was so, in the event of my demise, they would know to contact my executor.

What about business gifts? When I was in the art business, I was sometimes asked to donate a piece of art for an auction. I usually did so. These types of gifts are normally given (and are tax-deductible here in the US) to promote name recognition, a reminder of what your business is and your personal capabilities are, and in anticipation of future business. Even though they might be classified as qualified gifts, expressions of gratitude are required (in written form) for income-tax filing purposes.

Recently, I squirmed a little when I first read that a professional photographer was being asked by various people, while in the middle of a shoot, if he would send them finished copies of his work via e-mail. The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became. Who are these people? Are they relatives of the subject being photographed, or are they simply interested onlookers? Are they prospects* as future clients? How many are asking, and how many copies are being requested? Is he being asked to select one or two out of a hundred? Five? Ten? How much time will be required of him to fulfill these requests?

*I've been in sales, OK? The term 'prospect' refers to a person who is actually interested in the product you have to offer. The term 'suspect' refers to a hanger-on, a casual observer and sometimes even abusive 'user' who is interested only in accumulating a portfolio for his own (not your!) advantage.

There's a really fine line being drawn here. A professional's time is valuable. He is paid for his expertise in his chosen field. To ask a professional to additionally give of his time when the project has been completed and the asker is not the original buyer comes very close to stepping over that line. A sliding scale for services should be available on location that the professional can easily produce if he feels that his good nature or good will is being taken advantage of.

What about you? Do you expect thanks when you give something or do you give simply out of the goodness of your heart? If you do not receive some form of gratitude in return, are you then sorry you gave? Was your gift somehow diminished?

Holding a door open for someone is an excellent example. I have never been much of a "women's rights" advocate. Instead, I would describe myself more as a "people's rights" advocate, the right of every individual to be treated as just that ... a unique person. I love having doors held open for me, and am most appreciative when they are. A huge smile and, "Thank you, kind sir!" or just "Thank you!" with a twinkle in my eyes is my normal response. And I love being able to reciprocate. Most often I'll get a thank you. Every once in a while, tho, I'll hold the door open for someone who prances through (and it's almost always a woman, I'm embarrassed to have to tell you) like she's the Queen of Sheba and I'm one of her lowly subjects. It was 'expected' that I would hold the door open for her majesty. That doesn't set well with me, but it doesn't diminish my gift. I know it was freely given, and that thought pleases me.

As I wrote when I started this post, it might better have been titled "Great expectations", but I wanted it to be part four of a series. I'm not at all sure I have completed my thoughts on giving. I understand this might be a touchy subject for some and so, as always, I am open to comments ... particularly those that lead to further discussion.

Monday, April 20, 2009

This one's for you!

This will be my 502nd post. FInally published my 500th yesterday, and I can't even begin to tell you the relief I felt when I hit that "Publish Post" button! (And yes, Steven, I very clearly remember the first time I did so. Do you remember the first time you did so?)

I hope that this one will not be inordinately long. At the same time, however, I have a lot to say (So what else is new, right?) in response to comments I received on my 500th.

Just the title of my blog, "Goldenrod's thoughts", should probably lead one to believe that there will not be many photographs. How does one take pictures of one's thoughts? Michael, on the other hand - and for the most part, doesn't use photographs. Instead, he creates many of the illustrations - sometimes in cartoon form - used to introduce his poems. Clever, clever man!

I came more and more to realize, however, that a photo or two would be really good to add, particularly when I was recalling a memory. The 'orgadon' is probably one of the better examples, published last June. In a comment to an earlier post, where I described in detail how 'the beast' had come to be so defrocked/feathered/befouled (whatever!), Chuck asked if I had a picture of the newly-painted beast. I'm sure there must have been at least one taken but, if there was, I don't have it.

The next I remember thinking - this time much more seriously, "I really need to develop the capability to add a photo or two," was when I was writing about 4th of July celebrations. In fact, it was only a couple or so weeks later that I first published something other than pure rhetoric in one of my posts.

When was it that I first included a somewhat distant sideview of me in "My Profile" laughing my head off while playing a game of badminton out at my daughter's house? November? December? Something like that. As I recall, Tammy's comment was, "I just knew that we'd see a picture of you laughing!"

Since then, I have published two recent photos of me. This one ...

taken Christmas Eve day, was taken by Beth at her house. If you want to enlarge the photo and get the whole story, Craig, you'll have to go back to this post. (Don't think you had a chance to read it. It was published at a time when you were working 60-hour days.)

and this one ...

taken by Chuck - and 'swiped' from his post - while he, Whalechaser (Ellen) and I were mutually enjoying a couple or three hours of nonstop hilarity just three months ago. How is it possible that it was only three months ago?!? Seems like forever!

Chuck has suggested that I 'scan' photos from the past. That's a very good idea, and one I would probably have taken advantage of and incorporated into my posts long ago except for one fact. I don't have 'digital scanning' capabilities. At least, I don't think I do! I do not own a digital camera. (Am I in the dark ages, or what? If you think that I am in the dark ages now, you should have seen me in September 2007!)

I own one camers. It's a Polaroid. Would that work?

My mother used to take pictures out the wazoo. Craig takes pictures out the wazoo. Tammy takes pictures out the wazoo. Moi? Lawdy, lawdy, I don't even remember the last time I took a picture!

All right, then, when was the last time I had a picture taken of me? I'm really taxing my memory banks here, but the last time I remember pictures being taken of me - other than that hideous one for my passport - were those I have already included in my posts. (Well, except for one of me trying to teach my granddaughter how to knit. It's a less than flattering photograph - my daughter probably wishes she had taken it from another angle - and so you will probably never see it published on this blog.)

At the same time, Chuck, your point is well-taken. I'll have to go back through multitudinous photographs from the past - at least the ones that I have kept! - to see whatall should be scanned for possible inclusion in future posts.

Craig? What can I tell ya, darlin'? You want a 'pictorial glimpse of my world' ... you've been "secretly hoping to get a LOT more pictures of me, of Munising, of the cab, of my haunts" ... oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, Craig!

A "pictorial glimpse" of my world would consist these days, mainly, of me sitting here at the computer with Sam sitting sullenly and pouting to my left. I really DO need to have my daughter get over here with her digital camera to 'pan' several shots, some of which might even be publishable! :)

Pictures of Munising, Craig? The Munising I remember from my youth is nowhere near even remotely similar to the Munising as it exists today! When I was there last in 2000, there was not a camera in existence that could have captured the memory I have in my mind of the beauty that met my eyes coming into this 'hamlet' from the south. Not a single one! I don't care HOW expensive the lens was!! It took my breath away, Craig. Simply took my breath away!

Of the cab? Jacky took one of me posed next to my Yellow Cab many years ago when she was here. I think I still have that photo somewhere and, if I can find it, I'll post it (after my daughter scans it, of course!). And then I'll tell the story behind it. To my knowledge, there was never a picture taken of me driving a City Cab.

Of my 'haunts'? What haunts?!? My 'haunts' primarily include going back and forth from my bedroom to the bathroom, in here to see what's going on with the Internet world and - every so often - turning on the television to watch a favorite show or two. And so on and on this cycle goes. Bedroom. Bathroom. Computer. Television. I don't have any 'haunts', per se, Craig. Do you want me to publish pictures of Kroger's, Randall's or HEB grocery stores?

Oopsie! I have forgotten to include some of my WOW activities. Boring to outsiders, really. (You'll just have to trust me on this one!) Even so, the next meeting of WOW that I attend - if indeed there is a next one! - I will make sure sure that either my daughter is there to take a photo or one of the other members takes one. Bridge activities? Give me a break here, would you please? Picture four people sitting around a card table holding cards. You tell me ... ... what could possibly be exciting or even remotely interesting about that?!? (Unless it's Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, of course!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I realize that it's early early on yet ...

... (actually, it's 1pm on Sunday, April 19th), but I'm tickled to death to see the Washington Nationals leading the Florida Marlins 2-0. The Nationals have led the Marlins in each of the last two games, only to see their team fall to defeat in the late (or even extra) innings. Go, Nationals, go! Enuf, already, Marlins, with your out-of-this-world .909 winning percentage.

Let's see, what else is going on early? Well, the Braves are currently ahead with a score of 3-0 against the Pirates, who literally 'blew them out of the park' the first two games of this series. Go, Braves, go!

Well, that's it for my early-on report. Have to go to the store. Am completely out of fudge bars, and my Astros are due to start playing any minute now. More later!

(later) There's a M*A*S*H marathon running on Channel 33, a local station that was the last to get back on the air after Ike hit in September, so I don't have much time, but thought I'd add a few lines.

The Nationals lost again, bless their hearts, and the Marlins winning percentage is now up to an incredible .917. The Braves finally came out of their doldrums and took care of business against the Pirates. My Astros' bats, unfortunately, have developed an allergic reaction to a pitched ball anytime men are on base. Combine that fact with poor relief pitching and you get a record of 1-2 so far in this four-game set with the Reds. The Jays and Red Sox both won a couple of squeakers, the Yankees recovered from their 22-4 pasting yesterday at the hands of the lowly Indians and the Cubs vs.Cardinals game has been postponed.

And there you have it, my baseball recap for our 'club'.

Outside, we've had an absolutely spectacular day! Temp is in the low 70's with bright sunshine, and everywhere you look is green green green. Wunderbar!!

Six Sentences

On March 8th of this year, Steven published a post that told of a site which really captured my imagination ... "six sentences". I thought at the time, "Hmmm," but didn't do anything further than just that initial "Hmmm".

Well, this is my 500th post. 'Hmmm' time is over. Now I'll take some action! Below you will see just a few of the 'six sentence' writings that I'm considering submitting to the site Steven referenced. They're still in kind of a rough state, but I'm having fun with them. Btw, I am open to any and all ideas and suggestions. Better yet, why don't some of you try one or two on for yourselves and see how they fit?

"Please, God, keep my throat open"

I prayed silently, hoping for inspiration, as I sat with my stepmother and sister at my father's memorial service many years ago. I was going to sing - as part of a trio - "How Great Thou Art", which was his favorite hymn. The other members of the trio were Peter - whom I'd known since grade school, tenor, and Judy - college friend, contralto. I had originally announced that I wanted to sing "The Lord's Prayer" for the service, but my stepmother was afraid I wouldn't be strong enough to do it, and so the three of us had snuck in a practice session the day before and I was really pleased with how it went. My only fear was that my throat would close up with emotion when the time came to get up and sing, but it didn't. Thank you, Lord.

"The Intruder"

I was sound asleep in the lower bunk, but something in the middle of the night made me open my eyes and look up. There was a man standing over me! Scared to death, I dove back under the covers and hoped he would go away. After many fearful and sleepless minutes I dared to look out again, but he was still there! When I finally summoned up the courage to bat out at him, I discovered that my eyes had played tricks on me. "He" was only a result of the moonlight shining through the cabin windows on the covers from the bunk above.


I was walking down the middle of a street in broad daylight with no clothes on, but no one seemed to notice. Everyone else was fully-clothed. Why didn't they notice? I sat down at a sidewalk cafe and ordered some hot chocolate as I was feeling a little chilly. When the waiter smilingly served my order, he said, "Here you are, sir!" I thought, "Sir?!?" and woke up.

"Perfectly understandable"

On the way to the office of my boss, the supplier and I both stopped at a secretary's desk to sample some of her delicious caramel goodies. We continued our nonstop conversation all the way, not the least bit intimidated or constrained by the fact that our mouths were full. In fact, we had no trouble at all understanding what each other was saying. When we arrived at his office, still delightedly chewing on and enjoying both the candy and the conversation, he said, "I don't know what language you're speaking, but please do continue!" (This one's only four sentences. I love this story - and, btw, it's a true one! - but will have to find a way to make it six sentences.)

Just in case you'd like to look up other 'hundredth celebration' posts that I have published, you can find them listed here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'm chuckling over ...

... a dream I just had. This is my 499th post, OK? I didn't publish one yesterday. Guess I was thinking too much about my 500th. Still don't know what I'm going to write for my 500th ... just thinking about it. So, even in my dream I'm chuckling about the distinct possibility of not having to write a 500th if I don't do a 499th. Are you following me here?

Well, last night my subconscious decided to take over and produced a 499th. In my dream, I copied a very marked-up draft of one of the incomplete chapters in my autobiography and pasted it directly onto this blog. Is it even possible to do such a thing? I don't know. I'll have to try it and see, won't I?

I'm not sure what my subconscious mind was trying to tell me. Many years ago, my therapist told me that one of the really beneficial aspects of dreams was their ability to allow the subconscious mind to resolve conflicting issues of the day. Was my subconscious advising me to get back to work on my autobiography, or was it telling me to get on with my 499th post so I could begin to concentrate on #500? It was one or the other, wouldn't you say?

Whichever it was, I have come to a decision. I have decided that I will not be doing another major post of a celebratory nature until I reach the plateau of 1,000. That gives me breathing room of at least a year. So, sometime in the year 2010 - August or thereabouts - look for me to start talking about what I'm going to write for my one thousandth. But that's a ways down the road. Breathing room, as I said.

I commented to a friend of mine, whose poetry often involves some sort of dream state, that I recently read the brain is most active when we are sleeping. I thought that little tidbit of info might have produced one of my more wildly convoluted dreams and added (my sleeping brain talking here), "You think you've seen active? I'll show you active!" He responded, "So lucky! I think we get to enjoy a double life -- two lives for the price of one -- when we can recall such dreams."

... hermit crabs named Moulin

and Rouge.

... major league baseball's power rankings. The Atlanta Braves, with a .500 record, are rated #2 overall in the majors according to FOX Sports. Can you believe it? There are five other teams with identical .500 winning percentages and they are ranked 8th, 15th, 16th, 22nd and 26th. Don't you just love it? Oh, the arbitrariness of it all! It's a lot of fun, really, to watch the ratings go up and down, up and down so early in the season. Give it another 20-30 games and things will start to even out a bit. Right now, tho, I'm getting a kick out of watching the seesaw.

My team, of course, is ranked next to last (blown save by Valverde). Who's last? Well, the Nationals are. They finally won a game, however, and last night came very close to upsetting the Marlins, who managed to pull out a win in extra innings. The Marlins winning percentage is a whopping .900 ... almost unheard of. Obscene, even! Another interesting fact is ... of the 15 games played last night in the majors, 8 saw the winner score just one more run than the loser. Eight! Only one blowout. Exciting, huh? I love this game!

Here's hoping all your dreams are good ones and that you get a chuckle or two today!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Climbing the highest mountain

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in May of 1959 by Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, his Sherpa guide and companion.

However, I wasn't focusing on any of that when the name Wendy Booker first came to my attention. When Charles Osgood featured her last May on his "Sunday Morning" show, I was interested in hearing that a woman was trying to climb the tallest mountain on every continent. The Seven Summits, as they are called, with Everest being the highest at over 29,000 feet.

A woman, I thought, and not a 'young' woman at that. Hmmph! But then, I was completely drawn in by her unfolding story when the extensive feature went on to tell about Wendy having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years before and her determination to "push back" the progression of this disease, to not let it defeat her. "I must follow this woman's progress," I said to myself, and made some notes on my blog calendar.

Since Sunday Morning's feature almost a year ago, Wendy has ascended what she smilingly referred to as a "little bump" (Mount Koscuiszko in Australia, about 7,000 feet) in a 2008 interview which you can find here ... scroll down until you come to the actual interview; trained in Oregon for the Khumbu Ice Fields and on Mt. Ixta in Mexico, where the emphasis was placed on 'being at one with the mountain'. She is back in Nepal for the third time in a year, and is now in the long and slow process of climbing and resting, climbing and resting, acclimatizing all along the way to the ever-decreasing oxygen levels and allowing her body to gain strength for the final push to the top.

[A lot has been written about Wendy and her determined quest. I first published an extensive writeup about her last month, when I became a bit concerned that she hadn't posted on her blogsite since January. I was worried that she had either temporarily succumbed to some of the ravages of her disease or had become terribly discouraged by the arduous training and discipline required to succeed in her goal to conquer all of the Seven Summits. I needn't have worried.]

It will take about two months to complete the ascent. When I first read that, I thought it probably would take that long because she's a woman, is not young and has multiple sclerosis. Foolish me. There are 28 other teams registered to climb Everest this season, and they will all take that long! One of the other teams includes someone who is attempting to be the first woman ever to reach the summit without the aid of oxygen tanks. (Whaaat! Is she insane?)

Wendy wrote that all of the camps en route to the top, not to mention the trails themselves, will be full of other climbing teams. She attributed that to the fact that the northern route from Tibet has been closed to outsiders. I'm sure that's at least partially correct, altho I think the 50th anniversary of that first ascent has a lot to do with it, as well. (What I find kind of interesting is that Sir Edmund's route originated in northeast India and went through Tibet. Prior to 1949, it was Nepal that had been closed to outsiders! ... ... I know so little about that part of the world. This has been a real education for me.)

What I'd like to focus on today are the Sherpas, those unique people who originally migrated from Tibet to Nepal centuries ago and are now such an integral part of any mountain expedition in the Himalayas.

I don't know how much you have read or already knew about Sherpas. Wendy has written about them several times in her blog posts, and a couple of her 'beloved Sherpas' are almost like family to her, she says. My "Wendy's in Nepal!" post (already linked above) attracted an extensive comment recommending the book "Beyond the Summit", by Linda LeBlanc. Are you familiar with that book? I'd like to read it again. (Note to self to go to the library.)

In addition to all of those references, however, I want to recommend National Geographic's most recently-featured article*. It's well-researched and written by T.R. Reid (photographs by Robb Kendrick) and includes many insights into the main religion, language and politics of the region, as well as in depth interviews with families and conclusions based on the writer's personal observations. I found this article fascinating! It provided an added dimension to my understanding of the world of Sherpas.

*This article continues on for at least ten pages. If you have the time, I recommend that you read the whole thing.

I hope that I have been able to entice you into learning more about the Himalayas, the history of that part of the world and the Sherpas; following Wendy's and other teams' progress as they strive to reach Everest's summit and allowing a bit of today's politics, particularly as it pertains to Nepal and Tibet, to seep in to your conscious minds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eenie, meenie, minie, moe

I was sitting in the car in a store parking lot out in Katy a short while ago, trying to compose a little poem to write in my daughter's birthday card, and my mind was coming up with nothing, folks! Zip, zero, zilch, nada!!

All of a sudden my fingers starting drumming impatiently - I had fudge bars in the cooler and needed to get back home - on the dashboard over and over again until I began chanting, "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe" over and over again. Incessantly, as in some kind of drone. But then my fingers picked up on the beat and the chant turned into almost a cheer ... "Come on Goldenrod, let's go!" and "Come on, kid, you're good to go!" Then I found myself singing that little phrase - "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe" - to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and came up with probably the stupidest poem ever, but my dad would have loved it!

One of his favorite little ditties went (something like), "I scream for ice cream. We all scream for ice cream. Rah rah rah. Sis boom bah." Do you see why I say he would have loved it?

I think I've told all of you before about how I grew up in a family that loved to play games, particularly my dad. Even while we ate. I kid you not! If it was cards we wanted to play, we had card holders. If we were playing bridge and he was taking too long to make his bid or play, I would sometimes ask in an exasperated fashion, "What do you do, Dad?" He'd quickly respond, "Doodad?" I often thought that he sometimes deliberately took too long just so he would hear that question and could give that same answer.

Do you remember how, when you were a kid, you vowed never to be like one (or both) of your parents for one reason or another? I'm turning into my dad, for crying out loud!

Years ago, my father dared me to write some esoteric poems. I did, and here they are ... ... I titled the series "Esotericity".


Write about "rhubarb", he suggested.
Who cares about rhubarb? (Except as digested.)

A common plant my dad used to grow
When the ground wasn't covered all white with snow.

They'd use it for pies & -- yes, even wine.
I never did cultivate a taste for that vine!

It was kind of pretty, though -- red & green,
Sometimes it even made our Christmas scene.


The rhubarb, a plant,

Is most likely to succeed
If one will, on bended knee

Cultivate the land.


The artichoke
Has on a cloak

of mystery.

Remember the name!
You will see its fame

go down in history.

The poem I hurriedly composed today was nowhere near the quality of those! In fact, my daughter laughed out loud when she read it and threatened to practice and then record a singing version on YouTube (I guess!) for all to see. Lord love us, I hope she doesn't!

Now, the card I bought for her Monday was really pretty, and the verses inside were exactly what I wanted to say. I gave her a long-stemmed pink rose that was quite lovely. My heart had been set on buying her a small hair ornament that included a live flower - very similar to what I did years ago when she first came back to Houston - but I wasn't able to find a shop that could do it. Ah, well! When I left their house to hurry back, her hubby was inside busily slaving over a hot stove, concocting some sort of spaghetti dish for her birthday dinner.

I managed to make it home safely - in spite of passing two major accidents on the way (ambulances, fire trucks, overturned vehicles, blood and gore ... you name it, I saw it) - and get my beloved fudge bars back into a freezing mode before any major meltdown had begun.

Gotta go! The Astros game calleth. They scored twice in the 1st inning and are currently leading 2-0. Prior to that score, they were the only team in major league baseball this season to not score a run in either of the first two innings. Oh, the disgrace of it all! The worst start in 25 years for my team.

... ... ... An interruption. Might even be another before this post is finished, we'll see. We've got an exciting game going on. Well, I should amend add that by adding 'only if you're an Astros fan'. Score is now 4-0, and we're in the 4th.

Before I publish this, I don't want to forget to bring to everyone's attention that every single player in the major leagues today is wearing #42, Jackie Robinson's long since retired number. I believe it was Pudge Rodriguez, now catching for the Astros, who first instituted this tradition just a few years back.

And now I really have to go, or this won't get posted today. My daughter has only one birth date each year, and this is it! Happy birthday, wonderful one.

Much love, Mom

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bits & pieces

Are you ready for this? The winner of the Houston PBS Spelling Bee is ... Aditya Chemudupaty. How'd you like to have to learn to spell that name? :)

April is National Poetry Month, were you aware of that? We're almost halfway through the month of April already, and I haven't posted a poem yet. Tsk, tsk! Well, I'll remedy that situation right now. This latest WITS entry is composed by Graham, 7th grade, and was published April 9th. It's called ... Ghost Town ...

Tumbleweeds blow.
Cirrus clouds flow.

Deserts burn.
Dust devils churn.

Sand dunes shift.
Dust clouds drift.

Wagon grooves.
Nothing moves.

[photo by John Shields via flickr]

I have decided to stop all WOW (my writer's group) activities for a while. Last week was horrendously stressful for me. By the time Friday evening came along, I was drained both physically and emotionally but pushed myself to research and complete the Booker T. Washington post (due this past Sunday) and then forge ahead to try and complete two of my own autobiographical re-writes (also due on Sunday) to submit for our next critique meeting on April 19th.

I was able to submit only one of the re-writes. Just that one gave me a lot of problems! I spent many hours on it both Saturday and Sunday, but couldn't find a way to successfully get past this one little section. I gave up completely on trying to re-write the second and turned to what has given me a great deal of pleasure these last fifteen months ... "Goldenrod's thoughts". That's why you saw two posts from me on Sunday instead of waiting until Monday, as I'd initially thought when I wrote TGIF.

I felt such relief yesterday when I notified the rest of the group that I would not be attending this next critique meeting. Since then, I have been blissfully whiling my time away with no pressures or constraints other than those I place upon myself.

Most importantly, tho, the nightmares have stopped. What nightmares? I can't even bring myself to write about them. They were so real. Horrible! I will only tell you that - twice! - I woke myself up screaming and sobbing, and had to physically get up out of bed and check a couple of different places to make sure that what had been so real only a few moments before did not actually exist.

My daughter's (age deleted) birthday is tomorrow. I found a neat card yesterday while shopping, and will hand-deliver it. I won't be able to get away with surreptitiously delivering it, because Genie (their very loud black Labrador retriever "watch dog") wouldn't let me do such a thing. Doesn't matter if it's grandma or whomever ... she announces any and all in a manner that echoes throughout their household. :)

So what's going on with Beth? She writes that her passport is now almost completely filled with stamps and other official marks of the various countries she has visited on this trip. Where did she tell me she is now? Give me a sec here while I check her latest e-mail ... ... ... She's in Jakarta, for crying out loud! I last wrote about her on the 31st of March, her birthday. Her latest projected return date is the 24th of this month, but I won't be picking her up. Her sister will. See this post (published just a couple or so weeks prior) for some of the good news about her family. I miss her! She's such a dear friend. It's wonderful to hear that she's safe and sound and will be back here with us very soon.

Wendy's been posting like crazy. Have you been periodically checking to see what's been happening with her in her quest to conquer Everest? Heavens to Betsy! The "Where in the World is Wendy?" site has just - within the last day or so - been updated. Check it out for yourself. And just in case you lost the link to Wendy's blog, here it is again.

I'm going to conclude this post with a Maxine cartoon. I love this woman!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Criminals or terrorists?

I could hardly believe my ears today when - while driving to the store - the main question on one of the local radio talk shows was, "Should pirates be treated as criminals or terrorists?" (This in reference, of course, to the Somali situation.)

Give me a break here!

I thought to myself, "What's the difference between a criminal and a terrorist?" Have we now bent so far backwards in our efforts to try and be politically correct that we cannot even say that a bad guy is a bad guy?

Is my question too simplistic?

Just about anything that happens anywhere in the world these days instantaneously becomes news. Some of it is 'raw', as I wrote about here. Some of it is everyone's business and some of it is downright none of my or anyone else's business!

You know, folks, I would sometimes very much prefer to be an ostrich ... one who hides his head in the sand and pretends that nothing bad is happening, but every once in a while I can't. I just can't!

Radio talk shows certainly have their place, particularly here in the Houston area last fall after Ike did his best to try and devastate the entire upper Gulf Coast of Texas. Station after station had lines open 24/7 for distressed citizens to call in and vent their frustrations. That was a good thing. A really good thing.

However, I wonder whether this local station really cares about the difference (I'm assuming there's a difference in re prosecution, detainment and/or penalties) between these two terms - criminal vs. terrorist, or do they care more about their ratings?

Sometimes, it seems to me that it's only "news" if it's utterly absurd, shocking, controversial or particularly gory.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

And then there were six

Our little group has expanded to six with the addition of Tammy, our home-schooling mom extraordinaire, who announced yesterday that she wanted to play! She's not really into baseball all that much, to tell you the truth, but I'm going to include her teams because they are in the same divisions as two we're already following.

"Teams" (plural) was not a typo. When Tammy does pay attention to what's happening in baseball - and she admits that it's only when her teams are doing well, she roots for the St. Louis Cardinals (altho she lives in Idaho) because that's what her daddy does and her grandpa did, and for the Yankees because she lived there for a short while years ago and quickly became captivated by the Yankee mystique. An interesting little sidenote here. Her great grandpa was a cab driver in St. Louis. Last year, she sent me a photo of him standing beside his taxicab, and here it is ... ...

All right, so where are we now? Well, my team (Astros) continues to suck big time! We were swept by St. Louis in that three-game series and are now tied with the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central for the second worst winning percentage in baseball, a .167. Isn't that pitiful? Only the Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) have a worse record. Bless their hearts, they haven't won a single game!

Steven's team (Blue Jays) lost yesterday, so they no longer can lay claim to the best winning percentage. That honor is now co-shared by the Atlanta Braves (Patrick's team) and the Florida Marlins, both of whom are in the National League East. Where are the Yankees and Red Sox (my son-in-law's team) in this mix? Well, they're in the same division as the Blue Jays ... the American League East. The Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are currently tied for 3rd with identical records of 3-3, and the Red Sox are in last place in that division with a record of 2-4.

Yesterday, I linked a site that I thought Steven might find useful in his quest to try and keep up with baseball in general and his Blue Jays in particular. (He's really not a diehard baseball fan, but his first love in professional sports - the Toronto Maple Leafs [hockey] got knocked out of the playoffs early, and he was looking for a place to try and transfer his affections.) Today, I'd like to recommend a couple more sites for him. Actually, these are the ones I go to most often for updates. The first is the home page for FOX Sports baseball. Headlines, photos, trade rumors, recaps of some of the games, gossip, etc., can all be found on this page.

FOX Sports covers many aspects of not only major league baseball, but other sports as well. You'll find out for yourself, Steven, if you click on that site. My personal favorite - and one I have programmed into my computer shortcuts - is this one. In addition to the standings, there is a scroll bar at the top where you can check on games in progress and a "Power Ranking" sidebar which - while it is as yet VERY early, you might want to make a note of what it says today, tomorrow, next week, etc., to see how how much it varies throughout the season. Fascinating!

You might well ask, "Why have I left out Chuck?" I've gotta tell ya, folks, that Chuck does more than hold his own with his 'stark raving mad' (my term) fanatical support of his beloved Cubs. He moans and groans a lot over his team, but at least they have - albeit that it occurred a century ago - a World Series win under their belts! Anyone who has the ring on their cell phone programmed to the "Go Cubs, Go!" fight song does not need my support!

As I've already said, it's early yet. This is just the first salvo. To be continued in another couple of weeks or so.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Astros? Barf and arrgh!

Well, there are five of us now who are included in this blog's friendly (?) baseball rivalry.

Steven has decided that he wants to be in our group. He describes himself as a Toronto Blue Jays' fan -- "Well, sort of," he says. He's "trying on baseball this season" now that his hockey team has been knocked out of the playoffs ... "season ended prematurely, like some marriages," he added with a wink.

Glad to have you aboard, Steven. We need people with a sense of humor. And your timing couldn't possibly have been better! Your team is leading both the American and National Leagues in winning percentage (.833), did you know that? Have you discovered this site? This is where you can check daily to find out how your Blue Jays compare to the other teams in your division and see how the rest of the American League is doing. You can even check on the National League, if you want to.

Your team and my son-in-law's team (Boston Red Sox) are in the same division. The Red Sox are currently 2-3, tied for last with Tampa Bay in the American League East.

Patrick's team (Atlanta Braves) really struggled last year, and he was discouraged early. However, this year the Braves have started out with a bang. They have a 4-1 record. That's a winning percentage of .800, which is almost as good as it gets. Keep it up, Patrick! (That is, until you play the Astros. In which case, it's "Go, Astros!" But we're not in the same division, so I'll be cheering for your team a lot.)

The Chicago Cubs (Chuck's team), who tore through the National League's Central Division like gangbusters last year but then fell flatter than the proverbial pancake in the playoffs for God only knows whatever reason, are now tied for second place with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unbelievable!

Leading the Central Division pack are (my personally least favorite team - sorry, Tammy!) the St. Louis Cardinals, who have beaten my Astros twice already in a set of three games. I watched yesterday's debacle. I don't think it's so much bad pitching as it is a case of lack of timely hitting. In each of the first three innings yesterday, we left two men on base. Unacceptable!

I realize that it's way early in the season, but still! My team, up to this point, pretty much sucks. (However, that won't stop me from watching the game that's due to start in a little over two hours now. I have to catch these games that will be shown on my television set when I can, right?)

Waterhole cam pictures

In South Texas, sometimes motion detector cameras are posted at feeders/tanks to see what is going on. Check out the photographs below to see some of what was happening last month ... ...

Friday, April 10, 2009


We all know what TGIF means, right? And church groups like to say TGIS. (Thank God It's Sunday) You've heard that one, haven't you? Well, the singles group I belonged to at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church years ago liked to say TGIS, too, but it didn't have quite the same meaning. Do you want to take a guess? Do you want to think about it first instead of my just coming straight out with the answer? All right. I'll let you. You'll find the answer at the very bottom of this post.

Thought I'd better publish one today, because there won't be much free time available from here on out until Monday. I'll be working on my autobiography for WOW's next critique session as submissions are due Sunday, and tomorrow afternoon I get to watch the Astros play in the afternoon and "The Ten Commandments" in the evening. Super special Saturday from 3pm on, wouldn't you say? Sunday afternoon it's the Astros again, and then Sunday evening I'll be watching part three of a 5-part series on PBS - "Little Dorrit". I love Masterpiece Classic!

Let's have some fun. On Wednesday, Chuck published "A Brief Test". There are only four questions. You're supposed to read through them quickly and then, without deliberation or the use of aids, spontaneously provide the answers.

How do you think you'll do on a 'test' like this? I had a lot of fun with it. I groaned after missing the first question, nailed #s 2 and 3, and number four made me laugh out loud! (Btw, I did not get #4 right.) Here we go ... ...

1. You are competing in a race and overtake the runner in second place. In which position are you now?

(You overtook the second runner and took his place. Therefore, you are now in second place.)

2. If you had overtaken the last runner, what position would you be in?

(If you answered second to last, you are wrong. How can you overtake a person who is last? If you are behind them, they can't be last. You are!)

3. A math question -- and no calculators allowed. Take 1000. Add 40. Add another 1000. Add 30. 1000 again. Plus 20. Another 1000. And 10. What's the total?

(Answer: 5000? Incorrect! It's 4100. Now you may get out your calculators.)

4. Marie's father has five daughters named ... Chacha ... Cheche ... Chichi ... Chocho ... ? ... ... What's the fifth daughter's name?

(Chuchu? WRONG! Read the whole question again. It's so obvious the second time through, isn't it? I had way too good a time saying, "Choo choo!")

Wasn't that fun? If you have a few minutes to spare and would like even more laughs, this post of Chuck's is just hilarious! It's called "Chariot Races".

Now, unless there is "breaking news" my way, you probably won't see another post from me until Monday. Have a great weekend, everybody!

PS. TGIS = Thank God I'm Single

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ta da!

I just hit "Submit" on my application to become a free-lance blogger for the Examiner. I'm so danged proud of myself! FInally!!

Meanwhile, because I haven't really posted much since Booker T. on Sunday, I thought I'd try and bring you up to date. Nothing much has happened that's exciting. Mainly I've been busy with WOW (my writer's group) stuff. There's a bit of internal wrangling going on that, hopefully, will be resolved soon. That's where my creative time was spent Monday. Well, between that and extensive napping because I'd gotten so little sleep the night before. :(

Tuesday was more of the same (not napping, necessarily, but WOW stuff). In addition to that, however, and the small amount of time it took to write and publish my post that day, my son-in-law and I spent a good two hours trying to identify, address and fix various and sundry problems that I'd been having with my computer. There was something in the system that was using up my computer's "Memory" at an alarming rate. There were other problems as well, and while they've not all been resolved to our mutual satisfaction, I'm moving on. At least I'm getting my e-mails!

Yesterday I mentored at the bridge studio. This was our third time playing together and we are scheduled to play again May 13th (always the 2nd Wednesday). I first mentioned this gal here. We had another *great session* and spent as much time as we could together afterwards (before they closed and locked the doors on us) trying to discuss key aspects of the game that had come up. I botched the defense on one hand (Ouch!), which really irritated me. However, declarer,who was another mentee, could (and should!) have avoided a possible set by playing the trump suit differently. But she didn't, and I failed to take advantage of it. Ouch, as I already said.

* * By writing 'great session', I don't mean to imply that we won. We didn't even check the scores. Just as soon as I hit the 'Publish Post' button for "Ta da!", I'll be drafting an e-mail to my mentee which will outline a couple of things that I think will be really helpful for her to work on, bidding-wise, between now and our next get-together. I'm having a lot of fun with this, as you can probably tell.

An added complication to my schedule, which will continue on into September and hopefully a couple of weeks beyond, has been the start of baseball season. I've been able to watch only one Astros game thus far ... the one they won in 10 innings Tuesday night. :) I'll be able to watch three more within the next week, and then it's almost "Timbuktu city" for me, not having cable.

But that's OK. I still have my radio. They're "off" today. Tomorrow they begin a three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals and I'll get to watch two of those games on television ... the ones on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I'm really looking forward to those. Then they go on to Pittsburgh to play against the Pirates. I'll see only one of those games on television, the one on Wednesday evening, April 15th. (Income Tax day. Have you filed your tax return yet?) Also, April 15th is my daughter's birthday. If you think I'm going to tell you how old she'll be this year, you can guess again! Let's just say she's getting to that sensitive age where she doesn't want to publicize how old she is and let it go at that, OK? :)

We play a bunch of games this first month against our National League's Central Division rivals. I like that! So far we are 1 and 2 in wins and losses. Chuck's (Cubs) and Patrick's (Braves) teams are both 2 and 1, I believe. My son-in-law's team (Boston Red Sox) opening season record is ... ... ? ... ... he didn't even know when their opening day was, for crying out loud! What kind of fickle fan is that?!? I mean, I ask you!

How much is left of my grape salad? Not much! One large container. I had to go over to HEB to buy some gorgonzola cheese. The fellow (at that Kroger's store) who made it didn't put nearly enuf cheese in it to suit my fancy! Do you want to know what I think is going to happen? I think that, pretty soon, I will have enough of the necessary ingredients to make my own, that's what I think is going to happen!

Q: How does one invest in cracked pepper when one only uses it in grape salad? That's a serious question, OK? Please don't take it lightly. I'd appreciate any good answers/suggestions. Or maybe they make it now where you can purchase teeny tiny quantities? I haven't investigated that possibility!

All right. Moving on. Let's go north and east to my friends in Michigan, whose daughter is undergoing just horrendous therapies to try and combat and then defeat what was initially presented less than four months ago as a most aggressive and potentially deadly cancer.

I have since heard from the mother. Six hours were spent in treatment just three days ago and her daughter has since had allergic reactions to danged near EVerything, including the tape used to try and seal the spot where a needle had been injected!

All of them are fighting, fighting, fighting! Please continue to send your thoughts and prayers their way.

That about does it for me today. I'm going to hit 'Publish Post' in just another second and then go on to read some of my "Favorites" and perhaps leave a comment or two before starting that e-mail to my duplicate bridge mentee.

I'm sending the warmest thoughts that I can possibly conjure up to send your way. Please know that I care about each and every one of you!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Opening Day

Barf, aargh, and all those other yukky epithets. Roy O's very first pitch was met by the Cubbie Dubbie Dewies' leadoff hitter connecting with a home run, for crying out loud! What a way to begin the season.

The above paragraph was written yesterday evening. It's now early am on Tuesday. I've gotta tell ya, folks, that it didn't get any better. :( Roy's first pitch in the 2nd inning was met with another connecting home run by the bad guys, and our hitters were nowhere in sight.

I don't want to take anything away from Carlos Zambrano, the starting pitcher for the Cubs. He pitched extremely well, and Lou Piniella - being the good manager that he is - took him out when it appeared that he was lagging. The Cubbies went on to win ... 4 to 2 was the final score.

And so, we have begun the season 0 and 1. Tonight I'll get to watch the game on TV. More reports tomorrow, no doubt.

Yesterday, I had intended to complete my application to be a free-lance blogger. I wrote extensively about my agonizing (I hate applications and interviewing. Absolutely hate that whole process!) here.

However, I hadn't slept at all well the night before. Think it was because of our extreme weather change. It's been a really weird early spring! Found myself having to nap a couple of times during the day. In addition to that, tho, I was more focused on some of WOW's (my writer's group) concerns ... and, to compound matters, my mind kept drifting north and east to Michigan, where the 44-year-old daughter of two of my dearest friends was undergoing radical treatment (three different and very powerful drugs being administered during one session) for breast cancer.

WOW's concerns have now been fully addressed and I'll be getting responses back from each of them later on today, no doubt, but the main body of the issue has been satisfactorily resolved in my mind. I spent more than just a few hours on this. It was important to me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Booker T. Washington

When I was doing research for my post on George Washington Carver, I kept coming across the names Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee Institute, neither of which were unfamiliar to me. What I hadn't realized, however, was how intertwined their lives were from 1896 on.

There are many similarities as well as significant differences between the two men. They were both born into slavery. Dr. Carver was orphaned as an infant and adopted as his surname that of the owners of the plantation where he grew up, where he did light household chores and helped with the gardening. Very little is known about Booker T.'s white father, but he remembered distinctly how - at the age of 9 - tears were streaming down his mother's cheeks as she held her three children close and listened as the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 was being read. Dr. Carver was born in Missouri in either 1864 or 1865, depending on which account you read -- Booker T. in Virginia. Dr. Carver never married. Booker T. was married three times. His first two wives both died less than five years after entering into their marriages. His third wife helped raise his young children and outlived him by twenty years.

Dr. Carver worked hard to earn enough money to go to college, and did not enroll in one until he was 26 years old. Booker T. began his studies (at the age of 16) at the Hampton Institute, which had been founded in 1868 by then 29-year old Brevet Brigadier General Samuel Chapman Armstrong who had been in command of colored troops in the Union Army during the Civil War.

General Armstrong's story is interesting, as well, and as you might imagine I found myself getting sidetracked again and again yesterday while delving deeper into what lay behind the timeline of Booker T.'s life.

As he would later write in his autobiography, Up From Slavery, Booker T. recalled that he was admitted to Hampton in spite of his ragged appearance because of the ability he demonstrated while sweeping and dusting a room. (General Armstrong took great stock in the 'moral value of manual labor'.)

How did Booker T. get to Hampton? That's a good question, isn't it? It's a distance of at least 250 miles, I would say. What do you think? How did he do it? Did he walk? Did he work along the way to pay for food or did he swipe it? Where did he sleep? Here's a map of the route it's surmised that he must have taken.

I was going to say make sure you click on the map to enlarge it, but it won't enlarge, so let me quickly try and give you a good link to the exact page where I found it. Go here. That will get you to the main page of the Booker T. Washington Papers as made available by the University of Illinois Press. Click on images. Scroll briefly down to Volume 2: 1860-89. Click again on that. That's the volume you want if you want to see this map in greater detail. Keep clicking "Next" until you get to the sixth page. If you then click on the map it will enlarge and you can get a much better idea of what I'm talking about.

Btw, there's a photo a little further down in this post that you'd probably like to enlarge, as well - that of Tuskegee's campus as it appeared in 1881. You'll find it on the fourth page of Volume 2. I really apologize for making you go the long way around here. I've tried to link each page directly with no success whatever. Even tried typing in a couple of the world's longest and most convoluted URL's, and that procedure didn't work either.

However, as long as you've taken the time to get there, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to go back in history over 100 years. Fair warning, tho. You could easily find yourself getting almost as sidetracked as I did! Fascinating, isn't it? There's page after page after page of photographs from that period in American history, all of which can be enlarged. And, after you enlarge them, there'll be brief descriptions underneath (not visible unless enlarged).

The story of blacks in America is gut-wrenching, as perhaps it is in many parts of the world, but I can only speak for this country -- how I feel.

After the Civil War, the South was impoverished. Blacks and whites alike. Even worse, except for isolated instances, blacks had for many years been forbidden to learn how to read, educate or try to improve themselves and their condition.

The Hampton Institute had been founded initially, with the aid of the American Missionary Association, to prepare promising young African-American men and women to lead and teach their newly-freed people. In 1881, General Hampton recommended to the founders of a new normal* school that Booker T. be named its head. Thus, at the ripe old age of 25, he became the first president of Tuskegee Institute.

Here's what Tuskegee's "campus" looked like in 1881 ...

Again, it can't be enlarged from here. You'll have to go back to the procedures I outlined under the Virginia map above.

*Normal school = a school for the training of teachers. The college I first attended, Northern Michigan University, was founded as a 'normal' school.

A serious complication developed. There were many students being graduated from Tuskegee who were now trained and qualified to teach, but there were no schools that were admitting colored students or hiring colored teachers. Booker T. worked tirelessly throughout the rest of his life recruiting benefactors and, with their monetary contributions and the help of local negro volunteers, was directly responsible for the construction of close to 5,000 schools in the South whose doors were open to people of color.

Any words I can possibly think of to write about this man and what he did in his relatively short lifetime (he died at the age of 59) to further the circumstances of 'his people' would be woefully inadequate. It was only after receiving approval from his descendants a few years ago to extensively study his medical records that it was learned his blood pressure was twice that of normal! He died at his beloved Tuskegee on November 14, 1915.

How did he and George Washington Carver connect? In 1896, GWC accepted an invitation from Booker T. to be the head of Tuskegee's new Department of Agriculture. He accepted and - 47 years later, died there. Both of them are buried on the grounds.

A "PS" to myself. I need to get to the library and check out Up From Slavery. I'm pretty sure I read it many years ago, but I'd like to read it again.

Just a side note here. You will discover, if you do much research at all on either of these two men - or even General Armstrong, for that matter! - many divergences from what you might always have considered the truth. I have written about this before. Accept what you choose to accept. Believe what you choose to believe. However, there is no question whatsoever in my mind that these men - together as well as independently - made a significant contribution to and helped shape modern day America.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A couple of thises and thats ... ...

I could have said theses and thoses, I suppose, but I like thises and thats better. :)

Well, I now have grape salad in my refrigerator. Surprise, surprise!

I stopped by Kroger's - which is almost on my way back home from Hobby Airport - yesterday morning, just to see if they had any grape salad. It was Friday, and I thought, "What can it hurt? At least I can get some of that good fish they serve up in their deli every Friday." Besides that, I needed to get a couple more boxes of that large kleenex that I like so much. Are you familiar with those? They are the ones where - after you take one out of the box and blow into it - it doesn't immediately disintegrate right in front of your eyes.

So anyway, I was kind of hopeful that Kroger's might have some of my grape salad, even tho they hadn't called me as Debbie had promised me they would, because I bought some of those large luscious-looking grapes at Randall's the other day when I was there.

Long story short, I went over to the deli and guess what? No grape salad. I saw Debbie and asked when she thought they might be making grape salad again and she said, "We had some earlier this morning but we must have sold out." Aargh! I said, "I thought you were going to call me." She said, "I gave your number to -----," pointing behind the counter. "Didn't he call?" "Nooooo," was my getting ever more exasperated by the second but trying to keep my cool answer.

"We'll have some for you tomorrow!" she cheerily said. Lying through my teeth, I responded, "Debbie, I won't be here tomorrow. I live way out in Katy! I'm only here today because I was on my way back home from Hobby Airport." "Well, we'll make some up for you. It'll only take an hour or so."

I thought about it. I asked, "You know that I only like those big luscious grapes in my grape salad. Do you have any of those?" "Yes, we do!" I thought some more. "OK," I said, and I went to visit with a couple of old coots sitting at a small table near the deli (one old female coot visiting with a couple of old male coots, you understand) - after first putting my order in for the fish that was soon to be ready. Yum, yum!

Paul (one of the old coots) said, "I like your outfit." "You must like the color blue," I responded. (What did I have on? Blue jeans, blue shirt and a blue denim jacket.) "Yes," he said. We made idle chit chat for a while, but were a little distracted by CNN's raw footage of that deadly standoff hostage situation in Binghamton, New York. Wasn't what happened there awful?

While we were all three sitting there, Debbie came up and whispered in my ear, "They're picking out the grapes right now. And, by the way, there'll be no charge." I was astounded, and I'm sure the shock registered on my face. I said, "Whaat!!" She said, "You've been here and called more than enough times. We want you to keep coming back." My goodness!

The fish was ready. I purchased my usual two small containers and started my shopping. There wasn't much of it to do, really. They had the kleenex, hooray! It's not in every store every day, and so I grabbed two boxes. I restrained myself from loading more fudge bars into my cart and looked for the cheese I wanted. Kind of hard to believe that I only would eat Velveeta when I was a kid. Ugh! Just the idea of it now makes me crinkle up my nose and frown. I like Cheddar ... the sharper the better.

That was it for my shopping. I went back to the deli. Grape salad wasn't quite ready yet, so I sat down at one of the tables (an old female coot all by herself) and proceeded to gobble up most of one of the two small containers of fish. Yummy!

While I was in mid-chew the grape salad arrived, all bundled up and ready to go. Looked like 4 large containers. Ye Gods! Debbie wanted a hug. I readily gave her one. Then she trotted out this enormous black dude from the back, whom she introduced as the creator of my grape salad. He wanted a hug! Hug-giver extraordinaire, that's me!!

So how much of it have I eaten? "Zero" is how much. I'm almost afraid to even look at it! I guess I prefer to just sit back and savor the fact that it actually exists in my refrigerator after all these months!! How long has it been, anyway? Too long, for sure.

My application to be an "examiner" is going to have to wait until Monday. Craig and Polimom, I know that you both read my last post because you commented on it. For any of you who are reading this one but don't know what I'm talking about because you didn't read Taking a break ..., you should probably take a few moments to cruise through it.

[Even when I first set eyes on the ad, I realized that I wanted to be hired. I immediately thought of a couple of topics where I might be considered an "expert" ... bridge and taxicab driving. I decided to make my first application on the subject of bridge.]

Why is my application going to have to wait until Monday? Well, this morning I'll be sitting on one of the visitors' benches as a (hopefully) very loud - at least, as long as I can retain my voice - supporter of my granddaughter as she participates in a volleyball tournament. Later on today I'll be reading other WOW members' submissions for our critique meeting tomorrow afternoon in addition to gathering my research and thoughts for a post I want to publish tomorrow, the 153rd anniversary of the birth of Booker T. Washington.

Hasta manana!

PS. Wendy posted again yesterday.