Mid-Life Ramblings; Sanity Optional

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's a Boy!!!

We have been kitty-less in this house for a year now, since our beloved Omar died. I have to admit that I have been very lonesome for some kitty love. Before E and the dogs came into my life, I had cats. Three to be exact. And old age took them all. So last October I found myself catless for the first time in 19 years and I thought that was going to be alright. But as time has passed, I've become more lonesome for a cat.

So a couple of days ago I found a cat through Petfinder.com and begged E to let me get him. He is about a year old and a full-blooded Persian. He's just the sweetest boy you can imagine. The rescue group had named him Rex but since I have a BIL named Rex, we knew we'd have to change his name. So I let E name him - Guinness - no, not after Sir Alex Guinness the famed actor, not even after the famous world record keepers. No, our Guinness is named after Guinness Stout, E's favorite beer. E says Guinness is the color of the foam that tops a good glass of Guinness Stout. I've already shortened it to Gus.

As of right now, Guinness has not yet met the dogs. They are off getting groomed and have no clue when they return it will be to find the place has been taken over by a cat. But they were used to having Omar around so I think things will go well. Guinness was exposed to dogs in rescue and he's VERY laid back. I expect he'll just put them on "ignore" and go about his business.

Here are the pics that we have. I've tried taking new ones but he won't stand for it. Such a typical cat.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lionel, I Think I Love You

I listen to Air America from 10 am until 5 pm daily at work. Since their Air America 2.0 reinvention, they've added a couple of new shows. One of those shows is the Lionel Show. I was not an instant Lionel fan. He has a terrible habit of ridiculing some of his callers and I really don't like hosts that do that. But he's been growing on me as a host.

Today he announced his "Education Manifesto" that he would use if he were the head of the Department of Education.

1. Education is not a right, it's a privilege.

2. One-size-fits-all education is not good. Not every child is meant for college. Determine whether a child should be on the college track or the vocation track and educate them accordingly.

3. Unruly kids are returned to their parents after intense due process. Schools are not babysitters. If a kid brings a gun to school, the parents get to complete his education.

4. Pay kids to attend school just like they will be paid for working as adults. Giving them tangible incentives keeps them interested and gets them to invest more in school.

5. Learning a second language would be mandatory.

6. School would be year-round. Summer vacation was put into place when we were an agrarian society. Kids no longer have to work in the fields.

7. Rudimentary life training would be mandatory. Kids would learn about credit, how to manage a checking account, how to parent, and other life tools.

8. Lessons in manners and elocution would be mandatory.

9. The pay scale for educators would be inverted. Front line teachers would be paid the most and administrators would be paid the least to encourage good teachers to stay in the classroom.

And that, folks, is when I fell in love with Lionel.


Friday, September 21, 2007

I Want to Make This Perfectly Clear

All day long I've been listening to the various shows on Air America as the hosts discussed the Jena 6 and yesterday's march. Inevitably, each host would have to field calls from callers with the following questions:

Didn't those six guys commit a crime? Why shouldn't they go to trial? Why shouldn't they be in jail? Why do y'all want them to get off with no consequences?

I hope that at least someone with those questions stumbles across my little blog here because I'm about to answer them.

Yes, a fight broke out and a crime was committed. Yes, those who committed that crime should go to court and, if found guilty, serve any sentence that is given to them to serve. NO ONE has demanded that these guys get off "scott free".

It has never been questioned that a fight broke out at school and a boy was beaten up. The problem all along has been the unfair way punishment has been handed out.

Let's compare:

1. Three nooses are hung from an oak tree after two black kids sit there for lunch the previous day. The offenders are three white boys. Nooses hanging from a tree mean one thing and one thing only. They are a threat to the lives of the black kids. Punishment for those three white boys - Each given a three day in-school suspension.

2. At a party, a black kid is beaten up by a 22 year old white male wielding a beer bottle. Punishment - The white male is charged with a misdemeanor and given probation.

3. At a convenience store, two white males harass two black males and an argument ensues. One of the white males grabs a shotgun out of his truck and points it at the two black males. Here in Louisiana that crime is called aggravated assault (AKA assault with a deadly weapon). One of the black males wrestles the shotgun away from the white male and leaves the scene with it. Punishment - white male who committed aggravated assault, none - black male who left with the shotgun to keep from being shot with it, theft.

4. A fight between white and black students starts at school. In the course of the fight, a white male is beaten and kicked by several black males. When I was growing up and going through school, if there was a fight, everybody involved got into trouble. Punishment - white kids involved, none - six black kids involved, charged with attempted second degree murder.

So let's look at our totals now:

White kids
1. Three days in-school probation
2. Misdemeanor and probation
3. None
4. None

Black kids
1. None
2. None
3. Theft of a shotgun
4. Attempted 2nd Degree Murder and Conspiracy to Commit 2nd Deg. Murder

Now weigh those punishments in the white column against the punishments in the black column. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm...looks quite a bit heavier in the black column to me.

So what should be done in the case of the Jena 6? Well, their charges have all been reduced to aggravated 2nd degree battery, which is still a felony. My question is why does the white guy who beat somebody up get a misdemeanor and some probation when the black kids who beat somebody up get felonies with the possibility of 10 years in prison at hard labor? How about reducing those felonies to misdemeanors? That might work.

The basis of the Jena 6 issue has always been the heavy-handedness with which charges have been handed out and how unbalanced those charges have been between the two races. I don't understand why some white people can't wrap their head around this. (I am white, BTW) Our country is based on the foundation of equality for all. This isn't pre-civil war America; this is 2007, for crying out loud. This isn't supposed to happen any more. But it will continue to happen as long as there are folks out there that take the "oh, it's not so bad" attitude. Wake up, people. It's bad and we need to do something about it.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

In Support of the Jena 6

Racism is alive and well here in this country, folks. And anyone who doesn't believe that is a gigantic fool.

Take Jena, Louisiana, for example. A town of nearly 3000 people that is 85% white and 12% African American.

A year ago, a new black student at Jena High School had the audacity to ask the school principal if he could sit under the oak tree to eat his lunch. The principal told him he could eat anywhere he wanted to. However, the white students there were under the impression that the tree was their sacred lunch ground. The reaction to this new student joining them for lunch was to hang three nooses from the tree the next morning. The three white student were originally expelled from school but the school board reversed the Principal's decision and only gave them each a three-day in-school suspension. It was the position of the school board that this was "just an innocent teenage prank".

Later on a black student was invited to a party attended by mostly white students. While at the party, the young man was beaten up by a 22 year-old wielding a beer bottle. The 22 year-old was charged with a misdemeanor and received probation.

Shortly after the beating at the party, the victim and a friend went to a local convenience store where two white students began to tease the young man about having been beaten. A scuffle broke out and one of the white students pulled a shotgun on the black student. He was able to wrestle the shotgun away and left with it. Rather than charging the white student with aggravated assault, the black student was arrested and charged with theft of the shotgun.

Somewhere in between all of this, there was a fire at the high school. No one knows who the offenders are.

The final event in all of this was a fight that broke out at the school between white and black students. During the fight, a white student was beaten and lost consciousness and was kicked repeatedly by black students. Six students, now known as the Jena 6 were arrested and charged with attempted second degree murder. It needs to be noted that the "lethal weapons" used by the black students were their shoes. It also needs to be noted that the white student was treated in the E/R and released that same afternoon. He was well enough to attend the ring ceremony at the high school that very evening.

The district attorney Reed Walters showed up at the school during all of this and had a meeting with the black students. At one point he took his pen out of his pocket, looked at them, and said, "I can end your life with one stroke of my pen." Walters has, however, continued to deny that these charges were racially motivated. In a press conference yesterday, he swore he tried to find something to charge the noose hangers with but just couldn't find anything. Hmmmmmmmm...as a former Louisiana law enforcement officer, might I suggest terrorizing? Ol' Reed Walters really wouldn't have had to dig that deep for that one. It's a felony, too.

Mychael Bell, the first of the Jena 6 to stand trial, was convicted of aggravated 2nd degree battery (a felony) in July. Today was supposed to have been his sentencing date. Thankfully, an appeals court overturned the verdict last week, citing that Bell should not have been tried as an adult. Of course, the D.A. is going to try him again.

Tens of thousands of folk descended on Jena today to protest this case. Among those in attendance was a large delegation from the church E and I attend, the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge. I was not able to get off of work to attend but was proud that those who were able to were representing me as well. They are calling today's protest "the largest since the Civil Rights movement".

There was also a rally on the steps of the state capitol here in Baton Rouge this afternoon. Thanks to the horrible traffic in this town, I got there at the very tail end. There were only about 20 people left when I arrived. I did manage to take a couple of pictures, though.

You know, although I am often so very proud of my home state, things like this just make me hang my head in shame.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

St. Jude's Golden Nugget

The article from St. Jude's website.

a discovery in Memphis, Tennessee, promises to have a similar effect on the field of cancer research. A team of researchers found new mutations that contribute to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common type of childhood cancer. The strategy the scientists used to make that discovery has started a “gold rush” worldwide, because it shows researchers how they can identify unsuspected mutations in adult cancers, as well.


Until recently, scientists lacked the tools for such a project. Then the human genome project provided a kind of blueprint of what normal genes look like in humans. Scientists also developed new technology to aid in the search.

In 2005, the timing and conditions were right for St. Jude to conduct a study to pinpoint the lesions that lead to leukemia. The hospital had the technology and a vast store of leukemia samples from St. Jude patients. “We thought that we could apply that technology and gain insights into the lesions that were present in leukemic cells that were not present in patients’ normal cells,” Downing explains. “We would then be able to take that information and start identifying the number of lesions in existence.”


Developing therapies based on these discoveries will be a long process. “But, really, to some extent, it’s like the gold rush,” Downing says. “From a scientific point of view, what this says is that there’s gold in those hills. Now we know how to find it, and let’s go find it.”

Downing predicts that within the next few years, this kind of study will be conducted on every human tumor. “As a result, an incredible amount of information is going to come out that will be a leap in our understanding of what causes cancer,” he says. “People are racing to do this, and that’s good. The competition will accelerate research, and we will end up getting answers much more quickly, which is what we are really after, especially in a place like St. Jude. We really don’t care about getting the credit; we just want to figure out how to improve treatment for kids with cancer.”

One day the world will be cancer-free because of this study. And my nephew, Tyler, will live the rest of his now healthy life knowing that when he was just a little boy of six, his blood was part of the study that started it all.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Tonight we will be treated to yet another Bu$h speech meant to drum up support for his ill-gotten war in Iraq.

Here are some of the lies we're expected to hear -

  1. That the surge has been a success.

  2. That he's going to follow General Petraeus' recommendation that some troops be drawn down.

  3. That as many as 30,000 troops will be drawn down by next summer provided the surge continues to be a success.

  4. That because of this Petraeus plan, 2200 Marines are coming out of Iraq as he speaks and will not be replaced.

  5. That Iran is forcing us to move in a direction that might include invading them.

Now let's talk about the truth.

  1. The surge has not been a success. The Pentagon has been cherry-picking the numbers of casualties.
    Senior U.S. officers in Baghdad disputed the accuracy and conclusions of the largely negative GAO report, which they said had adopted a flawed counting methodology used by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Many of those conclusions were also reflected in last month's pessimistic National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

    The intelligence community has its own problems with military calculations. Intelligence analysts computing aggregate levels of violence against civilians for the NIE puzzled over how the military designated attacks as combat, sectarian or criminal, according to one senior intelligence official in Washington. "If a bullet went through the back of the head, it's sectarian," the official said. "If it went through the front, it's criminal."

    "Depending on which numbers you pick," he said, "you get a different outcome." Analysts found "trend lines . . . going in different directions" compared with previous years, when numbers in different categories varied widely but trended in the same direction. "It began to look like spaghetti."

  2. The White House wrote the talking points for Petraeus. This is not his plan at all.

  3. There may be 30,000 troops that will be home by next summer but it's not some big new plan. This will only bring troops back down to the level before the surge began. This is where the administration's slight of hand gets really good. You see, they're trying to make us feel wonderful about the fact that 30,000 troops may get to come home so that we forget that THE GOAL OF THE SURGE WAS TO END THE WAR NOT END THE SURGE. These troops have to come home anyway because they are going to be at the end of their 15 month deployment limit.

  4. Those 2200 Marines were scheduled to come home anyway and had nothing to do with this so-called new plan.

  5. It's the same song, second verse. Halliburton must be running low on funds and needing another country to reconstruct.

I know that Rachel Maddow just announced her new Bu$h speech drinking game for tonight but I won't be watching. I just can't bring myself to do it. Plus E won't let me. He's afraid I might break one of the TVs when I get mad and throw something at it..


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Note to self:

No more coffee at night. None! Nada!

I played trivia with the gang last night. One of our members - Rabbi Barry - ordered coffee and the scent wafted down the table until it hit my nose. I decided then and there that I had to have a cup as well.

Wasn't such a good idea when I was still looking at the clock at 1:21 am.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

More Louisiana fun

You know you were Born N' Bred in Louisiana when...........

Your sunglasses fog up when you step outside.

You reinforce your attic to store Mardi Gras Beads.

You don't look twice when you see pink flamingos in yards of nice subdivisions during Mardi Gras.

You save newspapers, not for recycling but for tablecloths at crawfish boils.

Your ancestors are buried above the ground.

You drink Community, but tried Starbucks and don't see what all the fuss is about.

You take a bite of five-alarm chili and reach for the Tabasco.

You sit down to eat boiled crawfish and your host says, "Don't eat the dead ones"... and you know what he means.

You don't learn until high school that Mardi Gras is not a national holiday.

You push little old ladies out of the way to catch Mardi Gras beads.

Little old ladies push YOU out of the way to catch Mardi Gras Beads.

You believe that purple, green, and gold look good together.

Your last name isn't pronounced the way it's spelled.

No matter where else you go in the world, you are always disappointed in the food.

Your town is low on the education chart, high on the obesity chart and you don't care because you are #1 on the party chart.
You know that Tchoupitoulas (pronounced Chop-a-too-lis) is a street and not a disease.

Your Santa Claus rides an alligator and your favorite Saint is a football player.
You've eaten at one or more of these restaurants AND know how to pronounce them: Tu Jacque's, Gallatoire's, Ralph & Kacoo's, Brunet's, or Mulate's.

You eat dinner out and spend the entire meal talking about all the other good places you've eaten.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What it's like to be married to me

This morning's telephone call:

E: "Hello"
Me: "Hey babe, remember I told you that Small Paws was taking in 10 puppy mill Bichons this weekend?"
E: "Yeah"
Me: "Well, I noticed several of them are pretty tall and have long legs like Nate's."
E: "Ok..."
Me: "So I volunteered us to foster one of the tall girls once they clear their quarantine. Because wouldn't it be cool if Natie had a tall sister?"
E: *huge sigh* "Yes, dear."