Friday, June 29, 2007

South Harmon Institute of Technology Wannabe

Just what we need—another college. Heck, even the good ones out there are having trouble filling the incoming class. Of course, colleges like Notre Dame and Harvard have so many applicants that they can afford to be choosy. The bulk of the other regional and national universities struggle and suffer when enrollment and credit hours fall short.

Now I know a thing or two about sending a kid to college as the regular readers here know. Scotty is off to Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, this August. Well, that is if he finishes getting the loans lined up. He definitely couldn’t afford to go to any college, even Diddly-Squat U, without some kind of financial aid.

So, I read with a little amusement the story in this afternoon’s Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog reporting on an Atlanta Journal Constitution story about Gwinnett College in Georgia. Never heard of the place. There are about 6 gazillion other colleges and universities, and I can’t be everywhere to know about them all. Turns out, this is a new college that the Georgia folks cooked up. Well, they had actually been some sort of satellite school for a couple of other universities, and now they are going off on their own with plenty of state funding—just not enough students.

Despite the best efforts of the recruiters in Gwinnett County who swooped down on the malls in the area among other strategies, they only have 435 students when they were thinking maybe 3,000. Oooops. One little problem could be that the college is not yet accredited and the students can’t get federal financial aid and are forced to rely on just state HOPE funds or their own resources, hardly enough to make students beat a beeline to the institution’s doors.

Hey, guys. I have a suggestion for you. Rent that movie, Accepted—the one that’s got that cute Apple Mac ad guy in it, although y’all have a better name with Gwinnett College. The name of the “institution” in the movie was South Harmon Institute of Technology.

Yet, despite smart-ass bloggers like me, I have faith that Gwinnett College will succeed. How can it help but triumph with a positive-thinking president like Daniel Kaufman. "This is not Ed's Barber College," he said recently. "We're going to grow and grow."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

I so rarely go to the movies these days but trudged along yesterday with the guys for the new Bruce Willis action movie, Live Free or Die Hard. Short on plot; long on action just like a summer movie should be. has a review if you want more details, but I wanted to write about a scene in the movie that I’m still thinking about this morning.

You know the Mac guy from the Apple Computer ads? Justin Long’s his name and he plays a geeky computer hacker-type Bruce is charged with delivering to the FBI to avert an attack on all U.S. technological systems: transportation, Wall Street, etc. by cyber-terrorists. In between fending off the bad guys and trying to save the day, Bruce listens as Apple Guy gets all philosophical on him and says, “It’s all controlled and manipulated,” or something like that. I wasn’t taking notes. They were watching the news as the terrorists hacked into broadcast feeds to deliver their evil message.What Apple Guy was referring to was what we are fed as news by the corporate media.

And I thought, maybe he’s right. Maybe if we watch enough of stories covering Anna Nichol Smith and Paris Hilton or Ann Coulter’s screeching, we won’t notice what’s happening that really matters. Could TV be the “opiate of the people?” And are we getting what we deserve?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Why Ann Coulter is Successful

Ann Coulter is provocative. That’s who she is. Yesterday’s Hardball with Chris Matthews exchange between Elizabeth Edwards and Coulter was predictable after the always quotable Coulter said on ABC’s Good Morning America, “if I’m going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.” And while I don’t blame Elizabeth Edwards for calling on Ann Coulter to take a vow to be more civil, no one really expects it from her. Her schick is this dare to offend, insult and provoke the democratic moderates and liberals as well as those republicans who possess an iota of dignity and civility. She’s very good at it. Don’t count on her to suddenly say, “You know Elizabeth, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Which brings me to my point. On one hand we all talk about the negative and impolite name-calling that Coulter, Bill Maher and others engage in and how awful it may be. Yet, Chris Matthews and other media honchos know TV is all about ratings. Have a controversial guest on, and well, everyone’s talking about it the next day.

Elizabeth Edwards is right, of course, that these media personalities who have been elevated to a cult-like status because of their exposure aren’t doing diddly-squat to help the political dialogue this country so desperately needs.

Ann Coulter is also right that she can say pretty much what she damn well pleases, but I don’t have to give her no never-mind. And neither do you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Procrastinator Proliferation

After I finally found the transfer cable yesterday, I was able to download a bunch of photos. This one was taken last month at son Scott’s high school graduation. The move, a visit from his friend and a road trip to Arkansas—that’s behind him, and this week means it’s time to wrap up those last little details for college. Health forms, photo for Hendrix College’s version of Facebook, financial aid-related chores, choosing which orientation trip to sign up for, etc.

I woke up early this morning with these things on my mind, so early I heard a couple of owls calling their who-whos to each other, and this helicopter parent thought to herself, “Why isn’t my son thinking of these things?” I’ve been struggling with how involved to be in the whole process. How much research should a parent do? How much is too much guidance and advice? By now, isn’t a parent’s main job to sign the checks to pay for the education?

Yet, here I am hovering again. I suppose my procrastination gene has found root in another son. We’ll tackle the work today and I’ll tackle what I’ve been putting off—looking for a job to help with the expenses of this grand adventure.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Buying a Puppy

After searching the Internet, I found someone offering English Springer Spaniels for sale here in Missouri, about an hour away. Okay, I think, I’ll write the seller and see about driving down to take a look at the pups. It’s not so simple as the E-mail I received back shows:

“Hi Sheila,
Unfortunately we do not let anyone come to our home but I would be more than happy to meet you with my available females. We did have a black and white female puppy but she is sold.”

I remembered hearing that Missouri is known as a puppy mill state, and I don’t intend to help foster this kind of business practice. Whether the seller was or wasn’t a puppy mill, I decided to do a little more research.

Many of the people selling purebred dogs online are offering several breeds and multiple litters. This raises questions immediately in my mind that this is a purely commercial business with little thought to turning out a quality pup. The Humane Society of the United States has several articles worth reading if you are like me and in the market for a dog: Buying a Puppy, Get the Facts on Puppy Mills, and How to Find a Good Dog Breeder which carries this advice, “Please don't ever buy a dog without personally visiting where he or she was born and raised.”

My instincts were spot on. According to a downloadable brochure from the Humane Society of the United States, some other things to look for in a potential breeder are:

Keeps dogs in the home as part of the family---not outside in kennel runs

Has dogs who appear happy and healthy, are excited to meet new people, and don’t shy away from visitors

Shows you where the dogs spend most of their time--- in a clean, well maintained area

Encourages you to spend time with the puppy’s parents---at a minimum, the pup’s mother---when you visit

Only breeds one or two types of dogs and is knowledgeable about what are called “breed standards” (the desired characteristics of the breed, such as size,
proportion, coat, color, and temperament)

The search is on but I’m taking the time to do my homework.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In the Market for a Dog

About a year and a half ago, our English Springer Spaniel Samantha died. She was practically my best friend and nursed me through days of cancer treatments, tears and fears. I had found myself ready for another dog for a while now but couldn’t persuade my husband that this was a good idea. Strangely, after he closed the boat deal, he said, “You can get your dog now.”

And that dear gentle readers is how I’ve come to think about another dog. I haven’t let go of my Samantha. She’ll always have a great piece of my heart. The little square tin holding her remains made the move with us. I don’t quite know what to do with it just yet.

I’ve looked online at English Springer Spaniels and not one looks right. You see, Samantha was one of the prettiest Springers I’ve seen, with her silky black and white coat and the perfect blaze atop her head. I’m toying with another breed. Those Wirehaired Fox Terriers look awfully cute. And I saw an Irish Terrier . . . and then there’re those Bulldogs who are so, so ugly that they’re cute. Who knows what I’ll end up with. Any suggestions?

note: I wrote about Samantha back in September of 2006.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Can’t Keep a Pisces From the Water

The Great Missouri Compromise I was referring to in the previous post involved my husband and a boat.

After much back and forth, I threw in the towel on the matter, and yesterday he signed the paperwork for the boat and trekked down to Table Rock Lake. However, once he and the fellow who delivered the boat to the lake got the thing into the water, there were problems. The engine started, the boat moved forward about 50 feet and then the motor sputtered to a halt. A line was thrown back to shore and the boat with my husband onboard was pulled back. No amount of puttering by either of the two men could start the engine. After several calls to the marina receptionist who patched dropped calls through to a repair shop, help was finally secured and the boat was carried away for attention. My husband joked to the receptionist, “You were so much help with the calls I ought to give you a tip. Here it is: Don’t buy a used boat!”

Today, brought news that there had been water in the tank that apparently came in through a faulty gas cap, and my husband went down to finish the job of docking the boat at the marina slip. But first he took the boat out onto the lake and called a while ago to let me know that indeed he was on the lake and had just finished a swim. Pisces found his element and was, for this moment, at peace and happy.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Throwing Caution to the Wind

Is it a wise thing to do? A smart financial move? No, I don’t think so, but I understand.

My husband and I have been married since 1971—that’ll be 36 years come this June 29. Lots of water under the bridge. Although not literally, we grew up together, graduating from the University of Alabama a year apart and then both of us returning in rather short order for graduate work—him, a Masters in secondary education and me, my law degree. I was a month shy of 19 and he was 21 when we were married by a United Methodist minister in Montgomery. You don’t stay together this long without figuring out that compromise is the key. This time I fought and reasoned, stewed a bit, and then threw caution to the wind.

I trust Zephyrus will carry this venture along as he long ago carried Aphrodite (Venus) to shore.

Tune in later this week to see what the Great Missouri Compromise is, and I assure you, it has nothing to do with either the U. S. Constitution or the original Missouri Compromise.

Note about the painting

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli is my favorite work of art in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Retro Father’s Day

It was at the bottom of a very large stack of boxes filled with books, and I thought “oh boy, more books.” Pleasantly surprised and tired from unpacking the books, I tripped down Memory Lane as I have a tendency to do while unpacking when I discovered the treasures in this box. Maybe that’s why it’s taking me so long to get everything unpacked. I can’t stand the clutter and the uncertainty of knowing in which box that cordless screwdriver lurks, but dang it, I just get caught up in the emotions and memories.

But I digress, dear gentle readers.

The box contained our record collection, the one we and numerous mover-guys have carted around since the 70s. Heck, we don’t even have a record player or turntable since freeing ourselves from the Fisher-Price player our son Jeff had as a kid. But I did run across an ad in this week’s Big Lots flyer for a Retro Stereo System for $45. I suppose there’s a market for old Baby Boomers like me who may want to revisit their rock n roll days if they’ve clung to the old records as we have.

And what music did the young Sheila and the young Bill listen to? Of course Beatles—lots of albums since they were my first love. My first album, Something New, is there. The Bee Gees, James Taylor, ELO, movie soundtracks, Bill’s Burt Bacharach records, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, The 5th Dimension, The Hollies, Chicago and yes my old Carpenters albums are still there too along with Bill’s The Sea by Rod McKuen. There's no accounting for taste which, in some cases (not mine of course), has thankfully changed.

The first record I pulled out opened to photos of the individuals and then a big group shot. Inside were the lyrics in script. And although I hadn’t listened to the Moody Blues in years with the last time a concert at Chicagoland’s Ravina, I remembered how much I used to love their music. A CD is just too compact to carry the impact album cover art did. What we’ve given up in the name of compactness, we’ve lost visually. Oh well, that’s progress. Or is it?

My favorite discovery--those old kids’ records from the Muppets and Disney. Jeff, do you want those? Remember Lydia the Tattooed Lady? Now, there's a great song!

I can see why we hold on to these objects from the past—why it’s so hard to let go of them. Would I have brought forth these memories without the box of records to trigger the recollection? I fear not.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Real Springfield is in ???

Oh, boy I am pumped. My new hometown, Springfield, is in the running to host the world premiere of 20th Century Fox’s “The Simpsons Movie” in July. I am fairly confident the city’s movers and shakers will pull this off despite competing with at least 13 other Springfields.

As I write this, production of the required three-to-five minute video is well under way by a team from New York City working with the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. This morning’s Springfield News Leader had a big above-the-fold story about the efforts to attract the movie-promoters’ attention, and townsfolk can be part of the fun by attending this evening’s Springfield Cardinals game where filming is planned.

My two boys grew up loving “The Simpsons.” Heck, we have so many of Matt Groening’s books they fill a box. And then there are the character figures, games and t-shirts we’ve bought over the years. Lots of D’oh as well as dough.

Regular and irregular readers may know we recently moved from Alabama to Springfield and in the process of unpacking I came across one of those old Simpsons books, The Simpsons Guide to Springfield. Sadly, I think the Sweet Home Alabama store mentioned on page 98 has gone out of business--I can’t find it anywhere. At the time the book was published in 1998 the shop was struggling and had been forced to shut its doors after its proprietors were caught selling items from Kentucky instead of the promised “things from Alabama.”


P.S. Al a American Idol, the winner of the premiere competition will be chosen on USA Today’s Web site. Vote early and vote often and vote for my Springfield. Did I mention the state? SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI!

Monday, June 04, 2007


They are a jumbled mess. One entwines itself with reckless abandonment around the others. It's as if they are alive like a bundle of garter snakes behind the woodpile.

At first as I opened the box of orphan cords and cables, I thought I'd put it aside and deal with it later. Like so much in my life I've fallen into this modus operandi.

And yet this time, I tackled the problem and unraveled telephone wires, computer cables and cords to God only knows what. It took time and patience, and after I had completed the task, I ended up throwing nearly all away.

Life is like this sometimes. What we hang onto long after its usefulness is exhausted--how strange!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I'm Not in Alabama Anymore

My version of "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" entails a few random observations. I can’t call these folks in Missouri Yankees although the state is farther north. Heck, they serve sweet tea! Well, maybe that’s no surefire way to delineate north from south anymore since I have found sweet tea in Pennsylvania for God’s sake.

It’s very white here unlike the 50-50 black/white ratio you find in the deep South of Montgomery and environs. And so, the place is definitely not south-like in that regard.

They don’t seem to have the meat and three lunch dives that I so dearly loved. Everyone and their uncle seemed to be at Steak ‘n Shake yesterday when we couldn’t even get a parking space at the location nearest to us, the one on historic Route 66. But there seems to be plenty of good restaurants including a great Italian one downtown. And speaking of downtown, this place has a wonderful downtown full of life and variety.

And as I write this, I’ve already read the morning newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader, which is head-over-heels way better than the Montgomery Advertiser although both share corporate Gannett overlords.

The nest is slowly getting feathered and the town explored. Lots of trips shopping for this and that. I’m tired and miss the familiar places but embrace the world of possibilities in my new home.