Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Am I a Liberal

Am I a liberal?

Someone recently suggested that I was “a raging liberal.” It made me wonder if I actually qualify. So…

Abortion: Most Democrats consider me to be pro-life because I’m not convinced that abortion on demand is a woman’s right. The Evangelical Right preaches that the Bible clearly teaches that life (meaning our humanity) begins at conception. I won’t get into the theology here, but I disagree with them. My disagreement is based on my understanding of specific portions of the Bible. And in a discussion of the issue, we’d be discussing the meaning of Bible passages that we both consider inspired and inerrant. Does that make me a liberal? I haven’t formulated a law or policy. But I think the positions of both the Religious Right and the pro-abortion lobby are too absolute, too extreme.

Gay Marriage: I believe in the separation of church and state. I believe marriage is a religious institution. Gay couples can already live in the same house and think of themselves as partners in any state. With the help of a lawyer they can bequeath their possessions to each other – it’s just not automatic, like it would be if they were legally married. I’m not sure why government should be involved in licensing marriage at all. Leave it to churches.

Gun Control: I have several guns in my house. I even shoot them occasionally. It’s clear that the Constitution grants citizens the right to bear arms. I’m not sure the Founding Fathers meant for that to include the personal ownership of a bazooka , a sawed off shotgun, or an Uzi.

Immigration: I don’t really have a position. I understand that most undocumented immigrants are something like economic refugees. I understand that they broke US law by crossing the border, but I don’t think that THAT alone makes them criminals in the same since that bank robbers and burglars are criminals. I understand the argument that they contribute to the economy. I understand the argument that they take jobs from citizens. I’m not sure how I’d balance those arguments.

Taxation: I think of taxes (and other forms of government revenue) on a scale with two ends – one progressive, the other regressive. Everyone (or at least the vast majority of adults) should contribute to the cost of government. A progressive tax is one that solicits a larger share of revenue from those most able to pay. A regressive tax is one that raises revenue from those who are less able to pay. Flat rates and sales taxes are generally regressive. I prefer progressive forms of taxation. But there is always room to simplify the paperwork and record keeping involved in any tax system.

Fiscal Responsibility: Like most Americans, I think it would be marvelous if the government could live within its means. Of course, it hasn’t been able to do that for decades. Efficiency and cost cutting have to be a focus of any government.

Health Care: We are the most prosperous society on Earth. And yet tens of millions of our citizens are reduced to going without basic preventative and family medical services because the lack medical insurance. The system currently in place means that those individuals show up at emergency rooms, run up a much bigger bill than could have been if they got regular medical care, and leave the rest of us to pay their bill. Those of us who do pay for insurance can have that insurance cancelled if we become “too much of a risk.” The cost of actual care keeps rising, but there are caps how much an insurance company is required to pay. Often, a profound illness (like cancer) can leave us bankrupt despite the fact that we pay for health insurance. Our health insurance can be in jeopardy of we change jobs, or if we go a period of time without a job. And then some of us can’t get coverage regardless of our ability to pay because we have “a pre-existing condition.” Healthcare reform is a matter of social justice, of making America a fairer society, of basic human rights. But more practically, it’s an economic issue that will shape our future as a country. We have a vested interest in health care because a healthy population is more productive. And health insurance reform (including some form of a public option) is in itself a matter of fiscal responsibility. It is fiscally irresponsible NOT to reform health insurance.

Energy & the Environment: I like animals and fresh veggies. I’m not sure I expect Norfolk to be flooded by melting ice caps in the next few decades; but I’m also not sure I don’t. If we can make cheaper energy, I’m in favor of that. If we can make cleaner energy, I’m in favor of that. Lower emissions and higher gas mileage sound like good things, to me.

So, am I a liberal?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Boucher, Hell, and Health Care

I'm watching an ad (paid for by http://www.EmployersForAHealthyEconomy.org/) about how RICK BOUCHER (D-Va) stood up to Washington on Health Care and voted NO on Health Care Reform that would have raised the cost of health insurance. The ad wants me to call his Washington office and let him know how much I appreciate him standing up for me.

Well, I'm the vice-chair for an itsy-bitsy little Democratic Party committee in Tazewell County. And if Rick doesn't vote


health care reform at some point, he can


in 2010 as far as I'm concerned. I won't vote for the Republican. But I'll vote for someone else in the primary (if he has an opponent). And I sure as crap won't vote FOR HIM in the general election.

His statements to the Party faithful say that the current bill isn't perfect yet. The ads on TV say he's protecting us against Washington. He needs to decide - soon. Until then, I've lost my interest in his re-election...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fw: Bush and the Marines / Obama and the Marines

I got an email from one of my relatives today. It said, "You may enjoy seeing the reception and the appeal generated by our former & current presidents. I know I loved it..."

It had a link to this video:

Perhaps there's never been an occasion when President Obama got quite the round of applause the Bush got in this video. I doubt that Bush always received that enthusiastic a reception. And I suspect Obama has gotten more animated receptions at least once or twice. But the video's editors picked their footage for their own reasons.

As I watched the video, though, it occured to me the cart in it was before the horse. So I hit reply all and sent this back:
I've lived in Thailand, where there have been 18 military coups since that country got a constitution in 1932. I traveled in Indonesia in the waning years of Suharto's rule (32-years as the military-backed ruler there). I've traveled in the Philippines, where it's hard to count the number of coups and failed coup attempts since independence there. I've lived in Malaysia and Singapore - where political dissidents are often arrested and held for years without charge under the country's internal security laws.

When elements of the teabagging fringe speak hypocritically of patriotism out of the right side of their mouth and succession out of the left side of their mouth, I consider what their existences would be like in Malaysia or Singapore. I'm proud to live in a country where idiots like Glenn Beck are allowed to roam the streets free and speak what little mind they have, unhindered.

I support the military. We are a free country today at least in part because we have a strong, loyal military. I hope they all come home well, and come home soon...

Last I checked (a few days ago), President Obama still had a fairly high job approval rating.

In America, the President doesn't need the military's support (except as individual citizen-voters), the military needs the Predisent's support. I'm glad I live in a country like that.

Greg Cruey

I meant every word...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Blame Game

It's come to my attention that Rene thinks I blame her for Woodard's loss in the Northern District Board of Supervisor race. What I wrote was analysis, not accusation. We mirrored statewide mistakes at the local level. I'd like to not make those mistakes again.

There's plenty of blame to go around. We wouldn't be in this situation if Bill Rasnick hadn't moved away: maybe it's his fault. Davy is not the perfect candidate; at least some of it's his fault. Vernon cost us a few votes. Mike and Dan cost us a few votes by letting Vernon hang around. Deeds cost us votes by making the statewide races personal and going after McDonnell instead of campaigning on real issues. And the Republican State Leadership Committee in Alexandria cost us a couple of votes in the Northern District by sending little Willie Morefield $40K two weeks before the election.

It would have been nice if Childress had come around a little earlier. But he eventually did his part. I know Rene talked to David a lot. I can't help but wonder how many votes it would have gotten Woodard if he'd had one of his signs in the Steele's yard. I'd say 75 if I had to guess. There was one in my yard. But no one expected it of the Steeles, because they only show up at party meetings when it serves their personal ambitions. I could be wrong. I'll say I was wrong if either of them shows up at the next two party meeting. I'll even sit with them.

I don't blame Tom Childress or Spot & Rene. There's plenty of blame to go around. I could have made more phone calls...

Do Democrats Eat Their Young?

I've talked already about the problem with marbles - how people in the Northern District seemed to pick theirs up and go home when the primary was over. Another problem we had was simple party unity in the county. And the lack of party unity managed to eventually be personified in one Charles Vernon.

Before I go on I should say that I count Mike Hymes as a friend. I endorsed him on my blog for the Southern District Board of Supervisor’s race. I'm glad he won. I feel much the same about Dan Bowling. I supported him in a letter to the Free Press. I wish he'd won.

I made my feelings about Mr. Vernon's political involvement plain to them. At the time, it didn't matter much. I don't know if it does (matter to them) in retrospect. If I make those feelings public now and perhaps criticize them on the issue, I doubt it will hurt Mike's reelection chances in 2013 or damage our friendships much.

I think of Charles Vernon as somewhat loud and pompous. He tends to use 11 words when seven would be eloquent and four would make the point. We all have our flaws, I suppose.

Vernon originally supported Woodard's campaign - and every other Democrat in the county, even though he makes a point of saying he's an independent. On September 3rd, Vernon published a "letter of non-support" at Rene Steele's forum. It was melodramatic; he "declared war" on Woodard. It was over personalities. Playing the chivalrous knight (the image he seems to want to project) he came to the defense of a damsel in distress: Amy Flick. Amy and Woodard had disagreed on matters concerning the town of Pocahontas. Flick decided she'd support Campbell over it. Whatever.

Vernon's post got just over 100 comments and the thread got just under 2000 viewings in the 61 days leading up to the election. Only seven other people posted to Vernon's thread - including Rene, who owns the forum. Over half the comments were by Vernon himself (who doesn't live in the Northern District). While the thread got about 30 views a day on average, most of those views were problem from the eight people who contributed to the thread.

I doubt Vernon did much to decide who got Rene's vote. I think I know who two of the anonymous posters ("Just a Taxpayer" and "GOP") are, and I don't think either of them live in the Northern District. Woodard lost by 61 votes. Maybe Vernon's thread cost the Woodard Camp one or two dozen votes. I'm sure Vernon will disagree verbosely with my estimate.

The more important effect that Vernon had, in my opinion, was that he was demoralizing to the party in general at county events. Every time Mike Hymes or Dan Bowling stood around at a public event with Vernon, it sent voters and party people who were familiar with the situation a mixed message. I have to wonder whether having Vernon around didn't cost Bowling as many votes as it gained him - if for no other reason than simple lost enthusiasm among county Democrats.

Vernon commented on my post from yesterday, since it mentioned his name. I told him he had other places where he could share his opinions and that I didn't really feel any obligation to let him post here. He copied that private email I sent him and published elsewhere without so much as informing me - something that doesn't surprise me.

I thought I said it rather well in that email, and since it's now public, I may as well quote it here:
Got your comment. Spare me the formal respect crap; it leaves a taste like eating the icing off a cake... too much sugar.

Don't flatter yourself too much. I don't blame you for the defeat of Woodard. Your credibility in the Northern District political arena was largely borrowed from others - Hymes, Bowling, etc. The day you published your letter of non-support for Davy they should have kicked your ass to the curb. But instead they fed disunity by continuing to associate with you in public, to the party's detriment.
Mike Hymes and Dan Bowling are nice guys. As the last Democrat standing at the moment on the Board of Supervisors, Hymes will become even more of a leader for the party now. And Charles Vernon, on the other hand, is a cancer in the party's side. Keeping him around after this because he serves one or two individual candidates - well, we may as well eat our own young...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Democratic Primary: Who's Got the Marbles?

At the local level there were a number of mistakes we made as Democrats - mistakes that may have kept us from winning local races.

For starters, we mirrored the mistake the party made in the Governor's race. We had a three-way primary in the Northern District to see who would get the Democratic nomination. It was a bad idea. But none of the three candidates could be dissuaded. And at the end, the two losing candidates picked up their marbles and went home without offering much support to the winner.

If the Steeles ever threw their support back to the Democratic candidate, I missed it. Rene couldn't afford to because it would have alienated the handful of Republicans who follow her forum. Spot is a nice guy; and after losing in the primary we never heard from him again. Most of Spot's followers (judging from precinct returns) voted for the Republican candidate for Board of Supervisors.

Tom Childress was not much better. After dedicating decades of service to the Northern District, Childress considered leaving the party after losing the primary. It was Labor Day (three months down the road) before he came back to the table and supported the Democratic candidate for Board of Supervisor.

I've drawn the conclusion that a caucus in May would have been better than a primary in June. The fight would have been less public. Recovery time would have been shorter. The impact of people picking up their marbles and going home wouldn't have been so great...

Perhaps this weekend I'll tell you what I think of Charles Vernon and the people who consorted with him, and how that impacted the election.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creigh Deeds' Long Coattails

I've been home almost an 90 minutes after working the Virginia election today. I'm an election official, a precinct chief for the precinct where I vote in Adria, Virginia (Tazewell County). It's been a depressing evening...

In my precinct the Republicans swept all six races. It'd been clear for a couple of weeks that either a.) the science of polling had collapsed or b.) Criegh Deeds was going to lose by a large margin. The polls were right. And while there are certainly a variety of factors in play that determined the outcome, the press and the commercial campaign strategy of Deeds seems to be the largest factor.

Republican Governor-elect Bob McDonnell is a Pat Robertson-style culture war Conservative who toned down his image some for the governor's race. McDonnell wanted to talk about transportation, infrastructure and the economy during the campaign. His plans on those issues met with criticsm from analysist, and under a Democratic governor Virginia has become the best managed state un the union. Deeds could have won on those issues. He decided, instead, to talk about McDonnell. And we heard over and over and over again about McDonnell's views on abortion, McDonnell's views on the role of women in society, McDonnell's appearances on the 700 Club, McDonnell's views on birth control within marriage, etc. It was negative. And it left everyone talking about McDonnell, not Deeds.

Democrats need to figure out that years ago they won the battle on abortion and women's rights, and that pushing it front and center now doesn't really get them anything. I'm not sure the Democratic core is as committed to the abortion issue today as it was in the past. I'm one of the more active, loyal members of my local Democratic Party. I don't really like abortion. I'd end 95% or more of all abortion if I could. I'm a serious enough student of the Bible to doubt that it makes the absolute, definitive statements on abortion that the Religious Right claims. The fact that I might only end 95% of all abortions makes me a baby-killing liberal to the Religious Right and a compromising hypocrite to the far left. I don't think I'm that unusual. Democrats also need to learn that they can't count on all women simply buying into a women's rights agenda. Women are not a homogeneous community.

Deeds had long coattails. His failure took a lot of other candidates down with him - all the way to the local level.

There are other issues. The political demographics of America are simple. Democrats have an urban power base. Republicans have a rural power base. The Democrats in Virginia in this election fielded a candidate for governor from a rural background in a bid to carry rural areas. The bid failed, and they lost urban voters in the process.

It didn't help that many of the federal issues being addressed by a Democratic President are controversial. Health care, Cap & Trade, economic policy in general - all illicit strong emotions from the Political Right. And the bottom line is that Virginia remains a Republican state. Democrats managed to hold the governor's mansion for eight years, to regain a hold on both US Senate seats, and to carry the state once in a row for a Democratic candidate for President. But the state legislature is a GOP body.

Tomorrow (or sometime soon) I may comment on more local considerations in this election.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Endorsement: Mike Hymes for Southern District Board of Supervisor's Race

The two videos below were recorded in Pocahontas, Virginia at the Labor Day celebration there. The top video is Democrat Mike Hymes, my pick for the Southern District BOS. Below is GOP candidate Dallas Sparks.

Hymes is the incumbent. He's served his district and the county well on the Board.

Sparks is the scariest candidate I've heard in a while. He told the crowd in Pocahontas that he wants to help "take America back." He didn't say from whom (probably radicals like me). He also talked about his job as a gun safety instructor and about how God helped craft the 2nd Amendment (dealing with the right to own a gun) - which may be true (I own several guns), but if I was looking for parts of the Bill of Rights to connect God to, they would be the parts about free speech, freedom of religion, due process, and protection against unreasonable search. In an elected office that has mostly to do with managing the county, I don't know how Sparks will "help take America back" and I'm not sure how (if he got elected) his position on the Board of Supervisors would help him protect America's gun rights.

Sparks struck me as a nut case. But you watch the videos and see what you think...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is it Socialism?

I was sitting in my living room watching President Obama's speech on healthcare this past Wednesday. I had Facebook up and the chat window opened.

Why are people so opposed to a public option? a friend asked.

It's socialism, I replied.

There was a pause. Then the reply...

So is a municipal police department.

Is it?

There's not some official definition of Socialism I can refer to in order to answer that question. Wikipedia says this:
Socialism refers to various theories of economic organization advocating worker or public ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with an egalitarian method of compensation.
I know, kind of vague and wordy. Wikipedia goes on to say that it is primarily an economic system, and that it stands in contrast or capitalism. And perhaps in a purely theoretical world that might be true. But in the real world societies tend to blend elements of both systems.

Americans today have very little experience with hard socialism. We don't have a history of state owned industries. We don't have a sovereign wealth fund with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets to invest (like the United Arab Emirates, China, Norway, Singapore, and a few other countries).

We do have a few industries where a major portion of that industry is actually managed by the government, in the sense that projects are government funded and workers are either government employees or are contracted by the government. Transportation stands out: government (federal, state, or local) builds and maintains our roads and manages our airports. Public safety is in that same boat (and that answers the question about the municipal police department). Education is another biggie. Most American's don't think of the word "Socialism" when you talk about public schools or state universities. But in the strictest sense of the definition, schools like Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, and UCLA are socialist institutions. So are most elementary schools.

We don't think of roads and schools as socialism. Maybe they are, maybe they're not. But we don't think of them as such.

A softer, fuzzier form of socialism worries most Americans much more. It's the idea that the government might provide services of some kind - a social safety net for the poor (or for the middle class, on the chance that they might become poor), health coverage, financial services (like mortgages or student loans), etc.

The problem is, we have those things to some extent already. Not only do we have them already, but most Americans like them.

We could do away with those things. We could put an end to social security. We could tell our senior citizens that we're sorry if they didn't plan well when they were thirty, but now that they're 69 and unemployed, they're own their own when it comes to medical bills. Their families should take care of them. We could close the VA medical facilities because they're Socialism. There are people who advocate that idea, based on the principle that Socialism is bad - somehow immoral, definitely anti-Christian, economically unmotivating, yada yada yada.

Why hasn't that happened? The politician who voted to end Social Security or Medicare would never be re-elected. The majority of people in his district would vote for his opponent in the next election. Most American's want those programs to continue to exist. Our voters aren't alone in that. I can't think of a developed democracy without these sorts of economic safety nets.

Politics and religion is a combustible mix. In injects emotion into most discussions and tends to remove reason from the discussion.

One of the loudest arguments being voiced against the growth of the soft and fuzzy sort of socialism represented by government supported health coverage (the so-called "government option") is that it's somehow "un-Christian." In support they often site II Thessalonians 3:10 - If a man will not work, he shall not eat. (NIV)

The verse is a good argument for the concept of work ethic. But it's hardly theological backing for an entire economic system. Capitalism has more to do with marketing goods than producing them - with supply and demand, profit and loss, and pricing. And people in the Religious Right who want to argue that Socialism is evil neglect the fact that early Christians practiced it in the Book of Acts (chapters 2 & 4).

The theological argument breaks down when real theology is applied. The truth is simpler than politicians want to acknowledge. Mature, devote Christians work because it's, well, righteous - not because it's personally profitable. Non-Christians may find their own reasons to work, but the flawed character they have (described in the early chapters of Romans) means they find a way to avoid work in any system.

The religious argument breaks down. And Christians outside America aren't as preoccupied with it. Americans have their perception of the issue skewed by the ties fiscal Conservative (Republicans) have created here with Evangelical churches.

America is a long, long way from being a Socialist country. Americans don't like the word "Socialism" because they associate it with Communism and with dictators. That association is fed by Fiscal Conservatives who, among other things, play the religious card. American's like the Socialism they have and fear the Socialism they don't have. With political purpose in mind, Conservative politicians feed that fear. But so far, a little Socialism (once it's part of the system) has proven to be easily tolerated and well like by the majority of Americans. And no one I know wants wholesale, hard Socialism.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Almost time to go back...

Summer break is drawing to an end. I have eight busy days left before the first teacher work day. Tomorrow I have to attend a training on some tools we plan to beginning using in the classroom. One is an online grade book. I supposed to take tomorrow's presentation and give it myself somewhere on August 24 to a group of teachers...

While summer break may be ending, I'm not sure summer itself ever made an appearance. We had an extended Spring that included lows in the 40's in July, a continuing cycle of on-and-off rain showers, and the occasional "hot spell" that saw temperatures climb into the upper 80's for a day or two. If the pattern of precipitation continues into November and December it will be a very snowy Winter.

I am trying to get ahead of the curve at the moment on writing. But I haven't been very successful at it.

Next week I'm working a booth for the local Democratic Party at the county fair for a couple of days. I'm also driving to Abingdon, VA on August 20th to participate in a town hall meeting on health care that my Congressman (Rick Boucher) is holding.

Well, let's see how much writing I can get done today...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Turning Buttercups into Butter

Just a photo I took about a month ago...

Cows grazing in a field of buttercups about a mile from my home.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lazy Saturday... Cooking, Ball Game

It's kinds of a slow Saturday. I got up a little after 9am. Big Daddy's is closed all next week, so Cheryl and I went down there for breakfast. They have a breakfast buffet on Saturday.

After breakfast I caught up on some kitchen projects. I made a meatloaf that will get frozen (in serving-sized slices) for Cheryl to take in her lunch. I put some veggies (potatoes, carrots, green and yellow peppers, onion) in a pan and slow cooked them in butter; I have some home-canned beef to add for dinner. And I cubes a six pound leg of lamb and spiced it to make curry (garam masala, cumin, turmeric, caraway seeds, course black pepper, ground cayenne, curry powder, some salt). It simmers in some onions and garlic; I threw in a quarter cup of chopped up dried apricots and a quarter cup of cashews. Some rice or potatoes and it will make me some nice lunches when school starts back.

Probably around 5pm we'll eat the beef. We've agreed to go to a ball game tonight in Bluefield. The Bluefield Orioles are a minor league team and one of Cheryl's friends has box seats tonight. We'll have to wear a jacket in July.

Other than that, working on blogs...

Friday, July 17, 2009


I have neglected my blog...

We are facing the coldest July on record. And it comes after the wettest June. High tomorrow: forecast to be between 67F and 72F (about 20C). Not very summer-like. Low tomorrow night projected at 47F to 52F (about 10C).

I'm been to one workshop so far this summer. It was a technology workshop this week.

Cheryl has to start back to work Monday (July 20) in order to get in all her contract days and attend the workshops she's supposed to go to. I have a week in Charleston coming up July 26-30.

Well, it's 1am. Time to go to bed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Bad Year for Bluebirds

When I left for Myrtle Beach two weeks ago the bluebirds had four eggs in thier nest. It was the second try at a brood this summer. The first batch of eggs were simply abandoned for some reasons; she never really incubated them, and after waiting almost a month (they're suppose to take 17-19 days) I cleaned the box out and threw the nest and eggs away.

On June 21 momma bluebird had just begun sitting on the nest and we were looking forward to batch of babies sometime in around July 8 or 9. We've had baby bluebirds for five of the last six years, and one year we had two broods.

But the nest was empty when we got home on the 28th.

Since the bluebird box was latched, I figure a human took the eggs. One of my neighbors tells me a neighborhood boy (age 8 or 9) spent some time in our yard while we were gone. But I suppose there are other possible solutions to the mystery of the eggs that disappeared...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Myrtle Beach, etc.

It's been a busy life since getting back from Myrtle Beach on the 28th. We took Holly to Christiansburg on Tuesday and her dad met us there. On Wednesday we took the Avalamche to Coles Chevy for a recall fix that was supposed to take 45 minutes. It took five and a hlaf hours. Then today a contractor came to fix the hole in our livingroom ceiling that a leak in the roof had caused. He came to replace the sheet rock and discovered that the ceiling was plaster. What a mess!

Myrtle Beach was mostly pleasant. I'll probably write about specifics later - including a couple of restaurant reviews. We took two different trips to Brookegreen Garden, spent an afternoon (low tide) on Pawley's Island, took the boogie board out to the beach across from South Beach Resort a couple of times, and spent a couple of hours in the lazy river.

It was too hot. THe heat index Saturday (6/27) was 106F in Myrtle Beach. Then there was the thing about the governor in South Carolina and his mistress. And it became impossible to watch TV or listen to the radio without hearing about Gov. Sanford (or Michael Jackson). And my annual meeting with the owner reps at the resort left some unanswered questions about the recent sale of South Beach to Orange Lake Resort.

But overall, it was a good vacation...

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I thought the rain was bad in Tazewell!

Cheryl and I are in Red House, Md. at the moment and the sotrms here last night were aweful. A power surge burnt up a device that my father-in-law uses to wake him up when the electricity goes off. The phones were also down for 14 or 15 hours.

North of us about an hour to 90 minutes, Pittsburgh almost washed away. Some places got almost 5 inches of rain.

Tomorrow we go home...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tree Swallows - an Empty Nest

Well, the tree swallows were in their nest yesterday. Today is day 21 in their little lives, and this morning they're gone. At least, five of them flew. A sixth didn't see the outside world. It laid motionless in the nest this morning at 8am, dead. I cleaned the nest out of the house and left the front open for the sun to him for a few days...

Baby looking out...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sad (Missing History)

Well, because of a computer glitch I've evidently been getting the History International channel for free. A few days ago it went away. I called to find out why and they want to to buy a more expensive package... Oh well.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Working the Election

The Democratic Primary was yesterday in Virginia. This morning I tore the Brian Moran bumper sticker off my car. He came in third out of the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor in Virginia. Now I have to find a Deeds bumper sticker...

Of course the real race was the one for our Board of Supervisors seat (County Commission, in most states). No incumbent. Three candidates. Tom Childress has been active in the district's Democratic Party as local chair since the 1970's. Robert "Spot" Steele served previously on the school board and tried to take the seat away from a sitting board member in the caucus process a couple of years ago. Davy Woodard is a sitting member of the School Board.

I picked up voting machines on Monday after work. Monday was my last day of the year as a teacher. Other teachers worked Tuesday; I took a personal day. I got to the polls just after 5am. We set up the machines and looked at the new computer-based poll books. All the voter records are on laptops now instead of in big computer printouts. It worked marvelously and I spent the day with two other very pleasant poll workers - waiting for voters to straggle in. Not many did.

Tom is easily the most qualified person on paper. He came in third, despite being well organized and having workers out at the crack of dawn at the poling precincts.

Spot and his wife, Rene', manage a mission that provides food and other items for needy people in the county. That provided for the appearance of conflict of interest (or something like it) in the caucus process a couple of years ago. There's some overlap between those who vote for him and those who are served by the mission.

Davy's a nice guy without much political experience.

Tom and Spot had signs and people at the polls. Davy won by six votes.

Voter turn out was just the other side of pitiful. In my precinct, 51 of the 778 registered voters turned out. My precinct was strong for Spot in past elections. If 10 more people had made it to the polls in Adria, Spot would have won the election by a vote or two.

And people feel like their vote doesn't really matter...

Tree Swallows, Day 15

Baby looking out...

Moma feeding the babies.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tree Swallows - Day 13

First, one picture from Day 12:

Now Day 13 (today):

You can watch a brief video from day 12 here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tree Swallows - Day Eleven (and a bluebird egg)

I wasn't home to take pictures on Thursday and Friday. Cheryl took these two for me on day nine:

Here are pictures for today, day 11 in the life of the baby tree swallows...

The bluebird house has a nest in it again. You'll recall that our bluebirds abandoned a clutch of four eggs in May after a cold snap. We now have one egg again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tree Swallows - Day Eight

Day eight. We have eyes...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tree Swallows - Day Seven

One week old...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tree Swallows - Day Six

Day six: bigger, fuzzier, and more active. But still no eyes...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Things I Did Today...

In more or less chronological order...

Made a decision - to not go to Church. Cheryl woke me about 8:30am and asked it I wanted to go today. We’re kind of between churches. There's a small church nearby that we've been to a few times. We'll probably go back. Just not today...

Got up. About 9am.

Had some coffee and checked my email. Cleaned out my Google Reader.

Wrote an entry for Guuki.

Cooked breakfast: sausage, eggs & cheese, grits, toast, some leftover bacon. Biscuits and sausage gravy for Cheryl. Wished I had tomatoes, but we just set those out last weekend...

Wrote and published an entry for my education blog on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's activities this past week. Wrote a second entry that will drip onto my ed blog later this week.

Cleaned out by Google Reader. Drank more coffee.

Created a Twitter background for my profile page.

Washed the breakfast dishes.

Listed to the stuff they do on the Speed Channel before the pre-race show comes on for NASCAR while I did other stuff.

Took pictures of the baby tree swallows. They've been alive five days now. Not much difference from yesterday. Waiting for the eyes to open.

Figured out (finally) how to download a video off of YouTube for later use. Since YouTube is blocked at school, this is a very useful skill. I downloaded a handful of potentially useful videos on social networking, social media, and Twitter for a presentation I may get to do this summer.

Listened to (and, intermittently, actually watched portions of) the Autism Speaks 400, today's NASCAR race in Dover. Wanted Kyle Busch to win, but I think he can in some place near 20th...

Cooked dinner: grilled steaks (sirloin, on sale for $2.99 a pound). I rubbed the meat with garlic powder and salt; mine also got some red pepper and curry powder. Baked potatoes, green beans, and part of a cucumber.

Watched the end of the race.

Took a 90-minute nap. (My dog also took a 90-minute, curled up in the small of my back...)

Cleaned out my Google Reader. Drank some green tea I brewed myself yesterday and put in the fridge.

Worked on a Guuki entry.

Did the dinner dishes. Fixed the coffeepot for in the morning.

Ironed tomorrow's cloths.

Fixed breakfasts and lunches to take to work tomorrow: Cheryl has mashed potatoes and meatballs (with a sauce made from Concord grape jelly and chili sauce), plus cottage cheese and blueberries for breakfast. I have a sausage muffin w/ egg and cheese to heat in the morning and a mix of rice, lentils, and peas in a butter & curry sauce with onions and some beef, along with some wilted spinach in bacon grease. (I know, my arteries...)

Turned off the TV.

Had a glass of Burgundy while I listened to Yo-Yo Ma and blogged. Purchased a couple of new Yo-Yo Ma pieces from iTunes.

Went outside and sat on the deck breifly. Cheryl went to bed a while back. There are lightening bugs. I saw my first ones for the year last night. Wondered when the screech owl will arrive.

Now considering going to bed early, but I will probably resist the temptation.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baby Tree Swallows - Day Four

I believe we have fuzz. Looks kind of like little wires...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Baby Tree Swallows - Day Three

A few more pictures of the baby bird. Three days old now. They have dark places along their spines and wings that look like feathers coming in. We'll see in the next day or two...

And the flowers in our willow stump.