Category Archives: Personal

A typical day, and then the one with the scorpion

cropped

At the office this morning, a little dialogue box popped up on my laptop saying my daughter in Thailand is online on Skype.

Thinking she might be skyping with my wife, I decide to join the conversation and say hi. My daughter answers immediately, and asks whether her mother told her to call. I said no, then asked why.

Because she got stung by a scorpion today.

She didn’t know what it was at first, she just felt this intense pain radiating from her big toe up her leg, and looked down and saw a small gray scorpion skittering away. She got a ride to a medical clinic in her village, and they sent her to the hospital in the next town. They gave her a shot for the pain, then when that didn’t work, another in her hip. They wanted to keep her overnight, but the Peace Corps doctor she had reached on the phone said that wasn’t necessary. So they sent her home with an antibiotic to take.

I decided to call my wife to make sure our baby isn’t allergic to the med. She’s not. So we strongly urged her to take it, and to call us in the morning (this evening, for us).

That was today, which sort of has us vibrating with apprehension. Here, from her blog, is a more typical day. She posted this Friday:

6 am:  I wake up to the sounds of my neighbor calling for her cat, “JUNIOR!!! JUNIOR!!!!” and the clanking of pots and pans as my neighbors busy themselves preparing breakfast.  I reach for my headphones.

7 am:  The school across the street plays Pit Bull and KPop at a dangerous volume as my alarm begins to go off.  I change the alarm to 7:30.

7:30 am: Snooze.

7:35 am: Change alarm to 7:45.

7:45 am: I lay in bed, contemplating my past, present and future.

7:50 am: Run to the bathroom and throw buckets of water on my shoulders. Nevermind the tadpoles. Brush my teeth with a bottle of water.

8 am: Put on my most missionary-looking outfit.

8:10 am: Mix some bottled water with a scoop of instant coffee and stir.  Good thing I have all those years as a barista under my apron.  Review my lesson plans as I choke on the bitter elixir.

8:20 am: Put on some mascara and lipstick and smile at myself.  J

8:25 am:  Walk across the street to the school.  As I traverse the 15 feet, two different people on motorbikes will stop and ask if I need a ride, and then laugh because they remember I’m not allowed to ride a motorbike anyway.

8:30 am: Say “Sawatdi ka” and wai all of the elementary school teachers as the kindergarteners do the same to me, followed by them yelling English words at me,  “HELLO!” “THANK YOU!!” “1,2,3,5,7!”  I then go to prepare my classroom and wait for the students to trickle in.

8:40 am:  I greet my students.  One of them will yell, “STAND UP PLEASE”, and then as a group they will all say, “GOOD MORNING, TEACHER”.  No matter how I respond, they will continue with, “I AM FINE, THANK YOU, AND YOU?”  I normally try to stick with the script at this point because I can’t undo years of training and it’s good for them to feel confident greeting me in English, even if they really don’t know what they are saying.  My English class will then consist of some kind of active review game, followed by the introduction of a new conversational question and answer with new vocabulary, and then an activity to encourage the students to practice speaking. My students are typically very well behaved and adorable.  I really like them and am impressed with their big person personalities inside their little person bodies.

9:45 am:  I ride my bike to another school for another class.  On the way I grin at everyone I see and yell “Sawatdi ka”.  Most people do the same to me and ask me where I’m going, though occasionally I will so surprise someone with my Caucasian-ness that they can only stare at me with a hilariously confused expression, or utter “Oh! Farang!”

9:55 am: I continue riding my bike and as I feel my skin getting warmer in the sunshine and look around at the endless green meeting the endless blue I tell myself again not to forget how lucky I am to be alive.

10 am: Ride into another school and am greeted much the same way as at the first, except, what is this?  Why is everyone gathered outside, along with lots of villagers?  I notice a tent set-up near the field and am told as I walk towards the principal that this is Sports Day!  Wahoo!  The principal greets me and hands me a microphone, saying, “speak”.   He just laughs when I ask what I should say, so I start, (translated from Thai of course), “Hello, how is everyone today?  Today is Sports Day.  I am happy.” (Hundreds of people staring and taking pictures of me) “Umm…  I Iike soccer and dtacraw, but I cannot play.  Students at this school are good at volleyball. ”  (Someone in the audience asks if I have a boyfriend, and another if I can eat spicy food.)  “No I do not yet have a boyfriend and I can eat spicy food. Thai food is delicious.  Thank you.”  And then I try to run into the crowd but am intercepted and encouraged to sit at the obligatory VIP bench.

10:20 am:  A chubby little girl brings me some 3-in-1 coffee and a little green cake.  As she sets it down, a teacher yells at her to go do something else, turns to me, and says, laughing, “I make her run around because she is a fat girl. She needs exercise.”

10:30 am: SOOOO HOTTTTTT.

11 am: I am instructed to stand up and award the winners their medals, however, I am confused and think that I am being gifted an honorary aluminum foil.  I realize my mistake and only I laugh…

Noon:  Lunch time!  Today we are having Gang Fak Tong, a hearty potion of pumpkin, chicken, and God knows what else.  I am no food critic, I just know what’s good and it REALLY is.  I chat with the parents and teachers and ask them how to make it, which I understand a lot of but forgot all of.  Someone gives me a kanom wrapped in a banana leaf.  It consists of cream soaked sticky rice sculpted around candied peanuts.

12:30 pm:  Thank the principal for having me and make my way to another school to do Life Skills activities.

1 pm:  I have managed to find my co-teacher.  I explain to her my goals for the lesson and I think she understands.

1:20 pm:  We begin the guidance period about Leadership skills with about 20 14 year olds all dressed identically. I am astonished at how patiently they listen to me stumble over their language, and am again impressed by their insight when I pose introspective questions.

1:50 pm:  My co-teacher hands a student a camera to take pictures of us teaching together.  I try to smile and not forget what I was talking about.

2:30 pm:  I ride my bike to the SAO (Subdistrict Admistrative Office).  I greet everyone and tell them where I’ve been when they all say, “I haven’t seen you in forever”.

2:35 pm:  Someone grabs me and says we are going to the market.

3 pm:  We go to the District Office and I try to be charming.

3:30 pm:  We go to the post office.

4 pm:  We stop at a Wat where, I am told, over 500 monks will be arriving the next day for a lecture.

4:15 pm:  I entertain a large group of grandmothers hanging out at the Wat.  They tell me I have to come to the event tomorrow.

4:30 pm:  I am told to help make the Wat beautiful.  So I am handed a bag of big yellow flowers, walk around and find nooks inside of these big leafy plants to put them.  It really did look nice.  I then threaded flowers through the middle to make garlands.

5 pm:  We return to the SAO, having never made it to the market, and I get on my bike to ride home.

5:01 pm:  Dogs across from the SAO chase me, so I get off of my bike and walk for a while.

5:03 pm:  Everyone I pass asks me why  I’m walking, so I get back on my bike and ride home.  Where I put on some electronic or classical music and dance alone in my room.

6:00 pm:  I go to aerobics with a group of ladies from the village. Everyone tries to make me teach but I refuse. Afterwards someone will insist on accompanying me home.

7:30 pm:  I am hungry so I load up a bowl of deliciousness with rice and eat it while I watch Roseanne on Youtube.

8 pm:  I screw around on the internet, try to learn something about what’s going on in the world via BBC 1 Minute World News or Vice, or make collages with cut-outs from Thai beauty magazines.

9 pm:  Skype America or watch more Youtube videos.

10 pm:  At this point in the night I want to eat something sweet, so I go look in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I get lucky and there are little bottles of this sweet and sour fermented milk thing that I guess is kind of like yogurt.  I eat it and feel great about it.

11 pm:  I cut out my light and ask the Great Spirit to watch over my family and friends.  Then I fantasize about my future in the mobile sweetened milk product business until strange things start to happen, and then suddenly I hear my neighbor yelling at her cat again.

I prefer that she have more days like that. Without scorpions.

Ha, ha! That’s very funny! Right? We’re laughing here, right?

dinner

Last night, my wife made a big pot of spaghetti sauce. It was very good. And normally, I’d be looking forward to having it a couple more times before the leftovers ran out.

But at mid-morning today, I got this text:

Just found my spaghetti sauce on stove. Was planning on giving it to kids for lunch.

Ohboyohboyohboy. Homina-homina. I was the last one to eat last night, and the last one to bed.

I have excuses, real ones. I had meant to put it up, but the pot was still hot, and I wanted to wait until it was cool enough to put in a plastic container. The light is out over the stove (not just the bulb; something wrong with the switch), so I couldn’t leave it on to remind me when I was turning lights out in kitchen. Etc.

She wrote back that there was nothing in the house (fortunately, she found some chicken nuggets in the freezer for the grandchildren), and that I was cooking tonight, and “I am hungry by 6. 7 at the latest.”

I answered with the equivalent of “aye-aye,” and went back to what I was doing.

Later, I happened to take a second to check Facebook, and found the above update, with a link to the story I made a pun about yesterday.

Good one, huh? Ha-ha!

Heh-heh.

(chuckle)

Yeah…

By the way, Sunday we’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary.

If I make it to Sunday.

Gotta get that light fixed on the stove…

Richard Nixon, impersonated in all his awkwardness

Hard to believe that Friday marked the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation speech.

I was already working at my first newspaper job at the time. I was a copy clerk at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. I spent a good part of that evening running back and forth between the newsroom and the composing room (on the next floor), as the managing editor sent me up to have various headlines blown up to full page-width, and I brought full-sized proof of those heds back down for him to peruse.

That was how you did an eye-popping, historic headline in those days. Now, you’d just try various heds on your screen, and see immediately how they’d look on the page. Then, with the news pages still done on hot type (loud, clanking linotype machines, cutting-edge technology in the late 19th century), we had to get the hed set in the desired font by a compositor, have a high-resolution proof of it made, and have a camera shoot it at the right distance and magnification to blow it up on the page camera — a process even more tedious than that employed by David Hemmings in Antonioni’s “Blow-Up.” Then, a proof was made of that.

At least, I think that’s how we did it. It’s been so long.

I saved at least one of those proofs I brought down to the M.E. Don’t know what I did with it.

Anyway, to celebrate the milestone, I share the above weird little video with Harry Shearer playing Nixon. Here’s a description of the video:

In a new video just posted online, Harry Shearer inhabits Richard Nixon in a verbatim comedic re-creation of Nixon’s poignant last 6 minutes before he resigned the Presidency, forty years ago today.

This excerpt, from Shearer‘s TV series “Nixon’s The One,” includes Nixon’s previously little known – and surprising – words to the CBS camera crew, which Shearer uncovered using advanced audio restoration techniques.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD46pHpRVzo

For the rest of “Nixon’s The One,” Shearer and his co-writer Nixon historian Stanley Kutler combed through thousands of hours of the legendary Nixon audio tapes, and re-enacted word for word the best moments as if filmed by a hidden camera.

“Nixon was one of the great comic characters of the 20th century,” Shearersays. “When I first began listening to his secret tapes, the revelation to me was the crazy conversations that went on in this place on the public dime. Stanley and I aimed to be as accurate as humanly possible in the way these lines are spoken, in the intonations, in the pauses, in the way people interact. Our job was to be faithful transmitters of this incredible record of craziness.”

Stay tuned for more news on the US launch of the series in fall 2014, which aired earlier this year on Sky Arts in the UK.

With a program like this, maybe even I could have served

I’ve always chafed at the fact that I could not serve in the military, because of something as simple and stupid as chronic asthma.

As long as I use Asmanex and Singulair daily, it’s totally under control, as my nightly strenuous workouts on the elliptical trainer prove. (Although, I confess, the drugs available when I was military age were considerably less effective.) But as an Army general confirmed for me recently, they don’t want you if you need to take anything on a regular basis.

But according to this video shared by Stan Dubinsky, Israel makes it possible for anyone and everyone to serve in the IDF.

That’s the way it should be. I think everyone should serve. It’s good for the individual, and good for the society overall. But at the very least, you should be allowed to serve if you want to.

Here’s a piece about the Israeli program:

Children with special needs in Israel face an often harsh disappointment at the age of 18, when they are left behind as others join the IDF. A unique project seeks to change that, allowing disabled children to overcome their limitations and enlist.

Maj. Col. (res.) Ariel Almog founded the project ten years ago, to integrate disabled youth into the IDF in a three-year program, helping prepare them for independent life in Israeli society.

A few months ago the association “Lend a Hand to a Special Child,” founded in 2005 by parents of special needs children, joined the project to help increase its scale and allow thousands of disabled youth to join.

Rabbi Mendi Belinitzki, CEO of Lend a Hand to a Special Child, explained that the project “starts in the army but doesn’t end there. We can clearly see how afterwards it leads to a better integration into the society, the community and the workforce.”…

Yeah, I know, wise guys out there. This indeed invites comparison to the classic Onion piece about “very special forces,” which was funny but cruel.

But this is a serious matter. Everyone should have at least the opportunity to serve.

Remembering Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee

Lamar Hand Shaking_Display

I got this email yesterday…

Hi Brad,

I am a staff writer for Governing Magazine and came across your blog while doing some Googling about Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee. (Governing covers state and local governments across the country and our audience is largely elected officials/public employees.) I’m working on a fun piece for one of our upcoming issues about the political stunt of walking and was wondering if you were available this week to chat about the topic as you covered Alexander’s campaign in ‘78. The piece will take an overall look at some of the more famous “walks” by pols – from Missouri’s Walkin’ Joe Teasdale to Illinois’ (aptly named) Dan Walker, the public stroll has been a popular political tool. More recently, Adam O’Neal, mayor of the small town of Belhaven, N.C., took a 273-mile trek to Washington, D.C. to protest the closing of his local hospital. President Obama this spring took an impromptu stroll to the Dept. of the Interior for a meeting.

I’d love to hear your take on the effectiveness of Alexander’s 1,000-mile walk and how it resonated with people. And I’m also curious about your broader thoughts on the gimmick as a whole. How effective has this type of stunt been? Who’s done it right and are there pitfalls?

Are you available Wednesday or Thursday for a phone call? Or you can always reach me directly at the number below.

Thanks,

Liz

# # # # # # # # # # # # #

Liz Farmer | Staff Writer
Governing Magazine

… and I talked with Liz for about 20 minutes this morning.

I didn’t have anything really profound to say. Here are some of the points I hit on:

  • First, I wasn’t on the actual, full walk across Tennessee (which, if you follow I-40, is about 450 miles). I was covering him during the last weeks of the general election campaign, and he had completed the walk (if I remember correctly) well before the primary. His walk was a campaign trope in the past tense: “On my walk across the state, I found yadda-yadda…” BUT I got the general flavor of it, because everywhere he went, he’d get out and walk a mile or so along the side of the road in his trademark red-and-black checked flannel shirt, khakis and hiking boots, waving at the cars. I got some photos of him doing that along a busy thoroughfare in Nashville. The brand was working for him, so he kept it going through to the end.
  • Lamar was trying to set himself apart at a time when politicians-as-usual had a particularly seedy reputation. The state had endured four years of astoundingly bold corruption under Democrat Ray Blanton. And Lamar himself had worked in the Nixon White House, a fact that might have figured in his failure to get elected four years earlier. Nixon was the master of limited access and staged availabilities, since he was so socially awkward. This walk was the opposite, and allowed him to project as an outdoorsy, clean-cut kind of guy — he looked and sounded like Pat Boone (Boone did some PSAs that were airing on the radio at about that time, and whenever he came on, I thought it was Alexander).
  • Since she was looking for examples of politicians talking long walks for political purposes, I urged her to look into Joe Riley’s march from Charleston to Columbia in 2000 to demand that the Confederate flag come off the dome. That had an impact at the time — and was mentioned recently in a nationally syndicated column, so it should be easy to look up.
  • Even though we’re far more cynical and suspicious these days, I think Tennesseans who remember Alexander’s walk still have positive connotations connected to it, largely because he wasn’t a disappointment to them. He was open and aboveboard in his dealings as governor. He worked VERY well across the aisle, persuading Speaker Ned Ray McWherter and the other Democratic leaders to go for the kinds of education reform that were usually anathema to Dems. He harks back to a better time, when Republicans like him and his mentor Howard Baker disagreed with Democrats, but didn’t see them as the enemy, but as people to work with for the betterment of the state and country.
  • That, of course, is why Alexander has Tea-Party opposition in this Thursday’s primary (Tennessee has primaries at a much more rational and voter-friendly time than we do; our June primaries mean there’s plenty of time for mischief in the Legislature after filing deadlines). Here’s hoping his opponent does no better than his counterpart in Kansas, the president’s distant cousin. Lamar Alexander is exactly the kind of senator this country needs in Washington, and there too few like him left. (See “In Tennessee, consensus politics makes a last stand” by Dan Balz in the WashPost.)

I wished I could have put my hands on one story I wrote, right after Alexander won the 1978 election, which ran on the front page of The Jackson Sun. It was an exclusive, and one of the best stories I wrote during my brief time as a reporter. It was Alexander’s own account of how he had come back after defeat four years earlier. A week or two before Election Day, at the end of a long day of campaigning, Alexander and a reporter from the Tennessean were relaxing over a drink on the campaign plane on the way back from an event at one of the far ends of the state. (We had access to candidates in those days that reporters only dream of now, and our papers thought nothing about paying a pro-rata share of the plane rides.) Alexander just started talking about how he come to that point, and the Tennessean guy just listened and enjoyed his drink, and I took notes like mad. Even John Parish, the gruff dean of Tennessee political writers, praised the piece I got from that eavesdropping.

That probably would have provided Liz with some insights, but this was years before electronic archiving. That clip is probably moldering in a box in my attic somewhere…

My son-in-law’s study mentioned by The Atlantic

This morning I happened to be searching for something unrelated and came up with an article that appeared last week in The Atlantic. I skimmed it, and it suddenly started looking very familiar, right at this point:

There are more variables at play than just pronunciation, though. In competitive fields that have classically been dominated by men, such as law and engineering, women with sexually ambiguous names tend to be more successful. This effect is known as the Portia Hypothesis (named for the heroine of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice who disguises herself as a lawyer’s apprentice and takes on the name Balthazar to save the titular merchant, Antonio). A study found that female lawyers with more masculine names—such as Barney, Dale, Leslie, Jan, and Rudell—tend to have better chances of winning judgeships than their more effeminately named female peers. All else being equal, changing a candidate’s name from Sue to Cameron tripled a candidate’s likelihood of becoming a judge; a change from Sue to Bruce quintupled it….

And sure enough, I followed the link and found that the study was one co-authored by my son-in-law, an economist who teaches at USC.

If I recall correctly, the idea for the study grew out of a conversation several years ago between him and my daughter, an attorney, regarding such female federal court judges in South Carolina as Bruce Hendricks and Cameron Currie. The subject was particularly, personally interesting to them both because it was about the time their twins were born. The twins are named for their great-grandmothers. Twin A is called by my wife’s mother’s unmistakably feminine first name. Twin B is known by my mother’s neutral maiden surname.

The twins are six-and-a-half now, so it’s a bit early to see whether Twin B will be a federal judge, while Twin A follows a different path. We’ll see. They’re just precious little girls right now…

What's in a name? The twins last week, trying to get their cousin to smile with them for the camera.

What’s in a name? The twins last week, trying to get their cousin to smile with them for the camera.

I enjoyed the beach much more this time. Didn’t cry once…

beach 1954 cropped

As I may have mentioned, we were at the beach all last week. While there, my mother shared with me the above photo of my reaction to the ocean on being introduced to it in 1954.

I look at it, and I know exactly what I was thinking: “It’s WET, and it’s SANDY and the SUN is RIGHT in my EYES! What are you people DOING to me?!?!?”

That’s my Dad, the career sailor, doing his best to bravely smile through his son’s disgraceful, lubberly behavior.

Just to let you know that the Warthen stock has gotten hardier over time, and improved its attitude (maybe there’s something to that evolution stuff), below you will see a photo I took of my grandson at about the same age (last summer), charging into the surf laughing.

He was just as enthusiastic this year, but this photo captured the contrast so well.

Anyway, we had a great time. Even I did.

beach 2013

 

 

 

Here’s how the scar is coming along…

scar

Doug, or someone (I can’t seem to find the email now) said I should give y’all an update on how the Red Badge of Stupidity is coming along.

I was reminded again this morning when Pat Littlejohn of the SC Center for Fathers and Families told me I had kind of a Frankenstein thing going on.

The doctor who took out the stitches assured me it would make for a real “tough guy” scar, since it’s vertical, and doesn’t blend in with the wrinkles when I furrow my brow, which you see me doing above in an effort to look at the camera. Sort of like the mark you’d get from someone breaking a bottle on your head in a barroom brawl in an old Western. Except it the Westerns, no one ever had any marks on them in the next scene…

As for other effects, I’m still kind of scatterbrained, but no one will think that’s out of the ordinary…

An act of God kept The State from winning that Pulitzer

TIM DOMINICK TDOMINICK@THESTATE

TIM DOMINICK TDOMINICK@THESTATE

That is to say, a second act of God, less than four weeks after the first.

You may have read in the paper that those of us who were on the newsroom staff that nearly won the Pulitzer for our coverage of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 are being honored with a reception at The State today.

We should have won it. We did a bang-up job in those days and weeks before and after the landfall on Sept. 21, not only covering every possible angle of the damage and its impact across the state, but providing lots of “news you can use,” telling people where and how to get help or give it, updated daily.

It was a heady time, characterized by strong teamwork. A couple of my fellow editors got to go down to the ravaged coast with the reporters and photographers, and I was envious of them. I was stuck at the office, helping supervise and coordinate coverage and get it into the paper.

But then, on Oct. 17, the second act of God — or the fickle finger of fate, if you prefer — struck. A 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit San Francisco during the World Series. The fact that it was the first earthquake captured live on television — because of the Series — riveted national attention on that disaster in an unprecedented manner. The San Jose Mercury News, our Knight Ridder sister paper, also did a bang-up job. Remember the quake beginning as my wife’s cousin Tim McCarver was narrating highlights from the previous game? Remember the images of the pancaked overpass? Yeah, everybody else did, too. They got the Pulitzer for General News Reporting, leaving us as one of the two finalists.

Since then, The State has only come close to a Pulitzer twice. Both times, the finalist was Robert Ariail, during the years that I was his editor. So I was close to the situation all three times that The State was close to a Pulitzer. But that one in 1989 was particularly bittersweet, because it would have been a win for all of us, Robert included. We wanted to win for The State as an institution, and for Tom McLean, as that was his last year as executive editor.

We didn’t make it, but we went down swinging. And we remember what we did together fondly. Not that we’re ghouls, fondly recalling a disaster. It’s the camaraderie, the Band of Brothers aspect that generates the positive feeling.

Here’s the list of people being credited with that finalist showing:

Hugo Alumni include:
Jeff Amberg
Susan Ardis
Robert Ariail
Dottie Ashley
Perry Baker
Pat Berman
Warren Bolton
Lee Bouknight
Margaret Bouknight
Claudia Brinson
Rosie Brooks
Bobby Bryant
Clint Bryson
Pat Butler
Bob Cole
John Collins
Betty Lynn Compton
Jeffrey Day
Tim Dominick
Carol Farmington
Thom Fladung
Holly Gatling
Bob Gillespie
Doug Gilmore
Kay Gordon
Richard Greer
Frank Heflin
Bill HIggins
Dawn Hinshaw
Gordon Hirsch
Bobby Hitt
Deborah Lynn Hook
Bhakti Larry Hough
Bill Hughes
Page Ivey
Joe Jackson
Bill Kelly III
Lou Kinard
Michael Kozma
Dawn Kujawa
Clif LeBlanc
Michael Lewis
Mike Livingston
Diane Lore
Salley McInerney
Norma McLean
Tom McLean
Jim McLaurin
Jeff Miller
Michael Miller
Bill Mitchell
Dave Moniz
Will Moredock
Fred Monk
Loretta Neal
David Newton
Jennifer Nicholson
Margaret O’Shea
Paul Osmundson
Levona Page
Charles Paschal
Lezlie Patterson
Beverly Phillips
Ginger Pinson
Charles Pope
Bertram Rantin
Dargan Richards
Bunny Richardson
Maxie Roberts
Bill Robinson
Pat Robertson
Cindi Ross Scoppe
Michael Sponhour
Bob Stuart
Beverly Shelley
Steve Smith
Bob Spear
Bill Starr
Linda Stelter
Clark Surratt
Rick Temple
Rob Thompson
Ernie Trubiano
Jan Tuten
Helene Vickers
Nancy Wall
Brad Warthen
Neil White

I wonder how many of us will be there this afternoon…

pulitzer

Pew thinks I fit in the ‘faith and family left.’ Interesting…

When I saw the headline at The Fix, “Proud to be an American? You’re probably not a true liberal,” I thought, Well, that’s yet another reason why I’m not a liberal.

At least, not as the term is popularly defined. There are a lot of points of alienation between me and today’s “liberals” beyond the fact that Michele Obama set my teeth on edge when she said, “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country…”

And yet, the study upon which the piece was based, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, says I fit in a category that has “left” in its name.

Specifically, it thinks I fit in the “Faith and Family Left,” one of eight “political typologies” into which it separates Americans. The category is described thusly:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

So, Pew thinks I’m a black preacher or something. OK, I’m certainly more comfortable being that that I am as “Solid Liberal” or “Steadfast Conservative.” I’m even pleased with the “Faith and Family” part, but I could do without the “left” part. Because you know how the current “left” and “right” repel me.

Pew’s questionnaire forced me into that box with questions that had no right answer. Take this one, for instance:

bad choices

Like the Kulturkampf battle between faith and science, this is framed as a false and unnecessary choice. I don’t hold either of those positions. I clicked on the second one because I HAD to choose. But as you know, my belief is that we have not given up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism — which the libertarians believe is false. Since we haven’t been asked to do that, then it obviously isn’t necessary.

But a casual observer would read that response and think that I’m in the Edward Snowden camp, arguing against surveillance programs. Which is 180 degrees from where I am, as you know. I think the NSA programs are fine. I just don’t think they intrude on our privacy or freedom.

What I needed was an option like, “Our current security measures are fine, and don’t infringe our privacy or freedom. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.” That I could have clicked on happily.

There were a bunch of questions like that. Which causes me to doubt the value of the survey.

And yet, when I had glanced at the categories before I took the survey, my first impression was that if I fit in any of them, it would be the one called “Faith and Family” leaving out the “left” bit.

So maybe there’s something to this method after all.

Maybe you should take it, and see where you end up. Here’s the link.

The 2014 Political Typology: Polarized Wings, a Diverse Middle

The passing of Howard Baker

baker

This came in a little while ago from The Washington Post:

Former senator Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, who framed the central question of the Watergate scandal when he asked “what did the president know and when did he know it?” and framed portraits of history with his ever-present camera while Senate majority leader and White House chief of staff, died June 26 at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said longtime aide Tom Griscom….

That’s me with Baker in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1980. I had just arrived to cover him as he campaigned for the presidential nomination. It’s a shame that he didn’t do better than he did.

And it’s a greater shame that there are so few pragmatic centrists like Baker left — a fair-minded conservative who did not hesitate to grill the Nixon administration to discover the truth.

We still have Lamar Alexander, who comes out of that same commonsense Tennessee Republican tradition — people who gained high office before the Reagan revolution, and before the hardening of ideological positions on both ends of the spectrum. Our own Lindsey Graham is made from a similar mold — although, being of a later generation, he is more marked by the partisan wars than Baker ever was.

But the Howard Bakers, the Sam Nunns, the Scoop Jacksons… they’re all gone. And we’re worse off for it…

Did you vote today? Were you the only one there?

Voted

Well, I did, and I was the only voter at the time. I was greatly outnumbered by poll workers, poll greeters, and media. It was 8:41 a.m., and I was the 46th voter to take a Republican ballot. Exactly one person had voted in the Democratic runoff.

Of course, I HAD to take a GOP ballot, having voted Republican two weeks ago. But had I not been wrongly, unfairly forced to do that (you should be able to vote in both primaries, any time), I would have anyway. I don’t think there was anything on the Democratic side other than superintendent of education, and I didn’t have an opinion on that choice. (Had I voted in that, lacking a view of my own, I likely would have accepted The State‘s recommendation and gone with Tom Thompson. As you may know, I generally, but not always, vote a straight State paper ticket.)

Whereas on the GOP side, I not only had superintendent of education and lieutenant governor, but a hotly-contested county council race.

On my way in I did something I don’t usually do, which is reveal how I was going to vote. Chalk it up to that knock on the head the other day; I cracked under questioning. And since I did it in the presence of the press, I’ll share it with you. I stopped to say hey to Tim Dominick from The State — he shot the picture below at my precinct (I hope The State won’t mind my sharing it — here’s the link to where I got it). He was chatting with a lady who urged me to vote for Bill Banning, for county council. Not feeling like being cagey, I said I would.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who read this story, or who otherwise has been paying attention. A key excerpt:

Anti-tax and limited-government groups are helping Tolar…

In other words, Tolar is sort of the tea party option. I mean, seriously. Anybody who thinks taxes are too high in Lexington County is not likely to get my vote.

Anyway, please share your voting experiences today. You don’t have to say how you voted. Unless you want to. And even then, you don’t have to…

Quail Hollow precinct, right before or after I was there. Photo by Tim Dominick of The State; click on it to read the story at thestate.com.

Quail Hollow precinct, right before or after I was there. Photo by Tim Dominick of The State; click on it to read the story at thestate.com.

Frankenstein selfie: I’m doing fine now. Really…

phiz1Shot this selfie over the weekend, when I was airing out the stitches.

It looks worse than it feels. The black eye looks a little worse than above since I shot this (see below, from today), but it’s going to be fine, too.

I’m back at work today, anyway, and have had a busy day. I might still wait a couple of days before working out again…

shiner

Am I about to run out of good ‘West Wing’ episodes?

Merlyn

I’ve been thinking about the passage above from The Once and Future King. The boy Wart has just met Merlyn for the first time. Merlyn, who experiences time backwards, asks how long it’s been since they met. When the boy tells him, he is deeply saddened, because he is about to lose his dear friend of many years.

In my own strange temporal distortion, made possible by Netflix, I am experiencing “The West Wing,” a series that everyone else saw a decade ago, for the first time. What is old to everyone else is fresh and new to me. And it has renewed me physically as well as regaling me mentally — it’s made me enjoy working out every night, and getting in shape.

But I just discovered something upsetting. I had heard that the series was only as wonderful as what I’ve been experiencing during the years that Aaron Sorkin wrote it. I had looked forward to a full seven seasons of delight, watching the episodes each night while striding away on the elliptical. But I happened to discover that Sorkin stopped writing them at the end of the fourth season.

I watched “Life on Mars,” the 21st episode in the fourth season, Tuesday — the night before my accident. There are only two episodes left in the season. Had I not banged my head, I would have watched them both by now, and would be feeling rather bereft.

Are my friends about to abandon me? The lovely Ainsley, appealing on so many levels, including the all-important UnParty level, has already left, without a warning and with no goodbye, replaced most disappointingly by Matthew Perry. (Donna seems to find it an acceptable substitution, but I lack her glandular bias.)

I look forward to getting back up on the elliptical, but I dread running out of good episodes. I would hate to see the quality decline — it would be like being bitterly disappointed by a friend. And I’m not sure what to do if I no longer have good episodes to watch. I’ve tried getting into other series available for streaming on Netflix. I watched the first episode of “Dexter,” which many have praised, but was quite disappointed. I’ve tried getting into the various series in the “Star Trek” canon, but I doubt I’ll ever be a Trekkie.

There’s got to be something else out there as delightful as these four seasons of “West Wing.” But I haven’t found it yet. And doubt that I shall. It rivals my previous uncontested favorite series, “Band of Brothers” and to me, exceeds “The Sopranos.”

I sense a long quest before me…

Will my friends all abandon me now?

Will my friends all abandon me now?

A full day of wonderful meals in Thailand

My daughter — the one in Thailand, in the Peace Corps — posted today on her blog to let us know how well-fed she is, in keeping with the military junta’s happiness campaign.

She posted quite a cornucopia of enticing dishes. But they also came across, to this benighted Westerner’s eyes, as evidence of just how exotic her surroundings are. That plate of mangosteen and rambutan look like Star Trek props.

I hereby copy and paste her entire post. Shop Tart, eat your heart out:

In accordance with my host country’s happiness campaign (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/04/thailand-to-bring-happiness-to-the-people), I would like to share something that makes me SO happy every day in this country: FOOD.  I took pictures of my breakfast, lunch, and dinner the other day with the intention of making everyone back home super jealous of me.  
                                                                          Breakfast

Mangosteen and Rambutan.  I’m not a huge rice for breakfast person, which is fine because wherever I go in the morning I will inevitably be presented with a large plate of fruit.  On this day, I was accompanying the health clinic to the schools to teach about oral hygiene, when I was  presented with two of my favorite fruits.  Mangosteen, the purple one, is the Queen of Fruits and Thai people say that it makes you cool when you eat it (temperature wise- I don’t want to get all you nerds’ hopes up).  Rambutan is also quite delicious and juicy once you peel those crazy green spikes off. Thai people have really got this whole hospitality thing down.
Lunch

 

Pad Gapow- A spicy, garlicy, deliciousy chicken situation

 

Dtom Yom Gung- A classic, sour shrimp stew made with chili peppers, lemongrass, cilantro, limes mushrooms, etc. Idk I learned to make this the other day but I didn’t take notes. Whoops.

 

Gang Jut- Pork stuffed inside of large celery-like chutes, boiled with cabbage.

 

Pad Pak- Fried vegetables.

 

Dinner

 

Rice
Rooa- Bamboo, coconut Milk, and mint

 

Nam Prik Ga Peet with Vegetables- Basically homemade chili sauce
Gang Malagow- A papaya stew with pork

 

Dtom Gai Baan- Boiled chicken, vegetables, and spices.

 

Gapow Moo- Spicy Pork

 

Khay Giaw Pak Da Om- Omelette made with a stringy green

 

As you can see, I eat pretty well.  I apologize for not cooking, therefore having no idea of the actual ingredients, but you get the “picture”.  Maybe in the future I will try harder.  I did not even include the many snacks I ate that day, including, but not limited to- grilled chicken skewers drenched in a creamy peanut paste, some kind of hot peanut drink, thai doughnuts that we dipped in a condensed milk and some sort of green fluffy stuff, boiled lotus seeds, and a sweetened coconut milk desert with tapioca balls and gelatin noodles.  We joke that I will return to America fat.  That’s fine.  Anyway, hope you enjoyed the pictures, and now you have evidence that I am not starving.  I will post a coup update soon!

I think my favorite would be the Dtom Yom Gung. Being a Southern boy, I’d eat it over rice, like gumbo….

The Red Badge of Stupidity

After the stitches, before changing out of bloody clothes: Feeling disgusted with myself.

After the stitches, before changing out of bloody clothes: Feeling disgusted with myself.

I’m spending a second day at home today, partly because I don’t feel 100 percent, but more than that because I can’t wash my hair and don’t want to go out in public looking grubby.

Wednesday night, I arrived home all eager to change into my workout clothes and get on the elliptical trainer and watch the “West Wing.” I remember going into the bedroom and starting to change, then having people around me making a fuss.

Apparently, my wife and daughter heard this huge “THUNK” and came running. They found me with my pants around my ankles (fortunately, I had not brought any strippers home with me; that really would have been awkward), sitting dazed on the floor with blood running down my face. A puddle of it was forming on the hardwood floor.

As we wouldn’t discover until going to bed that night, my head had hit the bedpost hard enough to knock it loose from the rest of the bed frame, as you can see in the picture below.

Anyway, Mamanem gathered me up and took me to the urgent care, where I got five or six stitches to close the gash over my left eye.

The pain wasn’t bad. Mostly, I just felt like an idiot. I kept saying, “I’m sorry.” My wife kept saying, “Why do you keep saying that?” Well, because it was just all so undignified, and I was causing a fuss.

Aside from the head thing, I apparently wrenched my neck a bit — that hurts more than the wound — jammed both thumbs trying to catch myself, and banged my elbow.

Yesterday, I watched Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter receiving the Medal of Honor from the president (a worthy ceremony that helped eclipse the memory of a less-well-advised celebration a couple of weeks back). I saw the more obvious scars resulting from his heroism. Real wounds, horrific wounds, most honorably received.

And it made me feel even studiper for tripping on my pants and causing other people trouble…

The damaged bed -- from those marks on the floor, I must have moved the whole thing a bit.

The damaged bed — from those marks on the floor, I must have moved the whole thing a bit.

No news on my identity theft, but I’m fully warned about sex offenders in the area, thank you very much (I think)

sex offenders

Back when the Department of Revenue hacking mess broke, like everyone, I signed up for the monitoring service.

And I get alerts every few weeks telling me I should log in to my account “to view the details of this alert.”

But it seems it’s never about my credit status. It’s always a report on where all the sex offenders are in the metro area.

I continue to be puzzled at this. I don’t see what the connection is to my credit, or identity theft, or anything that I supposedly signed up for.

Maybe they just feel like they ought to be reporting something to me, since there’s no news bearing on my credit status. But why not the weather, or the latest headlines? Why sex offenders? It’s kinda weird. And it makes me wonder… what are they seeing in my credit report that makes them think this is the kind of thing I’m interested in?

Come give blood with me next Tuesday, ya wimps!

This is me giving once in 2011. I'd already been doing it for YEARS by then.

This is me giving once in 2011. I’d already been doing it for YEARS by then.

Today, they called me to ask for my blood again, on account of the fact that I’ll be eligible to do so again starting this Thursday.

I set my appointment for 5 p.m. next Tuesday, May 27 — double red cells, as usual, if my iron is good enough.

And as usual, they asked me that question that always sounds kind of odd — asking me if I could bring a friend.

But not really so odd, when you think of how much blood is needed in this part of the country. We almost never have enough, and have to import from other regions. So the more, the better.

So… for once, I’m asking well ahead of time: Would any of y’all join me in giving, either on Tuesday when I go, or at your convenience.

It’s important. It’s worth doing. Which is why I overcame my “Room 101″-level horror of having blood drawn from my body to become a regular giver, like clockwork.

So join me.

My grandson explains how old he is, more or less

TWO

Sunday was the little guy’s second birthday. If any adult at the party asked how old he is now, he flashed a seemingly (but not really*) random number of fingers. It seemed to satisfy the adults, and then he could go back to playing…

* CORRECTION: You know what? I realized that, in the interests of emphasizing cuteness, I described what the little guy is doing inaccurately, and even in a way that made him seem less smart than he is — which I would never want to do. Actually, he is conscientiously doing his best to answer the question. My wife tried to teach him, in the days running up to his birthday, how to hold up two fingers. Seeing that that was kind of tricky for him, she showed him that, as an alternative, he could hold up one finger of each hand. So, you see, what he’s doing in the picture is giving you as complete an answer as he can, covering all possible ways of answering: He’s doing his best to show two fingers with his right hand, while holding up one finger with his left. He just doesn’t understand that it’s an either-or thing.

Mother’s Day thoughts from our baby, in Thailand

Boo

Our youngest, with friends in Thailand.

As you may recall, our youngest daughter is in Thailand with the Peace Corps. She’ll be there another two years. So as the family gathered yesterday for a Mother’s Day cookout, she couldn’t be with us physically. But she posted this on her blog:

I love this time of year. Although nothing’s really changing on this side of the planet, my southern blood can feel the dogwoods bloom and the Atlantic Ocean warming up begging me to dive in. It’s when my South Carolina soul is set free — those first few Charleston summer nights spent riding my bike through the cobblestones of the Battery, down alleyways like magic gardens, past beautiful long pastel porches where belles once kissed their beaus by the flickering light of oil lamps.

I’m sure it’s getting to be the perfect weather for a backyard barbeque — which is exactly what I’m missing out on today as my family gathers to celebrate Mother’s Day.

While I wish I could be there, my service in the Peace Corps is a daily reminder to me of my mother’s influence. I often think, as I find myself in shocking situations, how would my mother handle this? And the answer is always the same — graciously, and with style. My mother would smile and calmly treat any human she came into contact with, with the same dignity and respect as the next person, no matter their approach or appearance. I learned from witnessing my mother’s consistent interactions as a social worker and active volunteer that all people deserve equal attention.

I feel that my parents, particularly the long hours I spent alone with my mother as her last baby, are largely responsible for any humanitarian tendencies I may possess. As I dug for grubs at her feet in our backyard organic garden, I learned that the easy way is not always the right way, i.e., cloth diapers for five children is better than polluting the planet with disposable diapers for five children, dryers are unnecessary when you have a sunny sky, and that your recycling and composting piles should always outweigh your trash.

My mother taught me a sense of social responsibility, but what’s more is she taught me how to live. She showed me by example the importance of prioritizing and maintaining a positive outlook. When she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, she fought it so gracefully that I never questioned her survival. A steel magnolia if you ever saw one.

I’ve come a long way from my childhood, which I spent totally preoccupied with my mother’s activities and whereabouts. Sure, all children are concerned with their #1 caretaker’s well-being, but my interest was border-line stalkerish. Maybe I was just spoiled, but I couldn’t stand for her to be out of my sight for a minute, and I needed constant validation of my status as the baby. I still do. Some things you never grow out of. While I have some minor personal goals for my life, the one over-arching theme is to make my mother proud. At the end of the day that’s what I really care about. That’s what would make me happy. I know in order to do this I must try to live selflessly as she does, not missing an opportunity to make my life worthwhile. This doesn’t come as naturally to me, but I am trying.

When I was little, I would stare at my mother’s face and marvel at her beauty. Now I’m wise enough to marvel at her strength. Each day I spend in Thailand is a test — a beautiful, delicious, sweaty test filled with smiles and laughter, but a test nonetheless. One that forces me to channel my mother from the other side of the world.

I wish all the mamas a happy Mother’s Day and I miss you from Thailand!