On Watching the Democrats

And I thought the Democrats’ convention would be calmer than the other. Anyway – a few notes.

Dear Michelle (Obama, of course);

Focusing  your speech on your daughters was genius. You reminded everyone listening that the future isn’t something we can leave to just anyone. You reminded all of us that we can’t sit back and do nothing; we need to pour our passion into electing Hillary Clinton president. I will remind myself of your speech every time I feel too tired to volunteer or too discouraged to blog. 

Dear Debbie (Wasserman-Schultz – are there any other Debbies?);

If you don’t want to see it on the front page of the newspaper, in print or online, don’t hit send. Nothing, whether on a private or a so-called secure server, is truly private. Nothing.

Dear Bernie Backers; 

Bernie Sanders lost. You’re feeling hurt and upset at the delegate total. But when you boo, I feel embarrassed, because Bernie has already come to grips with his loss. It’s a small minority of his supporters that haven’t. So please, pull yourselves together – just like in 2008 when Hillary stepped aside and supported Barack Obama. 

Dear Democrat Speakers;

Keep count. Use your fingers, keep a tally, or drop marbles in your pockets, but keep count. Trump already has name recognition. You can get Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine the name recognition they need by speaking their names more often than you do the name of their opponent.

Dear Hillary; 

I’m with you. I want to see you shatter that final glass ceiling into a million shards. 

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Wild Parsnip: Do Not Touch

Have you seen this plant?

Have you seen this plant?

It’s pervasive; in fact, it’s invasive. Here’s a closer look.

Flowers on the right, gone to seed on the left.

Flowers on the right, gone to seed on the left.

This, my friends, is wild parsnip. It reminds me of dill, and it’s kind of pretty. But when I showed a young ecologist this picture, he quickly exclaimed, “You didn’t touch it, did you?!” Luckily, I hadn’t.

Wild parsnip flowers produce an oil that stings and burns and even scars. Similar to poison ivy, we asked? Much, much worse, he responded. The flowers react with sunlight, so if the park rangers or farmers or gardeners want to get rid of it, they need to cover up, hazmat style. With gloves to protect hands and goggles to protect the eyes, devoted environmentalists will go out after dark and bag up the plants.

With a little more research on my own, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I learned that the wild parsnip was brought to this country from Europe and planted for its edible roots. It spread like wildfire, er, wildflowers. Heck, look back at the pictures, and you can see how many seeds it produces. This plant wants to reproduce!

The moral of my story is this: if you encounter the dreaded wild parsnip, leave it alone. If you’re confident that you can handle it, come out at night in your hazmat suit and dispose of the floral monster. Don’t compost it or toss it in with your brush pile; that’s just another opportunity to spread the seeds upon the land.

 

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Hot, Hot, Hot

It’s unseasonably warm here in the “Frozen Tundra.” The Green Bay Packers held their annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday with a major storm in the morning and extreme temperatures in the afternoon. Why would that matter, you might ask, for a shareholders’ meeting? This meeting takes place outdoors in the bowl of Lambeau Field. The shareholders dress in green and gold, and so on, and so on. If you’re wondering, no, I didn’t go. It’s enough to know I could. There are 360,760 people holding approximately 5 million shares of Green Bay Packers stock.

So anyway, it’s more than warm. In my Prep for Winter mentality, I made a new batch of jelly yesterday. It didn’t gel. I’m blaming the humidity and heat, and I’m monitoring the jars to see if they’re just gelling slowly.

It's pretty, though.

It’s pretty, though.

Also in my Prep for the School Year mode, I picked up a couple of new wardrobe elements on clearance at Kohl’s. I saved far more than I paid; that’s Kohl’s and my shopping savvy.

Bored yet? I don’t want to work outside because of the heat, but I set up a batch of sun tea to brew. My formula (recipe, if you insist) is this. 2 quart mason jars with lids; 3 tea bags per jar; fill each jar with filtered water; let sit in the sun until tea reaches desired strength.

It'll need sugar, but not much.

It’ll need sugar, but not much.

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Mangled Metaphors and a Copying Crisis

As heard on television —

“He has Superman syndrome, like a lot of young men. He wants to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.” Stop. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the daring young man on the flying trapeze? That’s a whole different superhero. Or does your young man in tights prefer to leap tall buildings in a single bound?

And this was not, repeat, NOT a part of the convention taking place in Cleveland.

When people borrow analogies or lyrics to express themselves, it works because those analogies and quotes are part of our shared culture. Shakespeare. Dr. Seuss. Ferber. Dickenson. And more, of course.

But what happens when someone uses or reuses someone else’s words? This time, it’s called plagiarism. Without ripping on Melania or those who jumped to her defense (My Little Pony? Give me a break), I’ll tell you what plagiarism means to me.

I teach. I teach middle school language arts and social studies, two classes that require a lot of writing. My students are required to submit their work to a service called Check My Work so that I can see that their work is original. Let’s set that requirement aside for the moment, and I’ll tell you what plagiarism tells me.

When a student copies, it shows me that the student doesn’t understand the material well enough to paraphrase. Copying, or plagiarizing, doesn’t make kids look smarter; it makes them look less intelligent.

That’s where the plagiarism becomes a problem. It’s not about who copied whom; it’s about the inability or unwillingness to create original work. All the excuses in the world (Kid Rock? Yeah, right) can’t make up for that unwillingness or inability.

In today’s world, we’re picky about originality. We have the resources to check for originality. And when we in the audience recognize work that originated elsewhere, we say so. And if a candidate wants to leap tall buildings in a single bound, he or she had better be ready to put original words on the page or hire someone who can.

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Why I’m Watching the “Other” Convention

Friends, family, and regular readers all know that I’m a progressive type, a registered Democrat, and an active volunteer. So why on earth would someone like me watch the (gasp) 2016 Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio? From the home office here at the O.K. Chorale, here are ten reasons why I’m watching.

  • Keep your friends close, and keep your enemies closer. I follow Governor Scott Walker on Twitter for the same reason. His tweets are lame, if you’re wondering.
  • The 2016 presidential primary season was strangely entertaining. Like a circus – complete with scary clowns.
  • I feel the need to stay informed on both left and right sides of the political spectrum.
  • It’s hard to look away – like a bad traffic accident or someone getting CPR in the street. No, not like that. But a little like that.
  • I’m curious; will the GOP come together? The banner across the TV screen at the moment says, “Chaos consumes convention floor.” Alliterative, at least. Unified, not so much.
  • I don’t want to miss any new and improved Trump-ism. He’s already offended women, people with disabilities, those of Mexican descent, Americans who follow the Muslim faith – who could be next?
  • House Speaker and Wisconsin good ole’ boy Paul Ryan might find another opportunity to show how naive and clueless he really is.
  • Convention-related news has been fascinating in its contradictions. Ohio Governor (and former candidate for the Republican nomination) John Kasich has been asked to suspend Ohio’s open carry law for the duration of the convention. But…but…Republicans claim that letting Good Guys carry guns makes things safer. Um, gee…let’s rethink this.
  • Who will really show up to speak? Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is expected. Quarterback Tim Tebow was on the list, but he’s not coming. Late night host Stephen Colbert showed up – in Hunger Games’ Caesar Flickerman character garb, complete with blue hair.
  • And finally, the number one reason I’m watching the Republican Convention coverage: it gives me great blog fodder!

Well, the Democrats who go to Philadelphia will have a tough act to follow – kind of like the horses in a parade. Take a left at the next turn, folks. It’s the only way to go.

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That’s My (green and gold) Son.

Actual text message from Chuck a few nights ago, at Barbershop practice:
Team building exercise tonight is Packer Trivia. Each section is a team. Leads are winning. That’s YOUR son.
Indeed. When they came home, I found out Amigo had missed one question: Bart Starr’s real first name. It’s Bryan – Bryan Bartlett Starr. Amigo guessed Bartholomew.
He also wondered about Lombardi Time. Lombardi Time, for those not in the know, meant fifteen minutes earlier than scheduled. If Lombardi scheduled a meeting at 8:30, his players knew to arrive by 8:15. There was no grace period. Bart Starr remembers getting to an 8:30 meeting at 8:15 only to find out he was a half hour late; the meeting time had been changed to 8:00. Ouch.
Well, that’s my boy. Green and gold to the core. We don’t utilize Lombardi Time in our home, but we know a lot about team history.
How about you, readers? Do you have encyclopedic knowledge of sports trivia? Or other trivia? That knowledge isn’t useful very often, but it certainly is fun.

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And More Rhubarb – this time, Juice!

I have a bumper crop of rhubarb again this year. I may have mentioned it. I might have also mentioned that I still have rhubarb in the freezer from last year, as well. When the basic conclusion is Too Much Rhubarb at the O.K. Chorale, there is only one solution: can.

Here’s something I found. It looks very pretty, too. You might know how rhubarb can oxidize after it’s picked and end up looking, well, kind of poopy brown? This mush released the prettiest reddish pink juice! Without further ado, adapted from at least two Internet recipes, rhubarb juice concentrate.

Ingredients

  • 12 cups diced rhubarb, fresh or frozen
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • zest and juice of one orange

Directions: In large pot, combine rhubarb, water, lemon & orange zests and bring to a boil. Stir constantly over medium high heat. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently until rhubarb is soft (10-20 minutes). Remove from heat.

Pour into dampened jelly bag or strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth set over a deep bowl. Let drip for at least 2 hours, undisturbed.

In clean, large pot combine rhubarb juice and sugar. Stir in lemon juice and orange juice. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a brief boil. Remove from heat.

Ladle into hot jars. Leave ¼-inch headspace.
Place jars in prepared hot water bath canner with jars completely under water. Process for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and remove canner lid. Allow jars to sit in canner for 5 minutes before removing. Set jars on rack or towel and allow to cool.

Serving suggestions: Mix about 1 Tablespoon rhubarb juice concentrate with 8 ounces of another beverage. Serve over ice. (The recipe suggested equal parts concentrate and mixer; the concentrate is much too strong that way!)

Beverage mixes can include water, iced tea, lemonade, ginger ale, or anything you can think of.

Enjoy!

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Racism, Theft, Vandalism – and more

as seen on local church

as seen on local church

The Unitarian Universalist fellowship, or the UU, displayed this banner for nearly two years. By making the statement that Black Lives Matter, the fellowship encourages people to think. Phone calls objecting to or questioning the banner lead to conversations on race – valuable conversations.

A few days ago, someone took down the banner and stole away with it. The thief or thieves are still at large. The banner hasn’t shown up.

This vandalism, this theft, upsets me. All lives may matter, but black lives are at substantially greater risk just by stepping out the door and getting into a car. Supporting the group called Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean being anti-white or anti-police. Hanging the banner invites conversation and recognizes that in our anglo-centric society, people of color face discrimination and dangers every day that we of white privilege cannot even imagine.

 

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Grandma Daisy looks back on 2012 – encore

Readers, I’m struggling to make sense out of what’s happening in the world right now. Sometimes, in order to look ahead, we need to look back. Meanwhile, in order to look back, we can imagine looking ahead in time and listen to Grandma Daisy as she reminisces about women’s rights and the election of 2012.

Grandchildren, dear, did you say your history teacher asked about 2012? About the way women suddenly came to the forefront again? Oh, I remember it well – the idiocies and the intelligence, the outrage, the voter turnout, and more.

I was worried, children. If President Obama had lost his bid for re-election, we were facing some very difficult times. Many, many women were getting more and more worried. I saw protesters carrying signs saying “Didn’t we protest this s*** already?” and they weren’t kidding. 

That brings me to the idiocies of the 2012 campaign. One of the old, white guys in Congress was running for Senate in Missouri, a fairly conservative Southern state. In response to a question on abortion in cases of rape of incest, he claimed that in cases of “legitimate rape” women had ways to “shut that whole thing down.” I would have laughed, too, honey, except that he was serious. Seriously stupid, that is. Later on a candidate from Indianapolis tried to tell women that if they got pregnant from being raped it was “God’s will.” Another recommended that women use the St. Joseph’s method of birth control: hold a St. Joseph’s baby aspirin between their knees. Gag.

These dinosaurs were defeated. Women voters decided it was God’s will that we shut their whole thing down. 

Now Mitt, President Obama’s opponent, had some women problems of his own. He sidestepped a question about the Lily Ledbetter Act – equal pay for equal work, sweetie, it’s in your history book – by claiming he’d made efforts to seek out qualified women for his state cabinet. He had supposedly asked women’s groups for referrals, and they gave him “…binders full of women!” Binders full of resumes, that is. The outrage came from people who said, “Hey, Mitt, it was already the 21st Century. You didn’t know any qualified women in 2003?” and worse, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus came forward and said, “Mitt did not come to us. We went to Mitt. After he won, we gave him resumes of many potential candidates.” Oops. Twice bad, Mitt. Twice bad. 

So – we were dealing with old farts who didn’t know their basic reproductive science, and potential leaders who thought women were second class citizens not worthy of the same rights as men. There were bright moments, though. 

Some of the best and the brightest moments in 2012 were women who skipped the binders and went straight for the ballot. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Oh, Tammy! I was so excited when she decided to run for Senate. I was even more excited when I, a lowly campaign volunteer, got to meet her. She was articulate, smart, and very personable. She listened more than she talked, and when she talked, she gained our attention and our respect. When Baldwin’s victory came, the headlines were all “First openly gay senator elected in Wisconsin!” And we said, “Oh, yeah, we knew that.” But her being gay didn’t matter one way or the other. We Wisconsin voters, gay or straight, female or male, elected Tammy Baldwin to the Senate because of her skills, her intellect, and her record in her fourteen years in Congress. 

So, young ones, there’s more to say on the mood of the election. I could go on longer – the battleground states, they way Mitt and his VP didn’t even carry their own states in the end, the closeness of the popular vote, the issues of birth control and more. Voter suppression attempts, early voter turnout, oh, my the list goes on.

I was looking forward to hearing and saying “Senator Baldwin.” It was like hearing “President Obama” for the first time. And now that Obama had won his re-election, I could look forward to saying President Obama for another four years.

Well, my dears, that’s the main thrust of the story of women’s rights and the 2012 election. Now I’m going to make a pot of coffee. Does your mother still have a package of Obama Blend Coffee in the cupboard? It’s a blend of Hawaiian, Kenyan, and Indonesian beans, and it’s as delicious as it is clever. I’ll have some in my Born in the USA mug.

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Yarn Bomb – Retro Style

It’s not Pokemon Go. I can imagine the local yarn bombers creating Pokemon characters, but this comes from a different decade and old-fashioned arcades.

First I spotted this.

As seen at the downtown farmers' market

As seen at the downtown farmers’ market

Then I moved to the next planter.

And the picture became clear.

And the picture became clear.

It’s not virtual reality. It’s yarn reality. Someone who is creative and handy with knitting needles or a crochet hook created this fun and simple vignette on a downtown sidewalk.

There are often surprises at the Saturday market. When I’m buying peas and beans and other goodies, I keep my eyes peeled for fun like this.

Readers, have you seen yarn bombing? Other random examples of public art? Share in the comments.

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