Speak up?

Remember when I said this?

Hillary has all the traits I value in a leader. She’s intelligent, strong, experienced, knowledgeable, and the list could go on and on. Hillary Clinton would be an excellent president of the United States.

The trouble is this: Hillary may not be the best candidate.

She has baggage. Lots of baggage. Benghazi. Email-gate. Her age and gender (damn, I wish those didn’t matter). Her outspokenness.

It seems the outspokenness, her willingness to speak up loud and clear, is hitting Hillary hard right now. It’s not just a speaking thing, either. It’s most definitely related to gender.

Hillary spoke at a rally in New Hampshire a few days ago. One attendee reflected on the experience by saying “She was AMAZING! The crowd loved her. There were no problems with her “style.” She was fired up–like male candidates whose tone we do not police.”

And therein lies the conflict. Men who speak up with enthusiasm and speak loudly enough to be heard over a crowd don’t gather critics and pundits analyzing their tone, pitch, or volume. But Hillary Clinton, one of the strongest women I can name, takes flak for “shouting” and sounding “shrill”.

Frankly, people, I know many women who can speak loudly and clearly and bring a noisy and excited crowd to attention within seconds. These women are teachers. They know how to make their voices carry without shouting, how to make eye contact with as many as 30 people very quickly, and then how to make the crowd or classroom stay on the edge of their seats waiting for more.

Hillary would fit in very well in the world of teaching. As I’ve said, she is intelligent, strong, experienced, knowledgeable, and more. And now, I’m adding “outspoken” to the list of positives. She knows what she’s talking about, and she knows how to say it. That’s not complicated; it’s a skill.

Teaching is not for the weak

 

 

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Faith in human nature – or not?

I was working on postcards at the Democrats’ office during the 2012 campaign when a woman came in from a Republican event. She was very upset – not by the opposing party, but by one of our own. A volunteer with our party had gone to the event for the opposition. Instead of simply listening and gathering information, she acted out. She spit on a Romney supporter, who then scratched her in retaliation. The woman who had been there kept repeating, “Is this what we’ve come to? Is this really what we’ve come to?” Her faith in human nature was on the downswing at that moment.

Within a day, the “spitter” was kicked off the campaign staff, and the coordinator had made it clear that this was not behavior that would be tolerated. All of us were to keep to the high road. My faith in human nature was restored.

This happened four years ago. Today’s headlines are so full of ups and downs that my confidence jumps like a jackrabbit.

Flint, Michigan sickens its population with lead in their public water system: down. State officials and high-level locals are outed as having known about the problem and both ignored it and lied about it while they themselves drank bottled water. Down, down, down.

Plumbers travel to Flint to install water filters in people’s homes – free of charge. Up.

My alderman posts an update for her constituents informing us of the process our city uses for water treatment. She gives enough detail that we can feel safe drinking the water. Up.

I find out that Good Ole’ Boy Next Door Peyton Manning not only acts in Papa John’s commercials, he supports the same far-right wing candidates with his own donations. Manning also owns a Papa John’s franchise where the pizza is overpriced and the staff is underpaid. This is a downer – a big downer. I might just have to cheer for Cam Newton and his Panthers.

A new potential pandemic virus rears its ugly head in Brazil, the host country for upcoming 2016  Summer Olympic Games. Why should this Zika virus be a downturn for my faith in human nature? This virus is passed on by mosquitoes, and current strategies include spraying many gallons of pesticides throughout the cities where the presence of the virus has been confirmed. Problem? Think DDT, people. Does anyone know the effects of these pesticides? We thought DDT was safe, too…until…just ask the neighborhood bald eagle.

Our wacky governor signs into law a bill allowing concealed carry of – switchblades. Yep, switchblades. This only a matter of days after he signed a law authorizing a new color for hunting; blaze pink. What the –?

And so it goes – good news, bad news, better news, worse news, and news that makes me think the world is spiraling down the toilet. Maybe, just maybe, I should get offline and get something else done. Maybe I’ll clean the bathroom.

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Meanwhile, back at the Caucuses

It was Monday night. Not dark and stormy, although there was a snowstorm waiting in the wings. Here in Wisconsin, we watched one school district after another declare their schools closed in advance.

Meanwhile, in our neighboring state of Iowa, the presidential primary season has officially begun. It’s the night of the famed Iowa Caucuses. There, in the heart of the Midwest, real results – not estimates or polls! – will emerge.

So while I’m relaxing in front of a series of Tiny House Nation episodes, I’m also prepping for the incoming storm. My laptop is plugged in and charging. My fitbit (with its vibrating alarm) is plugged into the laptop and charging. My phone will go on its turbo charger later. The storm promises to move in midday tomorrow, so I’m not too worried about overnight power outages.

Meanwhile, back in Iowa, a correspondent for The Broad Side has been posting updates and pictures. I watch the numbers change in her posts. Hillary – 54; Bernie – 29; O’Malley – 3; Undecided – 5. They caucus some more. Hillary – 57; Bernie – 34. Based on those numbers, the location I’m following assigns Hillary 8 delegates for the Democratic Convention and Bernie 5 delegates. 

A friend posts on Facebook “Schools are closed tomorrow!” We know it’s official when we see it on at least three news channel crawls and on the district’s official web site. Conversations on social media range from “6 inches? We’re shutting down for 6 inches?” to “Thank goodness, the administration is erring on the side of safety and caution.”

Meanwhile, back in Iowa, someone posts a picture of this.

This would go well with my Obama mug, wouldn't it?

This would go well with my Obama mug, wouldn’t it?

As for schools closing, the major factor isn’t always how much snow falls. It’s more about when the snow falls and whether the plows can clear the parking lots, sidewalks, and nearby streets. An overnight snow can mean a two hour delay while the maintenance crews plow and shovel and blow snow. If a storm drops 5-6 inches starting at 3 AM, it’s not so easy. Tuesday’s storm may drop 6-12 inches, all starting around noon. Folks, in reality, starting a normal school day and then having to send kids home early is a nightmare. Chaos. Confusion. 6 inches in itself may not seem like a catastrophic snowfall, but the timing is everything.

Meanwhile, back at the caucuses – no clear results yet. Since I don’t have school tomorrow, maybe I’ll stay up late and watch the news shows. Or maybe, since I don’t have school tomorrow, I’ll spend my day watching the pundits announce and interpret the results.

And meanwhile, I’ll watch the snow fall from the safety of my home.

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Ah, the Trivial Life

I took pictures. Most turned out blurry. Sorry. But we had a great time, as usual, playing in the annual Midwestern Trivia Contest at my Alma Mater. Amigo has grown up around this contest. We simply call it Trivia – as if there were not others. None others equal ours, if I do say so myself.

Amigo again loaned an old, yellowed fire truck (with fresh batteries) to the Trivia Masters. This truck is one option for the Internet radio based leaders to signal that a question is closed; no more answers will be taken. Honk! Honk! Ooh-ee-ohh-ee (siren)! Ding-ding-ding-ding! Ding-ding-ding-ding! Amigo is known to Trivia participants as Fire Truck Amigo, courtesy of the truck.

We usually spend a few hours each day contributing as phone answering crew. I read the answer off the white board so Amigo knows what’s coming. He answers the phone and takes the answer, and if the team is lucky enough to be correct, the team name and number. I take dictation (since the Trivia Masters don’t read Braille) and write down the names and numbers. We have a good time interacting with the other participants – some his age, some mine, and every age in between.

Blurry or not, here he is.

Blurry or not, here he is.

In the background, right to left: My old friend and maid of honor at my wedding along with her son and girlfriend.

In the background, right to left: My old friend and maid of honor at my wedding along with her son and girlfriend.

University President stopped in to enjoy the experience.

University President stopped in to enjoy the experience.

It’s one weekend a year, and we let ourselves devote time for this mindless escapism. Until next year, Trivia buffs. We’ll be back.

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Stormy Weather

I think I’ve used that title in the past. It’s Wisconsin, folks. We get blizzards, tornadoes, ice storms, floods. We don’t see earthquakes – not very often, anyway.

Consider the current disasters. Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes, those annoying pests. According to the local newscast, no worries here! The tropical mosquitoes can’t take the cold and unpredictable weather. We get a different breed of mosquitoes here. Frankly, this Zika virus is scary. I’m no longer of child-bearing age or condition, but my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors – I don’t have to be personally at risk to care and to worry. Let’s say what I heard was correct: our northern mosquito doesn’t carry the virus. I’m going to add a word: yet. Viruses mutate. Mosquitoes probably mutate, too.

I think I’ll stock up on mosquito repellent.

Then there’s the ever present risk of a major snowstorm. This one is real. We’re used to it, we know how to plan for it, and we take pride in coping with the situation. There may be a big storm next week. A major weather event. After the latest Snow-mageddon on the east coast,  forecasters are calling this one “Our Turn.” If it’s really going to be a Major Storm, I’ll do my usual prep. Grocery store: bunny food, milk, eggs, bread. In fact, if we have bunny food, I can make or fake the rest. Well, maybe not eggs. But I have powdered milk, bread flour and yeast, and jars of homemade jam to go with anybody’s peanut butter. If I have bunny food for Buttercup, we’ll be good.

If there’s risk of a power outage, we’ll make sure that anything that needs charging has a full charge. We’ll replenish the firewood in case we need heat. I’ll visit an ATM ahead of time in case we need cash. We’re good at this Prep for Snow routine. So whatever’s coming, we’ll be ready.

We’ll be ready, that is, as long as I stock up on bunny food.

Any other disasters looming? We’re tough, we northerners. Mosquito repellent, bunny food, and we’re good. Bring it on.

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Using the Celebrity Spokesperson

Hey, Peyton. Yes, you. Mr. Manning. Archie’s son, Eli’s brother. Mr. Good-guy boy-next-door. They’re using you. You recognized that, didn’t you? Or didn’t you?

Take “Papa” John Schnatter. He got himself in hot water by badmouthing the Affordable Care Act in such a way that he ended up looking petty. He said that in order to pay for heath coverage for his employees, he’d have to raise the price of each pizza by a quarter. Twenty-five cents. $.25. Oh, pity party. He feared it would cut down his sales.

Instead, people heard about his reluctance to allow health care for his employees and – get this – customers stopped buying Papa John’s pizza! He was watching his profits go downhill, and “Papa” had to do something.

That’s when he called you, Peyton. He needed a sportsperson who had that innocent, never-do-wrong look about him. I’m sure he pays you a lot more than the projected cost of health insurance for his employees. But what the heck? He needed to upgrade his image, and fast. Peyton, he’s using you. He wants your image to rub off on him.

And that Cable vs. Direct TV commercial. How could you think it was humorous to put down the barbershop singers? Talented, cooperative, fun people like barbershop singers are awesome. Frankly, your boy-next-door image could benefit from singing barbershop. Maybe the media would forget about the steroids shipped to your wife if you let the barbershop quartet image rub off on you. Reading the Direct TV script didn’t help their marketing plan, and the negative attitude may have cost your Q score (likability measurement) instead.

Peyton, call your agent. Let him or her know that while the money might be good, you care about your image. You’re  too close to retirement to mess with your image. Someday, you won’t throw passes, and the commercial income based on your reputation may be all you have.

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Water.

I often feel fortunate to live in the Great Lakes basin where fresh water is plentiful and treating it for human consumption is relatively cheap. I’m more water-conscious than many, with my rain barrels and the way I reuse dishwashing water and cooking water to water my herbs and flowers. I still have moments where I’ll be running the shower to let it warm up and I think how lucky I am to live here. I could save the water in a big bucket and use it well, but I don’t have to. I’m not forced to value every drop.

When I’m hearing about droughts in California or Texas, I’m grateful to live in a climate where rain and snow are the norm. Rain fills my rain barrels in the summer while it nourishes the soil, and snow insulates the perennial plants all winter long before it melts and – you guessed it – soaks the soil and replenishes the water table.

It’s so easy to take water for granted. Turn on the tap, and it’s on. Stick a glass under the faucet; get a drink. Should be an automatic, right?

If you live in Flint, Michigan, wrong.

Flint is in the Great Lakes basin, too. Michigan, like my home state Wisconsin, is smack dab in the middle of this climate of rain and snow. And yet the good people of Flint are facing – have been facing – a water disaster of major proportions. And I think to myself, how could this happen?

To make a long story short, the city of Flint changed their municipal water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in an effort to save money. Lacking a crucial chemical treatment, Flint River began corroding pipelines and sending iron deposits, among other minerals, into the homes and schools and businesses of Flint. Along with the discoloration and rust from iron came a silent enemy: lead. Excessive lead in a child’s bloodstream can cause brain damage and nerve damage that will last a lifetime. Flint pediatricians noticed a trend of rising lead levels in their patients. Flint residents noticed poor taste and major discoloration in their tap water. I said I’d make it short: Flint leaders and state officials brushed off concerns. Thousands of Flint residents, including children, have been exposed to toxic levels of lead.

Details are all over the web and the national news sources. At this time, the question is less “How could this happen?” and more “How could the Powers That Be ignore a crisis of this magnitude?”

I still feel fortunate to live in the Great Lakes region, where water can be plentiful and the climate keeps it so. But I have to wonder: if this happened in Flint, could it happen here?

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Captions please, Candidates.

The airwaves are full of debates and speaking events and predictions and (dare we say it) television commercials in the markets headed for primary caucuses and elections. There is one thing wrong with many of those TV ads. No, it’s not that they exist or that they’re misleading (although that can be true). I’m not even referring to the shady third party issue ads that crowd the screen all too often.

I’m talking about closed captioning.

The FCC has rules and guidelines for captioning of television shows, whether recorded ahead of time or aired live. Commercials, however, are still inconsistent. Some have captioning, some don’t. And many, all too many candidates bypass the time and the cost of captioning their commercials.

Think of those with hearing losses. Baby boomers raised on loud music, senior citizens with age-related hearing loss, millennials brought up on ear buds – all of these people are likely to miss the details in a well-made commercial. Then bring in those hearing problems not listed above — people with hearing aids or cochlear implants for whatever reason, from illness or hereditary conditions, from environmental problems like combat noise, among others. The size of the group grows.

Think about it. If you’re a candidate or working for a candidate, do you want to leave all of those voters out of your audience? That’s what happens if the ads aren’t captioned.

Closed captioning isn’t free. It costs money, and it costs time. However, paying the captioner and taking the time to load captions into an ad are investments. If those captions help a candidate to connect with voters, this additional cost of doing business can reach voters who may not have heard the candidate’s message – literally.

Readers, do you watch television with captioning on? Do you notice when a show or an ad has captioning – or doesn’t? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Season of Slow Cooking Continues

Last week Monday: 1 quart crock, a bargain picked up for almost nothing second hand, the crock with a lid that doesn’t match because I picked it up for almost nothing…I already said that. Anyway, Monday’s crock pot task was to thaw and heat a soup from the freezer. This worked famously. This small crock is like a Little Dipper, just twice the size. It has two settings: on or off. Plug it in, it’s on. Unplug it, the crock’s off. Bean soup just sounded like a perfect addition to a new flavor from the local meat market: bacon bratwurst.

Last week Wednesday: Eating the Opponent, Arizona! We normally do this on the weekend, but we may be traveling as the weekend arrives. I modified a recipe from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and let the flavors simmer in the crock pot all day. My Packers didn’t win, but they really invested a phenomenal effort in a dramatic and close game.

We were out of town over the weekend, so the crocks sat unused. Heck, the whole kitchen sat unused. But now, back in the bitter cold realm we call home, the slow cooker again fills the house with its flavor-filled aromas. Oh, did that sound too contrived? Sorry. 

On our way home from Illinois, we stopped at one of our favorite specialty stores near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We stocked up with the best pot pies on the market and a number of soup mixes. I’m making the lentil and Italian sausage mix today. We had Italian sausage in the freezer (a frequent stock-up item from the Nearby Meat Market), and I knew I’d be home working on progress reports all day. A soup that cooks slowly is the perfect menu item.

To summarize: Today, Monday, there’s a soup in the biggest crock pot. Lentils, Italian sausage, homemade beef stock, and a tiny package of dried veggies are simmering together. By supper, I expect this will be exactly what we need.

So, readers, do you have any favorite soups for cold winter weather? I’d love to hear suggestions.

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