Thursday, November 30, 2006

In Which We Find Our Christmas Tree up on a Small Hill Way at the Back of the Christmas Tree Farm

In the Pines
We went out to Sposato's Tree Farm last Saturday to look for our Christmas Tree. It took a while. We all have a slightly different vision of what our tree should be.

We found trees with Grasshoppers living in them. We found trees with crooked trunks. Some were to small. some were too big. Some had bald spots. Some were uneven.One was host to a Praying Mantis.

Eventually, we made our way out to the back of the tree farm, up a slight hill. From there, we could see the whole place.

And there we found our tree.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Does Delaware Need a Better PR Firm?

There's another Washingtonian who is annoyed by traffic on I-95 in Delaware. Well, another who has blogged about it. I'm sure there are more who haven't.

The unnamed author of a blog named "Time I'll Never Get Back" has written two posts about the holiday and Delaware's section of I-95.

In the first, a Travel Advisory last Monday, she noted that "Delaware is acting like the bratty child we always knew it was." She was annoyed by the lane closures related to bridge construction.

She first warned fellow-travelers to avoid Delaware during the holidays, then posted an update, based on reporting in the Washington Post, that the lane closures may be out of the way by the heavy travel part of the holiday. She still objected to having to pay the toll, though.

After a pleasant family interlude somewhere north of Delaware, Miss Time returned to DC yesterday and avoided the nasty back-ups of I-95 in Delaware by taking some other road than I-95. She complains about her brother not having told her this secret to painless travel before her drive north, but was pleased to have worked out out for her return trip.

Do people not realize that there are other roads than I-95 in Delaware? Are there no maps? Or is hating Delaware just too popular a pass-time?

UPDATE: Of course, back-roading it is not always the best idea.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Literary Parallels. Again.

I've been reading a new book called Winkie this week. It's a story about a teddy bear of that name who has somehow become sentient and wandered off into the woods to live. When the book opens, Winkie has been arrested by Homeland Security and is on trial as a terrorist.

The meat of the story (so far, anyway) is the bear's recollection of life as a toy to several generations of one family. He's remembering and reflecting as he sits in a cell awaiting trial.

I was struck by the similarities to the Patrick O'Brian novel Richard Temple, which I finished a week or so back.

In that book, the title character is in prison in southern France where he's been captured by the Gestapo as an English spy during world War II. As he recovers from torture, he remembers his pre-war life as a hungry artist in London.

I suppose prison-recollection is a fairly common literary device. Still, I find it interesting to see it applied in two very different character studies.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Before. And After.

Old Picture The restaurant 33 West, at 33 West Loockerman Street, in Dover, has a picture hanging up of what the building it lives in looked like way back when.

I don't know exactly when, but before my time, the building held a drugstore, the Sun Ray Drug Company. There was a Singer store next door. Loockerman Street lacked trees. It looks freshly paved and has those new-fangled parking meters.

New PictureMany years later, the Singer store is gone. Street trees planted since those two young women posed on the corner above have prospered and now tower above the buildings. Concrete sidewalks have been replaced with brick. There are no more parking meters, but parking time is limited. The drugstore has been replaced by a popular Dover eatery.

I recommend the Turkey Burger.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Book Signing

Book SigningI got to have an author sign his book for me this past week-end. Tom Starnes, a retired Methodist minister I know through Karen's church, has published a memoir, Through Fear to Faith. He held a book-signing down at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach on Saturday morning and I stopped by.

Tom filled-in at Epworth United Methodist in Rehoboth some years ago when they were between ministers. Karen enjoyed his sermons and I liked him the few times I attended. Since then, we've seen him around a fair amount; he's retired here. And I get to play golf with him every once in a while when the Methodists have a fellowship golf outing.

I've mentioned Tom here before. He writes occasional Community View columns for the News Journal that I always enjoy. I look forward to reading his memoir.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Life-Changing Moment #381

This morning, I had the Tivo machine grab a showing of the 1933 Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup.

I'm indulging in a little Marxian madness this evening; I haven't time to watch the whole thing just now, but a few moments of Groucho, Harpo, and Chico are refreshing after a full week.

I find myself thinking back to the early 1970s, when I was a kid. A friend up the street invited me to the church his family attended one evening for a showing of Duck Soup. I had no idea what the movie was, but at that age, no longer a child but not yet a teen, any opportunity to get out with friends is worth taking.

Now, decades later, as the movie begins with its ornate 1930's crowd scene, musical number, and fancy costumes, I wonder what my initial reaction was. What was I thinking as he movie started? How did I react at the first entrance the wise-ass Groucho and the clowny Chico and Harpo?

I can say that that experience -- watching this insanity on a screen set up in River Road Unitarian Church -- changed my life. I became, and have stayed, a Marx Brothers fan.

It helped lead me to vintage movies, to vaudeville, to absurdist theater, to wider reading, and to an acceptance of silliness in all its wonderful forms.

I'd hate to think what my life would have been without it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What a Law Looks Like

Congress took an action this week. It voted to name Delaware's SR1 bridge over the C and D Canal for the late Senator Bill Roth.

This caught my eye for several reasons. I take a professional interest in the names of geographic things (even man-made ones). Bill Roth was the first sitting US Senator I ever met. And I liked Bill Roth. I didn't necessarily agree with him politically, but he seemed like a nice fellow and he gathered around him a staff that did a great job. My Dad always pointed to Senator Roth's staff as a great example of how to do legislative staffing the right way.

So I was interested to hear that Senator Carper's bill to name the bridge for Senator Roth had passed. I was also interested when the Bill's text cropped up in my "Delaware" monitor.

And I was interested to see the simple language of the bill:
S. 1140

To designate the State Route 1 Bridge in the State of
Delaware as the "Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge".

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-
tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


The State Route 1 Bridge over the Chesapeake and
Delaware Canal in the State of Delaware is designated
as the "Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge".


Any reference in a law (including regulations), map,
document, paper, or other record of the United States to
the bridge described in section 1 shall be considered to
be a reference to the Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge.
I'm now picturing that little scrolled-up Bill featured on the old Schoolhouse Rock series dancing and singing its way across the Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge.
I'm just a bill
Yes, I'm only a bill
And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill
Well, then I'm off to the White House
Where I'll wait in a line
With a lot of other bills
For the president to sign
And if he signs me, then I'll be a law.
How I hope and pray that he will,
But today I am still just a bill.

Monday, November 13, 2006

There is a Young Woman in Washington DC Who Does Not Like Us

A young woman named GreenEggsSamDC has written a blog posting titled My Campaign to Demote Delaware! on her blog Chapter 2006. (Warning: linked blog-posting contains some language unsuitable for smaller children and my Mother. Some of which may be quoted below.)
I'd like to suggest we, as a nation, take away Delaware's status as a state. It is the most worthless place in the US.
Ms. GreenEggsSamDC apparently traveled north recently on I-95 and was stuck in traffic, likely because of construction involving toll booths. It was an unpleasant experience and has led to Ms. GreenEggsSamDC characterization of our state as a "Damn cockblocking state."
An aside. This is an expression that I have not heard before. It is rich in suggestive negativeness but new to my ears.
Ms. GreenEggsSamDC suggests that Delaware be de-Stated and shared out among surrounding states and that statehood pass to some more worthy territory. She suggests Guam.

She then rehearses some of our state's unfortunate stereotypes, in arguments both for an against demotion of Delaware.

I think we should reach out to this unfortunate young woman and offer our hospitality and understanding. Perhaps we can win her back.

Or we could post her name and picture in the I-95 toll booths and have the toll-takers tell her to beat it if she tries to pass this way again.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Please, Don't Make It So Easy

The state of Mississippi has a cute new PR campaign -- Mississippi Believe It! -- in which they take some of the stereotypes about the state and turn them neatly on their heads.

One poster, for example, has the headline "Yes, we can read. A few of us can even write." and features portraits of 12 celebrated Mississippi writers. Another reads "Yes, we wear shoes. A few of us even wear cleats."

That's a great idea, and well executed, except when it comes to the "title" element of the Mississippi Believe It! web site, which reads: "Facts about Mississippi Business, Medicine, Entertainers, Writers, Musicians, Atheletes, Arts, Healthcare, Generousity and People."

Atheletes? Generousity?

Maybe they should trade one of those writers for a proof-reader or two.

UPDATE: As of late Monday morning, the typos are fixed. Mississippi: They're quick!

Filed in:

Feeling Very Tech-Savvy

I am a lifelong Redskins fan. It hasn't been a great deal of fun lately. One thing that has really tweaked me this season has been the loss of the Redskins Radio broadcast of the games. But I think I've solved the problem.

The Redskins Radio team includes Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen. I love listening to their call of a game. They have a wonderful history with the team and make even the dismal seasons of late enjoyable.

For many years, the Redskins Radio broadcast was available locally on WGMD. A few years ago it switched to one of the horrible rock stations upstate. I could still pull it in, though.

This season, however, Daniel Snyder -- the team owner and I think the team's jinx -- has launched his own broadcasting company and now the only place I can find the Redskins Broadcast is on-line.

I don't mind that, of course. The problem is that, for some reasons I don' really understand, the Redskins Radio call of the games -- whether on-line or over the air -- is somewhere between 15 seconds and a full minute behind the TV broadcast. This has been a sore point for Skins fans everywhere.

Today, though, I realized that I can use our new Tivo system to bring the TV and the radio call back in sync. If you pause a live broadcast via Tivo, it records the show while it waits for you to hit "play." I simply paused the TV version at the start of a play and started it when the radio broadcast reached that point.

Perfect! I have my Sam and Sonny back and don't have to listen to retired Dallas Cowboys players call Redskins games anymore.

Of course, the Redskins still suck. It's 17-0 in the second quarter. Clinton Portis is gone with a broken hand. The Skins can't score and their defense is making the Eagles look like the best offense ever in the history of football.

But at least I'm listening to my old friends again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

There Comes A Time to Stop the Cheering

We went out to a sports-bar type of restaurant this evening. It was crowded, so we were put at a table in the bar section.

The bar features a huge television screen, on which was showing the Penn State game against Temple. Penn State won the game, 47 to 0.

The bar was crowded with Penn State fans. Alumni, I would guess. They were very proud.

With each interception by Penn State, each score, each big play, the bar crowd erupted in cheers.

But here's what puzzles me. When the score is already 41-zip in the third quarter; when the other team is completely routed; when you've put in your freshmen and they are walking all over the other team; is it really appropriate to cheer deleriosusly when your team does well?

Isn't the whole thing kind of already over?

Filed in:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Report From Return Day

Ferris Wharton and Beau BidenI spent yesterday at Return Day, Delaware's ancient tradition of post-election reconciliation.

The Thursday after each election, the candidates, party leaders, their staffs, and a state's-worth of political junkies gather at the circle in Georgetown to hear the official election results, join in a patriotic parade, and ceremonially bury a hatchet to symbolize their putting the battles of the campaign behind them.

Students from the Sussex Dance Academy were scheduled to perform in the morning at the youth stage; Colleen was joining the performance. I took her over early and we spent the day at Georgetown.

The youth performances ranged from gymnasts through singers and dancers to a tiny child giving a recitation.

We walked around to see the sights before the parade. It was fun to see who I knew. I ran into my old friend Mike Short, who is now the editor of the Sussex Post. I had a chance to talk to John Schroeder, once our state representative, before redistricting following the 2000 Census. I told him that Karen and I had written him in on the ballot.

Don and Dolores BlakeyI also had a chance to say "hi" to Don Blakey, newly elected to the General Assembly as representative for the 34th District. Don has been a Levy Court Commissioner in Kent County. He's a retired educator. I knew him first when he and his wife Dolores came down to join us in a production of Big River with the Possum Point Players.

They are a talented couple. And nice folks.

The parade was long, with many carriages and cars filled with politicians. The practice is for opponents to ride together and greet the crowds together. We got to see Tom Carper and Jan Ting, Ferris Wharton and Beau Biden, Joe Biden, and many others.

Two things stood out for me.

There appear to be more beauty pageant winners in Sussex County than there are elected officials in all of Delaware.

The parade entry marching right behind the very talented African American Step-Dancing group was the Delaware Grays, part of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Cleaning UpI particularly liked the float by the Cape Gazette, which included a front-end loader laden with cleaned-up campaign signs and pulling a trailer with a large fake bull and the sign: "Election is Over. No More Bull."

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Oh, For Pity's Sake

I'm on many e-mail distribution lists. I'm an information junkie.

One of the lists I'm on is the e-mail list of the "Positive Growth Alliance," a pro-developer PAC-type group formed by property-rights activists (developers) to counter the many growth-control groups that have arisen in recent years in response to what many see as out of control development in Coastal Sussex County, Delaware.

The Positive Growth Alliance people are nothing if not self-promoters. Their election day e-missive today centers around this:
For up-to-the-minute ELECTION RESULTS, please visit the POSITIVE GROWTH ALLIANCE WEBSITE and click on the link that says ELECTION RESULTS on the center of the home page.
The excessive CAPITALIZATION is theirs. not mine.

I was curious to see how this crowd might present the election results, so I dutifully clicked through to their home page and clicked on the big, red, "ELECTION RESULTS" link that I found there.

It took me directly to the Delaware Commissioner of Elections web site and its Election Results page.

Why not just send a friendly e-mail reminding people where to find the official election results? If you must direct people to your own web page, shouldn't you offer some original content? Some analysis? Some thought?

Or did they just want to count clicks?

It's Time

If you are reading this and you are a citizen of the United States of America, let me just say:


That is all. Thank you.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

How Hard Was It to Find This Guy?

Curtis Allgier, considered Public Enemy #1 in Salt Lake City, Utah, was captured today. Someone spotted his girlfriend and that led the authorities to Allgier.

I assume he was keeping out of sight; he had some, um, distinguishing features.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Protest Song Number (Fn:Count[PROTESTSONGPOSTS])

I heard David Dye interview the singer Will Kimbrough on The World Cafe a few days ago. It's well worth a listen, especially for his song Pride, which neatly sums up much of what I've been feeling of late.

The tune is from Kimbrough's new album, Americanitis. He says, of the song:
A good friend tried to warn me about being too preachy on the CD. I responded by putting a full blown sermon, complete with slide guitar solo, on there.
He calls it a sermon; but if the thoughts are preachy, the musical style is not. The song unfolds in a laconic American folk-song version of sprechstimme, with Kimbrough quietly skewering us for some of our sins:
There's no power in pride.
Pride is a man who goes to war to save face.

And pride is a man who cannot tell the truth
if it might make him look weak.
There's no power in pride.

Our sin is pride and we know it.
We just can't bear to talk about it.

We paste those [pride] stickers right next to the fish
we bought down at the Christian Store.
I'm not bashing Jesus,
But how 'bout we read what Jesus said for once.

I say for balance we take in a little Buddha,
And Johnny Cash.
He has a point.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Pardon Me While I Boggle. Briefly.

Here's a headline that puts my brain on "pause:"
BREAKING NEWS: Air Force to create Cyber Command
According to the full story, on Federal Computer Week's, the Air Force is planning "to bring full-scale military operations to cyberspace."
Service officials have said they view cyberspace as a strategic and tactical warfighting domain, similar to air, sea, land or space.
Oh. Goody.