Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpkin patch

On Monday of this week I posted a picture of three plain, plump pumpkins (say that three times fast) and issued a challenge to any interested readers to digitally "carve" the pumpkins for Halloween.

Here's the original photo:

Naturally, I had to try it, too. Googling "pumpkin carving templates" turned up plenty of great ideas, but it took a while to figure out which patterns I might be able to duplicate. Actually, the word "duplicate" is a stretch. I didn't succeed in duplicating anything, but I think you can figure out what I had in mind.

Here's my best effort (click on the photo for a close-up):

Response to the challenge was underwhelming. One brave reader said she'd do it, and another said she might.

Click here to see Creekhiker's pumpkins, which look like they've really been carved and make me wish I'd used black instead of the yellow "lighted" look. Good job, Holly!

Janet said she'd "give it a shot" and let me know. No pumpkins on her site as I write this (before work Friday), but I'll be watching for 'em.

Happy Halloween, everybody.

UPDATE: Janet came through! Go see her pumpkins.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Here I am, Senator!

I watched Barack Obama’s infomercial last night, then switched to Larry King Live to see his interview with John McCain. McCain’s take on the infomercial was that it was made possible only by the suspicious contributions of “mysterious donors.” That would be me. I’m one of those.

Earlier this year I made a $100 donation to Obama, the first time in my life I’ve ever donated to a presidential campaign. Oh sure, once in a while I’ve checked the presidential campaign donation box on my income tax form, but who counts that? The problem with my $100 donation, apparently, is that it was under $200, the minimum amount that the government has declared must be recorded and made public. If I’d had another extra $100, I’d have been glad to give it -- more, even -- but I didn’t. That means my donation is buried with millions of others the Obama campaign received, even though I had to give my name, address, employer information, credit card information, and swear to my American citizenship before they'd take my money.

Another reason the Republicans would never suspect me as a donor is the fact that I’m a white woman, 65-years-old. That puts me in a category they were convinced would not support Obama. Isn’t that great? My identity is a natural disguise.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck said yesterday that she thought the idea of spending money on a political infomercial was “repulsive.” In truth, I, too, am appalled at the amount of money required to fund a successful presidential campaign. I hope that changes one day. For now, though, campaigning costs money, and that’s why I and the millions of other “mysterious donors” sent money to him: so he can spend enough to win. I want him in the Oval Office. He’ll have plenty of time to be budget conscious once he gets in office, but if he doesn’t get there because he hesitated to spend one thin dime of my donation, then he doesn’t deserve to be there.

I look at the cost of this campaign the same way I viewed the expense of purchasing energy-efficient appliances when I remodeled my kitchen: Obama may cost more up front, but he’ll pay for himself in the long run.

Anyway, Senator McCain, I just thought I ought to step up and be counted. Maybe enough of us will do that so you don’t have to spend the last few days of your discount campaign searching for all of us suspicious boogeypeople.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Butch and Kadi, host and hostess

It was interesting to watch Butch and Kadi while my house was full of company. The differences in their personalities were easy to see.

Kadi was tolerant. Just barely. She likes things in their correct places and takes comfort in routine, and it was obvious by her demeanor that she was a little stressed out by the disarray. Even though I’ve never seen her snap at a person in her entire 11 years, I felt nervous when the little ones played near her. She let them pet her, but she certainly wasn’t enthusiastic about it.

Butch, on the other hand, had an entirely different reaction, one that could be summed up by a single word: “PARRR-TEE.”

Once Butch learned to navigate around the extra feet, luggage, and air mattresses, he had a blast. He played so hard the first full day that he woke up in the middle of that night, tried to stand up, and screamed out in pain. I’d noticed him limping before bedtime and thought at first that he’d injured his foot. When he got up and moved around, he stopped crying and wasn't limping anymore. I couldn’t find any injury, so I concluded his old joints were stiff and sore and punishing him for exercising them too vigorously. Once I nipped his wrestling career in the bud, he was fine again.

Both dogs learned quickly that my two-year-old grandniece always traveled with a bag of chips in one hand. They followed her everywhere she went (giving me a clearer understanding of the phrase, “dogged her every step”), happy to clean up any crumbs that might fall.

Butch and Kadi also exhibited some pack behavior that kind of surprised me. They seemed to decide between themselves that the two smaller guest dogs were fine, but the large boxer was not. Inside or outside, they’d leave the poor boxer alone until she moved anywhere near me, then they’d slip into junkyard-dog behavior. Butch was just as nasty as Kadi was, snarling and barking as if he’d rip the boxer apart as soon as he figured out exactly where she was.

Often, when I sat down, both dogs lay by my chair, one beside me and one in front, their noses nearly touching at the corner. At night, instead of seeking out their separate favorite sleeping spots, they slept side by side near the foot of my bed. It made me feel good that they included me as part of their pack.

Now, if I can only keep them convinced I’m the alpha dog...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hurricane Ike spawns a future SNL star

This is old news, but it was a big event for my family, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about it.

If you happened to read the comments on my September 23, 2008 post (the last one I wrote before falling out of the blogosphere and onto the end of my sofa for an extended period of time), then you know that my sister and her family spent a few days with me when they evacuated their East Texas homes to escape the winds and waters of Hurricane Ike. As close as we are emotionally, we’re just far enough apart geographically that we hadn’t managed an in-person visit in the three years between Hurricanes Katrina and Ike. I was delighted that the winds blew them in this direction.

It made me feel good that they were willing to “hunker down” here, all of them having lived through this experience during Katrina and knowing full well that my house isn’t the most comfortable port in a storm. I have two bedrooms and one bath, plenty of room when I’m by myself, but with six extra adults, two teenagers, a five-year-old, a two-year-old, an 11-month old, three extra dogs, tons of luggage, and a few air mattresses, we were stacked like cordwood.

It was great. Tight but great.

It’s rare that I’m around small children anymore, so it was a special treat to watch the little ones. The baby learned to walk while he was here. He looked so proud of himself as he took steps from one person to another, pausing in between walks to accept our enthusiastic applause.

And, on the same weekend that Tina Fey did her first spot-on impression of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, my sister’s two-year-old granddaughter won the impersonation contest at our house. After CNN aired video of one Galveston, Texas girl who survived the storm, our own little comic regaled us with her impromptu interpretation of what she’d just witnessed on TV. For the remainder of the visit, she’d scrunch up one side of her face on command and say, in her best gravelly voice, “Sep in CAAAAWSET!”

They’ve been gone a month and a half now, and I still miss them.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A pumpkin challenge

Are you good at carving pumpkins? Do you think you can fake it? I'm not sure I can, either, but I'm going to try.

Weekend before last, I snapped this photo:

What I'm suggesting, for the creative types among you or for those who just can't resist a challenge, is that you capture this photo (right click on it, then select "save picture as" and save it to your computer) and use your Paint program or favorite photo-editing software to digitally "carve" or otherwise decorate one or more of these pumpkins for Halloween. No rules except that this specific photo of three pumpkins on the stairs should be the background for your work. Other than that, paint, cut and paste, or whatever your muse dictates.

If you decide to give it a try, please leave a comment with a link or url address to your blog or website and let us know to count you in. Then, on Friday, October 31st, you can post your edited pumpkin photos on your own site, and I'll post links here so everyone can see your results.

I realize time is short and apologize for not thinking of this sooner. I considered saving it for next year, but who knows if I'd remember it until then?

Interested? Okay, then, get to work.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I've tied myself to this chair...

...and I’m determined to write something--anything--before I get up again.

I’ve already procrastinated for half an hour playing Mahjongg and another 15 minutes looking at all the pictures I’ve taken over the past month or two.

How did blogging become so difficult?

Okay. Take a deep breath. Get ready. Get set. Write!

Lately I can think (and talk and write) of almost nothing except presidential politics. I read political blogs during the day, then I come home and watch the cable news networks until bedtime, switching channels frequently in search of any morsel of information I haven’t yet absorbed. I'm afraid I’ve crossed way over the line that separates keen interest from obsession.

I’ve always been interested in presidential elections, but never as passionately as this year. This time around I want to know everything, as if I’m cramming for the most important test of my lifetime. My mission is to be able to answer calmly, correctly, and explicitly when someone asks me, “Why are you voting for Obama? Don’t you know he [insert rumor or lie of your choice]?” So far I’ve been able to do it. That’s the good part about immersing myself so deeply in the campaign coverage.

The bad part is that this campaign addiction has left me feeling depressed. For one thing, I have an intense aversion to conflict, a long-term issue born of the bickering that existed in my home during my teen years. Even if I'm voluntarily watching panels of pundits talking over each other and vying for the last zinger, it makes me feel uncomfortable and anxious.

It also discourages me to see the leaders of our country and their minions repeatedly spread outright lies or misleading information when I know they know better. If somebody confronts them on one show with proof that what they’ve said is false, I expect them to say, “Okay, perhaps I was mistaken,” and not repeat it. Instead, I see them an hour later on another network making the same false claim. How stupid do they think we are? And do they think lying is okay with the average American citizen?

What distresses me most of all, though, is video footage of McCain campaign rallies. If you're old enough, think back to the Bible-story movies that were popular in the ‘40s and ‘50s and remember the scenes that showed arenas full of people watching Christians being fed to lions. Picture the jeering faces of the crowds who watched the slaughter. Those are the kinds of faces I see at the McCain rallies. Frankly, it scares the hell out of me to see large numbers of people like that who have been assembled and charged up by inflammatory rhetoric.

In real life, of course, I know many perfectly nice people who plan to vote for John McCain in this election, and I’m sure that many of the people at his rallies are perfectly nice as well. They’re the ones whose faces are not contorted with anger or smugness. What frightens me is the idea that large numbers of zealots and bigots come out of those rallies, walk our streets among rational people, spread their hostility to their offspring, and make our world less safe.

Okay. That's enough of that. I have written. If I’d written anything at all in the last month, it would have ended up about like this or worse. Because of that conflict thing I mentioned, I’m always hesitant to express strong negative opinions for fear of offending readers I care about. If I’ve done that, I’m sorry, but the truth is, if I’ve offended you to any large degree, we probably wouldn’t get along in real life anyway, so there’s no great loss to either of us. Go away and read Rush Limbaugh’s website.

On the other hand, if you’re still with me, I’ll promise you this: Barring computer outages or medical emergencies (human or canine), I’ll post something every single day between now and the end of November, and most of it will not be rants like this post. Some days it might be just a photo, but there'll be something new each day. I hope that the process of posting every day will help me find my missing sense of humor, reestablish the blogging habit, and make up to you for my just-ended month of self-indulgence.

Hope to see you here tomorrow.