Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So Much for Owning a Laptop

I had planned to blog a lot more while o vacation but my laptop had other plans for me.  It's a physical problem and I don't even know if it is covered under warranty.  So it may be a few more days before I get my photos downloaded and I have a chance to blog. 

I hope I remember everything I wanted to say.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Peanut President

Jimmy Carter has always fascinated me.  He came seemingly out of nowhere, seemed to have what it took to be President, but once he got into office he never succeeded.  Yet, in private life, he has succeeded beyond what may have been his wildest dreams.

What in his upbringing, what in his childhood values, what in his education made this man?

And why has this area of Georgia grown organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and others?  What here was so special?

We are visiting the Americus/Plains area to find out. In this blog entry I am concentrating on Jimmy Carter the man.

This is the house that Jimmy Carter grew up in.

Jimmy Carter grew up outside of Plains, GA in a solidly middle class family.  The actual town, which no longer exists, was called Archery.  The realities of rural life in those days created a childhood of lots of hard physical labor.  His father, loving as he was, did not believe in keeping anything on the farm that did not "pay its own way".   And this was hard farming, although the Carters were rich enough to have tenant farmers.  Still, Jimmy worked side by side with area black farmers, performing distasteful chores such as "mopping cotton".

"Miss Lillian", Jimmy's mother, was a nurse who did not turn anyone away, black or white.

Jimmy's father encouraged Jimmy to work and play alongside of the local black farmers.

The Carters grew cotton, peanuts, and sugar cane.  Student farmers still raise these crops at the homestead today.  They kept goats for meat, and mules to plow the fields.

And, in this windmill, is the germ of using "alternate energy".  There is nothing new about windpower.

The Plains High School the Carters attended has been closed (as part of consolidating various school districts).  This is a classroom set up the way it would have looked for Jimmy Carter in the 7th grade. Like so many famous people, Jimmy Carter credits a high school teacher, Miss Julia Coleman, as another great influence on his life.  In 1940 Eleanor Roosevelt invited her to the White House to honor her.  I highly recommend reading about her life.

 This is the outside of the high school.

Plains was the "Big City" for Jimmy Carter.  This is what it looks like today:

Jimmy Carter lives just outside of Plains today, and when he is in town, teaches Sunday School at his church.  This is Jimmy Carter's "Church Home".

When we had first planned our trip, Mr. Carter was not supposed to be in town but this has since changed. We won't be able to change our plans but it certainly would have been interesting.

The Carters also raise a lot of money by auctioning various belongings, momentos, and even paintings.

So, what about this childhood made Jimmy Carter so special?  Didn't many other Georgians had a similar rural childhood?  Not exactly.  There were Jimmy's parents, the hard work ethic instilled in him, his travel in Navy service.  But what else?  The Americus area has something very special, which I hope to write about soon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Culture is the Sea We Swim In

So said author Eric Weiner, in a book The Geography of Bliss (2008).

Here in the deep South, this native of New York spent parts of yesterday and today trying not to drown in the local sea, not fully understanding what was going on.  Pretty bad for someone who had lived in Texas and Arkansas, and who had majored (so many years ago) in anthropology. 

I've now been thrown a lifeline by a former Long Island person who runs the bed and breakfast I am currently staying in.  She related some things that have happened to her in her years living in Georgia, and it was funny, but also instructive.

Over and over today, I was asked by locals (state employees at the Franklin Roosevelt sites we visited today in Warm Springs, as an example) where I was from.  It was not a question of friendliness, as I found out quickly.  I told people Upstate NY and suddenly the temperature in the room dropped 20 degrees.  It wasn't my imagination.  I should have known better.

Yesterday we were in a supermarket where the customers and then the employees stared at us, and today I found out why.  We very obviously did not belong there, having crossed an invisible line.  I won't go into further details because it is something that shouldn't be happening in our country any more.  But it does and it did.

Tomorrow I am going to try to tell people I am from Arkansas and see what happens.  Although, anyone should figure out quickly I am not an Arkansan, especially from my accent.  But hey, I lived there for nearly 5 years, so I should be able to wing it.  (You may ask, Arkansas is the south too.  Didn't that happen there?  Well, yes and no.  But not in quite the same way.  That's what fooled me today.)

Or maybe I'll just tell the truth and wear my winter coat.

What I've been told is by my lifeline thrower is to pretend I am visiting a foreign country and go with the flow. 

It may make for some good blogging.  What the heck.  Stay tuned.

Lake Norman

Part of the joy of traveling is finding things you never knew existed.

Traveling in North Carolina, right before we crossed over the border into South Carolina, we found a gorgeous man made lake called Lake Norman.

Based on what was around it I think a lot of well off people found it first.  A lot of condos, golf courses, and fancy boats lined the lake.

Still, I would like to go back one day to check it out further.  I don't know that the 3rd week of March would be the best time.  Yesterday it probably was near 80 degrees but today it was raining and a cold front has now come through.  Not exactly boating weather.  Still, when we came through today the flowering trees were in bloom, and I saw a lot of people walking around enjoying the morning before the rains came.

Lake Norman will join my list of lakes I hope to return to one day.  Another one is Lake Powell, a story for another day.....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Filling In the Travel Blanks

With all the traveling we've done in the United States, and all the times we've gone through North Carolina and Georgia, we have never spent much time in either state.  That is about to change.

We've now crossed the Blue Ridge mountains (yes, they are blue), slept in North Carolina for the first time (we'll be back again next week) and are now in Georgia.

For so many years we've traveled somewhere, and passed through places we've never stopped to see.  As we grow older, we've decided to do something about that.  So tomorrow we explore the history in the Warm Springs, GA area.  And then tomorrow night if all goes well we will be in Americus, Georgia staying in a historic bed and breakfast-a first time for that, too. (it's pricey but we hope it's worth it).  We hope to see Plains, GA on Tuesday.  Wed-Sat. we will be in Macon, GA for their cherry blossom festival-another place we've slept in but have never visited.

Today, we passed around Atlanta, GA for the first time in 34 years.  The last time we did it it was November and was snowing.  The first snow we had seen in two years.

Today, a cold front was coming through and it was pouring down rain.  So much for our brief's going to be cold the next couple of days, but nothing like how it will be back home in the Binghamton, NY area.

I now own a laptop, so I am learning how to use it as I travel along.

And maybe, play a little Farmville along the way.

Senior Breakfast-Southern Cooking

Had breakfast in a truck stop in Mt. Airy, NC: the SENIOR breakfast bar. Oh my gosh.  Another milestone has been reached.

The breakfast was true South:  Grits, biscuits and gravy, country ham, kielbasa, corn beef hash, fried apples, and a mystery casserole in addition to the usual scrambled eggs, french toast, pancakes, etc.  Didn't have the fried bolongna.

Every time I am in the south I head right to the grits and biscuits and gravy and nourish my inner southerner.  Hopefully I won't pay the price later when all that fat and grease catches up with me.

Today, onward, hopefully, to Georgia.

Goodbye, Mayberry.

Support Your Local Binghamton Surveymonkey

At this link, is a survey designed by Binghamton University [formerly SUNY Binghamton] graduate student.  Anyone who cares about downtown Binghamton should take this survey.

Quite frankly, if I didn't work downtown, you wouldn't catch me dead there-except maybe for First Friday.  Why?  Well, many reasons.  Fears of personal safety.  The fact that I have been panhandled, more than once (A co-worker who walks to and from work carries change for that purpose because he is asked for money-a lot).  (I was even panhandled once in the Binghamton Library, which is downtown.  It just isn't on the streets.)  And, lack of parking.  Especially, as far as shopping, lack of parking.  Also-I work downtown and I know some of the "harmless" characters but (and I hate to say it) there are people down there whose behavior can be scary, and if you aren't there every day....these people are going to make sure you don't return.

I tried to sneak in a couple of these thoughts into the survey (using politically correct language) because they sure didn't have a comment section.  Still, I wish the makers of the survey well and hope they gather the information they want.

If you feel like I do, there is a couple of boxes where you can check "other" and write something in.  Please consider writing in what you think.   When it comes down to it I do care a lot about downtown Binghamton-I spend a lot of time down there due to my job.  I don't think the "glory days" of the 50's will ever return but it would be a great thing if it could recapture some of its former glory.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The First Day of Spring-in Mt. Airy, NC

Tonight spouse and I are in Mt. Airy, NC starting a southern vacation.  This is the birthplace of Andy Griffith.  Unfortunately they had already rolled up all the sidewalks by the time we got downtown at 5:50 pm and only a couple of touristy places were open.  But we walked down Main Street and took some pictures which I hope to post a little later.

One thing I can't post was the Andy Griffith Show theme echoing through the almost deserted downtown.  Obviously this is not peak tourist season-thankfully!

On the way down we had lunch in Virginia at a place called Southern Kitchen.  Had peanut soup (it's wonderful) and a BBQ pulled pork sandwich served the local way, on a hamburger bun with cole slaw on top.  Just listening to those southern accents was a tonic for winter.

Here in Mt Airy, forsythias and daffodils are out.  We saw a couple of northern magnolias getting ready to bloom.  Hard to believe it is snowing in Oklahoma City!.  It was 79 degrees when we arrived.   It is still very pleasant.  The Blue Ridge Mountains are a beautiful backdrop for the first day of spring

Tomorrow, the truck stop next to us is featuring a breakfast buffet featuring fruit, fresh made biscuits and gravy, grits...yum.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Rebirth of the American Civic Association

Almost a year after the tragic shooting of April 3, 2009 that claimed 13 lives in the space of a few minutes, the ACA will shine once again.  It will reopen for the first time since that tragic day that, indirectly, triggered the birth of this blog.

I will not be in town tomorrow for the open house, but I am excited.  I pass near the ACA every day on the way to work.  While it isn't quite on the scale of those who passed Ground Zero on the way to their New York City jobs, it is a sober reminder of how fragile life can be, and how our sense of control is an illusion.

May the ACA prosper in its post-shooting life, along with the rest of downtown Binghamton.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Attention Newspapers: This is Why You are Going to Die

So....why would a relative of mine, who has a grown child in the newspaper industry, cancel her subscription to the paper her child works for?

I imagine, too, that this relative has had this subscription for....oh, maybe 40 or 45 years?

Now why would a loving mother do that to the employer of her child?  Because....

Said relative, an elderly stroke survivor, got tired of fishing her paper out of snowdrifts, hiking to the far end of a very long driveway, or not finding it at all.  She called the paper and said she was going to cancel.  The paper asked why, and she told them.  The customer service rep said something like "well, if that was taken care of, would you continue your subscription?"

Relative said yes.  Subscription continued.

Relative kept fishing her paper out of snowdrifts or (if lucky) finding it at the far end of her long driveway.  It's long for her; she can't walk long distances due to said stroke.  And she's not exaggerating this to us either; we visited her recently and found, sticking out of the melting snow, a paper dated from almost 30 days before.  But look on the bright side; it was in a plastic bag.

Relative told us never mind, throw it out.

Anyway, she's canceling her subscription soon.

Yes, that is how to reward a long standing customer.  Alienate them!  Don't keep your promises either.  But who cares about old people?
Maybe an industry that depends on them should care.

Because I can tell you (from knowing my son and others his age) the young people aren't reading the paper any more. 

I guess, newspaper industry, you are just going through the motions.  Too bad.  You are needed.  But you've lost the will to live.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Boulevard of Broken Trees

We are 40 miles north of NYC today, and experiencing a nor'easter.  The house where we are staying has lost power twice already.  There are downed trees everywhere, both from last month's snowstorm and today's windstorm.  On the Taconic Parkway there are a lot of old historic stone fences - a lot of them have damage from last month's storm.

After the power went off this morning, we went to McDonald's for breakfast.  Just as we were finishing up there, the power went off.  Everyone laughed-obviously it isn't a rare occurrence down here.

Where we live, we escaped last month's snowstorm but down here, the tree services will have job security for a long time.  I have not seen anything quite like it in many many years.

Today we are having lots of wind and rain.  We had to drive to a party in Yonkers and on the way home there was a traffic tieup on the Sprain Brook Parkway due to a tree that had come down, blocking the leftmost of 3 northbound lanes.  Fortunately it appeared no one was hurt-but in the past people have been killed on this parkway from falling trees.

We saw signs that the nearby Sawmill Parkway entrances were closed due to flooding, and I don't think it will be long before the Bronx River Parkway and the Sprain Brook are closed down, too.

I hope the power stays on tonight and we don't have any trees that fall down here.

We sometimes call Binghamton "Borington"...and on days like this, we can be grateful for Borington's boring weather.

Why The Internet Will Fail-A 1995 Essay-And Other Quotes

I enjoyed this blog post I ran into recently.  Hmm....Why the Internet Will Fail, which appeared in Newsweek in 1995.  How ironic that it is now quoted on a blog.

Ah, another example of why predicting the future is not easy.

I wonder if someone has compiled (oops, another computer term!) quotes about the coming failures of technology.

For example:  (note, none of these sources have been verified by yours truly-so these may not be accurate.  As everyone knows, we should not trust everything on the Internet!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gardens Alive

Gardens Alive of Lawrenceburg IN does sell some organic seeds now, but their expertise is in "natural" pet control, and combatting various gardening problems. 

We have ordered from them for years.  Their slogan is "Environmentally Responsible Products That Work!"  We've used their environmentally responsible products to kill ants in our house and control pantry moths.  We've used their "Wow" fertilizer product, their insecticidal soap and some of their "Alive" 100% all-natural fertilizers.

And, if only for your reading pleasure...yes, you can buy beneficial insects from them.

If you don't have a garden, they have worthwhile products for the lawn and for your kitchen.

Another catalog and website that is very well done, and has many worthwhile products.  I heartily recommend them.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Life Changes-I am Thinking of getting a Mac!

I have no idea why I have been researching netbooks for a good two weeks and still have not purchased.  There is something in me that just does not want to push that "buy" button.  Could be because the netbooks I've seen in stores seem so poorly made...and I don't have the money to purchase a $400 "doorstop" loaded with crapware from a company who won't give me good customer service?

Yet, I wanted something light, with good battery life, which wouldn't overheat.  I want to take it on the road to blog, to manage my photos, and to...dare I mention it?  play FarmVille.

I was amazed when a cousin's husband mentioned to me the possibility of a Mac fitting the bill.  I have used Macs in my life a total of two times.  But I have several people in my life who absolutely swear by them.

Their cost has always put me off.

But guess what...I may just do it.

Unfortunately there is no Apple Store here but I may be in a place later this month that does have one.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Seed Savers Exchange

We are sending off our seed orders, in a leap of faith that spring will finally come.

Over the next few days, I want to discuss some of my favorite seed catalogs.

Seed Savers Exchange is a lot more than a seed catalog.

They are a non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.

They are located in Decorah, Iowa.  Years ago, I had family in Iowa (since moved or deceased) and I almost got to see them a couple of times, but my relatives lived pretty far from them (Iowa is a big place!).  So, we never got there to see their Heritage Farm.

Seed Savers Exchange is celebrating their 35th anniverary.  I don't remember exactly when I hd first heard of them, but I joined them (fully believing in their mission) sometime back in the late 1970's.  For whatever reason, I never followed up on it, to my everlasting shame.  But, I do still try to support them.

To quote from their website "Seed Savers is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States whose goal is making varieties accessible to the public."

Have you ever given this thought-that some of the varieties you love to grow may disappear next year, never to be seen again?

It's true!

This is a complex subject, worth a lot more space than I can give to it in the time I allot to this blog.  But I encourage you to order from this most worthy organization.  We do.  And if you have the time, go on their website and download their catalog.  It will open a new world of gardening up to you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The End of Physical Therapy-Maybe - And What I have Learned

Today was "probably" my last session.  I'll know for sure next Wednesday when I see the orthopedic surgeon.

I have come away from the experience with a great respect for physical therapists and their assistants.  They must be massage therapists, cheerleaders, psychologists, communicators, teachers, exercise instructors and more, all rolled into one.  They teach you independence  And they know they have done their job when you don't need them anymore.

Or when your insurance runs out.  Yes, they have to deal with that also.  I don't like to delve into controversies but I would sure love to give my opinion of that.

It is also telling that all these years I've been doing water aerobics (over 14 years to be exact) and have been exercise walking for over 34 years, but I am lacking physical fitness in so many ways.  As the MRI I got for my back showed, some of my problems are due to the way I am physically built causing wear and tear over the years.  Some of it is arthritis.  Some is....well, it just is.  At that I am probably lucky I did the exercise and activity I did do.  Too bad gym class turned me off to so much of what I could have enjoyed-the way gym class is taught now is probably a lot better - but that would be getting on a soapbox again.

I don't like to do that.  Maybe one day, though, I will.

And now I have to work with the tools the physical therapy gave me.

In the meantime:  I can hope I never see the insides of that building again.

Folks: Thank you for what you did for me.