Friday, October 31, 2008

A Giant Passes

Studs Terkel passed away today.

He was 96.

He was a giant.

I didn't know anything of Studs Terkel until I entered college in 1978. That year, in my freshman English class, our instructor had us read a series of passages by him. For the first time in my life, I felt a true connection between words and the human condition. Terkel's words reached out to me and shook loose something deep inside me. I can't explain it any better than that.

Later that year, he visited Virginia Tech, and I was fortunate enough to hear him. From that time onward, whenever I had the pleasure of hearing Terkel speak, I would just sit and listen, transfixed. He had a way of painting that was so completely genuine and authentic.


Remembrance October 31, 2008

Talk of the Nation Interview 2005

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Big Dog

Dateline: The Future Now

Byline: Somebody

Summary: Somebody blink and make it go away. There are a lot of somebody's who know that a lot of other somebodys might think that the future is nothing but futuristic talk. Yet today in a corner of the world, a few somebodys are creating what somebody might recognize as the present. Today's future is tomorrow's past. If you blink, it doesn't go away. Somebody made sure of that. Be afraid.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stroll Through Autumn

I recently spent some time in one of my favorite places, a rock outcropping along the Appalachian Trail just south of Rt 311 in Catawba, VA. Here are a few pictures from that trip.

A rocky nest adorns the summit.

This is actually located about two tenths of a mile south of the parking area on Catawba Mountain. This squatter camp is located on the ridge above the AT. I stumbled onto another one of these campsites in the same general area that looked like a homeless person had been living there. There was an old dome tent, sleeping bags, and a duffel bag as well as all kinds of empty cans and signs of human defecation in the nearby woods. The site looked abandoned and messed about by bears. Needless to say, I passed through that campsite very carefully.

Also nearby along that same ridge, I found this painted rock.

Back at my cliffs...a view from below the rocks I like to sit on.

When I'm sitting on my rock, this is my view. I've sat in this spot in all four seasons this year.

At this summit, a traveler can easily seek shelter.

The trees are aflame this time of year.

About three tenths down the trail, a chipmunk has a home. I picked fresh flowers for the home placard.

The hollowed faces in this rock are chilling. They remind me of the time my wife and I visited Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The hollowed cliffs seemed to scream at us as the 95 degree super-heated winds blew through a violent thunderstorm.

I call this The Crucifixion. The burdened tree is immediately beside where I sit and play my harmonica.

Autumn reigns in Bradshaw Valley.

Peering southeast at Fort Lewis Mountain flanking Bradshaw Valley.

A view from my rocks.

Last week, I stopped beside a stream and filmed the leaves floating past. This is an unusual little place. I was parked alongside the stream on the old Hinchee Road. The modern Rt 311 is just across the stream. The video juxtaposes the serenity of the stream with the harh intensity of the traffic.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Messin' With the Whistle

It's difficult to record yourself playing the penny whistle. If the microphone is too close, the sound is too shrill. Of course, some tell me my whistle is shrill all the time.

Here's a recording of me messin' with my whistle this evening.


My school family suffered traumatic loss yesterday when one of our children, Luis, passed away.

Nine year-old Luis, or as we called him, Junior was sunshine, pure and unfiltered.

He was born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to a young couple with few means. Junior had special needs that could not be addressed in his hometown, so his parents dropped everything in their lives and came to America in search of help for their son. They had nothing, but were willing to work beyond hard to give their son a chance. They left every friend and family member they knew.

As fate had it when they were about to give up all hope, they found an apartment in the community around my elementary school. As I recall, Junior's father had a job near Bristol and traveled back to Roanoke as often as he could to be with his wife, daughters, and son. I've never in all my years of teaching seen parental love demonstrated in such a determined and personal way.

The first time I met Junior was when I volunteered for a delivery detail. Since Junior's parents had absolutely nothing in their apartment- not even a single chair, our school principal, herself a Cuban refugee, organized a furniture donation drive. We loaded up several pickups of furniture and necessities donated by teachers and the school community. I'll never forget the mother crying with tears of appreciation as we brought in diapers, food, tables, chairs, and beds. Staring at their empty apartment, I came face to face with the stark reality of true poverty. Yet despite the poverty, Junior's family was rich in more important ways.

I'm told that when Junior passed away last night in his father's arms, his dad could not bare to let him go.

To the Ramos family, I lift you up in prayer. To the readers of this blog, thank you for listening. I felt a strong need to tell the small part that I know of his tale.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Joe the Plumber Speaks With Barack Obama...the real story

Outside Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was
approached by plumber Joe Wurzelbacher, a big, bald man with a goatee
who asked Obama if he believes in the American dream. What follows is an actual transcript.


"I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250 to 280 thousand
dollars a year," Wurzelbacher said. "Your new tax plan is going to tax
me more, isn't it?"

Obama said, "First off, you would get a 50% tax credit so you'd get a
tax cut for your healthcare costs….. if your revenue is above 250 –
then from 250 down, your taxes are going to stay the same. It is true
that from 250 up – from 250 – 300 or so, so for that additional
amount, you’d go from 36 to 39%, which is what it was under Bill
Clinton. And the reason why we’re doing that is because 95% of small
businesses make less than 250. So what I want to do is give them a tax
cut. I want to give all these folks who are bus drivers, teachers,
auto workers who make less, I want to give them a tax cut. And so what
we’re doing is, we are saying that folks who make more than 250 that
that marginal amount above 250 – they’re gonna be taxed at a 39
instead of a 36% rate.”

Responded Wurzelbacher, "the reason I ask you about the American
dream, I mean I've worked hard. I'm a plumber. I work 10-12 hours a
day and I'm buying this company and I'm going to continue working that
way. I'm getting taxed more and more while fulfilling the American dream."

"Well," said Obama, "here's a way of thinking about it. How long have
been a plumber?"

Wurzelbacher said 15 years.

Obama says, “Over the last 15 years, when you weren’t making 250, you
would have been given a tax cut from me, so you’d actually have more
money, which means you would have saved more, which means you would
have gotten to the point where you could build your small business
quicker than under the current tax code. So there are two ways of
looking at it – I mean one way of looking at it is, now that you’ve
become more successful through hard work – you don’t want to be taxed
as much.”

“Exactly," Wurzelbacher said.

Obama continued, “But another way of looking at it is 95% of folks who
are making less than 250, they may be working hard too, but they’re
being taxed at a higher rate than they would be under mine. So what
I’m doing is, put yourself back 10 years ago when you were only making
whatever, 60 or 70. Under my tax plan you would be keeping more of
your paycheck, you’d be paying lower taxes, which means you would have
saved…Now look, nobody likes high taxes."

"No," said Wurzelbacher.

"Of course not," said Obama. "But what’s happened is that we end up –
we’ve cut taxes a lot for folks like me who make a lot more than 250.
We haven’t given a break to folks who make less, and as a consequence,
the average wage and income for ordinary folks, the vast majority of
Americans, has actually gone down over the last eight years. So all I
want to do is – I’ve got a tax cut. The only thing that changes, is
I’m gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in
need and for the 5% of the folks who are doing very well - even though
they’ve been working hard and I appreciate that – I just want to make
sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other
tax cuts. Now, I respect the disagreement. I just want you to be clear
– it’s not that I want to punish your success – I just want to make
sure that everybody who is behind you – that they’ve got a chance at
success too.”

Wurzelbacher said it seemed as though Obama might support a flat tax.

Obama says, “you know, I would be open to it except here’s the problem
with a flat tax is that if you actually put a flat tax together, in
order for it to work and replace all the revenue that we’ve got, you’d
probably end up having to make it like about a 40% sales tax. I mean
that’s the value added, making it up. Now some people say 23 or 25,
but in truth when you add up all the revenue that would need to be
raised, you’d have to slap on a whole bunch of sales taxes on. And I
do believe for folks like me who have worked hard, but frankly also
been lucky, I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the
waitress that I just met over there who’s things are slow and she can
barely make the rent."

Obama said, "My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from
the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a
plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be
better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to
hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad
for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good
for everybody."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Little Morphine for a Saturday Night

Warning: Song May Contain Language That Some People Find Objectionable.

Let's take a look at three versions of "Sharks" by the 90's group, Morphine. Sadly, Morphine disbanded in 2000 when lead singer and slide bass player Mark Sandman died on stage of a heart attack.

These are two very good quality videos of the band performing. As you can see in the second video, Sandman was sweating profusely with a glazed look in his eyes.

Morphine had unusual instrumentation. Sandman played a two string slide bass, Colley played a baritone saxophone, and the group usually had a percussionist.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Abuse of Power

The Branchflower Report to the Legislative Council has been released. Governor Sarah Palin has been slapped with an "Abuse of power" charge for the pressure she applied to officials to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. People should be aware that this report was created after an investigation that began before Sarah Palin was tapped to be John McCain's running mate. The commission is bipartisan and chaired by a Republican.

For much of this past week, Sarah Palin has been operatin' in the modern traditional campaign role of "pit bull." Her main job is to go out and "fire up the base." In her case, Palin has been speaking from a script of hate. She pointedly accuses Barrack Obama of "Pal-in' around with a known terrorist." Predictably over the course of the week, crowds have become increasingly hostile and abusive toward Obama. Unruly crowds shout "Terrorist" whenever his name is mentioned. Others scream, "Kill Him!" "Bomb him!"

In another incident earlier in the week, a uniformed police sherrif stood before a foaming crowd and pointedly shouted "Barrack HUSSEIN Obama!" The crowd rained a chorus of boos.

If you've been reading this blog, you may be aware of a situation that I had an interest in where the Virginia Education Association sent an email out to leaders suggesting they encourage members to support an "Obama Blue Day." I didn't pass that email along to the members of my local because I didn't think it was appropriate for teachers to be politicin' at school. Indeed, that would have been a breech of trust. I feel exactly the same about a law enforcement official standing before a political rally in full uniform mocking a candidate for political office. Not only do I find that officer's actions deplorable, I'm pretty sure his actions were illegal.

Through all of this hullabaloo, McCain went along. During the debate last week, he mentioned these attacks nary once. In short, he's been standing beside the fray while the seeds of hate are sewn by his surrogates...until today.

Today, things got especially nasty at a McCain rally in Lakewood, Minnesota. A member of the crowd stood and spoke of his fear of an Obama presidency. McCain took the mic and respectfully spoke of Senator Obama, calling him a decent man while the crowd roared its disapproval.

My greatest fear is fear itself. People today are living on the edge of a precipice. Poster Gary Blomstrom on summed up my fears the best this very evening an hour ago.

Don't do this McCain! [referring to the personal attacks by his campaign] People are ready to become a mob over all the negative -life-changing failures being dumped on them. Don't give them Obama as target for their anger. He's already got too many ex-KKK types riled up. I'm not sure our country could handle you stoking the fire. Knock off the schoolyard crap!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Messing with the Generators

This image was created from Letter James. You can choose one of about six pictures and plant your text on the picture. Here's another one.

Another style of generator creates comic strips. Here's one created on the site

There are also logo generators... I did this one in about ten seconds on

Web 2.0 Free Logo Generator

I really do like to explore words, so I was thrilled to experiment with Bullshit generator...

integrate semantic folksonomies

Finally, I leave you with one of the original generators in the Web 2.0 world...The Shakespeare Insult Generator. Accept no imitation...

Thou errant earth-vexing fustilarian!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Blue Day

Here's the exact email text that was sent to me regarding Blue Day. Seems to me like a lot of hullabaloo over not much.

Subject: Blue Day 9-30-08
What an exciting and historic election season this has been so far. Virginia has seen Barack, Joe Biden, and Michelle in forums and rallies throughout the state from Russell County to Norfolk and Martinsville to Fredericksburg with Charlottesville and Richmond in between.

We have helped register thousands of young voters in neighborhoods and on college campuses. On the dark side we hear chilling stories of how college students and minorities are being discouraged to vote. We must do our part to promote fair and honest elections in our state.

There are people out there not yet registered. You teach some of them. Others, including our members, remain on the fence! Its time for us to come together, voice our unity, because we make a difference!

Your next chance to help with the campaign is coming up … and it is very simple to do.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008 everyone is asked to do two things
1) WEAR BLUE –don’t wear an NEA for Obama shirt to school, but wear something else blue

2) REGISTER TWO VOTERS OR talk to two people who may be on the fence/ or a McCain supporter and sway them to become a Obama Supporter).




Sunday, October 05, 2008