Thursday, August 26, 2010

90 Years of Women's Suffrage

To commemorate the 90th anniversary of the ratification and final adoption of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, I want to draw your attention to an article I posted two years ago on this same date about this topic: Carnival Atmosphere.

May we not take for granted the sacrifices made by brave women who made it possible for us to vote today!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday: Turning My Garden Upside Down

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday returns with a product review. Incredibly, this is not a sponsored post. But I have to tell you about my experience with Topsy Turvy tomato planter bags.

No kidding. Those ones that are advertised on TV, where the guy breathlessly talks about how the special vertical grow bag heats up and causes a ROOT EXPLOSION! And you can get the bag and the 6 foot stand for only TWO PAYMENTS OF $19.95!

But wait!  You can also get..

Why don't you watch the video to refresh your memory, or if you have never seen it, check it out for the first time.

I actually saw a Topsy Turvy bag in action last summer. My sister-in-law bought one and had it in her back yard by the deck.  She didn't have really great results because her deck is shaded a good part of the day, and the success of these bags is having them in a location where they will get at least 7 hours of sunlight daily. But I could see how in the right location, they could really be interesting.

Getting 7 hours of sunlight hasn't been hard this summer, where we have had several months straight of dry, hot weather. Sometimes incredibly hot weather.  In mid-July we had a week or so of 100+ degree days. With only an occasional splash of rain, watering these bags every day has been even more important than usual. I have been giving them each about a half-gallon of water every day.

Now, I have been growing tomatoes for 20 years. I have a garden that I don't use any more because I can't keep up with it and everything else I have going on in my life. But once upon a time, that 25' x 50' space contained ten large raised beds and a 3 foot perimeter row that was used to grow sumptuous watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, pole beans, wax beans, zucchini, lettuces, celery, peppers,  raspberries, asparagus, corn, strawberries, carrots, various herbs, potatoes, and the finest Jersey tomatoes anywhere.

I lost a lot of the tomatoes I used to grow to pests of various kinds, and watering the plants and weeding the garden was a real chore. I spent several hours a day in the garden performing maintenance tasks.

Part of the problem was that the garden was kind of far away, and walking back and forth to the house when I forgot something, or if the phone rang, or I needed to adjust the hose, or the kids needed something, just added to the chore of it all.  I had some equipment in the shed, but in general, it was an ordeal.

My Topsy Turvy bags are hanging on my deck. The deck is in two levels, so they are hanging from the railings on the upper deck. I can step out onto the deck from my kitchen and water them, and pruning, maintenance and harvesting can be from the lower deck.  So easy!  I was able to fill the bags with potting soil from the upper deck. No more trudging through the wet grass and dog crap to get to the garden. No more backbreaking shoveling and bending. Twenty years ago it was no big deal, but now...I just can't do it any more.

And the results?  Incredible. 

I planted three slicing tomatoes and three Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. So far I have harvested 40 slicing tomatoes and several hundred cherry tomatoes. I used to have to plant six or seven slicing tomatoes to get 40 tomatoes. And these are nearly flawless. I have had about 3 tomatoes that were cracked on top, and lost two to a couple of tomato hornworms. But otherwise they have all been like these.

Red. Juicy. Delicious. The finest Jersey tomatoes anywhere.  And there are still more outside that are not ready yet!

I was so excited about this result that I posted this pic on my Facebook profile. Someone commented that it looked like I painted them for the photo op.  This photo was taken with my 2 megapixel phone camera, and no, they are not photoshopped or edited in any way.

Topsy Turvy bags are available most anywhere, and now that the season is ending, you should be able to find them on sale. Even before the season I purchased mine for less than $10 each at BJ's.  If you have a balcony, or a deck or just about anywhere that gets decent sunlight, this is a great opportunity for you get readyto grow your own fresh tomatoes.

Don't like tomatoes? No problem, they are supposedly good to grow cucumbers, squashes and other kinds of vegetables as well.  I plan to try that next year.

Watch this space in about a year and I will let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Surprise! Homeschooled Students Do Well In College

A new study quantifies what homeschoolers have known in their hearts from the beginning: homeschooled students not only succeed in college, but actually outperform conventionally schooled students.  They also graduate in larger numbers than do other students.

So much for those accusations of "isolation" producing unwashed,  uneducated, socially inept young adults.

As recently as twenty years ago, colleges were still skeptical about whether homeschooled students were suitable candidates for a four-year degree program. Today, the vast majority of colleges have a specific admissions policy for homeschooled students that usually includes a portfolio of work, standardized test scores, and reference letters.

The study found that homeschooled students had higher first-year GPA's than other students. Moreover, homeschooled students had higher composite ACT scores. Though their math scores were  a little lower, their reading, English and science scores were much higher than those of students in any other category.

The study, entitled Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students, was based on a college in the Midwest with 11,000 students. Approximately 1% of the student body was homeschooled.

This is good news for homeschooling families. Not only does it confirm what they already suspected, but the study was not done by a homeschooling advocacy group.  Now, I personally do not have a problem with the National Center for Home Education or the studies they have conducted - but for those outside the homeschooling fold, a study by an independent party may be more persuasive.

Pat yourselves on the back, parents, for producing intelligent, hardworking, high-achieving, well-rounded future leaders in America!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Best Friend

After months of allowing things to pile up and pile up to the point I could not stand being in here anymore, I finally tackled the impossible task of filing in my office.

In a folder whimsically named "things to save that aren't bills," I found two old papers that surprised me. One was a 30 year old transcript I used to memorize the fawning introduction of my boss I used to have to give at client meetings when I worked on Wall Street. That was pretty amazing in its own right, but it was the second one that stopped me in my tracks.

Though it was undated, it contained a few details that provided a date for me. I was driving, so it had to be after October, 1970. But I was still in school - in fact, a senior in high school, so it had to be before June, 1971. And anyway, I recognized the paper, and the brown flair pen I used to write it, and knew immediately what it was.

Whatever the precise date, it was nearly 40 years ago - a sort of tribute to my mom. Maybe it was her birthday, or Mother's Day. I'm not sure.

But what struck me about it was that I felt we were friends.

I knew we were friends after I was old enough to relate to her as an adult. In fact, I knew we were best friends.

Who else but your best friend would rack up $300 long-distance bills to call you when you couldn't afford it, even though she couldn't afford it either?

Who else but your best friend would leave a sick husband and fly 1000 miles to sleep over and chatter with you all night on the night before your wedding, and when the toilet in the empty upstairs apartment overflowed while she was in the bathroom the next morning would good naturedly grab an umbrella and sit on the toilet with an umbrella over her head and act like nothing was unusual??

Who would run down the street to intercept the mail truck before it got to our house to grab the letters I wrote home from England that summer so she could edit out the profanity before Daddy read them?

But, I also remembered a couple of turbulent years when we were not best friends.  Then, there are the years I don't remember at all.

So, I guess I was surprised to see the written evidence of how I felt about her when I was 16.  By the way, I have x'ed out a couple of details that would be recognized by some of my Facebook friends from high school that would just be too embarrassing.

Not long ago there was a contest
sponsored by WSB
the purpose of which
was to determine whose Mum was best
as based on a statement
submitted by the loving offspring
in twenty-five words
Or Less
I never entered the contest
(though the thought crossed
my mind once or twice)
Because I knew I could not
Condense my reasons into
Said twenty-five words
And besides
It wouldn't be fair to the
other contestants
since you are without question
the one they would have chosen...
that is, if I could condense
into twenty-five words or less
why you are at least as outstanding as
Ethyl Kennedy
If I could've written a long story
or even a short story
I might have considered
"My mother is best because..."
Such originality would have
won it for you
then possibly they'd have
read on to see what else I said
"...she never complains even
after hearing what XXXX XXXXXX
did at school for the 48th time.
In fact, I can tell her most
anything I do
and I know she will have
done something at least as naughty
when she was small
She lets me find out things
the hard way when she has repeatedly
warned me of the consequences
but she never says
"I told you so"
even if what she told me so
would have prevented restriction
or a similar punishment
I have fun when I'm on restriction
She helps me along from time to time
and keeps me out of Daddy's reach when
arguments are inevitable.
But at the same time
if I'm mad at her
she's mad too
and if she yells at me
I yell right back
I'd hate it if she just stood there 
and did nothing
It takes the fun out of arguing.
If I hate people
she hates them too
and we twirl our handlebar moustaches
while we're thinking of ways
to take revenge
Nyah, nyah nya-ah
And she doesn't mind me lounging at XXXX
On Saturday afternoon in her car
while she's at home
taking me up XXXXX XXXXX Avenue
past XXX
provided we're on our way somewhere
like last time we were on our way
to the library
which couldn't be more than
five miles in another direction.
See what I mean?
And when I go out to Steph's
She doesn't tell me I can't go
Even though she sits home
and worries that I would
one day join the Black Panthers.
She doesn't mind the bats
that fly out of my room
when she comes in ho ho 
and she doesn't remind me 
to do my homework
more than 37 times
a day..."
In another time
had me and my mum
met under slightly
different circumstances
we probably would still
have gotten along famously.
Because she understands me
and she knows that
the fact that she is my mother
does not interfere
with the fact that
she is my friend.

Miss you,  Mama.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

American Teachers Should Revolt

Peter Heck, a guest columnist in today's edition of One News Now has written a clear and cogent argument for Christian teachers to immediately abandon the NEA. In fact,  he calls for any American teacher to abandon the NEA.

He quotes from another article he wrote about a year ago for the same publication, in which he describes the exact way I feel when I see the union dues taken out of my husband's paycheck.

Why conscientious, patriotic teachers continue sending their money to these Marxists is beyond comprehension.  As I wrote last year:
"Sure, there are excuses we can use to justify our capitulation and spineless allegiance to causes we know to be wrong.  We can accept the fear-mongering about how we'll all lose our jobs without the NEA.  We can delude ourselves into believing that when we check the box stating our dues can't be used for political purposes that we aren't still contributing to the very executive councils, legal offices, and management that is publicly acknowledging their hatred towards everything we stand for.  We can rationalize that it's impossible anymore to keep from spending our money on things we don't really support.  But we shouldn't do it any longer.  Our consciences shouldn't allow it." (Read the entire column from July 20, 2009)
New Jersey doesn't have right to work laws, and union membership is mandatory. Well, actually you don't have to be in the union. But if you choose that route, you can pay 85% of the dues for the privilege of NOT being in the union. In fact, if you have never seen this great short video (4:42) of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talking about how he intends to deal with the bully teachers' unions in New Jersey, you owe it to yourself to watch him explain it far better than I could. I had the privilege of being invited to attend this Town Hall meeting in Robbinsville with my family, and we were spellbound for nearly two hours.  (That, however, is another article for another time.)

Governor Christie likened the union dues system as being "like the Hotel California, you know? You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave."

Although they don't want you to think so, there are alternatives to the NEA, or your state's NEA affiliate. As Gov. Christie says in the video, my argument is not with teachers, Christian or not. There are many fine teachers who are appalled by the way the union spends their dues, and who care deeply about the education of American children. But with New Jersey property taxes the highest in the nation, something has to be done about the stranglehold the NJEA has had on our legislature for decades.

Peter, I agree. Drying up the dues gravy train would be a good start.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Selling Out After Fifty Years

I wanted to share this on Facebook, and since it from is a password protected site, this article would have appeared in its entirety right on my wall.

So, today we have a "guest blogger" - Doug Patton has brilliantly articulated how I feel about our "collective loss of innocence" (which I have written about in the past) and the societal collapse of anything resembling respect for the elderly. Andy Griffith, and other beloved seniors like him, have been sold up the river - and are being used to sell millions more up the river.

Et Tu, Andy? - seen on Worth Reading

By Doug Patton

Not many sitcoms make it to half a century in reruns. I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver and just a few others. It is a short list, indeed. Perhaps newer "classics" like M*A*S*H, WKRP in Cincinnati, Newhart, Seinfeld or Everybody Loves Raymond will eventually make it that far on TV Land or TBS or some other cable channel, but right now the list of shows still running after fifty years can be counted on one hand. The Andy Griffith Show is one of those programs. From 1960 to 1968, this program provided some of the most wholesome entertainment ever delivered to the American public.

As everyone who has channel-surfed during these last fifty years knows, actor Andy Griffith starred as Andy Taylor, the good-natured sheriff of the imaginary southern town of Mayberry. A youngish widower, Andy did his best to raise his precocious son, Opie, with the help of his ever-hovering Aunt Bea. Providing comic relief were Gomer Pyle, Floyd the barber and everyone's favorite bumbling deputy, Barney Fife, who became one of the most enduring characters ever to warm the hearts of the Baby Boom Generation.

Andy Griffith had spent most of the 1950s as a stage and movie actor before trying his hand at television. The Mayberry scenario came about as a spin-off from an episode of Danny Thomas's old Make Room for Daddy show. If memory serves, city-boy Thomas gets stopped for a traffic infraction on his way through the "hick town" of Mayberry and has the dubious pleasure of ending up in Andy Taylor's jail. The public loved the episode so much The Andy Griffith Show was born.

In the entire history of television, there have been only three sitcoms finish their final season as the number one most watched program on TV: Seinfeld, I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show.

For those of us who grew up watching Andy teach Opie the solid values of independence and family structure that are the unique backbone of American strength, and who have continued to think fondly of Andy Griffith as he aged gracefully into the dear old grandpa who would never waver in the important things, it is a bitter disappointment to see this man, now 84, being conned into selling out to the lies of the Obama administration.

I refer to the new ad campaign, paid for by our tax dollars, selling senior citizens on Obamacare. In the spot, Griffith intones reassuringly, as only he can, that "good things are coming," for seniors, including free check-ups and cheap prescription drugs.

Yes, Andy, and so is health care rationing, which will mean a death sentence for many of your fellow seniors. Barack Obama is doing everything in his power to make sure of that, including his latest bit of treachery: he has nominated as the new head of Medicare and Medicaid (in a recess appointment to avoid congressional scrutiny) Dr. Donald Berwick, a health care bureaucrat who has praised rationing and who adores the British National Health System. (This, despite the fact that the Brits have announced that they intend to privatize portions of their failed system.)

I have few doubts that Andy Griffith has been unduly influenced by his old cast mate and on-screen son, Ron Howard, now a successful Hollywood director who nonetheless has about as much understanding of the world of public policy as the rest of the leftist pinheads in Lalaland. During the 2008 campaign, Howard reportedly convinced Griffith to do a tongue-in-cheek campaign spot reprising their father-son roles as Andy and Opie. In the spot, Opie asks "pa" why people don't like Mr. Obama. It was a pathetic misuse of both men's talent.

Polls show that the senior citizens whom we revere as "the Greatest Generation" are the most skeptical about Obamacare — and rightly so. After all, Obama and his toadies in Congress have scheduled half a trillion dollars to be stolen from their Medicare benefits in order to finance this scheme. How sad that an admired American icon, who once stood for all that was good and innocent about America, should be convinced, knowingly or not, to be used as a mouthpiece for government propaganda.

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself much more often than not. Now working as a freelance writer, his weekly columns of sage political analysis are published the world over by legions of discerning bloggers, courageous webmasters and open-minded newspaper editors.