Thursday, May 29, 2003

random thoughts and my hiatus

Apologies for the break in my posts lately. As mentioned last week, I am on business in Ohio this week, a Central Time Zone girl socializing on Eastern Time Zone clocks. Long days of work since Tuesday and tomorrow doesn't promise to be any shorter. I am traveling from Ohio to Illinois and then back up to Michigan, so I may be AWOL for the rest of this week/weekend. Quite the little social butterfly, aren't I? I really need a laptop.

It's kind of interesting getting away from the grind for a few days. It puts thing in perspective. Eating out is only fun for a few days. No matter how interesting work may be, you will still feel empty and unfulfilled coming home to an empty room with a TV as your only company for the evening. No hotel Internet connections are ever as sophisticated as they claim to be. (For example, business center does not mean Ethernet. It means one late 90s PC loaded with fatal errors and a slow Internet connection...hence my lack of posting this week). There are distinct cultural differences in America, but generally people are just good and decent and kind. I like Ohio -- it's close enough to the rest of the world but Midwestern at its core. I love watching basketball and watching guys like Steve Kerr demonstrate that age is not an issue. Any obstacles can be overcome with grit and determination. Go Spurs!

I'm happy about all sorts of things this week though -- basketball, the tax cut, etc. I'll be posting as I'm able over the next few days. Enjoy your weekends!

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Articles on the war

Despite my best efforts, I have gotten choked up reading several articles on Operation Iraqi Freedom lately. While some of these articles focus primarily on the bravery of the troops, others are just wonderful demonstrations of how compassionate and noble our military men and women really are. In honor of Memorial Day, I will be posting links to other good war-related articles as I encounter them. National Review had a couple doozies today:

Jim Lacey's "The Men Who Won the War", observations on his travels with the 101st Airborne in Iraq
Gleaves Whitney "The Homecoming" recounting his 19 year-old son's return from National Guard duty

Friday, May 23, 2003

Tough day, wonderful memories

My grandmother died two years ago today. To some people, this might not be quite so significant. However when I was four years old, my grandmother moved into our house to recover from a battle with kidney cancer and never left. My family became part of the sandwich generation, one of the 25 million plus families in America with three generations living under one roof. Although it made for an interesting family dynamic growing up, looking back now, I can see that we were incredibly blessed.

My grandmother was an amazing woman. She was born in 1911, the “same year as the Oreo cookie” we always joked. She eloped with my grandfather shortly after high school but managed to attend business college and help support his family for many years after that. She survived the Great Depression, lived on a farm alone while my grandfather served in India during WWII, and made quite a name for herself in business at a time when women rarely did so. She juggled a blossoming career and raising my mother during the 1950s and 1960s. After my grandfather passed away in the early 1970s, she ran the family business for many years. Technically she retired in the 1980s, but she helped run the company well into the 1990s…at which point she was over 80 years old.

My nana lived life to the fullest. Aside from being a bit forgetful and having no understanding of modern day electronics like VCRs and remote controls, she was sharp as a tack until the very end. She was incredibly friendly and full of life, staying involved in civic organizations well into her nineties. She was quite resolute in her faith. She was a sixty-year member of the congregation in our hometown, and she kept our family attending church at times when my parents seemed ready to quit. She was so incredibly proud of her family. She had great sense of humor and a smile that lit up the room. She had a huge soft spot for ice cream, and she was a die-hard fan of the Illinois women’s basketball. (Now you know how I got this way!)

She wasn’t perfect, and neither was our relationship. On the whole though, she was an amazing, inspirational woman. We lost her in less than three weeks when her remaining kidney just wore out. The month of May will always be bittersweet for me. I take solace in the fact that her steadfast faith has led her to a better place, and I’m fairly confident she is up in heaven watching over us, smiling and proud of how my family has gone on living their lives.

I’ll close with a couple stanzas from one of my grandmother’s favorite poems, “Lord of the Dance” by Sidney Carter.

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame;
The holy people said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me on high,
And they left me there on a Cross to die.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

They cut me down and I leapt up high;
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me—
I am the Lord Of the Dance, said he

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The scoop

Have you heard about the protests staged during Rockford College's graduation last weekend and wondered what New York Times reporter Chris Hedges could have said that was so offensive? The Rockford Star supplies you with both the full text of the speech and details on the college's reaction. They aren't pretty articles. During my brief stint as a Division III college athlete, I played soccer at the school. It's a modest little blue-collar campus tucked away within the city of Rockford, about as distant from the Ivory Tower of Academia as one can get. That being said, it didn't surprise me to hear that many of the audience members protested throughout the speech. It DID surprise me that this president held such a speech would be appropriate and well-received on such a momentous occasion.

These parents and students have worked hard to send them through four years of higher learning. They've spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours working on classwork to receive this degree. You didn't think that the speech should at least welcome the graduates and give them some advice as they pushed forth into the real world? Come on -- give these parents something to get excited about. Hire Bill Cosby to give the address, as did Bradley University for my sister's graduation last week. The article notes that this was college president Paul Pribbenow's first year. I'm willing to bet there are a few RC trustees out there right now hoping that it's his last.

p.s. I've been working on a couple other posts, but my eyelids are mega-droopy at present. Try for more tomorrow!

Updated (5/23): I'll explore this further over the weekend, but here are some good related opinion pieces:
Right Wing News -- Another New York Times Reporter Making a Fool Out of Himself -- James Lilek's Thursday Bleat (last 6-8 paragraphs)

Sunday, May 18, 2003

the new catchphrase

Jason Steffens has an interesting little blurb on rolling back the tax cuts to pay for universal health insurance. I saw Dick Gephardt on Fox and Friends last week, and I believe that was the tune he was singing. I must admit that I can see his promise of "free ice cream" appealing to the masses (as Dr. Byron might put it!). Luckily, Gephardt seems to have all the charisma of an ant. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up a serious contender for the Democratic normination though. Who else could it end up being? It would be pretty ironic if John Edwards tried this catchphrase, especially given that lawyers like him are one of the primary causes of the soaring cost of healthcare.
tv news

It's a bit late for a recommendation since the season finale was tonight, but I have really been enjoying American Dreams on NBC. It revolves around the Irish-Catholic family of a sixteen year-old Philadelphia girl who dances on American Bandstand. This allows it to incorporate some great "American Bandstand" performances from present-day musicians and actors like Wayne Brady, Duncan Sheik, and Lee Ann Rimes. It's somewhat slow-moving, but it's well done television that chronicles an interesting period in American history. As an added bonus, the family takes its faith seriously and wrestles with moral issues on a regular basis. Tonight's episode was riveting, as the characters strove to escape brutal race riots in Philadelphia and save the family store.

In less respectable TV news, I was surprised to hear last week that The Bachelorette's Bob Guinney was named the next Bachelor. Andrew Firestone gave me the willies, but ABC may have just weaseled its way back into my fall TV line-up. In even less respectable TV news, I cried like a baby during the Dawson's Creek finale last Wednesday. Although I was always bothered by the show's moral relativism, it's been one of my guilty pleasures for six years. I feel like I grew up with the characters, and I thought the finale was a fitting sendoff. While I was sad they killed off Michelle Williams's character Jen, I was ultimately happy with Joey's choice of the adorable, industrious everyman Pacey. I always have to root for the underdog. What else explains me being a die-hard Cubs fan?
Appliance Shopping and NAFTA

In checking out columns at Town Hall this weekend, I stumbled across an interesting Walter Williams piece. It's primary purpose is to deconstruct the argument that free trade (specifically NAFTA) is only in the best interests of greedy corporate types. The article cites Maytag's recent decision to move its Galesburg, IL manufacturing facility to Mexico as an example. Spokesman Russ Anderson of Americans Against NAFTA is quoted as saying, "We want to spread the word of what we believe Maytag is doing and the destructive effects it will have on Galesburg and the surrounding area. We want to tell everyone that we don't think it's right to put 1,600-plus people out of work for the sake of corporate greed." While I find that statement to be an over-exaggeration, but I must admit I have conflicting feelings on this topic.

For the most part, I am a believer in free markets. This case makes me think twice though. I was in Galesburg a few weeks ago. It's a relatively charming small town that had its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, back when it was one of the railroad capitals of the Midwest. Evidence of that era still exists in the stately, grand houses that have now been restored on Prairie Street. At present though, that Maytag plant is the heart and soul of the town. With a population of 33,000, the loss of 1600 jobs is a devastating blow to the town. Couple this with the fact that the state and local governments doled out about $10 million dollars in incentives to keep Maytag happy over the past decade, and the people of Knox County feel understandably betrayed.

The question this article leaves me pondering is this: What jobs will replace such manufacturing work when plants leave rust-belt America for Mexico? There will be sixteen-hundred people in Galesburg out of work, sixteen-hundred people that have little or no post-secondary education, sixteen hundred people that have made their living off manufacturing. They will be looking for jobs and find themselves qualified for very few of the positions out there.

If I was in such a position, my first move would be to seek out training within a job that is currently in high-demand. Quite honestly, I would probably head back to junior college or some other program that could provide me with necessary training for a career in a health-care related field. But these people have families to support and have spent most of their lives in that immediate geographical vicinity. What will they do now?

Not sure that I have any answers here -- just pondering the question. It definitely makes me think that when I take my next trip to the mall, perhaps I should be looking for those "Made in America" labels. That perhaps I should be paying a bit more to patronize companies that make an effort to keep their manufacturing jobs in America. One thing is for certain -- the next time I go shopping for a dishwasher or a fridge, I will not be considering a Maytag/Amana appliance.

Apologies for the long breaks in posting as of late. Suffice it to say that life has been keeping me busy - work is good, my workouts are going well, social and family commitments abound. When I finally do get inspired to blog, the weather, our temperamental DSL connection, and spotty Blogger/Blogspot availability have not been helping the situation. I hope to get inspired again here in the near future, but this may be hampered by my work schedule. I will be traveling to Kevin Holtsberry's neck of the woods the week of Memorial Day, and evening Internet access may not be available. I've offered to let my husband take the reigns for the week. If that happens, get ready for a week of rants on the Cubs chances at the World Series, comic book superheroes, and what a great cinematic accomplishment the entire Star Wars franchise happens to be. Seriously, we are in agreement on a majority of the important issues of the day. His perspective on political matters would be similar to mine, but expressed in a more direct and less wishy-washy manner. We'll see. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

weekend / rundown

That "weather-permitting" comment in my Friday post was some sinister foreshadowing. I spent most of my weekend hiding out from twisters, hunkering down in my apartment during a power outage, and driving all over central Illinois to visit all relevant parties for Mothers' Day 2003. We escaped the brunt of Mother Nature's fury, but some folks in South Pekin / Morton / Eureka weren't so lucky. All things considered, the weekend actually went well. Unfortunately, it's led to me being an overly-tired grouch so far this week. Between my exhaustion, allergies, and migraines, this has not been a fun week at Casa IG so far.

Just a couple links to people hosting discussions on matters of interest this weekend:

Jason Steffens has up a nice piece on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. If nothing else, NARAL's stance on the Laci Peterson case should make every "pro-choice" advocate wonder about the integrity of that organization. To pretend that Conner Peterson's life was not ended too early...that seems almost criminal in my mind.

Jeffrey Utech alerts us to the fact that lawyers in Iowa have their heads on straight regarding one issue -- the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that bans on smoking in public places are unconstitutional. Although I would love to see more restaurants and bars go smoke-free, I am extremely annoyed by nanny-state legislative bans on smoking, for example with NYC's recent ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. If the local greasy spoon or watering hole is a privately owned business...then the owner should be able to decide how it is run -- smoke or no smoke, good ventilation or none at all. If we don't like it, we shouldn't eat there. End of story.

Mark Byron has an in-depth discussion on the new "Mainline Conservative" label. I find this sort of label a bit too restrictive and confining. It really doesn't seem worthwhile for conservatives to divide into camps and pit themselves against one another. While the media may not portray conservatives this way, I think those involved with the modern conservative movement bring a wide variety of cultural/religious experiences to the table. Due to these differences, it's quite logical that conservatives will have differing opinons on a variety of political issues. Very few of us will be 100% in agreement with the party line. I think the key is that we align ourselves together with whichever party is most in sync with our beliefs (GOP at present), and we respectfully work together to take a stand against the issues on which most critical to "conserving" what is right and good about our present way of life.

(If the above posts make no sense or have typos, my apologies. I'm overly tired at the moment, but can't bring myself to throw them away. Hopefully they have some redeeming value.)

Friday, May 09, 2003

random thoughts

Another hectic week here in Central Illinois, so I thought I would just do a quick run-down tonight.

As I type this tonight, it seems as if another severe storm is getting ready to roll in. Thoughts and prayers go out to the people out in Kansas, Missouri, et cetera who have been dealing with tornadoes all week. Central Illinois has been spared the brunt of these storms, just experienced minor inconveniences like flickering lights and DSL down for hours on end. (I am not a big fan of Verizon at present, but that is a post for another day). Still I have seen the damage of such storms firsthand while growing up in this area, and I wish all the best for those rebuilding in the Great Plains this week.

Congrats to my husband on his recent award! He took it in stride though and only managed to get excited about the $100 in prize money. Why? Because we decided that he could put this little unexpected windfall towards purchasing a PS2...which in all likelihood will ensure that he never wins such an award again. (As we like to beat up on Best Buy in the blogosphere, I thought I would throw in a bit of a plug for them tonight. We actually had two helpful salespeople chase us down at the register to throw in a free DVD remote, so kudos to the local store).

Another side note: I've been mulling shedding some of my anonymity on the least to reveal my first name and my hometown. Basically, I am sure that if anyone wanted to track us down -- there's already enough information there for them to do so. On the legal side of thing though, I was looking for a bit of advice. There's really no potential conflict of interest as long as I am not writing about my company's business. Correct legal types?

I wanted to thank Ben Kepple for his response on my recent reflection regarding John Derbyshire's "What Will my Kids Turn Out Like?" He had some interesting thoughts on the subject that struck a chord with me, and hopefully I will be able to respond a bit soon. I'd like to venture into commenting on a few other timely topics -- Bill Bennett's gambling, Alias, President Bush's sex appeal, political implications within XMen2, the Metropolitan conservative / Metropolitan moderate debate. However I'm afraid that it's far too late to start tonight. The weekend awaits though -- weather permitting, I will return to provide all sorts of ramblings on at least a few of the said topics. Have a great one!

Monday, May 05, 2003

the blogoversary

It appears that today is my blog-o-versary. Blogger is down, and my stingy-clinging-to-Blogspot self cannot post at the moment. With varying degrees of frequency, I have been posting here at Illinigirl for a year now. Three-hundred sixty-five days, fifty-two weeks, twelve months of my life. I summarized all the changes in my life last week (see April 29th below), but I thought I would offer a few more thoughts on life in the blog-o-sphere.

I use the blogosphere as a tool, letting it point me towards interesting articles that I don't have enough time to find on my own. I use it as a discussion forum for issues that I deem interesting or important. I use it to hone my writing skills, throwing up posts of consequence and proofreading when I have time. Occasionally, I use it in lieu of correspondence to update friends on what is going on in my life. (mlm, mrp...this means you...I'll be writing soon!) I use it as entertainment. I enjoy reading blogs that provide different points of view, especially when said blogs have a sense of humor. I frequent blogs when I enjoy the writing style or logic employed by the author. Whether male or female, conservative or liberal...if I appreciate the writing style, I am much more likely to visit the site.

That being said, not every blog in the world is destined to become "successful" and attract hundreds of visitors a day. Perhaps Illinigirl will never be successful in that respect. However, I have found it rewarding to write for my blog, debate the issues, and share mundane details of my everyday existence with other bloggers far and wide. Thanks for finding something valuable in my site and stopping by regularly to read what I have to say. I appreciate it.

ps. For those it may concern, my calves and I survived the 7k run this weekend. It was a beautiful day for running, and I managed to finish the course in 39:44. My mile pace was supposedly 9:06, about seven seconds off my goal of 8:59. I'm fairly happy, yet I know what I'll be striving for once my right knee quits hurting in a few days.

pps. Thanks for the link Bobby -- working on the archiving issues...