Thursday, June 23, 2011

Conformity Isn't Necessarily Good...

In today's Chicago Tribune, there's a front-page article about how the State of Illinois is the only state to not have concealed-carry laws. Now that Wisconsin is on the brink (and I use that phrase deliberately) of passing concealed-carry laws, the pressure for Illinois to follow the herd will increase dramatically.

In full disclosure, I have nothing against guns. I used to own a .357 Magnum. My brother and I would regularly go to target practice and I found that I actually preferred his Browning 9mm - it was easier for me to hold. And I'm a pretty good shot.

But that's not the point. So far, Illinois and Washington, DC are the only places in the US that do not allow concealed-carry. And you know what? I'm ok with that.

Guns are not the problem. People are the problem. I applaud Governor Quinn's veto threat to the bill proposed last month. But it's scary because the legislation only failed to pass by six votes. That's the closest it's come.

I don't want "concealed-carry" laws. Period. There is no up-side to this. I don't care that the law is, according to its Democrat sponsor, " watered down  that you could only have it on your person walking around or in your own house."  It's the walking around part that gives me pause. The bill's "watering down" came down to this:

The bill would have prohibited concealed weapons in bars, restaurants, certain businesses, courtrooms, schools and college campuses. Chicago's ban, overturned by the US Supreme Court, forced the city to rewrite the law to allow weapons to only be kept in the home, not in public. They're banned in garages, front porches, yards, hotels, dorms and group living facilities.

Still... you can carry it. It's not the guns, really. It's truly the people. I can't see that this will help "keep people safe" which is the argument the NRA and other pro-carry people will force down our throats.

Some guy who owns a gun store (go figure) says, "Are 49 states wrong and we're right?"

Well. Yeah, maybe. Ever heard of "groupthink"?? Let's turn this on its head: Just because 49 states have this law, does it mean we have to go along with them? No. Not really.

Guns can only exacerbate an already tense situation. So you've got the gun. (A) do you know how to use it? and (B) do you know WHEN to use it?

And (C) --- are you prepared for the very real consequences? Bullets kill people. Bullets maim people. If your aim is off, "collateral damage" isn't just a video's real.

When I was a criminal justice major, even though my field wasn't law enforcement, we all had to view and participate in the "Shoot, Don't Shoot" program. What an incredible eye-opener.

Of course, we were all in our 20s, studying for what we thought would be our life's work. And we knew ourselves. You can see where this is going, right?? Well, after the experience, our instructor, a former cop from St. Louis, debriefed us. And we knew then: Guns are for real. Bullets are for real. And in 90%+ of the situations presented to us as civilians, we didn't have a clue. We were wrong.

IF concealed-carry passes, then I suggest the following: tighten up the training and requirements. You must recertify every year. You must be licensed. You must have a "waiting period" before the purchase is consummated, so that a complete background check can be done on you. This background check should be nation-wide, not just state-wide -- this prevents someone coming into Illinois with a record as long as my arm, and buying a gun because he or she can waltz into the local gun show or Wal-Mart. And you must carry additional insurance for your home and auto, because if you do do something stupid, the people you harm must have appropriate means of redress.

Of course, I see a whomping new market for insurance companies: "So, you have a gun at home? Are you licensed? Have you been trained? Is your training up to date? If so, your premium is $XX... If NOT, then your premium goes up 50%. Your premium, by the way (on both your home AND auto) will be going up 200% anyway, because you are now a higher risk to us. You will need to pay those premiums or we will drop you. And of course, under state law, your auto at least MUST be insured."

This will, of course, make pro-gun people scream like crazy. "We have a right to carry guns."

And I have a right to not worry about being shot by some idiot channeling John Wayne or Annie Oakley.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My New Great Adventure...

Hi Everyone, this is Tippi, Intrepid Dog Reporter.  I had (hang on, where are the italics on this thing... oh, here they are!) a NEW GREAT ADVENTURE today. I went on a "therapy dog visit" to the local retirement home.

Here's a picture of me decked out in my "Canine Good Citizen" duds. That's what we'll be wearing till I can get my TDI evaluation, sometime later this summer.

I get to wear this lovely bandana, and we use my bright pink hemp leash from Fun Time Dog Shop ( when I go to visit the old folks.

So before I went with Mom, Dad took Quinn and me out to get some steam blown off us. Well, I don't know about steam blowing OFF us; it was really hot enough so that WE were steaming when we got home. I love that stuff humans call "air conditioning." We got a home-made frosty treat when we got home, but then mom and I got "suited up" and we got to the car. Boy-o-boy-o-boy was the car WARM. Mom couldn't get the cold air up fast enough; but it was a very short trip, so it wasn't horrible.

We got to the parking lot and mom realized they were re-doing the entrance. We had to go in a side door. It was very warm; I didn't know that old folks here don't like air conditioning.

But all that got wiped out of my head with the new sights, noises and smells I was experiencing. We got a tour of the place, and I had my very first elevator ride. Thanks, but even though it got us there quicker, I think I'd rather take the steps next time! I did get out of that silly moving box rather quickly. So we were on the top floor, and we went to the activity room. I got to sniff and walk a bit, but a few of the older ladies there really wanted to pet me.

They kept calling me a "him"!! Mom told them several times that I was a girl, but I figure they were in those chairs with wheels, so maybe they figured I was a big, strong boy. When in reality, I'm a very nice lady dog... But that's ok. They petted me, and I sniffed them. But then it was time to go to another area. I sat down by someone my mom kept calling "Sister." I don't know if it was my mom's sister, but the lady was very nice and told me I was beautiful and that my ears were lovely and my fur was so soft. She didn't want the other ladies petting me, but Mom said I had to go visit the others.

Oh, then another lady called me over, and I REALLY took a liking to her. Except, I was kind of anxious, and didn't realize that Mom wasn't standing up --- I pulled her a bit. She stopped me, and I let her help herself up by pushing on my butt. This lady had dogs; I could tell. She held my face and told me she loved me. So I touched her nose with mine and she started petting my head. I was really happy to let her pet me.

They all enjoyed trying to straighten out my tail; I was a little annoyed by that, so I just sat down! They thought that meant I wanted more petting, which was ok by me!

After a little while I was getting a little overwhelmed. Particularly when some guy was running this big noisy and smelly machine. It sounded like the sucker-upper Dad uses to capture our fur (little does he know, but our fur usually wins that battle!). But this one smelled like it was scrubbing something. Mom said it was a carpet cleaner. I hugged the wall, because I didn't like it. But I was a good girl and didn't freak out.

By this time, though, the warm air was getting to me, so when we visited this little old lady in her room, I did let her pet me, but only for a moment. I really needed to go home, so Mom told her that it was my first visit; she said that she had rat terriers, and she loved dogs. The lady showing us around said that this lady doesn't participate in any activities; she only gets happy when the therapy dogs are around. I will visit her FIRST the next time.

As we were going out, Mom and I had to walk all the way down one wing. There was an employee there who was pretty loud in saying, "I'm not coming in this door with THAT DOG there." Hmmmmm, not sure I like the "that dog" but the lady helping us said that that poor human didn't like dogs. What??? Oh well, we walked down the hall, just to prove that I wasn't a meanie.

Then, two more of the "sisters" stopped to tell me how pretty I was and how they hoped I would come back. The lady helping said she'd get a list together so that we knew who we could visit and who we couldn't.

There are 3 other therapy dogs, so it looks like Tuesday will be our day to visit. I'm looking forward to it, but I do hope it's not as warm. Maybe I was a little anxious. But I did like having the ladies even in the hall reach out to hug me.

I think I'm gonna like this gig.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prayer Shawl Update...

So I've been working on the garnet prayer shawl. Working very hard, actually, because my friend's son is in Hospice care now.

If you have a mind to, please spare some good thoughts for this young man (he's 42, but that's young). He's dying, and his mother is making sure he has the kind of death he wants.

Her relatives are driving her batty, saying that he "sleeps too much" or "doesn't react when we talk to him" or "isn't eating enough."

Ok, let's get this straight. The man is dying of an inoperable brain tumor. The tumor started in the dura matter at the front of his brain, so the tumor effectively gave him a lobotomy. He's lost all "executive function" and it's a terminal condition. He. Is. Dying.

To those relatives: So, when are you coming out to relieve his parents for a short stint, so they can get away for a bit - maybe go grab an ice cream cone or just take a walk around the block?

Yeah. I thought so. Crickets.

Garnet prayer shawl
Here's the shawl so far. It's a 5-hank shawl, a little over 1,100 yards of yarn. It's a 100% pima cotton which is just gorgeous. I've alternated - 1 hank of Stockinette Stitch with 1 hank of "Organ Pipes" from my "perpetual knitting pattern calendar."

It's not washed, and not blocked. So you can't see the Stockinette 5-stitch border on either side; that'll keep that part from rolling. Click on the picture to get an up-close view of the Organ Pipes stitch.

We were finally able to sing & play at Mass this past weekend; because of my work schedule, I haven't been able to get there for a 4 p.m. Mass, since I work till 5 p.m... Anyway, my friend stopped to talk to someone after Mass, and then sat down to change her shoes (she wears organ shoes when she plays); I sat down and she just started in mid-conversation. And started crying. It wasn't sobbing. It was tears running down her face; her son was asking her if she was sure he would get into Heaven and "what happens if I don't?"

My heart breaks for her. She did the right thing and told him that of course he'd get there, because Jesus said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you." That seemed to calm her son down.

I want you to think about what she's going through. Her son is dying in the prime of his life. Think about that, and then go talk to your kids. Hold her and her family in your thoughts; pray if you're inclined; send light -- please help her find some peace.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore

With all respects toward the great John Prine, I had to use that title, and the lyrics will follow shortly...

I'm sick and tired of Wiener's wiener... Here's the thing. It's basic PR 101: you shouldn't say (no matter what the media is) anything (or SHOW anything) that you wouldn't want printed on the front page of the New York Times.

That being said, the now-disgraced Anthony Wiener didn't heed that information, and he took pictures of what should remain private and made them public. Which is adolescent to be sure. And which is between him and his wife. And now a million+  of his closest friends. Thanks, Andrew Breitbart, for lowering the bar once again. And thanks, Anthony, for proving that Democrats are idiots.

We have no business knowing about Anthony's privates OR his private business. But after this story took on a life of its own, he humiliated himself into the resignation. Though I sincerely think he should've just done what Republicans have done for years: pulled out the Jesus card. OK, he's Jewish, possibly converted to Muslim (gasp!!) --- but pull out the "religion" card and "poof"  - it all magically goes away because you've been "saved." From yourself, mostly, and apparently from any kind of punishment.

Works every time for Republicans. See Diaper-Dave Vitter, James Ensign, Newtie...just to name a few. Heck, on the (D) side, Clinton stood his ground even after impeachment! It's been done, Anthony. You should've sucked it up, zipped it up and hung on to your job.

Anyway, I was listening to the folk channel on the radio, and this little ditty popped up. Due credit: copyright Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., written by John Prine.

Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore

While digesting Reader's Digest in the back of a dirty book store
A plastic flag, with gum on the back fell out on the floor
Well, I picked it up and I ran outside, slapped it on my window shield
And if I could see old Betsy Ross I'd tell her how good I feel.

But your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore
They're already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore.

Well I went to the bank this morning and the cashier he said to me
"If you join the Christmas club we'll give you ten of them flags for free."
Well, I didn't mess around a bit, I took him up on what he said
And I stuck them stickers all over my car and one on my wife's forehead.

But your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore
They're already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore.

Well, I got my window shield so filled with flags I couldn't see
So, I ran the car upside a curb and right into a tree
By the time they got a doctor down I was already dead
And I'll never understand wy the man standing in the pearly gates said:

"But your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore
We're already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore."

So. I get that Democrats want to hold to a higher standard. And normally, I'd say go for it. But there's a problem. Look at the Republicans: when you play with the pigs, you'll get muddy. They scream and holler that they are the "family values" party. And they go out and do exactly the opposite.

But they're in unison on the chorus, folks. The Democrats have to get in unison on the chorus. And our chorus has to reflect that we're fighting for people who can't fight: the poor, what's left of the middle class, those dependent upon "entitlements".... Can we please NOT make "entitlement" a dirty word? Yes, I AM ENTITLED TO IT because I've paid into it!

Democrats need to know that sometimes, you need to be just as obnoxious as your opponents. And also, all politicians should not Tweet. They end up looking like TWITS. Remember, if you don't want your mom to see it, keep it to yourself.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Laptop & New Cake...

No, they're not necessarily connected, but I figured it was easier to do one post. I'm doing my (ta-da) very first post on my lew Lenovo ThinkPad T520.

This replaces my eight year old (yes, EIGHT), and still functioning IBM ThinkPad. Hubby got a great deal, so we got Kid #2 a laptop for his graduation and a second one for me. Hubby is repurposing my IBM ThinkPad for his work, and that's cool. The machine runs well, even after surviving the "Elkhound Puppy Drop Test" and my replacing a keyboard.

The cake? Well, I did a wedding cake this past weekend. It was a small one, for about 120 people, for a garden wedding. This is the sister to someone whose cake I did 5 years ago.

Here's a picture of the cake:

Flower basket wedding cake.
And here's what it is. It's actually 5 layers of cake to serve, with the top layer reserved for the wedding party. The bride wanted different flavors (like her sister had), but she wanted the top to be chocolate.

The entire cake was filled with my home-made chocolate buttercream - guaranteed to melt you at the knees.

The layer in the middle is yellow cake; the bottom layer is fudge marble, and the 3 small satellite cakes are devil's food. That way, everyone gets what they want, within reason. All cakes have the chocolate filling. If you click on the picture, you can see the "basketweave" pattern on several of the cakes. I also added their names to the bottom cake, and their date at the top.

Silk pansies, ivy and baby's breath topped the cake. I used a "floating" cake stand that I had used for an earlier wedding, but as you can see, I put the ivy around the arms of the stand.  The cake took me a total of 8 hours to decorate, including the hour we spent on-site putting on the borders.

Satellite cakes
Here's a close-up of the smaller cakes; you can see the basketweave more clearly here. Hubby had the idea to have the ivy vines touching, kind of "encircling" the satellites. The top of each cake has a rope border, to match the idea of a "basket" in buttercream.

The bride was absolutely thrilled with the cake. In actuality, the cake served 128 people, and by the end of the evening (at least when we left), I had 25 pieces left. We figured those would be "wrapped and go" pieces.

I got lots of good comments, and I set out a bunch of my business cards, directing people to the website. Even the wedding photographer took a picture of ME with my cake! Half the time, nobody bothers. Lots of people commented on the personalization. Hubby thought it was "corny" but I think it was ok.

Formal wedding cake
The bride originally wanted a cake just like her sister's. Here:  Now, I liked this cake. It was very plain; the florist did the flowers, and it was simple. It was also bigger by about 50 people!

I think that each bride and groom needs their own cake. I knew that they wouldn't mind if I took a little liberty. So I came up with the design above, got mirrors at the Hobby Lobby for the smaller cakes, and we had a lovely, memorable cake for the couple.

My system is to tell people that wedding cake "has no calories" - it's a celebration! As long as, in this case, everyone had a lovely dinner, enjoyed the cake, danced and didn't fall into the pool, the evening was a success.

With every wedding, you learn something. Here's what I learned from this occasion:

1.  Put something on the cutting area; it was kind of a mess when I got done!
2. Bring your own knife! I brought one, but it should always be a slim serrated knife.
3. Always bring gloves. Even if you ARE neat, it looks better.
4. Make sure you have someone there to help you set it up. Without Hubby, I'd have been able to do it, but it's easier with an extra pair of hands!
5. Always bring your turntable. Makes putting on the last-minute borders easy.

And as you know: it should be fun. Delicious, too. But fun, always. This is my hobby, not my job. And yes, I do get paid for it. But if I had to do it for a living, I don't think I could. I do just enough to make a little yarn money, and keep me happy.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I Can Fix the Budget Crisis...

...and all it will take is some common sense. The screams you might hear will only echo for a little while, and then you can tune them out.

See, here's the thing. Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling. For better or for worse, it is what it is. But Republicans seem to want to hold this issue to the fire because they want to be "fiscally responsible" and have some pretty good-sized cuts so that the budget will balance. Or come close, at least.

Fiscal responsibility is a good thing. I'm all for it. I have to be fiscally responsible, because my own debt ceiling is nowhere near what the USA's is. ComEd doesn't want to hear about my new luxury purchase (which would be the roof we need to put on the house) if I haven't paid my A/C bill! I like to think I'm in what's left of the middle class, and so I pay attention to things like this: things that'll cause my kids' kids' kids massive headaches, providing we even have a planet to live on by that time.

In any even, the "fiscal responsibility" espoused by the Republicans involves massive cuts. To social service programs. Don't even call these "entitlements" because that's a flaming word. It's gone from a perfectly fine word to nearly a curse word. "Entitled" gives the impression of some welfare recipient sitting on their butt chugging a sweet tea or a beer waiting for the check to arrive.

Well, let's turn that on its head. "Entitled" rich folks' kids -- those kids who never did anything to contribute to the family's wealth, but just got born into the right gene pool. "Entitled" corporations like oil companies, who are all posting record earnings (and even poor little BP posted only a "slight" loss after just about killing off the Gulf of Mexico). "Entitled" bankers and Wall Street execs who feel compelled to give themselves massive bonuses for essentially shuffling paperwork. And denying loans to perfectly good (and struggling) businesses like my friend's: she had contracts in the rail industry, which was hit hard by the recession, and her small company needed funds. But it was told it needed to be in better financial condition. Which, if it was, would negate the necessity for her to be seeking a loan, right?

"Entitled" corporations and the mega-rich are apparently spared from the Republicans' righteous budget-cutting sword. The folks they're going after: seniors; kids; teachers; low-level government workers; women in poverty. You know - the folks who've paid into this society for their entire lives, and the littlest ones.

Good Christians one and all, they've apparently forgotten that Bible passage about tending to "the least of these" in order to reap your heavenly reward. That means, people, the elderly, the kids, the sick, the ones who serve us (teachers, cops, firefighters, nurses...the ones who tend us when we're at our most tender ages, and our most vulnerable).

But it's ok, because I know this'll make you sleep better at night. According to the May 23, 2011 Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine, "On May 17, the Senate blocked a measure that would have repealed $21 billion in oil and gas subsidies over 10 years." So...... the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbyist, did their job.

While Peter Colavito, the SEIU's director of government relations says, "We think that rich folks and American corporations have gotten off too easily..."

Ya think?

So my very simple budget fix is this: Repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; tax or penalize (don't care which) all American companies who offshore their jobs because they left our own citizen unemployed while seeking to enrich their own coffers; repeal the oil and gas company subsidies -- they can afford it.

And while we're at it, make the Senate and House members pay for their own health care. We have to pay; they work for us. So they should pay for their own benefits, just like we do. Please don't put forward that nasty canard of "public service" since we know that only rich people actually can run for office. They have their own money, for the most part. And those rare few who don't? Well, they probably know how to operate on a budget already.

I think my plan has merit. Of course, I won't hold my breath. Common sense is truly uncommon lately. The press (and the victory, most times) goes to the screaming hordes. Who rarely make any sense, let alone "common sense."