Thursday, October 28, 2010

None of the Above

It's election time again. And once again, except for a race here and there I find myself forced to pick the lesser of two or more evils. Woo hoo!

Mostly what I see in both the Democrat and Republican parties is a bunch of old white men who should have retired a decade or two ago. They feign interest in you and me, but all they really care about is getting re-elected and keeping the gravy train rolling.

Throwing the Tea Party into the mix has definitely spiced things up. I get the anger and can appreciate concerns about big government. However, the Tea Party platform about refusing to compromise is not only an untenable position, it's downright un-American.

I'm automatically suspicious of anyone who'd run for office. You have to be at least a little crooked to succeed in politics. If you're not crooked, you'd have to be crazy to subject yourself to what passes for campaigning in this country.

The amount of anonymous money funding attack ads is sickening. The lies, misrepresentations and distortions serve no constructive purpose. I guess the silver lining is the impact of all that spending on the economy.

We have early voting in Georgia. I voted last week. Standing in the voting booth I found myself yet again wishing for a "none of the above" option. Wouldn't that be great? Talk about sending a message...

That's one option we'll never have. If it was available, it would win every time because it's so much easier to simply reject all the choices. May as well not vote at all.

Unfortunately, that's the choice the majority of voters will make this Tuesday. They won't vote at all. And Wednesday morning, however the chips fall, the winners will claim a mandate that simply doesn't exist.

At least the campaigning will stop. Except it won't. We're quite likely to have a run-off election for Governor and at least another race or two.

Just another reason I remain...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, October 25, 2010

Absolutely No Short Cuts Allowed...and I Really Mean It!

Karma has once again bitten me on the butt. You may recall I used a shortcut on to prevent new green leaves for me to click from showing up. Instead of the tree view, I used the list view.

I clicked thousands of leaves. The process added hundreds of people to my family tree. There are kings and queens and Indian chiefs dating back beyond the Mayflower to the 4th and 5th centuries. added a new feature a couple of weeks ago. On the screen for individuals, you can now click a button and a new box appears detailing the exact relationship to me. For example, it will say John Doe is your 8th great grandfather and list the names of the direct descendants between us. It's very cool.

Because I used the list view instead of the family tree view, I traced people back to the beginning of time who are not related to me in any shape, form or fashion. I added hundreds of people to my tree who are not related to me. It happens...don't judge me. All that time...sigh.

My new endless task is working my way through the list view to verify each person is indeed related to me. Most aren't. There is definitely at least one queen and an Indian chief still in my family tree. A lot of the rest turn out to be related to someone else.

Fortunately, verifying we're related is a fairly mindless task--like crotchet or knitting. I just repeat the same process over and over again, adding a few steps to delete those who turn out to have no relationship to me. I make a lot of progress while watching college football games and reality shows on television.

In the process I've discovered duplicates and triplicates--people with the same vital statistics (birth date, birth location, death date and location) who are somehow each related to me differently. Some dude back in England in the 1500s is my 8th, 9th and 10th great grandfather. Either there's an error somewhere or he's guilty of stuff I don't even want to think about.

When I started at the beginning of the alphabet, there were nearly 2000 people on the list. I've made it through K and have knocked 600 people off the list. By the end of the football season I should make it the rest the way through the alphabet.

Meanwhile, every time I click on an individual a new green leaf appears. For now I'm ignoring them. I've spent enough time clicking leaves. Before I click any more I need to figure out what's going on with all the duplicates.

It's enough to make anyone...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hitting a Wall

Writing a book is hard! When I get overwhelmed, confused or hit a wall, I save a draft as a PDF and send it to a friend or two for feedback. Since the PDF created in late August (the seventh since July), I've hit a wall.

Being stuck was bad enough. Hating what I'd written so far was worse. I wanted to trash months of writing and start all over again.

I'm grateful for everyone who took the time to plow through the draft. The last version was 164 pages. Just reading something that long was high praise. The encouragement and support of those readers and others helps me to keep believing in myself when I feel like giving up.

The feedback has been very consistent. The comments for every draft revolve around whether I was writing a family history or something else, and about the need to really think about my audience. I understood, but couldn't figure out how to address the problems. Hence, the wall.

The wall came tumbling down thanks to the feedback Larry provided and to Terri's help thinking through the questions he raised. Granted, they both had an advantage because they knew about the problems and my inability to fix them. I still think Aunt Toodles somehow had something to do with it.

Now I'm devoting every spare minute to finishing the book. With Larry's questions answered in my head, the revisions came fast and easy. Once the problems were addressed, moving forward was easy, too.

The eight draft probably won't be the last. But it will likely be the first to make it to the end of the story. I hope to have it ready to share with a friend or two to read over the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll keep you posted, here on...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, October 17, 2010

For Vermont

Parts of Vermont got six inches of snow this week. I was glad to hear the news. That means it's now officially time to start rubbing in the mild winters we have here in Athens.

Nighttime lows are starting to drift south of 50 degrees. The days have been sunny and clear with highs in the 70s. We could use some rain, but otherwise the weather has been perfect.

My pick for the best mid-October combo is a huge planting of perennial ageratums, wild boltonia, mums and begonias backed with tall grasses. The ageratums are related to Joe Pye and Iron Weed, and spread like mint. They're even in the lawn despite having been mowed every week all summer.
Below is a better picture of them. They grow 18 to 24 inches tall. You don't really notice them until they start to bloom. If they'll grow where you live and you've got room for them to run, I recommend them.
Finally, I had to share a picture of Cousin It. He (or she) is actually a long-leaf pine. This one is three years old and about four feet tall. Pinching back side shoots maintains the shape but shortens the life of the tree. This one hasn't had a side shoot to pinch yet.
And that's what's happening this week in the garden of...
The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, October 11, 2010


Unless it's a holiday, Monday is not my favorite day of the week. Settling back into the work routine after a weekend off has always been a little rough. Technology makes the adjustment even more challenging.

Back when I took all those Fridays off, come Monday my car wouldn't start without a jump. I thought the problem was fixed after we replaced a corroded cable. Nope. Then I got a new battery. That wasn't the problem either.

My faithful mechanics still don't know what the problem is. We rule out a few more things with each oil change. However, they have determined that leaving the car in the garage for days contributes to the problem. As long as I drive it for 15 or 20 minutes a day it's fine...for now.

When I get to the office, before turning on the lights I power up my desktop computer. Then I turn on the lights, water the plants and wait for the computer to come up. Ready to work!

Acrobat Reader and Windows have more updates. After installing them, the computer restarts. Now I'm ready to work.

Unfortunately, my desktop is still not ready. It's fully occupied by the security software the computer geeks at work require us to have. If they knew what they were doing, they wouldn't be working for us.

I go through my snail mail for the first hour of the day as my desktop runs various and sundry scans in search of extraterrestrials, illegal aliens, and international terrorists. I've learned it's best to wait until the scans finish. Trying to work while my computer is busy just leads to frustration, anger and foul language. So I wait.

Finally, some 30 to 45 minutes later, the desktop stands ready for my command. I double-click on the icon to access the Internet. Java and the browser both have updates. Dammit! I install the updates.

Restart now or later? I always pick now. Otherwise, the reminder of the need to restart pops up when I'm trying to concentrate on something else. After it comes back up, there's just enough time to respond to a few e-mails before lunch.

Throw in Monday afternoon faculty meetings instead of my Sunday afternoon nap, and it's no wonder I'm always...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Too Many Friends?

A couple of weeks ago I was in the car half-listening to an interview on NPR on the way to work. I'm guessing it was the repeat of a 2008 interview with Malcolm Gladwell. He wrote a book called "The Tipping Point."

I haven't read the book but found reviews and additional information about the topic online. From what I gather, the book is about marketing and includes something about Dunbar's Number. According to Dunbar's math, the human brain is hard-wired to maintain relationships with no more than about 150 people.

The amount of social grooming required to maintain group cohesion is related to the size of the group. Dunbar said a group of 150 people would need to devote 42 percent of their time to social grooming. That's a bit more than 10 hours a day. I don't know about you, but my affection for sleep and the need to work and do chores around the house leave nowhere near ten hours for social grooming.

I'm glad to see science confirm what I figured out back in March. Keeping up with status updates and posts for more than 400 friends on Facebook was overwhelming. I deleted about half back in March. Some of the dearly deleted still haven't gotten over it.

Relationships are about quality, not quantity. Since March I've deleted more--and yes, I prefer "deleted" over "unfriended". It's nothing personal...usually, About what you'd expect from...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Earth Angel

I have a great friend you should know. She's not one to toot her own horn and will likely be highly embarrassed to read about herself here. But I think you should know about the work she does.

She teaches high school in a small rural county in the south. The countryside is beautiful, but opportunities are few and far between. About a third of the adults in this little county passed up or missed out on the opportunity to graduate from high school or earn a GED. Nearly one in five of the 15,000 residents live below the official poverty level.

She is a gifted teacher--the kind good parents hope to see at least once before graduation. She genuinely cares about each and every student she encounters. Failure is not an option in her classroom, not because she's easy, but because she works hard to engage each and every student. She never gives up, and doesn't allow her students to quit either.

Though she's a gifted teacher, it's not her work in the classroom that impresses me the most. It's the stuff she does when she's not teaching that blows me away. Hers is a very rare gift. She has the heart of my beloved Aunt Toodles and like her, knows exactly what to say or do to make small but significant differences in the lives of the people around her.

Here's just one of many, many examples I could share about little things she's done that warm my heart. She's a passionate and talented photographer--an interest she's pursued for most of her life. On picture day at school, she stands behind the official photographer with her own camera to take pictures of the kids. Then she prints her photographs and gives them to the kids who can't afford to pay for the school package. How thoughtful is that?

She's a great mother, too. Her kids make her proud every day. They're active in a billion things and excel at more than a few. Wherever they are, whatever they're doing, you'll find her lurking in the background with her camera capturing each and every precious moment.

She's active in her church and lives by what she believes in a way that inspires me to want to be more like her. I'm sure many others are similarly impacted by her kindness, generosity and compassion. She makes being Christian look like a good thing, and for me to say so is saying something.

I'm so very proud she counts among her friends...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, October 4, 2010

Me and My Smartphone: Week One

I'm loving my new smart phone. The big surprise is how easy it is to use. Not that I've used all the features. Shoot. I've barely scratched the surface. But I'm not afraid to try.

My old flip phone defeated me. I spent more time figuring out how to make calls, save contact info and send text messages than I did getting to know any of my ex's. Learning to use other features required more of a commitment than I was willing to make.

With a few minor exceptions, I've had no trouble figuring out how to use the smart phone. The larger and more readable screen, intuitive menus, and the touch screen technology make it easier to find and use features. Only we don't call them features anymore. Now they are apps, and there are a blue million of them.

Some come pre-loaded on the phone, some cost money, and some are free. Some are apps and some are widgets and some are widget apps. Or something like that. Frankly I don't know the difference. The good news is my ignorance hasn't really impeded my ability to figure out how to use any I've wanted to try out.

Except for a few times. I still don't really understand what I did, but my partner made it work for me. He didn't seem to have any trouble figuring out what to do, either.

He also explained why this phone needed to be password protected when my old phone did not. Without it, find the phone and you have instant access to my Facebook and gmail accounts. Yikes! Add two more to an already over-long list of reasons I can't live without him.

Getting notifications on the phone about new e-mail messages and various types of posts on Facebook is very cool and makes boring faculty meetings pass more quickly. I could add my work e-mail but for now have decided against the idea. It's all about boundaries.

I use the smart phone a lot more than I used my old flip phone. I'm using my laptop less, too. Using the phone to check for e-mail or Facebook changes is faster than booting up the laptop.

Downsides? The smart phone spends a lot more time on the charger. I am using it more so I guess that's OK.

The password is a pain in the ass. The screen goes dark before I can type it in. Even with a shorter password I rarely get it in before the screen goes dark. Talk about took several hours to figure out I didn't need to start the password over from the beginning each time.

It's not my fault. I've always been a little slow. But I try, even when it makes me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Only Myself to Blame

The Fall gardening season has officially begun here in Northeast Georgia. I know because the UGA Horticulture Club had a plant sale this weekend. Normally I'm not much of a shopper, but a good plant sale really gets me going.

The hardest part is figuring out and limiting myself to only what I need. It's not about the money. I'm out of room. No matter how pretty or fragrant or enticing, nothing comes home unless I know exactly where it will fit in the garden.

Lowe's was the first stop on my garden shopping expedition. Even before Lowe's opened a store on our side of town it was worth the trip. Knowing what they have keeps me from paying two or three times as much for the same thing elsewhere.

My next stop was the Hort Club sale. They had a lot of nice trees and shrubs, but not much in the way of annuals. I left empty handed.

The big family-owned nursery on the other side of town was my next stop. Last year they had pansies, violas, snapdragons and pinks in every imaginable color. Most years nearly all my Fall selections come from them. This year they didn't have squat.

Because it's in the 'hood, I checked Walmart. They had healthy-looking flats of violas with purple and white faces that must have come right off the truck. The odds of finding them again were slim to none so I bought three flats.

I returned to Lowe's for three flats of solid purple pansies, two flats of powder blue pansies, and two flats of dark pink snapdragons. Because they looked nice, we're expecting a mild winter, and I love the idea of a winter vegetable garden I also picked up 9-packs of broccoli, purple cabbage and two kinds of lettuce.
What was I thinking? Before planting anything I had to pull weeds and move about a dozen burnt up hostas out of the way. The vegetables went in first. By the time I quit several hours later, only three flats had been planted.

This morning I started working through the remaining eight flats. The planting area was ready so for a while, the work went a little faster. Then my body started talking about the difference between sitting on the sofa all summer and busting ass for two days like a migrant worker. I pushed through until every last pansy, viola and snapdragon were planted.

Just to prove it takes more than a few hundred pansies to bring me down, I decided to mow the yard. I got about a third of it mowed before I hit a wall. I'm not 30 any more. Those days are long gone. Maybe one day I'll manage to remember that BEFORE dragging all those plants home.

Now I'm just sore from head to toe and...

The Crotchety Old Man
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