Sunday, May 31, 2009

World Tour '09

As the title implies, we have spent the last two weeks on the road, in situations with little time for blogging, and often in places with no internet access. Here's the recap of some of the recent weeks' activities, in case there's still somebody out there who gives a shit.


Peggy's father passed away May 17. I hoped to spend my off days that week mowing the grass, which was starting to reach critical levels, but when his wife called with the sad news, Jenn, Amanda, and I packed our bags and headed off to Illinois. Foster Frederick, known to most folks as Fred, was a fairly important man in his community. He was a Korean War veteran who came home and spent a career working in the factories of Granite City, eventually retiring from Granite City Steel. He became deeply involved in the labor movement, becoming an official in the Steelworkers' Union at the state level. I don't believe I will meet anyone else as committed to labor as Fred was. Through his union work, he developed many ties to local politics, and after retiring served 12 years as an alderman. He taught Sunday school at his church for many years. When my brother Scott passed away, Fred was very supportive of my family, and after the service bought dinner for a number of us at an expensive Italian restaurant. Over the years, he accomplished many good things in his community, and he will be missed by the family.


While in the area, we took the short trip across the big river to St. Louis to visit the Gateway Arch, which Jenn and Amanda had never seen before. A trip to the Arch is well worth it if you ever visit St. Louis. The Arch is 630 feet high, and you can ride a tram to the observation room at the top for some spectacular views of the St. Louis area. The museum below the base of the Arch features the story of America's westward expansion and is interesting and educational in itself. Jenn took plenty of pictures.


We arrived back at Pole Hill to find that the grass in places was up to Amanda's armpits. But there was no time to cut grass, as the next day we were off to Jenn's aunt and uncle's place in the wilds of east Georgia. The term "hellhole" is not one I use lightly, having had the experience of walking the streets of Hartford, Illinois, but a week in the East Georgia woods is a uniquely numbing experience. The area has few resources and fewer jobs, and is mired in the sort of poverty common to isolated rural areas. It's not totally isolated - there's a Walmart, but it's a half-hour drive away. They do have satellite TV, but no wireless services reach the house. I would go insane spending any significant length of time in that environment. At the end of the week, we dropped Amanda off to spend a few weeks with Uncle Harry, Aunt Sue, and her sister Lucy until we return for the girls and the rest of Jenn's stuff, and headed back to Tennessee.


When we got back I was glad to see that my neighbor brought his tractor over to cut some of the grass down, for which I am very grateful. On the other side of my property, I came home to find the new neighbors were proudly flying the Confederate flag from their front porch. Grrr.

I work the next three nights, then it's back on the road to Illinois for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. The adventure continues.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Recently our family has suffered through yet another tragedy. Not long ago, Peggy's niece Emily and her husband Josh welcomed their daughter Gianna into the world. Last month Gianna passed away at only 11 weeks.

Gianna was born with Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder that occurs when a baby has three of the 18th chromosome. (Down's Syndrome, where the baby has three of the 21st chromosome, is the most common trisomy.) Babies with Trisomy 18 suffer from severe heart, kidney, and intestinal deformities, and most Trisomy 18 babies are dead at birth. Less than 10% of Trisomy 18 babies live to be a year old.

Several weeks after Emily learned she was pregnant, they knew that Gianna would have Trisomy 18. It was a difficult pregnancy for Emily, both physically and emotionally. Nevertheless, Emily and Josh were overjoyed when Gianna came into the world alive, and they gave the baby all the love and caring in their hearts during her short time with them. Despite Gianna's short time here, she was quite a blessing for the family. This has been an emotional roller coaster for Emily and Josh, and I know that this is a tough time for them now. Both of you are in my thoughts and prayers, and I am sorry I was unable to attend the memorial service. This small tribute is the least I can do.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Walk Score

An interesting gadget I found while rummaging around at Correntewire is the Walk Score, which calculates the "walkability" of where you live. Enter your address into the calculator, and it generates a score from 0 to 100; the higher the score, the more walkable your neighborhood is.

Walkable neighborhoods have a number of health and social benefits. According to research cited on the website, people living in walkable neighborhoods weigh on average seven pounds less than those living in sprawled-out neighborhoods. Walking more means less pollution, and obviously there are more opportunities for social interaction when more people are walking. To give you some idea of what they consider to be a walkable environment, the cities with the highest walkability scores are San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Chicago.

Pole Hill scores a whopping 8 for walkability, although Jenn believes that we should get an extra couple of points for having to walk up the hill from her daughter's bus stop to the house. There are plenty of opportunities to walk for exercise around here, but there are no schools, shops, or other destinations reasonably close for walking. The goal of everybody in redneck suburbia is to live on at least 5-10 acres each, which goes against the idea of creating the density necessary for what Walk Score would consider an ideally walkable neighborhood.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Where's Sardo?

No, I haven't quit blogging, despite my recent lack of output. I suppose the best way to explain it is that for the last few weeks, things haven't lined up quite the way I like. My online activities began as a way to amuse myself while on the graveyard shift, but things at work have changed over the years and I have less time for blogging out here than I used to. Which means I need to find more time to do this at home, but I can always think of other things to do when I'm off. For example, it has rained at The Hill more-or-less solid for a week now, and my yard is starting to look like a jungle.

I have noticed that several of my blogging friends, who I go back a long way with, have either cut back on their blogs or abandoned them completely. Even if you do maintain a healthy online community (which is what drew me to their blogs as much as anything), it gets hard to come up with new stuff to feed the beast, especially once you reach the point where you feel you've told all your good stories. Besides, Facebook and Twitter fill many of the same needs that blogging does - you can maintain community just as easily (perhaps more so), and you can keep your friends informed without having to spend a lot of time on writing. I'm starting to think that the blogosphere may have reached a crossroads - the people who got into it mainly to communicate with friends are the ones dropping out, leaving the people who are into serious writing, and have the time to do it.

Anyway, don't blame Jenn. Though my writing started tailing off about the time that our relationship moved from virtual to real-life, that is just coincidence. Jenn wants me to write. In fact, one of the strengths of our relationship is the way that we encourage each other to be more creative, and I expect that to continue over time.

BTW, Jenn graduated from East Georgia, and she lives here now. She also writes almost every day, so if you wonder what's going on around here, and haven't heard from me for a while, you can check her blog.


We need a Weekend Interlude. We need some LOLcats.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp, the star football player who later became a stalwart Republican congressman and Presidential candidate, passed away Saturday at age 73. Kemp Partners, his lobbying and consulting firm, disclosed in January that he had cancer.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kemp was a star athlete at Fairfax High School. He also excelled at studies, enjoying reading history and philosophy. Considered too small for a major-college program, Kemp enrolled at Occidental College, where he became the starting quarterback. He led all small-college quarterbacks in passing his senior year. Drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1957, he spent three seasons bouncing around the NFL, earning little playing time. A brief stint in the Canadian Football League was also unsuccessful. Kemp's break came with the formation of the American Football League in 1960. He won the starting quarterback's job with the Los Angeles Chargers and led them to the AFL championship game, repeating the feat the next season as the franchise moved to San Diego. Moving on to Buffalo, he led the Bills to three consecutive AFL championship games in 1964-66, winning the title in '64 and '65, and missing out on playing in the first Super Bowl as the Bills lost to Kansas City in '66. Kemp retired after the 1969 season, the last before the AFL-NFL merger. Of the AFL's ten seasons, Kemp was named to seven league all-star teams, and started at quarterback in five of its championship games. He is the AFL's all-time leader in career pass attempts, completions, and passing yards.

Kemp's interest in politics was sparked by working in Barry Goldwater's 1964 Presidential campaign and Ronald Reagan's 1966 campaign for governor of California. He became an avid reader of free-market apologists Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand. Yet he also showed a genuine concern for racial equality and economic fairness, and his political career was marked by his attempts to balance his concern for working-class Americans with his laissez-faire approach to economics. He was elected to Congress from a Democratic-leaning suburban Buffalo district in 1971, and would hold the seat for nine terms. In Congress, Kemp became a leading proponent of the theory that tax cuts would spur economic growth. He supported flat-tax proposals, lowering taxes on business, and promoted the creation of "enterprise zones" that gave tax breaks to businesses as an incentive to locate within them. Kemp was also one of the first Republicans to assert that balanced budgets were not important. His greatest legislative accomplishment was the Kemp-Roth tax cut, a 23 percent reduction over three years enacted by President Reagan in 1981. At the same time, Kemp became one of the rare Republicans who supported civil rights legislation, affirmative action, and immigrant rights. Kemp, though, also took more traditional GOP positions such as opposition to abortion and support for the Nicaraguan contras.

Kemp made a bid for the White House in 1988. The Republicans' long march to the right was in full swing by that point, though, and by then he was considered a moderate, even to some a liberal, by GOP standards. Kemp pulled out of the Presidential race following a disastrous Super Tuesday showing in which he received fewer delegates than George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, and Pat Robertson. Eventual winner Bush named Kemp his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Kemp would spend most of his HUD tenure cleaning the department up from the scandal-ridden Reagan years, leaving little time to pursue his policies of developing enterprise zones and tenant ownership of public housing. Kemp's last role in the spotlight was as Vice-President on the 1996 Republican ticket running alongside Presidential candidate Bob Dole. The choice of Kemp as VP candidate was a surprise, as Dole vehemently disagreed with Kemp on economic issues, and the two constantly antagonized each other during their years as GOP leaders in Congress. Following the Dole-Kemp loss in 1996, Kemp never again sought elective office, and spent the rest of his life lobbying for free-market legislation and with charity work. He was an early supporter of John McCain's unsuccessful 2008 Presidential bid.

Jack Kemp's voice in the political conversation will be missed, not least because he represented a fast-vanishing breed, the reasonable conservative.

(Crossposted at They Gave Us A Republic and SteveAudio.)