Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scat, by Carl Hiaasen

Scat, by Carl Hiaasen

Here is a book for everyone. Carl Hiaasen has given the world another funny but serious story about crazy people and respect for the environment. It’s a great story. This one is for teenagers, so it is minus the vulgarity of his books for adults, and it is just as good. You will like this book if you are an adult. Like Hiaasen’s other books, this one has an easy-to-digest message about protecting Florida’s natural environment.

Nick and Marta are the two students who are concerned about their very unpopular biology teacher, who doesn’t return from the school’s field trip to the nearby swamp after the swamp is set afire. They set out to do detective work to get to the real truth about their teacher. They find her doing an environmentally good thing, they save the boy who is being framed for setting the fire, they get involved with typical Hiaasen crazy guys (substitute teacher, student’s father, and the swamp man), the oil speculators get caught setting up an illegal drilling operation in the swamp, and everything ends up ok. Oh, and there are a couple of panthers. That’s how scat enters the story.

Hiaasen’s characters are well developed. Even the crazies are believable. The reader cares about the good people and cringes at the actions of the bad people.

Scat received a starred review from School Library Journal. That review and one from Booklist are on the website.

Monday, September 28, 2009

CBS News Poll Comments
CBS News recently conducted a 60 Minutes-Vanity Fair Poll. How could they have forgotten to ask me what I think? Here is my commentary.

It shouldn’t surprise me that Walmart is the institution that best symbolizes America today. It won over Google, Microsoft, the NFL and banking. I am wondering if there were some other choices, even though everyone seems to crowd into the nearest Walmart store except my son who takes Walmart’s ethics very seriously. I am wondering how many people voted for the Christian churches, or McDonald’s. The answer to this survey question says a lot about American economic thinking on the local level.

Should the US tax the richest Americans by at least fifty percent? Only fifty percent of the respondents said yes. What’s wrong with us? If I remember my American history correctly, when the income tax was put into place, the idea was to have it graduated according to ability to pay. The people with the money are running the government, so they make it sound as if taxing them without regard for their financial largesse is a burden on them. This question applies to taxing people for their purchases, too, I think. Of course there should be a large sales tax on their yachts and Porsches. It’s not that I want these things. It is that they are examples of American greed.

The luxury people hate to sacrifice in tough economic times turns out to be dining out, according to the poll. Television talking heads say that many people eat most or all their meals in various eating places. If people can’t afford to eat in restaurants, they will have to learn to cook and maybe find the grocery stores that no longer are near their homes. Construction workers would go back to work designing functional kitchens for the homes of people who suddenly need to use them. It could be good for the stomach and the economy. The losers here would be the people in urban areas who can not get to stores other than convenience stores.

Fighting obesity among users of fast food chains is interesting. The paragraph above might be one solution. Dining out seems to be a luxury. The biggest (pun intended) response was to put scales in the eateries. I suspect that the people who eat there would be the last ones to get onto the scales. I suggest that one way to lessen obesity is to avoid the fast food chains.

People said it is much worse for politicians to take bribes than to have extramarital affairs. I agree. The sins of the spirit (i.e., ethics, etc.) are worse than the sins of the flesh. However, I sympathize with the plight of Elizabeth Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Jenny Sanford and Eleanor Roosevelt.

When will Obama bring the troops out of Afghanistan? Probably in time for the next presidential campaign, but maybe in time for the mid-term elections. I believe the people are becoming cynical. It’s likely to be that way. Where is change we can believe in? This is a war we can’t believe in.

Here comes pop culture. Who is the man with whom to trade places for a week? I think I could trade places with George W. Bush for a week and enjoy life on the ranch in Texas, doing nothing except visiting with Laura, Mom and Poppy.
The top responses were Barack Obama, Tom Brady and Bruce Springsteen. Obama has the hardest job in the world and lives with constant barbs against him for his race and his actions. Tom Brady is a professional football player. Who would want to be pounded physically into a life of disability at a young age, even for a week? (He's not Brett Favre, after all.) Bruce Springsteen is a more reasonable choice, but not for me. My father and my husband were celebrities, although on a small scale. Forget it.

Top responses for the women with whom to trade places were Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and Beyonce. What? Not Sarah Palin? Not Oprah? Certainly not Lynn Cheney. I could try Barbara Walters or Rachel Maddow.

Maybe all this explains why CBS news didn’t call me to ask these questions.

Friday, September 25, 2009

George McGovern on health care reform

This newspaper article by former Sen. George McGovern is very good. Needless to say, I agree with it. McGovern favors Medicare for all. He points out that the idea is having trouble with congress because the powerful insurance lobby is "too powerful to resist."

In my opinion, as long as insurance companies call the shots, universal access to medical care is not likely to happen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Meditation on Aging Plants and People

It’s time to watch the seasons change along the Ice Age Trail and other places. Today the formerly green grasses are yellow and brown, and most of the flowers have faded. Some yellow goldenrod persists, along with different varieties of daisy-like flowers and some purple asters. The berry bush leaves are becoming red. The berries are long gone. Good bye to the riots of July colors.

Today I walked from county PD to the soccer park in Verona, the part of the Ice Age Trail nearest my home. I have enjoyed watching the spring turn to summer, and now the summer turning to fall. The panoramic view shows it off well.

It’s cool and humid after yesterday’s three-plus inch rainfall. Today we have clouds but no rain.

There is a parallel of this with my class reunion last weekend. We graduated fifty years ago. The beauties and studs were there, and some were long past their prime. Others persisted in health and vigor. When asked how they were, some of them counted off their diseases. One said she is dating and having a great time. She said the same thing fifty years ago. We have more widows now, and more replaced knees. I was glad to see them all, just as I was glad to walk among fading plantlife on the prairie.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cat update

It's a great day for my cat Sasha. Not only did she have her first birthday in August, but also today she overcame her jumping disability and jumped up onto the kitchen counter in one direct leap. Then after I congratulated her, she did it again. I understand that most cats jump onto many surfaces, but before today Sasha only got to counter level by first jumping onto a stool or something else halfway up.

It's not that I want her on my kitchen counter. It's just that I have wondered what was wrong. Daughter Mary suggested that she has a problem with depth perception, and that might be it. She had no trouble making the jump today. Maybe she spent the last six months calculating it.