Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weather & Politics

Unlike other parts of the country, eastern Kansas has been getting a lot of rain lately, between three and five inches so far in October. The Missouri River was above flood stage earlier this week and damaged soybeans about to be harvested in Missouri because of the inability of the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the levees that were breached by the flooding last spring. Presumably, the federal money that could have been spent on repairing the levees in Missouri had been reallocated to the war in Iraq. It’s just another instance of how the infrastructure in this country has been neglected.

I’ve provided pictures of the swollen Missouri River where it’s possible to see some of the debris that has been picked up and taken downstream by the current. Clicking on these pictures will enlarge them.

Gary Lezak, a weather forecaster for KSHB-TV in Kansas City, believes that the weather pattern that we’re experiencing now in eastern Kansas/western Missouri will begin repeating itself every 45 to 61 days. His theory is explained more thoroughly in the weather blog that can be reached at the station link provided above. It looks like this winter will either be very snowy or at least very rainy if the precipitation isn’t accompanied by below freezing temperatures. Lezak discounts the long-term predictions made by the federal government and the Farmer’s Almanac, who have been calling for a dry winter with higher than normal temperatures. We’ll have to see what happens. Other areas of the country, I realize, could use the rain that we've been having here; this part of the country has been suffering a prolonged drought, too, with below average rainfalls both this year and last year.

Peg Britton at KansasPrairie recently provided a link to the Select a Candidate Quiz , which allows the participant to input his/her views on fifteen issues so as to find the presidential candidate who best represents the participant's view on those issues. My candidate is Dennis Kucinich, which makes me one of those liberals scorned by the media and conservatives. I was beginning to think that I wasn’t going to vote in the next presidential election unless I wrote in someone’s name.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Emulating John Milton's Career--By Necessity

Most of the people who come to my blog via a Google search, come in search of information about particular musicians or albums. My blog hasn’t yet been listed among academic blogs, probably because I don’t delve into composition theory or describe my daily experiences as an online instructor. A few of the literary blogs include mine in their blogroll; more of them, particularly ones devoted to poetry, might include me if I were to devote more attention to my poems and poetry in general.

Although I have had intentions of writing poetry more often, that desire hasn’t been fulfilled. Like every semester, this one has been incredibly busy and requires that I devote a lot of attention to grading. Institutions of higher learning, I think, should set a maximum limit on how many students can be taught by any one writing instructor. That limit should be set at sixty students, or three sections of twenty students each, while ensuring that the instructor earns a full-time salary with benefits for that kind of teaching load. Education suffers when one is burdened with ninety or more students at the start of the semester.

In actuality, institutions of higher learning in this country set a trend by choosing to hire part-time employees in a field like composition, beginning in the 1970’s. That hiring practice was adopted in business and remains in effect for a good number of the jobs that remain in this country. When the profit margin takes precedence over the quality of education and over the commitment of any one institution to its employees, it stands to reason that part-time employees are more attractive because of the ease with which they can be fired, the absence of benefits, and the wretched salaries for which they work.

I have come to realize that my poems aren’t going to help me in securing a tenure-track job within the near future. Maybe I should be angry at not having my poems accepted by the better journals, and at not having my book accepted, and react by writing more and more poems. One of my writing teachers once recommended that kind of behavior. Instead, I have been turning away from poetry. As of this month, ten years have now passed since I defended my creative dissertation.

I foresee a time when I will be able to devote more attention to my poetry. Like John Milton, who prepared for his writing by earning two degrees at Cambridge, by reading extensively in several different languages when he returned to his father’s estate, and by touring the Continent for several years afterwards, I have prepared myself for that time in my life when it will be possible to devote myself exclusively to my craft. When that time will arrive is not known as of yet.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pumpkins at Red Barn Farm

I have added my favorite pictures from a late Saturday afternoon outing to Red Barn Farm in Missouri when I should have been inside grading essays. For those of you who may access this blog from other countries, pumpkins are a traditional sign of autumn and harvest in America and something for which we have to thank the indigenous people of this country.

The first picture seemingly comes with a face already carved into one of the pumpkins. The horse of corn stalks is reminiscent of a sculpture of chrome bumpers named Grandfather Horse on display at Wichita State University.

Clicking on any one picture will increase its size. If you should decide to use one or more of these pictures for your wallpaper, please let me know.

I'm currently using the last one of these pictures as the wallpaper on my computer. The four rows of pumpkins provide a strong sense of contrast to the white house and the cloudy sky. My eye sees the pumpkins first before it is drawn up to the tree and the sky.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"There's a Snake in My Car!" and Gourds

After about ten days, I managed to catch the snake that had gotten into my car. It started when I made two trips hauling limbs to the local site where the city shreds tree limbs into wood chips. My wife had bundled together some of the tree limbs earlier in the week. When I finally hauled them away in the trunk of my Toyota, enough time had elapsed for a snake to make itself at home among the limbs. I didn’t become aware of the snake until a couple of days later when I opened the driver’s door and saw what looked like a black shoelace on the floor near the pedals. When I got closer, it slithered into the wiring below the dash before I could catch it.

Initially, I thought that pulling the car out of the garage and parking it outside would cause the snake to seek the sunlight and would make it easy to catch. That ploy didn’t work. I ended up leaving the car in the garage while occasionally shining in a flashlight to see whether the snake was visible. I had concocted a plan of getting the snake into a plastic bag with a gloved hand before releasing the snake in the yard. After days of not seeing any sign of the snake, I began to think it was safe to use my car again. As I was about to get inside, I shined the flashlight inside once again and saw the snake react to the light from its bed in the back seat. Much more sluggish this time, the snake didn’t react as fast when I scooped it up and placed it in the plastic bag. It also didn’t move very fast after I shook out the bag below the magnolia in the side yard. Apparently, it hadn’t found much to eat during its imprisonment and was weak from hunger. Although I have tried to identify the snake, I haven’t had any luck as of yet. It was dark green with flecks of gold mixed within the green. We have about two or three in the yard and see them usually when mowing. I’m hoping that there aren’t any more snakes in my car.

I’m enclosing a few pictures of pumpkins and other seasonal squash. One thing my mother misses from this country is pumpkin. None of the stores in Ireland carry cans of pumpkin. Apparently, the Irish haven’t discovered how wonderful pumpkin can taste. The recipe for pumpkin pie that I use doesn’t require baking; instead, the pumpkin is mixed with gelatin, evaporated milk, butter, and cinnamon and other spices and is refrigerated until it solidifies. I find that adding the spices separately results in a better flavor than using pumpkin spice. This pie is tasty enough to have for breakfast on the morning after Thanksgiving, for example.

The gourds in the last two pictures, my wife says, are used for birdhouses. Maybe I should have bought one.