Saturday, March 28, 2009

Participating in NaPoWriMo

I haven’t been successful in fulfilling my resolution to write a new poem once a month. As a result, I have decided to participate in NaPoWriMo, which requires the writing of a new poem every day during the month of April. If anything can get me to write, it will be the necessity of producing a new poem every day. That kind of pressure will prevent me from stressing too much over what to say or how to say something. I wrote best in graduate school when I had to produce regularly and in short periods of time, sometimes only giving myself a couple of hours to write a new poem for that week’s workshop. I’ve decided that I waste enough time during the day in checking the news on the Internet or in watching TV and that that time can be better spent writing. I cannot guarantee that I will post my poems, but I will let my readers know about my progress as the month of April progresses.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Magnolia Blossoms

My annual photographs of magnolia blossoms appear below. Click on any image to enlarge it.

Unfortunately, this part of Kansas will be returning to winter during the weekend. We're under a winter storm warning for Saturday and may get up to eight inches of snow. The National Weather Service is even calling for thundersnow, which is something that I haven't heard since I was a kid and living in Istanbul during the early 1960's. The American military brought in trucks to take us home from school that day. It was quite exciting. Later during the storm, my dad hiked from the Fourth Levent to the American exchange facilities somewhere near Taksim Square and brought back groceries. We didn't buy much of our food locally. The military added bleach to the drinking water at the snack bar and encouraged Americans to rinse any produce bought locally with bleach water.

Now, I would prefer to have a sunny spring day when it is possible to enjoy the blossoms on the trees. Even the pear trees are in bloom now. What winter we have had this year has been marked by sudden shifts in temperature and very little moisture. I still think there is merit to having a climate where the days remain the same. There would be no uncertainty about what to expect from one day to the next.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

My History with Tea

Unlike my son, who says he hates the taste of tea, I acquired the tea habit as a child. Other families may have served a beverage like milk or juice or soda with their meals. For my mother, she served us tea. It was a habit that she acquired growing up in Northern Ireland.

Whenever we visited our Irish relatives, we were served tea from a pot of loose leaves. The tea was often poured at the same time as the milk, creating a beverage containing half tea, half milk. With experience, one learns not to drink the last inch or so because of the loose tea leaves. The tea remaining in the pot gets stronger as the second or third cup is served.

Offering a guest a cup of tea is a sign of courtesy in Ireland. Even if there aren’t any little cakes or cookies to go with the tea, offering someone a cup of tea is the slightest that one can do for someone coming inside the house. Not getting that courtesy is an insult that isn’t easily forgotten. Recalling the memory of someone can be summed up with the remark, “She wouldn’t even offer me a cup of tea.”

In this country, my mother usually only made a pot of tea with loose leaves when someone came to visit. More often, we brewed our tea individually with teabags, waiting to add the milk and sugar until we achieved the desired strength. My sister and I learned through practice to fish out the teabag with the spoon and to use the tab of the bag to squeeze out all of the liquid. Wrapping the string around the bag as it sits in the spoon is another option for squeezing out the liquid.

My mother gave me a Brown Betty when I left home. Most often when I was single, I used it to store my teabags. At times, however, when money was tight, I used loose tea instead of teabags and put this Brown Betty to use. To this day, thirty-five years later, I still have this Brown Betty and used it recently to brew a pot of tea using five bags of PG Tips. Having a potful of tea on the stove, covered with a tea cozy to keep it warm, makes it possible to grab a cup in the midst of grading or cleaning house.

There were few options in this country other than Lipton thirty or forty years ago. Lipton, in fact, has been my tea of choice for most of my life. Occasionally, when I had to watch my money while living on my own, I resorted to using Tetley or Red Rose, but I switched back to Lipton whenever I could. A year or two ago, I bought some of the tea at a local store of imported English foodstuffs. Since then, I have grown more fastidious in my choice of tea. While I still use Lipton and Tetley sometimes, I have been trying some of the other tea available at the grocery store. Beginning with Bigelow English Breakfast and Twinings’ Irish Breakfast, my choices have also included Ahmad English Breakfast and Tazo Awake. Probably my current favorites, other than Tazo Awake and Ahmad English Breakfast, is, surprisingly, a generic blend of organic black tea that is distributed by the Associated Wholesale Grocers in Kansas City. A box of 24 bags sells for $2.34 at some stores. This tea actually seems much stronger than the other teas I’ve tried and gets my highest recommendation. When served with milk and sugar, it’s a bit of heaven at a reasonable price.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Money & Economic Collapse

Although the alternative press that I have been reading for the past few years predicted the economic collapse at least a year before it occurred, no one knew then how severe it would become. Economists and various other prognosticators predict that many more jobs will be lost in this country over the next twelve months. With the exception of the public schools, where school districts like Leavenworth have not been renewing the contracts of some of their teachers in the elementary and secondary schools, education is one of the few remaining careers with some degree of security. For so long as there are college students to teach, I can probably remain employed.

If I were to give advice to a young person leaving high school, I would recommend education and medicine as two careers with a future. There isn’t much else left in this country unless one has the money to go into business for oneself and even then one has to rely on those people with jobs, and with disposable income, for one’s livelihood.

I don’t know how much worse the economic woes affecting this country will become. Economists are stumped, too. One economist I saw quoted recently said, “It will get worse before it gets worse.” In other words, no one really knows what will happen. Without a manufacturing base and without a source of fuel that doesn’t have to be imported, this country may have to alter its entire economic system. Our consumer culture cannot continue when it is based almost entirely on credit.

When I was sick recently and relying on a year-old prescription of cough medicine to sleep through the night, I dreamt that aliens decided that we could no longer care for ourselves. Once they came to this planet, the first thing they did, besides crippling us by making us deaf, was stop our reliance on money. They initially made their presence known by sending messages across television screens and across windows. We were crippled physically so that we wouldn’t react in fear and attempt to fight back. In place of money, we were presented with the chance to devote our energy to bettering ourselves and given replicators to fulfill our immediate needs—i.e., food and clothing. While some of these ideas seem based on old episodes of Star Trek, I have to wonder whether the six billion people on this earth could ever stop worrying about having enough money. What would so many people do with themselves?

Music for a Postcoital Afternoon

In hunting for music that makes it possible to grade essays at the same time, I have discovered more of Anouar Brahem, particularly Le Pas Du Chat Noir . It’s such a beautiful album. While typing up my student comments, I find myself imaging that this music is meant for those postcoital afternoons in spring and summer when it’s warm enough to remain outside of the blankets.