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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Bottle Boys

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'." — Erma Bombeck

I'M A LITTLE late to the party here. This group of five Danish guys hit public consciousness in 2013 on Britain's Got Talent. Their initial offering was unique and entertaining, but nothing compared to what they've evolved to be — which is just amazing.

I've attached a video of their performance of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. Watching it just might make your day.


 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mama Logli's 89th birthday

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” — Dr. Seuss

AND WHAT a fantastically wonderful "you" Virginia Logli is! July 21 was her 89th birthday. We took over a cake, ice cream and an orchid to celebrate. She got lots of birthday cards and calls, and her niece, Denise Logli Jones, came over with pink squirrels so we could all drink a toast to Virginia.


Virginia with her 8-pound cake, orchid and lots of birthday cards,
and she's wearing beads we brought her from New Orleans.

I kinda overkilled it on the cake. Paul, Virginia and I each had gigantic slices, we sent one home with Denise, Paul took a piece to Dena, Virginia's 95-year-old sister-in-law, we left a slice for Virginia for later, and we took one to Lee (age 105), Virginia's other sister-in-law on Richard's side, and we still have half a cake left. 

We figure we'll freeze the rest and give it to Ann and JonathanVirginia's daughter and grandson who'll be flying in from California, to take to Mark and Ronda, Virginia's son and daughter-in-law, when they drive Virginia down to Fairfield for a visit in a couple of weeks — and they can polish off the rest.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! We adore you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Long live Ukraine

“I ask you, people who care about the soul of Ukraine, those who want to preserve the heart, the spirit and the faith of our country for future generations, to please defend it.” — Yulia Tymoshenko, co-leader of the Orange Revolution and the first woman appointed as Prime Minister of Ukraine

I'M SHARING an article with you from the Washington Post. The upshot of it is that Vladimir Putin is extremely popular just now in Russia — more so than ever.

This I find disheartening. 

Theoretically, I have a lot of readers in Russia, second only in number to the US, so I'm guessing this post will make a bunch of them really, really mad, but I gotta say it: 

I am 100%, 200%, 300% in favor of Ukraine remaining an independent, autonomous country in its own right — not a subdivision, subset, territory, state, district, region or any other derivative of Russia.




Vlad, stop trying to annex land and people who deserve their own identity and destiny. And PS: You're kinda creepy, not to mention monomaniacal and megalomaniacal. 

And hey Americans: Just like it's not the England or the Brazil or the France, it's not the Ukraine; it's Ukraine.



In Russia, everybody loves Putin
By Aaron Blake July 21, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly a pariah on the world stage, with very few people holding a positive view of him or his country.

Back home, though, it's the complete opposite. As Russia has enmeshed itself in controversies in Syria and Ukraine -- and now allegations that its allies were responsible for shooting down a civilian plane last week -- its strongman leader has only grown more popular. In fact, he's more popular than a politician in the United States could ever dream to be.

A new poll from Gallup shows that 83 percent of Russians approve of Putin's job performance.




That's up nearly 30 points from last year -- and tied with the previous high from his first stint as president, in 2008. Clearly, his people think he's doing something right.

To put that in perspective, the last time any American leader or politician was that popular was George W. Bush, for a brief period shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And just four months after the attacks, Bush was back below 80 percent.





For the half-century before Bush, only George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman ever matched Putin's popularity for any period of time. All three men rose to that height in large part because of major military events. Putin, though, has remained hugely popular even in the absence of a major war directly affecting his country.

And it's not just Putin who's popular. People profess to being quite happy with the government of Russia in general -- or at least, more happy than they were before.

So does Putin suddenly have a massive mandate from his people to do whatever he wants on the world stage? Well, not really. He might see it that way, but his popularity isn't all that new.

Although he's riding about as high as he ever has, this isn't the first time his approval rating has peaked above 80 percent. In fact, according to polling from the Levada Center, he was hovering around or above 80 percent for much of his first stint as president.

Putin's numbers are undoubtedly inflated by the fact that his country has state-run news media; it's much easier to look like a hero when the media are consistently on your side. And that goes double when you're involved in major events on the world stage. The Russian people, for instance, had a far different understanding of precisely what happened in Crimea, believing Ukranian nationalists were responsible for it.

But for a man facing a very significant role in the world and increasingly bad reviews outside his borders, it's important to remember that the most important feedback he's getting for his political legacy -- in Russia -- is overwhelmingly positive.

He has oodles of political capital back home. The question is how he uses it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Jersey bully comes to Iowa

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." — Bridget Anne Kelly, Chris Christie's former deputy chief of staff

I DON'T usually begin writing a blog post at 1:00 AM an hour after I've just published one. However, I'm making an exception because I only now became aware that New Jersey Governor Chris Liar-Liar-Pants-On-Fire Christie is coming to Iowa today. Batten down the hatches. This hot-air blimp will be entering my home state Thursday, July 17 for a three-day tour. 

I really need to keep up with my New York Times reading! His bullyness' intentions were mentioned in the Tuesday addition of the paper. Below is the article.




As a reminder as to why Iowans shouldn't support Mr. Christie, here are a few stats, and most especially if you're a Republican who believes in a fiscally-responsible, smaller government. That definitely ain't what he creates. Take a look:

Nine states, Delaware, South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, Vermont, Wyoming, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Oklahoma — each has an annual state budget that's smaller than the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's annual $7 billion (that billion with a B) budget. 

This is the agency you may recall where Christie has gotten his pals put on the payroll at big salaries as political rewards. Bridgegate main man David Wildstein is just one example of a buddy for whom Christie created a $150,000 a year job.

Here's what a January 16, 2014 CNN article had to say about how Wildstein came aboard:

"Give him a position at the top of the agency; he's a good friend of the governor. Soon after, Wildstein was named the director of Interstate Capital Projects, a title that previously had not existed at the bi-state agency."

In fact, according to the New York website Empire Center, the average Port Authority salary is nearly $100,000 a year:

  • 7,401 individuals who worked for the Port Authority in 2013 had average pay of $98,854
  • Nearly half of all of PA employees (46 percent of the total) were paid $100,000 or more
  • 221 employees took home more than $200,000 including eight whose pay topped $300,000
  • The highest-paid PA employee was a police officer who was paid $330,856


Christie to Test Presidential Hopes in Iowa Trip
By MICHAEL BARBARO
JULY 15, 2014

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey will make his most significant and elaborate return to the presidential arena this week amid indications that, despite his tribulations, his political standing has stabilized and his advisers see a possible path to the Republican nomination in 2016.

Mr. Christie’s three-city swing through Iowa, the first state to have a say on the presidential race, will represent a highly public resumption of his White House ambitions after six months of scandal. It was deliberately constructed to showcase what his advisers believe distinguishes him from the emerging Republican field: his personality and ability to interact spontaneously with ordinary people.

The Iowa trip — and a second planned for New Hampshire on July 31 — hint at what his backers said was a larger, delicate, post-lane-closing strategy for selling a potential Christie candidacy to wary donors and a broader Republican base. The strategy aims to demonstrate that whatever the Tea Party and ideological appeal of his would-be rivals, they lack his gift for, and enjoyment of, street-level “retail politics.”

There are plenty of reasons for skepticism of the Christie strategy: At least three investigations are still churning, with no end in sight, and the sheer volume of embarrassing revelations about the Christie administration’s conduct and culture could ultimately doom his presidential chances.

The governor’s rivals are already raising pointed questions about his leadership, including his financial management in New Jersey. And it is not clear that personality and charisma still matter in a party that has become so defined by conservative ideology.

But recent polling and discussions with Republican officials around the country have left Mr. Christie’s supporters and advisers more persuaded that, despite the damage from his administration’s role in touching off days of horrendous traffic on the George Washington Bridge last fall, there is a place for Mr. Christie in the presidential contest, should he opt to run, and they are eager for him to begin inching forward.

Even in New Jersey, where the latest subpoenas and testimonies from investigations into Mr. Christie’s office are monitored closely, his job approval rating remains 50 percent and considerably more voters — 45 percent against 38 percent — view him favorably than unfavorably, polling shows.

And well beyond New Jersey, interviews and public opinion surveys show, primary voters remain open to and intrigued by the idea of a Christie campaign. According to a Quinnipiac University poll of Iowa voters conducted at the end of June, 54 percent of Iowa Republicans still have a favorable opinion of Mr. Christie, compared with 23 percent who view him unfavorably. His numbers are less promising among independents.

The governor’s aides stress that Mr. Christie will not make his decision about whether to pursue a candidacy until the end of this year, and emphasized that his travel was focused on winning governor’s races. But in Iowa, where Mr. Christie will arrive on Thursday morning for a day of campaigning and fund-raising on behalf of the state’s popular Republican governor, Terry E. Branstad, he is being viewed as a likely candidate.

“People want to give him a chance here,” said Loras Schulte, a member of the Republican State Central Committee.

In two dozen interviews, Republicans in Iowa echoed some of the themes Mr. Christie is eager to stress — that he is a blunt and charismatic teller of unpopular truths. Most strikingly, few of them have paid much attention to the simmering controversy over the lane closings, or consider the episode to be a major liability for Mr. Christie. Many of them described it, dismissively, as an unhealthy obsession of East Coast Democrats.

“It’s one of those deals where the media made such a big deal about it that it went under the rug,” said Norman F. Fleagle, a 70-year-old farmer in Indianola, Iowa, who praised Mr. Christie for “having the gumption to do whatever he thinks is right, no matter how popular it is.”

“I think it’s a good trait,” he added.

Mr. Branstad, Iowa’s five-term governor, said that view of the George Washington Bridge story was widely held. “Really, most people here have never heard of it and don’t care much about it,” Mr. Branstad said. Those who did, he said, “have moved on.”

Mr. Christie, he said, “could very much be a contender here.”

Still, despite those signs of openness, Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, cautioned against too much optimism among Christie supporters, in part because the governor’s competitors will make the bridge scandal part of a broader attack on him.

“The problem with Bridgegate is not traffic in a place like Iowa,” Mr. Brown said. “It’s the charge by Christie’s opponents, in either party, that what happened is symptomatic of how he runs his administration.”

And the survey shows that independent voters, once an electoral bulwark for Mr. Christie in places like Iowa, are now far less enamored. In an open caucus system in which they can participate, 34 percent of independents in Iowa view him unfavorably, compared with 30 percent who hold a favorable view, Quinnipiac’s poll found. “He has to improve there,” Mr. Brown said.

During his Iowa visit on Thursday, Mr. Christie will speak at three fund-raisers: an event for the Republican Governors Association, the group he heads, at a private home outside Des Moines; a luncheon for Speaker Kraig Paulsen of the Iowa House in Cedar Rapids; and in the day’s marquee session, an outdoor cookout for Mr. Branstad at the fairgrounds in Davenport, which is open to the public for a low ticket price. (Invitations bill it as “An Evening at the Fair with Chris Christie.” On the menu: whiskey-marinated pork loin and sweet corn with bacon and cheese curds.)

Aides said they planned for Mr. Christie to make a stop near Cedar Rapids to mingle with Iowa voters, who are famed (and envied) for their up-close, town-by-town vetting of presidential candidates.

Such public appearances in his travels as head of the Republican Governors Association were all but banished after the bridge controversy erupted, when he faced calls to step down as chairman of the group and his events were strictly off limits to the public and news media.

He plans to travel to New Hampshire on July 31 to attend a minor-league baseball game with Senator Kelly Ayotte and hold another public event. A WMUR Granite State poll released last week showed Mr. Christie in the top tier in the field of Republican contenders.

Mr. Christie’s backers are increasingly focused on his personality as an asset, in part because of the obvious contrast with President Obama, and their belief that, after eight years of a phlegmatic and sometimes distant figure in the White House, the public will respond to a more emotive, passionate and expansive leader — a role they do not see filled by the presumptive Democratic front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Furthermore, the emerging Tea Party-backed White House aspirants, especially Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, are more animated by ideas and appear more comfortable speaking uninterrupted at a policy seminar or the Senate floor than in one-on-one unscripted interactions with voters. And the field still remains unsettled and bereft of a front-runner, especially given the reluctance of the former Florida governor Jeb Bush to commit to a campaign.
The question, for Mr. Christie, is how far personality can propel him in a drawn-out, brutal campaign, especially when conservatives remain suspicious of his ideology.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An Iowan goes on a hunger strike

“The funny thing about firemen is, night and day, they are always firemen.” — Gregory Widen, Backdraft

AN IOWA firefighter is on hunger strike to raise enough money to build a new fire station. Here's the July 16, 2014 ABC News/Good Morning America article about Lehigh Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kirk Kelly.

Amid sharp budget cuts to fire departments across the country, one Iowa fire department chief has gone on a hunger strike to make a public plea -- his small town fire station is underfunded and needs help.

Lehigh Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kirk Kelley has been drinking only water, muscle milk and chicken broth since June 23. He has since lost 28 pounds, but says he will not stop until nearly $480,000 is raised to build a new firehouse.



“When I first started, I did pass out once,” Kelley told ABC News today. “I sat down real quick and I stood back up. I got light-headed and I had to sit back down. But I feel pretty good now.”

Kelley said after several failed attempts to get funding and loans for the Lehigh Volunteer Fire Department, he decided to take the extreme method to seek help.

According to a fundraising page set up by Kelley on GoFundMe.org, the fire department serves three nearby towns in a 70-mile radius and needs a bigger station to replace the old and outdated one the crew currently uses.

“Right now all we can handle is four smaller trucks in our station… Our station only has truck space, we don’t have a meeting/training room, kitchen/dining area, and we only have one restroom that gets shared by men and women,” the page reads.




The firefighters at the Lehigh Fire Department are all volunteers, and they respond to up to 70 calls each year.

Kelley said 50 years ago, the only task the fire department had to do was fighting fires. Now, they are responsible for responding to medical emergencies, stabilizing patients, providing water rescue and other rescues.

“There are 17 firefighters in our station, all of them are EMT trained,” Kelley said. “They don’t get paid at all. They do this out of their hearts.”

“I get paid $125 a month because I’m the chief, but I just give it back to the fundraiser to keep things going,” Kelley said.

“One day, we had three calls, two at the same time,” Kelley added. “That was a busy day for us.”

Right now, Kelley has only raised around $5,000, which is far short of his goal of $480,000.

Kelley, who works as an electrician, said his mother is a little worried about his health, but his wife has been supportive.

“My wife knows that I’m hard-headed so she just lets me do whatever I want to do,” Kelley chuckled. “My three-year-old daughter doesn't really know what is going on. She is always asking: ‘Why is daddy not eating?’”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finding a way in

"Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts." —Charles Dickens

I OFTEN pass along articles and features when I come across them about the autism spectrum. Many tell stories of how parents found an innovative way to connect with their spectrum child by finding a specific "way in."




Here's two-minute video from CNN about just such a father, professional photographer Timothy Archibald.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

His LAWW

"Service above self." — Rotary International Motto

I FEEL so honored! Today I received the Roger T. Stetson Rotarian of the Year Award for 2013 - 2014 from my club, The Rotary Club of Des MoinesOutgoing President Dick Reasons presented it to me for my role as leader of the new-member mentoring program. It was his good idea, though.

Being the closet introvert that I am, normally I would be uncomfortable in such a situation, but instead I actually felt really happy and terrifically honored. I smiled so hard my face hurt, and I still have to pinch myself that my club chose me. 

Paul got to be there, and he's so proud of me that it's adorable!

Shortly after we married I received a writing award, and ever since then he's called me as his LAWW (lovely, award-winning wife). It's nice to live up just a little bit every now and then to how he views me.

Left: Bruce Kelley, newly inducted Rotary Club of Des Moines president.
Right: Dick Reasons, outgoing president. Me in the middle feeling very honored.

BTW: I wore The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and we all know it's magic. :-)