Thursday, April 14, 2005

Gone to Carolina Archive: April 14, 2005

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon is one of the best books I've read recently. Christopher Boone is an autistic 15 year-old English boy who finds his neighbor's dog killed by a garden fork. Christopher does not like talking to strangers, but he decides he has to find out who killed the dog. He starts asking questions and ends up finding the answer to the crime. But the answer rocks his entire world. He embarks on a scary adventure, down paths he's never traversed before to deal with what he has learned.

I worked with autistic kids for one year when I was just out of college. I am amazed at Haddon's depth of understanding of autism. The book jacket says he too worked with autistic kids when he was a young man. He must have done this for some time, or even have some autistic tendencies of his own, to be able to crawl inside a child's head like that.

I'd not only recommend this book to every other adult I've met, but I think it would be a great book for teens to read as well. As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to suggest this to Nate's English teacher.

I've heard about school buses in the news twice in the past couple of days. A bus tipped over at the intersection of Marvin and Johnston Roads when a small pickup hit it. 3 people were sent to the hospital. That is a bad intersection. Actually, the entire stretch of Johnston from Old Lancaster Highway to Marvin Road is scary. Cars go too fast there and the road is curvy. It's difficult to tell how fast people are going and carolinian's penchant for not using turn signals definitely doesn't help, either.

The other bit of news was an item in The State newspaper out of Columbia. A woman is upset that the state legislature isn't considering a bill to force school buses to only have bus stops on the door side of the road. Apparently a bill of this sort of was introduced last year and died when the session ended for the year. It's not even been brought up this year. Good. It would be horrendously expensive to do that. Apparently the woman's child was hit and killed by a car when she was crossing the road to get onto the bus. There was no further information about that incident. I don't know what kind of road she was crossing, or whether it was deemed a "hazardous" stop. If we have a stop occur at an area where it can't be seen by at least a certain number of feet, it is deemed "hazardous" and must be marked with a "school bus stop ahead" sign. A good driver will also see if there is a way to move that stop or approach it in such a way that the stop is on the door side. But there are always stops where the kid is just going to have to cross the road. Never a highway, though. Anytime you have a kid cross a road, the driver is supposed to supervise that crossing and warn the student if someone is coming that might not stop. The driver's eyes should NEVER leave a kid who is on the pavement.

To have to re-write routes so that all stops are on the right side of the road would be terribly expensive. We have a law that says no student may have a ride longer than 1.5 hours. So if you had to have all that doubling back, you'd be lengthening routes and you'd end up having to add more buses.

I should also mention that we run into problems where we want to move a stop and the parents just won't let us. We have a stop on one of the routes for our school that is just way too hazardous. The children's grandmother just will not comply. She does not want the kids to walk 600 feet down the road to a safer spot. So even though the official stop is down there, she still has the kids standing at the hazardous spot. By themselves. Their driver pretty much has no choice but to pick them up. He can't just leave them standing there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Gone to Carolina Archive: April 12, 2005

Today's entry is about butter. Much vilified butter.

Some years ago, when I was in Weight Watchers, I had an epiphany about butter. I was looking through my points book and...whaddaya know? 1 teaspoon of butter=1 point. 1 teaspoon of margarine=1 point. I vowed from that point on to stop using margarine. I've never looked back.

Sure, there are things in margarine that are less artery-clogging than butter. For a while there, though, margarine and it's trans-fat ingredients was much slandered as being almost capable of dropping one dead on contact.

Butter does have its problems. When you keep it in the refrigerator it's too hard to spread. You can keep it in the cupboard pretty successfully in the winter but when the weather warms up, it starts to sweat and get an off-look and taste to it. And a certain preacher, who eats with us on a regular basis, makes snide comments about it then. So for his and our benefit, I switch to whipped butter when the weather is warm. It's not the same, but close.

Restaurants seem to still be trying to get us to eat margarine, though. That's what prompted me to write this missive. This morning we bus drivers are to meet at Bojangles for a breakfast paid for by the PTA. It's Bus Driver Appreciation Week and the PTA and staffs of the schools we serve are treating us all week to little things.

When I go to Bojangles for breakfast, which I do as little as possible, I pack my own butter. The only item they have on the menu that I can eat is grits. Excellent grits. But nary a butter pat in the joint. Those wonderful grits are completely ruined by that whipped yellow plastic they make available in the condiment area. I don't understand how a restaurant, that wins competitions with their biscuits, can fail to have butter on hand.

Our local diner opened with no butter. We went there for supper the night before my surgery and the poor waitress about turned the joint upside-down trying to find real butter for my baked potato. She had to come and tell me "even the kitchen doesn't use butter". The following week she did present me with real butter at lunch with our cornbread. I, or someone, must have made an impression on them.

I am NOT a consumer of fake stuff. I want real butter, I want real sugar and I want real salt. If we use all these things in moderation, and we move around a bit more, we don't need to worry about using these things. And so I encourage you, my fellow Americans, to demand THE REAL THING! Accept no Substitutes!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Gone to Carolina Archive: April 11, 2005

A beautiful weekend was had by all here in South Carolina. I had a good book, a good movie and even watched just the right 20 minutes of the Masters. Did a lot of walking around the neighborhood and reconnected with many of my neighbors and my church family.

Mom and Dad are pulling out today, heading back to Minnesota. They will start their golf leagues in 2 weeks and start tilling up their gardens in another month. I did get some garden work out of Mom this weekend, just to whet her appetite.

We planted a plot of 3 rose bushes for Soya's ashes. We planted them in a triangle with Soya's box of ashes down in between them all. We put them in the area where she used to lay in the sun. It was a bittersweet moment when we scooped the dirt back in on top of her box. She was a wonderful pet and companion.

Mensa Boy and I watched The Hudsucker Proxy on Saturday night. An absolute delight! This is a Coen Brothers movie, so of course you are ready to be entertained in the most twisted way possible. And the movie starts right out with a shocker, as the head of highly successful Hudsucker Industries commits suicide in the most stunning fashion. When it becomes known that the deceased's will calls for all of his shares to be offered to the public as stock, the board cooks up a plan to make a lot of money: They will hire a complete idiot to run the company. When the stock prices fall low enough, they will buy them for next to nothing and the restore the company's finances. There are many whacky depictions of corporate life in the movie and if you've ever worked for a big company, you'll recognize a few of them. Tim Robbins is brilliant as the patsy, Norville Barnes and Paul Newman is wonderful as the brilliant leader of the board, Sidney Mussberger. I think one could easily watch this movie over and over and see something new every time. I might need to buy this one!

I also finished reading Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva. Another excellent spy novel. I'm not sure why I have a hard time finding other people who read his stuff. Yes, he is one of those authors who uses the same hero in each book, but Silva does it right: each story is radically different from the last. There is no recycling of stories. But you definitely should start reading Silva's stuff by going back to the first Gabriel Allon novel: The Kill Artist, although I haven't read that one. I started with The English Assassin. You can pick up any of them and get caught up on Allon, but I would think it would be more enjoyable to begin at the beginning.

Gabriel Allon is a Jewish counter-terrorism agent. He spends his life alternately restoring fine art and chasing down Palestinian terrorists. In this novel, Allon is after the man who is plotting to set off bombs in Paris. The man is the son and grandson of palestinian terrorists, both of whom were eliminated by Allon's agency.

My only complaint about this novel is that it's hard to track all the characters sometimes. If I'd had 10 straight hours to just read the book from cover to cover this wouldn't have been a problem. But of course I had to read, put down, read, put down. So every once in a while I had to leaf back through the book to find a character to remind myself who he was.

And finally, the Masters. I am not a golf fan. I am one of those who sees the game of golf as "a good walk spoiled". But of course we had it on for 3 days here, so Dad could watch it. Mom and I were in an out, so I just caught snatches of it. Just the right snatches, apparently. I saw that guy's ball roll off the green after Tiger's ball landed on there. "Vibrations?" That was weird. And I was brushing my teeth in preparation for a church council meeting when Tiger chipped that ball into the 16th hole. If only all golf were that exciting...