The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Friday, March 30, 2007

Weekend pictures

Today I am not thinking so I won't write creatively. I will just post some pictures.

Yesterday I was watering the plants in Jonesboro, when I noticed a lot of robins and a dove enjoying the birdbath I had just cleaned and refilled with water. Here is the dove. At least the birds are coming to see the developing garden.

This is a weeping willow that we have planted. It's hard to take a picture of a scrawny tree with little leaves against a green background...nothing showed up, so I got low to use the sky. I just wanted to show this tree because there is some trepidation by some people about us planting it. Seems the legend is that when it gets tall enough to shadow your grave you die. Well, from this picture, you can be sure that it is already tall enough to shade a grave, so hopefully we have bypassed the weeping willow death knell.

This flame azalea is great. It is supposed to be native, but I have not seen them in the woods in this area. I have seen them in the mountains of Tennessee. Come over soon if you want to see it in person.

This is columbine. These just sprout up in various places, and over the years I have herded most of them up to surround these stone foundations. They are one of my favorites, they move so freely in the wind. There are orange ones also, but their pictures were not in focus, so maybe next time. I like these muted more natural colors much better than the bright columbines you see at the nurseries nowadays. That's just me.

Pelosi and Reid Finally Show Their Strength

We finally have congressional leaders that have guts. Both Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have led their legislative bodies (the House of Representatives and the Senate) to pass a funding bill that requires the troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq, and to be out by 2008 ( the dates in the two bills are different). It’s about time, since the president has no clue as to how a war should be run. We should have known that when he began pulling forces from Afghanistan prematurely so he could go after Saddam.

Nancy boldly said, “On this very important matter, I would extend a hand of friendship to the president. Just to say to him, ‘Calm down with the threats, there’s a new congress in town. We respect your constitutional role; we want you to respect ours. We want this war to end.’ The American people have lost faith in this president’s conduct of the war; let’s see how we can work together. This war is diminishing the strength of our military, not honoring the commitment to our veterans and not holding the Iraqi government accountable. When the president says he want to veto this bill he says ‘I am vetoing accountability. Accountability of my own administration and of the Iraqi government. He says I forbid…veto, forbid, I forbid, accountability’.”

Nancy, you speak the truth!
And of course George Bush has promised to veto this bill, thus vetoing funding for the troops.

And Harry Reid says, “We have fulfilled our constitutional responsibilities,” and “We’ve spoken the words the American people wanted us to speak. There must be a change of direction in the war in Iraq, the civil war in Iraq.”

The Senate and the House have held together and done what we’ve done,” he told reporters. “It’s now in his corner to do what he wants to do.”

On Wednesday, together they had sent the president a letter that read "This Congress is taking the responsible course and responding to needs that have been ignored by your administration and the prior Congress."

Maybe they aren’t wimps after all. Of course our own senators voted against the bill. Richard Shelby said, “It is the wrong message at the wrong time, surely this will embolden the enemy, it will not help our troops in any way.”

Let me ask Richard the same question I wanted to ask a radio host yesterday who was critical of the impending vote who said we would be giving the enemy the date we were leaving. Who is the enemy? When we invaded, I thought the enemy was Saddam. But he was soon captured, and has since been executed. So who is the enemy? Is it the Shiites? No. Or the Sunnis? Well? After all, they are fighting each other. You know, our “ally” King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia said this week “In beloved Iraq, blood is flowing between brothers, in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and abhorrent sectarianism threatens a civil war."

So our strongest ally says our presence is an illegal occupation, I guess because it looks to them like we are supporting the wrong side.
To make things even more interesting, at the two day meeting in Riyadh, the Saudis admitted an Israeli reporter traveling with the United Nations. This is the first Israeli reporter allowed in the Muslim kingdom. Wow!
Come to Africam. Always live, always wild. Right now there are zebras. You have to sit through an Orbitz ad, then its a live cam sometimes of a watering hole, sometimes of the savannah.
And if you haven't read Jason's comment on yesterday's blog, take a look.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Birmingham: She's fallen and she can't get up.

Let me start by saying that I am really disappointed in aol email. I type in one address and the rest as blind carbon copies, and sometimes they just send it all as regular carbon copies. So this is an apology for what seems like mass carbons. They should be blind copies (and are on most days).

Yesterday’s post regarding the Birmingham resolution for inclusiveness that failed is the most popular blog posting I have done. And if email (local and from across the country) is any indication, it is an issue that people care deeply about. They are concerned about Birmingham’s image, and they are concerned about basic rights and safety for those of us who live in the area.

Most important is that when things like this happen people realize that change is not ineveitable, that even when we feel that we are progressing, unexpected turns may occur. That is not a time to run and hide, rather it makes us realize that we need to press on. And possibly those who have been complacent will be awakened and realize they need to become part of the process. Maybe they need to contact their representatives, or talk to their neighbors, to educate them about the issues of equality and justice. We can all do more.

I heard from people across town and across the country, and abroad, seeking direction or offering encouragement. Remember when I started this blog I said Bessemer was ready for change, and I think Birmingham is too. Mayor Kincaid said he was ready to sign this resolution and that Birmingham needed it. Well, he is right, but Bessemer needs it too. This resolution was not just about sexual orientation, as Ms. Witherspoon would have us to believe. It was about inclusion. And about not discriminating because of age, color, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender. Birmingham councilors would have you believe that race is the only type of discrimination that matters. It’s hard to imagine that a council person who is black and uses a wheelchair would speak so vehemently against this resolution and vote against it. But that is what happened.

People who are local and who are from other states, who are gay and who are straight, and who are white and who are of color, have said that this, once again, gives people across the nation (and the world, if readers of this blog are any indication) a bad impression of Birmingham. And they are right. They realize that you don't have to be gay, or disabled, or a minority, to believe that people should be treated with respect. You don't even have to "agree" with them to accept that their lives have value, and that they should be included in the broad quilt of diversity that make up the human race. Birmingham has fallen, and she can’t get up! Not without your help. Please read Jason's comment below. That is one way to help!

The Lady Banks Rose is in full bloom now.

This large azalea is in the back yard.

The side of the house with dogwoods and azaleas.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Birmingham "Falls Flat On Its Face"

I closed my last post with a question: “Will Birmingham make history today?” I had high expectations that they would. But the answer is a resounding “NO” in that Birmingham has chosen to hold on to its ugly history. By voting down a resolution to join a growing number of communities designated as “inclusive communities” by the National League of Cities, Birmingham has re-established itself as a leader in intolerance, exclusion, bigotry and hatred.

I sat with Patricia Todd during the meeting, and she, too, expected the measure to pass. She was called to the lectern to speak after the resolution was introduced, and spoke of how the resolution was needed because, for example, in Birmingham one can be fired from their job just because they are gay, regardless of the quality of their work. In fact, she shared that this had happened to her.

I was growing up during the civil rights movement in a suburb of Birmingham, but that was close enough to be profoundly affected by the manifestation of hatred and intolerance that were openly displayed 50 years ago. I was hopeful that we had as a community outgrown those attitudes of the past(and I know that I do not currently live in Birmingham, but in another suburb, yet we all try to look to Birmingham as a leader). Our neighbor to the east, “The City Too Busy To Hate,” has prospered over the years, avoiding the awful scenes of racial strife that Birmingham is known for. Atlanta has prospered over the years, and some would say that in Birmingham we live in its shadow, and we see businesses and industry and residents leaving. We have become “The City Too Hateful To Be Busy.” We are not busy, we sit idle, a stagnant community, holding on to the hateful attitudes of the past. But directing hatred at people of another color is no longer fashionable, so instead our current leaders, well, some of them, direct their hatred at gays and lesbians.

Miriam Witherspoon seemed to believe that until the problems of racism were solved, that no other issue of intolerance should be addressed. And she was very vocal in reminding us that that a resolution can not change people’s hearts. But she was wrong in her assertion that until hearts are changed, and all are in accord, that a resolution is meaningless. Quite the contrary, the city
leaders could have passed the resolution, and then use it to lead the populace into a greater understanding of the issues and problems that lesbians and gays face.
But that would require leadership.

There was a claim put forth that the constitution and the Birmingham Pledge already cover the issue and that the resolution is “redundant”. No, sexual orientation is not a protected class in the constitution or under any federal law. However, if those who hold the constitution so dear (and we all should) would look a little further back in history to our Declaration of Independence, they would see that our country’s fight for freedom was based on the assertion that “All men are created equal,” and that we are all granted “certain unalienable rights” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Our country decided decades ago that this was not just for the whites, so we granted equal rights to blacks. Now our city has decided that equality only belongs to the straights.

As for the Birmingham Pledge, as strong as it is, it only addresses race. As many times as I have been encouraged to sign it, I have refused, because it does not address discrimination based on age, gender, religion, ability or lack thereof, or sexual orientation. So no, the Birmingham Pledge does not address the same issues as the Resolution, which addressed all the issues listed above.

A couple of years ago Patricia Todd sat in on a legislative committee meeting about book banning and when she spoke she asked why the legislators (who had already spoken) hated her. She could hear the hatred in their voice and had seen the hatred expressed in their votes over the years. Until Tuesday I did not fully understand what she meant. Now I do.

Joel Montgomery, who raised his eyebrows as the resolution was being read and grinned and made conniving eye contact with an unknown audience member, followed by his raised voice as he voted against the resolution, showed hatred. Mr. Montgomery needs to be replaced in the next election. Ms. Witherspoon’s histrionics and the sparks in her eyes as she put forth her misinformation showed hatred. She also needs to be replaced.

Steve Hoyt and Roderick Royal were more reserved, but Hoyt’s shift of the issue from one of inclusiveness to supposed political motives,
and Royal’s attempt to delay the vote indefinitely by referring to committee (not knowing what committee, just any committee) were just thin, thin veils shrouding the hatred in their hearts. So yes, now I know how it feels to sit in a room and hear in person the hatred that sometimes comes from city officials. Bull Conner would be proud. Hoyt and Royal need to be replaced.

Valerie Abbott said afterward that Birmingham had a chance to do something really progressive and “fell flat on their face.” How true. The city is the same Birmingham we had in 1957, and in 1963. Is it going to take a bigger tragedy (remember Billy Jack Gaither… and yes, I know he was not in Birmingham when he was murdered) before our leaders understand that hatred doesn’t stop with color?

Yes, Birmingham missed an opportunity to say to the world, we have just taken a huge step forward. Instead, Birmingham has told the world that we had problems in the 1960’s and we have learned nothing from it. We have not overcome intolerance and bigotry. We have not followed the teaching of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And the leaders in Birmingham who in part owe their freedoms to the many gays and lesbians who marched for civil rights (including Bayard Rustin, one of Kings closest advisors) hand in hand with their black brethren in Selma and other cities are a disgrace to the legacy of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, who was a strong advocate for inclusion.

Instead, Birmingham took this opportunity to tell the world of first class leaders, educators, researchers and professionals, that if you are gay, we don’t want you. Birmingham told the CEO’s of the world that if your corporation embraces diversity, then we don’t want your headquarters or your business here. (learn which companies embrace diversity here: Birmingham told college graduates that if you want to begin your career in a city that embraces diversity and offers all the talent and creativity that multiculturalism brings, then we don’t need you to move here. And Birmingham told its own young people, if you want to raise your family in a community that respects all people and protects them as well, then you need to leave.

Birmingham has been in slow decline for decades (I know there are bright spots like UAB) and we are still seeing businesses and residents leave. Until Birmingham learns to accept and appreciate the efforts of ALL its citizens, this decline will continue. In fact, Birmingham does not deserve to prosper, and to be revived, until it does. But those of us who live in and around the Magic City and still want to be able to look to Birmingham for leadership in the state, will continue the fight. Maybe, with a little Birmingham magic, we can someday become like Selma, Aliceville, Talladega, Valley and Mobile; communities in our state that are named on the National League of Cities web site as “Inclusive Communities.”

I suggest we begin right now to look for replacements for Miriam Witherspoon, Roderick Royal, Joel Montgomery and Steven Hoyt.
And lets be thankful for fair minded women who support equality, Ms. Abbott, Carol Duncan and council president Carole Smitherman.

Bill Clinton Returns !

This past weekend we saw Cirque Du Soleil’s Delirium at the BJCC in Birmingham. Part musical, part concert, and part circus, the performance can only be described as weird. In a good way. The story is the main character’s dream (a key element I did not realize until I later read a review) so I guess the possibilities are unlimited. I mean, add a trapeze artist and some acrobatics and hula hoops and even my dreams could be turned in to an entertaining show.

Why can’t people just accept John and Elizabeth’s statement that they can and will continue this campaign without trying to second guess their decision? These are strong people; they have suffered through tragedy, and are well educated and understand her prognosis and are aware of what may happen. Unexpected things and adversity can happen to anyone at any time, and a lot can be told about someone by how they handle such situations. Don’t we want someone to lead our country who can remain calm when facing adversity? Then to criticize someone when they actually show these qualities does not make sense. Oh, this is not an endorsement of John Edward’s candidacy.

President Bill Clinton will be the guest speaker at the Alabama Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson dinner. The Dinner will be held on Friday, April 20th at 6:30 at the old HealthSouth conference center (that reception hall has a new name, but I can't remember it). Tickets are going fast, according to party chairman Joe Turhham. The ticket price is $150 a person. Go to the Alabama Democratic Party site for more information:

Will Birmingham make history today? Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Alabama Capitol and Free Rosetta Stone

Saturday we had a good day at Jonesboro, and established the initial planting of the Jonesboro Community Garden. It’s a little odd to see shrubs and young trees scattered across the vacant lot, but soon the areas will be mulched and a walking path established, trellises will be built, and during the summer a gazebo is going to be built by the Lawson State folks. Our city council person Earl Cochran joined in, along with neighbors and Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association members. Here Earl and Adam are digging holes.

Now we need some rain. Linda, I know you do a snow dance…can you do a rain dance?

Looks like my relatives are good supervisors. Actually, everyone did their share.

Free Garden Tour. Speaking of gardens, Alabama First Lady Patsy Riley has worked on beautifying the grounds of the state capitol in Montgomery. The building was restored 10 years ago, but nothing much has been to the grounds until she undertook the project, planting (or having it done) hundreds of bulbs, azaleas and roses.

Free tours of the grounds and the 1853 building will be next Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 pm. Experts will be available on the Monroe Street side at 2 pm each day to give special presentations on the landscaping. Tours will begin every half hour at the Union Street entrance. These tours are replacing the annual Governors Mansion Spring Garden Tour because now the mansion is undergoing renovation.

For more information see, or call 800 252-2262.

For those of you who can not make the tour, but would like to see what the capitol looks like, here is a pictorial tour by the Alabama Historical Commission:

You will notice that the virtual tour says “from 1846”. The first building in Montgomery burned, and this one was built in 1853.

We cleaned our fountain yesterday…the water had gotten kind of icky, and I have never seen so many happy robins. There were at least 4 that kept flying to the edge to drink, and would try to figure out a way to bathe. One (maybe more, I couldn’t really tell them apart) finally perched on the edge of the top tier, and realized she could jump in the shallow water and bathe without getting splashed like happened below. They had not been bathing in the yucky water. Here’s a shot of the fountain at night.

Some of you were here in December and saw the fountain in its frozen state.

Free Language Instruction

The Jefferson County Library System is offering the Rosetta Stone foreign language program for FREE online. Bessemer is one of the 9 (out of 18) funding libraries for this, but the program is available to anyone who has a Jefferson County Library Card. Twenty nine languages are available, including Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Swahili and Vietnamese. For the complete list, and to sign up, visit There is a Rosetta Stone button on their home page. The program is only funded for a year, so get started. And encourage the libraries to continue the free service. Voy a volver a aprender mi español de la High School secundaria.

Speaking of birds, here’s an interesting story, a little something to put things in perspective. An article in National Geographic several years ago provided an interesting picture of God's wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage.One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesque on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live. "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge." (Psalm 91:4)

Friday, March 23, 2007


Today is gardening day at Jonesboro, so I am just going to post these pictures of what is blooming this morning at the house. Come join us (see Thursday's post for details).

I did not plant this, but it shows up each spring. I never did take the time to identify it. Who knows?

Wisteria grows all over the back yard. It smells great and looks beautiful, but creates a mess of seeds and husks in the fall, and sprouts up and spreads everywhere.

We just have a few tulips here and there.

This is a double flowering dwarf almond.

These are late bloomers, just opened up a day or two ago.

Riley says Slow Down, Edwards Upbeat

Yesterday we learned that Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, has a reoccurrence of her breast cancer that was announced just after the last presidential election.

While they thought after her treatment that her condition was cured, her cancer has now spread to her rib, the bones being one of the most common sites for this type of cancer to spread, and once in the bone, it is considered incurable. It is treatable, however, and both John and Elizabeth stress that it will be treated and I wish both of them the best, and strength, as they go through this.

They also both affirm that the campaign should and will go on.

Last week I did my PSA on Colon health, so today I will address breast cancer. Some of this information comes from a course I am taking, and some comes from the CDC web site.

Breast cancer is the MOST common cancer in women.

It is the second most common cause of death from cancer among women (lung cancer is the first).

In 2003, 181,646 women developed breast cancer and 41,619 died from it.

Men can develop breast cancer also. In 2003 1,826 men developed breast cancer and 379 men died from it.

2003 is the most recent year for which numbers are available.

Risk factors include:

Getting older
Having your first menstrual cycle at a younger age.
Starting menopause at an older age.
Being older at the birth of your first child.
Never giving birth.
Not breastfeeding.
Personal history of breast disease.
Family history of breast cancer.
Treatment with radiation to the breast/chest.
Long term use of hormone therapy.
Having changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
Using birth control pills.
Drinking alcohol (more than one drink a day).
Not getting regular exercise.

Just as colonoscopies and eating right reduce your risk of colon cancer, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Control your weight, and exercise.
Know your family history of breast cancer.
Find out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy, and birth control pills.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Get screened regularly. Screening includes self exams and clinical exams and mammograms. Mammograms are by far the most effective screening tool to reduce incidence and death from breast cancer.

For more information visit, or, or

50 miles per hour. That is the new speed limit on downtown Birmingham’s interstates, ordered by Governor Riley. Will the drivers slow down from 75, uh, I mean 60, the current speed limit. Auto drivers are having to change their behavior because trucks can not secure their loads.

Auburn News:
The previously mentioned Auburn Tiger women’s basketball team moved a step closer to the NIT title by beating Virginia Tech yesterday.

Also, a big welcome to Jay Gouge as the 18th president of Auburn University. It’s interesting to have someone whose background, including a bachelor’s and master’s from Auburn, and a PhD from Michigan State, is in horticulture! I bet it was those flower beds that decorate the corners of the football stadium that attracted him.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Garden Work Day and Episcopal Inclusion

There will be a Garden Work Day at Jonesboro Community Garden on Saturday from 8 to 2. The garden will be at the corner of Owen Avenue and Wellington Street in Bessemer. We will be planting a wealth of shrubs and flowers and plants, creating a walking trail, installing benches and more. Please bring gardening gloves, shovels, picks, post-hole diggers, wheel barrows and whatever.

Also, Bobby and I will be cooking hotdogs for everyone. Remember the fun day and good dogs we had at this site last summer. Well, no volleyball this time, but later on in the summer? Who’s in?

The site is a vacant lot today, where a school building and school yard used to be. For those of you not from around here, I will post pictures of the garden as we progress.

Thanks to Vulcan Material Company Foundation for supporting this project in a big way, and thanks to Lawson State and the Bessemer Board of Education, and the City of Bessemer. And thanks especially to the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association and Erica Young in particular, for leading this effort.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori’s predicament regarding the ultimatum put forth by the conservative Anglican bishops to cease confirming openly gay bishops and to not bless same sex unions. Episcopal Bishops rejected this ultimatum and affirmed their support for gays, and rejected a key demand that they give up some of their authority to theological conservatives outside the U.S. church.

The bishops released a message yesterday, part of which said, “Finally, we believe that the leaders of the Church must always hold basic human rights and the dignity of every human being as fundamental concerns in our witness for Christ. We were, therefore, concerned that while the Communiqué focuses on homosexuality, it ignores the pressing issues of violence against gay and lesbian people around the world, and the criminalization of homosexual behavior in many nations of the world.”

The fact that the dissenting bishops are focusing on the way people are created rather than how those people are treated bring this verse (Titus 3: 9-11) to mind:

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

My tip of the bishop’s hat today goes to the Episcopal Bishops who are standing up with integrity and strength against the bullying bishops of the minority. And who are more interested in continuing to do the work of ministering to those in need rather than judging and excluding part of the church community.

And speaking of inclusion, the Birmingham City Council is set to adopt (hopefully) a resolution next week affirming the inclusive policy of the city and celebrating its diversity. The resolution condemns racism and homophobia, and calls for swift investigation of acts against people on the basis of race and sexuality. This resolution is being introduced by Valerie Abbot and is sponsored in part by Equality Alabama and the National League of Cities and their “Partnership For Working Toward Inclusive Communities.” If you are interested in reading the entire resolution email me and I will forward it to you.
To support this effort show up at 9:30 am on March 27 at the City of Birmingham City Council chambers, third floor of city hall, 710 North 20th Street.

Would this type of initiative fly in Bessemer? Let's find out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Now it really IS Spring

It is hard to get agreement on anything. The weather channel reported all day yesterday that it was the first day of spring. I guess today is the first full day of spring. anyway, Happy Spring!

Did you know the United States Postal Service is trying to change the way we receive our mail. Well, probably not most of us, but they are making an effort for change in new subdivisions, proposing that mailboxes be confined to one side of the road. This would mean that half the residents would have to cross the street to retrieve their mail from a box in a neighbor’s yard. And some people might have two or three or more mailboxes in front of their house. Is this what they want?

The USPS argues that this would streamline postal delivery and cut down on costs. But many, me included, think that the change poses a safety risk, especially for children who may be sent to get the mail. In addition, aesthetically it is bad. Visit for more information, and to sign an online petition.

While on the subject, postal rates are going up in May to 41 cents. And now they will be selling “forever stamps.” These stamps will always be valid not matter how much rates increase. So do we buy a zillion of them before the next increase? Or do we sit down and figure how many stamps we will use over what period of time versus the likely periodic increases to see at what point it ceases to be to our advantage to stock up on stamps? Or just pay more bills on line, send more emails and faxes instead of letters, and hardly use any stamps at all?

Our state legislators voted themselves a 62% raise yesterday, overriding Governor Riley’s veto earlier in the day. Newly elected representative Patricia Todd of Birmingham voted against the raise, after considering it, saying “A lot of people in my district live in poverty. I could not in good conscience vote for myself a pay raise.” Bessemer representative Priscilla Dunn voted for the raise. I guess she has a different view of her constituents and poverty in her district. Our senator E. B. McClain also voted for the raise.

And speaking of the governor, he invited 100 company executives to Alabama to go turkey hunting in an effort to promote Alabama. The hunters were paired with Alabama landowners (at least Dick Cheney wasn’t invited…watch out!) in an effort to, as Riley indicated, help dispel whatever myths people might hold about Alabama and its people.
Now really, stop laughing. Doesn’t this just reinforce the image people have about our state? And for those who have been holding their breath waiting for work to begin on the library expansion in Bessemer, exhale. One of the first votes I cast in Bessemer was to increase property taxes to help bail our schools out (5 mills) and for library expansion (3-1/2 mills). I hope they have saved all the money generated; the low bid was 4.6 million. The Birmingham News reports the tax generates at least half a million a year, so they can almost pay cash for it. I mean, what’s a million dollars? The library board could never reach an agreement with First Baptist Church about parking (no surprise there) but now that the Foundry owns the former church that has been worked out. Ground breaking may be this month!

Finally, why can’t Karl Rove testify under oath? Do “they” think its OK to lie, when not under oath? Do we think Rove would tell the truth even if he were under oath? We went through this before during the Valerie Plame investigation. Republicans just don’t like taking an oath to tell the truth, do they?

These horses are made out of driftwood, by artist Heather Jansch of the Westcountry of England. Her website is

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Has Spring Sprung?

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, according to the calendar.

But we don’t need a calendar to tell us spring is almost here. All we need to see are the redbud trees blooming. Driving along highways or residential streets, or looking in one’s own yard, the distinct pink color of the redbud flowers is unmistakable.

This young tree was about three feet tall when I moved here in 2000. Three years ago it produced its first blooms, and now, about 15 feet tall, you can see it is covered in blooms. And it just happens to be in the perfect spot in our yard.

Nearby is my little Japanese Garden, there is a hint of spring there, as these miniature irises are sprouting up around the pagoda.

Another indicator of spring, and of the roses that will soon be blooming, is the Lady Banks Rose, which is the earliest rose to bloom, at least in my yard. This one is the yellow variety, and in a couple of weeks I will be posting a picture of the entire plant in bloom, I hope. But for now, there are just a couple of early birds already opening. Here’s a close-up.

If you want to see a big and beautiful Lady Banks Rose go to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in about 2 weeks. I guess that when mine is blooming, that will be the time to go, and I will let you know.

There are also azaleas beginning to bloom, and dogwoods with little blooms that soon will be full sized, but their pictures will come later.

As you drive through your neighborhoods, look for these early signs of spring. Each day will bring more color, and new life, to our yards and parks. It just makes you want to get outside and dig in the dirt, doesn’t it.

Here is a question for those who live on or near Dartmouth Avenue:

Why can’t the city designate a “truck route” coming from Lipscomb on Dartmouth Avenue, at Carolina Terrace, to Carolina Avenue, all the way to 14th Street or Highway 150?

On this map, where the star is, is the intersection of Carolina Terrace and Dartmouth. (Don’t follow the “brown” line…that was on there when I copied the map).

Doing this would keep those noisy and dangerous trucks off of the residential street Dartmouth Avenue, and send them down the mainly commercial street Carolina. Bus routes would not have to change, and of course emergency vehicles and fire trucks would still use Dartmouth. Earl, are you listening? This is your street.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tired of War (and posts about war)?

Well I am. I was tired of this war before it started. But today marks a milestone, the 4th anniverary of the invasion of Iraq. Nothiing more needs to be said if you have checked out Ava Lowery's site,

But just in case you didn't look, here is a video created by 16 year old Ava, called "California Dreaming." Remember Ann Coulter talking about Iraq? "Basically, um, it is like California with Bagdad as LA..." Every time she opens her mouth, she loses credibility. Good thing we have freedom of speech here, Ann.

And for those who really can't get enough, here are the death threats that Ava received when she was just 15 years old, for expressing her opinion.

Ava contacted me yesterday and thanked me. I should be thanking her. Her site got over a million hits a month during recent months.

I want to apologize. I neglected to mention the AUBURN TIGERS women's basketball team when I said no teams from the state made the NCAA tournament. Well, they didn't make the NCAA but they are in the NIT, and beat UAB yesterday. They play Virginia Tech on Tuesday.

And how about the Auburn Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Teams. National Champions (again). Five in a row for the men. And two in a row, and five out of the last six for the women!

Cesar Cileo was named NCAA

division 1 men's swimmer of

the year.

Steven Segerlin was named NCAA

divison 1 men's diver of the year.

War Eagle!!! That is an acceptable type of "war."

Tomorrow, I promise (unless something noteworthy happens) I will not write of war or scoundrels in Washington. Spring is approaching.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

March Madness, and WWJD

There is no excuse for Xavier losing an 11 point lead with just a few minutes to go, and allowing Ohio State to come back and win in overtime. March Madness. And NCAA tournament with no Alabama teams. No Auburn. No Alabama. No UAB. No USA. No any other college. March Madness.

And there is no sense in going to war 4 years ago in March 2003. March Madness. Being hoodwinked by Bush and his faulty intelligence now known as manipulated intelligence. If I were running for president I could truthfully claim that I was against this war from the beginning. It was unjust. It was un-biblical. It was unprecedented. It was unnecessary. It was March Madness.

We call ourselves a civilized society, but does a truly civilized society go to war without cause? In fact, do they go to war at all? If a society is truly civilized, would they not use every means necessary to AVOID war? Apparently we are NOT a civilized society.

Monday is the 4th Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Alabamians killed in Iraq: 52. Mostly young men. Dead in Iraq by State They left behind spouses, young children, and parents.

U.S. Dead in Iraq (confirmed by DOD): 3204 (on 3-17-07) Department of Defense List There are 12 more pending, maybe more by the time you read this.

Total wounded in Iraq: 23,417, or 32,544, depending on how you count. Iraq casualties Unfortunately, many, if not most of these, have had their life altered in ways we can not imagine. Some unbelievably were treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, with substandard care and under inhumane conditions. This is how we treat those who are serving their country.

(Remember, others serve their country in clandestine ways, as operatives for the CIA. And how do we honor them? By outing them? Valerie Plame could not believe that she was identified as a covert agent by her own government. But I digress.)

Peace Takes Courage

Ava Lowery is a 16 year old high school student from Mobile, AL whose web site, Peace Takes Courage, gives clear insight in to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration. Amy has been featured on CNN and her piece "WWJD" garnered death threats from Bush supporters. How ironic that those who supposedly support an effort to guarantee free speech in a foreign land by forcing democracy on a nation, would threaten to silence free speech in their own country. But one only has to recall Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks, who also received death threats after expressing their views. What kind of democracy do these people really want?

Ava’s site has received over 1 million hits a month for several of the last few months. Add a few more. She is a patriot.

Watch Ava’s montage: “WWJD

Please visit her site and explore. Really, if you can stand it, watch some of the video’s she has produced. Read the blogs. And they want to kill a 16 year old girl who wants peace. Click on “About” to read about Ava. Click on the videos to the left, under “Updates.”
Ava’s web site:

Remember, there is a candlelight vigil Monday at 5:30 at 5 Points South in Birmingham. The service members who have been lost will be honored. Options for the future will be discussed. Disclaimer: I have a midterm at 5:30 on Monday and will not be able to attend.

We can support our troops by bringing them home!

And for later:
Check out the Dixie Chicks Movie here:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick (Fitzgerald)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
No green beer here, but we might enjoy some steak and biscuits. Remember how good those were at Ireland’s Restaurant near Brookwood Mall? Anyway, here is St. Patrick casting out the snakes. Legend says that the man who brought Christianity to Ireland also drove all the snakes from the country, although we know that post-glacial Ireland has never had snakes. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, the concept of God existing in three persons.

Maybe we should canonize our own St Patrick, U. S. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, whose efforts are helping to drive the snakes out of Washington. George Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove. The list goes on and on. Valerie Plame testified yesterday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about how her outing as an undercover CIA agent was “purely political”, and she showed us the harm it caused her and the danger it put many other people in. The committee is considering changes in the way the government handles information about CIA employees. Not surprisingly, Rep. Thomas Davis III of Virginia, the ranking republican on the committee, tried to label the hearing as meaningless. There are 17 republicans on the committee, and only 2 showed up for the hearing.

If there is one thing the administration might be pleased with, in their twisted way, it’s that Plame’s testimony takes our attention away from General Pace’s comments, which took our attention away from the firing of federal prosecutors, which took our attention away from the Walter Reed Hospital scandal, which….well, you get the picture. But remember, "The masses are not asses. They will figure it out."

OK I made my chocolate chip cookies yesterday, and here is proof. Anyone who calls and can come by today can have some, we don’t need to eat them all. But mmmmm, they are good.