The Year of Moving Forward

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Even without sunshine and with cool temperatures the Birmingham Botanical Gardens are wonderful. A friend took Bobby and I on a personal (although short) tour of the Kaul Wildflower Garden, where nature is at its best. I say that, because the plants are in a natural setting, and nature is showing us what she can do.*

I will post a few pictures here, but soon expect to see some of these pics and others with some science behind them on the science blog, where It's been almost a year since I wrote anything. But I'm itching to get back into science.

I'm not going to name any of these plants here. But you will see several species of Trillium, and some other early spring bloomers.

If I were an ant, and had human eyes, this is what I would see. I got down on the ground and took this picture looking up toward the sky, which you can see a bit of in the background.

Stepping out of the wildflower garden (and for one of these pictures, out of the state) here are some roses.

Early blooming Lady Banks rose is currently blooming. This one was spotted in Charleston, South Carolina last week.

This one is in our backyard.

And this one is at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

This is a pretty rose that's in bloom at the gardens as well.

I don't think there is ever a bad time to visit the botanical gardens - something is always in bloom. Even if not much is blooming, there are interesting plants and barks and ferns and mosses, a couple of bee hives, and more.

*There are volunteers and staff members who assist nature in maintaining the garden.

Speaking of flowers, here is Brandon Flowers singing Crossfire. He's about as pretty as any of the flowers pictured here. Another example of nature at its best.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Racists. Who knew? (We did)

Often I have made to connection between the Tea Party and racists. Most of the time I get criticized for assuming all teabaggers are racists when the evidence is there for a few.
Example 1. Example 2. Example 3.

Now the Tea Party Nation has emailed its followers warning that whites are headed for extinction. If that isn't a page from the KKK, I don't know what is.

Here is a teabagger from a rally in Birmingham.

This is the same group that denounced the United Methodist Church for being Marxist, by the way. Here is where I wrote about that.

From the email sent today from Tea Party Nation:

What is keeping America's fertility rate up are immigrants - both legal and illegal.


The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) population in America is headed for extinction and with it our economy, well-being and survival as a uniquely America culture.

Racism can be against Latinos, of course, and that is what is going on here, but trust me, they feel the same way about African Americans. And gays:
There are those in America who are continuously attacking the family, bent on redefining marriage and have established anti-family government programs.

"Redefining marriage" is connected to the same-sex marriage movement, of course.

This is your Tea party, your Republican base, the congress members you elected in 2010; the group that invited Sarah Palin to speak, and Roy Moore as well. Roy Moore has indicated he might run for the GOP presidential nomination, incidentally. He couldn't win the GOP nomination for Alabama Governor, but believes he can win the GOP nomination for president. LOL.

Anyway, if you are a Tea Party member, you are suspect, I guess. In fact, if you are a Republican these days, you are suspect.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Terri Sewell announces Copper Tube plant in Alabama

Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell Announces That a Copper Tube Manufacturing Plant Will Be Built in Thomasville

Project to create 200 manufacturing jobs in the Black Belt

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (AL-7) announced that Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group will build a copper tube plant in Thomasville.

The plant will employ more than 200 people, and will be the first U.S. plant for this company, which makes copper pipes and tubes used in plumbing, air conditioning and automobiles. Rep. Sewell joined with Governor Bentley and other state and local officials and executives from Golden Dragon to make the announcement earlier today. Rep. Sewell wrote a letter of support in favor of the project.

“By building this copper tube production facility right here in Thomasville, we will create good-paying, cutting-edge jobs,” said Rep. Sewell. “Each manufacturing job has a multiplier effect of four additional jobs. Today, we are demonstrating that manufacturing is not just part of our past, but also an important part of our future. By making products like copper tubing, we will position Clarke County as a global leader in this industry and increase our number of exports across the world.”

“We’re very excited,” said Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day. “This project opens up huge opportunities for the future of this area, and will be a welcome relief for so many people who are currently looking for jobs. I want to thank Congresswoman Sewell for everything she has done to help make this project a reality. This has been a true partnership between state, local and federal government.”

“I appreciate Congresswoman Sewell’s support and I am very happy to be here in Alabama,” said Li Changjie, Chairman of Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, Inc.

“Congresswoman Sewell has been really great,” said Raymond Cheng, CEO of SoZo Group, Ltd, an investment advisory company which matches investors with businesses and causes. “Everyone I have worked with on this project is really committed to helping this community.”

The plant is expected to be built on a 40-acre site in a city industrial park south of Thomasville High School.

Golden Dragon is based in Xinxiang, a city of 5.5 million people in China's second-most populous province, Founded in 1987, the company indicates that it generates more than $2 billion a year in sales and makes more than 15 percent of all copper tube used in air conditioning and refrigeration worldwide.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Things I heard in South Carolina

I'm sure the good Republicans of Alabama are just as uninformed as those in South Carolina. But this was interesting, considering Obama won the 2008 Democratic primary handily, with 55% of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 27% and John Edwards (who was born there) 18%.

I wonder if South Carolina Republicans would be a venomous against Clinton, had she won the nomination and the presidency. Of course they would have, what am I thinking?

Here are some of the things I heard while there.

"Obama didn't recognize the annual day of prayer."

From the Presidential Proclamation - National Day of Prayer

"NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 6, 2010, as a National Day of Prayer."

This is the biggest piece of evidence that Republicans are uneducated, uninformed, and rely on the hype and lies coming from Fox News, because it just wasn't true, yet we kept hearing it and still hear it from Republicans.

But if that's not enough, here is some more of what I heard.

"We don't need a commander in chief that did not serve in the military."

Do they really want to bring up George W. Bush's national guard record? And I know that South Carolina Republicans voted for John McCain, and on his ticket was (non-veteran, unable to complete a term as governor) Sarah Palin. She would have been a heartbeat away from assuming the position of commander in chief, yet she had not served.

"Obama loves the Muslims."

So? This is hypocritical on so many levels. Remember this?

And also:

Of course there are the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Our country was founded on religious freedom.

Then there is Jesus, but I'm not going to get into his message of love for all people, loving your enemies, tolerance, etc.

"Obama detests the military."

Let me start with a few words about John McCain's record as a senator on veterans' issues. Click on that link, and you will get a feel for what the war hero thinks of current veterans, and of Obama's support for veterans. You will find that candidate Obama showed much more support for our veterans than presidential candidate John McCain did.

Obama has supported military families, and many in the military support Obama.

South Carolina Republicans are focused on one thing, it seems - limiting Obama to one term as president. "I'm going to do everything I can to see that he is not re-elected."

Here are some current poll results, showing Obama winning in most polls, and tied with a Republican candidate in a few.

I am really looking forward to the 2012 race, mostly because the Republicans are going to be so entertaining, trying to out demonize gays and Hispanics and also to see them try to explain their positions on jobs (so far, no position and no job creation) and energy (oil and nukes) and the economy.

As the American public becomes more and more educated on the issues they will realize that we are fortunate that the Democrats held on to the Senate in 2010 (thus avoiding a total meltdown of the economy), and we can look forward to regaining control of the House and holding on to the White House as well.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Love Wins

I don't generally follow super pastors that lead mega-churches in part because I don't think one person influencing that many people who often blindly follow is a good model.

I think a better model is one person leading a few. Sort of like Jesus did.

Anyway, Rob Bell is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, a church that attracts 10,000 worshipers a week.

So when I hear that Southern Baptist pastors and others are calling Bell a heretic I think he must be saying something right.

Bell has a new book, Love Wins, that explores heaven and hell and God.

He explains the book here.

That's the promo video, the cleaned up version.

Here he is explaining the book to his own flock.

It's uplifting that Christians are finally beginning to understand that God and Christianity are about love. That might be hard to see when one considers that Crusades and slavery and James Dobson and such, but it becomes a very simple story.

And if God is really about love, then how can he send so many of the people that he created to everlasting hell and damnation?

So I don't really believe in hell, and here is a writer and pastor that might have released a book that backs up my beliefs. I haven't really made up my mind about heaven, but I can tell you that from my (sketchy) theological training that my understanding of biblical hell and heaven has more to do with suffering and poverty versus fulfillment in the current life than some mysterious afterlife. I think Bell explores this a bit in the book, as well.

I am going to purchase the Kindle version (I have Kindle on my laptop, not the hand held version). I'll let you know what I think.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sewer debt is your responsibility

There was an article in the Birmingham News recently in which the Jefferson County sewer crisis was covered. In the article John S. Young was quoted as saying that Jefferson county sewer customers could expect double digit rate increases (even as high as 25%) to deal with the sewer debt. Young is the court appointed receiver handling the case. He has the power to raise rates and increase revenue to pay off the debt.

I have stated before that this debt is not the responsibility of just the sewer customers, and gave a reason suggesting that so called non-user fees are one way to increase revenue. More on this later.

There is another reason that all the citizens of Jefferson County, not just he sewer users, should contribute to paying off the debt. This debt was amassed as a result of poor decisions and unethical dealings by elected officials and their staffs (and some are paying the price). Those elected officials were put in place by all the (voting) citizens of Jefferson County, and like it or not, we must also pay the price for our poor decision in elected those corrupt and inept officials.

Here is the Western Tribune column in which I suggested non-user fees were proper. This is a public health issue, and all residents benefit from the sewer, whether they are hooked up to the system or not.

When this column ran, someone asked for an example of harm resulting from a septic tank. Here is an example; a septic tank was the source of a Norwalk virus outbreak that affected 135 people in South Dakota, as mentioned in this article. So yes, septic tanks can contribute to disease outbreaks.

Someone else mentioned that they pay (taxes) for local schools even though they have no children in the schools. Is that a non-user fee that we are paying? We all benefit from an educated public (just as we all benefit from the sewer system).

Cholera became the first reportable disease in the United States. Hundred of thousands of people in this country died from cholera during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Only after the connection between contaminated water (from sewage) and disease outbreaks was recognized were public health measures undertaken. With filtration and treatment of drinking water and disposal and treatment of waste in separated facilities Cholera became a non-threat in this country.

We take clean, uncontaminated drinking water for granted.

Everyone benefited from the public health measures put in place to control Cholera, and like wise, everyone benefits from the Jefferson County sewer system, whether your waste flows through it or not.

So there are two reasons why the responsibility for the debt should be spread among all the residents of the county, not just the sewer users. I wonder if Mr. Young will agree.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Did you see this in New Orleans?

You might see things in New Orleans that you won't see anywhere else.

Of course this was Mardi Gras, so a lot of people were dressed in their finest.

This doll head caught our attention.

The St. Louis Cathedral is one of the most recognized sites in the city.

Explain this to me. I never saw the cat that was supposed to eat here, bathed in floodlight. We walked by this at all hours of the day and night; it was near the bed and breakfast where we were staying.

The pseudo-Christians were out in full force during Mardi Gras. On Bourbon Street they tried to take on the gay community near Cafe Lafitte in Exile.

I made a short video of the stand-off with my phone. The gays won, by the way. As the protesters left, men were still drinking and dancing was still going on in the bar. The video is noisy and all you hear is the motorcycle drowning out the megaphone, but there is a sweet kiss near the end.

Call me crazy but Canal Street reminds me of Times Square with palm trees and street cars. The street is so busy with people and vendors - the energy is the same.

At night during a parade the crowds really come out along Canal Street. We met a straight couple from Minnesota, three gay college kids from France (in school in Florida), some college age beer drinking kids from Shreveport and from Mississippi, and a Hispanic couple from Midland Texas.

We also caught two bags full of beads and stuffed animals and doubloons and other stuff.

The imagination and creativity in New Orleans is on display everywhere you turn.

We need some of that creativity to be displayed in Bessemer. We know there are creative people here. I know that there are musicians, artists, dancers, writers - all of whom are being repressed, just waiting for their opportunity.

All it would take is a coffee shop/art gallery where poetry readings could take place and an occasional jazz musician could take the stage. That could be the beginning.

You know, the Birmingham Music Cooperative was seeking to locate in an old house in Norwood, but I think the residents ran them off. I want to invite them to Bessemer, where there are plenty of old houses they could fix up and use. We need the culture, and welcome the artists.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Music of Mardi Gras

We watched several parades during Mardi Gras and each had several marching bands, mostly from area schools.

One band during the Orpheus Parade stood out. I didn't get any pictures, but here is a video of them during the last year's parade.

The Roots of Music is a New Orleans group that fills a void left after Katrina. Some middle schools had to drop their music programs; not good in a city where music plays such a vital role. The Roots of Music offers young people an opportunity to learn and march in formation.

Notice that at least one of the members of this marching band is very young.

But music fills the streets of the French Quarter as well. There are many street musicians along Royal Street and elsewhere, and I took some pictures (and tipped the musicians).

This soloist was along the riverfront and we sat on a bench and listened to him while ships slowly passed by on the Mississippi. I could spend some time every day in this spot, watching the river and listening to music.

This one man band was on Royal Street, and two ladies from Japan walked up as he was playing. He recognized them as Japanese, spoke to them in their language, and sang a Japanese song they were familiar with.

Not far away we listened to this man on the clarinet and his friend on the steel drum.

Further down Royal the music changed a bit. This group was sort of folk/hillbilly.

As was this one. I didn't get the names of most of these groups, but this one had their name displayed, Slick Skillet Serenaders.

I found a video of them taken on Royal Street a couple of weeks ago.

Here's another pair of musicians.

And a quartet.

This is the man that was playing long side the clarinetist. Now he is playing solo.

Everyone who has been to New Orleans knows that you hear music everywhere you go. Jazz, blues, rockabilly, Brazilian, Zydeco, or any other style you want. The music in New Orleans seems to keep the city in rhythm. We even had a Jazz combo playing while we ate breakfast one morning.

Ubiquitous music and a coffee shops every other block (in the residential area we stayed in). Two things that bring people together. Things I wish we had in Bessemer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fat Tuesday in New Orleans

Mardi Gras in New Orleans was reported to bring $322 million in economic benefit to the city.

That's a lot of money.

Over a million people visited New Orleans during Carnival, and hundreds of thousands crowded into the French Quarter on Monday and Tuesday. Tens of thousands more lined the streets on Fat Tuesday to watch the Zulu and Rex Parades.

Rather than attending these two parades (we had already seen Bacchus and Endymion and Proteus and Orpheus and others, and brought home two large bags of beads and stuffed animals that we caught) and take in the St. Anne parade that begins in the Bywater and courses down Royal through the Marigny neighborhood and into the quarter.

There you see the most creative costumes, only a few of which I will share. These photos are copyright, by the way.

There were many costumes that focused on death or dead people but this was by far the best.

Look at this young lady in training.

I never was able to catch what this group of marchers stood for, but two out of the group posed for this shot.

This was the banner that preceded a marching band that paraded separately from the others. Many costumes and groups parodied the religious groups that were in New Orleans crusading against "adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, and revelers," among others.

This picture was actually taken in the French Quarter, but earlier these guys had marched with the others through the Marigny. Colorful, huh?

In the French Quarter the annual Bourbon Street Awards took place, and this event was the lead Mardi Gras story on the local news. The awards take place amidst the gay clubs on Bourbon, and while we didn't have a great view of the contest, I did get some photos.

The New Orleans police chief rode up to the stage on horse back, and got the biggest applause of the day, because of his department's support of the gay community, as noted by the emcee.

Q-Tip was one of the contestants.

This guy said it took several months to create this. He was featured on the TV news.

This was an interesting costume, but unfortunately I didn't get it all in the picture.

There is no way to adequately reflect the array of costumes. And no way to express how much fun it is watching so many people enjoying themselves; in the Quarter, on Frenchman, at the parades. I'll share more in the coming days about some of the uniqueness of New Orleans and the music and art in the Quarter.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Early spring bloomers

The storm did not do the damage that I feared, and Spring is getting closer and closer.

Here are some more blooming things. We have two of these Japanese magnolias. This one is darker than the one I pictured earlier this week.

The flowers are really loaded with color.

These ornamental cabbage or kale really last the entire winter season and even at the end of their days they add a nice touch to the garden.

The pansies are another winter flower here, but this spring they have really put on a show.

Here is a solid yellow one in an old concrete planter Glenn gave me after his house burned. One of the outdoor pieces that thieves didn't steal.

Lenten Rose is an early bloomer. I was told that Dr. McElroy, the former owner of this house, had Lenten roses, and though I never found any of his, I planted these as a remembrance.

I am very grateful to Dr. McElroy (who lived here from the 1960's until his death in 2000) and to Col. Huey (who lived in this house from 1895 until his death in the mid 1900's) for the garden that they created. There are many unusual plants, and one is this leather leaf mahonia. It's not rare, but there are so many of them here, and some are very tall. They are blooming now, with these yellow flowers that will be replaced with blue berries that the birds love.

Peach trees have beautiful flowers. We haven't gotten any edible peaches from this tree, which is just 3 years old. Maybe this year.

Quince, on the other hand, produces little apple like fruits. We never use them, but maybe this year I'll can some quince jelly.

A red quince.

Snowbells. There are little clumps of these scattered around the yard.

One of the many varieties of daffodil or narcissus.

Next up...azaleas...and then roses.