Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Report: The Gate House

The Gate House, by Nelson DeMille is the sequel to The Gold Coast, written 10 years earlier. At the end of The Gold Coast the main character sails off into the sunset after his wife has an affair with a Mafia Don and things go downhill from there. The story picks up when he returns to the scene a decade later.

This is another huge book--600++ pages. It's filled with DeMille's trademark humor and sarcasm. I laughed out loud at some of his comments to and about his wicked in-laws. Sex, money, Mafia, murder, intrigue...what's not to love?

An easy read--but read The Gold Coast first.

A Czar Is Born

Urban Czar
Energy Czar
Faith-based Czar
Green Czar
Border Czar
Regulatory Czar
Health Czar
Car Czar
Tech Czar
Guantánamo closure Czar
Stimulus Czar

And, today! The Cyber Security Czar.

Barack-star loves the czars. According to Foreign Policy, Barack-star surpassed the Romanovs' 300-year production of 18 czars in less than 100 days. The Border czar was #18 for Barry and that was a few weeks ago. No telling how many Czars we have now.

I looked up the definition of czar. Czar: One having great power or authority. I think for Barack-star, though, it's wonkier than that. Barry fancies himself a really smart guy and like most really smart fellows, he wants to be around other folks nearly as smart as him. No silly elected officials for him. Not when he can name a Czar, for goodness sake.

Theoretically {and in the most positive sense}, czars are appointed to cut through government red tape to coordinate policy. Ostensibly, regular old government bureaucrats can't do that because they're just too mired down in the minutia of running the US of A.

In reality, czars are usually appointed by presidents when they want to push through one of their pet policies quickly and under the radar.

Barack-star promised change. I guess naming a proliferation of non-elected Czars with ill-defined roles, and limited or no accountability is part of that change.

But wait a minute. The idea of czars being crowned with super-powers beyond the scope of elected officials, or confirmed-by-congress appointees, isn't a new one.

The last time our government saw such a proliferation of czar naming was during World War II's Rooseveltian power grab:

"...when Roosevelt expanded the government rapidly and appointed a host of brand-new federal overseers. The Washington Post reported in 1942 on the sudden rush of `executive orders creating new czars to control various aspects of our wartime economy' ..."

Once again, you can look to the past to understand the future.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Missed me?

Here are some pictures from the James family reunion we went to last weekend. The James family is on my granddad Jesse's {mom's dad} side of the tree.

James family

James cousins and me. My mom babysat the two guys on the ends when they were little.

My {soon to be 99-year-old} Grandmom with Cousin Kay

Mom & Me

Lots of great food

This is my Aunt--my dad's sister who is married to my mom's brother

We even had entertainment

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kris Allen Crowned American Idol 2009!

Notes on the big night:

I would be happy to never see Mikala Gordon again.


Steve Martin playing banjo for Michael Sarver and Megan Corkrey--genius.

Rod Stewart still has it.

What is Randy wearing anyway??

Kris looks like he's having a really good time.

There's almost too much fog on the stage.

And finally...after 100 million votes!!!

Kris Allen Crowned 2009 American Idol

And so, for the second year in a row, the people have proven the judges wrong.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

American Idol Finale: The Kris vs. Adam showdown

The finals! This has been the year with the best talent and the fewest surprises. In fact, about the only surprise this whole season is Kris making it into the finals. Clearly Adam is the favorite, but Kris could win if his fans actually vote.

Now for some fun Idol trivia:

  • Anoop and Megan Corkery are an item
  • Kara is writing this year's "coronation" song
  • Bespectacled Danny Gokey {3rd place finisher} wants to design a line of eyewear {not making this up folks}
  • Ruben Studdard, Season 2 winner, says the AI powers wouldn't even pony up for his flight to Hollywood for the finals and he had to pay his own way
  • Paula bought Scott McIntyre a guide dog
  • Kris Allen had a rib removed when he was 13
  • Adam Lambert used to be a 240 pound redhead Click here for photo


  • Round One - The Contestants' Favorites
  • Round Two - Simon Fuller’s Pick
  • Round Three - The Coronation Song


    Adam Lambert reprising "Mad World". The blue light and fog are back. Not nearly as good as his performance of the same song earlier this year--way more low key. I'm also thinking Adam's new haircut has a definite Liza Minnelli feel to it. I do like the cossack coat, though. Judges love him (of course).

    Kris Allen "Ain't No Sunshine". I think it's very brave for Kris to choose to play the piano--one more added element on what must be the scariest night of his life. I've said all along that Kris was one of two real musicians in this year's contest (the other being Matt Giraud). Amazing. Love this kid. He has a lot of heart. Paula might be back on the pills...she's coined a new word..."Allenizing." Hmmmmm. Wow! Simon gives him huge props.

    Simon gives Round 1 to Kris Allen.

    Adam Lambert "Change Is Gonna' Come" We start with a trademark Lambert scream and mellow down to a more bluesy side of him, then crescendo into full on Rocky Horror Picture Show. Classic Glambert. Kara & Paula tell Adam this was his best performance ever. I really liked this performance. Amazing.

    Kris Allen "What's Going On" Great pick for Kris. This time he's playing his acoustic guitar with 3 band members. I like that he's showing his versatility. I think the arrangement could have used more melody, but I loved the rhythm.

    Simon gives Round 2 to Glambert.

    Adam Lambert "No Boundaries" The coronation song is obviously better suited to Glam's pipes. Gets a little, no, a lot, screechy and off key toward the end. Hate his pants. D for Kara's song. B for Adam's performance. Kara and Paula are in tears, succumbing to adulation, for Adam. Simon prematurely congratulates Adam on being a worldwide star.

    Kris Allen Kris' unvarnished version of Kara's "No Boundaries" shows just what a pathetic excuse for a song this is. Obviously, Kris can't compete with Adam on shouty vocals. Kris is all heart and this song doesn't do him justice. Too bad. Robbed by a poor excuse for a final song. Funny, even Kara says she doesn't want him judged on this song. I cry foul.

    Simon gives Round 3 to Glambert.

    WHO SHOULD WIN: Kris Allen

    WHO WILL WIN: Adam Lambert

    P.S. I'm really looking forward to Glee, are you?

    Bill making friends with the nanny's fanny

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Bauer Power: What needs to be wrapped up on tonight's 24 finale

    The final two hours of "24" are on FOX tonight.

      Here are the questions I expect to be answered:

    • What's the deal with Bad Tony?
    • Will Kim save Jack from the lethal pathogen that's killing him?
    • Will Jack meet his granddaughter, Terri?
    • Will Olivia, President Taylor's daughter, be in trouble for arranging Jon Voight's assassination?
    • Will Renee and Jack fall in love?
    • What about Janis and Chloe? Will they make friends and work together next year?
    • Will the U.S. government wise up and build a new CTU complex?
    • Will President Taylor pardon Jack for his part in any previously-used harsh interrogation techniques?
    • Please tell me nothing bad is going to happen to Agent Aaron Pierce. I love him.
    • Will Jack Bauer soldier on to serve his country another day/season?

    Phun with Pelosi

    "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that she was misled by the CIA on waterboarding. She spent eight years complaining about how dumb President Bush was and the minute she's in trouble, she says he fooled her." - Jay Leno

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    American Idol Results: HUGE SHOCKER!!! Kris Allen and Adam are the finalists!!! Danny going back home to Milwaukee!

    Will there be a big surprise tonight? Will Kris make it into the finals with Adam? This is American Idol!

    Last night I wrote this:

    This is the night where we get to see the top 3 contestants go home for schmaltzy reunions. They'll throw out first pitches, perform in the streets, get the keys to their cities, visit their grade schools, churches, etc, and just generally have an Up With People fun time.

    Actually, the Up With People night is tonight. Enjoy.

    First surprise...Ryan says out of 88 million votes only 1 million votes separated the top 2. That's amazing.

    Oooh! Did you see frat boy Anoop and Scott in the audience?

    Adam's got more makeup on than I have ever worn!!!

    Can't stand Katy Perry. Sorry.


    Kris Allen: safe

    Adam Lambert: safe

    Danny Gokey is out!

    Wow! I wanted this to happen, but didn't think it would.

    Come back next week when Adam is crowned this year's winner.

    Barack-Star, What's the hurry?

    Hey Barack-Star, what’s the rush?? Why does your so-called reform of the healthcare industry have to be passed by July 31st? And why does credit card legislation have to be signed by Memorial Day?

    Earlier this week you came out to your teleprompter with a lot of suits lined up behind you and told us you’ve coerced America's health care providers to cut $2 trillion from the growth of the price of health care over the next ten years. Good for you! Since you didn’t give any specifics about how you’re going to do that it hasn’t exactly insprired me to trust you on health care.

    Health care for everyone, whether they’re working or not, a legal citizen or not, sounds great. But how are you going to pay for this? I’m hearing a sin tax on soda and Cheerios is in the plan (seriously).

    Let’s just review how we’ve got to this point of me distrusting you a little bit…

    First, we raced through the stimulus package because you told us over and over and over we were in a crisis. You made it sound like if we didn’t pass that stinking stimulus package right now (!) the entire American economy would collapse. Our weenie legislators didn’t even read the bill before they voted aye…all the earmarks and everything.

    You do remember how you campaigned on a pledge to end earmarks, don’t you? Well, the appropriations bill you signed was jam-packed with 8,000 earmarks—not 8, not 80, not even 800—nope, 8,000 earmarks!

    Maybe some of those goodies wouldn’t have made it through if someone—anyone—would have actually read the bill.

    You and all the lawmakers who signed this ghastly piece of porkulus were also burned by not reading the fine print and letting a little loophole slip through your fingers. That loophole allowed about a billion bucks in bonuses for American International Group executives. Gee, that was embarrassing.

    Then you proposed a budget that adds zillions and zillions of dollars of long-term debt. You act like all this spending will have no consequences! Haven’t you ever managed a budget before? Oh yeah, you haven’t. But, you say, “Trust me. Hurry, hurry, sign on the dotted line. We need the dough.”

    That particular move caused thousands and thousands of folks across the country to take to the streets in protest. Unfortunately, your snarky press secretary said you weren’t even aware of the Tea Party protests. Wow. If that’s true, you’re not watching enough television or reading enough newspapers. A lot of us aren't too happy about this big old debt we'll be paying down forever.

    Now you and little Timmy Turbo Geithner want the government to set limits on executive pay—even for those companies that haven’t taken any bailout money. Are you kidding me? Where’s the outrage? Why is the government acting like an HR Department? Isn’t this penalizing success? Haven’t you just crossed the line between public and private enterprise?

    If that isn’t enough, today I read that Jimmy Carter, one of the most ineffective Presidents ever, is now giving you advice on environmental issues. Remember the long lines at the gas pumps his policies led to? Can’t you find someone with better credentials to advise you?

    And, now the Environmental Protection Agency wants to tell every business how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases they can emit and tax any overages. Nevermind the internal OMB memo that says regulating greenhouse gases could actually be harmful to the economy—especially for small businesses.

    I’m not naïve. I understand it’s probably politically expedient for you to ram all this through now, while the press and the public are still enamored with you. Not to mention that your opposition is at its weakest point ever. You know, throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. But be careful. Sooner or later people are going to wake up and say, “Wait a minute!” “What happened?”

    I’m all for big ideas: health care, taxes, energy, education, regulation, should all be on the table. But why don’t we just take a deep breath and slow it down here, huh? Let’s carefully consider the ramifications. Let’s think about the future, the intended, and the unintended consequences of your ideas.

    Barack-Star if this isn’t just a power grab of epic proportions and really a sincere effort to create reform that will better our society, why not take it easy and thoughtfully?

    As my mom used to say to me, “Sleep on it. If it’s a good idea today, it will be a better idea tomorrow.”

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    American Idol Top 3 Semi-Finalists Perform Adam channels Aerosmith, Danny goes for Joe Cocker, Kris better than Kanye

    This is the night where we get to see the top 3 contestants go home for schmaltzy reunions. They'll throw out first pitches, perform in the streets, get the keys to their cities, visit their grade schools, churches, etc, and just generally have an Up With People fun time.

    Tonight Adam, Kris, and Danny will pick one song to sing and the judges will pick one song for them to sing. We all know Adam's going to win this thing. The only question that's left is who's going home next.

    {Current power rankings are in parenthesis after the contestant's name}

    Danny Gokey (2) Danny's first song "Dance Little Sister" was picked by Paula. Good thing this isn't Dancing With The Stars. It was okay. A little boring for me.

    Kris Allen (3) Randy picked "Apologize" for Kris. Sorry, Kris, I really like you...but this performance had zero magic.

    Adam Lambert (1) Simon picked U2's "One" for Adam. I've said it before...Adam's too over the top for my taste. That said, it was a great performance. Love how Simon complimented himself for his song choice.

    Danny Gokey (2) "You Are So Beautiful" Best performance by Danny in weeks. He's headed for the top 2.

    Kris Allen (3) Kanye West's "Heartless" never sounded so good. Kris has made it a competition, but I still think Danny will get more votes. Too bad. I like Kris better.

    Adam Lambert (1) "Cryin" Adam wins.

    Who should go home: Danny Gokey

    Who will go home: Kris Allen

    Book Report: Great Expectations

    You're probably thinking, "It's been a couple of weeks since she read a book! What's taking so long?"

    Well, I've been poring through Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. This is the book club selection for the month. Whew. It took awhile for me to get through all 500+ pages. Here are some examples of why:

    " . . . You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since - on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!"


    ". . . And when it come to character, warn't it Compeyson as had been to the school, and warn't it his schoolfellows as was in this position and in that, and warn't it him as had been know'd by witnesses in such clubs and societies, and nowt to his disadvantage? And warn't it me as had been tried afore, and as had been know'd up hill and down dale in Bridewells and Lock-Ups? And when it come to speech-making, warn't it Compeyson as could speak to 'em wi' his face dropping every now and then into his white pocket-handkercher - ah! and wi' verses in his speech, too - and warn't it me as could only say, 'Gentlemen, this man at my side is a most precious rascal'? And when the verdict come, warn't it Compeyson as was recommended to mercy on account of good character and bad company, and giving up all the information he could agen me, and warn't it me as got never a word but Guilty? . . ."

    So, now you understand?

    Great Expectations is the story of an orphan named Pip from the time he was seven-years-old to about 35-years-old and his efforts to become a gentleman.

    The story was first serialized in an English publication in 1860, but the plot holds up well. Dickens divided the novel into four stages of Pip's life expectations. Interestingly, there are two different endings. The original and a second one Dickens wrote because a friend suggested the first one wouldn't be accepted by the public. The version I read had both endings...I liked the original best.

    Like many of Dickens' books {eg., Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol} there's a lot of suffering and poverty portrayed throughout Great Expectations. Dickens used his books {many semi-autobiographical}to highlight the social ills of the time and the great disparity between rich and poor.

    Even though I struggled...struggled, I wade through all the ye olde English writing...I loved the story. I appreciate why there have been more than 250 stage and screen adaptations of the novel. Still, much like A Christmas Carol, I can't say I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. That said, it was good to stretch past my comfort limits.

    The plot also started me thinking about my own life's expectations and how I would divide the years up. Hmmmm.

    Saturday, May 9, 2009

    Quilts and Quiche

    Last weekend my sister-in-law and niece who live in New Jersey made a surprise visit to the midwest. Nina's family is from Belleville, so we get to see her a couple of times a year. Megan came with her this time.

    John, James, Mom, and I met Nina, her mom, niece Megan, and Nina's sisters at the Missouri History Museum. We went to the Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee’s Bend Quilts, and Beyond exhibition and a special Missouri quilt exhibition. Megan, James, and I also walked through the 1904 World's Fair Exhibition and the more modern Seeking St. Louis exhibition.

    After that we went to lunch at Meriwether's {yes, that's how it's spelled} at the museum.

    I love my sister-in-law and niece. I always think it's funny that a boy from Omaha, Nebraska found a gal from Belleville, Illinois in New York City and they lived happily ever after.

    Here are some photos:

    James, Mom, Megan


    Nina, flanked by her sisters, taking pictures

    By the way, if you go to the quilt exhibition, there's a must-see quilt in the Missouri section. It's called a taxidermy quilt. Look closely and you'll see two chipmunks and two blackbirds. Not just drawn or made out of fabrics. They're really dead chipmunks and birds, stuffed and sewn onto the quilt.

    Only in Missouri, folks. Only in Missouri.

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Public Service Announcement: Mother's Day

    "E Cards" are not appropriate for Mother's Day. Ever.

    Drew Peterson behind bars

    Drew Peterson was finally arrested in Chicago and indicted for the murder of his third wife. Thank goodness it was before he could walk down the aisle a fifth time and marry that poor witless 23-year-old who's been living with him. Authorities must think they have a rock solid case...the former police sergeant is being held on a $20 million dollar bond.

    I know, I know. Innocent until proven guilty. Tell that to the family of Drew's third wife Kathleen Savio whose body (with head wounds) was found in a dry bathtub after she drowned and the family of fourth wife Stacie Peterson who disappeared nearly two years ago and has never been found.

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    A woman scorned

    I've been thinking about how to write this for a few days. Ever since the news first hit that Elizabeth Edwards had written a book and included a section on her husband's cheating on her, something's been bothering me.

    The name of Elizabeth Edwards' public catharsis is Resilience.

    I feel sorry for Elizabeth Edwards' because her teenaged son died in a car accident. I feel sorry for Elizabeth Edwards that she has terminal breast cancer. I feel sorry for the three kids she'll leave behind.

    I don't feel sorry for Elizabeth Edwards because her husband cheated on her and may have an out-of-wedlock child with his mistress.

    By her own admission, Elizabeth Edwards became aware of her husband's affair before they decided--together--to make a run for the Presidency. They obviously calculated that none of these sordid details would come out before the election. One thing that Elizabeth Edwards didn't comment on in any of her interviews are the many reports that her husband, John, continued his affair long after beginning his second campaign to become President of the United States.

    I've been wondering why Elizabeth Edwards is subjecting us to her intimate story. I've been wondering why Elizabeth Edwards would leave this as a legacy to her three children. I've been wondering why Elizabeth Edwards is staying with this guy who most likely fathered a child while she was undergoing cancer treatment. And, I'm wondering why she seems to absolve her husband of guilt and lay it all at the feet of his mistress who with her mata-hari-like come on of "You're so hot," made him succumb to her powers. Oh, please.

    Maybe she wants us to think of her as a victim. Of course she is a victim. But this public cry for attention victimizes her even further. Too bad, before this book, I always thought Elizabeth Edwards was a pretty strong woman.

    Now--to make matters worse--the National Enquirer {which actually was the first to report all the details of this story} is reporting that John Edwards' former flame wants a DNA test to prove he's her baby's daddy. Apparently, all these interviews Elizabeth Edwards has been doing have gotten under her skin and she's reconsidered her previous decision to lay low and play nicely. The straw might have been when the saintly Elizabeth called the "other woman's" baby `it' on national television.

    And through it all...who haven't we heard from? Why John Edwards himself! Probably just a matter of time before he starts gushing to Katie Couric.

    Personally, I wish they'd all just go away and handle their personal affairs in private.

    American Idol 2009 Top 4 Results

    Danny was absolutely the worst performer last night. Even so, he'll probably be safe. I'm predicting Kris Allen doesn't have a big enough fan base to keep him in the race.

    Kris Allen: safe...okay, I was wrong...can I make a new prediction?

    Adam Lambert: surprise

    Danny Gokey: safe

    Allison Iraheta is out!

    I will miss Allison and look forward to her first CD.

    Zappos Shoe Map...Vast wasteland

    Someone in Cedar Rapids, Iowa just bought these Kenneth Cole "Spice It Up" shoes for $88.95. I know that because I got mesmerized by's real-time google map showing shoe purchases. If you want to waste some time too, go here. Zappos Map

    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Dom Deluise RIP 1933-2009

    American Idol 2009 Top 4 Adam and Allison Rock It Out

    Tonight's rock theme should favor Adam and Allison, and could actually tip the scales.

    Last year's rock night was the undoing of both Jason Castro and David Archuleta. Danny needs to keep his cheese-ball tendencies under control. Please don't sing "Old Time Rock and Roll." Allison should channel her inner Heart or Bonnie Raitt and let loose. No advice for Kris (the only real musician left in the competition). My advice for Adam is to try to be understated. That would be a change for him.

    There's also a rumor that the contestants will be singing a second song...a duet with another contestant. Who knows how that will work out.

    Some behind-the-scenes notes...a production assistant fell off the set today, so there was no dress rehearsal and Adam and Kris are feuding.

    {Current power rankings are in parenthesis after the contestant's name}

    Adam Lambert (1)I think this is the first time Adam's been first. He's sing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love". I know I'm in the minority, but it's just too much of everything for my taste. Too much eyeliner, too much silver jacket, to much scowling. I like the original version better. That said, I know the judges will love him and you probably will too. Simon even predicts that noone else will top his performance.

    Allison Iraheta (4) Allison sing Janis Joplin's "Cry Baby". I think Allison looks amazing tonight. She completely channels her rock side. Can't wait for her first album. The judges diss her.

    Kris & Danny Duet: Amazing that singing with Kris, Danny's voice sounds melodic, but weak. He's clearly not comfortable with the whole rock genre. Harmonies were awesome. Simon disagrees with me and says Danny's better than Kris.

    {The Glee commercial mays it look like a fun show.}

    Kris Allen (3) Yipee yipee yipee!! A Beatles tune: Come Together. Okay, it's already obvious that the judges are pushing for an Adam/Danny show down in the finals. So, I'm predicting they're really come down hard on Kris' performance. I thought it was fun. Randy liked his guitar playing. Kara didn't like the performance. Paula called him an artist, but he needs more energy. Simon didn't like it and called it boring. So my prediction was correct.

    Danny Gokey (2)Aerosmith's "Dream On" is as close to a ballad and still a rock song as possible. Every week I'm amazed at how many notes Danny misses and doesn't get busted on..and I'm not talking about the final note. I'm talking about the easy ones at the beginning. Terrible. Even though Simon said it was a horror show...he predicted he'll be safe tonight. Wow. That's how much they're in the tank for this guy.

    Allison and Adam Duet: "Slow Ride." Head and shoulders beyond the Kris and Danny duet.

    Who should go home {based on tonight}: Danny

    Who will go home: Kris Allen

    American Idol Power Rankings Top 4

    Here are this week's power rankings:

    1. Adam Lambert
    2. Danny Gokey
    3. Kris Allen
    4. Allison Iraheta

    We have a 1 through 4, but beware this is a t-i-g-h-t race.

    There's all kind of internet speculation that favorite Adam Lambert may be too far out of the mainstream to actually win the title. Ditto for Allison. That leaves Danny "my wife died" Gokey and squeaky clean Kris.

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    Phony baloney

    Remember back in the day when I told you John Edwards was a big phony?

    Well, I was right.

    Friday, May 1, 2009

    Public Service Announcement: Good Eats


    I love ice cold Gazpacho. It's not difficult to make--especially if you have a food processor. But my new favorite Gazpacho comes from Trader Joe's. Look for it in the refrigerated section next to the cheeses. It's filled with raw vegetables--tomatoes, cukes, onions, green peppers, jalapenos. And it has a fun kick. 16 oz. only has 90 calories.

    Great way to get all those enzymes everyone tells us we need.

    Let them eat cake

    Mobama's $540 Lanvin sneakers worn when she volunteered at the D.C. food bank. I like them, but can't agree with the White House spin that "they're just shoes."