Sunday, August 31, 2008
Bringing Pell Grants to My Eyes
By SARAH VOWELL
Published: August 30, 2008
ON Monday night at the Democratic National Convention, Caroline Kennedy introduced a tribute to her uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, by pointing out, “If your child is getting an early boost in life through Head Start or attending a better school or can go to college because a Pell Grant has made it more affordable, Teddy is your senator, too.”
To my surprise, I started to cry. Started to cry like I was watching the last 10 minutes of “Brokeback Mountain” instead of C-SPAN. This was whimpering brought on by simple, spontaneous gratitude.
I paid my way through Montana State University with student loans, a minimum-wage job making sandwiches at a joint called the Pickle Barrel, and — here come the waterworks — Pell Grants. Thanks to Pell Grants, I had to work only 30 hours a week up to my elbows in ham instead of 40.
Ten extra hours a week might sound negligible, but do you know what a determined, junior-Hillary type of hick with a full course load and onion-scented hands can do with the gift of 10 whole hours per week? Not flunk geology, that’s what. Take German every day at 8 a.m. — for fun! Wander into the office of the school paper on a whim and find a calling. I’m convinced that those 10 extra hours a week are the reason I graduated magna cum laude, which I think is Latin for “worst girlfriend in town.”
Twenty years after my first financial aid package came through, I have paid off my college and graduate school loans and I have paid back the federal government in income taxes what it doled out to me in Pell Grants so many, many, many, many times over it’s a wonder I’m not a Republican.
But I would like to point out that my perfectly ordinary education, received in public schools and a land grant university, is not merely the foundation on which I make a living. My education made my life. In a sometimes ugly world, my schooling opened a trap door to a bottomless pit of beauty — to Walt Whitman and Louis Armstrong and Frank Lloyd Wright, to the old movies and old masters that have been my constant companions in my unalienable pursuit of happiness.
I’m a New Yorker now. Every now and then when I have time to kill in Midtown, I duck into the Museum of Modern Art to stare at Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” I love looking at the picture, but I also love looking back on when and where and how I first saw it — on a slide in a first-year art history course in which some of my fellow students were ranchers’ sons who wore actual cowboy hats to class. It was a course I paid for, in part, with a Pell Grant, a program always and as ever championed by “my senator,” Ted Kennedy, a program so dear to Barack Obama’s heart that increasing the maximum amount of Pell Grants for needy students was the first bill he introduced upon arrival in the United States Senate.
I am a registered Democrat. That first night’s convention speech by Senator Kennedy about his life’s work reminded me what being a Democrat means. I have spent the last eight years so disgusted with the incompetent yahoos of the executive branch that I had forgotten that I believe in one of the core principles of the Democratic Party — that government can be a useful, meaningful and worthwhile force for good in this republic instead of just an embarrassing, torturing, Book of Revelation starter kit.
When Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke on Tuesday night, she brought up some of the people she met in her thwarted campaign for the nomination, including a young marine beseeching her for better medical care for himself and his comrades, and an uninsured single mother with cancer rearing two autistic children.
Imploring her most ardent supporters, some of whom have been, let’s say, a tad tepid about backing Senator Obama, Senator Clinton said, “I want you to ask yourselves: were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for that young marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids?” In other words, in a fine display of adulthood, she asked her delegates to decide whether they are in a cult of personality or members of the Democratic Party.
Barack Obama is the best possible presidential candidate to campaign for traditional Democratic ideals because of his ability to stir party diehards and rally new voters, because of his backbone, his gift for oratory, formidable intelligence, compelling back story, swell wife, adorable offspring and no small amount of cool. I mean, the morning after that acceptance speech in front of 80,000 people, even Richard Nixon’s personal Rasputin, Pat Buchanan, was on MSNBC calling Senator Obama “manly.”
Honestly, when I think about how Senator Obama would handle the nuts and bolts of governing I have no more and no less faith in him than any of his major rivals for the nomination of the Democratic Party. This is actually a huge compliment. They were a seriously solid group. Compare them to the incoherent Republican primary field, a set of candidates expressly invented to make the average Republican voter nervous: the businessman was too Mormon-y; the evangelical might worship Jesus more than money; Senator McCain has campaign reform cooties; Ron Paul was Ron Paul.
But I would have been content with any one of the Democratic candidates in the Oval Office — Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, even John Edwards (because it is possible to make bad decisions about one’s private life and still have good ideas about health care). Each one has his or her gaping drawbacks, of course, but that’s always going to be true of people seeking a job only a damaged lunatic would want.
When Barack Obama talks about an America as it should be, I’m guessing the best of all possible countries he imagines would look awfully similar to the ideal America just about every registered Democrat would dream up. Picture this: a wind-powered public school classroom of 19 multiracial 8-year-olds reading above grade level and answering the questions of their engaging, inspirational teacher before going home to a cancer-free (or in remission) parent or parents who have to work only eight hours a day in a country at war solely with the people who make war on us, where maybe Exxon Mobil can settle for, oh, $8 billion in quarterly profits instead of $11 billion, and the federal government’s point man for Biblical natural disasters is someone who knows more about emergency management than how to put on a horse show. Is that really too much to ask? Can we do that?
As Senator Obama, the plainspoken former editor of The Harvard Law Review would answer, yes, we can. As the recipient of a partly federally subsidized, fancy wallet-size diploma from Montana State, I prefer to put it this way: Indubitably, we shall.
Sarah Vowell is the author of “Assassination Vacation” and the forthcoming “The Wordy Shipmates,” about the New England Puritans.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Brother One was classmates with Tom Lin the director at that high school. So Brother One and his friend here in Atlanta who is also a classmate of Tom's are driving up to Toronto for the film fest.
I've been Googling the movie and wow, does that bring back memories.
Friday, August 29, 2008
I thought, if I'm worried enough to consider taking him to the vet, I should just take him to the vet. Plus, I realized that he's had very little to eat or drink for 3 days now and that can't be good.
Despite his weakness, Moises found the strength to struggle as I tried to put him in the cat carrier. Then on the car ride over, he peed in the carrier. It smelled pretty bad.
Because he messed himself, the vet had to examine him in the wet room, so I waited out in the waiting room and the vet would come out periodically to tell me what was going on. Good thing I had my knitting with me, and they had some recent Newsweek magazines.
Basically, Moises has a fever and a bit dehydrated, so they gave him some antibiotics and a hydration shot or something and I brought him home. Oh, they also washed out his carrier and gave him a bath.
When we got home, I let him out of the carrier outside and he's been out there sunning himself. He's feeling better now and I'm feeling better for having him checked out.
It's been a day at the doctors for both of us. Me to the peridontist in the morning, him to the vet in the afternoon.
Democrats: Barack Obama and Joe Biden. First ever black person to be presidential nominee.
Republicans: John McCain and Sarah Palin. First ever woman to run on a Republican presidential ticket.
What's usually left unspoken: the other half of the ticket is a straight white man.
Of course the Democrats have been doing it longer. Shirley Chisholm could have been the first black woman to head a presidential ticket, but the US wasn't quite ready for that in 1970s.
And apparently we're still not quite ready thirty years later.
But we're getting there! Change happens over generations. Oh, wait, it has been generations!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Usually, he comes to greet us when we come home and demands attention, and then is very eager to be let outside.
We've put food and water in our bedroom so he won't have to walk so far to get sustenance.
Today, his breathing has been more labored.
Tomorrow, I'll take him to the vet if he's not doing any better by the time I get home from the dental appointment after 1pm.
Language ability is totally unrelated to golfing ability. Heck, you can be mute and play golf.
The LPGA says it wants the golfers to be able to interact with sponsors and others who pay to play with the golfers in pro-am tournaments.
Bah! You're there to play golf! And there are such people as interpreters.
If American athletes playing on teams in other countries (Japanese baseball, European basketball) and had to speak those other languages, there would be very few who would pass that test.
What a stupid idea.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Why is she not the nominee? Why is she not on the ticket?!?????
She gave a great speech, asking Democrats to unite behind Barack Obama, and that we were not just voting for her, but for all those who want a better life in the US.
Yes, I will vote for Obama in November and yes, I vote for a better US.
But when I cast my vote in the primaries, it was for Hillary, and I'll do it again.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
And I'll probably just use the scarf as-is, which is about 5 feet unblocked. That's enough to keep me warm.
Monday, August 18, 2008
(Warning, the pictures and paragraphs don't quite match. Not sure what I'm doing wrong in Blogger)
It rained on the way there. We went up Lookout Mountain to Buffalo Bill's grave, but since it was cold and rainy, we didn't see much.
Husband and I drove over to Best Friend's house for a pancake breakfast at their house. We were late because I was watching C-SPAN. They replayed the forum Rick Warren (author of the Purpose Driven Life, pastor of megachurch) had with Barack Obama and John McCain. Good stuff.
It was sad to leave Best Friend and the visit was much too short. But on the whole I'm very glad that we got together to mark half a lifetime of friendship.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Just checked the weather. It's going to be cool over there, getting down to the 40s F at night and only the 60s F
I'll be packing the wool Emerald sweater from Knitty I just finished for Sister. Might as well enjoy it a bit before giving it away. Pictures to come when the light is better. Maybe one from Denver.
I really enjoyed making Emerald, a raglan sweater knit from the bottom up. I'm thinking of doing another, from the top down, so I pulled out Fitted Knits by Stephanie Japel and went onto Ravelry to see what would work.
It was kind of disheartening to see so many people mentioning how many mistakes there were in the directions. Some people said that the errata wasn't complete enough. Others said it was important to read your knitting, not the instructions so much.
And the yarn I got for my next project isn't the blue I expected. It's a bit more muted that I wanted, so I'll just save it for another baby blanket. Someone's always having babies.
I shouldn't start anything new now, though. I have plenty of UFOs to work on, plus the yarn for my mom's Wool Peddler shawl is on it's way.
I should probably go pack before it gets much later. Early flight tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
- Writing my blog.
- surfing Ravelry for a cardigan pattern. Never mind that I have the yarn and pattern picked out and swatched for the Mirabella cardigan.
- Surfing Facebook.
- Drinking wine.
Working on a grant proposal due Friday. But since I'm going out of town Friday, in reality, the proposal's due tomorrow.
Sigh. It's 10:56pm. I should hunker down, knock this proposal out and go to bed. Then tomorrow morning look at what I've written, make edits, have someone else read it, finalize, and e-mail it off.
It may be another late night tomorrow. Because I have other reports and such due tomorrow too.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Then this morning, I went to fill the bird feeders and got stung by a bee. On the bottom of one of my middle toes. It may be between the toes. I'm not sure. All I know is that my foot hurts and there's an ache going up the back of the leg.
I've soaked my toes in a baking powder paste per Husband's instructions. He says it will draw out the poison. I've taken some pain meds too. Because other aches include a headache. That could be a hangover from last night or a continuation of headaches that I've been having since Wednesday.
My lower teeth and gums hurt too. 10 days ago I had some deep cleaning done and they weren't kidding when they said my teeth would be sensitive to everything for weeks.
Okay, that's it for the recital of aches and pains. I'm going to go mow the lawn while it's still less than unbearably hot.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Fortunately, I always check to see how the post looks on the blog right afterwards and that's when I realized that posted a personal blog post to the work blog. Thank goodness for cut and paste and DELETE POST.
I also recently joined Facebook, for networking for work. I used my real name, my real workplace, etc. The people who are my friends are people I met on my European fellowship and that was kind of a work thing.
So now I have one more online presence to manage.
I got On Line Linie 119 from Elann.com. It looks more like a worsted weight, but the gauge says 21 sts = 10 cm. It's been a while since I've done the metric conversion, but after a bit of math, it looks like Linie 119 knits up 5.25 sts to the inch. So it's the wrong yarn for the project. Hmm.
Looks like I'll have to go with my back up project, which is this scarf in Great Adirondacks Soxie in Blueberry. Gorgeous emerald blue, cobalt blue, and royal purple. Just my colors. This picture does no justice to the yarn.
Friday, August 8, 2008
However, I was in the area, so I stopped in. For the Ravelympics, I want to make something I will be able to wear right away, so no wool cardigans. Besides, I'm almost done with Sister's wool sweater, Emerald from Knitty, and am ready for something lighter.
Just a half a row around the collar then bind off. I'll put toggles on it instead of buttons. It's a bit tight on me, but Sister's at least one size smaller than me, so I hope it fits. I'm using Lamb's Pride Bulky, in the Ocean colorway, which is turquoise blues, not teal like you see here.
So, the Ravelympics is an activity where any knitter or crocheter on Ravelry takes on the challenge of completing a project (or projects) within 17 days during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
I have 2 projects in mind, depending on yarn availability. Ideally, I will be making the Mirabella cardigan from Interweave Knits Summer 2008. It's knit in a bulky cotton yarn which I've ordered from Elann.com. It may arrive today, it may not.If not, my back up is to crochet a scarf from a skein of Soxie in Blueberry from Great Adirondacks yarn. I got it years ago at the yarn shop which will not be named.
The pattern will be a simple shell trellis mesh, very airy and open, to be used more for decoration than warmth. I have to admit, I've started it already. The rules are, You must cast on a project during the Opening Ceremonies. Given that the opening ceremonies were underway in Beijing when I cast on this morning, I think I'm still technically within the rules.
So what's the unexpected haul? Lots of sale yarn including:
5 skeins of Cotton Classic, at $17 for the lot.
A one-pound cone of unknown thin yellow. I'm guessing fingering weight and cotton. $5.25 for that.
And the best buy was 14 skeins of Rowan Felted Tweed in 151 Bilberry for $91 instead of the usual $140. Not sure what I'll do with it but I just got the Interweave Knits Fall 2008 and there's always the Sunrise Circle cardigan.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I had to go to 3 polling places before I could finally vote. My first name is Chinese, which is still considered unusual in Georgia and so it was misspelled in the voter rolls. I'm actually entered twice and turns out I got sent to the polling place for my old address, not my new address.
I got to the electronic voting booth and voted in the Martin vs. Jones race then hit enter to go to the next race. Well, there was no next race because my old district didn't have a race and I had actually hit "cast ballot" not "next" like I thought.
The polling supervisor was there and I filled out a change of address form and all that. I said, I just want to make sure that this is cleared up before November! I got her number so I will follow up later. November's election will be very important and I want to make sure my vote gets counted!
Anyway, I did get to vote for the race I was most interested in and my candidate in the other race won even without my vote. And I got to drive around southern Cobb County, going thru neighborhoods I didn't know about. I could have used the major roads to get to the third polling place, but decided to pull out the map, use the backroads, and listen to my iPod.
Despite it all, it wasn't a bad way to spend a morning.