"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Feelin' Minnesota

Cold Minn. Town Without Weather Observer - EarthLink - Strange News:
"TOWER, Minn. - You betcha it gets cold up here, but how will we know how cold this year?
This small northeastern Minnesota town that recorded the state's record low in 1996 - a pretty nippy 60 degrees below zero - is without an official weather observer.
The woman who previously held the post left in mid-October; she'd reported Tower's daily temperature and precipitation since 1972.
In the meantime, highs and lows are being recorded at a building in town that stands at a higher elevation than the official weather station. Colder air typically drains into the valley.
Tower, about 35 miles south of the Canadian border, and nearby Embarrass usually vie for Minnesota's daily low, forecasters say. Both towns are generally apart by a degree or two.
Mike Stewart, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Duluth, said the agency is searching for a replacement to fill the spot in the valley.
'It's not going to go by the wayside. It's very important to keep that going there,' Stewart said Monday.
Embarrass still has an official observer, Stewart said. The low there was 8 below zero Monday."

This is why I love living up here. You have to love a state where small towns compete over the daily low temperature, and fret that they might not get credit for being the coldest place this side of a penguin's butt.

Actually, there are a lot of reasons to find Minnesota both congenial and amusing.

People go ice-fishing for fun up here. It's true. Did you know there's an ice shack parade? I think it's in Winona. Once a year, as the ice fishing season opens, people parade their custom ice shacks through the streets. Some of them are quite clever--I saw one once that looked like the Addams Family mansion in miniature. All this to block the wind while you go ice-fishing.

Now, I consider myself a Minnesotan, but there must be a little Texas left in me because I will never squat on an overturned bucket while trying to fish through a hole in the ice in an attempt to have a good time. Perhaps in an attempt to get food, should I ever end up that destitute, but definitely not for entertainment.

Minnesota is quite possibly the only place in the contiguous forty-eight where you can wear a hat with ear flaps in public and not be the object of great hilarity. Heck, there are days when I laugh at people who aren't wearing flap hats. Most of those days are in January.

Most native Minnesotans don't think of construction or rental agreements when they hear the term "boarding". (It's a hockey thing.)

And last but certainly not least, Canadian coins work in our vending machines.

What's not to love...eh?

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Monday, November 29, 2004

The No-Politics Post

Hi! Long time, no post, huh?

Wow, I really needed that long weekend. It fortified me to face the utter meltdown of my current project at work today, which I pretty much expected after the events of Wednesday. I should have known sooner--that project went much too smoothly until then.

Have you ever accidentally left your cash card in an ATM, and it sucked it back in and destroyed it? Mr. Third Base Line has done that twice in the last year, but he's gotten his reward for suffering through my unsympathetic laughter--my card got eaten, too. Guess when? Yes, it was on Wednesday. It's amazing how quickly you can lose 20 years and feel like a kid waiting for an allowance when your cash flow is entirely dependent on someone else. That, and you feel slightly dumber than mold for losing the damn thing in the first place. I think I'll stick to the machines where you swipe your card from now on, thanks.

The Ladies of Tortuga Knitting and Keelhauling Society met again this weekend. It was a reduced group, due to familial obligations over Thankstaking weekend, but we had a good time. Two of our number learned to knit for the first time and are now busy creating the obligatory scarf. I have never met anyone whose first knitting project wasn't a scarf, come to think of it. Well, they are easy. I'm currently working on a shawl (for Shiela's Shawls), a scarf (for Paul's Scarves) and a pair of gloves (for a friend to add to her Renaissance Festival garb). One of these days I'll get around to posting pictures.

Well, that's it for my lunch break today. Back to the salt mines...!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Programmer" <> "Mind Reader"

Top five tips for working effectively with programmers/developers/engineers:

5. If we liked people, we wouldn't be programmers.

4. We can explain technology to you in terms you can understand, and we will if we think you'll actually listen.

3. Remember, you signed off on the requirements--you have no right to be angry when we code what you asked for, not what you meant.

2. Regardless of what your kindergarten teacher told you, there is such a thing as a stupid question. (If you must ask it anyway, please wait until after we've had our first cup of coffee.)


1. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

15 Million Lost Opportunities

MSNBC - Democrats question Kerry's nest egg:
"WASHINGTON - Democratic Party leaders want to know why Sen. John Kerry ended his presidential campaign with more than $15 million in the bank, money that could have helped Democratic candidates across the country."


Think a cool $15 million could have changed things in Ohio and/or Florida?

The party symbol is looking more appropriate everyday, folks...

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Brand Democrat

Quiz time, ladies and gents.

What have the Democrats failed at most spectacularly in the last decade?

a) Framing the debate
b) Fielding electable candidates
c) Making their positions heard over the Republican noise machine
d) Grassroots organizing

Well, okay, they've failed rather spectacularly at all of the above. But fixing "c" would give "a" a big push, reduce the impact of "b" and energize the folks we need for "d".

Some guy named Oliver Willis has apparently had enough, thank you very much, and is launching Brand Democrat. This campaign is not affiliated with the DNC (when was the last time they came up with or even put their stamp of approval on anything new and different?), but is a (gasp) grassroots effort by everyday Democrats to redefine the party...since the party won't or can't redefine itself.

And, get this--it's a pro-Democrat campaign. Not an anti-Republican campaign. Not a reacting-to-conservative-smears campaign. We've done enough of that, haven't we? And people hate negative ads, don't they? They react to them because there isn't enough positive campaigning to base their opinions on. And no, I'm not going to get into the foolishness of basing your opinions on campaign ads--it happens, it happens far too much, enough said.

A sample of Brand Democrat:

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Monday, November 22, 2004

Mood Music

So I've got this MP3 player that holds my entire CD collection and still has half its available space free. I love this thing. I can listen to music while working (what, you didn't think I actually work with people, did you? Ha!), walking, riding the bus, whatever. Usually I select music to match my mood, but lately (since Black Tuesday) the shoe's been on the other foot. Listen to something long enough, your mood will change to match.

Here's what's running down the batteries lately:

Nickelback (angry, yet strangely optimistic)

Great Big Sea (four relentlessly cheerful goofballs in Newfoundland)

The Levellers (tree-hugging wacko commie liberals in England)

Voltaire (Goth satire, gotta love it)

Michael Bublé (a blast from the past to take your mind off the blasts from the present)

The Corsairs (pirate music--arrrrr!)

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Friday, November 19, 2004

DeLay-ing Justice

CNN.com - House GOP change rules to shield DeLay - Nov 17, 2004:
"WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans approved a party rules change Wednesday that could allow Majority leader Tom DeLay to retain his leadership post if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury on state political corruption charges."

They...I...what...*sputter* These are the people who accuse the Democrats of partisan corruption?!?!?

Not that the Dems don't have their fair share of slimeballs, but please, have a little subtlety! At least pretend you don't think we're all morons. Christ on a cracker!

I'm not going to go off on the long list of DeLay's misdeeds, because I fully expect Fourth Pew Center to do that any minute now, and to do so much better than I could being that she's in Texas. Let it for now suffice to say that DeLay and Cheney are cut from the same cloth.

It's not so much what they're doing that upsets me--of course they're going to protect one of the party elite, however nefarious he is--it's how obvious they are about it. Do they think we don't understand? Do they think we don't care? Do they think we're all cowering behind our sofas waiting for the terrorists to barge in, and can't be bothered to notice anything else? Do they think we're stupid?

Well, yes. Yes they do. And sadly, they're mostly right. America's collective head is wedged firmly in its collective posterior. And it's really starting to stink in here.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents,
more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some
great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their
heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a
downright moron."
--H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Gratitude and Recipes

Okay, so, just when I'm starting to feel particularly squeezed by the demands of job, home, writing, knitting for charity, making contingency plans against moronic presidents involving crossing the Canadian border, knitting for gifts, and dieting, my coworker in the soul-sucking cubicle across the aisle (who, incidentally, has kids, a burden I do not share) snaps his Achilles tendon. Ouch. Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

And the Thanksgiving dinner at our place this year will be:

Beef roast in cranberry gravy
Rosemary potatoes
Almond citrus salad
and a Syllabub for dessert

Beef Roast in Cranberry Gravy
Place a lean beef roast in a slow cooker. Add one bottle cranberry marinade*, a couple dashes of black pepper, and a bay leaf. Add Guiness or concentrated beef broth until roast is nearly covered. Add 1/2 cup red wine or port. Cook on lowest setting 8 hours, or medium for 4 (roast will be more tender with lower temp and longer cook). Remove roast (carefully), cover with foil to preserve heat. Remove bay leaf. Make gravy from the liquid that remains in the cooker, salt gravy to taste. If you don't know how to make gravy, I can't help you.

*several brands available, your local grocery store should have at least one. Failing that, mix 1/2 cup cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly with 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice and mix in blender until smooth

Rosemary Potatoes
Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut 2 pounds red potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Finely chop some fresh rosemary. Brush baking sheet with olive oil. Place a layer of potato slices on baking sheet, brush tops with olive oil. Sprinkle rosemary and salt and pepper on top, to taste.
Bake until golden and edges are crisp, about 20 minutes. You can bake two sheets at once by putting one on the lower shelf and one on the upper, switching halfway through cycle.

Almond Citrus Salad
In a large salad bowl, toss: field greens, quartered rings of red onion, halved segments of grapefruit, sliced strawberries, almond slivers, dried cranberries (craisins), carrot slices or shreds, and raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Stir 6 tablespoons sweet dessert wine (such as late-harvest Riesling), 6 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon brandy, 1 teaspoon (packed) grated lemon peel and a generous pinch of ground nutmeg in medium bowl. Let mixture stand at room temperature to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.
Beat 1 cup chilled whipping cream in large bowl until very stiff peaks form. Gently fold in wine mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time. Spoon syllabub into 4 coupes or wineglasses. Cover and chill. (Can be made 1 day in advance.)

Garnish with fresh raspberries, if desired, and serve.

P.S. If you're lucky enough to live near a Penzey's store, get your spices and seasonings there. Their stock is far superior to what you'll find in the grocery store, and quality spices make a big difference in flavor!

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Monday, November 15, 2004

Life's Little Ironies #752

95% of minor illnesses surface early Saturday and are greatly improved by Monday morning.

Most of the rest strike on Friday night.

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Friday, November 12, 2004

OSHA Doesn't Cover This

So, have you ever been sitting in your cubicle, puzzling something out and kind of swivelling back and forth in your chair, and you accidentally swivel a bit too far and pin your arm between your chair and the desk?

It hurts. Quite a lot, actually. On the bright side, it completely negates the need for another cup of what we here in the office like to laughingly call "coffee".

TGIF, folks!

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Well, Color Me Stunned

Say, there IS justice in the world!

Minnesota Twins News:
"For much of the 2004 season, Twins pitcher Johan Santana didn't just beat opposing hitters. Often, he overwhelmed and owned them in impressive fashion.
On Thursday, Santana was named the winner of the American League Cy Young Award.
In voting results by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Santana claimed all 28 first-place votes and defeated runner-up Curt Schilling of the Red Sox, who received 27 of 28 second-place votes."

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Will he or won't he?

Win the Cy Young Award, that is.

Johan Santana is the obvious choice--even his closest competition for the award, Boston's Curt Schilling, has said as much. But Johan does not pitch for an east coast team, and so we cannot be sure. Part of me says he'd have to end the season 25-0 with an ERA under 1.00 to even have a shot, and part of me has a flicker of faith in the baseball writers. But only a flicker, mind you.

It's hard to believe in anything that involves voting, these days...

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Trying to Lose

Diet watch:
-15 lbs from a high I refuse to disclose and shudder to recall.
+15 lbs over goal.
Verdict - halfway there.

A couple of years ago I (inadvertently) traded my smoking habit for an extra 25 pounds, and I wasn't exactly fit to begin with. As much as I've fretted over those pounds and the battle to lose them, plus a few, my health was never really in question. Even at my highest weight, it was far better for me than a pack a day.

According to an article I read this morning, most people can't say the same. Apparently obesity rates among adults have doubled in America since 1991.

Doubled. In less than fifteen years. Zounds. What were we thinking?

Losing fifteen pounds was like pulling teeth. I can't imagine losing 150. Or 50, for that matter. Did you know that Denver has the lowest obesity (BMI > 30) rate in the country, at 14.2%? That's a lot, for being the lowest. San Antonio has the highest at a stunning 31.1%. It's true. Even keeping in mind that a fair number of obese people have medical conditions which make it impossible or nearly so for them to maintain a healthy weight without medications and/or surgery, those figures are awfully high.

Expanding (pardon the pun) our purview to include the obese and the overweight (BMI 25+), the winner is Portland, Maine with a 49.3% incidence. On the other end of the spectrum is Charleston, West Virginia with a mind-boggling 67.8%. If nearly half the people in the least overweight city in the country are overweight, we've got a problem.

This really is everyone's problem, no matter your weight. Having half the population in a perpetually unhealthy condition isn't going to do us any favors with regards to the cost of health care and health insurance, for one thing. For another, severe obesity can and does cause disability, which means more people dependent on public assistance. The list goes on.

We all know that we, as a society, have developed some very bad habits with regards to eating and exercise. We know what we should eat and how we should be active, but we don't do it. We understand that our health is easily overset by too much cheap food and too little exercise, but it's so much more appealing to sit on the couch and eat a pizza than go jogging and have a granola bar. It's hard to admit that most of us are fully responsible for our own squishy bits. We blame heredity and reach for the remote control. I know I'm guilty of it.

So where do we go? It's so easy to say "eat right and exercise", and so hard to do it. And yet, paradoxically, people who have eaten right and exercised and still couldn't lose the weight are scorned for taking the "easy way out" when they have life-saving surgery. Whatever you need to do, whatever your doctor urges you to do, go for it.

I was going to segue into a bit about increasing rates of childhood obesity here, but it's just too sad. We adults can handle the consequences of our own (in)actions, but children know only what they're taught. It seems like every time I pass a McDonald's I see at least one terribly overweight child waddling in behind an equally overweight parent, and I really just want to run up and shake said parent until their teeth rattle. Whatever the root cause of an individual's excess weight, fast food is not going to help.

But oh, it's so cheap and convenient. Here's a thought, however: its consequences aren't.

Granola, anyone?

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Monday, November 08, 2004

Twins Hot Stove Report: Preheating

Three 2004 Twins are on the free agent market as we speak: RHP Brad Radke, 3B Corey Koskie, and SS Christian Guzman.

Radke has been offered a two-year contract but will wait until he can hear what other teams are offering (they can start making their offers on the 11th) before deciding. While the Twins are sure to receive a "hometown discount" for Radke's services, a particularly lucrative offer from another team might lure him away.

Whether they re-sign Radke, and for how much, will probably be the determining factor in whether and how generously they make overtures to Guzman and Koskie. Koskie appears to be attracting a lot of attention, while Guzman has the bad luck to be entering a free agent market filled to the brim with competent shortstops.

If Radke moves on, I expect to see the Twins re-sign both infielders, but if he stays one or both will be wearing a different uniform next season. There's not much to do now but wait and see where Radke lands.

Edit: Catcher Henry Blanco is also testing the free agent market, after exercising a clause in his contract which allowed him to file for free agency even if the Twins picked up the option on his contract (they did). After his heroic performance last season, he's no doubt hoping to pull in a bit more than the option value. His re-signing will depend, I believe, entirely upon how much he asks for. The amounts he could command aren't sufficient to derail the Twins' plans with regards to the other three free agents, and they do have a few catchers in the system ready to compete for Blanco's job in spring training if he should leave the organization.

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Saturday, November 06, 2004

Hockey Schtick

So. It's finally starting to set in.

No Wild.
No hockey.
And a long winter coming.

We had baseball, then politics to distract us. But alas, blare of goal horns will not break the silence that follows, and it's a very long time until baseball season begins. Whatever shall I watch while I knit?

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Friday, November 05, 2004

Going to Ground

Hello, everyone. How's life in the United States of Jesus treating you? Don't forget, it's easier to flee if you've already got a Canadian work permit, so get those forms filled out and mailed in!

Me? Oh, I'm doing okay. I've decided to be absolutely f---ing furious for a few weeks, mostly at the Democratic party (how on earth do you lose to a guy who started a senseless war, turned a massive budget surplus into a deficit so large we're actually near the limit of our national credit--it's true!, neutered the EPA to the extent that there are now a number of Minnesota lakes so full of mercury from legal industrial emissions that fishing is prohibited, and can't pronounce words of more than two syllables?), but after that I'm going to find a way to calm down. I hear opium works nicely.

On the bright side, it's remarkably easy to retreat into fantasy when the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Since I'm not only retreating but also recording, I should get a lot of writing done in the next few years, right? Right. Remember the bright side. Life is good, I'm getting lots done, pay no attention to the fundamentalists behind the curtain, la la la la la la la la...

So anyway, if I don't answer the phone, I'm probably spending some quality time with the laptop and the mp3 player. Just leave a message. I'll get back to you when I can bear to look out the window again.


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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Ex-Wild center Zholtok dies in Latvia

Ex-Wild center Zholtok dies in Latvia:
"NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Former Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators center Sergei Zholtok died Wednesday in his native Latvia of an apparent heart ailment. He was 31.
Zholtok was playing for Riga 2000 this year during the NHL lockout. News reports said he excused himself from a game in Belarus and collapsed and died on the way to the locker room."

Oh, Zholi. We're going to miss you.

For those who don't follow the Wild, this guy was amazing. He wasn't the second coming of Wayne Gretsky, but he was fast and fearless. He helped younger players adjust to the league and improve their games. He took time off from the NHL to play for his native Latvian team in the spring World Championships several times. He and another Latvian player organized an online auction to benefit abused children in Latvia, convincing many other NHL players to donate signed memorabilia to the cause.

Sergei Zholtok: the pride of Riga, Latvia.

Rest in peace.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Received Via Email

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Truer Words, Etcetera

"You’ve got to be [an] optimist to be a Democrat, and you’ve got to be a humorist to stay one."
--Will Rogers

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Modus Vivendi revisited

In October of 1990 I was seventeen years old and 1500 miles from home, embarking on my freshman year at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. Although I would not be of age to vote in the coming election, I was swept along in the enthusiasm of new friends to attend a political rally in downtown Northfield. The candidate was a Carleton professor, on leave to make a longshot try at a Senate seat.

I had expected from the endorsements of my friends a god among men, a pillar of strength, a savior in a three-piece suit. I was disappointed when a small, balding elf of a man in jeans and a polo shirt bounded onto the improvised stage. What the hell? I wondered. This scrawny little guy is what everyone is freaking out over?

But then he spoke.

I did most of my growing up during the Reagan/Bush administrations, tucked away in rural Texas where Washington seems very far away and somewhat unreal, a strange fiction created for the evening news. The Reagan recession hit home, though, coming hard on the heels of the oil bust of the seventies, another blow to Texas' reeling economy. Things were always tight, but we had two cars that ran (most days) and a phone (with service), making us better off than many of my friends. And, of course, we had a television where the debacles of Grenada and Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, played out. I watched the Iran-Contra affair bloom and nuclear proliferation run rampant. I watched a health problem turn into a health crisis while our fearless leader deemed one word to profane to pass his lips: "AIDS".

The adults in my life were Democrats. After watching the 80s stagger past, I thought I understood why.

There aren't a lot of Democrats in rural south Texas these days, and one of the reasons I went to a rally for a candidate I couldn't vote for was the novelty of being surrounded by like-minded people. I didn't particularly care about politics, as I was too young to vote and had absorbed the message--true where I grew up, but not in my new home--that being a Democrat was an exercise in futility.

Paul Wellstone changed that, in the space of an hour. He spoke about the power and necessity of grassroots organizing, about ways ordinary people far from Washington can get Washington's attention, about creating a common voice loud enough to drown out corporate and special-interest lobbyists. He told us about the wretched state of health care in our nation, and the declining state of education. Voting is only the beginning, he warned us. After the election must come accountability.

He was relentless, fiery and inspiring. He did not shy away from hard truths about the worst face of our society, and he would not allow us to shy away from them either. He made us realize that we must know what is really happening before we can even dream of changing it. He encouraged us not to just take his word for it, but to go find out for ourselves, to probe beyond the nightly news soundbites for truths that might horrify us, but must be brought out into the light of day.

I finally got to vote two years later. I remembered, and tried to be an informed voter. I believe I have gotten better at that as the years passed. Four years after that, out of college and working contract jobs with no health insurance, I finally got to vote for Wellstone. It was 1996, and I voted Democrat for President and Senate, and Green Party for the House, due to certain conflicts of values I felt with our (Democratic) congressman. I voted my conscience that day, but I've voted for the lesser of two evils ever since.

Until today.

Wellstone was taken from us too soon, and this year's Democratic presidential candidate was not my first choice among the men who vied for that nomination. But the same congressman from 1996 is still on the ballot and a candidate much more to my liking got the Green Party endorsement to run against him. He got my vote today. He got my vote because as I lifted my pen to vote the party line I remembered Paul, and how he always insisted that change begins with us. The little people, the voters, the dissatisfied masses. I am not, have not been, satisfied with my congressman. Perhaps, when he sees whatever small number of votes went to the Green candidate in the newspaper tomorrow, he will take a moment to wonder why we didn't vote for him. Perhaps I'll write him and ask.

Voting, after all, is only the beginning.

"Paul Wellstone was the soul of the Senate.He was one of the most noble and courageous men I have ever known.He was a gallant and passionate fighter, especially for the less fortunate.I am grateful to have known Paul and Sheila as dear and close friends.Their deaths are a shattering loss to Minnesota, to the nation, and to all who knew and loved them."
U.S. Senator Tom Dashle
October 25, 2002

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Stand and Be Counted

Did you?

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Monday, November 01, 2004

Thought of the Day

Ponder, if you will:

We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find ourselves.
--Woodrow Wilson

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