Blogger Elaine Magalis of Late Fruit, and I met for lunch at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont, this afternoon for some serious blogging talk. We also broke some good bread together.  

She and I are both at a crossroads in our cyber careers. She has to decide which is more important at this point in her life: Writing novels or keeping her blog fresh and vital? And, as you know, I have to decide whether or not to run for president.

It’s a tough decision for each of us.

If you haven’t visited Late Fruit, you’re in for an intellectual treat. Not only is Elaine a delightfully literate and lyrical writer, she has a sharp eye for strong visuals. Some are quirky, others are just plain beautiful.

Elaine uses her blog to focus her thinking on the role of art and creativity in a full life. She also ponders the inevitability of aging and death, and seems ready to accept both as part of the bargain we strike for a rich life. Hers has been a winding spiritual journey, one that took her to exotic climes then dropped her down in three feet of snow in a tiny town nestled against the Canadian border. Even though Elaine is a country girl today, she says New York City will always be her spiritual home. She thrives on the diversity and inherent energy of that city.   

If you go to Late Fruit here, you might want to leave a comment to let Elaine know you want her to come back someday and share more of her thoughts.

James Joyce, 1938

Here's a must-read special report from The Washington Post, published June 4, 2011:

Votes that pushed us into the red

In the debate over the nation's rising debt, rhetoric trumps reality. In January 2001, the U.S. budget was balanced for the first time in decades and the Congressional Budget Office was forecasting surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion by 2011. A decade later, the national debt is larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any time in U.S. history except for the period shortly after World War II.

So what happened?

In classic Washington style, neither party wants to take responsibility. “Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in April.

“Republicans made the contradictory promises that cutting taxes would lead to higher revenues and would force lower spending,” House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer shot back in a speech later the same month. “They did neither.”

The reality falls somewhere in between. In fact, 75 percent of the members currently serving in Congress voted for at least one — and in most cases more than one — of three policies that contributed to fully one-third of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt: President George W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill.

A new take on the overlapping priorities that led us to record deficits, and who voted for them.


Click here for a fascinating graphic that shows us, clearly, who got us where we are today. 

Thanks, guys. Have you learned your lesson? If not, let's hope voters see fit to send you packing, next year. 

Clip art courtesy of DailyClipArt.net
Hats off to all grads!

Here’s what I wish someone had told me when I graduated:

1. Read everything you can. 
2. Don't believe everything you hear. 
3. Keep yourself clean, healthy and alert to what's happening around you. 
4. Find something you love and stick with it. 
5. If you long to take risks, choose something that has the potential to make life better for yourself and others, at the same time.

Three-foot blizzards?
  This is New England.  
Crippling ice storms?
  Par for the course.
Devastating spring floods?
Republicans elected to Senate?
  Once in a blue moon.  
Yankee fans in Red Sox Nation?
  Not if they value their lives.
Tornadoes in Massachusetts?
  No way!

Yesterday, Dave and I slogged through a hazy, hot and humid morning, waiting for the cold front to move in so we could breathe. Around 3, the skies opened up, and rain fell by the bucketloads.

He came in out of the rain and switched on the afternoon Red Sox game, rescheduled so Bruins fans would not miss last night's Stanley Cup game. A little after 4, all hell broke loose.

First, an Emergency Alert System message took over the television, warning that tornadoes were in the area and may have touched down. A similar message was beeping on radio and when I looked at my Blackberry, there it was on my default browser. Since we live in a second-floor apartment, we weren’t sure what to do, so we waited for more information.

We actually have three television network affiliates based in Springfield, the only real city for miles around. It’s 45 miles to our south. We also rely on New England Cable News out of Boston, which will go outside the city once in a while to cover something big. And, they did!

All four news operations took over the afternoon and evening schedule, giving minute-by-minute reports on tornadic activity, hail, severe lightning strikes, damage, emergency shelters, road closings  and the like. Reporters who have gotten comfortable reading scripts from behind desks were forced to perform real public service under all-but battlefield conditions. Those in the field had to race out in torrential rain, wind and lightning, to small towns that are hard to find on a good day. Since so many roads were closed, some crews had to hike in while the storm was in progress. 

At least 19 towns took damage from the tornadoes, including the city of Springfield. A woman was hit by lightning up by us, and so were barns and buildings scattered around our county. To our north and south, tornadoes were popping up, dancing over the interstate, picking up water from the Connecticut River and dumping it wherever it wanted. One minute those rotating cells were visible, the next they showed up only on meteorologists’ Doppler-radar scanners.

When the tornado warnings were issued, many people seemed more curious than anything, at least until they saw their neighbor’s roof flying toward their head. Some ran outside to photograph the twister on cell phones. Others saved their lives under staircases and in cellars. One woman heeded the warning by climbing into her bathtub, then got out to retrieve her pet fish and barely made it back in time. Plenty of people sat in their cars to watch funnel clouds cross the road in front of them. Some ended up upside down. At least one ended up dead.  Since it hit at the end of a school day and shift change, many people were on the road, hurrying home to safety. What they didn't know was, there was no safe place. 
I guess we were due a major hit in this part of the country. I mean, New England is one of the safest places to live if you want to avoid natural disasters. We rarely have earthquakes, and when we do, they’re small. Forest fires could be a problem, but we plenty of rain to curb that possibility. We’re too far inland for hurricanes to hit with full force, although they sometimes sneak in through Connecticut. I suppose our biggest natural threat is the much-hated Black Fly. 

At last count, there are at least four people dead, many left homeless, streets blocked, businesses and schools closed, cars, trucks and buses totaled, power out in many areas, hundreds injured.  Whole forests were reduced to rubble. Road surfaces were ripped off, leaving some neighborhoods unrecognizable.
Aside from Springfield, this is a sparsely populated area. Four is a big number here. True, this tornado did not kill as many people as did the one in Joplin, but it was a very big wake-up call to a state that’s usually on the giving -- and not the asking -- end of disaster relief. Gov. Patrick was out here in a flash last night, promising search and rescue teams and other emergency services. Sen. Kerry promises federal aid, and I don’t expect a poor city like Springfield to be too proud to accept it. Nor will the dozens of small towns throughout western Massachusetts and southern Vermont that saw damage. 
Tornadoes in Massachusetts? Never say never, 

Strangely, what happened yesterday in our state tied us in a new way to the other 49. I just hope that storm buys us another 100 years of peace and quiet around here. Let’s not stir up the flies any more than necessary.