Friday, August 31, 2012

Photo of the Day: What They'll Do To an Invalid

So here I am sitting watching my Tennessee Vols and Leah brings out the paint brush and attacks my toenails with orange paint. Tennessee scored on the play after this photo was taken, so she can do the rest.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Photo(s) of the Day: Before and After the Construction

After
Before
OK, babies, here's the deal: before and after X-rays of my newly-repaired knee, shot today in Phillip Patterson's office as I went in for my post-op two-weeks anniversary. Impressive, huh? Note how crooked the repaired knee is in the bottom photo and how straight in the top.

The bright white stuff in the upper photo is plastic and metal, which went into re-capping and padding a knee that has been problematic for nearly 50 years. I've been bitching about pain and discomfort for about two weeks, but these pix make the boo-boo feel better and help my overall outlook a lot.

My doc used to be an internist and said he changed specialties because there was such uncertainty in that field. Nothing was ever finished. These pictures, he says, are a good example of what he means. It was broken. It is fixed. Next.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Photo of the Day: Pampa Takes His Boo-Boo for a Walk

Aging editor goes for a walk with his cane.
Your favorite editor's boo-boo.
It's been a week and a day now since the surgery to clean out 50 years of knee abuse and this morning, with Leah here for the weekend, it looked like a wonderful opportunity for a "first." As in "first walk without the use of a walker," a necessary device that has all kinds of old-age implications that I try to avoid like a dose of  pain pills.

So, off we went and here's the result: a smiling, happy Pampa, still a bit on the fuzzy-headed side--hence few attempts at writing (my column's due, too)--but getting Rocky stronger by the day and mentally fit by the hour.

The post surgical tape strips, which combined with some interesting glue use, held my leg together after the docs attacked it with their chain saws, spikes and hard hats fell off in the night. Now, it's just me and an ugly, storyline on a knee that already had two of them. This scar wedged its way between them, forming what Leah called a "mini-trinity."

For those of you who are interested, you'll soon get a review of hospital care, doc care, the overwhelming value of good women friends and the effort to work both against and with medical care in order to achieve the desired result. Because of the pain drugs my mind is still tending to go off in different directions as it did while I was still in the hospital trying to blog. Lea called it a "literary masterpiece that we need to put in the trash can now, hon." Bear with me. I miss you guys, especially the cranky ones.

(Photos: Leah Weiss.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

"I should have known that having a major body part removed would take a lot out of me."

Leah keeping Dan company at the hospital when I visited on Saturday.
 It appears that our favorite editor is going to be offline for an undetermined "while."

"I didn't think this would be as big a deal as it is," said Dan about his recent knee replacement surgery when he called to ask me to write this post.

"I should have anticipated that having a major body part removed would take a lot of me, but I didn't realize how much. Between the medication and the pain, I don't have a lot of lucid moments," he commented, but quickly added, "I'm sure I'll get comments asking if I had them before."

What Dan doesn't have right now is energy and focus. When he predicted that "I guess this year most of the election season will have to go on without me," I knew he was serious. I'll miss his insights, rants, and occasional ravings. I'm sure that those of you who like to argue with him - as well as those of you who (mostly) agree with him - will miss them, too.

Not to worry, though; Dan is being well taken care of by Leah, by his favorite ex-wife Christina, and by various and sundry friends, family, and passers-by. He'll be herded back to health by in-home nurses and physical therapists.

Dan asked me to write this so everyone who depends on him for their daily dose of piss and vinegar and sweetness and light will know that he's okay - just not as okay as he'd hoped he'd be.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Photo of the Day: New knee, new possibilities

Under that black wrap is a bionic knee.
Hospital Boy get yet another "stick."

Back from my first walk, feelin' frisky.
Got the bionic knee this morning and now I can take Maeline flying. Quite an ordeal, but professional, cheerful and talented people have made this as pleasant aw possble so far.

I'll blog more about it later, but I'm at the end of my energy for now and my buddy Nancy Agee has just dropped by. We'll chat more later.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quote of the Day: A Simple Proposal, Clean Out the Fed

"Similarly, there can be no hope of a return to vibrant capitalism unless there is a sweeping housecleaning at the Federal Reserve and a thorough renunciation of its interest-rate fixing, bond buying and recurring bailouts of Wall Street speculators. The Greenspan-Bernanke campaigns to repress interest rates have crushed savers, mocked thrift and fueled enormous overconsumption and trade deficits. 

David Stockman
"The greatest regulatory problem — far more urgent that the environmental marginalia Mitt Romney has fumed about — is that the giant Wall Street banks remain dangerous quasi-wards of the state and are inexorably prone to speculative abuse of taxpayer-insured deposits and the Fed’s cheap money. Forget about “too big to fail.” These banks are too big to exist — too big to manage internally and to regulate externally. They need to be broken up by regulatory decree. Instead, the Romney-Ryan ticket attacks the pointless Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul, when what’s needed is a restoration of Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era legislation that separated commercial and investment banking."

--David Stockman in today's NYTimes (Stockman was Ronald Reagan's budget director and author of the forthcoming “The Great Deformation: How Crony Capitalism Corrupts Free Markets and Democracy.”)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Economic Inequality Is More Than Just a Moral Issue

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner
"I'm not arguing for the elimination of inequality. But the extreme that we've reached is really bad. Particularly the way it's created. We could have a more equal society and a more efficient, stable, higher-growing economy. That's really the 'so what?' Even if you don't have any moral values and you just want to maximize GDP growth, this level of inequality is bad. It's not just the unfairness. The point is that we're paying a high price. The story we were told was that inequality was good for our economy. I'm telling a different story, that this level of inequality is bad for our economy."

--Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist and author of The Price of Inequality (quoted from this article in Money News)

Quote of the Day, Too: Where's All the Money? (Hint: At the Top)

"Today’s 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together."

--Robert Reich, Former Secretary of Labor, Professor at Cal Berkeley

Quote of the Day: Redistribution of Wealth, Bottom Up


"The new [VP candidate Paul] Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature. In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids.  It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history)."

--Robert Greenstein, Center on Budget Priorities

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan Brings Sharp Counterpoint to Repub Ticket

Ryan (left) and Romney: Shut it down!
Looks like Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the guy who wants to change Medicare to a voucher program and to basically cut taxes to the point that we won't be able to run a federal government, is Mitt Romney's VP choice. This guy will not likely be the unmitigated disaster of a Sarah Palin because he's smart, well-spoken, well liked (even by Democrats) and a good campaigner.

His ideas, however, are attractive only to those who favor dismanteling the federal government, which is basically what his tax plan would do. He is a darling of the Tea Party, a base that has wandered away from Romney, a guy who may be one of the most unattractive presidential candidates in history (if you discount George Bush, The Dumber, and I do). It's hard to say what Ryan will bring, except that the debate will be sharp and clear. He sees little role for the federal government in our lives; the Democrats see the government's role as important.

Friday, August 10, 2012

More Evidence: Republicans are To Blame for Bad Economy

"The Republicans, if they hope to have a political future, are inexorably bound to their failed policies. Should they prevail in November, even only to retaining control of the House of Representatives, the millions who suffer as the economy dies by 1,000 cuts, will undoubtedly be addressed by rhetorical shift of the blame and denial that plays against a general lack of public understanding of economic realities."

--James Johnson, writing at here (examiner.com)

How Hot Was It? In Virginia, the Very Hottest

As you're probably well aware, Virginia's July was its hotest on record and it was also the hotest in a country that was sizzling with records. Virginia's July was a whopping four degrees higher than normal. A degree increase is hot stuff, but four is misery.

A few other points from a story in the Washington Post:

  • The past 12 months are the warmest on record in the U.S. That's 118 years of records. (Washington was the only state that wasn't hotter.)
  • Each of the last four 12-month periods set a record for high temperature.
  • The average U.S. temperature is up 3.3 degrees.
  • Drought, our worst since 1956, covers 63 percent of the lower 48 states (meaning much heat, little moisture, no rain).
  • There have 10 times as many record high temperatures as record lows this year.
  • June was the fourth warmest on record globally (July numbers are not available yet) and the 328th consecutive month of above average temperatures.
  • Global warming is a myth, perpetuated by environmental wack-o types.

Photo of the Day: Celebration Without Pearlie Mae

Israel was the featured country in downtown Roanoke today during the Taste of Culture celebration from Local Colors. This one was sparsely attended and even Pearl Fu, the founder of Local Colors, missed it. Pearlie Mae has not missed one of these since its inception several years ago. She's apparently under the weather. Think nice thoughts about Pearl. She deserves every one of them.

Increased Fuel Standards Means More Jobs in U.S.

For years, Congressional representatives from automobile manufacturing states and Republicans opposed to any kind of regulation of anything have teamed up to keep gas mileage standards for U.S. cars at much higher than they could and should be.

Now we learn that increased mileage standards of the past few years has made American cars more desirable and Americans have again begun to buy them. That means profits, jobs and that President Obama's infusion of money to save the industry was doubly wise.

Here's a press release about what's happening in this key segment of our economy(where jobs are in manufacturing, not soft services):

"With the launch of new federal vehicle fuel economy rules only about one week away, the American auto industry has grown by nearly a quarter million jobs (236,600) since June 2009 when the auto industry hit bottom, according to a new report available from DrivingGrowth.org.

"The study finds that fuel efficiency is a major factor behind the gains in U.S. auto jobs. The website that tracks the revitalization of the U.S. auto industry is sponsored by three leading U.S. environmental organizations: The Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

"Manufacturing of motor vehicle and parts has grown by 165,100, or 26.4 percent since June 2009. Another 71,500 jobs have been added at U.S. auto dealerships. Automakers, their suppliers and their dealers are now looking ahead to a brighter future after the dark days of the recession.

"Setting strong fuel efficiency standards means we are sending more of our energy dollars to the Midwest, not the Middle East," says Tiffany Ingram, Midwest advocacy director for NRDC. "Global automakers are now sourcing their most advanced, high-tech manufacturing here in the United States, creating a more sustainable and secure future for U.S. industry and U.S. workers."

(Photo: precisiontune.com)

Headline of the Day: Run Up the Score on the Repubs

Click on the poll and it gets bigger and easier to read.
This is from The Daily Kos and writer Markos "kos" Moulitsas says the evidence is strong that Democrats not only will keep the presidency and the Senate, but have a shot at the House in the fall. Here's what he says, in part (the rest is here):

"Their billions and their candidates aren't getting it done. Democrats have improved their standing with voters the entire summer and are poised to hold firm in the Senate and comfortably keep the White House. Even the House is coming into play, and worst case scenario, we'll chop that Republican majority down significantly.

"Democrats are campaigning with a swagger, having fun. They know they've got the advantage. Republicans are in genuine disarray (release the tax returns! Don't release the tax returns!), trying to back a candidate they despise while keeping a lid on the Tea Party crazies."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Headline of the Day: He Had Other Priorities

'Rush Limbaugh dodged Vietnam draft due to a cyst on his ass'

--examiner.com (this one makes Dick Cheney's explanation of why he dodged the draft more palatable)

(Graphic: www.care2.com)

A New Knee Will Require a Lot of Work

Teachers at the front of the Carilion lass today.
If the intent of this morning's class was to scare the crap out of me, then consider the laxative taken.

For the past week or so, I've been tested, stuck, poked, educated and evaluated in preparation to have my knees re-surfaced (or "replaced," which is something of a misnomer) next weekend at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. It has been an ordeal, but it wasn't scary until the 2 1/2-hour lass at Carilion Clinic this morning.
The leg will be straightened.

During that class, I learned that this will be an ordeal, filled with considerable potential for danger and draped in a lot of pain. I'll have to work extremely hard to heal properly and could lose my leg to an infection caused by something as simple as a trip to the dentist.

In effect, the ends of the two large bones that meet at my knee will be sawed off and replaced with plastic and metal, forming a new knee--one that I hope works. I've been deficit in my right knee since I was 16 years old and tore the cartilage playing football. Over the years, I've wrenched it, twisted it and sprained it regularly. I've even used it as an excuse on convenient occasions. Once, when a girlfriend was cleaning my clock playing tennis, I went down holding the knee and announced that the game didn't count. She was not amused.

Mostly, though, it's been an inconvenience--a painful one--and a handicap when there were certain leg-driven activities I wanted to take part in. I haven't run for many years and lately I can't even hike the mountains. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do my hour's walk every day. The knee stiffens if I sit at my desk or behind the wheel of my truck. When I step out of the truck, I look like a guy who's 90 years old. And that's why I feel compelled to face down the demons I now know lurk around every bend and face this.

One of the immediate benefits is that my right leg will be straight again. It has become increasingly crooked over the past few years and it's beginning to look seriously deformed. My grandgirl asked me about it the other day, so I'm not hiding it well.

What I'm facing is about a year's rehab, most of it in the first three months, and a lifetime of new habits that begin with some daily exercises. It's going to be a long haul. And it has started. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'll be at Roanoke Memorial next Friday for an early a.m. surgery. come by and see for yourself.

Virginia 12th Among 'Toxic 20' States

For those of you wondering just how dirty the air in Virginia is, the answer is available today from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Virginia is 12th worst in the country.

Here's a press release from the NRDC:

Virginia’s electric sector ranked 12th in industrial toxic air pollution in 2010, emitting nearly 9.5 million pounds of harmful chemicals, which accounted for 40 percent of state pollution and about 3 percent of toxic pollution from all U.S. power plants.

* Virginia ranked 27th among all states in industrial mercury air pollution from power plants with about 660 pounds emitted in 2010, which accounted for 66 percent of state mercury air pollution and 1 percent of U.S. electric sector mercury pollution.

On the national level, the report found a 19 percent decrease nationally in all air toxics emitted from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available, compared to 2009 levels. The welcomed drop, which also includes a 4 percent decrease in mercury emissions, results from two key factors. One is the increasing use by power companies of natural gas, which has become cheaper and is cleaner burning than coal; the other is the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls by many plants--in anticipation of new health protections issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Toxic pollution is already being reduced as a result of EPA’s health-protecting standards,” said John Walke, NRDC’s clean air director. “Thanks to the agency’s latest safeguards, millions of children and their families in the states hardest hit by toxic air pollution from power plants will be able to breathe easier.’’

“But these protections are threatened,” Walke said, “because polluters are intent on persuading future Congresses or presidential administrations to repeal them.”

Finalized in 2011, EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics standards will cut mercury air pollution by 79 percent from 2010 levels, beginning in 2015.

Neither senator from Virginia stood up for protecting kids and our communities by rejecting the attempt by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to repeal the mercury and air toxics standard: Sens. Warner and Webb supported the Inhofe resolution.

Franz Matzner, NRDC associate director of Government Affairs, said:  “For too long, Americans have had no choice but to breathe toxic air pollution. Thanks to the EPA, the air is getting cleaner. But we need lawmakers who will help clean up the air we all breathe --- not lawmakers who do the bidding of Big Polluters trying to repeal safeguards that protect children’s health. This and future Congresses should let the EPA do its job so ALL Americans can breathe easier.”

In the second edition of “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States,” NRDC also found that coal- and oil-fired power plants still contribute nearly half (44 percent) of all the toxic air pollution reported to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The report also ranks the states by the amount of their toxic air pollution levels.

In an earlier assault on the EPA’s new standards, the House passed a bill to gut them last year; but a similar measure in June failed in the Senate.

Compared to 2010 levels, the standard will reduce mercury pollution from 34 tons to 7 tons, a 79 percent reduction, by 2015. Sulfur dioxide pollution will be reduced from 5,140,000 tons in 2010 to 1,900,000 tons in 2015, a 63 percent reduction. Another dangerous acid gas, hydrochloric acid, will be reduced from 106,000 tons in 2010 to 5,500 tons in 2015, a 95 percent reduction.

With those and other pollution reductions resulting from the standard, as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma attacks, 5,700 hospital visits, 4,700 heart attacks, and 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis will be avoided in 2016. The public health improvements are also estimated to save $37 billion to $90 billion in health costs, and prevent up to 540,000 missed work or “sick” days each year.

Despite the overall reductions in total emissions, 18 of the Toxic 20 from 2009 remain in the 2010 list released today, although several states have made significant improvements highlighted in the report.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quote of the Day, Too: Here's the Simple Math of It

The Congressional Budget Office's estimates of the cost of the Obama Administration's health care law:

"The Affordable Care Act adds 30 million people to the insurance rolls while cutting the deficit by $109 billion over 10 years."

--Tampa Bay Times

(That does not strike me as "running up a deficit.")

Quote of the Day: Repubs Block Computer Security Measure

"Senate Republicans regularly promote themselves as the true custodians of national security. This claim seemed particularly hollow last week when they helped block a new measure aimed at protecting America’s vulnerable computer networks from attack by, among others, potentially hostile foreign governments.

"The legislation would have required companies to share data about cyberattacks with the government, and would have created a framework for minimum security standards to toughen computer protections. But the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests said the rules would be too costly and intrusive, and the Republicans went along. The result was to postpone action until after the August recess, and even then the bill may go nowhere given the pressures of election-year politics." 


--NYTimes this a.m.

Friday, August 3, 2012

'Beasts of Southern Wild': It Doesn't Get Much Worse

"Beasts of the Southern Wild," showing at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke and bathing in rave reviews whose logic simply escapes me, is the bastard child of "Trainspotting" and "Blair Witch Project." I would say it contains the worst elements of both, but I can find no best elements in any of these movies.

This one has "Trainspotting's" obnoxious filth in every frame, its complete lack of anybody to like or even understand. It suffers from "Blair Witch's" cinematography: bouncing cameras that cause almost instant nausea in a movie that doesn't need to move us any closer to a run toward the bathroom.

This is the story of a six-year-old who is simultaneously being prepared for her father's death and the end of the world in a hellhole delta island called The Bathtub. It is a community based in filth, drunkenness and basic survival, which the dying father wants to give his daughter, Hushpuppy. Surviving to live here is not exactly a legacy.

This is one of those movies whose dialect is such that it fairly screams for subtitles ("Trainspotting" used the word "fuck" a lot and it was the only word in the film I understood). Irish, British and Scottish movies--wherein English is allegedly spoken--are often guilty of desperately needing subtitles.

I don't want to write much more about this waste of time because it so thoroughly offended me that I wanted to leave after five minutes. My companion is one of those people who believes that if you buy a movie ticket, the movie owns you until it's over, so I sat there steaming.

Miss it. You will have missed nothing worthwhile. It is, in the  vernacular, a piece of shit.

Oak Ridge Breach: Just How Safe Are We?

Arrested protesters (from left) Michael R. Walli, Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed
We're all wondering aloud today just how safe we are--in a country that's already shivering under the bed--after three elderly Transform Now Plowshare activists broke into the Y12 nuclear fuel storage facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., scaring hell out of everybody and throwing mud once again on security specialist G4S.

Three old hippies--one of them an 82-year-old nun, the others 63 and 57--breached the security and a day later a guy telling a security guard he was an Oak Ridge cop, new on the beat and needing to familiarize himself with Y12's layout, was let in.

Somebody I've known for many years works with G4S (formerly Wackehnht) and says the company (which most recently got in trouble over the London Olympics security) is in negotiations to renew its contract with Y12. This facility houses probably the largest stockpile of weapons-grade uranium in the world, something terrorists would dearly love to have.

A spokesman for the Peace Alliance in Oak Ridge is quoted as saying (by NBC News) that the breach was not about destroying the plant or even showing the holes in guarding it: "It wasn't so they could show how easy it was to bust into this bomb plant, it was because the production of nuclear weapons violates everything that is moral and good. It is a war crime."

A spokesman for the National Neuclear Security Administration deadpanned to Oak Ridge Today, "We're taking this very, very seriously." You betcha. The three protesters splattered some blood on the facility and hung a couple of banners. They didn't hurt anybody or even try to.

Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg has a huge contract at Y12, which is close to coming up for renewal. B&W obviously has nothing to do with security, but you can bet there are some squirrely people hanging around. There are apparently plans to build a $6.5 billion nuclear processing facility near Y12 (whose building cost more than $500 million).

What we're seeing here is the lax security of a private company handling a red hot national security issue. A detatchment of Marines would likely be a far, far better choice to guard the facility. Mercenaries think first of the bottom line. Marines think first of the job at hand.

(Photo: Oak Ridge Today)

Water Polo: A New Favorite (Brutal) Sport

Eat your hat, dude!
Until a couple of days ago, I had never really watched a water polo match. Now, I can't get enough of it. This is a sport of strength, aggression, power, accuracy, discipline, finesse and extraordinary conditioning. It's also brutal as hell when it's legal and dang near monstrous when it's not. Now THAT's entertainment.

I watched the U.S. and Spain play (for about a quarter at lunch) a day or so ago and was simply taken aback at how rough the women are. I can only imagine what the guys do. This one was a 9-9 tie, with Spain gallantly coming back in the last quarter to score three late goals and lock up the tie. The U.S. featured some real gorillas and their brute strength. Spain was fast, agile and accurate. It was a classic match.

Water polo makes football look like hopscotch.

The underwater cameras the TV guys have installed give you an idea just how uncompromising the defenses are. Here's a shot of a woman pulling at an opponent's bathing suit to the point of showing her tiny boob (not much titilation here, boys; stick with beach volleyball for the cheap thrills).  When they're not trying to strip off bathing suits, they're looking to drown the offensive player. They pull them down, wrestle with them, slug them, yank at their bathing suits, hold them, dunk them and occasionally get penalized. They don't seem to care about the penalties, although means they've fouled out.

I have no idea why these games don't break out in hockey-like fights about every two minutes because the word "fair" doesn't seem to enter anybody's strategy. The word "entertainment" enters mine, though. Love this game.

Quote of the Day: Putting the Blame Where It Belongs

"The overriding story of the past few years is not Mr. Obama’s mistakes but the scorched-earth opposition of Republicans, who have done everything they can to get in his way — and who now, having blocked the president’s policies, hope to win the White House by claiming that his policies have failed"

--Paul Krugman in today's NYTimes

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Photo of the Day, Too: A New Type of Protest--Dinner

This is what a local television reporter--about an hour ago--was calling a "protest" of the boycott of Chick-fil-A over its president's stated opposition to same-sex marriage. This looks more like dinner than a protest. The reporter also said there were supporters of the boycott of the restaurant in the building, but I didn't see them. Guess you wouldn't see boycotters, though, although from her tone, she seemed to.

Photo of the Day; It's Raining Rocks

This was the rug on my deck a few minutes ago, covered with pebble-sized hail from a nasty storm that was passing through. I had just gone over to Valley View Mall to photograph the Chick-fil-A "solidarity protest" (there wasn't one, despite what you've heard) and the storm was nasty. On the way home, the hail on the roof of my truck sounded like gunshots.

A Lovely Birthday Bash Centered on 'Maters

These beauties are from my garden. Note the Miracle Whip (Ugh!)
Birthday hug from my friend Rhonda Morgan.
Best pesto ever from Bea Clements and Alison Weaver's 'nanner puddin' (I'll vouch for both).
Your favorite editor with one of his best buds, Keith Ferrell.
Partner/friend Tom Field hits the 'maters.
Christine Ward talks it over with the editor.

The editor at 66, minus 12 pounds.
The editor's legacy: Oz and I will be learning to walk at the same time in September.
Leah and Meah making it real. She's the birthday present.
The Midsummer 'Mater Madness and 66th Birthday Bash on Edinburgh Dr. last night night was just what an aging journalist needed: good friends, good food (some of it damn good), a sprinkling of loving family and a jumpstart into the phase.

This thing started a few years ago as a celebration of the joys of a Southern summer and the fruits (tomatoes) thereof. There is one Southern way to eat said 'maters (white bread, Miracle Whip and thick, piled high 'maters just picked from the north 40 feet of the back yard. We had all that. We also had some alternatives for those of us who can't stand even the thought of white bread, let alone Miracle Whip. We had some lovely whole grain bread; Sarah Beth Jones made a whole wheat chullah and, though I didn't make my Mother Smith's World Famous Mayo, we had McCormick's, a rare and delicate jarred version that is close to what the French originally had in mind.

Alison Weaver brought both key lime pie (to die for and maybe to die from) and 'nanner puddin'. My new babe Leah's new daughter-in-law Bea Clements (who is from the Canary Islands) sent the very best pesto I've ever tasted. I wanted to put it on everything, but had a difficult time getting it away from Maddie, who found a new love, I think.

My pal Richard Rife couldn't make the bash and I regretted that because Richard's tomatoes (some of those heirlooms from Thomas Jefferson) are always the star of the show. We made do, though, with a couple of beauties from my pal Keith Ferrell and some nice purple babies from my back patch.

Loved some of the goodies my buds brought. Janeson Keeley, always thinking Orange, brought a UT floor mat; Tom Field left a greeting card that sang when I opened it and wouldn't shut up; and Rhonda Morgan of the Arts Council left a marvelous sculpted onion that's going to the wall today.

Late in the procedure, I look over and there's little Oz standing at the coffeetable, trying to walk, looking up and smiling. Oz will be 1 Sept. 1 and I'll be two weeks into recovery with my new knee. We'll learn to walk together, I suspect.

(Alison Weaver photos, except for the one of Leah and Meah, shot by Bea Clements and Oz, which I shot.)