Saturday, December 27, 2003

In Which Our Heroine Gets Her Christmas Presents
Ah, the holidays. I was a little nervous about Christmas. Could is possibly be as good as Thanksgiving? What with Rita being out of town, the prospect seemed unlikely. This was before Christmas turned into a three week long celebration! As we all know, the church doesn't really know when Christ was born, so the date is a wee bit random, although it does tie in nicely with the pagan celebrations of the winter solstice and dovetails as well with metaphors about light shining into our lives during the darkest days of the year. So needless to say, we weren't terribly wed to the actual day of Christmas here. Which is good. We took it as it comes, which kicked off on the Friday before Christmas (almost a week before) when we

Sunday, December 14, 2003

In Which Our Heroine Bows Down To the AP News Service
When they say truth is stranger than fiction, this is exactly the sort of thing they're talking about - you can't even make this stuff up:

Retired Schoolteacher Claims to be Strom Thurmond's Out of Wedlock Mixed Race Love Child!
A 78-year-old retired schoolteacher is coming forward after years of silence to claim she is the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, her attorney said Saturday.

Essie Mae Washington-Williams, who lives in Los Angeles, had long been rumored to be the daughter of the one-time segregationist, who died June 26 at the age of 100. She is coming forward now at the urging and encouragement of her children, attorney Frank K. Wheaton said.

''She's decided to come forward to bring some closure to what has been thought to be an old family secret,'' Wheaton told The Associated Press.

''We're not trying to upset the Thurmond estate. We are merely bringing closure to Essie Mae's life, so her children have an opportunity to know from where they come, whether those ancestors are black or white matters not. It is part of our American history.''

Williams told The Washington Post that Thurmond privately acknowledged her as his daughter and had provided financial support since 1941. The Post first reported her claims on its Web site Saturday.

Williams, who has scheduled a news conference in Columbia, S.C., on Wednesday, previously denied rumors that Thurmond, the nation's oldest and longest-serving senator, was her father.

''There was an agreement between the parties that she would never discuss the fact that Sen. Thurmond was her father,'' another of Williams' attorneys, Glenn Walters, told The AP. ''He never denied that Ms. Washington-Williams was his daughter.''

Walters said Williams was not seeking money and did not want to challenge Thurmond's will: ''She simply wants the truth about her life to be told.''

Those close to Thurmond said they were unsure about Williams' claim.

''I really don't know anything about that story, so you'll need to talk to someone else,'' said Thurmond's widow, Nancy Moore Thurmond. The couple separated in 1991.

''I certainly have no answer one way or the other,'' said Bettis Rainsford, a longtime family friend. ''I'm sure the senator may have sowed some wild oats in his early days, but certainly I have no information about that.''

Doris Strom Costner, a distant cousin of Thurmond's, said she doesn't think the claim is true.

''I don't appreciate anyone coming forth after he's dead, you know? It doesn't make good sense,'' Costner said.

Williams told the Post she waited until now to go public with her story because she didn't want to embarrass herself or hurt Thurmond's career.

''I want to bring closure to this,'' she said. ''It is a part of history.''

In seven decades of politics, Thurmond gained fame and infamy as an arch-segregationist, but he later came to support a holiday for the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Williams claims Thurmond fathered her long before his political career started, when he was a 22-year-old living in his parents' home in Edgefield, S.C. Her mother, then 16, had been working as a maid in the Thurmonds' home.

If challenged by the Thurmond family, Williams is ready to submit to DNA tests, Wheaton said.

Williams said she has documents to validate her claim, including cashier's check stubs, mementos from Thurmond and a letter from an intermediary who delivered money from the senator. She provided the Post with a copy of a 1998 Thurmond letter thanking her ''for the nice Father's Day note you sent me.''

She told the newspaper she received money at least once a year in sessions arranged by Thurmond's Senate staff. In recent years, as the senator's health declined, she said, financial assistance was passed through a Thurmond relative in South Carolina.

Wheaton said the amount of money Thurmond provided over the years was ''a very substantial amount'' but less than $1 million.

Williams' mother, Carrie Butler, was unmarried when she gave birth to her in 1925. Butler's neighbors in the impoverished section of Edgefield helped feed and clothe the child, according to Post interviews with local residents.

Butler's sister, Essie, took the child when she was 6 months old to live with a married aunt, Mary Washington, in Coatesville, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb.

Williams told the Post she first met Thurmond around 1941, when she returned to Edgefield for a visit at age 16. Her mother was suffering from an untreatable kidney disease and insisted on introducing her to her father, Williams said.

In a meeting lasting 20 to 30 minutes, Williams said, Thurmond called her a ''very lovely daughter.''

''I was very happy. I knew I had a father somewhere, and it was wonderful to meet him.''

Williams claims she had another conversation with Thurmond in 1947, when he was governor of South Carolina and a year away from running for president on a Dixiecrat platform of segregation.

''He asked her directly, 'How does it feel to be the daughter of the governor and not be able to tell anyone about it?''' Wheaton said. ''She said it felt fine.''

Friday, December 12, 2003

In Which Our Heroine Tries to Act All Suprised
Ok, folks, hands up! All those who are in the least suprised that Halliburton is accused of $61 billion worth of overcharging in Iraq, stick your hands right up in the air. Anyone? Anyone at all? How about you in the back? No? You mean the fact that a company that is already accused of billions of overspending on the Big Dig, and is attached to the Vice President of the United States that won the contract in a process that wasn't open to other bidders might have been out for its own profit margins without regard to anything else? The only thing I'm suprised by is that there isn't perpetual outrage at this whole thing. But at least the outrage seems to be growing. Because now there is official international outrage over the fact that the US won't allow bidding by companies from countries that were against the war in Iraq. As though the companies were official policy makers. And as though pacifists should be punished. Heck, if the US had listened to the rational coutries and their rational companies, the US wouldnt' be in this mess, complete with $61 billion overcharging.

I have to say that the fact that this is allegedly a $61 billion overcharge for GASOLINE in IRAQ is the truly amazing part of it. Good heavens people, if you're going to overcharge for something, don't overcharge for snow to the eskimos, sand to the saharah, or gas to Iraq.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

In Which Our Heroine Tries to Figure out Dentistry
Ouch. It has happened. A crown on my tooth has half broken off. This is not good, particualrly as there seems to be minimal proivsion in this country for dental care for the poor, so I'm not quite sure what to do. I'm investigating programs with the local dental schools, which are certainly cheaper, but for some reason still feel the need to charge you to be treated by students. That's some racket they've got going there in dentistry! But I really don' thave a choice. This is more than a bit painful! And yet, my appetite is undiminished. Amazing.

And of course this is in the middle of exams. I had my first exam last night. I was a bit worried about it as a) it was the tougher of my exams this semester, b) I haven't actually taken an exam in two years, and c) it was pass/fail, so who knew where the bar was set on this exam. In addition, the book I wanted was in the library and the library was shut for the weekend due to the snow. Turned out I shouldn't have worried. It was the most bizarre exam I've taken, mostly in that it seemed to have little to do with the subject we studied, and was more a pop quiz on what we learned in contracts class many years ago (many many in my case). I finished in under two hours for a three hour exam, which was a first for me. And then I had to wait for the boys to take me to dinner. But they arrived, and after a couple Midori sours, I was set. Exam just a brief distant memory and waiting to get ready for the next one.

I have made plans now to make gingerbread men with my friend Catherine on Sunday. Catherine is three, so this will be a very fun project for her. And for me, although I think I'm going to make the dough ahead of time. There's a lot of chilling and all that, so I think this is the best way. Mixing the batter is not the exciting thing. Cutting the cookies and decorating the men, that's the fun bit. I shall do the prep, and then we can have fun!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 07, 2003

In Which Our Heroine Gets Snowed In
For those of you not currently aware of the weather patterns of New England, Cambridge is currently getting snowed upon. This started around ten last night, and is forecast to go through tomorrow afternoon, when it will taper off to flurries. Now this is a good thing, as I do have those pesky exams to study for, but I haven't been doing as much of that as maybe my professors would want. Instead, I've gotten all industrious. I have:
- cleaned my room (always a feat and a half. Turns out there's floor under there.)
- Hung shelves in the kitchen. Two of them. And then cleaned the kitchen.
- Broken out the food processor.

The food processor is a grand grand thing. I burnt out the motor on my last one, and when my friend Stuart came to stay in October, I said to him "Don't bring a bottle of wine for me. I want a food processor. With POWER!" I said it jokingly, but damn if he didn't come through. I'm doubly impressed since Stuart can't cook, so he knows nothing about such things as food processors. In fact, a recent IM conversation with Stuart involved him telling me that for the first time ever he had made rice. That's it, just rice. Well, everyone has to start somewhere. I'm not spoiling any suprises by saying that for Christmas I'm cutting him some of the home grown herbs here (the rosemary, the bay, maybe some tarragon), copying ouut some of my more easy recipes, and then baking him some of my famous chocolate chunk, hazlenut and orange cookies. Poverty calls for creativity in the old Chrimbo presents this year. Mostly I'm knitting (although some of these presents may be late. I'm not a fast knitter.) But to bake the cookies, I needed to chop them. In the food processor! And then I made some butternut squash soup. More food proecessor. Now I'm just all a flutter. I'm thinking pecan pie (crusts= processor) and maybe some salsa. Damn I love that food processor.

Speaking of knitting, I think I ought to get to that too. Christmas is coming, and so is Jim! He's going to want his scarf, since after all he's never seen snow!