Archive for July, 2012

Devastating & Deadly Winds Four Years Ago Today

It’s a much quieter morning waking up in the Quad Cities today than it was four years ago when a  derecho was racing through the area bringing down power lines, trees, and bringing life to a stand still for many east of the Mississippi River.

When ABBA and I awoke at around 6 a.m. on June 21, 2008, we didn’t see the summer sun rising.   What we saw were dark skies and wind blowing and bending trees nearly to the ground.  My neighbors across the street, at the time, had just planted a new tree in their yard and I was looking out my window to see if the young tree would withstand the winds.  I didn’t realize that I should have been more concerned with Bob’s tree on the corner.  The young tree survived the winds, but the other trees did not make it through the storms.

Derechos are widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storms associated with fast-moving bands of severe thunderstorms.  Here is the radar image from the Quad Cities’ National Weather Service office when the winds hit the metro area and a campground in Colona killing two children.

In the aftermath of the winds that morning four years ago, we were without electricity and air conditioning for about three days at my house in Moline.  During the day, Miss ABBA and I spent our time helping neighbors clean up the debris in their yards.

Miss ABBA thought the branches and trees were there for her amusement and fun, not part of devastating winds.

In the afternoon and evenings, I would go to work and present the weather with the help of generators.  For days, I presented the weather sitting in a chair in the weather center in a dress shirt and tie and shorts because we had no air conditioning and we didn’t have enough lights on to present the forecast from the chromakey wall with the graphics behind me.  Miss ABBA was sitting at my feet with the fan blowing on her and I was just hoping she wouldn’t bark.   Most of the Mississippi and Illinois Valleys had electricity, but not Moline!

The nicest thing about the lack of modern amenities like power and air conditioning was the camaraderie between neighbors.  We knew that food wouldn’t last in the freezer without electricity, so we had grill-outs to use up the food.  It was heart warming to hang out with my neighbors.


Here is what I blogged about the winds and the derecho on my weather blog at WQAD in July 2008:

“A derecho moved through the Quad Cities around 6 a.m. Monday killing a child in Henry County, Illinois, leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity, and downed countless trees across streets and onto homes.

While many questioned whether a tornado had hit the Quad Cities, a survey team from the National Weather Service in Davenport, Iowa, concluded it was a derecho.  This is a widespread, slow-moving line of incredible high winds embedded in severe thunderstorms.  It is more commonly known as “straight-line winds”.

At Quad City International in Moline, Illinois, the peak wind gust was 94 miles-per-hour at 6:15 a.m.   The last higher wind gust to hit the airport was back in March 2006 when a gust of 107 miles-per-hour was recorded.

Other official measured wind gusts were 72 miles-per-hour in Mount Pleasant, in Henry County, Iowa, and Davenport  only reported a  peak wind of 40 miles-per-hour.

Our weather watcher in Princeton, Illinois, Cyle Dickens, reported a gust of 91 miles-per-hour before he lost electricity and additional weather data.

While the three energy companies in the Quad Cities have restored electricity to many homes, as of 6 p.m. Monday, there were still about 80,000 people without power, most of those on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.

Sadly, a tree fell onto a tent at the Indian Trails Resort in Colona, Illinois, killing a 4-year-old boy and critically injuring two other children.  More than 100 trees littered the campground in the aftermath of the storms.

Finally, if there is a silver lining to this horrible weather situation, I am proud to speak highly of my neighbors on Moline’s west side.  Within minutes of the lightning and the rain subsiding, crowds of people came out of their homes to help to clear the street of downed trees, which was massive in number.

From 6 a.m. until noon today, you could see neighbors walking down the street with saws in their hands and branches being dragged to the side of the street as the clean-up progressed.

A special thank you to everyone helping out their neighbors and friends in this time of need.


The aftermath of Monday’s storms

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

MidAmerican Energy and visiting power crews from eight states are in the Quad Cities working feverishly to restore electricity to thousands.

At one point Monday, more than 134,000 homes were without power and for the first time since then, that number has dropped to just below 20,000 Thursday night at 10:13 p.m.

If there’s any consolation to this dire situation, other than a few sprinkles of rain here and there, it has been dry since Monday in the Quad Cities.

Also, cooler than normal temperatures for late-July are making living without air conditioning and electricity a little easier to handle.

However, changes are on the way for the Quad Cities this weekend as warmer and more humid air moves in with the threat of thunderstorms Friday evening and again late Saturday night and Sunday.

As I’ve said on the air and in a previous blog entry, it’s usually when bad things happen that we really get to see the good in most people.

Another thing I’ve come to realize over the past few days is how good it feels to exert yourself to make life easier for others.

Although I donate time and money to different charities and I work to raise awareness for other groups and events, I never thought I’d enjoy scraping up my arms and legs and blistering my hands by cutting up trees and dragging limbs to the street with my neighbors as much as I have since Monday.

It’s that feeling of community and pride of living in the Quad Cities that shines brightly in these dark times.

Stay safe this weekend and remember to lend a helping hand to your neighbor.  You never know if you’ll be the one needing help another time.”


Sadly, the death toll rose to two from that storm as another one of the injured children at the campgrounds died.

Today, while I don’t really like the drought, I’m glad we’re not dealing with the aftermath of the storms in July 2008.

Have a great weekend everyone.


Another Senseless Tragedy in Colorado — Who’s To Blame?

Last night, I considered going to the theater in Moline, Illinois, to see “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” on the big screen before the midnight premiere of  ‘The Dark Knight Rises”, the final Batman movie in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, but I had too many things to do at home.

I was looking forward to checking out the midnight box office results of the movie that will likely be the biggest blockbuster this summer.  What I wasn’t prepared for today were the headlines:  “Gunman kills 12 at ‘Dark Knight Rises’ screening in Colorado”, “Gunman kills 12 in Colorado movie theater”, “Colorado shooting at ‘Dark Knight’ opening leaves 12 dead”, and the list goes on.

The alleged gunman, 24-year-old James Holmes, is reported to have entered an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater at the midnight showing of  “The Dark Knight Rises” with tear gas and opened fire with guns killing 12 people and injuring 59 others, including a three-month-old baby.

As you may or may not know, Aurora, is a suburb of Denver and is located just 13 miles from Littleton, Colorado, the scene of 1999’s Columbine High School massacre that left 15 dead and 21 hurt.

This is a very sad situation and I feel for all of the families of those killed, those that were injured, and for the people who luckily left the theater just scared and shaken.

Sadly, this event will have some people blaming movies, television, or music for corrupting the minds of kids that grow up to commit senseless and shocking crimes like this, Columbine, or the Tucson tragedy that I blogged about just 10 days ago:


It’s been 18 months (January 2011) since the shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona, that lasted 15 seconds with 31 fired bullets and left six people dead and 13 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, injured.  Those killed were  Christina Green (age 9); Gabe Zimmerman (30); John Roll (63); Dorothy Morris (76); Dorwan Stoddard (76); and Phyllis Schneck (79).

I support people being able to own guns to protect themselves.  However, no one, except for the military or law enforcement, should have access to weapons like the Glock used in that Tucson tragedy that can fire so many bullets.  With this shooting and similar ones at Virginia Tech (33 dead and 23 injured) and Columbine (15 dead and 21 injured), what more do I need to say?

What about hunters?  They need guns to hunt.  New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg summed it up with this, “Guns kill people.  I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment.  I’m not opposed to hunters.  I don’t understand why we have to sell magazines with 33 bullets.  If it takes you 33 bullets to kill a deer, you’re not a sportsman.  And armor-piercing bullets — the last time I saw a deer with a bulletproof vest was a long time ago.”

Would the forefathers that wrote the amendments to the Constitution have the same logic about the right to bear arms today and offer the same freedoms?”

That was from my blog on July 10th:

What we need to do now is pray for those in Colorado and not blame the violence in the Batman movies or any other movie, for that matter, for what transpired last night.

We need to watch others closely and be more proactive when we see people who may be struggling with life and make others aware of our concerns.  These people are not content with just hurting themselves, they want to hurt others.   There are usually signs that someone may be unbalanced and now it’s too late for the 12 people who were killed in Aurora, Colorado.


“Peeps’ Friday ’80s Flashback”

The weekend is almost here and I hope you have great plans.  Here are three of my favorites songs from the 1980s to get you motivated this Friday morning.  Enjoy!


Two Portland, Oregon, groups, Seafood Mama and Pilot combined to form Quarterflash and their very first single ended up being its biggest.  “Harden My Heart” reached #3 in 1981.  The follow-up, “Find Another Fool” peaked at #16.

The group ended up having one more top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983, when “Take Me To Heart” made it up to #14.

Although the band was dropped by its label in 1985, lead singer, Rindy Ross, and her husband, Marv, released another Quarterflash album in 2008.


The rock band Fleetwood Mac is still one of top grossing concerts acts when it tours.  The group’s 1977 album, “Rumours”, is one of the biggest selling albums worldwide.  It’s sold more than 40 million copies and is still the sixth best-selling album in U.S. history.

The band has scored 18 top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with nine of those reaching the top ten.  But, they’ve only had one #1 song on the Hot 100, “Dreams” in 1977.

While the group had six consecutive top ten hits from 1976-1979, one of my favorites, “Gypsy”, from the “Mirage” album only reached #12 in 1982.


While I didn’t get a chance in my teenage years to see the English new wave band, the Human League, in concert, their first international hit, “Don’t You Want Me”, that reached #1 across the world, including here in America, and is still one of my favorite songs of all time.

They ended scoring five more top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with two more of those reaching the top ten.  The two other top ten hits were “(Keep Feeling) Fascination” that peaked at #8 in 1983, and “Human” that topped the charts in the United States in 1986.

Back in the early 2000s, I got to see the Human League in concert at Market Days in Chicago and I felt 17 again!


Color Me Happy After A Day in the Kitchen

Foodies, what do you get when you combine freshly harvested mint, lemon balm, basil, rosemary, and a few lavender flowers, throw in some apple juice, food coloring, several pounds of sugar, and multiple packages of liquid pectin?  I bet that last ingredient gave it away and the one before that would have gotten Paula Deen’s attention back in the day.

While I strive to be Julia Child, I couldn’t imagine putting together complex recipes with ingredients that I wouldn’t want to eat because it just doesn’t sound good and it definitely wouldn’t be good for the waist line.

After successfully making mint and jalapeno-mint jelly back in mid-May, I thought I would tackle it again and branch out to try some more complex flavors and throw in a little color for pizzazz.

This morning I started with apple-mint and then moved on to lemon balm-basil.

The first two batches before lunch turned out beautifully with just a few drops of food coloring.  The apple-mint is the red jelly and the yellow is the lemon balm-basil.

Since I went overboard in picking mint yesterday and it didn’t even make a dent in the garden, I decided to make a potpourri jelly.  I used the remaining mint and lemon balm and added some rosemary and lavender flowers.

With this batch, after it was ready, I added some blue food coloring to some of it and orange food coloring  to the other part (that turned out to be a lighter red) just to be different.  As I poured it into the jars, I added sprigs of rosemary for fun.

Now, that all the dishes are washed and the kitchen looks a little more tidy, I counted my jars and there were 29 from today (all the jars I had available).  I had some extra jelly that I had to pour into mismatched containers for us to test first to see if it’s edible.

So, with 44 jars of jelly, three things could happen:  breakfast will become our favorite meal of the day, we can serve them over cream cheese for parties, or they’ll make nice little Christmas presents.  Or, a combination of the three?

And, looking at this picture, I have a rainbow of color.  Sweet!


Peeps’ Movie Review — “Safe House” & “Worried About The Boy”

I thought about heading to the movies tonight since they are having a double feature of “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” leading up to the midnight debut of “The Dark Knight Rises”, but I have a million things to get done today.  While I’ve already seen the first two movies in the this “Batman” trilogy, I think it would much more exciting at the theater seeing and hearing them on the big screen rather than on a 20″ television screen back in the day!

So, once I get done with what I need to accomplish today, I’ll probably relax at home and watch a movie on DVD.   Recently, I watched “Safe House” and “Worried About the Boy”.


“Worried About The Boy” is a 2010 English TV movie that was just released here in the United States.

It follows the life of George O’Dowd in 1980 as he moved away from home and became part of the fashion scene at a London club called “The Blitz”.  The movie takes you on the journey as George falls in love, gets his heart broken, meets a new love, becomes Boy George, and makes his television debut on “Top of the Pops” with Culture Club.

The movie also flashes forward to 1986 when the world that was Culture Club came crashing down because of George’s drug use.

Douglas Booth is a beautiful Boy George and the acting is great.  It takes you on mystical journey of the punk music scene of the early 1980s and it made me wish that I had lived in either London to experience that or New York City in the 1970s to visit Studio 54.

The movie will also make you want to pull out your Culture Club albums or CDs to listen to the band’s nine top twenty American hits from “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” in 1982 to its biggest hit in 1983, “Karma Chameleon”, to “Move Away”, the group’s last hit in America in 1986.

And, you’ll want to listen to the music because that was my biggest problem with the movie — the lack of Culture Club music.  However, I know the movie focused on how George O’Dowd became “Boy George” and why Culture Club disbanded.  And, it achieved success with both of those.

I admit that I had tickets to see Culture Club in Chicago a few years ago but the tour was cancelled because the U.S. wouldn’t extend a visa to Boy George because of his criminal record.  I guess it’s bad when you chain a male escort to the wall in England? 🙂  The group is expected to release a new album in 2013 and I hope they tour.


This thriller, that grossed more than $200 million, came out in theaters earlier this year and is now on DVD.  It’s stars Denzel Washington, one of the most exciting actors alive, and Ryan Reynolds, one of the hottest actors alive.  So, it should be a win-win situation.

However, it isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong because I enjoyed the movie and I couldn’t wait to see how it would end.  But, when it did end, it was very predictable.

Washington plays Tobin Frost, an ex-CIA agent on the run from, it seems, everyone.  When there is a shoot-out with “bad guys”, he ends up in a safe house for protection while being questioned by the CIA.  On the night he’s being interrogated, Reynolds’ character, Matt Weston, is in charge and things go badly when the previously mentioned “bad guys” come in and gun down everyone except the two stars of the movie.

Now, Reynolds, who wants a promotion, must keep Washington alive for the U.S. government to question and Washington wants to get away from Reynolds.  It ends up being a buddy movie although neither men really trusts the other, but they need each other.

While I enjoyed it, I pretty much knew how it would end.



And, since there wasn’t much Culture Club music in the movie, “Worried About The Boy” (one song), here’s a bonus:  my favorite Culture Club video, “The War song” from 1984.  It only reached #17 in the U.S., from the lbum, “Waking Up With The House On Fire”.


Drought Be Damned — Our Weekend Planting Frenzy

Here in the Midwest, we continue to bake with temperatures close to 100° with very little rainfall.  We’ve only had 0.21″ of rain this month.  So, who in their right mind would decide to plant trees, rose bushes, flowers, and shrubs in the middle of a drought?

That would be two goofballs named Ray and Anthony after discovering early “end of the season” bargains.  Last year, we found discount trees in September.  Last weekend, Hy-Vee had already closed down their garden centers at the Moline locations and Lowe’s, Blain’s Farm & Fleet, and Menard’s were drastically dropping the prices on what they had left.

It all started last Friday when we bought three flowering bushes at Hy-Vee.  Then Sunday, after brunch with my sister, we decided to hit the other three stores that I mentioned and this is what we came home with!

We then went around the front and back yards deciding where we wanted to plant things.  Once that was done, it was time for the difficult task of digging holes into the hard, dry, baked ground.  This is what the ground looks like when you’re running more than 5″ below average on rainfall since June 1st!

However, we got the two Limelight hydrangea, two snowball hydrangea, a Diablo Ninebark shrub, three butterfly bushes, two hibiscus tree descendants, a lilac bush, a clump Birch tree, a Colorado Blue Spruce, an Austrian Black Pine, two Dappled Willow trees, four rose bushes (white, pink, yellow, and paprika), and my favorite, a Black Chokeberry fruit tree planted.

In addition to those that we planted in the ground, we also have a new fern on the front steps, an Orchid and a tropical plant on the sun porch, a Dracaena (tropical  plant) in the living room, and another huge Mandevilla potted and sitting in the fire pit.

So, as some farmers across eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois are beginning to mow down their corn crops that didn’t pollinate due to the drought, all of our plants are thriving thanks to a nice dose of daily water from the water hoses and not the sky.

My quest is that in a couple of years, I’ll have either a “Better Homes and Garden” yard or a smaller yard to mow.


She Can’t Be a Lesbian, Just Look at Her!

I’m very relieved today.  I now know what a lesbian doesn’t look like!

While you probably can’t look at a person and know if they’re a Democrat or a Republican of if they’re Team Edward or Team Jacob, thanks to Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, I know two things:  that lesbians can’t be thin, good-looking women and that old stereotypes are alive and well in good ol’ Florida.  And, if you find them there, you can find them anywhere.

Pay attention now and look closely at that woman.  This is not what a lesbian looks like.  I don’t want anyone getting confused.

The Lt. Governor is embroiled in a lawsuit that claims she was caught in a compromising position with a former aide, a woman.  While attending the opening of a Mitt Romney headquarters this past weekend in Orange Park, here is Carroll had to say.

In case you don’t click on the link to see Carroll’s humorous remarks and laugh, she says:  “”The problem is that when you have these accusations that come out, it’s not just one person you’re attacking. It’s an entire family. My husband doesn’t want to hear that. He knows the type of woman I am. I mean, my kids know the type of woman I am. For twenty-nine years – I’m the one that’s married for twenty-nine years. The accuser is the one that’s been single for a long time.  So usually black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”

What???  Carroll says, “the accuser is the one that’s been single for a long time. So usually black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”

This is Carletha Cole, a former spokeswoman for Carroll, who is accusing the Lt. Governor of having the lesbian affair.

I’m trying to keep my gaydar focused to figure out if Cole looks like a lesbian.  Let’s see, she’s smiling, but not showing teeth, she’s wearing a drab-colored dress, no jewelry, and she’s not staring off into the wild, blue yonder.

Wait, let me look at another picture of Carroll, the Lt. Governor, to see if I have this “straight”.

Yep, she’s smiling, wearing bright-colored clothes, jewelry, and she’s staring off into the wild, blue yonder.  She is definitely straight or to quote her, “So usually black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”

Here we are in 2012 and people still grasp at the stereotypes that gays and lesbians look a certain way.

When you see pictures of gay pride parades across the country, the generally “straight-laced” media usually shows drag queens, leather daddies, flamboyant men, and women on motorcycles.  Seriously, does it think those are the scariest things that they can find to get Christian conservatives riled up?

Oh wait, I was so focused on trying to figure out what a lesbian looks like and didn’t look like to mention that Carroll, the Lt. Governor, is an outspoken Christian conservative.

Would Carroll think these ladies are “that way”?

Those are out lesbians!  Stop the press!  I guess you thought I’d show some mean looking woman who you’d be afraid to pass on the sidewalk.

Just to clarify things for Jennifer Carroll and those that still live in the dark ages, gay men and lesbians look just like everyone else.  We live our lives like just everyone else.

We have gay and bisexual men and women, just as the straight people do, that go out and bed whoever they want.  That’s fine if that’s what they want to do.  We have men and women in our community that go to work every day, pay taxes, and come home to their husband, wives, and children.  We even get phone calls from our husbands and wives at work to remind us to pick up something at the grocery at the store on the way home!

Jennifer Carroll, I don’t care if you had an extramarital affair with a former aide or not.  I don’t care if that person is a man or a woman.  That’s your life.

But, don’t be such a homophobic, closet case (if you’re lying and I’m not implying that you are) just because you’re pretty, thin, and that you don’t look that way.  Honey, in our circles, they’re called “lipstick lesbians”.   (Disclaimer:  I don’t use the word “honey” when I refer to people in the gay community.  I did it today because I’m sure Jennifer Carroll and her Christian conservatives think all gay people talk that way, girl!)