Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I'm not totally sure why all of a sudden the President has begun to champion the cause of Cuban dissidents publically (except for the fact that he wouldn't have beaten Al Gore in 2000 without the Cuban vote in southern Florida and he currently needs to "woo" Cuban voters for support of the Republican candidate in 2008), but in the last month he has held a private audience with Yamilé Llanes Labrada, wife of political prisoner and prisoner of conscience, José Luis García Paneque and invited families of political prisoners to the White House for the reiteration of his policy toward Cuba. Then, on Monday (10/29) came the official announcement that President Bush has chosen to award one of the six Presidential Medals of Freedom to Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet González, an internal medicine specialist and highly respected symbol of opposition to the Castro regime, in a ceremony at the White House this coming Monday, November 5th.

It is because of Dr. Biscet's case that I became so interested in human rights work on behalf of political prisoners in Cuba. It is through a pursuit of information on Dr. Biscet that I met Laida Carro, a woman who works tirelessly on behalf of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Cuba. And, it is with Laida that I began to work in human rights affairs and still stay busy translating articles, organizing conferences, and talking to people around the world about the tragic situation Cuban political prisoners and prisoners of conscience suffer in Cuba. My heart rejoices in the fact that Laida will be present at the White House for the award ceremony. She, more than anyone, brought his situation into the world spotlight. She is devoted to his cause. In fact, Laida is solely responsible for arranging for Dr. Biscet's daughter, who currently lives in Virginia, to receive the award on his behalf.

My interest in Oscar Elías Biscet González began about 10 years ago when one of my students came across information about him while doing research on a project for my fifth quarter Spanish class. The more I read about this man, who is a student of Gandi, Martin Luther King, and other advocates of non-violent civil disobedience, the more I wanted to know about what had landed him in jail in Cuba. I read incessantly about his struggle as a voice for human rights for the Cuban people, and I learned that he had had the courage to publish a report on Rivanol, a drug used to produce spontaneous abortions in women so that fetal tissue could be used in research. Laida happened to be the person who translated the report and got it to the United Nations. And, as one would anticipate, shortly thereafter, Biscet was barred from practicing medicine and began receiving intense harassment from the Cuban authorities. Ultimately, he was arrested for attending a meeting of human rights activists and supposedly for flying the Cuban flag upside down.

At present, Dr. Biscet still remains in prison outisde of Havana. Because he has become an international symbol of opposition to the Castro regime, prison authorities have moved him from solitary confinement, and he is receiving a little better treatment than before. Until recently, he was housed in a very small cell with no light, no running water, and a hole in the floor to be used for bathroom purposes. There were many occasions when the prison sewer backed up through that hole, and he his cell floor was covered with human waste. He was given putrid food through a slot in the bottom of his cell door, and he lived with rats invading his cell at any given hour. At one point, he was not allowed any reading or writing material and never got to leave his cell to go outside in the sun.

A healthy man when he went into prison, Biscet now suffers from a myriad of problems. He's lost almost all his teeth to a nasty gum disease, and he has everything from high blood pressure to pretty severe intestinal problems. Despite physical and psychological torture, he remains firm about not wearing the uniform of the common prisoner as dictated by Cuban penal code, and he refuses to participate in prison "education." In short, he's a real pain in the rear end for the Cuban government.

I know Dr. Biscet would consider this award as one that represents the Cuban people and their struggle rather than his own. He's a humble man of great faith and courage, a person I foresee as a key figure in the future of his country.

So again, I have to say thanks to George W. Bush. Regardless of any political motive he attaches to this award, for the Cuban people and especially for the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who are heinously mistreated in Cuban prisons, the award is a great source of strength and hope.

Gracias, Señor Presidente.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Much to the surprise of all gathered for a local annual Halloween Party, the Burger King paid a surprise visit, complete with crowns for everyone and a plate of cheeseburgers for anyone willing to tackle his cholesterol-packed signature sandwiches. Upon arrival, he stood quietly at the window and waved until folks noticed him. (As you might have seen on his TV commercials, he's never been one to make a boisterous entrance. Some believe he's somewhat of a voyeur, but in reality, he's really justpainfully shy.) Over the course of the evening, he handed out crowns and packets of sugar as party favors and tried to recruit everyone from Scarlet O'Hara to a couple of pirates to invest in a franchise. Regretfully for BK, no one seemed too interested.

It was not until last evening that BK has ever considered changing his batchelor status, but the minute he finally walked into the house, the woman of his dreams strolled in (somewhat feebly) from the kitchen. Despite a few hugs along the way, nothing came of his many efforts to woo the "old wretch." BK finally concluded her rejection was a blessing in disguise once she confessed to owning stock in McDonald's.

Friday, October 26, 2007


I spent today with ....

Jack & the Beanstalk

Twin Dinosaurs

And a couple of other good witches!

It was the BEST !!!!!!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


This week's rainfall, although still very sparse for this time of year, has been a veritable lifesaver for my yellow datura plants that have tried to bloom since late June. Honestly, I had given up on them and came quite close to pulling them up a couple of weeks ago when it seemed like there was no way they could muster up the stamina to survive the continued heat, much less produce a bloom. Now I'm really glad I didn't pull cast them to the compost pile.

The blooms are a littly puny (probably due to the drought) in comparison to the white daturas. They're more spiked around the edges like wild datura, and their color is a soft, pastel yellow. I'm hoping these blooms will leave me a pod or two so I can gather some seeds and start thinking about new year's plants.
Here are the photos....

And, I just threw in a shot of the sassafras tree along the fence line. The sun reflecting off its leaves this afternoon was BRILLIANT!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I've spent the last hour and a half trying to figure out how to size photos to fit the header on my blog, and what now appears is the best I've been able to do. I feel pretty brainless. After I go in to all the blog help windows and try to attempt everything they instruct me to do, I still have no success. I've tried about 15 different sizes of photos and have yet to find what I need to cover the heading space and place the photo where I want it.

So, for the time being, I'm giving up and going to bed.

Buenas noches...

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Night-Blooming Sirius
(Photo taken at the flea market today)

The flowers last only one day and have a sweet, intoxicating smell.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I am not a fan of President George W. Bush. In fact, I can hardly listen to him without feeling ill, and I certainly don't agree with anything he has done for our country. I agree with former President Carter that George Bush's presidency will go down in history as the worst in our country's history...

But last week, George did one thing that redeemed him just a little bit (and I mean just a tiny little bit in the overall grand scheme of things) in my eyes.

Last Wednesday, October 10, 2007, my beloved friend, Laida Carro, with whom I do human rights work on behalf of Cuban political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, traveled to Washington, DC, to update the Inter-American Commisson on Human Rights of the Organization of American States on the health situation of Cuban political prisoners, many of whom are in danger of dying in prison from everything from tuberculosis to cancer. She arranged for Yamile Llanes Labrada, the wife of Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Paneque, one of the prisoners for whom we have done a tremendous amount of work lately, to accompany her.

Dr. Garcia Paneque, a plastic surgeon, independent librarian, and independent journalist, has been in jail since March 19, 2003, at which time he was arbitrarily arrested and summarily tried along with 74 other leading non-violent opposition leaders on the island. Since then, he has developed Intestinal Mal Absorption Syndrome, chronic diarrhea, anemia, and pneumonia. In addition, he has lost half of his body weight (he's below 100 lbs. now), and he is housed in the psychiatric ward among the most dangerous criminals in one of the worst prisons in Cuba.

Yamile, a lawyer, has suffered tremendously since her husband's incarceration. To make a long story short, after suffering four years of continuous harassment and experiencing the terrible psychological impact her husband's situation was having on their children, she agreed to her husband's wish to leave him and bring the children to the United States. She and the children arrived recently.

Here's where George Bush comes in. It just so happened the president learned of Yamile's trip to DC to testify, and he requested a personal audience with her to learn of her story. Yamile's daughter, Shirlen, and Yamile were invited to meet with him in the Oval Office, and when they entered the Oval Office, Yamile told the president she would not have been able to come to the States, let alone adjust to life here, had it not been for Laida Carro. So Laida, who had been waiting for Yamile outside the president's office was also invited in. (In the photo, Laida is sitting on the couch with Shirlen, and Yamile is in the chair to Bush's right. The man in between her and the president it the interpreter.)

Laida said she thinks the president was genuinely touched by Yamile and Shirlen's presence. She said he listened attentively to Yamile's story and her description of what her life was like in Cuba. He wrote down Dr. Garcia Paneque's name, practiced it in Spanish, and then invited them to accompany him down to the Rose Garden for his speech in honor of Hispanic Heritage Day. (That's Yamile to the right of the president.)

As the president spoke to the dignitaries assembled in the Rose Garden, he mentioned Yamile and Dr. Paneque not once, but three times (!) in his speech. For Yamile, who has endured such tremendous sadness that she once said she could never laugh again, the experience was life-changing. She feels like there is hope for her husband, and she has heard the president of what she considers to the be the most powerful nation on earth call for his freedom. Laida said it has been a transformational experience for this woman who has watched her husband waste away and her children withdraw from life.

I have the text of Bush's speech posted on The Coalition of Cuban-American Women's blog:
I believe at this point it's the third post down on the blog.
I've also posted the testimony Laida and Yamile gave at the OAS on the post before the Bush speech. Both women give powerful testimonies (in Spanish). You can click on the site to either hear or watch the speeches. And, if you "google" Yamile Llanes Bush, you'll see that news of President Bush's interest in Yamile's situation has made news across the globe.

Laida and I frequently talk about how human rights work is about disseminating information, making contacts, connecting people to people, persistence, and patience. While the world is very aware of the recent situation in Myanmaar, human rights violations in China, the atrocities of Darfur, and the famine in Somalia, relatively little attention has been focused on Cuba. With this surprise meeting last week, people heard about one situation out of many that take place in Cuba on a daily basis.

So, thank you, George Bush, for taking time with Yamile. She now feels some hope. All of us who work with matters in Cuba are very appreciative. Even I say ¡muchismas gracias!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


~Had some wine and cheese with Dr. Tom Friday afternoon

~Went to the flea market, Salvation Army, and Goodwill with Dr. Tom Saturday morning

~Watched the Warren High School Warriors Marching Band at the Band-o-rama Competition in Marietta. Eliza's grace and beauty on the field is awesome!

~Took a few photos downtown

~Went to the flea market with Dr. Tom again this morning

~Helped a friend move some furniture this afternoon

That's all folks...

Friday, October 12, 2007


(Another of Mary Ann's lists. Thanks, dear, for reminding us to make this one.)

~ kitten play


~Rink's, Salvation Army, and Goodwill on Saturday morning with Dr. Tom

~office laughter with Mary Ann

~kitten play

~text messages from my beloveds

~fall mornings and evenings

~music (highly recommended on-line listening:

~my mom's voice

~a long, hot shower

~kitten play

Thursday, October 11, 2007


A cold front blew in night before last, and the 90-ish temperatures from the beginning of the week have taken a plunge into more season-like ranges, the low 40's at night and mid-50's during the day. I brought my orchids in this evening so they wouldn't have to withstand a cold night. There are more than a dozen or so other potted wonders to bring in with time, but I got cold while I was out and decided to wait on the other ones.

It's interesting this fall. First of all, everyone's talking about the heat and lack of rain. The trees are beginning to turn, but I don't anticipate vivid colors this year. As it would appear, the leaves are just going to turn brown and fall off. There is little color in the side yard maple leaves, and on my walk the other day, I noticed even the poplar and sycamore leaves were not the brilliant yellow one normally sees at this time of year. My old friend of many years ago, Mr. Henry Miller, would have had some words of wisdom about these weird weather days, I'm sure. He talked about climate changes and global warming long before the topic became so up front.

In other farm news, I spent a good bit of time last evening on the internet in search of ideas for my Halloween costume this year, and I think I've got a good one! In fact, I can pull it off with an appropriate mask (which I found) and a couple of trips to Goodwill. I'm stoked! Two years ago, my aging Elvis costume won a prize at Beth and Sherm's party, and I hope to be in the running this year. I'm not giving ANY clues. My few blog readers will just have to wait for a photo. Of course, for the children at the college day care, I'll be a witch....a nice witch, as always.

My internet surfing last night also landed some great sites for Christmas gifts. All I'm going to say is that when Mary Ann saw them in the office today, she laughed big time. In fact, I think we're going in together on a couple for some of our campus celebrities. I love funny, corny gifts, and I think I've scored!

Tomorrow's Friday, thank goodness!! I'm so looking forward to a couple of days at home.

I apologize for yet another lame post....There's just not a lot in the super exciting category happening around The Farm these days....

Love and thanks to all who read my ramblings.....T.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I think I've figured out how to post photos from my new camera, so here's just a random sample of some shots I took last weekend. When I started to install the software that comes with the camera, I had to adjust the resolution on my monitor, and I'm still not sure I have all the adjustments made correctly. Seems like there's always something to figure out about all this technology stuff.

(Clousseau - a rare still moment)

(Begonia hanging from Tom & Chintu's porch)

(Probably my favorite photo of Chintu)

(Reena, a friend of Chintu's--Isn't she beautiful?)

Saturday, October 06, 2007


I've spent the day basically doing nothing. The house needs a good cleaning, there are always chores to be done outside, certainly the garage and basement could use some attention, and the side yard is covered with leaves. I just haven't been able to muster up the motivation to do ANYTHING today. As Grandma would say, I'm feeling "right triflin." I have no energy. I feel like I have jet lag.

Dr. Tom and I have been going to flea markets and the Salvation Army Thrift Store on Saturday mornings lately, and I've found some nice things for really good prices. With Dr. T.'s assistance, I'm trying to learn about antique glass and pottery. Last week I got a plate for $1.99 and found it on the internet priced at $45.00. I think I'm hooked. Maybe I'll become an addicted E-bay seller.

Clousseau and Cato are not good bed pals. It's like having two kids around. When they decide to play, i.e., attack my feet, mess around with my hair, jump with full force onto my stomach, there's no rest for the weary. I think they'll be sleeping outside pretty soon.

It's hot!! I'm not a fan of winter, but 90 degrees in October is a bit much. And, on top of that, it's frightfully dry! I'd like several days of steady rain and cooler temperatures.

I'm already tired of the politic-ing for the 2008 elections. It would be nice if we could vote right now, get GWBush out of the White House, and move on. I'm voting for Ms. Potato Head. (see past blog posts)

This is one of my favorite new blogs (also located on my blog list): Bent Objects

That's it for now....Stay tuned....Namasté

Friday, October 05, 2007


I'd like to hang glide.

I'd like to learn the salsa really well.

I'd like to meet and hang out with the Dalai Lama.

I'd like to have a home in Cuba, the Southwest, the mountains of North Carolina, somewhere in Europe, and perhaps Nepal..and other places...

I'd like to be a fly on the wall in the room wherever it is that Castro's convalescing.

I'd like to be wealthy.

I'd like to share my wealth with others.

I'd like to be in the Olympics, as a figure skater, maybe in ice dancing.

I'd like to join the Peace Corps.

I'd like to swim with dolphins.

I'd like to play in a symphony...percussion section, of course.

I'd like not to have to wear clothes.
(Secret Confessions is a Mary Ann idea.... And now I've 'fessed up.....Who's next? It's really fun thinking...If you don't have a blog, you can leave an anonymous comment on mine...)

Thursday, October 04, 2007


My new camera arrived yesterday, and although I wasn't "blown away" by it immediately, I think I'll come to like it quite a bit. Plans for the afternoon, after I teach one more class, are to get outside, take a long walk, and see if I can take a few photos. Maybe I'll have a couple of photos to upload this evening.

Off to class....eergh!

Monday, October 01, 2007


...and I'm feeling somewhat at a loss. At this very moment, the sun is in perfect position from the west to photograph some great fall flower shots in the yard and down by the garden.

I realized some time back my camera seemed a bit frail. After all, it's two years old, has taken 1,000's of shots, has been dropped several times, and has been transported all over the world in a lousy, non-cushioned camera case. And, quite frankly, I've been thinking of upgrading so I can reproduce larger photos nicely.

So, I just ordered a new camera, an 8 megapixel Canon PowerShot A680. I like Canons, and I don't think the learning curve with this one will be too much of a challenge. I feel like I need another camera's worth of experience before I really take the plunge for a fine, professional-type, top-of-the line, spend-more-money-than-I-have -now camera.

It should be here in the next couple days, so I'm forward to shooting zillions of photos this coming weekend.


PS: Apologies to my readers, whoever you are / wherever you are...This is a totally boring post... I'm just sitting at the computer and thinking about customizing my blog, but I'm chicken to go ahead and do so because I have no idea what I'm getting in to or what the consequences of my lack of expertise could produce...Mary Ann, I need help!

And, does anyone know how to post slideshows on a blog? Do I have to have Picasa, Flickr, or something similar?