Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Wal-mart, Go Home

Let me start by saying that I truly despise Wal-Mart. People turn ugly when they get into the parking lot. I don't like the way Wal-Mart does business. I don't think that the homogenization of America is worth saving 4 cents on a bar of soap. I miss Mom-and-Pop stores. I think Wal-Mart is bad.

I live in a neighborhood that is not in downtown, but is not the suburbs. It is an old, classic, beautiful neighborhood, nearly a square mile in area. We have shops, a couple restaurants, a few duplex homes, and a couple small apartments, as well as one high-rise apartment (that dates from the 1920s and still has a doorman to operate the elevator). Wal-Mart wants to build a store about 1 mile from my home. I cannot begin to tell you how against this I am.

I believe that anybody in marketing can make anything sound good. I think that a good lobbyist can make you want to buy cancer. Consequently, I don't believe any of them. Wal-Mart has sent lobbyists (they call them "developers") to our fair city to convince our city council members that building this store 3 miles from our city center is not only good for the city, but it will not be a problem for the neighborhoods involved. If the traffic is not going to affect the neighborhoods, why do they wish to build at this site? Isn't the point to get cars into the parking lot and people into the store? Do they think that the cars will teleport themselves into the parking lot? We have 4 schools in the area--do we believe the lobbyists when they say that traffic is not going to be a problem?

Three blocks from my home, we have a Dillons supermarket, affectionately referred to as "Dinky Dillons." It isn't large, but I have been able to get my weekly shopping done there more than once. There is an adorable woman who works there named Terry. Ever time I go in to do my shopping, she welcomes me like I am her long-lost child. And not just me--she knows her customers, as do most of the clerks and stockmen in the store. It is small, but a delightful place to run in and pick things up. I can send my kids there to get potatoes should I run out while cooking dinner. Wal-Mart will close that store. It simply will not be able to compete. Given the new scheduling system that Wal-Mart is implementing, I doubt that the workers at Wal-Mart, should the City Council approve it today, will ever see customers enough to know them.

Years ago, I was in a Wal-Mart here in Wichita. At the time, it was a fairly new store. It was sleeting outside, and I had 2 children in my cart, an infant and a 2-year-old. I had some other things, and a 40-pound bag of dog food. There was no help in getting my things onto the conveyor belt for checkout, and the cashier told me to leave the dog food there, and she would find the bar code and scan it. She ripped the bag, and dog food poured onto the floor. It took almost 10 minutes for someone to come with a broom and dustpan, and this person was unable to sweep the food up. I took the broom and swept the floor so that no one would slip and fall on the dog food. It took another 15 minutes for the guy who brought the broom to get a replacement bag of dog food. After all this, no one helped me get the dog food to my car. You know, even though I was angry at my treatment, I understood that the cashier didn't mean to rip the bag, the guy with the broom just simply didn't know how to sweep, and they were crowded and busy with people trying to get stocked with a winter storm coming in, and taking things to the car is your own problem, regardless of the circumstances. This realization didn't excuse anything that happened in the store, but I got it. I wrote a complaint letter to the management of the store, and forwarded a copy to Bentonville, Arkansas, anyway. I thought that they might want their store to be a more pleasant place for people to visit. I received no response from either the store nor the corporate headquarters. It struck me then that Wal-Mart doesn't care about its customers--it only cares about the bottom line. Like any corporation that knows how to get what it wants, I believe it will sell any bill of goods necessary to the City Council to get what it wants, as long as it can improve its bottom line.

I know that Sam Walton was a patriotic American who loved this country. I wonder if he would love the homogeneous, materialistic country we are allowing Wal-Mart to make us into. I hope our City Council is intelligent enough to see through the sales pitch.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

New Resolutions

So it is now 2007. My New Year's Resolutions are:

Once again, I will keep a list of everything I read on my Palm. That was fun, fairly easy, and neat to look back. My nonfiction total was (I think) 14 books. I will try to increase that, as well as some more spiritual reading.

I will try (again) to be nicer, especially to my children. Maybe if I keep a log of bad behavior, like my book list, it will be easier to keep on top of it. Nah...

I will try to do something physical every day. Yesterday, I logged time on the treadmill. I will do at least 15 minutes of some exercise every day.

I think that is work enough. Now it is in print, and maybe, that will keep me honest.

Monday, January 1, 2007


One of my resolutions last New Year's Day was to keep a list of all the books I read that year. This was one of the resolutions I kept. To that end, here is the list, and a brief comment about each book:

1. Some chicklit book i can't remember--and it is still January! (June --I remember now! I saw it in the library, and knew that this was it--What do you Do All Day? by the same author as The Nanny Diaries. I liked it, but, obviously, it wasn't as memorable as I had hoped it would be.)

2. Predator (Patricia Cornwell) This was another disappointment. I used to love her books, and now she seems pretentious. Is it me or her?

3. Daalder's Chocolates (Philibert Schogt) Dutch boy marries and opens an artisan chocolate shop in Canada only to see it be closed by a Wal-Mart type supertore. Liked this book a lot, but it made me sad at the end.

4. Last Dance (John Feinstein) A poorly edited examination of 2005 Final Four, won by my Heels with me watching in St. Louis. Bought the book and added it to my shelf of Carolina basketball books, but this was not satisfying. Does it make me pretentious that I am put off when a book or article about Carolina anything isn't done well?

5. Better Than Chocolate (Susan Waggoner) Fun book about the wife of a man who discovers a synthetic chocolate and how quickly they go into debt. Guilt-free chocolate won't make you happy! Who knew? I probably wouldn't recommend this book, although it wasn't bad. Just kind of scattered.

6. To Hate Like This is to Be Happy Forever (Will Blythe) The best book so far. Loved this book for several reasons: (A) It explains some of my behavior so well; (B) It is very well-written; and (C) it is about so much more than basketball.

7. Everywhere That Mary Went (Lisa Scottoline) So-so legal/crime drama, my favorite genre. The first of the author's books to feature Mary D'Nunzio, and an OK story. I sent this one to Jaymi as a pool book.

8. Driven From Within (Michael Jordan) I checked this out of the library for Sam, and ended up reading it myself. It is a marketing campaign for Jordan's clothing and his shoes, but is actually a good motivational book. I still wish Sam would read it; I really enjoyed it, although it was difficult to read because of the printing and the colors.

9. An Ex to Grind (Jane Heller) Chick Lit--a fun book about a divorcee who seeks revenge on her ex who is getting alimony by fixing him up with someone with whom he falls head-over-heels in love. Guess we don't always want what we wish for.

10. Julie and Julia (Julie Powell) A memoir about a woman who turns 30, moves, and nearly gets divorced while trying to make every recipe in Julia Childs' Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Hilarious, touching, and engaging--I read it in just over a day (I could've finished in one day if Joe had left the lights on a little longer!) The thought of this prompted me to start my own blog.

11. Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy O'Toole) I don't see why everyone loved this, or why it won the Pulitzer. Funny enough, but really too unbelievable to be taken seriously. I thought the mom should have been treated better.

12. Misquoting Jesus (Bart Erdmann) Interesting discussion of how the New Testament we know today was not/is not the original of the authors, and how it came to be changed. His discussions make loads of sense, but how are we to accept all of it when we can't accept parts of it? Is the Bible we read today what was divinely inspired, or are our interpretations of such the divinations? This book raises lots of interesting questions for examining faith. Erdmann has said (and I can't remember where I read/heard this) that he no longer believes in God after his studies about the ancient scriptures, which makes me sad. I believe that we are led to believe from the scriptures what we need to believe at the time we read such scripture. Eerdmann's discussions, for me, make the Bible more relevant, not less so.

13. Michaelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (Ross King) The politics and creation of the Sistine Chapel comes to life. This was a really very interesting account of the political and artistic world during the Renaissance and the painting of the Sistine Chapel Great read, and makes me want to read his other books.

14. The Camel Club (David Baldacci) A thriller about the kidnapping of the President and the plan to get him back. Former spooks and secret service agents are in on the job of saving the world.

15. Dark Tort (Diana Mott Davidson) Another Goldy Schulz book about my favorite caterer who solves another mystery after finding another body on another catering job. Who knew catering was so dangerous? Anyway, can't wait to try one of the recipes. Yum! This is one of my favorites, and I always buy her books when the come out in hardback. I just can't decide whether to keep them in the kitchen with my cookbooks, or in the living room with my novels!

16. The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue (Barbara Samuel) I bought this as a cheap pool book, but really, really loved it. It is about losing, finding, and rediscovering love, and the differences between love and lust, and between reality and dreams. I won't give it to Jaymi like I planned, but it will go in my "To Keep" book pile.

17. Back to the Bedroom (Janet Evanovich) This is the pool book that I thought I had before. Fun, light, breeezy, just the thing for summer.

18. Love Overboard (Janet Evanovich) Last review, different setting. Still fun.

19. S is for Silence (Sue Grafton) Kinsey Milhone does it again with a 35-year-old murder. I didn't like the flashback method of writing--kind of takes away from Kinsey's smart-aleck ways, and she only got together with her boyfriend once--then just for dinner. Neither Henry, nor any of his brothers, were present, and I missed them. Kinsey is not the only character in this series.

20. Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine) Emma made me read this alternate retelling of her favorite story, Cinderella. It was a really good kids' book, very imaginative, and (Emma is right) the movie didn't do the book justice.

21. Almost French (Sarah Turnbull) An Australian woman meets a Frenchman while backpacking through Europe; they fall in love and move in together, ultimately marrying him. I felt a kinship to her, moving and settling in Kansas, but at least they speak my language.

22. BTK; Unholy Messenger (Stephen Singular) Interesting book of the last public years of BTK. Heavy emphasis on his church and their reactions to finding out BTK is one of their own. More of a pyschological account of BTK rather than a legal history.

23. The Food of Love (Anthony Ccapella) A silly, inane book about Italian food and sex-definitely a pool book, except that Italians eat some weird foods.

24. False Impression (Jeffrey Archer) Thriller set in the 9/11 era. He framed part of the story around the Trade Center atack, but no central character died, and they were still able to fly about the world. A decent story, though.

25. 5th Horseman (James Patterson) Legal/Crime thriller about a murderer on a hospital staff, and girls solve it, while keeping their romances going.

26. Directed Verdict (Randy Singer) Crime drama about a missionary killed in Saudi Arabia, and the international trial that brought democracy (?) to Saudi Arabia. Written from a Christian point of view.

27. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) This book hasn't lost a bit of its spirit; loved it 30 years ago, and loved it just as much today.

28. The Year of Secret Assignments (Jaclyn Moriarity) Horribly written teenage book with a fairly interesting plot. Way too adult for Emma to read, even though Kate encouraged her to do so. Frank, off-the-cuff talk of blow jobs, sex, drinking, etc.

29. Skinny Dip (Carl Hiaasen) Hysterical crime thriller about an ex-agent, who is being hunted and shot at over a 4-year old murder investigation. Very readable and funny. I will read more of his books.

30. Anne of Avonlea (L.M. Mongomery) More tales of Anne as she teaches school in Avonlea.

31. Twelve Sharp (Janet Evanovich) Stephanie Plum gets into more adventures with Ranger and Morelli--actually, Ranger is the one with the problem in this book.

32. Anne of the Island (L.M. Montgomery) Anne at college, and finally realizing she loves Gilbert. What a guy.

33. Saints-A Visual Guide (Edward and Lorna Mornin) Art and descriptions of various saints, not always the most popular ones. Interesting--I would want to check this out before travelling to Bavaria.

34. The Black Dahlia (James Ellray) True crime fiction about the notorious Hollywood murder. Good read--not fun, though. I really liked this, and want to see the movie.

35. Sea Change (Robert Parker) His books are so readable, and his characters, while flawed, are what we all strive to be. Gross sex tape leads Jesse Stone to find a killer in a place he never expected--the victim's home.

36. Anne of Windy Poplars (L.M. Montgomery) Anne's letters to Gilbert while he is at medical school, and she is teaching in Windy Poplars. Reading this book again made me realize how much influence Anne had on me growing up. I try to see the good in each day, and in each person, but I will not back down. I think in this book, I was able to see how to stand up for myself while still being likeable.

37. Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris) Absolutely one of the funniest things ever put on paper. Can't wait to read NAKED.

39. The Lincoln Lawyer (Michael Connelly) Legal thriller about an ex-cop turned lawyer. Made me want to read more of him.

40. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (David Sedaris) Not as funny overall as Me Talk..., but had one of the funniest essays about St. Nicholas--absolutely hysterical.

41. Running with Scissors (Augusten Burroughs) This book was alternately funny and absolutely disgusting. I cannot see how they are going to make a movie that is watchable, when one of the central issues of the book involves a 13-year-old boy having a 35-year-old lover, male or female. Disgusting. Whoever compared Burroughs favorably with Sedaris should lose their job.

42. City of Bones (Michael Connelly) Cop gets a cold case and solves it before quitting the force.

43. Trunk Music (Michael Connelly) Another legal thriller--not as good as the first one I read by him. I wish that I had started reading these in order.

44. A Darkness More Than Night (Michael Connelly) Another thriller wherein the main character of other books is implicated in a crime that a fellow cop has to solve. The recurring character is Harry Bosch, whose real name is Hieronymous, named after the 15th century painter. Some of his artwork figures into the story, and so I checked out a book about the artist and looked at/skimmed it, too. Since I didn't sit and read it, it doesn't count in this list, but I did check it out as a companion to this novel.

45. The Cold Moon (Jeffrey Deaver) Way too convoluted story, but a fun read about Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs.

46. Chill Factor (Sandra Brown) Thriller concerning who's who in a small NC mountain town. One of her better reads.

47. Sullivan's Evidence (Nancy Taylor Rosenberg) Legal thriller about a probation officer who is really good at her job, meets a man who may be evil, but, no, it is his twin brother. Oh, Brother!!!

48. Fury (Robert Tannenbaum) Butch and Marlene save members of their family again, while saving NYC at the same time. This guy is really a good writer, and I feel like I know, but probably wouldn't like, the characters. But why does everything have to fit together? Families work on their own, and everything that one does isn't necessarily tied to what another family member does.

49. At Risk (Patricia Cornwell) I liked this book better than the last 3 of hers that I have read, although I think she would call this one a lightweight.

50. The Closers (Michael Connelly) Another pretty good one about Harry Bosch, who is now back to being a cop in the open/unsolved case unit. Solves an old case with political implications.

51. The Gospel of Judas (Albert Krosney) Interesting but poorly written story of the Gospel of Judas, which was deemed not worthy of inclusion in the Bible by the early church. Made me wonder if Andrew Lloyd Webber knew something about this when he wrote Jesus Christ, Superstar. I guess it wasn't as poorly written, and much as I really dislike books that go back and forth, and don't follow hitorically or logically. I felt like this man deserved a better editor than he got, because he was fascinating.

52. Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) My initial reaction to someone who says "You have to read this book" is an immediate "No, I don't." I wish that I hadn't had that reaction to this book. It was an amazing book about a woman's sojourns in Italy (to eat), in India (to pray) and in Bali (to love). My new favorite book of the year--so good I bought one as a gift for Jaymi.

53. The Innocent Man (John Grisham) Really good nonfiction book about a man wrongly sent to death row in Oklahoma. Love Grisham -- he does nonfiction well, too.

54. Blue Screen (Robert Parker) Sunny Randall meets Jesse Stone. I love Parker's style of writing, and his characters never get old to me, because they are so flawed.

So there is my year in books. I will do a scrapbook page on all these books, highlighting my favorites: To Hate Like This... , Julie and Julia, and Eat, Pray, Love. Can't decide which of these I liked the best. This was fun, and I think I will do it again next year (this year!).