The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Friday, October 29, 2004


I didn't say
I was easy to love.
You didn't say
you wanted a paint-by-numbers kit

and all in all
it was zip to zip,
zero to sixty in four seconds flat

the flashing lights
the ticket
the fine we paid

Now I'm back on the highway again
only a bit more paranoid
but glad to be in motion again

one eye on the traffic ahead,
one eye on the rear view mirror

hoping there is still enough gas
to make it home
over the bridge.

Copyright ©1996 Smokey Combs
The Soapbox Papers

Monday, October 25, 2004

Time Out for Other Stuff

It's been a while since I've actually had something I felt worth sharing. No -- wait, that's not right. I have had plenty to say, but there is this editor in my head that insists that whatever I write is as precise as I can make it, so my reader(s) will know exactly what I mean.

I have been sitting on two personal pieces of correspondence for 'way too long, for just the same reason. It's as if a person born and raised in -- say, France -- visited a second year French class in its classroom. He would find it impossible to get across the exact thing he is trying to say. Both he and the class would be frustrated. Basics are okay -- but there are idiosyncrasies in language that hinder such precision. I have a friend who is learning ASL - American Sign Language - in a college setting. She had already mastered much on her own, but was surprised to find that there are shortcuts (I suppose in heard language they would be called acronyms or shortcuts, abbreviations) and slang.) Well, I say, why not -- every other language has those. But not knowing them as a born speaker of the tongue, they complicate that one who wants to communicate efficiently. I must admit, though, that sometimes the stumbling through can be fun. A woman who has never heard in her life moved into my building after Punta Gorda lost its fight with Hurricane Charlie. She is a bit older than I, yet somehow we managed to form a friendship. I don't sign, and it took some doing to understand her speech -- but we manage to communicate (sometimes it is hilarious - like watching a game of charades - to see us together!) I have a car, and my friend can no longer drive, so we shop together and go about the business of living, sharing a lot of it with much laughter and some frustration. We resort to pen and paper a lot, but I would rather save that as a last resort. I -- the recluse, the one who does not leave her tiny apartment from about 5 PM Friday to about !:00 Monday every week -- actually look forward to these forays into the world with my friend.

But I digress. I started out saying something about precision in speech. Just this morning I heard something on TV news that expressed my point exactly. Speaking of the missing explosives in Iraq, one newsman said that the it was the US troops' responsibity to "overlook" them. I know what he meant to say was oversee - that it was the troops responsibility to oversee them. There is a world of difference. But if one were to be translating that into, say, Chinese, wouldn't it come out either way? Not knowing the nuance of our language, a translator could completely befuddle the message in translation. Some ministers are called an 'overseers' of their flocks -- but if they overllook one in their charge, he will be dealt with severely. So I choose my words with care.

And the messages I have to write are gut messages. I need to make clear to those to whom I write just what certain incidents were like -- how it was being me in those circumstance. That is never easy for anyone.

It's not that I have nothing else to write about, either -- but these personal ones are occupying my mind (and will continue to do so until I get them written.)

Besides, if I were to write what I think of the election that has taken over the media (and what nasty nasty ads we have!) I wouldn't be able to count those who tune me out, soapbox or not!

Now is as good a time as any to place one of the poems from "The Soapbox Papers" in this blog - look for it separately.

Gnawing at my cuticles -

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Can't George W. Bush tell the truth about ANYTHING? I receive The Daily Mislead every day, and usually share with those on my "Wait til he/she sees THIS!" List. Today's was especially interesting, so I am sharing it here, from my own Soapbox:

THE DAILY MIS-LEAD<>===============================

President Bush has tried to avoid any responsibility for the flu vaccine shortage by making misleading statements. During the presidential debate last Wednesday, President Bush said the problem was that "we relied upon a company out of England."[1] That isn't true. Chiron Corp., the company whose vaccine plant was contaminated, is a California company - subject to regulation by the U.S. government - that operates a factory in England.[2] During the debate, President Bush also said, "we took the right action and didn't allow contaminated medicine into our country."[3] That isn't true either. It was the British authorities who, after inspecting the plant, revoked the factory's license on October 5th.[4] In June 2003, the United States Food and Drug Administration inspected the Chiron plant.[5] Initially, the FDA found that the plant was contaminated with bacteria but later announced, "the problems were corrected to their satisfaction," and allowed the plant to continue to operate.[6]

Sources: 1. "Transcript of Debate Between Bush and Kerry, With Domestic Policy the Topic," New York Times, 10/13/04, 2. "Both candidates stretched facts on key issues," Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/14/04, 3. "Transcript of Debate Between Bush and Kerry, With Domestic Policy the Topic," New York Times, 10/13/04, 4. "With Few Suppliers of Flu Shots, Shortage Was Long in Making," New York Times, 10/17/04, 5. Ibid., . 6. Ibid., .


No one was really blaming the flu vaccine mishap on George, per se -- although it has been pointed out that an ADMINISTRATION is responsible for a nation's well being (isn't that what the Surgeon General is supposed to do?) we, the American people, have been let down again. If we cannot count on our administration to get us flu shots, how can we trust they will be able to handle a chemical terrorist attack?

In reading the above, you may note, as I did, that the company responsible for supplying the vaccine to us is one of those which has outsourced its manufacturing. Somehow this company had contracted to supply the US with vaccine. (Read: Somehow this company, which is not using American labor, was contracted to supply the US with flu vaccine)

Not only did Bush dodge a bullet no one had shot at him, but he proved again what John Kerry has said: this administration headed by George W. encourages those companies who outsource our jobs by giving them large and important projects.

Could this plant contamination have happened in a US plant? Maybe. But in a US plant a product would be tested and quality checked randomly and often, and any problems found would have shut the plant down until they were corrected. You can be sure some quality or other expensive necessity was at risk at an outsource plant.

Read it yourself! And don't forget to check the references.

The Emperor really is not dressed in finery, you know. He's naked - and it ain't a pretty sight.

Yours for fresh faces in government -


Monday, October 04, 2004

Saying It Again

Those old adages never seem to go away – and I think I know why. We keep proving them true. The latest I have personally proven is “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” That’s for sure.

I recently had my innards checked out and found two separate conditions which each require a diet opposite the other, plus a hernia I must have had since I was born – I can’t remember not having a small rising where the ribs meet on my chest – but there it is, a hiatial hernia. And I got a full color report of the goings on of my tummy – seems the ulcer I was developing for twenty-odd years is really there, lying in wait to erupt like the small volcano it resembles. (how do they get those tiny cameras IN there, anyway? Something to do with a long tube and things they do to you when they knock you out with some delightful stuff and while they are at it, they check the lower end as well – we are hoping they use different implements for that – although there were pictures of that, too)

All in all, then, my annual Upsy-Daisy look-see was enlightening – since I’d not had one in four years. The good doctor prescribed one of the new anti-acid drugs they are pandering these days, and told me I must eat like a bird – a little bit very often. Then he said I can’t have seeds or nuts anymore. That was bad enough. Then he took away my dairy products.

Now – I believe I am a fair minded woman. I believe that when drug companies develop a product that takes care of excess acid and heartburn they look around and discover a new disease for it to cure – like all the hype about Acid Reflux Disease. You’ve seen the commercials. I guess that’s only fair. That’s what they are in the business to do. But come on – people have been having heartburn and sour stomachs for decades. The cure for that was Alka Seltzer, pure and simple in the old days. Plop plop fizz fizz – it worked. It took care of a body just fine. But since we have a super remedy, we must upgrade the problem. Now we have expensive stuff our doctors have been convinced will solve our ailment(s). Some doctors keep a closet full of samples, which they share with poor folks like me, whose drugstore bill, if everything I was prescribed was purchased with no benefit, could be the rent on a New York City penthouse. Fine. I can handle little cards with tablets stuck on with plastic bubbles that require a knife to get into. No problem. I can live with samples. But take away my dairy! Well!

My daughter tells me what dairy stuff seems to be okay – she has been lactose intolerant for years. Not me, though. I never have had such an affliction – for which I have been ever-so-grateful. I told the doctor It didn’t matter what I ingested, my poor tummy would thrash and grip and contort itself into all sorts of callisthenic poses. It’s not dairy, I insisted. The good doctor said, “Nevertheless...”

And that is what I really started out to say. There is nothing – nothing! – like the real stuff – real milk. I haven’t told my mother about this yet – she is safely tucked away in Wisconsin, which is The Dairy State. Milk is a staple. Milk is life itself. My mother loves milk. Butter, Sour cream. In fact, potatoes are good by themselves, but the real purpose of the potato is to be a vehicle for butter and sour cream. And ice cream. Real ice cream. Not that flimsy low calorie low fat low carb stuff either. Real ice cream. Ice cream so good it doesn’t need cookie crumbs or cookie dough in it. Plain vanilla – maybe with a bit of fruit on top or underneath. And chocolate on top, with peanuts or – better yet – cashews. Oops, No nuts. Anyway, no ice cream, either.

Every year my mother sends a birthday card to me in July and she includes a five-dollar bill. She won’t not send it, bless her, but she can’t afford to do it – but she does. And I always tell her in my thank you letter that I used it for a special ice cream treat – and that is what I do.

I guess those days are over. But how does all this tie in to the adage? Well – a woman has to try. I went grocery shopping and thought I would try Lactaid milk for my cereal. It was like white water. Then I tried soy milk. I tried a rice drink that was supposed to be a milk replacement – and it was really really bad. It was so bad even Ovaltine couldn’t save it. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. A sow’s ear is a sow’s ear, and it probably makes a lovely change purse – but it certainly isn’t silk. And in this case, even a pigskin change purse doesn’t seem real likely.

I have to go take a Prevacid and a glass of something non-milk and think of another adage for another day.

Yours for The Real Thing,